Similar to Knights of the Swan, this card is straight forward to use - the more of them in play, the better your combined . However, this is a 2 cost card, so the benefit to cost ratios are a little different than Knights of the Swan and Anfalas Herdsman.

Let's look at the multiplicative impact of this card and its passive bonus, passive bonuses being the best types of bonuses in games.

The first Ethir Swordsman you play on the table gives 2 for 2 cost. This is a 1:1 stat to cost ratio, already better than the average 0.57 stat to cost "average ratio" of the 56 ally cards released as of Cycle 9, AP 1 (Wrath and Ruin).

The second Ethir Swordsman played adds +4 , as both Ethir Swordsman combine for 3x2 or 6 . That is a 2:1 stat to cost ratio. Incredibly good.

If you can get the third and final Ethir Swordsman on the table, it adds +6 for 2 cost, bringing three Ethir Swordsman to 12 (3 x 4 each). This is a 3:1 stat to cost ratio. One of the best cost investment values for in game.

And this doesn't count the bonus added to the usual Outlands ally swarm that accompanies this archetype, Anfalas Herdsman, Knights of the Swan, Warrior of Lossarnach, and Forlong!

How does Ethir Swordsman stack up against Core set staple Faramir? Faramir adds a +1 bonus for all characters, including heroes.

The downside is Faramir has to exhaust to use his power, which means his 2 will usually not contribute to questing. So 4 cost initially gives you typical +3 (+1 for each hero, if no other allies in play), a better than average 0.75 to cost ratio (especially in Leadership sphere), but not as good as a single Ethir Swordsman in terms of return on investment.

However, having another ally on table (5 characters total, including Faramir, brings Faramir's stat to cost ratio back to the 1:1 of Ethir Swordsman.

But having a second Ethir Swordsman on the table swings the ratios strongly back in favor of the Outlands swarm. Note however, that it is much more difficult to draw a second Ethir Swordsman in the Outlands use case, vs just drawing "any other ally" in the Faramir use case.

And Faramir can double his bonus if he can be readied, such as with Ever Vigilant. I think Faramir is a better pure boosting play.

However, Ethir Swordsman is still a great value, and if you really want the you can still use it with Faramir - and it would still be thematic!

Pretty straightforward usage - the more of these you have, the more powerful the attack of this card and all your Outlands characters, Ethir Swordsman, Warrior of Lossarnach, Anfalas Herdsman, and notably, Forlong.

But lets look at some numbers to see how really strong this card is.

1 for one resource cost is already better than the 0.68 "per resource spent" average of the 55 Tactics ally cards released as of Cycle 9, AP 1 (Wrath and Ruin), and is clearly better than the other spheres average as well.

The second copy of this card on the table gives +2 to the party for a single resource cost, as both cards now total 4

Add the third copy of this card to the table, and you get a ridiculous +5 added for a single resource, as you go from 4 , to 9 (3 cards at 3 )

And that's not counting any other Outlands allies that would benefit....

If you can draw two or more Knights of the Swan, and keep them alive against archery, treacheries and what not (use some Anfalas Herdsman), this is the best power to resource ratio around.

This is one of the more important - and possibly under-appreciated - ally cards in the Outlands archetype. This is the card that prevents all your other one health "synergy swarm" Outland allies, Ethir Swordsman, Knights of the Swan, and Warrior of Lossarnach from dying off via an archery shot or encounter card which damages allies by 1.

If you use those other allies, you'll be happy to see the Anfalas Herdsman on the table to give them durability.

Joining the list of controversial heroes next to Grima (and making room for Saruman) is the important character of Smeagol. I think thematically they hit it out of the park with this hero design. The fact that he can turn on you is a theme from the book as well as the already established saga campaign objective ally and it works well. Him not being able to take attachments makes sense except I really think he should really have been able to have The One Ring since he guarded it for so long. He also helps you find some coneys (a card) each time you travel to a new location. But does so at the risk of drawing unwanted attention.

So theme is pretty bang on and the art is excellent, creepy but helpful in the moments before he was captured by Faramir's men it seems. How does he stack up gameplay-wise? Firstly with his negative he really feels like more of a solo hero as in multiplayer going through the encounter deck will quite often happen multiple times which means the likelihood that he'll turn into an enemy is high. But in solo you may only run into Stinker once or not at all. Still you do have to have a plan for it. Losing a hero and any resources it may have been saving up can hurt.

The biggest option to pair him with is Eleanor who is already life-saving to begin with and can now give you an almost guaranteed immunity to this cards negative (unless you are really really unlucky at shuffling). The other option Is Beorn or Grimbeorn who can defend against the Attack with minimal damage and then smack the Gollum out of him. A test of will works too but it relies on you drawing one and having it before you encounter stinker, and also then you don't have A Test of Will for potentially worse cards.

Now the positives, where Grima our other quasi-villain essentially trades threat for resources, and Saruman tempts you to trade Threat for all sorts of power, Smeagol is offering you Threat for card draw. There is no limit per round so there could be some trickery with him and the Burgler Contract if you are going to be travelling multiple times a round already anyways, though bear in mind that Smeagol cannot take any of those attachments you loot. Travelling is quite common and this ability, in opposition to his negative, would seem to be better in a multiplayer setting where you can pretty much guarantee drawing and hopefully travelling to a location each round.

But the real bonus from Smeagol comes from his extremely low threat cost. Move aside Glorfindel (or move next to him for some secrecy madness) as coming in at 3 cost he is the new cheapest hero in the game. Not to mention he has the stat line of a balanced hero that would normally cost 9, and can be a helpful quester, extra attacker or emergency defender for some lower attacking enemies. Him combined with lower cost heroes can enable a lot more secrecy deck options. And not to mention his cost is even further reduced with Mirlonde bringing their combined cost to 10, which allows you to bring a lot of different heroes into that starting secrecy range. Or combine him with Glorfindel and you can have anyone except for the few strongest legends in the game starting in secrecy.

So that about sums up the hero. If you prefer to fight your way into Mordor, bring Gandalf, Treebeard and Elrond and go knocking on the front gates. But if you want to sneak in... Smeagol knows another way...

Can also use The Master Ring to have a guaranteed way of dealing with Stinker starting turn 1 —
Great point! And sometimes in solo that will be enough. It's also worth noting the shadow effect on Stinker is brutal with the extra threat raising —

A great card.

Placing 1 progress (or 2 if Forest) on a location is equivalent to a point of . So the equivalent 2 for 2 cost, at least on the first turn of play, is an excellent return.

Pair this with Celeborn to get an even stronger first played use. And after chump blocking with it, re-use it with Silvan bounce back cards such as Dwarven Tomb, Stand and Fight, Will of the West, and the out of sphere but powerful Orophin.

Another note on the bonus - as noted in my review for Lórien Guide: The ability to place a progress token on an active location is essentially "quest fail insurance" that lets the player explore a "one point remaining active location" and move to another active location that turn. This reduces the , and thus the needed the next turn, by up to 5 !