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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lord of the Rings LCG: The Three Trials Review Part 2

In this part of the review I want to talk a little about arguably the most anticipated portion of any LotR: LCG expansion release: the quest. I will try to be as spoiler-free as possible while still giving readers a good overview of what they'll find in this quest. I'll also give my final verdict on this adventure pack as a whole at the end of the article.

At its most simplistic, The Three Trials is a boss fight. However, the game designers at FFG have devised a scenario wholly unlike any other boss fight in the game, and one that will present crazy challenges to players.

The narrative structure basically sees the characters adventuring into an area where, legend has it, they will confront three challenges (the trials). Thus far nobody has ever returned alive. They'll have to face the Trial of Strength, the Trial of Perseverance, and the Trial of Intuition. In the setup phase the players will set aside four nasty locations, three tough-as-nails "guardian" enemies, and three key objectives - one for each guardian. One of the locations is saved until stage three of the quest.

This quest is unique in many ways, but perhaps the most interesting (and nerve-wracking) is that after all of this setup the players themselves decide which of the three trials to tackle. The Trial of Strength has the key objective attached to the revealed guardian, the Trial of Perseverance sees the key attached to a location, and the Trial of Intuition shoves the key to the bottom portion of the encounter deck, forcing players to quest hard in their search for the key. During each trial the first player is automatically engaged with a guardian enemy. Even advancing beyond a quest stage provides no respite, for as soon as one stage is completed a new one begins, and you'll once again be faced with a guardian.

To further complicate matters, once you decide which trial to face, the players choose randomly from the set-aside guardians and locations to see what they'll be facing during that stage.

Example: Parker, Steve, and Sierra decide that they can tackle the Trial of Perseverance early on, so they follow the setup instructions and then randomly draw one of the set-aside locations and one of the set-aside guardians. Then, following the setup instructions, they find the matching key and attach it to the location that is now in the staging area. When they beat this stage they'll repeat this process with the next trial, except the key may be placed elsewhere according to the quest stage setup instructions.

The icing on the cake for this quest is that each guardian also has time counters placed upon them, and each one will harm players in a different way once those time counters are removed. Oh, and there are plenty of other enemies and treacheries to ruin your day.

So, right away, there are 9 different combinations of Guardians/Locations that players will have to be ready for. On top of that, any of those combinations may present themselves during the 3 possible quest stages. Although this presents a great challenge to the players, this gives the quest an incredible amount of replay value.

I've played this through this quest 7 times for the review (at time of writing) - 5 solo games and 2 "two-handed" games. I was only ever able to beat this quest while having two decks in play. I'm not saying it'll be impossible to beat solo (some people have), but I can't imagine being able to deal with a quest that throws so much at a single player. That said, I feel like this quest might get too easy with three or four players, since there will be so many more tools available for the tasks at hand (and more opportunities for treachery cancellation and chump-blocking, plus the time-counter damage will be spread more evenly).

Final Adventure Pack Review:

In my opinion FFG knocked this one out of the park. They gave us a great new hero and new player cards that add fresh capabilities to existing archetypes (and greatly expand upon the theme of this cycle, the Elves). The quest is built in such a way that you'll never play the same game twice, and you'll never know exactly what to expect. The Three Trials expansion is a must-have for LotR:LCG players, plain and simple.

***Card images courtesy of Hall of Beorn Card Search

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