by Grant "pfcamygrant" Ellis
We last left off passing through the West-gate of Moria, defeating the Watcher in the Water and entering the fallen kingdom of Khazad-Dum. A horde of orcs and an ancient evil lurked inside, and a fateful decision would need to be reached.
Something Was Rotten in Hobbiton…
This quest took two attempts; after our colossal failure we realized the Hobbit deck my wife had been playing was quite antiquated and under-developed. It was a little too close to the recommended deck Fantasy Flight Published in the back of The Black Riders Saga Expansion, which isn’t a bad deck at all, but assumes a limited card pool. While Meriadoc Brandybuck and Samwise Gamgee had essential items that would make them adequate at attacking and defending respectively, there was virtually no resource smoothing in the deck; something I have written a good deal about. As a tri-sphere deck this would often leave my wife with dead cards in her hand. Also, despite having access to the Lore sphere, the hobbits had failed to bring along any form of healing. The structure of this scenario pours a plethora of direct damage to the players in the form of Archery X damage (X damage assigned to characters at the beginning of each combat phase), so finding a way to mitigate the assigned damage is essential.
We set out to revise the deck. We added a pair of Errand-Riders from the Heirs of Numenor deluxe expansion. These gentlemen could exhaust to move a resource from one hero to another. This made it possible to get the resources needed to play cards that made the deck work more efficiently; we could get the right card out when we needed it. A set of Wardens of Healing (found in the Long Dark adventure pack) were added to act as a constant form of healing as well. We also added a high-risk high-reward Waters of Nimrodel event. The card bears the text Doomed 3. After playing this card every player will raise their threat counter by 3. You’ve seen a good example of a hobbit deck already on this site as well as in Ian Martin’s Tales from the Cards campaign playthrough. Where this deck sees some variation from those decks is this is a campaign that includes more than two players. Without the purchase of duplicate deluxe expansions and adventure packs, we don’t have access to more than three copies of many cards. This is where studying the card pool and card comparison articles comes in handy. While a Defender of Rammas might be ideal to stand guard in front of the hobbits, a Winged Guardian from the Hunt for Gollum adventure pack does an adequate job. We adjust for its inclusion by offsetting the cost associated with retaining the Eagle-ally by making sure we have some resource acceleration on Tactics Merry or additional smoothing through cards like our previously mentioned Errand-Rider.
The Day the Wizard Died
Our second playthrough of A Journey in the Dark was actually quite tranquil in a sense. Our full scenario-busting engine came online early, with the Three Hunters mono-tactics deck (Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn) ripping apart Orcs of every variety, the hobbits absorbing the heavy cost of Burdens and providing substantial healing, and the Gandalf, Idraen, and spirit Glorfindel coalition dropping progress tokens onto locations very liberally. One of the challenges with the adventure was timing the crossing of The Great Bridge so that we could make the fateful sacrifice of Gandalf, applying his threat cost as damage to The Balrog and removing its keywords. We had to make sure the Balrog was out and that each deck had adequate material on the board to survive the encounter.
Each deck, by design, had prepared a way to unleash massive damage on the Balrog, who is seriously no joke. The Balrog makes a number of devastating attacks, it is immune to player card effects, and can only be attacked by the First Player. The Balrog was easily trouncing a variety of chump blockers (which we’ve learned are less than useful in later adventures) and is very good at absorbing damage.
Laying the Hurt
These heavy hitters were capable of dishing out massive quantities of damage. Gimli had three points of damage on him, with a +2 Attack Bonus from the Axe and the ability to add an additional +3 Attack bonus from Khazad! Khazad! for a total of 10 attack, good enough for a single point of damage on the Balrog. Legolas, with the Valiant Warrior Boon and the Rivendell Bow, had the option of playing Black Arrow as well for an additional 10 points of damage. The clean-up crew would consist of Aragorn with his sword, and a pair of Knights of Minas Tirith adding another 10 points of damage for a total of 30 potential output. This isn’t enough to kill the Balrog outright, but having a character Fall and do direct damage to him is worthwhile.
Gimli: (2 Base Attack +3 Attack from Damage Tokens +2 Attack from Dwarven Axe +3 Attack from Khazad!Khazad!) = 10 Attack
Legolas: (3 Base Attack +1 from Valiant Warrior +1 from Rivendell Bow +5 from Black Arrow) = 10 Attack
Aragorn:(3 Base Attack + 1 from Anduril) = 4 Attack
2x Knights of Minas Tirith: (3 Base Attack * 2) = 6 Attack
Total: 30 Attack
Gandalf + Glamdring + Flame of Anor / Idraen / Glorfindel
While not the strongest damage combo, available, the grey-clad Istari could muster his base attack of 3 to 5 with his sword, followed by an additional 5 points from Flame of Anor (after scrying Fortune or Fate to the top of the deck) for a total of 10. Idraen and Glorfindel used their action advantage items and abilities to make sure they could quest and ready in the same round, with location clearing readiness and the Light of Valinor making sure these three heroes would be available to drop the hurt when the time came. Given that this deck was planning on doing 14 points of direct damage upon clearing the bridge, the timing would determine whether the deck did 30 full points of damage (if they got an attack in before the sacrifice) or simply use Gandalf’s threat cost.
Gandalf: (3 Base Attack + 2 from Glamdring + 5 from Flame of Anor with Fortune or Fate discarded) = 10 Attack
Glorfindel: 3 Base Attack
Idraen: 3 Base Attack
Total: 16 Attack
The Great Bridge Response. 14 Damage
Small though they may be, the Hobbits are a murderous lot. Merry’s 3 attack from the party of Hobbits is boosted by 4 from his pair of daggers, with an additional 2 points added from his first event card, followed by an additional 3 points from the 0-cost event Unseen strike, for a total of 12 attack. Sam joins in the fun for a modest 3 attack, and Beorn (by way of Sneak Attack) attacks with 8 when he uses his ability.
Merry: (0 Base Attack +3 Hobbit Party Character Bonus +4 from 2x Dagger of Westernesse + 2 from Halfling Determination + 3 Unseen Strike) = 12 Attack
Sam: (1 Base Attack + 1 Character Bonus + 1 from Sting) = 3 Attack
Beorn: (3 Base Attack + 5 Character Bonus) = 8 Attack
Total: 23 Attack
The conclusion of this adventure saw yet another hero fall into shadow, this time it was Gandalf the Grey. He joins Dain Ironfoot, Thalin, and Thorin Oakenshield in the Campaign Log, adding yet another +1 to our starting threat. But this was his purpose; to leave us now so that he might return at the turn of the tide. The moral we learned was to examine the card pool and explore the options available to us, making use of alternative methods to weave a more diverse narrative than simply proxying the cards we preferred. It allowed us to explore additional strategies and implement techniques that we've covered over the past few months on this blog. We earned two additional burdens, Overcome by Grief and Pursued by the Enemy and added those to our Campaign Pool.
Join us in our next installment, Part 3: The Breaking of the Fellowship… The Elrond Strikes Back!
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