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.
And speaking of starts, I thought I’d try something new to open a Planning post, and highlight The One Thing (geddit? Oh, never mind) that is best avoided. In this quest, it will be Lost Companion – When Revealed: Each player removes 1 character he controls from the quest, if able. Then, if any player has no characters committed to the quest, remove all characters from the quest. There are two copies of this card in the encounter deck, and it means both players should commit at least two characters to the quest every round while there is still a threat of it being drawn. While not requiring any particular card type, such as Condition removal cards, it does lend itself to using a lot of cheap allies so you don’t get caught short on the first round, and that just so happens to dovetail with a strategy for dealing with a unique keyword in this quest, which we’ll get back to after we break down the encounter deck:
|Number of cards||Threat x 2||Threat x 3||Threat x 4||Threat x X†|
† includes Glade of Cleansing – Each Wose enemy gains Archery 1. X is equal to the total archery value of the highest archery Wose enemy in play
Drû-buri-Drû doesn’t enter play until stage 3B, so we’ll worry about him then. The next consideration is the keywords, both old and new, that will dominate this quest (NB it just so happens that Vision of the Palantír has a recent post from beleg489 on Keywords. Is there anything they can’t do?) The old one is Archery, where the players must absorb 1 damage per point of archery on any enemies that are in play at the start of the combat phase. We’ll need healing. The new one is Prowl – When an encounter card with the prowl keyword is revealed from the encounter deck, the players (as a group) must discard the specified number of resources from their heroes’ resource pools. If the players do not have enough resources to match the specified value, then they must discard as many resources as they can. We’ll need resource generation. Lore for the former, Leadership for the latter. Next quest please.
Well, all that and questing and defending and attacking and stages 1, 2 & 3. It’s not meant to be easy.
Setup: Search the encounter deck for Drû-buri-Drû and set him aside, out of play. Shuffle the encounter deck.
Quest points: 11
When Revealed: Reveal 1 card from the encounter deck per player and add it to the staging area.
It’s not meant be easy, and the reveal-X-encounter-cards-during-setup always tells me that the scenario was coming up too easy in playtesting.
Thanks to Prowl, we’re going to need a lot of resources, which leads us straight to the Steward of Gondor, both the title and the man. The latter will be very useful, but not for the obvious reason, i.e. Setup: Add 2 resources to Denethor’s resource pool. Of the 36 encounter cards, 12 have Prowl 1/2/X, so two-thirds of the time you are going to draw a card that takes away one or both of Denethor’s bounty – and the Prowl 1 card, Drúadan Thief, has surge. It hobbles Denethor’s primary asset, but his secondary one – Action: Move 1 resource from Denethor’s resource pool to another Gondor hero’s resource pool. (Limit once per round) – is very useful, particularly if you can get Steward of Gondor (the title) into play, or even Wealth of Gondor – Action: Choose a Gondor hero. Add 1 resource to that hero’s resource pool. Being able to smooth out resources across the table is a great ability in general, and in particular for this setup because…drum roll…we’re going for a tri-sphere deck. Before looking at that, let’s close off the Leadership loop with Prince Imrahil. With the need for a quick ally to head off Lost Companion at the pass, we’re going to be running a Gondor swarm deck and that gives us lots of opportunities to chump-block with the likes of Squire of the Citadel – another resource to give to Denethor to spread around to non-Gondor heroes – then ready Prince Imrahil via his ability – Response: After a character leaves play, ready Prince Imrahil. (Limit once per round.) His 2 willpower is also 1 higher than that of Leadership Boromir, one of only two other Leadership Gondor heroes, the other being Faramir whose ally version is preferable here because…
An Untimely End
Quest points: 17
Archery damage must be assigned to allies, if able.
…amidst all the prowling and archering we’re going to be doing a lot of questering. That’s 28 to get through the first two stages, which leads to the final piece of the first deck: Tactics Éowyn with 4 willpower and the ability to whup an enemy that might otherwise be laying down some Archery pain in the early stages of the game. And it is the need to deal with all that Archery on top of the questing that informs the construction of the other deck, previously noted as the first tri-sphere deck in the 23 quests played thus far. The need for a Lore hero, any hero, to give us access to healing trumps everything and that hero is neither a hero nor a healer – Messenger of the King Firyal. All it took to pick her was to head over to RingsDB and sort Lore heroes by willpower, where her 3 willpower puts her joint 1st, with the other five 3 willpower heroes ranging from 11 to 13 starting threat. Her ability to scry, while less useful than in a true solo deck, is still handy to have, and she is reasonably thematic, hailing as he does from the same part of the world as Gondor.
With respect to reasonably thematic heroes, Quickbeam is the next to enter the fray. If you can’t see how Quickbeam is thematic then you can’t see the forest for the trees ahahaha. Ahem. Where Quickbeam works is as an adjunct to the need for healing. Put his 2 willpower to work, use his ability – Action: Deal 2 damage to Quickbeam to ready him. (Limit once per phase.) – to ready him and kick Wose butt, then deploy some healing to keep him in the game (I will resist the urge to engage in some Seinfeldian riffing on how ‘healing’ flora works in this world). Healing in this deck consists of Lore of Imladris, Ioreth and Warden of Healing. Warden of Healing is the gold standard for the archetype and is particularly useful here where archery is going to spread the damage all over table, but the other two can contribute according to need. Lore of Imladris – Action: Choose a character. Heal all damage from that character – will allow us to pile all the pain on Quickbeam should the occasion demand it, and Ioreth can ‘quest’ in another example of spiking Lost Companion’s guns, and even take a point of damage herself – if you have a copy of her in play and another in your hand, simply take that damage and put her back into play in the next planning phase. Of course, Quickbeam isn’t much good questing then attacking if you don’t have anything with which to defend, which brings us to stage 3 and the benefit of the last hero in our merry band.
The Passage Out
When Revealed: Add Drû-buri-Drû to the staging area.
Quest points: 14
Characters use their willpower instead of attack when attacking enemies.
If an enemy would be damaged this way, place progress tokens on it instead of damage tokens. When an enemy has progress equal to its hit points, add it to the victory display and place those progress tokens on the quest.
If the players defeat this stage, they have won the game.
Thought we’d gotten away from all that Battle and Siege thing after The Siege of Cair Andros? Well, you thought wrong and the man who carried us to this point with his doughty defense will now be pushed into using it as, um, wily willpower – Spirit Beregond. Even if he doesn’t do much special up to this point, and with only one enemy from the regular encounter deck has 4 attack Beregond doesn’t need to be as good as he is, being able to defend against Drû-buri-Drû – Allies cannot defend against Drû-buri-Drû – makes him worth the entry fee on that basis alone, and once he is gone…it should all be over because that’s 6 out of the 14 progress right there, but if you need to go around one more time then the 4 defense for Siege will be valuable. Another benefit of Beregond is keeping threat down, which isn’t immediately beneficial as this isn’t a quest with a lot of threat triggers. It’s precisely that which allows us to roll with Over Hill and Under Hill Gandalf. Will Prowl mean we don’t have the readies with which to pay for such a powerful ally? Let’s find out.