A Random Walk to Mordor #1

Seastan’s Random Walk to Mordor is something I feel is a fantastic idea. As I believe I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I like to use a wide variety of different decks, looking for uses for every card under the sun, and so something which forces me to use cards I otherwise might not is fantastic for me. If Seastan hadn’t created it I might have tried to figure out something of the sort for myself sooner or later. This was sooner of course, but since it fit my interests so well I was determined to take part. When it came to it, the main reason I decided to take the option I did was because of my fondness for Brand Son of Bain – I just picked one of the remaining options with him in it that looked feasible:

Flight to the Ford – Hama/Balin/Boromir (Ta)/Brand Son of Bain/Mablung/Fatty Bolger

So, four Tactics heroes, against a quest which kind of requires you to try and speed through it. Not ideal, but I figured at least I’d be reasonably set to deal with all the Nazgul. So I divided into a mono-tactics deck and a tri-sphere deck, with the Tactics hero in the tri-sphere being Hama – I figured recycling Feint could make up for a shortage of more standard defensive options.
My original idea was to just set up a bunch of defensive options and drown the Nazgul in the Bruinen, but a little bit of a test run indicated that I’d probably be better off killing them as they popped up, especially because then I could maybe get extra progress from Blades of Gondolin and draw cards with Foe-hammer and Legolas. I also decided that to get more willpower I’d plan to put Steward onto Fatty to get out more Spirit allies with good willpower, and figured I should probably ditch the side-quests since I wouldn’t want to take the time away from the regular quest (though I forgot to take them out of the Tactics deck). That version worked a lot better.


Brand Son of Bain

Allies (20):
Saruman x2
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Westfold Outrider x3
Legolas x3
Honour Guard x3
Knight of Minas Tirith x3

Attachments (17):
Black Arrow x1
Secret Vigil x3
Spear of the Citadel x2
Horn of Gondor x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Captain of Gondor x2
Blade of Gondolin x3

Events (11):
Feint x3
Gondorian Discipline x2
Thicket of Spears x3
Foe-hammer x3

Side-quests (2):
Gather Information x1
Delay the Enemy x1


Fatty Bolger

Allies (26):
Saruman x2
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Faramir x2
Snowbourn Scout x3
Landroval x1
Arwen Undomiel x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Bofur (Sp) x1
West Road Traveller x3
Curious Brandybuck x2

Attachments (12):
King Under the Mountain x3
Ancient Mathom x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Steward of Gondor x3

Events (12):
Sneak Attack x3
Feint x3
A Test of Will x3
Campfire Tales x3

Play-session report

My first attempt went fantastically well until I came to write it up and realised I’d missed a Surge in round 2 which would’ve changed everything going forward. Redo in order. My second attempt was going fantastically well until my laptop crashed. So I went in again, hoping third time would be the charm…


Opening hand 1: Blade of Gondolin x2, Secret Vigil, Legolas, Knight of Minas Tirith, Gondorian Shield.

I got the shield, which is the important thing. Starting out with a Secret Vigil and Legolas is also very good though.

Opening hand 2: Forgot to record this.
Mulligan hand 2: Snowbourn Scout, West Road Traveller x2, Sneak Attack, Gondorian Shield, Arwen Undomiel.

Well, I have some good Spirit allies, but unlike my two previous attempts, no Steward of Gondor, so I won’t be able to play them as fast as I’d like. I also lack a Feint. But sometimes these things happen, and I’ll just have to make the best of it.

Encounter Setup: Two Fell Riders and The Last Bridge in the staging area. Ring-bearer’s life is 15.

Round 1
Deck 1 – 1/1/1/1 (Frodo’s resources will always be listed first), Feint.
Deck 2 – 1/1/1, Galadriel’s Handmaiden.

1 – Gondorian Shield on Boromir.
2 – Gondorian Shield on Fatty.

Frodo + Boromir + Mablung + Balin = 7 Willpower.
The Last Bridge + Fell Rider x2 = 6 Threat.
Staging – The Enemy is Upon Us! (nothing, surge), Pathless Country (+2), The Old Road (+3). I exhaust Fatty Bolger targeting a Fell Rider, deck 2 threat 27.
7 – 9 = -2, threats 33, 29.
Pursued by the Enemy – 0/15.

It’s somewhat expected that these decks will quest unsuccessfully round 1, I just have to try and catch up with more willpower as the game goes on.

Travel: The Old Road.

Encounter: Deck 1 takes both Fell Riders by their Forced effect. Mablung gains a resource.

I feint the first Fell Rider and ready Boromir (deck 1 threat 34) to defend the second. Then I ready him again (35) to attack along with Brand dealing 3 damage to a Fell Rider (3/6).

Refresh: 36, 30, Life 14.

Round 2
Deck 2 – 2/2/1/2, King Under the Mountain.
Deck 1 – 2/2/1, Gondorian Shield.

2 – King Under the Mountain on Balin, exhaust to take Saruman into hand and discard Sneak Attack. Arwen.
1 – Legolas, Secret Vigil on the damaged Fell Rider.

Frodo + Balin + Arwen (targeting Boromir) + Mablung = 8 Willpower.
The Last Bridge + Pathless Country = 4 Threat.
Staging – Power in their Terror (-1 wp, 2 damage to Legolas), Ringwraith (+3). I exhaust Fatty to cancel the Ringwraith’s threat (deck 2 threat 33).
7 – 4 = 3 progress on The Old Road.
The Old Road – 3/4, Pursued by the Enemy – 0/15.

Encounter: Deck 1 takes the Ringwraith. Mablung gains a resource.

Boromir defends all three attacks (deck 1 threat 38). The Ringwraith’s shadow returns it to the staging area. Brand and Legolas kill the damaged Fell Rider, triggering Secret Vigil (threats 36, 31) and drawing Westfold Outrider.

Refresh: 37, 32, life 13.

Round 3
Deck 1 – 3/1/1/2, Thicket of Spears.
Deck 2 – 1/2/1/, Campfire Tales. KUtM takes Feint, discards Ancient Mathom.

1 – Knight of Minas Tirith pulls down the Ringwraith, gaining Mablung a resource (though the Knight’s attack does nothing). Blade of Gondolin on Brand.

Frodo + Boromir + Mablung + Balin + Arwen (targeting Fatty) = 9 Willpower.
The Last Bridge + Pathless Country = 4 Threat.
Staging – Black Steed (attaches to Ringwraith, surge), Pathless Country (+2), Ettenmoors (+2).
9 – 8 = 1 progress, clearing The Old Road.
Pursued by the Enemy – 0/15.

Things are still looking bad. I’m staring into the face of impending location lock with four locations to deal with, and there’s not a lot I can do to get more willpower.

Travel: Pathless Country.

Fatty defends the Fell Rider. First shadow is an extra attack, so I cancel it with Balin and replace it with nothing. Boromir readies to defend the Ringwraith taking 1 damage and readies again afterwards (deck 1 threat 39), then he Brand and Legolas kill the Ringwraith, placing 1 progress on Pathless Country and drawing the Black Arrow.

Refresh: 40, 33, life 12.

Round 4
Deck 2 – 4/1/3/2, Faramir, KUtM takes A Test of Will, discards Gandalf.
Deck 1 – 1/1/2, Legolas.

In retrospect since I needed to spend all my Spirit resources on decent willpower allies, maybe I should’ve held on to Gandalf.

2 – Galadriel’s Handmaiden (deck 1 threat 39).
1 – Blade of Gondolin and Black Arrow on Brand.

Frodo + Balin + Arwen (Fatty) + Handmaiden + Boromir + Mablung = 11 Willpower.
The Last Bridge + Pathless Country + Ettenmoors = 6 Threat.
Staging – Pain Assailed Him (Life 11, -2 wp) Stricken Dumb (shuffle in a burden and reveal another card), Ettenmoors (+2).
9 – 8 = 1 progress on Pathless Country.
Pathless Country – 2/3, Pursued by the Enemy – 0/15.

Great, because I didn’t have enough locations to deal with already…

Fatty defends the Fell Rider. Brand, Legolas and the Knight of Minas Tirith kill the Fell Rider, clearing Pathless Country, putting a progress on the quest (1/15), and drawing Saruman.

Refresh: 40, 34, life 10.

Round 5
Deck 1 – 5/2/2/2, Feint.
Deck 2 – 2/4/1, Envoy of Pelargir, KUtM takes Gandalf, discards Curious Brandybuck.

1 – Westfold Outrider, Saruman (threats 43, 37, Ettenmoors considered out of play this round).
2 – Envoy of Pelargir, adding a resource to Boromir.

Sneak Attack Gandalf drawing Ancient Mathom, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Campfire Tales.
Frodo + Mablung + Saruman + Balin + Arwen + Handmaiden + Envoy + Gandalf = 18 Willpower.
The Last Bridge + Pathless Country + Ettenmoors = 6 Threat.
Staging – Piercing Cry (Ringwraith enters play engaged with deck 1, Mablung gains a resource), Ringwraith (+3).
18 – 9 = 9 Progress on the quest.
Pursued by the Enemy – 10/15.
Gandalf returns to hand.

Travel: Pathless Country.

Encounter: Deck 1 engages the second Ringwraith, Mablung gains another resource.

Thicket of Spears. Brand with the Black Arrow and the Outrider kill one Ringwraith putting 2 progress on Pathless Country; Boromir, Legolas and the Knight kill the other, drawing Spear of the Citadel.

Refresh: 44, 38, life 9, Saruman leaves play, Ettenmoors come back.

Round 6
Deck 2 – 3/2/3/2, Gandalf, KUtM takes Feint, discards Arwen.
Deck 1 – 3/2/2, Envoy of Pelargir.

2 – Ancient Mathom on Pathless Country, Snowbourn Scout explores it drawing Gondorian Shield, Sneak Attack, Landroval.
1 – Envoy of Pelargir adding resource to Mablung. Spear of the Citadel on Boromir.

Frodo + Balin + Arwen (Boromir) + Handmaiden + Envoy + Mablung + Envoy = 12 Willpower.
The Last Bridge + Ettenmoors x2 = 6 Threat.
Staging – Stricken Dumb (shuffle in burden, additional card), Eaten Alive! (2 damage to Hama, surge), Black Steed (nothing, surge), Panicked (deck 2 threat 41, first player token is passed, surge), Ringwraith (+3), Piercing Cry (Fell Rider enters play engaged with deck 1, Mablung gains a resource). I exhaust Fatty targeting the Ringwraith (deck 2 threat 44).
12 – 6 = 6 Progress on the quest.
Pursued by the Enemy – 16/15.

It was at this point that I remembered I also need to explore The Last Bridge before I can advance to stage 2.

Travel: The Last Bridge. Travel cost reveals Fear of Discovery (I trigger Frodo to shuffle and replace), Black Steed (attach to Ringwraith, surge), Pathless Country.

Encounter: Deck 2 takes the Ringwraith.

I Feint the Fell Rider. The Snowbourn Scout defends the Ringwraith. One of the shadows discards an attachment, so Fatty loses his shield. Boromir, the Knight and the Outrider deal 5 damage to the Fell Rider (1/6); Legolas, Brand and Hama kill the Ringwraith, but I forgot to draw with Legolas, and The Last Bridge is immune to player cards effects so the Blades of Gondolin do nothing.

Refresh: 45, 45, life 8.

Round 7
Deck 2 – 3/2/4/2, A Test of Will, KUtM takes Envoy of Pelargir, discards Campfire Tales.
Deck 1 – 3/2/2, Secret Vigil.

2 – Envoy of Pelargir adding a resource to Boromir, Galadriel’s Handmaiden (deck 1 threat 44).
1 – Secret Vigil on Fell Rider, Gondorian Shield on Fatty.

Frodo + Balin + Arwen + Handmaiden x2 + Envoy x2 + Mablung + Envoy = 15 Willpower.
Pathless Country + Ettenmoors x2 = 6 Threat.
Staging – Fear of Discovery (I use Frodo to shuffle and replace), Fear of Discovery (effectively double surge), The Enemy is Upon Us! (Fell Rider attacks, Boromir defends killing it with the Spear, Secret Vigil, threats 42, 43), The Nine are Abroad (blanks text boxes), Ettenmoors (+2).
15 – 8 = 7 Progress, clearing The Last Bridge and advancing the quest. At this point I’m not sure if the additional progress should spill over onto stage 2. I know that if the quest stage somehow advances during staging you make progress on the new stage, and it doesn’t if you just reached the quest points of the stage before running out of progress to place, but I’m not 100% sure about if it advances midway through placing progress because you cleared a location. I played it that it didn’t, to be safe.
The Witch-King and Ford of Bruinen are added to the staging area.
Race to Rivendell – 0/30 (including the +15 since there’s a Nazgul in play).

Travel: Pathless Country.

Encounter: Deck 1 engages The Witch-King.

OK, at this point I’m going to bring up another rules question mark, because while it’s not yet relevant, if I interpreted the rules the other way I would not have engaged at this juncture. Well, actually as it happened I just forgot at this point that everyone had blank text boxes, but there is a reasonable rules interpretation which would allow my plan to work, as follows:
The question is the ever thorny one of immediate effects versus persistent ones, and as with the quest progress above, this is an in-betweeny sort of case which makes me uncertain. Some cards say “All characters get [effect] until the end of the phase/round.” Those cards are clearly persistent effects, and any characters that enter play after the card is played or revealed will still get the effect. Other cards say “All characters currently in play get [effect] until the end of the phase/round.” These are clearly immediate and only affects characters in play at the time. The Nine Are Abroad reads “When Revealed: Treat the text box of each character in play as blank (except for Traits) until the end of the round.” So do we assume that “in play” means “currently in play” or that it refers to any character which is in play for the rest of the round? The crux of the matter is, if I now Sneak Attack an ally, do they have their text box blanked or not? As I said, at the time I simply forgot about the blanking, and if this hadn’t already been my third attempt I might have gone back and done it again, but as it was already my third attempt, I’m going to continue on with the write-up assuming that we treat “in play” as “currently in play” and so the Sneak Attacked ally has text.

So after all that lengthy rules debate, deck 2 Sneak Attacks Landroval into play. Deck 1 takes the attack undefended (indeed I have no choice in the matter since I have no ready characters with more than 1 willpower), putting the damage on Mablung, who dies, but deck 2 returns Landroval to hand to return Mablung to play with 1 damage on him. The shadow effect does reduce the ring-bearer’s life by 1 if the attack destroys a character, so life 7. Then Boromir (threat 43), Brand, Mablung, Legolas and the Knight will kill the Witch-King, placing 2 progress on Pathless Country (2/3) and drawing Horn of Gondor.

Refresh: 44, 44, life 6.

Round 8
Deck 1 – 1/3/3/3, Thicket of Spears.
Deck 2 – 3/5/1, West Road Traveller, KUtM takes Steward of Gondor, discards Curious Brandybuck.

Finally my Steward turned up! About time, after I’ve been digging for it all game and as I recall I had less than 20 cards left in my deck by this point.

Deck 1 – Horn of Gondor on Balin.
Deck 2 – Steward on Fatty immediately exhausted. West Road Traveller, Gandalf (threat 39).

Frodo + Balin + Arwen + Handmaiden x2 + West Road Traveller + Envoy x2 + Gandalf + Brand + Mablung + Envoy = 23 Willpower.
Ford of Bruinen + Ettenmoors x3 = 8 Threat.
Staging – Pain Assailed Him (life 5, -2 wp), Rode Like a Gale (nothing, surge), Pale Blade (nothing, surge), The Old Road (+3).
21 – 11 = 10 Progress, clearing The Old Road and putting 9 on the quest.
Race to Rivendell – 9/15.

Travel: The Old Road.

Refresh: 45, 40, life 4. Gandalf leaves play, Balin gains a resource.

Round 9
Deck 2 – 2/2/2/4 (including Steward), Bofur, KUtM takes Snowbourn Scout, discards KUtM.
Deck 1 – 3/4/4, Gondorian Discipline.

2 – Snowbourn Scout (1 progress on The Old Road (1/4)), West Road Traveller.

Frodo + Balin + Arwen + Handmaiden x2 + Traveller x2 + Envoy x2 + Brand + Mablung + Envoy = 21 Willpower.
Ford of Bruinen + Ettenmoors x3 = 8 Threat.
Staging – Pale Blade (nothing, surge), Fell Rider (+2), Pain Assailed Him (life 3, -2 wp).
19 – 10 = 9 Progress, clearing the Old Road and taking me to 15 on the quest. Now all I need to do is kill one last Nazgul.
Race to Rivendell – 15/30.

Encounter: Deck 1 engages.

Boromir defends dealing 1 damage with the Spear. The shadow effect discards the Spear. Legolas, the Knight and the Outrider are then enough to kill the Fell Rider, reducing the quest points on stage 2 back to 15 and winning me the game.

8 completed rounds = 80
Total combined Threat = 85
Total damage on Heroes = 4
Cost of dead Heroes = 0
Victory points = 4

Well, that was interesting. For all that Brand was my reason for choosing this setup, his ability was irrelevant. In my original conception, he could’ve gotten an extra attack out of Hama to recycle 2 Feints at a time while just tanking the Nazgul until I could drown them in the Ford, but as noted and as I found, with four Tactics heroes, killing the Nazgul was always going to be a lot easier than questing for a ton. That last playthrough was in stark contrast to my other two in that I didn’t start with Steward of Gondor, and thus took noticeably longer to establish a reasonable amount of willpower. Early on my threat became a big concern, hence sometimes having Arwen target Fatty so he could Sentinel and spare Boromir, and then later on Frodo’s life was getting dangerously low – indeed I’ve never seen Frodo’s life get that low in this quest.
On the Witch-King/Nine Are Abroad issue – if the rules were interpreted the other way (/if I’d remembered about the blank text boxes at the time) then I had other options. I could have left The Witch-King in the staging area until next round when my characters had text again, though then I wouldn’t have quested as well and perhaps the quest would’ve taken another round to complete. I could’ve engaged him with deck 2 and Sneak Attacked Gandalf to defend, though then I wouldn’t have been able to kill him in one hit, so I wouldn’t have been able to quest with Gandalf the following round, so again it likely would’ve taken another round to win. And in that additional round, obviously a few different things could’ve gone wrong, but on the other hand, this came at the end of a fairly unfortunate performance by deck 2, taking 7 rounds to find one of the three copies of Steward of Gondor, and so under more normal circumstances I think it’s not unreasonable to think these decks should perform pretty well against this quest regardless.

Thanks for reading!

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4 Responses to A Random Walk to Mordor #1

  1. Seastan says:

    Glad you enjoyed the challenge! Interesting to see someone who is a fan of Brand :). The only time I’ve been impressed with him is when the other player is running Tactics Merry.


    • Steven A says:

      Well, as a general rule, I’m a fan both of underdogs and of readying effects.
      He was one of the first few non-Core heroes I encountered, and the ability really caught my interest right off the bat, though I’ll grant that it does perhaps work better in theory than in practice a certain amount of the time.


  2. Pingback: Warden of Arnor

  3. Pingback: Doubling down on deckbuilding challenges | Warden of Arnor

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