The main Hobbit protagonist is portrayed in an interesting fashion in the game, perhaps as an older and less active individual compared to his days of the Journey with Thorin & Co. His ability is very passive, so his perhaps most significant part is played whilst doing nothing, simply by drawing an extra card (for the first player) each round. This ability is undoubtedly strong, though perhaps more pronounced in solo play.
It is certainly not easy to find a proper role for Bilbo Baggins to play otherwise. Both his questing and attacking prowess are minimal. His defence is better but two hit points make his blocking risky. The game allows for many ways to remedy this, however. One obvious card for making Bilbo a better defender is A Burning Brand, this Lore sphere attachment cancelling all shadow effects coming toward the attached hero is a safe bet for Bilbo. Still, it only works against weaker enemies unless Bilbo’s defence is further enhanced. Protector of Lórien makes things much brighter; it can make Bilbo a constant quality defender and a questing one-hit-wonder, usually when closing out the game. This combo is interesting in that aspect that it goes both ways, Bilbo is good in pulling cards which are then used for the attachment to make him more useful.
Still, quite unlike in his adventures where he was able to fight great forest spiders, free his friends from captivity, stand a test of wits and will with the Dragon himself, or seal a deal to prevent a conflict between free peoples, Bilbo is not an obvious answer to many problems the game imposes on the players. His threat is a lot higher than his stats would sum up, which may cause problems early in the game before Bilbo is ready for trouble. So it is important to choose the right combination of companions. Denethor can help a big deal, predicting the outcome of the encounter deck so that Bilbo can be helpful in just the right way. This further advises for a solo game experience with the Hobbit.
Compared to Bilbo, one of his less famed companions from their great quest has 1 point greater willpower, 1 more hit point and 2 less threat cost. Statistically, Bifur is much more efficient than Bilbo. His ability is also very passive, completely dependent on other heroes to function. It is less potent in solo play. Still it can be used to good effect in multi-sphere deck: Gildor Inglorion, for instance, one of the (if not the) strongest allies in the game, can be often played a round earlier than normally, resulting in usually decisive shift of chance.
Bifur is great in questing, again all the more powerful with Dáin in play. 3-willpower for 7-threat cost is a great ratio. And with new ways of getting Dwarves ready (Lure of Moria, Erebor Record-keeper) Bifur can still become a valuable defender later in that same round.
This Dúnedain Ranger is so far the most significant supply of cards. The ability to draw 2 cards per round will not only give players greater range to operate with but can also feed strategies based on Protector of Lórien. To make things better still (and thus complicate them a little) Beravor is also an all around skilled hero, good in questing, attack or defence, all that whilst not being fragile. Combined with her ability, Beravor often finds more use in combat rather than questing: she can fight when necessary or be left to use her ability if not.
Due to her many a skill, the most valuable attachment for Beravor is Unexpected Courage. Making pretty much every hero stronger (despite it usually being a waste for heroes such as Éowyn or Bilbo), encouraged Beravor can easily become a force hard to be stopped. And even threat her cost is only slightly on the expensive side.
Perhaps the most tragic Steward of Gondor is an example of a hero that is much more efficient in solo play. To predict the outcome of the staging with deadly efficiency will largely ease the decision-making which is otherwise puzzling players when committing characters to the quest is due. But it is generally better to save Denethor’s ability for after questing. That way he will be ready to save the day in combat where he is one of the best defenders in the game. The same hesitant strategy applies to the Elven ally that cooperates so well with the Gondorian ruler, the very versatile and cheap in cost, Henamarth Riversong.
The usual suspects are A Burning Brand for defence, as with Bilbo, but unlike Bilbo Denethor’s base defence is good enough for a majority of enemies, plus he has got one extra hit point cushion compared to the old Hobbit. And as with Beravor, Unexpected Courage will make Denethor a super force. While Beravor can find some rivals among the company (especially in a multiplayer mode) for the precious attachment – Dúnhere, Legolas, Brand, Aragorn (especially the upcoming Strider version) can all be good candidates – with a smaller party Denethor should be the one encouraged so he can use his ability more than once (if required) or hand his sword in combat.
For so much of his prowess, Denethor is also a very threat-cheap hero. And thus the only shortcomings of this interesting character can be found in multiplayer games where the prediction becomes much less accurate with every player.
It is with this great Elf that the conclusion of the series lies. May that be a pardon for a slightly different entry. Games based on books have more than one difficulty. They have to both function as a game and portray their inspiration in a satisfactory manner. It is no easy matter with Tolkien characters, some of which were simply exceptionally powerful. One of those is Glorfindel, an ancient Noldo who gave his life in defeating a Balrog and saving (among others) Eärendil Elrond’s father who was in turn responsible for the downfall of Morgoth to whom Sauron was a lieutenant. Two ages later, returning to Middle-earth from the Halls of Mandos, Glorfindel played again a major role in the fate of Middle-earth when he (among other things) saved Frodo and his companions from the Black Riders on their flight to Rivendell, being able on more than one occasion to drive off several of the Nazgûl Sauron’s deadliest servants.
So it is not hard to see the difficulty in designing such a mighty character. The game has its tool for such complication though, the greater the sum of the stats is the greater the threat cost (with some noted exceptions). Among the known heroes, Glorfindel has the second greatest willpower, shared greatest attack (among five others), as he has the most hit points (together with four others). Yet, unlike Boromir, Aragorn or Imrahil, he is naturally unable to use more of his stats in one round. He can at least use his ability (spend one resource to heal one damage on any character) simultaneously with questing or fighting but the ability is (shockingly, given the source material) surely among the weakest in the game. Healing was more prominent aspect in early stages of the existence of the game (and is still in some strategies or quests – for which Glorfindel’s ability is still very feeble) but is now slowly becoming obsolete whilst the importance of cancelling encounter and shadow effects steeply rises. That said, the card is certainly not useless, despite the high threat, Glorfindel’s questing shall be helpful especially in the beginning of the game and the occasional healing might still save a character from dying.
Still, as for a just representation of this major character from the beloved story, one can only hope (and it shouldn’t be a fool’s hope) that Glorfindel will find a new way into the game, as his character has into the great mind of the Professor.