At this time, the end of a cycle, there was a sizeable pause in the release schedule of official content. And in that pause came an expansion to the Tales from the Cards custom First Age content. The first adventure pack of the Doom Mastered cycle, which tells the tale of Turin Turambar. Being a great fan of the First Age (I helped playtest this pack, and the two further which have been released since), and having taken The Line Unbroken through the core First Age set already, naturally I’m going to continue on into the cycle, and so here we are.
At this point in a normal Line Unbroken post I might have a little to say about the player cards released in the pack, but of course with First Age being considerably less familiar, here I do full card review videos, so here is the one for this pack: Trial Upon the Marches Card Review
One note I want to make here before I get into detail about my strategy is that Ian has been including options in the Doom Mastered cycle for campaign mode play. However while I have been playing the LotR saga quests in campaign mode, I do not intend to do this for Doom Mastered, because since Doom Mastered doesn’t have free hero-swap points between each box I’d have to break my rules about always using the new hero. Furthermore the Doom Mastered quests include some more specialised elements compared to a lot of the LotR saga so I feel a greater need to know before I start what I’m getting into. Mostly it’s the first issue though.
Which brings me to the quest. Trial Upon the Marches covers a part of Turin’s story on which Tolkien didn’t go into all that much detail, that of Turin serving as one of the march-wardens of Doriath and proving himself as a mighty warrior by his deeds there. The lack of pre-existing detail in the story I feel made it a good place to start, with a relatively generic quest, which previously the First Age lacked. This is a problem I found while playtesting, since I felt that it would be better to test new cards against pre-existing (and pre-tested) quests, to be sure that imbalances in the cards and the quest weren’t simply cancelling each other out. But Isle of Werewolves throws a wrench into most decks by forcing you to swap out a hero, while Seat of Morgoth and Hunting of the Wolf are both decidedly specialised. Since Trial Upon the Marches was released, it has become my go-to quest if I want to test a First Age deck, because as I say, it’s relatively generic.
The particular challenges of the quest are twofold – on the one hand there is a swarm of orcs, and on the other there is the Raid keyword, which discards cards from your deck to represent the orcs burning and pillaging their way through nearby areas. The two are of course related, since Raid is triggered based on what enemies are left in play at the end of the round, but in considering one’s deckbuilding I feel it’s better to view them as separate challenges to deal with. To deal with Raid, you should be wary about putting in too much card draw (since you will lose if your deck is ever empty) and instead just go for consistency. Going oversized also doesn’t necessarily hurt, though if you have certain significant cards you’re looking for it’ll obviously hurt your chances of finding them. The enemy swarm on the other hand obviously just means you need strong combat capabilities, preferably featuring a glut of actions (either via action advantage or via additional characters) since it’s liable to be many enemies rather than less but tougher enemies.
The need for many combat actions makes the newly released Outlaw Scout, or other Ransom allies from later in the cycle, a poor choice for this quest, since you’re liable to have enough regular enemies to deal with without wilfully adding more. Elven Training faces a similar issue but is perhaps more acceptable since at least it won’t actively kill you. Obviously Beleg is pre-determined for me. A Dangerous Man is great for handling enemy swarms. A few of the other cards work fine enough. Going back into the core First Age set, Mormegil (and consequently Turin) is incredibly useful for this quest because the Raid keyword is based on the threat of the cards it appears on, and all but one of them are enemies, so reducing all their threats by 1 makes it much more palatable, so long as one can then accept engaging all the enemies as they appear.
The heroes so nice we named them twice
Household Guard x3
Chieftain of Men x3
Doriath Messenger x3
Miner of the Iron Hills x3
Green-elf Ranger x2
High Kingship of the Noldor x3
Oath of Friendship x3
Elven Training x3
Ard-Galen Horse x3
Hidden House x2
Arts of Felagund x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3
Friendship of Ulmo x2
Thoughts: Though it was not an intended theme for this deck, I appear to have picked out three of the four First Age heroes who have second names on their cards (and the fourth is in the second deck). Idril is also an excellent choice for this quest since the Raid keyword may well end up discarding some allies from your deck and she can get them back for you. Beleg was mandated by my usual rules and Finrod I picked because I had Haleth I the other deck.
The biggest weakness of this deck is defence, which is why there are 3 copies of Barahir despite him being unique. A couple of other Edain of course because they benefit from Finrod and are otherwise generically decent allies, some other generically decent allies, 1 copy each of some uniques I’m not that bothered about (Since emptying my deck will make me lose I’m more likely to quest with Daeron than use his ability) and the Miners of the Iron Hills make an appearance because of the somewhat nasty condition treachery Renewed Grief.
Having advanced my official card pool since the last First Age interlude is great because it gives me access to Lembas as a means of healing rather than Daughters of the Nimrodel. 3x Oath of Friendship is not something I’d usually do but with Raid being a thing there’s a decent chance I’ll end up discarding one so it’s better to have another chance of holding onto the ability to actually use it even if that does happen. Elven Training as I mentioned may be a tad problematic but it’s a card I’ve always liked so I wanted to use it. Hidden House is a card I almost never use, but with the enemy swarm in this quest being able to set up a “break glass in case of emergency” location that’ll stave off my introduction to an unexpected orc mosh pit for a round could be well worth it. Arts o Felagund works on a similar principle by ensuring I get no new enemies, and between that and Gildor’s Counsel this deck should be able to make staging a lot safer than it would usually be. Plus Friendship of Ulmo to let me potentially steer a more precise path through the aforementioned orc mosh pit.
Mighty Warriors of the Edain
Gondolin Guard x3
Knight of the Sword x3
Petty-dwarf Survivor x3
Haladin Woodsman x2
Blade of Gondolin x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Light of Valinor x2
Black Arrow x1
A Dangerous Man x3
A Test of Will x3
Dark Elf x3
Song of Staying x2
Thoughts: Turin/Mormegil is great for this quest as I said, though it forces you to go pretty combat focused, potentially leaving you short on willpower. Hence Haleth and Hurin, who can potentially quest pretty well as well, especially with Finrod on the table. I would’ve put Forest Snares in the first deck to give them permanent power boosts, but one of the random stage 2 quests requires you to kill all enemies to advance, which scuppers that idea fairly decisively. I put a fairly sizeable focus on defensive measures in this deck between Gondolin Guards, Huor, Finduilas, Haladin Woodsmen, and Petty-dwarf Survivors to be free chumps; and then Feint, Leaguer and A Dangerous Man in the events; plus Haleth of course. I figured that Turin and Hurin should be able to cover a decent amount of attacking duties by themselves but didn’t want to get stuck with a bunch of undefended attacks I couldn’t handle. Of course Turin and the Dragon-helm (if I find it) can also help with that.
Of course I have a bunch of action advantage cards. Blades of Gondolin, in addition to synergising well with Beleg, are also straight attack boosts in this quest because all the enemies are orcs. Song of Staying is a card I’ve always been iffy on because it has a limited number of targets, but I wanted to find a use for it, and there are a couple of treacheries in this quest with a “If any player didn’t do this thing, this gains surge” effect, which could be really great to avoid. My final odd idea is Dark Elf + Hardened. It’s not necessarily that likely to come together, but I wanted to at least give it a try.
These two decks are an odd pair, and it seems like it might need a little bit of luck to get through, but if they get set up then they should be solid (with the possible exception of defence from the first deck). Let’s see in any case. Youtube video: Trial Upon the Marches