A Knife in the Dark

Run Time: 45:25. Watch the Video

Most Valuable Card: I feel like this scenario was a real “share the load” sort of scenario. Many cards in play contributed to the win. Gaffer canceled a few attacks, Treebeard helps kill the Witch-king. rosie boosted a few different Hobbits. All of that said, I think I was most grateful not for one, but for two cards this time. In this case, the old standby combo of Sneak Attack & Gandalf. Finding both copies of Sneak Attack, albeit at different points in the game, coupled with both copies of Gandalf was fortunate. Yay, Sneak Attack & Gandalf!

Thematic Win: This week’s thematic win doesn’t come from the gameplay per se, but rather from the deck construction. Of course, I didn’t think about this beforehand, but when I was editing in the clips and I realized that there were four Hobbits in Bree and my deck contained four Hobbits, I was tickled about it. I get it. Fellowship Frodo counts as a fifth Hobbit and I’m sure that the designers considered this and were equally tickled about the possibility of *the* four Hobbits showing up to Bree, but for this week, I’m sticking to the four Hobbit hero deck being reflective of the literature. And it was nice to match the clip with the deck intro, too.

I was so excited that I was able to use the gatekeeper scene from Bree right at the beginning of this scenario. It mentally felt good know that I was going to be able to get some good clips to edit in, and you’ll notice the run time of this scenario is longer than the previous. Sure, I’m getting better at editing video, but sometimes the plays are just a little longer or maybe, just maybe there is a bunch of scenes to put in.

A first round kill of Bill Ferny? Yup. I wish it were solely because of the Hobbits, but alas, it was mostly due to a Sneak Attack/Gandalf in the first round that put most of the damage on him. But, you know that Bill was designed with 5 hit points so that the Sneak Attack/Gandalf combo couldn’t kill him right out the gate. But, combined with Bilbo’s 1 damage for questing successfully, I was able to kill Bill even before the first combat phase began. I remember a practice play that I was able to use Bilbo to deal all the damage to him. I was a little rougher because adding all that threat each round was inconvenient, but Bilbo was able to get the job done. Bilbo really is a star in many scenarios.

A first round kill of Bill Ferny? Yup. I wish it were solely because of the Hobbits, but alas, it was mostly due to a Sneak Attack/Gandalf in the first round that put most of the damage on him. But, you know that Bill was designed with 5 hit points so that the Sneak Attack/Gandalf combo couldn’t kill him right out the gate. But, combined with Bilbo’s 1 damage for questing successfully, I was able to kill Bill even before the first combat phase began. I remember a practice play that I was able to use Bilbo to deal all the damage to him. I was a little rougher because adding all that threat each round was inconvenient, but Bilbo was able to get the job done. Bilbo really is a star in many scenarios.

Okay, okay, okay. I thought it was pretty cool that I was able to find a “travel to the Prancing Pony” scene early on, but I thought it even cooler that instead of the traditional “A wizard is never later…” scene for Gandalf entering play, I was able to use a scene from The Hobbit when I paid full price for him in round 2 that showed Gandalf actually showing up to the Prancing Pony. Bonus points for theme that the two folks at the Prancing Pony resembled the enemies in play, one was squint-eyed and one was, indeed, shady.

What I found with this scenario is that early on it could have easily gone sideways and gotten out of control. But having an extra hero (even if it was just a Hobbit) helped keep things in control. I know I was lucky getting an opening hand Sneak Attack/Gandalf, but I was still able to kill three enemies in the first round and by the time I forced to engage the Nazgul, I was able to handle it pretty easily. I guess I can’t just attribute it to only the extra hero that the Bond of Friendship contract provides, but also the card draw that Frodo’s Intuition gave. Having all the options in my hand to handle the Nazgul really let me know by that time that I was likely going to win the scenario. That said, the end of the scenario does provide some challenge and I was purposeful in my journey in getting there.

As I moved along to stage two of the scenario, there wasn’t much of interest that actually happened, except that I was able to turtle and lower my threat and get just a little more set up for the inevitable. Which is the transition to the third stage. As I look back on the play, I was happy that it played out like it did for thematic reasons. The trudge through the Midgewater marsh was not a battle with a bunch of Nazgul or Traitorous Breelanders. It was a push through locations and while my play made it feel easy, the book and movie portray that leg of the quest as a real slog. From a game play perspective though, I was relieved to get set up for the third stage. Like I said in my announcement article, I always play the scenarios before so that I get a feel for the quest, and I usually played them for a win before I recorded. For this quest, I was happy I did so that I knew how to maximize my chances to win.

Through the second quest stage, I was fortunate to not add a set aside Nazgul to the encounter deck. And since we are talking about it, I am glad that all the card that add a set aside Nazgul have choices on it. If you were playing blind, you may choose differently, but by keeping those pesky Riders from Mordor out of the encounter deck, the third stage become really hard instead of nearly impossible. That said, three Nazgul coming at me is still pretty scary. I’m glad I wasn’t such a slave to the theme that I decided to add two more. I don’t think I’d have been able to handle the questing part of the game. I would have gotten overrun. Instead of location lock, would I call that Nazgul lock? I don’t know.

I was able to handle a few of the Nazgul because of Gandalf’s enter play effects. And I thought that there was a scene in the movie that was Gandalf fighting the Nazgul on Weathertop, a few days before the Hobbits arrive there. In the book it’s described like a lightning storm off in the distance from the perspective of Frodo. But however much I looked for the scene, I couldn’t find it. I chalked this up to Tolkien’s skill in writing and that he drew such a vivid picture for me with his words, that I visualized it all in my head. Ah, verisimilitude!

Oh, that pesky Witch-king. I was doing so well, getting rid of the first Nazgul in the combat phase immediately after flipping to stage 3. I was able to handle the second one during the quest phase, and then I was hoping to make short work of this scenario by getting rid of the Witch-king in the next combat phase. But I just didn’t have the strength. I needed more firepower. And that’s the problem with Hobbits. They are great; sneaky and stealthy. But if they don’t have a few key attachments, I get stuck not questing well, not attacking well or not defending well. So, the Red Book of Westmarch got me questing really well. With Rosie in play, I could defend, but since I wasn’t able to get double uses out of her, I was lacking in the attack category. So, no clean sweep for me. But that’s the price you pay for playing Hobbits.

As a point of interest and a misplay (but I don’t think it impacted whether I win or not) is that I forgot to discard Fellowship of the Ring. I chump blocked with Rosie at the end of the game and that should have forced me to get rid of the attachment. I didn’t do that, but I don’t think it made much of a difference in the outcome.

I think by the end, I had to keep the Witch-king engaged with me for 3 rounds before I could finally kill him. I was nervous about it, but staging was nice to me. I think it was Treebeard that really put me over the top here in the last round to give me the ability to vanquish the Witch-king. Thank goodness for Treebeard.

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