I am pleased to report that 26 quests and almost three years later, my local play group has succeeded in beating the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings sagas. Last night we completed the Black Gate and Mount Doom in epic multiplayer mode after months of trying. Both of these quests are extremely difficult but thematically satisfying. Our play group usually consists of four players, so we played with two at each quest. I was at the pairing at the Mount Doom quest, which we quickly found required highly specific deck building, and I’d like to share a few of our observations here for the benefit of those still trying to beat it.
For starters, epic multiplayer mode seems to make the quest harder. It adds The Eye of Sauron as a factor, which roams back and forth between the staging areas, unless a player group chooses to raise their threat by an additional three at the end of the round. Obviously, this brings a strongly thematic element to each quest that playing each individually and sequentially does not provide. While the Eye is in the Mount Doom staging area, however, it makes fortitude tests more difficult. Combined with Brake of Thorns in the staging area (or three of them in a row, if you’re unlucky like us), and you might as well concede the game.
Unless the players at the Black Gate are well equipped to deal with a large number of powerful enemies right out of the gate (pun?), it’s difficult to pass them the Eye after the first turn, because of the Nazgûl enemies that will go with it. Yet, the Mount Doom players don’t want harder fortitude tests, and they definitely don’t want to be raising their threat to hold the Eye, so the players are faced with tough decisions to make.
For those who haven’t played it yet – and I don’t think this is too much of a spoiler – the Mount Doom quest is basically about making successful fortitude tests, which requires your threat to be low. The Tower of Barad-dûr basically ensures you’re raising your threat by at least three each turn (hopefully only by three, but we’ll get to that later). So, the forced effect on the back of the epic multiplayer setup card can be quite helpful, if you can best take advantage of it. Still, while this effect was critical to our success in the quest, epic multiplayer mode presents a very difficult version of these two quests that requires even more specific deckbuilding.
Our game plan at the Mount Doom quest was to basically run heroes only, with high willpower and willpower buffing effects, and relying on attachments and events to counter threats posed by the encounter deck. We avoided combat as much as possible, quested hard, and relied on action advantage to make sure we had powerful heroes ready for fortitude tests.
I played a deck (list at ringsdb here) featuring Sam, Spirit Glorfindel, and Galadriel. I did run one ally – Rosie Cotton – but she was a necessity, and I was still able to keep my threat fairly low. Fast Hitch, Lembas, Light of Valinor, Miruvor, Strider, and Unexpected Courage all helped with action advantage so I could quest and make fortitude tests. Attachments like Strider, Protector of Lorien, Miruvor, and Song of Hope (fueled by Steward of Gondor) granted the willpower buffs we needed to succeed at questing and at making the tests. The go-to-trick with this deck was to get Galadriel set up with Nenya and Strider (she also had the Noble Hero boon card). Rosie and Sam then both get fast hitches. Galadriel exhausts to bring Rosie’s willpower up to nine, and then Rosie commits to the quest. Rosie then readies with Fast Hitch and buffs Sam’s willpower, who then commits to the quest for a total of 12. Combined with a high (but low-sounding total with the numbers we’re throwing around here) willpower of three from Glorfindel, my four characters alone were questing for 24. The other attachments I’ve already mentioned only make this better. If you’re faced with a fortitude test, it’s likely going to be in the quest phase anyway (with a few exceptions), so further readying lets you apply these high willpower totals to your fortitude tests, making them always beatable. Sam’s built in readying lets you deal with the stray enemy here and there, as does Glorfindel’s high attack and action advantage. Asfaloth can help you prevent location lock (which is a real thing in this quest, even with two players). Thrór’s Key is most helpful to blank the Orc-hold, which turns off Asfaloth, but hands down the worst location in this encounter deck is Brake of Thorns. Not only does it make fortitude tests harder, but traveling to it makes you assign direct damage. It’s a forced effect, not a travel action, so Thror’s Map doesn’t even help you get around it. In summary, the goal of this deck was to muster huge amounts of willpower for questing and fortitude tests.
The other deck (list at ringsdb here) at our Mount Doom stage featured Spirit Éowyn, Damrod, and Rossiel. This deck would not work in any other quest. But in this quest, it was a blast! The goal of this deck, in addition to also providing solid willpower (Éowyn’s ability to buff herself with discard saved us on more than one occasion) was to eliminate specific threats posed by the encounter deck. Traps allowed us to avoid most enemies, and Damrod was essential in providing cost reduction and card draw. The encounter deck manipulation package with Rossiel allowed us to target some of the worst cards in the deck for removal. The treacheries in this quest are awful. Deep Shadows was constantly a problem for us, so the Lore deck packed a lot of card draw. Heavy and Tired is pretty bad in a deck with few characters to begin with, but Foul Fumes and The Lidless Eye were the worst. Since this deck wasn’t a secrecy deck, we had to pay full price for Out of the Wild, but in the end, I think it was worth it. It wasn’t too hard to get Rossiel’s willpower boost online, and she also did a decent job defending.
With each deck at Mount Doom running 3-4 characters at most, we felt like we were best able to take advantage of the forced effect on the back of the epic multiplayer campaign card. We passed the Eye and our Nazgûl to the Black Gate quest on the first turn, so we didn’t have to raise our threat from that. Furthermore, we took the threat reduction effect every turn, and gave the Black Gate team the card draw every turn. This meant that Spirit/Lore deck wasn’t raising it’s threat at all (aside from doomed effects), and the deck with Rosie was only raising its threat by one each turn after getting her into play. Our Black Gate friends had a tough time of it, as they were raising their threat significantly each turn in order to keep the Eye in their staging area, but in the end, we found this was the only way we could beat it. We had toyed around with a few ideas over the months we worked at this quest. At one point, I wondered if it would really work to swarm cheap, high willpower allies, and suffer the threat raise each turn in exchange for a better shot at quest rushing. Having beaten it now, I don’t really think that would be a viable option. The trick to this quest really seems to be to go at it with no allies (or at most one). I’m even wondering now if it would be better to run two hero decks against this quest. Combined with the forced effect in epic multiplayer, you could actually lower your threat at the end of each round, in theory eventually being able to make almost free fortitude tests. It was hard enough mustering enough willpower for questing with three heroes, though, so I’m not sure if that would truly work or not, but it might be worth a try sometime when I’m extremely bored and feel willing to subject myself to cruel torture.
Congratulations to the rest of my play group, and to all the rest of you who have beaten this quest as well! It’s no stretch to say that these two quests in epic multiplayer may be the most challenging quests of the entire saga. They were appropriately thematic, and while I’m not eager to replay them, I can also say they were some of my favorite accomplishments in this game. Since Frodo actually failed at the end of his quest, I was beginning to wonder whether this quest was actually beatable, and I was encouraging my friends to start to give up so we can move onto other fun quests. I’m glad we stuck it through, though, and I’m sure we’ll have many more adventures to come.
Readers, I really want to know – have you beaten these quests in epic multiplayer mode? If so, what strategies or decks did you use to do it? Please let me know in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!
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