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Subject: Journey Down the Anduin - a not-so-brief recap rss

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Previously: Passage Through Mirkwood - a not-so-brief recap

One of the hallmarks of a good game is that every time I finish a game I want to play it again. After completing the first scenario, I immediately wanted to bring it to the table again and see what would happen next. So, even though managing 4 characters solo is daunting, and there's a lot of upkeep and stuff to keep track of, within 24 hours I was ready to start on the second scenario.

This time I kept notes about which cards I played, but I didn't write down everything, otherwise this session report would have been longer than the session itself. Hopefully it still makes sense and I captured some of the best moments.

Shadows of Mirkwood - Journey Down the Anduin

I thought that at the end of the previous adventure we had delivered Thranduil's message -- my bad. It seems that we only got out of Mirkwood, and still have a long way to go to reach Lorien.

Eowyn/Eleanor/Dunhere (Spirit) > Aragorn/Theodred/Gloin (Leadership) > Denethor/Glorfindel/Beravor (Lore) > Gimli/Legolas/Thalin (Tactics)

To the River... wrote:
Emerging from Mirkwood Forest with an urgent message from Lady Galadriel, you must make your way south along the Anduin River in order to reach the forst of Lórien. As you leave the forest behind, you notice that you are being pursued, and thus quicken your pace...

As you approach the location of a small raft stashed on the riverbank, a fearsome Hill Troll emerges from behind a grouping of rocks, and attacks!



Round 1

A lethal combination of quest instructions, Massing at Night from the encounters deck, then a surge, then having to look for Hill Troll, leads to 10 cards revealed right away... with 9 in the staging area, bringing us to a threat of 21. There are also 2 Brown Lands (5 threat each!) that we can't travel to in this round bc East Blight needs to be cleared first... We use Power of the Earth on Banks of the Anduin so it's no longer a threat, but it's not nearly enough to make a dent. Questing is going to be a pain.

(Later I will kick myself when I realise I forgot to use Eleanor's power to ignore a When Revealed encounter card. Avoiding those extra 4 cards from Massing at Night would have been huge.)

We attach his trusty Dwarven Axe to Gimli and Legolas gets the Horn of Gondor. Pretty much everyone gets committed to questing, save for Gimli (who's up against the Hill Troll), Eleanor (she guards against treachery), and Legolas (ranged attack). The encounter deck deals us another East Bight (this quest is never getting done), then Necromancer's Reach gets canceled again by A Test of Will (I like this card). With 4 Orc enemies in the staging area, raising the threat way too high, we have to so something. Sneak Attack with Longbeard Orc Slayer, two times in a row because we've two copies of each card, kills 3 Orcs reducing the overall threat by 5. Then Radagast's Cunning allows us to ignore the threat of the last Orc and tie, 18 willpower to 18 threat. We could pump Eowyn full of questing spirit and get some progress tokens, but we don't want to start wasting cards right away.

We travel to East Bight #1. Gimli engages Hill Troll, Aragorn engages the Orc. Gimli defends against the troll, of course he gets walloped but that's the entire point, he's now a nearly-dead dwarf but a very strong one. With some nice team play from the dynamic duo, Aragorn defends against the Orc and Legolas then kills it, getting some progress on the location. By the way one of the shadow cards would have removed progress from quest but since it's already at zero nothing happens, yay us for failing to quest earlier!


Round 2

Right now there's only the Hill Troll in play but lots of locations make it hard to quest. Thematically I guess this means that... we're lost?! We need scouts! Alas we don't have scouts, but thanks to a lucky resource phase we can attach Citadel Plate and Unexpected Courage to Gimli. (He's probably relieved to be above 1 HP. Spoiler: this won't last.)

Again most everyone is questing. The cards from the encounters deck are quite lucky this time around: 3 treachery cards with "if" conditions that don't apply to us, then Pursued by Shadow raises the threat level for each character not committed to a quest, not a big deal since all but 4 characters are committed anyway. This time we use Eowyn's ability (discarding duplicates) to raise her willpower by 2, which allows us to complete East Bight #1.

We travel to East Bight #2 (sigh). Is this the same desolate patch of nothingness that we passed earlier? Are we going in circles? Nobody knows. No engagement checks because there are no enemies in staging area; this is a bit of a bummer because we're all pumped up and hoping to use Legolas's ability to clear locations faster. The only enemy around is the Hill Troll, who I guess followed us from the river and is now also lost in the desert. Not to worry though, we'll soon put it out of its misery. Hill Troll attacks Gimli who defends and is now at 12 attack (with 1 HP, because who even needs HP, am I right). Gimli uses Unexpected Courage to ready and attack again and one-shots the troll.


Round 3

Now we've got nothing but a bunch of annoying locations in play. Glorfindel uses two copies of Lorien's Wealth so Aragorn can draw a lot of cards, hoping for Celebrian's Gift to help with questing which is our most pressing problem. The first draw is a dud, then we get Faramir who's not half bad with his ability, and Eowyn gets Favor of the Lady to boost her questing even more.

We go into questing hoping for the best. Eleanor's ability to negate Treacherous Fog (+1 threat to each location in staging, yikes!), but then we get hit by Necromancer's Reach and this time we can't protect against. I guess finally the Necromancer found us, and since most characters are exhausted from questing they all get hit. (But at least Legolas and Gloin get resources from it.) Faramir, Ever Vigilant, not only quests but also boosts all his allies; and then using Eowyn's ability we manage to get enough progress tokens to successfully complete the Effin Bight #2. Adios, Effin Bights. I hope we won't be back any time soon.

Finally we travel to Brown Lands #1 and immediately complete it due to its ability. Gimli defends and then attacks Misty Mountain Goblins, making mincemeat of them. (There was a scary moment where I tossed away the Orc card cackling with glee, then remembered: I forgot to deal a shadow card! And then the shadow card would have given the Goblins +1 attack which would have been enough to kill Gimli, luckily a Hasty Stroke using Eleanor's last resource saved him.) Then Dunhere defends against the Dol Guldur Orcs, I guess he was luring them away so Legolas could attack and kill them.

Round 4

At this point we're just trying to push through the quest but Necromancer's Pass comes out again, along with 3 Orcs. Think maybe the Necromancer is pissed that we evaded him for so long... Happily Faramir and Eowyn give us tons of questing and by discarding two cards we have finally (finally!) enough tokens to complete the quest.

Anduin Passage wrote:
After defeating the Troll, you are able to board the raft and embark upon a river voyage. As you depart, your enemies pursue, harassing the small vessel as you attempt to navigate the river...

As your enemies harass the raft, it is difficult to maintain balance and effectively fight them off.


Yeah, right... "After defeating the troll" AND AFTER GETTING LOST IN SOME WASTELAND FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS!

It's good that enemies can't engage us (I think) but I was hoping they would attack Gimli/Legolas/Beorn as they're first player this round, we have to be careful and plan the combat phase well, or the staging area will be overrun by enemies making it impossible to quest.

First we finally travel to Brown Lands #2 and clear it. Beorn draws away Chieftain Ufthak (who's then killed by Gimli) and Strider distracts the Orcs (who are then killed by Legolas). Dunhere finally uses his cool power and attacks the Beastmaster in the staging area, though he's not strong enough to kill him right away.


Round 5

Aragorn brings Gandalf into play. It's about time, as we could really use some help from the wizard. During questing, Despair comes out but Eleanor won't have it, she refuses to lose our hard-earned progress on the quest. The total enemy threat is 19 and our willpower a staggering 31... all thanks to Faramir and Eowyn who contribute +5 every round. We're up to 14 out of 16 on the quest and we could discard 2 cards to complete it now, but we are counting on enemies not engaging in this round or we'll be in trouble as we have no viable defenders, almost everyone is exhausted.

First, Dunhere kills Misty Mountain Goblins. Then we declare multiple defenders and Gimli/Beorn/Veteran Axehand defend against Hill Troll. Because... a second Hill Troll arrived. I forgot to mention. Of course as soon as we got down to the river the second Hill Troll showed up. Luckily the stupid troll didn't know that the heroes are all pumped up; Gimli and Legolas then kill the Hill Troll, getting 2 more progress tokens and completing the quest.

So, after needing 8 and then 16 to complete the first two quests, I'm afraid now we'll need an insanely high number of progress tokens to finish. Good news: we don't. Bad news:

Ambush on the Shore wrote:
The ongoing harassment from your enemies has forced your raft to the shore, and you must now confront their ambush head on. If you survive this attack, your path to the Golden Wood should be open before you...


We have to reveal 8 encounter cards! We've already gone through the deck, which means we've a pretty good idea of what might come out and it's not good. We even get three surges from Eastern Crows, which means 10 cards come out. Pursued by Shadows gives +1 threat for each character not committed to a quest... that's everyone, since we're not in the questing phase! Then Evil Storm damages everyone with threat higher than 35; this time it hurts everyone but the Spirit player. Combined with the other card that dealt 1 damage to everyone earlier, the weakest allies are dead and everyone else is not doing good.

The staging area is a hellscape now. I decide I need to stop for the night, as it's getting late. Will the heroes survive? Cliffhanger!


Round 6

It's a good thing went to sleep and came back to the game on the next day, because it takes a lot of thinking to avoid getting walloped. The main problem: the staging area is at threat level 31 (20 from locations plus 11 from enemies). The enemies themselves are not too terribly strong but there are a lot of them and fact that they attack first is a big concern since almost everyone has 2 damage tokens. It would be helpful to use Forest Snare to stop one of the Dol Guldur Beastmasters, but unfortunately we can't since it affects engaged enemies and everyone is in the staging area. (Otherwise, I would have used it ages ago. Forest Snare is of no use in the planning stage, since Gimli and the rest can one-shot most enemies in this scenario.)

For lack of better options, Eowyn uses Stand and Fight to recall Gondorian Spearman from a player's discard pile, and everyone else saves their resources to use events later. We have to commit everyone to the quest to avoid raising our threat level which is already over 35, and even then we just barely tie 31 to 31. Aragorn then uses Grim Resolve to ready all characters. Unfortunately, the locations all have bad effects when they're active or we'd have to discard cards to get there; we don't travel, hoping to end the game this round or have a lower threat in the staging next round after killing lots of monsters.

Engagement checks! Goblin Sniper lurks in the distance in the staging area, ready to hurt us unless we do something before the end of the round. Aragorn (the first player) engages Beastmaster #1, gets engaged by Beastmaster #2, then the three Eastern Crows engage the other players, and lastly the Wargs engage Aragorn. Now Aragorn has 3 enemies in front of him... but the Thicket of Spears will save him! (And us, hopefully. We know we need to end this quickly as we're running dangerously low on useful cards.)

Thanks to the spears, only the crows attack; we've been keeping them at bay using Thalin's ability to deal 1 damage while he's committed to a quest, but now all the crows in the deck are here and they're a nuisance. (Side note: I realised only afterwards that Thalin's ability kicks in before any text on the enemy card, so it would have destroyed the crows without activating their Surge power. This meant I made the game harder as I put more enemies/locations in play than I should have. I assume I made more rules goofs here and there, at least this one wasn't fatal.)

Recalling how Denethor never used his ability so far (and even had him trapped in a web for most of the last) we decide to use him and peek at the encounter deck to see which shadow card is coming up. And... it's Massing at Night (again! argh!) which would have dealt 4 shadow cards to Crow #1, likely turning it into some kind of nightmare monster beast from hell that eats heroes for breakfast; the card quickly goes to the bottom of the deck and is replaced with Necromancer's Reach which has no shadow effect. We laugh at it and declare Gleowyne as a defender. ("I am a minstrel, not a warrior!" he says, cowering behind his harp. "Tough luck," I say, "now stay still and let the enemy come closer! You're expendable anyway!") Swift Strike immediately kills the crows before they can kill the minstrel. Then Feint stops Crow #2 from attacking (mostly to avoid those pesky shadow cards) and Gondorian Spearman defends against Crow #3 killing it instantly with his ability.

Now it's our turn to attack, aka the carnage. It seems at first that there's no way to defeat every enemy and we'll have to go through another round, but after a lot of planning, yes we can. Aragorn is powered by Blade Mastery (last card in hand, last Tactics resource) and kills the Wargs; then Common Cause exhausts Gloin and readies Aragorn again; Aragorn and Faramir kill the injured Beastmaster #1; ranged Legolas, together with Guard of the Citadel and Theodred, takes down Beastmaster #2. For maximum overkill, Gimli with his attack of 12 kills the last Eastern Crows. It's pretty brutal and I almost feel bad for the Crows except not because they were evil beasts who tried to kill us. Lastly Dunhere kills the Goblin Sniper from afar. Just like that, it's over! Victory!

Final thoughts

Once again a fun adventure through Middle Earth. I'm putting this game on my 2018 10x10 challenge as I expect to play a lot more. I loved the rollercoaster of difficulty where it seems we're getting overwhelmed, but then play some good attachments and clear the staging area and forge ahead, only to get walloped by the encounter deck again... That was very enjoyable.

However, playing this scenario reminded me that I'm definitely a euro gamer. The game was most fun to me when I could nullify treachery cards or shadow effects, and it was just a matter of maximising the attack dealt while minimising the damage received. I even considered playing without shadow cards (basic mode, I think it is?) to make the game more deterministic, but right now this level of difficulty is fine. Of course, as soon as I lose a scenario I might rethink that.
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John Hitchens
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Delightful reading your stuff! What a horrendous start you had.

I am puzzled by this line

[quote]
With 4 Orc enemies in the staging area, raising the threat way too high, we have to so something. Sneak Attack with Longbeard Orc Slayer, two times in a row because we've two copies of each card, kills 3 Orcs reducing the overall threat by 5.
[/quote]

I think you are confusing Gandalf's ability to deal 4 damage when he enters play with Longbeard's attack value. Longbeard can only attack and do damage in the combat phase, so you can not pre-emptively Quick Strike in the Questing phase to kill enemies unless the ally has direct damage on it when it enters play
 
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Dale Stephenson
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Makofan wrote:
Delightful reading your stuff! What a horrendous start you had.

I am puzzled by this line

[quote]
With 4 Orc enemies in the staging area, raising the threat way too high, we have to so something. Sneak Attack with Longbeard Orc Slayer, two times in a row because we've two copies of each card, kills 3 Orcs reducing the overall threat by 5.
[/quote]

I think you are confusing Gandalf's ability to deal 4 damage when he enters play with Longbeard's attack value. Longbeard can only attack and do damage in the combat phase, so you can not pre-emptively Quick Strike in the Questing phase to kill enemies unless the ally has direct damage on it when it enters play


Longbeard Orc Slayer has a response "After Longbeard Orc Slayer enters play, deal 1 damage to each Orc enemy in play". Two sneak attacks of Longbeard Orc Slayer will do 2 direct damage to all orcs.
 
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John Hitchens
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Awesome! Guess I don't usually include him as he costs 4 resources, so I didn't remember his special ability. Nice creative use for him!
 
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