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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Voice of Isengard review

Wojtek Wojcik
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It is been a while since I've played the previous deluxe expansion. This time FFG decided to take to an interesting place of Middle Earth i.e. into the vicinity of Isengard before Saruman decided to leave free peoples to pursue his own dark path. I have to admit that this is excellent choice as the developers can explore very profound element of the story by filling the details that were never fully explained by J.R.R. Tolkien.

New concepts

Time X keyword - In general it works like this: certain key cards (quest cards mostly in this expansion) have a punishing effect that triggers X rounds after the card shows up (and then the card starts counting again). This is a very thematic and efficient mechanically. It pushes players to move along. I am very impressed with it especially if it really gives a player the choice:
- do I need to go along fast to avoid triggering the time effect or,
- I will handle the punishment once or twice and use the time to build up my position.

Doom on player cards - this sounded amazing. We were to get powerful cards that come with drawback i.e. playing them would raise your threat. This adds to the design space as we essentially get a new currency in the game (you pay for the cards with your threat instead of resources). This in itself gets very high mark from me. The selection of this cards in the box is decent and in general goes with the strength of the spheres (ex. lore card gives card draw for threat gain). Nevertheless I think that it would be better if the spheres got doom effects allowing them counter some of their drawbacks instead of adding more cards boosting their natural strengths.

Doom player cards underline the point: "power corrupts" which is thematic and was mostly missing from LCG so far. Mechanically they tend to be very efficient at the start of the game giving you breathing room and do tend to loose their value towards the end of the game (as resources tend to be plentiful then and threat starts to become an issue).

Designers decided that they will also create cards with effects that trigger when your threat rises due to the doom keyword. In combination with doom player cards this seemed like a very powerful deck archetype. Unfortunately here I am disappointed. The cards that do have this kind of triggers seem underwhelming at best (take the lore messenger: 2 cost lore ally with 1 WP that gets additional willpower via doom - he is so weak and so unreliable ...).

Taking all of this in my final rating of this new concept is so-so but the potential is there and I am eager to see what APs will bring to the table.

Punishing players for drawing cards - It is especially visible in the first scenario of the box (The Fords of Isen). Enemies get stronger for each card in your hand, they make extra attacks when you draw cards, treacheries rise your threat for each card ... etc. I have to say that I am on the fence about this one. On one hand it combats some of the standard card drawing decks forcing us to be more creative with deck construction. On the other hand it is very easy to forget all the effects that trigger when you draw a card which makes this particular mechanic quite fiddly.

Scenarios
In general scenarios in this expansion are quite good and varied.

Fords of Isen
We combat the Dunland tribesman on the border between Rohan and Isengard to save ... Grima.

This scenario is combat heavy but at the same time it requires quite a lot of progress to be placed in order to win. It is heavily concentrated on punishing players for cards in their hands and drawing cards. This in theory sounds great but in practice it gets very fiddly (it is easy to forget all the triggers) very fast.
Pros:
- Requires specific deck building (keeping your hand size low)
- Card punishing is new
- Well placed "time X" keywords
Cons:
- Tends to be quite slow towards the end
- VERY fiddly, easy to forget all the effects (I would say that it is even worse with more players)

To Catch an Orc
Seek and ... catch

Looking for an Orc in the hostile mountain region sounds like a bad idea. It gets even worse when you realize that you need to catch him instead of killing. This scenario takes 20 cards out of your deck and asks you to shuffle the dreaded Orc into them. You mostly search for him do it by exploring various locations which allows you to discard cards from this special deck until you find the Orc. This of course makes the scenario very thematic but can also can make it drag a little bit if locations do not show up. Also the second stage's time X trigger is very punishing (reveal two cards per player). This mechanism also tends to be swingy (if Orc is the first card you reveal for the special deck it will be very hard to contain him without strong table presence).

Once you find the orc you will have to catch it (overpower in combat) then and only then you have time to place progress on the quest. Every 3 rounds orc will escape you and force you to fight him again. This makes for a very difficult and exciting finale. You really get a felling that you are trying to overpower someone who is really really strong.
Pros:
- Thematic feel
- Climactic and difficult finale
Cons:
- Random way in which the orc appears.

Into Fargorn
Catch the Orc again while the trees stand in your way.

Most distinctive feature of this scenario is the fact that (most) enemies will not attack you but will punish you in some other way (raising your threat or damaging your characters). This combined with the fact that Huron enemies are very though to kill (high defense and high hit points) tempts you into not dealing with them at all. Soon enough you realize though that two or three of them left unchecked turn out to be very deadly. Sadly in solo play this does not work so well. There are few enemies showing up and it prevents them from accumulating their effects and makes the scenario quite easy. This is amplified by the fact that that locations could create interesting combos if few of them show up at the same time which does not happen too often when playing alone. This one seems to be much better with more players.
Pros:
- Combat is much different then usually which makes this one interesting
Cons:
- Not much excitement to be had (definitely in solo)

Heroes and player cards
As per usually in the deluxe expansions we get two heroes:
- Eomer - Tactic Rohan hero that gets +2 ATT when a character leaves play. Very thematic and very efficient in decks that use cheap allies that die to defend. Definitely a star of the expansions and one of the top tier heroes.
- Grima - Lore hero that can add doom 1 keyword to cards to lower their cost by 1 (once per round). Very interesting hero that could be very very efficient at the beginning of the game when resources are scare and he can be very efficient in general if combined with threat reduction (in particular Lore Aragorn). His drawback is the fact that player cards that trigger on doomed are so weak lowering his potential greatly.

Player cards:
- Cards with doom can be very powerful at the start of the game and work quite good in solo (as it is easy to decide that whether you can eat the threat or not). Their usefulness drops towards the end of the game. Exception here is Saruman who seems quite expensive and weak in comparison to the other doom cards.
- Cards with doom trigger are very weak so far. In my opinion this drastically hampers this expansion (as other doom cards and Grima loose part of their potential strength)
- Other than that we get Rohan:
Rohan tactics ally that has very decent stats for his price but does not shine in solo (as his discard to engage an enemy ability looses some of its power)
Rohan horse that can be attached to all tactic heroes (and non-tactic Rohan heroes) that can give them another swing provided that they kill an enemy. It combos very well with Eomer allowing him to use his buff multiple times.

Conclusions
In short I very much like the new concepts. Heroes are also very good and so are the scenarios. This combined with a cool theme sounds as a recipe for best expansion so far, right?

Almost. I am surprised to conclude this but failed cards with doom triggered effects really put this expansion down. Not only they are crappy themselves but they lower the effectiveness of cards with doom and Grima so almost all player cards of this expansion get a hit due to this. Other drawbacks of course do amplify the negative effect of this but ... I just wish that those cards were either buffed up or replaced with something else. Then we could have gotten the best deluxe expansion to date.

How do you like the new concepts? Did you enjoy the scenarios? Any thoughts of doom triggered cards/abilities that I disliked so much?
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Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:53 pm
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Black Riders review for Core Set players

Wojtek Wojcik
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Malopolska
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NOTE: New players please check first A guide for new LOTR:LCG solo players
NOTE: Alternative buy: Hobbit Saga expansion #1 - review from a core set only player perspective. Can this be the first expansion to buy?

Throughout this article I assume that you have the core set of LOTR:LCG (and nothing more) and that you are a solo player. Additionally I assume that you've played each scenario you have at your disposal at least several times and enjoyed most (say at least 2 out of 3) of those.

Maybe you were a little disappointed by the fact that the game did not refer to LOTR books directly? Are you wondering if you should get some more adventures and player cards? Should you go with this expansion and join Frodo and his hobbit friends embark on the journey that sparked imagination of so many readers/viewers of Lord of the Rings? If so this review is for you.

Two notes:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
1. Methodology: I played each scenario several times with 50 card decks recommended in the rules (which uses just core + black riders cards)
2. It is very hard for me to judge how hard those scenarios are for players that have played this game few dozens of times. With 400+ games under my belt certain strategies, combos and tactical plays are fairly easy to spot and this surely makes scenarios easier to deal with it for me. Please do keep this in mind when reading my comments on the difficulty.
3. I've read some post of a player that tried to do the same as I did and had very little success with the deck from the rules. We were not able to find out why is that ... just a word of caution


New concepts
Easy Mode - this expansion introduces so called easy mode to the game also known as thematic mode (as it allows thematic decks to be successful). It changes two things in the game:
- Your heroes start with extra resource
- Some copies of most deadly cards (marked in new expansions with gold circle) are removed from the encounter deck.
I do not play the easy mode but, man it is something that should have been in the game since day 1 period. There are no strange rules or complex setup but the easy mode really does work great (some players say that additional resource is already big enough boost and they do not take the cards out of encounter deck). If you struggle with the game you can use easy mode without this expansion see here: Easy mode rules

Camping rules I do not want to spoil anything here so I will not go into many details. Let me just say that as you progress you will get good and bad cards that will continue with you to the next scenarios. It works quite good to give the feeling of development ... but I think that it could be done even better.

Scenarios
In general scenarios in this expansion are very thematic and you will see a lot of places and characters that you probably know from the books. So this is a definite plus for many players that are really into the first LOTR book or movie. This also has a surprising drawback you will see very few enemies outside of the titular black riders which makes the scenarios a bit less varied and thus less interesting that they could have been otherwise.

A Shadow of the Past
Will Frodo leave shire in time before the black riders will catch-up with him?
Pros:
- Interesting theme integration
- New hide test mechanics (if you have not played Dead Marches)
Cons:
- A bit tedious/long at times

A Knife in the Dark
Bree and Weathertop
Pros:
- Climactic finale.
- Very thematic
Cons:
- Some nasty treachery cards
- Encounter cards give you some options but one of those is so terrible in solo that you are always left with the other choice
- One card that starts in staging is very hard to deal solo with limited card pool so you will need some very good luck with your initial draws.

Flight to the ford
Frodo is dying ... run to Rivendel.
Pros:
- Time pressure due to Frodo dying
- Climactic finale of the first part of campaign
Cons:
- None really.

Heroes and player cards
Most of the player cards and heroes are tailor made for hobbit deck that with just this cards can be very powerful. Especially in this box due to additional boosts given by additional hobbit hero - Frodo - that you get control of. Only few cards are really usable outside the hobbit deck but those are fairly good.

Hobbit deck can be also quite good in other scenarios under one condition: you need enemies with high say (30+) engagement cost. Unfortunately the developers were not always very diligent when planing older scenarios and some of them are riddled with powerful, low cost enemies that render hobbit deck quite weak. Nevertheless I am giving very high rating on players and hero cards especially for solo players. This is nothing to sneeze at as this is one of the few "solid deck in one box expansions". If not for a very weak spirit hobbit this would be amazing!

Conclusions
Overall let me say that this so far is the best entry point for Core Set players into the game.
Strong points:
- player cards and interesting heroes (even if mostly limited to hobbit decks)
- interesting and mostly beatable scenarios
- easy mode
- solo deck that works included in the rules
Weak points:
- so-so camping integration
- enemies tend to get repetitive (how many times you can kill a Nazgul without getting bored?)

THIS IS THE BOX TO GET if you want to expand your Core Set without spending too much on it. Highly recommended.

Did you try Black Riders with just core+BR cards? What was your experience?
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Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:17 pm
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Hobbit Saga expansion #2 - So you have the core game and #1 Hobbit. Should you buy this expansion?

Wojtek Wojcik
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Kraków(Cracow)
Malopolska
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NOTE: New players please check first my: A guide for new LOTR:LCG solo players and Hobbit Saga expansion #1 - review from a core set only player perspective. Can this be the first expansion to buy?
NOTE: I stated to write this review long time ago and finished it just recently so please excuse any disjoint tones/styles/informations.

Throughout this article I assume that you have the core set of LOTR:LCG and Hobbit: Under hill and over hill expansion (and nothing more as far as LOTR:LCG goes). Additionally I assume that you played each scenario you have at your disposal at least several times and enjoyed most (say at least 4 out of 6) of those.

Are you itching for some more adventures and player cards? Wondering if you should go the second saga expansion and see Bilbo and his dwarven friends complete their amazing journey? If so this review is for you.

Two notes:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
1. Methodology: I played each scenario several times with 50 card decks composed of two core sets and hobbit box cards. In most cases (except the second scenario for which I have separate discussion) a player owning only one core set and hobbit should be able to construct decks that will perform in a similar way using 35 card limit.
2. It is very hard for me to judge how hard those scenarios are for players that have played this game few dozens of times. With 350+ games under my belt certain strategies, combos and tactical plays are fairly easy to spot and might make scenarios easier to deal with it. Please do keep this in mind when reading my comments on the difficulty.


Scenarios
In general scenarios in this expansion are very unique and interesting. This is both a con and pro - on one hand they are more complicated than more typical ones but on the other hand you are guaranteed to see something new in them. They mostly do seem thematic.

In my comments I will try to give you some general ideas on the scenarios without spoiling main twists which are very fun to discover on your first playthrough.

Flies and Spiders
Will Bilbo and the dwarves be able to survive meeting of poisonous spiders?

Despite the theme similarity this scenario is much different than what we saw in core set in Passage through Mirkwood. The key mechanic in the scenario is venom (spiders and other effects will poison your character which will make them less reliable or could even make them unusable for a while). I will not tell you much more because there is very nice twist during this scenario which I don't want to spoil.

Pros: Interesting poison mechanic, not so difficult in solo.
Cons: Confusing quest cards (see Errata & FAQ). More interesting with more players

The Lonely Mountain
Finally we are approaching the Smaug and his treasures.

I have some bad news about this scenario while it has so many great ideas it also very under-tested. This results in very random and unsatisfying conclusion. While the initial journey toward this finale is interesting with limited card pool you will be forced to skip some interesting parts due to limited willpower of the cards you have.

Pros:
- Interesting ideas
- Interesting treasure getting mechanic with push your luck feel ...
Cons:
- ... but with limited card pool you will not be able to get more than 1-2 treasures anyway (in solo)
- Huge random element in the finale
- Main mechanic (burgle) is a bit confusing


The Battle of Five Armies
Ah the famous battle. How well your heroes will do?

This is by far the most interesting quest. You will see concepts that are quite new to the game (questing with other things than willpower). It does not feel very "battle like" but on the other hands your heros are not regular soldiers or commanders so maybe this is a good thing. I only wish it was a bit less hard at the start/easy near the ned type because otherwise it is great.

Pros:
- Very varied scenario that requires balanced deck (while still being beatle with limited card pool)
- Nonlinear
- Shows some of the best modern (Heirs of Nummenor) mechanics in a friendly manner

Cons:
- Hard at the beginning
- Anticlimactic i.e. easy towards the end

Heores
We have three dwarves and Bard the Bowman (tactics). The latter is pretty weak in solo sadly as his ability only works in multiplayer so we are left with three to consider:
Balin - Leadership - breaks the mold of if you control 5 dwarves then X. He comes with build-in (almost) shadow card cancellation for a resource that does come handy in some brutal shadow ridden scenarios.
Bombur - Lore - counts as two dwarves. That sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless if you consider the main theme of dwarves cards and heroes in hobbit boxes it turns out that he can be very useful when paired properly. Latter in the scenario you will curse that he is nothing more then a resource generator but he can go and speed up your dwarven deck erly which might be critical.
Oin - Spirit - 5 dwarves and he gets +1 ATK and tactics. Seems a bit weak to me but I can see some people using this guy to add a little bit of tactics cards to their Spirit centered decks. So personally I do not like him but your milage may and should vary.

In general I was not too impressed with the heroes here. They have their uses but the first Hobbit box was much better here.

Player cards
Varied lot here. I would divide it into following groups:
1. Dwarves:
- Three unique allies that have nice responses when they enter play while you control 5 dwarves. They are very nice if not for two downsides
a. They are unique
b. Gloin has his hero counterpart
- King under the mountain - amazing card draw (take one out of two cards) if you have leadership and dwarf hero. Autoinclude in this situation.
- To me! O my kinsfolk! - AKA dwarven sneak attack from the discard pile. Very good and again leadership.
2. Ranged
- Three cards and while one of them allows for attacks in staging area for ranged chars in general I would say for solo they are not great.
3. Other
- In general this lot is quite weak and varied. Only ones that I consider worth mentioning:
a. Expert treasure hunter can provide you with very decent if a bit unreliable card draw.
b. Straight shot - discard enemy with zero defence. Although there are not very many of those it can really help in some of the quests. One note to mention it does combo with Bard.

In general I would say that this box does have some very nice cards but nothing too ground breaking. The trick here is that they do nicely round up some holes in your dwarven decks. So if you feel like you are few cards away from great dwarven deck then this box should get you covered. Otherwise, if you got your dwarven fix with the first box ... then player cards in box (and heroes) will disappoint you.

Conclusions
So the question appears
- "I have Core Set and Over Hill and Under Hill, should I invest in the On the Doorstep to continue my LOTR experience or am I to look somewhere else?"
Ahh the dreaded question. One I was constantly asking myself (for the sake of this review) from the moment I opened the expansion's box. What is worse I still am unsure. I did like the scenarios in this one (except the second one) and I think that they would be very interesting (albeit a bit confusing) for players with limited card pool. On the other hand the player cards and heroes left me unimpressed. Ultimately I will answer the above question in the following way:
- "Get second Hobbit box only if at least one (preferably two) of the following is true:
a. You love dwarves and your dwarven decks are almost there, they just need couple of cards to get great.
b. You look more for the scenarios then player cards.
c. You really, really enjoyed the first part of hobbit.
Otherwise look somewhere else (hint: review of Lord of the rings saga nr.1 Black Riders is coming soon) and give this one a pass"

Did you try 2nd hobbit with just core+1st hobbit cards? What was your experience?
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Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:55 pm
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Summary of my opinions on Against the Shadow cycle

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the whole cycle composed of quick looks at each adventure pack and some general thoughts. I decided only to mention player cards that particularly resonate with me (in a good or bad way). The ones I do not mention should be considered so-so/ok or very specific

The Steward's Fear -

Scenario - 6/10 - It revolves around initially unknowns: special condition and boss enemy. This makes the scenario very replayable. I also very much enjoy the way that enemies are introduced to the game (they come hidden under locations and come into play only when you explore those locations) - this forces you into some tough decisions: explore and face consequences or let location sit and slow you down (potentially causing your threat to explode).

Overall though the scenario is too long for my taste. It has so many cards that stop you in your tracks, delaying your progress and so on. This when combined with some of the special conditions can cause you the game of course but more often it will be just frustratingly long.

Hero - 9/10 - Hirluin the Fair - One of those heroes that got me fooled thinking that he is weak. Just looking at his stats (1, 1 , 1, 4HP) he seemed to be beyond useless. But then I realized that his threat is higher than the sum of his stats and knew that the trick is in the ability. Only when I looked at the ally cards in this box I knew his true value. This guy is awesome! He is (almost) playable as a single hero which is great and terrifying at the same time.

Player Cards - 9/10 - This pack can be (almost) considered as a "deck in one expansion". It is Outlands haven (4 allies boosting each other to fantastic levels). The Outlands deck is still fragile at the beginning but once its get going ... wow! From the rest of the cards I would like to point to Mithrandir's Advice, card that rewards playing heavy Lore decks (draw X cards where X is number of lore heroes) and Gondorian Shield that can make Gondor heroes (i.e. Beregond) unbelievable defenders (by giving them +2D, non-Gondor heroes get +1D)

The Drúadan Forest -

Scenario - 4/10 - An easy scenario? Nice change for us solo players as we often get hammered by poorly (solo) tested scenarios. This time the developers made a mistake in the other direction. All the resource theft and archery boosting effects are much weaker when they come one at the time. The final battle when you use willpower instead of attack to "convince" enemies is a excellent twist that I hope to see again. Overall I enjoyed this scenario as a nice change of pace but I am not use how often I will return to it.

Hero - 3/10 - Milronde - Reduces threat cost of your lore heroes by 1. I guess she is supposed to be secrecy friendly/enabler for pure lore decks. But to tell the truth her rounded stats (2, 2, 1, 3HP) make her weak in almost all departments. I think that outside very special decks she will be useless (although you at this point you could create 3 hero lore deck with starting threat 18). She might also make a comeback once silvan synergy gets going.

Player Cards - 8/10 - We see one main trend: cards that work only in mono sphere decks. Some of them fix their respective sphere weaknesses. In general I find it great as mono decs before this pack were very weak in solo.
Great:
- Strength of Army (leadership, ready all allies)
Good:
- Trained for war (use attack instead of willpower)
- Against the shadow in spirit (you can use willpower instead of defence)
- White Tower Watchman - 3Hp neutral ally can take undefended attacks, provided you are going mono. With a defence of 2 and Gondor trait, he usually should be able to defend 1 attack and then take one undefended before going down.
- Forlong - next Outlands ally is always nice to see
- Silvan Refugee - very fragile (leaves play whenever a character leaves play) two willpower spirit ally for a nice cost of 1.

Encounter at Amon Dîn -

Scenario - 6/10 - I love the idea of trying to save villagers, while fighting/questing at the same time and it alone is worth the price of admission. Nevertheless the difficulty of this one seems off as the scenario is very easy. Many of the powerful encounter effects depend on the amount of dead villagers and so does the win condition. So the whole scenario changes into "do not any villager die" and most of the time it is not so difficult. I would like to see a similar concept used in the future but turned on its head i.e. a lot of choices: let villagers die and the encounter cards get easier. This temptation should lead to interesting climax near the end when you need to have more saved than dead.

Hero - 2/10 - Pippin (Spirit) - The third hobbit hero we get. His ability works only in pure hobbit deck and it is not impressive especially in solo - you can push the enemy to the staging area for 3 threat. I know that theoretically it can (for one round) save your heroes from being swarmed but ... ultimately his weak stats (2, 1, 1, 2HP) mean that he becomes close to useless. I do not foresee him gaining much playtime even with huge support for hobbits in Black Riders.

Player Cards - 7/10 - We have an interesting mix here.
Great:
- Lord of Morthond - Gondor/Outlands (i.e. Hilurin) get an attachment giving card draw when playing allies from non-leadership sphere (all heroes must be leadership) - this boost is very strong for outlands deck as it gains much needed speed.

Good:
Traps - we get a new trap that in solo allows you to attack enemies in the staging area. Also new lore ally Ithilien Archer allows you to send enemies back to staging area provided that he damages them. This seems a bit weak ability but actually it can push an enemy into a trap that is waiting in staging so it has some potential.

Interesting:
Hobbits get two cards (next to Pippin). Small target can be surprisingly good (especially if used on Frodo) as it can redirect an enemy's attack to another enemy (provided that: hobbit was used as defender and no shadow effect triggers). Neutral event Hobbit sense that essentially allows you to skip one combat phase if you are running only hobbit heroes seems close to useless.

Gondor gets 2 more allies (next to Ithilien Archer). Denethor makes a comeback as one that costs 4 and boast very nice stats (3, 1 , 2, 3HP) his ability is very thematic card (loses 1 willpower for each damaged hero) but I am still wondering whether he is useful. Second Gondor ally is Minas Tirith Lampwrigh - first card that gives us a random chance to prevent surge - might work on some surge heavy adventures.

Assault on Osgiliath -
Scenario - 7/10 - Another thematic stroke of genius. You really get a feeling that you are fighting for and in the ruins of the old city. Each location you manage to take brings you closer to victory but also makes it harder to move further (as you would "need to leave the defenders" and thus reducing the size of your strike force).

The only trick is that this scenario again seems quite easy solo (once I was able to win on round two) and only when you get a lot of locations it shows its real potential and turns into bloody struggle for Osgiliath.

Hero - 6/10 - Faramir - lore hero that gets stronger the more enemies are in staging. He is clearly designed with trap deck in mind and works well with many of trap/ithilien cards. Personally I didn't try any trap deck yet so jury is still out on how powerful he can be (I am slightly worried about balanced stats) but I definitely like the idea.

Player Cards - 6/10
Great:
- Men of the West (return Outland allies from discard to hand, paying 1 resource for each). This (partially) negates the issue with outland deck i.e. slow start.
Interesting:
- Lore gets Trap/ranger deck cards that are able to deal direct damage under specific conditions. Both of them look great on paper though their limitations lie in other cards appearing in your hand. Still very interesting.
- Gondor fire - The second one seems to be the more interesting one as it can boost Gondor/Dunedain hero's attack significantly (since it depends on the amount of resources it can work great in leadership/tactic deck).
- Palantir - scrying effect that can show you up to 3 cards which is huge for solo (it can usually help you to plan two turns). The risk involved is quite high (threat gain) but benefit is good. I tested it with lore Aragorn deck and it worked quite well although additional cost of exhausting hero turned out to be quite steep (but this could be nullified by a readying effect)

The Blood of Gondor -
Scenario - 8/10 - Interesting one again. This time new idea seems to be hidden cards that is:
- All sorts of effects force you to take hidden cards.
- When you turn (see below) hidden cards all turned enemies stay in play engaged with you, other cards are discarded.
- In stage 1 you have a choice at the beginning of combat to turn your hidden cards. In stage two you lose this option but the cards get turned when you have 5 or more of them.
This creates fantastic ambush feel and gives you very interesting choices. I like it very much. Only downside is that random nature of the card draws tends to be more painful in this case. Again this scenario seems to be more difficult multiplayer.
Hero - 2/10 - Caldara - if you are going to have a hero that has an ability "discard this hero to get X" then better make X super great. For Caldara X is put two (and 2 is if you are running mono spirit) spirit allies from your discard in play is far from that. Unless you are able to put her back in play right away (which requires ton of resources and specific card) ... let us just say that I am not a fan
Player Cards - 3/10 - Most of the cards in this set are underwhelming (especially for solo) in my opinion. Notable exceptions include:
- Lore got two more "trap" cards - actual trap and an ally that can take traps from your discard. Very nice combo.
- Leadership got an ally (chump blocker) that could be considered free/resource transfer in Gondor deck (returns resource to a Gondor hero when leaves play).

The Morgul Vale -
Scenario - 8/10 - Grand finale of the cycle is also as usual the most difficult scenario. Very combat heavy but at times can also require quite a lot of questing power and this of course makes it very difficult for us solo players. Nevertheless I really enjoyed it for two main reasons:
- Three bosses with increasing difficulty premise is a great one and creates interesting "tempo" decisions.
- I got to play tactic decks (including mono tactics)
Hero - 6/10 - Theoden (boots willpower of all tactic heroes) - On paper he looks amazing. He has potential of nullifying main weakness of solo tactic decks i.e. low willpower. But the devil is in the details. Here is the main negative: His threat is sky high due to rounded stats. This by itself almost kills his usefulness outside mono-tactics and since most of other tactics heroes have a tendency to go near or above 10 threat it makes using Theoden a very risky proposition as you will get enemies attacking you on turn one.
Player Cards - 6/10 - We see first (in a long time) new cards for Rohan decks: this time we see their new signature offensive ability i.e. attacking in the staging area. This coupled with tremendous ability to quest, explore locations could make them ultra powerful in the future. This time we get spear of the mark (attachment +1 Atk, +2 Atk when attacking staging area) and event that allows all Rohan chars to attack in the staging area.
Outside of that we get a decent leadership boost for Gondor in the form of Visionary Leadership (Attachment: +1 Willpower for Gondor, provided that attached hero has at least 1 resource). Other cards also tend to be at least ok.

Overall Opinion So if you look at the numbers and stars above the cycle seems to be of good but far from great category. Is is really like this or is the whole stronger than the sum of its parts?

Scenarios: WOW, I mean WOW. What great ideas we have here. The developers really were able to show how much more potential there is in LOTR:LCG. Although many of the scenarios fallen a bit short (especially solo) by being too easy but I am very impressed by the designers ability to invent and create new experiences in each scenario. Also I very much liked stronger thematic connection between the scenarios. The writing on the story was not of the highest quality but it was decent enough and made the whole more enjoyable. In my opinion the potential of creating new scenarios shown in scenarios of this cycle is its greatest strength even if execution (mostly solo again) was far from perfect.

Heroes: From the highest point to the lowest one. I found that the heroes in this cycle were the worst I've seen so far. Of course Hirluin is an exception here and one or two others might be playable but ... what a disappointment in general.

As for player cards my opinion are as follows:
- Outlands - For solo this deck can be a little slow and fragile when starting but the power level that it can reach surpasses anything we have seen so far. I am not too fond of it since the deckbuilding with outlands is very limited (there are so many auto-include cards that you are left with little room for your own creativity) but I will be the last one to deny its power.
- Monosphere support - Great idea. So far solo mono sphere decks were not so strong and it usually paid off to play multi sphere. Now the possibilities are much wider.
- Gondor - I have to admit that I haven't tried pure Gondro deck yet on paper it looks like there are some very strong cards (mostly boosts related to resources) so it is possible that the deck is beyond good. Nevertheless I feel that we are not there yet. Gondor does not have the variety of cards that dwarves have at their disposal nor the uber cards like Dain Ironfoot or King Under the Mountain.

In general I think that despite the fact that heroes were subpar this was my favorite cycle so far. As I say it even despite the lack of polish on scenario difficulty as their innovation really brought this cycle up. Is this cycle better than Shadows of Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf ? My short answer is yes but only due to scenarios and not by much.

How about you? What are your feelings on the cycle? Particular scenarios? Card combinations? Preference vs the other cycles?
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Fri Sep 26, 2014 3:46 pm
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Hobbit Saga expansion #2 - review from a dedicated player point of view.

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is my review of the Hobbit: on the box composed of quick looks at each scenario and player cards. Please note that this review is written from a perspective of a player that loves the game and has all the previous expansions. Another review from a core set + 1st Hobbit only player point of view is coming.

Scenarios
Flies and Spiders
8/10 - Very interesting and fresh scenario that relies on venom mechanics. I had a lot of trouble with interpreting stages 2 and 3 but once I got it straightened out the scenario started to flow nicely. This a combat heavy scenario. There is one timing trick in the scenario (do not worry I will not spoil it) that seems to be obvious once you find it but it took me couple of plays to get it.

This scenario seems slightly easier in solo than in multiplayer (at least 2 player). On one hand it is nice change of pace but on the other hand we loose part of the experience. This is another proof that us, solo players, are often just an afterthought for the game developers. In fact most of difficulties I had with the rules of the quest cards followed directly for this (luckily this was answered in FAQ).

Overall though I highly recommend this quest - it is unique and it is fun.

The Lonely Mountain
4/10 - Initially I loved the scenario - thematic concept that the more treasures you get the more difficult questing gets is tremendous. Getting all treasures (and nothing else was satisfactory) in solo required tweaking my deck to the last card. This is such huge improvement over the treasures in the first box that I am really impressed with the developers. You really owe it to your self to try to get all of them in a solo mode at least once.

Once I was able to achieve that I was really dissatisfied with what happens later. After all this work your fate is left to luck of the draw (i.e. how many times Smaug will attack). Since in my case lady luck was not very friendly (I got attacked upwards of 6 times in 4-5 attempts) the scenario left a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed like nothing else matters so much as how many times Smaug will attack you. That is fail in my book.

It is also worthed to mention that getting all the treasures in solo is so much more difficult than in multiplayer that I think is another fail of developer's for this quest.

This scenario is up for my personal award: "Most wasted potential". I still recommend playing it.

The Battle of Five Armies
7/10 - Concept of three stages from which you could choose yourself (with consequences) seemed very, very interesting. In practice though executions was a bit weaker. Namely this scenario follows the typical HIT-EM-HARD at the start and see if they will fall i.e. it is very difficult at the beginning and it turns to very easy (if you survive that is) towards the end. Most of the effects (treacheries, enemies, shadows) are very dangerous at the start of the game and turn into tame later on.

Despite the above I think it is a fun quest and a decent finale to the whole saga. It features questing, battle and siege so you deck needs to be very versatile in solo. Somehow it manages to create very tense moments while reaming beatable. One additional thing keeps this quest from getting better rating it gets old surprisingly fast. It is one of the few quests that I got bored before playing it 10 times (but this may follow from the fact that my playstyle somehow determines the order in which I like to complete quests)

Heroes
Three dwarves and Bard the Bowman. At this point we have so many dwarves heroes that the new bunch does not impress very much. Despite that on paper all of them look interesting with two pushing dwarf synergy even further

Sprit (Oin) - seems weak as Spirt-Tactics dwarven combination seems relatively weak compared to other options (leadership tactics is my favorite solo option).

Leadership (Balin) - has decent stats and emergency replace nasty shadow with hopefully something less dangerous. No real synergy with other dwarves so could be used outside of race specific decks.

Lore (Bombur) - counts as two dwarves for dwarf counting abilities. Very interesting as it can help to trigger "5 or more dwarfs" one turn earlier than usual but is it worthed to sacrifice a hero spot for him? I do not play lore dwarves but my gut response is: NO.

Tactics (Bard) - again tactics does not get a dwarf in this Saga. Bard seems very cool but let us be honest - he sucks in solo as he is all about ranged attacks.

For me this box is not very strong in hero department. Those of you that tend to play multiplayer or two-fisted will get much more out of it.

Player Cards
Tactics - As with the first set, tactics got the cards that are the least tied to the dwarves. This time it seems that all of them were custom made for Bard. This unfortunately limits their usability in solo mode (ranged focus).

Spirit - Weird bunch of cards. Event is useless in solo. Attachment can help you to deal with locations with terrible effects (pity is that most of those can't be affected by player cards which limits use of this). Ally is typical for this set: if you have 5 or more dwarves you get small benefit when playing him.

Lore - Two of those cards got errata which tells you something about their playtests. Their main problem is that they copy most of the things that lore is already quite good at i.e. card draw and scrying. This makes them less impressive as other options are less dwarf specific.

Leadership - GREAT dwarf cards. If you want to make your dwarves even more of a powerhouse those cards alone should make this box worthed.

Final Rating:
Scenarios are ultimately a let down. They continue to be thematic but they all are flawed in some way or another. Developers need to be congratulated for creating more unique experiences than in first Hobbit but at the same time most of the things seem to be underdeveloped and not playtested well enough. Treasures work much better in this one than in the first and managed to become a focal point of two (even all) of the scenarios, mostly due to Bilbo's ability.

As for player/hero cards ... more dwarves plus some range. Again since at this point we have so much dwarf cards it is strike against this box for me. It is worthed to mention that the selection is dramatically better for those that play multiplayer. If you love dwarves though forget about all my complaints and be prepared for even more goodness.

My final rating on the box is quite negative (even I am surprised). It is probably the worst purchase for me so far (with The Hills of Emyn Muil being close second). I did enjoy the first saga box more than this despite lack of originality in its scenarios. Ultimately both sagas expansions seem to suffer from being rushed (not enough development, not enough testing). I really hope that the second saga starting with Black Raiders will be much better in this regard. I will not go as far as to say to skip it but if any expansions came close to this verdict this is the one.

How about you? What are your opinions on the 2nd Hobbit as whole and/or particular scenarios?
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Fri Apr 18, 2014 6:00 am
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Heirs of Númenor - is it worthed to fight for Gondor?

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the Heirs of Númenor box composed of quick looks at each scenario and player cards.

1. Scenarios
Peril in Pelargir
5/10 - NOTE: I messed up this scenario by including additional encounter set (orks) so please take my opinion with a grain of salt.
Poor thematic feel (especially that it is beneficial to let the enemies take the scroll) really damages this scenario. It was fun to explore the battle keyword for the first time and enemies had interesting effects (that can't be canceled) but I will not be returning to this one any time soon. It also suffers from a loose connection with the other scenarios.

Into Ithilien
7/10 - Much better use of battle/siege mechanisms. At times it is very difficult (first turn Mumak = game over). Loved the non linear nature but it is a bit weird that stage two (penalty) was easier than stage 3 (reward). Great thematic connection with the next one.

The Siege of Cair Andros
8/10 - Scaling on this one seems to be totally off. Setup is deadly for solo and if you fail to avoid stage two it is pretty much game over. All this takes two points away from this excellent scenario. Definitely one of the best so far. Great mechanisms carry strong theme and forces interesting choices and risk taking. This scenario alone makes this box worthed to buy (assuming you have other expansions as it would be very difficult with limited card pool).

2. Heroes
Two heroes in this box. This is really few compared Saga boxes that contain 4.
Beregond - His main (and only) purposes are to handle questing under siege and to defend. He is great at that. He also rounds out tactics sphere providing decent defence. His ability is on the weak side though so I am a bit surprised by his high threat cost. Still he is worth including when dealing with siege quests.
Boromir - At this point he is weak. There are only few interesting Gondor allies. His stats as in the tactics version are good but until I see more Gondor characters I won't be playing him.


3. Player Cards
Tactics - Tremendous mix of cards. Excellent and cheap defender, readying, defence booster and decent weapon attachment.

Spirit - Watchful peace - can be interesting especially in solo. Blood of Numenor might be interesting if you are running Spirit Leadership deck. Light the Beacons sounds great on paper but I never have 5 spirit resources lying around. Damrod is plain terrible.

Lore - Good cards. I love ranger spikes that can essentially trap an enemy and Ithilien Tracker might also create interesting choices. Master of Lore seems to be too expensive unless you are planning on running mono-Lore (and even that is it worthed?). Hunter of Lamedon looks weak on the surface but with Outlands synergy ... let us wait and see.

Leadership - Mostly cards that allow some resource manipulation. Nothing to write home about. Rohan-Gondor combo card is interesting but I do not see it in solo so not too great.

Neutral - Envoy can allow you to transfer some wealth and is quite cheap but ...

In general Tactic is a winner here (suffice to say that I used all new cards and created first mono tactics deck). Lore also seems to have something interesting in stock. Other sphere look very weak in solo (though Watchful Peace could be great for solo spirit decks).

Final Rating:
In short excellent box for dedicated players. I've liked it for introduction of siege/battle keywords, loved the third scenario and second one was fun as well. Decent player cards round it up to a surprisingly good rating. Half of the point was taken for poor 1st scenario and for the fact that there is too little Gondor in the Gondor box.

How about you? What are your opinions on the Heirs box as whole and/or particular scenarios?
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Tue Aug 6, 2013 2:27 pm
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Hobbit Saga expansion #1 - review from a dedicated player point of view.

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill box composed of quick looks at each scenario and player cards. Please note that this review is written from a perspective of a player that loves the game and has all the previous expansions. Another review from a core set only player point of view is coming.

We must away, ere break of day
6/10 - We meet the Carrock trolls again. Despite the major changes in their power the scenario has a very similar feel. If not for "one attacker rule" that really changes things around I would totally dismiss this one. As it stands it is ok.

Over the Misty Mountains Grim
5/10 - Very random stage two that can range from easy to outright deadly. After that stage three and fight with goblins seems so easy (although 4 enemies appearing in a single round is not unheard of). Nothing to write home about it.

Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim
7/10 - Riddles work surprisingly well. Interactions between main quest and riddles are very interesting. Lacks climactic feel in stage 3.

Heroes
You get 3 heroes that have ability very centered around having multiple dwarves in play or on putting them into play. Those heroes also accent typical strength of each sphere to which they belong (leadership=more resources, spirit=lower threat, lore=more card draws). Overall I personally found them so-so as I do not play dwarves but I do see them as great additions to anyone playing dwarves. Beorn is an odd one here, new tactics hero that is immune to play card effects is far from being my favourite - I do like the fact that I can boost my heroes and observe some interaction between the cards and Breon gets away from this. I am sure that he can be useful in more way than one but he will not be joining any of my decks anytime soon.

Player Cards
Tactics - very strong cards that form a nice combo together - ally that can help you to draw weapons and two events that can generate tremendous effects from those weapons (direct damage or draw 3 cards)

Spirit - On the so-so side of things. Late adding of a character to the quest is far less efficient than scrying in solo play, attachments that is passed around exhausting one character to ready another is definitely interesting but far from straightforward to use. Ally that brings ally from other sphere into play is an interesting concept but nowadays leadership and spirit do not seem to mix well so I am giving it also an average rating for solo play (especially that both of them are unique).

Lore - Thror's map is a constant strider's path which is ok. Dori can save a hero from an unexpected damage or death but the is quite expensive and needs to be ready. Expecting Mischief is a direct damage card for lore which is interesting but needs scrying to work efficiently (note: it does not prevent surge).

Leadership - Very decent one time ready hero attachment, as for Killi/Fili duo my comments are the same - spirit and leadership do not mix well together at this point for solo. A Very Good Tale is a very interesting beast that once you have few allies in play can bring even more it is a bit hard to correctly evaluate for me but it seems on a stronger side of things.

Final Rating:
Scenarios are good but not great. They do feel thematic which I think was essential for saga expansion but from a purely gamer point of view they do not shine. Main problem here is that most of their key ideas are rehashed from previous expansions (Conflict at the Carrock, Foundation of stone, Watcher in the Water) and despite the fact that they do implement the same ideas better (I still prefer Foundation of Stone to Over the Misty though) or in some cases much better (riddles vs doors) it is hard to shake off the feeling of "been there, done that". Only the third scenario manages to deliver novel experience by major development of its main concept.

Treasures are interesting especially with a recent errata - still a bit of a let down considering my high expectation.

As for player card ... my main question is did dwarves needed another boost? Being probably the most well developed race (that only stubborn people like myself do not play) I would argue that answer is no. Certainly it is always nice to have more options (and the number of player cards and heroes does that very well) but I would wish that multitude of valuable strategies would be promoted instead of overdeveloping just one even further.

My final rating on the scenario is a bit better than the comments above show as I found this scenario working much better from a new player point of view that will get only core and this one. Since us, experienced players, will benefit from wider player base (more ideas, strategies , more FFG's resources on our game). I was very skeptical at first but I think FFG did pull this one off (barely but still) as an expansion both for core only and experienced players which is very hard to do.

How about you? What are your opinions on the 1st Hobbit as whole and/or particular scenarios?
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Sat Mar 16, 2013 6:00 am
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Summary of my opinions on Dwarrowdelf cycle

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the whole cycle composed of quick looks at each adventure pack and some general thoughts.

The Redhorn Gate -
Scenario - 9/10 - Excellent thematic quest that will almost literally chill you to the bone. Must play in my opinion, one of the best quests so far.
Hero - Elrohir - Quite weak on his own but once combined with his brother his utility greatly increases. Not great solo IMHO
Player Cards - Start of Secrecy looked strong but now that we know its finale most of those cards are just plain weak. Just one great card for me here - Bofur, not only next dwarf but very strong (and potentially cheap) spirit ally.

Road to Rivendel -
Scenario - 3/10 - Fairly lengthy and quite boring scenario with two insta-kill treacheries/shadows
Hero - Elladan - Quite weak on his own but once combined with his brother his utility greatly increases. Not great solo IMHO
Player Cards - Rohan gets some love (although more towards multi-player), dwarves get two decent cards. We start to see that elves will be strong in this one. Tactics is the only sphere that gets a very decent selection. We see the worst card ever in this one - The End Comes.

The Watcher in the Water -
Scenario - 8/10 - Very good scenario that presents with two radically different ways to deal with it. It can be frustrating at times but in the end it delivers a great experience.
Hero - Aragorn (lore) - first redesign of a hero. Great one at that! Read my post on this card if you need more info.
Player Cards - Elves (especially Noldor) get much love in this one (especially with tremendous spirit cards). One good dwarven card beside that the rest seem to be very corner case.

Long Dark -
Scenario - 7/10 - Quite easy solo which is a nice change of pace, still can be fun at times. Nothing earth shattering here although it can be very hard in multi-player mode (>2 players).
Hero - Hama - Tremendous tactics hero. Can indefinitely lock down single enemy (using feint).
Player Cards - Finally some major dwarven boost in this one. Outside of this only Warden of healing seems to be good in general.


Foundation of stone -
Scenario - 9/10 - Good and quite novel quest (two separate encounter decks and random/separating stages). It is a bit wekaer solo and this keeps me from giving it a 10.
Hero - Glorfindel (spirit) - one of the best heroes so far period.
Player Cards - Great spirit and Lore cards. Weaker for other spheres.


Shadow and Falme -
Scenario - 8/10 - Interesting and challenging quest. Very worth of cycle finale if a bit restricted on possible strategies.
Hero - Elrond - another excellent addition to heroes "family".
Player Cards - Some excellent cards in this one (Spirit seems to be on weaker side). Lore gets 3 cards again. Vilya that is Elrond specific is one hell of a card.

Overall Opinion I was a bit underwhelmed with Khazad Dum deluxe expansion mostly due to many praises that I have read while still plying Shadows of Mirkwood cycle because of that my expectations on the second cycle were much lower. This time I was in for a great surprise!

I find that this cycle is strong as far as scenarios go with a quite interesting mechanics introduced/explored. Many of them I do hope to see returning in a new implementation in the future. I am a bit sad that some of them seem better in multi-player mode but I found them enjoyable solo nevertheless and that's what really counts.

As for "themed" player cards my opinion are as follows:
- Dwarves do get some very good cards but not as many as one would expect from the cycle theme.
- Surprisingly elves show up very strong in the player cards in adventure packs. I would not go as far as to say that elvish decks are the best ones out there but they do have very very strong heroes and decent card synergies
- Secrecy is pretty much useless - especially in solo play. Some cards can be useful outside secrecy (especially if played using vilya)

If you like powerful heroes this cycle is for you. Four very strong heroes are in this packs (and in multi-player all of them are great).

Is this cycle better than Shadows of Mirkwood? My short answer is yes - mostly due to tremendous scenarios and fantastic heroes. I would say that on average player cards are better in first cycle though so this is not "by a land slide" preference.

How about you? What are your feelings on the cycle? Particular scenarios? Card combinations? Preference vs the first cycle?
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Sat Feb 9, 2013 6:00 am
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Summary of my opinions on Khazad-Dum

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the Khazad-Dum composed of quick looks at each scenario and player cards.

Into the Pit
8/10 - Your journey into the mines starts here. I very much like the initial step with a "journey through the most iconic" locations in Moria. Love the torch mechanic. You need to take preventive measures against insta-kill treacheries. The end feels a bit anticlimactic.

The Seventh Level
5/10 - Very weak thematically, very random. Very, very hard for solo (IMHO second only to Escape from Dul Guldur) - forces you to optimize your deck to the last card and it is one of the its few redeeming qualities. Some interesting tactical fighting.

Flight From Moria
7/10 - Excellent idea (bordering on genius) on quest stages and Nameless Fear, good thematic feel. Its full potential is wasted by huge shortcuts taken toward the end of its development (you almost always bypass quest stages - making mr. Fear laughable, one of escape stages=flip the card to see if you are eliminated is just ridiculous). Can be easily house ruled to make interesting.

Heroes - Two dwarves - There are a lot of dwarves already present and some strong synergies emerge so if you are planing to run dwarves deck you might find them useful but if you look at them in a vacuum ... they look fairly weak. Also at this point the dwarven deck is not fully ready yet (although Dain Ironfoot that came with last Mirkwood pack has an ability that is so strong that you can still succeed).

Player Cards - Dwarven theme taken to the max but in the end only one card gets my full recommendation. That is "Khazad! Khazad!". Zigil Miner used to be excellent (adding a tremendous resource generation to the Spirit sphere) but its ability underwent an errata (and is better now in my opinion as Spirit is already very powerful) and now is just ok. Of the other cards nothing stands out as great or particularly terrible. I think most of them will find their place in a specialized deck.

Final Rating:
As value for your money goes it is great you get 3 quests for price of two adventure packs. Player cards are very consistent and have a thematic feel. So it all comes down to quests. Here it looses points because two of them are almost excellent. A little more development/testing and this "almost" would be gone and my review would be glowing. Note, my opinion is a bit colored by the fact that people used to tell me (when I was playing the first cycle) that KD is the best thing since sliced bread - well it is not. It is (just) good.

How about you? What are your opinions on KD and/or particular scenarios?
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Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:00 am
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Summary of my opinions on Shadow of Mirkwood cycle

Wojtek Wojcik
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Here is a review of the whole cycle composed of quick looks at each adventure pack and some general thoughts.

The Hunt for Gollum -
Scenario - 6/10 - Nice thematic introduction to the whole cycle. Not too easy, not hard. One of the few which gives players great impact on encounter deck output.
Hero - Bilbo Baggins - Very nice passive effect even if stats are less then impressive.
Player Cards - Great introductions to the Song cyle (first song and minstrel). First Dunedain card. Start of Eagle cylce for tactics is just ok at this point.

Conflict at the Carrock -
Scenario - 7/10 - Thematic detour seems a bit weak. Scenario is a very challenging one until you figure out how to approach it. After that it feels a bit like one trick pony but still can make you sweat.
Hero - Frodo Baggins - Very strong hero, decent stats and ability to convert damage to threat is very strong for Spirit center decks.
Player Cards - New song, Dunedain Warning and burning brand are worth mentioning. Rest is so so. Rohan and Eagles are still very weak at this point.

A Journey to Rhosghobel -
Scenario - 8/10 - I like it mostly for the fact that most standard decks are not as strong against this one. You need a good splash of Lore to have a decent win ratio.
Hero - Prince Imrahil - Good stats and ability. For some reason though I do not seem to be using him much. He seems better in multiplayer.
Player Cards - Excellent spirit cards (Ancient Mathom and Escort from Edoras). Eagle decks start to take initial shape (also due to Radagast). Lore gets his strongest fighter.

The Hills of Emyn Muil -
Scenario - 3/10 - Fairly weak scenario. Probably easiest solo (location lock is more probable in the multiplayer game). Although we return to looking for Gollum story here is quite weak.
Hero - Brand son of Bain - very weak hero, despite his stats, especially for solo. Although 2 will power is good for tactics his ability then goes to waste.
Player Cards - Continue of the song cycle is always good. Decent Rohan cards and another fighter for Lore. Eagles are getting half decent. Many cards that only make sense in multiplayer.

The Dead Marshes -
Scenario - 7/10 - Search for Gollum finally is back for good. Interesting "keep your eyes" on the price mechanics with escape tests. Fairly easy though.
Hero - Boromir - Another tactics hero. Decent stats and two abilities. One very useful and one very thematic (and life saving at times).
Player Cards - Conclusion of song cycle (two of them). Good mix of cards for all spheres.

Return to Mirkwood -
Scenario - 8/10 - VERY hard solo but avoids typical approach of stalling the game to build your team. Really thematic - feels like a mad escape.
Hero - Dain Ironfoot - Corner stone of dwarven decks. Makes many of KD cycle cards great.
Player Cards - Eagle cycle concluded and decks based on the become playable. Good end of Rohan cycle and very fine cards for Lore.


Overall Opinion
It is a good cycle. There is only one excellent scenario but almost all the rest are good. As far as player cards there are quite a few that are useless (especially solo) but several that are very powerful/useful (songs, Dunedain attachments and others). As far as heroes go three are very good and only one is weak.

As for themed player cards my opinion are as follows:
- Eagle decks are not developed enough in my opinion. You miss some more middle tier allies. I do see them becoming more powerful in the future (Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian seem to be very strong for Heirs of Numenor). As far as events go they are ok.
- Rohan decks seem to look a bit better (at least on paper as I have not tried it much). There is a decent set of allies available and you can even add Rohan trait to other characters. Such deck is oriented towards exploring locations and questing.
- Dunedain attachments are good period.
- Songs are useful especially if you are into tri-sphere decks.

I often see recommendation to new player to skip Shadows of Mirkwood cycle and going straight for Khazda Dum. In my opinion you do miss out going this route.
You will loose:
- Very good heroes.
- Some very strong player cards and your deck building options are limited greatly (no songs).
- Decent scenarios.
You will gain:
+ You play the game closer to current realeses

I have not played the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle yet so look for the comparison in the future.

How about you? What are your feelings on the cycle? Particular scenarios?
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Sat Dec 8, 2012 6:00 am
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