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Friday, May 15, 2015

The Lost Realm - First Adventure, First Impressions, First Playthroughs

We’re roughly a month past the release of the latest deluxe expansion, The Lost Realm, and I’ve had a chance to sit down and play through the first scenario blind. Like the preceding expansion, The Voice of Isengard, the game includes a narrative to read through before each adventure that expounds upon the lore and story we’ll see in the cycle. The advent of both Encounter and Player side-quests create an added questing contention, with much needed player assets being diverted to and fro.

With the expansion of the Dunedain trait, and the theme of silent guardians over the lost lands of the north, we see players being rewarded and penalized for pro-actively engaging enemies. In the interest of time, myself and my co-player took our two decks from our current campaign (one made up of Noldor and Dunedain, the other made up of the Three Hunters) and decided to jump in head-first. Not knowing what pace to expect, or how to prioritize our resources, we were trounced from the get-go with rapidly increasing threat counters and an encounter side-quest that broke our hearts. Learning from the lesson of loss, we were able to take those same decks and find success after being exposed to the new dangers of the Witch-Realm of Angmar and what treachery lays ahead.

The Scenario

In the first adventure, players join forces with a Dunedain ranger, attempting to intercept a war party full of orcs that have infiltrated the Chetwood, a flat-land forty miles east of the Shire, beyond Bree-hill. The war party is making way for a peaceful village, and it is the job of the players to take it out. Our second playthrough was much more successful, and I want to give some impressions that I felt while playing it.

Engage Early, Engage Often

Back when I was playing multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, the advice given to me was “kill them before they kill you”. In the case of this scenario, where enemies do not make engagement checks, you really have to worry about getting location locked and an inability to muster enough willpower to overcome the combined threat of the encounter deck.  While I would not suggest fool-heartedly sacrificing your heroes for the sake of removing a few points of threat from the staging area, I would advise you to not be gun-shy. The end of the refresh stage sees you gain an additional point of threat for every unengaged enemy, and that sort of penalty can catch up with you fast, especially in decks that start at a higher number than most.

Break Locations Before They Break You

 I typically run a Warden of Arnor + Asfaloth + Northern Tracker combo that generates an adequate number of progress tokens on locations in the staging area. When it either comes time to quest push the locations or otherwise remove them from play, we usually don’t need as many points.  Also, Legolas killing things that he engages is helpful. While most of this is Middle-Earth Survival 101, I think it is important to reiterate that if you don’t have a plan in advance for dealing with locations, they can potentially slow your questing down and cause you to threat out early.

Agency is your Friend, Prepare for the Pace, and Side-quests Suck!

When the game gives you the option to choose an encounter card yourself, or an enemy to engage, or a location to travel to it is important to understand the concept of agency. You are free to choose anything within the limits of the game and there is always a best choice. Seek out the best choice.

If the game lets you pick two different locations to start in the staging area, choose the two that are most favorable to the decks you are running at the time. When we lost the first playthrough it came down to playing the right cards at the wrong times. We were playing selfishly and not playing to beat the scenario. The second time we were able to choose wisely, and kept one step ahead of Angmar the entire time.  It is important to control your pace, know when to push with questing, and when to pull all enemies into active engagement. It is a fine line between success and failure, and it is one you must learn to walk. Also, a note about the side-quests, they can absolutely ruin your day, so play it smart and adapt to the trials they present.


It is an exciting tale about a fallen kingdom, a small remnant of rangers, and an opportunity to face the shadow in the lands to the north. Tweak your decks, be willing to try new things, and plan for the best adventures against the worst enemies as you move out of Isengard and into Eriador for this year’s cycle of adventures. I’ve only just completed the first scenario, the other two adventures might throw me for a loop, but the developers have given us every option to solve this puzzle.

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