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Friday, January 9, 2015

There and Back Again - An LotR LCG Tale, Part 2

Thanks for all of the great feedback on Part 1 of my attempt to solo through the Hobbit Saga campaign. It's that kind of enthusiastic response that made me feel bad for not posting Part 2 sooner, but if I'm being honest it's because the deck that I wanted to use throughout the campaign simply couldn't handle the opening stage of the quest "Over the Misty Mountains Grim". So in order to stick to the theme I'd have to build a dwarf deck, which I had zero interest in doing.

Recently I just decided to bite the bullet, and at least build a dwarf deck using a different hero lineup than what is normally considered the "power build". I'd be using Thorin, because he's awesome, but my other heroes are not typically associated with the optimal dwarf build - instead they're simply two of my favorite characters from the book!

Balin and Bombur were two of the most memorable dwarves of Thorin's company, and were lucky enough to even be mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring. Of course, Bombur was being mocked, and it was alluded that Balin had bitten off a little more than he could chew in Moria, but that's all in the future!

I'll post the full deck-list before diving into the quest:




Heroes

Bombur
Balin
Thorin

Allies - 27
Gandalf - 3
Miner of the Iron Hills - 3
Fili - 3
Erebor Hammersmith - 3
Erebor Record Keeper - 2
Gloin - 2
Dori - 2
Bifur - 2
Warden of Healing - 2
LongBeard Orc Slayer - 2
Veteran Axehand - 2
Kili - 1

Attachments - 11
Cram - 3
Steward of Gondor - 3
Dunedain Warning - 3
Narvi's Belt - 2

Events - 12
Lure of Moria - 3
Daeron's Runes - 3
Sneak Attack - 3
Deep Knowledge - 3

I feel like I have Thorin's company well-represented in this deck, with plenty of unique dwarf characters from the books. I also included some Dunedain Warnings in an attempt to make Bombur useful at something. Anyway, onto the quest!

The main challenge with "Over Misty Mountains Grim" is that the players are dealing with a lot of challenges right from the start. For a solo quest, I had to begin with one Stone Giant and one randomly revealed encounter card in the staging area. Questing becomes an uphill battle right from the start. 

For three rounds I didn't make any progress on the quest. I was simply trying to get allies out and quest hard enough without having to raise my threat. Although I didn't reveal any more Stone Giants, I kept revealing high-threat locations, which forced me to travel.

Nevertheless, I was feeling pretty good about my start to the game. I had drawn Narvi's belt on Turn 1 and between that and Steward of Gondor on Thorin I was able to bring in my two tactics allies. While the lack of actual progress on the quest was a concern, at least my growing army was still intact. Below is how things looked after the Planning Phase of Turn 3:



I was rolling! I honestly didn't even bother taking advantage of Overhanging Rock because I was in a good position and my deck had a lot of built-in card draw. This allowed me to conserve my resources on Bilbo which, unbeknownst to me, would be a real help later on. 

Then I drew possibly the most dreaded card of the encounter deck... The card that had so often ruined my prior experiences with this quest and had nearly undone my attempts at "We Must Away, Ere Break of Day". I'm talking, of course, about Wind-Whipped Rain.

God I hate that stupid card. I lost a Cram, Steward of Gondor, and Narvi's Belt on Thorin, and I also lost Dunedain Warning off of Bombur. Luckily I had more than 5 dwarves in play, because I would need to make up for the loss of Steward of Gondor with Thorin's special ability. 

Eventually I had to bring the Giant down from the staging area. I played Sneak Attack on Gandalf in the combat phase, dealt four damage to the giant before using Gandalf to defend (incidentally, per the response on the giant I discarded an Erebor Record Keeper). The remaining dwarves were able to deal enough damage to kill the thing. I took the below screenshot on the following turn, when I was ready to make my big quest push to the next stage:



Yeah... that's a horde of Dwarves right there. But what would be waiting for them beneath the peaks of the Misty Mountains? 

The next quest stage, "Down, Down to Goblin Town", requires players to completely remove the encounter cards from the first quest stage of the game and replace them with a special Goblin Deck. The players must add The Great Goblin to the staging area, which is soon followed by these instructions from side 3b of the quest card:

When Revealed: Reveal 3 encounter cards per player, Bilbo Baggins may spend X resources to reduce the total number of encounter cards revealed by X. (To a minimum of 1.) 

So, remember how I said that having those resources on Bilbo would help me later on? I was able to start the quest with only The Great Goblin and one other enemy in the staging area, and although I'd quested with most of my team I was able to play Lure of Moria to ready my dwarven friends.

I killed The Great Goblin right away, and stalled the remaining enemy. It would take two more rounds of questing to make enough progress on this quest stage, but the outcome was never really in doubt at this point. It was an anti-climactic end to a quest that had been giving me no end of trouble with my previous deck.


End of the Game, during a Quest Phase

So, my thoughts on this quest? The opening part of this quest, with the Stone Giants, Wind Whipped Rain, and Galloping Boulders is still super-tough, especially without any A Test of Will cards to help out. The Goblin stage, however, is pretty mundane, especially if players have saved resources on Bilbo. Maybe it would be harder with more players, but it still feels a little too easy. The Great Goblin's defense of 2 is laughable. Maybe next time I'll keep the cards from the first quest stage intact, but replace the Goblin deck with the Nightmare version.



As for my thoughts on the rest of the campaign? Clearly, my goal of keeping a single deck throughout the campaign fell apart, but maybe that's a good thing. Perhaps I'll try to build new, thematic decks for each quest in the saga. I've never used hero Beorn, so I should probably give that a shot at some point. Having just recently seen the Battle of Five Armies movie I may also have to sub-in Legolas to "count as" Thranduil. 

Thanks again for reading, and I hope you enjoyed Part 2 of this adventure, leave a comment below with any suggestions for decks or any critique of the article. Thanks as always to Hall of Beorn for the card images. Reach out to me on Twitter @PIflamesofwar or @WWPDFellowship. We also post frequently on Reddit


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