Escape from Dol Guldur: Refresh

And with a single bound he was free! In something that is going to become a habit, I refer once again to durinsfather’s description of this quest:

Escape from Dol Guldur is one of the quests that I have beaten once, after many attempts, and never looked back at.

Amen, father.

Now, anyone who has read the Planning post for this quest (with emphasis on the ‘one’) might reasonably note that it’s not the quest’s fault that I made a complete hash of constructing decks for it and persisted with these decks long past the point where it should have been obvious that it wasn’t working. It would certainly be fair to note that a lot of the angst was down to the situation I was in and a reluctance to proceed with making notes unless I was convinced that I could win, an attitude that if I intend to carry into every quest should make me stop right now before I get to the Mountain of Fire. Considering I won with my very first attempt with the cobbled-together decks, it’s likely you will win more often if you simply reset early and/or cheat the appropriate prisoner into captivity.

All reasonable and fair, but that would be to ignore the overall context of this quest. An explanation of that context is best provided by no less a worthy than Tom Vasel in his review of the game:

He starts his summary at 9:30 and the pertinent part is at 9:49: “it’s very straightforward and it’s ha-ard, this game is tough.” This from a very experienced gamer, something I’m definitely not, who found the mechanics of the game to be straightforward, which I definitely didn’t, and he found it akin to being smacked about. Admittedly this was before the advent of Easy mode, but even that doesn’t change the fact that the learning curve in the game is steep, practically vertical once you get to Escape to Dol Guldur. There must have been a conversation in Fantasy Flight Games’s HQ on whether this quest was too hard for the Core Set, and the conclusion was surely that enough people would be spurred into buying expansions that it would offset all the word-by-mouth feedback that the game was harder than Orthanc.

(I should note that I’m not ragging on FFG’s business practices here. I have grumbled online about the only-one-copy-of-Unexpected-Courage model and the lack of a booster pack to bring the Core Set up to the full complement of three copies for each card, but I understand why Core Sets are not symmetrical – maximising the number of cards in the box while keeping the price below 40 bucks – and the recent shock of their loss of the Android: Netrunner licence shows they are not a money factory.)

Happily my experiences have shown that the quest is not invincible. Indeed, I started a new game immediately after this one and moved smoothly through to the end, even brushing aside the frustation of watching the wimpy Cavern Guardian come out as a shadow card and force me to discard Shadowfax from Gandalf. What have I learned, apart from the benefits of Zantac, in the course of my efforts to Escape from Dol Guldur? I’ve already discussed the machinations that went into building the deck while knowing those machinations were ultimately productive and really don’t want to dwell any further on this quest which has been looming over me like the Eye of Sauron for several weeks now, so I’ll keep the summary to bullet points.

  • Mono sphere decks
  • Fight with one deck, quest with the other
  • Load allies into the fighting deck
  • Get fighting allies into play at every available opportunity
  • Put the progress token that releases the prisoner on during the quest phase and be ready to fight the Nazgûl of Dol Guldur on the combat phase that follows
  • Minimise the threat in the staging area before tackling quest card 3B. You do not want that quest card to spill over into a second combat phase

Let us move swiftly (!) along. Having emerged out into the free air, we now must start The Hunt for Gollum.

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