I am going to do this little series on Heroes of the game. I will concentrate on the 20 that have arrived before the Redhorn Gate since I feel the Dwarrodelf cycle and the secrecy may introduce new strategies that I do not wish to interfere with just yet. The content is highly subjective, of course, though I state it (for journalistic reasons) as if it were facts. It is no work of wonder, just a few thoughts, and it bears neither the beauty of the Tolkien's universe nor many universal truths. I hope though that some few of you may still enjoy reading it, and perhaps novices can find a bit of advice for their future games in those lines. Finally, I apologize for the linguistic aspect of the forthcoming text, as English is not my native tongue.
Boromir is a possible (and even probable) “day-saver” in enemy-heavy quests. The ability to ready indefinitely (despite the cost) is just so useful in so many different situations. And every boost seems to pay off a little (or more) extra with Boromir than others – at least in terms of Combat. Take Blade Mastery, for instance. That card may not seem potent enough even though that one additional point of attack or defence is often a difference between destroying an enemy and losing a character. With Boromir, Blade Mastery feels like an obvious inclusion in the deck as he can make use of both of its powers at the same time. In Massing at Osgiliath where a Wolf of Mordor (or more depending on the number of players) likely attacks you on the first round, having Boromir boosted by Blade Mastery can mean successfully defending and destroying several of these fierce enemies.
Naturally, Boromir fits well in a deck with Spirit. Any threat reduction may quickly become huge fighting potential. The Gondor trait has been very little developed so far but For Gondor! is another combat combo that Boromir takes extra care of. Stand Together and Gondorian Spearman fall into this category as well. The Spearman is very useful on its own but when you can easily pair him up with the Gondor’s Finest, the chance of using his smart ability again steeply rises.
With more cards coming in, it seems Boromir can be only getting stronger, even though there may still be games (and quests) in which he will not fulfil his potentials, especially those with lots of questing (and/or little fighting) needed.
This Silvan killer does what no other Tactics character; it makes progress whilst destroying enemies. The ranged keyword makes it easier to achieve in a multiplayer game – where the chance of having someone to kill increases as well. The under 10 threat puts Legolas within the cheaper heroes, opening up useful combinations such as one with Dúnhere who craves for the Tactics sphere. Quick Strike is a natural combo for Legolas as getting rid of an enemy (together with its potential shadow effect) before it strikes and a location before it takes its toll feels extra satisfying.
Same as Gondorians, the Elves have been also rather neglected thus far (20 heroes in: Core, Mirkwood, Khazad-dûm) but new combos are on the horizon and Rivendell Blade will make Legolas even stronger warrior.
The downside with Legolas can be his inability to do anything else but attack. It would certainly feel overpowered if he could but the fact remains, the Prince of Woodland Realm will not help you much unless you find him an enemy to take down, even though his 4 hit points allow for taking an undefended attack and there already are some of his kin who heal very effectively.
Every opinion is bound to be biased; there is always more than just one view at things. And as Gimli’s potential to become super strong in terms of attack is doubtless, his actual prowess in the game are very dependent. First, the shorter the game is, the lesser is the chance of Gimli reaching his potential. The Core set offered somewhat easy ways of getting hurt: usually by questing whilst revealing either Dol Guldur Orcs or Necromancer’s Reach. And Gimli is the best Tactics “quester” in the game thus far: willpower equal to Brand, hit points exceeding by two – thus less vulnerable. However, there are now many scenarios where getting hit seems not as obvious; and getting hit in “just” the right way becomes more tricky.
The attachment for Gimli is Citadel Plate (however against the logic or even theme – he can bear two of those by the way but only one pair of Boots from Erebor – go figure!). It strengthens the fact that making Gimli strong takes time and resources. Unlike Boromir who can clear enemies in a fury on round one, Gimli has to remain steadfast and bide his time to strike an ultra heavy blow. This ability though can feel a bit less important now as the game develops; in its beginnings dealing with a Hill Troll was a huge struggle that often required more than one turn to perform. With the card pool expanding, felling big foes is more of a daily bread even without heavily (and slowly) pumped-up Gimli.
The plus side is the Dwarven trait. Dáin will get his credit later but the difference between the attack of 2 and 3 on round 1 is substantial. Unlike keeping Dáin ready throughout the Quest phase (where he duly takes a back seat with overseeing eye), keeping him ready till the attack is less obvious since he is arguably the best defender in the game. Also, the sphere combo with Tactics is less prominent at the moment as both Spirit and especially Lore have established the Dwarven Strategy much deeper.
As Gimli may be losing a bit of spotlight with new peers taking precedence, Thalin could be the Dwarf to steal a bit of fame himself. The sphere is the same but the utility much different. Thalin benefits more from Dáin’s appearance for the reasons given above; he also fits a role that is rare in the Tactics sphere, he contributes to questing whilst hurting foes who may come. And the obvious combos for Thalin are coming with vengeance: first we had Gondorian Spearman – yes, one and one is two (bravo) but two were often too little to kill an enemy before it attacks; with Khazad-dûm this is more often than not untrue. But for those more sturdy monsters, there are plenty new ways to strike them prior their turn. Beorning Beekeeper is more of a multiplayer character: more players mean larger staging areas, more targets to hit at once. Descendant of Thorondor can take on two enemies (dealing two damage each), which with Thalin means constant death for the majority of those. Yet, the list goes further, again there is the threat of 9 – not too high for the Dúnhere strategy – but now even more potent as Dúnhere has less work to do himself. And if all that was not enough, Road to Rivendell brings a brand (himself capitally coming soon) new tool for clearing the staging area: Hail of Stones can take down a big one, and it needs a character less to do so – thanks to Thalin.
Solo players are not happy with this one. Unlike Legolas who is also ranged with the same attack strength (for one less point of threat), Brand will not help in solo play by adding progress tokens. He will help tremendously in multiplayer though. Pair it wisely and you can have Brand on one side and Dáin with Beravor on the other. Dáin defends well as said, Beravor has used her ability (or done other things) to exhaust but Brand finishes the enemy and she becomes ready again. Beravor with Unexpected Courage is rightly considered among the strongest combos in the game, now Brand can often do the same trick and ease the world of the servants of Sauron in the meantime.
If Gondor, Silvan or Noldor have only got a few cards thus far, Dale got no support whatsoever. It is highly unlikely it ever will get as much as the others but when it does, it may well be very strong (to balance things out) and very fit for the King Brand son of Bain son of Bard who fell the great dragon Smaug the Magnificent.