The Line Unbroken – Return of the King Wrap-Up

Having made it through Mount Doom, I have wrapped up not just the Mountain of Fire expansion, not just the quests telling the story of Return of the King, but the entirety of the saga campaign. A momentous occasion for me writing this blog.Briefly summarising the player cards from the two relevant boxes, I’d say Flame of the West mostly just gave us cards which are strong in any context you use them (most notably the heroes, but a lot of the other cards also fir that description); while Mountain of Fire’s player cards are all more specialised, giving some boosts to into Rohan and Hobbits as well as two heroes with those traits who don’t necessarily fit into the relevant trait archetypes as they existed at the time this box was released. I’d say I like all the cards from both boxes, but the Flame of the West ones are a lot more universally applicable, with the best cards in Mountain of Fire being tied to specific deck types.

Anyway, quests.
The Passing of the Grey Company can get frustrating with the amount it pushes your threat dial, Overcome by Fear in particular is pretty rough, especially in campaign mode when you really have to get rid of it lest it continue to follow you, but by and large the quest is fine.

The Siege of Gondor is similarly basically fine with some aspects which can get frustrating. Here it’s the huge dependence on the shuffle of the encounter deck, since your advancement through the quest is tied to finding the Ship locations, so if they don’t turn up it’s a serious problem. Also the non-Ship locations can cause assorted problems and you can’t necessarily take the time to deal with them since you have to rush to the Ships.

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields to me represents the absolute pinnacle of the saga campaign. The way the theme ties into the mechanics is superb, and in my experience the balance is very finely tuned so that win or lose, it feels epic. One of the best quests in the game full stop.

The Tower of Cirith Ungol marks another tally in the ‘basically fine’ category, with the potentially frustrating aspect here being campaign mode specific – as mentioned in the specific blog post, the presence of the Wraiths on Wings doesn’t fit the story and skews the mechanics. Other than that though, it’s fun, some nice thematic points, not hugely challenging especially when compared to the other two quests in the box.

The Black Gate Opens I’m not sure what I can even say about. So much of it is summarised by simply knowing the basic point that the quest cannot be won, and each round you survive simply gives the Ring-bearer more time to destroy the One Ring. The fact it’s a tough-as-nails challenge and cannot be won in a traditional sense means it doesn’t see a lot of play outside of a campaign, but in the right context (either a campaign or you just wanted a really brutal challenge) it does exactly what it’s supposed to.

Mount Doom I’ve never actually played outside of a campaign either as far as I remember. I have to imagine the quest gets substantially easier when you’re not working with a time limit, but the basic quest mechanics are enough to still keep it as a pretty sizeable challenge – and to some people perhaps a more palatable one than just busting out Black Gate Opens on a casual game night. Ultimately I’m not sure it’s possible for me to clearly express how I feel about this quest in and of itself rather than as the end of the campaign, because it’s so inextricably tied into its campaign placement in my mind. And I do love the end of the campaign.

The hardest quests: Black Gate Opens, Mount Doom.
My favourite quests: Battle of Pelennor Fields.
My least favourite quests: Passing of the Grey Company, Siege of Gondor.
The most thematic quests: Battle of Pelennor Fields, Black Gate Opens.
I should note at this juncture that ‘least favourite’ here is very much relative. All six quests across these two boxes are good, I’m just picking out the ones which on the one hand I can find more frustrating and on the other don’t really stand out in the same way the others do.

At this point in saga wrap-ups I’ve made it a habit to talk about how The Line Unbroken is progressing as a series. I don’t want to get particularly navel-gazey right now, but there are three significant points regarding the future of the series which I’ll bring up here:

1) Just in case anyone was worrying when I stopped posting for a while, the series is continuing. The impact of covid restrictions and the world generally being awful has been rough on top of my more run-of-the-mill problems, but I remain determined to get through this progression-style series. I had hoped to be further along, less far behind releases, and there’s an extent to which that causes me to question if I want to skip over some Nightmare content in favour of pushing forward to the last couple of cycles – I’m undecided.

2) When I started this series, I specifically chose not to do card reviews (on the blog or in video form), just maybe giving some general thoughts on each pack before going straight to playing the quests. One reason for that was I felt the territory of card reviews had been pretty well covered in videos by the Progression Series, and later on in blog form by Tales From the Cards. Neither of those points really apply at this point, which leaves me wondering if I should rethink that decision. Again I’m undecided – given the aforementioned concern about catching up to released content I don’t want to add too much to the time and effort required to get these done, but I could probably expand a bit on my passing acknowledgement of the player cards released in packs without having any significant impact on my overall output. On the other hand, regardless of how much I talk about them I am making the effort to use as many of the player cards as possible, and seeing them in action allows you to draw your own opinions whatever I may have to say or not. And I assume you’re fairly familiar with most of them anyway.
The one time I did do card reviews with The Line Unbroken was of course when I did some of the TftC First Age quests, because of course that was custom content and so I figured people wouldn’t be so familiar. Which brings me to point 3.

3) A Long-extended Party? When ALeP was originally announced and wanted people to help with design, playtesting etc, my initial impulse was to volunteer, but this was tempered by my secondary thought that perhaps it could be more interesting to avoid foreknowledge and instead treat it as I did official content – react as it was released and potentially cover it on this blog. This is one reason I would’ve liked to be further along with the official content, so I could be closer to the option (if I want to take it) of playing ALeP quests on The Line Unbroken. Obviously I’m quite a way away from that option if I continue in order, but I may well get to it in time. And in the meantime, perhaps not The Line Unbroken, but I’m sure there’s scope for me to find things to talk about with regard to the fan-created extension of our beloved game. So for the third time, I’m undecided, but look out for something I guess? (Or offer suggestions if you would like to see something in particular).

Speculation about the future aside, that wraps up the saga campaign for The Line Unbroken, we will now return you to your regularly scheduled Haradrim cycle.

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