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Michael
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General overview

The Battle of Lake-Town originated at GenCon 2012 and is the second "Print on Demand" expansion of the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. While there is no official Difficulty Level within the scenario description, it is listed as 9-10 on BGG, making this the most difficult quest to date.



As a print on demand game, there are some differences to the regular expansions:

For starters, the packaging is made of plastic instead of cardboard. Don't mistake it for one of these annoying plastic packages found around electronics, household goods or action figures, though. No scissors are needed, and you can open and close the box easily. In fact, I find it more convenient to retrieve cards compared to the regular cardboard boxes.


Comparison to a "regular" expansion

Once you will hold the cards in your hand, you'll immediately notice a different feel and look compared to cards of other expansions. I think they have a more glossy finish, but rest assured that the quality is as expected from a FantasyFlightGames product, and not some flimsy paper that will tear after ten games.

Instead of a fold-out scenario description and rules set, The Battle of Lake-Town comes rules printed on cards (partly on the backside of the cover, plus one extra card).



The most important difference to regular expansions, however, is the lack of player cards. This expansion includes a scenario, only.

The Scenario

The Battle of Lake-Town replays the events in "The Hobbit" after Bilbo Baggins retrieves a chalice from Smaug's treasure hoard. Furious about the perceived theft, and convinced that Bilbo was aided by the folk from Lake-Town (Esgaroth), the red dragon descends from its mountain home to wreak havoc.
With the upcoming Saga expansion "The Hobbit: On the Doorstep" retelling the initial approach to Smaug's hoard and attempt to burglary, "The Battle of Lake-Town" has none of that subtlety. You are fighting the dragon - face to face...and flame and claws.

The initial set-up has Lake Town in its staging area. Lake Town does not contribute to the threat level and simply functions as a place to put down damage tokens. Various effects in the game can cause damage to Lake Town and once you accumulated 50 token on the card, you lose the game. As a side note, I recommend to place one damage token for every five points of damage onto the artwork and use the "City" field of the card for counts under five. You could also write down the damage or use die or whatever else, but having 40+ token on one card can get messy.



This expansion introduces the new "Burn" keyword. You will find it on the locations of Lake Town. When Treachery cards or Smaug cards require you to resolve burn damage, you add all Burn values in the game and place to appropriate amount of damage onto Lake Town.


Note the "Burn 1" on most cards.

Some locations are unique and pack nasty side effects upon reveal.


The Master's Manor can swing the game in Smaug's favour.

The Encounter Deck consists exclusively of Locations and Treachery cards. Some of the latter will resolve burn damage, grant Smaug an extra attack or cause one damage to each character in play.


Also note that most cards have a shadow effect.

The sole exception to the flaming menace is the Old Thrush. In the novel, the bird transferred information about Smaug's weak spot. The card captures this well, and I am glad it has been included. Finding a hero who has time to talk to the bird within all the havoc going on around (exhaust to claim the objective) him may not be easy - and it shouldn't.



Smaug himself appears in a separate Smaug Deck. The way it works in the game is that you draw one card from the Smaug Deck at the start of the Quest Phase. You replace the Smaug card in play with the newly drawn card (choosing whether you like him engaged with you or in the staging area), then quest as normal and reveal a card from the Encounter Deck. Do not think of this as an additional Encounter Card per round. What the Smaug Deck really does is change the dragon's abilities with each round. Damage you may have placed onto Smaug will of course be moved onto the newly revealed card.

I think this mechanic is splendid! The three versions of Smaug are all different enough to make you wonder what the dragon will do next. The engagement cost, in particular, can make a difference between escaping his wrath for one round or not. In addition, Smaug has a "When revealed" effect on him, causing an immediate attack, self-healing or scorching Lake Town a little more.



The scenario consists of three stages but resolve within the same location of Lake Town. The differences are as follows:

- in stage 1, you simply have to progress and Smaug cannot have more than six damage on him.

- in stage 2, you have the option to not place progress token onto the quest and instead move an equal amount of damage token from Lake Town. Smaug cannot have more than 12 damage on him.

- in stage 3, Smaug is enraged. You have to deal with an extra encounter card per turn.



If you finally manage to defeat Smaug, you may still have lost the game, however. Every location has a Victory Point value, and the sum thereof is compared to the total damage on Lake Town upon the dragon's demise. If you have less Victory Points than there is damage of Lake Town, you lose.

The Battle of Lake-Town is indeed worthy of being considered the most difficult expansion to date. If you are unlucky, a hero may die in Round 1, and even if you avoid all the treacheries, keep the burn damage in control and somehow defeat Smaug, you may yet lose due to Smaug's fiery legacy consuming Esgaroth. Nevertheless, I love this scenario. It fits well within the two Hobbit expansions, and if you know what you're in for, you cannot be mad at being destroyed five times in a row. Or at least, it is easier to accept defeat by a fire dragon as it is to be murdered in your sleep (Road to Rivendell), lose a hero to a Sudden Pitfall (Khazad-Dum) or having your way blocked by wargs (Into Ithilien).

My verdict

Theme
Burning town, fire-spewing dragon - the essence of this chapter in The Hobbit is perfectly captured and adds a fresh scenario to the game.



Artwork
Beautiful illustrations of Smaug and the locations of Esgaroth. Nothing to complain.



Hero
Only listed so interested players are aware that this expansion does not include one.



Other player cards
Only listed so interested players are aware that none are included in this expansion.



Scenario
If you survive the first two rounds, you have yourself a memorable battle.



Overall
A great scenario I highly recommend to players with excess to a large card pool. Ignore the overall rating if you are one of these players. My overall rating is a reflection of my conception of this pack compared to all other expansions and aimed at new players to the game. As such, the hefty price tag (more expensive than regular expansions) and lack of player cards keeps this expansion from being one of the best.











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Alter Ego
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After reading your great review of HoN expansion, another excellent write-up!
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jakub praibis
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I find Smaug the Mighty by far the worst deal. Of course the other can be nuisance at certain situations but it is always the Mighty I fear the most, especially in coop where it is hard to have both (or more) sides of the table ready for the attack.

As with the other new scenarios, this is harder coop than solo, I feel.

Our best score in 2-player is 98, of which we are very, very proud. 67 combined threat, 10 damage, 4 rounds completed, 21 victory points.
 
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Matt Deuber
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I use an extra threat tracker to mark damage to Lake-town.
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Magnus Andersson
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Zwerg wrote:
...

A great scenario I highly recommend to players with excess to a large card pool. Ignore the overall rating if you are one of these players.

...


I own most expansions for this game, but lack The Hobbit: On the Doorstep. Are the player cards from that expansion vital for winning this scenario?

(I fear they are, since The Battle of Lake-Town was released just after The Hobbit: On the Doorstep.)
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Mark Judd
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emusand wrote:
Zwerg wrote:
...

A great scenario I highly recommend to players with excess to a large card pool. Ignore the overall rating if you are one of these players.

...


I own most expansions for this game, but lack The Hobbit: On the Doorstep. Are the player cards from that expansion vital for winning this scenario?

(I fear they are, since The Battle of Lake-Town was released just after The Hobbit: On the Doorstep.)

I don't think they are. The solo deck that I used to defeat The Battle of Lake-Town did not use a single card from The Hobbit: On the Doorstep.
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Michael
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emusand wrote:


I own most expansions for this game, but lack The Hobbit: On the Doorstep. Are the player cards from that expansion vital for winning this scenario?

(I fear they are, since The Battle of Lake-Town was released just after The Hobbit: On the Doorstep.)


I agree with Mark. The player cards of On the Doorstep certainly help if you attempt The Battle of Lake-Town with a dwarf deck, since you get excellent allies and a fantastic card draw ability, but I don't think that these cards will make a huge difference in the scenario's very high difficulty.

Don't click the spoiler tag if you don't wish to see the player cards of On the Doorstep!

Spoiler (click to reveal)
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