In many respects, the Heirs of Numenor box was where difficulty in this game first went crazy. The sudden introduction of battle and siege turned a lot of received wisdom on its head about how your decks needed to be built, and some of the difficulty ratings were frankly comic (just remember that into Ithilien is officially a 4/10 difficulty!) the specific concern here though, is with Surge, and how frequent it is.
In terms of straightforward, printed surge, there is a marked increase. Gone are the days of quests with no printed surge, with every quest featuring it somewhere, even the notoriously pedestrian Encounter at Amon Din, which features it on 1 card in 17. Whilst this figure of around 6% may seem low, it’s worth noticing that this is the first cycle where we haven’t had multiple quests where it was missing entirely. Surge can be found at its most concentrated in the Steward’s Fear, which has it one card in 6 in the main encounter deck, a figure which only rises in Nightmare mode, or in easy!
Across the board, the occurrence of surge is higher, and that’s before you start to consider the peculiarities of these quests. For example, a “surge-like effect” includes the Lieutenant of Mordor who, when revealed, triggers the top treachery of the discard pile and cannot be cancelled. In the past I’ve been lucky enough to get him turn 1 or 2 when there is no treachery to trigger, which is why he only counts as “surge-like2 but certainly not a card to be dismissed lightly. Again, quests which seem a t the lighter end of the surge spectrum include Blood of Gondor, where the stats – 1 in 11 surge, 1 in 7 surge-like, don’t include the scenario-specific “hidden cards” which can spring an additional swarm of enemies at you. Likewise, The Steward’s Fear is the most surging quest even before you consider the underworld mechanic which makes almost any location a potential minefield, ready to fling armies of enemies at you, most of whom come with some kind of hideous “when engaged” effect.
Average surge likelihood:
Highest: 1 in 6 (17%) The Steward’s Fear
Lowest: 1 in 17 (6%) Encounter at Amon Din
Cycle overall: 10% standard, 11.4% Easy, 11.8% Nightmare*
Surge-type effect Likelihood:
Highest: 1 in 3 (34%) The Steward’s Fear, Assault on Osgiliath
Lowest: 1 in 7 (10%) Blood of Gondor
Cycle Overall: 24.6% standard, 23.4% Easy, 25% Nightmare*
*Nightmare figures are for Against the Shadow Cycle only, excluding the Heirs of Numenor deluxe, as I don’t own those Nightmare Decks.
Overall Verdict – Decidedly Surging.