This edition of Breaking the Game, like the last, is something a little different, because it’s once again not a specific quest which is unfortunately susceptible to breaking, rather a single card with the potential to break multiple quests. In this case however, it’s a player card rather than an encounter card. Hello Boromir, what have you been doing lately? Absolutely everything thanks to your mountainous array of attachments? So just business as usual then, OK.
So Boromir’s ability to ready in exchange for threat is really powerful. We all know this. But it’s also somewhat breaking for certain quests and effects in them (to varying extents). Exhausting a hero is a massive cost some encounter cards will impose on you, whereas raising your threat by 1 is really small game by comparison. Like, a pheasant the size of a mouse kind of small game. This makes Boromir a low level of slightly breaking certain encounter card effects across a wide variety of quests, and then of course there are a few really big ones. On the little ones, a search on Hall of Beorn for encounter cards with the text “exhaust a” yields 48 results. Some of them are objectives you have to exhaust a hero to claim which may be less of a big deal (though it still can be since you want to get it on the right hero but then you need that hero doing something else), but that’s still a reasonable number of effects Boromir can neuter. Being able to e.g. travel to Houses of the Dead and still be able to handle combat, or forfeiting 1 point of threat instead of a hero action to the Ancestral Clearing, more easily dealing with things like Street Fighting or White-flowered Fields, these are not benefits to be underestimated. Of course there are many encounter card effects which are more easily dealt with by some characters and strategies than others, but in the case of Boromir it’s a whole class of effects, which makes it a bit more significant.
Still, this is not enough for me to consider it real game-breaking territory. Nor do I speak of his simple superpowered potential when you can stack him up with Blood/Fire/Song/Brand and have him take care of all combat duties for an entire game at no risk. That’s pretty ridiculous, but the quests are still doing the things they’re intended to do, it’s just that they’re not having an effect. Meanwhile there are a few cases where I do think you could reasonably say Boromir circumvents a significant mechanic of the quest – Road to Isengard, Flight from Moria, and Assault on Osgiliath. A brief illustration in video form:
(Note copied over for people who don’t read the video description: “Also ‘Breaking Boromir’ makes me imagine some sort of Tolkienian fantasy version of Breaking Bad, despite the fact I’ve never actually watched Breaking Bad.”)
Poor Assault on Osgiliath. In principle it’s a great quest, but it happens to have one fairly easily breakable aspect and one encounter card in it that breaks it with no player input required. Anyway, these cases do more clearly fit my definition of game-breaking – the intent is for these effects to be limited by number of available heroes or number of rounds spent there, or both, but Boromir’s unlimited readying allows him to do the job of 4, 5, or indeed 12 men. With how accessible threat reduction can be now, and indeed how easy it can be to cope with a high threat, these are pretty significant breaks to my mind.