I always try to make it a point to review cards that I initially think are pretty lame, and turn out to be a diamond in the rough after playing with them extensively, and Livery of the Tower is most certainly one of these.

The instant you see this card, the initial reaction should be to compare it to Blood of Númenor; it's same cost, same sphere equivalent. At first glance it appears much weaker, as it is unfortunately restricted, "more" restrictive on the type of heroes it can be played on, it's effects are only relevant for a single attack vs. the entire combat phase, and it makes any boost >1 more expensive. Indeed on most defensive characters, it probably isn't as good as Blood and I initially included 1x in my Beregond deck as a "2nd rate blood" option just to have 4x boosting options.

However, what I learned is that on Beregond (whom it's obviously designed to play on), there is a case to be made that it's actually a really good card that can outperform Blood in the right circumstances. To illustrate this, I need to do a little bit of math.

So Beregond already starts out at a hearty 4 , and let's be realistic, if you are playing Spirit Beregond you are probably auto-including 3x Arwen Undómiel for both compensatory and extra boost for a strong defensive sentinel character in sphere. That means in most games Beregond should be defending at 5. What this means is that for any single up to 6 (5 without Arwen), Livery is effectively mostly equivalent to Blood in boosting. However, it has an ADDED benefit of also being able to cancel any form of direct damage, whether it be from enemy ability or shadow effect. This also guarantees that you will trigger Beregond's reduction from this defense (since the way I read his ability, a shadow effect that does direct damage counts as "damage during an attack" and thus negates his ability). Blood does not stop direct damage. As enemy increases to 7+ (6+ without Arwen), the defensive boost on Livery gets marginally more expensive.

So which is better? Well that depends on the Circumstances. I'll look at each dynamic that impacts the decision numerically:

  1. Multiple enemy s at the defender's +1 or s at defenders +2 or greater make Blood a more attractive option, with it's attractiveness increasing with number or magnitude of enemy attacks. This also means that Blood is more likely to be a better option at lower while Livery becomes a more attractive option when is higher. For most decks on most heroes, Blood is going to tend to be better.... but one can argue in a properly built and played Beregond deck, by the time that you are facing multiple enemies with giant s in most decks, you are typically already in late game and should have a mountain of resources on him where the extra potential cost of Livery matters less.

  2. Quests with more direct damage very obviously favor livery, since it does protect against it whether it comes in the from of shadow effect or treachery. As mentioned earlier, cancelling direct damage shadow effects might allow Beregond to trigger his threat reduction in a circumstance where he otherwise might not have. More direct damage in a quest makes Livery much more valuable.

  3. Blood is applicable to a wider range of defensive heroes, so it does have that going for it although that is a deckbuilding problem and not a gameplay one.

  4. The biggest dig against Livery in my opinion is that it is restricted. This is a detriment because it discourages attachment stacking on big defensive heroes. However, once again this is less of a problem for spirit Beregond than it is for defenders of other spheres, as most of the defensive attachments in Spirit are not also restricted. It's a much bigger problem for Tactics Beregond who tends to want to accumulate other restricted attachments.

  5. Lastly, it's important to note that even in a deck/quest combination where you deem Blood to be the better option, Livery can still function as a 4x-6x "2nd rate" Blood in order to better concentrate the deck and increase the chances of a 0 cost defensive option in the opening hand.

In summary, Blood is a much easier played and generally powerful card overall, but Livery outshines Blood in certain builds, quests, and circumstances. Whichever one you deem to be a better option for your situation, the other can function as a less ideal substitute as well.

A while ago, Fantasy Flight had a Design Journal on their website, describing the two main kinds of cards they designed; the hit and the haymaker. The haymaker is an explosive, incredibly powerful but expensive effect, like Hour of Wrath or the Boromir bomb. The hit, on the other hand, is a more miniscule effect that is cheaper but needs time and most likely additional assistance to really help the players. Argalad definitely falls into this latter category.

First off, his stats: Argalad has a threat cost slightly lower than the average for heroes (9 vs. 9.26), while his is around the average (2 vs. 1.91) and his is slightly above average (2 vs. 1.91). His 1 clearly leaves him unsuited for defensive work, except in great need, though his 4 makes him able to eat some weak undefended attacks or direct damage from the quest.

So, Argalad should work best either for attacking or questing: the fact that he has Ranged pushes one more towards combat, but his ability makes him more useful for questing.

What of his ability, by the way? While lowering the of an enemy by 2, or more if you can pump up Argalad's , doesn't sound too impressive, and 1 point of damage sounds even less so, Argalad is a clear case of the power of 'hit' cards. Argalad's semi-low threat makes it easier to avoid enemies, and 's engagement trickery (Ranger Spikes, Take No Notice, Noiseless Movement, etc.) makes it even easier to trap enemies in the staging area, leaving you free to whittle them down with Argalad, who, conveniently, helps solve the main problem of leaving enemies in the staging area; having to deal with their .

Now, I am not saying that Argalad is a magic bullet; it takes time to destroy an enemy this way, point by point, and, more often than not, I merely use Argalad's ability to deal 1 damage to an enemy who then proceeds to engage my other deck, whose threat I am not so paranoid about keeping below engagement costs. But even then, Argalad is still handy, helping at least somewhat ease combat for the other deck.

Overall, Argalad does not provide the 'in-your-face' power of Éowyn or Boromir, but that is not to call him weak; he is definitely a 'hit' card, but a very good one, one who, like the Hobbits in Tolkien's work, is not impressive to look at but, in time of great doom, may deliver a stroke of great power, awesome even to the Wise, or may simply do what he can to till and clean the earth for those who come after him.

completely agree. not a BOOM kind of hero, but extremely solid in a trap deck with Haldir, or even in concert with Thalin. throw some attachments on Argalad and you're cancelling some serious threat. I love this hero. great review! —

This card is mental in a Dale deck. My first game playing a Dale deck I played two of these (number three was lost somewhere in the bottom of the deck) and gained 11 resources. Less the cost of the card, that’s a gain of 9 resources for two cards. (!)

Long story short, in the right deck this card is an awesome resource accelerator.

Bilbo is, without a doubt, a terrible hero.

I know, I know, build him up with half a dozen attachments and he's good- but any hero is good if you do that. He literally has no good stats, which means all of his usefulness comes from the attachments. That means if you attached those cards to a hero that is already good at that thing, they're going to be better than Bilbo every time.

The usual advice is to build him up as a defender with cards like Protector of Lórien and A Burning Brand - but in the same sphere and for less threat (yep, actually less threat) I could have Denethor as a defender, who has +1 and . Bilbo will have to ditch a card to Protector every turn just to have the same defence as Denethor starts with, and he's more likely to die if you mess up. Suddenly the extra draw for Bilbo doesn't look so great.

If you want card draw and a hobbit, the obvious choice is Pippin at just 2/3 the threat cost. He'll most likely draw you more cards over the game anyway and you don't need to build him up so much, as the obvious place for him is questing.

The big issue with Bilbo though is opportunity cost. The time you really need your heroes to step up is early, before your board state is very advanced. Bilbo is hopeless then; he's not built up yet (it will probably take several turns to get him to "ok") so you are basically down one hero. He works against the hobbit theme of low-threat turtling to get set up, because his threat is so high. The passive +1 card is a trap - he'll use early card draw and resources just to get him to the level of other starting heroes, meaning that he is a net negative in both cards and resources.

I think Bilbo suffered from coming out so early in the game's development, and was just a complete miscalculation by the game's designers. If he came out now, I think he'd be only 6 threat at most (I personally think he should be 5). That may seem extreme, but his one stat higher than 1 is , and that is the one stat where it isn't very helpful to have a value of 2- the mechanics of defence basically mean that <3 often might as well be 0. His passive draw is not helpful when you need several cards to get to "break even" point, and you don't even get the draw yourself every turn.

Really, the only reason to use Bilbo is if you want to handicap yourself. I rate him as the worst hero in the game, and by some margin. The only question to me is, are you better off having only two heroes rather than taking Bilbo? And that is a pretty sad indictment.

I don't think it's fair to judge the first hero we got in an AP against today's standards and pool. Bilbo is certainly overpriced as a result of a miscalculation by the developers (and yes, I think they should errata him to 6 threat). Back in his days, there were just 2 hobbits available (him and then Frodo), and he was the one with the amazing Fast Hitch on sphere. Likewise, back in the days there was Beravor for reliable card draw and little more, there was no Heed the dream, no Daeron's runes, etc., so Bilbo was a very nice addition to Mithrandir's advice and the terrible Wealth of Lorien in order to draw cards. Lore Pippin came along with a bunch of hobbit cards and it's hard to make a case for Bilbo when competing against him, but even nowadays I don't think he's strictly worse than Spirit Pippin or Fatty Bolger. Some heroes were revitalized afterwards, like Dunhere, but Bilbo was better than him back then. I don't think he's strictly worse than other heroes like Lore Glorfindel, Dori, Idraen or Halbarad, because he's ability is more interesting and his main virtue. My two cents! —
Well, if I was going to review a card “as it was when released” that would be a different review entirely. This is a review of a card as of the moment when I wrote it. As far as the other heroes you’ve mentioned, I would (and have) use all of them well before Bilbo. Interestingly though, I think a newly announced card (The Shirefolk) may rehabilitate Bilbo somewhat- I may be feeling differently about him in 6 months :) —

Error in description.

Admins can delete this 'review' :)

200 characters is a lot! A lot, a lot!

Way more than I thought that it would be. Don't make me bust out the lorem ipsum!

Ok, you asked for it....