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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

LOTR-LCG: Grant's Three Player Campaign - Part 3 - The Breaking of the Fellowship - "Black-feathered Fellowship" - Report

by Grant "pfcamygrant" Ellis

After vanquishing the vile Balrog of Morgoth in the fifth scenario of the Lord of the Rings: Saga Campaign, we moved to the last leg of The Road Darkens Expansion; The Breaking of the Fellowship.

This scenario sees the players continuing their quest after paying the tough price of sending one of theirs Heroes into the pool of Fallen Heroes at the climax of a Journey in the Dark. Our Fellowship lost Gandalf, so we no longer had access to his Hero or Ally card.

Fallen Heroes, particularly those as powerful as Gandalf, need replacing. We as a group, when replacing fallen heroes, like the idea of bringing the Hero version of Ally cards we've included into our decks into the game when the time comes.

We had some options to replace our Fallen Hero, while keeping with the trend of promoting Allies to Hero status. Galadriel was a lucrative choice, and would be a good fit for the Location Breaking style of the Glorfindel-Idraen Coalition. However, that deck felt a little exposed in regards to Defense, and I recommended a different course of action.

Haldir would have been a unique choice, with his attack potential and ranged keywords helping the group as a whole.

Boromir was another option, as his action advantage is phenomenal and the damage output between him and Glorfindel has high potential. Or the alternative would be to include his Leadership version, reworking the deck to apply buffs to Gondorian characters.

In this situation, however, we chose Elrond to return to the deck he started in (as Gandalf replaced him in the Ring Travels South.)

Elrond brought a boost to the healing effects of the Hobbit decks card pool, which is essential due to the amount of Archery damage that will be doled out during the Combat Phase of this scenario. He also brought with him the utility of resource smoothing and ally mustering capabilities through the use of his ring of power, Vilya.

The threat penalty of Gandalf’s death keeps that deck relatively in line with its previous Starting Threat. The drawback, however, was the loss of Ally Elrond's ability to remove a condition attachment when he appeared. Condition removal in this particular scenario is somewhat essential, as the power of the One Ring  has the potential to corrupt and destroy the fabric that holds our Fellowship together.

Thematically, the Breaking of the Fellowship takes place after our heroes have visited Lothlorien, where the lady Galadriel bestowed gifts upon them. In addition to the Boons we could select, we felt it appropriate to add the three Elves spoken of in the literature (Haldir, Rumil, and Orophin) to Elrond’s deck, envisioning that these Elves would tarry with them for a time, helping escort the Ring-bearer as far as they were permitted.

We also felt it prudent to add Galadriel’s Handmaiden and a Galadhon Archer. Thanks to his innate ability to pay for allies of any sphere, Elrond took his deck in a more swarm of allies approach approach as opposed to the method of using Gandalf with his many attachments.

The quest itself sees the introduction of the Uruk-Hai as enemies. According to the lore, Uruk-Hai were created by Sauron late in the Third-Age as an elite fighting force worthy of Mordor, and were improved upon by Saruman. They were larger than other orcs, faster, unweakened by sunlight, and were in constant physical pain with violence as their only form of relief.

In the context of the card game, Uruk-Hai possess the Toughness keyword, which reduces any damage that is to be placed on them, and the example in the rules make it quite clear that direct damage (such as the kind Ally Gandalf might allocate) is going to be reduced by a set number that follows their Toughness keyword. You need to start getting heroic and hitting the enemies harder than you used to, as they are more difficult to soften up than in previous quests.

Like some previously released adventure packs, the scenario splits up the party into separate staging areas after a certain point, with four unique Stage 3B’s to choose from. The unique characteristic of this particular adventure is found in the effects that follow the act of successfully questing in these staging areas, as they provide the following benefits after successfully questing:
Players progress through the various Stage 3B’s at a different pace due to the eventual reveal of Frodo’s Choice, where we see the dramatic conclusion of the expansion.

In our particular play through, we were lacking the Condition-removal required to save our corrupted hero (in this case Pippin, who seems to always be stuck with every burden). Pippin was easily blocked and held at bay, but there was the temptation for the players to outright slay him.

Eventually, we cleared the Seat of Seeing which allowed us to remove the Burden and continue our steady progression to beat the game (had we quested just a little harder, we would have in fact left Pippin to fall into shadow.) The quest's resolution sees each player surrender a hero to Captive status, to emulate their capture by the Orcs. In our play through, Idraen, Gimli, and Pippin each would be captured.

The Road Darkens was an exciting campaign, and we saw each of our original decks undergo various transformations, with heroes swapping spheres of influence, turning then reverting from ally status, falling into shadow, and coming back from the brink of corruption. The story is now heading into a different direction, one that will see the departure of Frodo for the next quests and the requisite of deck reconfiguration as Aragorn will join the Fellowship-Sphere and be controlled by the First Player. One will need to step up and stand with the mono-tactics Three Hunters deck, and a certain Captain of Gondor who was not felled by Black Feathered Arrows may just lead the charge.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of our Three Player Campaign, in which we seek out our captive heroes in a dramatic chase against the high-powered Uruk-Hai.

Game on.

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