The Line Unbroken – 45: Deadmen’s Dike

If The Weather Hills kind of set some of the tone for the first half of the cycle with wandering through a dangerous wilderness, then Deadmen’s Dike does a similar thing for the second half by throwing a swarm of undead at us, not to mention introducing us to big frustrating boss enemy Thaurdir. Theme-wise, I prefer the latter, though mechanically my preferences are more variable. Preferences aside, Deadmen’s Dike is certainly an interesting quest, and the most difficult quest in the box.

The third and final point I wanted to talk about from Lost Realm is simply the design of the quests in general. This is probably still my favourite deluxe box in terms of the quests, though I like the Sands of Harad quests a lot as well. The quests in this box in general are interesting but not overly complicated, and challenging but not too brutal. Deadmen’s Dike is more difficult than the other two and the particular challenges of the Sorceries make it less well suited to some decks than others, but it’s still within reasonable bounds. Meanwhile Intruders in Chetwood and Weather Hills I’ve used quite often as deck testers, as they’re fairly simple, well-balanced between the different areas of the game, decently challenging and fairly consistent.
You may also recall me commenting that the Against the Shadow cycle had more interesting (if sometimes wildly inconsistent) quests but more mixed player cards, while Ring-maker had more mixed (if more consistent) quests but good player cards. This box is the point where I feel everything clicked at once. I wouldn’t say we’ve had a dud quest since Lost Realm (admittedly I haven’t played all the more recent ones); dud player cards is more debatable and there’s certainly more variation over the larger selection of player cards compared to quests, but nothing immediately springs to mind for me at least. As far as the quests go, it’s no coincidence that when my brother wanted to design some custom quests he took a lot of inspiration from the encounter sets in Lost Realm, in terms of the ratios of Locations/Enemies/Treacheries, typical combinations/interactions of threat(/engagement cost/attack) to negative Travel costs/Forced effects/Passives. If I ever get to designing some custom quests myself I’ll probably do the same. A lot of the design got more consistent at this point, it all works, and it all tends to feel difficult without feeling unfair.

Enough generalised enthusing, how about this specific quest? Well, there’s a general trend through the quest of discarding cards from player decks, and there’s the whole suite of Sorcery treacheries, most of which likewise discard from decks and mess with discard piles, but on stage 2 also trigger attacks from Thaurdir, making them by far the worst cards in the encounter deck. This suggested a few possibilities, such as sticking 3x Hidden Cache in each deck just to get some extra resources when they’re randomly discarded by encounter card effects, including Will of the West to reshuffle everything just in case I come close to running out either deck (since that’s an alternate loss condition), and including some encounter deck manipulation to potentially reduce the chances of getting the Sorceries. One final point is that Gather Information is a great option again, since nothing in this quest scales according to the number of quest stages in play, so even if I don’t feel I have time to complete it, it’s still 0-cost for +1 willpower/attack/defence on Iarion.
Besides that, I still have to slot in Halbarad and Aragorn and wouldn’t mind doing some different things. In the first quest I really went for the Dunedain synergy with Heir of Valandil, in the second killing enemies was a requirement to advance so I ditched that. Here I think I might take a middle ground, where I can potentially keep around the one enemy for Halbarad to quest without exhausting but not go full Dunedain as I want to leave space for the encounter deck manipulation. Of course that means I once again need to be able to afford Forest Snares, so that has to be a consideration. Meanwhile I’m still struggling with the usual problem where I don’t want to keep reusing the same Spirit heroes over and over again, but I don’t really have other options. Or do I? Hmm…

Out of the Deeps

Aragorn (Ta)

Allies (29):
Arwen Undomiel x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
West Road Traveller x3
Imladris Stargazer x3
Zigil Miner x3
Blue Mountain Trader x3
Erebor Battle Master x3
Veteran Axehand x3
Kili x2
Fili x1
Bofur (Sp) x1
Dwalin x1

Attachments (3):
Unexpected Courage x3

Events (17):
A Test of Will x3
Hasty Stroke x3
Will of the West x3
Feint x3
Hidden Cache x3
Dwarven Tomb x2

Side-quests (1):
Gather Information x1

Thoughts: Part of the usual Spirit hero problem is that a couple of them only work if you go Dwarves, but it’s not impossible for me to just go Dwarves here, and for reasons which will become apparent the threat reduction from Nori may come in handy. Since I’ve got Hidden Caches anyway, good old Ziggy Stargazer could be a useful source of extra resources (and I’ve got Will of the West in case the decks get low). Besides that I’m mostly just set to spam a bunch of willpower, which can be boosted by getting Sword that was Broken onto Aragorn from the other deck. The number of 3x cards could be a problem with Dark Sorcery (discards allies which have copies in your discard pile), but there are only to copies of that treachery, and on the other hand it makes the deck very consistent.

Dark Counsels

Pippin (Lo)

Allies (14):
Galadriel x3
Master of the Forge x3
Warden of Healing x3
Erebor Hammersmith x3
Gandalf (Core) x2

Attachments (17):
Steward of Gondor x3
King Under the Mountain x3
Ranger Spikes x3
Forest Snare x2
Celebrian’s Stone x2
Sword that was Broken x2
Keys of Orthanc x2

Events (18):
Sneak Attack x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3
Out of the Wild x3
Hidden Cache x3

Side-quests (1):
Gather Information x1

Thoughts: Here’s my solution for both getting out Forest Snares and for that matter affording multiple Gildor’s Counsels and non-Secrecy Out of the Wilds – Grima. Also because he’s a good hero who I haven’t used since Voice of Isengard and I kind of want to stick to my guns on the case that he’s still good even in multiplayer. Out of the Wild of course is intended to remove Sorceries from the encounter deck to try and de-fang Thaurdir a little, while Gildor’s Counsel will likely be used on stage 2 to make it more likely I complete it faster and without Thaurdir attacking me too many times. Steward of Gondor will most likely go on Grima as another means of affording all these 3-cost Lore cards, while Halbarad will probably benefit from the Hidden Caches when they go off (though Grima can also help out when I want to get down Sword that was Broken or Galadriel). Keys of Orthanc will probably be played cross-table onto Aragorn or Oin (since both of them can end up dual-sphere with either Celebrian’s Stone or five Dwarves). Erebor Hammersmith is a bit of insurance against the rampant discard effects, and the rest is pretty standard – Sneak Gandalf (most likely for threat reduction), card draw, Master of the Forge for all the important attachments, etc.


Youtube: Deadmen’s Dike

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2 Responses to The Line Unbroken – 45: Deadmen’s Dike

  1. Brian Stephens says:

    I have also been working through the lotr quests progression style. While I have not been saddling myself with the prerequisite of using every new hero or as many different cards as possible, I play each quest 3 times and require my decks to win at least twice.

    Apart from an occasional speed bump I have been successful until I hit the brick wall of Deadman’s Dike. Apart from getting overwhelmed by enemies, I have also had the experience of being location locked due to a couple of Deadmen’s gates and Fornost Squares. I can use a modified Chris Stanford Gloin deck to conquer the quest, but I feel this is kind of cheating.

    As I think you are a much better deck builder than I, I had been anxiously waiting to see what you could produce for this quest. I was disappointed to find that the deck you have posted was blasted apart on your first two attempts and then staggered across the finish line (minus 2 heroes) after a softball start .

    Have you managed to create a more successful progression deck, free of your self-imposed restrictions, that can tackle this beast? (I’m about to give up on it as unfair progression style).


    • PocketWraith says:

      To be honest, I think sometimes I suffer less from the official restriction of using the new heroes than I do from my general desire to always be trying different and odd things (of which the appearance here of Nori/Oin was definitely a symptom). That said, I’m not entirely sure how representative of the decks’ quality the video was.
      As to other decks, Deadmen’s Dike is a quest I’ve actually played very little. I beat it with my solo campaign deck, which only used Double Back from later than Lost Realm (although I only had one card left in my deck at the end); and I beat it 2-player with actual cards and a restricted card pool (though not progression-style) but I can’t remember what I built for it on that occasion. The other 3 or so times I’ve played it were definitely not progression-style and were with higher player-counts.


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