A Guide to Action Windows

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Seastan 15601

Video: https://youtu.be/kYItUwx9SmU

Action Windows

Action windows in this game can be confusing. Here's what the rules reference (pdf link here) says about them:

An action ability may only be triggered during an action window. When an action window opens, the first player has the first opportunity to initiate an action, or pass. Opportunities to initiate actions then proceed in player order until all players consecutively pass, at which point the action window closes and the game advances to the next step on the timing chart. Note that if a player passes his or her opportunity to act, but all other players do not consecutively pass in sequence, the original player may still take an action when the progression of action opportunities comes back around to that player. Resolve each action completely before the next action opportunity.

One of the biggest factors that helped me improve my play, especially when I was a new player, was understanding when I had the opportunity to perform an action and when I didn't. I decided to put together this guide so that my experience could benefit others as well.

I have included below the full round sequence chart from the Rules Reference, where each action window is in red text. Along with each window, I have included some general gameplay tips as well as some common cards that get used during that window.

If you have other gameplay tips regarding a specific action window, let me know! I might add it to the sequence chart and credit you!

0.0 Round Begins

I. RESOURCE PHASE

1.1 Resource phase begins

1.2 Gain resources

1.3 Draw cards

ACTION WINDOW

  • This is the only window in which you can play Captain's Wisdom, since it's specifically a resource action. Therefore, you cannot perform a combo like Heir of Mardil followed immediately by Captain's Wisdom, because Heir of Mardil must be played with other attachments during the planning phase, at which point the opportunity to trigger resource actions has passed.
  • Other generic actions can be performed here. One example of an action I have done here is Heed the Dream to search my top 5 cards for Captain's Wisdom, as doing this in the resource phase means I can play it right away.
  • If I have multiple copies of Sneak Attack in hand along with Gandalf, sometimes I will use this window to play Sneak Attack+Gandalf just for the card draw. He will come back to my hand at he end of the phase, so I can do it again in the Planning Phase.

1.4 Resource phase ends

II. PLANNING PHASE

2.1 Planning phase begins

2.2 Special action window

  • This is an action window in which any player may trigger an action as usual.
  • This is also a special action window in which the active player (in addition to triggering standard action abilities) is permitted to play ally and attachment cards from his or her hand.
  • So while allies and attachment must be played in player order, actions can be performed in any order. To illustrate this, here are some examples of what is allowed and what isn't:
    1. It is player 1's turn to play allies and attachments. Player 2 plays Deep Knowledge and everyone draws 2 cards. Player 1 draws into a ally they want to play. Player 1 is allowed to play it, because it is their turn to play allies and attachments.
    2. It is player 2's turn to play allies and attachments. Player 2 plays Gléowine. Player 2 then triggers Gleowine, choosing player 1 to draw a card. Player 1 draws into a ally they want to play. Player 1 is not allowed to play it, because it is not their turn to play allies and attachments.
    3. It is player 1's turn to play allies and attachments. They have a 2-cost ally they want to play, but do not have enough resources, so they pass. It is now player 2's turn to play allies and attachments. Player 2 plays Steward of Gondor on one of player 1's heroes. Since all players can perform actions in any order, player 1 can immediately trigger Steward of Gondor to gain 2 resources, and can now afford their ally. However, player 1 has already passed the opportunity to play alles and attachments, and is therefore not allowed to play their ally this turn.

2.3 Next player (in player order) becomes active player (loop back to 2.2, or proceed to 2.4)

2.4 Planning phase ends

III. QUEST PHASE

3.1 Quest phase begins

ACTION WINDOW

  • This action occurs before players commit characters to the quest. For that reason, one of the most common actions performed during this window is Sneak Attack to bring Gandalf into play so that he can commit to the quest.
  • This is also the only time at which Gildor's Counsel can be played.

3.2 Commit characters

ACTION WINDOW

  • The action window after committing characters to the quest and before staging does not get used too often, but there are some cases where it might matter. For example, if you are 1 resource short of playing Risk Some Light, you could commit Théodred and a lore hero to the quest, give the resource too the lore hero, and then play Risk Some Light before revealing any cards.
  • Another example could be that you just saw the top card of the encounter deck with Firyal and it's a nasty treachery. Instead of discarding it, you could use this action window to send a resource to a spirit hero so that you will be ready to play A Test of Will and cancel it instead.
  • A third example is if you have Elrond with Light of Valinor and Vilya attached. You might not want to exhaust Elrond to trigger Vilya before committing characters because then Light of Valinor won't do anything -- so you can do it here instead. Of course, this means that any ally you turn up with Vilya won't be able to commit to the quest.
  • This is the only action window where Battle-fury can be played.
  • You can use this window to use readying effects like Unexpected Courage to ready a questing character to avoid effects like the Necromancer's Reach. But take care which quest you're playing against, because you might not want to use Unexpected Courage just yet if there are treacheries like Weighed Down (suggestion courtesy of @Goggen).

3.3 Staging

ACTION WINDOW

  • This is one of the most important action windows for new players to learn. it allows you to adjust your total willpower after revealing all the cards in the staging step but before determining how much progress you will make. Some examples of cards that can make good use of this action window are Éowyn, Protector of Lórien, Nenya, Bofur, Hobbit Pony, Grappling Hook, Elrond's Counsel, and many others.
  • In addition to actions that increase your willpower, you can perform actions to decrease the staging area threat. Cards like Secret Paths are an obvious way, but you can also use a card like Hands Upon the Bow to remove an enemy from the staging area (suggestion courtesy of @Goggen).

3.4 Quest resolution

ACTION WINDOW

  • There aren't many times where doing an action here makes more sense than in the action window immediately before this one. It's too late to affect the outcome of the quest. However, if you have just advanced the quest stage during 3.4, there may now be an action that you want to perform before the Travel Phase begins. This could come up in the quest Flight of the Stormcaller, where you advance to stage 2A and add http://hallofbeorn.com/LotR/Details/Waterspout-TGH to the staging area. This action window allows you to play a card like The Evening Star or Heirs of Earendil to get rid of the location before you are forced to travel to it.
  • Personally, my main use for this action window is with Bofur. Sometimes, you will tie the in the staging area or be short by 1 when resolving the quest. In these cases, using Bofur's action before 3.4 means you will succeed at the quest, forcing him back to your hand at the end of the phase. Instead, you can play him during this window, since the quest is already resolved and your total no longer matters. You will have still tied or failed the quest, allowing Bofur to stay in play permanently and aid in all your future rounds of questing.

3.5 Quest phase ends

IV. TRAVEL PHASE

4.1 Travel phase begins

4.2 Travel opportunity

ACTION WINDOW

  • Note that the action window in the Travel phase is after travelling. This is why a card like Mariner's Compass, which is meant to be used before travelling, needed to be a Response rather than an Action.
  • One of the most common actions to perform in the travel phase you be one that helps you avoid travel costs, like Thror's Map or Ghân-buri-Ghân. Note that you could travel to a location with a positive effect during 4.2, like Old Forest Road, then in this action window, switch it out using Thror's Map for something with a negative travel cost. This would then let you travel to the positive location again in the future (suggestion courtesy of @sappidus).

4.3 Travel phase ends

V. ENCOUNTER PHASE

5.1 Encounter phase begins

5.2 Optional engagement

ACTION WINDOW

5.3 Engagement checks

ACTION WINDOW

  • This is the last action window before the combat phase, and is therefore your last chance to perform healing actions before archery damage is applied.
  • This is the only window where Arrows from the Trees can be played.

5.4 Encounter phase ends

VI. COMBAT PHASE

6.1 Combat phase begins

6.2 Deal shadow cards

ACTION WINDOW

  • Archery damage is applied in 6.1, before any action windows in the combat phase. This unfortunately means that it is not possible to use Sneak Attack or Prince Imrahil as a way to put archery damage on a temporary ally.
  • This action window occurs even if no enemies make attacks during the combat phase.
  • Some of the most common actions performed here are Feint, Thicket of Spears, and Haldir of Lórien. It's also the only window in which you can play Tireless Hunters.

6.3 “Resolve enemy attacks” process begins

6.4a Active player resolves next enemy attack.

6.4b Enemy attack initiates (active player chooses enemy)

ACTION WINDOW

  • This window occurs even when an enemy makes an immediate attack against you, for example the Haradrim Elite. In this case, it's obvious which enemy you "choose", but regardless you can still perform an action after doing so. This means that if you have an exhausted defender, you have a chance here to ready them before the next step. So it's a great window to use cards like Boromir, Unexpected Courage, Narya, etc.
  • This action window is too late to play a card like Feint on the attacking enemy, because the attack has already initiated, and Feint will not stop an enemy in mid-attack. This is why you want to play Feint in the previous action window. You could still play Feint on enemies that haven't attacked yet though.

6.4.1 Declare defender

ACTION WINDOW

  • After exhausting your defender you have a chance to perform an action before revealing the shadow card. This is your last chance to get a useful effect out of shadow-card discarding actions like Gandalf's Staff or Rider of the Mark, because these is no action window between revealing and resolving the shadow card.
  • If you have the ability to ready your defender (Unexpected Courage, Boromir, Narya, etc., it's often (but not always) wise to do so now, before revealing the shadow card. This is because the shadow card might discard your Unexpected Courage, or simply have an effect that prevents the defender from readying for the rest of the round.

6.4.2 Reveal and resolve shadow effect

ACTION WINDOW

  • This is another really important action window for new players to learn. Similar to the window that allows you to adjust your before the determining quest progress, this window allows you to adjust your defense value before determining the combat damage. So if you turn up a shadow card that gives +1 , you can counter by triggering an action like Protector of Lórien or Blade Mastery in this window.
  • If your defender is damaged, you still have an opportunity here to perform an action to heal them before applying the damage from combat. But be careful -- there are shadow effects can deal direct damage, so waiting to heal after resolving the shadow effect is not always the best idea.
  • If you've revealed a nasty shadow effect that is going to wind up killing a hero, remember that it's not too late to kill the enemy with Quick Strike or Skyward Volley, preventing its attack from resolving. Other tricky actions are possible too -- I remember playing a game with someone who, upon revealing a shadow effect that made the attack undefended, played Sneak Attack+White Tower Watchman in this window to avoid losing a hero.

6.4.3 Determine combat damage

ACTION WINDOW

  • Similar to the post-quest resolution action window, there aren't a whole lot of reasons you'd do an action here, where it no longer affects the combat, than in the one immediately before.
  • One marginal case I can think of:
    1. If your defender received damage from combat,
    2. and is 1 away from dying,
    3. and has The Spider's Web attached, so they take 1 damage when they ready,
    4. and you aren't able to declare any attacks this round, meaning there are no more action windows until the refresh phase.
    5. Then, you can use this window to heal your character before they take damage and die at the start of the refresh phase.

6.4.4 Enemy attack ends. If active player has more enemy attacks to resolve, return to 6.4a. Otherwise, proceed to 6.5.

6.5 Next player becomes active player (return to 6.4a). If all players have resolved enemy attacks, proceed to 6.6.

6.6 “Resolve Enemy Attacks” ends

6.7 “Player Attacks” begin

6.8a Active player declares next attack.

6.8b Player attack initiates (active player declares target of attack and attacker(s))

6.8.1 Ranged option

ACTION WINDOW

  • This is your opportunity to perform -boosting actions.

6.8.2 Determine attack STR

ACTION WINDOW

  • Have I ever used this action window? Nope. I can't think of anything that would benefit from being played after adding together your strength but before dealing the damage. It's too late to boost your by any more at this point. I have some use cases in mind where you might actually want to use this window, but they are really far out there and unlikely to come up in a real game.

6.8.3 Determine combat damage

ACTION WINDOW

  • This is the last action window before the refresh phase, so it's often the window where I trigger cards like Henamarth Riversong or Gléowine that haven't been exhausted yet.

6.8.4 Player attack ends. If active player has more player attacks to resolve, return to 6.8a. Otherwise, proceed to 6.9.

6.9 Next player becomes active player (return to 6.8). If all players have resolved player attacks, proceed to 6.10.

6.10 “Player Attacks” end.

6.11 Combat phase ends. Discard all shadow cards.

VII. REFRESH PHASE

7.1 Refresh phase begins

7.2 Ready all cards

7.3 Raise threat

7.4 Pass first player token

ACTION WINDOW

  • The action window in the refresh phase comes after the threat raise. This is important to keep in mind for treat reduction effects. If you are at 49 at the end of the combat phase, you will hit 50 and lose before you get a chance to use Aragorn's once-per-game ability.
  • Allies that go away at the end of the round (Gandalf, Ranger of Cardolan, etc.) can get one last use here before they leave with cards like A Very Good Tale or Word of Command.
  • While it's common to use the action on Steward of Gondor in the resource phase, keep in mind that it can also be triggered here. For example, you may have a card you want to play in the refresh phase, like Peace, and Thought, but not enough resources to pay for it. But keep in mind that it will remain exhausted through the beginning of the next round.
  • Note that the next action window is in the next round, after gaining resources and drawing cards in the resource phase. So let's say you are playing with Erestor, and discard your hand at the end of the round. There is no action window to trigger the effect on Galdor of the Havens before drawing cards in the next round.

7.5 Refresh phase ends

0.1 Round ends

Out-of-sequence Windows

When an enemy makes an attack against you outside the standard gameplay framework, like the Haradrim Elite, you follow through all the substeps of step of 6.4. This would open up some action windows during staging when there normally aren't any, and any player could take advantage of these windows to heal, draw cards, or any other action. But note that if an attack occurs outside of the combat phase, some actions you might be used to playing during combat are not allowed, like Goblin-cleaver, since it's specifically a combat action.

16 comments

Nov 25, 2018 Tkohl 28

Can you comment on how Grimbeorn the Old's ability works in cases like Haradhrim Elite's attack from the staging area, or the wargs that pop back into the staging area after they attack? Are they valid targets for Grimbeorn the Old?

Also, to clarify, is a card stating "after an enemy attacks" is always referring to 6.4b, as compared to "after an enemy attack resolves" which refers to 6.4.4? Do I have those correct?

Nov 25, 2018 Tkohl 28

I'm thinking of cards like Chieftain Ufthak and when to add the resource to him.

Nov 25, 2018 Alonewolf87 90

About the Action Window between step 3.4 and 3.5 and the playing of Bofur is quite the nice catch, I thought that since the quest was already resolved you couldn't play it cause it needed to enter commited to the quest and the timing was already passed up after quest resolution (even though I know that characters stay commited to the quest up to the very end of the Quest Phase).

Nov 25, 2018 Levache 4

Thanks @Seastanfor this really thorough guide! Action windows have always tripped me up, but I look forward to referencing this in the future to help clarify tricky situations. I really appreciate all the time you invested in putting this together. Thanks again!

Nov 25, 2018 Goggen 21

@Seastan About the action window in 3.2 - I actually use that quite often:

A gameplay tip for the new guys here is to use it to trigger readying effects (like Unexpected Courage) on characters commited to the quest. There are quite a few when-revealed effects that target exausted characters.

-There are off course also some who cause characters to exaust, so be vary of what you play against.


About the one in 3.3:

It goes to the same point you made, but I'd put in a mention about cards that target enemies in the staging area (like Hail of Stones, triggering Born Aloft on Descendant of Thorondor or Quick Strike with Dúnhere). If they're used in that window to kill an enemy completly it helps your to ratio, even if they're not buffs.

PS: You linked the wrong Erestor in 7.4.

PPS: Great guide! :-)

Nov 25, 2018 Seastan 15601

@TkohlGrmbeorn works in both those cases. For your other question: "after an enemy attacks / after an enemy attack resolves" is the same thing, and triggers at 6.4.4. If the text is "when this enemy attacks" (Dol Guldur Beastmaster), then it triggers at 6.4b.

@GoggenYes, I blanked on that use case for the 3.2 action window, nice catch. I'll add your suggestions for 3.2 and 3.3!

Nov 26, 2018 死锁 61

“ Therefore, you cannot perform a combo like Heir of Mardil followed immediately by Captain's Wisdom, because Heir of Mardil must be played with other attachments during the planning phase, at which point the opportunity to trigger resource actions has passed.”

I don't understand your point. Why it doesn‘t works if I already attach a Heir of Mardil on my hero and I exhuast that hero to play Captain's Wisdom and then ready it.

Nov 26, 2018 Alonewolf87 90

I think what Seastan meant is that you cannot do it in the same turn you would want to play Heir of Mardil in the planning phase (like let's say in the very first turn of a game)

Nov 26, 2018 DarkPaladin13 2

I've been playing this game of and on since release, and have never seen this specific rules reference sheet that you linked in the description! It is so helpful. Thanks for making this, for linking that pdf, and for all the explanations and examples.

A few months back I was watching a Cardboard of the Rings playthrough and Mitch used the action window in the Refresh phase to get a second use out of a one round ally, or something like that, I can't remember specifics, but it blew my mind. I looked back at my basic rule book to reteach myself the action windows, and while it was a good refresher, this is so much more comprehensive. Seriously, thanks :D

Nov 26, 2018 Axias 1

Just as a confirmation on feint:

Lets say you are engagwd with 3 enemies.

Feint can be played on the second or third enemy after shadow card are dealt BUT before you resolve the first attack you choose to resolve correct? You have to decide at the beginning of the combat who you will feint -no possibility to use it but in case of second attack from the same enemy (via shadow card). Correct?

GOBLIN CLEAVER instead can be played later on.

Nov 26, 2018 Seastan 15601

@AxiasFeint works as long as it's played before 6.4b for that enemy. So if you want to stop enemy #1's attack, it would need to be done in the action window following 6.2. But if you want to top enemy #2's attack, you wouldn't need to play Feint until the last action window of enemy #1's attack.

A similar situation where this might come up is if you turn up a shadow effect that says "attacking enemy makes an additional attack after this one". If you aren't prepared to take an additional attack, you could play Feint on the enemy that is currently attacking you. It wouldn't stop the current attack, but it would prevent the additional attack from going off.

Nov 26, 2018 Axias 1

Thanks. That is how I played so far but i thought to be have done all wrong...

Nov 28, 2018 sappidus 497

Phenomenal work as ever.

A minor emendation I'd make would just be to point out commonly used cards in the Travel phase action window; you have examples for (almost) every other action window. Probably most common would be Thror's Map—besides its standard use, there are sporadic occasions you might want to first travel to a location with an immediate beneficial effect, then trigger Thror's Map to switch in something to get around a bad travel cost—and Ghân-buri-Ghân.

Nov 29, 2018 knochentrocken 4

Thanks for the sum up... Always helpful to read another line out. Regarding imidiate enemy attacks like Haradrim Elite's: When du they get dealt their shadow card? I always played them stating at 6.2, thus having another action window... I might be wrong. I recall there were contradicting faqs regarding this?... Thank you again.

Nov 30, 2018 Thanee 87

Very nice writeup! :-)

One thing, I often do and which might be useful is in the action window between Staging and Quest Resolution.

3.3 Staging ACTION WINDOW 3.4 Quest resolution

This is right before you determine, whether or not you were successful (in most cases, you hopefully are), and therefore the last chance to affect anything that triggers off questing successfully (or unsuccessfully).

A good example is, if you have Imladris Stargazer and Expert Treasure-hunter. You can exhaust the Stargazer here to figure out what card to add to your hand.

Why do it there?

Because the encounter deck might change your own deck, making you shuffle it even, during the staging. Also, some encounter sets have cards that damage exhausted characters. Peeking into the top five cards is safe at this point. Also, you will have more knowledge about what you might need during the round (combat phase is coming up and enemies are on the table, so you should know what you are getting into now). Maybe there is a card you can get now, which will help you out.

Also a good time to use Elrond with Vilya, because you can now decide, whether you will need him for defense or can afford to use him to bring in that extra card.

Nov 30, 2018 Seastan 15601

@knochentrockenFor enemy attacks outside the combat phase, shadow cards are dealt at the beginning of the attack. This would be 6.4a, where there is no action window. However you would still get an action right after 6.4b so the point is moot I'd say. See FAQ 1.28 for more details.