I figured I should try my new deck on its own to see how it stood up against the intro scenario again after retooling both decks from the first beating. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (LOTR LCG) scales with different player counts by having less enemy cards come out each turn the fewer players there are, so I found it actually works pretty well as a solo game. Not that it makes things any easier, though.
The deck I developed was a leadership/spirit sphere combo deck focused on resource generation and quest advancement using Aragorn, Theodred, and Eowyn. The first round actually went really well, and I was able to blast through 5/8 of the progress required to defeat the first part of the Passage Through Mirkwood. The shadow card I drew for the Forest Spider dealt damage to each of my exhausted heroes, but Aragorn was able to block all of its incoming combat damage putting me off to what I considered a rather good start.
Much to my surprise, a couple of rounds later I was still doing well. I had been forced to discard all my event cards, but luckily I had none that were overly critical so it wasn’t something I was too worried about. I had determined not to expend resources constantly like I had made the mistake of doing in my first game, and my efforts were already paying off by having quite the resource pile generated on each character. I knew this was especially important for Eowyn being my sole spirit sphere hero, and I wanted to ensure I had enough resources on her to always use any of the big hitter spirit cards when they came up.
What was even more impressive to me was that I had defeated the first part of the adventure, AND the second part of the adventure which only took two progress to beat, and was now facing the final 3B adventure card which determined I had to kill Ungoliant’s Spawn to win the game (for those unfamiliar with Ungoliant from The Silmarilian, she was a dark shadow in the shape of a giant spider that makes Shelob look like the chihuahua of the spider world). When revealed, the card also had me search the deck and discard for 1 spider card of my choice and put it in the staging area…and here is when my faculties failed me. Rather than doing the smart thing which would have been to just find Ungoliant’s Spawn in the deck and put it into play so I could start the process of cutting it into a pulp, I brought out a different spider card. I’m sure you’re disappointed in me having heard this revelation…I’m still quite disappointed in myself as well. Not angry…just…disappointed.
I decided to press on in the face of my stupidity, hoping that Ungoliant’s Spawn wouldn’t show itself as a shadow card and make me have to reshuffle the deck and go all the way back through it to try and find it again. Things weren’t all sour grapes, though, and I was able to bring out a couple of rather powerful cards that I was feeling pretty good about (and would have made winning the game very easy if I hadn’t derped all over myself). First, Brok Ironfist, who is rather expensive to put into play if you don’t have him in a deck able to use his response ability, at a cost of 6 resources, and the spirit ally Northern Tracker which has serviceable stats but, more importantly, lets you add one progress token to each location in the staging area whenever he’s committed to questing. I knew locations had the capability of really piling up in the staging area, so I was pretty stoked to have a couple of them in the deck.
A second spider came out of the encounter deck the following round, but it was no big deal given my new little army. Their shadows cards made me exhaust some characters so I ended up having few extras to deal damage to them after defending, but I did still manage to kill one.
At this point the staging area started filling up with locations and more spiders came out. The Northern tracker card I had would start helping out with that mounting problem I was sure, but Brok unfortunately had to take some damage for the team. I attached the Steward of Gondor to Aragorn for even more resource generation, and after 2 turns my prediction about the Dunedain held true and I knocked out two locations in the staging area.
Then things started going badly. Not so badly I saw the wreckage coming, but the pea-sized beginnings of total pwnage had been planted. I lost Brok, which meant dealing damage and blocking became a whole lot harder; the only upside was I got to use an event card which let me draw two cards after an ally dies, and I pulled a Silverlode Archer card with good attack and the ranged ability (useful in coop, but not overly so here), as well as a second Northern Tracker.
Ungoliant’s Spawn came out the following turn; formidable in itself, I knew it would be especially difficult to kill while simultaneously having to defend against the other spiders that were still in play. This was what I had been holding back my Gandalf card for, and playing him immediately let me deal four damage to the eight-legged-freak. Aragorn ended up taking some damage though, and the rest of the spiders took no damage since all I could do was defend against them.
The following turn things went really south. Ungoliant’s shadow card, Hummerhorn, dealt one damage to all character, killing most of my support as well as Aragorn. The rest of the spiders engaged with me finished off the rest of my support and Theodred, leaving poor little Eowyn to face the spawn alone. The game put her out of her misery soon after, with The Necromancer’s Reach coming out of the encounter deck and dealing one damage to each exhausted character.
So…two more important lessons learned from that solo experience. One, that if I get the 3B option of the adventure again to immediately bring out Ungoliant’s Spawn and just focus on killing her to end it. Second, that I need to really watch out for the Hummerhorns card. Coming out as a shadow card I could at least potentially counter it with a couple of the cards I have in my deck, but if it comes out on its own and my threat is over 40 I might as well chalk one of my heroes up to dead.
I was still fairly pleased with the revamped deck’s performance even after this initial failure; I had generated resources well, and had enough on-hand at any given moment to use the cards I wanted to use. I had made some mistakes in terms of when I used certain cards and in other decisions, but those were no fault of the deck’s.
Armed with the new knowledge, my wife and I saddled up for another 2-player go at the Passage Through Mirkwood scenario. The decks started off strong, making three progress towards the main quest almost immediately and Legolas helping to clear the field of Dol Guldur orcs as they came out, further contributing to the quest progress.
Then we experienced just how brutal LOTR LCG can be due to the randomization of the encounter deck. We were dealt a Dol Guldur Beastmaster, which receives an extra shadow card during its attacks, and the turn after the Ungoliant Spawn made an early appearance. I engaged the Beastmaster in the hopes I could stave it off for a bit while Sara took care of big ‘ole spidey, and although we were lucky in that no more monsters were dealt we did manage to stack up a massive five locations in the staging area which meant a ton of threat we needed to counter during each quest phase.
The two very strong enemy cards and the massive amount of locations in the staging area had put us in a hard spot early on, but we weren’t totally down on our luck yet. Sara drew her powerful Beorn ally and was able to bring that into play in addition to Daughter of the Nimrodel which gave her some long-term healing capability. I also drew Brok Ironfist, giving us some fairly stable footing in terms of allies on the field when combined with what was already out.
Soon after that we managed to kill the Beastmaster and another spider which came into play, but the number of turns spent mitigating the Beastmaster while we focused on other more pressing issues had taken its toll on Aragorn, who was teetering on death. Sara’s situation had continued to improve drastically, at least, and she was sitting on a pretty impressive army of allies that had limited potential in terms of helping quest progression, but were a boon for combat.
Then once again, the game’s brutality emerged in the one-two punch of another Dol Guldur Beastmaster coming out of the encounter deck accompanied by Chieftain Ufthak who had knocked us around in our first game. Things really weren’t looking good between going for so long with no quest progression, and slim prospects for advancing the quest anytime soon with the sheer number of locations built up in play. What I really needed were some Northern Trackers to come into play so I could get rid of the locations within a turn or two, but LOTR LCG had other plans. In another stroke of villainy, one of the shadow cards drawn for the Beastmaster was the Hummerhorns card which had done me in during the previous game. Neither of us had a card to stop the shadow effect, so the card immediately killed Aragorn, Theodred, as well as my Guard of the Citadel ally.
I was more or less out of the game, though with Eowyn and the couple of allies I had left I could at least contribute towards the quest total for another round or two before going the way of the dinosaur and leaving Sara to fend for herself. I’ve died early on before in Legendary Encounters: Alien and she has gone on to win the game, so I had at least a sliver of hope that her swarm of allies would put her in a position to at least make a good effort of it. That wasn’t meant to be however, and even though I did last one turn the game dealt us the final blow by revealing the Hidden by Shadow card as our encounter draw during the following turn, giving every single one of the five locations left in play a +1 to its threat. That was enough to put Sara over 50 threat, and finish the knock out.
So there you have it: 0/3 on the introductory scenario for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. I still have confidence the deck builds we currently have will be successful, but that final game really displayed how the randomness in LOTR LCG can make for some particularly brutal play sessions. Even though our third time was not the charm, maybe our fourth will be?
Stock card image used from cardgamedb.com