So, this post is late, very late, but better late than never. Very brief announcement here. We are going live once again tomorrow, April 24, at 4pm Eastern. This will be a very special episode of Second Breakfast as we will be announcing a double giveaway (there will be two separate contests) and giving you details on how to enter. We will be playing against the dead marshes and if you do not have that quest, come and join us anyway, we have something prepared for you as well. Come and join us as we will have prizes for new and veteran players alike. Until tomorrow, happy gaming!!
Wow, what a great second breakfast we had yesterday. Unfortunately for the spiders, they did not get any breakfast (let alone second breakfast). Yesterday, we tackled Flies and Spiders, the first quest in the second Hobbit saga box: On the Doorstep. Finally, we won one of these challenges. It felt so good. As usual, I will not go into a lot of detail on our play in this post. If you want that, go ahead and watch the video. I will just be covering some of the highlights here.
We started our quest with a bit of rotten luck, two or three rounds in, we ended up getting a Lazy Lob while we were at the Forest Stream. That poisoned all of our currently questing characters, and as we did not clear the location that round, we were left with very few characters to quest with in the following round. We were able to overcome that difficulty with Caldara being able to pull four allies from my discard for the following round and that gave us enough to power through the stream.
Once we got past the first quest card, I was the first player and had to knock all of my characters unconscious (I also had to remove all of Bilbo’s resources, something I had not realized and had been stacking up extra resources on bilbo for the whole game). The first round by myself, I readied Imrahil for questing, leaving myself vulnerable to attack. Had I pulled an enemy that had 3 or more attack, our game would have ended there. Luckily, I got a treachery that had no effect and we ended up crushing the rest of the quest.
Both of our decks worked quite well for us. My deck did not swarm or utilize pipes as much as it has before (this is the first time that I actually played the deck before the stream), but I got a really good Caldara setup, pulling four allies worth 12 resources total from my discard. I think a bit of the pipe interaction was lost due to not being able to play Bilbo in this quest which I normally would put in this deck. I also was unable to play Jubayr, which is another fun ally to be able to play with Caldara and I normally would have him in this deck as well. Had I looked a little closer at the quest, I probably would have put Power of Orthanc into my deck as well. I did not realize that poison was a condition attachment. Although, we were already having some threat issues so maybe it is better that I didn’t.
Ethan’s deck did surprisingly well. He drew some tough deck restrictions but was able to pull something brilliant out of it. Even though Kahlil was nearly incapacitated the entire game, he still pulled it off. His deck was quite powerful and was pretty good all around. He did not have a ton of attack but still managed to kill spider after spider as he waited for me to finally rejoin him. It may have even been his best Second Breakfast build yet and he figured that it would be one he would save for future plays as well.
Overall, it was a really good game with some really fun and tense moments. The spiders will have to try harder next time. I think this was probably my favorite challenge yet and aside from a few technical difficulties, it went pretty well. As always, I would encourage you to try this challenge for yourself. You can find the deck restrictions down below or in the Youtube video description. I would really like to see some more of the Harad decks. I think it was an interesting combo. If you enjoy Lord of the Rings content and want some more deck inspiration, don’t forget to check out the rest of the Youtube channel where the main show gets posted every Tuesday.
As for how you can best interact with us and Second Breakfast challenges, make sure to check out our Discord server (link below), where we now have an all new Second Breakfast channel. Feel free to post your decks there and share your playthrough experiences with us. We would love to hear from you. Also, make sure to join us on April 24, 4pm Eastern, as we bring you another challenge. This time, we will be going way back in the game’s history and visiting a place that is uncomfortably close to the gates of Mordor. This will be a very special episode as we will be announcing a giveaway. I’ll just say for now that the giveaway will be a product that is now somewhat rare and everyone who owns a core set can use. You don’t want to miss it so make sure to join our livestream for that. See you all in two weeks.
Quest: Flies and Spiders
Micah’s deck: Spirit-Pipes-Ally Swarm https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/27355/challenge3spirit-pipes-allyswarm-3.0
Ethan’s deck: Harad-Bond of Friendship-No Events https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/27237/challenge3bondoffriendship-harad-noevents-2.0
You know what the community needs? More proof of just how amazingly thematic the game is. So, for nearly a year, I have been playing the Lord of the Rings Saga Campaign. I have been capturing many of my plays on video. I have a set of successful plays recorded and ready to release to the community. I even have a few scenarios where I have multiple versions recorded and will release.
But what makes this different than other solo plays of the campaign?
There are two answers.
First, I am using the same deck through the whole thing. It’s a Hobbit Deck, using the Bond of Friendship contract. I love the deck and I love how there are tricks to help me through some of the sneakiest of scenarios. It is also sturdy enough to face some of the most challenging scenarios head on! (I’m looking at you, Journey to the Cross-Roads!) I also love how, when I had things line up in terms of theme, that certain scenarios were made easier. Spoiler alert: Sam with Sting makes Shelob much more tame.
Secondly, and this is what I am most proud of, each scenario has scenes from the movies edited in to it so that you can follow along with some of the most exciting parts of the source material in the game and see how it was represented in the movie. This has given me new respect for both the movies and, more importantly, for how the game represents some of the most seminole moments in the books. I have found scenes that represent characters entering play, leaving play, enemies entering play, ememies attacking, defending, questing, traveling, encounter cards entering the staging area, completing quest cards, exploring locations, and the list goes on and on. Now, I don’t interrupt every action in every scenario to bring a snippet from the movie. I try to keep the flow of the game play smooth and consistent.
The inspiration for this is from two places.
I have to give credit where credit is due. When I saw a few episodes of The Progression Series by Matthew and Mitch, whenever Gandalf entered play, Mitch cut the cartoon version of Gandalf saying, “I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!” whenever Gandalf entered play. I thought it was a great side bar to the game and added flavor.
My primary inspiration, though, lies in making videos. Actually, my passion for making videos is really why I started Card Talk. Yes I love the game, yes I love talking, but I love to edit the videos and I thought it was really a niche in the community that needed to be filled; a podcast that talked about the game on video. Actually, we only released videos for much of the first year because I wanted to stay true to the video format. Eventually I received enough messages from members of the commuity that they’d like to have audio shows, so now we do that, but know that video making was my first love.
It’s not that I’m an expert in the game. I’m no rules guru. I am not a spectacular deck builder nor am I a savant that has memorized the card pool and can immediately recognize card interactions. But what I do have is a passion for making videos about things I love. And I love this game and I love Tolkien’s world.
I’ve had this on my radar to do for the community for a long time. I wanted to finish (or at least play all) the saga scenarios live, with my friend. We were at The Battle of the Pelennor Field when the pandemic slowed our live plays to a halt. We were able to play through the Mountain of Fire box during a safe time in the pandemic when we were all vaccinated and outdoor play seemed reasonable. We still haven’t beaten Mount Doom, but we at least were able to play all the scenarios, so now I could work on this project. And I started it in May of last year.
Let me explain why almost a year later I am finally releasing this. First, I wanted to make sure that I got through the whole thing before I released it. I knew that my time was limited and this was going to take a while. I wanted to make sure that I could make releases regularly, so that meant I had to get through the whole thing before I released it.
Also, each video was produced in several parts. First, I had to play each scenario off camera to understand the triggers and make sure I could easily play through the game. Second, I had to record the winning play. For some of the scenarios, I won the first time I played on camera. For many, I played it at least twice to get a win, and for a few, I played many, many times to get a win for the camera. Once the win was captured, I then spent several hours editing the video clips into the play. Lastly, I would write my reflection about the play or about the behind the scenes stuff for the blog. Also, I didn’t want to get too far ahead because if I found a critical error in my play, I didn’t want future recordings to be invalidated. So most of the course of the campaign, I would be editing one video for a scenario and practicing for the next. Likely, I would only have two videos ready to edit at one time, and if I get too far ahead, I would spend time editing, catching up, so that I could play the next scenario.
Did I ever find an error that made me go back and have to rerecord a scenario? Yup. There are three scenarios (only two rules I broke) that I had to replay. It turns out that Thorongil can only be played on non-Fellowship, non-Baggins heroes. I played it on Frodo once and Aragorn once for some dramatic victories, but in the end, it was too much of a mistake for me to *not* replay them. But, I will release those videos for you to watch even though they aren’t part of the official Theatrical Campaign. And for the other, I missed a trigger on a location that totally changed the outcome of the game, so that was a bummer. But that play will also be released for you to see.
Lastly, there were a few rule conflicts that I worked out as best as I could based on input from other players. Most notably, how do you deal with earned boons in Bond of Friendship deck when the deck limit is set by the contract? Also, there are a few times when I know that I have to do really well on a particular scenario so that a future scenario is easier. For example, I do my best to maximize my success on The Siege of Gondor so that The Battle of the Pelennor Fields in a little easier. While I am giving an authenitic recording, I definitely am trying to play for victories that make my future plays easier and I did play a few of the scenarios for multiple victories to pick the best. I am not trying to “roll the dice” too much. That said, these plays aren’t perfect nor are they staged.
All of this is to say that I hope you enjoy this new presentation of what has always been the gold standard of game play within our community. It’s a campaign play through that’s recieved a glow up.
Next week we will start with the Black Riders box and the first scenario, Shadow of the Past. Please enjoy the video and the write-up that accompanies it. And check back each week for a new play and a new post!
Okay, I am going to apologize already for the confusion I am going to cause with this post. Easter is coming up and we did not want to do a livestream on Easter Sunday, which we were scheduled to do. Additionally, our current schedule is not ideal for Ethan. It would be much better if we switched over to the opposite Sundays from the ones we have been streaming on. To solve both problems, we are going to be skipping this weekend. THERE WILL BE NO LIVESTREAM THIS SUNDAY, APRIL 3. The next livestream will be on April 10 at 4 pm Eastern time. Following that, we will be livestreaming every second Sunday as usual. Thus, our next two livestreams will be on April 10 and April 24. In the meantime, continue playing around with last week’s challenge against The Watcher in the Water. Let us know your thoughts on how it went and decklists that you are using for it. Either post it in the Youtube comments or join us on our Discord server to discuss these challenges, we would love to hear from you. If you have already tried both decks against this quest, I’ll give you another deck to try here. Try building a deck with no unique cards (except your heroes), no events, and Grima. That should be enough of a challenge to keep you occupied until next week. We’ll see you next on the 10th then if not before then on the Discord server and you should join us there. You really should. We want to discuss with you. Ted is not the only one who loves talking about cards (although, he is on there too). So join us. The link is right here: https://discord.gg/TqwkhDGHNa. Just click it. Do it now. In all seriousness though, we do really want to discuss these challenges with you and engage with the community in that way. Until next time, don’t stop playing and having fun.
This is a combat deck not a questing deck, but it does rely on questing successfully to play some of it’s cards.
In this deck I use Hirgon to reduce the cost of higher cards while using Grimbeorn and allies to combat the forces of Sauron. In my opening hand, I would like to see a Skin-changer, Steward of Gondor, Legolas, Send for Aid or Gather Information, Honour Guard and Hauberk of Mail. This allows you to get resource acceleration going with Steward and Theodred, Legolas for card draw and Send for Aid allows you to get an ally in the top 10 when cleared. Honour Guard and Raven Wing Helm help mitigate damage. Gather Information helps to get Legolas or the Armored Destrier for combat control. Generally, Théodred’s resource goes to Hirgon as you want to save Grimbeorn’s resources for his attack backs.
Power grimbeorn the old nightmare
2x Beorn (Core Set)
3x Beorning Guardian (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Beorning Skin-changer (The Withered Heath)
1x Erestor (The Long Dark)
3x Giant Bear (Fire in the Night)
1x Grimbold (The Flame of the West)
2x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Warrior of Dale (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
1x Yazan (The Mûmakil)
2x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Bow of Yew (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
2x Cram (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Dúnedain Mark (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Hauberk of Mail (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
2x Raven-winged Helm (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Warrior Sword (The Ghost of Framsburg)
3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Ghost of Framsburg
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
Decklist built and published on RingsDB.
Well, that challenge went…um…swimmingly? If our definition of swimmingly is being drug down into the depths of a stagnant pool to swim evermore with The Watcher, then yes, it went swimmingly. Anyway, welcome to the blog version of Second Breakfast where every other Monday, I will be spending a little bit of time recapping how our playthrough went and posting the challenge here for you all to read and maybe give it a go. I won’t go into to much detail here on the playthrough, if you want that, go check out the video of the livestream here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAekPpwr62M
So, as stated earlier, things did not go very well for us during this challenge, although it was not as bad as our first challenge. Our first play resulted in a quick reset due to some rotten luck from the encounter deck and Ethan’s deck really falling flat. On our second run my deck was really not up and running until later in the game, after I had already lost Gildor. Still, Ethan’s deck took off and we nearly won (although it has been pointed out that due to an overlooked willpower, we should have lost during round 7), but the deck was being ruthless, giving us all the wrong Doors of Durin cards. On the last quest phase, we pulled a stagnant creek which ended up raising our threats by five, killing both of us (I would not recommend bringing the one ring to this quest, but for this challenge, you just kind of have to deal with it). If I had a test of will (but you never have them when you need them), we would have been able to make the Doors of Durin test immediately after, and won the game.
Even though we failed again though, we had a lot of fun with this challenge. As I have said multiple times, this is one of my favorite quests in what is easily my favorite cycle (also the first cycle I ever got). This one was a real roller coaster and about 5 or 6 rounds in, we had both kind of given up and just decided to play it out anyway, taking it to a very near-victory in the end. Yes, I know what you are thinking, I am ignoring our round 7 mistake. Yes, I am going to pretend that just wasn’t a thing. And yes, I am okay with it (although I appreciate being notified about it, thanks Carl). Back on topic, these are the kinds of moments that really remind us why we play and love this game. It was tense and we were on the edge of our seat the entire time.
So what was the challenge? Well, if you are new to Second Breakfast, this is a series where we play a random quest with random deck restrictions assigned to each of us. The goal of this is to hopefully spark different ideas for deckbuilding and maybe get people to think differently about certain cards and how they can be used to build decks. For example, I have never used and probably never would have used hero Bombur or mainly Lore dwarves in a deck before. But after seeing it actually work alright for Ethan, I may revisit that someday and I don’t see Bombur as being utterly useless anymore. The other aspect of these challenges is that it really narrows the focus of a deckbuild. If you are like me and want to include every card in every deck or are a newer player who is overwhelmed by the amount of cards there are in the game, these challenges can really help you narrow those options down and give you a starting point (maybe a really terrible starting point but a starting point nonetheless) for constructing a deck. Therefore, while it may be more of a challenge in the sense that it is harder to construct a really good deck, it also can make the deckbuilding process significantly easier as well.
The challenge for this week, which has been made obvious by now, was to play The Watcher in the Water, the third adventure pack from the Dwarrowdelf cycle. My deck restrictions were to play with the “master” trait, Thorongil, and “put into play” effects (basically effects that allow you to play cards for no cost). Ethan’s deck had to use hero Bombur, be an ally swarm deck, and be a healing deck as well. Keep in mind that when we play these decks on the livestream, they are always untested and we have no previous experience with them.
For that reason, there are a couple things I would have changed about my deck. First, I should have looked at the quest again more closely because I did not remember the dramatic amount of threat increases that this quest can throw at you. Had I seen that, I would have included some more threat reduction in my deck. Second, you can see in the livestream the moment I pick up Elfhelm in my second game and realize that in order to use his “put into play” effect, I have to use a Rohan resource (I was not running a single Rohan hero). For that reason, he is definitely going to get booted from this deck as he is then practically useless (there are a lot better ways to get his stat line for a cost of 4 or less).
Apart from those two changes though, I actually kind of enjoyed this deck. I really liked being able to play Thorongil on Elrohir giving him just a ton of defense, an extra readying ability (which I used incorrectly once), and less of a starting threat cost than hero Elrohir (sacrificing only 1 attack and 1 hit point). I also liked being able to have a lot of solid, unique allies that I always had the option to use power of command on (even though I think I only ever used it once). This deck really generates a solid amount of willpower (and for future reference, I will be putting Light of Valinor on Elladan instead which I believe will be far more useful). Overall, I think the deck does pretty well provided you get Thorongil and Steward of Gondor.
Enough about me though (and I can’t speak for Ethan’s deck as I did not play it but I think it did pretty well), I won’t bore you with any more details regarding our playthrough. Again, if you want that, you can go watch it yourself. However, I will put all of the challenge details in a shortened form here at the end of this post. If this kind of challenge format is something that interests you, please go try it for yourself. If you do, be sure to let us know how it went and leave a link to what decks you used. You can do that either in the comments of the Youtube video (linked below), or chat with us in our new Discord channel (also linked below). And lastly, if you are liking these challenges, be sure to subscribe to our Youtube channel so that you don’t miss any. That way, you can also check out the main podcast which puts out quality content every week and is just a lot of fun to listen to. There is a reason that this show is called Second Breakfast, its great, but there is no Second Breakfast without a first one (and trust me, the first one is so much better so go check it out). Most importantly, go play the game. That is what Card Talk is really about, getting people excited to play more game and build more decks. While you are at it, maybe give this challenge a try and come back in two weeks for a new one.
Quest: The Watcher in the Water
Deck 1: Hero Bombur, Healing, Ally Swarm (Ethan’s deck: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/26598/challenge2bomber-healing-allyswarm-1.0)
Deck 2: Master, Thorongil, “Put into Play” Effects (My deck: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/26599/challenge2master-putintoplay-thorongil-1.0#)
Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/CardTalkAnLOTRLCGPodcast
Discord server: https://discord.gg/ArrDgDKFCg
This week’s livestream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAekPpwr62M
Just a quick little announcement for this weekend. If you missed the first one or if the first Second Breakfast left you hungry for more, then you are in luck. We are coming back this Sunday with a second Second Breakfast livestream at 2pm Eastern, March 20. Second Breakfast is a live playthrough series in which we take on a new challenge every two weeks, with random deck restrictions, trying to beat a random quest. That means that every two weeks there will be a completely fresh challenge that we want to invite you to participate in. Plus, with all that has been happening, from topics that were discussed on the pod, recent announcements from FFG, and the taste of the previous challenge lingering (I can still taste the defeat), we have a lot to talk about on the livestream. So come and hang out for a while; we look forward to seeing you there. Our goal is to really interact with and engage the community and hopefully spark some new deck ideas with these challenges in this all-new random game mode. Make sure to tune in to find out what this week’s deck restrictions are going to be (and believe me, Ethan has some really interesting ones) as we try to take down one of my personal favourite quests: “The Watcher in the Water.”
FFG Announced today that Angmar Awakened will be the first cycle repackaged into a campaign and player card expansion boxes. The campaign box will contain the 9 quests from The Lost Realm deluxe and 6 adventure packs plus the new campaign cards. The player card box will have all the heroes and player cards released in the cycle. As far release date, the Asmodee webstore listing for the player card expansion has June 17th, 2022.
Linked in the official announcement were 4 spoilers, 2 of the boon cards and 2 of the burden cards. Hardy like many of the other boons from the LOTR Saga provides a permanent boost to a hero. Determination is a very interesting new boon. The ability not only affects the target of the ability, but other characters with another copy attached or that have had it attached in previous games of the campaign! It is going to be very interesting to see how powerful this card can become throughout the course of campaign. The burdens also have one that is similar to others in the LOTR Saga and one that has an effect based on the campaign log. Losing Time like the Saga burdens has a pretty bad when revealed effect plus surge. Arnor Ravaged looks to flip side of Determination. It’s effect that could be worse as the campaign goes along depending on how damage for it is accumulated.
The card fan contained 2 more boons. Silverthorn is boon that looks to synergize with the cycle’s victory display cards like None Return and Rossiel. Mail of Earnur is partially obscured but it appears to be say,
Attach to a hero. Restricted.
Attached hero gets +2
Response: After a play[er?] … heal 1 damage from att[ached hero?]
Likely it gives the attached hero +2 defense or hit points considering it is an armor attachment.
That is all that is known currently about the new Angmar Awakened boxes. I will update this post with any new spoilers or leaks as they become available.
Updated November 29, 2022
Is the Revised Core Set compatible with the old expansions?
Yes 100% compatible because it is not a new edition. The rules and cards are the same.
If it’s not a new edition, why is it called the Revised Core Set?
It’s called the Revised Core Set because the contents of it have changed slightly.
- It now has 3 copies of every player card except heroes, Gandalf, and the new campaign cards. The original Core Set sometimes only had 1 or 2 copies of a player card.
- It now has enough tokens and threat trackers for 4 players out the box. The old core set had only 2 threat trackers.
- Resource, progress, and damage tokens now have 1, 3, and 5 value denominations. The original Core Set tokens only had denominations of 1.
- A new campaign mode added with campaign, boon, and burden cards added. These are also available as Print and Play for anyone with an original Core Set.
- It comes with 2 rulebooks, a Learn to Play and Rules Reference that includes campaign rules. The original Core Set only had a single rulebook. Original rulebook didn’t have campaign rules because it was introduced later with the Lord of the Rings Saga expansions.
What is the new release model?
At the 2021 In Flight Report, FFG announced it will re-release some but not all the cycle expansions (deluxe + 6 associated adventure packs.) as 2 expansions instead. Each re-released cycle will have a scenario expansion with all the quests, encounter cards, and a new campaign mode. All the player cards will be released in a player card box.
Which ones will be re-released?
FFG announced Angmar Awakened will be the first cycle released as campaign and player card boxes in March 2022 and it released in July and August 2022.
Fellowship of the Ring that repackaged The Black Riders and The Road Darkens Saga expansions released in October 2022. It is anticipated that 2 more boxes will repackage the 4 remaining Saga expansions (Treason of Saruman + The Land of Shadow and The Flame of the West + The Mountain of Fire).
Dream-Chaser and Ered Mithren are also expected to be repackaged. This is not announced but pieced together from an interview with Caleb Grace (go to the 48 minute mark) where he said he avoided using cards from repackaged cycles in the four starter decks. Stephan of the LOTR Players Facebook Group, identified that there were no cards in them from Angmar Awakwened, Dream-Chaser, Ered Mithren, and the LOTR Sagas. The Angmar Awakened announcement and subsequent release backs up Caleb’s statement.
I bought the Revised Core Set, what should I get next?
Community consensus is look at getting Dark or Mirkwood and/or Saga expansions next.
Dark of Mirkwood is a re-release of 2 quests from the Limited Edition 2 Player Starter Set. Both are good introductory scenarios that are only a little more difficult than the first Core Set scenario, Passage Through Mirkwood. It also will come with new campaign cards that continue the Revised Core Set campaign after Escape from Dol Guldur. The one downside is this pack doesn’t have new player cards if you want more deckbuilding options.
The Saga expansions cover the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in 8 deluxe sized boxes (the new LOTR Saga expansions are or will be in 3 revised core set sized boxes). They each come with lots of player cards and 3 scenarios (6 scenarios in revised Saga boxes.) The scenarios are designed to be playable with just the included player cards and a core set. Many of the included player cards are quite good. The first Hobbit one is Over Hill and Under Hill. The first LotR one is The Black Riders or The Fellowship of the Ring.
Should I wait for new re-released cycles or buy the old deluxe expansions and 6 adventure packs if they’re available?
At this point, new players should just wait for the repackaged expansions. Players on r/lotrlcg and Discord report stock of the old deluxe and adventure pack expansions is extremely difficult if not near impossible to find. If you’re looking to get all the old scenarios and full card pool, the best bet is to find someone selling their collection.
If you do find the older expansions, don’t worry about missing out on any new campaign added to re-released cycles. FFG has released all new campaign cards for the Core Set, Dark of Mirkwood, and Angmar Awakened as Print and Play.
For more on the deluxe and adventure pack expansions see Dave’s New Player Buying Guide
What are the new Starter Decks?
They are 4 pre-built player decks centered around the Dwarf, Silvan, Gondor, and Rohan traits. These are fully playable 50 card decks out of the box with additional cards to customize. You can find more details in our New Starter Decks Announced and Starter Decklists Spoiled news posts.
What are Nightmare Packs? Do I need them?
Nightmare packs are small expansions that added difficulty and often refined older scenarios. They’re not essential and not recommended for newer players.
TL;DR A versatile neutral ally well positioned for unexpected combat requirements.
[In] the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree and were believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, and to understand the languages of beasts and birds. They roamed at will southwards, and eastwards even as far as the Misty Mountains; but they were now few and rarely seen. When they appeared they brought news from afar, and told strange forgotten tales which were eagerly listened to; but the Bree-folk did not make friends of them.
—The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Ch 9, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony
The Ranger of Cardolan was released during the Angmar Awakened cycle which featured heavy development of the Dunedain archetype. These descendants of the kingdom of Arnor are capable of an aggressive, combat focused style of play as they seek to protect and guard those more vulnerable, and happen to be able to tell a good tale now and again. As such, Ranger of Cardolan makes an excellent contributor to this style of play.
If you’ve played the Angmar Awakened Cycle (which is likely since that’s where this card originates), you’ve been exposed to a fair smattering of Dunedain history. However, it isn’t intuitive to piece the scraps together solely from playing the card game. Hence a brief (and hopefully accurate) review of the foundational historical pieces of Arnor, of the Northern Kingdom of the Dunedain.
Following the defeat of Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance, the rule of Arnor is assumed by Valandil, Isildur’s only surviving son following the Disaster of the Gladden Fields. Thereabout eight uneventful centuries pass until the unity of Arnor is splintered into three kingdoms: Arthedain, Rhudaur and Cardolan.
Arthedain was in the North-west and included the land between Brandywine and Lune, and also the land north of the Great Road as far as the Weather Hills. Rhudaur was in the North-east and lay between the Ettenmoors, the Weather Hills, and the Misty Mountains, but included also the Angle between the Hoarwell and the Loudwater. Cardolan was in the South, its bounds being the Brandywine, the Greyflood, and the Great Road.
—The Return of the King, Appendix A, “The Númenorean Kings”, “Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur”
The chronicle of tales shows that the dread realm of Angmar was established and Rhudaur fell under it’s control. Cardolan allied with Arthedain to hold back the evil forces, but it was eventually overwhelmed and it’s royal line destroyed. A band of survivors took refuge in Tyrn Gorthad (Barrow Downs and Old Forest region) where they interred the Last Prince of Cardolan (possibly the tomb Frodo encounters) where they endured for two centuries; but eventually they were ravaged by the Great Plague and perished, allowing the evil wights of Carn Dum to possess the barrow region. Upon rescuing Frodo, Tom Bombadil remarks of his memory of the fallen people of Cardolan; to what extent he interacted with these people is unknown, but he was certainly present and contemporary with them, and may have had friendly relations.
It is speculative to suggest this ally card represents a faint, unbroken lineage of Cardolan Dunedain. Rather, it likely depicts rangers of intact Arthedain descent who are stationed, posted, or positioned in regions of the former Cardolan kingdom (additionally, similar for the Sarn Ford Sentry). Nevertheless, card’s ability is a thematic success for to spring into play from the shadows in order to protect others.
Synergies and Interactions
Let’s establish one thing at this point, the stats on the Ranger of Cardolan are quite good. A combined nine stats for four resources is cost effective and it’s neutral (non-)sphere to boot. There are a good number of heroes that have a 2/2/2 statline as well as several allies in the “Vilya Champions” group. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call it the strongest non-unique neutral ally in the game (although there are interesting cases to be made for Guardian of Rivendell, etc).
Researching this card provided a lot of different clever uses for Ranger of Cardolan. But its high stats are a bit of a drawback when it comes to all of the effects that Ranger of Cardolan could trigger. If a card effect requires you to exhaust an ally/Dunedain/Ranger, then there is almost always a lower stat ally that could fit the bill (provided they are actually in play). These come at the opportunity cost of not being able to use its stats, which we’ve verified, are quite good.
To establish just a couple other points on the card’s ability that will come up later. “After you engage an enemy” is not limited to the Engagement phase. This could be triggered during non-traditional phases for engagement such as planning, questing, combat, etc. Also note, when triggering the ability, Ranger of Cardolan stays in play until the end of the round (i.e. the very end, after the refresh phase); you could get several uses out of this card over the course of the round with various readying effects available, or even in the narrow window after it refreshes but before the round ends and is discarded.
I’ll briefly acknowledge some combo’s that are viable, but on fringe of productive. Expert Trackers has an interesting combo to engage an enemy, bring in the Ranger of Cardolan and exhaust it place progress on a location; but it’s not really that productive since a different Scout/Ranger could be used to exhaust and our Ranger of Cardolan could be used to help deal with the enemy. He’s only here for a limited time, let’s make the most of it. Similarly, attachments on the Ranger of Cardolan could be useful, but that means you’re not using his ability (although very much still viable), and as before, other allies may be better targets.
There’s another set of combos that are intriguing, but still only situationally applicable because several pieces may need to be in place.
- Descendants of Kings: more ways to get uses out of Dunedain stats/actions and you’ll likely have enemies engaged if you trigger Ranger of Cardolan’s ability
- Tale of Tinuviel: always takes some finesse since it’s not providing action advantage. Since the stat boosting lasts until the end of the phase, extra readying is needed to get maximize the benefit (say from: Descendants of Kings)
- Dunedain Hunter: an alluring gamble to directly take on an extra enemy to get a strong ally in play for not cost. Sometimes that enemy is more than you can handle right away, and the Ranger of Cardolan could help double-team that enemy if necessary. Plus, played during the planning phase, it gives you more opportunities to get an extra use.
- Wait no Longer: a similar combo as previous, play during planning and appreciate exactly what extra enemy you are dealing with this round. However, it starts to get a little bit expensive to pull off.
- Heir of Valandil: a perfectly acceptable way to reduce the cost once you’ve got some enemies engaged. Appreciate the flexibility to play Ranger of Cardolan this way if you missed the opportunity to trigger the response, of if you have Ranger of Cardolan back in your hand later in the game when the response isn’t as needed.
- Mablung (hero): while he doesn’t share the right trait with the Ranger of Cardolan to trigger its ability, Mablung effectively defrays the cost of putting the Ranger into play during any phase.
Now to the substantive analysis, putting Ranger of Cardolan against the two staple 1-cost cards dealing emergency/unexpected combat:
Completely shuts down an attack and no secondary effect triggers: no shadow card, no forced effect related to the attack, etc.
Allows ‘enters/leaves play’ effects to trigger. If the ally survives, it could be paid for conventionally during the next planning phase, or a second sneak attack during a later phase of the same round.
Ranger of Cardolan
One resource cost is not specific to a sphere. Ally remains until the end of the round. Card is shuffled into owner’s deck for potential reuse. Takes up less ‘deck space’ with the integrated ability.
Objectively, Feint and Sneak Attack deserve their spots among the most popular and abused effects from the core set. But looking comparatively at the Ranger’s ability, would Feint and Sneak Attack be improved if they were neutral (non-)sphere? Would Feint and Sneak Attack be improved if they were shuffled into their owner’s deck after use (say, conditionally if no shadow effect was dealt to the target enemy)? The fine print to shuffle back into the owner’s deck can be incredible if there is sufficient card draw in a Dunedain deck.
The Ranger of Cardolan can be an excellent archery damage soak, effectively healing itself as it leaves play (also true for Sneak Attack). But it is also significant card economy, as it takes up half the space in your deck as a Sneak Attack and the corresponding ally.
Clearly there are some restrictions on Ranger of Cardolan. Controlling a Dunedain hero is much more limiting than being able to pay for one tactics or lore resource based on any hero lineup; there’s only six Dunedain heroes by name, and a couple more Messenger of the King candidates. But there is quite a bit of sub-archetype flexibility here: the multifaceted Aragorn, Idraen with location control, Thurindir (and Thalion) with side quests, and Beravor with card draw support. It also is only triggerable at the moment you engage an enemy; while that usually is the most impactful moment to have use of an extra ally, it lacks the flexibility to enter play if that isn’t the case.
Sidebar: Thalion mirrors the Ranger of Cardolan. Differing only in ability and unique status, they share the same card type, stats, cost, traits and sphere. It would really be a bonus achievement to trigger Ranger of Cardolan if your only Dunedain hero was Thalion after three side quests have been cleared.
Here we go; you’ve been looking for that overpowered combo to abuse the encounter deck with. Here we go! It was an unexpected surprise when I found the quote at the head of this article that mentioned when the Rangers would appear in Bree they “told strange forgotten tales which were eagerly listened to“.
Alright, you’re smart. You’ve probably known this combo was coming all along. But let’s go over some extra abuses of A Very Good Tale when used in the refresh phase before Ranger of Cardolan is discarded at round’s end. If you’ve snuck it into play using only one resource, you’ve got a chance to get excellent value out of that one resource.
To be explicit, all characters will ready during step 7.2 and then A Very Good Tale is playable during the action window between 7.4 and 7.5. Exhausting an ally, especially one with a high printed cost, that is about to leave play maximizes A Very Good Tale’s already potent resource acceleration and card draw effect.
Here’s an extra achievement to unlock for yourself: pair Ranger of Cardolan with another ally leaving play at the end of the round. Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman, while costly, all have powerful when enters play effects that you can squeeze one more use out of before they depart. Combined with Ranger of Cardolan, they can bring in a pair of high cost allies. Frankly, a pair of Rangers makes a perfectly viable combo on their own.
Dwarven Sellsword and Wilyador similarly leave play at the end of the round, but they are remarkably cheap allies whose value decrease the longer you keep them hanging around; what better than to play them on the cheap, yet get another stable ally into play as they leave (however, you are compromised to a total cost of incoming allies at five resources, but still plenty of respectable allies can be brought in this way).
Backing off “Peak Power” for a moment, imagine blanking the textbox on Ranger of Cardolan; gone is the ability, but also the restriction. Is it still worth playing? Consider how playable a neutral ally is in a tri-sphere deck.
Consider also if a Bond of Friendship contract is played. Per the setup restriction, ten non-sphere cards need to be included in your deck and, with four heroes, paying for a four cost ally doesn’t require any forethought or resource hoarding. As good as they are, a strong neutral ally is much more playable than one belonging to a specific sphere. (And if you really want a third neutral ranger, remember Thalion.)
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.
The Ranger of Cardolan has a lot of strengths. As a neutral ally, it can fit in almost any deck. Its statline is versatile and above average per stat to resource value/ratio. With a Dunedain hero, it can bounce into play many times during a game especially as an emergency combatant and archery soak.
With a mature card pool, it can’t always get included, but it’s certainly worthy of consideration in many decks even if its ability isn’t triggerable.
- Dave – 4
- Grant – TBR
- Ted – 5
- My rating – 3
- Average – 4.00