Conflict at the Carrock: Planning

Card pool at the time of writing

When I started out with this blog, I promised myself that I would make my own mistakes. There are many smarter voices out there (see: everything in the Links box in the sidebar) but at least this would be my voice. I would refrain from looking elsewhere for advice on scenarios and instead learn by doing. This has led to some calamitous mis-steps in building my decks, but it’s all been part of the fun (!).

At some point though I read, and naturally I have not been been able to locate where I read it, that the key to defeating Conflict at the Carrock was a ‘trick’. Without knowing the trick the quest was extremely difficult, but once you had worked out that trick it became a matter of routine. I’m not a tricksy type of gamer, adhering to the I-hit-it-with-my-axe school of thought (warning: Googling I-hit-it-with-my-axe is NSFW). In the various iterations of the Elder Scrolls games I have always played as a warrior of some description, eschewing fancy mage or ranged-related contortions and just beefed up my character then charged into a melee to, well, hit it with my axe/broadsword/mace/warhammer. When it comes to this game, it’s a case of loading up with the best cards and bludgeoning the encounter deck into submission.

With all that in mind, I was concerned that such an approach was doomed to failure here and I would be condemned to wander through the quest like Maglor after disposing of the Silmaril, singing songs of pain and regret. To ensure this was not the case, I had a quick peek at the analysis of the quest over at Vision of the Palantir to see if I had missed the trick.

(pause for dramatic effect)

I had not, or at least if I have then they have too and you know what misery loves. There are other tricks but the one I hit upon in my formative days with the game is valid so we’ll run with it. Four unique troll enemies, each with at least 10 hit points, and you have to defeat them all. The trick is to defeat them one-by-one, which means keeping your threat below 34. How low do you need to go? Let’s look at the quest cards to find out.

1A
Grimbeorn’s Quest
Setup: Add The Carrock to the staging area. Remove 4 unique Troll cards and 4 copies of the “Sacked!” card from the encounter deck and set them aside, out of play. Then shuffle 1 “Sacked!” card per player back into the encounter deck.
1B
Quest Points: 7
Forced: After placing the 7th progress token on Grimbeorn’s Quest, The Carrock becomes the active location. Discard the previous active location from play.

2A
Against the Trolls
2B
Quest Points: 1
When Revealed: Place the unique Troll cards previously set aside into the staging area.
Players cannot defeat this stage if there are any Troll enemies in play

Simple enough, so simple that it features its own entry in the FAQ – Q: Is Against the Trolls (SoM 32) the final stage of Conflict at the Carrock? A: Yes. The wrinkle is The Carrock. Only 2 threat and 6 progress required, but:

  • you have to travel there once you complete 1B
  • the location is immune to player card effects, so no Asfaloth/Northern Trackering it out of harm’s way
  • 2B brings the trolls into play
  • the trolls are buffed by the text on The Carrock – Players cannot travel to The Carrock except through quest card effects. While The Carrock is the active location, Troll enemies get +1 attack and +1 defence

Having reflected upon the thematic home run that is all Udûn breaking loose in this manner, what we going to do about it? As you have to engage the trolls at 34, 28 seems to be the outer limit of what our starting threat should be. That gives us two (three if you can avoid any increase in threat other than in the refresh phase) turns to get past 1B then three turns to take out a troll at a time before having to engage the last one. In order to calculate what spanners could be thrown into those works, let’s break down the encounter deck.

Number of cards Threat x 1 Threat x 2 Threat x 3 Threat x 5
Enemy 19 7 11 1
Location 20 7 8 3 2
Treachery 11

An initial scoot through the deck suggested there was not much in the way that might add to the player’s threat – there’s plenty to add to the threat in the staging area, but that’s another story. It turns out ‘not much’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Apart from the unique trolls, this quest sees the return of the Hill Trolls from Journey Along the Anduin. You could shrug off the effect – Excess combat damage dealt by Hill Troll (damage that is dealt beyond the remaining hit points of the character damaged by its attack) must be assigned as an increase to your threat – in that quest since by the time you had to deal with it you had already engaged the enemy, but if you start out with only six threat in hand and you chump-block with a 1 or 2 hit point character then that cushion is going to deflate way too quickly. We’re going to need some heavy-duty defenders to cope with that and (it should go without saying) Feint. Then there’s A Frightened Beast. There will be at least one turn where you have to handle the four trolls with a combined threat of 8 so if this comes out – When Revealed: Each player raises his threat by the total Threat of all cards in the staging area. Any player may choose to discard from play 1 Creature ally card he controls to cancel this effect – getting Roasted Slowly will seem like the least of your worries. We’re going to need to consider the value of Creature allies and (it should go without saying) A Test of Will.

One other consideration before picking our heroes is the objective card Grimbeorn the Old. Getting him out would improve our chances no end, and this means loadsa Leadership resources, so we’re going to go with a two Leadership/one Tactics split and Steward of Gondor (it should go etc). And the week I started planning for this quest, a hero who bristles with both thematic and mechanical power came into my possession: Beorn. The benefits are obvious. He doesn’t have to exhaust to defend and he can then swing back for a whopping 5 attack. He has one whopping flaw, i.e. you can’t heal him. There are encounter cards in the game which blank the text on a character, but this sounds like a deeply perilous way of proceeding and doesn’t apply in this quest anyway. However, 10 hit points is still massive. The trolls each have an attack of 4 so a best-case scenario sees him defending against three attacks. Two attacks is still pretty good as you build up chump blockers, and he could take one and a Hill Troll without incurring the latter’s penalty.

Picking him does limit our Leadership options as he has a starting cost of 12. It’s just as well then that two heroes stride forth from the bottom of the Leadership pile, namely Théodred and Sam Gamgee. The former can rack up the Leadership resources in anticipation of drawing Grimbeorn The Old or, failing that, paying for some pricey allies (Gandalf, Gimli). The latter will be able to quest for 3 on each turn then ready for any of the unique trolls when we optionally engage them, pretty much guaranteeing 7 attack (he gets a bonus of 1 to his attack when he readies in this fashion) when combined with Beorn. He’ll also give us free access to Bill the Pony, useful as a chump blocker, for questing or attacking if needed to get us that one last progress/hit, and as a discard for the aforementioned A Frightened Beast. A versatile combo, on paper anyway.

We’ll still need to get at least 5 more attack from somewhere, but before that we must consider how questing will be perversely important in this scenario. It’s perverse because despite only needing 14 progress to complete the quest – 7 on 1B, 6 on The Carrock and 1 on 2B – you will need a lot of willpower to get past 1B quickly and you’ll need a lot of willpower to control the threat when the four trolls abruptly drop into the staging area with their collective 8 threat that can only be cleared 2 at a time – emergency threat control explains the presence of Bofur in the deck. Combined with the need to keep threat low, I’m regrettably resorting to the ol’ Spirit Éowyn/Glorfindel tango. It would be nice to try something different, but it’s nicer still to clobber those trolls with the minimum of fuss. Speaking of something different though, another new hero arrived this week and linking him up with the blonde bombshells is an absolute no-brainer: Faramir. The reviews on the RingsDB page show a consensus that he needs to have a deck built around him, but this is surely a case where the quest is built around him.  The first troll will have to face a ranged attack from Faramir of 5, the same as Beorn. It could be even higher if there are other enemies in the staging area and normally infuriating enemies like Goblin Sniper and Wargs are beneficial to Faramir. Having found ally Faramir to be beyond my comprehension despite endless recommendations that he is da bomb, it’s cool to be able to get such a pivotal character from the books into play. Speaking of allies, we’ll be piling them on here. We want to have a Creature in play so the cheap ones that are Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian join Bill the Pony as sacrificial lambs, and they are not bad allies in themselves either, while the danger from Sacked! will be handled by Elrond and Miner of the Iron Hills.

It feels like a lot has to go right for this strategy of clearing The Carrock then clearing the trolls slowly to work. Let’s see how we get on.

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