This quest set the standard for the difficulty for this cycle. Progression style players often get stuck banging their heads against this scenario that requires players to quest hard out of the gate while also being able to kill a host of tough enemies. The encounter deck does provide players with a bit of help in the form of some objective allies. But besides that, your road through Ithilien will be tough, and many won’t make it to the end.
- Found in Heirs of Numenor Deluxe box, quest 2
- Official Difficulty: 4 (WHAT??)
- Community Difficulty: 7.7
- Encounter Sets: Into Ithilien, Southrons, Brooding Forest, Creatures of the Forest (really confusing to separate the Into Ithilien and Creatures of the Forest encounter sets thanks to their similar symbols)
- Quest cards: 4, though players will only see 3 in each playthrough
- Play if: You really want to test your deck against a scenario that requires a lot of you, you want to play with stacking the encounter deck with Rangers, you want to relive the horror of revealing a Mûmak.
- What is different about this quest?: Siege questing, Battle questing, rapid pacing, Archery, Objective Ranger allies, skipping certain stages.
- Solo or Multiplayer?: While the scenario is brutal solo, it does not get easier if players play this with a lot of decks. 4 players will make sure that a lot of characters will leave play, dealing damage to Celador. In solo, it may prove difficult since the stages will require quite a lot of progress in order to be cleared. I would suggest players do this scenario with 2 players, maybe 3.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: Eh, no. This quest requires you to pass the stages as quickly as possible or face a host of enemies. I wouldn’t recommend going to side-quests as this may cause you to lose Celador, forcing you to go to the second stage. In the later stages of the game, it would be best to focus on getting out of Ithilien as fast as possible. Still, it may be worth it to complete Delay the Enemy, as this can discard the Mûmak if he is engaged with a player.
- What to look out for: Mûmakill enemies, a rapid pace of the game, both Battle and Siege quests on top of regular willpower questing, fast surges in threat.
To set up this monster of a scenario, players have to search the encounter deck for the Ranger Celador and add him to the staging area. While he is in the staging area, he will commit his stats of 2 to the quest, including Battle and Siege quests. Celador will not be under the control of any player but will be targetable for healing effects. Besides adding him to the staging area, players are also forced to search the encounter deck for a copy of Ithilien Road and make it the active location. This will provide a buffer of 4 quest points to the main stage. With Ithilien Road being the active location, the engagement cost of all enemies in the staging area will be considered to be 0. This does not get raised by any Hobbit/Ranger deck, which wouldn’t matter a lot unless players are playing at a very low threat cost right out of the gate. In order to have a couple of bodies to throw your way, the encounter deck will have to be searched for 1 copy of Southron Company per player. These enemies aren’t terrible at first glance, but since Stage 1B has the Battle keyword, each Southron Company gains +2 threat and +2 attack. This makes them formidable enemies that will have to come down if the Ithilien Road isn’t explored or swapped out of the active location slot during the first quest phase. This is where playing with 4 players will make this quest tough, as there will be 4 enemies with each 3 threat in the staging area before the first staging step. However, having so many enemies in the staging area does open up the possibility of sending Lore Faramir to the Battle quest for 6 out of the gate. He will get even more attack strength if you reveal enemies during staging, allowing you to make some progress easily. Having Wingfoot on him in a 4p game will make sure you are able to ready him consistently.
Quest stage 1: Ambush in Ithilien – 15 quest points, Battle
And so begins the first round. Remember that you will likely have to take an enemy this round in order to get its threat out of the staging area. Players will also have to focus a lot of their attack power to the quest, so you will not likely kill the enemy during the first stage. I would suggest to try and place as much progress on the quest during the first round, as that will clear the Ithilien Road and provide players with some more options during the engagement phase.
While this stage is active, players will have two options. Their decision should really be based on whether or not they have enough willpower for stage 3. If they do, then I would argue to try and keep Celador alive and progress through stage 1 as fast as humanly possible. This will discard the second stage and allow players to get some breathing space during stage 3. If players can rush the quest, they might not have to Siege quest during stage 4 either. The other option is to cut your losses and let Celador die in the staging area. This will discard stage 3 and force players to travel to stage 2 where they will be forced to Siege quest. This is the more aggressive approach, but that might fit certain players and their playstyles. I personally usually try to beat stage 1 fast in order to use the safe route to Cair Andros.
In order to keep Celador alive, I would suggest players play this scenario with as few players as possible. This will limit the number of characters leaving play, which deals damage to Celador. I do not often find myself losing the quest because I prioritize making progress. But if you should fail the quest, Celador will again take a point of damage.
Quest stage 2: Southron Counter-attack – 9 quest points, Siege
Well, for some reason Celador died, and you will be forced to withstand a lot of attacks the coming rounds. Fortunately, the stage does not require you to fetch new enemies, so if you managed to keep your board clear, it shouldn’t be a big problem. The stage will force players to take an additional X archery damage on top of any other Archery keywords on enemies. I would suggest pilling this damage on characters that will leave play at the end of the round if possible (Gandalf, Beorn, Sneak Attack allies). If this is not an option, try to spread the damage around to each character. Having enough healing in your decks will definitely be required if you keep stalling and having to deal archery damage. Warden of Healing is the easiest to include in your decks, but it might not heal enough in a 4 player game.
This stage has the Siege keyword, meaning that players will have to quest with their defence strength instead of willpower. This can be tricky, as you might be left during combat with allies that are unable to withstand enemy attacks since you committed all your higher defence stats to the quest. Some good allies to send to a Siege quest are Winged Guardian, Defender of Rammas or heroes like Boromir equipped with Gondorian Shields. There are not as many global buffs to defence strength, so Siege quests are usually more difficult than Battle or Regular quests. This stage will be more difficult as you will now also be lacking the 2 defence from Celador you had on stage 1. The Ithilien Guardians will help, but will only have 1 defence to bring to the quest.
In all, you have to make 9 progress in order to clear this quest. This might be difficult as you will have to handle some engaged enemies first, which will require some defence strength. Once you have gotten a hold of the scenario, 9 progress shouldn’t be too difficult to muster, especially if you have built your deck around the Siege keyword a little. If players have the 9 required progress to clear the stage, they advance to stage 4 instead of 3. This will likely force the players into another Siege quest unless they have managed to keep their threat low.
Quest stage 3: The Hidden Way – 12 quest points
Congratulations, Celador survived the first stage and will now join the first player alongside any other objective allies in the staging area at this point. This will be the only time that these allies can come under the control of any player, so if you reveal copies of Ithilien Guardian later in the scenario, they will just sit in the staging area and be committed to the quest. These newly obtained allies will no longer commit to the quest without the players exhausting them. They can also be exhausted to clear Overgrown Trail or be used in attacking/defending enemies.
This stage is a lot lighter on the enemies. You will no longer be forced to engage any enemies in the staging area, and you will also not be able to optionally engage an enemy. If you really want to have enemies engaged with you, Dunedain Hunter, Wait No Longer, and The Hammer-stroke can help you out. This is also the perfect time to reveal the Morgul Spider, as its When Revealed effect will not hurt players if they do not have to engage the spider. Southron Company will also become a breeze, adding only 1 threat to the staging area and attacking for 3 instead of 5.
This is the only part of the quest where players get to use their willpower to commit to the quest. Stage 4 will only grant players perhaps 2 rounds before it turns into a Siege quest. So players will have to shift their focus from their Battle quest to willpower questing. There are a couple of heroes that are great for this, chiefly Tactics Éowyn, Thorin Oakenshield, and Glorfindel.
At this point in the game, the players can try to kill any leftover enemies engaged with them. This will make combat on stage 4 a bit easier when everything in the staging area will have to come down naturally. Try to clear the 12 progress tokens fast, as the enemies will start to build up in the staging area, and your threat will start to climb up towards 35-40 around this time. Making all 12 progress will force players to immediately advance to stage 4.
Quest stage 4: Approaching Cair Andros – 15 quest points, likely Siege!
Now we have come to the final stage. No matter which way you took, stage 2 and 3 both end up with you racing towards Cair Andros. And I do mean that players will have to race. This stage will raise the threat of each player by an additional 2 at the end of each round. This is on top of the 1 threat you have to take at the end of each regular round. This can force players towards Valour (40+ threat) and will make it likely that players threat out at this stage, which is the worst way to lose the game in my opinion. This stage will also make Watcher in the Wood an even bigger threat, as players will tend to quest with a lot of characters.
If any of the players have a threat of 37 or higher, the quest turns from a regular stage into a Siege quest, counting defence instead of willpower. This may be a shock for players who have come here via stage 3 and who haven’t gotten used to Siege questing before. Players who came here from stage 2 will have a hard time to quest with willpower if everyone’s threat is below 37, though this doesn’t last long with the new threat mechanic introduced at this stage.
In order to beat the scenario, players will have to make 15 progress on this stage. I would advise to just go for it and commit as many characters as you think necessary. It may prove difficult if the staging area is clogged up with locations and enemies from the previous stages, so try to travel and engage as much as possible. It is probably the best to risk 1 turn of enemies this round to relief the staging area from its threat. Try to clear locations in the staging area if possible, as they will 3 or 4 threat to the staging area on their own.
If all goes to plan, you will be able to clear this stage in 1 turn by committing every character with willpower or defence (depending on your threat). This sprint to the finish often has a higher chance of winning the game than getting beaten to a pulp during combat if you decide to do it in 2 turns. It really depends on how many enemies have come up and how well you have dealt with that.
Once the players have made 15 progress on the stage, they immediately win the scenario. Congratulations, you have beaten a pretty difficult scenario. The next one will prove to be much more difficult though. Siege of Cair Andros is one of the top 5 hardest quests in this game… better bring your location control to that one.
The Encounter deck
- This scenario has fewer cards than previous cycles, having only 36 cards to be revealed in Normal mode, and 23 in Easy mode
- Shadow effects are very common, 78% of cards in Normal mode feature this effect and a whopping 96%(!) of cards in Easy mode. Burning Brand and Armoured Destrier will hit more often than not.
- Average threat on cards revealed is very high in this scenario, 1.9 in Normal mode and 2.2 in Easy mode
- Surge is quite common on treacheries and objectives. 8 cards have this keyword.
- Doomed is only Doomed 3 on Southron Support. There are a lot of other mechanics that will raise your threat though.
- Archery X is present on both stage 2B and the Southron Mercenaries. This will deal quite a lot of damage in a multiplayer game if you let it stack up.
The threat on cards revealed depends a little on the stage where the players are. Southron Company will get +2 if the stage has a keyword. Since most of the stages do, I have calculated their threat to be 3 for the sake of the averages above. The encounter deck is quite enemy heavy, so prepare for combat and don’t bring a control deck.
- Celador: This Gondorian Ranger will be the decisive factor on which stage you will have to face, 2 or 3. Celador has solid stats for an objective ally and will always be committed to the quest while he is in the staging area. This helps the players with 2 additional attack strength during stage 1. The players will be able to take control of Celador once they survive the first round and move to stage 3. Celador will be very vulnerable and can leave play quickly. Not only will players have to deal a damage to him if a character leaves play (Silvans/Sneak Attack do count) or if the players quest unsuccessfully, but also if treacheries like Blocking Wargs show up. Fortunately, Celador will be a viable target for any healing that targets regular allies. Try to save Celador in order to get him as an ally and avoid the Siege quest of stage 2.
- Ithilien Guardian: Celador is not the only Ranger in the forest of Ithilien. There will be 2 copies of Ithilien Guardian in the encounter deck in both modes which will help the players. Like Celador, these allies will sit in the staging area and commit to the quest. Their stats will not be great if you are facing a Siege quest, but it is still better than nothing. The real fun is to be had with their Shadow effect though. Players will get to deal 2 points of direct damage to the attacking enemy, which can even kill some enemies if you have softened them up with other direct damage. If the enemy is killed because of this, the attack is cancelled and the defender takes no damage. Ithilien Guardian will also come down under the control of the first player if he got revealed before players advance to stage 3. This will, of course, require Celador to have survived the first stage.
Sauron is gathering his forces to attack Gondor, and the fastest way for the Southrons to Mordor is through Ithilien. This makes them the chief antagonists in this scenario. But they are not alone, the Forest also has some creatures in it that would love to kill off your party. But do not think that they will be your biggest threat, the Mûmakill of Harad fulfil that role!
- Forest Bat: The latest Thalin fodder is the Forest Bat. These creature enemies have ones for all of their stats, making them the weakest enemy in the encounter deck. They are only a nuisance if players reveal the Bats and can’t damage them directly with Fresh Tracks or Expecting Mischief. When these Bats are revealed, players will have to deal 2 damage to a hero and remove that hero from the quest. You should really be bringing healing to this scenario to heal some of this damage off. In combination with Archery damage, most heroes will tend to be low on health and might not be able to take the damage. The first player can circumvent this effect by not sending any heroes to the quest, but that player would have to rely on his allies a lot. Removing that hero from the quest can also be a pain to your progress. Windfola can help to recommit that hero. The Bats are not a real threat in combat, so players would be able to handle these with Gondorian Spearmen if they brought any.
- Morgul Spider: Now this enemy is one that is particularly nasty if you have to engage it on the turn it comes into play. The Morgul Spider will gain a massive boost to its attack strength for each character that is not committed to the quest at that time. This includes any Hobbits that you would commit to the quest with Hobbit Pony. The best course of action is to make sure the Spider stays in the staging area for the rest of the round. Noiseless Movement, Ranger Spikes, and Fresh Tracks can help you with this. Because its engagement cost is relatively low, players are forced to use any of these cards in order to avoid the spider. Players can also make sure that the engaged spider is unable to attack with Feint or kill it before it attacks with Quick Strike if they can one-shot it. After the first round, the spider becomes a much more decent 4 attack enemy which may still be troubling for some players. Remember that the Spider only has 1 point of defence, so Tactics Aragorn+ a weapon + Straight Shot can also prevent the spider from attacking you.
- Haradrim Elite: These enemies are horrible, as you will be forced to handle an attack from them outside the regular combat phase. With the possibility of getting the same Haradrim Elite as a shadow card, this might even cause a player to take more than 1 attack outside the combat phase. With the Elite hitting for a base 4, chumping or undefended attacks are also unlikely. I usually try to handle these by means of direct damage. If I can defend the Elite with a Gondorian Spearman and use Swift Strike (which I love in a direct damage deck) the Haradrim Elite are destroyed, not contributing their threat to the staging area. During the regular combat phase, these enemies are quite likely to come down thanks to their low engagement cost, making them a tough opponent. Their 3 defence is quite tough to get through.
- Mûmak: There it is, the bane of many players who are trying this scenario for the first time. This massive Oliphaunt will bring 4 threat to the staging area right out of the gate. Forget about bringing traps or Conditions to put on it, as it cannot have any attachments. On top of this, if the Mûmak is engaged with you, you will probably not stand a chance against its 7 base attack. This can even be boosted to 10 if you get the Southron Mercenaries as the shadow card. Having it make additional attacks will also result in the death of a hero if you have no chumps available at the time. This beast will tear through your line-up and can make you lose Celador early. When you want to attack the Mûmak, take into account that it can only take 3 damage per turn. This includes any damage dealt outside the combat phase. This translates to having the Mûmak in play for at least 4 turns before you can defeat its hitpoint pool of 12. If you do, you don’t even get to add it to the victory display unless you play None Return. Is there nothing you can do about this horrible enemy? Not exactly, it is not immune to player card effects, which can help you a lot. It is also not unique, which opens up a couple of options. First, players could try to clear the side-quest Delay the Enemy in order to discard the Mûmak if it is engaged with you. Players can also make use of the event Revealed in Wrath. This blanks the textbox of the Mûmak, including the text where it can’t take more than 3 damage per round. Combine this with an all-out assault on the Mûmak and you will be able to dispatch it in a single turn. You can also equip a Noldor or Silvan character with 2 copies of Rivendell Blade. This lowers the defence of the Mûmak to 0, allowing players to exhaust a weapon for Straight Shot. This automatically discards the enemy and bypasses the restriction on damage per round. Luckily this enemy is a 1 off in the encounter deck and has a tendency to be a Shadow effect most of the time.
- Southron Company: These enemies will be a common sight and a right pain in the ass for many players. The Southron Company is pretty bad on its own, but if the current quest card has Siege or Battle on it, they get a boost of 2 to their threat and attack strength. Now, there is a way where you can pick a side-quest during the quest phase and make it the current quest card for that round, allowing you to negate their buff (unless your side-quest is Delay the Enemy). But players should be warned that they do not clear that stage during the round it is active. In that case, the Southron Company becomes much more manageable in terms of threat and attack strength. During stage 3 (and 4 if players have a threat below 37), where the quest is regular willpower, these enemies are good targets for engagement if you can dispose of them right away. The good news is that the Companies do not get a boost in defence so it would be pretty easy to discard them with a Straight Shot if you bring Heroes like Tactics Aragorn.
- Southron Mercenaries: These final enemies are not a huge threat during combat, but their Archery can get annoying if you leave them in the staging area for a few rounds. It is advised that you should take these guys down if you ever get the opportunity. It is also a good thing to keep in mind how many of these are still in the encounter deck, as their shadow effect can be brutal on any Harad enemy. This can make the Southron Company attack for 8 or the Mûmak for 10…
The Forest of Ithilien will be the setting for this scenario. There are only 3 types of locations in the encounter deck, so you should see all 3 in a single playthrough. With not a lot of locations in the encounter deck in general, location lock shouldn’t be an issue. Be warned though, these locations all have a pretty high threat, making it very lucrative to explore a couple in the staging area.
- Secluded Glade: A regular 3/3 location that I would advise players to travel to if they have the option. This location is not targetable for any location control events, so I would just advise you to travel to it whenever you can. This location is probably the best option for players out of all 3 locations since the other 2 can be cleared in the staging area.
- Overgrown Trail: This 4 threat location is a pretty bad reveal, as it will add a lot of threat to the staging area and will require 6 progress tokens to be explored, ruling out most location control cards. However, this Trail comes with built-in location control for any deck that runs Ranger characters. Even if players do not have any Rangers in their deck or among their heroes (remember that Doughty Ranger can give the trait to any hero), players can use the objective allies in this scenario. If the players have control over these objectives (they must be at stage 3), they can exhaust them to place 3 progress on the Overgrown Trail. I would also suggest bringing the Guardian of Ithilien player card for cheap access to location control over these locations. You can trigger the effect 2 times in a row to remove 4 threat from the staging area directly.
- Ithilien Road: You will start off with this location as the active location during setup. Its effect can cause some enemies to engage the wrong people, as some decks might not have expected to have an enemy engaged with them at turn 1. I would advise players not to travel to this location if they have the option unless they are on stage 3 or if no other enemies are in the staging area. This location will require some planning and communication with fellow players. Whatever you do, try to clear it in 1 turn if it is the active location. This will allow players to choose whether or not to engage certain enemies with a higher engagement cost than their threat. The biggest threat is, of course, the Mûmak, which normally stays in the staging area for a while. Clearing this location will prevent it from coming down before you have means to counter it.
- Blocking Wargs: This form of Necromancer’s Reach will only target questing characters and leave any other exhausted characters alone. This will mean that character who do not exhaust to quest (Light of Valinor) will also still take damage. This treachery will also target any Rangers in the staging area as they are committed to the quest. This can cause Celador to lose some hitpoints and be discarded earlier than player expected. Probably the best way to avoid taking damage on characters is to commit them after staging with Hobbit Pony and/or Late Adventurer. On top of the damage, this card will surge. This can make players discard a Minas Tirith Lampwright in order to guess the next card and potentially discarding it. If you aren’t scrying, your best bet will be to call enemy.
- Lost Companion: I like the art of this card, but couldn’t care less about this effect. Each player will have to commit at least 2 characters to the quest in order to cancel the much nastier kicker of this treachery. An untimely Lost Companion will cause players to fail the quest, raising their threat and dealing a damage to Celador as a result. Try to have every player commit at least 2 characters and have Windfola ready to recommit a character after it has been removed from the quest. You can also always cancel the effects of this treachery with a Test of Will if you have that in your hand.
- Southron Support: This card is awful and really worth the 1 resource to cancel it. Not only will players be forced to raise their threat, they also need to find 1 Harad enemy each and add it to the staging area. This will make the card surge into up to 4 enemies in a 4p game. If all Harad enemies are in play, players might even be forced to add the Mûmak to the staging area. I would advise players to pick a Southron Company if able, as they don’t make an additional attack, and don’t increase the Archery value.
- Watcher in the Wood: This art reminds me a little of Sleeping Sentry, which isn’t a good sign. This treachery will raise each players threat by the number of questing characters the group controls. In a multiplayer game, this can lead to raising your threat by 10 easily. If you go all out with questing characters on the final stage and this card turns up, many players will have crossed the 50 threat margin and are eliminated from the game. Favor of the Valar will be good to counter at least 1 copy of this. Then, if the current stage has either Battle or Siege on it, Watcher in the Wood surges. Try to cancel this treachery if you can in order to prevent a huge gain in threat during the game. You can also prevent this by committing some characters after staging as mentioned before.
Tips and Tricks
- The first round is crucial, try to power quest through the first stage so that you are able to clear the Ithilien Road. This will make the Combat phase a little easier as not all enemies will have to come down. Since the first stage is a Battle quest, I would suggest sending characters like Beorn, Quickbeam, and Tactics Eowyn to the quest. These characters will make sure to overcome the threat from the Southron Companies and any other revealed cards.
- Healing is vital for many decks to withstand the ongoing attacks and archery damage. Having Elrond on the table will be a great asset to the players, as they will be able to heal more with their Wardens of Healing. I also like the Silvan Tracker in a Silvan deck. Just pile all damage on Silvan characters and heal it off at the refresh phase. This is probably a less popular strategy as Silvans cannot rely on their bouncing in and out of play strategy.
- Unless you want Celador to die on stage 1, I wouldn’t recommend you try to chump block or bring a Silvan deck. While the locations all have a Forest trait, and that is what the Silvans like, their bouncy nature will make sure that Celador dies on the first stage, forcing players to stage 2. Since Silvans aren’t known for their defensive capabilities, they will have a hard time passing through the scenario.
- With quite some enemies having 5 or more hitpoints, Sword of Numenor might actually do some resource acceleration for you. I have had some good luck by putting the sword on my attacker and destroying some Morgul Spiders or Southron Companies with it.
- Tactics Aragorn can do some amazing work in this quest. Since many enemies only have a defence strength of 1, they are susceptible to Straight Shot if they are engaged with that player. I use this method often to make sure I discard enemies before they can attack me.
- With quite a lot of nasty treacheries, cancellation will be vital to your survival in this scenario. Some of these treacheries can be game-ending, making you have to go through this scenario again. The priorities of cancelling what treachery depends a little on what stage players are. I would argue that Southron Support should be the priority during the early game, and Watcher in the Wood during the late game.