You may have noticed that I’ve been playing a lot of Lord of the Rings LCG the past couple of days (if you haven’t, check out my posts, here and here!) I’ve finally decided to try the Saga Campaign that follows the books, which started at the back end of 2013 with The Black Riders.
I tried this once, shortly after it came out, and was roundly thrashed! I suppose it was my own fault; I tried out a highly thematic Hobbit deck, against a scenario that is just plain vicious. My threat spiralled up to 50 and one of my heroes died very quickly – and this was in easy mode. I therefore retired the box and left it alone.
See, no matter how much past and/or future whinging that occurs, I actually love the Lord of the Rings LCG, and the past few days have really just reinforced that. So after a whole bunch of miscellaneous scenarios hitting the table, I’ve decided to do something a bit serious, and start the campaign! What’s more, I’m going to share the experience with you guys – no need to thank me, it’s my pleasure! As I haven’t looked at any of the Saga expansions for the game as part of the blog, I’ve therefore decided to do a sort of combined thing where I take a look at the quest I’m playing, followed by what will probably be a report of how badly I did!
The Black Riders came out in 2013 as I said, and features scenarios that cover roughly the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring. The first of these is called A Shadow of the Past:
Before I begin this blog series, then, I think I ought to explain a bit for the uninitiated about how Campaign Play works. While we’ve seen some fairly crazy setup instructions for quests in the past (I’m thinking specifically of The Steward’s Fear, here – crazy but awesome!), this new mode of play adds a new type of card, the Campaign card, which details specific setup instructions for the quest when you’re playing in campaign mode. This allows players to enjoy the scenario as a standalone experience if they so desire, with “normal” set-up instructions just for that scenario. So here, we have cards that are instructed to be set out of play until specific times, which is nothing out of the ordinary, but the campaign card stipulates further cards that should be added to the encounter deck or staging area as appropriate.
Mostly, these cards are of the Boon and Burden variety:
Boons and Burdens are integral to the campaign experience, as highlighted in a preview article by the designers. You shuffle them into the encounter deck, or attach them as appropriate, and they help to add a certain continuity to the scenarios when you play them as part of the campaign, so if you complete A Shadow of the Past, you have “earned” Gildor Inglorion, who goes into the campaign pool and is used in future plays. Other scenarios have other campaign cards they attract, which can help (or hinder!) you as you progress through!
A Shadow of the Past
Today, then, I played the first scenario from The Black Riders, A Shadow of the Past. It’s a really tough beast to crack, though playing Saga scenarios comes with an added benefit: a fourth hero!
Like the Hobbit Saga expansions before it, we get a 0-cost hero for the adventure, who can be used exactly like a normal hero. Frodo Baggins is part of a new Fellowship sphere, and collects resources that can be used to pay for Fellowship (and neutral) cards. Unlike Bilbo in the Hobbit boxes, we don’t lose the game if Frodo leaves play, though Frodo does have the One Ring attached to him, and if that leaves play, then we lose the game.
As I said, this scenario is tough, due in part to the large number of locations in play. The object of the game is to escape the Shire via the Bucklebury Ferry, while avoiding detection by the Black Riders themselves! Fourteen location cards are waiting in the encounter deck, however, and today I faced Location-lock very quickly, and it was only by managing to get a Northern Tracker on the table that I could deal with the five locations spread before me! Terrible times.
There are only two types of enemy in the deck – Evil Crows and five Black Riders. These last are terrible, though easy mode will remove two of them for you. Even so, you want to engage them on your own terms if at all possible, as they have five attack points and six hit points (buffered by the four defense points!) There are a number of effects within the deck that interact with these Riders, and they also have their Black Steeds lurking in the encounter deck as treachery cards, lowering their engagement cost by 10! Crikey!
The deck I was using was my general-purpose “Fellowship” deck, headed up by Thalin, Faramir and Aragorn. The high starting threat is intended to be offset by an all-purpose awesome, as I employ almost all of the tricks the game has given us so far to buff Aragorn in particular, but also the Ranger and Dunedain traits. Alongside this, I’ve tried to assemble a variety of allies from across the card pool, in the hope of ending up with a truly cosmopolitan deck!
Today’s game demonstrated this to great acclaim, and while I didn’t manage to get everything moving exactly as I planned, it nevertheless felt like a great start to my campaign, and that “cosmopolitan” feel to my Fellowship really came through by the time the game ended:
So there we have it! One down, at least nineteen to go! The rules insert stipulates six boxes in the Saga line for Lord of the Rings, and so far we’ve seen two Saga standalone expansions, The Old Forest and Fog on the Barrow-downs. I don’t yet have the latter, though the former is up next in this exciting series!
I honestly don’t know how often I’ll be posting these kinds of blogs, but they’ll be sprinkled throughout the coming weeks and months, not necessarily on game days (as today shows!), but keep reading for more!