Journey of Years 1 - We Must Away, 'Ere Break of Day
Welcome to the first part of my Tale of Years playthrough, where I aim to play through every scenario in chronology order. This series follows the thematic hero suggestions from the awesome fan made mega-campaign ruleset and also aims to only change up the party at the narrative pauses noted in that ruleset. All cards and scenarios are from the official and AleP releases.
As the first leg of our story covers the first half of the Hobbit, I couldn't think of a more thematic way to kick things off than to have Gandalf escort a whole smattering of dwarves alongside Bilbo on the quest to the Lonely Mountain.
We Must Away, 'Ere Break of Day
This is an enemy-light scenario, consisting of the three trolls set aside for stage two of the quest, and three suspicious crows floating in the encounter deck. Committing Thalin to quest will even eliminate the crows altogether without having to worry about their revealed trigger. So the only real combat to worry about will be the three trolls themselves.
Try to stall out stage one as long as possible while both decks build up board presence. The encounter deck can vary wildly for threat as it's very treachery heavy, but Gandalf has a few tricks to help manage this between side quests to buffer the main quest progression and Risk Some Light to completely fix what the encounter draws will be for the turn. The second reason for stalling is to try and fish out the Troll Key, because while we can win the scenario without it, we really want to walk away with the campaign treasures if at all possible.
Leave a copy of Troll Camp in the staging area for Sack insurance, but clear any other locations as they come up. Strider'ed Gandalf gives a fee hefty five questing points, and the dwarves can freely jump in to use Dain's passive bonus without fear of enemies in stage one as Thalin picks off any birds.
The aim is to keep the dwarves under 38 threat so that you only need to deal with two of the trolls upfront. An ample set of allies should soak up sacks and be ready to block.
Focus on bringing down Tom First - a Gondor Fire charged Gandalf or an inspired Erebor Battle Master is ideal, but he can also be whittled down from a "thousand cuts" approach from the dwarf swarm. Once he's dropped, things get much easier as the other trolls can then be team attacked and dropped easy. Make sure to keep the last troll alive until you've explored the troll cave, or you'll miss out on that sweet, sweet treasure.
Mulligan for resource generators (Gandalf's Staff, Resourceful, or Steward of Gondor) or Word of Command to pull one. Strider is the obvious setup grab with Grey Wanderer, but if it ends up in your initial hand, pull Wizard Pipe.
Between one of the resource attachments and Grey Wanderer, Gandalf will be generating four resources or more a round, usually allowing him to drop a single costly ally per turn. All of the allies in the deck were chosen for durability with each of them able to survive a troll attack. Don't worry if you can't play many of them out and they start filling your hand - you just need a few keep handy for soaking up attacks - leave attacking the trolls to Gandalf and the dwarves.
Over the course of the game, Gandalf will collect enough attachments to do a pretty good Christmas tree impression. There's a treachery in this scenario that can really ruin his day - Wind-Whipped Rain. The deck is loaded with an assortment of tools to try and keep this in check - Out of the Wild, A Test of Will, and Risk Some Light. The other nasty treacheries to watch for in particular are Roast 'Em Or Boil 'Em, which can cause mass destruction for your dwarf partner, and More Like A Grocer that can remove all of Bilbo's resources.
Aim to keep your threat below 20 for a good chunk of the game but not at the expense of using Grey Wanderer every turn. If the dwarves have trouble keeping their threat below 38, throw The Galadhrim's Greeting their way, otherwise use it on yourself to keep up the discounts on your many Secrecy cards.
Priority searches for stage one Word of Command are a resource generator, a side quest, then Wizard Pipe. Once stage two arrives or approaches, look to find Steward of Gondor/Gondorian Fire or Shadowfax/Black Arrow. With all the accelerated resources alongside Flame of Anor, Gandalf can power up to drop any of the trolls all by himself.
As we're aiming to stall out stage one as long as possible, look to drop one of the side quests early on. Prioritize Double Back as the extra threat reduction will both keep dwarves from getting all three trolls at once and keep you comfortably in secrecy discounts.
Hard mulligan for We Are Not Idle, which can be an incredible boost on turn one. With four dwarf heroes, it'll give you eight(!) resources to boost early game.
Turning on the "five dwarf" bonus is easy with four heroes, meaning you only need to drop one more dwarf to enable them. Ori should provide a lot of extra cards over the course of the game because of this.
Your threat starts very high at 37, so aim to play as many dwarves as possible to trigger Nori's reduction.
Gandalf is handily immune for most of the sack deck, with a single one of them able to snatch him (A Worn Sack). Keep Bilbo at the ready and reserve his resources for emergency sacking rescues and paying for the eventual camp travel. Bilbo can be a priority target for Unexpected Courage here.