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Michael
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While I am not the biggest fan of Gondor and considered skipping this cycle aside from packs that contain things for my dwarves, I gave in after seeing the new expansion at a friend's place. Here are my impressions after 34 solo and a much smaller number of two-player games.

General overview and box content

Heirs of Numenor is the second Deluxe Expansion of the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and heralds the third cycle Against the Shadows. The box contains 165 playing cards, including three new scenarios, a selection of player cards and two new heroes.

The box follows the same format as "Khazad-Dum" and "The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill". The three included scenarios fit nicely adjacent to each other into the inlay. What I particularly like about the scenarios is that the 10 encounter sets do not overlap as much as in previous games. There is only one encounter set (Southrons) which you will use in two different scenarios. The lack of sifting through encounter cards is most welcome and a convenience when changing scenarios.

A word of warning for all scenarios in this expansion: If you do not possess any of the previous expansions, Heirs of Numenor may prove frustratingly difficult with just the player cards of the core set.



As so often, a new expansion introduces new keywords. In Heirs of Numenor, these are Siege, Battle and Archery. Battle and Siege are keywords of quest cards that turn the quest phase upside down by requiring questing characters to use their Attack or Defense strength, respectively, instead of Willpower. That's right! You will suddenly find Eowyn a useless quester, while an injured Gimli or Beorn contribute to your advancement through the stages of each scenario.
The Archery keyword is included on some enemies as well as one quest card. If a card contains Archery 1, players must deal one point of damage to one character they control at the beginning of the combat phase. Of course, most cards will have a written Archery X, meaning that the damage depends on factors such as number of players, number of spheres of influence etc. Luckily, the damage can be split among characters, but keeping an Archery enemy in the staging area will accumulate to serious pain over time.


The Umbar Assassin - one of the most annoying enemies in the game... before you continue to the second scenario.

Artwork

This expansion may be the first one in which I could not find a single card that I found ugly. Quest cards are atmospheric, the few locations beautiful as usual, and the enemies terrifying. A particular shout out goes to Magali Villeneuve who illustrated both new heroes and has surely been my favourite artist of the game to this point. I wish she would illustrate Balin, but I digress.



The new Heroes

After seeing five new heroes in the last large expansion (The Hobbit), this box follows Khazad-Dum in introducing two new heroes.



Boromir is the third hero to receive an alternate version, and while I prefer his Tactics alter ego from the core set, I assume that Leadership Boromir will ever grow in usefulness with the addition of Gondorian ally cards. His ability is thematic in the context of defending Gondor and slightly reminiscent of Dain Ironfoot, albeit considerably weaker.

Beregond is the first hero with a printed Defense of four. Combined with his ability to receive attachments for free or cheap, the first captain of the White Company, is ready to frustrate incoming enemy attacks. With easy access to Dunedain Warnings and slightly more difficult access to a Burning Brand via Song of Wisdom, Beregond could become solid as a rock and single-handidly stop the armies of Mordor. Just like Boromir, Beregond's usefulness may further increase with the release of additional attachment cards. In Heirs of Numenor, Beregond additionally functions as a fantastic quester in Siege quests.

The Player Cards

Unsurprisingly, the majority of cards in Heirs of Numenor add to the theme of Gondor. Each sphere receives a boost to its ally contingent.


The Outlands refer to the smaller communities in Gondor. Future expansions already hinted at the potential for great card synergy.


How many times did you wish to transfer a resource to another player or one of your heroes? Never fear, the Errand-Rider is here!


A Ranger- deck could be an option in the future.


The Defender of Rammas looks like a clear upgrade over the Winged Guardian. However, Radagast's resources will not help to pay for him, so both cards have their place and the notion of power creep is unjustified.

Heirs of Numenor contains one Weapon attachment that will render enemies with a single hit point helpless. Playing it for free on Beregond is an option, but other combinations may be stronger, yet. An improved version of "Forest Snare" further helps to keep foes at bay.


The core set's Gondorian Spearman will rid yourself of 2 HP enemies. Combine it with a questing Thalin for even more fun!

The expansion contains useful and thematic events that strengthen your defense, provide Tactics an option to ready characters and - possibly my favourite - enabling Gondor and Rohan to profit from both keywords, screaming to for two players to join forces with Rohan and Gondor decks.


Mutual Accord will be even better once a Rohan expansion will hit the shelves.

The Scenarios


Peril in Pelargir


This quest starts upon your heroes' arrival in the city of Pelargir. A local lord requires you to bring a message to Faramir in Ithilien. My first thought was that this felt a little underwhelming. After all, I just defeated a balrog in Khazad-dum, to conclude the Dwarrowdelf cycle. And now a fetch-quest that starts off in the tavern "The Leaping Fish"? Was this D&D? Oh well, every story arc needs a beginning. And who does not like Faramir?
The quest consists of three stages. You receive the scroll of Lord Alcaron, you are attacked by a bunch of thugs, pickpockets, assassins and bandits, and eventually you escape to the quays. Or at least you try...



Peril in Pelargir is listed with a difficulty level of 5, and it is not to be underestimated. On the quest cards, you will note that the first two stages show the Battle keyword while the last one is a regular quest card. This, of course, means that you have to account for suitable attack and willpower when constructing your deck.
The whole quest can feel unfair at times. Right from the start, you are often attacked by three enemies (see the Leaping Fish below). Most foes launch themselves onto your defenders with an attack strength of 3 or more. The best tactic appears therefore to purposefully lose Alcaron's Scroll, leave it in the staging area until the late phase of stage 2B and then gather it before making a run for it. I dislike this tactic as it takes away from the theme/ atmosphere, but it is often the only option to win.



One thing that is absolutely brutal are Forced effects and some Shadow Cards. In Peril in Pelargir, nothing is reliable. One shadow effect can cause you to discard your hand or lose your resources. One Zealous Traitor can kill off your allies (see further up), potentially trapping you in the last stage due to lack of questing power.
Finally, threat management is a constant issue - particularly if you avoid questing in the first round due to the accumulation of thugs in the staging area.


The quest is wild - as a tavern brawl should be, but it can be frustrating, also. Once you find the "right" combination of heroes and player cards, however, Peril in Pelargir loses a lot of its potency and giving it the introductory feel of local thugs trying to stop a band of experienced heroes.

Into Ithilien

This quest is a direct continuation of Peril in Pelargir. You escaped the wild locals and made it to Faramir - or so you think. The captain has gone to Cair Andros in anticipation of a beginning assault on the island fortress. You just consider that it may not be smart to talk to Faramir's associate, the ranger Celador, on an open road when a company of haradrim attacks you.

Into Ithilien is listed with a DL 4, suggesting that it may be easier than the opening quest. I like to think it as significantly harder, and there has been a (often) interesting discussion on the difficulty of this scenario on these boards http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/895682/into-ithilien-the-fir... . Personally, I have won four out of eight attempts in solo games and consider a DL 4 not completely inappropriate.
But let's forget about the difficulty and appreciate Into Ithilien for what it is: a quest oozing with theme, interesting enemies and different paths to victory.

You start the first quest stage with a battle, and just like in Peril in Pelargir, you find a location (Ithilien Road) with a significant effect on how well your first round will play out.


"I think we should get off the road."

As opposed to the Leaping Fish, you really want to explore this road as quickly as possible. And make no mistake, it is achievable in turn one, thus protecting you from the advancement of most enemies. There is a small risk of receiving an undefended attack from one of the forest's denizens, but I always prefer it to being trampled by a Mumak.


"Southrons" - one of the toughest Encounter Sets to date?

A mechanic I really like about Into Ithilien is that of help from the encounter deck. From the start, you are aided by Celador, and if you are lucky, one of his rangers will join your quest (or surprise you by sniping an enemy from the shadows).



Into Ithilien will follow one of two paths after surviving the first battle. If you keep Celador alive, you can sneak off with Celador, using Willpower to advance through the thicket of trees. If the ranger leaves play, however, the southrons counter-attack and making you play in a Siege. When you finally reach Cair Andros, you find yourself in a Battle or Siege - depending on your current threat level. I absolutely love the variety stemming from these options. Of course, versatility is the x and o of your deck, but you can also choose to specialise in dealing with Sieges, let Celador escape into the forest and face the southrons head on.



One card I should mention is Blocking Wargs. It is a much improved (from Sauron's perspective) version of the core set's "The Necromancer's Reach". Certainly something you should plan for!



Overall, I absolutely love Into Ithilien. It is atmospheric, varies each time you play it and it is certainly challenging without being unfair. While some of its foes seem overwhelming since attacks of 5 are the norm rather than the exception, there are no effects that strip you off resources or take away cards from your hand. Just get off that road!

The Siege of Cair Andros

The final quest is listed with a DL 7, putting it officially on par with Escape from Dol Guldur or Return to Mirkwood. I have yet to play this quest with another player, but from a solo player's perspective, I must say that it feels easier than either of the two aforementioned.

In the Siege of Cair Andros, your heroes defend the island fortress against the onrushing hordes of orcs and armies of southrons. Aside from once quest phase, each quest cards either contains the Battle or Siege keyword.



While five stages may look daunting at first, note that you can skip stages 2, 3 and 4 entirely by securing Cair Andros' key locations. This is achieved by regular progress tokens. Once a location is explored, it ends in your victory pile, and its associated quest phase is discarded.



It is not as easy as it may seem, of course. Multiple cards in the encounter deck cause damage on Cair Andros' locations, turning the fight for the city an interesting race between green progress tokens and red damage markers.

Enemies in Cair Andros make previous foes seem like labrador puppies. Attacks for 7 and 8 are common, and you have to expect each shadow effect adding between 1 and 3 further attack strength. While you still have locations, you can choose to sacrifice them (undefended damage is assigned to locations), but this will put you back in your overall battle.



If your first instinct is to use cheap allies as "diversions", i.e. let them get slaughtered while your heroes are ok, you forgot about the Lieutentant of Mordor. Fortunately, he is unique, and you can always hope to discard him and the Mumak via shadow effect.
Another recurring theme of The Siege of Cair Andros is the punishment for having more than one sphere of influence. A Tactics monosphere is rewarded by negligible Treachery effects and reduced Archery damage. And it works! For instance, having Beregond, Boromir and Hama team up is not only thematic but highly effective, further contributing to the fresh feel to this scenario.



The Siege of Cair Andros is a furious scenario in which you commonly lose allies and heroes and may still find a way to victory.


My verdict

Theme
Not a big fan of Gondor, but I cannot argue against the fantastic capture of a grand battle in an ancient kingdom.


Artwork
One of the best selections of illustration I have yet seen in this game!


Heroes
Thematic, useful and a unique ability for one. Thematic, useful but not too exciting for the other.


Other Player Cards
A fantastic range of ally and events cards with a splash of useful attachments. While most of the cards feature Gondor, all players will find something useful.


The Scenarios

Peril in Pelargir
A tavern brawl suffering from an argument between theme and game mechanics. Mediocre.


Into Ithilien
Rich theme, alternative pathways and a glimpse of what Gondor is up against.


The Siege of Cair Andros
An epic large-scale battle well captured within the format of this game. Achieves a sense of accomplishment once the city is saved.


Overall
Scenarios that require to rethink your deck building, fresh mechanics and great player cards. I did not think Heirs of Numenor could stand up to Khazad-Dum, but I was wrong.


















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Walter Kolinski
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wow dude, this is an awesome review, i just started this game so i am not up to this expansion yet, i am looking forward to getting there....very well done, well organized and insightful
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Michael
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lazzater wrote:
wow dude, this is an awesome review, i just started this game so i am not up to this expansion yet, i am looking forward to getting there....very well done, well organized and insightful


Thanks, mate. If you enjoyed reading/ found it helpful, have a look at some of my other reviews for this game (smaller expansions are not as lengthy).

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/browse/boardgame/0?username=...
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Dundy O
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"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
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You had me at "Hello." You had me ('sniff') at "Hello."

No. Actually, you had me at, "Here are my impressions after 34 solo and a much smaller number of two-player games."

Wow. I'll listen to anything you say about a game after playing solo and co-op that many times.

Wonderful review. Fantastic. If you don't snare new LotR: LCG players with this review, nothing will.

Thanks for the post. I bought the pack but being so new to the game, I've got months before I get to it. Lots of other APs and big-box expansions must be quested first.

By the way, I'm nuts about this game!
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David
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May the Great Spirit Bless all who read this.
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Yes, top review all round.
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Brother Leon
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Thanks for the review. Personally I think it is much better than Khazad-dum, and also the core set (only JDtA is really good IMO). The Dwarrowdelf cycle was great though - let's see how against the shadow measures up.

BTW, I'm not sure beregond gets the discount on those Leadership Dunedain attachments.
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Michael
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nssxxx wrote:

BTW, I'm not sure beregond gets the discount on those Leadership Dunedain attachments.


He does not. Only Weapon and Armour attachments are discounted. I think I pondered the option of getting Song of Wisdom & Burning Brand cheap, but that is also wrong.
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Kevin Outlaw
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I've considered getting this game several times, but I ultimately decide not to bother as I do not think I would ever play it, and I am really only interested in the theme and the awesome artwork. Luckily, I can scroll thorugh your reviews to see all the artwork, and save myself some pennies - so thanks for that!

You also get bonus marks for a Lego Balin avatar.
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Duke Of Lizards
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Once again, great review.
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Alter Ego
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Outstanding review! Was on the fence for this expansion after reading early reports of significant frustration or excessive difficulty for the quests.
But now this detailed review sold me on getting it, my wallet hates you
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Dundy O
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Zwerg says:

The Siege of Cair Andros

The final quest is listed with a DL 7, putting it officially on par with Escape from Dol Guldur or Return to Mirkwood. I have yet to play this quest with another player, but from a solo player's perspective, I must say that it feels easier than either of the two aforementioned.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Well. Gives me great hope for the rest of the series. I'm struggling mightily against Dol Guldur. I'm having loads of fun, but I just can't save my companion and escape.

Solo is hard. First, you have only two Heroes questing and fighting creatures that are no lollipop gang. After you break your companion out of the dungeon, the nasty Nazgul is searching you out from the sky. Prison Guard Orcs from the ground and hellish creatures from the sky.

No wonder I die of fright with over 50 threat many times!
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Michael
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Wister wrote:

Well. Gives me great hope for the rest of the series. I'm struggling mightily against Dol Guldur. I'm having loads of fun, but I just can't save my companion and escape.

Solo is hard. First, you have only two Heroes questing and fighting creatures that are no lollipop gang. After you break your companion out of the dungeon, the nasty Nazgul is searching you out from the sky. Prison Guard Orcs from the ground and hellish creatures from the sky.

No wonder I die of fright with over 50 threat many times!


I feel your pain with that quest! I finally beat it solo after 13 unsuccessful attempts. After that, I put it aside and wanted to wait to have a greater card pool before giving it another go.
I finally escaped with a monosphere deck (Spirit) of Frodo, Dunhere and Glorfindel. Without the risk of having cards that you can't play and a load of threat reduction (Galadhrim's Greeting, Elrond's Counsel), card draw (Ancient Mathom), shadow card management (Hasty Stroke), Treachery cancellation (A Test of Will), exploration (Northern Tracker) and cheap allies to produce some willpower (Arwen, who turned Frodo into an excellent defender once freed; some Rohan guys) and enough attacking power with Dunhere and Glorfindel (particularly after finding Light of Valinor), I found that Spirit covered all the bases under the limitations the scenario throws at you and at least gives you a fighting chance.

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Michael
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anto wrote:
Outstanding review! Was on the fence for this expansion after reading early reports of significant frustration or excessive difficulty for the quests.
But now this detailed review sold me on getting it, my wallet hates you


The only frustrating things I encountered were in the first scenario. I'm just not a fan of losing your resources and cards in hand - or at least not all of them at once. And having to deal with three enemies from the start is annoying as.
However, there is a certain Hero that helps you big-time with that (hint: imagine an angry grizzly in a tavern fight). devil

Your wallet should thank me as it won't have to carry around as much as before.
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Michael
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RedMonkeyBoy wrote:

You also get bonus marks for a Lego Balin avatar.


My favourite dwarf in the novel! I alternate between him and Thorin (whom I loved in the movie) for my avatar.

I wonder if you could combine LEGO and the card game. Have the lego dudes in your staging area and equip LEGO weapons and stuff. To exhaust a character, you simply turn him around, and weapon attachments will be lowered on their arms.
... have to try it.

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Mark Campo
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bah i'm on the self for the game.. not even a big lotr fan but you make this set sound interesting....must alter my path home.. and try not walk past the game shop...

when you solo is it one uber deck or 2 hands 2 decks..
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Michael
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Milarky wrote:


when you solo is it one uber deck or 2 hands 2 decks..


I only play one deck.
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Eli Silver
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34 solo plays!!! Amazing!

Thank you for this review. I was on the fence about getting the game, but seeing what's in store, I've decided to get it. Great review.
 
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