This is the part 3 of the series. After the fourth is done, I will listen to some of your suggestions and make an easier access to the whole thing.
Anyway, for now the part 1 can be found here...
and part 2 here...
Eleanor is in way a prototype of a Spirit hero. Low threat and ability to cancel treachery could be viewed as major representatives of the sphere. Unlike majority of the Spirit characters though, Eleanor is not “quest-bound,” rather she should never quest unless it could directly change the outcome of the game, for she is useful for either her ability during questing (for which she needs be ready) or for defence.
Her stats are according to the shared lowest threat cost in the game, she is not an all-time defender with her defence strength of 2 and 3 hit points but can still block and survive majority of enemies even though it is good to have something to cancel the shadow effects at one’s disposal.
It is certainly not Eleanor’s defence prowess that her inclusion in a deck is based upon. The ability to negate treacheries is not without price however, first Eleanor has to exhaust, then a new encounter card is revealed – and yes, it can be no less devastating with the only difference being that now the players have one less character ready to steady the tide.
The above scenario does not do Eleanor justice though. Her ability may not always be a winner but it may without a doubt turn many a loss into a win. Her undisputed power lurks during the set up of the game, some treacheries can then end a game unjustly and prematurely – there are now already three types of treachery cards that will exhaust all heroes at that point (Old Wives’ Tales, Avalanche!, Sleeping Sentry); the more players the more surely, this would normally put the heroes in unwinnable situation but Eleanor can change all that; and all these deadly cards are usually present in lower quantities, thus the chance of revealing them right away again is lower too. Furthermore, there are quests where players need to dig deeper into the encounter deck. In such, the fact that Eleanor’s ability will reveal another encounter card may even become beneficial.
Some characters require careful consideration as for what purpose they are going to fulfil in a round. Then there is Éowyn and the task becomes easy: when there is time to quest, commit her! She is the best in what she does, at least as far as the progress is concerned. The problems may arise from her more vulnerable self, one should better prepare some healing utilities and/or ways to cancel treachery, or she shall not survive a Journey to Rhosgobel, for instance. For questing characters in such scenarios, the difference between 3 and 4, and especially 5 hits, is often crucial. And it must feel terrible leaving Éowyn not committed to the quest just for the fear of losing her to Necromancer’s Reach.
That considered it is hard to justify her exclusion, especially in a bigger party. And as the number of players grows, her questing boost intensifies. Alternatively, in solo play, less threat accumulates and then all the more her willpower shines, often turning odds upside down. In cooperative play, it is easier to avoid leaving an attack undefended against Éowyn’s side, as it is also more probable to recruit one Daughter of the Nimrodel.
Dúnhere is a very interesting hero, to say the very least; a spirit hero that specializes in combat, and so far he is the only character who can attack into the staging area. No wonder, since Dúnhere is a warrior, he combos very well with the sphere of Tactics. It can be a stretch to say that Dúnhere requires Tactics in his deck to “function properly.” An obvious combo is Quick Strike and it only can be played on characters of the player’s control. It is a good card almost any time but has a little extra with Dúnhere as it allows him to strike during the quest phase which may result in not only destroying an enemy that could otherwise engage the player but destroying it before the quest resolution to surely cancel its threat. Which is perhaps why Dúnhere is in the Spirit sphere as through his attack one can help progress; low threat that seems synonymous with the sphere is great enhancement of the strategy for Dúnhere.
Beside Quick Strike and the new Unseen Strike that also suits the Rohan rider very much, there are a few spirit cards that would be a shame not to include in the deck when choosing Dúnhere: the Galadhrim’s Greeting will lower one’s threat and make fewer enemies to engage him. A Light in the Dark can then send the few that do engage back to the staging area. Generally, it is a weaker version of Feint, with Dúnhere though, it can be more potent.
Similar to Thalin who specializes in hurting enemies before their chance to come close, Dúnhere applies for similar benefits, Hail of Stones can weaken an enemy in the staging area, Descendant of Thorondor can damage two of them, and Beorning Beekeeper can hit them all (if only by one point of damage – but the one that can be decisive for Dúnhere to strike); all the more reasons why Tactics will help here.
Dúnhere’s usefulness might not be universal. There are quests in which he is especially fit choice and there are some for which his choosing is rather questionable. His uniqueness will nonetheless enhance any player’s gaming experience and the reward for easily taking care of situations which would otherwise be problematic is almost inevitable.
If Dúnhere’s usefulness is situational, then Dwalin’s is doubly so. Some scenarios just do not have that many enemies and some enemies are better to avoid (keep them in the staging area), but some quests just do not have that many orcs for Dwalin to fell. More so, it may not always be easy that Dwalin contributes the final stroke – this gets more complicated in a cooperative game play.
If things go well however, Dwalin may easily become a very worthy hero. The hero-combo with Boromir feels obvious; Boromir can ready to help Dwalin kill the orc: and one minus two is positively satisfying in this case. The hero line ups in which Dwalin finds his benefits are more numerous; Dáin may help as always with Dwarves, and both Brand and Legolas feature remarkably well in every strategy that is composed on killing enemies.
Finally, with so many Dwarves around, Dwalin is the only Spirit Dwarf hero, which is important to unlock many cards to make things work for the faction all the better: Untroubled by Darkness is one of them, especially worthwhile in the Mines, and it is always more convenient not to wait for Songs in order to play Bofur (most handy on round one) or Zigil Miner.
One needs not a Dwarf as a Spirit hero to play the aforementioned cards however, players can take advantage of having Frodo on their side. He is cheap, he quests well, and he can take undefended damage knowing he shall survive it. Frodo even functions well with Dwarves, especially with Glóin. The trick there is simple, leave an attack undefended, if it is tolerable, make Glóin rich, if it is too bad, raise your threat – not great that option but better than losing a hero.
The new Hobbit specific card, Good Meal, is very powerful. The attachment costs nothing and makes the next event cheap. Combined with Erebor Hammersmith and Dwarven Tomb (one Dwarven ally, the other Dwarven title at least) makes for a very effective recycling. Using the Galadhrim’s Greeting (again), the threat can go down in a hurry, something Frodo might hugely appreciate.
Frodo is just overall very flexible, the low cost seems often to be that case, the higher willpower and that combat utility all make up for an obvious choice into many a deck. The Ring-bearer does need a proper support but many are willing to offer their swords, axes and bows.