IntroductionNow that all six installments of the "Shadows of Mirkwood" expansion to Lord of the Rings: The Card Game have been released, I figured it was time for me to write a combined review. This review will cover all six expansions, which include: The Hunt for Gollum, Conflict at the Carrock, A Journey to Rhosgobel, The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Dead Marshes, and Return to Mirkwood. Since this review is of an expansion, I am going to assume that you are familiar with the basics of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, and if not, feel free to check out my review of it here. Also, since I've already covered the pros and cons of the basic game, this review will focus more on themes of the expansion set.
HeroesIsn't this the real reason that you're interested in buying expansions? You're curious who Fantasy Flight is going to come up with? Well, here's a cheat sheet of the heroes that were released in this wave (in the order that I find them in my box, not in the order they were released): Bilbo Baggins (green), Prince Imrahil (purple), Dain Ironfoot (purple), Frodo Baggins (blue), Boromir (red), and Brand son of Bain (red).
I also really like that Fantasy Flight was able to add heroes that I was unfamiliar with. When I opened the first couple of packs from this expansion, I received Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. I thought to myself, "Gee, I guess this is the hobbit wave - here come Sam, Merry, and Pippin." But, then, I was pleasantly surprised with people that I was unfamiliar with. This means that Fantasy Flight is investing a lot of time into the lore of Middle Earth (or making things up and tricking me). Either way, it means that they have a lot of ideas and plan to keep this game fresh.
Deck BuildingDo you have an obsessive need to have the best possible deck? To fill this need, do you have to buy all the new cards when they come out? Were you as annoyed as me when the base set did not contain three copies of each card, thus forcing you to buy several copies of the base game to build the deck that you really wanted? Then rejoice!! Fantasy Flight fixed my biggest complaint about this game! Each of the expansions contains three copies of each card that can be used for deck construction - a full "play set." This means that you only have to buy one copy of each pack, and you can build whatever deck you want!
With that stated, there were a few overall themes in these sets.
SongsSongs are the cards that allow you to build better cross-colored decks. They each require a neutral resource, and there are four different types - corresponding to the different colors. Each song can be played on a hero, and it gives that hero another resource symbol - suddenly your Purple hero's resources can be used for Purple and Green (or whatever other color, depending on the song you play). These were critical cards, and I'm glad that they released them in the first expansion instead of waiting on them.
My favorite Eagle cards are Landroval and Radagast (who isn't actually an Eagle). They're both expensive, but they're both worth the cost. Landroval is able to save a hero as it is destroyed (I believe this is the only effect currently available in the game that allows this). Radagast collects resources like a hero, but his resources can only be used to pay for "Creature" (currently Eagle) cards. These cards are both incredibly useful, and I can see them being used a lot through the rest of the expansions.
RohanThe theme around many of the new Blue cards was Rohan. Similar to the Eagles, Blue gained more and more cards that were either Rohan characters or that supported Rohan cards. I'm not convinced that there is quite enough power behind the Rohan cards that are currently released to make an effective Rohan themed deck, but I must confess that I haven't tried. I have spent most of this wave enamored with my Purple/Green deck (Steward of Gondor is, by far, my favorite card; I also love the Sneak Attack/Gandalf combination), so I will leave off the discussion of Rohan for someone more qualified.
AdventuresIf we only ever had the basic three adventures, this game sure would get boring, wouldn't it? Not to mention, it would be simple to build a deck that could win consistently, especially with all the new heroes and deck cards. Fortunately, each new set came with a new adventure.
The Hunt for GollumThe concept behind this scenario is that you are searching for clues to find Gollum. This really fleshes out the Objective cards that are only used in the base game in the hard scenario. Throughout the scenario, you will need to find various Clues about where Gollum has been hiding. If you don't find Clues, then you will not be able to quest in the last stage of the adventure. And yet, the more Clues you expose, the harder the enemies become. I like this scenario, and I think it is surprisingly challenging. For whatever reason, however, it seems the most fiddly to me. I have played it around 5-7 times, and I hardly ever remember to do each little card action ("at the start of the quest phase...", "after successfully questing...", etc).
Conflict at the CarrockDo you like fighting? Then this scenario is for you! Honestly, this is the scenario that I have played the least, because it seems like it works best with multiple players (and I have played the game a decent amount two or three players, but much of my gameplay has been solo). You start the game with four names Trolls just waiting to puch you in the face once you get to the second phase of the quest. What's worse, in the first phase of the quest the treacheries are absolutely atrocious! Your heroes can become "Sacked!" which makes them completely useless... and can instantly kill them if a certain other treachery comes out. This is definitely the hardest scenario of the six, but it is quite rewarding if you win. The key (from what I've seen) is to get to the second quest phase quickly, keep your threat down, and kill the Trolls off one at a time.
A Journey to RhosgobelThis could also be known as the "Quest to Save Wilyador." The goal of this scenario is to protect and heal Wilyador (an Eagle). This I think is the most creative, and possibly most enjoyable, scenario of all the ones I have played. Eagles and Ranged characters are crucial, as many enemies will only be able to be blocked by characters with these traits. To put you on the clock, however, Wilyador receives two wounds at the end of each turn. Fortunately, there are Objective cards that can be used at the end of the game to heal Wilyador by five wounds each. I recommend that you have some other cards (Green) that can help his healing process along as well, because if you do not completely heal him at the end of the game, then you will lose.
The Hills of Emyn MuilI have heard more complaints online about this scenario that any of the others. This is a single quest phase scenario (that requires only 1 quest point on that phase), but you must have 20 victory points and no Emyn Muil locations in play in order to win. This scenario is really fairly simple (it is mostly questing and traveling to locations), especially if you have the Northern Tracker (or several of them) in play. I will agree that this is probably the least enjoyable scenario to play, but I wasn't really disappointed with it. I am glad that there is a different flavor to each scenario.
The Dead MarshesAh, Gollum. This is his first appearance. Specifically, you have captured Gollum, and he is doing his best to escape. This introduces a new concept called the "Escape Test." Every so often, Gollum will attempt to escape, and you will be forced to attempt an Escape Test to see how successful he is. These work similarly to questing, but certain cards will have "Escape: X" on them instead of using the Threat amount on a card. If Gollum does ever escape, then he shuffles back into the Encounter Deck. And then the game goes on until you can find him again! (I don't recommend letting him escape.) This really is an interesting new feature to the game, and I like it theoretically. Unfortunately, I get bored when games force you to draw a card that is shuffled somewhere in a draw pile in order to win. So, when Gollum escaped from me, I did eventually win, but I was somewhat bored by the time he finally came up.
|Gollum Number 2|