The Line Unbroken – G6: Ruins of Belegost

Before I wrap up the Angmar Awakened cycle, I have to get through the GenCon and Fellowship Event quests from 2015. It’s a while since the last one of these since Old Forest and Barrow Downs just folded into my campaign, but here we are. So, Ruins of Belegost was first released at GenCon 2015, and as a reminder I do follow my card pool restrictions as accurately as I can – which in this case means I can at most use cards as far as Land of Shadow and Escape from Mount Gram, since both of those were also available at GenCon.

There’s a lot to potentially say about Ruins of Belegost. Thematically it’s interesting, as Belegost was a Dwarven city in the First Age – one of the few places from the First Age which is still around and accessible, as it was on the eastern edge of Beleriand (which is now the western edge of Middle Earth as we know it in the Third Age). The ruined nature of the city makes it the perfect setting for what they were really going for which was the feeling of just kind of a stereotypical dungeon crawl, looking for treasure – which in itself sets it apart thematically from other quests in the game – while the idea that characters in Middle Earth might go into ancient ruins seeking relics of past ages is entirely believable and thematic (especially if you were to bring Dwarves, their interest in that sort of thing is explicitly shown by the fact of Balin’s expedition to Moria), it is clearly different in that the other quests in this game are all more traditionally heroic, fighting the forces of Sauron to save lives either immediately or in the long run considering the approaching war, but in Ruins of Belegost all we’re getting out of our success is treasure. It’s kind of more self-serving, which can leave you feeling a bit guiltier about your chump-blockers since they’re not really dying for that good of a cause (if you care about that).
Another interesting thematic angle on Ruins of Belegost which didn’t occur to me until I was actually recording the video for this is that it could be compared to The Lonely Mountain in the second Hobbit box – in both quests you’re looting a dragon’s hoard and trying not to get burned. There are even some mechanical similarities in how the two dragons work – both quests effectively have a timer ticking up to the point where the dragon arrives (and a treachery to speed it up), a means by which you can reset the dragon after it starts trying to kill you, and a mechanic where the dragon can make multiple attacks depending on its shadow cards. I much prefer Belegost though – for one thing, the multiple attacks is essentially capped at two (from the innate effect, not accounting for shadow effects which themselves cause additional attacks), no risk of chaingunning your entire board-state to death; and while Lonely Mountain was very simple to the point where I was able to just make my decks incredibly focused on the two or three things I needed, Belegost maintains the normal gameplay and that means I can’t really find the space for shadow card discarding to dodge that mechanic. In some ways I’d say Belegost is to Lonely Mountain as Carrock is to We Must Away – the Saga quest is truer to the story obviously, but it achieves that at the expense of some of the mechanics typical to other quests – in particular most of the combat – and that makes the quest a lot less fun to me.

So what are the particular mechanics of concern in this quest? Well, there’s Stalking the Ruins, gaining resources and ticking up to the appearance of Naurlhug. The main thing though is the Discover keyword on the locations. Every time one becomes active there’s a chance of finding some Loot and/or a Hazard, and finding the Loot determines our quest advancement as well as them just being useful to have. In particular, there’s a bit of branching in quest stages 2 and 3, with 2 being the more significant, depending on which Loot we found.
These factors encourage keeping up a steady questing pace – not too slow as that’ll force me to deal with the dragon more than I’d like to, but also not too fast so I can take more time to set up and find Loot rather than end up arriving too early in a situation I’m not adequately prepared for. Given that most of the quest stages have only 6 quest points I can afford to be cautious. I also need to be efficient about dealing with things, because thanks to the Discover keyword bringing in Hazards I’m effectively getting an extra card revealed (almost) every time I travel, which can easily lead to being location-locked or swarmed with enemies if I’m not careful. This applies doubly if I apply another potential strategic response – that being to try and exploit the Discover mechanic to get more Loot faster by finding additional means of making locations active. A valid strategy especially if I want to increase my chances of finding a specific bit of Loot to manipulate my way onto an easier quest stage, but of course along with the Loot will come the Hazards, exacerbating the potential problems they represent.
Leaving aside those points, the other potentially massive concern regarding this quest is that there’s a lot of direct damage in it, so healing and damage cancellation are a must. Hit point boosts are also very useful.

I think I went through at least 20 different versions of these decks, including 3 major ideas for how the setup was going to work and even started recording with an earlier version before realising the setup wasn’t working – but I finally settled on these:

Seeking Forgotten Relics

Heroes:
Elrond
Aragorn (Lo)
Glorfindel (Sp)

Allies (20):
Master of the Forge x3
Warden of Healing x3
West Road Traveller x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Bombur x1
Mablung x1
Quickbeam x1
Arwen Undomiel x1
Bofur (Sp) x1

Attachments (15):
Asfaloth x3
Ranger Spikes x3
Light of Valinor x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Thror’s Map x1
Wingfoot x1
Ring of Barahir x1

Events (15):
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Distant Stars x3
A Test of Will x3
Desperate Alliance x3

Thoughts: Let’s first cover the cards which are specifically a case of tailoring to the quest. For a while I was specifically trying to avoid Elrond to show it could be done without him, but this is a difficult quest and Elrond makes it so much easier for healing to keep up. It also helps that he can pay for the Spirit allies so I can more easily afford my willpower while still being predominantly Lore for easier healing. The significance of healing also made Warden of Healing a definite x3 where often I might go for just x2. Ally Bombur is amazing in this quest just like some of the Dwarrowdelf quests because every single location has the Underground trait. Ring of Barahir could be good regardless because any extra hit points can help deal with the rampant direct damage, but it’s particularly good because all of the Loot objectives also have the Artifact trait. Thror’s Map I put in partly because it’s another card with the Artifact trait for an extra hit point, but it also lets me trigger Discover more times and avoid the two Travel costs in the quest if I want. West Road Travellers can also trigger extra Discovering to find more Loot; but the top pick in this regard is Distant Stars, because in addition to making a new location active (thus triggering Discover again), it also discards the previous active location, allowing me to instantly take control of whatever Loot it had. I can potentially go further with this by putting in a 2 quest point location and exploring it with Asfaloth to get multiple Loot in quick succession – relevant since the Loot always goes to the first player and Ring of Barahir incentivises stacking it all on one hero. Stacking the Loot also makes the Orc of Ered Luin less dangerous. An additional minor point, Desperate Alliance is a card I’d usually have as a x2, but here I went for the full x3 because beside its usual purpose of allowing both decks to reset with Loragorn, it can also let me shift a bit of attack power across the table if dealing with an Old Stone Troll (only the engaged player can declare attackers).
The rest is a lot more standard stuff. Masters of the Forge are allowing me to get away with less copies of some attachments, though I stayed at 3 copies each of Light of Valinor for obvious reasons and Asfaloth because test plays showed it can actually make a massive difference and honestly it may well be a higher priority for me than LoV. Ranger Spikes is an odd choice in this quest since many of the enemies can’t have player card attachments, but since the ones which can have them get annoying later in the game (gaining Surge or making immediate attacks based on the players controlling Loot) and have annoying shadow effects to boot, they’re good choices to not shuffle back into the encounter deck.

Stouthearted Support

Heroes:
Balin
Sam Gamgee
Beregond

Allies (17):
Galadriel x3
Herald of Anorien x3
Snowbourn Scout x3
Honour Guard x3
Gandalf (Core) x2
Envoy of Pelargir x2
Bill the Pony x1

Attachments (18):
King Under the Mountain x3
Cram x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Spear of the Citadel x2
Rivendell Bow x2
Celebrian’s Stone x2
Sword that was Broken x2
Raven-winged Helm x1

Events (15):
Sneak Attack x3
Legacy of Numenor x3
We Are Not Idle x3
Feint x3
The Wizard’s Voice x3

Thoughts: Balin is a favourite and this quest has some frustrating shadow effects. Beregond is the game’s best defender and to have good chances here I need to be ready early on to take attacks from strong enemies like the Old Stone Troll, sometime the Nameless Cave Dwellers, and not least Naurlhug and the Lurker of the Depths, the two boss enemies of the quest. Picking a suitable third hero was more difficult. I tried it with Brand, and it kind of worked, but I realised the deck is a bit more skewed towards Leadership which was hard to afford with only one Ld hero, while the Tactics cards are all cheap so I was stacking up useless resources. Considering my options for a second Leadership hero was an interesting experience as it brought home to me how a large portion of Leadership heroes really have to go in specific decks, there aren’t that many who work as generic heroes. I’ve made the point before about how thin the picking were for useful generic Spirit heroes, but Leadership isn’t great on that front either, which never occurred to me before. In the end Sam was pretty much the only choice to fit in with how this fellowship was shaping up.
With this deck you can see that I’m leaning pretty hard into the “set up with Doomed then reset with Loragorn” strategy, using Legacy of Numenor and Herald of Anorien. That came about when I realised how much use I could get out of The Wizard’s Voice and then figured I might as well go the whole hog since I already had Loragorn (and Deep Knowledge). The Wizard’s Voice is here specifically to help if I end up on stage 2A (the more difficult stage 2), fighting the Lurker of the Depths early in the game – since it’s considered to be engaged with each player The Wizard’s Voice will allow me to cancel both its attacks for the round. And since going to stage 2A is much more likely than getting to stage 2C, I have to be prepared for it. Barring that, of course Beregond is my defensive solution, with Shield, Helm, Honour Guards and healing from the other deck to make him more effective, and of course Unexpected Courages and Cram for the extra actions.
Cram may also be played across onto Aragorn, largely to provide the extra action needed to trigger Distant Stars if relevant, but it could also be used for attack power. Aragorn and Glorfindel are the majority of the attack power for the two decks, so getting them Ranged with the Rivendell Bows is likewise useful. And of course I have the two significant Aragorn attachment for more willpower (and hit points on Aragorn with the Ring of Barahir). With the number of significant attachments in this deck, ally Galadriel should come in pretty handy (and being able to afford to play her was one of the significant things which influenced my decision to have two Leadership heroes rather than two Tactics). Snowbourn Scouts can supplement Asfaloth. The most likely big problem for this deck is a shortage of hit points to take all the direct damage, since I have less allies with less hit points over here, and some of the ones I have are temporary, but that should still work out, it just affects my healing priorities.
The big omission from this deck which you may be noticing is Steward of Gondor. It’s not just because sometimes I like to show that things can be done without using all the power cards, though that was certainly an influence on my deckbuilding (and one of the reasons I went through so many different versions of these decks, because I was trying to cut out too many); also on reflection I realised I didn’t really need it. Nothing in either deck is super expensive for their respective sphere-balances, and I have Legacy of Numenor to get a few extra resources – and more usefully, because those resources will be spread out among all my heroes rather than all being concentrated on one.

RingsDB:
http://ringsdb.com/fellowship/view/2821/the-line-unbroken-ruins-of-belegost
http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/5716/the-line-unbroken-ruins-of-belegost-deck-1-1.0
http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/5717/the-line-unbroken-ruins-of-belegost-deck-2-1.0

Youtube:
Ruins of Belegost
Ruins of Belegost Take 2

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