It's been awhile since I've written a review, largely due to a newborn in the house and a new job seriously cutting into LOTR:LCG playing time, so I haven't had a lot of time to experiment with new decks and new cards that have been coming out. However, Distant Stars falls right into my favorite category of cards...those which are not obviously powerful up front, but can be very potent once you figure out how to use them. This combined with my love of all things and all things ranger has inspired me to come out of hibernation for a card review.
The first thing that gets my attention about this card is that it seems to represent a subtle but growing Ranger/Scout theme in the game... that is cards that allow a Ranger or Scout character to exchange an action for an effect. Interestingly, Rangers have always tended to be characters with evenly balanced stats across the board as well as "exhaust to" effects (Beravor being the prime example) which already make them ideal targets for action advantage in order to realize their full potential. Now we have cards like Distant Stars and Quick Ears popping up that seem to be building on this theme.
Of course this leads into the obvious downside of this card and cards like it, and the reason why it probably isn't instantly embraced as a power card. It demands an exhaustible action from a hero or ally in a game where hero/ally exhaustible actions are already a scarce resource, and action advantage is king. Even though the cost is 0, the cost of an action is not insignificant, coupled with the restriction to Ranger and Scout characters. Obviously, this is not one of those general cards that can be effective in every deck.
For that reason, I was not initially that excited about this card... until I threw it into some decks and realized that it can actually be a very effective form of indirect location control, in some scenarios even more so than others. What it essentially allows you to do is automatically discard a non-unique active location that you don't like. These would be locations that either have a nasty active location effect, a high amount of quest points to get through, or as is often the case both at the same time.
But wait a minute, we have to read the rest of the card. Since the card says that we have to replace it with another location, isn't it kind of a wash? How much did we really gain if we just remove one active location for another? Well firstly, you'll almost always want to replace a high quest point location with a much lower quest point location, which basically equates to a net gain of x progress, x being the difference between the former and latter location quest points. If you exchange a 6 quest point location for a 2 quest point location, you basically got the equivalent of "4 willpower boost" for 0 cost and a character exhaust. But secondly, the potentially more powerful benefit is that it allows you to go through the entire encounter deck and find those locations that either 1.) have high staging threat, 2.) a nasty "when revealed" effect, 3.) A nasty staging effect, or 4.) a nasty travel effect... and completely bypass ALL of that by making it an instant active location! In other words, it allows you to go through the encounter deck and remove those locations you really don't want to see come off the top of it during staging, and use this location to replace an active location that you really don't like to see as the active.
In summation, the best power play for this card is to use it to discard an active location with high quest points and a negative active location effect, and replace it with a low quest point card of your choice from the encounter deck that has high staging threat, a when revealed effect, or travelling effect that you want to bypass. In the right scenarios, this card can actually be a "more" effective form of location control than Asfaloth by allowing you to avoid nasty location effects of all types and help clear actives that might stick around for more than a round or two. This card can be so good in most scenarios, that it has pretty much become a staple for me in any deck I make that has both Lore sphere and Rangers (which accounts for the majority of my decks!)
All of this makes this card easily worth a Ranger action in most situations, especially when anybody who is running decks heavy on Rangers should usually be using some form of action advantage anyway!