Theme Saga 1: A Shadow of the Past
I have decided to attempt the entire Campaign, one quest at a time, using heroes that were present for that section of the events in the books. If all goes well, I'll be wrapping up #15 Pelennor Fields right around the time #16 becomes available.
Obviously, I'm ignoring the rules about changing heroes and threat reduction. I'm actually changing the number of PLAYERS as I go, so it doesn't make much sense. Also, the rules I'm making for myself are much more restrictive than the actual Campaign rules. Here are my rules:
- One Rule to Rule Them All: "All cards that are Unique, or an Ally, or an Attachment, must be present in the appropriate part of the books." (And actually all Unique cards ARE allies and attachments, so that's redundant.)
- The One Rule corollary: All events are allowed, but bonus points for using events that make sense.
- Three Rules for this Quest of Fools: If something breaks the One Rule... but only a little... and it can make the deck better, or more fun, I'll allow it.
In other words, events are fine, but people and stuff are not. Rule #3 exists because I want to win, hopefully without too much painful retrying. Now... I haven't even left Bag End, and already I'm leaning on Rule #3 a little: Bill the Pony! I love this card, and I was surprised to find that he's not even in this quest. I'd misremembered, and thought he came from the Shire. I'm bringing him anyway, because they had ponies with them that weren't named Bill. I'm also entirely okay with him dying multiple times and coming back: the deck is thematic, but the playing of it doesn't have to be.
Please also note: the Saga rulebooks make it clear that for half the quests, I'm required to have a Fellowship hero who has the Ring-bearer trait, and for the other half I'm required to have a Fellowship hero whose name is Aragorn. They do NOT require me to have the Fellowship hero that was published with the expansion I'm playing, and in fact I can swap them in from later or earlier packs. I will be making use of this as I go.
From here on out, notes about why each deck is constructed as it is will be in the deck's own page. This Fellowship page will be a log of the quest (so, spoilers?) This first one is rather detailed, but hopefully the future ones will focus only on the really interesting choices I had to make.
This is my second attempt at this quest, but my first attempt with the deck as shown here. This hand is freaking beautiful and I do not mulligan. Pippin helps Frodo be more Resourceful, and then for free I play Bill the Pony, Cram for Sam, and Needful to Know. I find a Black Rider, and my threat is 17. Well... glad I chose Frodo for Resourceful! I know I'm about to exhaust the Ring, but now I don't know how much to quest for. I'll try 9, with all hobbits and not the Pony. I'm currently holding a Will of the West (shrug) and Frodo's Intuition (excellent!)
The flop: Black Rider, which I use the Ring to shuffle in, followed by Black Steed, which surges for Green Hill Country. Perfect!! This is truly my least favorite part of the entire Saga: the first turn of the first quest, where questing too little makes locations start to back up, and questing too much brings in a new Black Rider. With 9 willpower vs 6 threat, I've hit the sweet spot exactly. Clear the location to draw 4 cards, then travel to Green Hills. I see very little reason to engage yet, so this turn is over.
I'll start with Frodo's Intuition, like an idiot, even though my last attempt failed because I didn't keep money on Frodo. I draw 4 more cards, including more Intuition. Merry makes Frodo even more Resourceful, because clearly one wasn't enough. Now I play Needful to Know, see Have You Seen Baggins? and am 19 threat. This card has surge, and once again I don't know how much to quest for. This is going to be Not Good. For lack of anything else to spend it on, Sam buys Keen-Eyed Took, and shows me I have Hobbit Cloak coming up, which I most certainly don't want to discard. My hand is now Will of the West, Hobbit-Sense, a spare Bill the Pony, Elbereth-Gilthonial, and my second Intuition. I perhaps should have saved Sam's money for Sensing, but I want to put that off if I can.
Frodo Intuitively quests for 3 using a Fast Hitch, and Sam quests for 4. I hesitate, then quest with Merry for 3 more, and hold Pippin back like the useless bum he is. Oh, and now he has Have You Seen Baggins? attached to him too. The surge is Crawling Towards Him, so I Hide with just Pippin for 3, because this is going to hurt, hard. The Hide test shows Green Hill Country and another Crawling, so I made it. I stop to use Sam's Fast Hitch, and then I finish the location, finish the quest, and hang onto my hat.
The new quest gives me a Black Rider of course, and I'm at +2 threat to hide because I have 2 allies. However, Frodo is 3 and Sam is 4, so I'm reasonably okay. I see Black Steed and Pathless Country, and I'm fine for now. And the one nice thing about all this is that I don't have any new locations to deal with. I'm engaging the Steedless Rider, because I want less threat in staging, and Pippin draws that cloak I so desperately need. The shadow card is Piercing Cry, so he eats Bill and then attacks again... unless I want to Elbereth right now. Do I really want to do this??
Yes, yes I do. This Nazgul goes to the bottom of the deck before it can attack again, and the Took lives. My threat goes to 36 at the end of this round.
Again I start with Intuition, and this time I have a spare money on Frodo. Thanks to that, and two Idles, and one Runes (discard Cram), Merry is now Gaining Strength and Frodo has a Pipe (because again, Frodo's layabout Buckland cousins are not cool enough to have attachments). Sam buys himself a Cloak, and now I have West, Test, two Senses and the third Intuition. I quest for 13 with hobbits only, and Frodo is Hitched already.
I flop Gildor Inglorion, and my jaw drops to the floor.
At this point, I'm pretty sure I've won. Here's 9 progress on the quest, and now I must engage this Rider. Its shadow card is another Rider, and it eats my Keen-Eyed Took. Sam Hitches, and together with Frodo and Bill and Gildor, this Rider just took 1 damage. Yay?? The Steed returns it to staging, and Frodo pays Gildor his hush money.
Round 3 begins, and now I have three Hobbit-Sense in hand. Go figure. Again I start with Intuition, and then Runes (drop Curious Brandybuck), then Runes again (drop my second Greeting). I play the first Greeting, and now at threat 31, Sam can block a rider with 4 defense if I've just engaged it.
And Pipe draws me Legacy of Numenor. Hrm...
After pondering, Pippin actually pays for Needful to Know; my threat is 30 and I know I will see Pathless Country in a moment. I can therefore safely play Numenor, but I don't need to, so I don't. I quest for 11, using all of the Hobbits that aren't Pippin, and then immediately Hitch Sam and Frodo. 5 progress finishes the stage exactly.
New stage, new Rider! Three hobbits hide for 10, bye bye The Ring Draws Them and Piercing Cry, and with the effect on the quest stage I place 2 progress on Pathless. I can't travel to the Ferry, so I go to Pathless instead... ah, I'd forgotten the Steed. So one of the Riders engages without triggering Sam and Pippin, but I let it kill Bill again with Hunting for the Ring as its shadow. No point attacking it, let's just race to the finish.
Draw my second Test of Will, and prepare for the madness. I quest with everyone, including Gildor this time for a total of 12, and immediately Hitch both Frodo and Sam. The flop is Crawling Towards Him... I'll decline to use the Ring on that, and just hide for 5. (Because apparently I'm an idiot and forgot about Test of Will, yet AGAIN.) I get Rode Like a Gale and Stock Road, so I'm alright, and I use the Response on the quest to clear Pathless.
Let's do something dumb here: I play Elevenses, ready Frodo and lower threat by 1, and use Hobbit Pipe, drawing Hobbit Cloak. Now my quest total is 10, failing the quest and gaining a threat. It's kind of pointless, but it's what the Pipe is for, I guess.
Travel to the Ferry needs a hide test of 3... hrm. Well, Sam will use his Cram and try it. Hunting For the Ring, The Marish, and Lure of the Ring; I succeed, just barely. That's going to save me a TON of trouble. I travel successfully and thus put Curious George, oh I mean Curious Brandybuck, into play. I optionally engage the Rider without the Steed, because I want less threat, and thus I ready Sam and draw Hobbit Cloak. The one with the Steed comes at me, and I use Mr. Underhill on it, because it's worth 1 VP baby! (It still deals and discards a shadow, namely Lure of the Ring.) Then, Sam with 5 defense blocks the other, with Piercing Cry for a shadow, attacking again. Ugh! At this point I just play Hobbit Sense, because I'm tired of this, and Frodo will pay for it all. Steed returns to staging, I pay Gildor.
Round 6! Draw Test of Will, play Cloaks on Frodo and Merry for no particularly good reason, and quest with everybody for 14. Flop: Evil Crow. 8 progress goes on the Ferry, annoyingly not quite enough. But, now I engage a Rider and a Crow, play Hobbit-Sense, and sit back and laugh. Steed returns, pay for Gildor. Round 7, draw my other Elbereth-Gilthonial, quest for 14, draw Rode Like a Gale, return a Nazgul to staging, win.
6 completed rounds = 60
Total combined Threat = 33
Total damage on Heroes = 0
Cost of dead Heroes = 0
Victory points = 2 (Bag End and Underhill)
TOTAL SCORE = 91
This deck was surprisingly strong. My usual approach here is to fight and kill Black Riders mercilessly, and I was surprised to see these delaying tactics work so well.
This was also, unsurprisingly, very very finicky. I firmly believe I would not have won if I did not already know the quest perfectly.
Elbereth Gilthonial still annoys me a lot. It seems it's meant to be a one-time use, that then breaks itself. However, with two Greeting and two Elevenses available, and whatever Needful to Know I have left, it's likely I can return to the point where Sam and Pippin's effects are useful (which in fact, I did). By the time I have a second Elbereth, I can probably spend the four resources on it.
I didn't need Will of the West, which was overly optimistic anyway. I should have used Good Meal, see notes on the deck itself. I might want another Took, simply because there's not much to spend purple on here. I could also try more card draw effects. cut back to one each of Elbereth and Greeting, and make this a self-recycling deck... but I won, so I'm not going to redo it at the moment. The deck did fine, let's see how it does on The Old Forest and then Barrow-Downs. (Spoiler alert: it did terribly.)