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Will Anderson

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  1. I almost always play thematic decks, and usually try to take them through an entire cycle with minimum changes. There's no doubt this has become far easier to do as the card pool has increased (I collected everything a few years ago and have kept up to date since). There has also been some general power creep in player cards, especially the last couple cycles. It's rare there will be cards as useless as those early ones; some have even been rehabilitated through the release of newer cards. There are still some quests that are going to be very difficult no matter what, but it's not the majority. And the Ered Mithrin and Vengeance of Mordor cycles have seen the release of some very powerful, very interesting heroes that broaden the way you can play the game. It is a big investment, no getting around it, but I've found my enjoyment of the game expanded in proportion to how many cards I had, as that meant more and more options, potential combinations, and ways to experiment.
  2. True, nothing wrong with going into Moria per se - just so long as the nature of the Balrog and the fate of the colony remain mysteries. And I see why they included those aspects at the time. Great cycle regardless. Ered Mithrin will satisfy some desire for dwarf-lore, though I do wish the game would have touched more on the history of the dwarven rings and other dwarves beside Durin's Folk. Since you like the CCG, The Ghost of Framsburg should also have some enjoyable resonance.
  3. I think you've provided some good summaries there. Here are my thoughts: 1. Lord of the Rings Saga – Almost all of the quests I consider good or great. Perfect realisation of theme without compromising on mechanics. Love the boons/burdens and fallen heroes, just wish there was even more of the campaign aspect. 2. Dwarrowdelf – Much nostalgia for this cycle, even if there are some weaknesses in quest mechanics – and the general wrongness of investigating Moria before the LotR. But it does feel like Moria with its good use of locations, and if you have the Nightmare packs it holds up especially well. 3. Angmar Awakened – Would rank this lower if I wanted to avoid teeth-gnashing, but overall the cycle's a win for showing us Arnor in all its darkness and throwing up formidable challenges. Escape from Mount Gram is the only loser for me in this one. 4. Ered Mithrin – Varied quests with the right amount of difficulty. One thing I really dislike is the story; thought the refugee plot should have ended in Gondor, and the whole rehashing of/homage to The Hobbit did not work for me. But I'd been clamouring for dragons and treasure and dwarf-ruins in the NE for years and the game delivered, so not going to complain much. 5. Dream-chaser – Enjoyed the ships and sailing, didn't care for the pirate-ish stuff (too Hollywood does 18th c Caribbean for me). Always happy to play this one through though. Pursuing a Corsair fleet and exploring Numenorean ruins are both thematic wins. 6. Shadows of Mirkwood – Bit of an odd one, as a number of quests have not aged well or were always weak. Really benefits from the Nightmare treatment. Big points for capturing and expanding a great piece of lore and getting the general feel of the region. Journey Down the Anduin and Conflict at the Carrock are always fun, and thematically Hunt for Gollum and Return to Mirkwood are perfect. 7. Against the Shadow – I may still be slightly biased for how punishing it was when it first came out (and how many times I had to play the bloody Morgul Vale), but now appreciate the almost puzzle-like nature of the first couple rounds of Peril in Pelargir and Ambush in Ithilien. And Steward's Fear will likely always make my top ten. Thematically it's okay, but nothing that creative. 8. Ring-maker – This was my least favourite cycle for a long while, but has climbed a bit due to its premise of unwittingly doing tasks for Saruman. I like how it sets up the Isengard situation we see in LotR and there's a really good variety in the quests when it comes to where you go and what you're doing. Downsides are all the tokens/counters, general fiddliness, and punishment for card draw. 9. Haradrim – Quite a few mechanically solid quests, but this cycle was a real dud on theme. Way too samey overall; I did not want to see more spiders, wargs and orcs here, and fighting apes and tigers was just odd (though I did enjoy capturing the oliphants). A missed opportunity to explore Umbar in any sort of depth. 10. Hobbit Saga – As you said. Appreciate the experimentation to represent theme (which is harder to do than with LotR) but it didn't work for the most part. Glad they learned their lesson. I do like Battle of Five Armies.
  4. One idea I had a few years ago was for a deluxe box-size or smaller release made up of 3 or 4 quests linked in a mini-campaign. The quests would focus on a relatively small region and be accompanied by a modest assortment of player cards, including a hero from that region with abilities particularly useful to those quests. Or, as has been done before, the hero could start as an objective ally whose story unfolds in the campaign, and then joins the player. This would give some extra resonance to FFG-created heroes and also allow proper exploration of places like Forochel, Dunland, Fangorn, Andrast, Eryn Vorn, Khand, and the wider Shire region. Now, I doubt that's the exact form any reboot might take, but I can imagine something akin to it, as expanding the campaign aspect in some form is a likely route. I'd also love to see stand-alone packs focused on famous events, even those that pre-date the time frame if possible. These could be more like the standard POD quests in size, but perhaps also include a new hero present at the event. My choices would be the White Council's attack on Dol Guldur, the Battle of Azanulbizar, Aragorn raiding the Umbar shipyards (more sailing mechanic please!), defending the Shire during the Fell Winter, Balin in Moria (founding or end – or possibly both), and the Dwarves and Dalemen escaping Smaug's attack (fighting a rearguard action to allow a certain number to escape). And – I don't know quite where this fits in – the Old Took and his remarkable daughters on some sort of adventure with Gandalf.
  5. Yes, the Orthanc-stone would be great too; I think I tend to forget about the Palantiri since the generic and underwhelming one we got in Against the Shadow. Hopefully Gizlivadi's right and we'll see them expanded/re-imagined at some point. An attempt at recovering the two lost in Forochel would make a brilliant PoD quest. And the more items the better for Saruman, as he clearly was a bit of a hoarder: there's that interesting bit in Unfinished Tales where Aragorn and Gimli uncover the Elendilmir, Isildur's chain, Eorl's jewels, etc. all squirreled away in Orthanc. I'd love to take Saruman ring-hunting in the Gladden Fields someday.
  6. I too was hoping for Saruman as a neutral hero akin to Gandalf, but I think Lore is at least as appropriate as Leadership for him. It's the dominant trait of all the Istari, and Saruman was considered their chief not because of some talent to boss them around, but because his was the greatest knowledge and power. It's stated that he knew the most about Elven rings and about the ways of the Enemy, and his mastery of machines, fires, and craft of all kinds definitely places him in the Lore sphere. He was a disciple of Aule, after all, and Curunir means 'man of skill'. He dwelt alone for most of his time in Middle Earth, and it was Gandalf who was far more active in leading the Free Peoples (or meddling with them, according to some!) That said, I'd love to see an attachment that gives him Leadership and represents his attempt to become a Power. Am I too hopeful in thinking we may still get a Saruman's Ring or Robe of Many Colours attachment that enables some additional cross-sphere antics beyond just Doomed cards? Gandalf has Shadowfax and Narya in addition to his staff, and surely Saruman merits similar attention.
  7. Part of it has to do with how many games I've played (dear god, so many...) and the size of my card pool. In the early days, I relied on the likes of Dain, Arwen, and Glorfindel to have a decent shot at the harder quests, but as my options grew I felt more confident in trialing less powerful heroes. At the same time, I got tired of some of the old stalwarts, whose effects - as has been mentioned - are often passive and not particularly interesting. Now, I tend to get the most enjoyment from heroes who offer specialized deck-building possibilities or synergize with less frequently used cards and archetypes: Folco, Haldan, Spirit Dain, Damrod, Tom Cotton, etc. The game has done a great job in these last two expansions (after what I considered a lackluster Harad cycle) in opening up new playstyles. I do think Tactics Eowyn has a good chance at coming out on top because she's the best combination of powerful yet still interesting, and she ticks so many boxes: strong theme, great art, low threat, efficient stats, top questing (in tactics no less), and with an ability that's not only strong but also flexible (save it for a boss, use it in an emergency, or get a handle on the game early).
  8. If you go to boardgamegeek.com's marketplace there are a couple copies of Khazad-dum for sale for a reasonable price. But in general having to wait for reprints can be a problem. I've kept up with the card pool for the last few years, but even before sourcing was an issue I'd usually just purchase whatever I'd find on sale. It's the most efficient way to maximize your player cards and ultimately give you the most options. If money is a factor at all, I wouldn't invest in a second Core until you have most of the other material. Those few extra powerful cards are useful, but you'll get so much more for your money buying 3 new packs instead. I'd also second Wilds of Rhovanian, as it - more than any other expansion - has a strong, playable out of the box strategy.
  9. Even though this has been far and away my favourite and most played game over the past 5 years, I remember when I first tried the Core Set quests and was not that impressed. My enjoyment increased hugely once I'd invested in a few of the deluxe expansions, as well as some key packs to get heroes like Boromir and Dain. I've never played one-handed solo, but if you're determined to go that route be aware it'll often be more difficult, particularly early on - though the game is now more 1-player (and 3 & 4 player) friendly, it was designed with 2 players in mind. I realise the advice to simply spend more money (on a game that you don't yet love) might not be the most welcome, but it was the solution for me. And yes, I agree that Khazad-dum is your best next step.
  10. I think you're probably right, although I'm speaking from assumptions rather than data. It's 3 or 4 years since I obtained the whole card pool and started buying expansions as they were released, but before that I would pick up packs almost completely based off of what could be got for a good bargain at the moment. I never had any interest in progression style, but even if I had I think that combination of availability + economics would have won out. And that was during a time of relative plenty in terms of reprints. I was pleased on behalf of new players that the Wilds of Rhovanian had a thematic, formidable archetype right out of the box. I suspect Caleb is very sensitive to the fact that (from what I've seen) most stores, if they keep physical stock of the game at all, typically have the Core Set and at most one or two of the most recent releases. I doubt many newer players have progression play on their minds.
  11. I'd prefer heroes with no previous versions, and also favour those who would be more active around the time of the Hobbit rather than the LotR. 1. Hobbit Leadership (Paladin or Esmeralda Took). I do enjoy Sam's abilities, but we need another leadership option. I tend to do very thematic line-ups, so I'd like a Took that might've gone on an adventure in their youth to replace Sam with, as we know he never left the Shire prior to LotR. 2. Saruman. Hopefully Neutral. As long as he's 14 threat and has some sort of access to all spheres (Saruman of Many Colours just fits too well) I'm happy. 3. Tactics Bofur. Was pleased to get Thorin Stonehelm, but I still think the Dwarves deserve another (decent) Tactics hero. A high defense would be nice. 4. Lore Farmer Maggott. Bombadil knew and praised him, and I've always felt there was a hidden story here. 5. Dale hero (Bain or FFG-created), either Leadership or Tactics. Just want more hero options for a great new archetype. I'd love to get Dis (Thorin's sister) as a Spirit ally, maybe with the thematic restriction that she can only be played if all that player's heroes are Dwarves.
  12. I see the thematic problem being less Sauron's power (there are plenty of examples of his failures) than the fractious nature of evil in Middle Earth; something of the co-operative feel may be lost playing a collection of orc-chiefs. I certainly have no objection to FFG experimenting with the idea, even if I think it very unlikely that they will. If anyone remembers ME:CCG, it issued a release where the players took on the role of one of the Nazgul and which I found to be a thematic improvement on the original (based around the Istari). Of course the major difference is that ME:CCG was a competitive game that suited the idea of competing lieutenants. A much more modest spin on the idea might be to have an expanded set of heroes or allies like Grima (and I need to believe Saruman's arrival is imminent!) that have detrimental effects based on their weaknesses or corruptibility. A mechanic could be created whereby heroes could fall into shadow as an additional way to be eliminated other than by death or threating out.
  13. No, you're right, it definitely COULDN'T have been Theoden's great-uncle Fastred (well, following the LCG timeline); I never said it could. I said it could or could not be the Fastred who rode WITH Theoden (to Pelannor). I tend to think it is intended as such, but since Caleb hasn't said and we have next to no knowledge of that character, it also seems possible it could be a 'random' Fastred, as it were. Basically, that HirumeShiruge has grounds for including or not including him as an FFG created hero.
  14. Haldan is FFG-created, while Fastred is actually a bit of a grey area. A Fastred is mentioned in the Song of the Mounds of Mundburg (listing heroes who died in the Battle of the Pelannor Fields) but he's no more than a name ('Herefara and Herubrand, Horn and Fastred, fought and fell there in a far country'). But Fasted was also the name of Theoden's great uncle, who died fighting the Haradrim with his Gondorion allies. So I think it's Caleb showing off his knowledge of the lore in making a nod to original. Of course, very natural to name someone after a famous fallen hero, so I that's how I imagine it. Whether the LCG character is the same Fastred that rode with Theoden, I think it's left open for you to interpret either way.
  15. I share your love of thematic decks and quests, and based on that factor I'd definitely go for Rhovanian. There was always going to be more canon to work with than in Harad, but the choice to have a powerful, ready-made Dale deck in the deluxe box (and a Woodman archetype on the way) really doubled down on the theme. Add to that Thranduil and Grimbeorn heroes, the nostalgic revisiting of the Core Set, and the chance to fight dragons instead of more spiders, wargs and orcs in Harad (yawn) and Rhovanian's basically hitting all the spots that I felt Sands of Harad missed.
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