After having been away so long from the blog, you’d expect me to rush in with a nice and easy article discussing some quests that are beloved by the community. You know, the simple stuff. But noooo, SOMEONE (me from 4 months ago) decided that Journey to Rhosgobel should be next! So today, we’ll be delving into the quest that people love to skip from the first cycle before they have to build an Eagle deck with enough healing in it. That’s not to say that this quest can’t be enjoyed, but this quest has gained a reputation for being pretty unfair, especially if you don’t custom-build a deck for it.
A Journey to Rhosgobel
- Found in: A Journey to Rhosgobel Adventure Pack, Shadows of Mirkwood cycle pack 3.
- Official difficulty: 6
- Community difficulty: 6.1
- Encounter sets: A Journey to Rhosgobel, Spiders of Mirkwood, Orcs of Dol Guldur.
- Quest cards: 3
- Play if: You want to test your new Eagle deck. You have a deck that focuses on healing/damage cancellation that you want to try out. You are interested in digging through the encounter deck and finding some important objectives with some sense of urgency.
- What is different about this quest?: Objective ally that continues to take damage as time goes on, objectives that need to be found in time to heal the ally, all or nothing win/lose condition by the end.
- Solo or multiplayer?: You don’t really want to put your friends through this quest, so if you are unable to go through this quest solo, try going two-handed. Adding more players to this quest will mean you start to take more damage on Wilyador as you reveal more encounter cards, but you also slightly increase your chances of finding the Athelas objectives. Extra players can also serve as a source of healing for Wilyador while you dig through the encounter deck.
- Can I run Side-quests for this scenario?: Time isn’t on your side in this quest, but there is one side-quest in the card pool that I’d deem worth including. If you can complete Scout Ahead, you can look at a few cards of the encounter deck and see if there are any Athelas in there. You can even move those objectives further to the top. You also get to remove one of the encounter cards and put it in the Victory Display, which can be worth it as well, given the horrible treacheries in this deck. Outside of that, Gather Information can be useful to find healing cards in your deck, but be wary of taking too much time for these side-quests.
- Can I bring Guarded (X) cards?: You can, and if this were a review of the Nightmare version of this quest, I’d definitely advise you to bring them all. In that version, discarded objectives are shuffled back into the encounter deck, so the Guarded cards are a great way to filter the thick encounter deck. In the regular version of the quest, I’m a bit more hesitant to include these cards, though you can use them to get past the many treacheries of the deck. Just make sure you have a way to return discarded objectives to the encounter deck if you play with these cards.
- Player cards to avoid: You’re not allowed to bring the Wilyador ally from the Vengeance of Mordor cycle to this game since it conflicts with the objective ally. It’s a shame since the ally version is pretty good for a quest like this, but this is the only time you must leave him in the box.
- Optimal starting threat: Threat really isn’t a problem for this quest, but if you can stay under 32, you can at least avoid the biggest enemies for a while. That allows you to build up and deal with some of the smaller ones while ignoring Ungoliant’s Spawn, Chieftain Ufthak, and the Hummerhorns. Definitely stay below 40 for those last ones!
- Traits to add to the Victory Display: Creature, Spider, Insect, Dol Guldur, Orc, Forest, Mountain, Stronghold.
- What to look out for: A lot of direct damage to your characters, losing the game on the final stage by not healing Wilyador enough, undefended attacks from small enemies that can only be defended by certain characters, location lock.
- Any changes from the original cards?: Nope, there are no changes to this quest from the way it is printed.
The game starts with you finding the unique Rhosgobel location and adding it to the staging area. The Wilyador objective is also taken out of the deck and placed under the control of the first player. Wilyador starts with 2 damage on him, leaving you with just 9 rounds before he succumbs to his wounds. The players must find a way through this quest before that happens, gathering Athelas to heal Wilyador. They won’t be able to heal him right away, as the Rhosgobel location in the staging area prevents this. No other cards are revealed by the encounter deck at this point, meaning that you are left with a pretty thick encounter deck to find those copies of Athelas in.
Quest card 1: The Wounded Eagle – 8 quest points
Flipping over to stage 1B, you find nothing but flavor text here. This stage is pretty calm, but with the damage piling up on Wilyador each round, you really cannot afford to stay here for very long. There’s little to no time to go for side-quests either, so powering through stage 1 in 1-3 turns will be the best course of action.
The one thing that you can try to do is to clear Rhosgobel in the staging area. This allows you to start healing Wilyador at stage 1, preventing his damage from getting out of hand. Try to travel here by bypassing the travel cost on the location, or find a way to place 4 progress on the location. It is not immune to player card effects, so certain decks that specialize in location control can quickly get rid of this location.
Another thing you can do during this early stage is to try and find copies of Forest Grove from the encounter deck. This location finds you free Athelas and can even retrieve it from the encounter discard pile. Dunedain Pathfinder lets you search the top 5 cards for a location, and if you don’t find it, at least you get to reshuffle the encounter deck. The Hidden Way is another way to get the location into the active slot quickly. However, the “benefit” of not having to reveal an encounter card could ironically end up hurting you since you will want to reveal as many cards from the encounter deck as possible to find all the Athelas.
With just 8 quest points, this stage is pretty tame and should allow you to set up your deck quickly. Assuming the treacheries don’t ruin it, your team can advance to the next stage without too much worry after a few rounds here.
Quest card 2: Radagast’s Request – 12 quest points
Now you are able to travel to Rhosgobel if you haven’t cleared it already. The moment it becomes active, players are able to heal the eagle with everything they have. I personally like to include Lore of Imladris, as it heals the full 5 hitpoints on the creature. Note that you can’t heal more than 5 hitpoints per effect. Stage 2 instructs the players to remove every card that is used to heal Wilyador from the game. This does include Elrond, as he targets the character that is healed itself. Restrict Elrond’s healing to your own characters; it is a response, so you get to choose whether or not you trigger it.
The effect will also include characters like Lorefindel, Ioreth, Warden of Healing, and Imladris Caregiver. Attachments and events are also removed from the game the moment they heal, even a single hitpoint off of Wilyador. They are not just discarded, which would allow you to recycle the events, but they are removed from the game entirely.
The quest card also gives the players a moral dilemma. The scrying effect on the quest stage says that players may deal X damage to Wilyador in order to peek at the top 3 cards. From these cards, you must reveal 1 and discard the other 2. This can only be triggered by the first player at the start of the Quest phase. In solo, this is a good way to find more Athelas for only 1 damage. However, since the scrying doesn’t scale up to the number of players in the quest (unlike Scout Ahead), it is normally not worth the 4 damage. You are not guaranteed to reveal Athelas, and you might have to stomach a nasty treachery or enemy. Since you have to reveal the card at the beginning of the quest stage, the threat of the revealed card will still count towards the total in the staging area. So I would not recommend using this ability unless you have stacked the encounter deck in such a way that you know what is coming up.
The 12 quest points on this quest shouldn’t be explored as fast as possible. Try and find enough healing herbs in order to heal Wilyador completely before you advance. Timing is key here; if you have any other healing abilities, make sure to use them before you advance.
Quest card 3: Return to Rhosgobel
This stage is a bit unusual, as you will either win or lose the game as soon as you reach this stage. There is no progress required on this one, and stage 3A is nothing but flavor text. Flipping over to side B shows you a simple When Revealed effect and your win/lose condition. When the players arrive at this stage, they must heal 5 damage off of Wilyador for each copy of the Athelas objective that they control. No, the Athelas player card does not work here; you need the objective card! There’s also no window here for healing through other means, so make sure you use your last healing effects before you move on to this stage.
If Wilyador has no damage left after this When Revealed effect resolves, the players win the game and are free to move to Emyn Muil on their quest to find Gollum. However, if there is even a single bruised feather on Wilyador, and he has any damage left on him after this effect, you automatically lose the game. This is a pretty brutal loss since you got to the end of the quest. However, after your first playthrough, you will know that this effect can cost you the game, and you will hopefully plan your healing strategy better during your next playthrough. Knowing when to advance to stage 3 is very important.
The Encounter deck
- The encounter deck is made up of 53 cards in Normal mode and 37 in Easy. This makes players find more Athelas in Easy mode.
- There is a 51% chance of revealing a shadow effect across both modes.
- The average threat of a card is 1.1 threat/card. This is low because a lot of encounter cards in the quest are treacheries.
- Driven by Shadow is the only card with surge, but only if you have an empty staging area.
- There is no Doomed in the encounter deck. With next to no threat-raising abilities in the quest, you are free to bring your own Doomed cards and be relatively safe.
- Wilyador cannot have attachments and cannot be healed more than 5 points of damage from any single card effect.
- While Rhosgobel is in the staging area, Wilyador cannot be healed.
- Mirkwood Flock and Black Forest Bats can only be defended and attacked by Eagle characters or characters with the Ranged keyword.
The encounter deck is pretty thick but well-balanced in Normal mode between the card types. Easy mode removes a lot of treacheries. This thinning of the encounter deck also improves your chances of finding Athelas or a Forest Grove, making it easier to get Wilyador fully healed up.
The objectives in this quest are really the focus here, with Wilyador being the focus of the quest and Athelas being the only way to heal him during the quest if you bring nothing else with you.
- Wilyador: This Eagle objective ally ranks among the toughest of creatures in the game. 20 hitpoints are the same level as Smaug and even stronger than the ship objectives you get in the Dream-chaser cycle. However, despite his massive pool of hitpoints, Wilyador is not a character you want to use to defend. At the end of each round, he will take 2 points of damage, resulting in you fighting to keep him alive. I find this technique more thematic than the Time keyword that got introduced during the Ringmaker cycle. The other stats on Wilyador are not great; 1/1/1 stats make him a mediocre ally to use for defence or questing. You cannot increase these stats through attachments either since he can’t get any thanks to his textbox. You really don’t want to be questing with him, though, as certain treacheries will deal more damage to him. If he is exhausted to quest, treacheries like Exhaustion and Necromancer’s Reach will cause you to find more Athelas in order to help him survive. Instead, try using Wilyador as an attacker, his 1 attack strength might not count for much, but the fact that he is an Eagle makes him more likely to attack a Mirkwood Flock or Black Forest Bats. In a pinch, you can also defend one of these enemies with Wilyador, though I must recommend you do not do this during the later stages of the game. That single point of damage that you take from the attack might prove fatal during stage 3. Also, note that you are not allowed to play his ally version from the Vengeance of Mordor cycle since they are the same unique character!
- Athelas: This item is what you are really digging for in the encounter deck. While it might not look important based on its text, in the hands of a healer, it will help Wilyador immensely. The effect on stage 3 of the quest instructs players to heal 5 damage per Athelas off of Wilyador; this could have you heal him completely, as you are able to find 4 objectives in the encounter deck. It is a good idea to try and scry a little for these objectives and make sure you find enough before you finish stage 2. This might mean that you have to stall a little before you advance to stage 3 in order to find an additional copy. Be aware that this does mean that Wilyador is going to take more damage, so try and quest through once you are certain you have enough healing herbs. The only text on Athelas is the Guarded keyword, which makes players reveal the next card of the encounter deck and place it on top of Athelas. If it is a location, the players must first explore it. If it is an enemy, the players must first kill it. If it is a treachery, the players must first endure the effect of it or cancel it. In case you reveal another copy of Athelas, the official ruling is that the second copy doesn’t get guarded, and you first claim the top Athelas in order to be able to claim the bottom one. This is extremely rare but will be amazing if you were looking for Athelas. Claiming these objectives will require players to exhaust 1 hero and attach Athelas to that hero. Readying effects are important here, or just bring Tactics Boromir. If the Athelas Objective is dealt to an enemy as a Shadow card, you must discard it. This could be terrible if you needed that final objective to pass to the final stage and win. Consider using Shadow of the Past to put the objective back into the encounter deck.
There is a lot of enemy variety in this quest, featuring nearly all the enemies from Passage through Mirkwood. The enemy forces are strengthened by two new flying enemies that can only be attacked or defended by Eagles and ranged characters.
- King Spider: First up is another 8-legged monster that we’ve encountered during Passage through Mirkwood already, the King Spider. This one has a nasty When Revealed effect that exhausts a character when it is revealed from the encounter deck. This can throw your plans out the window if you have exactly enough characters to deal with combat this round. And with this quest having a focus on damaging exhausted characters, it can lead to a quick death. The fact that this targets each player is pretty brutal too. The 20 engagement cost means that this spider will engage early on. During combat, it will always hit for 3 attack, requiring a dedicated defender to take care of this enemy. The King Spider is a little easier to kill, though, requiring just 4 attack. This can be done by individual heroes but can also be easily achieved by a few allies, should you have some out already. Shadow: The King Spider has a shadow effect that will mimic its when-revealed effect. The defending player must exhaust one character they control. This can ruin your plans to counterattack the enemy, meaning it will remain in play a little while longer. If you took the incoming attack undefended, then you are even more out of luck, as you will have to exhaust 2 characters. This can also be problematic if you revealed this shadow card first in a series of attacks and now have to exhaust the character you were hoping to defend the other enemy with. Readying effects will be important for this shadow card.
- Hummerhorns: The enemy has the highest engagement cost of any enemy in this encounter deck at 40, which is a blessing, but if you end up with the Hummerhorns defending an objective, you are going to have to engage it at some point. You will want to try and avoid engaging the enemy early on, though. That is thanks to the effect on the Hummerhorns. Whenever it engages a player, that player must deal 5 damage to a hero they control. This will kill every hero in the card pool (with the exception of Beorn) without any hitpoint-granting attachments. There is also almost no way to avoid this effect if your threat is equal to its engagement cost, except for Revealed in Wrath during the encounter phase. The 5 damage will automatically delete a hero from the game, and although you can revive them through various player cards, it will be an expensive trick to pull off. In combat, the Hummerhorns aren’t as powerful as their effect, only hitting for 2 and needing 3 attack to be defeated. But it will be rare to face these wasps in battle. The best way to deal with them is to either ignore them and keep a low threat or to kill them in the staging area. Leadership Eomer or Dunhere are great heroes for this, but direct damage effects can also quickly cut through the Hummerhorns’ hitpoints. The good thing about defeating the Hummerhorns is that they have a Victory score. This means that once you defeat them, you no longer have to deal with them again. Shadow: Revealing the Hummerhorns as a shadow effect isn’t much better than engaging it, unfortunately. This shadow effect is by far the most brutal in the scenario, and a Hasty Stroke should be kept in reserve for this effect in particular. If the Hummerhorns are revealed as a shadow effect, the defending player must deal 1 damage to each character they control. This targets both exhausted and ready characters and flat-out deals 1 damage to every character from that player. If this shadow effect kills the defender (like Defender of Rammas), then the attack is considered undefended. This does not trigger the second part of the shadow effect, which only happens if the attack was undefended to begin with. If that is the case, then the damage is doubled to each character. 2 damage dealt directly to allies will kill the majority of the cheap allies, especially if they were already damaged from treacheries earlier. This effect must be canceled at all costs, or the player can be considered out of the game for a while as they try to build up again.
- Ungoliant’s Spawn: The Ungoliant’s Spawn is quite a big enemy, and while it was the “boss” in Passage through Mirkwood, it is just a regular enemy in this scenario. When it is revealed, each of your characters that are committed to the quest gets -1 willpower, putting a big damper on your progress that round. You can avoid this by cancelling the When Revealed effect with a Halfling Bounder or the Dunedain Lookout. You can also counter this loss in willpower by using Faramir or Free Peoples to boost your willpower again. On top of the When Revealed effect, you also get this lovely spider enemy in play, adding 3 threat to the staging area. But don’t worry, it won’t stay up there for very long. The engagement cost of the Spawn is only 32, meaning that mid-game decks will likely have to engage it earlier than they would like, especially if other enemies were revealed that round. In combat, the Spawn hits very hard for 5, which requires players to have a dedicated defender or a chump blocker for this enemy. Try to avoid chump blocking, though, as you won’t get the chance to play a ton of allies, so it would be a shame to throw some of the allies away like that. Attacking the Spawn back will take some effort. With 2 defence and 9 hitpoints, the Spider will take a lot of punishment, and you might need several turns to actually kill it. Don’t forget that it isn’t immune to anything, so you are more than welcome to use all your tricks on it to deal more damage and prevent it from attacking. Rivendell Blade into Straight Shot is a very cheeky way to defeat the Spawn. Shadow: This boss-level enemy has the possibility to show up as a shadow card, and you will wish for some cancellation when you get it. The Spawn will raise the defending player’s threat by 4, but if the attack is undefended, it is increased by 8. This is a massive leap in terms of threat and will put you closer to the engagement cost of tougher enemies for the next round. Cancellation of this shadow effect or threat reduction will save you here.
- Dol Guldur Orcs: These are some of the weakest Orc enemies in this scenario, but they can still pack a punch if you are not careful. The Orcs have a very low threat, meaning that if you are unlucky, you can get swarmed pretty early by these enemies. They also have a When Revealed effect that is quite annoying, as it will deal 2 damage to a character committed to the quest. The first player gets to select this character, but if that character dies because of the direct damage, their willpower is removed from the total. This makes it quite annoying to reveal this enemy multiple times in quick succession, especially in lower player counts where there aren’t as many characters committed to the quest. With an engagement cost of 10, these enemies will engage nearly all decks right away, except for the early game Grey Wanderer decks. While engaged, the Orcs aren’t that big of a problem, but due to their low engagement cost, you do not get the option to leave them in the staging area. This can cause you to be overwhelmed by lower engagement cost enemies early on, requiring you to dedicate more characters to defense. Killing the Orcs is no problem, though. They do not have any defence, meaning that every point of attack you can spare will result in them taking damage. It also means that Straight Shot can discard them immediately. Shadow: The shadow effect on the Orcs is a pretty basic one. The attacking enemy gets +1 attack for this attack. Should players have taken the attack undefended, then the enemy gets +3 attack, which can be deadly for an undefended attack. It even turns enemies like the orc Guard into a 4-attack enemy that you took undefended. The best way to deal with that case is to have Dori, White Tower Watchman, or Barliman in play, so you can redirect the damage you would otherwise take on your hero.
- Chieftain Ufthak: This is another single-copy enemy in the encounter deck and the only other enemy aside from the Hummerhorns with a Victory score. Chieftain Ufthak is an enemy that you don’t want to leave around for too long, and you should prioritize him whenever he is engaged with a player. At 35 engagement cost, you have some time to prepare for him, though higher starting threat decks might need to prepare quickly. Ufthak has a well-rounded stat line of 2/3/3/6, and he has a special ability that allows him to collect tokens. He gets one resource token from the bank each time he attacks. He then gets +2 attack for each token on him at that moment. This happens before the damage is calculated during the attack, meaning that he will attack for 5 during his first attack, 7 for his next attack, and so on. Save your Feints for this enemy since he doesn’t get a resource token if he doesn’t attack. Killing him should be a priority before he becomes too big. Use some one-time abilities like Black Arrow and Tactics Eowyn to defeat Ufthak quickly. He will be added to the Victory Display upon his defeat. You should exploit his lack of immunity to player card effects so that you can maximize damage dealt to him while avoiding his attacks.
- Dol Guldur Beastmaster: The biggest threat of this enemy is that it has quite a lot of hitpoints, making it tough to defeat in the early game. At 5 hitpoints, the Beastmaster can even survive a direct hit from Gandalf’s damage ability. This means it will be very likely that you are going to have to suffer through at least one of the Beastmaster’s attacks. This can be quite dangerous. Not because the Beastmaster has so much attack, 3 attack is quite standard, but because of the ability on the Beastmaster. When he attacks, he is dealt an additional shadow card. This can be a problem, as you can potentially get 2 shadow effects buffing his attack or doing other nasty things like discarding attachments or raising your threat. To circumvent these shadow cards, you can either focus all your direct damage on the Beastmaster to kill him before he makes an attack. Events like Quick Strike are also a good solution if you can manage to attack for 6 with a single character. Alternatively, you can also make sure that the Beastmaster won’t attack, thereby not triggering either shadow effect. Feint is a great tool for this, but you can also get creative with a ReforgedForest Snare. With 35 engagement cost, you will have some time to prepare for this enemy before it comes down. You are also helped by the fact that the chances of seeing a shadow card on this enemy is relatively low, let alone getting both cards with an effect. But if you are not willing to try your luck, there are several options mentioned earlier that will help you to get around this enemy.
- Black Forest Bats: The weaker enemy of the two new enemies introduced in this scenario, but at a lower engagement cost, you are more likely to encounter this one. The 0 defense on the enemy and just 2 hitpoints make it very vulnerable to Thalin/Argalad and Straight Shot. Try adding some direct damage to your decks in order to prevent these enemies from engaging you. Even cards like Fresh Tracks and Expecting Mischief can be useful against these enemies. Once engaged, the Bats can only be defended by Eagle Characters or by Characters with Ranged. Pro tip: Add some Winged Guardians to your deck to have a solid defence option against the bats. You might also want to consider taking the attack undefended, but this can lead to nastier shadow effects and more damage on your heroes. Ranged Characters are often not really defensive, so you might not want to risk that if it isn’t needed. Attacking the Bats is easier, as Ranged characters often have 2 or more attack power to handle them. Be sure to add Ranged Characters in your deck in order to get rid of these enemies immediately. Shadow: The shadow effect on the bats will be pretty common and is the reason why you should not be taking their attacks undefended. Any damage done by an undefended attack with this shadow card will be dealt to Wilyador instead of a hero. Usually, this does not deal a lot of damage; else, you wouldn’t be taking it undefended. But any extra damage dealt to Wilyador can cost you an extra turn of finding more Athelas to heal that damage off. However, if you are not taking attacks undefended, this shadow effect is nothing to worry about.
- Mirkwood Flock: CTRL+C, CTRL+V of the Black Forest Bats, only that the Flock has a higher engagement cost, a slightly higher attack, a point of defence, and an additional hitpoint. The strategy remains the same: Kill them with direct damage, or have enough Ranged Characters ready to deal with them. 4 combined defensive stats may be more difficult, but combine a couple of archers with some weapons, and you should be fine. Their higher engagement cost of 32 also means that you can focus on the Bats early on and take the Flock afterwards. Fortunately, you are more likely to encounter the weaker bats than this enemy since there is one fewer copy in the encounter deck. Shadow: Exact copy of the Black Forest Bats. Just don’t take attacks undefended.
Radagast’s home is on the border of Mirkwood forest, which means that we get a lot of familiar locations from earlier in the cycle. The new locations are not that hard and can actually help you to find more Athelas!
- Great Forest Web: Our first location on this list is the Great Forest Web. This location sounds pretty bad, but when you look at the stats, you see that it isn’t too terrible. 2 threat and 2 quest points are pretty average for this quest and low when comparing it to other scenarios. The biggest problem with the Web is its travel cost. Each player must exhaust a hero in order to travel here. If any player cannot exhaust a hero, then the players aren’t able to travel here, and they must instead go somewhere else if able. This location is usually left in the staging area, as it is not worth traveling to. You reduce the threat in the staging area by 2 in exchange for needing 2 more progress next round to clear it. The cost of exhausting a hero per player is usually too high, except if each player either has a way to ready their hero or doesn’t need their hero for the rest of the round. This can happen if no enemies were revealed that round, in which case the Web can make for a proper destination during the travel phase. It is recommended to just clear the Web in the staging area with the use of player card effects. 2 quest points are easy to overcome with effects like Asfaloth and Evening Star, and even effects that place just 1 progress are already halfway there.
- Mountains of Mirkwood: There is a lot happening with this location, both good and bad. To start with, the Mountains of Mirkwood have 2 threat and 3 quest points. They also have a travel cost that will require you to reveal the top card of the encounter deck to travel there. Should you have no encounter cards left in the encounter deck after the quest phase, then you cannot travel here since the deck is only reset in the quest phase. It is usually a good trade-off to travel to this location, especially if you haven’t got any enemies in play at that point. You can potentially get an enemy this way and will have something to do during the combat phase. However, if you feel that you are getting overwhelmed by the encounter deck, then it is probably better to travel somewhere else. Note that revealing the additional encounter card also allows you to dig for Athelas a little faster, especially compared to a solo game. There is a benefit to defeating this location, though. Once the Mountains of Mirkwood have been explored, they allow each player to search the top 5 cards of their deck for any one card and add it to their hand. This helps players to set up more easily, especially if they don’t have scrying or card draw (yet). This is basically a free use of Heed the Dream, which can be great for people looking for specific cards. Note that this benefit triggers when the location is explored, not discarded. This means that cards like Distant Stars won’t trigger it. But it can trigger when players explore the location through player card effects placing progress on it in the staging area. You don’t have to travel to it in order to get the benefit. This location is a case of risk versus reward and can be quite enjoyable to debate traveling to.
- Necromancer’s Pass: At 3 threat, this location has the highest threat of any location in this encounter deck (unless you are playing this in 4 player with Rhosgobel in the staging area). And since 3 isn’t that high compared to other scenarios, you get a feeling for the difficulty of these locations (it’s low, very low). The Pass can be cleared in the staging area by just placing 2 points of progress on it. Alternatively, the players can travel to the location if there is no other active location during the travel phase. This will demand that the first player discards 2 cards at random from their hand. If they have 1 or no cards in their hand, the players cannot travel here. I tend to clear the location in the staging area unless I feel that I have a high enough chance to discard some cards from my hand that I don’t mind losing. The location isn’t too much to worry about, and you can generally get away with traveling somewhere else. However, if you are in a situation where location lock is becoming a threat, then travel to the Pass, as it lowers the threat in the staging area the most.
- Enchanted Stream: Out of all locations in the encounter deck, this is the only one for which I would warn not to travel to but instead clear it in the staging area. That is not only because it is quite easy to clear in the staging area, requiring just 2 progress, but also because of the passive rule that is on the Enchanted Stream. While it is the active location, players cannot draw cards. This means that players not only lose the card they get every resource phase, but they also cannot draw from other effects. Card draw events like Deep Knowledge become useless, but even utility allies like Master of the Forge and Bofur cannot draw you specific cards anymore. This stalls your deck’s development unless you have plenty to play from the cards in your hand. Decks that run Erestor (and usually Noldor decks in general) will struggle as they lose most of their hand and cannot draw extra cards. Since this only happens when the Enchanted Stream is the active location, I would suggest leaving it in the staging area, even if it is the only location in the staging area during the travel phase. It is not worth losing your ability to draw cards unless you can be sure to quest through it before you can draw a card again. With it only having 2 quest points, cards like Legolas and Strength of Will can clear it without costing you too many cards. Blanking the textbox of this card with Thror’s Key can also solve the issue, but only if you really want to. Usually, there are enough other options to travel to during the travel phase.
- Rhosgobel: This unique location starts off in the staging area during setup. Its threat scales to the number of players in the game, with a limit of 4. The 4 quest points on the location can be put on Rhosgobel while it is in the staging area since it is not immune to player card effects like Northern Tracker. Players are also able to put attachments on the location in order to explore it. Think of Hithlain and Explorer’s Almanac for these effects. You will want to clear the location as soon as possible in order to start healing Wilyador. The location restricts this while it is in the staging area. Once you pass stage 1, you are free to travel to it and get rid of it that way. However, you can also use other card effects to travel here before the first stage is over. If you are not finding the cards you need to place progress on Rhosgobel, you can instead use South Away, Ghan-buri-Ghan and West Road Traveller to travel to this location, bypassing the Travel cost. The sooner you get to heal Wilyador again, the fewer Athelas you need and the more time you have to find it! Since Rhosgobel has 4 victory points, you are guaranteed never to see it again halfway through the quest.
- Forest Grove: The only new location you can encounter from the deck is actually a beneficial one. Forest Grove lets the players find an Athelas objective once they explore the location. They add the objective to the staging area. Keep in mind that as the objective was not revealed from the encounter deck, the Guarded keyword does not trigger. This allows you to get some very easy Athelas on the table quickly! This location is always worth it to travel to, as more Athelas can be found, even when it comes up as a Shadow card on an enemy. There are 4 copies of this location to pair the 4 objectives in the deck. This doubles the chances of you finding an objective, so be on the lookout for this card. Note that you even get to find the Athelas if you explore the grove in the staging area, so if your progress-placing cards are working well, you can just travel elsewhere to get rid of more threat. Also, make sure to take out Athelas objectives from the encounter discard pile through this effect if you can. The ones still in the encounter deck can still be revealed naturally, while the ones in the encounter discard pile won’t be reshuffled for a while.
The treacheries in this encounter deck are the worst card type to get for this scenario. Many of them deal damage to your characters, making it easy to lose them if you aren’t careful. Cancellation is a necessity for this quest.
- Eyes of the Forest: This is a rather rare treachery, considering there is only one copy in the encounter deck in Normal mode, and it is removed in Easy mode. Is it that brutal, then? Well, not really. When this treachery is revealed, each player must discard all event cards from their hand. While this is annoying for some players, it will be rare to have a hand full of events that you really want to play. Only decks that run Council of the Wise will really be impacted by this treachery. However, as weird as it may seem, this treachery is worth canceling with Test of Will. This is because you will be discarding the event card anyway, so you might as well save all others by spending the resource and canceling this treachery. However, there will also be times when you won’t have any event cards in your hands, meaning that the treachery whiffs. With no surge or other keyword, this treachery doesn’t do that much and is often a free encounter card to reveal during your quest phase. The lack of a shadow effect also makes it have no impact during the combat phase, which is nice. Do note that if you happen to have to resolve this treachery, you cannot play Actions beforehand on your events. This means that you cannot trigger cards like Elrond’s Counsel before you would discard them. Trigger such events before the staging step to make sure that you won’t have to discard them. This includes any healing you might want to do with Lore of Imladris. Responses can still be triggered before the resolution of this treachery, so canceling the When Revealed effect with A Test of Will is still legal.
- Caught in a Web: Where there are spiders, there are webs, and the webs are sticky. When this treachery is revealed, it will attach itself to a hero of the player with the highest threat. If there is a tie, discuss with the other player who would be the best target. The first player makes the final call, but there is usually an optimal target for this treachery. While attached, the Condition attachment will now prevent the hero from readying during the refresh phase unless two resources are paid from that hero’s resource pool. This does not discard the attachment. Also, note that you would ready before you gain your resources for the next round, so you would have to have 2 resources in the pool of that hero before you enter the refresh phase. This usually isn’t worth it, and those 2 resources can be put to better use in the form of a Miner of the Iron Hills, whose purpose is to discard Condition attachments like this. This will free up your hero, and you will still get the Miner’s stats to use. Other options are also available to discard Condition attachments, so be sure to pack some for this quest. There are two copies of this treachery in the encounter deck, which makes it difficult for solo players if both copies hit your heroes. The treachery doesn’t specify if both copies can go on the same hero, but if they can, you would have to spend 4 resources in order to ready. It can often be worth having readying attachments like Unexpected Courage or Heir of Mardil on the hero so that they can still ready outside of the Refresh phase. Some heroes are also ideal targets, like Tactics Boromir, Gwaihir, Sam, and Leadership Imrahil, who all have built-in readying effects.
- Driven by Shadow: There are two scenarios for this treachery. Either it does next to nothing, or it is the worst card you could have revealed, making your location lock a lot worse. When this treachery is revealed, each enemy and location currently in the staging area gets +1 threat. This does affect any encounter cards that were revealed before this treachery but not those that are added after this treachery. Should there be no locations or enemies in the staging area at the time this treachery is revealed, then it surges into the next encounter card (which also doesn’t get +1 threat). The impact of this card scales with the number of cards in the staging area, and it will be less terrible if you manage to keep it clean. However, in higher player counts, this is not always possible, and Driven by Shadow can easily add 5+ threat to the staging area. But in higher player counts, you will have sent more willpower to the quest, so it usually balances out. It is often not worth canceling the treachery, but it often depends on the situation. There is only one copy of this treachery, so you do not have to worry about it triggering more than once. Shadow: The shadow effect on the treachery can be annoying, as it will discard an attachment from the defending character. If this character has no attachments, the shadow effect does nothing. But you will otherwise lose an attachment, which can cause you to take more damage if you have to discard something that boosts your defence. Should the attack be undefended, then the shadow effect discards all attachments you control. This can be devastating for some decks late in the game and should serve as a reminder not to take undefended attacks. Note that Caught in a Web can be targeted by the shadow effect if the attached character is defending but won’t be discarded if the attack is undefended since you do not control the attachment; the encounter deck does.
- The Necromancer’s Reach: This next treachery is probably the most remembered treachery from the Core Set and has been remade in many different formats over the years. But this classic card still invokes an audible grown across the table when it is revealed, followed by: “Can anyone cancel this?” The When Revealed effect on the Reach is brutal in its simplicity. Each exhausted character gets dealt one damage. They do not have to be committed to the quest but can also be exhausted from triggering their effects before the staging step (Gleowine, Master of the Forge, Bofur) or be exhausted from other effects (Ents that were just played, for example). Each exhausted character is dealt one damage, which can destroy lower-cost characters with just one (remaining) hitpoint. If these characters were committed to the quest, they no longer contribute their willpower to the quest, and you have to recalculate after the staging step. This effect can lay waste to some decks like Silvans and Hobbits, so it should be cancelled if possible. Getting this card multiple times in the same quest phase is not impossible, as there are 3 copies in the encounter deck in Normal mode. Multiple triggers of this treachery in short succession can often lead to dead heroes and to a reset of the game. Cancellation is important for this one, but another way to avoid having to take so much damage is to ready all your characters before the staging step. Cards like Grim Resolve, Need Drives Them, Free Peoples, and Strength of Arms can ready a lot of characters while keeping them committed to the quest. Healing can also help, provided there is enough time between copies of this treachery to heal everyone.
- Exhaustion: What’s worse than dealing 1 damage to every exhausted character? Dealing them 2 damage instead, of course! Exhaustion is in every way a more brutal version of Necromancer’s Reach. And there’s no avoiding it either since there will be 4 copies of it in the deck in Normal mode. So chances are that you will be seeing this treachery appear at some point during your game. And once it appears, you will want to be ready with a Test of Will or Eleanor to cancel this card. 2 damage to each exhausted character is brutal and will kill a lot of allies. Even heroes aren’t safe if this card is revealed before or after another copy or a copy of Necromancer’s Reach. The obvious trick, aside from cancelation, is to make sure no characters are exhausted in the quest phase. You can do this by playing a readying effect like Strength of Arms to ready all allies, but make sure you play this before the staging step. Also, prevent some utility allies from dying by activating their abilities after the staging step. Gleowine, Henamarth, Warden of Healing, etc., are all in the danger zone with this treachery and will be best used after the quest phase is over. Shadow: The shadow effect on this treachery is a slimmed-down version of its When Revealed effect, dealing just 1 damage to each exhausted character. However, there’s a higher chance that this shadow effect will end up killing characters since it is later in the round now, and more characters will be exhausted. Shadow cancelation can be worth including for this shadow effect alone since it can also kill your defender, leaving the attack go through undefended. This will just pile more damage on your characters. It also does not restrict itself to just your characters. No, all exhausted characters in play will take damage, potentially discarding even more characters from other players. Hasty Stroke, Jubayr, or Balin will be worth their weight in gold if you can cancel this shadow card with them.
- Swarming Insects: Another treachery that deals damage to characters, though this one is tailored more towards dealing damage to Wilyador. When this treachery is revealed, each player must deal 1 damage to each character they own without an attachment. Outside of a Dale deck or one with the Three Hunters contract, this is bound to damage some allies aside from Wilyador as well. Especially players who invested in an Eagle deck will have very few attachments for their allies, meaning that the 4 copies of this treachery can potentially wipe your board. This treachery is worse to get in the early game when you haven’t had a chance to play a lot of attachments yet. Later on, you could have played some cheap attachments like Cram and Spare Hood and Cloak to at least protect your heroes and important allies. Allies can also benefit a lot from Squire’s Helm, giving them more hitpoints to protect them from other sources of direct damage. Shadow: This is a bit of a weird shadow effect that can potentially end up killing a hero or doing absolutely nothing. The players must check which character has the most damage. In most cases, this will be Wilyador, but it can also be other characters like hero Beorn. If any character has more damage than all others, you must deal that character 3 extra points of damage. This will often kill any character aside from Wilyador, making this shadow effect quite dangerous. However, if two characters have the same amount of damage (or if everyone is healed up perfectly), then no damage is dealt from this effect. Keep this Shadow in mind if you are healing Wilyador.
- Festering Wounds: To pour salt into the wounds of your characters, Festering Wounds will deal additional damage to every wounded character. Even if they have just 1 damage from a Necromancer’s Reach or something else that happened earlier, they now have to take 2 additional points of damage. This can combo horribly with the other treacheries in this quest and end up wiping your entire team. Because of this card, I would strongly advise keeping your characters healed up completely before going into the quest phase. It might only hurt Wilyador at that point. It can also completely whiff, but that’s going to be more rare. Canceling this card is often the difference between a successful quest phase and a game reset. Shadow: The treachery does not get any easier in the combat phase if it is dealt as a shadow card. It will still deal 1 damage to each wounded character in play (including those from other players). If the attack is somehow undefended, they all get dealt 2 damage instead. This shadow can also kill a defender with its direct damage, though thankfully, that does not change the damage from 1 to 2. Still, this is worth canceling if you have been taking damage throughout the round. Luckily there are only 2 copies of this card in the deck.
Worst cards in the encounter deck
- Ungoliant’s Spawn
- Chieftain Ufthak
- Enchanted Stream
- Necromancer’s Reach
- Swarming Insects
- Festering Wounds
- Shadow effects
- Undefended Driven by Fear
- Festering Wounds
Tips and Tricks
- Healing is essential in this quest, and you should definitely bring ways to heal Wilyador during the game to buy you enough time to find enough Athelas. Lore of Imladris is probably the strongest card for this. Have enough Lore resources to be able to play this event when you can. Lore will also likely allow you to draw several copies faster than other spheres.
- Since certain enemies can only be defended and attacked by Eagles, this quest is perfect for bringing your own Eagle deck. This makes the enemies less of a problem, though you will have to be careful with treacheries like Swarming Insects.
- Alternatively, you can run some Ranged characters to help with taking care of the new enemies. You won’t need much attack power to kill them, but try to invest in some Ranged characters that can take a hit or two from these enemies. Ally Haldir is pretty good for this, given he also has the Sentinel keyword.
- Treachery cancellation will be important for this quest since there are many effects that can damage your heroes and allies. To prevent further damage, make sure everybody is healed up and has an attachment (Dale decks do well here). This allows you to ignore some of the treacheries so that you can keep your cancellation for the others.
- This might be a weird suggestion, but bring heroes with at least 4 hitpoints. In multiplayer games, there is a pretty tough combo in the encounter deck that can wipe out a lot of characters if you get Necromancer’s Reach first and then get Exhaustion. That deals 3 damage to every exhausted character, at the very least. So if you want to protect your heroes, select some stronger ones.
- With 9 enemies dealing undefended damage to Wilyador, you will have enough reason not to take any damage undefended. That’s on top of the many shadow effects that actively get worse if attacks are undefended, so really avoid doing that.
- Damage cancelation can be a good alternative for healing during stage 2. Not only will you reduce the chances of Festering Wounds killing characters, but since it is technically not healing, you do not need to discard the card after the damage has been canceled. Honour Guard is a pretty good ally for that reason to bring to this quest.
- Heal everyone in play as soon as you can so that the damaging treacheries won’t end up killing your characters. Not only will this allow you to save those allies and heroes, but healing Wilyador also allows you to spend more time finding Athelas and require less of it.
- With 7 cards dealing damage to exhausted characters, you would be wise to go into the staging step of the quest phase with as few exhausted characters as possible. Send them to the quest afterwards with Hobbit Pony, or find a way to commit them without exhausting with Galadriel or Light of Valinor. Utility allies should also be used after the quest phase to keep them alive. Investing into readying effects for everyone is also a smart thing to do.
- With so many horrible treacheries in the game, guarded player cards might end up being a proper investment for this quest. They will still add a location or enemy to the staging area, but if you can get rid of a few treacheries through them, it will save you a lot of damage. You also thin the encounter deck a little, though Athelas can get discarded because of them, so perhaps scry before playing them.
As this is a scenario that comes early in the game’s life and is not very popular among players, it should not come as a surprise that most playthrough videos are from progression series that run into this quest early on. Still, it should give you an idea of how tough this quest is when players limit their card pool.
- 2 players, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLJeHba9PFg
- True solo, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi6_0ywziCc
- True solo. progression style; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwU75vtLy6Y
With this quest now completed, I can easily move on to a quest that I like a lot better. The Hills of Emyn Muil might not be a good quest to many players, but as a player who prioritizes location control in his decks, it’s one that I often go back to. So I’ll be delighted to talk about the 20 or so different locations in the next article, which will hopefully not take as long to write as this one did!