Continuing to the second quest of the Haradrim cycle, Race Across Harad is an interesting twist on an idea already seen in the previous cycle, as it essentially flips Flight of the Stormcaller around and has us fleeing away from the enemies in the encounter deck.
The player cards from this pack are pretty great too. Of course I’m on record as a big fan of side-quests so inevitably I like Thurindir. Then we have the first non-unique Harad ally, a Mount for Rangers, the first of this cycle’s trait-granting attachments, another multi-trait event, some location control, and a little Doomed synergy.
Of course a lot of people in the community felt that this was a bit of poor player card placement, having the side-quest hero released alongside a quest which is a race, leaving little time for side-quests. I think I can make it work though.
So with that being said, let’s turn to the quest itself. Right from the first time I played it, I’ve always liked the way this quest is designed to make it much easier for the Orcs to catch up to you when they’re behind, but slower to complete their stage when you’re at the same one. Because while you’re ahead of them there’s nothing you can do to slow them down, but as soon as they catch up you can travel to the locations and engage the enemies from the Orcs area and their progress slows down. Plus they get extra bonuses while you’re ahead. And then on the other hand the fact your own quest progress is limited means you’re unlikely to ever get too far ahead. As a result, the quest always maintains a good feeling of tension and challenge without being overpoweringly difficult.
Obvious concerns in approaching the quest – it is a race, so willpower absolutely cannot be neglected and ideally should be strong right from the start of the game. Combat, on the other hand, you can potentially get away with having a bit less power to start with since you start out ahead of the orcs – on the other hand though the amount of progress they make to catch up to you is unpredictable so it’s not like you’re totally secure, especially since regardless of other enemies you definitely will have to deal with the Uruk Chieftain once he catches up to you. It potentially helps that the Tamed Mumaks take undefended damage, but since they’re immune to player card effects you can’t heal them, and if your Mumak dies you’re eliminated from the game so that’s not something you want to take a lot of risks with.
For my actual deckbuilding, as noted Thurindir is a bit of an awkward mandatory inclusion, but actually I think it’s OK. The reasoning is, there are two ways to treat Thurindir – one is to go heavily into side-quest synergy to boost up his willpower, while the other is to just use his Setup ability to grab one side-quest at the start of the game and leave it at that, with Thurindir at 3 willpower and you getting the bonuses from the immediate side-quest. The first would be problematic here, but the second should work just fine. I wanted to try and make it work with Explore Secret Ways, which was released in this pack and gets unfairly maligned in my opinion. Ultimately though, it’s better suited to a higher player count or at least a more location-heavy quest.
Beyond that I’m mostly just trying to cover the standard bases while fitting in some cards I haven’t used, or at least haven’t used much.
Securing our Passage
Galdor of the Havens
Gandalf (Core) x3
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Warden of Healing x3
Ithilien Tracker x2
Robin Smallburrow x1
Steward of Gondor x3
Sneak Attack x3
We Are Not Idle x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Coney in a Trap x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3
Secret Paths x3
Gather Information x1
Thoughts: The obvious direction based on the quest being a race is to focus on willpower, as mentioned, but also important is just immediate deck efficiency. Thurindir kind of helps with that, effectively reducing deck size to 49, and Galdor just takes it a step further with both of his abilities. I’d already decided I wanted to go Leadership/Lore, so then I picked Erkenbrand because I wanted a hero with the Warrior trait so I could use Coney in a Trap.
Unlike a lot of my Line Unbroken fellowships, I don’t have a specific plan here for which deck engages enemies, so I figure between 3x Treebeard and 1x Quickbeam I should be OK for attack power. The deck doesn’t have that many uses for its Leadership resources, so Errand-riders will most likely be sending Erkenbrand’s resources around, but they’re good for efficiency regardless. Gandalf has the usual utility, Galadhrim Minstrels help the draw especially since I’m running a lot of events, Mablung and Robin Smallburrow are good value willpower allies, Wardens and Ioreth cover healing. The Ithilien Trackers tie into a general theme of just controlling the staging area and the threat in it, which I started out going for to synergise with Explore Secret Ways when that was still the plan, but of course it’s good regardless, especially when again, the quest is a race.
Steward of Gondor is to be played on one of the Lore heroes. Asfaloth goes cross-table onto Glorfindel and will help me keep the staging area clear so I can keep making good amounts of progress (again, race).
We Are Not Idle, Daeron’s Runes and Deep Knowledge all tie into my aforementioned pursuit of high deck efficiency. Sneak Attack works with Gandalf as usual. Gildor’s Counsel and Secret Paths both tie into the encounter deck control theme. Coney in a Trap, as noted, was a lot of the reason I picked Erkenbrand as my Leadership hero, and being basically a situational Feint in Lore, it’s obviously good.
Gather Information is my one side-quest to dig out with Thurindir, and it should help further with my much-repeated deck efficiency to let both decks dig out any card they want (hopefully) on round 1.
Steward of Orthanc x3
Galadhon Archer x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
West Road Traveller x3
Arwen Undomiel x1
Light of Valinor x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Ancient Mathom x3
Blade of Gondolin x3
Rivendell Blade x3
Raiment of War x2
Rivendell Bow x2
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Wait No Longer x3
Thoughts: On this side I’m really going for the solid starting willpower, both because the quest is a race (I feel like I’m over-repeating that too much), but also because I want to be confident I can clear Gather Information on the first round (to kickstart the decks, and because you guessed it, the quest is a race). Thus Eowyn and Glorfindel. Glorfindel of course also makes Asfaloth better. Legolas was the last addition, because I needed an attacker, and a quest like this (a race) is kind of the ideal context for his progress-placing ability.
To bolster my attack on this side of the table (or the other since they’re Ranged), we have Galadhon Archers. The rest of the allies were all just picked for their willpower because the quest is a race, and repeating that has become a bit at this point. The Stewards of Orthanc of course are a new card I wanted to slot in, and they can help this deck draw a bit faster if necessary.
Light of Valinor for Glorfindel as usual of course, and Unexpected Courage mostly for Erkenbrand to cover multiple defences. Raiment of War is also intended for Erkenbrand to give him extra defence and hit points. Ancient Mathom is another thing to help this deck draw faster, likewise having plenty of weapons enables Foe-hammer. Also Blades of Gondolin are a decent fit here because almost all the enemies are Orcs, and blah blah progress, quest is a race.
Test of Will as standard. Elrond’s Counsel is fairly standard but perhaps particularly relevant to have the potential willpower boost since I’ll generally want to get the maximum progress I can each round so it’ll help to be able to adjust if I fall short on a given round (this also applies to Eowyn of course). Feints are standard. Foe-hammer I mentioned, more draw is good. And then we have Backtrack and Wait No Longer, both picked to help keep the staging area clear.