Monday, December 28, 2015

Oops! Let's have a contest

 A month ago, I purchased the nightmare decks for Black Riders.  I finally got around to putting them away, only to find out that I already had it.  Oops.

So what to do?  Let's have a little contest.  Here's how you can join in:

That's four chances to win, regardless if you're a new reader or brand new.  If this winner lives in the United States, shipping will be covered.  If the winner is international, we can still work something out, but I will probably need help with shipping costs.  Good luck!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Impressions - The Battle of Carn Dûm Player Cards

I feel like I've blinked and the Angmar Awakened cycle is almost complete.  The second to last adventure pack has come out and we are seeing the promises made in the preview articles really flesh out.
We've seen him as an objective ally in three of the quests of this cycle, and now Amarthiúl is getting the hero treatment.  Sporting the same stats as his objective version, we see him as a Leadership hero, but with a very strong Tactics feel.  This becomes even clearer in his abilities.  As with other Dúnedain, he benefits from engaging enemies.  In this case, he gains the Tactics sphere when engaged with one enemy, and gains extra resources.  Armarthiúl combines Song of Battle and Resourceful into his hero ability.  Leadership is rich, forgive the pun, with resource acceleration, and being able to smooth resources between both Leadership and Tactics is beneficial.  Unfortunately, there aren't any Dúnedain cards in the Tactics sphere which truly need the resources.  Dúnedain Hunter is a zero cost card which, while you need the resource match, you don't need any of the additional resources.  Gondorian Fire, on the other hand, benefits strongly from Armarthiúl being able to gain extra resources.  If you access to Spirit, then Blood of Numenor is another benefit to Armarthiúl's resources.  Many times, I find putting these attachments on Boromir, since he can use his readying effect to take advantage of the combat boosts multiple times, but with readying effects such as Athelas or Unexpected Courage you can get similar utility.
Beechbone joins the Ent army as another Tactics ally.  His ability allows you to declare him as a defender, and immediately take damage to then deal damage to the attacking enemy.  Just like core set classic, Gondorian Spearman, direct damage becomes more and more important as we see the game evolve.  To counter the larger player card pool, we have seen nastier enemies come out with higher hit points, and higher defense.  Being able to throw some direct damage on enemies, especially if Beechbone is going to die from the attack, is an excellent form of action advantage.  If he survives, Boomed and Trumpeted gives him the chance to ready and attack strongly.  Damage effects boost Booming Ent's attack, and at the end of the round, Wellinghall Preserver can heal him up.
Guardian of Arnor is yet another card to add to the strong Dúnedain archetype.  In this case, this sentinel defender gains additional defense for every enemy engaged with the player.  A solid ally for sure, especially at three cost.  My immediate comparison is to Warden of Annuminas, which gives additional willpower for every enemy engaged, but at a cheaper cost.  With the higher cost, you do get slightly better stats, but considering that the Guardian is in Leadership vs Warden's Spirit sphere, the cost difference is even rougher.  If you're using Dúnedain with access to Leadership, this is definitely an inclusion.  Be careful, however, when using his sentinel ability, since the defense boost only works based on how many enemies you have engaged.
In the books, Lindir role is as the smug Elf Lord who listened to Bilbo's poetry.  That smugness is definitely clear in the art for this card.  For three cost, you get an ally with decent stats, as well as the possibility to draw cards, up to a hand size of three.  This plays right into the Noldor trait that has been in development this cycle.  Obviously, if you're using Erestor, card draw is not typically an issue.  With other builds, however, especially in Lindir's Spirit sphere, some form of card draw is needed.  This could be a more reliable form of Ancient Mathom, with card draw in the planning phase rather than questing.  Paired with Leadership, I could see Lindir as a good candidate for Sneak Attack, with him popping in for cheap, drawing some cards, and then returning to hand.  Alternatively, he could be a target for Children of the Sea, where he quests for four, then gets shuffled back into the deck, to be used later.
Favor of the Valar is the first attachment to attach to a player's threat dial.  Tying right into the valour trait, this card, in a fairly clumsily written fashion, triggers when a player would otherwise be eliminated by threat.  Instead, the player's threat is dropped by five, and player sticks around.  When running valour, it behooves you to stay at 40 threat for as much of the game as possible.  Typically, threat management has been seen in Spirit, but this is not what you would expect to see in a valour deck.  Tactics did get some threat management with Secret Vigil, but it is not as reliable as other forms of threat reduction.  This allows you to get some threat reduction, but only at the last moment.  It could be very difficult if RNG keeps you from drawing this card, but such is the ever present concern in this game of ours.  In addition to valour, playing doomed cards introduced in the previous cycle could also take advantage of this card.
The Long Defeat thematically captures the feeling of the Elves, as they slowly are losing the battle against darkness over their immortal lives.  As we saw the first time an attachment attached to a threat dial, this is the first time we see a player attachment that attaches to the quest.  For one lore resource, after the attached quest is defeated, each player gets to either heal 5 damage among the characters he controls, or draw two cards.  Obviously, card draw is great, but with Elrond, the healing could be bonkers.  Elrond's text reads that whenever a character is healed by card effects, heal one additional hit point.  Based on card text, as written, if you heal one hit point, Elrond heals another.  Therefore, if you heal five separate characters, this could heal a total of 10 hit points!  Spread across four players, and this could be incredible value for the cost.  In most cases, this card would be wasted on the final quest card, but in a quest like A Journey to Rhosgobel, attaching this card to quest 2B could give you the boost to make sure Wilyador is fully healed.
Typically, cards that interact with quest are meant to improve your willpower, Doom Hangs Still is there to protect you in case you quest unsuccessfully.  Similar to Ever Onward, this card protects players from raising your threat after questing unsuccessfully.  A reactionary card, to be sure, I prefer to be more proactive.  I have never included Ever Onward in a deck, as I rather be in control at the start than wait for something bad to happen.  Furthermore, this card is played as a Planning Action, so it can't even be used in response to questing successfully.  It could be argued that these cards could be used to save characters for combat, but since staging still occurs, you will still have to deal with any when revealed effects on cards.  This is where Doom Hangs Still's valour action comes into the play.  For effectively Doomed 2, you skip the quest phase entirely.  This is the best part of the card, as it allows you to not worry about questing, but at a significant cost.  This seems like a last ditch effort in most quests, where you already have quested sufficiently, but you still need to finish some other condition, such as defeating a boss enemy.  That said, it still seems like a last ditch effort, where the game is on the line and that doesn't feel like the way I want to play, except in very specific scenarios, such as Helm's Deep.
Hold Your Ground! adds a new dynamic to sentinel characters.  Previous to this card, sentinel had no utility outside of multiplayer and The Day's Rising.  While a small step, this card begins to give value to the trait in a single player game.  For one resource, a sentinel character can ready, or in the case of valour mode, all sentinel characters can ready.  This one is fairly cut and dry, but being able to ready a bunch of characters, or even just one, can be clutch when fighting some rough enemies.  In a recent game with COTR, I played a deck with a heavy sentinel focus.  Had this card been in the deck, the utility of the deck would be even great, including utility that could of been had from other players' sentinel characters.
Over the course of the cycle, we have seen many ways to put cards into our discard pile in exchange for various abilities.  Lord of the Eldar takes full advantage of this.  Only playable from the discard pile, this relatively expensive spirit event boosts the stats of all Noldor on the board, for the entire round.  When paired with a Noldor-focused deck, or Noldors across multiple decks, this card could give so much utility.  Any Noldor, equipped with Light of Valinor will see a nice boost to two different actions that round, and Galadriel acts like a double boost as see gets the boost to her willpower which she can give to a fellow Noldor that had already been boosted.  Throw in Arwen, and she'll be questing for three, and giving someone else yet another defense boost.
Quick Ears gives Dúnedain and Rangers access to encounter cancellation similar to Eleanor.  Exhaust a character from one of these archetypes, and shuffle the card back in, revealing a new card.  As the deck gets smaller, the chance of getting the same character gets greater, but it does give a chance to remove a card which would really be deadly.  Since it's a response that occurs when the card is revealed, surge and doomed keywords are also cancelled.  It's an OK card.  I see the utility, but its effect isn't that exciting, especially when you consider you could get the same card back, possibly.  If you have cheap rangers, such as Ithilien Tracker or Mablung, and it could be decent.
Final Thoughts
This impressions took a bit of time to write.  I don't know if it's as we get later in the year, and  we get busier, or if it is an expression of my excitement for the adventure pack.  There are good cards in this pack, but definitely a lot of cards which didn't excite me.  I'm thankful to have it, though I found some cards boring or outside of playstyle, we continue to see development in Dúnedain and Noldor which are very fun ways to play the game.  No side quest included in the pack makes me wonder if we've seen the last of player side quests, which I hope is not the case.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Deck List - Dúnedain, with a side of Shenanigans

We will soon have The Battle of Carn Dûm, and I have begun looking at the player cards, in preparation for my upcoming Impressions article. Seeing that Amarthiúl has been promoted from Objective Ally to full-blown hero, it made me interested to flesh out the Dúnedain trait in a full deck. I wanted to put three Dúnedain heroes for this, and I was pleasantly surprised when I started listing out how many we have at this point. I knew Aragorn would be in there, but which one is the question. I thought Tactics would be the obvious choice, since I love his abilities. As I thought about it, I decided to go with Leadership, which led me to also include Halbarad, for mono-Leadership. That then led me to include some of Aragorn's attachments to give him multiple spheres, which then led me to include Dúnedain allies of all spheres, and Lord of Morthond. To get LoM on the board, I also included Steward of Gondor. 

At this point, I haven't playtested, but my idea is to put Steward of Gondor and Lord of Morthond on Aragorn, along with his artifact attachments. Obviously, the Dúnedain benefit from being engaged with enemies, so Dúnedain Hunter and Son of Arnor are included to get set up. There's definitely some shenanigans involved in getting the deck set up, but I'll be interested to see how it works.

Hero: (3)
Amarthiúl (The Battle of Carn Dûm) Aragorn (Core Set) Halbarad (The Lost Realm) Ally: (24) 3x Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm) 3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador) 3x East Road Ranger (The Wastes of Eriador) 3x Greyflood Wanderer (The Three Trials) 3x Guardian of Arnor (The Battle of Carn Dûm) 3x Sarn Ford Sentry (The Lost Realm) 3x Warden of Annuminas (The Lost Realm) 3x Son of Arnor (Core Set) Attachment: (24) 2x Celebrian's Stone (Core Set) 2x Sword that was Broken (The Watcher in the Water) 2x Ring of Barahir (The Steward's Fear) 2x Lord of Morthond (Encounter at Amon Dîn) 2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set) 2x Blood of Numenor (Heirs of Numenor) 3x Dunedain Mark (The Hunt for Gollum) 3x Dunedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock) 2x Gondorian Fire (Assault on Osgiliath) 2x Heir of Valandil (The Lost Realm) 2x Star Brooch (The Lost Realm) Event: (2) 2x Descendants of Kings (Escape from Mount Gram)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Nightmare Run Episode 11 - A Journey to Rhosgobel (2p, Take 3)

Once more, we try to save this damn eagle.  I accidentally shut off the recording early into the game, so enjoy this two-parter!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Deck List - Galadriel's Seeing Stone

Life has been fairly busy, but my sight is fixed upon recording new videos.  The next Nightmare Run video will be A Journey to Rhosgobel.  The deck I'm looking at is designed to be the questing side, while my partner is more focused on combat and healing.  To this end, I have put together a deck that will hopefully give us a good idea of what to expect, particularly in regard to finding the precious athelas.  The basic strategy is to get Palantir onto Galadriel as soon as possible, probably taking a mulligan for this over any other card.  After getting it on her, Merry, the handmaiden, and Elrond's Council are there to negate the threat gain from using in.  Wingfoot is used, with the use of the Palantir or Rumour from the Earth, to keep Haldir ready after questing, available to attack.  I also include Light of Valinor in the deck, but this is simply to attach to my partner's side, who will be running Elrond.  If I was playing solo, I would simply replace it with extra copies of other attachments already in the deck.

Galadriel's Seeing Stone

Hero: (3)
Haldir of Lórien (Trouble in Tharbad)
Galadriel (Celebrimbor's Secret)
Merry (The Wastes of Eriador)

Ally: (12)
2x Arwen Undomiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward's Fear)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor's Secret)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment: (20)
1x Mirror of Galadriel (Celebrimbor's Secret)
2x Nenya (Celebrimbor's Secret)
3x Palantir (Assault on Osgiliath)
2x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x Warden of Anor (The Three Trials)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Wingfoot (The Nin-in-Eilph)
1x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)

Event: (18)
3x Rumour from the Earth (Return to Mirkwood)
3x Shadow of the Past (Return to Mirkwood)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron's Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Elrond's Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Impressions - The Treachery of Rhudaur Player Cards

The Treachery of Rhudaur has been released, and with that, a new set of player cards.  Now that we are past the halfway mark of the Angmar Awakened cycle, we are starting to see FFG make good on the promises of new Noldor synergy,
Erestor's debut as a hero comes with standard lore flavor, but with a twist.  As is no surprise, card draw is the main bullet point in his skill set.  Similar to Bilbo, Erestor gives additional card draw, but this time, it is only for his controller and it's three extra cards!  The draw back, however, is that all cards have to be discarded at the end of the round.  To put that into perspective, that's 10 cards, one fifth of a standard deck, in your opening hand, and four cards every round there after.  Obviously, quests such as Deadman's Dike, where you're punished for running through your deck, will not see much Erestor action.  In solo games, Erestor could be included, replacing all other forms of card draw.  That's pretty huge, as it could free up a significant amount of space in a deck.  In multiplayer, I could see including Beravor, as a support hero, to give other players card draw.  Erestor's extra card draw really shines with abilities which require card discard.  Old staples such as Eowyn or Protector of Lorien going to see a lot of use, as the discard requirement is less rough when the card are going away anyway.  All the benefits I see, however, are weighed against the potential downfalls.  Certain cards, such as A Test of Will or Feint, are typically held in hand until they're needed.  With Erestor, you have to think differently.  The player board is where you have to put your reliance in, not your hand.  Cards such as Scroll of Isildur will be very useful in recycling cards.  Another auto-include might seem to be Will of the West, but this is one you definitely will want to mulligan out of your starting hand.
Silvan is one of my favorite archetypes, and Galadhrim Weaver continues the trait.  For one cost, which is not reducible by O Lórien, it only provides one will power.  However, its enters play ability allows you to shuffle the top card of your discard back into your deck.  One of the keys to the Silvan trait is being able to return cards to hand, which are typically done through a number of event cards.  By playing the Weaver, you can return these valuable cards back into the deck to be used again.  Obviously, there are opportunities to use this card in any deck where you want to continuously recycle cards.
Galdor of the Havens is an appropriate pairing with hero Erestor.  As soon as you discard a card, draw a card.  Since it allows you to essentially replace the card you discard, it seems like an easy decision.  I especially like him with Galadriel and her mirror.  I don't typically like to run the mirror, since I don't like the chance of losing the card I just pulled, but with this ally, you can replace whatever card you lose.
Elven Spear gives Silvan and Noldor a new weapon to run.  For the cost of three cards, the hero wielding the spear can boost his attack by three.  Since this is done in three separate occasions, Galdor would be triggered each time.
Silver Harp also helps the Noldor trait's new discard ability.  After discarding a card, exhaust the Silver Harp to return it to the hand.  This seems like a great card in general.  Obviously, it requires Spirit, both to pay for, and to attach to.  Oddly, it is a restricted attachment, which isn't usually an issue for Spirit heroes, with the exception of, perhaps, Glorfindel.
Elf-friend is a card I never expected to see.  By attaching this card to a character, they become both Silvan and Noldor.  This falls into the situational section of cards.  I like strong combos that don't rely on drawing the right cards at the right time.  In the case of this card, you have to pull it in, and then draw whatever card.  This could cause some cool combos, such as equipping Tactics Aragorn with Rivendell Blade to reduce enemies' defense by three, but I would probably include it in a deck that has a target that wouldn't require Elf-friend as well, such as Legolas.
Horn's Cry adds to the Valour trait in a way I can get behind.  One less attack for each enemy until the end of the phase, or minus three attack for a single player's enemies.  Beorn is a strong defender, but his one defense can sometimes be a burden, with no way of directly boosting it.  By using this card, along with the bear's unexhausting sentinel defense, he can take a lot more slings and arrows.  Similarly, Boromir could also benefit from being able to lessen the attack of his enemies, and with his readying action, his player will probably be consistently using this card's Valour ability.
Reinforcements is a card I hadn't made up my mind about when I started analyzing it, but by the end, started to really like it.  For three leadership resources, coming from three different heroes, the group can put two allies into play from their hand, but only for that phase.  This is essentially a different version of Sneak Attack, but something that the whole group can utilize, rather than just the player playing the event.  The old combo was to use Sneak Attack plus Gandalf, but it required that both cards be in one player's hand to pull off.  Not only that, but you had to have access to Leadership.  Though more expensive, and requiring either mono-Leadership, or the inclusion of songs, this event allows any player in the game to utilize this same combo.  Not only that, but the allies may enter play under anyone's control.  Perhaps one player has Gandalf in hand and needs some card draw, while another player needs a defender for the round.  Simply play this card and both players get what they need.  Taking the example further, perhaps that same player needs some help killing the engaged enemy, you still have another ally that can be put into play.  Just like Sneak Attack, the allies return to their owners' hands at the end of the phase, which will trigger Horn of Gondor, leaving only a net usage of one resource and one card.  As mentioned above, I wasn't sure how I felt about this card initially.  Obviously, this won't see as much action in solo, and the three resources from three different resource pools can be rough.  In both cases, the downsides aren't that bad.  Even in solo play, getting two allies out could still be very strong, and mono-Leadership is one of the strongest mono-spheres in the game.  I'm very excited to play around with this card.
The Door is Closed is a very interesting play on A Test of Will.  For one Lore resource, you may discard any revealed encounter card.  The stipulation is, however, that a card with the same title has to be in the victory display.  Immediately, I think of this in a Rossiel deck.  Whether the card already has victory points on it already, or you use cards such as Out of the Wild to put them in there, this card takes a little bit to setup.  It seems like it could be OK, but at the same time, just like Rossiel, could whiff.
Side Quest
Send for Aid finishes the set of side quests for each sphere.  When this is played, each player gets to search the top 10 cards for an ally and put it into play under their control.  This ability is similar to other events such as The Eagles are Coming!, Mustering the Rohirrim, or Entmoot, where you get to search your deck for a certain trait, but in this case, you get to put them into play, albeit only one.  I could see this working well in a Rohan deck.  Mustering the Rohirrim is similar, but for only one player and they still have to pay to put it into play.  When playing multiplayer, this also benefits all players around.  You could also use hero Gandalf and Wizard Pipe to toss the ally you want on top of your deck to ensure you get a strong play out of playing this side quest.  Strangely, this is the only side quest, thus far, that costs a resource, but Leadership is typically not stretched for resources.  That said, more than likely you will get more than one resource's worth of allies out of this card, which makes it more than worth it.
Final Thoughts
With the release of this adventure pack, I finally feel that the promise of the new Noldor trait has been fleshed out. With Erestor's extra card draw, and the new benefits from discarding, I'm very excited to fully explore our new cards.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Impressions - Across the Ettenmoors Player Cards

Across the Ettenmoors has been released to the public, and with it, we see a resurgence in some of the most classic archetypes of the game, as well as newer ones.
Dori finally gets a proper hero.  Like his ally version, he is focused on protecting his companions.  In this case, he is a little less self-sacrificial.  Adding his defense to the defense of another hero, essentially makes him a Gondorian Shield that gains resources.  Unlike the shield, his ability is a one shot.  The boost only lasts for the one attack, and even if the defending hero can ready for another defense, such as Boromir or Beorn, Dori is spent.  Dori's ability is not limited, so if he could be readied, he could use it again.  At that point, you either need to ready multiple heroes, or have multiple heroes to defend, which at that point you're probably limited in your attack, and on the downfall.  The bigger issue is that you cannot use his ability reactively, and have to use his ability after declaring defenders, before resolving any shadow effects.  This could mean that Dori's ability isn't needed, and thus his 2 attack (more likely 3 with Dain) is wasted.
More than likely, I see Dori finding a home in Dwarf decks, and less so in other decks.  His ability definitely mitigates the weakness that Dwarves typically have.  In addition, this is the third Tactics Dwarf hero, which means that you can make a mono-sphere dwarf deck for every sphere now.
Longbeard Sentry mitigates the Dwarves' defensive issues, just the same as Dori.  At the cost of two cards from the top of your deck, this Dwarf gets additional defense and sentinel.  This is a solid card, regardless of deck type.  Obviously, in a Dwarf deck, especially paired with Dain, he's going to have better stats.  If you include Imladris Stargazer to be able to have control over the top of your deck, then you're also be able to use his ability, while milling your deck for the cards you need.  Hidden Cache also is a good one to throw in to gain a bit more resource generation with the ability.
Wellinghall Preserver was spoiled a while back in Spanish, here we see it in English.  Though the name isn't quite the same as the translation, the ability translated exactly.  After this character readies, you can heal 1 damage from an Ent. Though this could weaken your Booming Ents, this will allow abilities that trigger off of damage, such as Derndingle Warrior, to trigger multiple times.  As well, Boomed and Trumpeted gains value by taking damage, readying, attacking, and then getting a heal.  In addition, running hero Treebeard also means needing healing to utilize his willpower/attack boosts.  Unlike a similar card, Silvan Tracker, the healing is triggered off of the Preserver's readying, rather than the healed character, so your healing is limited by comparison.  That said, if you get three of these allies out, your healing capability will be in good shape.
Ranger Provisions comes in as the leadership version of Ancient Mathom.  Instead of drawing cards, you add a resource to each hero for the first player.  Looking at other event cards that give resources, such as Legacy of Númenor or Gaining Strength, this card costs one resource, which is different.  Based on this, I think this card is designed for multiplayer.  Leadership has plenty of opportunities to gain resources, and I think the best use of this card is to smooth resources across players.
Steed of Imladris adds another mount attachment that gives Spirit additional location control.  Attaching to either a Spirit or Noldor hero, this mount allows you to commit to the quest, and then discard a card to place two progress on the active location.  A good effect, but I see some issues.  For example, Spirit doesn't have great card draw, except for Ancient Mathom.  Obviously, if you want to use the effect, you need cards that you can sacrifice.  Additionally, since the effect is limited to the active location, it essentially plays like a Lorien Guide, cheaper but with an ongoing cost.  If you pair this card with some Lore, I think you could make it work, especially as new Noldor effects come in to synergize with the discard pile.
Fair and Perilous looks vicious, in both art and card effect.  Similar to Herugrim, this event allows a Silvan or Noldor character to boost their attack by their willpower.  The first target I can think of is Glorfindel.  Combined with Light of Valinor, he gets to quest, and still be up for attacking.  In addition, boost his willpower with Favor of the Lady, and his questing and attack is better.
Dúnedain Message is pretty straight forward.  Search your deck for a side quest, draw it, and shuffle your deck.  That's it.  You need Gather Information?  Grab it.  The one weird thing about this card is that it's Leadership, and to this point, there isn't a Leadership side quest released.  Otherwise, it's a fine card.  It's also a signal card, which means Weather Hills Watchman can pull it, which can in turn pull whatever side quest you want.
None Return is great paired with the last expansion's hero, Rossiel.  This is a mirror of the card, Leave No Trace, except instead of putting a location into the victory display, you can put enemies in.  I think I like this better than Leave No Trace, because having Rossiel's defense boosted is great, especially when you're likely to have a bunch of the same type of enemy in a quest.
Hope Rekindled will get better.  At this point, there's only one event that can be used with this card, Rallying Cry.  It's nice to reduce the cost, but if FFG doesn't continue to put out Valour cards, it will go into obscurity.  As it stands, it is basically a version of Good Meal, but more limited.
Side Quest
Delay the Enemy gives Tactics their own side quest.  In this case, it includes the Battle keyword.  Upon clearing the side quest, each player gets to discard a non-unique enemy engaged with them.  I think this is definitely a side quest made for multiplayer.  As a Tactics player, I don't seem them being as concerned about the engaged enemies.  
Final Thoughts
It's interesting to see a return to the Dwarf archetype, as well as other newer archetypes continuing to see new cards.  The big thing that I noticed in this pack is the cards which have potential, but obviously there are key components waiting to be released.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ruins of Belegost [2p]

Derek and I take on the latest Gen Con quest.  We did make a major error.  We forgot to add resources to "Stalking the Ruins," which would of had the dragon come into play sooner, causing us to lose sooner.  Regardless, it was fun and I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Grey Havens

Two adventure packs into the current cycle, and FFG has announced the next deluxe expansion, The Grey Havens, as well as the next cycle, the Dream-chaser cycle.  Having completed our journeys in Angmar, the players are now going to be taken to the ruins of Númenor.  

As would be appropriate for the namesake of this expansion, sailing has been introduced as a new mechanism,  Two ships are spoiled in this article, Dawn Star, and Silver Wing.  It is stated that each player will select a ship for their heroes, or two in a solo game.  Not much has been said about how this will interact, but it appears to be similar to another hero, affecting your starting threat, but also requiring to keep the ship from being destroyed, otherwise you'll be eliminated.

In addition, the promise of additional Noldor synergy has been mentioned to build on what is being introduced in the Angmar Awakened cycle.  We see this in Cirdan the Shipwright, one of the two new heroes for the expansion.  This new hero, boasting strong stats, also gives the ability to draw additional cards during the resource phase, at the cost of having to discard one.  Though we haven't fully seen the Noldor's synergy with the discard pile, we are promised that cards will be introduced to increase in power based on other copies being in the discard, and others which will be effected by the top card of your discard pile. 

The Grey Havens will be released in Q4 of 2015.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Impressions - The Land of Shadows Player Cards

According to the FFG website, The Land of Shadow is still at the printer.  For those lucky enough to be at Gen Con, they were treated to the opportunity to purchase it early.  As we explore the second half of The Two Towers, the player cards that accompany it do not disappoint.
Faramir gets his second hero card, fourth card overall.  With stats matching his lore version, his leadership version matches sphere with his original ally version.  In this case, instead of being boosted by enemies in the staging area, Faramir is able to ready allies in response to engaging enemies.  Just like hero Mablung, his ability is limited to once per phase, which keeps a player from getting all their allies back up in one go.  The options to ready allies is fairly limited, such as Ever Vigilant, or Strength of Arms.  Even though he's a Gondorian Ranger, his ability ties into Dúnedain's engagement tricks. One of my favorite recent heroes has been tactics Aragorn, and his engagement ability falls right in with Faramir.  Engage an enemy during engagement, ready an ally, kill that enemy with Aragorn, engage a new enemy, ready that same ally or another.  This also could give opportunity to get utility in the same turn you play an Ent.
Damrod is the other hero included in the saga expansion, and as I had mentioned in the preview article, I have never played with the ally version.  Gone is the expensive, situational ability of his ally version, and replaced with a trap-focused ability.  When Anborn was released in The Blood of Gondor, I began looking at a deck which was focused around traps.  With Damrod, this idea has really taken shape.  The cost reduction is limited to the first trap played per turn, but due to the nature of trap cards, any more than one per turn would more than likely be a waste.  In addition, once the trap gets attached, you get to draw a card, which is always welcome.
Anborn provides a new version of the ally which is not tied to traps.  This version works similar to an ally version of Thalin.  Where as Thalin puts damage on all enemies as they are revealed during questing, Anborn allows you to place damage on an enemy any time an enemy is added to staging area.  He also increases their engagement cost by 5 for the round, which combos with cards that improve when the enemy has a higher engagement than your threat, such as Boromir and Farmer Maggot.  The downside of his ability is that Anborn has to exhaust to use said ability, which lets his three damage go to waste, without some readying effect such as the new Faramir hero.
Gamling really brings the Rohan trait to a new level.  One of the weaknesses of Rohan has been the limited use of their allies.  Their most valuable abilities were tied to discarding allies.  Gamling takes this weakness and mitigates it by allowing you to take one card back to hand.  If you can ready Gamling, then he can continue to do this.  Some of these cards are unfortunately costly, so pairing this with Theoden helps significantly to pay to play cards back out.  There are other allies in the Rohan trait that are cheap, such as Snowbourn Scout or Westfold Horse-breeder, that have great abilities when they come into play.  With Gamling, the cards could be played, chump-blocked or otherwise discarded, and then returned to hand to be played again later and gain the ability once more.  Just like Anborn before, he has to be ready to use his ability, but in this case, I think his stats are not as much of a waste as the Gondorian Ranger.
The final ally from the realm of Man is Mablung.  Just like his hero version, the ally version interacts with engaging enemies.  Like the new Anborn, he increases the engagement cost of an enemy already in play, plus it allows you to either engage the enemy, or return it to the staging area.  I really like the utility in this ability, as his ability can be used at different times.  Looking at my Aragorn and Hobbits deck, this would interact very well.  By increasing the engagement cost, it increases the chance of Pippin triggering.  Furthermore, it could hold enemies back for another round while setting up.
Moving away from Man, we see a new Ent in the form of Skinbark.  The first Ent to be at three cost, his stats are good, but I wouldn't say great.  His ability, however, boosts his utility significantly.  Whenever attacking an Orc enemy alone, he ignores the enemy's defense.  Similar to our namesake, the Mirkwood Runner, however specific to Orc enemies.  Luckily, a vast majority of enemies in the game have been Orcs, and even in the case of non-Orcs, his four attack is still pretty significant.
Ambush is the new trap for the expansion, and, as I had mentioned in my preview article, it seems ok, but unreliable.  I had previously compared it to the Quick Strike, but more expensive and more restrictive.  Obviously, if you don't have access to Tactics, then Ambush could be a replacement, but to get its full utility you need to employee encounter deck scrying.
Snowmane continues to add to Theoden's list of attachments.  There had been various speculations to what a Snowmane card would look like, mostly humorous ones where the horse crushes Theoden.  Like Herugrim,  Snowmane can be attached to any Rohan hero, but gains additional benefit from being attached to Theoden.  After questing successfully, Snowmane allows the hero attached to ready.  Similar to Steed of the Mark, this allows for readying questing heroes, but doesn't require additional resource investment.  Even though it's out of sphere, I think Snowmane is best with tactics Theoden.  Tactics gets an extra willpower over the Spirit version, plus when paired with Herugrim, he gets to attack with six after questing.  The combo can go further with additional readying, so Theoden could quest, defend, and attack, all in one turn.
Staff of Lebethron should pretty much be called Sam's staff.  When defending against an enemy with an higher engagement than your threat, you can exhaust the staff to discard a shadow card.  Combined with Hobbit Cloak and Sam Gamgee's ability, Sam is more than likely defending for four, but also without a shadow card to worry about.    If running a standard Hobbit deck, you want to limit yourself to engaging one enemy per turn, so it's limitation shouldn't be too bad.
In the Shadows adds to the Hobbit deck, similar to Take No Notice.  Once again, looking at my Aragorn and Hobbit deck, In the Shadows allows for combat advantage.  Tactics Aragorn already drops defense by one, playing this event adds an extra defense drop.  The one thing I'm not sure about, however, is the timing of the defense drops.  Is the event affecting your player area, or the enemies engaged with the player when the card is played.  The reason I wonder is, going back to Tactics Aragorn, do new enemies pulled over by his attack get the debuff?
The final player card of the expansion is Taste it Again!  Once again, this plays right into Sam.  Sam has his cloak and staff, and he readies when an enemy engages, removes the shadow card, readies after defending, and then attacks for four, or six with a Dagger of Westernesse.  That sounds like a pretty rad combo.
Final Thoughts
It was very appropriate for the saga expansion which revolved around the section of Lord of the Rings where it's focused on Sam and Frodo's struggles.  The Hobbit archetype has been a great one since it was given a shot in the arm from The Black Riders.  I look forward to see how the Hobbit deck changes.  In addition, we've seen significant additions to the Rohan and Gondor/Ranger archetype that I think will also become staple cards.  A great set of cards and I look forward to digging into the quests.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Impressions - Escape from Mount Gram Player Cards

I am back from Gen Con, and my body is still recovering.  That said, with Escape from Mount Gram released slightly before Gen Con, and The Land of Shadows released at the convention, there is plenty to discuss.
Rossiel is an interesting card.  She has fairly standard stats, with the 1 attack feeling like a bit of a waste for her.  She introduces an interesting mechanic, in being able to interact with the victory display.  Her stats get a nice boost when she is questing or defending, based on what has already made it into the victory display.  If she is in a quest which already has a lot of cards which go into the victory display, such as Emyn Muil, then I can imagine her working out easily.  In other quests, however, it will take some work to maximize her utility.  During Gen Con, I played the deck I had posted previously, and it was a little slow to get moving.  As it stands, I think she will be a very situational hero, that may have some cool decks built around her.
Derndingle Warrior adds to the Ent archtype, providing a strong defender to the deck.  Like all other Ents to this point, it has strong stats for a two-cost ally.  In addition, it has the ability to deal itself a damage while defending to gain 3 extra defense for that attack.  I really like damage dealing effects in Ent decks, since it combos well with Booming Ent, to give you a strong attacker.  Unfortunately, it only lasts for the attack, so if you are able to ready the warrior, such as using Treebeard, you have to deal another damage to get the defense boost.  Since Ents, to this point, have been either Lore or Tactics, including healing, such as Warden of Healing allows for multiple rounds of strong defense.
Elven Jeweler adds to the promise of Noldor synergy in this cycle.  For 2 cost, the stats are OK, but there is also the option to drop her out at any time by discarding two cards from hand.  This ability essentially makes her a better version of Emery.  Emery requires that three cards be discarded off the top of the deck, and if any Tactics/Lore/Leadership cards come up, she's discarded.  This either required that you had some deck scrying, or play mono-Spirit to ensure that she doesn't get wasted.  Here, you're able to choose the cards to discard, and you could even run this without any Spirit cards.  The only downside is that it has one less defense than Emery, but it isn't unique, and costs one less.  As we explore the Noldor trait, I think the value of this card will only go up.
Veteran of Osgiliath is this pack's addition to the Valour trait.  Though not specifically calling out Valour, it's power is triggered by having a threat at 40 or higher.  His stats are fairly standard, if not good, for three cost, but if playing with Valour, his stats become really good.  Being Gondor, he can combo well with Boromir or Visionary Leadership.  This guy is good, and just like the Jeweler, will only get better as we get more cards in the cycle.
Boomed and Trumpeted is one of those cards that really solidifies the Ent archtype.  Ents already have a lack of action advantage, considering they all come into play exhausted.  By playing this event, Ents are able to be a little more hasty.  Especially with our new Ent ally, this card allows for you to defend for five, and then get another defense (albeit for less defense) or get a solid attack.  Additionally, in quests with Archery, you could place a damage on an Ent that was exhausted, either from entering play or questing, then have it ready.  Finally, combine this with hero Treebeard and you can boost his attack by 1, or more, use the event to boost him further, then have ready for another attack, still boosted by his ability.
Descendants of Kings is a solid readying effect.  For 1 resource, you can ready as many Dúnedain characters as you have enemies engaged with.  If you are playing Dúnedain, then you're already conscious of keeping enemies engaged, whether it's for Heir of Valandil, or even just Halbarad's ability.  The problem comes when you don't have those enemies engaged with you.  This allows you a chance to setup.  One card I think will get value out of this event is Northern Tracker.  I feel safe in admitting that she is not placed in one's deck for her 1 willpower.  Her location control has kept her around since the days of the core set.  That said, she has great stats that aren't fully utilized.  With this ability, she can still use her location ability, but be available for other uses.
Distant Stars is a form of location control, similar to the ability of West Road Traveller.  Where as the traveller allows you to switch the active location with another location in the staging area, this card lets you search the encounter deck for any location, at the cost of exhausting either a Scout or Ranger character.  There are plenty of characters that have that trait, especially in the Lore sphere.  Since you have to have an active location, you have to travel to this location first.  This could be something that has a mild travel effect or none at all.  Then, the new location could be something that has a nasty travel, which this card allows you to avoid.  It seems like a fairly straight forward card, for zero cost it's definitely something that can fit well in a location control deck.
Keen as Lances is sexy.  Not only in Galadriel's piercing eyes on the artwork, but in its ability.  It is essentially a Gandalf replacement.  Granted, you don't get an ally out of the play, but the card does get cheaper as you play more of this card, or other cards that go into the victory display without victory points, such as using Out of the Wild, or the next card.
Leave No Trace plays right into location control, just like Distant Stars.  In addition, it's allowing you to put two cards into the victory display without any victory points, so it immediately reduces the cost of playing Keen as Lances.  In addition, if there is a location which you don't want to see again, then this would also allow you to get it out of play.  This also plays into Rossiel, letting you put locations into the victory display, which could boost her willpower.
Side Quest
Double Back adds to the library of side quests that players have to include in their deck.  In this case, clearing the location will reduce everyone's threat by 5.  A strong effect, for sure, especially for zero cost.  When looking at this card, I think about the same things I do for any side quest, and there are definitely good and bad times for the side quest.  If you're on a timer, then it could be a hindrance to slow down the tempo of the game.  On the other hand, there have been times where I can't progress, not due to making progress on the quest, but because of another factor, such as killing the Hill Troll in Journey Down the Anduin.  In those cases, side quests are excellent ways to take advantage of the situation you're currently facing, and gain some benefit.
Final Thoughts
We see some themes repeat from previous packs.  More side quests, more Dúnedain, and a lot of location control.  In practice, some of these cards take some setup, so don't expect a deck that comes out swinging, but there is plenty of interesting combos that can occur.  I continue to be intrigued by the Ent trait, and we're getting to the point, where it isn't feasible to put every Ent card into your deck.  This will lead to more variety in the archetype, which I welcome.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

One More Deck for Gen Con!

I will be flying to Indianapolis tomorrow, and the only thing I have packed thus far are my LOTR decks.  On top of that, we just got the spoilers for Escape from Mount Gram!  Looking through them, my head nearly exploded from some of the crazy combos that have opened up from these cards.  Because of this, I had to make another deck.  I originally thought this was going to be an Ent/Eagle deck, but there was so much cool stuff with the manipulating the victory display, I just leaned into it.  Let me know what you think, and if you see me at Gen Con, come over and say hi!

Hero: (3)
1x Mablung (The Nin-in-Eilph)
1x Rossiel (Escape from Mount Gram)
1x Gríma (The Voice of Isengard)

Ally: (23)
3x Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Wandering Ent (Celebrimbor's Secret)
3x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Booming Ent (The Antlered Crown)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
3x Defender of Rammas (Heirs of Numenor)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Numenor)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)

Attachment: (11)
3x Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Keys of Orthanc (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Lembas (Trouble in Tharbad)
2x Horn of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Wingfoot (The Nin-in-Eilph)

Event: (15)
3x Boomed and Trumpeted (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Leave No Trace (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Keen as Lances (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Out of the Wild (Road to Rivendell)
3x Entmoot (The Treason of Saruman)

Side Quest: (1)
1 x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nightmare Run Episode 7 - Conflict at the Carrock (3p)

This time, Derek and Chris are joined by Matthew, also of the Grey Company.  Watch on and see how they fare against some nightmarish trolls.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Trapped in The Land of Shadow

A new preview has been released for the upcoming Saga Expansion, The Land of Shadow.  In the article, two new heroes are spoiled, a new Faramir and Damrod.

Faramir has the ability to ready an ally after engaging an enemy.  Immediately, I think of tactics Aragorn, which I have already shown an affinity for.  After Aragorn kills an enemy and pulls another over, Faramir can ready an ally to help with attacking.  Alternatively, if you have scout or ranger allies in play, engaging an enemy to trigger both Faramir and Expert Trackers allows you to exhaust and immediately ready the same ally.
Ally Damrod was never a card that I found a lot of utility, to the point where I don't think I have included him into any decks.  The new hero version has synergy with trap cards. Previously, there were only four different trap cards available to the card pool, with another one spoiled in this article.  His passive ability to lower the cost of the first trap played gives lore some much needed resource smoothing, and card draw is never a bad thing.  Unfortunately, with the exception of Forest Snare, all traps are added to the staging area unattached, so more than likely you'll be getting your card draw during staging rather than planning.  Damrod's ability also gives OG Anborn some added utility, as you can continue to recycle your traps and card draw.
Two new allies of familiar faces were introduced in this article, both of which deal with increasing engagement cost.  In Mablung's case, he gives you the opportunity to pull an enemy or send it back to the staging area.  For Anborn, his ability allows you to place some direct damage on an enemy, which could be helpful running alongside Thalin.  Recently, I was playing The Ring Goes South, and I would of loved to snipe some Crebain from Dunland as soon as it entered the staging area.  Combined with Faramir, Anborn could still be readied to take advantage of his three attack.  Speaking of attack, pair him up with Boromir and he's attacking for four!  In the case of either ally, their ability to increase engagement cost is very helpful for late game use of either Pippin or Dagger of Westernesse.
The last two cards spoiled in the article are lore cards, continuing the ranger synergy.  In the Shadows is probably one of my favorite cards of the article.  As anyone who has watched my recent YouTube videos, I am a fan of my Aragorn/Pippin/Merry deck, and this card will definitely find a spot in the deck.  The deck attempts to stay low in threat, so that it can take advantage of Pippin and Dagger of Westernesse, and being able get addition utility by reducing enemies' attack and defense by one is clutch.  Combined with Aragorn, all enemies are at two less defense, and Straight Shot gets even better.
Ambush is an interesting attachment.  It basically works like Quick Strike but at one cost more, and less reliably.  Just like other traps, a bit of encounter deck scrying, such as Rumour from the Earth or Palantir, helps to determine if there is a good target for the trap.  Nothing hurts more than trapping a weak target such as Eastern Crows.  I suppose if you don't have access to the tactics sphere, this does give the opportunity to drop an enemy before it has a chance to attack you, so in that case, it also acts a bit like Haldir.
Overall, the cards in this article show a lot of promise and utility across a variety of decks.  The Land of Shadow is still listed as in development, so we more than likely still have a bit of a wait, but I can already tell it will be worth the wait.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Prison Food

Yesterday, FFG dropped a Second Breakfast regarding Escape from Mount Gram.  Instead of summarizing the article, I thought I'd talk about my thoughts on the capture mechanic.  I am excited!  Basically, each player is going to start with one hero, and all other heroes, allies, weapons, etc in a capture deck.  As the quest proceeds, the players will be able to rescue cards from the capture deck. Based on the rules listed on the article, I decided to put together a deck that I think would work well for this quest.

The basic idea of this deck is that Glorfindel would start out on his own, with 40 of the 50 card deck in the capture deck.  The remaining 10 cards (Resourceful, Light of Valinor, Unexpected Courage, A Test of Will, and Elrond's Counsel) would make up the draw deck for the beginning of the adventure.  There's about an 85% chance that Light of Valinor will be in the starting hand, even with just one copy, setting up to have action advantage from turn one.  Boromir should be put on top of the capture deck, with Beorn shuffled in.  After gaining the first capture card, Boromir gets put in play for even more action advantage.

Hero: (3)
1x Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
1x Boromir (The Dead Marshes)
1x Beorn (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Ally: (32)
3x Arwen Undomiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Bofur (The Redhorn Gate)
3x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Defender of Rammas (Heirs of Numenor)
3x Dunedain Hunter (The Lost Realm)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Numenor)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward's Fear)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor's Secret)
3x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
1x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Silvan Refugee (The Drúadan Forest)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)

Attachment: (12)
1x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Arod (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Gondorian Shield (The Steward's Fear)
2x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)

Event: (6)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elrond's Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)

Thoughts?  Escape from Mount Gram is currently shipping to stores right now, so we should have our hands on the AP soon.  Once it drops, I look forward to if this deck works, and what people are using to beat this unique quest.