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Seastan

Easy Mode Variant / Cycle Campaign Variant

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The recent thread by BigKahuna of an easy mode variant reminded me of a mode of play I had discussed in passing before but never really made into its own topic. It's meant to serve two purposes:

1) Prevent the frustration of continually losing to the same quest over and over.

2) Create a campaign style mode of play for the deluxes/cycles.

CYCLE CAMPAIGN RULES

1. Start with the first quest in a deluxe box.

2. Play through the 9 quests (3 deluxe + 6 cycle) in order, only moving on when you beat the previous quest.

3. Use the rules from the the Saga campaign regarding your heroes:

  • Make a list of all heroes you use on the campaign log.
  • If you beat a quest with one or more heroes in your discard pile, they are added to the fallen heroes list and cannot be used going forward.
  • If you bring in a new hero (whether because one of your heroes died or because you just want to use someone else), add the hero to the campaign log. Then you incur a permanent +1 threat penalty at setup going forward.

4. If you lose a quest (or scoop), the Valar will step in and assist you according to your need:

  • If you lost on or before the 5th round, the group gains 2 Grace of the Valar Tokens
  • If you lost after the 5th round, the group gains 1 Grace of the Valar Token
  • Keep track of two numbers in the campaign log:
    • How many Grace of the Valar Tokens the group currently has.
    • How many Grace of the Valar Tokens the group earned over the course of the campaign.
  • Redo the same quest.

5. When beginning a quest, immediately after taking or not taking a mulligan, each player may perform the below action X times, where X is how many Grace of the Valar Tokens the group currently has. This does not consume any Grace of the Valar Tokens.

  • Action: Draw 1 card or add 1 resource to the resource pool of a hero you control.

6. After beating a quest, reset the number of Grace of the Valar Tokens the group currently has to 0.

7. At the end of the campaign, your total score is the number of Grace of the Valar Tokens the group has earned over the course of the campaign. The lower the score, the better.

DISCUSSION

So the idea here is essentially the Saga rules with an added layer on top that makes it a bit easier to beat a quest if you've just lost against it. If you lasted more than 5 rounds against it, then maybe you just got unlucky and could beat it on the next try, so you're only given 1 Grace token. If you lost quickly, then 1 Grace token might not change the result so much, so you're given 2. Since the total score is dependent on how many Grace tokens you got, and not the number of losses, there is no incentive to sacrifice your heroes off early if you think you aren't going to make it. In fact, it's better for your final score to last into the 6th round then beat it on the next attempt.

With this mode of play you should never really get stuck on a quest forever. In the worst case you'll eventually have so many Grace tokens you can draw your whole deck and play down every card on the first turn.

When you move to the next quest your Grace tokens go away. They are only there to help you through the tough quests in the campaign to save yourself from repeated head-bashing. It also serves as a way to compare decks against each other, to see which ones can get through the campaign with less reliance on the Valar.

The advantage of this style of play compared to easy mode is that you actually get to play with the full encounter deck as designed. Now, you could combine these rules with easy mode but I don't see the point. You will eventually be given the tools you need to get a win.

Finally, one quirk about the standard Saga rules is that if you lose a hero during a quest, you can simply reset and replay the quest until you beat it without losing a hero. This removes some of the tension in each game because there is no real penalty for doing this. With this mode of play, it will end up impacting your final score.

 

 

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I like that.

Although I'm wondering if i'll not want to opt to replay the same quest again using the very same conditions, without incuring a valor/penalty, just to try to get a better outcome (bad luck ?) without reducing the difficulty.

 

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On 3/21/2018 at 2:28 PM, Seastan said:

The advantage of this style of play compared to easy mode is that you actually get to play with the full encounter deck as designed. Now, you could combine these rules with easy mode but I don't see the point. You will eventually be given the tools you need to get a win.

This whole variant is quite nice, but I still wanted to address this point. Some people might not want to wait until they've lost a quest three or four times until they're given enough bonus help for their deckbuilds/player skills. Some people just prefer the feel of easy mode quests no matter how relatively OP their decks might be. I wouldn't discourage such players from embracing a campaign-style playthrough of a cycle using your framework.

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8 hours ago, sappidus said:

This whole variant is quite nice, but I still wanted to address this point. Some people might not want to wait until they've lost a quest three or four times until they're given enough bonus help for their deckbuilds/player skills. Some people just prefer the feel of easy mode quests no matter how relatively OP their decks might be. I wouldn't discourage such players from embracing a campaign-style playthrough of a cycle using your framework.

Fair point, but there's nothing in my framework that prevents a player from simply saying "I scoop 3 times" at the start of a quest and give themselves 6 Grace of the Valar Tokens.

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7 hours ago, Seastan said:

Fair point, but there's nothing in my framework that prevents a player from simply saying "I scoop 3 times" at the start of a quest and give themselves 6 Grace of the Valar Tokens.

Yeah but if people want to cheat themselves, they're going to do it anyways.

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I wasn't exactly frowning upon doing that - I was just pointing out that someone who like the "feel" of easy mode as @sappidus says is welcome to start each quest with some tokens by scooping immediately a couple times. It will of course affect your final score.

The reason you might not want to do that is if your deck is better than you think it is, or if you get a lucky draw, you could pull out a win without many tokens, leading to a better overall result at the end of the campaign.

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Hi Chris, I like it! I will try it out on the Haradrim Cycle - if Poros ever arrives here in Denmark. I never start a cycle before all AP's are out anyway.

 

Cheers

Søren

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I like the idea. Although, any chance to bypass the 'fallen heroes' rule if I'm using Caldara? Even with the nerf I still use her, but with the 1-time restriction I dont care about reviving her...

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Absolutely brilliant concept.  Campaign mode is my favorite way to play the game, but there is usually one or two quests that are fundamentally different from the rest that thwart my effort to carry a team all the way through the nine quests.  I usually waste time playing those outliers countless times to stick to my overall goal.  "Cycle Campaign" mode is now my default mode of playing,

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11 hours ago, Rajam said:

I like the idea. Although, any chance to bypass the 'fallen heroes' rule if I'm using Caldara? Even with the nerf I still use her, but with the 1-time restriction I dont care about reviving her...

I think you should only add heroes to the fallen hero lists if they're destroyed, not discarded (and removed from the fallen hero list if revived during the quest). I think the traditional saga rules unfairly punish Caldara/Folco decks as you say. Boromir has a similar ability, and I think it would feel somewhat unthematic him to come back in the next quest, but I think that's a relatively minor point that can be overlooked for the sake of making these heroes usable in campaign mode.

 

 

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I began to play the Harad cycle with these rules. I play three handed (is as chaotic as it sounds). So far, I beat Escape from Umbar (tough) and Desert Crossing (was a breeze). 

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 0

 

----------------

 

Here are the decks I'm using:

 

Caldara 2.0

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Caldara (The Blood of Gondor)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)

Ally (26)
1x Bofur (The Redhorn Gate)
1x Elfhelm (The Dead Marshes)
3x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
3x Jubayr (The Mûmakil)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Pelargir Shipwright (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Prince Imrahil (The Flame of the West)
3x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Rider of the Mark (Road to Rivendell)
2x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (8)
2x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)

Event (13)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
2x Will of the West (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (3)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Send for Aid (The Treachery of Rhudaur)

3  Heroes,  50  Cards
Cards up to The Mûmakil

 

AraMaHama

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Háma (The Long Dark)
Mablung (The Nîn-in-Eilph)

Ally (14)
3x Defender of Rammas (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Marksman of Lórien (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)

Attachment (12)
3x Blade of Gondolin (Core Set)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Rivendell Bow (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)
2x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)

Event (21)
3x Feint (Core Set)
3x Foe-hammer (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Hands Upon the Bow (Shadow and Flame)
2x Hour of Wrath (The Dread Realm)
2x Oath of Eorl (The Black Serpent)
2x Straight Shot (On the Doorstep)
2x The Wizards's Voice (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Thicket of Spears (Core Set)
2x Wait no Longer (The Mûmakil)

Player Side Quest (3)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
2x Keep Watch (Beneath the Sands)

3  Heroes,  50  Cards
Cards up to The Crossings of Poros

 

It's a kind of magic MP

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)

Ally (19)
1x Beorn (Core Set)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
2x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
1x Yazan (The Mûmakil)

Attachment (21)
1x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Favor of the Valar (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
2x Gandalf's Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Thror's Map (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Vilya (Shadow and Flame)
1x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (8)
3x Daeron's Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Wealth of Gondor (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Word of Command (The Long Dark)

Player Side Quest (2)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Send for Aid (The Treachery of Rhudaur)

3  Heroes,  50  Cards
Cards up to The Crossings of Poros

 

 

 

Edited by Rajam

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Played The Long Arm of Mordor. I won in my second attempt. In the first one I stupidly tried to turtle stage 1 and kill the initial enemies before advancing, which was my mistake as I slowly got location-locked and lacked enough resources in general. Died by threat on round 6. On the second attempt I rushed stage 1 and turtled stage 2 which worked pretty fine.

The Caldara deck got Firyal, the Tactigorn deck got Yazan, and the Elrond-Gandalf deck got Kahliel. I switched the Firyal and Yazan allies on this last deck for Gimli and Vigilant Dúnadan to avoid duplicates. On my second attempt I also used some of my sideboard: I switched the Pelargir Shipwright allies for Ethir Swordsman on the Caldara deck. I should've also switched out Thicket of Spears and Oath of Eorl on the Tactigorn deck but I was too lazy to do so. On this second attempt I used the Grace of the Valar token I earned by losing in my 1st attempt and decided to begin with an extra resource on all decks.

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 1

 

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The Mûmakil was a piece of cake. I Vilya'd Firyal turn 1 which discarded several encounter cards with surge, and cancelled the dangerous treacheries when needed along with A Test of Will. Gandalf equipped with Dúnedain Warnings, A Burning Brand and several attachments to ready him helped to control the attacks of the wild Mûmaks.

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 1

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Race Across Harad wasn't really a problem either. The most fearsome moment came when the location with 5 threat that adds itself onto the Orcs' area came into play, and I had to cancel its effect to prevent the Orcs clearing their quest before I do. Other than that, the quest was pretty long and my threat was pretty high, although under control thanks to Favor of the Valar.

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 1

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Beneath the Sands was a bit tough, at some point I almost got a game over because I had two locations on the staging area whose threat is equal to the number of characters controlled by the 1st player, and the 1st player had... 13 characters o_O. Despite questing with something like 48, I still lost that quest phase by 6 points, reaching threats over 45 with two decks. In the next turn I cleared those locations thanks to Northern Trackers + Rhovanion Outriders and I could breath with the help of Secret Vigil plus Double Back.

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 1

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The Black Serpent was surprisingly easy. Maybe I got lucky as I never got overwhelmed by enemies; I had plenty of bothersome locations though. The Serpent's Redoubt was specially recurrent. Only recently I realized I played the forced effect on that location wrongly as it only applies to allies played from hand; I was exhausting everything, even Vilya'd allies and A Very Good Tale'd allies. I turtled stage 1 as much as I wanted, defeating several side quests and swarming the table with allies. Definitely didn't felt as a difficulty 8 quest; maybe in solo it's harder ¿?

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 1

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Played The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat last night. I had to restart my first attempt because I forgot the "reveal an encounter when cards are rescued" forced effect on stage 1, and the game was clearly rigged. The official gameplay lasted forever, easy top 3 in terms of game duration; might as well be the longest (took me ~3 hours o_O). During stage 1 I cleared 6 side quests (3 player and 3 encounter), and also I didn't bother that much by attempting to prevent getting allies captured all the time, and those were the main reasons this game took so long. The first rounds I got swarmed by enemies but thanks to Háma + Thicket of Spears I could endure. By the end, the Gandalf-Elrond deck got emptied, and I cycled the Caldara deck twice. I think I put into play every possible ally/attachment in those decks. Despite the game was so long, threat was never an issue thanks to Double Back, Favor of the Valar, Secret Vigil, and the encounter side quest which reduces threat when the allies it captures are rescued. Thror's Map is an awesome card; those pesky locations with their travel effects weren't an issue :)

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 1

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End of cycle. The Crossings of Poros was a tough quest: the first rounds I was barely making any progress (in the very 1st turn I revealed two Desolate Land: a location whose threat is equal to the highest number of characters controlled by a single player), and I almost died by threat (reached 48 with the Gandalf-Elrond deck). To make things worse, the side quest which doesn't let me to reduce my threat appeared. Northern Trackers + Rhovanion Outriders were the MVP in this quest, as in round 4 or 5 I could clear all the locations in the staging area and finally was able to make significant progress. Cleared the encounter side quest, triggered the response to reduce my threat by 3, and next turn I cleared Double Back to reduce my threat even further.

During stage 2 the encounter set was Mountains of Shadow: the one that increases my threat rapidly. During stage 3 the random chosen set was Desert Creatures. When I reached stage 4, I had to add four extra enemies from the set-aside sets, which joined the Black Serpent and another enemy previously revealed that round. I was fully setup when this happened: Gandalf with Shadowfax, 3 Dúnedain Warning and A Burning Brand, plus Hour of Wrath (credits to the Tactics deck) to make things super easy.

Final results:

  • Campaign log: Arwen Undómiel, Caldara, Círdan the Shipwright, Aragorn, Háma, Mablung, Denethor, Elrond, Gandalf
  • Fallen heroes: none
  • Grace of the Valar tokens earned: 1

---

With the exception of The Mûmakil, it was the first time I played the quests from the Harad cycle.  It was an... alright cycle. Actually I think this is the cycle I like the least, but that doesn't mean it's a bad cycle or something like that; the story is cool, but some quests were a bit disappointing, and I would've liked even more desert (and desserts :P) and less Orcs. maybe I need to wait for the Nightmare decks before making a final judgment. Dungeons of Cirith Gurat was obnoxious; I don't enjoy quests which drag you around forever. My favorite quests in this cycle were Escape from Umbar, Desert Crossing, The Mûmakil, and Race Across Harad. Mostly The Mûmakil; it was refreshing to fight new types of enemies. Hardest quests were Escape from Umbar and The Long Arm of Mordor, easiest were Desert Crossing and The Mûmakil. Personally I also found The Black Serpent quite easy, maybe I need to try it more times since it's supposed to be DL 8.

I might play a cycle on Nightmare mode next. I'm thinking in Khazad-Dûm because I have played none of the quests in this cycle in NM mode. Don't know yet.

The Grace of the Valar tokens is a really cool idea. You people should try it and report your results!

 

 

 

 

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Here is my playthrough of the Dwarrowdelf Cycle on Normal Level. Penalizing scoops by adding to the score definitely brings a new tension to the game.  I encourage others to give this play mode a try! 

 

Starting Heroes: Thorin, Ori, Dain; Nori, Gandalf, Gimli http://ringsdb.com/fellowship/view/4431/sellswords-miners(I’ve made a few modifications since this was posted, but just some fine tuning)

Valar Earned: 15

Fallen Hero List: Nori, Gandalf, Dwalin

 

Into The Pit

Valar Earned - 0

Fallen Hero List - None

Notes - Threat for both teams was 48.  So no surprise that 3x Signs of Conflict boosting threat a total of 6 for both sides nearly defeated the fellowship. Dark and Dreadful also kept thinning the pack of dwarves. No locations or enemies were of concern.

 

The Seventh Level

Valar Earned - 0

Fallen Hero List - Nori (Replaced with Dwalin)

Notes - Undisturbed Bones shadow took out Nori. Cave Troll came out in setup and Chieftan of the Pit came out in the second round. Had to engage both immediately, but managed the win.

 

Flight From Moria

Valar Earned - 0

Fallen Hero List - none

Notes - VP up to 7, but no A Foe Beyond drawn. Had Dain and Gimli with Citadel Plates just in case!

 

The Redhorn Gate

Valar Earned - 2

Fallen Hero List - none

Notes - First scoop resulted when Avalanche led to three undefended attacks and one lost hero in the second round. Played a second time with no Valar and won it handily.

 

Road to Rivendell

Valar Earned - 0

Fallen Hero List - none

Notes - Orc Ambush actually helped pull a Goblin Archer out of the staging area. The second Orc Ambush only pulled down one orc enemy, so the one card that can wreck about any deck had minimal impact.  Shadow effects can kill Arwen here, but only one did damage to her.  I was holding my breath on about 5 attacks after that.

 

Watcher in the Water

Valar Earned - 5

Fallen Hero List - none

Notes - 1st game earned me two Valar when SETUP produced 3 locations and three enemies. 2nd game earned me one Valar when I threated out trying to open the door.  3rd game ended early with a Wrapped tentacle taking Dain under the sea. I had such good opening hands I did not use the Valar points for those three games. Then I decided to curb stomp the quest and gave out one extra resource to five heroes.  Longbeard Elder scried the encounter deck and had the right card to discard for the win.

 

The Long Dark

Valar Earned - 2

Fallen Hero List - none

Notes - Played the 1st game wrong and counted that as a scoop.  Forgot to add threat to locations.  Would have activated all lost keywords and bad things would have happened. 2nd playthrough was unremarkable.

 

Foundations of Stone

Valar Earned - 2

Fallen Hero List - none

Notes - 1st lost was due to two bats and no ranged.  Undefended attacks finally caught up to me.  Gandalf finally got Shadowfax but fell to a bat swinging for 6 (3 other enemies and a shadow boosting +2). Bats again wrecked heroes on the second try.

 

Shadow and Flame

Valar Earned - 4

Fallen Hero List - Gandalf, Dwalin

Notes - Heroes all exhausted in an attempt to push the Balrog into the pit but came up short by 3 card cost for a first game lost. 2nd and 3rd losses failed to come up with enough chump blockers.  Missing Nori right about now!  Lost some heroes in the final win, but it’s the last game of the campaign, so while sad, no further ramifications.

Edited by Denison

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