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Friday, May 22, 2015

Parker's Top 5 Favorite LotR LCG Quests

In a game filled with great scenarios and thematic moments, it can be tough to single out any particular quest for praise. Yet lately I've been getting in some solid LotR LCG time, and I've been revisiting quests that I thought of as being my "favorites". Some of the quests were not as great as I remembered, and I played some quests that I had forgotten how much I enjoy.

So I wanted to write a quick article singing the praises of 5 quests that consistently provide great moments and a thrilling game.

5. Nightmare Passage through Mirkwood - Nightmare Core Set quests

The core set's Passage through Mirkwood is often the first quest players will complete when they start the game, and it's the first quest they abandon once they create a real deck. Despite some nasty treacheries the original Passage through Mirkwood simply can't hold up against modern decks.

Luckily, the nightmare pack for this quest not only made the quest more challenging, but more enjoyable as well. The Nightmare: PtM pack introduces some enemies that can really ruin your day, while retaining the flavor and nostalgia of the original quest (as well as retaining the nastier cards from the original).

On top of that, Ungoliant's Spawn is now a great boss with a potentially game-ending "When Revealed" effect. Whether multi-player or solo, Nightmare: PtM delivers a great experience, and is one of the best purchases I've made for this game.

4. A Knife in the Dark - The Black Riders

This quest is exciting no matter what, but really shines in campaign mode, where players have to choose between taking negative effects or gaining burden cards that will last throughout the campaign. Steve and I had a blast in this quest because of these great mechanics, but also because this quest delivers on the boss fights.

No sooner have you dealt with one Nazgul then another rears its ugly head. The Black Riders box has 3 solid quests, but this one stands out among them. Incidentally, The Black Riders expansion is one of the best expansions that players can buy, so if you're saving up for a new deluxe saga box I would suggest it over, say, The Hobbit boxes.

3. Fords of Isen - The Voice of Isengard

For a Rohan fanboy like myself, this quest is awesome. The quest plainly evokes the Battle of the Fords of Isen, which took place during the War of the Ring and was described in detail in Tolkien's Unfinished Tales. The quest also provides a great game experience in both solo and multi-player, and was the first quest to introduce mechanics that punished players for drawing cards.

The artwork is phenomenal, and the encounter deck rarely gets out of hand while still providing a great challenge.

2. Journey in the Dark - The Road Darkens

This quest was my favorite out of the campaign that Steve and I did, and has held up under recent play-throughs. There is a palpable sense of foreboding throughout the quest, and even though we all know what's coming it still creates a lot of tension. The artwork properly conveys this threatening theme, with a lot of dark, eerily empty spaces.

The Balrog itself is a mighty boss to have to face, and sacrificing a hero to damage it is a thematic home-run. There isn't a dull moment throughout this quest, and defeating the Balrog was the highlight of the campaign (with the possible exception of Pippin turning into an enemy, but that's another story). Even if you aren't playing this quest as part of a campaign, it's still a load of fun, and any Tolkien fan will have a great time geeking out on the card art and story elements.

1. The Three Trials - The Ring-Maker Cycle

I reviewed this quest in the past, and my initial praise not only holds up, but now seems inadequate to describe how much I like this quest. It has endless replay value because the enemies, locations, and quest stages can be arranged into a ton of different combinations. The encounter deck is super tight with no extraneous cards, which leads to games that are challenging and consistent.

The card art is outstanding as well, and tells a real story as the players fight their way through the Guardian enemies. This quest also demonstrates something that the design team has done an excellent job doing: building upon Tolkien lore to create entirely new settings that still feel like they're inherently part of Middle Earth.

The replay value, theme, artwork, and tone of this quest combine to make it my absolute favorite so far.

Honorable Mentions:

Assault on Osgiliath - Against the Shadow Cycle (not to be confused with the Gencon quest Massing at Osgiliath)

 This quest can be a lot of fun, and it can really convey this theme of a swirling battle in the heart of a city. However, this quest can also quickly devolve into a boring, location-heavy nightmare due to a massive and unpredictable encounter deck.

Journey Down the Anduin - Core Set

This quest can provide a good challenge for beginners and more experienced players alike. There are a lot of quests that aren't friendly towards learning the game, either because they're too hard for newer players or too boring for veterans, but Journey Down the Anduin still has its charms.

The Antlered Crown - The Ring-Maker Cycle

This quest nearly cracked the Top 5, but loses out for one small reason: too many timed effects. I personally love the addition of the timed mechanic into the game, but The Antlered Crown highlights the main criticism that is often lobbed at the designers: there is too much happening on the board to keep track of. Up until this quest I dismissed the criticism, arguing that it takes 30 extra seconds to check the cards at the end of each round.

However, I've had times in this quest where there were 4 timed effects simultaneously interacting with each other, AND there was an entirely separate deck of enemies to keep track of with its own discard pile. This combines to create a quest that, while fun, can take you out of the story because you're too busy dealing with game mechanics. The Antlered Crown would definitely make my top 10 list, but for the reasons listed above it doesn't crack the top 5.

So what are your favorite quests? Sound out in the comments below, or reach out to us on Twitter @WWPDFellowship

What are your favorite quests? Please sound off in the comments below, or let us know on our forum!

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