So I enjoy a good challenge. Restrictions breed creativity – having less to work with forces you to try harder to make it work. An obvious example of this can be playing with a limited card pool because e.g. you’ve been buying expansions in a random order and don’t have that many yet. Not having some of the easy standard options to fall back on makes things interesting. The idea of doing some sort of deck-building challenges on this blog was one I thought of possibly before I even started it, though I thought it might be a while before I got to it. Anyway, what you should take away from this preamble is that I like taking on challenges.
As a result, I was very interested when this thread was started on the official LotR LCG forums. After some negotiation, it got modulated to bi-monthly challenges rather than weekly ones and got rolling. Unfortunately I was a bit busy at the start of August, and then wanted to be catching up on other things I’d neglected in that period, with the result that I’m a couple of challenges behind. But not to be dismayed, and being somewhat of a completionist, I am going to do the two I’ve missed before moving onto the current challenge.
The first challenge, as you’ll see if you look through the thread, was to beat Conflict at the Carrock using all Hobbit heroes. Saw some different approaches, but it turned out to actually be a pretty good setup for the quest, hobbits being able to produce a decent amount of power and being nice low threat to allow for easier turtling on stage 1.
So, based partly on that, partly on other people’s accounts, and partly on my own general feelings about most or possibly all of the older quests in the game, I figured the challenge could maybe do with being a bit more challenging. So point 1, Nightmare CatC; and point 2, two handed, six hobbits, meaning I had to use not only the well-favoured Sam/Merry/Pippin/Frodo, but also the more lacklustre Bilbo and Fatty.
That additional level of challenge set, it was simply a case of figuring out my strategy for the quest, and I went for the standards both of the quest and of hobbits – turtle on stage 1 of the quest, and stay below enemy engagement costs to get combat boosts for hobbits. Obviously both of these points require some good threat control, especially with Frodo (and Fatty) in the mix. Beyond that, a few silver bullet cards for specific things in this scenario – Riddermark’s Finest and Vassals of the Windlord to cancel A Frightened Beast and Thror’s Key to negate Hives and Hives. Finally, side-quests are kind of broken in this scenario, because they soak up your stage 1 progress as well as giving their usual benefits…
Bill the Pony x3
Barliman Butterbur x3
Ithilien Tracker x1
Henamarth Riversong x1
Miner of the Iron Hills x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Warden of Healing x2
Hobbit Cloak x3
Fast Hitch x3
Steward of Gondor x3
Staff of Lebethron x3
Sneak Attack x3
Taste it Again! x3
In the Shadows x3
Secret Paths x3
Campfire Tales x2
Daeron’s Runes x3
Gather Information x1
Scout Ahead x1
Dunedain Hunter x3
The Riddermark’s Finest x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3
West Road Traveller x3
Arwen Undomiel x2
Honour Guard x3
Curious Brandybuck x2
Wandering Took x2
Thror’s Key x3
Secret Vigil x3
Silver Lamp x3
Ring Mail x3
Dagger of Westernesse x3
A Test of Will x3
Halfling Determination x3
Small Target x3
Gather Information x1
Double Back x1
Play Session Report
Warning – extremely long.
My first attempt didn’t work out so well because I accidentally completed stage 1 too soon when I wasn’t ready for the trolls yet. Didn’t help that I didn’t draw any of my side-quests. So this was attempt 2:
Deck 1 opening hand: Daeron’s Runes, Mablung, In the Shadows, Staff of Lebethron, In the Shadows, Sneak Attack.
Deck 2 opening hand: forgot to note it down.
Both decks mulligan.
Deck 1 Mulligan: Gandalf, Treebeard, Mablung, Bill the Pony, Daeron’s Runes, Miner of the Iron Hills.
Deck 2 Mulligan: Ring Mail, Dagger of Westernesse, Silver Lamp, Vassal of the Windlord, West Road Traveller, A Test of Will.
Not too bad, I have a couple of my silver bullets, plus Test of Will, and some useful combat stuff.
Deck 1 – 1/1/1, Quickbeam, Staff of Lebethron.
Deck 2 – 1/1/1, Halfling Determination.
Deck 1 – Bill the Pony, Quickbeam (not triggering his response, I won’t need him this round).
Deck 2 – Dagger of Westernesse on Sam.
I figure I’m OK draw-wise so I’m waiting for a duplicate before Daeron’s Runes. Saving Sam’s resource for Treebeard next round. Saving Spirit resources for Test of Will of course.
Sam + Bill the Pony + Pippin = 6 Willpower.
The Carrock = 2 Threat.
Staging – Troll Lair (+2 = 4 Threat), Time for Supper. It appears I missed Time for Supper gaining surge and thus invalidated this whole playthrough. Whoops. I feel like I still would’ve been OK though.
6 – 4 = 2 Progress.
Grimbeorn’s Quest – 2/7.
Travel: Troll Lair is the only choice.
Deck 1 – 24 Threat.
Deck 2 – 21 Threat.
Deck 2 – 1/2/2, Feint, Gather Information.
Deck 1 – 2/1/1, Barliman Butterbur.
Deck 2 – Gather Information, Silver Lamp on Frodo, Vassal of the Windlord.
Deck 1 – Treebeard.
Sam + Bill + Pippin + Quickbeam = 8 Willpower.
The Carrock = 2 Threat.
Staging – Gladden Fields (+3=5), Gladden Fields (+3=8).
8 – 8 = 0 Progress. 1 Progress on Gather Information from Forced.
That’s unfortunate. I was questing cautiously, but I thought I’d at least make some inroads on the Troll Lair. Of course now we begin to see the power of Side-quests here. Because the anti-turtle measure introduced on the Nightmare card tells you to place 1 progress on ‘the current quest’, and the side-quest remains the current quest until the end of the quest phase, it eats up that progress and allows you to turtle that much longer.
Grimbeorn’s Quest – 2/7.
Gather Information – 1/4.
Deck 2 – 22 Threat.
Deck 1 – 25 Threat.
Deck 1 – 1/1/1/1 (Listing Treebeard’s resources here as well), Gandalf, Daeron’s Runes.
Deck 2 – 1/3/1, Secret Vigil.
Deck 1 – Barliman Butterbur. Daeron’s Runes draws Miner of the Iron Hills, Fast Hitch, discard Gandalf.
Deck 2 – West Road Traveller, switching the active Troll Lair for Gladden Fields.
I need willpower, I only need one Gandalf since he’s intended to be Sneak Attacked, and I want to start digging through my deck.
Sam + Pippin + Bill + Barliman Butterbur + Quickbeam + Treebeard + Merry + West Road Traveller = 15 Willpower.
The Carrock + Gladden Fields + Troll Lair = 7 Threat.
Staging – Time for Supper (Nothing, surge), Savage Hill-troll (+1=8), River Langflood (+2+1=11).
15 – 11 = 4 Progress, clears Gladden Fields (3 Victory Points), 1 on the quest.
Grimbeorn’s Quest – 2/7.
Gather Information – 2/4.
Had to go fairly all-out to make sure I’d make some headway, but in the end I got exactly the right amount of progress.
Travel: River Langflood, because I know from experience the threat of that can spiral out of control with all the trolls.
Encounter: Deck 2 takes the Savage Hill-troll.
Shadow card is a Hill Troll (Dealt face up because of Silver Lamp). No shadow effect.
Fatty Bolger defends, takes 1 damage.
Refresh: 26, 23. 3 VP.
Deck 2 – 2/3/1, Honour Guard, Halfling Determination.
Deck 1 – 2/1/1/2, Taste it Again!
Deck 2 – Ring Mail on Frodo.
Deck 1 – Fast Hitch on Frodo.
Sam + Pippin + Butterbur + Quickbeam + Bill + Frodo (readies with Fast Hitch) + West Road Traveller = 13 Willpower.
Carrock + Gladden Fields + Troll Lair = 7 Threat.
Staging – Savage Hill-troll (+1=8), Troll Lair (+2=10).
13 – 10 = 3 Progress, clears Langflood. 1 Progress on the quest from Forced.
Grimbeorn’s Quest – 2/7.
Gather Information – 3/4.
Travel: Troll Lair, because I will be wanting threat reduction soon enough.
Encounter: This is a bit dicey however I do it, but Deck 1 will take SHT #2.
Deck 2’s shadow card is a Marsh Adder (No effect). Frodo defends and takes no damage thanks to Ring Mail.
Bilbo defends for Deck 1, shadow is River Langflood (No effect). 1 damage.
Merry + Fatty = 4 attack. 4 – 2 = 2 damage.
Treebeard = 4 attack. 4 – 2 = 2 damage.
SHT #1 – 4/6.
SHT #2 – 4/6.
Refresh: 27, 24. 3 VP.
Deck 1 – 3/2/1/3, Bill the Pony, Daeron’s Runes.
Deck 2 – 1/4/2, Thror’s Key.
Deck 1 – DR draws In the Shadows, Hobbit Cloak, discard Bill. Staff of Lebethron on Bilbo, Hobbit Cloak on Bilbo, Mablung, targeting SHT #2 to put its engagement cost over Deck 1’s threat so the defensive attachments will work.
Deck 2 – Thror’s Key on Frodo.
Sam + Pippin + Butterbur + Bill + Mablung + Frodo + WRT = 13 Willpower.
Carrock + Gladden Fields + Troll Lair = 7 Threat.
Staging – River Langflood (+2+2=11), Time for Supper (Nothing, surge), Roasted Slowly (Nothing, doesn’t get reshuffled because the first part didn’t trigger so neither does the ‘then’).
13 – 11 = 2 Progress on Troll Lair. 1 Progress clears Gather Info from Forced (1 VP), Deck 1 pulls a Warden of Healing, Deck 2 pulls Double Back.
Bilbo defends, using Staff of Lebethron to discard the shadow, no damage.
Frodo defends, no damage.
Quickbeam + Treebeard kill SHT #2 (1 VP, all trolls +1 HP)
Merry + Fatty do 2 damage to SHT #1.
SHT #1 – 3/7.
Refresh: 28, 25. 5 VP. All trolls +1 HP.
I feel at this point like things might be getting a tad boring. The early game turtling is OK to play through, but I don’t feel like it’s that good to read, and I’m reluctant to go through every single round of it in detail as I have been, so I’m going to start summarising a bit more until more interesting things start happening.
Scout Ahead, Double Back, WRT #2 swapping Gladden Fields to active and clearing it. Thror’s Key on Hives and Hives. Killed SHT #1.
29, 26. 9 VP. All trolls +2 HP.
Another Hives and Hives turned up, Sam got stuck in a sack.
Removed the sack with Miner of the Iron Hills, another one turned up, put it on Fatty. Cleared Scout Ahead, adding A Frightened Beast to the victory display and allowing me to put the next Hives and Hives as a shadow card where I could easily deal with the extra attack.
Removed the second sack, killed another SHT.
Nothing of interest.
Nothing much of interest, though I was pleased by my neat idea of taking a Muck Adder undefended because I could cancel the damage with two Honour Guards. Oh, and I cleared Double Back.
Finally putting more than 2 progress on Grimbeorn’s Quest. Given that without side-quests I would have advanced 5 rounds ago, I think the point about how they break this quest is adequately made. Killed off the fourth SHT and a regular Hill Troll.
Pick up a Marsh Adder, which I keep around for Secret Vigil. Travel to a Hives and Hives that still has its text, because I need threat out of the staging area and I can use my Honour Guards to save my Warden of Healing and one West Road Traveller.
Was aiming to advance this round, but ended up one point short, and decided to stick with that as I’d just found the remaining Hill Troll, plus I still needed to kill the Marsh Adder.
OK, so the board state at this point:
Deck 1’s hand – Gandalf x2, Taste it Again! x2, In the Shadows x2, Secret Paths x2, Sneak Attack, Barliman Butterbur.
Deck 2’s hand – Halfling Determination x3, Feint x2, Curious Brandybuck, Secret Vigil, Silver Lamp, Small Target, West Road Traveller, Dunedain Hunter.
Allies in play – Warden of Healing, Quickbeam, Treebeard, Ithilien Tracker, Miner of the Iron Hills x2, Barliman Butterbur, Mablung, Honour Guard x2, West Road Traveller, Dunedain Hunter. All have 1 damage except the Warden and the Traveller.
Sam – Dagger of Westernesse, Staff of Lebethron, Sacked! 1 damage.
Pippin – Sacked! 1 damage.
Bilbo – Hobbit Cloak, Staff of Lebethron, Ring Mail.
Merry – Fast Hitch, Steward of Gondor, Dagger of Westernesse.
Frodo – Fast Hitch, Hobbit Cloak, Silver Lamp, Ring Mail x2.
Fatty – Staff of Lebethron.
Deck 1’s resources (including Treebeard) – 3/4/4/8
Deck 2’s resources – 12/13/7
Staging area – The Carrock, Hives and Hives.
Active location – Troll Lair.
Engaged enemies – Hill Troll with Deck 2, 7/13 HP remaining.
Threat – 32, 27.
Victory points – 23.
Troll conditions – +4 HP.
Grimbeorn’s Quest – 6/7 Progress.
As you see, I’m pretty well set and probably didn’t need to stall as long as I did, but I had no particular need to hurry either. I’m not 100% I haven’t failed to note removing a couple of Treebeard’s resources for his ability at some point, but he did rather stack them up.
Deck 1 – 3/4/5/9, Sneak Attack, Secret Paths.
Deck 2 – 15/14/8, Small Target (including resources from Steward).
Deck 2 – West Road Traveller, Dunedain Hunter, pulling a Muck Adder out of the encounter deck.
Butterbur + Mablung + Quickbeam + WRT x2 + Merry = 11 Willpower.
Carrock + Hives = 5 Threat.
Staging – Hives and Hives (+3=8), River Langflood (+2+1=11).
Secret Paths x2 – 11-6=5.
11 – 5 = 6 Progress, clearing Troll Lair and putting 1 progress on the quest. Carrock becomes the active location, I put a Curious Brandybuck into play, and we advance to stage 2, adding the 4 unique trolls.
Encounter: Deck 1 takes Stuart and Deck 2 takes Rupert.
Combat: Bilbo defends Stuart and I play Taste it Again! To ready him with +2 attack against Stuart this round, Frodo defends the other two trolls, Fatty defends the Muck Adder. Shadows either do nothing or are discarded.
Sneak Attack Gandalf, reducing Deck 1’s threat to 27, I play In the Shadows twice to reduce Stuarts defence by 2, Treebeard spends 2 resources to ready Quickbeam, and then I attack.
Gandalf + Treebeard + Bilbo (+Taste it Again!) + Quickbeam + Ithilien Tracker + Miner x2 = 17 attack. His defence is currently 3. 17 – 3 = 14 damage, which is his hit points including the buff. 2 VP, trolls get +1 defence and can’t have player attachments. I also discard the Sacked! from Sam.
Deck 2 plays Halfling Determination to boost Merry’s attack by 2.
Merry + Dunedain Hunter x2 = 13 attack against the Hill Troll’s current 5 defence for 8 damage, killing it. 4 more VP. Merry readies one of the Hunters to attack the Muck Adder.
Rupert – 14/14, Muck Adder – 1/4.
I was considering leaving the trolls alive for the moment so I could Secret Vigil one, but between the threat that’s just been dumped in the staging area and the combat demands of killing the trolls, I really wanted Sam available.
Refresh: 28, 29. 29 VP. Trolls +4 HP, +1 Def, can’t have attachments.
Deck 2 – 17/15/7, The Riddermark’s Finest x2.
Deck 1 – 3/4/4/8, In the Shadows.
Deck 2 – Riddermark’s Finest x2
Sam + Butterbur + Mablung + Quickbeam + Treebeard + Merry + Curious Brandybuck + WRT x2 = 18 Willpower.
Hives x2 + Louis + Morris + Langflood (3 trolls) = 18 Threat.
Staging – River Langflood (+2+3=23), Time for Supper (nothing, surge), River Langflood (+2+3=28).
Secret Paths cancels one Langflood. Fatty exhausts and raises Deck 2′ threat by 4 to cancel Louis. Deck 2 plays Halfling Determination for an extra 2 willpower. I exhaust and discard both copies of The Riddermark’s Finest to explore another Langflood.
20 – 14 = 6 Progress, clearing The Carrock. Curious Brandybuck goes to the bottom of Deck 2.
Against the Trolls – 0/1.
Having saved up all my tricks for this point, I’m now burning through them at an accelerated rate to avoid everything going totally pear-shaped. The River Langflood can be one of the worst cards to see in this quest, and it’s not even a nightmare card.
Encounter: Deck 2 takes Louis, Deck 1 takes Morris (readying and boosting Sam).
I Feint Louis. Frodo defends Rupert and I use Small Target to make him hit Louis instead. I take the Muck Adder undefended and cancel the damage with Honour Guards. Bilbo defends Morris.
Merry and the Hunters attack Rupert, while Frodo finishes off the Adder. I ready Treebeard so he, Sam, the Tracker and the Miners can attack Morris.
Morris – 6/14.
Rupert – 7/14.
Louis – 12/14.
Refresh: 29, 34. 29 VP. Trolls +4 HP, +1 Def, can’t have attachments.
Deck 1 – 4/4/4/7, Fast Hitch, Barliman Butterbur.
Deck 2 – 19/16/4, The Riddermark’s Finest.
Deck 1 – Fast Hitch on Sam.
Deck 2 – Riddermark’s Finest.
Sam + Mablung + Butterbur + Quickbeam + Treebeard + Merry + Frodo + WRT x2 = 18 Willpower.
Hives x2 + Langflood (3 trolls) = 11 Threat.
Staging – Sacked! (goes on Sam), Muck Adder (+1=12).
18 – 12 = 6 Progress, clearing Langflood and putting more than enough progress on the quest stage.
Against the Trolls – 3/1.
Encounter: Deck 2 takes the Adder.
The Adder is undefended and Honour Guarded as usual. I Feint Louis again. Frodo and Bilbo defend the other trolls. Rupert’s shadow card is Roasted Slowly, which removes two damage from him.
Treebeard readies himself and Quickbeam, and they join with the Tracker and Miners to kill Morris. I remove the sack from Sam. Merry, the Hunters, Fatty, the Riddermark’s Finest, and a Halfling Determination are enough to kill Louis. I finally remove the sack from Pippin. Merry readies a Hunter to attack the Muck Adder.
Rupert – 9/14.
Muck Adder – 1/4.
Refresh: 30, 35. 33 VP. Trolls +4 HP, +1 Def, no attachments, + 1 attack, no events, raise threat by 1 after they attack.
Deck 2 – 20/17/3, Wandering Took, Thror’s Key.
Deck 1 – 5/5/4/4, Campfire Tales.
Campfire Tales draws Vassal of the Windlord and Steward of Gondor.
Deck 2 – Vassal of the Windlord, Thror’s Key on Frodo, Wandering Took, passed to Deck 1 to even out the threat.
Sam + Mablung + Butterbur + Wandering Took + Quickbeam + Treebeard + WRT x2 + Merry = 17 Willpower.
Hives x2 = 6 Threat.
Staging – Troll Lair (+2=8), A Frightened Beast (discard Riddermark).
17 – 6 = 11 Progress, clearing Langflood and putting out more superfluous quest progress.
Against the Trolls – 9/1.
Travel: Troll Lair.
Rupert’s shadow card is a Troll Lair, which would heal 4 damage from him. Rather than let that happen, I will defend his attack with Fatty and discard the shadow card with Staff of Lebethron. Fatty should take 4 damage, but I will cancel 2 points of it with my Honour Guards to let him survive, and then heal up one more (I’ve been forgetting to mention, but I’ve been healing each round to gradually recover from that Hives and Hives I explored without a key). Then Merry, Frodo, the Hunters and the Vassal will kill Rupert and advance me to stage 3 of the quest.
In addition to Rob & Bob, each player is now supposed to search the encounter deck and discard pile for a non-unique troll and add it to the staging area. However it says nothing about the victory display, which is where all the trolls are, so Rob & Bob will enter alone. Benefits of progressing really slowly I guess?
The Vassal is discarded. Merry readies a Hunter to kill the Muck Adder.
Refresh: 34, 34. 35 VP. Trolls +4 HP, +1 Def, no attachments, +1 Attack, no events, raise threat by 1 after attack, Def cannot be reduced.
Starting to think of my score (Because clearly score is really important to the guy taking 19 rounds to win a quest), Deck 1 Sneak Attacks Gandalf to lower threat.
Deck 1 – 6/6/5/5, Hobbit Cloak, Campfire Tales.
Deck 2 – 21/18/4, Dagger of Westernesse.
Campfire Tales draws a Miner and a Small Target.
Deck 1 – Hobbit Cloak on Sam, Gandalf, dropping threat again.
Deck 2 – Dagger of Westernesse on Sam, discarding the Staff of Lebethron.
Pippin + Quickbeam + Treebeard + Wandering Took + Mablung + Merry + Frodo + WRT x2 = 17 Willpower.
Hives x2 + Rob & Bob = 10 Threat.
Staging – Hives and Hives (+3=13, I attach Thror’s Key), A Frightened Beast (raises both decks’ threat by 13).
17 – 13 = 4 Progress on Troll Lair.
Grimbeorn’s Folly – -/-.
That treachery. I finally ran out of creatures to discard and didn’t have Test of Will either. That one card was pretty close to wrecking my whole game at this late stage. Note that if I hadn’t moved that Wandering Took to the other side of the table, Deck 2 would’ve just threated out!
Encounter: Deck 2 takes Rob & Bob.
Frodo defends for 4 and I cancel the damage with Honour Guards. Rob & Bob then engages Deck 1. I take it undefended and poor Barliman Butterbur is slain.
I ready Treebeard and Quickbeam and attack with everything Deck 1 has… which is not quite enough without the bonuses for higher engagement cost.
Rob & Bob – 1/14.
Refresh: 39, 49. Gandalf leaves play. 35 VP. Trolls +4 HP, +1 Def, no attachments, +1 Attack, no events, raise threat by 1 after attack, Def cannot be reduced.
Resource: Draw Sneak Attack, Sneak Attack Gandalf to drop threat.
Planning: Play Gandalf, deal 4 damage to Rob & Bob, killing him.
So basically that worked. My silver bullet cards did their thing, the extra draw from Bilbo allowed me to get everything I needed and I was able to just hang around until I was ready to stomp the trolls at my leisure. Even then, I had a harder time than expected dealing with the sudden influx of staging threat at stage 2, and A Frightened Beast finally caught me out at the end, after having discarded 2 eagles, 1 horse and 1 pony to it over the previous course of the game.
But that said, the decks did what they were supposed to perfectly up until that point, and I still won the quest and thus beat the challenge. The decks certainly weren’t perfect, I probably could’ve made some more optimal deckbuilding choices rather than just picking up a bunch of more hobbit-related stuff, but I had fun, which in the end is what this is all about.
I hope you found some interest in this despite the incredibly drawn-out nature of it. I’ll be reporting next on my tackling of the second forum challenge, which was to beat Into Ithilien without using any Leadership or Tactics card, and I promise you that one will not be as long (and I know that for a fact because I already played it out, I just need to write it up). The forests of Ithilien are not so hospitable to turtles.
And if you think you might enjoy this sort of deckbuilding challenge, head on over to the forums and take a look at the latest one. If it doesn’t appeal, there’ll be another one in a couple of weeks!