Lord of the Rings:LCG - reviews and general thoughts

It all started with accepting 100 plays challenge and pledging to comment each play. Soon my thoughts outgrew the BGG comment format and also FFG's forum. I decided to post them in a form of a blog here. In time I got rid of session reports and replaced them with expansions reviews. Enjoy.

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Did I really Escaped Dol Guldur solo?

Wojtek Wojcik
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I described my feelings about playing Escape from Dol Guldur with only core cards here: Escape from Dol Guldur - the one cursed by all solo players. Then after playing Mirkwood cycle (and Massing at Osgiliath) I attempted it again with extended card pool (you can find brief comments here: play comments) and failed miserably again. At that time I made a resolution to play it after each full cycle and see if at some point I will be able to create a deck that will be able to deal with this scenario on a semi-regular basis. Just before taking my time out from the game I exactly did that. In March I attempted the bane of all solo players scenario and ...

(Long pause) ... YES I DID IT ... I beat Dol Goldur with tournament legal deck solo!

I have to say that satisfaction when I did that for the first time was really someting. Even better I was able to beat it few more times after that. I was not able to achieve my "holy grail" goal of >50% win percentage (I got around 45%, but who's counting) nevertheless I was/am so proud. Unfortunately my limited time/burn-out phase kicked in right after that and I only have half of the comments about my plays. Still you can find at least those below.

[Session Comment]

Date: 16 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played 7 times, won three of those
--------------------------------------------------------------
[Session Report] Due to being a bit sick I've spent the weekend escaping from Dol Guldur. Due to decent amount of plays details are a bit hazy:
- Started with a defeat. Frodo was the first prisoner. Initial objective "guardians" were not so bad but soon enough got attacked by Chieftan and Ungoliant Spawn.
- FIRST win against this scenario for me. Frodo was again the prisoner. Manged to get to him quite fast due to nice balanced mix of enemies, locations and treacheries. Had a little trouble killing the Nazgul (Chieftan Ufthak was assisting him). Gandalf helped greatly and after that I was off to my first win.
- Another win this time Aragorn was taken prisoner. I was able to rescue him just in time for threat reset.
- Three losses in a row (Glorfindel was in prison). Once I got double Caught in a web early. Once I got 5 location turn one (even Gandalf couldn't help). Once I had three Dol Guldur orcs at the start and even despite killing them soon Ungliant appeared and sealed the deal.
- Finally won with Glorfindel in prison. Got an fairly easy start (two no effect treacheries which helped a lot)
--------------------------------------------------------------
[General thoughts] At this point I was very satisfied with my deck (only changes I mad was pretty obvious swap of Peace, and Thought for Miner of Iron Hills. I assumed that it will be always easier to win if Glorfindel is not in prison (Light of Valinor is a huge help in starting hand and Asfaloth can help as well). I was very happy to finally beat this bane of all solo players quest. FFG always gets bashed for including it in core set and I tend to partially agree as I think it was not tested enough in solo mode. On the other hand it was nice to comeback with great pool of cards to this core set quest and find that most of its theth are still pointy and lust for solo player's blood. It was a joyous moment after 250+ plays to add this quest to my "completed" list (I refuse to comment on performing small victory dance).

[General Thoughts]

Here I will only include my deck if someone else wants to test it out:
Heroes:
Glorfindel - Foundation of Stone
Aragorn - Watcher in the Water
Frodo Baggins

Allies:
3x Gandalf - Core set

3x Northern Tracker
3x Arwen Undomiel
3x Bofur - The Redhorn Gate
3x West Road Traveller
2x Wandering Took


3x Miner of the Iron Hills
2x Henemarth Riversong
3x Master of the Forge


Attachments
2x Unexpected Courage
3x Light of Valinor
3x Ancient Mathom


3x Fast Hitch
1x Asfaloth


Events:
2x Dwarven Tomb
3x Test of Will
3x Hasty Stroke


3x Daeron's Runes
3x Radagast's Cunning



What are your opinions on this scenario? Do you think it will ever become a pushover scenario in solo?
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Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:00 am
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Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #3)

Wojtek Wojcik
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Kraków(Cracow)
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 3 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won once


- First time I was doing very well with a standard questing but I was a bit behind on answering riddles. I had 8 of 9 progress on that quest card. I had only few cards left in my deck so I knew that it is now or never. Unfortunately due to treachery I had to remove two progress tokens which was my doom. I attempted the final riddle and had to surrender the game.
- After initial play I was ready for the fact that my deck size was a crucial resource in this quest. I did not play any card drawing events and was really attentive when to choose riddles and when to pass them. I was able to finish initial stages with only four cards remaining in my deck. After that I quite quickly finished the game and won.

Date: 8 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won once


Both of my plays went almost the same way as last time.
- First attempt was lost due to my deck running out (I needed 1 more correct guess on the riddle, unfortunately my last card was not an ally). I think I really should include will of the west to have a better chance of avoiding those kinds of losses.
- Had more luck with guessing (although this time I had trouble of out-questing stages one and three due to unfortunate timing of encounter cards). I think that this time treasures did helped me a bit to win (or at least win earlier).

Date: 10 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played once, won once


I decided to play once more without treasures included. I also added Will of the West to my deck in order to save myself loosing once my deck runs out. I was surprised to score 116. Best so far.

Date: 10 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Nori, Gimli (spirit/tactics)
Played twice, won both


Time to use core + hobbit cards to check how well will they fare against riddles.
General strategy was to send Eowyn and Nori for questing (and in dire I could keep Nori back to defend) and use Gimli (and after he is wounded help him with some defending allies) for fighting. In general that worked although I had to add bofur to the questing team and often other allies as well. I had much wilder luck (or deck composition) in terms of riddles - ranging from hitting 3 on 3 and having to pay 5 resources to find a match.

My scores were 115 and 135 (in the second case I had two treasures in my opening hand so I thought that I will break mt record but was unable to do as questing was slow and I almost got location locked at one point).

Date: 11 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Nori, Gimli (spirit/tactics)
Played 4 times, lost all of them


After so many successful attempts I was shocked to discover that the quest was able to defeat me 4 times in a row in two different way.
- Attempt one. Turn two. 3 surging goblins mean that there are four of them in staging and they all come down to kill me. Using minor tricks (feints and spare hood and cloak mostly) I am able to fight them of for 3 more rounds before I loose all my heroes.
- Attempt two. I am doing fantastic. Round 4 and I am missing on progress token on stage two to proceed to stage 3. To beat my high score I spend 5 resource token on a riddle without finding single card. After that I am forced to answer another riddle. No luck and Bilbo dies.
- Attempt 3. See the first one. Only few turns later and I have few allies with me. Nevertheless nasty shadows and poor draws allow Goblins to kill my heroes.
- Attempt 4. I am doing ok with riddles (although Bilbo does has two wounds on them). Even better on the questing side (missing 1 progress token). Staging: Forced riddle forcing another riddle (resource pool on Bilbo shrinks to one resource). Another forced riddle (still one resources) and next forced riddle (guess the sphere, draw one card - fail, spend resource, fail - game over).

Date: Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Nori, Gimli (spirit/tactics)
Played 3 times, won once


After slight modification of my deck I attempted the scenario again.
- Both loses were caused by Bilbo being killed by Gollum. Unfortunately it seems to be impossible to construct the deck with a limited card pool so it can answer the riddles with more consistency. On the other hand I was able to deal with 3 Goblins attacking me at the same time with more ease than previously.
- Finally when I was getting really annoyed by the riddles I was able to win. I had few attempts that yielded two or more progress tokens. Once stage two was safe I progressed to stage 3. I had 3 enemies engaged with me and due to shadows I was unable to kill all of them until next round. After that one successful questing pushed to the end.


[General Thoughts]

With "full" card pool
I was a bit skeptical when approaching this scenario. The rules for riddles and setup gave me impression that this scenario is quite complicated and can be fiddly. Additionally as with Doors of Durin in Watcher in the Water I was a bit skeptical of the whole "guess the next card" mechanic.

Glad to report that initial impressions after playing the scenario are much better. What I liked:
- Despite using my "generic" deck riddles were fun and I was able to guess them most of the time (especially with additional resource or two from Bilbo). It seems that the number of card to draw was very carefully chosen.
- Both sides of the table (riddles and regular quest) created interesting decisions and interplay between them was crucial to success (when to settle for another card in staging and when to answer riddles)
- With 50 card decks there is a real time pressure - as once your deck will be depleted you can't answer riddles correctly.

What was missing:
- Final quest stage was kind of anticlimactic.

Removal of the treasures did increase my "guessing riddles skills" (as they were auto-failures for all of my answers). In general I also found very little use for them, most of the enemies I was able to kill with one stroke from Aragorn (some times with a little help from a minor ally) and additional resources/cards were nice but far from being crucial to the success of running away from goblin caverns.

This scenario hinges on the riddles - it is very fun and interesting mechanic that binds stages one and two together. Unfortunately outside of that the scenario seems a bit on the boring side. Additionally managing all active effects, surges, two quest cards does feel fiddly.

Core plus Hobbit cards
I have to say that deck building for this one with only core + hobbit cards was difficult - this resulted in much less consistent riddle guessing (I had to use ring few times to generate Bilbo some resources). The real problem comes in when you really have just one core set (as a reminder I have two), then your deck building skills will be put to the limit (as my regular recommendation of 30 card decks is out of the window in this scenario). I am not up for this challenge so I will not test it but my gut feeling tells me that you will really struggle with this one.

I made a weird discovery here - I was looking for another spirit hero (Eowyn was an easy pick) and found that in limited card pool there was nothing - Dunhere was useless as Goblins would engage me easily, Eleanor's ability is very weak here as most of the treacheries that you might be tempted to cancel prevent this. Additionally they both have just 1 will power which was just to few for my needs. I discovered that Nori nicely fit my needs by being decent defender (2 shields, 4HP) and quester (2WP). Although I had only one dwarf ally in my deck he worked quite well for this scenario.

Wow the scenario did show me my place after initial plays. Twice I was overwhelmed by goblins. In both cases it was fairly early on so there was little I could do but this shows that my deck is inefficient as many of the cards I hold are useless (added for riddles sake).

In terms of riddles my deck composition is also worthless. So many different values (too many zero cost cards), poor card type balance (too many attachments). I have to say that with restricted pool of cards is really difficult to compose a deck that will fare well against this one. I really might need something new here.

I kind of expected that with latest tweaks I will get much better results with riddles. They indeed are but mostly due to the fact that often I will get from some of them 2 progress tokens. Unfortunately I still fail many of them. I do see that sometimes it follows from the fact that I waste too many resource tokens just to get something right (instead of suffering one wound). This is especially true for the forced double riddle.

My final opinion on this scenario with only core plus hobbit cards settles on: too difficult, close to impossible to build very reliable deck.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Have you tried it only with core + hobbit cards? How do you like the riddle mechanic?
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Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:27 am
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Over the Misty Mountains Grim (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #2)

Wojtek Wojcik
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Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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Before I will get into summarizing my opinions on the scenario let me note that I've tried to play it both as a regular expansion and also wanted to check if you can buy this after owning just the core set. I will do that for all the Hobbit scenarios. Reviews of particular scenarios will contain both those points of view but when I am ready I will create separate reviews of the whole "Hobbit" expansions from those two perspectives.

Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 24 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Gimli, Eleonr, Eowyn (spirit/tactics)
Played 4 times won 3 out of those


My core + hobbit deck went to second scenario. One important note here I got the treasures with another deck but still decided to use them with this one - this is technically not correct according to the rules but since I was already kind of bored with the first scenario I did not wanted to replay it next n times just to get the treasures the right way.

First attempt was fantastic (as it usually is) I had a though time dealing with Stone Giants (second one appeared right in the middle of killing the first) but was really surprised by the second stage. Not to spoil anything I had 3 enemies in staging after getting into stage 3. The fight with goblins was very intense and dangerous. It took me long time and huge losses (including death of Eleanor) but I become victorious.

Second attempt started very bad with two Stone Giants in staging area. Nevertheless slow build up while minimizing threat increase from failed questing allowed me to dispatch them. Once I was prepared for stage 3 it was much easier, despite few surprises from the Goblins.

Third one was a fail. This time I got 3 Stone Giants in staging. Once threat influx from failed questing pushed me over 40 they engaged me and discarded almost all my allies. After that their attack took my heroes and it was all over.

In fourth try I was able to get my best score. I had to kill only one stone giant and had a quick fight with the goblins.

Date: 28 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won both


After my attempts with core cards only I went with my favorite (at least since FoS) hero/sphere combination. While I was building my deck I my initial confidence that I will destroy the quest took a slight hit. I was unsure about my deck composition will handle stage 1 very well. Note since with this deck I got the treasures I went ahead and included them in.

- First attempt was a bit tricky. I had to kill Stone Giants 3 times (one was brought back by A Suspicious Crow) which was surprisingly easy but still resulted in decent threat gain due to Frodo (I also skipped sending characters to quest once as due to shadow effect I knew that Boulder was coming - this was the time that another Giant showed up resulting in threat influx). Once I cleared all of this mess I went to stage two. This was fairly easy although goblins did surprise me a bit as after killing Great Goblin I had 2 surging goblins appear which made fighting them quite exciting.

- In the second attempt I got very lucky. Got two treasures in my opening hand which allowed me to arm myself very fast. Sacrificing quest phase I engaged the Stone Giant immediately (I was forced to do it anyway due to treachery) and was able to one shot kill him (using Aragorn, Bilbo and Glorfindel). After that I passed the stage 1 but due to being a bit too much on the safe side took me few rounds more than necessary. After that I had so many allies though that Goblins were quickly dispatched and I was able to finish the stage easily. I got my best score so far with 99 points.

Date: 2 Mar 2013
Heroes (spheres): Aragorn (WitW), Frodo, Glorfindel (FoS) (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times, won once


After winning easily last time I decided that I need to check the impact the treasures have on this scenario and I played without them.
- Twice I got destroyed in stage 2 overwhelmed by third or fourth Giant I had to face. I had to arm my self for quite a few rounds to be able to deal with the first one and usually next one would appear. In the meantime galloping Boulders would kill 2 or 3 allies slowing me down very much.
- After those defeats I rebuild my deck focusing much more on questing and purging some expensive lore cards. My deck worked much more efficiently and I was able to defeat stage one very fast. With this deck surging goblins were a bit more problematic but I was still able to defeat the scenario with a second best score of 90.


[General Thoughts]
I love the idea of two encounter decks switching between stages - it is very thematic and gives developers some major opportunities to mess with players. I think that this concept was better used in Foundation of Stone but here it also works quite well. In this particular case there is quite a disconnect between parts of the quests but on the other hand that is how it happened in the books.

I would love more temptation in stage 2 to spend Bilbo's resources so that final fight would result in more exciting fight. I have to say that once I was prepared for stage 3 it seemed much easier than meeting with the giants.

Stage two of this quest is much easier with more players, while stage three is more dangerous with more players. Still overall I think that as in the first hobbit scenario, us solo players are challenged more here.

In general my deck constructed from all expansions is much stronger than my previous core + hobbit deck but not by as wide of a margin as I imagined to. Stage two can still cause you troubles even if a single Stone Giant is not much of a problem now - it really depends on how cards come up and its difficulty can range from walk in the park to walk into Mordor through main gate.

I was really surprised how much more difficult stage two gotten without using treasures. Measly two more attack points had a huge impact on my ability to dispatch the giants in an efficient way. I have to say though that failures allowed me to start to think outside the box - why battle the stone giants if I can out-quest them. This had a huge impact on my success and also allows me to claim that on average I will fare quite well against this scenario. In general the less time spent in stage two the less chance for multiple giants that will usually lead to failure (especially if combined with several boulders).

As a complete aside I am still astound by the fact into how many assumptions on how to deal with the scenario I fall into and unfortunately only failures usually motivate me to analyze scenario and find new ways to tackle it.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Do you also find that stage two (giants) is much harder than stage three (goblins)? Have you also found that without treasures it much easier to out-quest stage two then to out-fight it?
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Tue Mar 5, 2013 10:24 am
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We must away, ere break of day (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #1)

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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Before I will get into summarizing my opinions on the scenario let me note that I've tried to play it both as a regular expansion and also wanted to check if you can buy this after owning just the core set. I will do that for all the Hobbit scenarios. Reviews of particular scenarios will contain those point of views but when I am ready I will create separate reviews of the whole "Hobbit" expansions from those two perspectives.

Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]
Date: 4 & 6 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 4 times, won all of them


With a crew that managed to dispatch Balrog I went back in time to assist Bilbo in his journey. I did expect an easy sail to victory in this one I have to say that trolls did surprise me, especially due to so many characters being "frozen" due to sacks.
- I assumed that the quest will go the same route as Conflict at the Carrock so I went slow in first stage - to field many allies. I was a bit surprised that two trolls immediately engaged me and sacked two characters at the same time. It was good that Bilbo had tons of free resources ready and he summoned Gandalf on his own and Aragorn could reset threat. After that I slowly dispatched one troll after the other and won. BTW: troll key was discarded before stage two and I had to look up what to do in such case in Unofficial FAQ.
- Now that I knew that trolls can be very dangerous I took even longer time in stage 1. I was planing to spend even more but went to stage 2 by accident. This time even more characters were sacked (due to treachery). This time Gandalf again summoned using Bilbo's resources was crucial to winning as with so many sacked characters fighting trolls would took me long time (and I even might have failed). BTW: troll key was discarded as shadow
After that I played two more times two interesting observations:
- If troll camp comes up in stage 1 (or early in stage 2) and you let it lie there until stage two it becomes much easier as you can constantly remove sacks. BTW: Troll key was one before last card in the encounter deck hence it was impossible to get treasures
- Took 20 turns to win but finally got the treasures

Date: 10 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Gimli, Eleonr (spirit/tactics)
Played 1 time, won

As you can read in comments bellow I've made a major rule mistake (overlooking troll's passive abilities) becouse of this I replaced Aragorn with Gimli and decided that Frodo is fairly weak in this scenario as well so I swapped him with Eleonor. The only reason for her was to be able to cancel treachery that forced me to discard attachments (as I was relaying on them to make Gimli very strong so he could kill a troll single handed).

My attempt went just as planed. I was constantly lowering my threat (greeting and Elrond's Counsel) and gave two dwarven axes to Gimli. With the help of Khazad Khazad and Heavy Stroke Gimli was able to one shot dispatch the troll that was blocking me from multiple attackers and after that the rest was a piece of cake (although there were so many locations in staging that I was pretty much location locked at this point). I was able to obtain my best score.

Date: 20 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Gimli, Eleonr (spirit/tactics)
Played twice, won both


In both games played out very similar. Very long stage one when I was amassing attachments and tactics cards for Gimli so he could one shot kill trolls. In both cases after a while I got 4 (or so) location in staging as I was questing minimally in order not to pass stage one to early. Then I would throw almost all my characters to quest and moved to stage two. After that I killed the trolls with ease and win this way next round.

This location lock possibility is very strong especially that I need to find troll camp (and keep it in staging) before progressing to stage 2 (just in case Gimli gets sacked).

Date: 22 & 23 Feb 2013
Heroes (spheres): Gimli, Eleonr, Eowyn (spirit/tactics)
Played 4 times won 3 out of those


After my last resolution to play the game using core and hobbit cards only I went ahead and did that. I replaced Glorfindel with Eowyn (since he was mostly questing anyway) and had to rebuild my deck from the ground up. I discovered that all new (hobbit) tactics cards made into my deck and only one of the spirit ones. I didn't take any of the new heroes (for some reason I am not too keen on the dwarven deck). All the games went through the same pattern:
- Slow build up in stage 1. Goals is to build sizable force, get Troll Camp in Staging area
- Quick (one or two rounds) battle with the trolls.

I've lost one attempt due to threat rising above 50 due to:
- Not getting any threat reduction
- Great threat influx before I was able to brake location lock I got myself into in stage 1
- Gandalf was needed for few rounds to help with the above

[General Thoughts]

Initial
Let me say that I personally do not like this scenario so you can better understand following comments and take them with a grain of salt:
- I was so excited with treasure mechanics (even reading the hobbit rules) and the way to get them is basically a poorly worded, random (let us hope it is not a shadow or one of the last cards in the encounter deck), unexciting mess of a concept. I still like the cards and look forward to using them in next scenarios but ...
- Strategy and general feel of this scenario is almost identical to Conflict
- Graphics are terrible on some of the cards. And what is worse it seems like they could not decide between cartoon-y not so serious one (trolls), realistic "serious" fantasy drawings (Gandalf images) and some weird stuff (ex.: Thror's Map)
- Poor balance with a number of players (seems so much easier with more players than solo). One would hope that developers learned they lesson with the Conflict since they are so close.
- Each troll is so much like the other (with a very slight upgrade)

Just to counterbalance my rant above are some good points:
- Like the concept of Bilbo as a crucial hero (a bit more interesting that escorting Arwen, although those scenarios were so much better)
- New Sack mechanic is better then previous one. Even if it really hammers solo players.
- It is excellent to see two ways to deal with the quest: Confusing trolls until daylight (making encounter deck run out due to excessive questing) or fighting them.
- This scenario might be not so bad if you use only core set with this box provided that you use all Galadhrims Greetings and/or resource acceleration. Then you can go slowly on stage one. I still think that trolls will kill solo players but it might be very much doable multiplayer. I am a bit tempted to try it out in such restricted card pool.

Judging on this scenario (and the art on player cards) it seems that this expansion was rushed to make it on time for the film. I really hope that other scenarios do prove me wrong otherwise this will be first time regretting a purchase.


After few plays
I was shocked to discover (reading a rules question somewhere) that I made a significant rules mistake during my last plays of the scenario. I somehow missed the effects that troll have on each other ("only one attacker" was the one that mattered for me). It invalidated all my plays before (except the last one where I did not kill any trolls just damaged one to get the key and made the deck run out). I decided that I need a new deck to be able to kill the trolls (it was fairly easy with the old deck to make encounter cards run out but to tell the truth that made the scenario fairly boring).

- This quest is much harder than I gave it credit for in my first attempt. It is much easier to out-quest the trolls then to kill them. I think this makes this quest much less new player (core set + Hobbit) friendly. Killing the trolls requires atypical strategy of a single strong attacker.
- Missing a rule is a very big deal for me. I hate it! Unfortunately I think one is bound to make a mistake or two. For solo players (at least those who obsess about playing correctly as do I) this is a big deal as you do not have another players to correct you. The only thing that can help you is to read rules questions and comments from others or post something yourself (in hopes that someone will see a mistake).

At this point I am fairly sure that I could easily win this one with only core heroes (Glorfindel out, Eowyn in). Still so many crucial cards are from expansions (Khazad Khazad, Heavy Stroke being the most important) that it is really difficult to see how my deck would fare without them - only option is to test it. This is my plan now - we shall see if core + hobbit can handle this.

Final
This scenario is definitely beatable solo with just core and hobbit cards. Mind you I do not play any "thematic" decks so I can not comment about this but as far as just cards go it is possible (and not as hard as I thought before). Trolls put up a decent fight so it never feels very easy (despite high win percentage ~ 90%). One thing that I discovered in my plays that without any expansions spirit is not as strong in willpower as I remember it - still it outclass all other spheres in questing as Northern Tracker and Lorien Guide can get you out of location locks.

Another interesting thing is that tactics got great cards in the first Hobbit box - not only are they working together (ally that looks for weapons in your deck and cards that gives you additional benefits for weapons including card draw which is huge and direct damage which is nice).

Getting treasures is much harder without expansion cards as you lack the power to quest through the stage two while fighting 2 or 3 trolls at the same time. You still can be lucky and get them but I would not count on it in solo.

Additional Note: I did use cards from two core sets but I guess you could limit your deck size to get similar results with just one core.

27 Feb 2012 Note:
As you can see my opinions on the scenario very much changed during my plays. Ultimately I found it satisfying but not great. Major knocks against it are:
- Rehash of theme from Conflict at the Carrock that requires similar strategy.
- Strange art style at some of the cards
- Poor balance with respect to number of players
- Wasted concept of treasure cards (as they are very luck depnded, almost impossible to get with only hobbit plus core cards in solo mode)
Some highlights:
- Playable with hobbit and core cards
- Fight with trolls requires very specific approach
- Going slow on stage one can be dangerous due to location locks


What are your opinions on this scenario? Have you tried it with only core and hoobit cards? Do you find similarity with Conflict at the Carrock annoying?
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Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:33 am
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Shadow and Flame - Will all your base belong to Balrog?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 30 Jan 2013
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn/Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 2 times - lost once, won once


Here is the short report on my first attempts against the final adventure pack in the Dwarrowdelf cycle
- As usual I went in blind (I have not read any encounter or quest cards) using my Eowyn, Frodo, lore Aragorn deck. I have to admit that initial threat influx (due to Fordo constantly canceling damage from Durin's Bane) was worrying me but on the other hand the reserve (starting at zero and being able to drop it down) was huge enough that I decided that I should be able to withstand it for many turns. My hand size was very decent but at this time Counter-Spell came up essentially locking my events (although in retrospect I should have just let it activate). On the other hand my fellowship was growing steadily with new allies coming into play. Most of the cards coming from the encounter deck were not too threatening so I felt like I had this scenario. Slowly I passed stage one and two and realized what I have to do to win. I calculated my attack strength and realized that I would be putting 1 wound per round on Durin's Bane (at the beginning I forgot his regenerate ability) - was sure to loose at this point. Sure enough - my threat was high enough that I had to stop using Frodo and started to loose allies each round. Few enemies from the encounter deck sealed my fate.
- With knowledge from the previous attempt I've redesigned my deck swapping Eowyn for spirit Glorfindel and adding more fighting strength to my deck (Rumors of the Earth, Hasty Stroke, Infighting were gone, Mirkwwod runner, Light of Valinor and more copies of unique allies came in). Frodo was again converting Durin's Bane's attacks to threat while I was taking more cards in and fielding more and more allies. I've had 13 attacks strength ready (after questing) so I was dealing some pain back to Bane (hahaha). Even with a Giant Cave troll coming up from the encounter deck I was able to progress ahead and keep the staging area clear (except of the Balrog). I had to start sacrifice questing allies since my threat was high again but getting rid of the Balrog was quite easy at this point.

Date: 31 Jan 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 6 times - won only once


After my initial success I was fairly confident in my deck ... well ... the Balrog had different opinion on it. I was massacred is so many ways that I am really at loss on how to beat this scenario solo. Here is the sampling on how I was defeated
- First turn Fiery Sword caused huge threat influx (Frodo) and I was unable to contain my threat and lost
- Two Giant Cave Trolls in row followed by three locations lead to staging lock, huge threat gain and ultimate loss despite two Gandalfs
- Twice early Giant Cave Troll slowed me down heavily first by sitting in staging and then by eating precious allies so I was too weak for a final showdown with mr. Bane
- First turn whiplash starved me as far as cards go and reduced me to draw one play one which is just too weak.
- I almost have won two of the failed attempts - I needed 3 in two cards but failed in one and I surrendered one attempt while I should have sacrificed Frodo and go for the mr. Banes throat in the other

In the mean time I did a lot of back and forward tweaking (adding Zigil Miner and removing it, increasing and decreasing and increasing again the card draw, removing Hasty stroke and bringing it back, changing the amount of unique cards etc). After my final play I made few more radical changes but to tell the truth it will be very hard to attain more than 30% win rate with this one. Unless I change my approach completely which might be necessary.

Date: 1,2 & 3 Jan 2013
Heroes (spheres): Glorfindel(FoS), Aragorn(WitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 6 times - won ALL of them


I have to say that last time I was starting to be flustered with this scenario. I couldn't understand why my deck was doing so bad against Balrog despite what seemed like a sound strategy. I made quite few changes after my last failed attempt but to tell the truth I did not expect a dramatic improvement (and had few more ideas in stock) I was in for a surprise. My next 6 plays with this new deck were all successful. In retrospect I understand that those few changes made my deck more efficient but to tell the truth it is hard to get why I went from 20% win percentage to 100% with few cards. Here are brief summary of my plays:
- Most of the games ended with my heroes being down to 1-2HP and my threat in upper 40s despite reset
- Most of the games took around 14-15 turns that is a lot.
- My best score was 125 and worst one 222.
- I was able to kill 2 Giant Cave Trolls in one of the games although it was a close call
- I almost quit one game but decided to go on and won - that was a lesson from last time when I did concede a game and only after collecting cards I realized that I could have won.
- I was almost location locked once. Last minute Northern Trackers saved the game for me (I was digging for them hard).

[General Thoughts]

Initial
This is a though quest I have to say. To tell the truth I do not see at this point how to deal with it without Fordo and major threat reduction (unless you keep stopping Balrog from attacking using Feint+Hama combo). I guess one would need a host of cheap allies that are constantly sacrificed to block Bane but then resource generation to put stronger cards would be required.

Major point for which I like this quest that it puts constant pressure and does not follow typical scenario of going slow on stage one to arm yourself and then speed through the rest. I find this refreshing and interesting. Quest stages are fairly uninteresting but I do like how the developers handled "destruction" of the Balrog.

After few plays
Wow, this is hard! I've sensed it with my last session although its success did hidden it a bit. Constant onslaught of Bane supported by Trolls and even Goblin Swordsman is really hard to withstand - especially that at the same time you need huge attack strength to deal some pain back. This scenario is not Escape from Dol Guldur hard but it is a very close second.

At this point I am a bit flustered with my inability to stabilize on a decent deck so I can't objectively rate the scenario it self.

Final
Ufff that was one hell of a meeting with Balrog. Plays with my final deck were very interesting, tense and result was down to the wire. As such I think of this scenario very highly - this was the second scenario in history that did put my deckbuilding skills to a very intense test. I even had a look at some posted decks for inspiration but ultimately went with my own construction (although next iteration would take some suggestions in). So in my mind this scenario is great.

Despite that I will not be giving it a high rating. Why you ask? Mostly because I see only two ways to deal with it (Frodo, Lore Aragorn combo which I did and some kind of feint recycle with Hama). Scenario is just too hard on regular decks (you would have to pump out almost two allies per turn to succeeded I guess). I might wrong on this but this is my gut feeling. Let me point out some of the strengths:
- It brakes the typical mold of the scenarios - stall the game to gear up, field ton of allies and only then tear through a quest
- There are no boom you are dead treacheries (although some of them are much worse then others)
- You can both loose by location/enemies lock and great pounding
- Most of general purpose decks are weak against it

For me this was a worthy finale to the second cycle of adventure packs - it was a grand finale indeed. I do not see myself returning to this one often but boy am I glad to have played it and proud to win my share.

In general this scenario should be avoided by all casual players while it should put more experienced players skills to the test. For this kind of players it is a must!

What are your opinions on this scenario? What other methods of dealing with Balrog have you found? What win percenatge you were able to obtain?
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Wed Feb 6, 2013 6:00 am
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Foundation of Stone - Cthulhu in LOTR:LCG?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 20 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 1 time - won (almost)


I was so excited to quickly go through the Long Dark that later same day I went ahead to try the next adventure pack - FoS. Single attempt was successful (well not really I played Aragorn reset wrong so for a moment I had 50 threat, I was unsure about timing and didn't have rules with me but it was a minor thing as I could have reset threat round earlier so it was mostly ok). Here are some initial observations:
- Start of the scenario was very easy. Since the new encounter cards are left out of the game at the beginning (brilliant idea that should be used more often) I was moving quite fast despite some treacheries hitting me quite hard (surge, discard an ally etc.).
- Once I went to stage 4 (choosing stage at random is very thematic and very fun). At first new encounter deck didn't seem so hard and I was able to proceed to stage 5 quite easily - despite nameless creatures starting to show up.
- Stage 5 showed me my place. Here the encounter deck forced me to shuffle two heroes into my deck. With the effect of this stage this meant that I was barely making any progress. At the same time Elder Nameless things started to attack one after the other (I had 3 of them). Luckily I had quite a few resources on Aragorn so I was able to summon Gandalf twice to dispatch them. Once I was able to draw one of my missing heroes (by the end of the game I had only 3 cards left in my deck) I was able to finish the quest.

Scenario played: Foundation of Stone
Date: 20 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times (won twice)


Since I knew what to expect in the quest (I try to go blind when playing first time) I decided to go slow on stages one and two and go down to stage 4 with a decent force. I also decided to try other stage 4 cards (I have not read them) in turn instead of random draw.
- Fairly easy attempt - I've drawn the longest stage 4 card but since it does not have any other consequences it was not so though. Also encounter deck was fairly light on me.
- This time I was thrown to the nameless lair - 4 cards from the encounter deck was quite brutal esspecially that I've had one hero (Eowyn) shuffled to my deck. My ultimate death came in stage 5 though and was dealt by two Moria bats - I have no ranged charachters so I had no chance to block them and only Gandalf could kill them - suffice to say it didn't happen
- Stage 4 was the one that forces you to discard your hand. It was though as I was prepared for anything that encounter deck could have thrown at me. Luckily I had quite a few resources and was able to rebuild my hand fairly efficiently (Gleowine in play)

Scenario played: Foundation of Stone
Date: 24 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played twice, won twice


I was seriously thinking about building mono Spirit deck (replacing Aragorn with the new Glorfindel) but I decided that I would miss Lore resources so I stayed with my old deck but made few tweaks:
- Gone: The Galadhrim's Greeting, Burning Brand some other expansive Lore cards
- Reason: Aragorn should be enough to lower the threat, Frodo always defending, Too few Lore resources
- Added: Daeron's Runes, Imladris Stargazer, Infighting
- Reason: Shorter deck and faster card cycle, choosing the cards to draw and manipulate the strength of Nameless creatures, since I do not have ranged characters to take care of Bats ... let me use infighting to get rid of them

I was surprised on how much my drawing abilities increased with those small changes. Mostly due to runes and freeing up lore resources for Wealth of Lothorien. Stargazer while great in theory was not as useful as now I am a bit short on Spirit resources.

With this deck I tend to play much slower as it is fairly easy to get cards I always stay "one more round" in stage one to get "one more ally" out. On the other hand I feel that my deck is much more resilient on whatever encounter deck can throw at me.

Attempts were fun but fairly uneventful.

Date: 27 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 4 times, won all of them


With my newly tweaked deck I went for few more plays. All of them went through the same progression: Slow progression through stage one while gathering resources to field as many allies as possible and be prepared for anything that stage 4 will throw at me.

Interesting points:
- In one of the games I had a huge struggle against Namless ones. I killed 3 ancient ones and two regular ones. Two of those were killed using Gandalf. I was able to kill one bat and one regular Namless using infightings (one regular one was very powerful = 7)
- Few times my deck was almost depleted by the end
- I would almost always reset my threat just before getting to stage 4 so bats would not engage me
- Once I've had two heroes shuffled into my deck but was still able to pull the win as I was almost at the end at this point.

[General Thoughts]

Initial

- I like the thematic feel of the river smashing you way down.

- I love the idea of different encounter decks for different stages. BRILLIANT, should be used more often!

- Random stage 4 is fun and brings nice narrative (I am eager to be surprised what else is there as I have not looked at the other ones).

- Since I am playing solo I missed the thing that seems the most exciting about this scenario - splitting the party in stage 4. I think it would work tremendously and seems very thematic. With four I sure that there are interesting decisions on who should join who first.

- I am not a Tolkien buff at all so for me the Namless things felt a bit weird and out of place ... but maybe that is what designers were going for?

- Last stage can be hard and I really was feeling like clawing my way up.

After few plays

I have to say that so far I find my initial comments on the scenario right on the money. One new thing here: Each version of stage 4 brings different challenge which is great as you have to be ready for anything:
- Many encounter cards at once (up to 4)
- Long stage (17 progress)
- Loss of resources
- Discarding your hand.

Final
I stand by all my points I've made before. This is a great scenario and I like many things (thematic feel, random stage 4, 2 separate encounter decks), the drawback for solo players is this one though:
This is second in a row scenario (if not more) that I think is much better multiplayer. I am sure that it is very hard for typical support/fight deck combinations but this sure creates some tense moments and exciting decisions that are missing in pure solo.

As a solo adventure it is fairly easy in my opinion (won 8 out of 10) but still very fun due to new concepts and several ways to approach it.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Is the thematic strangness of nameless creatures bothering you?
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Sat Feb 2, 2013 6:00 am
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Long dark - Will it be really that long and that dark?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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[Session Report]

Date: 20 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (lore), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 10 times - won 9 out of those


Since I played the scenario 10 times in one seating details on particular attempts are a bit hazy so I will only touch on the most memorable moments:
- The one that I lost - The most dangerous card in this encounter set is a location that prevents you from putting progress on it unless you pass an orientation test. In this particular attempt I was very low on cards (spiders!) and didn't even attempt to get rid of it. This meant that I had a huge drag on my questing (-4 at least) and had to use torch often just to avoid total disaster. This combined with 3 huge swings from cave troll (he got nasty shadow effects) that had to be absorbed by Frodo pushed me over 50 (despite that I've already reset my threat with Aragorn). After this attempt I've adjusted my deck by adding more card drawing abilities (wealth of Lorien, Gleowin) for some less useful cards (Protector of Lorien and some healing lore card).
- The one I've almost lost - I was sure that I am location locked but this time I've had enough cards in my hand and was quite lucky with the torch. I was also able to use Riversong combined with Northern Tracker and Twisting Passage is staging to discard nasty cards from the top of the encounter deck. Once I was able to pass the test on Twisting Passage (I've used 5 or so cards) I was in high 40 as far as threat goes (again after already reseting it) but after that I was able to finish the quest.
- After optimizing my deck I was able to win fairly easily and quickly with a consistent results. Most of those attempts were fun despite the fact that I was not particularly threaten by the encounter deck.
- In two of my games I was in serious fighting situation. Almost always Frodo would defend (even twice if equipped with Fast Hitch and boosted by Arwen). I was able to win those fights although I usually has my threat rise quite substantially (Fordo + shadows boosting attack strength).

[General Thoughts]

This was first time ever (since I've decided to play each scenario 10 or more times) to finish one during single long session. As you can gather from this I've really enjoyed my attempts. Here are some random thoughts.
- Orientation test mechanic did work fairly well although was not that threatening in single player mode (few encounter cards in play at the time). I could afford to let the tests fail most of the time as consequences were weak (ex: discard a card, add a card to staging). There were few exceptions:
You need to past the test to get rid of Twisting Passage location which will be a must for most of the decks (unless you can pull enormous will power).
Foul Air can really reduce your party down if you fail the test. Good thing (for my deck) is that you can cancel when raveled effect to ignore it entirely
Goblin Warlord will force you to discard an ally. Can be deadly at the start of the game.

- This scenario forces you to have a good card drawing abilities. Mostly to take care of the above effects. What is fun - spiders put huge drag on your hand forcing you to discard 4 cards!
- Long Dark is fairly easy with one player. Many shadows, encounter cards etc. scale with the numbers of players and tend to be very weak in solo. Also as it is location heavy it is much easier to avoid location lock (especially with the torch).

Overall I did like the quest. It was nice to be able to win fairly easily for a change. This scenario will not be returning to your table very much because of that but this nice casual sort of scenarios that should appear from time to time in adventure packs. It is good occasionally not to worry about every single card in your deck and just go through the adventure and have fun.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Do you like the orientation mechanism? Are my theoretical observations that this is much harder multi-player correct or am I completely wrong here?
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Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:50 am
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The Watcher in the Water - what will be the final password - "Take it" or "Leave it"?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 16 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, (Dunhere)Frodo, (Denethor)Lore Aragon (spirit/lore)
Played 6 times, won 3 lost 3


- I've started with my Road to Rivendel battle tested deck and I was massacred. I even din't have a chace to see the Watcher himself as I was slaughtered by a striking tentacle that forced an undefended attack.
After that I realized that my heroes were not prepared for this challenge at all - Dunhere's abilty is farily usless as tentacles have a very low engagement cost, Denethor ability is weak as the amount of tentacles is so high that it does not help to put one on the bottom of the deck. I was not ready to go all tactics all dwarves on this scenario so I went with Frodo as my second spirit hero. He could take care of undefended attacks but I was afraid that huge threat rise will kill me easily so Denethor was swapped out for Aragorn from this expansion. It seemed to be perfect combo - Frodo could convert attacks to threat and Aragorn would reset threat if necessary and could also pack a decent punch. Here are brief notes on plays with this deck:
- Everything went as planned, Eowyn was questing (soon supported by Arwen - sweet addition to spirit) and Frodo with Aragorn were fighting. I was lucky with Rumors from the earth that easily allowed me to "guess" the password for the Durin's door.
- Next play was much worse and I lost. I didn't get Arwen (I've just put one in my deck to test her out) so once I had two trashing tentacles (those are so hard to kill without direct damage) I was unable to cancel damage from both attacks and I was soon killed.
At this point I also realized that my deck was also optimized toward additional resources that were provided by Arwen in previous scenarios. I had too many expensive Lore cards and those had to go (Mirkwood runner's ability of disregarding defense is much weaker here, Wealth of Lorien is too expensive). I've added more copies of Arwen (additional defense for Frodo is very useful here), 3xFast Hitch for cheap Frodo reading and some more minor changes.
- With those changes I had easier time - although Frodo had to convert ton of threat due to undefended attacks from strinking tentacles. Here the trick with reseting threat worked like charm and guessing password was very easy (this time thanks to the Riversong).
- This time I was surprised by the third type of tentacle (it had zeroed Northern tracker attack and defense) after that I was afraid to attack it and it slowly chipped away at me while other tentacles took its toll.
- Final win was a hard one, I discovered fairly easy way to make grasping tentacle not so dangerous (attacking it with questing character, next to a battle characters). I went to the second stage fairly early on and had Riversong on the table, Rumors of the Earth in hand and ton of lore resources. But this time guessing the password was though. I needed 6 or so rounds before finally I had match between my hand and encounter deck. All this time Watcher was raising my threat (damaging Frodo) and despite its reset I was over 40 again. I started sacrificing allies at this point and somehow managed to avoid location lock (Tracker).

Date: 25 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Lore Aragon (spirit/lore)
Played 2 times, won twice


I was tempted to change my deck entirely and to try to go for one that would be capable of killing the watcher, unfortunately it was quite late so I decided that it would be easier to play my already tested deck.
- First attempt was quite standard. I've managed to sneak past most of tentacles (they did not show up) so I went for a second stage early on. It took me few tries before I got a match between encounter deck (rumors of the earth being the key as before) and my hand so I got more or less a standard result as far as points go.
- Second try was a very hard one. I was attacked by 3 or 4 tentacles early on and I barely managed to beat them back (my heroes life hanged on a card flip two or three, times). Finally I was able to clear the table and was faced with strange option. Encounter deck was almost depleted so if I would go to the second stage ... I would be facing almost only tentacle cards (as those get shuffled back in stage two). I decided that I do not want to risk another onslaught of those "creatures" so I've I stalled my progress a bit and let the deck run out and went to stage two only after reshuffle. After that Gandalf solved the riddle by being discarded on a match.

Date: 10 Jan 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Aragorn (tWitW), Frodo (spirit/lore)
Played 2 times, won both


After two week break from playing the game (I might write more on this later) I was able to squeeze two attempts in. Since my time was very tight I decided against changing anything and went with previously used one.
- First attempt started fairly well. I was a bit low on allies in play and in hand but heavy usage of Rumors of the Earth to pick at encounter deck allowed me to dispatch several tentacles despite quite an intake of threat (Frodo). Once I hit stage two I was fairly certain of an easy win but it turned out different. Guessing the password was easy but putting 5 progress tokens on the quest stage turned out much harder than usual. Watcher was a huge drag on questing (I could not afford to quest with more than two characters) and recently reshuffled tentacles were slashing left and right. Threat was again around 40s (despite previous reset). I was down to my heroes at this point and had to engage Watcher just two avoid his auto damage - Aragorn was sacrificed to absorb his attack wile Frodo defended another tentacle. Next turn was all or nothing I had to make 6 with Frodo Eowyn. I did it, discarding a card to boost Eowyn gave me just the right amount. I got the worst score so far of 180 but it was a tense and fun game with great tactical plays.
- Second attempt was just an opposite I got my record score of 77. Starting hand contained two Ancient Mammoths that quickly allowed me to draw 6 cards and I was fairly confident that I am ready to deal with second stage. It was all over in 5 turns. Still I enjoyed this run through the scenario very much.

[General Thoughts]

Initial This scenario surprised my quite a lot - this is a very good point. Each tentacle type needs a special approach and little tricks to deal with its nasty forced effects that almost always go off. Threat is normally not a huge issue here but in my play style (Frodo) it was.

I am of two minds abut the guessing mechanics. On one hand it marries the theme (guessing) with mechanics quite well - if you your characters are wise (i.e. you play lore and have see the encounter deck cards) deciphering runes can be quite easy and if not you could always try shouting anything (by discarding your whole hand and hoping for the best as last ditch effort). On the other hand building your deck according to alphabet seems a bit silly and artificial (especially since I play Polish version so translation can have different probabilities of same first letter).

The watcher is mighty strong and unless you play strong tactics (which might be an option here) you can forget about trying to get through his enormous defense.

I love the fact that you are given the two options to deal with this scenario - get through the doors or kill the thing in the water. Despite all this positive things for some reason I do not love this scenario but I can't point to a thing that bothers me ...

After few plays I am still on the fence about this scenario. Despite tremendous experience in my plays (great tactical fight with tentacles) and all the positive points I gave before I am still not sure why I am not singing praises about this scenario. What is missing here? Yeah, there is no evident climactic struggle delivered by the scenario but I am clearly not sure why I do not like this scenario as much as I should.

Final I couldn't make up my mind about this scenario but after my last two plays I think I know why. I was playing this game too much at the end of last year and I just needed a break. Yesterday I've had so much fun playing it - relaxed, not feeling that I had to play just to catch-up with current release, to be able to discuss new deluxe expansion, open the next adventure pack etc. This (slightly due to Christmas and all) slowdown allowed me to just have fun with the game. I might play less in coming months (new hobby project that might take quite a lot of time till March) but I know that the game will be there for me to enjoy once I sit down to play!

So the final verdict on Watcher is very much positive. Two alternative ways to deal with it (combat or "guessing"), interesting tactical combat with tentacles and huge pacing change between stage one and two are all contributing toward my enjoyment. Do try it out if you get the chance - it will challenge you, the feel of fight against huge monster or last minute slip into the doors with tentacles smashing just behind you will be present. This will more than make up for some shortcomings.

What are your opinions on this scenario? Do you find the password guessing mechanic fun? Interesting? Strange?
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Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:36 am
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Road to Rivendel - Will you fall asleep as your sentry did?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Date: 12 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times, lost twice, won once


First two reports are longer that actual plays:
- 15 threat enemy at setup, engages me. Has Sleeping Sentry as shadow card. Total party kill (TPK).
- Turn two I have burning brand on Denethor. One enemy engaged is not a problem. I have allies ready to take it out next turn. New enemies comes out and engages me. I will defend one with Denethor (with burning brand) another is blocked by an ally. Guess which one gets Sleeping Sentry and TPK's my team.
- I didn't draw Sleeping Sentry. It took me 8 not particularly interesting turns to win.

Date: 13&15 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Dunhere (Eleonor), Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 4 times, lost once, won 3 times


Return to Road to Rivendell was a bit more successful than initial plays of this scenario. Let me go through experiences:
- Since I was not using Frodo for much else then questing I decided to swap him for Eleonor. Yes her ability is weak but since this scenario has two hard hitting treacheries (Ork Ambush and Sleeping Sentry) I deeped that she might help me out if I do not draw Test of Will. Well she did not. This scenario turned into 7th level all over again. I got swamped by tons of weak enemies that were hitting me, spawning new guys or returning to the staging area. Despite strong ally presence I was wiped out after prolonged fight.
- After previous experience I decided that it does not make sense to keep Eleonor just in case if she is bad at other things and decided to go for some preemptive strike with Dunhere. I was fairly lucky to draw hasty stroke (gained thanks to Ancient Mamoth) just before sleeping sentry appeared as shadow effect. Got a very good score of 105.
- I was almost location locked (also due to keeping enemies in staging and slowly taking them down with Dunhere) but with help of Escort from Edoras, Northern trackers and questing with Gandalf I slowly broke it and sailed to victory.
- Played very low threat game thanks to two Gandalfs but mostly won due to drawing very weak treacheries. I also had burning brand so enemies were harmless (although at the end Orc riders broke my control on the encounter deck by forcing me to discard burning brand and unexpected courage from Denethor. Nevertheless this was two turns from the end so it didn't matter much

Date: 16 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Dunhere, Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times, won all of them


Nothing great to report here. I mad small adjustments to my deck that turned out pretty good. I decided to ditch Forest Snare (it was too expensive and to tell the truth there are only few enemies that warrant it in this quest) and replaced it with Galadhrim's Greeting (to be able to use Dunhere for as long as possible). I also changed spirit allay (horse breaker) for Hammersmith (to be able to get burning brand back in case it would be discarded due to Orc Raiders). With this optimization my deck was very effective. All my plays went through a similar progression:
- Slow build-up (preferably with threat reduction early). Mostly Dunhere would fight at this point if at all possible
- Once I have few allies and shadow cancel (Burning Brand or Hasty Stroke) I would start questing with more power
- Quickly run through stage two (preferably in one round) and stage 3 (2 rounds at most).

In one of my plays I was without any shadow cancellation for half of the game - it resulted in two opportunities for the encounter deck to kill me with Sleeping Sentry.

Orc Ambush helped me once by sending Goblin Archer to engage me. Loved killing this annoying little orc (with 3 shields he can resist Dunhere all he wants).

In this plays the ability of Denethor was not that crucial for some reason, I would rarely put the card at the bottom of the deck. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I was ready for most of the cards that would come up.

[General Thoughts]

Initial
I was about to bash this scenario to the ground but decided to hold off proclaiming it as THE WORST SO FAR until I play it few more times. So before I go about bashing Sleeping Sentry lets look at other weak parts:
- No story arc. You travel, then you travel some more, you find Goblin Gate that almost does nothing and then you travel to win. Action does not accelerate, there is no introduction, no climax, no finale, no nothing.
- Fights are boring if you have shadow cancel ability - otherwise they are as fun as Russian Roulette.
- Luck is ridiculous in this one. It can be easier than walk in the park or harder than Escape from Dol Guldur.

Let me try (very hard) to find good points:
- This feels like a tiering, long journey (especially if you make thematic connection to Redhorn gate that does feel like a though mountain climb as there is nothing like this in this scenario)
- It does forces you to try to walk around the horrible TPK cards (less questers, leave Arwen ready, etc.)

After few plays
Second series of games was a bit more interesting then the previous experiences. I still don't like this scenario as most of its difficulty comes from two cards (Orc Ambush and Sleeping sentry). This turns plays of this scenario into two possible outcomes:
- You will not draw them - scenario is fairly easy and does not carry any story (yes you can still loose, mostly if your hand is cluttered with shadow/encounter card cancellation that you keep in case the other two show up)
- They will appear and either kill you right away (Sleeping as shadow or Ambush towards the end of the game) or you will cancel then and return to case above.

But all this complaints are not the ultimate failure of this scenario for me. Its lack of story ark is its downfall. Here how the story of this ark could be described in fairy tale:
- There was this prince, he went to save the princess but the Dragon ate him and he died (sleeping sentry)
- Another one went and the dragon was not there and he saved the princess. (np Sleeping Sentry)
Tell me if this a story that would fire up your imagination.

I long for the thematic struggle that Redhorn Gate was. Still can feel the chills in my bones from it and it keeps me excited as I hope that Watcher in the Water will be better than Road to Rivendell.

Final
In the end I find this fairly weak - one of the two worst scenarios so far. Yeah, you do need to prepare your deck for two deadly cards (Sleeping Sentry) but to tell the truth this is not so exciting after all - draw them at the start without appropriate counter and you are dead and if not later on you will just cancel them and that is it.

One more point against it is that has a very similar feel to 7th level, I was not so thrilled by that scenario as you can see in my previous entry but I gave it props for being new and forcing me to rethink my deck build up to the last card. Here it just felt very similar only spiced up by KILL YOU ALL card.

Finally I usually do not speak about player card in this reports but here it is worth mentioning that this was first time I was completely disappointed by player cards in this one. Yes it is true that this is a solo player opinion that does not play dwarven deck and is so so on tactics but still I really hope that in the future it will not be so.


What are your opinions on this scenario? Is Sleeping Sentry an annoying instant death card or another challenge that you are thrilled to face? How do you find the story in this one?
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Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:00 am
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The Redhorn Gate - Ready to face the wrath of the Misty Mountains?

Wojtek Wojcik
Poland
Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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Metallum ... game I most proud of.
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Here is a compilation of my session reports comments on the scenario. They where only slightly edited to fit this format better.

[Session Reports]

Scenario played: Redhorn Gate
Date: 25 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 1 time, lost.


I opened the new pack and went with my Moria tested deck, here is their story: Trusty warriors supported by strong willed allies started the climb fast dispatching enemies left and right. Great smile of Arwen was inspiring heroes that gathered help and were able to enlist new member at almost every step. Things started to changes at it started to snow in the higher part of the mountains - slowly freezing cold was weighting down heroes but the support of allies was strong enough to get them close to the top.

Here the mountains unleashed their fury, howl of snow storm sounded as if Saouron him self descended on them. Veteran warrior heroes and allies stopped, unable to carry on (they were ready to fight the mightiest trolls but not the nature itself) and soon froze to death. It takes a lot to brake the will of the dwarves but Gimli and Thalin gave in. Eowyn and remnants of the party made little progress but decided to press on hoping to pass the cursed Caradhras, counting on easier path later on. Then Eowyn was struck by Freezing Cold and knew it was all over but there was no way down for them. Few moments latter howling snow storm threw precious Arwen of the cliff ... only Eowyn through her half frozen eyes witnessed her death as the rest of the party was killed by the snow assault at the same time. No one lived to tell the tale as the enemy approached to kill the lone daughter of Rohan.

Talk about thematic experience. My team was moving fast first. Then slowly the cold started to take its toll, slowing me down. Then the real storm hit and whipped me out (together with stage 3 effect). Now onto the game - I need to build the deck that can scale those mountains - and I have quite few ideas on how to do it.

Scenario played: Redhorn Gate
Date: 28 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denthor (spirit/lore)
Played 2 times - won both


So after epic (and fantastic) failure of my Tactics/Spirit deck against Redhorn Gate I've needed new team that would be able to deal with the hazards of escorting Arwen through the Misty Mountains. I knew that I need more spirit allies in my team so I went with two heroes from this sphere I was fairly sure that I wanted at least two will power on my heroes so that made my choice limited to basically Eowyn and Frodo. The more interesting question which sphere to choose to support them. I decided against mono sphere and went with Lore just to see some more cards (I played Spirit Leadership a lot at the beginning). This choice was reinforced by the fact that Arwen's ability guaranteed a nice resource generation effectively replacing the need for Theodred. I was really debating taking the Lore Glorfindel (another strong quester) but decided to go with Denthor. His job (besides generating resources) would be to stand back, defend or peek at the cards and get rid the real nasties by putting them on the bottom of the deck. My real worries was the attacking ability of my team - defending was easy and heroes could take care of it but slaying even those wimpy enemies might be hard to kill but I decided to see that in practice.

First try started quite hard - Mountain Warg was drawn at setup and I knew killing him would be very hard with him returning to the staging area. For now though my threat was low enough so I let him sit in the staging area. I was happy to see Unexpected Courage in my starting hand and soon it went on Denthor (so he can look ahead and protect me from troubles). This was a blessing, in fact I soon had another copy of this card on Denethor and he often had to use his ability 3 times to get rid of powerful enemies and/or nasty treacheries. My progress was very slow but I also had Northern Tracker and was planing on getting rid of Caradhras from the staging area using his ability. It took a long time (and Gandalf had to kill the Warg) but I did it. I expected easy victory at that point. Just to be sure I've red the text on quest 2B and realized that the mountain had to be scaled again (the quest effect forced to put it in play again). Denethor had his hands full to keep the dangers at bay, Gandalf had to help with questing and slowly but surely I was able to traverse the Caradhras. Final score was almost 200 and my threat was above 40 but the team manged to get to the other side of the Mountains.

In the second attempt my deck was less generous (at least with Unexpected Courage although I had Rumors of the Earth and Riversong allay to save Denethor's ability for crucial things). I lingered at the base of the mountain and was able to draw a very decent hand of cards and had quite few allies in play. My plan was to put several progress tokens (Northern Tracker again) on Cardahas, go the 3 stage and finish it off next turn. It was foiled by a treachery that was unable to postpone with Denethor (after he got rid of a Warg) and all progress tokens in play were removed. After that I decided to finish the game without any tricks. Progress was decent although still several turns were still ahead of me. I decided to let a mountain goblin to appear thinking that now that several allies do not quest I can dispatch him easily. I need two turns to kill him. First attack was deflected but I had to burn Hasty Stroke to cancel shadow effect. Next time he attacked shadow effect discarded Denethor from play. I've thought that this is it. My hand was full of Lore cards (only Test of Will and two Dwarven tombs were playable). I wanted to see how far I could go still, River song was used to check what to expect, I was using lore cards to fuel Eowyn ability. I used test of will 3 times (redrawing it with Dwarven Tomb). Although the troll appeared in the staging area I knew I had two or three allies that I could use to block him while I was racing to finish. Canceling treacheries gave my just enough easy turns and I managed to win. In the end my score was not much better than previously.

Scenario played: Redhorn Gate
Date: 1 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denethor (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times - lost once, won twice


I decided to test my deck further to see if it really that good against the Gate.
- I lost my first try but in a sense in solidify my assumption that the deck is quite good. Enemies were my doom this time. They started attacking a bit to early and once Denethor was wounded I had to start using Frodo to convert wounds to threat. Slowly I was able to take control of the satiation but the threat was too high already (few untimely shadow effects increased the threat by quite a lot - I made a mistake of not using the Forest Snare early enough as I preferred more allies). After that the slow increase of threat pushed me over 50 before I was able to get to stage 3. I was glad that I could deal with enemies nevertheless as fighting is a weak spot of my deck.
- Second try was interesting as I almost become location locked. Timely Escort from Edoras followed by Gandalf questing broke me free (together with Denthor control over encounter deck) and I was able to finish the quest with a decent score.
- Third try was an easiest so far. I lingered at the base of the mountains through (using Northern Tracker to put 7 progress tokens on Caradhras). This resulted in a similar score to the one during second try.

The deck I am playing is weak! How can I say that after reporting 4th win with it? Well it is build strictly for this scenario an it relies heavily on Arwen generating tons of additional Lore resources. Without her my hand would be overflown with expensive, unplayable lore cards. I have a great admiration for people that are able to construct one deck to rule them all - I am more of a deck against a scenario kind of player.

Scenario played: Redhorn Gate
Date: Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denethor (spirit/lore)
Played 1 time - won

I was disappointed seeing Mountain Troll as a setup card. Fortunately my starting threat is low (24) and my staring hand contained West Road Traveller and she would be able to balance troll generated threat. Denethor got rid of Warg and I've drawn Celebdil. It is a bit annoying as an active location with its progress removal ability but I could not afford to let it sit in stagging. Progress was slow but with two unexpected courages coming out of my deck Denethor ability allowed me to control encounter deck and avoid location lock. Enemies were also less dangerous once I had burning brand on him. Finally I had to engage troll and I was forced to let one ally die to stop his attack - what a disaster - a shadow that discarded two lore resources that were saved up to play forest snare next turn. Next attack had to be stopped using Frodo ability and my threat went up into 40's. After that the troll was snared and ceased to be dangerous. Slowly but surely I finished the quest after that.

Scenario played: The Redhorn Gate
Date: 7 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times - won 3


I will not be able to provide full session report this time as it took me few days to post it and I forgot most of the details by now. I won all of the attempts
- One time I was assaulted by enemies and almost got overwhelmed (Frodo's ability to convert damage to threat was essential to my survival). Once I got things under control it was much better.
- I finally encountered the location that puts all locations back into encounter deck and provided that you traveled far enough it reduces your threat by 11. It was fun and annoying at the same time. Would love to see more of this in the deck with an option of exploring it via threat rise (ala Zigil Shaft). Would make decision to travel there interesting one.
- I finally had to dig through the encounter deck to find enough VPs to win. So far I always seemed to find VP peaks early in the game so it was interesting change (I was using Denethor just to speed up the process).


[General Thoughts]
I really, really recommend playing scenarios blind - so far the most thematic experiences I got were when playing like this. DO not read scenario spoilers, do not read discussions like this. Go in and experience it, you will not regret. Once you know the encounter deck at least a bit the feeling changes, you still get the great surprises in the way the cards come up but some sense of living through the great adventure is lost as you know what to expect. Here the tactical and strategic game begins but those moments of terror or surprise are not as powerful anymore. Do not devoid yourself of this first play marvel - this is something that is so unique to this game (so far I think only RPGs can create that in a long run).

One note on this scenario - plays here are on the longer side (closer to 1h per play) so I will not finish it as fast as Moria scenarios.

One interesting side effect of Denethor "put it on the bottom of the encounter deck" ability - if the game last long enough this accumulated terrible cards will start showing up again - and even two unexpected courages on him might not save you from that. Luckily there is a shift of focus between start of the game and towards the end - many of the encounter cards that are deadly at the start of the game (and hence go on the bottom of the deck) are not that dangerous once your fellowship is stronger and/or staging area is clear.

So let me sum up my opinions of The Redhorn Gate. The first attempt was epic, tense failure - going blind into this scenario is the way to go. The tale of freezing cold, un-traversable peaks and dread of weather was so strong that I almost could feel the chill myself. Scenario stayed strong after that but my choice of heroes (Denethor) softened the blows like a good coat that isolates you from the cold.

Strength of the scenario comes from its increasing difficulty. It starts fairly easy (although the Caradhras looming over your head can be though), then the wind picks up and at first it just seems to slow you down. Only when you enter the third stage it turns deadly. The only gripe I have with it is that once you explore Caradhras it gets much easier. It does tell the story right (as once you go over the pass, slowly the road gets easier) but looses a bit of it climatic edge.

After all I like it very much, with the strong points being that narrative feel - great stories of group of adventures fighting against the wrath of mountains. At this point it is in my top 5.

NOTE: At this point my blog is pretty much up to date with my play comments this should have two effects:
- Since now when writing about plays I do take this blog into the account it my entries should make more sense here.
- The speed with which I post stuff here should slow down to normal I hope to post something bi-weekly (with occasional additional content).
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Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:00 am
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