This scenario obviously encourage using less spheres of influence and specifically using primarily tactics. This is due to a few encounter cards penalizing other spheres, battle/siege questing and lots of enemies for combat. Of course it is not required to take all tactics but we thought we give it a shot and it worked out pretty well.
There are currently 9 tactics heroes. The 3 we left behind were for the following reasons: Elladan is not good without his brother. Although there are a lot of enemies, Brand is not consistent in both killing an enemy on the opposite side of the board and that player having a character that would be relevant to ready. Especially because Brand cannot wield a Rivendell Blade (he could contribute to an attack with Legolas but it would often be overkill). Lastly, Beorn. I think Beorn would be a good option. The main reason I take Beorn is to help stabilize the early game setup by taking some hits from enemies that make the start of the game tough, however, in this scenario we start with location not enemies and further the locations can take some undefended attacks and help stabilize so Beorn is less needed. Landroval is one of the few cards that can interact with Beorn and we brought Landroval so he was still a strong consderation but was still left behind. Overall, of the 9 tactics heroes I think the only objectively wrong choice is Elladan.
Here are some of the strategies we employed:
- Try your best to explore The Banks before it is destroyed. Still winnable if it is but much easier to avoid traditional willpower questing with tactics and the extra encounter card reveal. Legolas with Blade of Gondolin and Rivendell Blade early can help to explore this location before it is destroyed.
- Use Hama to recycle The Eagles are Coming to accelerate the cards in your hand and get the cheap eagles out for great Battle and Siege questing.
- Don't worry about exploring The Approach and The Citadel, this deck is fine with Battle and Siege questing. Focus on The Banks as quest phase 2 is the worst. If you happen to explore the others, great, but not required. Rather, use those locations to your advantage to take undefended attacks to help you send more character to the quest and have more available to attack back and kill enemies.
- Shadow cards tend to keep getting dealt and enemies with low attack power tend to get buffed fairly high so make sure to use a chump blocker as much as possible so as to not lose a hero. There is no spirit so no cancellation effects so this also leads to using chump blockers as a safer bet.
- Because Boromir can ready as needed (with a threat gain), give him Support of the Eagles. He can trigger it for attack or defense in the questing phase for Battle or Siege or he can attack or defend really hard if triggered during combat. Remember, Support of the Eagles is only active for 1 phase so if you trigger for questing, then ready Boromir for combat he will be back at his base stats (but you still might do this, just don't forget his stats would reset in a different phase). Winged Guardian or Vassal of the Windlord are great target early game depending on your need and then buffed Eagles of the Misty Mountains are amazing targets late game.
- Again, no spirit so Gandalf is your only threat reduction and this would be his primary use. Also his stats are amazing for any type of questing. If you happen to end up on quest phase 2, he might be your ticket to traditional willpower questing.
- As much as possible fill Gimli up with Archery damage leaving only 1 hit point remaining for a super attacker/battle quester.
Our playthrough: We had a quick, then a playthrough where The Banks died but we got really far before getting an unfortunate sequence from the encounter deck that threated out Katherine and then eliminated me. We won on our third attempt. Legolas + Rivendell Blade and a cooperative encounter deck allowed us to explore The Banks before being destroyed and got rid of the nasty quest phase 2. By chance we also explored The Citadel which got rid of quest phase 4. We used The Approach for 1 undefended attack (unfortunately only able to use it for 1 undefended attack) and that helped use to attack back and kill the enemy. From there is was pretty straight forward gameplay with Battle/Siege and a bunch of combat. We had Landroval on board as an insurance policy and that let Beregond fearless defend when needed and Eagles of the Misty Mountains were buffed up and were also a great target for Support of the Eagles. We also had Gimli filled to the brim with Archery damage making him formidable in the attack department.
I really had a blast with this one. Thematically, fortifying locations and skipping quest card or having location destroyed and requiring more battles or sieges was a lot of fun. The scenario was by no means easy but the level of difficulty felt like just the right amount to be a challenge but not an encounter deck that causes outright stupid losses because of an overpowered (or multiple overpowered) card. I had fun, I hope you do too !