David Williams
Scotland
Elgin
Moray
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We have started playing the Hobbit saga, and being our first run through I felt I wanted to try for a fairly thematic deck without just copying those from the instructions. My criteria were:

- All 6 hero dwarves plus all (non-hero) Thorin's company dwarf allies, so possibly all 13 could be in play at once.

- No off-timeline characters (i.e. no Faramir)

- No elf allies. (I simply couldn't extend this to all elf-related cards, Galadrim's Greeting and Lorien's Wealth are just too important and have no alternatives in the available pool).

- Core set & both Hobbit Saga expansions only (OK, so I did bend this one when Black Riders arrived, by adding 3x Daggers of Westernesse, but I think my criteria are tough enough that with so few weapons available and so many tactics cards relying on them, it was justified. I think the decks could work without, though. Ultimately it was card draw we were short on, my daughter had a handful of weapons)

Hero selection alone was difficult enough as there were arguments for many combinations. I opted for:

- Ori, Oin, Bombur (Lore/Tactics/Spirit: Card draw will be very important for, putting Ori with Bombur ensures Ori's card draw ability kicks in ASAP, and allowing Oin to start playing tactics cards if necessary)

- Thorin, Nori, Balin (Leadership/Spirit: I don't think Balin's resources ability is as important as Ori's card draw. Not only that but Fili & Kili can both be played from this deck, giving 4 cards which will allow us to meet the 5 dwarfs threshold for just 3 resources. The 30 starting threat is potentially painful, but in context works well because this deck has Core Gandlfs, Galadrim's Greeting and Nori's ability.)

In general, the decks themselves are designed to compliment each other - the Lore/Tactics deck has better card draw (especially if there are enemies to fight, triggering Foe-Hammer) but some of this can be shared to the other deck (Gleowine & Lorien's Wealth). Similarly, the Leadership deck has better threat control, but can share some of it with the other deck via Galadrim's Greeting. Both decks can improve resource collection - depending what comes first and at what stage, Horn of Gondor and Steward of Gondor will most likely be played on the solo-sphere characters.

Within each deck there are also some key features, some of which I tailored to this scenario, so far as I was able. The leadership deck aims to get Fili & Kili out ASAP as expendable allies who probably won't last until the troll stage, but they will reduce threat via Nori's ability and set off Thorin's improved resources. Both decks allow some return of cards from the discard pile, which not only works well with card like 'King Under the Mountain' and 'A Very Good Tale' which might otherwise end up discarding important cards, but is also important for this scenario due to annoying encounters like 'Wind-Whipped Rain' and 'Dreary Hills'.

Pacing is important for this quest, for the first part you must avoid threat increases without questing too fast and finding yourself facing the trolls before you're ready. For my first attempt I had included 'Late Adventurer' but for this version I dropped them, and made do with 'Radagast's Cunning', 'Power in the Earth' and 'Secret Passage'. I avoided 'Protector of Lorien' for thematic reasons, though it might be a better option.

There are also the usual combos like 'Sneak Attack Gandalf', and the core Spirit cards 'A Test of Will' and 'Hasty Strike' though I would be tempted to trim out the latter since Balin allows threat cancellation, so having both often seemed overkill, I'm not sure I ever used a Hasty Strike.

There are some interesting options I didn't include such as 'Desperate Alliance' which would allow the Leadership deck to utilise Oin in case of a shortage of Spirit resources, or for one side to loan the other a dwarf in order to hit the threshold. But I decided that is too situational - these problems may not arise at all, and even if they do they can be mitigated in other ways.

__________________________________________________

Total Cards: (50)

Hero: (3)
1x Balin (On the Doorstep)
1x Nori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Thorin Oakenshield (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Ally: (14)
2x Dwalin (On the Doorstep)
2x Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Gloin (On the Doorstep)
2x Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Snowbourn Scout (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)

Attachment: (16)
1x Celebrian's Stone (Core Set)
3x Cram (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
2x Power in the Earth (Core Set)
2x Spare Hood and Cloak (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Thror's Key (On the Doorstep)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event: (20)
2x Burglar Baggins (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
1x Grim Resolve (Core Set)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x Stand and Fight (Core Set)
2x The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core Set)
2x To Me! O My Kinsfolk! (On the Doorstep)
2x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)

___________________________________

Total Cards: (50)

Hero: (3)
1x Ori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Oin (On the Doorstep)
1x Bombur (On the Doorstep)

Ally: (15)
2x Bifur (On the Doorstep)
2x Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Dori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Gleowine (Core Set)
2x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)

Attachment: (14)
2x Blade of Gondolin (Core Set)
1x Dark Knowledge (Core Set)
2x Dwarven Axe (Core Set)
2x Forest Snare (Core Set)
1x Horn of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Self Preservation (Core Set)
1x Spare Hood and Cloak (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)

Event: (21)
2x Feint (Core Set)
3x Foe-hammer (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Goblin-cleaver (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Stand Together (Core Set)
1x Swift Strike (Core Set)
2x Lore of Imladris (Core Set)
2x Lorien's Wealth (Core Set)
2x Radagast's Cunning (Core Set)
2x Secret Paths (Core Set)
1x Stand and Fight (Core Set)
2x The Lucky Number (On the Doorstep)

__________________________________________


How well did it work? I will post a summary shortly...
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David Williams
Scotland
Elgin
Moray
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We had learned a hard lesson with our first attempt using these characters - not only were the decks thrown together, but we were attempting the quest blind with little idea how it would play out. We made 5 progress on the first turn before realising facing stage 2 after 2 turns would be virtual suicide for our dwarven friends. Attempts to slow the pace by not over questing resulted in a large buildup of locations, making it ever harder to judge, and the time taken to clear them and finish stage 1 meant our threat was over 40 - enter 3 hill trolls, 4 sackings, and 2 rounds later the dwarves became very tasty meal for said trolls.

This time we weren't about to make the same mistake

We set out in high spirits, with Galadrim's Greetings and help from Gandalf available. More importantly dwarf reinforcements were available to help Bombur, and Fili would be joining Thorin, with Kili to follow. This meant the 5-dwarf teams would be setup in in short order. But as we wound our way out of the shire we realised not enough options were presenting themselves. In short, King Under the Mountain was a title eluding our leadership dwarves, and there wasn't much luck for the other team either despite Ori's resourcefulness.

Helpful items were kept out of harms way, and the group was kept as small as necessary to maintain the group's high spirits - equipment and allies alike were carefully protected, resources being saved up for the harder times ahead. However we couldn't wait for long, as harsh weather whipped at our heels, the pressure mounted and whispers in the wilderness became louder and louder - spies were everywhere, it seemed, and our presence was being noticed. All this became too much for poor Bilbo, who suddenly found himself feeling overwhelmed by an urgency to retire as a grocer. The dwarves kicked him back to his feet, and they soldiered on...

Eventually, the path darkened and we were brutally ambushed by 2 trolls, who promptly sacked 2 dwarves. Bilbo managed to free one, but he was short on courage and out of breath. The dwarves rallied everything they could muster; Oin rummaged desperately through his backpack, throwing every daggers, axes and sword else he could find to his comrades, to help protect them from the onslaught. Thorin called on every ally available, and Dwarves swarmed out of the forest. The dwarves parried and feinted, using every trick they had learned from Oin, just managing to evade the trolls' initial onslaught. With Gandalf appearing in the nick of time, bringing the greetings of his Galadrim friends with him, he brought new hope and quieted the fight to prevent the commotion from grabbing the third troll's attention. Things were looking up!

Before long, one of the trolls had fallen, dropping its key which Bilbo quickly grabbed after de-sacking another dwarf. Meanwhile, Ori managed to draw the lrgest troll into a forest snare, leaving it flailing and ineffective. For a moment the dwarves all felt victory was certain! Yet the winds continued to bite at them, the forest overwhelm them, and the darkness overwhelm them; and desperation began to take over. Nori was desperately hoping the Galadrim, who had been so helpful at Gandalf's request, might send further blessings to raise morale. Time and again he called on them, finding every manner of aid except the one thing they really needed!

Eventually, it was too much for Bombur, Ori and Oin. With a final bout of determination they crippled the second troll, but the effort was so great that they could do nothing but cower in fear. Thorin's group quickly finished off the troll, leaving a single defenceless troll remaining, and time fast running out. They realised killing the troll quickly would not accomplish much.

Desperately they searched for the troll cave as time ran out. Bilbo's courage was returning, and he suddenly realised the second troll had dropped its purse when Oin slayed it! He grabbed it, and quickly found the way to the troll's cave. As the first rays of sunlight began to creep through the branches and into the cave, the group found what they were looking for - three swords, buried in the mud.

As they wiped them down and held them aloft, dawn broke. The final troll groaned its last groan, and the sunlight glinted off the shining elvish blades.

Thorin returned to find Ori and Oin hiding underneath Bombur. He dragged them to their feet, and together they set off through the forest. What would happen next? They wondered...


____________________________________________________


To summarise - I think the decks worked well. Despite a reasonable start we were hit by some pretty bad luck. King under the Mountain did not come out until over half way through the Leadership deck, neither did Valiant Sacrifice. The Lore deck wasn't doing much better - there was a distinct lack of crows (the only option for triggering Foe Hammer), Lorien's Wealth didn't appear until well into stage 2, and Gleowine never appeared at all. In retrospect, for this quest I would look for card draw in the opening hand rather than Dwarf allies. There are enough dwarves that they will always come out in short order and card draw can only facilitate this.

We also had some bad luck early on with Dreary Hills forcing me to discard Unexpected Courage, we used the Hammersmith to get it back then another Dreary Hills made me discard it again. Thorin never quite fulfilled his role of being the damage dealer because he was so often needed for questing.

The other bit of bad luck was that our staging setup forced us both to raise threat by about 4. This meant we were really struggling to lower the threat of the Lore/Tactics deck because our only option was Galadrim's greeting. Despite the draw momentum finally building up, it came out the round after this deck had risen to 50 threat. So it ended up being used on the Leadership deck.

In the end, the real enemy turned out to be the very mechanism which is supposed to help players - running out of time. Bilbo had lost all his resources just before the trolls engaged, and after de-sacking a couple of key dwarves including Thorin, we realised there was no way for him to get it back quickly. He managed to grab the purse and get the 2 resources, we managed to explore the cave with only about 2-3 cards left in the encounter deck. We ended up exploring the cave and discarding the last of the deck in the same turn.

In fact after this ended we realised there were 2 Cave Entrances in the staging area which should have been adding cards back into the deck. This would actually have helped as we were really just short on time in the end.

The whole thing took us over 5 hours as my daughter and I discussed, cheered, laughed and cried our way through this epic adventure. It's just as well they are on school holidays as we didn't finish till 3 am!

Hopefully with the treasures in hand we will have some fun with the next quest tonight.

Thanks for reading.
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David Williams
Scotland
Elgin
Moray
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I just realised this might have been better posted on The Hobbit forum. If mods agree, please feel free to move it. I mostly watch this forum and know expansions are discussed and even assumed, though this doesn't seem to apply so much to the session reports.
 
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