The Line Unbroken – 52: Voyage Across Belegaer

Well. Turns out I’ve been doing Nightmare quests in The Line Unbroken for over a year at this point. I didn’t antiipate it being quite so long, but I am now returning at last to standard difficulty for The Grey Havens. This is somewhat reminiscent of my comments on The Lost Realm, but I really like this box both thematically and mechanically. As a reminder, my general opinion is that from Lost Realm onwards (so obviously including Grey Havens) the game hit a very high standard of design which hasn’t dipped since.

As usual, since I have three separate blog posts to cover the three quests, I’m dividing up my comments on the box in general. Since this is the post for Voyage Across Belegaer, let’s talk about Sailing, and Ships.
Just like in The Lost Realm, the first quest of the box essentially serves as a tutorial for the new mechanic being introduced, in this case Sailing. I’ve commented on Sailing tests before and stand by my opinion that they are the best kind of additional test we’ve had in this game – you consistently make one test per round so it’s predictable, it’s based on actions rather than willpower so it doesn’t block combat decks from participating effectively, and failure while a problem is not absolutely crippling. While never going off course is a good strategy to follow, it’s not required for victory – it’s entirely possible to go through a Sailing quest without ever passing a Sailing test and still win if you want to do that, or on a more normal level, going off course one round can be made up for by sailing better in subsequent rounds. The fact that sailing successfully is not essential for victory is most exemplified by the fact Voyage Across Belegaer, Storm on Cobas Haven and City of Corsairs all end up essentially offering you a choice between questing to victory while remaining on course or winning through combat in which case being on course doesn’t matter so much.
And then the other side of the equation, Ships (both objectives and enemies). Ship objectives are a bit of an interesting twist on the more standard concept of an objective ally who has to be kept alive lest you lose the quest – they are obviously much more durable than other objective allies, but on the other hand they are more likely to take damage since they are your only means of defending against enemy ships. That necessity for ships to defend other ships, long with the rather high stats, means the ships potentially see rather more interesting use than your average objective ally which may well in many cases just quest if they have willpower and sit there otherwise. On top of that the benefits of the different ships can be fairly significant so they have much more of a defining role in any given playthrough rather than just being a slight bonus. Ship enemies and their attendant Boarding on the other hand have an interesting impact on combat – since with Boarding one enemy becomes multiple it can be that much more difficult to engage enemies early on in the game which does potentially skew strategy towards stronger questing rather than combat (which in the context of the above mentioned flexibility on Sailing means far more people will take the option where they stay on course and quest past the ships than the one where they actually fight them), but there are ways to make it work either way.

So, back to the actual quest, what do I have to do here in deckbuilding terms? Well, this is the Sailing tutorial, so mostly I want to be good at Sailing, but that just means having a decent ally count in both decks, and perhaps prioritising cheap allies so I can play more of them quickly. I also want to plan around the specific Ship Objectives I’ll be using – since a standard part of The Line Unbroken is to show off as much of the card pool as possible, I have a tentative plan to try and use all the Ship Objectives over the course of the cycle, but we’ll have to see if I can actually make that work.
On the plyer card front, the new player cards in this pack almost all work with Noldor discard mechanics. Tying into the Ship question, I’ve always wanted to use the Dawn Star with a deck using Cirdan the Shipwright, so every resource phase I draw 3 and discard one (the ultimate would be Cirdan/Erestor/Bilbo/Dawn Star for draw 6/7 discard 1, but Erestor doesn’t fit in so well with Galdor, who I have to include since he came in this box). Some of the cards in the box are slight oddballs, but they do have potential uses, and since this isn’t a particularly difficult quest I should be fine to build around some more unusual options.

Keen As Stars

Cirdan the Shipwright
Galdor of the Havens

Allies (18):
Lindon Navigator x3
Master of the Forge x3
Sailor of Lune x3
Elven Jeweler x3
Arwen Undomiel x2
Warden of Healing x2
Gildor Inglorion x1
Lindir x1

Attachments (11):
Explorer’s Almanac x3
To the Sea! To the Sea! x3
Light of Valinor x2
Narya x2
Asfaloth x1

Events (21):
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Elven-light x3
Elwing’s Flight x3
The Evening Star x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
A Good Harvest x3

Thoughts: Obviously our two new heroes and most of the other cards in the box as well fit very nicely into a Noldor deck. The choice of Eowyn as a third hero was made to allow the second deck to also discard relevant cards if they needed to.
So the main thing this deck is built to do is simply amass characters for Sailing and willpower for questing. This mostly comes in the form of the various Noldor allies, who can be made cheap with To the Sea! To the Sea! Obviously cheap allies are good for Sailing, and the required discards can be spread primarily between Elven-light and the two new events from the box which repeat their effects for copies in the discard pile. I can also get some nice ally action advantage out of Narya (on Cirdan along with Light of Valinor) and potentially Elwing’s Flight if needed.
There’s also a bit of a sub-theme in this deck of location control, which may prove useful given some of the locations in this quest can be problematic – Asfaloth for 1 targeted progress per round can be useful, The Evning Star can drop a lot of progress at once potentially, and Explorer’s Almanacs can explore specific locations in the staging area. All in all I should be able to avoid travelling to Waterspouts or Rolling Seas if I don’t feel able to deal with the damage or being off-course at the time.
The omission of Deep Knowledge is because especially with the Dawn Star raising this deck’s starting threat I want to be careful about my threat since I don’t want this deck to really engage any enemies. Also, the card draw is pretty great anyway.

We Shall Sail With You

Sam Gamgee
Faramir (Ld)

Allies (25):
Gandalf (Core) x3
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Galadhon Archer x3
Mithlond Sea-watcher x3
Warden of the Havens x3
Snowbourn Scout x3
Naith Guide x3
Errand-rider x3
Bill the Pony x1

Attachments (9):
Cram x3
Mariner’s Compass x3
Gondorian Shield x3

Events (16):
Feint x3
Skyward Volley x3
Anchor Watch x3
Sneak Attack x3
We Are Not Idle x3
Campfire Tales x1

Thoughts: This is the deck intended to handle whatever combat may occur. All three heroes benefit from engaging enemies – and Sam specifically doesn’t have a limit on his ability, so engagement costs permitting he can potentially be boosted multiple times by the ship and the boarding Corsairs.
This deck lacks the cost reduction of To the Sea! To the Sea!, but conversely the only ally in the deck who costs more than 2 is Gandalf, who is intended to be Sneak Attacked, so I should have plenty of sailors, plus combat power and some questing.
The choice of Cram is specifically as a potential means of activating the ability of the Wardens of the Havens, which requires the top card of your discard pile to be an attachment. Of course that ability can also be activated by simply discarding an attachment to Eowyn. On the other hand, the Eowyn discard also works as an alternative to chump-blocking to put an ally on top of my discard pile to activate the Mithlond Sea-watcher. I also have Gondorian Shields so I can have good defences without needing the Wardens.
Between my various Leadership allies I can definitely make use of the Mariner’s Compass, which can supplement the location control from the other deck – sometimes instead of exploring the adverse locations in the staging area I can just shuffle them back into the encounter deck and replace them with something else. The last couple of cards provided by this box are the events Anchor Watch and Skyward Volley. The latter can be triggered by Galadhon Archers, potentially Mithlond Sea-watchers and in a pinch Faramir, and can be a potent direct damage effect, which could help me handle the multiple enemies I may end up with thanks to the Boarding keyword. Anchor Watch on the other hand is rather more niche, but given the demands for both Sailing and questing and the aforementioned multiple enemies at a time, the extra action advantage and defence pooling from defending with (multiple) exhausted characters could come in handy – and as noted, this is an easy enough quest that I don’t need to worry about being perfectly optimal.

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