In our previous wanderings along Beorn’s Path, we built a second core set deck, this time using the Tactics and Spirit spheres. Escape from Dol Guldur is the most difficult scenario in the core set, and it is particularly ill-suited for solo play, as the loss of 1 hero for the first stage is very hard to overcome with only two usable heroes. So, in order to give ourselves a chance of escape, we will be playing “two-handed” – which means that we will use both decks as though we had two players playing. Tales From the Cards has an excellent Guide to Playing Two-Handed, which is a great introduction to playing the game this way, especially for those who have only ever played with one deck.
The basic strategy for this scenario will be to move through the quest stages as quickly as possible. We cannot finish the quest while the Nagul of Dol Guldur is in play, so we will have to stop along the way to defeat it. Compared to the Hill Troll, the stats on the Nazgul are actually not too bad, but every time a shadow effect resolves from one of his attacks, we will have to discard a character. With the first two quest stages only allowing us to play one ally per round, total, this is something that we need to avoid at all costs. Ideally, we can get a Citadel Plate and some early damage on Gimli, and the dwarf can slay the Nazgul in a round or two. Other than that, the more quickly we can move through the quest stages, the less encounter cards we will have to face. Particularly in the first stage, where we will be without the help of one of our heroes, we will not want to hang around while our threat rises and the staging area fills with Orcs.
Because the staging area starts with three guarded objectives, and our imprisoned hero is chosen at random, this scenario has a fair amount of luck involved. If Eowyn is the one in the dungeons, and Caught in a Web is one of the first cards revealed from the encounter deck, we will have very little hope of surviving. Once we can put progress on the second quest stage, our prisoner is freed, and our chances of survival improve dramatically. Still pace will be very important, several enemies, including the Nazgul, have a threat threshold of 40 so if we allow either deck’s threat to raise too quickly, we risk being overrun. Because we won’t know which hero is held prisoner until after setup, we will hold off on any more in-depth strategy until we know what our constraints are. With that introduction out of the way, let’s begin our attempt to Escape from the infamous dungeons of Dol Guldur.
Setup and Opening Hands
Unfortunately we will have to chose first player and decide on our opening hands, before we randomly determine which hero is held captive, so it will not be possible to look for specific strategies with our opening hands. In general, we want each deck to play to its strengths, but questing in particular is of utmost importance as we have to get progress on the second stage before we can free the prisoner. Starting with the first player, each player commits any of their characters to the quest, which means that Theodred would not be able to add resources to Thalin, Gimli or Eowyn on the first round if the Leadership/Lore deck is the first player. For this reason, we will choose to have the Tactics/Spirit deck start the game as the first player. The Tactics/Spirit deck draws the following opening hand:
We don’t yet know whether or not Gimli will be held prisoner, but Citadel Plate is also useful on defenders like Aragorn and Denethor. Northern Tracker, likewise, is great for location control, as long as we have access to Eowyn’s Spirit resources. The attachments in this hand are good as well, all the more so because our ability to play allies will be limited in the first two stages. Lastly, Gandalf is always a welcome sight, particularly in this scenario. The fact that he is neutral, and can be paid for with any kind of resources, is of even greater importance here. So we will keep this hand and draw the opening hand for our other deck.
The Leadership/Lore deck draws the following six cards: Daughter of Nimrodel, Faramir, Guard of the Citadel, Gleowine and two copies of Son of Arnor. Even though it includes some good cards, this is not a good hand. The first two stages limit us to playing one ally, between the two decks, per round. Consisting of all allies, much of this hand is going to be dead for the critical early rounds. Ideally, we want a hand that includes some attachments and events, or at least less expensive allies. With hope for a better hand, we mulligan and draw our starting hand of:
This is still a lot of allies, but we have definitely improved our hand. As long as we have access to Lore resources from Denethor, Miner of the Iron Hills is invaluable for removing Caught in a Web. Likewise, Daughter of Nimrodel will help with healing and Snowbourn Scout with a bit of location control. It is good to see Forest Snare and For Gondor! as they both provide us with ways to deal with enemies that will not count against the one ally per round limit. With the starting hands drawn, we will continue on to scenario setup.
The objective cards are guarded, so we will draw one encounter card for each one. For Dungeon Torch we draw Dungeon Jailor, for Shadow Key we draw The Necromancer’s Reach, which thankfully has no effect as no characters are currently exhausted, and lastly Gandalf’s Map guarded is guarded by a Tower Gate. For the last part of the setup, we randomly choose a prisoner. After giving each hero a number, we roll a die and determine that Aragorn is held in the dark dungeons of Dol Guldur. This is going to make the first stage a challenge, particularly for the Leadership/Lore deck. The heir of Isildur is the best quester among our Leadership and Lore heroes, and his ability to ready after questing to participate in combat will be hard to replace. With the scenario setup complete, we are ready to start the first round of the game.
Round 1: Stage 1B (0 of 9 progress)
Tactics/Spirit: 29 threat (First Player)
Hand: Dwarven Tomb, Citadel Plate, Northern Tracker, Dwarven Axe, Blade of Gondolin, Gandalf
— Thalin: 1 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Eowyn: 1 resource, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
— Gimli: 1 resource, 0 damage (5 of 5 hit points)
Leadership/Lore: 28 threat
Hand: Miner of Iron Hills, For Gondor!, Gandalf, Forest Snare, Snowbourn Scout, Daughter of Nim.
— Theodred: 1 resource, 0 damage (4 of 4 hit points)
— Denethor: 1 resource, 0 damage (3 of 3 hit points)
— Aragorn: prisoner
Staging Area: Dungeon Torch (Dungeon Jailor guard), Shadow Key, Gandalf’s Map (Tower Gate guard)
After collecting resources, we will draw a card for each deck. The Spirit/Tactics deck is acting as first player this round and draws a Veteran Axehand. Allies like the veteran, with no abilities or willpower, are less useful, but we can always discard it to fuel Eowyn’s ability. The Leadership/Lore deck draws a Valiant Sacrifice, which should come in handy since we have the perfect chump blocker, Snowbourn Scout, already in hand. As first player, will we have the Tactics/Spirit deck pass on playing anything in the planning phase. We want to save up resources for our more expensive cards.
For planning, the Leadership/Lore deck will pay 1 resource from Theodred for Snowbourn Scout. After the scout enters play we will trigger his ability which places 1 progress token on Tower Gate and explores it. Because The Necromancer’s Reach was resolved and discarded immediately as the guard of the Shadow Key, we now only have 1 objective in the staging area, the Dungeon Torch, that still has a guardian. We need to be very careful, however, with that Dungeon Jailor in the staging area. One round of questing unsuccessfully and one of the objectives will get shuffled back into the encounter deck. The last thing that we need in a scenario of this difficulty is to have to wander the dungeons of Dol Guldur, searching in the dark for a missing map.
With planning out of the way, we now must commit characters to the quest, beginning with the Tactics/Spirit deck. Because Gimli is tough enough to take an undefended attack, and we have a certain piece of armor ready for him to don next round, we will send Thalin, Eowyn and Gimli questing for the Tactics/Spirit deck. For Leadership/Lore, we are sorely missing Aragorn’s 2 willpower, but we do have the scout as a chump blocker, so we will go ahead and send both Denethor and Theodred. We want a resource to pay for Valiant Sacrifice in the likely event that the scout meets some orcs, so we will trigger Theodred’s ability to give himself a Leadership resource.
For staging we reveal two cards: a Dol Guldur Beastmaster (which immediately takes 1 damage from Thalin’s ability) and our favorite treachery, The Necromancer’s Reach. At this point, each hero has 1 damage (except Aragorn, our prisoner). With a total of 9 willpower against 3 threat in the staging area, we make 6 progress on the first stage of the quest. Even if each player discarded a card to fuel Eowyn’s ability, we would still be 1 progress short, and that is not considering the objective that we have yet to claim. Since we should be able to easily clear this stage, with Eowyn’s help, next round, we will elect not to discard anything to her this round.
Because we actually want to get wounds on Gimli to fuel his berserker counter-attacks, the Tactics/Spirt deck will choose to optionally engage the Dungeon Jailor. It is very important in this scenario to get the Jailor is out of the staging area as quickly as possible; now there is no danger of his ability impounding any our essential objectives. Since it would otherwise engage the the first player, the Leadership/Lore deck will then optionally engage the wounded Dol Guldur Beastmaster.
When it comes to combat, we do not have a ready defender for the Jailor, so we will hope for the best as shadow effects on undefended attacks tend to be worse. The Leadership/Lore deck has a perfect solution to the Dol Guldur Beastmaster and exhausts the Snowbourn Scout to defend it. The shadow card for the Jailor is a harmless Eyes of the Forest; with a very annoying when revealed effect, we are glad to see that go to the discard pile. The Beastmaster gets two shadows cards, Caught in a Web and a harmless Tower Gate. The when revealed effect on Caught in a Web can be game-altering, particularly in this scenario where we are resource constrained already, so we are very fortunate to see it as a shadow card.
An early bit of luck is much welcomed, as escaping from the dungeons of Dol Guldur is not going to be easy. So Gimli will take 2 damage from the undefended attack and the scout will meet an untimely end. Thanks to Theodred, we are prepared for this. With his job of reconnoitering the Tower Gate complete, we pay 1 resource from Theodred, and the Snowbourn Scout has valiantly sacrificed himself. This allows us to draw 2 cards: Sneak Attack and Gleowine. That was a very worthwhile trade. Adding more card draw when we tuned our Leadership/Lore deck is definitely looking like a good decision. With no ready characters to counter-attack we are done with the first round. The threat for each deck is raised by 1 and we move on to round 2.
Round 2: Stage 1B (6 of 9 progress)
Tactics/Spirit: 30 threat – Engaged: Dungeon Jailor
Hand: Dwarven Tomb, Citadel Plate, Northern Track., Dwarven Axe, Blade, Gandalf, Vet Axehand
— Thalin: 2 resources, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points)
— Eowyn: 2 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points)
— Gimli: 2 resources, 3 damage (2 of 5 hit points)
Leadership/Lore: 29 threat (First Player) – Engaged: Dol Guldur Beastmaster
Hand: Miner of the Iron Hills, For Gondor!, Forest Snare, Daughter of Nimrodel, Gleowine, Gandalf
— Theodred: 1 resource, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points)
— Denethor: 2 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points)
— Aragorn: prisoner
Staging Area: Dungeon Torch, Shadow Key, Gandalf’s Map
The Leadership/Lore deck is now acting as first player and draws a Guard of the Citadel. The Spirit/Tactics deck draws Stand and Fight, which can definitely be nice in this scenario, since putting an ally into play does not count against the 1 per round limit. For planning, the Leadership/Lore deck needs to save resources, so we will pass on having it play anything. The Spirit/Tactics deck will pay all of the available resources from its dwarf heroes to attach Citadel Plate to Gimli. With a total of 9 hit points, Gimli now gives us an answer to the question: who will kill the Nazgul?
In the quest phase, the Leadership/Lore deck will commit Theodred and Denethor, triggering Theodred’s ability to add 1 resource to Denethor’s resource pool. For its part, the Spirit Tactics deck will commit Thalin and Eowyn, and hold Gimli back for combat. For staging, we reveal a Cavern Guardian and Dol Guldur Orcs, both of which take 1 damage from Thalin’s ability. The doomed 1 on the guardian will raise each deck’s threat by 1, and those pesky Dol Guldur Orcs will do 2 damage to someone committed to the quest, in this case, Theodred. Theodred is now clinging to life with 1 remaining hit point, so it is good that Denethor has been saving up to pay for Daughter of Nimrodel. With 4 threat in the staging area, our 7 willpower is enough to give us the 3 progress that we needed to complete the current stage. The Tactics/Spirit deck will raise its threat by 2 to attach the unguarded Gandalf’s Map to Eowyn, moving us on to stage 2, Through the Caverns. We are 1 step away from springing Aragorn from jail.
For the encounter phase, the Leadership/Lore deck will engage the Dol Guldur Orcs and the Tactics/Spirit deck engages the Cavern Guardian. At the beginning of the combat phase, we will pay 1 resources from Theodred to play sneak attack. Gandalf, the ever-versatile Grey Wizard, surprises the wounded Dol Guldur Beastmaster, killing it with one swing of his staff. We are then ready to deal shadow cards and declare defenders.
The Leadership/Lore deck will have Gandalf defend against the Dol Guldur Orcs. The Tactics/Spirit deck is going to take a risk and not defend either the Dungeon Jailor or the Cavern Guardian. Undefended attacks are risky, particularly if we get unlucky with shadow cards, but at this point we want to get more damage on Gimli so that he can start clearing out the engaged enemies.
The shadow card for Dol Guldur Orcs is Mountains of Mirkwood, which has no effect and Gandalf laughs off their puny 2 attack. For the Dungeon Jailor’s attack we get less lucky and the shadow card revealed is Ungoliant’s Spawn. This is where undefended attacks can really hurt us. Because we did not block, the Tactics/Spirit deck now must raise its threat by 8. Being limited to playing 1 ally per round makes it difficult to get many extra defenders, which opens us up to these kinds of shadow effects. Fortunately the Jailor only does 2 damage, so Gimli should be able to survive the last attack.
Lastly, the shadow card for the Cavern Guardian is the harmless Endless Caverns so we will have Gimli take 2 more damage. Now that the enemy attacks are complete, Gimli stikes and, since he now has 7 damage, hits the Dungeon Jailor for 9, which easily kills it. At the end of the combat phase, sneak attack returns Gandalf to the Leadership/Lore hand. With nothing left to do in this round, each deck has its threat raised by 1 and we move on to freeing Aragorn from the oubliette.
Round 3: Stage 2B (0 of 15 progress)
Tactics/Spirit: 42 threat (First Player) – Engaged: Cavern Guardian
Hand: Dwarven Tomb, Northern Tracker, Dwarven Axe, Blade, Gandalf, Vet Axehand, Stand and Fight
— Thalin: 1 resources, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points)
— Eowyn: 3 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points), Gandalf’s Map
— Gimli: 1 resources, 7 damage (2 of 9 hit points), Citadel Plate
Leadership/Lore: 31 threat – Engaged: Dol Guldur Orcs
Hand: Miner of I.H., For Gondor!, Forest Snare, Daughter of Nim., Gleowine, Guard of Cit., Gandalf
— Theodred: 1 resource, 3 damage (1 of 4 hit points)
— Denethor: 4 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points)
— Aragorn: prisoner
Staging Area: Dungeon Torch, Shadow Key
After collecting resources, the Tactics/Spirit deck draws The Galadhrim’s Greeting and the Leadership/Lore deck draws a Sneak Attack. This is shaping up to be a great turn, we have an answer to the Tactics/Spirit deck’s rising threat, and we will be able to get another inexpensive use out of Gandalf. For planning the Tactics/Spirit deck will go ahead and pay all 3 resources from Eowyn to play Galadhrim’s Greeting. Since the Leadership/Lore deck’s threat is not too high at this point, we will go ahead and choose to lower the Tactics/Spirit deck’s threat to 36. This is one of the great strengths of the Tactics/Sprit deck, it has other means that Gandalf for lowering its threat. The Leadership/Lore deck will spend 3 resources from Denethor to play Daughter of Nimrodel. Finally, we have some healing to start managing all of the damage to our heroes.
As long as we can quest successfully and put at least one progress on stage 2, we will free Aragorn and can use him for combat. Although we could be conservative and send fewer characters questing, our ever-rising threat is a growing concern, so we will continue with the aggressive strategy. With that in mind, the Tactics/Spirit deck will commit Thalin and Eowyn to the quest and the Leadership/Lore deck will commit Theodred to the quest. Theodred then triggers his ability and gives himself a resource.
At the staging step we reveal the first card from the encounter deck, Under the Shadows, which simply adds 2 threat to the staging area for this phase. The second card revealed is Hummerhorns, an enemy with a terrible engagement effect, but with a threat threshold of 40 we can hold off on dealing with them for the time being. The Hummerhorns takes 1 damage from Thalin’s ability, but this is sadly not enough to kill it. Those are some mighty tough hornets.
In order to make more quest progress, each deck will discard 1 card from it’s hand to trigger Eowyn’s ability. The Tactics/Spirit deck will discard Dwarven Axe (Gimli is big enough already) and the Leadership/Lore deck will discard Guard of the Citadel (an ally that we can’t afford to play right now). The total of 3 threat from the staging area is exceeded by our 8 total willpower and we make 5 progress on the quest. Aragorn is free! We turn the heir of Isildur face up and deal 1 damage to him. But the triumphant cries of his comrades are drowned out by a horrible shriek. The escaped prisoner has not gone unnoticed, and the Nazgul of Dol Guldur is added to the staging area, ready to strike. Even choosing not to engage the Nagul is hazardous, as it contributes 5 threat to the staging area.
For engagement, both enemies in the staging area have a threat threshold of 40, and we are not yet ready to deal with them, so neither deck will optionally engage anything. At the beginning of the combat phase, we will exhaust the Daughter of Nimrodel to heal two damage on Gimli. This will free him up to take another undefended attack so that he is ready to counter-attack. The Tactics/Spirit deck will not declare a defender for the Cavern Guardian and the Leadership/Lore deck exhausts Denethor to defend the Dol Guldur Orcs. The shadow card for Cavern Guardian is a Great Forest Web, with no shadow effect Gimli takes 2 damage and has 2 hit points remaining. For the Dol Guldur Orcs, the shadow card is an Enchanted Stream, which also does not have a shadow effect and Denethor’s 3 defense means that he does not take any damage.
Gimli and Aragorn counter-attack, killing the Cavern Guardian and Dol Guldur Orcs respectively. Taking stock of things, the good news is that we’ve rescued Aragorn, but the bad news is that we have 6 threat worth of nasty enemies sitting in the staging area. Fortunately each of our decks has a few more tricks up their sleeves, so we increase our threat and move on to the next round with high hopes.
Round 4: Stage 2B (5 of 15 progress)
Tactics/Spirit: 37 threat
Hand: Dwarven Tomb, North. Tracker, Blade, Gandalf, Vet Axehand, Stand and Fight, G. Spearman
— Thalin: 2 resources, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points)
— Eowyn: 1 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points), Gandalf’s Map
— Gimli: 2 resources, 7 damage (2 of 9 hit points), Citadel Plate
Leadership/Lore: 32 threat (First Player)
Hand: Miner of I.H., For Gondor!, Forest Snare, Gleowine, Gandalf, Sneak Attack, Henamarth R.
— Theodred: 3 resource, 3 damage (1 of 4 hit points)
— Denethor: 2 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points)
— Aragorn: 1 resource, 1 damage (4 of 5 hit points)
Staging Area: Dungeon Torch, Shadow Key, Nazgul of Dol Guldur, Hummerhorns
The Leadership/Lore deck is now the first player, and after drawing Henamarth Riversong, it will pass on the planning phase, in order to save up for next round. The Tactics/Spirit deck draws a Gondorian Spearman which it will play during the planning phase using two resources from Gimli. Additionally, one resource is spent from Thalin to attach Blade of Gondolin to Gimli. This will help add progress to the quest, but it is the dwarf’s second restricted attachment, so hopefully we won’t need another citadel plate.
During the quest phase, the Leadership/Lore deck will pay 1 resource from Theodred to sneak attack Gandalf into play. The grey wizard will deal 4 damage to the Nazgul of Dol Guldur and then commit to the quest along with Aragorn and Theodred. Theodred’s ability gives an extra resource to Aragorn, which he uses to ready. The Spirit/Tactics deck will commit Thalin and Eowyn to the quest and it is time for staging.
The first card revealed from the encounter deck is our new favorite enemy, the Dol Guldur Orcs. Fortunately Gandalf is along for the quest so he will take the 2 damage from the orcs’ when revealed effect. Since he is leaving play at the end of the phase anyway, this is as close to a “blank” when revealed effect as we can hope for. The second card revealed from the encounter deck is Chieftan Ufthak, a far more formidable enemy. Each time the Chieftan attacks it gets stronger, so it looks like we have found a prime target for our Forest Snare (the Nazgul of Dol Guldur has errata which says it cannot have attachments).
To continue our aggressive questing strategy, we will discard For Gondor! and Veteran Axehand to give Eowyn +2 willpower. With a total of 14 willpower against 10 threat in the staging area, we make 4 progress on stage 2 and now have only 6 progress left to go. At the end of the end of the quest phase, our sneaky wizard one again returns to hand from play. It really is too bad that the core set only includes a single copy of Horn of Gondor.
For engagement, the Leadership/Lore deck engages Chieftan Ufthak and the Tactics/Spirit deck will engage the Dol Guldur Orcs. Denethor will defend the Chieftan and Aragorn, finally putting his sentinel ability to use, will block the Dol Guldur Orcs. The shadow card revealed for Chieftan Ufthak is Under the Shadow, which has no effect so Denethor again takes no damage. The Chieftan’s forced effect then triggers, which means he will be attacking for 5 next round, so we need to find an answer for him soon.
The shadow card for the Dol Guldur Orcs is a King Spider which requires the defending player to exhaust a character. This is one of those quirks of the rules, even though Aragorn is the defending character, the Spirit/Tactics deck is still the “defending player”, so we will exhaust the Gondorian Spearman to satisfy this effect. Fortunately, Aragorn does not take any damage from the attack. Gimli is the only character ready to counterattack, and he easily dispatches the Dol Guldur Orcs triggering blade of Gondolin to add one more progress to the current quest. Before ending the round, Daughter of Nimrodel will heal 2 damage on Theodred, brining him back from the brink of death. With that, each deck raises its threat by 1, and we continue to the next round with the goal of moving on to the final state of the quest.
Round 5: Stage 2B (10 of 15 progress)
Tactics/Spirit: 38 threat (First Player)
Hand: Dwarven Tomb, North. Tracker, Gandalf, Stand and Fight, Unexpected Courage
— Thalin: 1 resource, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points)
— Eowyn: 2 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points), Gandalf’s Map
— Gimli: 2 resources, 7 damage (2 of 9 hit points), Citadel Plate, Blade of Gondolin
Leadership/Lore: 33 threat – Engaged: Chieftan Ufthak
Hand: Miner of I.H., Forest Snare, Gleowine, Gandalf, Henamarth R., Steward of Gondor
— Theodred: 3 resource, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points)
— Denethor: 3 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points)
— Aragorn: 2 resources, 1 damage (4 of 5 hit points)
Staging Area: Dungeon Torch, Shadow Key, Nazgul of Dol Guldur, Hummerhorns
After resources are added, the Tactics/Spirit deck draws an Unexpected Courage and the Leadership/Lore deck draws a Steward of Gondor. Gimli has been waiting for the Spirit attachment the whole game, with it he will be ale to contribute to the quest and still participate in combat. The resource generation from Steward of Gondor would have been nice a lot earlier, but it is better late than never. For planning, the Tactics/Spirit deck will pay 2 resources from Eowyn to attach Unexpected Courage to Gimli.
With that done, the Leadership/Lore deck has several things to play. First of all 2 leadership resources are spent from Aragorn to give Denethor his rightful title of Steward of Gondor. This attachment is immediately exhausted to give Denethor a total of 5 resources. Forest Snare is then played on Chieftan Ufthak using 3 of these resources. The other two resources from Denethor, along with the 3 resources from Theodred, are used to pay for Gandalf, who does an additional 4 damage to the Nazgul. Our most-feared foe is now 1 damage away from being slain.
The goal is the move to the final stage of the quest, so we will be very aggressive questing this round. The Tactics/Spirit deck will commit Thalin, Eowyn and Gimli, who immediately readies thanks to Unexpected Courage. The Leadership/Lore deck then commits Theodred, Aragorn, Gandalf. Lastly, Theodred triggers his ability to give 1 resource to Eowyn.
For staging we reveal two locations: Mountains of Mirkwood and Endless Caverns. Endless Caverns not only has doomed 1, but it surges, revealing an Enchanted Stream. That is a lot of locations in the staging area, but unfortunately Northern Tracker is an expensive ally to play. With 11 threat in the staging area, we really want to get to 16 willpower to allow us to complete this stage, so we will discard Henamarth Riversong and Northern Tracker to give Eowyn the needed +2 willpower. It is hard sacrificing good cards like this, but these decks are not strong enough to play through this scenario slowly – our greatest chance of survival is to move quickly and carefully.
With all of the locations in the staging area, Northern Tracker seems like the card to keep, but we don’t have a lot of Spirit resources, and at this point it is much more cost-effective to use Dwarven Tomb and Stand and Fight to bring the Snowbourn Scout into play multiple times. This also has the advantage of giving us an ally that we can afford to chump block if the need arises. We now have the 15 progress needed to advance to the final stage, but we still need to claim the last 2 unguarded objectives. Since we don’t want to raise our threat right before the encounter phase, we will wait to do that until later in the round.
Thankfully, both decks’ threat is still barely below 40, so we can afford to ignore the Hummerhorns for 1 more round and instead the Tactics/Spirit deck will optionally engage the Nazgul of Dol Guldur. If the Nazgul can attack and gets a shadow effect, we are in big trouble. Fortunately we have a certain Spearman to ensure that we finish him off before anything goes awry. We deal a shadow card to the Nazgul of Dol Guldur and prepare to end his existence on Arda. Poor Chieftan Ufthak is caught in a trap, so he will also be dealt a shadow card, but since he cannot attack, it will be discarded without being resolved.
After declaring the Gondorian Spearman as the defender of the Nazgul of Dol Guldur, we trigger his response effect, which kills the enemy before it ever has a chance to attack. This is one of those singularly awesome moments where the Lord of the Rings LCG paints a fantastic mental picture for us.
A lowly spearman of the citadel, armed only with his trusty spear. Standing there, minding his own business on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Out of nowhere, one of the 9 ring-wraiths, undead lords of a forgotten age, comes charging out of the sky. Riding a nameless fell beast, bred in times immemorial in the deepest pits of Barad-dûr, the wraith stikes fear into all who behold it. All, that is, except our trusty spearman, who is too busy staring into the distance and daydreaming to notice his peril. After unceasing harassment by that meddling grey wizard, the Nazgul is determined to take out at least one of Sauron’s enemies before its corporeal form is destroyed by the accursed Istari. But lo, it has chosen poorly! Just as it reaches out with its skeletal hand to snap the neck of this impudent man-creature, it realizes its folly too late. The Nazgul of Dol Guldur, terror of the Anduin valley and enemy of all the free-peoples of Middle-Earth, has just impaled itself on what amounts to a sharpened stick. Once our befuddled friend is done wetting himself, he shakily half-walks, half-stumbles to the nearest stream to clean the gore off of his weapon. All in a days work for the Gondorian Spearman.
Since neither enemy actually attacked, both of their shadow cards are discarded without being resolved. Now that we have passed the encounter phase, it is safe to raise our threat and grab the last two unguarded objectives. The Leadership/Lore deck will raise its threat by 4 to take both objectives: Shadow Key will be attached to Aragorn and Dungeon Torch is attached to Theodred.
With the objectives secure, we finally move on to the final quest stage. We know that Aragorn will be taking damage from the key, so before ending the round we exhaust Daughter of Nimrodel to heal him. At the end of the round, in addition to readying everything and raising our threat, Aragorn takes 1 damage from the Shadow Key, and the Leadership/Lore deck raises its threat by 2 from Dungeon Torch. With our heroes all wounded, and our threat dangerously high, we come Out of the Dungeons and begin our last, desperate flight for safety. If we can make one big push and overcome the 7 quest points on this stage, we will successfully make our Escape from Dol Guldur.
Round 6: Stage 3B (0 of 7 progress)
Tactics/Spirit: 40 threat
Hand: Dwarven Tomb, Gandalf, Stand and Fight, Gondorian Spearman
— Thalin: 2 resource, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points)
— Eowyn: 2 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points), Gandalf’s Map
— Gimli: 3 resources, 7 damage (2 of 9 hit points), Citadel Plate, Blade of Gondolin
Leadership/Lore: 41 threat (First Player) – Engaged: Chieftan Ufthak (Forest Snare)
Hand: Miner of I.H., Gleowine, Self Preservation
— Theodred: 1 resource, 1 damage (3 of 4 hit points), Dungeon Torch
— Denethor: 3 resources, 1 damage (2 of 3 hit points), Steward of Gondor
— Aragorn: 1 resources, 1 damage (4 of 5 hit points), Shadow Key
Staging Area: Hummerhorns, Mountains of Mirkwood, Endless Caverns, Enchanted Stream
Now that we have slain the Nazgul, all that remains between us and freedom is one final sprint Out of the Dungeons. After two stages of being limited to playing a single ally per round, between the two decks, we can finally play as many allies as we want. One further wrinkle is added in this stage. At the beginning of the quest phase, each deck will place its top card face down, engaged with as an “Orc Guard”. With 1 attack, 1 defense and 1 hit point, these guards might not seem threatening. However, unless we can kill them each round, they can pile up and overwhelm us. As we saw earlier in the game, shadow cards from undefended attacks can be far more dangerous than the attack itself. So instead of sitting around waiting to be mobbed by guards, we will attempt to make a mad dash to daylight.
The Leadership/Lore deck is first player and draws a Self Preservation after resources are collected. The Tactics/Spirit deck draws another Gondorian Spearman, but sadly there are no more Nazgul around for him to kill. For two resources from Denethor, the Leadership/Lore deck plays Gleowine. It would have been great to get the minstrel out earlier, but with the limitation on playing allies, and the heavy fighting, we always had a more immediate need for other cards. The Tactics/Spirit deck will go ahead and pay 5 resources for Gandalf, who immediately kills the Hummerhorns. The wizard’s help could not have been more, if the Hummerhorns had engaged us this round, we would have lost a hero.
With planning out of the way, we move on to the quest phase. At the beginning of the quest phase, each deck places its top card face down, engaged with it as an “Orc Guard”. If all goes well, these guards will not play a part in the game’s outcome. We know want to send as many characters on the quest as we can spare. The Leadership/Lore deck commits Aragorn, Theodred and Gleowine. Theodred gives an extra resource to Aragorn, and the ranger readies. The Tactics/Spirit will then commit Gandalf, Thalin, Eowyn and Gimli, readying the dwarf with Unexpected Courage. With our characters committed we await our doom from the encounter deck.
The first card revealed from the encounter deck is The Necromancer’s Reach. It deals 1 damage to Gandalf, Thalin, Eowyn, Theodred and Gleowine. Gimli and Aragorn, thankfully are out of Sauron’s reach as they have been readied. This puts many of our heroes close to death, but as long as the next card revealed is not another of the same treachery, we should survive. The last card revealed from the encounter deck is a Dol Guldur Orcs. It will do 2 damage to Gandalf, who now has 1 hit point remaining. With a total of 7 threat in the staging area, we count 15 willpower. Before resolving the quest we will exhaust the Daughter of Nimrodel to heal 2 damage on Theodred. Without needing to discard any cards for Eowyn’s ability, we have made 7 progress on the final quest stage and won the game!
Score and Recap
So at last, we freed the imprisoned Aragorn and escaped from Dol Guldur to tell the tale. Our heroes are all a bit worse for the wear, but at least they survived the ordeal. Between the two decks, we count a total threat of 81 after 5 full rounds (rounds tally during the refresh phase). With 1 damage on Aragorn and Denethor, 2 damage on Thalin and Eowyn, and 7 damage on Gimli we have a total of 13 damage to our heroes. Dungeon Jailor and Hummerhorns give us 10 victory points, so our final score is:
81 (threat) + 50 (rounds) + 13 (damage) – 10 (victory) = 134
Astute readers will notice that we took a very aggressive strategy throughout the game. This was essential to not only free our hero, but escape the dungeons before our threat was too high and we got stuck on locations, or overwhelmed by swarms of enemies. There were even a few rounds where we quested with Theodred and he was 1 damage away from being killed. This was a risky choice, but his resource generation was key, especially when we started the game with one of our heroes in prison. Everyone has a different preferred strategies for scenarios like this one, and it is possible to win with a more conservative strategy. In this case, with only two copies of cards like A Test of Will and Feint, we opted for a more brute-force approach. Cards like the Shadow Key, which raises our threat an additional two each round, almost require this kind of agressive pace.
Between the ever-present Gandalf and Gimli’s amazing attack power, we were mostly able to manage the enemies that stood between us and our escape. Once we got Daughter of Nimrodel in play, we were able to get the treachery damage under control, and things became a bit less risky. Even so, our success in this scenario still came down to the last card revealed from the encounter deck. Escape from Dol Guldur, is a punishing scenario, and the fact that we could not play more than 1 ally per round, for most of the game, meant that we had not choice but to take undefended attacks. There is obviously a lot more to dig into in terms of strategy for this scenario. But this post is long as it is, so we will conclude it with a good rule of thumb for Lord of the Rings LCG strategy:
The harder a scenario is, the more you have to gain from an aggressive strategy.
That’s all for today, it’s time to go roll around in the grass and take a trip to the woods. I hope that you all enjoyed our exciting escape from the foul dungeons of Dol Guldur. Check back soon as we make more changes to our decks in preparation for the upcoming journey through the Shadows of Mirkwood.