Continuing on The Grey Havens, Fate of Numenor brought us the first instance of what could perhaps be seen as another theme within this cycle – of doing interesting and different things with locations. It’s also the key moment in the beginning of the story for the cycle, which I love. The theme here is arguably rather more interesting than the quest itself (though it’s still a fine quest).
That being the case, the specific topic I’m going to discuss in this blog post is the theme/story. The story in this cycle begins with a Gondorian nobleman’s prophetic dream – which of course was also exactly why Boromir turned up at the Council of Elrond, so we’re starting out by kind of mimicking the main story of LotR, but in this case the element of Gondor’s history we look to is not Isildur’s Bane, but the lost island of Numenor. Numenor always fascinated me – the island granted by the Valar to the mortal descendants of Earendil and their followers; the greatest of men, brought to its tragic downfall through their hubris. Essentially the Tolkienian equivalent of Atlantis. There’s that great sense of magic and mystery about it.
Of course, given that Numenor sank, is going there somewhat against canon, however appealing it may be? Well, actually no, though we do perhaps enter a bit of a grey area with some of the exact events of Fate of Numenor. From the account in The Silmarillion: “Among the Exiles many believed that the summit of the Meneltarma, the Pillar of Heaven, was not drowned for ever, but rose again above the waves, a lonely island lost in the great waters; for it had been a hallowed place, and even in the days of Sauron none had defiled it.” So there’s a clear case for some of Numenor remaining above the sea, albeit not much of it. The presence of a secret shrine to Morgoth on the island we visit in Fate of Numenor goes against the description of the Meneltarma as being undefiled, so the designers are stretching things into the aforementioned grey area a bit one way or another.
Along with actually going to the ruins of Numenor to find an ancient artifact, our primary antagonists in this cycle are the Corsairs of Umbar, who of course are descended from a different branch of Numenoreans – those who were more corrupt and power hungry in contrast to the more virtuous followers of Elendil. As I mentioned in my post on the best villains in the game, this means Captain Sahir kind of comes across as what we might expect of a hypothetical evil version of someone like Denethor, Faramir, or Aragorn. So while this cycle starts from the notable elven location of the Grey Havens, the thematic elements of the story all kind of revolve very consistently around Gondor and Umbar via Numenor and the historical corruption thereof.
The way the story is told is also a bit different to in previous cycles, with the full story text in the rulesheets featuring cutaways to Sahir and Na’asiyah as well as following our group of heroes, which adds to the characterisation of the villains. Thinking about it, I don’t know if this is my favourite cycle of the game for quests or player cards (though it’s certainly a strong contender) but I think it is my favourite cycle for the story. A well characterised villain counts for a lot, and this cycle also really taps into some of my favourite things in Middle Earth – the air of magic and mystery surrounding both the stories of ancient Numenor and the sea. It’s great stuff.
So, back to actually playing this quest. This is a good place to use side-quests as neither quest stage requires progress to be placed from questing, only the exploration of active locations. The way locations are handled with the Uncharted deck, while a defining feature of the quest doesn’t really shape deckbuilding in any significant way – it means the encounter deck is primarily only 2 card types, so I could consider pulling out the Palantir again, but I don’t think I will. It means location control is of limited use since most locations can’t actually be explored in the staging area. Other than that the main defining feature of the quest is the effects on various cards which respond to the costs of your cards and particularly your allies – cards which cost less than 3 are potentially a risk, so skewing towards higher costs can be useful. The Throngs of Unfaithful specifically will return to the top of the encounter deck if the bottom card of your deck isn’t costly enough, so it may be simpler at times to just keep them engaged for a while. In general though this quest isn’t particularly difficult so I can mostly just pick ideas which appeal to me.
Gandalf (Core) x3
Ranger of Cardolan x3
Veteran of Osgiliath x3
Guardian of Arnor x3
Fornost Bowman x3
Steward of Gondor x3
King Under the Mountain x3
Tome of Atanatar x3
Sneak Attack x3
Grave Cairn x3
Dunedain Message x3
Gather Information x1
Send for Aid x1
Thoughts: The deck name is because 2/3 heroes and most of the allies are either Dunedain or Gondor, so they are presumably descended from the Numenorean Exiles.
Grave Cairn has been sitting on my list of cards I haven’t used for quite a long time now so I’ve been waiting for the right occasion to use a deck like this which makes a lot of use of Sneak Attack and Reinforcements to slot it in, and this is the occasion I picked. Obviously with a strategy revolving around Sneak Attacks it makes sense to use Prince Imrahil. Balin as usual is good largely for King Under the Mountain and shadow cancellation is nice to have on tap, while Amarthiul allows me to slot in Feints and get a bit of extra resource generation.
So, while all those expensive allies are good for Sneak Attacks and Reinforcements I also would like to be able to play some of them normally, but obviously in a mono-Leadership deck I can just slot in Steward of Gondor. King Under the Mountain I mentioned, and Tome of Atanatar is key for the ability to recycle my Sneak Attacks and potentially Reinforcements.
On the subject of the allies, as noted I’m prioritising higher cost allies given the mechanics of the enemies in this quest. The only unique ally who is duplicated is Gandalf of course, because any of the allies will be good and this way I won’t have dead draws. The Guardians of Arnor are potentially key for allowing me to consistently defend the two enemies I keep engaged to make Amarthiul’s ability work (though of course there are alternative defenders as well, ally Boromir being a good option if I have healing in play given his action advantage).
Finally, since this quest does nothing with your quest progress beyond exploring locations, it’s fantastic for side-quests – so much so that I’m bothering with Dunedain Message so I can hopefully reliably find one early on.
Converse with the Eldar
Cirdan the Shipwright
Galdor of the Havens
Master of the Forge x3
Rivendell Minstrel x3
Warden of Healing x3
Sailor of Lune x3
Elven Jeweler x3
Gildor Inglorion x1
To the Sea! To the Sea! x3
Silver Harp x3
Light of Valinor x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Tale of Tinuviel x3
Lords of the Eldar x2
Gather Information x1
Thoughts: In contrast to the first quest, here the non-Noldor deck has no need to discard cards from hand and so I don’t need to include Eowyn to allow them to do so. Therefore we instead have hero Arwen, who is of course a perfect inclusion for a Noldor deck.
I vary between different Noldor decks as to whether I use Elven-light, Silver Harps, or, as in this case, both.
The selection of Noldor allies is similar to in Voyage Across Belegaer, but obviously no Arwen and no Lindon Navigators, instead subbing in ally Elrond, who is also a great target for the other deck’s Reinforcements, and Rivendell Minstrels to help me find To the Sea! To the Sea! more reliably (as well as Tale of Tinuviel). Those two also have the advantage (in this quest) of being 3-cost.
This time I’m putting a bit more emphasis on the Light of Valinor/Narya combo, since that’ll help the other deck deal with its enemies – as will Tale of Tinuviel since I can use that as an alternative to Narya to boost and ready Amarthiul.
The other noteworthy inclusion in this deck is Lords of the Eldar – it may well be superfluous, but it’s a nice option to have and it’s not out of the question that I could draw through this entire deck by the end of the game, at which point Lords of the Eldar is a great way to continue doing stuff.