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Subject: INTO ITHILIEN: Spirit Pippin saves the day! rss

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Jeff Hannes
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So last week I decided to take up the unintentional challenge of finding a good use for Spirit Pippin, and I did so with a pair of tandem decks designed around him. You can see the deck contents and general strategies here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/article/14539575

Now that I've had a chance to play this deck through several different scenarios, I'm finding that it really works, and it's a ton of fun to play. I play two-handed solo, but you can also play these decks with a partner... I just recommend dispensing with the table talk rules, as you really need to know what your opponent has in hand to maximize the effectiveness of these decks.

Anyhoo, last night I played Into Ithilien and after a very exciting and intriguing first round where Pippin's ability saved the day, I felt compelled to record a blow-by-blow of the rest of the game. Spoiler alert... I won. But it was definitely a challenge, and I could not have done it without Pip. Here's the details of how it went down... [H] refers to the Hobbit deck, [R] refers to the Rangers deck.

STARTING HANDS:
HOBBITS:
Spear of the Mark
Ancient Mathom
A Test of Will
Arwen
Smoke Rings
The Galdrahim's Greeting

RANGERS:
Risk Some Light
Elrond's Counsel
Elrond's Counsel
Poisoned Stakes
A Test of Will
Ithilien Archer

TURN 1
[H] DRAW: A Test of Will
[R] DRAW: Peace, and Thought
[R] Resources: Dunhere [1], Glorfindel [1], Bifur [1]
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [1], Pippin [1]

PLANNING
[R] Play Risk Some Light for 0 resources
      Reveal Secluded Glade, Morgul Spider and Southron Mercenaries.
      Put Morgul Spider on bottom of deck
[H] Play Spear of the Mark on Dunhere
[R] Dunhere moves 1 resource to Bifur
[R] Play Poisoned Stakes

QUESTING
[H] Quest Merry [3], Frodo [1], Pippin [1]
[R] Quest Dunhere [3], Glorfindel [3], Bifur [1]
      [R] Raise threat to 21

STAGING AREA: Southron Company [3], Southron Company [3]
ACTIVE LOCATION: Ithilien Road [0/4]

STAGING:
Reveal Secluded Glade [3] and Southron Mercenaries [2]
Attach Poisoned Stakes to Southron Mercenaries

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 14 [+2 from Celador] versus 11
Put 3 progress on Ithilien Road [3/4]

ENGAGEMENT
[H] Optionally engage Southron Company
      [H] Use Pippin to return Southron Company to staging area, raise threat to 22
[R] Optionally engage Southron Mercenaries
[H] Southron Company engages
      [H] Use Pippin to return Southron Company to staging area, raise threat to 25

COMBAT
Southron Mercenaries deals 2 archery damage
      Put 1 damage on Merry
      Put 1 damage on Pippin
Southron Mercenaries attacks, undefended.
      Shadow: Secluded Glade [Remove 0 progress from quest 1B]
      Place 3 damage on Dunhere

REFRESH
[H] Raise threat to 26
[R] Raise threat to 23
Southron Mercernaries take 2 damage from Poisoned Stakes

On the first turn I have the benefit of knowing what's coming, yet I still ONE measly point of clearing Road to Ithilien (and therefore preventing enemies from automatically engaging). But fear not... it's Pippin to the rescue as he returns both Southron Companies to the staging area. I have no choice but to risk an undefended attack from the Mercenaries, but it's not such a terrible risk as there are relatively few shadow cards in this encounter deck that add ATK. Even knowing what was coming, I chose to quest with Dunhere for 3 to get some progress on Road to Ithilien, instead of holding him back for a staging area attack (that would not have been enough to kill an enemy in one turn).


TURN 2
[H] DRAW: Dagger of Westernesse
[R] DRAW: Risk Some Light
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [2], Pippin [2]
[R] Resources: Dunhere [1], Glorfindel [2], Bifur [1]

PLANNING
[R] Play Elrond's Counsel to reduce threat to 20
[R] Play Risk Some Light for 0 resources
      Reveal Ithilien Guardian, Ithilien Guardian, Secluded Glade
      Place Secluded Glade on bottom of deck
[H] Play Dagger of Westernesse on Dunhere
[H] Play Ancient Mathom on Ithilien Road

QUESTING
[H] Quest Merry [3], Frodo [1], Pippin [1]
[R] Quest Glorfindel [3], Bifur [1]
      Raise threat to 21

STAGING AREA: Southron Company [3], Southron Company [3], Secluded Glade [3]
ACTIVE LOCATION: Ithilien Road [3/4]

STAGING
Reveal Ithilien Guardian (Surge)
Reveal Ithilien Guardian (Surge)
Reveal Blocking Wargs (Surge)
      [H] Play A Test of Will to cancel Blocking Wargs effect
Reveal Southron Support (Doomed 3)
      [H] Raise threat to 29
      [R] Raise threat to 23
      [R] Play A Test of Will to cancel Southron Support effect
Reveal Secluded Glade [3]

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 15 (including Celador and both Guardians) vs. 12
Place 1 progress on Ithilien Road (explored) and 2/15 progress on 1B
[R] Draw Northern Tracker, Peace and Thought, Poisoned Stakes

TRAVEL
Travel to Secluded Glade

ENGAGEMENT
Do not engage any enemies

COMBAT
Southron Company deals 2 archery damage
      Place 2 damage on Bifur
Southron Company attacks, undefended.
      Shadow: Morgul Spider [No effect]
      Place 3 damage on Glorfindel
[R] Dunhere attacks Southron Company in staging area for 7, destroying it

REFRESH
[H] Raise threat to 30
[R] Raise threat to 24
Southron Mercernaries take 2 damage from Poisoned Stakes, destroyed.

A timely draw of a second Risk Some Light (combined with Elrond's Counsel to get me back to Secrecy range) lets me plan my turn... sort of. Two Ithilien Guardians is great, but I'm still facing two more cards I don't know about. Having the rangers show up may seem incredibly lucky, but in the long run I don't think it made that much of a difference. I still would have been able to quest successfully (keep in mind if those rangers hadn't shown up I would have had more control over what showed up in the staging area this turn). So while they were a nice early boon, I don't think they made the difference here. Meanwhile, Dunhere goes to work this turn, and the Poisoned Stakes finish off the Mercenaries as I take my second and final undefended attack. Things are getting under control now...


TURN 3
[H] DRAW: Bofur
[R] DRAW: Ithilien Tracker
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [2], Pippin [2]
[R] Resources: Dunhere [3], Glorfindel [1], Bifur [2]

PLANNING
[H] Move 1 resource from Merry to Bifur
[R] Play Ithilien Archer
[R] Play Northern Tracker

QUESTING
[H] Quest Merry [3], Frodo [1], Pippin [1]
[R] Quest Glorfindel [3], Bifur [1], Tracker [2], Archer [2]
      Raise threat to 25

STAGING AREA: Southron Company [3], Secluded Glade [3]
ACTIVE LOCATION: Secluded Glade [0/3]

STAGING
Reveal Lost Companion [0]
      Remove Pippin [1] and Bifur [1] from the quest
Reveal Southron Company [3]

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 17 [+6 from objectives] vs. 9
Place 3 progress on Secluded Glade (explored) and 5 progress on Stage 1B [7/15]

TRAVEL
Travel to Secluded Glade

ENGAGEMENT
Do not engage enemies

COMBAT
[R] Dunhere attacks Southron Company in staging area for 7, destroying it

REFRESH
[H] Raise threat to 31
[R] Raise threat to 26

Things are looking better and better. I've almost completely cleared the staging area and I'm finally starting to build up some allies... at least on the ranger side of the table. The hobbits will have to wait a little longer for some friends.


TURN 4
[H]: Draw Galadrahim's Greeting
[R]: Draw Renewed Friendship
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [3], Pippin [3]
[R] Resources: Dunhere [1], Glorfindel [1], Bifur [1]

PLANNING
Play nothing

QUESTING
[H] Quest Merry [3], Frodo [1], Pippin [1]
[R] Quest Bifur [1], Glorfindel [3], Archer [2]
      Raise threat to 27

STAGING AREA: Southron Company [3]
ACTIVE LOCATION: Secluded Glade [0/3]

STAGING
Reveal Haradrim Elite [3]
      Attack first player
      Northern Tracker exhausts to defend
      Shadow: Overgrown Trail, remove 3 progress from 1B [4/15]
      Northern Tracker takes 2 damage
Reveal Overgrown Trail [4]

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 17 vs. 10
Place 3 progress on Secluded Glade [explored] and 3 progress on 1B [7/15]

TRAVEL
Travel to Overgrown Trail
[H] Play Galadrahim's Greeting on self, lower threat to 25
[R] Play Elrond's Counsel on self, lower threat to 24

ENGAGEMENT
Do not engage enemies

COMBAT
[R] Dunhere attacks Haradrim Elite in staging area for 7, destroying it

REFRESH
[H] Raise threat to 26
[R] Raise threat to 25
[R] Merry moves 1 resource to Bifur
[R] Play Peace, and Thought, exhausting Glorfindel and Bifur
      Draw Damrod, Ithilien Tracker, Ithilien Archer

I still have very good threat reduction on hand, but now that I'm out of Risk Some Light, I'm acutely aware of the possibility of a Haradim Elite showing, so when the rangers are first player I'll need to make sure I keep at least one character back, just in case. (When the hobbits are first player I can always dump the undefended damage on Frodo if need be). Knowing what you might face in the encounter deck is the key to mitigating the luck in this game, and it pays off in spades this turn. Not only am I ready to face the Elite, but I don't even lose a character to them. Speaking of good threat reduction... I use it this turn to keep the Haradrim in the staging area, and then wipe them out with Dunhere. Now that I've got things under control, I can afford to shut down Glorfindel and Bifur for a turn to replenish my stores. Oh, and going back through this session report I realize I shorted myself two cards each time I played Peace, and Thought. Oops.


TURN 5
[H]: Draw Knights of the Swan
[R]: Draw Ithilien Pit
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [1], Pippin [1]
[R] Resources: Dunhere [2], Glorfindel [2], Bifur [3]

PLANNING
[H] Play Knights of the Swan
[R] Play Damrod
[R] Play Ithilien Tracker

QUESTING
[H] Quest Merry [3], Pippin [1]
[R] Quest Northern Tracker [2], Ithilien Archer [2]

STAGING AREA: Southron Company [3]
ACTIVE LOCATION: Overgrown Trail [0/6]

STAGING
Reveal Haradrim Elite [3]
      Attack first player
      Frodo exhausts to defend
      Shadow: Watcher in the Wood, raise threat by 0
      Frodo takes 2 damage, raise threat to 28 to prevent damage
Reveal Overgrown Trail [4]
[R] Exhaust Damrod and Ithilien Tracker to place 6 progress Overgrown Trail [active location], exploring it

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 14 vs. 10
Place 4 progress on quest 1B [11/15]

TRAVEL
Travel to Overgrown Trail
[H] Play Galadrahim's Greeting on self, lower threat to 22

ENGAGEMENT
Do not engage enemies

COMBAT
[R] Dunhere attacks Haradrim Elite in staging area for 7, destroying it

REFRESH
[H] Raise threat to 23
[R] Raise threat to 26
[R] Frodo moves 1 resource to Bifur
[R] Play Peace, and Thought, exhausting Glorfindel and Bifur
      Draw Asfaloth, Ranger Spikes, Northern Tracker

My questing total seems fine this round, so I leave back Frodo just in case, and a pair of rangers to deal with the Overgrown Trail. Of course a second one is drawn (annoying, but better than a treachery or enemy I suppose). I clear out the one in the staging area because I don't see the point in wasting quest points to put progress on them. It's a net gain of +2 (as opposed to clearing out the one in the staging area) quest points. Dunhere keeps on killin, yet I still can't get the staging area fully clear. Ah well, things are still looking good, and Celador still hasn't taken any damage!


TURN 6
[H]: Draw Good Meal
[R]: Draw Galadrahim's Greeting
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [2], Pippin [1]
[R] Resources: Dunhere [1], Glorfindel [1], Bifur [1]

PLANNING
[H]: Merry moves 1 resource to Bifur
[R]: Play Ithilien Tracker
[H]: Play A Good Meal on Frodo

QUESTING
[H]: Quest Merry [3], Frodo [1], Pippin [1]
[R]: Quest Northern Tracker [2], Ithilien Archer [2], Damrod [2]

STAGING AREA: Southron Company [3]
ACTIVE LOCATION: Overgrown Trail [0/6]

STAGING
Reveal Forest Bats
      [R] Deal 2 damage to Frodo, remove from quest
      [H] Raise threat to 25 to prevent damage to Frodo
Reveal Overgrown Trail
[R] Exhaust Ithilien Tracker and Ithilien Tracker to place 6 progress on Overgrown Trail in staging area, exploring it

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 14 vs. 4
Place 6 progress on Overgrown Trail, exploring it, and 4 progress on stage 1B [15/15]
Advance to Stage 3A
[R] Take control of Celador, Ithilien Guardian and Ithilien Guardian

TRAVEL
Travel to Overgrown Trail [0/6]

ENGAGEMENT
Due to quest 3B effect, enemies do not engage

COMBAT
[R] Dunhere attacks Southron Company in staging area for 7, destroying it

REFRESH
[H] Raise threat to 26
[R] Raise threat to 27

Ugh, a third Overgrown Trail! I should be happy because they're so easy to deal with in this deck, but stil... Annoying! When I reveal the Forest Bats my first thought is that since the rangers are the second player I don't have to deal any damage, but a closer read shows that the second player just chooses; it can be any questing hero, so I dump it on Frodo and cancel the damage. I get rid of another Overgrown Trail and drop enough quest progress to finally advance to stage 3 (skipping stage 2 because Celador is still around). As a result, I don't have to engage the Forest Bats. Now this is the part of the quest I've been looking forward to; Dunhere just loves the text on 3B. (Enemies cannot be engaged.)


TURN 7
[H]: Draw Dwarven Tomb
[R]: Draw Damrod
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [3], Pippin [2]
[R] Resources: Dunhere [2], Glorfindel [2], Bifur [1]

PLANNING
[H] Play Arwen
[R] Play Ithilien Pit

QUESTING
[H]: Play Bofur for 1 resource
[H]: Quest Merry [2], Frodo [2], Pippin [2], Arwen [2], Bofur [2]
      Give Damrod +1 DEF and Sentinel
[R]: Quest Celador [2], Guardsman [2], Guardsman [2], Bifur [2] and Glorfindel [3]
      Raise threat to 28

STAGING AREA: Forest Bat [1]
ACTIVE LOCATION: Overgrown Trail [0/6]

STAGING
Reveal Lost Companion
      Remove Pippin and Ithilien Guardsman from the quest
Reveal Southron Company [3]
      Attach Ithilien Pit to Southron Company

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 17 vs. 4
Place 13 progress on stage 3B, completing it
Advance to 4B
[H] Return Bofur to hand

ENGAGEMENT
[R] Optionally engage Forest Bat

COMBAT
Forest Bat attacks
      [R] Defend with Damrod
      Shadow: Blocking Wargs, deal 1 damage to Damrod
Ithilien Archer attacks and destroys Forest Bat
Dunhere and all the other Rangers maul the Southron Company, killing it

REFRESH
[H] Raise threat to 29 (+2 from 4B)
[R] Raise threat to 31 (+2 from 4B)
[H] Merry moves 1 resource to Bifur

Now that I'm finally in a non-batlte quest I have a reason to bring Arwen and Bofur into play. I quest like crazy, completing the entire stage in one go. Both enemies are easily dispatched, the Southron Company especially so since it's trapped in a pit. I can easily take the increased threat hit from Quest 4B, and it's time for the mop up work...


TURN 8
[H]: Draw Knights of the Swan
[R]: Draw Ranger Bow
[H] Resources: Merry [1], Frodo [3], Pippin [1]
[R] Resources: Dunhere [3], Glorfindel [3], Bifur [2]

PLANNING
[H] Play Dwarven Tomb to retrieve The Galadrahim's Greeting
[H] Play Galadrahim's Greeting (with A Good Meal) to reduce threat to 23
[R] Play Galadrahim's Greeting to reduce threat to 25
[R] Play Asfaloth on Glorfindel
[H] Merry moves 1 resource to Bifur
[R] Play Ranger Bow on Ithilien Tracker
[R] Exhaust other Ithilien Tracker to reduce next enemy's threat to 0

QUESTING
[H] Pay 1 resource to put Bofur into play
[H] Quest Merry [2], Frodo [2], Pippin [2], Arwen [2], Bofur [3]
[R] Quest Glorfindel [3], Bifur [2], Celador [2], Guardsman [2], Guardsman [2], Ithilien Archer [1], Damrod [1], Northern Tracker [1]
      [R] Raise threat to 26

STAGING AREA: Nothing
ACTIVE LOCATION: None

STAGING
Reveal Secluded Glade [3]
Reveal Southron Support [Doomed 3]
      [H] Raise threat to 26
      [R] Raise threat to 29
      [H] Play A Test of Will to cancel Support's effects

QUEST RESOLUTION
Quest for 24 vs. 3
Place 21 progress on Stage 4B (21/15)
WIN!

And a breeze to the finish, with an (almost) clear staging area. Just left the Secluded Glade behind, but everything else was handled. And not a single damage on Celador or his buddies! Without any healing no less. In some ways this deck was made for this quest, but I still had a lot of fun with it, especially Pippin to the rescue on turn one. Without his ability I would have been dead within the first couple turns.
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Tony Fanchi
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xanalor wrote:
ENGAGEMENT
[H] Optionally engage Southron Company
      [H] Use Pippin to return Southron Company to staging area, raise threat to 22
[R] Optionally engage Southron Mercenaries
[H] Southron Company engages
      [H] Use Pippin to return Southron Company to staging area, raise threat to 25

Let me start by saying that I may be overlooking some element that invalidates what I'm about to write, but I think you may have done this step incorrectly. Pippin's response says (emphasis added):

Quote:
"Response: After an enemy engages you, raise your threat by 3 to return it to the staging area. Until the end of the round, that enemy cannot engage you."

This means that when you return the Southron Companies to the staging area, even though they cannot engage the Hobbits, they will still engage the Ranger deck because Ithilien Road reduces the engagement cost of all enemies to 0. All three enemies should therefore have engaged the Ranger deck.

To me, this is the biggest weakness of the Pippin card. If he sent enemies back to the staging area and they couldn't engage anyone that turn, he'd be much better. As is, however, he only protects his controller from being engaged.
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Jeff Hannes
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Yeah, I realized that earlier this evening... which does in fact make the card completely useless. I'm going to continue playing it with the ability "Skip engagement checks for the enemy" because that's actually, you know, a reasonable ability (and still only VERY situational) and actually makes the card fun.

Seriously FFG... You didn't drop the ball on this card -- you smashed it to pieces.
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Matthew D
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AdmiralACF wrote:
xanalor wrote:
ENGAGEMENT
[H] Optionally engage Southron Company
      [H] Use Pippin to return Southron Company to staging area, raise threat to 22
[R] Optionally engage Southron Mercenaries
[H] Southron Company engages
      [H] Use Pippin to return Southron Company to staging area, raise threat to 25

Let me start by saying that I may be overlooking some element that invalidates what I'm about to write, but I think you may have done this step incorrectly. Pippin's response says (emphasis added):

Quote:
"Response: After an enemy engages you, raise your threat by 3 to return it to the staging area. Until the end of the round, that enemy cannot engage you."

This means that when you return the Southron Companies to the staging area, even though they cannot engage the Hobbits, they will still engage the Ranger deck because Ithilien Road reduces the engagement cost of all enemies to 0. All three enemies should therefore have engaged the Ranger deck.

To me, this is the biggest weakness of the Pippin card. If he sent enemies back to the staging area and they couldn't engage anyone that turn, he'd be much better. As is, however, he only protects his controller from being engaged.


interesting...i'd never thought of this. i guess it would matter who engages what and when?

additionally, are engagements considered to happen "all at once" for all the players or each engagement is a separate sort of action/window in which an enemy can be returned and then you conduct checks against the same enemy again.

i'd have to go back to the rulebook (i don't have it handy) but i'm not sure it'd offer much help here.

EDIT: I just e-mailed Caleb this question.
 
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Tony Fanchi
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mcd1982 wrote:
i'd have to go back to the rulebook (i don't have it handy) but i'm not sure it'd offer much help here.

Here's the relevant section of the rulebook:
Quote:
Second, the players must make a series of engagement
checks, to see if any of the enemies remaining in the
staging area engage them. The first player compares his
threat level against the engagement cost of each of the
enemy cards in the staging area. The enemy with the
highest engagement cost that is equal to or lower than
this player’s threat level engages this player, and moves
from the staging area to the space in front of him. This
is called making an engagement check. After the first
player makes an engagement check, the player to his
left makes his own engagement check. This player
compares his threat level against the engagement
cost of each of the remaining enemy cards in the
staging area, and engages the enemy with the highest
engagement cost that is equal to or lower than his own
threat level.

This process continues through all the players,
proceeding clockwise around the table. Once all players
have made an engagement check, the first player makes
a second engagement check. Players continue making
engagement checks in this manner until there are no
enemies remaining in the staging area that can engage
any of the players.

As you can see by the second paragraph, engagements are not simultaneous. The Hobbit player checks for one Southron Company, it engages, Pippin sends it back. Next, the Ranger player checks the same Southron Company and engages it. Repeat for the next Southron Company.

Basically the only thing Pippin is good for is ensuring that his player is never engaged by an enemy. Paired with a deck that wants to be engaged by enemies, this could have some use. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit Jeff's strategy here.
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Matthew D
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it's what i thought (separate engagements):

Hi Matthew,
Engagement checks are made one at a time in player order, so if you return an enemy to the staging area with Pippin the next player will make an engagement check against that enemy.
Cheers,
Caleb
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Jeff Hannes
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I've made some minor adjustments to the decks to account for this realization... see the original post for details. Basically I just modified the strategy so that most of the threat reduction goes towards the Rangers instead of the Hobbits. Now, you still couldn't get around the Into Ithilien issue (since the Ithilien Camp lowers engagement costs to 0) but the changes do help the decks work as intended against just about every other scenario, and playing under the proper rules I have already had some occasions where Pippin's ability made a difference.
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Tony Fanchi
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Glad to hear it wasn't a complete bust. I enjoy seeing people finding ways to allow underused cards to shine.
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