During my recap of 2022, I noticed that one of the official contracts had not yet been covered. So to right that wrong, here’s the review of one of my personal favorite contracts in the game! It also holds the title for the final player card being ever revealed before the hiatus, as this contract came with the Hunt for the Dreadnaught scenario pack. The contract balances high risk with a nice reward for the players running it, though you will not see a ton of people running this deck in real life. That is because the minimum deck size of 100 cards makes it tower over regular decks. Add in some smooth sleeves with it, and you suddenly find yourself having to balance a deck of cards and hoping nobody bumps the table.
The contract is two-sided, with the card flipping as soon as you hit your threat elimination level. This makes it similar to contracts like Forth, the Three Hunters! where you have to earn your way to side B of the card. But that is made a little easier with the contract’s second rule: You cannot reduce your threat by player card effects! While this doesn’t affect encounter cards lowering your threat (Trouble in Tharbad would be a good example), it does prevent players from running any sort of threat reduction in their deck. But since you are hoping to get to your threat elimination level anyways, that is not a huge cost to pay. You just have to make sure that you remove any threat reduction cards from your deck and give a second thought about bringing heroes like Galadriel, Fastred, or Dwalin. There are likely better heroes to bring to the quest.
The first rule of the contract is actually the more interesting one to me. You are forced to have at least 100 cards in your actual deck (not counting heroes and the contract). This is double the minimum you usually have, so you get to include a wider variety of cards in your deck. This makes the contract easy to swap in if you have a regular deck of 60-70 cards and can’t decide which ones to cut. Instead, add in a few more until you reach 100 cards, and cut any threat reduction you might have otherwise included. The 100 cards limit also allows you to run more copies of your cards, often going into 3x of every card in your deck. You will need this since the 100-card limit also means that you are less likely to find the cards you are looking for quickly.
This makes card draw essential for any Perilous Voyage deck. You have 100 cards to get, so you better be drawing a lot of them each round. Heroes like Erestor, Bilbo, and Beravor can help, but also side-quests like Prepare for Battle. Your usual card draw events and allies also work well here, but you have to be lucky in finding these early in the game. With 100 cards in the deck, there is a real chance that your essential card is towards the bottom of the deck. So selective card draw that searches deep into your deck or lets you search your deck for a particular card is great here. You will often see decks run Thurindir with Gather Information as their first side-quest since you can grab your combo pieces soon after. Other effects like Heed the Dream and Word of Command are also very useful.
To help you draw even faster through your deck and, in the meantime, approach your elimination level, the contract gives you an action. You are able to exhaust it in order to look at the top 2 cards of your deck. You may draw one of these cards and put the other on the bottom of your deck. Even without additional card draw, you can now guarantee you see 3 cards per turn instead of 1. This does come with an additional cost, by having you raise your threat by 1. This puts you closer to your elimination level, but be careful that you are also likely to engage more enemies with a higher threat. Perilous Voyage decks must be ready for combat faster than other decks usually need to be. The action also helps to reach your elimination level at any point during a round, which will be important later. Getting a bit of control over when you flip your contract can be very useful; just make sure you do not forget actually to raise your threat each time you use the action. It is an easy thing to forget.
When the player finally reaches their threat elimination level, they flip the contract over instead of being eliminated. As a reminder, this will be 50 threat in normal cases, 99 threat during Dire quests, and 45 threat if you are also playing with The One Ring. Some quests also toy with reducing your threat elimination level, so keep an eye on it.
Side B informs you again that your threat cannot be reduced, but this time even encounter card effects are not going to help you. This is a subtle change, but only Contract cards are now able to reduce your threat. And that’s perfect timing since as soon as you flip to side B, you reduce your threat by 10 with the contract! This puts most decks on 40 threat, but this was the last time that your threat got reduced by player card effects. Only encounter cards can now lower your threat, and that is rare, so you’d best strap in for a quick ride back up towards your threat elimination level. You do still have some time in most quests though, allowing you to snatch a quick victory before you are eliminated.
As a reward, though, you get a few benefits. The first is that your heroes no longer exhaust to quest. This is often not what you bring the contract for, but the extra willpower and action advantage can come in useful to make a quick end to the quest before you are eliminated. You will also likely be facing more enemies now that your threat is high, so the action advantage on your heroes can help to kill the enemies a little faster. It also opens up your heroes for cards like Peace and Thought, which is a great way to draw even more cards!
The other benefit you get is that you get to search your deck for any card. You then get the choice to either play it with its cost reduced by 3 or to take it into your hand for later use. If you have been looking for your combo pieces, this is another way to get them, even if they were towards the bottom of the deck. There are several great cards to play for this effect, like any 3-cost ally, but also events like Need Drives Them, which will ready every character owned by every player with a threat of 40 or higher. And since you likely just dropped down to 40, you get a free ready on every character you own. This does require some decent timing, but you can use the Action on the A-side of the contract to do this. Remember that this is just a cost reduction if you play the card immediately. You can still use any matching resources on heroes you control to pay for higher cost allies/attachments/events. The cost reduction disappears if you draw the card to your hand, you will have to pay full cost for that card when next you play it.
The contract loses its card draw ability on the B-side, so I hope you have a card draw engine going by now. Else you might struggle to play everything in your deck. Not that it is required to do so, but it is one of the strengths of this contract to get to play twice as many cards as regular decks. Nothing is stopping the clock that is your threat, though, as it slowly ticks back up towards your elimination level. Hit it again, and your entire board state is wiped out.
There is a lot to like about this contract, of which many points I have covered already. You get to play twice as many cards as regular decks, potentially setting up a massive board state with allies full of attachments and plenty of events in your hand. It also helps a lot during deckbuilding that you can simply include more cards than you otherwise would. This also gives space to some cards you otherwise would cut from your deck to save space.
The next great thing about the contract is that you are punished less for starting with more high-threat heroes. While you usually want to stay below 35 to start the game, you can opt to go higher than that in order to flip your contract faster. This does still include a lot of risks and less time to finish the game than other decks, but you have at least one safety net to keep you in the game for a while. This all sets up for the inclusion of an archetype that was rare to see before: Valour decks. These get their perks past 40 threat, allowing you to get much more value out of some cards at the same cost. Usually, Valour decks are tricky to use since you always run a risk of a bad treachery putting you past your elimination level. But this contract incentivizes Valour decks and even puts you back at 40 once you flip for another run up the track to 50.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though, as this contract does have a few downsides. I already discussed that it is difficult to find the correct cards quickly without running a lot of card draw or searching your deck with certain cards. This contract nearly demands that you run at least one Lore hero to grant you access to the more powerful card draw engines. You can still get around this with things like Elven-light and Foe-hammer, but again, you have to find those cards first. Lore just has the more reliable card draw and a wider range of effects to almost guarantee you will see the cards you are looking for early in the game.
The high threat and no chance to reduce it also comes at a cost during the engagement/combat phase. Your high threat will pull down all enemies in play, even the ones you generally leave in the staging area, like Hummerhorns. That means you need to be ready for combat quickly before everything comes down to you. In multiplayer games, you will also likely rely on other players to take some of the heat off of you, but that doesn’t always work well. The inability to lower your threat also makes this contract ill-suited for quests that raise your threat quickly. While this can put you on side B of your contract within a few turns, you are also very likely to be eliminated before the game is over. Remember that no threat reduction effects will save you once you hit side B of the contract. Even cards like Favor of the Valar won’t be able to help here, so you are on a very strict timer with this contract.
This limit on your threat also means that longer quests are not suited very well for this contract. This includes most POD quests, which is a bit ironic, since this contract came with such a quest. But also other quests like The Ghost of Framsburg and Battle of Pelennor Fields will be difficult to beat before you threat out.
In physical games, the contract is also a bit of a mess to bring to games. The 100 cards make for a pretty serious tower on the table, especially when sleeved. This is not only a hassle while it is on the table but also makes shuffling the deck difficult. There is a reason why heroes like Lothiriel and Tactics Prince Imrahil are not used with physical copies of the contract. Having to shuffle every turn will lead to cramps in your hands. Either invest in a shuffling machine or bring a deck that doesn’t get shuffled too often.
The contract also sort of restricts the cards you can bring. Hobbits and Ranger decks are not really suited for this contract since most enemies will have an engagement cost lower than your threat during the game. Dunedain Rangers are excluded from this restriction, as they can enjoy being engaged with a lot of enemies at once, but especially Hobbits are a poor fit for this contract. The One Ring is also something I would personally avoid using with this contract. It lowers your threat elimination level, and if you ever threat out, the game is lost for all other players as well.
Archetypes that work well
There are some archetypes that work well with this contract, though. The first one is Gondor. It received a closer link to Valour during the Vengenace of Mordor cycle, with cards like Soldier of Gondor being worth a lot more if your threat is 40 or higher. Other cards like Veteran of Osgiliath and Angbor the Fearless are simply worth more if you are in Valour. Gondor also has the ability to make a mono-leadership deck work with this contract, as long as you plug some holes in your card draw engine with Rod of the Steward and perhaps Valiant Sacrifice for your chumps. This mono-sphere approach is not a must, though, and you can easily splash in Lore or Tactics to fill out your 100 cards deck minimum a lot faster. Gondor has a wide enough card pool to allow for this.
The second archetype on my list is Dale. It does not have built-in threat reduction, so that’s easy to leave out of the deck. I have always found that Dale decks need a lot of cards to get to stupid levels of power, as they require both a healthy dose of allies, as well as a lot of attachments to put on these allies. You now have double the deck size to make that work! Just make sure you hit a good balance with the ally-attachment ratio, as Dale can be a bit slow if you are only drawing one type of card for a while. In the later portion of the game, you can enjoy additional uses of your Knights of Dale and have a large army on the table, fully equipped for the quest. There isn’t much that can stand up to that!
Dwarves are also a great archetype for this contract. Not only are there plenty of Dwarf cards in the card pool to fill out your deck, but the Dwarven Mining archetype can really make you churn through your deck fast. You will be hitting your Hidden Caches and Ered Luin Miners a little less often, but with Dwarf Pipes returning discarded cards to your deck, you can mine almost indefinitely.
I am also intrigued by the idea of an Isengard-themed deck with this contract. Saruman‘s ability to lower your threat by more than 1 is overruled by the contract, and the added Doomed cards can get you to your elimination level faster. Saruman even gets you access to Word of Command to find your cards quickly. This is more of a solo deck, though, as I doubt many other players will enjoy hitting their threat elimination level at the same time as you. But Doomed cards can still pad out Perilous Voyage decks focused on other archetypes to hit two birds with one stone! Deep Knowledge is especially a good card to bring for this contract.
The following selection of decks tries to use the contract with different archetypes. Try any of these out for yourself and see whether or not you enjoy playing at high threat.
- Dale archetype: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18695/daleembarksonaperilousvoyage-1.0
- Dwarven mining archetype: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/21185/dwarfmining-1.0
- Gondor archetype, mono-Leadership: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/31380/monoleadershipperilousvoyageconotr22-2.0
- Eagle archetype, using AleP cards: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/33373/dragonslayingeagles-1.0
- Power deck with Gandalf and Elrond: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/21077/myonedecknotavilyadeck-1.0
- Dunedain archetype, mono-Spirit: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/28812/yetperillaybeforethemalongtheway-1.0
I hope this article has inspired you to try out a Perilous Voyage contract deck for yourself. If you have any feedback or decklists you like to share that have a different spin on the contract, feel free to comment down below. With this article now done, I will be moving on to the Nightmare Against the Shadow cycle in order to complete those quest reviews once and for all!
2 thoughts on “A Perilous Voyage”
Hey Daan, I think you may have mis-read the second side of the contract: It says that you cannot reduce your threat by non-contract player card effects, meaning that your threat can only be reduced by those player cards that are contracts and still by encounter cards.
I think they added this because the contract itself reduces your threat when flipping, so if they simply copied the text from the front it wouldn’t be able to do that.
You are right. Encounter cards could still reduce your threat. I had missed the “player” part of the rule. I’ll make the adjustments