We’ve Traversed the Land of Shadow

Though I had a friend pick it up for me at Gen Con last year, it’s taken me nearly a year to complete the Saga quests from The Land of Shadow. My Beloved Wifey and I took our time, knowing that once we head beaten these three quests, there would be a wait until Flame of the West arrived. But last Thursday night Tactics Merry triumphantly put two Daggers of Westernesse through Shelob‘s gullet, and Frodo was captured.

It was a bittersweet victory. My wife returned to her hobbit deck for Land of Shadow, and I tried out Seastan’s “Everything Costs Two” deck. They worked remarkably well together, with Beregond doing yeoman’s work protecting the hobbits until Sam Gamgee could come into his home as a defender. The ranged characters in Seastan’s deck also helped take down the many baddies my wife wanted to engage (to get Pippin’s card draw as frequently as possible). I’m definitely going to save both decks as a Fellowship and possibly return to them again when we get to the last Saga box.

For now, it’s time to wait…wait…wait…until we can battle outside the walls of Minas Tirith.

The Gems of Erebor: Or, I Got New Tokens!

A few weeks ago I met up with MD to play our beloved game at the Fantasy Flight Games Center and he had a little present for me: a lovely set of PennyGem tokens from Improbable Objects Inc. I now have about 20-25 of each of the white, green, and red tokens (see here) to replace my original game tokens. I use white for resources, with the blank side equaling one resource and the side with the dot equaling two resources. Green tokens are (of course) progress, with the blank side equaling one progress and the square side equaling five progress. And the red tokens (oh joy!), have one drop of blood on the heads side, and two drops of blood on the other.

These things, simply put, are amazing. They are pricey enough that I don’t think I would have ever sprung for them myself, but after playing with them for a few weeks, I adore them. They stack and don’t fall over, and they grip a card sleeve just enough so that you can pass a card across the table (say Fellowship Frodo) without a whole stack of them falling over. I know I’m gushing, but the tactile feel of them just gives me such a strange joy I had to share briefly.

So, should you get them? They are expensive, but I think, very worth it if you’re looking to improve the visual appeal of the game.

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The North Rides to War

Inspiration
After the Armored Destrier came out in the Temple of the Deceived AP, I finally saw what the solo Dúnedain deck had been needing for so long: a way to make one of fabled northern Rangers a steady defender to keep the hordes of Mordor in check. Last week I promised a solo deck using the Destrier and Amarthiúl, and today I’m ready to deliver! After testing it against several quests old and new (everything from Journey Along the Anduin to The Thing in the Depths), it’s time to reveal the power of two Dúnedain and one Noldor lord and his ring.

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The North Rides to War
Total Cards: 50
Starting Threat: 34

Heroes (3)
Amarthiúl (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)

Allies (20)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm)
2x Fornost Bowman (The Dread Realm)
2x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Silvan Refugee (The Drúadan Forest)
3x Weather Hills Watchman (The Lost Realm)
3x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)

Attachment (21)
2x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
3x Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (9)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)

Deck built on RingsDB.

Strategy
In this deck, a good starting hand consists of either the Armored Destrier or the Westfold Horse-breeder to go fetch it, and, depending on the quest you’re playing, a few cheap allies to spit out early on. Cirdan is standing by to provide early questing support and access to cheap willpower like Arwen and Silvan Refugee. Engaging one weak enemy early is preferred, since Amarthiúl will need access to Tactics early. Time A Good Harvest so that you can drop out a lot of allies and attachments from either Leadership or Spirit. Contrary to what’s printed on the card, I ignore Aragorn as a target for Celebrian’s Stone and use it instead to boost Cirdan’s willpower to a mighty six.

In the mid-game, getting Gandalf 2.0 out will get you four more questing, plus beefy defense and attack if you ready him with Narya.

Above all, getting that Armored Destrier is key, since with it Amarthiúl can block and discard shadow cards with ease, all while gaining his engagement buffs.

The Reward
This deck is rather straightforward in its approach, but the reward is in finally being able to get good use out of Amarthiúl’s two engagement buffs consistently without being overwhelmed by enemies. Laugh with grim delight as the forces of the North ride roughshod over the forces of the Dark Lord. Until next time, mára mesta: good journeys!

A Closer Look at the Armored Destrier

With the recent release of Temple of the Deceived this week, we now have access to the Armored Destrier, a powerful Leadership attachment that is already making its way into  my decks:mec50-armored-destrier

At first glance, the Destrier provides situational readying. For a cost of two Leadership resources, you get a readying attachment that can only be placed on two types of heroes and that requires you to defend two attacks in one turn. My very first thought was, “Why wouldn’t I just use Unexpected Courage?” But let’s consider that second sentence, “Then, discard a shadow card…” Ah ha! Now, we actually have readying and shadow cancellation packed into one card. This was enough to pique my interest for sure.

Although the picture on the card shows us a warhorse of Dol Amroth (note the swan motif on the breastplate), which implies we should be attaching this card to Gondor heroes, I actually like it best in a Dúnedain deck. At the conclusion of the Angmar Awakened, I had a lot of respect for how the trait had been fleshed out, but it could still be incredibly risky to engage multiple enemies in order to trigger the Dúnedain bonuses. This can be mitigated somewhat by splashing Lore and running traps, but that dilutes a pure Dúnedain deck quite a bit. Halbarad, Amarthiúl, and either Leadership or Tactics Aragorn provide a strong lineup. However, I’ve had trouble in the past with Amarthiul. First, if you use him as a defender, you waste his 3 Attack, which is a shame. Also, keeping two enemies engaged to trigger Amarthiúl’s two abilities can be a real challenge:

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The Armored Destrier fixes both of these problems! The readying and shadow cancellation allows you to engage two weaker enemies early in the game and block them with ease. Later in the game, after he has been buffed by Dúnedain Warnings or other defense boosts, he can take on larger enemies. Also, since the Armored Destrier’s response doesn’t require you to block the second enemy’s attack with the hero it’s attached to, you can block the first attack, discard a shadow card from the second enemy, block with someone else, and then put Amarthiúl’s 3 Attack to good use. I was playing around with a Dúnedain deck just a few days ago and was amazed at how the Destrier takes a lot of the pressure off in the early game. Gone was the panic I used to experience in turns 1-3 while I set up Amarthiúl as a defender.

Next week I’ll share a great solo Dúnedain deck that features the Armored Destrier as a key component. Until next time, mára mesta: good journeys!