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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Over the Misty Mountains Grim (The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill - scenario #2)

Wojtek Wojcik
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Board Game Designer
I very much like designing games but I think I prefer to play them.
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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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