Difficulty in the Dark

A while back, I published the first in a series of scenario reviews and ratings for the difficulty project: working through the quests from Black Riders, using only the cards from the first two Lord of the Rings Saga boxes and the Core Set.

ValiantRecently, I finished this play-through, taking the same two decks along the darkening road through Moria, to the Breaking of the Fellowship.

It’s worth noting that we were playing in Campaign Mode. This meant two things this late in the game- firstly, it meant that Gandalf and Aragorn had permanent bonuses to their attack and defence respectively, but also that the encounter deck was growing ever more heavily stacked with burden cards, typically surging treacheries that not only do something nasty, but also replace themselves. Overall, I think the good and the bad balance each other out fairly well, but it’s worth making people aware before I write the actual quest run-downs.

The Ring Goes South

The first of the quests in the second box, this one kicks off with a fun re-creation of the Council of Elrond, where the players have to decide between a series of cards, putting one into play for free, one in hand, one in the discard pile, and shuffling one back into its owner’s deck.

Howling-WargThe main theme of this quest, is damage to the active location, with various nasty effects which strike the players when the quest stages leave play. Combined with a compulsory requirement to travel when able, and a series of nasty Wargs, this one keeps play moving at a fairly hefty pace.

Healing is pretty much a must-have (at one point, I was forced to sneak-attack a daughter of Nimrodel, heal with her, ready with ever vigilant, then go again) especially if you have Hobbits with their small pool of hit-points, but you also need  combat to deal with those Wargs, strong questing to move through the stages quickly, and ideally a bit of staging-area location management.

Whilst this one certainly challenges players, it does so in a fairly rounded way, making me feel like I could deal with this using decent “standard” decks (I appreciate that my view of healing as a “standard” requirement for a set of decks is not universally shared).

Difficulty wise, this certainly wasn’t as punishing as knife in the dark, and felt a bit calmer than the other box 1 quests. The punishing amount of damage though, makes it tricky to handle.

Difficulty rating: 2-player, limited card pool – 6/10

Journey in the Dark

Journey in the Dark takes the players once again into Moria. Evidently, this is becoming well-worn territory by now – I discussed last time out, that this is the third version of the Balrog we’ve seen in one shape or another, so they needed to do some work to keep it fresh.

First up, this quest presents some challenges. There’s a lot of archery damage to be reckoned with (although not on a Druadan Forest scale), and you’re actively punished for making optional engagements, which means that the archery damage is going to keep piling up.

Whilst there’s definite potential in doing a bit of custom building, to have a super-Dunhere, Legolas with Rivendell Blade and Great Yew Bow, or even just some Sneak-Attack Descendant of Thorondor work, the easiest way is to just quest hard and strong straight through.

We encountered the Balrog on stage 3, but couldn’t muster anything like the attack needed to finish him off (especially now we know that he’s still immune to player card effects, and staggered out of Moria, all heroes still alive, but no Balrog in the Victory display, leaving a large number of Burdens to be added to the Campaign Pool.

Definitely the hardest of the 3, we got wiped out once by the orc-swarm, and if you have the misfortune to encounter the Balrog before stage 3, it’s probably curtains.

Difficulty rating: 2-player, limited card pool – 8/10

Breaking of the Fellowship

On the surface, appears one of the most challenging quests. In reality, I think it’s a lot more doable, it just takes a bit of planning.

In quest stage A, all enemies have a defence boost of 2, many have toughness (damage reduction) and they cannot be engaged. Sniping the staging area as in Moria isn’t going to work here.

You also have a pair of locations – Sarn Gebir and the Argonath which need to be dealt with before you can clear the stage. The Argonath don’t really do anything, but Sarn Gebir will damage you when it’s cleared. Both (obviously) are immune to player card effects.

Sarn-Gebir The-Argonath

We failed at this a few times, before deciding to just chuck everything at it. Quest hard- don’t worry about leaving characters ready, as you’re probably not going to have to fight anything. You’ll take damage when you advance, but it can’t be helped.

The transition is difficult – you’ll need some kind of action advantage (we used the boon Lembas bread) to stave of the initial wave of attacks.

After that, it gets a lot easier. The fact that you can choose which quest stage you tackle, allows you to play to your strengths, particularly with 2 players. I was able to quest away my enemies, without needing to bother worrying about having to fight them. The other player was able to re-ready heroes every time they quested successfully, allowing us to fight as necessary.

The way of digging through the deck for Frodo’s choice, and then covering his escape was nicely done- I found Frodo and was able to push through fairly easily. Although it’s a puzzler, with a few odd tricks to start with, this one’s actually not that hard once you get it sussed, and once you make it to stage 2.

Difficulty rating: 2-player, limited card pool – 6/10

I realise that these reviews are making the difficulty project take a lot longer than initially anticipated, but I still think it’s a worthwhile exercise – thanks to all those have already contributed ratings, I’ll be trying to get them compiled shortly


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