Breaking the Game: Flies and Spiders/The Lonely Mountain

Back we come to the subject of breaking the game. I’ve grouped Flies and Spiders and Lonely Mountain together not because of any similarity in the ways they can be broken, purely because they came in the same box and because I have a limited amount to say about each. One thing limiting the amount I have to say is the fact that I actually used some of the somewhat quest-breaking effects when I played them for The Line Unbroken – there’s less point in going over these points in detail when I’ve already demonstrated some of them.


Flies and Spiders

The Flies and Spiders experience is primarily defined by two things: the poison mechanic and the players being divided at stages 3 and 4, with the first player having everyone fall unconscious except Bilbo. So can we side-step these mechanics? Answer: kind of, yeah.

The splitting up and falling unconscious there’s not so much we can do, except for one idea which occurred to me the other day – what if, before quest resolution while pushing through to stage 3, the first player plays Desperate Alliance? They give one of their heroes temporarily to another player, then advance to stage 3, discard all resources and make everyone unconscious except Bilbo; then at the end of the quest phase the Desperate Alliance’d hero returns to the first player, still conscious. Being able to go into that stage with one regular hero still conscious in addition to Bilbo could make it a lot easier.

Poison there’s more scope. Of course for The Line Unbroken I used hero Beorn, who can’t have attachments and thus cannot be poisoned. While when revealed and shadow effects can bring in additional poison, the majority of poison comes from spiders’ attacks and the Venom keyword, so any defender who can consistently avoid taking any damage can mostly just shrug it off, which makes Frodo Baggins a rather good choice as his ability can guarantee no damage, even from an undefended attack.

Now these two ideas both reduce the extent of problems you face, potentially quite significantly, but don’t completely remove them like the ways of breaking Shadow and Flame (though that is rather a high bar to match). In particular in the case of Beorn/Frodo (and perhaps other damage cancellation effects) you still have to be wary of things like the when revealed on Lazy Lob and some shadow effects which add poison. I can’t speak entirely from experience, though I have played a 3 player game of this quest where both Beorn and Frodo were in play (in separate decks), and the mitigation of the poison certainly helped a lot, especially in the early game. Then once we were set up the only remaining concern we had was that our third player might struggle to make his way out of stage 3 to rejoin us. So I can fairly confidently say it has a significant impact. I’ll have to try the Desperate Alliance idea some time since that just occurred to me recently.

The Lonely Mountain

The Lonely Mountain is the more extreme example of me having applied most of the principles that can break the quest while playing it for The Line Unbroken. Though the extent to which I focused it down was partly to compensate for my deliberate omission of Dain, who would make the questing aspect of things a lot easier.
So to reiterate from the Line Unbroken post, the main things you need to beat Lonely Mountain, and indeed potentially to trivialise it, are characters with high individual willpower values (or willpower boosting effects) to overcome Smaug the Golden; and card draw (with particular emphasis given to on-demand card draw effects) to pass Burgle tests. The fact that the quest doesn’t really present any other significant challenges leaves you free to focus these down and potentially include cards which would be much less use in a more general context.

As far as willpower goes, both boosts to individuals (like Dunedain Quest, Favour of the Lady, Celebrian’s Stone etc) and global boosts (Like Dain Ironfoot, Sword that was Broken, Faramir etc) will work. Either focus all your willpower boosts on a single character or a limited number of characters, or put out the global boosts on to a bunch of 1 willpower allies. Galadriel+Nenya is a nice option, since using Nenya doesn’t count as committing Galadriel to the quest and thus does nothing to Smaug the Golden.

And then between such effects as King Under the Mountain, Gleowine, Beravor, Daeron’s Runes, Deep Knowledge, Galadriel, Elven Light and yet more I can’t bring to mind right now, there are plenty of options for drawing the card revealed for a Burgle test into your hand and then immediately discarding it as a match for itself. On top of those it is obviously possible to build specifically for consistency, as with Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim, to make finding matches easier, but I don’t really think it’s necessary to go quite that far.

Of course it also be remiss of me not to mention the crazy idea of deliberately getting Dragon-spell attached to Gloin to give him as many resources as you like so long as you have the healing to keep him healthy. That one’s less specifically geared towards beating the scenario, but arguably even more broken since it turns what’s supposed to be a debilitating condition into a massive benefit.

Overall, while The Lonely Mountain can be somewhat challenging to get all 5 treasures if you just bring any old generic deck, if you build specifically for it it as I’ve described above, it can become ludicrously easy. For a fairly effective demonstration of this, see my playthrough of the quest for The Line Unbroken (wherein I quested unsuccessfully only once, right at the start, and passed every single burgle test to get all 5 treasures) if you haven’t already.

So there we go, a brief look at the ways the mechanics of these two quests can be somewhat exploited. The Lonely Mountain I particular can become somewhat trivial, though this really comes down in large part to the gimmicky nature of it, and with that being the case I imagine a fair number of people may actually prefer it this way as they don’t want to have to deal with the gimmick in a more frustrating form. Either way, there it is. Thanks for reading!

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