Last time, I was able to defeat the first quest of The Road Darkens, The Ring Goes South, in Standalone mode. Today, I’m going to take on the same quest from a different direction: Campaign Mode!
I’ll be adding the cards from The Black Riders box to my cardpool and continuing the Campaign from where I left it off last time. If you need a refresher on what Campaign Mode is or what choices I made along the way, you can find my previous posts here:
Fair warning: This post will necessarily contain mechanical spoilers about the Boons and Burdens from the previous box as well as this one. If you’re the sort of person who likes to avoid mechanical spoilers altogether, you may want to sit this one out!
Building a deck
I used a Hobbit deck to play through the previous box, and it worked really well. I could probably keep the exact same deck and do pretty well in the upcoming few quests as well, but the Campaign card for The Ring Goes South gives me a chance to change up my Heroes free of charge. I might as well take the opportunity to make a few adjustments to my previous lineup.
I’d like to stick with the Hobbit theme since it’s both powerful and fun to play, but I’ll bring in some Spirit cards this time so I can get access to A Test of Will. I’m looking ahead a little; the Treacheries in The Ring Goes South aren’t too bad, but there are a couple of nasty ones in the following two quests that I’d love to have a reliable way to avoid. Since I want to make sure all of my Hobbit synergies stay at top power, this means I’m going to need to make room for Fatty Bolger!
Fatty isn’t exactly a popular Hero. His ability is situational, and in many ways, he works against the Hobbit strategy of keeping a low threat to trigger abilities. Nevertheless, I think he’ll be able to show his quality in these next few quests. His ability is great at clearing blockages and making fast progress in the early game before your board is set up—both things that I anticipate needing soon.
So which Hero will he oust? Merry is the only reason I’m able to kill anything, so he has to stay. Sam Gamgee gives me access to the life-saving Hobbit Cloak, the only way I can reliably defend with Hobbits. So, I guess it has to be Pippin. I’m sad to lose his engagement-cost raising ability, but with Frodo’s Intuition I should have card draw pretty much covered—so that makes him the only expendable one. Move aside Pippin, there’s a new Hobbit in town!
With that decision made, I can pull the Lore cards from my old deck and replace them with Spirit cards. Most of the new cards from The Road Darkens won’t be useful here (since I’m not using the new Gandalf Hero) but I can at least get some utility out of Bilbo Baggins to fetch me a Hobbit Pipe (one of the cards from The Black Riders that I didn’t get to use last time) and Fellowship of the Ring.
The only decision left is to pick which version of Fellowship Sphere Frodo I want to use. In the last box I upgraded Frodo with the Boon Skilled Healer (granting him +2 Hit Points) in the hopes of using him as a defender. The Frodo from The Road Darkens has a defensive bent to him—being able to raise his threat by 2 to cancel damage he would take while defending—but that ability cancels out the benefit of having given him a few extra hit points. On the other hand, the Frodo from The Road Darkens has so much going for him; the ability to cancel any encounter card can be clutch.
So, I’m going to have to go with the older Frodo again. Maybe the newer Frodo will be more useful later in my journey!
Fatty Bolger (The Black Riders)
Frodo Baggins (The Black Riders)
Merry (The Black Riders)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
2x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
2x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Gondorian Spearman (Core Set)
3x Snowbourn Scout (Core Set)
3x Wandering Took (Core Set)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
3x Fellowship of the Ring (The Road Darkens)
3x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
2x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Feint (Core Set)
3x Frodo’s Intuition (The Black Riders)
3x Halfling Determination (The Black Riders)
2x Quick Strike (Core Set)
2x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
2x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)
3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Leading the deck
This is a slightly different take on the classic Hobbit deck.
The addition of Fatty Bolger pulls this deck in a more aggressive direction. Fatty is great for clearing early-game questing blockages, albeit at the risk of forcing me to engage things sooner than I might normally like to. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much for Merry to become a killing machine—especially when he’s supported by his retinue of Tactics cards like Dagger of Westernesse and Halfling Determination.
Frodo, Sam, or Fatty can be used as a defender once equipped with a Hobbit Cloak. If it doesn’t show up early enough, though, there are a handful of chump blockers in the deck as well, like Snowbourne Scout and Gondorian Spearman.
After a few rounds have passed, Fatty gives me access to threat-reduction cards like The Galadhrim’s Greeting and Smoke Rings, buying me a little more time if I need it. It can take a while to afford one of these cards, but there aren’t many Spirit cards in the deck anyway, so it’s not too big of a deal to spend a few rounds saving up. I tend to play Steward of Gondor opportunistically in this deck based on the board state, so if I really need threat reduction fast I can give the Title to Fatty.
Ideally, the goal is to win as quickly as possible by taking big risks and hoping for big rewards!
The Play’s the Thing
Victory on: Normal mode
The power of Hobbits in this game never ceases to amaze me! It only took me two tries to beat this quest, and the first game felt like a bit of an anomaly anyway—I got 4 “Surging” Treacheries during the first round before revealing something with any real Threat. Even with that terrible setup I managed to hang on until the Watcher showed up!
On my second run, though, the deck worked like a charm. I got a free Frodo’s Intuition from the first Quest Stage—that card is so good that it feels like cheating—and drew into a second copy as soon as I played it. That gave me plenty of cards to work with for the rest of the game!
The Campaign mode adds an extra benefit to the first Quest Stage—each player gets to add to their hand one of four Boons—Andúril, Glamdring, Mithril Shirt, or Sting—with the remainder getting shuffled into the first player’s deck. These Boons represent the treasures that the company received in Rivendell, and the players get to add them to their decks for the rest of the Campaign.
With an all-Hobbit lineup, Sting is my Boon of choice. In my first game I put it on Frodo, only to realize that I lost access to it when he was stolen away by the Watcher in the Water. So in my winning game, I decided to put it on Sam Gamgee instead, since he can make use of both its defensive ability and its willpower boost. I’m hoping that Frodo can still make good use of it in future Quests, though—only time will tell.
I ended up using Fatty’s threat-cancelling ability twice to ensure I could quest successfully past the Great Warg Chief without engaging him before I was ready. With Mr. Bolger’s help, I was able to win before the end of the seventh round, and at a balmy 26 threat to boot! Because I won so quickly, I never ended up revealing Lust for the Ring, which means I get to leave that particular Burden behind for the rest of the Campaign. Nice!
All in all, it was a very successful run. In many ways I have already proved to myself that Fatty is an underrated Hero—especially in a small card pool.
It seems like The Road Darkens is off to a pretty good start! But The Ring Goes South is only the beginning of the box, and things get much darker from here on out. Will my fellowship of Hobbits be able to stand against the terrors of Moria?
We’ll find out soon! Next time I’ll be tackling the second quest, Journey in the Dark, in Standalone mode.
“Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread.”
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