First, I'll compare this card to Grim Resolve. It costs the same, but this one is neutral and not Leadership, so it's easier to play in any multi-color deck. It has the same effect, plus a significant questing boost: at least +3 (heroes), and potentially much more. The willpower effect doesn't share in a multiplayer game, but the readying does. All in all, this is a very good card, if you don't mind spending the 5 for it, or have some way to make it cheaper (Vilya?) So this should be an easy pick: if you liked Grim Resolve, you'll love Free Peoples!

Second.

Now that that's resolved, I'll spend the rest of the review answering one important question: how hard is it to have 9 traits? The answer: it's surprisingly easy to control heroes and allies with 9 different traits. I'll start with the bad news: it's literally impossible to choose 3 non-Saga heroes with 9 different traits among them. So, you won't have 9 on your first turn, but it's laughably easy to have 6, and not hard at all to have 7. It's even possible to have 8 if you work at it.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Every hero has the possibility of the following three traits:

  1. A "Fealty," which literally every hero has one of.
    Most likely this is Dunedain, Dwarf, Gondor, Hobbit, Noldor, Rohan, or Silvan.
    In unique or near-unique cases, it could be Beorning, Corsair, Dale, Ent, Esgaroth, Harad, Istari, or Outlands.

  2. "Noble," or not.

  3. A "Profession," or not. In the case of heroes, possible professions are Warrior, Ranger, or more rarely Scout.

Go ahead, check them. Every hero has only those three, and no more? Well... not exactly. As of this writing, when we have received (spoiled or published) nearly all heroes from the entire Saga series and up through the Haradrim cycle,
Here is every single exception to the rules above:

  1. Denethor and Denethor are Gondor, and Noble, and have the unique profession "Steward," which literally nobody else has. Not even Ally Denethor for some reason. Not even the target of Steward of Gondor, who gains the Gondor trait but not the Steward trait.

  2. Gríma has two fealties, namely Rohan and Isengard. Unfortunately he is not Noble and has no profession.

  3. A small handful of heroes have one fealty and TWO professions, and are not Noble.
    Amarthiúl and Aragorn are Dunedain, Ranger, Warrior.
    Haldir of Lórien the Silvan, and Idraen the Dunedain, both are Ranger, Scout.
    Elfhelm is Rohan, Scout, Warrior. Oddly, neither of his Ally versions are so well-traveled.

So here's the bottom line. If you want 7 traits on your heroes, you have thousands of options: choose any three fealties, with one of each profession, and make sure at least one of them is Noble. 7 Scouts times 15 Rangers times at least 25 warriors, minus a few hundred combinations with duplicate fealties, is at least a few thousand. But,

If you want 8 Traits on your heroes, you MUST choose Denethor or Grima, and you MUST choose two other heroes with 3 professions between them.

Denethor, plus a double-profession, plus a non-matching profession gives you 3 fealties, Noble, and 4 professions. Grima, plus a double-profession, plus a non-matching profession (and it could be Denethor!) gives you 4 fealties, Noble, and only 3 professions. These are the ONLY ways to get 8.

And you can't get 9. Not with just your starting heroes.

But it's not hard to get to 9! Here are just a few of my favorite ways.

  • Playing a Saga quest? No problem! If you're in Over Hill and Under Hill, Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit. In any other Saga quest, you have a Hobbit Burglar, or a Hobbit Ring-bearer, or a Dunedain Noble Ranger. Or, coming soon in Mountain of Fire, a Dunedain Gondor Noble Warrior instead. With a small amount of planning so that you don't match, these will get you your 9. Play it one-player, or wait for your turn as first player, and you're all set. (Incidentally, yes, there are no other Burglars or Ring-bearers anywhere else.)
  • Warden of Healing is Gondor, Healer, and you know you want them. So is Ioreth, and you might want her too (or instead, depending on your deck). If you're doing something weirder, the Healer trait also exists on Galadhrim Healer, Imladris Caregiver, and (temporarily) Elrond. No heroes have that trait... nope, not even Elrond, oddly.
  • I'm a huge fan of Gléowine, and of course I want him as early as possible. That brings me Minstrel, Rohan. As it happens, the only other Minstrel that's actually Minstrel is Galadhrim Minstrel, Silvan. That's right, Rivendell Minstrel isn't actually a Minstrel.
  • Eagle deck? All Eagles are Creature, Eagle. Two traits for cheap, that almost nothing else matches.
  • Very few heroes have Scout, but a few unique allies and a lot of non-unique allies do. This could be easier than picking from limited hero options.
  • Depending on your heroes, Elf-friend nets you Noldor, Silvan, or both.

... plus of course, dozens of other ways to add one trait at a time. Get yourself a Craftsman, like Master of the Forge or a handful of others. Or, grab an ally from any of the many fealties that don't match your heroes. If you picked your heroes right, it'll only take one or two allies to get you set up, and you could easily have a deck full of possible choices, to make sure you draw at least one early.

So in conclusion, playing Free Peoples is probably easier than you think. Give it a try!

141

There really isn't much to say about song of kings. It does what it says on the card. The real reason I would include it in my deck is to splash in Steward of Gondor, which can be done in a more efficient manner by using a good harvest. However, the song of kings, (unlike the harvest), synergizes with the rivendell minstrel. And the minstrel is in lore, the sphere that is most in need of resource acceleration.

Elfhelm is a great ally. 4-cost obviously is on the steeper side but he's worth it. The stats are good, you get some reasonable flexibility out of him - 2 /3 is pretty good for an ally and is enough to let him take attacks from weak to average enemies fairly safely, while an extra 2 is always welcome, and isn't necessarily that easy to come by in the sphere. What really makes him stand out though is the ability.

Firstly I will quickly cover the limitations - Elfhelm doesn't cancel a threat raise, though it can feel like it, he merely lowers your threat again after it raises, so if the threat raise causes you to hit 50 you're out of luck. And Elfhelm only helps with threat raises from questing unsuccessfully and from encounter or quest card effects. So he won't lower your threat if you raise it with Frodo Baggins, or Boromir, or Gandalf, or any of the many Doomed player cards, or any other threat raising player card. That said, he still works well with those cards because if your deck strategy revolves around taking threat raises from your own cards you'd probably rather avoid additional threat raises from the encounter deck to give yourself more leeway. And of course the ability only applies while Elfhelm is ready - but that's not a big limitation since most threat raises come in the Quest phase and Elfhelm's stats make him much more a combat character. Saving him to attack rather than defend generally covers every threat raise the encounter deck could be throwing at you.

Now to the good parts. Questing unsuccessfully isn't something which should be happening too often, but perhaps in a context where you're trying to quest cautiously to limit how much progress you make while setting up a board-state, Elfhelm could help correct for a miscalculation. The big thing though is encounter and quest card threat raises. Any Doomed 1 from the encounter deck essentially no longer affects you. Higher amounts of Doomed are lessened. You mitigate locations raising your threat to travel or when they're explored, enemies raising your threat by attacking or by dealing damage, treacheries and quest cards raising your threat based on any number of criteria. A search on Hall of Beorn for encounter cards with Doomed in the text produces 95 results, one for "raise each player's threat" produces 60, "raise your threat" 40, and I'm sure there are other phrasings. Remember of course that shadow effects are also encounter card effects, so Elfhelm can mitigate a threat raise from a shadow effect as well as long as he's still ready. For an extreme example, consider the location Market Square from Murder at the Prancing Pony (possibly the best Elfhelm quest as it's full of threat raises). The Market Square has "Forced: After a player places any amount of progress on a location in the staging area, he raises his threat by 1." Which is a problem since location control can be significant, but the way it's phrased, it's a separate threat raise of 1 for each different location, so if you trigger a Northern Tracker with Elfhelm ready, you place 1 progress on each location, and thus for each location you raise your threat by 1 for the Market Square and then reduce it by 1 again for Elfhelm, completely negating what can otherwise be a hugely punishing effect.

A simple comparison can be made between Elfhelm and The Galadhrim's Greeting. Greeting reduces your threat by 6 and costs one less resource to play, but it doesn't have stats. Elfhelm's stats are worth a significant chunk of his cost, at which point we conclude we're paying less for his threat reduction than we are for that of a Greeting - but depending on the quest, Elfhelm may actually reduce your threat by more than 6 in the long run, making him an absolute bargain even without potentially using Théoden to get him in for 3 instead of 4 (or Caldara to bring him in free from the discard pile). He doesn't synergise with the whole Rohan discard-from-play mechanic, but when you're discarding a bunch of allies, it's good to have some strong ones who are actually sticking around - and synergy or no synergy, that ability is amazing in pretty much any deck. As one more possible idea, I'd say Elfhelm could fit in alright in a deck wanting to make use of Valour effects - such a deck would want to reach 40 threat to activate Valour, but then wants to keep its threat under tight control once it's there, and Elfhelm is great for that.

Elfhelm is one of the gems of the first cycle, with an ability granting some of the most powerful threat reduction in the game if you get him into play early enough to take full advantage of it, making him a stand-out pick for many quests, and pretty much never a bad choice.

Mustering the Rohirrim can be a very powerful card in the right deck. It's pretty much the best way to search for rohan allies (especially Eomund/Gamling), besides just straight drawing them, and should trigger every time (if it doesn't you probably don't have enough targets). It is a bummer that it adds only one to hand instead of all targets found, but is still a good search effect.

An excellent option for shoring up a traditional Tactics deck weakness. This is the best way for Tactics to reduce threat, and you even get to "quest" for one more until you're ready to fire it. It gets better in multiplayer, where it's usually at least as good as the 3-cost The Galadhrim's Greeting - beating Spirit at its own game. It is annoying when you can't find a good target, but it won't be long before at least a 2 comes along.