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Wojo's (beyond)100 plays challenge comments (UPDATE: The Redhorn Gate - conclusion)

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 Khazad-Dum scenario #1
Scenario played: Into the Pit
Date: 29 Oct 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 5 times - Won, lost twice, tweaked my deck and won twice
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[Local] First play seemed like doomed cause from the start … on the very first card from encounter deck (sudden pitfall?) I lost Frodo. I decided to carry on just to get a feel for the scenario. It was though but slowly my fellowship grew and despite missing the hero I was making a progress. I was a bit scared when the second scenario card instructed me to look for Patrol Leader but he seemed fairly harmless and the boon of discarding new enemies drawn from the encounter deck solidified this felling. Sure enough it was not so … his swing killed one of my Northern Trackers (with a little help from shadow card) and my killing attack was canceled by his ability. I calculated my chances and saw that I will not be able to kill him in one go next time around as one of my attackers would have to stand down to defend. Two swings in turn meant two chances that some damage will be be cancelled. Luckily for me I draw Gandalf and with his help I was able to kill the orc (no cancel this time). Last stage surprised me again with no resources generation but Theodred skill helped me to get few crucial cards out and I won. I was about to declare the scenario easy (well wining with only two heroes from the start made me fell confident) when next to plays happened:
- First I lost due to the threat dial exploding … treacheries and enemies kept my team down to only heroes and the amount of damage that had to be converted by Frodo to threat soon enough put me into high 40s. At the same time locations kept piling up (I was unwilling to explore Zigil Shaft using its threat raising ability and unable to overcome it in the staging area) and I made no progress … 50 was reached soon enough.
- Second one was lost by enemies chopping my team into pieces. I told you about the boon of discarding enemies in stage two? Well it turns out that enemies can show up from shadow effects as well - I had 3 goblin swordsman show up this way and this combined with Patrol Leader resistance to damage …
After those two tries I spotted 2 cards that were littering my deck (song of kings and dunedain mark) so I replaced them with more useful stuff (added 2 more copies of Elfhelm, 3x Zigil Miner and Lorien Guide). This made resource demand of my deck more balanced (more spirit cards since I have two heroes from this sphere) and in the evening I made two more attempts and this time was more successful.
- I would call this attempt - slow and steady way through the mines. I was able to menage my threat quite well and cancel some nasty shadow cards/treacheries with hasty stroke/strength of will.
- Next one was probably my favorite play of this scenario. I would entitle it: "Everything goes well until …". It was going extremely well I had ton of resources, quite a number of allies in play. I was about to take down the patrol leader when his attack shadow effect killed two of my heroes (Frodo was discarded as a defender and than Theodred had to die as a result of undefended attack). What was even worse damage from my attack was again canceled by Patrol Leader. I was about to quit … but for the last time I looked at my hand, the table. I had ton of cards but half of them was unplayable anymore with Theodred gone but I had Gandalf in hand and ton of resources on my last hero (Eowyn had a Steward of Gondor attached). I had last chance … play Gandalf and instant kill the Leader. It was cancelled of course but this time normal attack went through. Next it was a race to exit (well race up to find the book :) ). Of course enemies started to pop up from the encounter deck and watchful eyes that were placed on Eowyn. Next turn though I was able to complete this very exciting play and congratulate myself on the win and best score despite two dead heroes.
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[General] Short thoughts as I wrote too much already:
- I have a strange felling about this scenario's difficulty. I won it twice despite loosing heroes. I lost it twice despite avoiding the worst treacheries.
- I guess it follows from the fact that in this scenario is very dangerous if you draw too many enemies at the same time. This in turns follows from the shadow effects which are frequent and quite brutal (discard defender) /annoying (cancel damage on this enemy). This makes relatively weak enemies (as Goblin Swordman) quite powerful and unpredictible at times.
- I want to bash instant kill treacheries (especially sudden pitfall) but due to my experiences I am not ready to do it yet.
- I love some treacheries that force you keep strong guys ready (exhausted hero at the end of combat=another card from the encounter deck, exhaust character and see if he is not strong enough you have to discard him).
All in all I like this scenario even if it is a bit too swingy for my taste.

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Scenario played: Into the Pit
Date: 07 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Theodred (spirit/leadership)
Played 5 times - Won 3 times, lost twice
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[Local] Last time I went overboard with describing how my plays want so this time I will keep it short.
LOST:
- Thread exploded (although I kept playing and my final threat level would be 48)
- Enemies overwhelmed me. I had 3 goblin swordsmen (their shadow effect is strong) and Patrol leader engaged at one time. At this point it didn't matter that I had 5 or so allies in my fellowship. I made a mistake here of traveling to Khazad Bridge and was unable to explore it next
WON:
I will not comment much here. The deck works quite good although I should consider few more cards that can put progress tokens on locations in the staging area (ex.: replace Zigil Miner with Ridermarch Finest) to be able to move through stage one faster if I do not draw Northern Tracker or Snowburn Scout).
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[General] Here I planned to put my final thoughts on the scenario but it is hard. Why? Because I do not like it so much but I can't seem to pin down why. Maybe bullet list will help:
The Good:
- Excellent and thematic first stage - you need to enter through a gate, visit the first chamber and traverse the bridge.
- Nasty treacheries that you have to take into account when planing your quest phase (ex.: The one that forces you to exhaust a character and by flip of a card check if he dies can be easily avoided by committing all characters but if you get an enemy instead? By a similar token sudden pitfall forces you to send some disposable characters on the quest not to loose your strong quester with same trade off)
The Bad:
- Although the scenario really tries to tell a story of entering the mines, grabbing a goblin and looking for a book for some reason it all feels a bit forcefully put together.
- Nasty, instant kill shadow effects (sudden pitfall, goblin enemies get +3 - they all are, +2 when last player is attacked - I always am solo) … I can see how to try to deal with nasty treacheries but here there is little you can do against shadow (there is only so many hasty strokes you can draw … except see final remarks bellow*)
- Stage 3 (and a second one once you get its start under control) are a bit boring to tell the truth. Yeah resource ban at the end seems hard but ussualy at this point you do not need much anyway as you racing to the end.

*I wonder if this scenario would play better with lore sphere. I can see several cards that would work great (Denethor, burning brand, Riversong, strider path, forest snare etc.). Especially Denethor's skill could offset some nasty strings of enemies and their deadly shadow effects while spirit would take care of location and questing. Yes I guess it would work better but two of my points of criticism would still stay the same.

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Scenario played: The seventh level
Date: 08 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Legolas (earlier Boromir) (tactics/spirit)
Played 4 times: 3 loses and 1 win.
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[Local] This time I've broken my own rule and glanced at the cards composing the scenario before playing. I saw many enemies and decided to that this a good excuse to finally significantly change my deck. I got rid of leadership and went with one spirit and two tactics heroes. Here is the summary of my experiences:
- First attempt (I used Boromir here). Goblin Archers were the bane of existence this time. I had almost no way to deal with them except Gandalf (I overlooked that 3 copies of one time use attack eagle had ranged skill). At first I was not worried looking at huge amount of hit points my tactics heroes had but … when two of them were in the staging area - I was taking two (or even four) wounds in one round and my progress was completely stooped.
- I decided to modify my deck to include more ranged characters but decided that the only way to be sure to have them in play is to replace Boromir with Legolas. This time I was unable to draw any allies and with three man team the pool of events I had in my hand quickly dwindled down to handle some not so difficult situations. I was soon overwhelmed by the enemies unable to keep up with limited support.
- I reduced the number of weapons in my deck and replaced them with more allies. I also included more spirit allies as resources kept piling up on Eowyn. This time I had an excellent draw and was sure to succeed this time. Everything went well until Orc Summoner appeared - including the additional enemy from scenario I had 4 enemies in the staging area after this phase. I looked at my cards and decided that I can still pull it off. Two of my allies went down and two enemies went down but … shadow effects added next two enemies to the staging area before next round even started … which added two more. I was dead.
- I was about to give up but determination kept me going and decided to go one more. I won this time but to tell the truth it was still though and it took me 11 turns (I was fairly lucky with draws in the second stage this time). Again I had problem with the archers. I realized that Legolas without any weapon can't kill them due to their ridiculously high defence of 3. Nevertheless once I was able to deal with them it went much better.
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[General] Oh man! This was way harder that I expected. After all FFG's DL for this scenario is 3 which is the second easiest ever. I think playtesters that assigned it were very very lucky in their attempts or their deck building skills are through the roof. In all honesty I can see that it can be very easy if you are lucky but it can kill any imaginable fellowship that you could construct with a little help of (un)luck. I feel that difficulty of particular attempt can rage from 1 all the way to 10. I do have some ideas on how to improve my deck though:

- I need more cheap allies with two willpower points - Eowyn needs support in questing at times.
- I am curious if all spirit deck can attempt to run through this scenario with reasonable chance for success.

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Scenario played: The seventh level
Date: 08 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Legolas (tactics/spirit)
Played 4 times: lost x3, won once
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[Local] After each subsequent loss I went and adjusted my deck a little but it seems that I can't beat the quest on a regular basis. I will not go into the details of each play as the scenario seems fairly standard - I get overwhelmed by tons of enemies. As for deck tweaks I added more allies (spirit with 2 will power). What is even worse after so many failures my successful attempt didn't feel all that great and I would say that luck contributed as much to my success as deck changes.
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[General] Wow, talk about frustrating experience! At the same time I feel like FFG is mocking me with their difficulty rating of 3 for this one and this forces me to think about new tweaks to make my deck at least semi successful against this scenario. I even resorted to reading few session reports to get some inspiration on how to improve my deck and found few interesting ideas:
- How about replacing Legolas with Thalin? The main reason for introducing Legolas was to deal with goblin archers … but what if I could kill them just when they appear from the encounter deck?
- So far I didn't include the escort from Edoras as I felt that one time use allies are a waste for this scenario. Now I see that they might allow me to quickly finish stage two of the quest when things get out of hand quickly.

What I am worried about is the loss of progress I was getting from Legolas and the fact that I will have to keep Gimli behind to attack which means loss of one will power during questing (at least at stage one). We shall see.

So despite the above negative comments you can see that I am intrigued by the scenario which is a good thing of course - it forced me to question my deck building.

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For what it's worth, Seventh Level's difficulty rating seems to be set up for 2 players, since I've had the same experience as you in solo play: so hard! One way to get through the mass of orcs etc is to have Thalin questing, and then Gondorian Spearman as defender, since many many orcs in this quest only have 2 HP. It is very tough solo though, no question.

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Scenario played: The seventh level
Date: 12 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Legolas (tactics/spirit)
Played 2 times, won both.
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[Local] After so many losses it was refreshing to win twice in a row. I had previously constructed deck with me and was able to play for a bit. It means that I was unable to test any of previously presented ideas but here is short description of my experiences this time:
- First try was like walk in the park. Enemies were coming one or two at the time and even troll was unable to impress me much (I used feint and killed him right after that). In three turns I was ready to go to the second stage and I was able to beat it in two turns and achieved the best score so far.
- Second one was much harder. I had three enemies (including troll) engaged with me and two more waiting in the staging area at some point. Nevertheless by "clever wound distribution" among heroes i was able to survive and put everything under control. I won with the worst score so far this time. All of my heroes had max number of wounds possible on them.
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[General] What contributed to my wins this time was a slight change in my strategy and a little bit of luck (no orc horn blowers in both attempts - they were discarded as shadow cards). My "new" strategy is two move through stage one slower so that I am in a position to end stage two of the quest in at most two round. This requires a slower progress on stage one (several times in my second try this time I have not used the Legolas ability)

I can see that my deck is fairly effective against this scenario I really see cards that I am not glad to have drawn (maybe I might get rid of the armor for Gimli and replace it with stronger/more expensive tactics ally).

Monkeyrama, thanks for your replay. I was actually amazed by the fact that not so many players complained about this scenario difficulty, so thanks for stepping up and saying that you had similar experience. I can see now that indeed DR=3 might be correct for two players. Thank you also for the hint with Thalin/Gondor spearman combo - it is a very good one. I am using Swift Strike for the some reason but since I have only two copies of it available it is not so reliable and what is worst it is one time use only while your combo seems to have a possibility of working every round.

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Scenario played: The seventh level
Date: 14 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 3 times - lost twice, won once (beat my worst score :) )
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[Local] I was abut to play the game with my recently successful deck but since this time I had my cards handy I decided to try replacing Legolas with Thalin. I attached the Book of M. to him so he can be committed to the quest and still be able to act as a defender. Losses were due to enemies swarming and location(!) lock. In all three games I faced trolls coming in close succession (twice it was round after round so I guess my shuffling was not throughout enough). I made small adjustments to my deck each time (getting rid of the armor, blade of Gondolin and replacing them with Veteran Axehand and Dwarrowdelf Axe). I felt confident that my deck is ready but still I lost twice. Here are some things that work great:
- Thalin and Gondorian spearman is an auto-kill for most of the enemies that come from the encounter deck (bypassing the shadow effect which is very important)
- One troll is not a great threat by itself although I usually need to sacrifice a strong ally (Winged Guardian all Gandalf) and powerful event (feint, quick strike etc.)
- Thalin auto-kill on Goblin archers.
Here are some things that were not great:
- Two troll is the row are also manageable most of the time but it cost me too much and if shadow effects are though I am left too vulnerable.
- Not enough shadow cancel (although I fell I have many ways, auto-kill combo as above, swift strike, hasty stroke … would love to have burning brand somehow)
- Thalin can't attack because of the book (although I need him committed to the quest anyway) this means that faint becomes waker then with Legolas as I am loosing some attack power.
- Not enough quest power to quickly go through stage two (here the loss of Legolas was visible and allowed for location lock once)
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[General] I hate this scenario for its random nature but I love the way it challenges me to optimize my deck to the last single card. On the other hand I can see that as far as mechanics go this quest is fairly weak and only its challenging nature keeps me trying to beat it. As I see it now if I find a deck with over 50% win percentage I will put this quest to rest and do not expect to return to it any time soon.

Having said that I am loving the fact that I get to play with so many new cards (tactics mostly) and said goodbye (for now) to few favorite but overused (Sneak attack, Steward of Gondor, The Galadhrim's Greeting etc.)

One more thing that I like is that now fighting feels very tactical. There usually few ways to deal with a given enemy (enemies) and you need a little bit of planing and some thinking on how to do it in oreder to be ready for later.

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Scenario played: The seventh level
Date: 14 Nov 2012 (it is hard to keep the dates stright)
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 2 times - won twice
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[Local] After last games I made two adjustments got rid of Stand up and Fight and Dwarrowdelf Axe and added Eagles of the Misty Mountains and Escort from Edoras. First choice was to add more expensive tactics allies as in several games I saw this resources pilling up on the heroes and I like the versatility of EoftMM as they can both quest and fight well (their response might be also interesting but my deck comes with 9 eagles cards in total so I am not counting on it much). Escort from Edoras was added mainly to push through stage two fast.
- First play was a fairly straightforward win although early troll did make me go slower than I would like.
- In the second play I've drawn Goblin Archer as a setup card (very unlucky draw for my deck as otherwise those guys die from Thalin's ability). This constant +2 threat lead to a location lock (augmented by annoying goblin scout) that almost killed me but with the help of Escort from Edoras and all my questing characters I was able to brake it. I lost a lot of time though and threat was a real danger but strong questing power (timely Gandalf helped) allowed me to get through stage 2 fast.
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[General] I think I've finally found a deck that I am satisfied with. Of course random nature of this quest will still lead to losses but I am quite confident that I can win more then 50% of the time now. I will play some more to confirm that but expect reports from the next scenario (Flight from Moria) soon.

All in all my final opinion on this quest is settling on a positive one. Yeah, it is random, non very well balanced and the story it tells is not an engaging one but it forced complete redesign of my deck which is a great thing, it allowed me to see and use so many cards that "were collecting dust" in the box, revisit heroes that I have not seen since playing with core set alone. New challenge is next to new stories and exciting games is something that I look very much in each new adventure pack so even if those other elements are missing I am still happy with how this scenario turned out after all.

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Scenario played: The seventh level
Date: 18 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 4 times - lost twice, won twice
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[Local] First defeat was caused by the second troll coming before I was able to deal with the first one (actually other enemies slowed me down with killing the first troll). This was too much to handle and my heroes were defeated. In the second attempt treacheries had their way with me and the troll sealed my fate. Three of my allies were discarded due to treacheries and in that final one was discarded when defending the troll (which meant auto-kill on one of the heroes). I decided to play for a while (as troll did go down after that) but when unexpected courage of Gimli was discarded on another treachery I knew I was going down.

As for successful attempts there was not much to them. I got my deck going and even orc horn blower was unable to stop me although it did slow me down on my second attempt.
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[General] I know I am running in circles with a rating on this scenario and I think it will stay like this the end. This time I was dissatisfied with my plays. It feels that after all this deck optimization it still all goes down to how encounter deck is treating me - if it trows its best at me then I am toasted and if not the games are quite boring. I am glad that I am happy with all my draws and rarely I see a card that I feel is a waste at this time this means that the deck is as good as I can do for now.

If I put all this thoughts about The Seventh level scenario together I am coming up with an average score. The thing is that its best quality is that is first combat intensive one that forced me to rethink my strategy but I am fully expecting it to be overshadowed soon by another scenario that will do it much better and in a less random way.

This brings me to a more general observation about gaming (and even beyond): If a game (scenario, movie etc.) brings something new to the table (be it mechanics, felling, story) it will capture your attention for sure but after all the fact whether it is well executed will decide if it will stay and be enjoyed for longer time and be considered seminal or be replaced/forgotten.

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Date: 20 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 2 times - won both
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[Local] Noting new to report here. During first play I had an excellent draws and was sure that I can win and I did. I was a bit disappointed that I was unable to beat my high score (actually it was way worse, I must have spent too much time in stage one). In the second case I had a terrible draw (too many spirit cards). I had a tense moment when defender designed to absorb troll's attack was discarded by a shadow effect I had to kill two additional allies to soften the blow before soaking damage to Gimli. Despite that I was able to kill the troll and go on and win in the end.
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[General] Nothing new about the scenario so I will go on and present a mini review of FFG's deck boxes in a separate thread.

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Scenario played: Flight from Moria
Date: 20 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 8 times - won 4, lost 4
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[session Report] I will be brief this time as I played it so many times that the details of each play are a bit hazy.
- First play was an excellent experience (probably the best with this scenario). I didn't look through the cards earlier and assumed that I need to collect several victory points before finding an exit. This approach lead to enormous threat from Nameless Fear. Slowly though I was progressing forward (many due to several spirit allies) and finally found one possible exit (prisoned by shadow) but I didn't like the risk of being eliminated with just one card flip so I decided to carry on. Next quest card called for tools (that I found nearly at the start). At this time the troll showed up and killing him required all the attention from Gimli (he was carrying the tools). Next three threat from the staging area was too much (especially that Gimli had to stay ready to dig). Soon enough I died because of threat overdose.
- In second play I knew what to expect. I started to bypass quest cards (but not all yet as I wasn't sure if I saw all of them). This time it took me too much time to find the tools and in the mean time got location locked.
- First win after that assured me that only complete avoidance of stage completion is a key in this scenario.
- Another win was more interesting as I was able to do it despite Thalin falling down due to shadow effect that discarded an ally defender. Unexpected Courage on Gimli worked miracles.
- Lost again, very quickly. Troll plus nasty treacheries killed my by turn 4 or so.
- Won. Had a bit of bad luck with treachery making me to reshuffle the quest cards when I had tolls and was on the last stage digging. Unexpected courage on Gimli with tools made the end stage fairly easy when I got to it again.
- Lost swamped by the enemies this time. Shadow effects are much less frequent here then in The 7th level but if you are unlucky it is possible to get a string of enemies spawning new ones faster than you can deal with them. That is what happened to me this time.
- Won with an excellent score. Fairly quickly found tools and Gimli with an unexpected courage was able to smash through a wall in no time.
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[General thoughts] Oh man … after first play I was about to say that this is the best scenario ever. It is very good but I am disappointed by the missed opportunity to make it outstanding. So what went wrong in my opinion:
- There is absolutely no reason to gain victory points in this scenario - in fact you are severely punished for doing that. Ok, you need to bypass completing quest cards but you were unlucky enough to face Giant Troll Cave and killed it … guess what nameless fear is 3 points more powerful.
- The second possibility to win (blocked by shadow) is so totally random (especially solo) with flipping the card to check if you are eliminated that I personally will never use it. At the same time if you are lucky you can finish the scenario in two turns easily if its the first Stage 2 card to appear and you just go for it for fun. Yeah it might be interesting as a last ditch effort, all or nothing type of option with hearos almost dead but as it stands it does not work this way.

Looking at those two drawbacks it is so easy to see other option that would make this scenario more thematic and interesting. How about requiring the player to have at least 6VPs to be able to use blocked by shadow exit instead of a card flip (you traveled far and long so you luckily found an exit finally) this mechanic would introduce two strategies against the scenario - either avoid VPs totally and go for tools or collect VPs and try to survive increasing threat from Nameless Fear to somehow sneak by it and escape. I am afraid that this scenario was slight underdeveloped towards the end of its design.

I will write some more about good things about the scenario next time.

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Scenario played: Flight from Moria
Date: 21 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 2 times, won both.
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[session Report] Both wins were quite easy with no real danger of loosing in any of them.
- During first play I was severely slowed down by two Shadows of Fear treacheries coming up one after the other. First one hurt a little bit (consumed 3 resources) but the second one costed me three turns as I had to put it on Gimli that was carrying the tools.
- Second started as one of the luckiest one (tools came as a first card from the encounter deck) and soon I was able to find Escape from Darkness right after this. I was not able to beat my high score though as digging without unexpected courage is much slower (although it was worse only by two points in the end due to Gandalf showing up twice and reducing the threat quite a bit).
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[General thoughts] So last time I complained that Flight from Moria missed opportunities to become one of the best scenario out there but still claimed to like it. So let me iterate why:

- Thematic feel. I love turning the next quest stage at the beginning of quest phase. Yeah it is random, you can't plan for it but the thematic feel makes up for it big time. You are running away from the mines. You do not have time to scout you just press on and change the way on the fly if needed.
- How many of the  treacheries work well in the story context. I saw some of them before but now they are not only more dangerous (like removing progress tokens from a quest card that you were digging through for the past 3 turns) but make sense (you caused the ceiling to collapse with your tools and need to start over).
- The increasing threat from the staging area is an excellent idea. Nameless Fear is slowly approaching reaching its full deadly potential with every turn.
- The fact that you do not fight Nameless fear just trying to get away from it makes sense and its thrilling (although I doesn't feel as much as frantic run in Return to Mirkwood.
- Love the idea that tools will appear not only from the encounter deck but that stage cards brings them in - gives the search more intense and interesting feel that random draw as per athelas in A Journey to Rosghobel.
- Like the idea of bypassing quest cards as an option (although it would be great to loose some benefit by doing that for now in most cases it is a trivial decision in most cases).
- Its drawbacks sparked an interest in me to fix it. My custom redesign creative juices are flowing we shall see if I can come up with something good here.

I am really eager to check the first scenario from Dwarrowdelf cycle but I am tempted to prepare my own variant for Flight from Moria so we shall see what session reports will bring next time.

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Scenario played: modified Flight from Moria
Date: 24&25 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 2 (won and lost)
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[Rule changes]
Players are now forced to face some of the mine dangers or explore them before they can try to escape. I also wanted to make a decision whether to bypass a stage card harder and I wanted Nameless Fear to become a more of a threat so I introduced the following :
- Each time you bypass a quest stage after the combat phase - put a progress token on Nameless Fear.
- Each time you use tools on Escape from Darkness stage put a progress token on Nameless Fear.
- When Nameless Fear has two progress tokens on him, he attacks first player (deal him a shadow card). A player is allowed to declare a defender. Note that Nameless Fear does not engage a player in order to attack and players do not get to strike back.
- Both quest card's that allow you to win (Blocked by Shadow and Escape from Darkness) now require you to have certain number of VPs (after tests I decided on 5). If you do not fulfill this requirement once you reveal this card you are forced to put it at the bottom of the quest deck and reveal a new one instead (note this is not treated as bypassing a location).
- Blocked by Shadow looses his effect that allows player to choose to draw cards to see if they are eliminated or replacing it.
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[session Report] I have to say that the scenario plays much better with those changes. It requires you to collect VPs which makes questing hard. Bypassing stages is a tough choice and you need to have some allies ready to absorb attacks from Nameless Fear. I won my first attempt although it was fund and tense. In the second one I would be destroyed few times but decided to carry on and see how it will play out- finished with 53 threat.
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[General thoughts] Creating scenarios (or modifying in my case) is fun and creative but I do not know what it is but I get much more joy from playing official ones (even if they are weaker). I think it all comes down to components - in FFG's quest you have everything on the cards, game runs smoothly. In case of custom scenarios the components are sub standard (proxies etc) or you have to keep additional rules in your head (in my case).

NOTE: If you are interested in my version of Flight From Moria please fell free to try it out and let me know how do you like it (what works, what does not). You can also modify it as much as you want (eg.: you can make it harder by increasing VP requirement I introduced above, but I do not recommend going over 7VP - total # you can get from quest cards).

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Scenario played: Redhorn Gate
Date: 25 Nov 2012 
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Gimli, Thalin (tactics/spirit)
Played 1 time, lost. 
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NOTE: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THIS SCENARIO! SPOILERS AHEAD. 
[session Report] I opened the new pack and went with my Moria tested deck, here is their story:

Trusty warriors supported by strong willed allies started the climb fast dispatching enemies left and right. Great smile of Arwen was inspiring heroes that gathered help and were able to enlist new member at almost every step. Things started to changes at it started to snow in the higher part of the mountains - slowly freezing cold was weighting down heroes but the support of allies was strong enough to get them close to the top. 

Here the mountains unleashed their fury, howl of snow storm sounded as if Saouron him self descended on them. Veteran warrior heroes and allies stopped, unable to carry on (they were ready to fight the mightiest trolls but not the nature itself) and soon froze to death. It takes a lot to brake the will of the dwarves but Gimli and Thalin gave in. Eowyn and remnants of the party made little progress but decided to press on hoping to pass the cursed Caradhras, counting on easier path later on. Then Eowyn was struck by Freezing Cold and knew it was all over but there was no way down for them. Few moments latter howling snow storm threw precious Arwen of the cliff … only Eowyn through her half frozen eyes witnessed her death as the rest of the party was killed by the snow assault at the same time. No one lived to tell the tale as the enemy approached to kill the lone daughter of Rohan. 
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[General thoughts]

Talk about thematic experience. My team was moving fast first. Then slowly the cold started to take its toll, slowing me down. Then the real storm hit and whipped me out (together with stage 3 effect). I really, really recommend playing scenarios blind - so far the most thematic experiences I got were when playing like this. DO not read scenario spoilers, do not read discussions like this. Go in and experience it, you will not regret. Once you know the encounter deck at least a bit the feeling changes, you still get the great surprises in the way the cards come up but some sense of living through the great adventure is lost as you know what to expect. Here the tactical and strategic game begins but those moments of terror or surprise are not as powerful anymore. Do not devoid yourself of this first play marvel - this is something that is so unique to this game (so far I think only RPGs can create that in a long run). Now onto the game - I need to build the deck that can scale those mountains - and I have quite few ideas on how to do it. 

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Scenario played: Redhorn Gate
Date: 28 Nov 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 2 times - won both
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[session Report] So after epic (and fantastic) failure of my Tactics/Spirit deck against Redhorn Gate I've needed new team that would be able to deal with the hazards of escorting Arwen through the Misty Mountains. I knew that I need more spirit allies in my team so I went with two heroes from this sphere I was fairly sure that I wanted at least two will power on my heroes so that made my choice limited to basically Eowyn and Frodo. The more interesting question which sphere to choose to support them. I decided against mono sphere and went with Lore just to see some more cards (I played Spirit Leadership a lot at the beginning). This choice was reinforced by the fact that Arwen's ability guaranteed a nice resource generation effectively replacing the need for Theodred. I was really debating taking the Lore Glorfindel (another strong quester) but decided to go with Denathor. His job (besides generating resources) would be to stand back, defend or peek at the cards and get rid the real nasties by putting them on the bottom of the deck. My real worries was the attacking ability of my team - defending was easy and heroes could take care of it but slaying even those wimpy enemies might be hard to kill but I decided to see that in practice.

First try started quite hard - Mountain Warg was drawn at setup and I knew killing him would be very hard with him returning to the staging area. For now though my threat was low enough so I let him sit in the staging area. I was happy to see Unexpected Courage in my starting hand and soon it went on Denathor (so he can look ahead and protect me from troubles). This was a blessing, in fact I soon had another copy of this card on Denathor and he often had to use his ability 3 times to get rid of powerful enemies and/or nasty treacheries. My progress was very slow but I also had Northern Tracker and was planing on getting rid of Caradhras from the staging area using his ability. It took a long time (and Gandalf had to kill the Warg) but I did it. I expected easy victory at that point. Just to be sure I've red the text on quest 2B and realized that the mountain had to be scaled again (the quest effect forced to put it in play again). Denathor had his hands full to keep the dangers at bay, Gandalf had to help with questing and slowly but surely I was able to traverse the Caradhras. Final score was almost 200 and my threat was above 40 but the team manged to get to the other side of the Mountains.

In the second attempt my deck was less generous (at least with Unexpected Courage although I had Rumors of the Earth and Riversong allay to save Denathor's ability for crucial things). I lingered at the base of the mountain and was able to draw a very decent hand of cards and had quite few allies in play. My plan was to put several progress tokens (Northern Tracker again) on Cardahas, go the 3 stage and finish it off next turn. It was foiled by a treachery that was unable to postpone with Denathor (after he got rid of a Warg) and all progress tokens in play were removed. After that I decided to finish the game without any tricks. Progress was decent although still several turns were still ahead of me. I decided to let a mountain goblin to appear thinking that now that several allies do not quest I can dispatch him easily. I need two turns to kill him. First attack was deflected but I had to burn Hasty Stokre to cancel shadow effect. Next time he attacked shadow effect discarded Denathor from play. I've thought that this is it. My hand was full of Lore cards (only Test of Will and two Dwarven tombs were playable). I wanted to see how far I could go still, River song was used to check what to expect, I was using lore cards to fuel Eowyn ability. I used test of will 3 times (redrawing it with Dwarven Tomb). Although the troll appeared in the staging area I knew I had two or three allies that I could use to block him while I was racing to finish. Canceling treacheries gave my just enough easy turns and I managed to win. In the end my score was not much better than previously.
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[General thoughts] Since reports were long this time I will only say that I enjoy this scenario very much. One note here that plays here are on the longer sitde (close to 1h per play) so I will not finish it as fast as Moria scenarios. 

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Date: 1 Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times - lost once, won twice
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[session Report] I decided to test my deck further to see if it really that good against the Gate.
- I lost my first try but in a sense in solidify my assumption that the deck is quite good. Enemies were my doom this time. They started attacking a bit to early and once Denathor was wounded I had to start using Frodo to convert wounds to threat. Slowly I was able to take control of the satiation but the threat was too high already (few untimely shadow effects increased the threat by quite a lot - I made a mistake of not using the Forest Snare early enough as I preferred more allies). After that the slow increase of threat pushed me over 50 before I was able to get to stage 3. I was glad that I could deal with enemies nevertheless as fighting is a weak spot of my deck.
- Second try was interesting as I almost become location locked. Timely Escort from Edoras followed by Gandalf questing broke me free (together with Denathor control over encounter deck) and I was able to finish the quest with a decent score.
- Third try was an easiest so far. I lingered at the base of the mountains through (using Northern Tracker to put 7 progress tokens on Caradhras). This resulted in a similar score to the one during second try.
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[General thoughts] The deck I am playing is weak! How can I say that after reporting 4th win with it? Well it is build strictly for this scenario an it relies heavily on Arwen generating tons of additional Lore resources. Without her my hand would be overflown with expensive, unplayable lore cards. I have a great admiration for people that are able to construct one deck to rule them all - I am more of a deck against a scenario kind of player.

 

NOTE: I am in the process of transfering my session reports and comments to a BGG blog. I've realized that thread format here is quite cumbersome and not very relevant. I am planning to update this thread for a little longer (say two weeks) before officialy announcing its retireement. If you are interested in reading my comments feel free to check my LOTR:LCG blog on BGG (there is also some new content there) - you can find it here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/1950/lord-of-the-ringslcg-session-reports-and-general

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Scenario played: Redhorn Gate
Date: Dec 2012
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 1 time - won
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[session Report] I was disappointed seeing Mountain Troll as a setup card. Fortunately my starting threat is low (24) and my staring hand contained West Road Traveller and she would be able to balance troll generated threat. Denethor got rid of Warg and I've drawn Celebdil. It is a bit annoying as an active location with its progress removal ability but I could not afford to let it sit in stagging. Progress was slow but with two unexpected courages coming out of my deck Denethor ability allowed me to control encounter deck and avoid location lock. Enemies were also less dangerous once I had burning brand on him. Finally I had to engage troll and I was forced to let one ally die to stop his attack - what a disaster - a shadow that discarded two lore resources that were saved up to play forest snare next turn. Next attack had to be stopped using Frodo ability and my threat went up into 40's. After that the troll was snared and ceased to be dangerous. Slowly but surely I finished the quest after that.
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[General thoughts] One interesting side effect of Denethor put it on the bottom of the encounter deck ability - if the game last long enough this accumulated terrible cards will start showing up again - and even two unexpected courage on him might not save you from that. Luckily there is a shift of focus between start of the game and towards the end - many of the encounter cards that are deadly at the start of the game (and hence go on the bottom of the deck) are not that dangerous once your fellowship is stronger and/or staging area is clear.

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Scenario played: The Redhorn Gate
Date: 7 Dec 2012 
Heroes (spheres): Eowyn, Frodo, Denathor (spirit/lore)
Played 3 times - won 3
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[session Report] I will not be able to provide full session report this time as it took me few days to post it and I forgot most of the details by now. I won all of the attempts
- One time I was assaulted by enemies and almost got overwhelmed (Frodo's ability to convert damage to threat was essential to my survival). Once I got things under control it was much better. 
- I finally encountered the location that puts all locations back into encounter deck and provided that you traveled far enough it reduces your threat by 11. It was fun and annoying at the same time. Would love to see more of this in the deck with an option of exploring it via threat rise (ala Zigil Shaft). Would make decision to travel there interesting one.
- I finally had to dig through the encounter deck to find enough VPs to win. So far I always seemed to find VP peaks early in the game so it was interesting change (I was using Denethor just to speed up the process).  
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[General thoughts] So let me sum up my opinions of The Redhorn Gate. The first attempt was epic, tense failure - going blind into this scenario is the way to go. The tale of freezing cold, un-traversable peaks and dread of weather was so strong that I almost could feel the chill myself. Scenario stayed strong after that but my choice of heroes (Denethor) softened the blows like a good coat that isolates you from the cold. 
 
Strength of the scenario comes from its increasing difficulty. It starts fairly easy (although the Caradhras looming over your head can be though), then the wind picks up and at first it just seems to slow you down. Only when you enter the third stage it turns deadly. The only gripe I have with it is that once you explore Caradhras it gets much easier. It does tell the story right (as once you go over the pass, slowly the road gets easier) but looses a bit of it climatic edge. 
 
After all I like it very much, with the strong points being that narrative feel, hat great stories of group of adventures fighting against the wrath of mountains. At this point I it is in my top 5:
1. Journey down the Anduin
2. Return to Mirkwood
3. Massing at Osgiliath
4. The Redhorn Gate 
5. A Journey to Rhosgobel
 

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