After a couple of futile attempts with other decks (Hobbits and Gondor never had a chance), I had to pull at the big guns and bring my Aggro Caldara deck against The Black Serpent. It was a pitched battle, with archery and forced effects consistently whittling away at my army of allies. At one point, I lost four allies in a single round and the quest looked like it might be slipping away. Caldara prevailed in the end – with my threat at 43 I was able to finish off the Black Serpent.
Among other mechanics, the Haradrim cycle has introduced the concept of using progress on the main quest as a resource. I am quite enjoying this design as it make quest control (being able to specifically decide how much progress you make) a vitally important facet of the game. In an interesting twist, there are times when you don’t want to complete the current quest card (for the earlier stages) because the next quest card will be without progress for the rest of the round. Because the enemies and shadow effects interact with progress on the main quest card, these rounds tend to be some of the most dangerous.
There are several troublesome encounter cards in this cycle, but one of my nominations for most annoying would have to be Southron Champion. Every time this card shows up it throws your plans for the round straight out the window. Because of the timing, you will often have to face multiple attacks from whatever enemy becomes the champion, and it prevents you from passing the quest – particularly troublesome on a round when you might be spending cards and resources to make a major willpower push. Kudos to Caleb – the quests in this cycle have been consistently excellent.