The Line Unbroken – 43: Intruders in Chetwood

Jumping back out of Nightmare mode and into standard again we come to The Lost Realm. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I really like the Dunedain, so obviously I was very excited when this box was released. I’m still very fond of it. This to me is the point at which the game really hit a high level of quality, both in terms of quest design and player card design, which has continued to the present day in my opinion. So I’m very excited to have reached this point in The Line Unbroken.

As I tend to do, I’m going to divide up the particularly interesting points of discussion from the deluxe box between the blog posts for the three quests therein. For Intruders in Chetwood, let’s talk about side-quests – appropriately, since Chetwood is the big side-quest quest. Side-quests were an interesting new addition to how the game works. If nothing else they were the first thing which caused me to start telling small lies when teaching people to play the game – I still tell them there are only three types of player cards (not counting heroes), figuring it’s easier to save telling them about side-quests until they’ve got the fundamentals. Since side-quests are becoming a larger addition to the card pool with Sands of Harad and the Haradrim cycle this may change, but they certainly are a more complicated concept which is perhaps best introduced later, and they were the first thing which really caused that sort of shift.
I recall when side-quests were initially mentioned in a news article some people asked why they really needed to be a new thing instead of just putting the same effects onto locations (presumably with 0 threat). I think those questions stopped by the time of the actual release, but it’s still worth addressing the differences here – thematically, side-quests are not tied to specific locations, obviously; mechanically, side-quests don’t allow your progress to overspill onto the main quest so they always represent an investment of time you could otherwise be spending advancing your main goal, but also the decision to make a side-quest active is always taken at the start of the quest phase as opposed to the decision of travelling to an active location being taken the round before you get to quest against it. In short, you always have the flexibility to take on a side-quest or not as you choose, but when you do so it is a serious commitment rather than something you can do at the same time as advancing your main goal.
Personally I love the twists side-quests add to your strategy. Revealing an encounter side-quest early on can be pretty devastating in some cases, but they’re not unique in that, and when they turn up in more reasonable circumstances the extra layer of decision-making can be fascinating. As to player side-quests, they’re amazing. Given the potency of turtling strategies, having a way to advance your board-state with your quest progress while guaranteeably not pushing on to a later quest stage which you’re not ready for is amazing. Even if one isn’t specifically turtling, the way a lot of games play out is that you spend a while amassing power and then blitz through a quest stage all in one go, making any earlier progress irrelevant, so you could easily have spent it on side-quests instead. And given the power of the effects the side-quests offer, you may well even amass that power and thus finish the quest faster this way than if you didn’t do them. The only fly in the ointment with the Angmar Awakened side-quests is that pesky “Limit 1 per deck” making them unreliable, but I’m always willing to put in the odd speculative card which won’t be consistent but will be great if and when it comes up.
Well, OK, there’s one other issue, that being that some quests are less conducive to side-questing than others. I think a lot of people underestimate how feasible it can be to use side-quests even in quests which potentially punish you for hanging around, but it is a consideration – and of course there is that one encounter set in Lost Realm where everything scales according to the number of quest cards in play, which is why after gushing over side-quests so much I’m still not going to use Gather Information for Intruders in Chetwood (though I will for the other two quests in the box).

Speaking of Intruders in Chetwood, I need to sort out my decks. As I already said, this is basically the side-quest quest – there’s only the one 30-point quest stage, but the interest of the scenario is derived from the presence of multiple side-quests in the encounter deck also demanding your attention. Beside that, the quest punishes you with threat raises for leaving enemies in the staging area, but at the same time has no engagement checks, so threat is only a concern if you’re going to hit 50, and enemies can be ignored as long as I like. Honestly, none of these points is really going to dictate my deckbuilding so much as my desire to use new cards is.

The Rangers have need of their Chieftain

Aragorn (Ta)

Allies (20):
Weather Hills Watchman x3
Dunedain Hunter x3
Northern Tracker x3
Warden of Annuminas x3
Sarn Ford Sentry x3
Master of the Forge x3
Warden of Healing x2

Attachments (21):
Heir of Valandil x3
Steward of Gondor x3
Dunedain Warning x3
Forest Snare x3
Secret Vigil x3
A Burning Brand x2
Sword that was Broken x2
Celebrian’s Stone x1
Wingfoot x1

Events (9):
A Good Harvest x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Feint x3

Thoughts: Theme note – It’s kind of weird that the flavour text in the rulesheet has Iarion turn up at Rivendell looking for Aragorn only to be told he’s far afield (and so we assume he won’t be back for a while), so the heroes offer to help instead, but then a large proportion of players I suspect will then play the quest with Aragorn as I am. I feel like the scene in Rivendell probably could’ve been done differently to avoid this oddity, but never mind.
Diving straight into the Dunedain trait here. Tri-sphere is actually pretty reasonable since with the cost reduction from Heir of Valandil, the all-important allies can actually be pretty cheap. On top of this, I intend for Steward to go on Elrond, with his ability to pay for allies of all spheres coming in very handy. I also have A Good Harvest. So one way or another it shouldn’t be that hard to get those allies played.
Steward on Elrond also lets me easily afford Forest Snares to trap up my engaged enemies so they don’t kill me while they’re sitting there powering the Dunedain buffs. As has become somewhat standard, I’ve included less copies of some less important attachments confident that Master of the Forge will find them soon enough anyway (to say nothing of the good draw from Daeron’s Runes and Sarn Ford Sentries). I’ve omitted Deep Knowledge given the potential threat concerns, for which I’ve also included Secret Vigil, and beyond all these points there’s just a bunch of fairly standard things.
The Dunedain are very powerful, and once established should be able to do everything. The only potential question mark therefore is over the time taken to get established.

Seldom sought aid


Allies (16):
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
West Road Traveller x3
Northern Tracker x3
Wandering Took x3
Arwen Undomiel x2
Bilbo Baggins x2

Attachments (19):
Unexpected Courage x3
Star Brooch x3
Hobbit Pipe x3
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Wizard Pipe x2
Nenya x2
Expert Treasure-hunter x2
Light of Valinor x1

Events (15):
A Test of Will x3
Hasty Stroke x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x3
Dwarven Tomb x3

Thoughts: With the first deck being tri-sphere, that just leaves this one with Spirit. Furthermore, since the first deck should be able to handle all the combat (especially given I never have to engage anything I don’t want to), this one is free to focus entirely on questing and threat reduction, which fits quite nicely into (pseudo) mono-Spirit. As the first deck may take a little time to come online properly this deck is partly also focused on the early game in particular, which is how I ended up with Gandalf in the mix – Eowyn was a no-brainer for starting willpower, but as usual I wanted to avoid Glorfindel so I started looking for another 3 willpower hero, and Gandalf obviously allowed me to maintain effectively mono-Spirit, on top of which he’s just generally really good for making a deck run smoothly.
The Wandering Tooks are in here specifically so that I can move my Hobbit Pipes between decks and let the other deck get card draw as well when I use Greetings on it. Dwarven Tomb can be used to recycle my cancellation or my threat reduction as needed. Beyond those points, standard Gandalf toys of course, and a mostly standard suite of cheap willpower – with the addition of Star Brooch which is a simple 1-for-1 given the other deck intends to be engaged with an enemy at all times. Of final note is that between the two decks I have 6 Northern Trackers. That’s mostly on the off-chance that I might have a chance to rapidly explore an Outlying Homestead in the staging area to save me actually travelling to it. It’s not that likely to come up, but neither will including those Trackers particularly harm the performance of my decks, so I may as well have them.


Youtube: Intruders in Chetwood

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