I've decided to share some of the decks me and my friend group play with for particular cycles. This fellowship is meant to be played by 2 players for Haradrim cycle. For more in-depth review of those decks check out their descrpitions :)
Each of those fellowships for each cycle contains two decks - one for players that I'm introducing to the game (Deck #1) and the other one for myself (Deck #2). Each of those Decks #1 is meant to represent the most fleshed out archetypes in the game, while Decks #2 are either some more niche archetypes or specific mechanics (think of Doomed keyword or Staging Area attack).
For additional flavour and some deckbuilding challenge I set up some rules regarding those decks:
- most represented archetypes in the game, for each cycle they were chosen either for theme or what player cards were developed during this time (mostly both),
- strictly sticking to the theme,
- most powerful cards combination, while keeping in mind the rule above (so e.g. no Steward of Gondor in Silvan deck even though it is probably the most powerful card to include there),
- no card repetition (this means, that even though A Test of Will is no doubt really powerful and technicaly fits the theme of many decks, it can be only included in one of those Decks #1)
- niche and underdeveloped archetypes in the game, for each cycle they were chosen either for theme, what player cards were developed during this time or what is the best approach to beat those particular quests,
- sticking to theme as much as possible (it was sometimes not possible to make a functional deck around a niche archetype while only including thematic cards),
- also the most powerful card combinations, while keeping in mind the rule above,
- no restriction on repetition (meaning even when previous Decks, either #1 or #2, used A Test of Will, it's possible to include them in every Deck #2 - I'm not a masochist. I hope.).
Also, while appreciating what this community can create but being a bit of a purist, I've decided to include ALeP cards only to a minimum (heroes), when it's either necessary to complete the archetype or it makes obvious thematic and mechanical sense.
Another thing I forgot to mention in first two fellowships is that no changes can be made for those decks while playing for consistency's sake. So no swapping heroes or other cards between the quests.
I have a soft spot for this particular cycle. Firstly it takes as to far away land in Middle Earth, vaguely described in books and other sources. Setting is very unique and it captures quite well the hostility of of this unknown territory while presenting that not everything that seems unfamiliar is necessarily evil, like in the case of our new friend Kahliel. Lore is straightforward here but it doesn't strike as forced or unecessary, just the right amount to capture overall feeling of the story. Mechanically speaking I really like what this cycle did. Quests here reuse already known mechanics but in a much better way. For example we have a classic "lose hero(es)" scenario in form of The Long Arm of Mordor but it's much more consistent than Escape from Dol Guldur and not so complicated and quirky like Escape from Mount Gram. Halting progress in form of Off/On Track in Beneath the Sands is also a much better alternative to Night/Dawn mechanic from The Wastes of Eriador since you can at least place tokens on side quests. On the other hand this cycle doesn't present anything groundbreaking new, both in terms of scenarios as well as player cards. That's probably the main reason why it's not so popular. All in all I really appreciate that this cycle focused more on a safe, time-tested mechanics providing very consisted and balanced quest. And more "exotic" part of this cycle is presented in its setting and story. Another small thing I really like, that ultimately led to this shape of the fellowship, is synergy between different traited enemies and locations. Haradims remove progress or do something horrible upon engaging, halting your progress in an unknown territory. Orcs are supposed to envoke fear in normal residents of this lands, so they get buffs depending on their threat. Various creatures and insects poison your characters upon damaging them. And even location form a sort of synergy having forced instead of travel effects. Since most of those effects punish heavily either upon engaging or taking combat through normal means, this fellowship provides unique approach to taking on enemies through weakning them and destroying them in staging. Here is a quick overview for each scenario while using this fellowship:
- Escape from Umbar (Difficulty 3/5) - as tradition goes, the first quest in the cycle is supposed to introduce players to its unique mechanics. You have to be quick here to place at least some progress on the main quest. After that clear the board before advancing since you will have no progress to feed Haradrims that will engage you.
- Desert Crossing (Difficulty 4/5) - there are some quests that surprise me how quickly or easily you can beat them with each playthrough. This scenario presents the opposite for me. You have to be very quick here due to the rising temperature. Were-worms are very dangerous in the late game and they have very low engagement cost, so standard staging shenaginans might fail here. Also direct damage is a real issue, so the Rangers deck should mulligan for some healing.
- The Long Arm of Mordor (Difficulty 4/5) - Take Kahliel and Firlay for your starting heroes. Wish you could have a freedom of choice but Firlay is basically mandatory to quest through the first stage and Kahliel's ability helps much to play more cards. First stage should be defeated in one go. After that free Celador and Dúnhere. Dúnhere tries to kill quickly those Servants of Sauron and Rangers deck hopes to trap some enemy to lower their threat. If you manage to do that rest of the quest is pretty straightforward. I tend to free Faramir and Fastred second.
- The Mumakil (Difficulty 2/5) - Probably the easiest quest here. The only issue I find is a possible location lock. And it can drag on for a while since Mumaks can only take 3 damage per round.
- Race Across Harad (Difficulty 4/5) - a much better version of The Flight of the Stormcaller. Here the roles are switched and you have to run from the enemy which makes it much harder since you can't end this quest prematurely. During the setup put the Warg-rider in your staging area instead of Orcs. That way they won't progress that much and you can take the Uruk in one-to-two goes with Dúnhere. Save Oasis for the Mumaks, they can also tank undefended damage since they have so much . The perfect way to play it is to hit a sweet spot where the Orcs catch up for one turn and you advance the next.
- Beneath the Sands (Difficulty 3/5) - again a better way of a previous mechanic, Off/On Track means to slow you down in your journey through the caves. At least you don't have to reveal more cards or quest stages don't have large amount of quest points to clear. Still, it can be annoying with little swarming enemies and locations like Pitch Black Tunnel. Save some Unseen Strike for the Brood Mother and try to take her in one go.
- The Black Serpent (Difficulty 4/5) - hard but very fair classic boss battle. Not much to say here apart that you want to clear second stage as fast as possible since the Serpent attacks each player with an objective attached. So if you want to stall do it on the first stage.
- The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat (Difficulty 5/5) - this quest is really annoying in both ways. Firstly it's just plainly obnoxious to lose allies over and over and then you have to reveal more cards after you free them. Threat increase is also a big problem here and can mess up some plans. But most importantly this quest straight up counters strategy of this fellowship, which is a shame since it fits so well rest of the cycle. On the first stage enemies guarding objectives in staging are immune to player card effects meaning no Dúnhere sniping, you have to deal with them conventional way. Second stage forbids you from damaging enemies in staging all togheter making it quite hard to keep with an ongoing swarm. Still the most difficult is the early game and trying to get a grasp while the encounter deck throws so many cards at you. I'm not gonna lie you have to get quite lucky in the first few you rounds to quest over all that threat and defeat enemies.
- The Crossing of Poros (Difficulty 5/5) - this scenario is fantastic, it's a great culmination of your adventures in Harad where you've angered pretty much everything there and it's trying to get you during the final push. Mechanically it's also very repeatable since you basically create encounter deck on the go. Still there are some caveats. Firstly, Desolate Lands. This location alone is dreadful and there are 3 copies. Save your West Road Traveller for swapping. I don't think it's also that crazy to make them active locations through Distant Stars even though you still have to trigger it's forced effect. Then there is a randomized side of this quest. Path through the desert is much more easier than the mountain pass. Stages 3 also vary much. Creatures' stage seems like the easiest but has the worst effect countering strategy of this fellowship and maximizing the number of enemeis on the last stage. Easiest one is probably Orcs' stage where there isn't really much of a punishment. Black Serpent is also a concern during the early game. Thankfully Faramir has 5 so he can take one undefended attack from him. Advance Warning is a great tool for the last stage allowing you to breath for a while. So unfortunately the difficulty here is heavily randomized, though expect you won't be having an easy time.
So this pretty much sums up the fellowship. Keep in mind it's designed for this particular cycle and with some rules that I stated at the beginning of the description. Feel free to try those decks out!