The upcoming episode of The Grey Company covers Helm’s Deep, the first of the iconic battles of the War of the Ring. It’s only fitting then, that we tackled this epic quest tonight at our Austin LotR group. I was playing a modified version of Seastan’s 100 Willpower deck (top right), while Stephen brought his trusty Dwarven Digging deck (bottom left), and Terence played a Gimli, Legolas and Galadriel deck which fit the theme of the quest perfectly (bottom right). After an intense fight, and with two of us dangerously near 50 threat, we emerged victorious. Close and hard-fought victories are often the most gratifying.
Both Stephen and I were fortunate enough to mill Poisoned Counsels off the top of our decks using A Very Good Tale. This was a critical stoke of luck as discarding your entire hand can be fatal – especially if this card shows up in the first few rounds. With the absurd level of card draw in my deck, it was a real danger that I had to bear this burden. Losing a copy or two of Ethir Swordsmen would have crippled my deck. I wanted to run a thematic Rohan deck that I built for Helm’s Deep, but it didn’t have the questing prowess necessary.
As it was, we needed every bit of willpower that we could muster to survive the siege. None of our decks featured location control, per se, just Thror’s Map. Ultimately, questing past the locations in the staging area was a superior strategy to using cards like Norther Tracker of Asfaloth. Most of the locations in this quest have terrible forced effects that trigger when they are explored.
Additionally, many shadow effects interact with the active location so there are times when the strategic choice was actually not to travel at all. One of the interesting tricks of this quest is that the climatic battle in the fifth stage is made easier if you avoid having an active location when you place the 8th resource token on The Defense of Helm’s Deep and the heroes charge into the climatic final stage.
This quest is one of my favorites, among an excellent crop of saga scenarios. The inversion of the core quest mechanics is illustrates just how flexible this game is. It was great fun to survive the onslaught with friends. We kept the history alive – the Horunburg has never fallen while defended. Keep an eye out for the upcoming episode of The Grey Company, we have a great conversation about this memorable moment in the story of the Lord of the Rings.