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.

Secret Vigil – Community Review

by Jason Meyer

  • Card Talk Episode TBD
  • Cycle
    • Angmar Awakened
  • Set
    • The Lost Realm 

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Staging Area Threat Reduction
    • Threat Reduction


I suppose since the quote comes from Aragorn from The Fellowship of the Ring, it’s meant to bring one back to this idea of Dunedain Rangers keeping a vigil on the many Free Peoples. That’s a reassuring thought, when thinking of the many dangers outside the more populated areas of Hobbiton and Bree.

Card Theme

Thematically, it’s spot-on for me because it’s a Secret Vigil, observing an enemy in the staging area (so it’s seen as less of a Threat), and then while it’s engaged, one has determined some of its weak spots, and upon killing it, the death of such a high threat enemy has emboldened the cast of characters to regain some hope in their endeavor, and are able to move forward with less of that sense of impending doom that comes with much of Middle-Earth adventuring (at least in this game).

Card Synergies and Interactions

Bond of Friendship & Grey Wanderer Contracts

I would have liked this card to work better at helping one stay in Secrecy, but I’ve found that (to kill) an enemy while in Secrecy, I tended to have Hobbits or a Spirit Glorfindel; and it just hasn’t quite worked. Instead, I’ve liked this, like in my Bond of Friendship decks, for when I needed an extra Tactics card. Also, I’ve liked having this in some Grey Wanderer decks with a single hero that has high attack power (Legolas, Gandalf) to help me stay at pretty low Threat for a few more rounds.

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.

For only 1 Tactics resource, I’ve been finding this card to be pretty useful. It’s an attachment that can be played on any enemy, so if the (-1) Threat would be helpful in the Staging area (and often questing with Tactics is difficult) that’s good. But it can be attached to even an Engaged enemy, so if there’s an Ungoliant Spawn, Mumak, Giant Centipede, or some other high Threat enemy that is about to be killed, the Threat reduction kicks in. I know Dave is primarily a solo player, but I play 2-handed; and since Secret Vigil reduces EACH player’s Threat by that enemy’s printed Threat. In Tactics, Threat reduction is very beneficial. Also, that it’s a 1 cost, it has made its way into Bond of Friendship decks I’ve made. That the player can choose where it goes, makes it stand out from the typical attachments that can be put on enemies, so there’s less of a chance of this being accidentally attached to some 1-Threat enemy.

  • Jason – 5
  • Dave – TBD
  • Grant – TBD
  • Ted – TBD
  • Matt – TBD

Sample Decks

20210806_Bond_Dwarf by Jason Meyer

Main Deck

Hero (4)
Bifur (Khazad-dûm)
Dáin Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Nori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Thorin Stonehelm (Wrath and Ruin)

Contract (0)
1x Bond of Friendship (The Fortress of Nurn)

Ally (21)
1x Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Bombur (Road to Rivendell)
1x Dwalin (On the Doorstep)
2x Dwarven Sellsword (The Drowned Ruins)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
2x Erebor Toymaker (Mount Gundabad)
2x Ered Luin Miner (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Glóin (On the Doorstep)
1x Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Longbeard Map-Maker (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
2x Veteran Axehand (Core Set)

Attachment (16)
2x Boots from Erebor (Khazad-dûm)
2x Cram (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Dwarrowdelf Axe (Khazad-dûm)
2x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
2x Song of Battle (The Dead Marshes)
2x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Warrior Sword (The Ghost of Framsburg)
2x Woodmen’s Clearing (The Withered Heath)

Event (13)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x Ancestral Knowledge (Khazad-dûm)
1x Beorn’s Hospitality (Core Set)
2x Bulwark of the West (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
2x Feint (Core Set)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)

4 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Fortress of Nurn

Guided by Fate

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Encounter Control
    • Discard Pile

Finally a card that really enables player encounter cards like Ranger of the North, Winds from the Sea, Eagles of the North, and Tom Bombadillo!


The phrase, “guided by fate” shows up in the Two Towers when Gishkanah is killed right before he can kill Merry and Pippin.

“Grishnákh flung himself on the ground flat, dragging the hobbits under him; then he drew his sword. No doubt he meant to kill his captives, rather than allow them to escape or to be rescued; but it was his undoing. The sword rang faintly, and glinted a little in the light of the fire away to his left. An arrow came whistling out of the gloom: it was aimed with skill, or guided by fate, and it pierced his right hand. He dropped the sword and shrieked. There was a quick beat of hoofs, and even as Grishnákh leaped up and ran, he was ridden down and a spear passed through him. He gave a hideous shivering cry and lay still.” – The Two Towers, Chapter 3: The Uruk-hai

This is a bit of deus ex machina with the well timed arrow and a random rider of Rohan saving the Hobbits from an untimely demise. The art of Gandalf and one of the Eagles is more representative of another bit of deus ex machina from The Hobbit. That is the eagles’ timely rescue of Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin’s Company from the trees they sought refuge in but their goblin pursuers had set fire to.

The title of this card alludes to a greater theme in Lord of the Rings of the roles of fate and free will. There are many instances where the choices the characters make end up serving a greater purpose. Bilbo a seemingly happy hobbit homebody chooses to join Thorin’s Company. In doing so finds a magic ring that had long remained hidden eventually leading to its destruction and that of Sauron. Radagast unwittingly lures Gandalf into Saruman’s trap for him. As a result of Gandalf’s eventual escape when Galadriel sends Gwaihir to look for him, they are alerted to Saruman’s treachery and fall into shadow. Aragorn to prove himself worthy of Arwen, works hard to become a leader of men and the true heir of Isildur. He then is just the leader Gondor needs as the Steward falls into madness and death to stand against Mordor and draw attention away from the ringbearer.

This is all built into Middle Earth. Nowhere more clearly than “The Music of Ainur” within The Simarillion that is Middle Earth’s creation myth. Iluvatar, the god figure, creates the Ainur from his thoughts to sing the song that would become Arda or Middle Earth. One of the most powerful of them, Melkor the the eventual big bad of the First and Second Ages, attempted to subvert and corrupt the song. Iluvatar, however introduces new themes that subsume Melkor’s music into them. After the song ends Iluvatar says about it,

“And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” – The Simarillion, Ainulindale

It’s clear here that while the people and even spirits of Middle Earth have free will, it is all guided by fate to fit into the larger plan.

Card Theme

The card theme of the seeming fortuitous event that helps our heroes is extremely fitting. Especially as the mechanism makes the encounter player cards more likely to appear when they’re needed. That it is at the direction of the players reinforces the agency of fate in steering the ultimate destiny of Middle Earth. One seeming mismatch in theme is the art doesn’t correspond to the event in the books where the title is used. The art, however, ties into the eagles theme of player cards in Fire of the Eastement adventure pack. As mentioned earlier, the eagles also are often found to show up when needed most.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Player Encounter Cards

There are currently 4 events that can shuffle a set aside player card with the Encounter keyword, Ranger Summons, Flight of the Eagles, Flight to the the Sea, and Tom Bombillo!

Flight of the Eagles and the associated Eagle of the North given the eagle theme of the pack, are the main intended combo piece. They’re arguably the most useful pair of the player encounter cards. Flight of the Eagles is 0 resource cost and gets an eagle to leave play. This is a very useful effect for many eagle cards like Descendant of Thorondor, Meneldor, Eagles of the Misty Mountains, and Gwairhir (both hero and ally versions). On top of that, Eagle of the North is a strong attacking ally and good at questing especially for the generally willpower poor eagles and Tactics in general.

The other 3 events don’t do anything other than shuffle in a set aside card. Ranger of the North with its direct damage or progress can help get rid of a troublesome enemy or location. It’s stats are good and flexible and the ranged and sentinel gives it additional utility in multiplayer. Wind from the Sea is the only one with a shadow effect which makes for an interesting decision on when to use the action on Guided by Fate hoping to reveal it during staging or as a shadow card.

Encounter Control & Scrying

There are some player cards that can help make sure that whichever card Guided by Fate shuffled into the top 5 is the one revealed, or at least let a player know when to expect it. Denethor from the core set and Risk Some Light both are not let you see the top 1 and 3 cards, respectively but move a card to the bottom of the encounter deck. Firyal likewise can discard the first of the 5 encounter cards if it isn’t the desired one. Far-sighted will let a player see where the card is shuffled in at among the top 5. Henamarth Riversong and Rumor from the Earth only take a look at the top card, but for true solo players this is sufficient to determine if the card shuffled in by will be revealed during staging.

On the flip side, Guided by Fate can help set up certain encounter control cards. Prime among them are Wait No Longer and The Hidden Way. Guided by Fate’s action can ensure they do not whiff. Additionally the players can ensure that a weaker enemy or less troublesome location is put into play as well as revealing 1 less encounter card.

Dunedain Hunter and Pathfinder

Similar to Wait No Longer and The Hidden Way, a player can ensure these allies will always find an enemy or location and can enter play.

Victory Display

Out of the Wild and Scout Ahead combo really well with the action ability on Guided by Fate. Much like A Shadow of the Past, players can set up these cards to remove a particular card from the encounter deck since the encounter discard pile is public knowledge. Best part is it repeatable for victory display fellowships.

Quest Specific

Guided by Fate is a boon for quests with objective cards that don’t get shuffled back in when discarded or revealed as a shadow. The Hunt for Gollum and A Journey to Rhosgobel back in the first cycle are early examples with Signs of Gollum and Athelas objectives. Both are important to successfully completing the quest and having to discard one as a shadow can extend the game. In the case of the Athelas it could mean the difference in winning the scenario if the players can’t find enough to completely heal Wilyador.

The Ghost of Framsburg and The Ruins of Belegost are later quests where players are searching for Loot objectives and have the game go long if they’re discarded. The Ghost of Framsburg at least provides a location that can attach a Loot objective in the discard to an enemy. The Ruins of Belegost, however, Loot can only be found through the Discover X keyword. Locations with Discover have the players look at the top X cards to reveal 1 Loot Card and 1 Hazard card when it becomes the active location. If revealed any other way, they are just discarded. Guided by Fate can be a way get those Loot cards back into the deck right before the travel phase.

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 remember being very excited when I got Lost Realm for Ranger Summons and possibly getting a Ranger of the North from the encounter deck. A 2/2/2/3 ally for 1 cost seemed incredible. Playing it true solo, I learned you can’t count on it showing up particularly any time soon in a game. Guided by Fate fixes that issue for those cards and makes them much more playable. There are also a number of other use cases with encounter control cards, zero cost Dunedain allies, and quests where the players need to find certain objectives.

I rate Guided by Fate at 6 rings. All those use cases considered, they’re not universal. A more general application would be just to try recurring some less problematic encounter cards. I think, however, that the other encounter control options like Firyal, Denethor, or victory display cards would be better and more consistent at avoiding the worst the encounter deck has. Still if you’re going to run player encounter cards, this a fantastic enabler particularly for true solo players.

  • Dave – Thumbs up
  • Grant – Thumbs up
  • Ted – Thumbs up
  • Eric – Thumbs up
  • Matt – 6

A note on the podcast hosts’ ratings, when they recorded the episode on the card it was a spoiler. Fire in the Eastement had not released. They gave the card their spoiler impression thumbs up or thumbs down. It has subsequently come out, and I feel comfortable giving Guided by Fate a preliminary ring rating.

External Links

Sample Decks

Eagles and Dunedain by SchadenfreudeNE

A Dunedain and Eagles alliance featuring 2 Rangers of the North and an Eagle of the North.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Alagos (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Faunith (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)

Contract (0)
1x The Last Alliance (ALeP – Children of Eorl)

Ally (29)
2x Andrath Guardsman (The Mûmakil)
2x Chieftain of the Skies (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
2x Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm)
2x Eagle Emissary (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Messenger of Manwë (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
3x Northern Bowmaster (Under the Ash Mountains)
3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
2x Veteran Eagle (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
1x Wilyador (The Land of Sorrow)
2x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (7)
3x Golden Crown (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
2x Guided by Fate (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
2x Support of the Eagles (Return to Mirkwood)

Event (14)
2x Breath of Arda (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
3x Flight of the Eagles (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Hidden Roosts (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
3x Ranger Summons (The Lost Realm)
3x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet


Ally (6)
3x Eagle of the North (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Ranger of the North (The Lost Realm)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.