Not a name possibility rejected very early on by Weight Watchers, the Fatty project is an interesting new twist in the Lord of the Rings LCG.
The most recent adventure pack, escape from Mount Gram, is a fun one, and also one that presents a unique challenge: you start with only a single hero who just broken out of a goblin’s prison: all they have with which to face the perils of the quest are a 3-card hand, and no items, mounts or allies in their deck (these go in a separate “capture” deck). As you break out of prison, you gradually have the chance to liberate the remainder of your deck, including the other two heroes, before making a last, late, charge for freedom.
To help you in your bid to take on the dungeons solo, the locations and enemies in this quest are noticeably less brutal than many we’ve seen – although this is balanced by the need to have a single character deal with questing, attack and defence, at least to begin with.
Secrecy-decks are good for this, as is anything which gives you action advantage. I’ve managed this one starting out With Rossiel and with Spirit Glorfindel (Light of Valinor is a must) but Core Set Aragorn would be another good option, due to his built-in readying.
Some folk out there though, has decided that this quest is a bit on the easy side, and this has prompted Ian of Tales From the Cards to set a challenge- to escape from Mount Gram using Fatty Bolger as your starting hero!
For those who have forgotten him (probably most of you) Fatty Bolger is a Hobbit hero in the spirit sphere, who came in Black Riders. He has the thematically brilliant, yet mechanically useless ability to raise your threat by the threat of an enemy in the staging area, in order to ignore that enemy’s threat for resolving questing this round. He has a highish number of hits points for a Hobbit (3) but his stats are otherwise underwhelming. He can only quest for 1, attack for 1, and defend for 2: this means that he is exceedingly unlikely to be making much quest progress unless you can get some assistance out for him.
There are essentially 2 ways to approach the Fatty challenge –either build a deck that has him in it, but relies on swiftly rescuing one of the other heroes and dies repeatedly until it does so, or else go for a deck that actually keys in to some of Fatty’s abilities.
In regard to the first option, there are a fair number of options out there – but it does make Fatty nothing more than a placeholder, and avoids the spirit of the challenge, even if it meets the technical requirement.
The other option- a deck in which Fatty actually has a meaningful role to play – is far trickier. When building a tri-sphere Hobbit Deck, Spirit has typically been the sphere I neglected, as the most vital cards for the deck all appear in the other three spheres: Lore for Fast-Hitch (Hobbit-Readying), Leadership for Bill the Pony and Hobbit Cloak (hit points and defence), and Tactics for Halfling Determination and Dagger of Westernesse (general stat boosts, and extra attack). The hobbit-specific cards in Spirit are limited to the pony (late questing), and the pipe/smoke rings combination which can lower your threat (surely the least of the problems faced by a deck that starts with only Fatty.)
It is possible, of course, to get round issues of sphere matching with cards like Songs or Good Harvest, but with only 3 cards in your starting hand, the chances of having both this AND a card to play with it are low.
A couple of cards for this deck pick themselves – 3 copies of Resourceful (for ANY deck with a starting threat in single figures) and Courage Awakened, a card I re-discovered when doing this scenario with Glorfindel, which can provide a powerful willpower acceleration in secrecy mode, especially if you can get a Leaf Brooch out. Favour of the Lady is expensive, but when you’re dependent upon a 1-willpower character for all your questing, something more ongoing is valuable.
From there, it was trickier – a tri-sphere deck in this quest is very vulnerable to rescuing heroes in a particular order. Mono-spirit would guarantee that I could play all the cards I drew (eventually) but would be unlikely to do a lot besides questing, cancellation, and threat management. Lore seemed like the best bet, offering me action advantage for the hobbits, plenty of card draw, and a few tricks up my sleeve for dealing with enemies – I was quite pleased to discover that Traps were immune to this quest’s deck-stripping (although not sure thematically of the logic of being able to carry a spiked pit into a prison with you…)
In the end, I decided to go full-hobbit – Bilbo and Pippin. This ensures plenty of card draw, and reduces the likelihood of having to engage things, whilst Ranger Spikes will hopefully allow me to continue making quest progress whilst leaving those enemies in the staging area, although I’ll be adding Noiseless Movement as well in case there’s anything out I can’t handle this round. I’ll throw in high-willpower allies, like the Ethir Swordsman, and some chunkier characters like the Northern Tracker, who are still amongst the best fighters in Spirit, as well as being good at dealing with location-lock. If I can rescue enough cards from my capture deck, questing should be ok, but combat is going to be the challenge, especially on stage 3, when I shuffle in the extra encounter set of orcs, so I’ll bring Ride Them Down as well. Gandalf basically goes into every deck, so he makes the list 3 times. With Lore and Card-Draw, Protector of Lorien is an obvious choice, boosting questing, or even making Fatty into a passable defender.
A possible twist on this deck which I didn’t get round to trying is to add Under Hill and Over Hill Gandalf – obviously, he is a powerful figure, but he does put your threat up rapidly, even from a starting-point of 7 – So any deck with him in would need to be much more aggressive to balance that out. I considered add some copies of Elrond’s Counsel to go with Arwen and Elrond, but decided it was too many working pieces to put together.
Fatty Bolger (starting hero)
Pippin (Black Riders)
Fast Hitch x3
Favour of the Lady x2
Protector of Lorien x2
Overall this worked well – I managed to beat the quest on 2 out of 4 attempts. I think killing Jailor Gornakh the round he arrives is key to this quest, which meant stalling on stage 2 for as long as possible, until you’ve got all your heroes, and a good spread of allies into play – Courage Awakened was brilliant for this as, when your threat is less than 20, and you’ve got a leaf-brooch on Fatty, it becomes a free +2 willpower that you can add after staging each round.
I never actually used Fatty’s ability, but there were points in the game when he had 2 damage on him, so at least his hit-points/defence came in handy, putting him above Spirit Pippin in the utility stakes. Frodo might have been a safer option, but even starting on 7, there’s enough forced threat gain in this scenario that it might have been a problem.
Overall, whilst I don’t buy the initial suggestion that this quest is too easy, this was a fun activity to do as something a bit different. Will anyone else take on the Fatty Challenge?