It’s a double feature here at spalanz.com today! After my earlier look at Tsuro, I thought I’d pop back with another of my favourites… The Massing at Osgiliath!
By now, I’m sure you’ll all know that I love The Lord of the Rings LCG. After discussing the game at some length, as well as the first cycle of adventure packs, I thought I’d bring some of my thoughts on the first of the print on demand expansions.
Fantasy Flight have really strongly supported this game through their organised play programme, by developing specific decks to challenge players. At Gen Con each year, they’ve brought out a progression of scenarios that have been a challenge to the meta. Massing at Osgiliath came out (here in the UK, at least) during the Mirkwood cycle, so with a comparatively small card pool it was seen as a monster of a scenario, but at the remove of just over three years, there are now plenty of ways to counter the various twists and turns…
It’s a 45-card pack, four of which are the quest cards, so you’re getting a fairly decent encounter deck, straight off. The premise of the game is that your heroes have formed a scouting party to investigate the increased Orc activity in Osgiliath, but what they’ve found is too much for them, and they need to get back Minas Tirith to warn the realm of Gondor. From the off, therefore, you’re under pressure as you’re being followed by the outriders.
Something that I absolutely love about this scenario is the sense of movement provided by the Crossing the Anduin mechanic.
There are eleven location cards in the deck, five of which are West Bank. Now, you cannot travel to West Bank locations until stage 4B, putting the pressure on to speed right through the quest to stop them clogging up the staging area. Fortunately the previous quest cards don’t have particularly high points, and with a little luck you may only encounter enemies in the deck (did I really just say that?!). Of course, once you’ve crossed the Anduin, things are hardly the picnic, as a lot of the cards have buffs to them once you’re on stage 4B.
You’re also joined in stage 4B by none other than the Witch-king himself! There were Nazgûl in Escape from Dol Guldur of course, but this guy is truly terrifying. With an engagement cost of 40, the odds are you’ll be meeting him swiftly after crossing the Anduin – but even if you don’t, he has a threat value of 6, so you’ll want to get him out of the staging area as soon as you can. But wait – after each attack, you must raise your threat by 3 in order to keep him engaged with you, otherwise he’s flying right back to the staging area anyway! With 6 attack and 6 defense, as well as a massive 11 hit points, this is one beast of a guy, and just the crowning piece in a truly horrible scenario! Of course, nowadays there are ways and means, but back in the day, his appearance would usually be curtains for most players. It still sends a shiver up the spine…
The treachery cards are similarly, well, treacherous, with four of the little blighters that force the discard of allies in your hand. For a scenario that needs a lot of willpower, getting rid of your allies before you even get to play them is a low blow. The possibility of getting that card four times can be a bit of a bitch, too…
But it’s not all bad for there are two Objective cards in this deck that can really add to the excitement – yes, I’m talking about the Rangers!
Massing at Osgiliath wasn’t the first quest to do this of course – Escape from Dol Guldur and Conflict at the Carrock both include Objective cards in the encounter deck that can be really beneficial. But there has always been something uniquely satisfying when one of those Rangers comes out of the deck – indeed, it’s really quite thematic; you can almost imagine being part of a harried fellowship, fighting to escape from the Orcs, and just when you’re praying you don’t encounter a hideous Wainrider, a Ranger of Ithilien springs out of nowhere, fully prepared to help out on your quest! These guys don’t give you a free pass, as they do have the surge keyword, but they enter play under your control and committed to the quest, so they are a really timely boon! It wasn’t until the Dwarrowdelf cycle that I’ve looked forward to seeing an Objective card so much…
Massing at Osgiliath is a whole load of fun, and even after all these years, it’s an encounter that I really enjoy. As I said above, it’s been just over three years since it first entered general circulation, and in that time the player-card pool has grown considerably, but if, like me, you prefer to play thematic decks over the sort of power-rush things, this can still give you a run for your money. It brings back fond memories for me, of almost chain-playing this game over the christmas of 2011, when I just couldn’t get enough of it. In fact, I wrote up my very first attempt with this game over on boardgamegeek, which you can read here!
I still love it, however, and as expected, I feel like breaking out the cards and having another crack at escaping across the Pelennor Fields!
Buy it from amazon:
The Massing at Osgiliath