The Ered Mithrin cycle

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a game day blog, but it’s Tuesday, and there’s some really cool games news been announced, so I thought I’d write a little something talking about my favourite game, Lord of the Rings LCG!

The Wilds of Rhovanion was announced what feels like ages ago now (well it was four months back), and I was beginning to wonder just what the plan was for Lord of the Rings these days. Well, it looks like we’re still in for some wonderful content going forward, thanks to yesterday’s announcement of the eighth cycle for the game.

Journeying through Middle Earth on the eve of winter ticks a lot of boxes for me, make no mistake. Winter-themed fantasy is always a plus, and this particular quest is putting me in mind of the classic The Redhorn Gate, so I’m really chuffed!

The adventure pack seems to involve searching for a drake, to prevent any calamity falling the Haradrim tribe we’re trying to relocate. It sounds a bit odd, but I love it all the same – the focus is on something a lot more heroic, in many ways, without being all about the big boss fights. The weather is an important part of the quest, which I really like, as it’s something that has been talked about in years gone by in terms of adding weather cards to current quests to help mix things up. So that should be a nice addition!

As always, the art is beautiful, and we’ve got a real sense of LotR history here in getting Grimbeorn the Old as a hero! We last saw him in Conflict at the Carrock as an objective-ally card, so it’s really cool to get the big man as a hero to play in other scenarios now, as well! His ability is also really good, allowing him to attack back when he defends an attack. It’s always made sense to me that characters should be able to do both, as they’d be both defending and attacking as part of the same action, surely? Splitting these up has always really detracted from the game for me, but there we go.

I’m really happy to be seeing some more announcements for this game, and I’m looking forward to getting into the Wilderlands soon!


New LotR deluxe expansion announced!

Hey everybody!
Well, it was with some trepidation that I’d been waiting for the big announcement for Lord of the Rings this weekend, as I was beginning to feel like the sky was about to fall, and the game would be announced as ending. The whole Harad cycle seems to have been really stalled, and I’m sure it’s taken almost the whole year to get not very far with it (pack five has just been released, more than a year since the deluxe came out). While the big announcement has yet to be made (at the time of this writing), I’m so glad that I was wrong, and that another announcement was made yesterday for a brand new deluxe expansion for the game!

The Wilds of Rhovanion sounds just wonderful. In many ways, it feels like something of a return to the Lord of the Rings of the early days. Accompanying a band of refugees north from Harad to Dale, we go along the Anduin and through Mirkwood once again, before being given a quest by King Brand that leads us deep into the Iron Hills. The feel of the Shadows of Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf cycles is definitely there for me as I read through the description, and I am hugely looking forward to getting my hot little hands on this expansion in the new year!

The player cards coming in this expansion seem to have a focus on Items, denoting the powerful trade links of Dale. It looks like it should be a really interesting box, with cards that allow you to move items among your fellowship and so forth. It’s already got me thinking about my decks, and going back over the Items of the game to see what I’ve been overlooking all these years!

Overall, very cool to see the game continuing like this, and I’m very happy to see we’re off to the north-east of the map, somewhere I’m not overly familiar with. It’s going to be a very exciting time for the game, I’m sure!

As regards the bigger announcement due later today, a lot of people seem to be under the impression we’re getting an app. I’m not entirely sure why, as the previous games from FFG to have such treatment tend to have an app to convert it from competitive to cooperative. Elder Sign has Omens, though, so maybe we will be getting another such thing? I’d prefer it be something for the physical game, if I had a choice, but I guess we’ll just have to see!

The Voice of Isengard

Hey everybody!
Tuesday means just one thing here at, it’s game day! Today’s blog returns to Middle Earth, and the next deluxe expansion in the series of blogs I’ve been writing with my garbled thoughts on the Lord of the Rings LCG: today, we’re braving the Voice of Isengard!

The Voice of Isengard

The third deluxe expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG, The Voice of Isengard marks a bit of a turning point for me with this game. For the first three “seasons” of the game, I’d been playing fairly often, and have logged plenty of plays with all of the adventure packs up to this point. While there had been some odd moments where I’d thought my love for the game could have wavered (Watcher in the Water, I’m looking at you), I think the fourth deluxe marks a significant level of difficulty-increase, which in turn has seen me move away from the game to some degree. That’s not to say that I dislike this game by any means, and I still snap up the adventure packs and deluxe expansions upon their release. However, I find that I’m somewhat less inclined to actually sit down and play with them upon their release, and I actually have two cycles of cards that I haven’t yet played with, at the time I’m writing this.

I’ll probably come back to this point later in the blog; let’s actually take a look at the contents and the quests!

As always, there are two new heroes and a slew of new player cards in the box, as well as three new quests to play through that set up the following Ring-maker cycle. The player cards are headed up by the new Éomer and Gríma heroes, Éomer is actually pretty great, and quickly found his way into my Rohan deck as I began to re-tool it for spirit and tactics. He’s great for attacking, especially as how his ability gives him +2 attack when a character leaves play. Use an Escort from Edoras during the quest phase to buff your willpower, then he’ll leave and buff Éomer during the next attack phase – excellent! Ride to Ruin is another useful card to have if you have some cheap allies you don’t mind getting rid of! While probably not as deep as dwarves, the Rohan deck type is nevertheless rife with all manner of fantastic cards that work really well together.

The Voice of Isengard also brings the third and greatest Istari to the game: Saruman! Yes, I’m a big Saruman fan, I find him extremely compelling as a character, and had been looking forward to seeing him arrive. As the main game is set somewhere in the nebulous early part of Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman hasn’t actually fallen to evil, and so works fine as being a player card. However, he does showcase one of the new mechanics from this expansion, Doomed X. Whenever a card with this keyword enters play, each player raises his threat by X. These cards are usually quite powerful, and Saruman is definitely a prime example of this. With three willpower, five attack, four defense and four hit points for only three resources, Saruman is an exceptional ally. Furthermore, when he enters play, you get to remove a non-unique enemy or location in the staging area from the game for as long as he remains in play. Like the original Gandalf, Saruman does unfortunately leave play at the end of the round, but this effect can be incredibly useful, as you can get just enough time to set yourself up to deal with something potentially game-ending. The price is high, for sure – raising your threat by three can put you in a precarious position, so it’s not to be done lightly. But paired with some of those Valour cards from the Angmar Awakened cycle? He’s definitely got his place in decks, that’s for sure!

The encounter cards are varying degrees of awful, and most of them showcase the new Time X keyword. Whenever a card with Time X is revealed, you place resource tokens on it equal to X, and at the beginning of each refresh phase, you remove one counter. When there are no tokens left, something will happen, usually something terrible. There are also cards that remove tokens, which add to your woes! The mechanic lends a sense of urgency to the game, though, something that the designers said was a deliberate method of changing the meta, such as it is, for the game.

The Fords of Isen

The Voice of Isengard

The first scenario sees you trying to help a group of Rohirrim warriors defend the small Islet from fierce Dunlendings – more accurately, they’re protecting Gríma among them. The fact that there is a Gríma hero card in this box led to a similar situation to the Faramir business in Against the Shadow, though I must say I’ve never played with Gríma among my fellowship, so have never been too concerned by this!

The object of the quest is basically to outlast the awful encounter deck, and defeat the three stages of the quest. In addition to the Time X keyword on each quest card (the first of which can discard Gríma from play, causing you to lose at the first hurdle!) there are a significant number of effects that punish you for having cards in hand. This was another conscious decision by the designers, to combat strategies that had made it into the meta, and thematically reflects the hatred the Wild Men of Dunland have for the richer, more resourceful men of Rohan. I tend not to use too many card draw effects in my decks, but there are also a lot of mechanics in the encounter set that force you to draw cards, adding to the misery!

The Fords of Isen is a very urgent scenario, forcing you to breeze through it quickly or else die horribly, face down in the muck.

To Catch An Orc

The Voice of Isengard

The next scenario requires the players to capture the orc, Mugash, at the behest of Saruman himself. Mugash has been leading raids into the valley of Isengard, but Saruman believes he has vital intelligence about Mordor, and so wishes to question him. At the start of the scenario, you are forced to put the top 20 cards of your own deck aside – copies of Mugash’s Guard and a single copy of Mugash himself are then shuffled together, and distributed among these out-of-play player decks.

Over the course of the game, you will encounter locations with the Searches X keyword – this allows you to search through X cards of your out-of-play deck, as you try to find the leader of the Orc tribe. You also get to choose one of those cards to keep and discard the rest, while placing any enemies into the staging area. It’s an incredibly different-feeling quest, with something of a built-in timer in the form of giving you a smaller deck to start. The mechanics of finding Mugash are quite prescriptive, but overall I think they’re really effective for providing an interesting, and engaging scenario. While the encounter deck can still be quite awful, it doesn’t feel quite so bad somehow, and overall I think this is one of my favourites.

Into Fangorn

The Voice of Isengard

The final quest takes us into Fangorn Forest, and we get to see the Ents! Despite (presumably!) capturing Mugash in the last scenario, he has since escaped his bonds, and the players pursue him into the depths of Fangorn. The Forest is alive, however, and the Ents are not happy with the players’ intrusion.

This is another interesting scenario, with some very interesting mechanics. Mugash is now an Objective, and the players must capture him to win the game. If he is captured when you defeat the first stage, then you progress to the second stage and attempt to keep hold of the Orc chieftain while putting 12 progress there. If he has escaped into the encounter deck, you instead advance to stage three and remain there until you find him again, then advancing to stage two and keeping hold of him until the end. It reminds me of a few earlier scenarios, where the possibility of losing an Objective can make the game suddenly a lot more arduous.

However, the encounter deck itself is no picnic, filled as it is with the Huorn! The Ents of Fangorn have the Hinder keyword, which basically annoys the hell out of you. Rather than attacking, these enemies remove progress from the quest when they are engaged with you, and with high toughness and high wounds, these enemies are not going to be picked off quickly! Indeed, the whole quest seems designed to slow you down, while the quest cards themselves continue to make use of the Time X mechanic. It’s actually a pretty fun, thematic scenario, but my god is it disheartening to actually play through!

Each of the quests in Voice of Isengard has something different to offer, and each is highly thematic to play through. While it’s an expansion that I’d wanted for a long time, being such a fan of Saruman and this area of Middle Earth as a whole, I nevertheless found it to be a little less than satisfying, because there no longer felt like the option to just enjoy the quest, as you had to rush through or whatever. All quests in Lord of the Rings LCG have a race element to them, of course, as you attempt to outlast your threat reaching 50, but moreso than ever, we’re now being forced into a very specific play style if we want to go through these newer quests. I get that the more competitive elements of the community had been asking for this since the game released, but I do get the impression that a fundamental shift occurred somewhere here, whereby the main focus of development for Lord of the Rings LCG was no longer exploring Tolkien’s world in all of its glorious abundance, but instead on nuts-and-bolts mechanics of flipping cards over and mathematics.

I still play Lord of the Rings LCG, don’t get me wrong, and I still love it, but I don’t find myself returning to these newer quests nearly as often as I return for just one more stroll through Mirkwood or the Long Dark of Khazad-dûm.

Exciting times!

Hey everybody!
It feels like there is a lot of excitement in the air at the minute for anybody of a geeky disposition. We’re almost a month away from a new Star Wars movie, for starters, but the slide into December is always packed with so much awesome that I really should look to setting up a savings account specifically for the purpose…

I’ve been watching the second international trailer for Rogue One, which does subtly differ from the last official trailer released last month. It’s always cool to see new bits, and I’m certainly feeling pretty excited about this movie right now: I think, more than anything, it just looks fantastic. It has the Classic Trilogy sense of style but with today’s technology making more possible within that setting. Sure, I mentioned this in my musings on the first trailer, where I thought it would make the movie make the original films look shabby in comparison. However, I don’t think that will be the case any longer; maybe I’ve mellowed over the past few months!

While the story of the Death Star plans has been done to death in the old canon, I’m actually looking forward to this movie for giving us the definitive story around that. It’s a fascinating part of the Star Wars lore, and while some of the trailer seems to have some bits that look overly cheesy or cliche, I’m still looking forward to what promises to be an overall good film.

I’ve pre-ordered the lead-in novel, Catalyst, and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on it as it’s by one of my favourite Star Wars authors, James Luceno. I’d been thinking I might keep the book to read closer to Christmas, but I might not be able to wait that long, so there may be a review coming in sooner than you think!

Speaking of trailers, I’m still super hyped for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie next year! I won’t deny, I was kinda speechless when it first dropped, as it looks like it should be everything we could ever want from such a movie. I still haven’t seen Batman vs Superman, so have nothing to really go on (though by all accounts, her role was somewhat limited in that movie). But these trailers look incredible, and I heartily cannot wait for it!

But let’s talk about some games for a minute.

Picked this bad boy up today! #ArkhamHorror #cardgames #Lovecraft #Cthulhu

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I picked up the new Arkham Horror LCG the other day, and it does look kinda fantastic, I have to say. To date, all I’ve done is take the cards out of the airtight bags and quickly ruffle through them, but I’m hoping that, once I’m caught up with my degree, I’ll be able to try it out and see what all the fuss is about. I’ve been subscribed to the page on boardgamegeek since it had one, and have been astonished at the amount of new posts created for it, talking about the minutiae before it even landed. It was akin to the Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder ACG, and I’ve considered unsubscribing because of it! I’m sure it’ll die down in time, however.

Speaking of the Pathfinder ACG, the fourth box, The Mummy’s Mask, has apparently been released, though I have yet to see it for sale in the UK. Of course, I haven’t really been trying all that hard to find it, but even so! I’ve only recently made it to the end of the first adventure pack in the Rise of the Runelords game, of course, so I’m hardly chomping at the bit for the next box, but it does look amazing!

Android Netrunner Terminal Directive

Last night, FFG announced the next expansion for Android: Netrunner, Terminal Directive. The article doesn’t have a great deal of information for how exactly this expansion works, but it looks to be extremely similar to the Pandemic Legacy stuff that involves game components opened and used at specific points of the game/when specific conditions have been met. I’m not surprised that another company has used this idea, because it seems to be doing well for Z-Man Games, though I am surprised that it was used for a living card game rather than a boardgame.

The implementation aside, I think the idea of having a game of Netrunner where your actions have consequences for a campaign is really interesting, and I hope I can get in on this when it starts…

Along with the Arkham LCG, I also picked up the final packs for the latest Lord of the Rings cycle, as well as the final pack for Warhammer Conquest! I do feel kinda sad that the game is over now, but talking about it down at the local store, it sounds like the game isn’t quite dead yet, so I can still try out my Slaanesh demons deck now that we finally have a warlord for the Dark Prince!

I still haven’t played with any of the new Lord of the Rings cards, unfortunately – it doesn’t seem so long ago that I would eagerly be playing through the latest pack no sooner had I gotten my grubby little mits on it! I’ve mentioned it on this blog fairly recently how I want to get back into playing this game with more regularity, so I hope that I can make that a thing soon! All of my free time at the moment seems to be taken up with either working on my degree or painting up little plastic guys… I do feel like I need to get back into gaming though, that’s definitely been sliding of late…

Week off, day one!

Hey everybody!
I’ve got a week off work, so I’m looking forward to doing a whole lot of nothing for a week! Today has been a great start in that respect, and despite feeling like I’m coming down with a cold, I’m happy to report that I’ve had a really productive day for painting! Full details will be revealed on Sunday’s painting progress blog, of course, but hopefully I can continue in this vein and get a lot more progress with my ongoing projects!

I also had a chance to catch up with the latest issue of White Dwarf, the first in the new monthly iteration of the magazine. Relaxing this morning with a coffee, I perused the pages and was pretty blown away by a lot of what’s going on in here! I mean, the Eldar Biel-Tan army of the month is just stupendous!! I really enjoyed the idea of the Tale of Four Warlords, and kinda wish I could do something similar, but I know I just don’t have the dedication for that. The blue Nurgle stuff was really interesting, though! There is a lot in this magazine, and I can highly recommend it to anyone looking for some hobby goodness – but it’s more than likely you’ll have gotten a hold of this already if you’re looking for that!

Lots of painting has been happening, which is really exciting as I’ve actually finished painting some guys. Aside from this, I’ve also been checking out the latest news coming from over in Nottingham, and the leaks around the Genestealer Cult stuff coming from this weekend!

I’m surprised to say that I’m kinda looking forward to this! Having a lot of the miniatures anyway from the Overkill boxed game, I think I might pick up the Codex anyway, but I’m not so sure yet. I’m also not sure if I’d want to pick up any of the additional kits, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see on that score. I think more than anything, I’m just excited to see some of the more side-event things happen for the main game, anyway!

I’m also excited to see the next Horus Heresy boxed game coming, from the leaked cover of the November WD. Not really a fan of Mark-III armour, but I do like the Thousand Sons, so I suppose I’m looking forward to it for that. I wasn’t entirely sure about Betrayal at Calth until I actually saw the unboxing, and eventually got two boxes, so I’m expecting that I’ll be buying this one when it comes out. Though if Blood Bowl is also coming out for Christmas, this may be a fairly tall order…

In other news, I’ve started to work on a new deck for Lord of the Rings LCG, which I haven’t played for a long while now. I haven’t really used a lot of the new cards – heck, I’ve not bought any of the new cycle yet! – so I want to really investigate what’s going on there. I’m hoping, as the week goes on, that I’ll get some games in with this thing, then who knows, maybe a future game day blog or something might feature a look at it!

So, a really productive start to the week, and yet also really quite restful, which is always a good thing. I hope this sets the tone for the week!

Time for a change…

Hey everybody!
It’s Tuesday Game Day here at, and time for a bit of a ramble, I think. Not that my other blogs aren’t a ramble, of course!

For over two years now, I’ve been writing about some of my favourite games every Tuesday, but I thought I might try something a bit different today and just talk about gaming more generally, see how that goes. I’ll keep doing game blogs, of course, but maybe once in a while I’ll do more of these, sort of casual things.

First of all, I wanted to talk a bit about what games I’ve been playing lately. I’ve not actually had a lot of time to play games unfortunately, though have had a couple with some 40k-themed stuff. Notably some more glorious defeats in Space Hulk: Death Angel, which is pretty par for the course with that game, and also Conquest – including my first victory with my Necron deck! I’m a bit behind with the latest war packs, so I’ve been using Anrakyr the Traveller rather than having the new Illuminor Szeras, who I’ve been looking forward to for a while, but managed to get in a victory a short while ago when I played at the local store against a Space Marines deck that was pretty badly put together. But it’s a victory, and I’m not going to deny myself that!

Fun fact: Anrakyr was the first #Necrons character I painted! #WarhammerConquest

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I’ve fallen behind with the expansions, though – I’ve only got the first two packs from the new cycle, while FFG have just announced the fourth is available! Eek! I haven’t really been buying a lot of games lately, however, and have fallen behind with quite a few things, Lord of the Rings also being a case in point. I haven’t gotten to play much of that game lately, so I guess it’s no big deal, but still!

While there doesn’t appear to have been much announced for Conquest – I believe there’s currently a conspiracy theory doing the rounds that FFG and GW are about to part ways – I am impressed with the next cycle announcement for Lord of the Rings: we’re going to Harad! Back when Heirs of Númenor was announced, I was hoping we’d be seeing more from the Southrons, and while it’s taken a while, we’re finally getting there!

The Sands of Harad

In terms of fantasy settings, I think the desert locale is vastly under-used, and so cannot wait to see what’s in store for us here. The mechanics sound really interesting as well – paired traits that buff each other sounds to me very much like the dual-colour deck thing from Magic, of course. The effects of the temperature sound really intriguing, hopefully it’ll be super cool, anyway! Something I found very interesting from the expansion’s announcement was how the article didn’t include any information about the upcoming cycle, which made me speculate at the time that maybe it was moving to a distribution model similar to that Call of Cthulhu adopted before it was finished, of deluxe expansions only. However, we’ve recently also had the first look at the new Haradrim Cycle, which sees us trying to capture Oliphaunts! Oh, my! I’ve been away from this game for too long, but I think this upcoming expansion is going to be exactly the thing I want to get me back into Middle Earth with aplomb!

Something else I haven’t gotten round to yet is the new Eldritch Horror expansion – I’ve been eyeing it up, of course, but my local store had a shipment that came without the character cards, and it seemed to take forever for them to send replacements. I think he’s only recently put it up for sale, but I haven’t really had the money to get it, what with spending on more Warhammer kits! Seeing as how there probably isn’t going to be a new expansion out for Christmas this year, however, I think I might wait and get that one for myself then – it’s hardly the same as a big box thing, but it’s Eldritch Horror, so it’ll do! I haven’t actually played Eldritch Horror for a long time, sadly, so will have to try and change that soon!

Since my two-year anniversary with the Warhammer stuff, I’ve been mainly focused on the building/painting of minis, of course, and I tend to go along with these things lately – particularly given how many kits I have unbuilt and unpainted! I’ve actually been super-busy on that front, as I think last weekend’s hobby progress blog shows. Just been on something of a production line for building and priming models, which is probably going to keep me going through the winter, anyway!

Which leads me to…

The main gaming thing that has been on my mind for the last few weeks has been getting properly into Warhammer 40k, though. I may or may not have mentioned that my local GW store has been running a sort of mini-campaign-type-thing that starts off small and allows you to build up your army over time – it sounded perfect for a beginner like myself, and I actually got myself a list prepared of a Necron Overlord and two troops of Immortals, but due to work commitments have so far missed both events!

I am, however, really keen to get going with this whole thing, so I’m trying to arrange a suitable time with one of the guys from the store to get me in a learning game soon – stay tuned for that!

Conspiracy 2

As I get back into Warhammer, I seem to have lost my momentum with Magic once more, though these games tend to wax and wane for me, so I’m not too bummed at having spent a lot of money on snow-covered lands lately! I’ve kinda been following the spoilers for the second Conspiracy set, though I’m not really planning to get involved in drafting that, primarily because Draft has never actually interested me, though. I still have a bunch of decks built up, including a lot of Standard decks that I’m still somewhat keen to try out, but haven’t managed to play much of the game whatsoever since the Eldritch Moon prerelease last month.

I’m still planning to go to the Kaladesh prerelease next month, however, as that was a really good time!

It saddens me a little when I realise, I have probably the two most expensive gaming hobbies ever: plastic and card crack. But y’know, they’re enjoyable, so I’m not going to complain too loudly!

Anyway, that’s probably it for this blog, I don’t like to ramble on too much of course! I think I might try to change up the feel of these Tuesday blogs in the future, though, as just blandly talking through a game’s components can be, well, pretty bland. Might try and get some kind of game-report type of thing (I did try it once, of course!) or something. We’ll see. Anyway, hopefully if you made it this far, you enjoyed it (don’t be afraid to leave a comment!), and I’ll see you all in the next exciting installment!

Behold! The Dwarrowdelf!

Hey everybody!
It’s another game day, and time to look at some more of my favourite card game: it’s time to enter the Dwarrowdelf, in Lord of the Rings!

Dwarrowdelf cycle

This was the second cycle for the Lord of the Rings card game, published throughout 2012. Following on from Khazad-dûm, the cycle featured a thematic story whereby your fellowship begins the cycle escorting Arwen through the Misty Mountains, from Lothlorien to Rivendell, at which point Elrond asks you to investigate reports of unusual Orc activity within the Mines of Moria. The encounter sets use cards from the Khazad-dûm box, so there are lots of goblins here! The cycle also continued the theme from Khazad-dûm with increasing the Dwarf cards in the game, leading to a beautifully-synergised deck type. While the Hobbit saga boxes really rounded that archetype out for me, the cards from just this set are enough to make some very powerful decks that can be both fun to play as well as being wrecking-balls. I’m not going to talk much about the player cards here, as I tend to think of them as a separate issue – the cycle is all about the quests!

However, it would be remiss of me to do this blog without mentioning the Secrecy keyword. It basically lowers the cost to play cards, provided your threat is below 20. This seemed like such a difficult feat to accomplish for most of the cycle, and led to two-hero fellowships seeing a surge in popularity – particularly when packs one and two gave us the brothers Elladan and Elrohir, who have a wonderful synergy together. But then pack six hit, which I’ll talk about later, but which has a really hilarious built-in way to use Secrecy really well.

The Redhorn Gate

Dwarrowdelf cycle The Redhorn Gate

This one is pretty brutal.  The idea is that you’re moving through the tops of the Misty Mountains, escorting Arwen home to Rivendell. This is simulated wonderfully by having the tip of mighty Caradhras staring at you from the staging area from the very beginning, which you can’t travel to until you reach the quest card that makes it the active location, at which point it makes everybody -1 willpower. That might not be a bad thing, but there are so many effects here that remove people with 0 from the quest (or even, the game!), which makes this a really difficult one to overcome. Of course, you can use your Northern Trackers to place progress on it in the staging area and try to remove the threat that way, but that always just feels a bit like cheating to me. It’s a great quest, highly thematic, and one that I often find myself returning to for just one more jaunt through the mountains!

Road to Rivendell

Dwarrowdelf cycle Road to Rivendell

The second quest is similar to the first, as we’re still escorting Arwen to Rivendell. It introduces the new Ambush keyword, which sees enemies make an engagement check against everyone when they’re turned up from the deck – they’re usually quite squishy enemies, so you can usually kill them pretty handily, but their often-high attack might mean you won’t get to fight back! It also features what I think is the most controversial card in the entire game, Sleeping Sentry. This treachery card deals one damage to each exhausted character when it is turned up from the deck, then every other character is exhausted, so you can often see your fellowship fall apart when this card makes an appearance. If it’s played as a Shadow card, however, you must discard all exhausted characters – the potential for the game to end right there is huge, especially when the quest cards in this one have a massive amount of progress needed. It seems a bit lazy, but it’s also pretty thematic, when you consider the damage a sleeping sentry could cause to a small band of folks on the road. However, the almost arbitrary way it can cause the game to end if it’s turned up in that way has led to a lot of hate, but there are a lot of player cards that can deal with such things – remember, it’s When Revealed, not Forced, so you can cancel these things, but it can still crush your game, and remains my most-hated card in the game.

The Watcher in the Water

Dwarrowdelf cycle The Water in the Water

I won’t lie, this pack nearly killed my enthusiasm for the game back when it was first released, and in fact I would go as far as to say it has never returned to its former heights following the release of the Watcher in the Water. Having escorted Arwen to Rivendell as an Objective card, we now received the daughter of Elrond as an ally character that saw a lot of geekgasms back in the day. We also had our first repeat-hero, a new version of Aragorn that fits more with his persona as Strider.

This quest, however, was just a bitch to get through. I have since completed it multiple times, and while I wouldn’t say it was easy, it wasn’t as bad as that first attempt. There were just too many tentacles! I think I was completely enveloped within the first two turns, and just gave up in sheer frustration. There are two victory conditions here – either kill the Watcher, or solve the riddle on the Doors of Durin and enter the mines. The riddle here is to match the first letter of the top card of the encounter deck to any number of cards from your hand. If you have the Doors in your victory display, then you can win, which is perhaps easier than going up against the regenerating Watcher. Of course, if you’ve got a fellowship that can just tank its way through, then that might be the preferred strategy!

The Long Dark

Dwarrowdelf cycle The Long Dark

The fourth pack has gained a bit of a reputation for being a really easy quest, much like Hills of Emyn Muil in the last cycle, but it’s one of my favourites (albeit not, perhaps, in my top ten), due to the thematic nature of the whole thing. We’re back to the cave torch from Khazad-dûm, and lots of cards that once again emphasize the claustrophobic feel of the mines. There is also the Lost mechanic, which I find super-thematic here. Certain cards – mostly the new locations – make players take a Locate test, whereby you can discard a card from your hand to discard the top card from the encounter deck; if that card has a bold “pass” printed in the bottom-right, then all is well. If not, you can do it again, or else something bad will happen, and you’ll be forced to trigger any Lost effects in play. These effects are usually terrible, such as returning enemies into play or discarding allies, etc. It’s meant to represent losing your way in the dark, of course, and I find it comes together pretty well – the only thing I don’t like, of course, is how there aren’t many encounter cards in the deck to support it – much like the Escape test in The Dead Marshes, actually!

It’s a great quest, that also features an Objective boon that is the first since the Massing at Osgiliath. Durin’s Greaves give a +1 defense bonus to a hero, which can be really useful with the amount of goblins swarming around you! The idea of giving us useful stuff to find in the encounter deck would be reworked with style in the form of boons in the Saga expansions, of course, but while we have had such cards before, The Long Dark is, to me, the first time I’ve wanted to go through an encounter deck specifically to find something like this.

Foundations of Stone

Dwarrowdelf cycle Foundations of Stone

Without a doubt, the highlight of this cycle for me. Foundations of Stone sees our intrepid fellowships broken up, as we’re washed away part-way through the quest! There are essentially two encounter decks here – a sort of generic thing made up of cards from Khazad-dûm that you’re most likely sick of seeing by now, then, following the splitting of the party, the specific Foundations of Stone deck, which features all sorts of horrible things as we find ourselves in the very depths of the mines of Moria. It’s a terrific mechanic that sends each player to his own staging area, a mechanic that has been reprised a few times since in fact, though as I only ever play this game solo (by choice, actually), it doesn’t have much of an impact.

We get two more Objective boon-cards that make us work for them this time, but more important than that, we get the Lovecraftian Nameless Things in this scenario! When this pack was first announced, I thought it was a hilarious counter to the Zigil Miner controversy that I mentioned in the Khazad-dûm blog. If you remember, the Zigil Miner gives you resources equal to the cost of cards he turns up from your deck. At this time, the meta saw players pack their decks with expensive cards to maximise on this effect – only to then have these Nameless Things swoop in and attach cards from your deck to them, the cost of which dictating their attributes. So we suddenly see people facing Elder Nameless Things that can deal 15 points of damage, because you have expensive cards in your deck – it was great! Having never seen the point in being a power gamer, I permitted myself a hearty chuckle at that, I must admit.

Regardless, Foundations of Stone is just an amazing experience, and I highly recommend this one!

Shadow and Flame

Dwarrowdelf cycle Shadow and Flame

The final pack rightly has that feel of encountering the big boss in a video game, as we go up against Durin’s Bane, the mighty Balrog of Moria! This is actually a real pig of a quest, I’ve always found, and as such I have never really attempted it. The object of the game is to defeat the Balrog by pushing it into the Deep Pit, the only way to remove it from play. Indeed, the new keyword Indestructible was brought into the game specifically for the big guy, ensuring that he would never be killed, even if you managed to deal the enormous 30 points of damage it would take! Unfortunately, Deep Pit only enters play through quest card effects, so you need to quest as quickly as possible, but Durin’s Bane is considered engaged with every player and, with an engagement cost of just 1, will be attacking you each and every round. The one respite is that, upon setup, your threat counter is set to 0, kinda giving you a free pass – and, as mentioned earlier, giving you the perfect time to play those Secrecy cards!

As always, if the regular game doesn’t hold enough challenge for you, there are Nightmare decks available for all six of these scenarios, giving you more hurdles to overcome than ever!

Dwarrowdelf cycle Nightmare Decks

I had the dubious pleasure of beta-testing these, though the group was organised into six, with one person having a scenario – and lucky me, I got Shadow and Flame! However, it’s a trend I’ve noticed with a lot of the Nightmare scenarios for this game whereby the new deck improves greatly on the original design. That’s not just to say that the original deck wasn’t really that good, but the Nightmare cards merely bring even greater synergy to the deck, and increase that feel of playing against a real person, or whatever.

It would be easy for the game designers to make the scenario harder by throwing in some really tough enemies, some high-threat, high-quest locations, and a couple of treacheries like Sleeping Sentry. However, these 18-19 cards have a meaningful impact on the encounter deck as a whole, and serve to enrich the gameplay experience, even if they also feel much more impossible to beat. Shadow and Flame in Nightmare Mode is a great example of this, as it includes cards that can attach to Durin’s Bane like weapons, making him a much more interactive enemy than he once was. Of course, that’s probably not what you want to see, but I can appreciate a well-made deck even if it’s being used against me. The other scenarios also have more tweaks that make them play more focused and such, as well.

I’ve had my ups and my downs with the Dwarrowdelf cycle. When it first came out, it nearly quashed my enthusiasm for the game, as the quests would get ridiculously difficult to play through with the cards available at the time, should you play thematically as I do. Indeed, if I’d written this three years ago, I’d likely be ranting about how this game has been killed by the power-creep. Over time, this has naturally diminished – especially since the new Dwarf synergies that came out with the two Hobbit Saga boxes. As a result, I feel that I can now enjoy these games for what they are: some highly thematic games with some truly immersive experiences. Don’t get me wrong, these quests can still prove to be a real challenge, and I still get beaten by stuff like Redhorn Gate, but I don’t think I would talk anyone out of getting this cycle for their collection.

Shadows of Mirkwood is still my favourite, and I think the roleplaying aspects of Against the Shadow might mean that cycle is also up there, but Dwarrowdelf has some awesome and epic moments to commend it.

Definitely worth the time returning to the Mines of Moria!