Unexpected Courage

  • Player Card Categories
    • Readying

The quintessential readying card.


This card takes inspiration from Bilbo luring the spiders in Mirkwood away from the captured members of Thorin’s Company based on the flavor text. Bilbo started off afraid.

Suddenly he saw, too, that there were spiders huge and horrible sitting in the branches above him, and ring or no ring he trembled with fear lest they should discover him.

The Hobbit, Chapter 8: Flies and Spiders

He soon finds the courage to antagonize the spiders and get them to chase him.

Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something. He could not get up at the brutes and he had nothing to shoot with; but looking about he saw that in this place there were many stones lying in what appeared to be a now dry little watercourse. Bilbo was a pretty fair shot with a stone, and it did not take him long to find a nice smooth egg-shaped one that fitted his hand cosily

The Hobbit, Chapter 8: Flies and Spiders

After getting their attention, he taunts and teases the spiders to lure them away. Then he is able to circle back to free the Dwarves. The art encompasses the Dwarves battling the spiders after Bilbo rescues them. It is from here on out that Bilbo takes a more active role in the story and no longer is just the gentle Hobbit of the Shire.

Card Theme

It is fitting then that the card allows for extra uses of hero. It fits really well for representing the extra reservoir of courage they didn’t know they had.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Strong Stat Heroes

The most obvious synergy is with heroes with multiple strong stats. Unexpected Courage let’s them use those stats in multiple phases of the game as appropriate. Gwaihir in particular benefits additionally from having another way to ready besides playing an Eagle ally.

Heroes with Exhaust Abilities

Some heroes like Beravor, Denethor, and Eleanor from the Core set have an ability that requires you exhaust them to use. Most like Beravor are limited to once per phase or round. Still Unexpected Courage on let’s you their stats for questing, attacking, or defending as well as their ability. There are also a few where an attachment can give a hero an exhaust ability like the Palantir or the Elven rings.

Vengeance of Mordor increased the number of heroes this is good for with the Messenger of the King contract.

Leadership Faramir ally is an excellent example where having easier access to readying helps since his ability is not limited. Messenger of the King limits the readying of the ally turned hero to once per phase, but still triggering an additional willpower per questing character twice can be a huge boost. Especially as repeatable ally readying typically requires multiple cards to pull off.

Ted is fond of saying with powerful cards like Unexpected Courage, the downside is you have to draw it. Card draw and search effects can help you find it sooner. In Spirit, Ancient Mathom, Elven-light, and Cirdan for card draw. Imladris Stargazer and Long Lake Fisher offer some in sphere card search options. Lore offers even more of both with Daeron’s Runes, Deep Knowledge, Master of the Forge, Heed the Dream, and more. There are even a couple neutral cards that can help like core set Gandalf, Gather Information, and Steward of Orthanc.

A round about way available Spirit is to utilize the Dwarf mining effects. Zigil Miner, Spirit Dain, Erebor Guard can fill your discard pile with several cards a round. This combined with attachment recursion very prevalent in Spirit functions like card draw/search. Dwarven Tomb, Reforged, Erebor Hammersmith, and Second Breakfast can get Unexpected Courage into your hard or play from the discard pile.

Quest Specific

Many quests have encounter car effects that exhaust a character either as a when revealed or shadow effect. This goes all the way back even to the core set. Caught in a Web is the most notorious example since it makes you pay 2 resources to ready the attached hero during the refresh phase. Unexpected Courage let’s you play around this condition attachment by giving you a way to ready. Similarly in Darrowdelf you can use Unexpected Courage to avoid the negative effects of Watchful Eyes.

Aside from the encounter deck trying impede your ability to quest, attack, or defend, there are many other times the quest will require you exhaust a hero. Sometimes it is simply to claim an unguarded objective. Many other times it is required for a test to represent the heroes attempting to do something outside the normal questing. Shadow of Mirkwood introduced this idea with Escape tests in The Dead Marshes and Return to Mirkwood. These tests have to commit character’s willpower to exceed escape value on the encounter cards. Unexpected Courage on a high willpower hero like Eowyn can help tremendously to pass these tests. The Lord of the Rings Saga had similar Hide tests in A Shadow of the Past. A variation that was based solely on number of characters exhausted rather than willpower used in the Dream-Chaser cycle and Mount Doom scenario for Sailing and Fortitude test, respectively.

Ring Rating

Card Talk uses the highly scientific yet arbitrary scale of 1 ring for the card to rule them all to 10 to be cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came.

I rate Unexpected Courage at 1. It is the kind of basic yet amazing card that needed to be in the core set to keep it relevant through the entire life of the game. Heroes tend to have better stats than allies and getting 2 or better willpower, attack, or defense typically is going to cost the same or more than Unexpected Courage’s 2 resources. That’s not even considering heroes that have abilities that are activated by exhausting them. Scenarios that feature encounter card effects that exhaust heroes or have test in them gives it even more utility. Forth, The Three Hunters and Grey Wanderer contracts only made action advantage even more valuable.

  • Dave – 1
  • Grant – TBR
  • Ted – 1
  • Matt – 1
  • Average – 1

Sample Decks

Bilbo Super Quester

Basic idea was to use Galadriel’s, Theoden’s, and the contract’s willpower boosting to turn Bilbo into super quester especially with his ability on top.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bilbo Baggins (Mount Gundabad)
Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Théoden (The Morgul Vale)

Contract (0)
1x Forth, The Three Hunters! (The City of Ulfast)

Attachment (44)
3x Expert Treasure-hunter (On the Doorstep)
3x Golden Belt (Challenge of the Wainriders)
3x Golden Shield (The Flame of the West)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Herugrim (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Hobbit Pony (The Wastes of Eriador)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Mirror of Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Nenya (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Ring Mail (The Long Dark)
3x Round Shield (Mount Gundabad)
3x Silver Circlet (Wrath and Ruin)
2x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
2x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
3x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x War Axe (The City of Ulfast)

Event (6)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Open the Armory (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Challenge of the Wainriders


Attachment (9)
3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
3x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Warrior Sword (The Ghost of Framsburg)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

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