Encounter at Amon-Dîn – The Lord of the Rings card game

Continuing on my way through the Against the Shadow quests for The Lord of the Rings card game, I’ve reached Encounter at Amon-Dîn. This pack took a very long time to arrive at Goodgames Ballarat – some months, in fact after it was meant to. Despite being extremely impatient for it to arrive, I haven’t gotten around to playing it until now. The story of this quest is that on the way back from the Druadan Forest, the group discover that orcs have been attacking the villages of the area. You need to save as many villagers as you can, whilst fending off the orcs. It’s a two-stage quest, the first stage giving you a chance to save villagers, the second stage bringing you against the leader of the orcs. It is a fairly location-heavy deck, so I wondered if I’d need to include Northern Trackers in my deck. As usual, I used my previous deck for my initial attempt at the quest.

Once again, an early Light of Valinor allowed Glorfindel to do double duty; Elrond also quickly gained Vilya, and we were away. A few villagers perished as the combination of having both Burning Farmstead and Gondorian Homestead meant I couldn’t save villagers from both of them at the same time with Lord Alcarion – a pair of surging Treachery cards making that certain. However, I wasn’t being pressed by enemies. Beravor blocked the first, with Elrond and Glorfindel finishing it off, and after I found an Unexpected Courage with the Imladris Stargazer, Elrond was doing double duty.

Once a Sylvan Guide and Asfaloth came out, the locations were quickly being explored and villagers rescued. The leader of the orcs, Ghulat, came out, but was swiftly dispatched. Gandalf came by simply to reduce my threat and go questing. Arwen aided Elrond in withstanding Ghulat’s attacks, who potentially could do a significant amount of damage, but he didn’t get the chance.

I’d ended up saving 18 villagers and losing 7. That was enough for victory!

All in all, this was a pretty easy quest, completed on my first play-through. My score isn’t anything to write home about, but I won’t worry about it too much at the moment.

The Deck:

Heroes: Elrond, Glorfindel (spirit), Beravor
Allies (25): Gildor Inglorion, Warden of Healing (x3), Gandalf (core, x3), Miner of the Iron Hills (x3), The Riddermark’s Finest (x3), Imladris Stargazer (x3), Lorien Guide (x3), Master of the Forge (x3), Arwen Undomiel (x2), Haldir of Lorien
Attachments (11): Unexpected Courage (x3), A Burning Brand (x2), Vilya (x2), Asfaloth (x2), Light of Valinor (x2)
Events (14): Elrond’s Counsel (x3), Stand and Fight (x2), A Test of Will (x3), The Galadhrim’s Greeting (x3), Hasty Stroke (x2), Will of the West

Final Score: 93 (7 turns, 28 threat, 1 wound, 6 victory)

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Netrunner thoughts

Last Saturday, I played in a small (ok, very small) tournament for Netrunner. Having it on Easter weekend when a few players were away doesn’t make for great numbers. We had four participants! I played a Whizzard deck and a Haas Bioroid: Engineering the Future deck and won all my four games. Yes, we just had the two rounds. The games were great fun to play, and very close at times – Chris hit two early agendas against my Haas Bioroid deck, and given that the deck is entirely 2 and 3 point agendas, this was rather concerning.

Chris then ran into my ICE – Ichi, I think – which destroyed his two breakers, and from there never quite recovered. Quandary – a 0 strength Code Gate with “End the Run” proved extremely effective at keeping him out, as he couldn’t draw a breaker for it. Eventually I was able to advance a Priority Requisition and win the game.

I then demonstrated the power of my Whizzard deck against his NBN, showing that I don’t need to play programs to steal agendas! I tend to do a lot of running early on without playing any cards just to see what defences my opponent has, and Whizzard is able to trash a lot of assets if they’re poorly defended. I actually drew a good hand with two of the icebreakers and a Special Order. I stalled in the middle game – as is expected – and was a bit disconcerted to see an Astroscript Pilot Program come out along with the Sansan City Grid. Luckily, he wasn’t able to chain Astroscripts together, and I was able to break through and trash the City Grid before it did too much trouble for me. From there, I was just able to pull out the win.

Against Josh, I won. It seems that I’m writing this too late to remember that much about the games. I know that an advanced Aggressive Sanctuary managed to destroy none of my programs (because I didn’t have any), but that may well have been against Chris. The games weren’t one-sided, and I was glad to win them, but the details are gone. Curse my poor memory!

I didn’t get to play Glen, which is perhaps just as well, as he was playing a couple of my decks – my NBN deck which had performed so well in the Store Championship, and an Andromeda deck which also played pretty nicely. He went 2-2 for the tournament (compared to my 4-0), which left him in second place. Chris and Josh would have ended up at 1-3 each, having had the misfortune to play me. J

I’m not getting to play as much Netrunner these days as I would like. In the early days, I was able to play a lot of games with Sarah, but our two-player Thursday night sessions are now long-gone: they’re far more likely to be a group of people getting together to play board games. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy at all about all the boardgaming. I’ve had the chance to play a lot of games of Caverna as a result, as well as Russian Railroads, Nations and other titles. (Given how D&D has taken over my Saturday evenings, it’s good to be playing serious boardgames). However, Netrunner and A Game of Thrones are a bit on the backburner. My main opportunity to play them comes at these small store tournaments.

Next month will be particularly interesting, as we’ll be doing drafts of both A Game of Thrones and Netrunner. My experience with the AGoT draft was hugely positive, as it allowed the core of the game to shine, away from all the combos (many broken) that you get in the full joust game. Netrunner draft? Now, that’s going to be a challenge.

Netrunner will actually involve two drafts: one for a corporation deck and one for a runner deck. So, we immediately take an hour of time doing the drafts. And I have no idea what sort of game-play will eventuate.

I played the original Netrunner back in the day – not that much admittedly – and was greatly hampered by the size of the card pool. There were a lot of cards that were simply bad, and building a playable deck based on a starter and just a few boosters was very, very hard. In some ways, drafting Netrunner is going to take me back to those days: attempting to build a deck from a very limited card pool, and hoping it’s even vaguely playable!

However, the existence of the draft starter means that even if I draft 40 completely unplayable cards for either deck, there will be still some playable cards. As a result, the main thing I’ll be looking for in my drafting is efficiency. It’s the core of Netrunner: making every action worth more than those of your opponents. In essence, if you need to spend fewer actions, cards and credits than your opponent, you should win. It will be tricky, though. I’m really not sure what the card pool is like. Yes, I can look at lists, but they’re not really a substitute for actually drafting.

The Netrunner draft is about a month away. It should be fascinating. It may turn out to be a horrible experience, but I’m hoping it proves to provide a new way to experience the game in an enjoyable manner!

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The Drúadan Forest – The Lord of the Rings Card Game

After the major difficulty with completing The Steward’s Fear, The Drúadan Forest proved a much simpler animal to tame. I went into it with the same deck that I used in the previous scenario, and after one game where I was entirely destroyed within three turns due to a particularly nasty draw, the next game saw my band of Elrond, Glorfindel and Beravor easily defeat it.

Key to winning the game was an early Burning Brand, which I played on Elrond, and shortly thereafter Arwen and Unexpected Courage made Elrond a brilliant defender. The Woses of the forest were very good at stripping away my resources and dealing archery damage, but a Master of Healing – when coupled with Elrond’s ability – kept that in check. Being able to exhaust a character to heal two characters for two wounds each is pretty good!

In the middle of the game, in Stage 2, when Archery damage must be assigned to allies, I had a big run of locations. Glorfindel gained the services of Asfaloth, I played a Lorien Guide, and it was pretty easy to navigate the threats the Encounter deck threw at me. Meanwhile, Elrond revealed Vilya, his ring, and used it to put into play a lot of allies.

By the time Stage 3 came around, I was facing only a Drúadan Thief and Drû-buri-Drû, the leader of the Woses. Interestingly, playing Gandalf – who was sitting on top of the deck thanks to a Imladris Stargazer – and dealing damage to the Wose leader wouldn’t help me win the game. Instead, I had to attack him in the attack step – with Willpower, as we were trying to persuade him to stop attacking. Gandalf instead lent his useful Willpower to the cause, and in the second turn of Stage 3, I was able to put enough questing power and willpower together to stop the Woses from attacking.

I made sure to play two Elrond’s Counsels and The Galadhrim’s Greeting in the last turn to lower my Threat to 21.

As you can see, a lot of allies made it to the battlefield!

The Deck:

Heroes: Elrond, Glorfindel (spirit), Beravor
Allies (25): Gildor Inglorion, Warden of Healing (x3), Gandalf (core, x3), Miner of the Iron Hills (x3), The Riddermark’s Finest (x3), Imladris Stargazer (x3), Lorien Guide (x3), Master of the Forge (x3), Arwen Undomiel (x2), Haldir of Lorien
Attachments (11): Unexpected Courage (x3), A Burning Brand (x2), Vilya (x2), Asfaloth (x2), Light of Valinor (x2)
Events (14): Elrond’s Counsel (x3), Stand and Fight (x2), A Test of Will (x3), The Galadhrim’s Greeting (x3), Hasty Stroke (x2), Will of the West

Final Score: 151 (13 turns, 21 threat)

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Finished “The Steward’s Fear”! – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Hooray! Barely a couple of hours since I wrote of my week of failing to get through The Steward’s Fear, I’ve managed to complete it. Once. I’m not sure if the deck could do it again, but once is enough for now. Once I’ve succeeded at all the LotR quests, there’ll be time to go back and try and do them better. J

The deck ended up being one of heavy hitters: Elrond, Glorfindel and Beravor as the three heroes. There are few other characters as powerful in the game; Aragorn is one, but resource generation is always a problem with this deck. I had an early Light of Valinor which allowed me to quest with all three heroes in the first turn, getting the tavern out of the way that turn – and drawing another location to replace it.

After that, it was a case of layering several Unexpected Courages onto Elrond, with his ring, Vilya, and a Burning Brand – another one went onto Beravor. Arwen helped protect Elrond, but even so it was a close thing. The agents set Minas Tirith on fire, and I almost ran out of deck. I would have, but I had a lone Will of the West in hand, and I used that to reshuffle.

The combination of Elrond and Gildor Inglorion came out, only for Gildor to be discarded due to a traitor! An Imladris Stargazer told Elrond the best time to summon Gandalf with Vilya, and that put paid to the major villain – who was discarding even more cards from my deck when he attacked!

The deck definitely needed the additional card draw and playing power that the Beravor/Elrond combination gave, and Glorfindel + Light of Valinor kept the threat down and provided double duty on questing and fighting.

Without a doubt, one of the harder scenarios I’ve attempted. Yet not the hardest!

The Deck:

Heroes: Elrond, Glorfindel (spirit), Beravor
Allies (25): Gildor Inglorion, Warden of Healing (x3), Gandalf (core, x3), Miner of the Iron Hills (x3), The Riddermark’s Finest (x3), Imladris Stargazer (x3), Lorien Guide (x3), Master of the Forge (x3), Arwen Undomiel (x2), Haldir of Lorien
Attachments (11): Unexpected Courage (x3), A Burning Brand (x2), Vilya (x2), Asfaloth (x2), Light of Valinor (x2)
Events (14): Elrond’s Counsel (x3), Stand and Fight (x2), A Test of Will (x3), The Galadhrim’s Greeting (x3), Hasty Stroke (x2), Will of the West

Final Score: 134 (10 turns, 35 threat, 1 victory point)

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Stuck on the Steward’s Fear – Lord of the Rings: the Card Game

About a week ago, I took up playing the Lord of the Rings card game again. A game released by Fantasy Flight Games, it is unusual in that it is a co-operative collectible card game, albeit the packs are non-random. The deck-building of the classic CCGs remains, however. Each new expansion presents a new scenario to play against. The early ones are moderately easy, but as the game progresses, some of the scenarios are particularly difficult. The game is probably at its best when played with two players, but I very much enjoy playing games solitaire. Some of the scenarios are actually easier that way. Some are harder, and The Steward’s Fear, the first of the Against the Shadow cycle is particularly difficult for a solo player.

I was pretty pleased when I finished the Siege of Cair Andros last week, which required me to build a deck I’d never built before – a pure tactics deck. Looking at The Steward’s Fear, I felt that it called for a more traditional sort of deck, one good at questing and dealing with enemies. This isn’t actually the case. What I actually need is a deck that is very good at location control and is also brilliant at dealing with enemies, especially the sort that have horrible, horrible effects when they engage you. I can deal with “When revealed” effects. I can deal with the Shadow card combat effects, but a card that damages all allies when it engages you? That I can’t deal with.

The scenario is actually pretty nasty to your allies. One treachery card actually does what the card-type implies: it turns one of your allies into a traitor, who attacks you and then is discarded. High-attack characters, such as Gandalf or Beorn, can be a decided liability here!

I played one game against the scenario with my Siege of Cair Andros tactics deck, and died very, very quickly as I was unable to explore the locations fast enough. I then built a Spirit/Leadership deck, only to find myself being overwhelmed by threats. I’ve currently got a Spirit/Lore deck, and it’s not faring much better. I’ve had a few games that I’ve looked in control, and then everything goes wrong.

The major twist on how this scenario works is that there’s an Underworld deck which puts threats into play when you explore certain locations. In a two-player game, that’s only (normally) a 50% increase over what you normally face. In a solitaire game, that’s a 100% increase, and it could be even more if a difficult plot card comes up.

If I could trust my allies, then everything would be fine, but the scenario is very good at stripping away my support structure.

I think the most recent version of my deck has actually gone backwards – it’s less effective than it was before! I’m about to go to Lore/Lore/Spirit and see what happens there, with more traps to stop the monsters from attacking…

Current Deck:

Heroes: Glorfindel (spirit), Eleanor, Glorfindel
Allies: Zigil Miner, Arwen Undomiel, Miner of the Iron Hills, Lorien Guide, Gandalf, The Riddermark’s Finest, Warden of Healing
Attachments: Light of Valinor, Unexpected Courage, A Burning Brand, Asfaloth
Events: The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Will of the West, A Test of Will, Elrond’s Counsel, Stand and Fight, Hasty Stroke, Daeron’s Runes

I’m not looking for help with the scenario, as the very point of playing the game is to come up with my own solution. I’m just venting, as the scenario is certainly causing me some grief!

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D&D Encounters: Scourge of the Sword Coast session 10

We’re moving towards the end of this D&D Encounters season, and this session began with Josh getting drunk.

Well, Josh’s character at least. Returning to Daggerford, our half-orc bard felt that his best course of action was to find the owner of the Floshin estate (Darfin Floshin) and persuade him to hand over the manor to the party. Lily, Danielle and Josh had very much enjoyed the manor when they’d explored it several weeks ago, and had been greatly devastated when they discovered it was still occupied. This was Josh’s plan for getting it back. Josh very much plays up the comedy element of his half-orc bard, and the idea of getting the owner drunk, but becoming too drunk in the process to actually take advantage of that, really appealed to him, and, indeed, to many of the other players at the table.

Not everyone, however. There is limited time in each Encounters session, and I could see some of the players getting concerned by how much time this was taking, rather than actually getting on with the adventure. It’s a difficult thing to negotiate. D&D is a social experience, and I feel there must be a balance between roleplaying (including these comedy moments) and the action-oriented storyline. I was willing to let this one play out, but I was conscious of the timing involved. Josh wound it up himself, and we progressed to a meeting with Sir Isteval, and things got back on track without too much time spent in the diversion.

Sir Isteval brought good news. Well, mostly good news: his trackers had discovered where the villagers from Julkoun had been taken: Firehammer Hold, a dwarven stronghold in the mountains. After some discussion, and some shopping in town, the group travelled there along the Iron Road, taking in Secomber and Uluvin on the way. They inquired in those towns about the hold, only to learn that the trading shipments from there had stopped, and the merchants that had travelled there to find out what was occurring had not returned. I also emphasised that the local lords did not have the soldiers to deal with the threat themselves; all their men were needed to protect the towns from attacks from the gnolls and hobgoblins.

As the group neared Firehammer Hold, they reached a great statue of Vergadain, the dwarven god of luck and mercantilism. It was defaced with an iron shield displaying the hold symbol of Laduguer, the deity of the dark dwarves, the duergar, ancient enemy of the surface dwarves. The group removed the shield, restoring the statue, and they felt Vergadain’s approval, the offering bowl filling with enchanted water: enough for five vials of healing. Troy filled his flasks, while Josh threw a gold coin into the bowl as an offering. He gained Vergadain’s approval and was blessed for the remainder of the session; the others tried this, but I explained that Vergadain rewarded ingenuity and initiative, so no-one else could gain the benefit. They were only copying Josh’s actions!

Two paths converged on the statue. One led to the Hold, the other into the valley below. The group noted carrion birds circling a site down in the valley, but they did not investigate, instead pressing on towards the Hold.

The main gates of the Hold were barred, and no secret entrances could be found. Knocking on the door also brought no response; however, a guest hold nearby was unlocked; indeed, the bolt had been removed from the front door. The group found it abandoned – a message carved into one of the bedframes read only, “We’re doomed!” with no further indication of what had happened. The keen-eyed members of the party discovered a peephole and a secret door, which led into the hold proper, and so they proceeded onwards.

Tait heard low voices conversing to the north, and so proceeded down a staircase into a guard room, where a pair of dark dwarves were on watch. He ambushed them, and with support from his friends was able to kill them both, but not before they raised the alarm. The group prepared for an attack, but it didn’t come.

Tait continued to scout forward, discovering a grand chamber that held a shrine to one of the dwarven gods. Suspiciously looking around, he found a number of arrowslits overlooking the chamber from the east, beyond which he could see a few duergar. There were other exits from the hall, but he returned to the group to discuss what he’d found. The group were uneasy about directly assaulting the duergar, especially in such a poor chamber to do so, but instead they resolved to find another way around. There was a carved set of double doors leading east in the hallway leading to the shrine, would they give them a back way in?

The doors led to a great feasting hall. Tait, again scouting ahead, noticed a couple of suspicious pipes, slightly corroded, leading into the room. Some sort of trap! His investigations also found a secret door which would likely lead to the duergar. Before they alerted the duergar to their presence in this room, disabling the traps would seem prudent: the group stuffed the pipes with body parts taken from the pair of duergar they killed earlier. Waste not, want not!

At this point, the group opened the secret doors and sent Tait ahead. Tait, in an unusual show of clumsiness, alerted the duergar to his presence, and after suffering a couple of bow attacks, fled back down to the group. As the secret passage was only five feet wide, Troy was quite able to defend it, and he did so as the duergar rushed forward to attack.

The group could hear the shouts of the duergar, and their loud swearing when their plan to release alchemical fire into the room using the pipes failed due to the heroes’ earlier actions in disabling the traps. The initial rush of duergar were stopped, and the remainder of the duergar pulled back for the time being.

Tait decided that he’d try to outflank the duergar, moving back to the shrine to ambush them. Unfortunately, the duergar had the same idea, and as they could see in the dark and Tait couldn’t, they ambushed him! He was gravely wounded, but thanks to his rogue ability to move at three times his speed, was able to outrace them back to the rest of the party. Unfortunately, his friends were not prepared and so Josh and Lily came under attack from the duergar, even as a new wave came down the secret passageway. Troy moved into a defensive stance, parrying their attacks, and Lily used her thunderwave spell to protect herself from the dark dwarves.

The two duergar attacking Josh were slain by Danielle and Tait, and the other two, almost dead from Lily’s spell, fled back down the corridor. Spell-casting and accurate missile fire dealt with the dwarves in the passageway, and soon all was quiet again. Josh healed Tait, and the group paused to catch their breath.

Unfortunately, that was all the play we had time for. We lost some due to having to level up characters (to level 4), and also there were a couple of new players who took some time to get settled. We had three tables this week. Shane (running for Paul) had five players, Ben had three and I had five.

The next session should see us deal with the bulk of the remainder of Firehammer Hold. Until then, may your spellbook stay dry!

Posted in D&D, D&D Encounters, D&D Next, Scourge of the Sword Coast, Session Report | Leave a comment

Talisman report: The Firelands

Glen, Richard, Josh and I played a game of Talisman yesterday, the first I’ve played in some time and the first ever for Glen. I’ve just picked up a couple of new expansions, and I wanted to give one of them, The Firelands, a try.

It was one of the most horrible games I’ve ever played of Talisman. I found it grimly amusing; it was either that or pick up the table and overturn it!

I really enjoy what Fantasy Flight have done with this version of Talisman; it’s my favourite edition by a fair way. However, the Firelands stands as a significant misstep. I can see that there will be games of Talisman where it will work well as an expansion, but that was not that game.

Our initial character choices were almost all from the new expansion. I took a leaf from the Prophecy game and dealt out three characters to each player; we chose one and passed the others. With our new three characters, we repeated the process. Finally, with the third choice we took the character we were actually playing. As I recall, I was the Nomad, Rich was the Jinn-Blooded, Glen was the Dwarf and Josh was the Dervish.

We were playing with only the Firelands and the base game, my preferred method of putting a new expansion through its paces. It wasn’t long before we drew the first of the Firelands cards: a flame rift, which burnt the top three cards of the deck and put a fire marker in the space. Burning cards means removing them from the game, but fireproof cards remain – the ones drawn from the deck were shuffled and placed on top. The Fireland Tokens had one specific effect: If you ended your turn in a space with a marker, you lost one life. In the normal course of things, this wouldn’t be so bad.

However, burning cards meant we were getting more of the new cards – and there were quite a few that were placing Fireland Tokens. It wasn’t long before we were landing on the markers every three turns or so, and then every two turns or so. A card that put all the firelands cards in the discard pile back on top of the deck accelerated the process.

I’ve never lost life so fast in a game of Talisman before!

It wasn’t long before my Nomad died. I drew a new character and continued playing; we use the variant that allows the new character to inherit the items of the old, not that the Nomad had much stuff. Rich’s character died. Josh’s character died. My new character died. Glen’s character died.

To make things worse, most of the enemies that were actually being drawn were ifrit; thematic yes, but they were placing even more Fireland Tokens and some of them were gaining Strength or Craft bonuses equal to the number of Firelands tokens on the board. If the number of markers was small, it wouldn’t be a problem. We had over ten markers on the table! Strength/Craft 11? No-one was even close to that. The objects and followers we needed to even compete were being burnt away. Josh had a nice fireproof sword, but most of us had nothing.

Ifrit Nobles also made things harder. It’s a nice idea: encounter cards that affect the entire board until they are defeated, but when combined with all the Fireland Tokens, we didn’t really have a chance.

As I remarked to my friends, it felt a lot more like playing Arkham Horror than Talisman – and, at least in Arkham, you can fight back. There seemed to be no way to combat the spread of fire.

In fact, there were a couple of spells and a couple of encounter cards, but they were too little to counter the spread. Rich had the Wizard as his second character, and even with him casting and drawing new spells, he couldn’t dig down to them fast enough. My Druid (my second character) cast one, but with all the forests on fire, it wasn’t long before he succumbed as well.

Towards the end of the game, even the “safe” locations of the City, Village and Tavern came under attack. Ifrit Invasion event cards reduced them to Ruins that were on fire! A deck of terrain cards which could change the underlying type of the encounter spaces was a really, really good idea. Unfortunately, it was obscured by the fact that we couldn’t do anything.

Eventually, after about 90 minutes of this, we turned on the elimination rule; anyone who died, would stay dead. I think Rich was the last survivor, and he lingered for a bit, but eventually succumbed as well to the latest fire card.

The Firelands looks like it would work a lot better if it were combined with a few more expansions, so that the effects were diluted massively. The basic concept behind the expansion is sound, but played as we did was not an enjoyable experience. I’m hoping that next week we can try Jon New’s print’n’play expansion, the Nether Realm. It seems like it would make for a better game than the Firelands did!

And to think, I’d chosen to use the Battle Royale alternative ending…

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