Saga 3P: Ring Dunkers, Inc.
It took about 15 months and roughly ~30 games, but I finally finished the 3P Saga campaign with two of my sons (now 9 & 11). I gave up on the detailed quest summaries I posted for the first two boxes (using similar Fellowships), but I'll summarize the highs and lows here:
The decks evolved quite a bit since we wrapped up The Road Darkens, mostly because our cardpool expanded dramatically and the quests got harder so we focused less on theme. Beregond and Éowyn were huge improvements over Merry & Pippin (sorry little hobbits!), and led to much more balanced play from all decks. The early iterations had the Spirit/Lore deck being mostly support + Haldir, tactics was 100% combat, and Leadership was heavy questing with some combat support. Obviously with the new hero lineup, we could all contribute more evenly, which was nice.
Sam, Haldir, and Gimli were our MVPs, playing in all the quests and getting all the permanent boons. Sam as "Noble Hero" and "Leader of Men" would dual-wield Sting & Anduril while getting huge boosts from Rosie. Haldir got "Valiant Warrior" and "Intimidation" (usually coupled with Glamdring and a Bow of the Galadhrim), so he would almost always take out an enemy before it could attack. We gave Gimli the two Healer boons, for the extra hitpoints and because he'd often be the first target for Unexpected Courage, so mid-game spare actions could be used to heal. Honorable mention to Galadriel + Steward of Gondor + Mirror of Galadriel + Silver Harp for consistently getting out the 3 boon swords each game. And Beregond completely changed our games, especially once he was loaded up with a Gondorian Shield from the player and a Armored Destrier from the .
While I didn't take notes on the individual quests, Helm's Deep, Road to Isengard, and the entire Flame of the West box were major highlights. We didn't care for the Land of Shadow quests much, which maybe isn't surprising as that part of the story clearly doesn't fit with the game design very well. I was pretty bummed out after finishing "Shelob's Lair" and was worried the rest of the Saga was going to feel like a slog, but all 3 of the next quests were spot-on PERFECT in terms of quest design and thematics. The Army of the Dead and the dual-sided Corsairs card were both wonderfully implemented. (Similarly, The Two Watchers card in The Stairs of Cirith Ungol was a triumph of design IMO.)
The Mountain of Fire box is tough to rank. I thought the quests were well-designed but it felt off that we needed to make major adjustments to our decks to beat the final two quests. They required hero swaps, ditching favorite allies, and lots of tech-ing that went against our incremental improvement philosophy. That being said, they weren't as punishingly difficult as I expected thanks to our big card pool and willingness to switch things up. (Most significantly, Gildor Inglorion replaced Théodred, and we ditched a ton of allies in favor of (mostly) attachments.) We lasted 9 turns on our 2nd try of The Black Gate Opens, and then beat Mount Doom on our 3rd attempt. Our winning effort would have been toast on turn 8, as we would have lost THREE heroes in a round-robin Nazgul attack, but we fortunately still had the Phial of Galadriel boon that nerfed it and allowed us to reach the Crack of Doom. It was a thrilling finish, despite clearing the final fortitude test surprisingly easily (thanks to Rosie and Galadriel buffing the deck).
Overall playing through the sagas with my sons was a highlight of my gaming life that will stick with me for a long time.