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Foundations of Stone: How it has changed the game + Updated Decks

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Foundations of Stone is unquestionably a very significant expansion. It presents player card options that are as influential to Boromir style deck construction as we’ve seen in quite a while. All in all the quest and player cards add to a strong Darrowdelf lineup. Let’s dive in and see how it has changed the game.

First of all, I intensely love this quest for two key reasons:

1. The new game play mechanic of splitting up the players for a section of the game is really really neat. I would imagine that this quest was a tad ho-hum for solo players out there, but for multi-player it is a breath of fresh air to have your own board. Also, once you know the quest, there are a variety of strategical considerations to factor in regarding when you want to proceed to the split up phase. Losing access to shared powers on the board can have a significant effect, thus ensuring that everyone can stand on their own may require shifting attachments or moveable allies (wandering took, rider of the mark) to the most needed board. Shared healing powers are lost too, so we’ve had to slip in some critical healing a few times before splitting up. Then the element of charging in to the rescue of a troubled player when you get your board under control is strong thematically and is just plain fun.

2. Setting cards aside to be used later in the quest is an extremely powerful mechanism for creating a difficulty curve to respond to the player’s curve. I’ve commented before on how this is a great way to design a quest and many of the best quests do this. FoS takes this to a new level by putting the whole FoS encounter deck to the side. So while certain Nameless Things can be a bear to deal with, the players have plenty of time to prepare. I would be screaming about Lost and Alone since a first turn draw would be nearly game ending, but measured as a mid to late game play it becomes a nasty card to deal with, but once again manageable and even fun if it gets through your cancellation shields. This is great game design, hell I think that every quest should be built around the exact same mechanic. Why just set aside one card when you can do a whole deck?

While on some quests it is easy to forget the precise text of what is going on on the quest cards as all 3 quest cards result in similar rules with modest modifiers, here you really feel like you are progressing through a story. The 3 main phases of the quest are distinctive (lumping 1 and 2 together) – exploring mines, splitting up the players, trying to escape. This is a memorable and even somewhat epic game flow in stark contrast to quests like Road to Rivendell and The Long Dark which are easily forgotten beyond some one off nasty cards.

Big time bravo for this one.

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Glorfindel - Amazing that the same character can simultaneously be in competition for both best and worst hero card. Of course two radically different cards helps. While some would argue that Lore Glorfindel is not so bad, Glorfindel 2.0 (with deck space assigned to his attachments) is the best hero in the game. By himself, he has a dramatic effect on all of the key portions of game play and his threat makes him incredibly versatile to build around.

Spirit – Gets the best hero and two more highly useful cards. Seriously what is the deal with the Spirit love?

Direct Damage most notably Hail of Stones FoS presents some exceptional targets for DD like hail of stones. Moria Bats are best knocked out of play in the staging area (or when they enter play with Thalin). Nameless Things (and their Elder counterparts) take the cake though. These guys are a beast to deal with if you let them engage you as they can easily have a large amount of health to go with their strong defense. The fact that they only power up after they engage means that they are quite vulnerable while in the staging area. Hail of Stones shines here as the best solution as it is the easiest way to do DD at the needed level, although Gandalf and Descendent of Thorondor are options as well.

Encounter deck manipulation Mostly a shout out here as this is the one ability that transcends the the rules that require splitting up the players. Since there is still only one encounter deck, encounter deck manipulation can still be used to help other players.

Card draw + player card searching Lost and Alone is influential here since the only way to mitigate the effect of the card if it isn’t cancelled is to go digging for your lost hero. The Stargazer is not coincidently included in the card set.

Dwarves – Dwarves get yet another ally and this time it is in a sphere that directly synergizes with Dain. Longbeard Elder provides incredible questing power at a reasonable price (especially for lore). Then there are the two artifacts in the encounter deck which are as good attachments as there are in the game when placed on a dwarf.

Ranged characters – I thought we were done with “flying” enemies, but it would appear the concept returns and for some reason Eagles get the shaft and can’t fight bats this time. Solo players have a solid reason to run ranged.

A Test of Will + Eleanor Lost and Alone can be managed to some degree, but nothing beats just cancelling it.

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Gondorian Spearman – Rather ineffective against the enemies included in this expansion. You can’t rig the Nameless Thing’s health to set it up for a kill with a Spearman defense due to the alteration of the health when it engages. And Moria Bats just fly around them

Weapon, Armor, and Items – Sucks losing them. I was really pissed the other day when I forgot about the effect of the river and bought a ring mail the turn we were going to progress only to see it come right off before any battle.

Tightly coupled decks – Ok, so my deck will do all the questing, yours will do all the fighting, sound good? Well it was great for Osgiliath to avoid discarding heroes, but it can really suck here when you are split up. I try to build decks that are somewhat well rounded anyway, but still this is definitely something to keep in mind.

Tactics – keeps getting the shaft on player cards. Trollshaw Scout is an affordable ranged option. And I’ve toyed with the idea of leveraging them with Rain of Arrows along with Hama for repeat usage. But ultimately Hail of Stones is a much better option.

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Ziggy based economies - Imladris Stargazer presents an in sphere solution to getting the Ziggy economy rolling. But Nameless Things feed off of high cost cards from the player deck. Your 5 cost cards don't look nearly as awesome when they are attached to a Thing.

Deck snapshot

I made an aggressive effort to cut back on proxies. While the 21 that remain still may seem like a high number, it is spread over 5 decks and is a huge drop from where it was. The following are needed:

1 Arwen
5 A Test of Will
6 Hail of Stones
2 Northern Trackers
2 Warden of Healing
2 Sneak Attack
3 Longbeard Map-Maker

Eowyn and the Eagles

A modification of my core set questers + direct damage deck. Needing to quest with all three heroes presented a significant restriction. I really needed someone to stay back in the early rounds. Legolas is not a perfect option for this, but he is reasonably strong. Beyond that the deck is built around Eagles and setting up repeated direct damage with Descendent including Meneldor’s Flight and Stand and Fight. Questing and location management is a little on the weak side, so a strong questing partner is preferable. Although direct damage to the staging area and Legolas's ability does provide higher questing than it first appears.

Hero (3)
Eowyn (Core) x1
Legolas (Core) x1
Thalin (Core) x1

Ally (24)
Bofur (TRG) x1
Descendant of Thorondor (THoEM) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Landroval (AJtR) x2
Radagast (AJtR) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3

Attachment (7)
Citadel Plate (Core) x1
Horn of Gondor (Core) x2
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x2
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x1
Ever My Heart Rises (TLD) x1

Event (19)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Hail of Stones (RtR) x3
Meneldor's Flight (THoEM) x3
The Eagles Are Coming! (THfG) x3
The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core) x3
Stand and Fight (Core) x3
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x1

Aragorn is Spirited

Largely unchanged. Eleanor replaces Eowyn as the cancellation approach. Some proxies swapped out. Early questing is a bit weak early without Eowyn but is very strong late.

Hero (3)
Aragorn (TWitW) x1
Frodo Baggins (CatC) x1
Eleanor (Core) x1

Ally (28)
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Faramir (Core) x1
Gleowine (Core) x1
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
Rivendell Minstrel (THFG) x3
Wandering Took (Core) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x2
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x2
Elfhelm (TDM) x1
Bofur (TRG) x1
The Riddermark's Finest (THoEM) x3
Rider of the Mark (RtR) x3
Eomund (CatC) x1

Attachment (20)
A Burning Brand (CatC) x2
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3
Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
Protector of Lorien (Core) x2
Song of Earendil (RtR) x3
Song of Kings (THFG) x1
Song of Wisdom (CatC) x1
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x2
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3

Event (2)
Shadow of the Past (RtM) x2

Dain + Dwarves

I took a couple of steps towards racial purity here to optimize the dwarf engine. It is a sight to behold when you can start a game with Steward and Legacy of Durin in hand. Half of this deck is dwarves. Ideally there would be even more cheap dwarves to maximize the synergy. And if they ever start making dwarves with key special abilities like cancellation and healing, then this could get pretty ridiculous. But even if they don’t round out the dwarven abilities, having a beefy engine like Dain to build around makes a multiplayer board extremely strong. The steward generally targets Dain here so that a Dunedain Watchers can be easily played to ensure that Dain can block safely without fear of extreme shadow effects. I am real close to swapping the resource balance over to have Veteran of Nandurion for defensive purposes (even better with a ring mail and a heal from Warden), but I need quicker access the Watchers more - so the steward is on Dain and the VoN is too expensive.

Hero (3)
Bifur (KD) x1
Dain Ironfoot (RtM) x1
Gimli (Core) x1

Ally (32)
Dunedain Watcher (TDM) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Erebor Record Keeper (KD) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x3
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Erebor Battle Master (TLD) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x2
Longbeard Elder (FoS) x3
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core) x3

Attachment (9)
Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Ring Mail (TLD) x3

Event (9)
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Daeron's Runes (FoS) x3
Hail of Stones (RtR) x3

Glorfindel with Ziggy/Gazer

Ziggy/Gazer funds some big card play and the Map-maker. I tend to think decks in this sphere alignment (2 Spirit, 1 Lore) with Glorfindel are as strong as you can get right now. Frodo is a strong replacement for Eowyn with some Fast Hitches swapped in, but I built this deck largely with the Dunhere deck in mind which needs the extra questing.

Hero (3)
Eowyn (Core) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1
Beravor (Core) x1

Ally (25)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Bofur (TRG) x1
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x3
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x2
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x3
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
Zigil Miner (KD) x3
Elfhelm (TDM) x2
Gleowine (Core) x1
Warden of Healing (FoS) x1
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core) x1

Attachment (13)
Forest Snare (Core) x3
Asfaloth (FoS) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Unexpected Courage (Core) x3
Self Preservation (Core) x1

Event (12)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Elrond's Counsel (TWitW) x3
The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core) x1
Out of Sight (TLD) x2
Fortune or Fate (Core) x1
Will of the West (Core) x1
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x1

Dunhere + Hama Abuse Tactics Events

I gave up on putting together a secrecy deck for Dunhere and went back to a 3 hero alignment. This is somewhat designed to work with the Glorfindel deck to leverage the card draw and questing which is needed for this deck to work at peak performance. Gandalf spamming is a major element of the deck as threat reduction and card draw is potentially needed. A swap in of Theodred may be preferable depending on the other decks in play and the quest being played. Thanks to jpraibis for the basic idea of the hero alignment on this deck with the Glorfindel deck.

Hero (3)
Dunhere (Core) x1
Gloin (Core) x1
Hama (TLD) x1

Ally (15)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Erestor (TLD) x1
Faramir (Core) x1
Gandalf (Core) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Snowbourn Scout (Core) x2
Westfold Horse-Breaker (THfG) x1

Attachment (11)
Born Aloft (CatC) x3
Boots from Erebor (KD) x1
Dunedain Mark (THfG) x3
Dwarven Axe (Core) x3
Ever My Heart Rises (TLD) x1

Event (24)
A Light in the Dark (Core) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Feint (Core) x3
Fresh Tracks (TLD) x3
Quick Strike (Core) x3
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Unseen Strike (TRG) x3
Hail of Stones (RtR) x3
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