This quest has a special place on the blog, as it was the very first article ever released that was not written by me. Bgamerjoe took up the challenge when I asked around the community all those years ago and created a pretty solid analysis of the quest. Still, in order to bring this quest in line with the rest of the cycle, we will be reviewing the quest again in the familiar format. But don’t worry; the original article can still be found here if you want to read Joseph’s thoughts on it.
With that said, it is time to review Conflict at the Carrock. This was a quest that taught new players some important lessons about threat control and taking things slow. This quest isn’t the easiest one if you just rush through the stages before you are ready. This advice holds true for many quests that were released afterward, with some exceptions. It also introduced more encounter attachments for heroes and had a few nasty tricks and combos to prevent players from killing all the Trolls in this quest. For these reasons, this quest is often well-regarded by the community, something that cannot be said for all quests in this cycle. It is one that can still be replayed by modern decks that are looking for a challenge if they are not stalling on turn 1. So let’s get to the analysis of this quest.
Conflict at the Carrock
- Found in: Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack, Shadows of Mirkwood #2
- Official difficulty: 7
- Community difficulty: 6.2
- Encounter sets: Wilderlands, Journey along the Anduin, Conflict at the Carrock.
- Play if: You have a real hatred for Trolls and want to kill some of them! Your decks need a bit of time to set up. You enjoyed the Anduin encounter cards and want to see them again.
- What is different about this quest?: 4 large troll enemies that will enter play all at once at stage 2. The possibility of earning a very powerful objective ally.
- Solo or multiplayer?: Since there are 4 Trolls with identical threat, this quest will be a little easier if you can divide them between players. Playing solo with high threat is a real challenge, though I will give you my compliments if you can kill them right away by yourself. This quest doesn’t get much harder if you add more players, but make sure you have somebody clearing locations, just in case.
- Can I run Side-quests for this scenario?: Yes, you definitely can. Not only does stage 2 only feature a single quest point before you win the game (by killing trolls), but stage 1 is also perfect for playing some side-quests. This allows you to spend more time without the four Trolls in play, all the while getting set up better by having those side-quests in the victory display. Some good options here are Keep Watch to reduce enemy attack values, Double Back to lower your threat from stalling so long and Gather Information to find your important cards early on. A side-quest deck can do pretty well against this quest.
- Can I bring Guarded (X) cards?: Yes! While it is good that Guarded(X) cards can filter the encounter deck of Sacked! cards and other nasty treacheries, it can also cause you to discard Grimbeorn the Old. Then again, the Bee Pastures location would allow you to find him in the discard pile and add him to the staging area. There are some problematic cards in the encounter deck, though, such as the Brown Lands adding a ton of threat to the staging area and Hill Trolls or Goblin Snipers that you might not want to engage before you are ready. You can play them if you want to, but you can get unlucky with this.
- Player cards to avoid: The only player card that you cannot bring to this quest is the hero version of Grimbeorn the Old. This is due to a uniqueness issue with the objective ally in this quest. It’s a shame, as Grimbeorn is a popular hero, but luckily this is the only time that this issue appears with him. Aside from Grimbeorn, I would not advise players to run a Forth, the Three Hunters, or Grey Wanderer contract since this restricts the number of characters you will be having on the table. With several copies of Sacked! in the game, you really have to be careful not to get your heroes trapped without backup.
- Optimal starting threat: With the four unique Trolls having a threat of 34, you will want to stay below that for sure! But ideally, get your threat below 30 to avoid engaging the Hill Troll at the start of the game. You can reveal him before you are ready, and it can be a swift game-over if you get it. Also, since you will likely stall during the first stage to build up your forces, you will want to have some buffer until you hit 34. If you cannot get a low starting threat, I would suggest running some threat reduction at least.
- Traits to add to the Victory Display: Troll, Orc, Creature, Wasteland, Riverland, Marshland, Wilderlands, Forest
- What to look out for: Trolls and losing your characters to Sacked! cards. Definitely run some condition removal for these treacheries.
- Any changes from the original cards?: There are no fixes for this quest, play it as written on your cards.
Setup for this quest mostly involves the unique cards from the Conflict at the Carrock encounter set. The Carrock location itself is fished out of the encounter deck and added to the staging area. It will remain there until the players transition to stage 2, at which point it will become the active location. The four unique Troll enemies are also taken out of the deck and set aside, out of play. Again, these will only really play a part during the second half of the quest, giving the players enough time to build up their boardstate in order to face them!
The next step for setup is to search the encounter deck for 4 copies of the Sacked! treachery. There are five in total, but leave one of them in the encounter deck. Then, the players add one of the treacheries back to the deck. By the end of setup, there should be X+1 copies of the treachery in the encounter deck. The other copies that were removed from the encounter deck are set aside; they will not be used during the game. It prevents a single player from getting all their heroes trapped. At the start of the game, the staging area will also be relatively empty since there will only be The Carrock location, even in a 4 player game.
Quest stage 1: Grimbeorn’s Quest – 7 quest points
With quite an empty staging area, you get to flip this quest card over to stage 1B, where you’ll find that there’s actually nothing noteworthy happening at this stage. The only game text that you have to remember is to make The Carrock the active location after you’ve placed the seventh point of progress on the quest. This would also return any previous active location to the staging area, but in most cases, there won’t be any. Remember that you cannot travel to The Carrock before that time, so you will just have to stomach the constant 2 threat in the staging area during this stage. This won’t be much of a problem, especially in higher player counts
Making progress on this stage is easy, but you don’t want to make too much right away. Advancing this stage too soon can put you engaged with a lot of Trolls before you are ready for them. Don’t over quest too much at this stage, and you should be fine. You are also helped by some encounter cards that remove progress from the main quest. Despair and Misty Mountain Goblins can reduce the points, so you don’t accidentally advance. If you want to remove progress yourself, you can use effects like Backtrack to place that progress on a location instead.
Use the time you spend at this stage to build up your army of allies and get your heroes kitted out with attachments. You need to be ready to face those Trolls once you get to stage 2, so spend a few rounds at this stage. This usually takes about 5-6 turns, depending on the deck you play and the number of players you’re with. You can usually spend less time here in higher player counts, as you can split the Trolls between various players. An important timer for this stage is the threat of each player. Once anyone’s threat approaches 34, it is time to move on; else, you might have to engage multiple Trolls at once.
All this build-up does not come without some tasks that you can complete during stage 1. There are still some big enemies to overcome here, including 2 Hill Trolls. If you can kill those two early on, you won’t have to worry about them appearing at stage 2, potentially delaying your victory. You can also use this stage to search for the Grimbeorn objective ally and add him to your party. This will require a fair few Leadership resources, but there are locations in the encounter deck that can help you with this. Having Grimbeorn will help a lot with defending the Trolls later on, as well as attacking them back. 8 resources is a lot, but since you are taking your time at this stage, you can save up for him. You can also still claim him at stage 2, so you don’t have to cough up all 8 resources right away.
Once you feel good and ready to advance, make the final bits of progress on the main quest, and once you have 7 resources, you can advance to the next stage. Note that during the transition, The Carrock must become the active location, regardless of any other location currently in that slot. It is a bit weird to have this action on quest card 1B when it would make more sense on 2A, so it can sometimes be missed by people playing the scenario.
Quest stage 2: Against the Trolls – 1 quest point
Advancing to the second stage brings out all four of the unique Trolls that were previously set aside. This means that 8 threat is suddenly added to the staging area, which can be a lot to overcome all of a sudden when you haven’t really been questing very hard up to that point. In lower player counts, the added threat to the staging area can lead to players raising their own threat a bit faster, bringing them close to the engagement cost of the Trolls. Not only will you need enough willpower to overcome the threat of the Trolls, but it also helps if you place enough progress to clear The Carrock location. That is currently boosting all Trolls in play with +1 to defence and attack. Ideally, you will want to clear this before you start engaging the unique Trolls.
If you are playing this scenario in solo or two-player, you really want to engage these Trolls in an order that suits your playstyle. If you have a lot of attack already but don’t have your defenders set up yet, then Stuart is a better choice than Morris. Avoid Louis as your first Troll, though, since raising your threat might mean that next turn, all other Trolls are coming down. You will want to kill off each Troll before you engage the next one since they buff each other and have various effects that can pass on to other Trolls in play. This includes the Hill Troll, which is why you might want to look to kill those during stage 1.
Luckily, there will be little to distract you at this stage from killing the Trolls. If you took care of the other enemies in the deck that end up in the victory display (Marsh Adder and Hill Troll), then you can point all of your combat potential towards the Trolls. The other enemies in the deck require very little attention. The quest will also tend to get easier as you clear more and more of the Trolls. Not only does this free up more threat from the staging area, but players are also allowed to discard some of the Sacked! treacheries attached to heroes whenever one of the unique Trolls are defeated. This gives you more heroes to use in the game (if any were captured at that point).
The main quest only requires one point of progress. That means that players are still able to quest against side-quests in order to not have the progress go to waste. After that single point of progress has been placed, you have not yet beaten the quest, though. It is required that you have killed all Trolls in play so that there are none left. This obviously includes the four unique Trolls that entered play at the start of the stage but can also include any Hill Troll that appeared from the encounter deck and is still in play. Once they have all been defeated, and the single point of progress is on the main quest, the players have beaten the game!
The Encounter deck
- The encounter deck is made up of 45 cards in Normal mode and 29 in Easy mode.
- The chance of hitting a shadow card is relatively low, at 38% in Normal mode and 31% in Easy mode. Some shadows only trigger on Troll enemies.
- The average threat of cards revealed is 1.42 in Normal mode and 1.66 in Easy mode. This ranges up to 5 threat locations, but with a lot of 1 and 2 threat cards, so there is little variance there.
- Only the Wolf Rider card will surge, so you can bet on only revealing 1 card per player each round.
- There are no Doomed cards in the encounter deck, but there are other effects like the Hill Troll, Marsh Adder, and Gladden Fields that will raise your threat.
- Sacked! cannot be cancelled.
- Goblin Sniper cannot be engaged if there are other enemies in the staging area.
- The Carrock is immune to player card effects and cannot be travelled to by the players outside of quest effects.
A few cards were not included in the above statistics, such as the unique Trolls and The Carrock location. It also assumed that there was only 1 player in the game, which affects the number of copies of Sacked! in the deck at the beginning of the game. This is also why there are so few treacheries in the encounter deck for Easy mode. You see that the encounter deck has a strong preference for locations, most of which only have 1 or 2 threat. This can still lead to a slow location lock in higher player counts, but if players focus on the high-threat locations, they can ignore the smaller locations.
- Grimbeorn the Old: This is one of the few cases where the objective version of an ally is more powerful than the hero version. Grimbeorn is a beast and will be a great asset to the team if you manage to recruit him. This requires a few things. The first thing is that you need to get Grimbeorn into the staging area. This can happen naturally, as he starts in the encounter deck at the beginning of the game. He does not surge, so he is a free encounter card if you find him during the quest phase. If you have been unlucky, or if Grimbeorn was discarded as a shadow card, you have the option to travel to a copy of Bee Pastures. That allows you to grab Grimbeorn from the encounter deck or discard pile and add him to the staging area. But he won’t do much while he is in the staging area. You need to take control of him. This can be done at a price. Grimbeorn has an Action where players can spend Leadership resources to place them on Grimbeorn. They must be Leadership resources, but the Oak-wood Grove can help in that regard since all resources can be regarded as Leadership resources while that location is active. It will probably be required that you travel to such a location since you need a total of 8 resources to claim Grimbeorn for yourself. Luckily all players can spend resources for Grimbeorn’s action, as long as those resources come from Leadership heroes.
When you finally have 8 resources on Grimbeorn, he joins the first player as an ally. And a particularly useful ally too! With 3 defence and 10 hitpoints, Grimbeorn will be a great defender against the many enemies in this encounter deck. Even better, he has a passive ability that allows you to defend against Trolls without exhausting Grimbeorn. So he can help out by defending several enemies and potentially attacking back as well! I would only not defend the Muck Adder with Grimbeorn since you don’t want to risk discarding him through the enemy’s effect if it gets a boost. So keep him on Troll-duty for the rest of the game, and you should be ok. This also solves your defender problem during stage 2 if you have a high enough threat that all the unique Trolls come down. It does require you to kill a few of them quickly since while Grimbeorn does have 10 hitpoints, he is not immortal. His 4 attack is also very useful in killing enemies as well. Unfortunately, he does have to exhaust himself to attack Trolls. Also worth noting is that Grimbeorn does not have the Beorning trait. That means that effects like Beorn’s Rage do not work on him. You are also not allowed to use the hero version of Grimbeorn in this quest since the objective ally is unique.
There are a lot of different enemies in this quest, though many you will have faced during your Journey along the Anduin. The four unique Trolls are new, as well as another serpent enemy.
- Louis/Morris/Stuart/Rupert: Since these Trolls have the same stats, it is very hard for me to cover them individually since the only change is their effect when they are engaged with a player. So I will cover their shared stats and effects first and then briefly cover their unique effects afterwards. All Trolls have an engagement cost of 34, which isn’t exactly low, but if you are bringing some powerful, high threat-level heroes, then you will quickly have to engage these enemies, boost their engagement cost through effects like Take no Notice or lower your own threat. This allows you to engage the enemies one at a time, which hopefully gives you enough attack strength to kill them one by one as well. The Trolls have 2 threat each, which means that 8 threat gets added to the staging area when the players advance to stage 2. Sure, 2 threat from the Carrock gets removed, but in solo, a 6 threat increase just after the staging step can be quite a lot. You may not have enough willpower to overcome the threat of the Trolls combined and will thus have to raise your own threat. So make sure you have enough willpower built up before you advance. While engaged, the Trolls each have a unique ability that they give to all other Trolls in play. This is only true when the Trolls are engaged with a player, so you can be selective in what buffs you want to have active at any time (assuming your threat is low enough. They are:
- Morris: Engaged Trolls get +1 attack. It’s good to get Morris on his own so that you don’t have to get multiple attacks that hit for 5 (or 7 with the Hill Troll).
- Rupert: When he attacks, he shuffles all Sacked! treacheries in the discard pile back into the encounter deck. Painful if you have already defeated several other Trolls, since killing each will discard an attached copy of Sacked. Get him early on to minimize the effect.
- Stuart: Engaged Trolls get +1 defence. It makes them harder to kill, though only +1 defence is not a lot since you still have to deal with 10 hitpoints. Commit an extra character to the attack, and you’ll defeat Trolls more easily.
- Louis: Each Troll gains text that forces the defender to raise their threat by 3 when a Troll attacks. Since this can push you over 34 engagement cost with ease, it is advised to take Louis last. That way, his extra threat does not matter much.
Each of the Trolls will hit for 4 attack, but this can get boosted by shadow effects, having The Carrock as the active location, or having Morris engaged with a player. Players will need a dedicated defender for this, though it is also possible to use attack cancellation events like Feint not to have the Trolls attack you. This is especially useful for Louis, as you avoid his threat gain as well. Killing the Trolls will be difficult, as they each have 10 hitpoints. Their 2 points of defence can also be boosted by The Carrock and by Stuart. Direct damage is also difficult to do since the 10 hitpoints mean that the Trolls will shrug off any damaging effect with plenty of hitpoints to spare. Make use of some big effects like Tactics Eowyn‘s ability and Black Arrow to kill off a few Trolls early on. That should give you enough characters ready to deal with the others. Upon defeating each of the unique Trolls, you may choose and discard 1 copy of Sacked that is attached to a hero. This can be any hero, who can afterwards be used again by their controlling player.
- Muck Adder: There is one new enemy in the encounter deck that’s not a Troll. It’s instead a companion for the Marsh Adder, though luckily a much weaker version of it. The Muck Adder’s main threat is its low engagement cost and nasty ability that could be problematic if you are defending with a relatively weak defender. The single point of threat is not much cause for concern, especially since the enemy won’t stick around the staging area for very long. Once engaged, it will make an attack of 2 against the engaged player. That is usually no cause for concern, but the ability on the Muck Adder reveals a bit of hidden venom in the attack. Should the Muck Adder damage a character through its attack, then the defender is discarded. It doesn’t matter if this is a cheap ally or a fully kitted-out hero: They are discarded if this Adder deals any damage to them. This also counts undefended attacks, so that’s not an easy workaround for this enemy. This ability is especially painful when paired with the Despair shadow effect, which nullifies all defence on the defender. It is advised to have shadow cancellation, a way to boost defence, or a way to see shadow cards dealt to this enemy like Silver Lamp. That way, you cannot be surprised by this enemy and lose a defender before the Trolls attack. Attacking the Muck Adder back is not very difficult. Since it has no defence, any attack against it will result in at least some damage. 4 hitpoints do make it take some effort to kill this enemy, but nothing that a few allies can’t handle. Shadow: The shadow effect on this Adder also doesn’t help defenders fighting off this enemy. The ability is pretty simple, where the defender will just get -1 defence for this attack. That means that any defender with less than 3 defence will end up taking damage from any Muck Adder with this shadow effect, which does narrow the field a little. This shadow effect will also make other attacks hit harder, though taking damage by most other enemies is not as big of an issue. There are a lot of worse shadow effects out there, so I won’t recommend cancelling this one.
- Hill Troll: Yes, the Hill Troll is back from Journey along the Anduin, and I’m afraid to say that this isn’t the last time you will face this enemy. It is easy to forget that this enemy is in the encounter deck, considering that you have 4 other trolls to consider. But this quest does cause some synergy between the two Hill Trolls and the four unique Trolls. Their buffs and additional text will also target the Hill Troll, which can make them an even bigger threat in the late game. Because of this, it is advised to take down the Hill Trolls at stage 1, if you can find them. This also allows you to win the quest more easily since stage 2 cannot be beaten if any Troll-traited enemies are still in play.
The Hill Troll’s most important stat is actually its engagement cost, which is 30 threat. This means that you should either keep a low threat or increase the engagement cost of the Troll in order to have enough time to build up your boardstate. A starting threat of 27 is ideal in my eyes, as that gives you some wiggle room in case you have to raise your threat by a few points during the quest phase. But you will still have enough stats on the table with your heroes to deal with the Troll without having to rely on a host of allies. The threat of the Hill Troll has a value of 1, so you will be able to quest over the Troll without too much trouble. While the Troll is in the staging area, you can start to chip away at its health using direct damage effects if you get those early. While no single effect will place enough damage on the Troll, you can make it easier to kill by using a couple of Ranger Bows or using Hail of Stones a few times. If you get ally Gandalf in play early, this may be a tempting target, so if there are no other more immediate threats (Wargs would be a priority for me), use Gandalf on the Hill Troll to save yourself some time and probably characters. You can also take this time to dig for events like The Great Hunt, Put Off Pursuit, and Hunting Party that can potentially get rid of the Hill Troll from the staging area. If you don’t go through the encounter deck in one go, you shouldn’t see it again (there is another copy that you might see, though. But these cards are a good solution to the immediate threat).
If you have not dealt with the Hill Troll before your threat reaches 30, he will engage you. Make sure that this is the only enemy engaged with you so that you can dedicate all of your attention to him. His attack of 6 is pretty big but gets worse when you realize that the Hill Troll’s game text punishes you for chump blocking with smaller allies. Any damage dealt beyond the defence and remaining hitpoints of the defender is instead dealt as a threat increase. Since this quest has some hard limits to what your threat can be before things go from bad to worse, you will want to avoid raising your threat unnecessarily. So defence should be done by a strong defender like Spirit Dain (who can take no damage from the Hill Troll without needing any tools) or Beregond (ideally with a Gondorian Shield). You will need a solution for the Hill Troll quickly since your deck will likely not survive an ongoing assault by the Troll, especially if you get nasty shadow cards.
Attacking back should be a top priority so that you can get rid of the Troll as quickly as possible. This is where any direct damage you dealt to the Troll will come in clutch. 9 hitpoints is a lot to overcome, especially with a defence stat of 3. But it is not impossible. Some big, one-time effects like Eowyn and Black Arrow will be useful, as well as any other players who can help with ranged attacks. Killing the Hill Troll will put it into the Victory Display, allowing you to breathe a little easier (until the next one arrives).
- Wolf Rider: Hobbit and Secrecy players must be alert when playing this scenario, as the Wolf Rider is one of two enemies that has a sub-20 engagement cost in this scenario. Any deck with a threat of 10 or higher will be engaging this enemy so that it won’t stay in the staging area for very long. When the Wolf Rider is revealed, it will automatically surge, even if Thalin deals a damage to him. The surge is annoying, as it means that on top of the next card you reveal, you now also have a 1 threat enemy sitting in the staging area that is going to come down soon. However, this is probably the ideal way to reveal the Wolf Rider, as its shadow effect will be worse (we’ll get to that). In combat, the Wolf Rider is pretty pathetic. With an attack of 2, it can easily be defended by most allies, and it only takes 2 attack to kill it. With 0 defence, any hit towards the Wolf Rider will damage it and will most likely kill it as well. 0 defence also opens up Straight Shot, in case you don’t want to deal with this enemy at all. But the best way to get around the Wolf Rider will be direct damage. 2 hitpoints is easy to get through with just one or two direct damage effects. Gondorian Spearmen with Spear of the Citadel will be a proper defence against this enemy, but you can also use effects like Goblin-cleaver if you want. Even without tricks, the Wolf Rider is just annoying, not really a threat. Shadow: The shadow text on this enemy is quite unique and quite lengthy. When the Wolf Rider is revealed as a shadow card, it will turn into an enemy and attack the defending player. That player can declare a defender. The Wolf Rider gets its own shadow card (don’t worry, it’s not another Wolf Rider. There is only 1 copy in the encounter deck). After the combat phase, the Wolf Rider is returned to the top of the encounter deck. This means that you will be revealing it next round with the surge keyword. However, since the Wolf Rider will be engaged with you, you can still kill it. If you do, its gametext is no longer in play so that he won’t be returned to the top of the encounter deck.
- Goblin Sniper: While the stats of the Goblin Sniper aren’t much, its textbox provides the main reason why this enemy is a dangerous reveal from the encounter deck. The Sniper has just 2 threat, but with a 48 threat engagement cost, you will probably not engage this enemy naturally in your game (except when playing a Valour deck, but even then, 48 is living on the edge). Optional engagements seem like the logical solution, but the textbox on the Sniper prevents players from optionally engaging this enemy while there are other enemies in the staging area. With the four unique Trolls entering the staging area at stage 2, you might have a few enemies too many in the staging area to worry about this Sniper. This means that there is a real chance that there will be a Sniper in the staging area for a long time unless the players can counter it. A double Goblin Sniper in the staging area locks both versions down, with the one preventing the other from engaging. This is bad because they also deal 1 point of damage to a character of each player at the end of the round while they are in the staging area. A natural counter to these enemies is direct damage effects like Arrows from the Trees, Hail of Stones, or Galadhon Archer. Stacking these effects will get through the 2 hitpoints of the Sniper in no time, clearing the board of the menace. Players being able to attack into the staging area is also a great tool to have. Haldir of Lorien, Hands Upon the Bow, or the Rohan synergy of attacking the staging area will clear these enemies out as well. Target other enemies in the staging area so that it is the only one left. A single Warden of Healing will take care of the damage of both Snipers; you only have to deal with the threat.
- Marsh Adder: While the Trolls in this scenario are the focus, they are not the only boss-level enemy in this encounter deck. There is also this lovely Marsh Adder, of which there is just 1 copy in the encounter deck (0 in Easy mode). Despite this, the Marsh Adder is not unique, meaning it is vulnerable to several player card effects that can only target non-unique enemies. The Marsh Adder is not an immediate threat, as it has an engagement cost of 40. However, it has 3 threat, meaning that in some situations, you will want to engage it earlier to remove the threat from the staging area. But do be careful with this, especially if you are close to one of the threat thresholds (30 and 34). That’s because the Marsh Adder is quite aggressive and will cause you to increase your threat each time it makes an attack. The obvious solution to this is to cancel the attacks with Feint and Feigned Voices. Not only will this negate the game text on this enemy, but you also avoid the 4 attack, which can be substantial for many decks. Killing the Marsh Adder isn’t as easy as other enemies, thanks to its 7 hitpoints. 1 defence isn’t a lot, but the Adder will soak up a lot of damage. You do need to commit a lot of attention to this enemy, but fortunately, when you defeat the Adder, it is removed from the encounter deck and is placed in the Victory Display. I will advise killing the Marsh Adder as quickly as possible so that you don’t have to deal with the threat increase every round. Forest Snare is also a decent solution for this enemy during this quest. Consider this enemy a test run of your synergy to take down the Trolls if you get the Adder during stage 1.
- Wargs: The warg enemies in the game are often decently threatening, but they are most famous for their annoying tendencies to hop between being engaged with players and sitting in the staging area. This is the very first enemy that started that trend, simply named: Wargs. They have a relatively low engagement cost of 20 and decent all-around stats. They suffer a little in defence and hitpoints, making them a common target for Gandalf. These enemies are annoying because each time they attack, they return to the staging area if their shadow card had no effect. And since the quest has about a below XXX chance of getting a shadow card with an effect, you are bound to return the Wargs to the staging area at some point. The Wargs having a shadow effect themselves lowers your chances even further! The trick is the same as with the Marsh Adder, don’t let them attack. Their attack strength isn’t really frightening, but if they do not attack, they cannot trigger their Forced effect. They will still get a shadow card, but you don’t really care whether or not it has an effect. Cancelling their attacks is just a temporary solution but should keep them engaged with you, allowing your characters to kill the Wargs. You can also slowly chip away at their health, though you will likely need several effects to kill off the Wargs. As I mentioned, their defence is not very strong, allowing you to kill them with just 4 attack. This enemy can prolong your games at the end, so try and kill the Wargs whenever you see them. That helps you to end the game faster. Shadow: The shadow effect on the Wargs themselves is pretty basic. It is a straight-up boost to the enemy’s attack by 1. However, if you are taking the attack undefended, you are looking at a +2 buff. This is quite substantial, as it can more easily kill a hero. And since the quest features quite a few weaker enemies, you might be tempted to take an attack undefended. This shadow effect punishes that hard, so be sure your heroes can take the hit of +2 and have a healing option down the line.
- Misty Mountain Goblins: With all the big Trolls in the encounter deck, there is a sharp contrast with these weak Goblins. They are slightly annoying to have to deal with constantly, so make sure that you do finish them off quickly. The Goblins have a low engagement cost of 15, making them engage most decks from the start of the game. This means that their 2 threat is often removed quickly from the staging area after they have been revealed. While engaged, the Goblins will attack each round with a strength of 2. Their ability also triggers at this point, which removes 1 progress token from the main quest whenever they attack. Note that while the textbox says “current quest,” it does, in fact, target the main quest when the players have advanced from the quest phase. Even if you went up against a side-quest (but didn’t complete it) this round, the progress is removed from the main quest. This ability is annoying in other scenarios, but it actually helps players during Conflict at the Carrock. Removing progress during stage 1 means that you can stay at this stage a little longer, delaying your date with the Trolls. During stage 2, you only ever need 1 progress on the main quest, so the Goblins can take away any additional points without you really caring too much. With 1 defence and 3 hitpoints, killing the Goblins shouldn’t be difficult. Shadow: The shadow effect on this enemy is the same effect as when the Goblins attack. The attack causes you to remove one progress from the main quest. Should you have taken the attack undefended, 3 progress is removed instead of 1. This can mean in true solo that you might have to spend another round on stage 2, but it doesn’t mess with the balance of combat stats, so I tend just to accept this shadow effect. You can do a lot worse in this encounter deck.
There are many new locations in this quest, but they are generally not as bad as some of the recurring ones. Some of these locations can help you to find and afford Grimbeorn faster than you normally would.
- The Carrock: The titular location for this quest is a constant damper on progress during stage 1, but during stage 2, it becomes a little annoying for a turn or two. Aside from that, it is a pretty forgettable location (to the point you can sometimes forget to add this to the staging area during setup). The Carrock starts the game in the staging area, constantly adding its 2 threat to the total. With it being immune to player card effects, the players cannot place progress on this location or interact with it at all. They cannot even travel here on their own accord since The Carrock can only become the active location through quest effects. Luckily, the location is just 2 threat, which is easy to overcome, even in true solo. Once the players finally complete stage 1, The Carrock automatically becomes the active location, switching out any other location that might have been active at that point. As the active location, The Carrock will boost all Troll enemies in play with +1 attack and +1 defence. This can stack with the buffs that Morris and Stuart provide Trolls. Since 4 Troll enemies were added at the time that The Carrock became the active location, it might be a good idea to wait until you clear this location before you engage the Trolls, or you engage Rupert or Louis first. With 6 quest points, it cannot be guaranteed that the players explore The Carrock in one turn. Willpower has not been the focus of the quest until this point, so it can be a little difficult to suddenly muster a lot of it to make the progress required, especially now that there’s 8 threat worth of Trolls in the staging area. It can be an idea to just engage a Troll or two during the first round at stage 2, just to remove threat from the staging area so that you can make progress next turn. Consider canceling some of the attacks in that case if you cannot deal with the +1 attack buff. Once you do finally make 6 progress on The Carrock, it is explored but goes into the encounter deck discard pile. This is strange since you would think this location has a victory score. But no, you can run into a situation where the encounter deck gets reshuffled, and The Carrock is revealed as a regular encounter card. If this is the case, it cannot become the active location again, so it will just add 2 threat to the staging area.
- River Langflood: The only potentially nasty location new to the game is this River Langflood. Its initial stats are not that crazy, but it’s the passive ability in the textbox that can cause the threat of this location to skyrocket. The river gains +1 threat for each Troll enemy in play, which can escalate to a +6 threat for each of the 4 copies of this location. However, that is the worst-case scenario and almost never happens. And if you do have 6 Trolls in play, you may have other priorities than this location. For the majority of the game, this location will have 2 threat, with an unchanging 3 quest points. Only when the players advance to stage 2 would I suggest to have explored all copies of this location. Each of the unique Trolls will still boost this location, so if you have a copy of two lying around in the staging area, you might struggle to make progress. Luckily, the location comes with no downside to travelling here. And with 3 quest points, it is not very difficult to explore either. This location is somewhat of a priority to travel to, just because it has the potential to add a lot of threat later in the game. You can also use tricks like Thror’s Key to blank one copy of the location, but with 4 copies in the deck, it might only be a temporary solution. Exploring it in the staging area shouldn’t be too difficult either.
- Bee Pastures: It’s so rare these days that the encounter deck features beneficial cards! But it’s true for Conflict at the Carrock; it even features two of them! The first is Bee Pastures, which is where the Beornings get their honey from. Despite what some people might consider a pretty threatening place, this field full of bees only has 1 threat. It also comes with only 2 quest points, which makes it really easy to explore in the staging area. However, if you did that, you would miss out on the benefit that this location offers. It has a response where you can find the Grimbeorn objective from the encounter deck or discard pile whenever you travel to a copy of Bee Pastures. You have to shuffle the encounter deck afterwards. Since players will want to find Grimbeorn quickly and start placing Leadership resources on him, this location is a great way to find him quickly. Especially in solo, this location is useful since you do not have to dig through the entire encounter deck yourself. This location will take up the active slot for at least a turn, though, meaning that other locations which may have more threat cannot be explored during that turn. You could use effects like Strength of Will together with South Away!/Thror’s Map to explore the Bee Pastures as soon as you travel to it and go to another location afterwards, but it really depends on how many locations you may have in the staging area at that point. If you do not need to get Grimbeorn later in the game, the Bee Pastures can just be ignored or slowly be chipped away at with Northern Tracker. The single point of threat is not worth giving attention to.
- Oak-wood Grove: This is the second beneficial location, but it is slightly worse than the Bee Pastures. The Oak-wood Grove has the stats reversed of the Pastures, with 2 threat and a single quest point. That means that Warden of Arnor can clear this location as soon as it enters play! But you might not want to do that. The Oak-wood Grove has a passive effect that only becomes active when you travel to the location. While it is the active location, any resources on heroes (not counting Gandalf, since his resources do not belong to a sphere) can be used as Leadership resources. The purpose of this is that each hero can now spend resources for Grimbeorn so that you get to 8 a lot faster, even if you aren’t running any Leadership resources or Song of Kings. But you can also use this effect to pay for other Leadership cards more easily. One card that suddenly becomes possible in a multisphere deck is Reinforcements since all 3 of your heroes can now spend their resources as Leadership resources. The effect on this location is very useful, but you won’t get to enjoy it for very long since any progress you place will explore the Grove. So time travelling to this location well, when players have enough resources to get Grimbeorn. Outside of that, this location is just filler and can be explored with ease while it is in the staging area.
- The Brown Lands: Out of all the cards in the encounter deck, this is the one with the most threat that you can reveal out of a single card. With 5 threat, you will lose a lot of progress that round, which shouldn’t be horrible during this quest. The most important thing is that you do still quest successfully, as raising your threat will be less than ideal. But there is good news as well: apart from the 5 threat upon you revealing the card, the location is quite tame. This is due to its single quest point, which allows you to explore the Brown Lands in the staging area easily. The best tool for this is Warden of Arnor, as the attachment straight up discards the location after it is revealed. Other good cards to use are Spirit Aragorn and Asfaloth. Do note that Spirit Aragorn will need to have at least 5 willpower to place the progress on this location. If you do not have access to these fancy location exploration cards, don’t worry. The location clears itself when the players decide to travel to it. This makes it the best target to travel to in the travel phase. However, if The East Bight is also in the staging area at the same time, then the players have to travel there first, leaving The Brown Lands in the staging area for the next round. There you can explore it with Rhovanion Outrider or Northern Tracker, but if you cannot clear it or travel to it, then this location will be a big obstacle towards your progress. If you can travel here, do so. It places one point of progress on itself, which is enough to clear it (unless players used Elf-stone or Put Off Pursuit). If the location clears itself, then players are not able to travel to any other location unless a travel action is used like South Away!, Thror’s Map, or Ghan-buri-Ghan. The best remedy against this location is to just have some progress-placing cards ready to get rid of this location.
- The East Bight: The mirror image of The Brown Lands is The East Bight, which does not have a lot of threat, but does take a lot of willpower to clear. While you would be tempted just to leave it in the staging area, the textbox on The East Bight forces the players to travel there if they have no other active location. This puts a buffer of 6 quest points between the players and making progress on the quest card so that you will need more willpower next round. This effect also blocks the players from travelling to more threatening locations like Brown Lands or Gladden Fields. If this goes on for too long, the players might end up with a location lock because of this. There are some ways that players can get past the East Bight more easily. First is to make progress on it regardless of questing successfully. If you can guarantee to place progress on the location each round with effects like Lorien Guide and Map of Rhovanion, then the quest points become easier to overcome. Players can also find a way around the location by returning it to the staging area and making another location active. This can be done through The Hidden Way or West Road Traveller. This allows players to travel to other locations at the cost of returning the East Bight to the staging area. But since the location only has 1 threat, it is much easier to overcome this way. Spamming out willpower next round can also help, as you will need a big quest push to get through the location in one shot.
- Banks of the Anduin: This is another semi-beneficial location that you will like to see. The Banks are a 1 threat location that only requires 3 progress to explore. The benefit of this location is that when it is explored, it is put on top of the encounter deck. This ensures that you will see it again next round, instead of a different encounter card that could be worse. Of course, this is only valid for solo playthroughs but having the insurance that at least one card is an easy location. The Banks of the Anduin can also come out as a shadow card, in which case you get a free pass as well. The only case where this is not beneficial is when Wargs attack. It is important to keep track of which enemy gets which shadow card first in this scenario. Exploring the scenario is not a real priority, but if you have no other options, there is no real downside to travelling here.
- Gladden Fields: This is one of the few instances where a non-unique location in the encounter deck has a victory score. The Gladden Fields have 3 for all their stats, including threat, quest points, and victory points. The Fields are a common sight during this quest, but once you explore one copy, it is sent to the victory display. This is a good thing, as it permanently removes a location from the encounter deck. The Fields do not have a travel cost, and combined with their 3 threat; it will be a popular destination during the travel phase. However, the only game text on the location does make it a less appealing location to have active at the end of the round. That is because if the Gladden Fields is the active location at the end of the round, all players must raise their threat by an additional step. This might not seem that much, but as this quest has some clear threat levels that you want to stay under, any time you have to raise your threat is one too many. This makes the Gladden Fields a good target for any effects that clear the location before the end of the round. Regular progress placing cards will do nicely, but if you are really struggling, then Legolas and the Blade of Gondolin will make sure you make enough progress to clear the location by killing enemies. Northern Trackers are also a decent solution to the location, though you will have to stomach the 3 threat for a few rounds if Northern Trackers are all the location control you have. I can also recommend Strength of Will for this location in combination with any other single-progress-placing effect.
There is a nasty combo hidden in the newly added treacheries that can spell the doom of many heroes. Still, with a few cancellation events at the ready, you should be able to survive these treacheries without too much trouble.
- A Frightened Beast: This is a surprisingly brutal treachery for a quest like this, though it is situational. When revealed, each player must raise their threat by X, where X is the total threat currently in the staging area. This can be pretty brutal if you just transitioned to stage 2 and have all those Trolls in the staging area. It’s also more brutal in multiplayer than in solo, as you could get this treachery after having revealed some high-threat locations like Brown Lands. But raising your threat at all is a bad idea in this quest, as there are a few threat levels you would like to stay under to prevent enemies from engaging you. Luckily, the treachery does come with a built-in cancellation option. Any player may discard a Creature traited card to cancel the effects of this treachery. This will likely be an Eagle ally, but you can also use allies like Loyal Hound and Messenger Raven. This is the best solution to this treachery, as it allows you to save your cancellation events for other treacheries. It’s also nice that discarding just 1 ally cancels the effect for all players, not just for the owner of that ally. If you have no way to cancel the treachery, then I hope you have a way to drop your threat. Free to Choose is probably the best option here. However, you can also use Double Back and The Galadhrim’s Greeting to drop significantly. But with 3 copies of this treachery in the game, it won’t be long before you get the next copy. Because of this, it might be a good idea to send a copy of this treachery to the victory display and use The Door is Closed on any other copy that appears. That should help you to keep a low enough threat throughout the quest.
- Sacked!: Out of all the treacheries, and perhaps even all the encounter cards in this deck, Sacked is likely the one that players remember the most. This treachery even influenced the Sack-mechanic during We Must Away, Ere Break of Day, from the first Hobbit Saga box. The concept is simple, this treachery attaches to a hero you control, and that hero is pretty much put out of commission until you can untie the sack. This effect cannot be cancelled and will attach on a hero who isn’t sacked yet, controlled by the first player. While Sacked, the hero cannot attack, defend, commit to a quest, or use its ability. The hero also cannot collect resources, either through player card effects or during the resource phase. This makes the hero rather useless, except for cards like We Are Not Idle and Peace and Thought, for which you can still exhaust this hero. But with the hero basically out of commission, the controlling player will have to find a way to un-sack the hero. This can be done by defeating any of the unique Trolls, which each have a response to discard a copy of Sacked when they are defeated. There is some haste with this as well because not only will the hero not be able to do anything, but they also run the risk of being outright discarded if Roasted Slowly is revealed. Luckily, this attachment also counts as a Condition attachment, so there are still ways to discard it early on if you are not at stage 2 yet. Miner of the Iron Hills, Bulwark of the West, and Power of Orthanc can all be used to discard copies of this treachery. Shadow: If the attacking enemy is a Troll, then this shadow effect will trigger the When Revealed of the treachery and sack a hero. It does not have to be the defender, luckily, and the attack isn’t interrupted either, so if you have the possibility to kill a unique Troll or discard a sack through player card effects, the shadow won’t be too bad.
- Roasted Slowly: As mentioned, this treachery interacts a lot with the Sacked! treachery on heroes. When this treachery is revealed, all heroes with the Sacked! attachment are instantly destroyed, regardless of remaining hitpoints. Note that this is “destroyed” not simply “discarded”. This has some implications for Horn of Gondor and Landroval, which can both trigger off of this treachery. A good thing is that this treachery can just be cancelled, so that you do not have to lose several heroes in one go. It’s good to keep at least one Test of Will available if some heroes have already been Sacked. The other good thing is that if there are no heroes Sacked, then this treachery doesn’t surge but simply gets shuffled into the encounter deck to be revealed later. It does this regardless of whether or not a hero was discarded through its effect. But it can just be a free encounter card in the early game. Shadow: With Roasted Slowly going back into the encounter deck, there is also a real possibility that the card reappears as a shadow card. If this happens, and it is given to a Troll enemy, then that enemy heals 2 points of damage. This is more of a thematic effect where the Troll has a little snack to heal up, but in practice, this usually doesn’t affect gameplay as much. You should be dealing with Trolls in one hit, so that you do not give them the chance to heal back up.
- Despair: It will be a good day when you reveal this from the top of the encounter deck. Not because the When Revealed effect is beneficial to the players, but just so you know, there is a lower chance of having this card pop up as a shadow card later on. The When Revealed effect on Despair is quite tame. The biggest thing that Despair does is remove progress from the current quest card. It does this to a maximum of 4 progress tokens, or all if you have fewer than 4 on the quest card. Note that this targets the current quest, so if you have 6 progress on stage 1 but have selected a side-quest for this phase with no progress on it, this treachery does not remove any progress since the side-quest is the current quest card. But even without side-quests, this treachery is not much of an obstacle during this quest. During stage 1, you will want to stall a little bit, so removing progress from the main quest will just buy you more time. And during stage 2, you only need 1 progress. Since that stage will likely take a few turns to explore, you can simply remove 4 progress and make more next turn. The lack of surge makes this treachery pretty underpowered, and it is often not worth wasting cancellation on. Shadow: That is not the case with the shadow effect, though, which has taken the lives of many heroes over the years. Despair causes the defending character not to count defense for defending this attack. That means that the damage dealt is equal to the attacker’s attack strength. And if that attacker happens to be a big enemy, you can probably say “goodbye” to your defender, as it is unlikely they have 4+ hitpoints left. If you are comfortably defending with Dain or Beregond that have a ton of defence built up, then it is all nullified by this shadow card, and any Troll can one-shot them both with this. Always have cancellation ready for this shadow effect, and keep track of where the two copies are in the encounter deck/discard pile. It just might save your hero from an early demise.
- Massing at Night: This treachery is quite interesting, as it is next to non-existent in a true solo game but horrible in a 4 player game. When the treachery is revealed, the players must reveal one encounter card per player. This doubles the number of cards they have to reveal during that quest phase, which can be quite a setback for the players. In solo, however, this treachery only replaces itself. It is essentially surging into the next card, with nothing on the treachery itself that is worth noting. So solo players will love this treachery, while in multiplayer, it will be that it is worth cancelling unless the players are in a good enough position to take on extra encounter cards. Shadow: The same rule applies to the shadow effect of this card. In solo, the shadow card just replaces itself, but it does help the player if this was attached to Wargs, as they will remain engaged with them. In higher player counts, this shadow effect can potentially stack 4 shadow cards under a single enemy (5 if that enemy is the Dol Guldur Beastmaster). Cancelling this shadow can save you from having to roll the dice on the extra shadow cards you could reveal from this. For weaker enemies, this is probably fine, but if you are struggling to defend a Troll, then cancelling this in multiplayer can save you from a potential +8 attack.
Worst cards in the encounter deck
- The four unique Trolls
- Hill Troll
- Roasted Slowly with Sacked! in play
- Massing at Night for multiplayer
- A Frightened Beast
- Shadow effects
- Massing at Night for multiplayer
Tips and Tricks
- Have some condition removal in your deck. You will need it for when the Sacked! attachments come out. This will save your heroes from being eaten and will allow you to use them again.
- Stall at stage 1 in order to build a proper boardstate to take care of the Trolls. This is more important in lower player counts since you will be facing multiple Trolls per player.
- Side-quests are really good for this quest since the quest requires so little progress on the main quest. Make sure to stock up and bring some copies of The Road Goes Ever On to find some more of them after you complete the first.
- Keep a low threat. Since the unique Trolls all share an engagement cost, you really cannot afford to exceed 34 threat during stage 2. Use threat reduction effects to keep a low enough threat to control who engages which enemy.
- Get a proper defender set up during stage 1 so that you have someone to take on the Trolls without you having to chump. You can already test this defender against some other enemies earlier in the quest, but have them ready to go as soon as you advance to stage 2. Beregond, Dain Ironfoot, and Erkenbrand are natural defenders but will require some armor attachments to survive multiple hits. Also, try to see if you can get some readying on these defenders, just in case more enemies engage you than expected.
- A proper attacker is also important for this quest, though this role can be split among an army of allies too. Just have enough attack power on the table to take care of the Trolls, just so that you do not have to defend them more times than needed. It will take some effort, but getting some high attack allies or weapons like Dagger of Westernesse can help you to kill the Trolls a lot faster.
- While the locations in this quest are far from the worst that this game has to offer, the number of locations can get a bit overwhelming in higher player counts. So some location control can be useful to free up some threat from the staging area, allowing you to not have to commit a lot of characters to the quest. Northern Trackers are pretty useful for this quest, but I would also advise to invest in Warden of Arnor, so that you can clear The Brown Lands without having to care about the 5 threat.
- Personally, my optimal engagement order of the Trolls would be Rupert, Morris, Stuart, then Louis. I have explained the reasons in the article, but it can really affect your game if you take them out of order. This is, of course, assuming nothing else goes wrong, and your threat is well below 34.
- What’s better than having a good defender against the Trolls? Never letting them attack! You can still use effects like Feint and Feigned Voices to cancel attacks by the Trolls. This can save you from Rupert’s and Louis’ effects, but it can also save you a character who can then join in on the attack.
Since the quest is rather old and a favorite of many community members, it is no wonder that there are quite a lot of playthroughs of this quest to be found online. Check out some of these videos to see strategies being used against the scenario.
- 2 player, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIYN9M7uSwQ
- True solo, Mirkwood cycle only: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxjOA_wb4a0
- 3 player, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnJiEB6rvLk
- True solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRTLQrRItXg
- True solo, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UGmK_Y16g0
We are getting a nice balance between reviewing these Shadows of Mirkwood scenarios and the Nightmare Against the Shadow quests. I think I will switch back and forth between them for a bit of variety, which means the next article from me will be the Nightmare Encounter at Amon Din article before I attempt to repeat the Journey to Rhosgobel quest. We still have 4 of these to go until the end of the year, so I can take my time with them and space them out some more. At least the original articles aren’t worthless and should still help you on your way until I redo them.