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 !

Let's analyze Core set Lorien Guide almost 9 years later against a full Spirit card pool.

As of Cycle 9, AP 1 (Vengeance of Mordor - Wrath and Ruin), there are 56 allies, and the average across all of them gives these stat values per point of resource cost: 0.57 , 0.33 , 0.34 , and 0.79 .

Lorien Guide's cost of 3 means it needs 3x the above, or 1.75 , 1 , 1 and 2.4 to meet the Spirit ally card pool average. Clearly it falls short in willpower, defense (which likely doesn't matter as you will be questing with this card every round or using it as a desperation chump blocker), and health (barely).

However, this card has a subtle bonus. Adding one progress to an active location is roughly equivalent to adding 1 as long as you have an active location. This brings the equivalent to 2 - which is just above the cost to willpower average for spirit allies.

Another minor downside to needing an active location is this bonus is almost useless on the first turn of play - since the turn sequence does not allow you to have an active location until after you quest. However, the odds of this card being able to be played (much less desired to be played) on turn one are low - unless you mono-sphere Spirit or have some other resource generation on turn one.

The upside of this bonus making it worth more than one , is if you fail a quest - either intentionally or by happenstance - yet still have an active location with one point left before it is explored. Lorien Guide will clear that location, allowing the group to travel to another one and remove its threat from the staging area.

This becomes equivalent of up to 5 , on the next round. Opening up travel a round earlier after a quest fail, means you no longer need to overcome that threat next round to progress - and this benefit applies even if the Lorien Guide is killed off during the quest phase the next round!

Of course there are many other cards in sphere that do similar function of placing progress on a (active) location, but they all have drawbacks (and advantages) compared to Lorien Guide:

The Riddermark's Finest will progress 2 on the active location, but you must exhaust (can't quest with it) and discard it (!) to do so. Strength of Will also places 2, but you must have drawn this card, must discard it, and have a Spirit character non-exhausted - which means you likely didn't get its use during the quest phase. Steed of Imladris is repeatable and also progresses 2, but has recurring usage costs and takes 3 cards to set up: (1) a restricted slot on a hero, (2) the Steed itself, and (3) a discarded card on each use. Woodland Courier with one less cost and one less is not repeatable without "Silvan bouncing" actions, and will only add 1 location progress once on entering play.

Out of sphere, there is the overpowered Asfaloth. But it is out of sphere, and regardless, it can work in conjunction with Lorien Guide.

Lorien Guide still retains a niche after all these years. One card, decently survivable with 2 , and since you are questing each round, the recurring bonus takes no effort or action outside of making sure there is an active location.

I'm not suggesting that Lorien Guide is a "must play" ally. But it is still a good card with a unique bonus useful in some situations and deck builds.

This recurring bonus helps it overcome its initially poor looking 3 cost, 1 ratio, especially if playing progression style.