Back in the days of the core set, and the Mirkwood cycle, surge was a rare beast, occasionally sighted fleetingly through the woods. In Passage Through Mirkwood it was lacking altogether, and there were only a few examples in other core-set cards: The Eastern Crows were the most prevalent of Core-set surgers, but these could be neutralised by questing with Thalin (remember him?) killing them before they could activate – otherwise, the intensity of surge got worse and worse, as the crows were shuffled back into the deck each time they died.
It’s probably no surprise to learn that by-and-large, the transition to Nightmare mode generally makes surge more prevalent: Nightmare Return to Mirkwood is the stand-out in this respect, with straightforward surge effects accounting for more than 1 card in ten, and surge-like effects appearing on a slightly terrifying 1 in 3 cards
More surprising is the discovery that in many instances, Easy mode actually made surge more likely, simply because many of the surging cards survived the cut, but found themselves in thinner encounter decks for a greater probability of appearing any time a random card was revealed. Clearly this says something (at least from the designers perspective) about the impact of surge on difficulty – a moderate card with the possibility of another is viewed as less of a challenge to the players than something inherently hideous.
Overall, the Mirkwood cycle is hardly overwhelmed by surge. In 4-player, Massing at Night is going to mess with you, and Return to Mirkwood is punishing, but at the other extreme, Journey to Rhosgobel is missing surge altogether, with Conflict at the Carrock not far behind. Journey Along the Anduin and Hunt for Gollum both have quest-card effects which reveal an extra encounter card, although Hunt does at least allow you to pick between 2 or 3.
The spread of surge-like effects is always broader than surge itself, and includes travel restrictions on locations (Mountains of Mirkwood) and Treacheries with mis-fire protection. However, both of these feel like they are on a limited scale, compared with what comes later
Average surge likelihood:
Highest: 1 in 9 (11%) Hunt For Gollum
Lowest: zero Passage Through Mirkwood, Journey to Rhosgobel
Cycle overall: 5.6% standard, 4% Easy, 9.6% Nightmare
Surge-type effect Likelihood:
Highest: 1 in 4 (25%) Hills of Emyn Muil
Lowest: 1 in 24 (4%) Conflict at the Carrock
Cycle Overall: 12.7% standard, 10.8% Easy, 18.7% Nightmare
Overall verdict – not so surging.
Next up, Dwarrowdelf, get ready for some swarming goblinses…