The Line Unbroken – C5: Journey in the Dark

And so we move onto the main event of The Road Darkens, that being Journey in the Dark and its attendant Balrog fight. Not to undersell the rest of TRD, the whole box is amazing, but on the quest side of things, this is the quest which really stands out.
On the player card side of things, of course, the thing which really stands out is hero Gandalf. Though of course a majority of the player cards were devoted to making Gandalf work, so it’s hard to separate them from him, even when he is invited to a secret council and they are… wait, no, I’ve drifted into a quote.

Gandalf aside, the ally versions of Elrond, Galadriel and Boromir are all excellent. But the rest of the player cards in this box, not counting boons, are really all about the big G. As one would hope for such an iconic and powerful character, he really has a big impact on the way a game is played with him in it, and not just because people complain about lengthy planning phases and not being able to use their Sneak Attacks any more. Between the powerful statline, the ability to splash any sphere you like and play its cards from the top of the deck (facilitated by Wizard Pipe), the fact that playing from the top of your deck effectively doubles as card draw as well so the deck will run pretty fast even before you get into actual card draw effects including the Expert Treasure-hunter shenanigans, the flexible and incredibly useful boosts you can get from Gandalf’s Staff, and finally the gravy on top of it all that is Flame of Anor as a potent attack boost – hero Gandalf is a pretty big deal, as he should be. And with my very Legolas-centric strategy for Ring Goes South behind us in this quest I’m going to be pulling out all the stops on Gandalf (though Legolas will still be taking Glamdring because it’s more useful on a dedicated attacker than a more flexible hero). Speaking of which, back to the quest.

I initially actually had difficulty figuring out how I wanted to build for this quest. I was trying to think what the particular challenges were and struggled to come up with anything specific, just “It’s really hard.” And that is kind of true. The main thing with this quest is simply that you need to quest hard, and you need to handle some brutal combat as well. Getting more specific, you want to quest really hard at the start of the game to get to stage 2 without actually dealing with enemies. On stage 2 questing is less significant than getting a bunch of enemies killed, so the combat kind of comes in a burst. And then finally at some point the Balrog will appear and you have to kill it, that being the biggest combat challenge presented by the quest. Most likely it’ll turn up on stage 3, meaning that at that point you’re probably trying to quest hard and handle tough combat simultaneously, as a change from the first 2 stages where you switched from one to the other. And of course the Balrog is a very tough nut to crack with 9 defence and 25 hit points, even factoring in the damage dealing response on The Great Bridge (though of course that also carries the attendant downside of discarding one of your heroes).
Besides the need for first power-questing, then power-combat and then both at the same time, this quest also can hit pretty hard with the archery and other direct damage effects, and threat can also be a problem. But those are smaller concerns than the basic goal of stacking up first willpower and then combat power. So with all these points in mind, here’s how the decks came out:

A Servant of the Secret Fire


Allies (13):
Bofur x3
Defender of Rammas x3
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Boromir x2
Beorn x2

Attachments (21):
Steward of Gondor x3
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Blade of Gondolin x3
Sword that was Broken x3
Celebrian’s Stone x2
Rivendell Bow x2
Gondorian Fire x2
Black Arrow x1
Sting x1
Glamdring x1

Events (18):
Feint x3
Hands Upon the Bow x3
Foe-hammer x3
Halfling Determination x3
Flame of Anor x3
A Good Harvest x3

Thoughts: While Bofur is here in part to ensure I have weapons to power Foe-hammer and draw quicker, he’s also the best willpower I’m going to get out of the Tactics sphere. Envoys of Pelargir are also a great willpower deal since they effectively cost 1 (I’ll add the resource to Legolas). In the attachments we see I’m taking advantage of Gandalf for sphere-fixing (though A Good Harvest will also serve this purpose) to get Steward onto Legolas (to power Gondorian Fire so I can kill the Balrog with it) and Sword that was Broken/Celebrian’s Stone onto Aragorn in the other deck. While a Tactics deck is obviously limited in how much it can contribute to questing, I have also gone for Blades of Gondolin on top of Legolas to help in that regard (almost all the enemies in this quest are Orcs, so I’ll get the attack boost as well). The events are pretty standard as well, except perhaps for the reappearance of Halfling Determination, but once again, it’s a way that Tactics can provide a little bit more willpower – in addition to being flexible and potentially providing other bonuses where relevant. The two copies of ally Beorn, while I theoretically could play them, are in fact included purely with the intent of discarding them for Flame of Anor to put Gandalf up to 9 attack for a phase.

He cannot stand alone

Aragorn (Lo)
Pippin (Lo)
Fatty Bolger

Allies (16):
West Road Traveller x3
Westfold Horse-breeder x3
Master of the Forge x3
Warden of Healing x3
Arwen Undomiel x2
Bilbo Baggins x2

Attachments (22):
Unexpected Courage x3
Fast Hitch x3
Good Meal x3
Expert Treasure Hunter x2
Wizard Pipe x2
Protector of Lorien x2
Fellowship of the Ring x2
Ring of Barahir x1
Asfaloth x1
A Burning Brand x1
Anduril x1
Mithril Shirt x1

Events (14):
A Test of Will x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Secret Paths x2
Gildor’s Counsel x2
Shadow of the Past x2
Desperate Alliance x2

Thoughts: Loragorn + Desperate Alliance is my solution to the threat raising this quest is liable to throw at me, and having Loragorn available also lets me more freely trigger Fatty’s ability to make more quest progress, especially in the early-game where I really want to speed through the first stage of the quest. That desire is also the reason I’m pulling out Secret Paths again, a card which I haven’t been consistently using for a while but which fits in perfectly here. Protector of Lorien serves a similar purpose, while Fellowship of the Ring is of course a (hopefully) longer-lasting willpower boost. Beyond attachment searching and healing, the allies are just some decent willpower which can be further boosted once the other deck plays Sword that was Broken onto Aragorn. The Horse-breeders will also potentially let me dig out that one copy of Asfaloth, which is still useful even on not-Glorfindel, especially when fast questing is the order of the day. Likewise Bilbo can find the Wizard Pipe. Between those fetching allies and 3 copies of Master of the Forge I’m likely to see my important attachments in a fairly timely fashion. The Ring of Barahir of course can be another help against the direct damage by giving Aragorn more hit points. The Burning Brand can make him a very reliable defender against anything not the Balrog, and then he can counterattack with Anduril as well. I’m not sure why there are 3 copies of Good Meal compared to only 2 copies of Gildor’s Counsel which is the intended target event, but never mind. Spare cards can be discarded to Protector anyway. Finally I’m making sure I have plenty of action advantage as usual. Between Aragorn, Gandalf and a potentially powered up Frodo, I’d say it’s warranted.


Youtube video: Journey in the Dark

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Line Unbroken – C5: Journey in the Dark

  1. Qwaz says:

    Wow! Talk about a timely Warden of Healing. Drawn just as you needed him!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s