Having tweaked our decks it was time to set off once again down the Anduin, hopefully this time not to excruciatingly quick wreck and ruin. Our hero changes left us with decks sporting significantly lower initial threats which we hoped would give us a few additional turns to figure out how we were going to deal with the Hill Troll, but at the expense of really knowing how well the heroes would all work together. The resulting game was a lengthy affair of ups and downs, and of hopeful moments contrasted with bouts of “you’ve got to be kidding me.” Read on to find out how this nail-biter progressed!
As before, I added the Hill Troll card to the staging area per the quest’s starting requirement, and the one encounter card per player added resulted in only a Gladden Fields coming into play. The initial draw could have been way worse, but the Gladden Fields did potentially undo our hard work at lowering our starting threat. Time would tell if it would really make or break our success.
My team consisted of Gloin, Theodred, and Eowyn for a starting threat of 26, and my starting hand quickly gave me at least a glimmer of hope with four cards that could contribute quickly towards location or quest progress -Celebrian’s Stone, Favor of the Lady, Lorien Guide, and Snowbourn Scout-, A Light in the Dark which would let me send the Hill Troll back to the staging area for an additional round, and Gandalf. Adding to an already excellent starting hand, my first draw gave me a Northern Tracker which gave me even more potential for controlling the potential buildup of locations in the staging area.
Sara’s team had changed more significantly than mine, having lost Glorfindel and Gimli and subbed in Beravor and Denethor to accompany Legolas for a total starting threat of 27. She chose to mulligan her first hand, having not received anything that could remotely help with the Hill Troll which was our most immediate concern. Her second hand was better, getting a Daughter of the Nimrodel to provide healing, Radagast’s Cunning to assist with threat mitigation, 2x Blade Mastery to help with combat, and rounded out with Miner of the Iron Hills and Gondorian Spearman for some allied support. Those were joined by a Protector of Lorien card for her first draw, giving her three cards total that were capable of boosting stats in some way.
As starting player, Sara exhausted Beravor to draw two cards which gave her a Horseback Archer and, in a stroke of luck, our second Gandalf! I really couldn’t believe our good fortune, but at this point I was familiar enough with The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (LOTR LCG) to not get overly optimistic. For my part I called my Snowbourn Scout into play and placed one progress token on Gladden Fields, and decided the rest of my resources were worth saving. To complete our turns Sara committed Denethor to the quest, and I committed Theodred and gave the resource token generated to Eowyn, and I committed Eowyn and discarded my Lorien Guide to give her +1 willpower.
A Dol Guldur Orcs came out of the encounter deck as the first draw, dealing two damage to Denethor. The second card was a Necromancer’s Pass location which wasn’t terrible except for its high threat of three. We had a total of of nine threat showing in the staging area compared to what I thought was going to be a sufficient seven willpower, so we each increased our threat by two. We decided to travel to the Gladden Fields to get the high threat value out of the staging area even though it would start giving us additional threat during each refresh phase; the Hill Troll was coming for us next turn anyway so we figured it didn’t matter, plus we had a plan for getting rid of the location. I optionally engaged the Orcs to get them out of the center, having Gloin take one damage in the process. My Snowbourn Scout retaliated with Legolas joining in using his ranged trait, killing the Orcs and finishing the Gladden Fields location for us.
Not a bad start to the game, though at this point we had far less time to deal with the Hill Troll than we had anticipated. For the second turn I drew a Longbeard Orc Slayer, and Sara picked up another Protector of Lorien. We both played our Gandalf cards, dealing a huge eight damage to the Hill Troll bringing them into play. I also added my Celebrians’ Stone to Eowyn to give her a total of 6 Willpower, turning her into an even more beastly quest-progress-machine, and Sara used Denethor’s ability to reveal a Massing at Night card from the encounter deck which we opted to put on the bottom of the deck. For the quest phase I committed Eowyn and Theodred, and Sara committed Gandalf.
The Encounter Deck unveiled another Gladden Fields to replace the one we had just beaten, and Misty Mountain Goblins which was going to disrupt any well-made quest progress by removing one progress at the end of each turn. The threat totals did allow for two progress towards the mission, but the Misty Mountain Goblins would undo one of those if we didn’t deal with it.
We had the Hill Troll engage me since I still had my Gandalf to soak up his damage, which he unselfishly did, and Sara took on the Misty Mountain Goblins. I attacked with Gloin when the time came, again soliciting help from Legolas, and we were able to finish off the Hill Troll. The Misty Mountain Goblins drew a shadow card which gave them +1 damage, but Sara was still able to defend 100% of the damage with Beravor. She had no one left to deal damage, however, so we sadly took the one progress hit.
Our main source of potential frustration and doom out of the way, we felt pretty good heading into the third turn. Piling on our good luck I drew Unexpected Courage, and Sara drew Beorn’s Hospitality. We took no actions this time, opting instead to conserve our very limited pools of resources since we had each expended five last round to call Gandalf, and committed Theodred, Eowyn, and Beravor to the quest; Sara also discarded her Radagast’s Cunning to get an extra willpower, giving us a total of 10.
The encounter draw once again impeded what I thought was going to be good quest progress, dealing a Treacherous Fog which added +1 threat to all locations in the staging area, as well as a Dol Guldur Orc which dealt Beravor two damage. That settled, we traveled into the Gladden Fields again to reduce the staging area’s threat for next turn, and I took on the Orcs while Sara handled the Goblins still engaged with her from last turn; she managed to kill them by defending with Denethor, then using Legolas along with one of her Blade Masteries which also made two progress on our location, and I sacrificed my Snowbourn Scout to defend against the Orcs while dealing them two damage with Gloin. The Goblins dealt with we didn’t need to remove a progress, but thanks to the Gladden Fields still being the active location we both had to increase our threat by an extra one, giving us 32 and 33 respectively.
Sara drew a Blade Mastery at the start of the fourth turn, replacing the one she had just used, and I drew a Son of Arnor ally. I had enough resources now to play with, so I called out my Longbeard Orc Slayer for some added support, and his effect finished off the Dol Guldur Orcs engaging me. I also played Unexpected Courage on Gloin to effectively give him an additional action every turn. For her turn Sara brought out Daughter of the Nimrodel and used her ability to fully heal Denethor, and being shorter on resources than me with less ways to generate them she took no additional actions. Heading into the quest phase I committed all three of my heroes, readying Gloin again by exhausting Unexpected Courage, and Sara committed Beravor and discarded a Protector of Lorien to give her an extra willpower for a total of 12.
Now, I’ll say when I first played the scenario last time and saw the Hill Troll card that I couldn’t believe how insane the card was compared to what I felt I could bring to the table, and I really couldn’t see how we were going to kill him. So, having expended some good cards to kill the starting Hill Troll you can imagine I just about shit myself when another Hill Troll came out of the encounter deck. Just our luck not to draw him as a shadow card or something. Joining the Hill Troll was an Enchanted Stream location which, if we went there, would stop us from drawing cards. Not a pretty situation, though our willpower did mean we finished the location we were on, and were almost done with the first quest if we could get this new Hill Troll menace dealt with. Having no way to deal with the Hill Troll this turn, I engaged him and played my A Light in the Dark to send him back to the staging area, and Sara decided to exhaust Denethor to reveal and put Captain Ufthak at the bottom of the Encounter deck.
Going into the fifth round things were looking pretty bleak. I drew Steward of Gondor which bode well for the long-term if we survived that long but was of no immediate help. Sara dug deep though and pulled through, drawing us a Forest Snare which would more-or-less permanently stop the Hill Troll from doing any damage. For her turn Sara exhausted her Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal Beravor, and she used Denethor to look at the top card of the Encounter deck, and place that Wolf Riders card on the bottom. I played my Steward card on Eowyn to really shore up my ability to use Spirit cards, and used it immediately to gain another two Spirit resources.
With Beravor and all three of my heroes committed to the quest (and Gloin turned back to readied status thanks to his attachment), we headed into the quest phase. Even with our high willpower scores the encounter deck draw went poorly, bringing out The East Bight which would force us to travel there and take six whole progress to get out of the way, and The Brown Lands location with five threat. As far as location combos go that was a nasty one, and we took +1 threat each before I engaged the Hill Troll and Sara played her trap card to stop it from attacking. Once again we used our one-two punch of Gloin and Legolas, combined with a Blade Mastery card applied to Legolas, to deal five damage to the Hill Troll leaving him at less than half health.
Our next draws were a Common Cause card for me which was not helpful, and a Gondorian Spearman for Sara. I had been sitting on my Northern Tracker and decided now was the time to play it to help with our looming locations situation in mid. Sara used Denethor to reveal a Despair card which removes four progress from the current quest, but given the much worse things I knew were in the deck we decided to keep it as a possible lesser evil. I committed all three of my heroes again to questing plus my Northern Tracker who removed the Blighted Lands card and added a progress to all the other locations in the staging area, and Sara contributed her Daughter of the Nimrodel for a total of willpower which ended up being good enough to net us four progress on The East Bight location we had been forced to travel to last turn.
The Despair card, of course, had taken away four of those progress, and the second card flipped was a Dol Guldur Beastmaster which got two shadow cards in combat instead of one. Sara engaged the Beastmaster who got a +2 attack on his second shadow card, forcing Sara to guard with Beravor and discard an additional card to up her defense by one thanks to her attachment, resulting in a net damage to Beravor of two -damage we could easily heal next turn.- I engaged the troll again with Gloin after readying him, and assisted by Legolas we felled the second Troll of the game and Legolas’s ability finished the location we were on.
Rolling into the sixth turn Sara drew Stand Together, and I finally got A Test of Will which gave us some defense against bad “when revealed” effects should they come up. Sara healed Beravor with her Daughter of the Nimrodel, and played her Horseback Archer which had good attack and could contribute at ranged like Legolas. She ended her round by once again exhausting Denethor to check the top card of the Encounter deck which turned out to be a Banks of the Anduin which actually seemed like a good card to have out given it only contributed one threat, and when destroyed returned to the top of the deck and therefore possibly slowed the really bad cards from coming out. Now that the Hill Troll was out of the way we could actually get past this blasted first part of the quest, so I added Favor of the Lady on Eowyn for yet another willpower (now seven on just her), and committed all three heroes along with my Northern Tracker who destroyed two locations in the staging area. Sara kept all of her remaining characters readied, and we drew and East Bight again along with a card that didn’t have an effect, and we handily finished the first part of the quest.
The second part of the quest’s required progress was more than a little daunting, requiring 16 progress to finish as we raced down the river under harassment by enemies on the banks. Its effect stopped enemies from engaging us from the staging area unless we optionally engaged them, but also made us draw one extra Encounter card each turn which meant stuff was going to pile up very fast unless we made quick work of things. More immediately, the Beastmaster still in play attacked Sara, and one of his shadow cards made her return Daughter of the Nimrodel to her hand. In return Sara dealt the Beastmaster four damage.
For the seventh turn I drew a Guard of the Citadel, and Sara a Lore of Imladris which I could foresee coming in handy when we did end up fighting whatever was stacking in the staging area. I went ahead and put down my newly acquired Guard for some extra support, and Sara put her Daughter of the Nimrodel back into play and revealed a Warg from the deck using Denethor which we chose to keep. In addition to the Warg, we ended up adding a Misty Mountain Goblins and another Banks of the Anduin location to the staging area, though our committed progress was enough to finish the active location. I optionally engaged the Goblins and defended with Gloin who took one damage, and the rest of my available characters overwhelmed the Goblins. Sara took one damage on Beravor from her Beastmaster, then finished him off and added two progress to the quest.
The game had now stretched into by far the longest sitting we’ve had of LOTR LCG so far, and it had been a nail-biter through and through. From killing the first troll and thinking we had things made, then drawing the second troll and having to deal with him, and now facing a very willpower-centric second phase of the quest that threatened to overwhelm us at any moment. We were coming down the home stretch, though, and I drew a Sneak Attack and Sara drew an Erebor Hammersmith to start off our seventh turn. My Steward of Arnor card equipped to Eowyn had come in handy, and I was swimming in resources thanks to it and Theodred’s special ability. I passed my round, but Sara played her Hammersmith and was able to take back her Forest Snare card from her discard pile to give us some added comfort. That was a fortuitous draw, because Denethor’s ability revealed a Marsh Adder that was coming up during the next encounter phase, and it wasn’t a creature I’d have particularly liked to have faced.
Determined to blitz this quest card I once again committed all my heroes, plus my tracker and guard. Sara contributed Beravor, and discarded her Gondorian Spearman to get +1 to her willpower. We dealt out our encounter cards adding the Marsh Adder, another Misty Mountain Goblins, and an Enchanted Stream to the staging area. We made four progress against those mounting odds, leaving six total on the main quest. Sara optionally engaged the Adder, immediately saddling it with the Forest Snare, and I engaged the Goblin. Sara used her Lore of the Imladris to heal Gloin who was teetering at low health, and I finished the Goblin while Sara attacked the Adder for five damage.
For our ninth turn I drew a Power in the Earth which could reduce the threat of one location in the staging area by one, which was great for potentially making headway on the quest this time around. Sara got a Dwarven Axe which we decided she’d play on my Gloin hero for the added +2 damage bonus instead of +1 it would get on her characters, and she used Beravor’s special ability to let me draw two cards. I drew my second Gandalf and A Light in the Dark which put us in a pretty amazing spot heading into the rest of the turn, and Sara finished playing her actions by bringing out her Miner of the Iron Hills. I played Gandalf and reduced my threat by five since we had crept over 40, and advised Sara do the same if her second Gandalf ever revealed itself. Denethor’s ability which had been of such use to us throughout the game came through again and showed us Pursued by Shadow which added threat for each character not committed to a quest. Given that I had just reduced my threat that wasn’t a huge deal for me, and Sara ended up committing every single one of her characters so it didn’t affect her at all. I committed all three of my heroes, readying Gloin as normal, along with Gandalf and my Northern Tracker.
The Banks of the Anduin, Pursued by Shadow, and Goblin Sniper added to the staging area was not enough to overcome our total of 18 willpower, and we made 10 progress on the quest, defeating it. The third and final part of the quest, Ambush on the Shore, required that we clear all the enemies that had stacked up while our raft barreled down the river, but the good news was after we added two more encounter cards per player to the staging area that we’d skip the staging step of the quest phase from this point on. Loading up the staging area for our final battle we added a Necromancer’s Pass location, an Eastern Crows which had the surge ability and revealed another Eastern Crows, and the one final card plus the card drawn for the extra Eastern Crows had when revealed effects and didn’t stick around. One of them, Necromancer’s Reach, had been trouble for me in the past, but my A Test of Will card ensured our safety this time around.
We had our work cut out for us, but at this point our forces were exceptionally well rounded and the Marsh Adder was under control thanks to Sara’s Forest Snare. I engaged the Warg who did some damage to me and returned to the staging area, and Sara optionally engaged one of the Eastern Crows and then forceably engaged the second which happened to draw a Wolf Rider card as one of its shadow cards which also attacked.
We had taken a bit of damage in turn nine, but we were so close to victory it didn’t matter. The tenth turn was our final real turn- we played no cards, and only committed enough to the quest phase to equal the amount of threat on everything out in play. Since I had Eowyn with seven willpower that wasn’t hard to do, and the Northern Tracker helped take out some locations. Sara optionally engaged the Wargs and played a Thicket of Spears card she drew at the beginning of the turn, stopping all attacks against her. The amount of firepower at her disposal was enough to fell all four creatures in front of her, clearing the play area and signaling our victory after killing the Goblin Sniper the following turn!
UPDATE/NOTE: We’ll have to try this one again for a true win, as we later determined (and as comment below points out) we incorrectly utilized our Forest Snare and Thicket of Spears. Ah, well…such is life! We’ll get the troll fair and square next time!
I was very impressed with how our decks performed during this game, and I think we’re really getting the hang of how everything works together and of deck building appropriately for the scenario at hand. That said, I know luck was on our side this time around; drawing so many good cards early on and getting a couple of other cards at opportune moments really saved the day and gave us a fighting chance at winning. I’m in no way comfortable with our odds of beating Journey Along the Anduin again if we tried, though for now I’ll certainly take the win so we can move onto our next scenario and challenge.
As far as the Journey Along the Anduin scenario itself is concerned, I found it very thematic and much more interesting mechanically than Passage Through Mirkwood. The “holy crap, how am I going to beat that?” reaction to seeing the Hill Troll, and the feeling of accomplishment after you’ve stomped him into the ground, is extraordinarily satisfying, and the second and third parts of the quest really do give a feeling of rushing down the Anduin in a raft with enemies piling up hot on your heels along the banks, and of then reaching a shore and having to fend off those pursuing enemies. Really well done, though I’d say the difficulty ramp from the first scenario to the second is a little absurd, especially given that it’s not just a difficulty ramp but a total strategy revamp in order to succeed. I can only imagine how off-putting that has been to new players throughout the years, and how many long-time players Fantasy Flight Games has scared away because of it.
I’m here to stay though, and soon we’re on to the third and final adventure in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game core box!
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