This is the second part of the series. The first can be found here http://www.fantasyfl...=4&efidt=636576
Estel can give hope to the players of this game. The only requirement for Aragorn to perform two of the three basic actions (quest, attack, defence) is to pay a resource from his pool when committing to the quest; he then can be ready for combat. The somewhat hidden trouble with that is that one has to predict what comes up during the staging because one has but to consider it a waste of a resource when he readies Aragorn only to watch him do nothing for the remainder of the round, even though it is obviously better to be safe than sorry. This dilemma is present in both solo and multiplayer games. In solo, there is a higher chance of not pulling an enemy from the encounter deck. With more players this chance increases and Aragorn’s sentinel ability (he is the only sentinel hero in the game so far) bids him for an obvious defender; however, with more players, more characters will be naturally ready and some may fight just as well (if not better) than Aragorn and thus save his valuable pocket money.
That aside, Strider (as he would more likely be called in that era) is an all-round skilled hero. There is only one attachment that directly cooperates (to its full extent) with a named character, no wonder it is this brave ranger. Celebrian’s Stone is good for any hero who quests repeatedly but it gives Aragorn that something extra: the Spirit icon. This utility had been especially prominent before the Songs appeared as Aragorn had been the only hero with the ability to produce “double-coloured” resources.
Despite the great stats and the potential to both quest and fight, Aragorn is not an obvious choice to take into any Leadership deck. His threat cost of 12 is the shared highest in the game; so it is mostly dependent on what the deck focuses on whether Aragorn shall be the one to lead it or not. Time will tell whether the Dúnedain get enough support to outweigh this decision-making. It is also very probable that Aragorn shall see more of his famous artefacts in the game that will only be playable on him.
This text is not about rivalry between the friendly characters. However, as the players can only take a limited number of them to each game, the decisions have to be made. With the threat level currently gaining on significance, having both Aragorn and Imrahil on your side can be very risky. And the similarities between the two heroes are so eminent that it is the nuances that shall prove decisive.
1 point of threat and 1 hit point lower, Imrahil has otherwise got the same stats. And same as Aragorn, he can also ready once per his ability each round. The means are very different though; with Aragorn, players should be able to use his ability every round (since they earn his resource token – on normal circumstances – in the beginning of each round and should not lose it before the Quest phase), that is if they do not spend the money on something else, including saving plans for future. Imrahil can be readied only when a character leaves play. Thus the deck that he is destined to lead shall be well suited for such happening. Luckily for this strategy, the choice of allies easily leaving play is ever growing. Both Rohan and Eagles have a bunch, some of which can trigger their “leaving-play” effect any time the player chooses, which opens up variety of options. The timing is what really stands on Imrahil’s side in his severe struggle against the Northern usurper of the Gondorian throne (irony, of course). As Aragorn can only ready when committing to the quest, Imrahil can do this any time a character leaves play, so he is able (unlike Aragorn – again, under normal circumstances, without further effects taken in consideration) to perform two Combat actions. As it does not matter who is the controller of the leaving character, to trigger Imrahil’s ability is obviously much easier in a multiplayer game.
For Gondor! will help the Prince defend all the better, Blade Mastery could be almost as fit for him as it is for Boromir, and Horn of Gondor will pay off every time (and more) you use Imrahil’s response, thus nicely strengthening this thematic strategy combo.
Briefly considering the future impact of the secrecy, both Aragorn and Imrahil can be looked upon as good candidates in terms of performing more actions than others. Also, the Leadership has so far been given more attention by the new mechanic than other spheres. The difference between the threat of 11 and 12, when considering the hero line-up, may again not be just marginal, as pairing up Aragorn with Éowyn (for instance) will take you over the all-important 20 but choosing Imrahil instead shall not.
Similar to Thalin, Théodred is another hero with whom players must quest in order to make use of his ability. And same as for Thalin, Théodred’s willpower is 1, thus his progress contribution to the quest is often not great. It is simple though, the one extra resource (together with his very low threat) is what makes Théodred such a great companion in any fellowship. Choosing him to a group of questing heroes is a smart move though because players can then decide which type of the resource they want. His natural national compatriots are Spirit and one would be fool (or very desperate, or about to win the game anyways) not to quest with Éowyn; when the two quest together, you can count on an extra resource of either kind every round, that often means a difference between having that one token to play A Test of Will, Hasty Stroke, Sneak Attack, Ever Vigilant or not.
Rohan is among those (together with Dwarves) most heavily developed nationalities (and traits). Astonishing Speed gives every Rohan character additional 2 points of willpower until the end of the phase, suddenly making Théodred a heavy contributor. And so does Faramir whose appearance is all the more probable (or quick) with Théodred on your side.
Théodred can produce one extra resource per round, now Glóin can do more. He can make a lot (one per damage taken actually) but just as with his son, it is a bit risky but certainly achievable. Glóin is a natural “quester,” all the more with Dáin in play. Besides the staging where his vulnerability is obvious in some of the quest, he can easily be damaged by letting an attack undefended. It requires the right sort of enemy engaged, usually one with rather lower attack strength – one or two feels about right. A back-up is always nice to have, something to cancel shadow effects. There are already two cards in the Leadership sphere; Dawn Take You All is one of those and also one of the few Leadership cards that are much more potent with more players in. Still, probably the best cancelling of shadow lies with Spirit and Hasty Stroke in case of Glóin’s perseverance. But there are more combos to support Glóin, Landroval is good when things go wrong and so is Frodo.
But making sure Glóin does not die whilst being hurt is not enough for this strategy to fulfil its potential; one needs a way to remove those damage tokens in order to repeat the production of the resource ones. Here the choice is again plentiful but all restrained to the sphere of Lore. Daughter of Nimrodel or Self Preservation can both heal two points of damage from Glóin per round (and neither is unique), one just needs to choose the one more suitable for his deck or playing style.
Alternatively, one can just make sure Glóin has enough hit points so he needs not heal before making a lot of money. So the boosts that apply to his son Gimli are again possible for the father: 2 copies of Citadel Plate and 1 of Boots from Erebor will increase the number of hit points from 4 to 13; with more such cards surely coming up.
Leadership could hardly get more appropriate hero than the King under the Mountain. The significance of his role is already apparent from his mentioning with other Dwarven heroes. His attack boost and (especially) willpower boost is fit to any deck basing its strategy on Dwarven characters. As if it were not enough, Dáin is also a wonderful defender. Tied with Denethor for the highest defence (3) in the game, Dáin has two more hit points to absorb the attack. The hind side of this is that once he defends, he becomes exhausted, and thus unable to give the boost for the consequent attack. There are ways to redeem this however, and one needs not necessarily search into the Spirit sphere for Unexpected Courage (although it is very useful for Dáin, as it is for almost every other hero); for five Leadership tokens, a player can ready all characters in the game by playing Grim Resolve; and newly, for only three tokens, there is Lure of Moria to get ready all Dwarves.
Designer’s hope surely must be that no character in the game is perfect, and thus inevitably better than others. It is certainly not easy to find flaws with Dáin but one can safely claim that he is costly; and his high threat limits the options for other heroes, especially in solo play where the choice of spheres for the one and only deck becomes a more prominent aspect of deck-building. The whole “keep Dáin ready” strategy can also come to an abrupt end in a round when an effect exhausting characters applies; King Spider comes immediately to mind. And the occurrence of such nasty hindrances may become more frequent in the future just to discourage the notion of choosing Dáin for every quest in which the Dwarves participate.