Encounter at Amon Dîn: Refresh

There was a discussion recently on The Dice Tower’s Top 100 Games of All Time series of videos on what constituted a lifestyle game, whether it was one that was so deep and complicated that it required a constant investment of time and effort in order to internalise the rules, or whether it was one could consume a person’s life to the extent that the game plays you. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game definitely ticks both boxes, to the extent that a person could write thousands of words about it and barely scratch the surface. The game also has a habit of giving form to real world concepts, and one of those that I have long thought about with respect to this game is one that has become a hot topic in recent times: inflation.

Inflation as people are enduring as of early 2023, i.e. rising prices, is obviously a bad thing. However, there are circumstances where it can be a positive, and the economy of this game is a model of how this can potentially be the case. Imagine a game world where everything is twice as expensive. A Test of Will now costs 2, Gildor’s Counsel costs 6, and so on. Where previously players received 1 resource they now get 2, so the net change to the game state is zero. You now have room to tweak the game state, potentially for the better. A Test of Will, universally considered to be a bargain, can cost 3, while Gildor’s Counsel, powerful but expensive, can cost 5. Rather than effectively receiving 4 additional resources from Steward of Gondor each round, instead you get 3. In this way, all manner of minor adjustments can be made to the value of a card without nerfing their abilities. Inflation – it’s not always a bad thing.

All of this matters in the context of Encounter at Amon Dîn because it’s an example of the dangers of too much money being in circulation.. There are just too many villagers for the scenario to present a challenge. The first ‘rescue’ got us 4 villagers. At no stage was Dead Villagers ahead of Rescued Villagers. It was never even close, to the point where the thought of having 4 dead ones in any version of this playthrough is ludicrous. Halving the number of villagers on each card would surely have made this quest a more engaging experience, forcing you to make difficult choices. As it is, the ‘challenge’ seems to be to save everyone. Anything less than that is failure.

On a broader lever, and returning to the lifestyle game concept, I think Encounter at Amon Dîn needs to be viewed in its historical context. The game is famously hard, and the Heirs of Númenor/Against the Shadow cycle saw some board-flipping examples of the genre, with Into Ithilien and The Siege of Cair Andros still making into the top quartile of difficulty even though they were through fewer than a third of the quests by this time – Encounter at Amon Dîn is the 32nd quest in publication order out of 117 official quests. They were nails at the time, and they’re still nails. With that in mind, my headcanon is that the developers playtested this quest, found it way too easy and thought you know, let’s throw the players a bone. The release cycle of one-a-month was pretty consistent at this point, with the six quests in Against the Shadow coming out between May and November 2013. By the time they’ve realised there isn’t that much to this quest, and have discussed that very point, the next one will be landing on their tabletop.


  • Any deck not put together by the throw-all-your-cards-in-the-air-and-see-where-they-land method should be good enough for this quest

How entertaining is this quest? It’s a bottom halfer, not so much a brain burner as a cerebellum chiller, a bit of alliteration that I encourage you to read and not think about. It’s an agreeable slice of storytelling though.The impetus to avoid getting any Dead Villagers is a real thing – civilians > combatants – which I would imagine gives you an extra frisson when playing in multi-player, and I certainly had more fun with it than Into Ithilien. I’m going to slot it in above that quest in 18th place. Not as good as Passage Through Mirkwood isn’t an awful place to find yourself. Next up is a quest to repel the latest of many assaults on Osgiliath, but before that let’s pause to reflect on an unlikely source of friendship.


The Drúadan Forest: Refresh

That was annoying, annoying on the double. I mentioned my use of Octgn to record the playthrough and I was grateful for that when I made a mistake right at the end. The bit in the quest phase of round eight where Drúadan Drummer gives Each Wose enemy in the staging area…+2 threat? I hadn’t noticed that until I came to write about it. Thankfully it was a relatively easy task with Octgn to reconstruct the state of play, and there was a curious satisfaction to be had in questing like a boss with Drûburi-Drû, so no harm done.

Far more annoying was realising that there is a mis-step in the decks. Continue reading “The Drúadan Forest: Refresh”

The Drúadan Forest: Planning

Card pool at the time of writing (complete)

As noted previously ad nauseum I’ve endeavoured throughout this blog to make my own mistakes, so usually only investigate blogs like Vision of the Palantír for a particular scenario after building a deck with which I was satisfied. That doesn’t mean completely ignoring everything that goes on there or elsewhere and, bearing in mind that I am not likely to write about it for a couple of decades at my current output, it was without concern for spoilers that I clicked on a recent article for Under the Ash Mountains, only to be greeted with the following opening line:

I know I said after my Drúadan Forest review some years ago that I would never cover a quest in such a negative tone again. But boy, did I find another quest that I find unfair, and you are all here to read me whining about it.

Not an auspicious start for this quest – although not as bad a start as poor ol’ Under the Ash Mountains, which must be quaking in its boots at what I might think of it when I get around to it in about, ooh, 2047.

Continue reading “The Drúadan Forest: Planning”

The Steward’s Fear: Refresh

Cardboard of the Rings recently discussed burnout and asked: is it a bad thing? If you were in a group and other members of that group were dependant on you always being there to get their particular gaming fix, such as needing seven bodies for Diplomacy or six for Dune, then I can see how it might be a problem. In a solo game though, just go away and do something else. Since the last post I immersed myself in the Peloponnesian War where I had the pleasure of getting feedback from the designer, Mark Herman. More exciting than a much-ballyhooed event on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the game that turned out to be 18 minutes of Nate French, MJ Newman and Caleb Grace doing a spot of freeform jazz based on their memories of the game? Yes, touching the hem of Mark Herman’s cloak was far more exciting.

I’m being bitchy, especially when you consider why I was suffering from ‘burnout’ after playing The Steward’s Fear: I spent many hours with what is an absolutely brilliant quest. Continue reading “The Steward’s Fear: Refresh”

The Steward’s Fear: Planning

Card pool at the time of writing (complete)

The Steward’s Fear is (in)famous in the community for the Outlands trait. The adventure pack contains a number of allies that, when on the table together, combine in an exponential manner to fearsome effect. You’d think, after the pounding dished out by the Heirs of Númenor quests (see: passim), that the community would rejoice at having the wherewithal to be able to lash back against the shadow, and if you thought that you would be quite wrong. A poll conducted by Tales from the Cards way back in September 2013 found that 42.1% of respondents thought that Outlands was ‘overpowered’, with 25% shunning the build type altogether.

I don’t get the disdain. Continue reading “The Steward’s Fear: Planning”


Just over three years ago I asked: “What does a complete set look like?”

It was around this time that I realised I was in this for the long haul and nothing less than completion would do. I had four Saga/Deluxe boxes and eight Adventure Packs, which seemed like a lot of cards given the number of plastic boxes I had bought from a local store, so what would seven (as it was at the time) complete cycles and nine Saga boxes look like? The mind boggled.

As it was, I went for the cheapest completionist option: the BCW box that stores no less than 5,000 cards. Had the game stopped at that point, it might have been enough. Continue reading “Mathom-house”