The Line Unbroken – C1: Shadow of the Past

Although in fact the release of Black Riders at GenCon came after the release of Assault on Osgiliath, I decided to do it at this point since the cycle takes something of a narrative break after Encounter at Amon Din which it doesn’t after Osgiliath. To keep my progressing card pool consistent I won’t be using anything from Assault on Osgiliath yet, though I’m not sure I’d want to in any case.
This is a momentous occasion for The Line Unbroken for two reasons. Firstly you’ll note that this is episode C1 rather than 31. That’s because I’ve decided I’m going to be doing the Lord of the Rings saga quests in campaign mode, to show off how that impacts the quests and because it’ll be fun. And then the second reason is because at this point, with the exception of when I go back to Assault on Osgiliath, I’m moving onto quests not previously covered by the Progression Series. New and relatively unknown territory. Exciting times indeed.

There’s a lot to be said about campaign mode, deckbuilding for a campaign and in particular choosing heroes, since once you choose your heroes you are locked into those choices for several quests in a row on pain of threat penalties. That being said, I tend to feel that at the start of the campaign, the greatest concern in hero choices is the first quest – the need to pass Hide tests means there is an immediate demand for good willpower on your heroes, and readying effects are extremely useful as well – while you could make up for a hero willpower deficit by having good willpower allies, the allies wouldn’t start the game in play, and stage 2 of the quest makes Hide tests more difficult if you have lots of allies, so readying effects are probably the better option.

Of course, in my case four of my heroes are pre-chosen for me by standard Line Unbroken rules – the four heroes released in the box: Sam Gamgee, Merry, Pippin and Fatty Bolger. Since they’re all Hobbits, Fast Hitch is a cheap and effective readying effect so I’m pretty good on that front. But how to fill the remaining two hero slots? Well, while I would often be happy to throw theme out the window, in this particular instance I’m inclined to stick somewhat to it, making Aragorn the obvious choice for my fifth hero since he turns up in the events depicted in A Knife the Dark. He’s also a good choice, since Leadership Aragorn has an in-built readying effect, and I can load him up with Celebrian’s Stone and Sword that was Broken for tons of willpower. And then moving forward I’ll have the flexibility to switch between the Leadership and Lore versions of the hero as I feel like for different quests.
But who shall be my sixth hero? I considered a few different possibilities.
Glorfindel is the most thematic choice since he did turn up for Flight to the Ford in the book. But I have something of an aversion to him as too much of an overused easy option, and also putting him in as my final hero would give me the exact same lineup as the Tales from the Cards campaign, and I’d rather do something a bit different to what I’ve seen before.
Elrond is a powerful option and one I’m rather fond of. In thematic terms, Elrond certainly had an interest in the events we’re portraying here, and perhaps it would’ve made more sense for him to venture forth in person from Imladris for this than for anything else we could choose to use him for… on the other hand, his high threat runs contrary to Hobbit strategies and would limit my flexibility as I’d want to keep him away from Aragorn since that’d be 31-32 starting threat if I put them together. Plus he tends to pull a lot of focus.
Bilbo Baggins would’ve been an interesting choice to just go for maximum Hobbit synergies, and the extra card draw is always welcome. To be honest one of the biggest points against him was simply that I’d used him twice recently and figured I’d like a change.
Dunhere would’ve been a pretty neat idea. Hobbits mean low threat so Dunhere gets a chance to do his thing, he’s great with Daggers of Westernesse, I could just have him charge the Black Riders in the staging area rather than engaging and having to defend them. The points against him though were that I want to make sure I have decent willpower for both questing and Hide tests and Fatty is already not helping much in that regard with his 1 willpower, that using Dunhere would run counter to Hobbit strategies with Sam and Pippin both benefitting from engaging enemies, and the fact that if I chose to run Dunhere, he would become the focus rather than the Hobbits. Since it’s their box, I want them to take more of the deckbuilding focus. Which brings me to my eventual choice:
Balin. Another favourite of mine, ever dependable but doesn’t hog the spotlight. Has 2 willpower which is OK, being a Dwarf gives me King Under the Mountain, the shadow cancellation will come in very handy, can pair up with Aragorn and enable round 1 Steward of Gondor, generally a great pick. Thematically we’re in weird territory here since Balin is supposed to be already dead in Moria at this point, but if we suppose that he wasn’t it’d be kind of fitting for Bilbo’s old friend to come back and help Frodo start his adventure. So, decklists:

A Conspiracy of Friends

Sam Gamgee
Pippin (Lo)

Allies (13):
Bill the Pony x2
Snowbourn Scout x3
Farmer Maggot x1
Barliman Butterbur x2
Dori x1
Warden of Healing x2
Gandalf (Core) x2

Attachments (13):
Hobbit Cloak x3
Dagger of Westernesse x3
Rivendell Bow x2
Fast Hitch x3
Protector of Lorien x2

Events (24):
Sneak Attack x3
Feint x3
Halfling Determination x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Out of the Wild x3
A Good Harvest x3
Shadow of the Past x3
Frodo’s Intuition x3

Thoughts: As soon as Black Riders was released I think pretty much everyone tried to build their own version of this deck. A lot of this stuff is fairly standard, like Hobbit Cloak, Fast Hitch, Sneak Attack Gandalf; the other thing beyond the standards that really went into this build was just a few contingency plans for dealing with Black Riders, with both Barliman Butterbur and Dori to take attacks I’m not prepared for. Of course, this deck has a starting threat of 20 so I get one round of Secrecy, but the only Secrecy card I put in in the end was Out of the Wild. Timely Aid would be good, and I could also have used Elf-Stone for lots of more expensive allies, but given stage 2 of the quest penalising allies I don’t want to have too many; and Resourceful would be kind of superfluous as most of the cards in this deck are cheap to make the tri-sphere work sensibly. Good Harvest will smooth things out easier. Frodo’s Intuition is obviously really good in a Hobbit deck. Finally Shadow of the Past, in addition to being hard to resist since it’s also the name of the quest, can potentially set up predictable Hide tests when I know a test is coming (such as a couple of travel costs) and can be used to recycle objective ally Gildor, which is one of my favourite things to do. Since Gildor doesn’t even surge, using Shadow of the Past in this way is like a 2-cost neutral Gildor’s Counsel that also gives the first player an extra character for combat.

All that is gold does not glitter

Aragorn (Ld)
Fatty Bolger

Allies (17):
Erestor x2
Faramir x2
Snowbourn Scout x3
Arwen Undomiel x2
Northern Tracker x2
West Road Traveller x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments (18):
Celebrian’s Stone x3
Sword that was Broken x3
Steward of Gondor x3
King Under the Mountain x3
Ancient Mathom x3
Unexpected Courage x3

Events (15):
Campfire Tales x3
Sneak Attack x3
A Test of Will x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x3
Shadow of the Past x3

Thoughts: Though the quote of course referred to Aragorn, I feel in the context of the game it can be decently applied to the other two heroes in the deck. Fatty Bolger I feel is an underrated hero, partly because people don’t bother trying to use him based on a gut reaction first impression that he’s not that good; and Balin as I mentioned is a favourite of mine – he’s not super flashy and impressive, but he’s just so good and so dependable for not a lot of effort. As far as the rest of the deck goes, the most important bit is all the key attachments. Northern Trackers could be relevant to clear out a mass of locations and make it easier for me to travel to Bucklebury Ferry at the end. Galadhrim’s Greetings can get the first deck back down into Secrecy or just keep both decks below engagement costs. Shadow of the Past for the same reasons as in the first deck. No Frodo’s Intuition on this side since it’d only draw 1 or 2 cards as opposed to 3 or 4 on the other side and this deck has enough willpower boosting effects without it.


Youtube video: Shadow of the Past

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4 Responses to The Line Unbroken – C1: Shadow of the Past

  1. Congratulations on reaching this impressive milestone with your video playthroughs! I think a little part of me died when I realised that the original progression series would not be completed so it’s great to see that someone is still carrying the torch for what was obviously an excellent idea. Looking forward to more uncharted content in future! For your campaign, I can’t wait to see if you give Fatty the awesome, and highly thematic, ‘Tireless Ranger’ boon…


    • PocketWraith says:

      Yeah, when I was watching through the Progression Series I likewise found it kind of jarring when I got to Assault on Osgiliath and realised there were no more videos.
      I’m not planning on making Fatty a Tireless Ranger in this campaign, though I have been playing out a solo campaign where I did that. He makes a pretty solid defender.


      • Brian Stephens says:

        Kudos for showing the first two unsuccessful attempts. I find this quest frustrating as I usually end up with an extended stage 3 due to the “Redhorn Gate effect” of constantly drawing locations. Although the bonus for successfully hiding is meant to counteract this, in my games it doesn’t usually work.
        Are you planning to play the more recently released Old Forest and Barrow Downs scenarios or skip straight through to A Knife in the Dark?


      • PocketWraith says:

        Yeah, I’ve never had the constant locations problem myself, but I can imagine it could happen and would be incredibly frustrating.
        Did you happen to glance at my very next post after this one which immediately answers that question of yours?


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