Gloom of Kilforth: May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Prologues and Epilogues

Prologues and Epilogues

Something that has been missing from the Lord of the Rings card game is an end to the story once you've completed the scenario.  What happens once you've escaped from Dol Guldur?  Did King Thranduil's message carry?  But I can understand why they didn't include cards for this in the game, especially since there was such an outcry already about the rip-off card distribution in one core set.

In any case, in order to complete the short stories I designed for my own scenarios, I developed the following Prologue cards to be read before starting the adventure.  If you manage to complete all 3 stages you simply flip the card to read the Epilogue on the other side.  Whilst this doesn't affect gameplay (although it does finally instruct you in which order to play them!) I think it rounds out the experience nicely from a thematic point of view.

Enjoy!









And the print version:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fantasy Quest - A brief word on Stats


A brief word on Stats.


I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years, trying to come up with cool and interesting sounding words to represent the characters’ abilities that connect inextricably with the gameplay.  A hero has Valour, right?  This could mean his strength, or combat ability.  How many different words are there for agility or dexterity that sound new and interesting?  Does magic come from intelligence?  Or spirit?  Or one of those arcane words like ‘mana’?

Let’s face it, they’re all derivative of D&D abilities in one form or another.  That’s fair enough, but my constant aim has been on emphasising the story of the adventures, and how to translate those abilities into the story aspect of the game without having to talk about Charisma and Wisdom and such.

Whilst developing the Keywords for the various places, allies, titles and characters in Fantasy Quest, repeating themes and ideas kept emerging.  And I had to start putting a limitation on how many different ways you could interact with the people and environments or the game options would spiral out of control, or I’d end up writing a book - like the (awesome) Book of Tales from Tales of the Arabian Nights.  To that end I decided to use ‘doing’ verbs for characters’ stats.  This also allowed me to neatly insert them into story and quest cards.

So you meet a stranger, and you want to talk to them.  To get the information or item or help that you need from this stranger you’d need to maybe convince them of your needs.  Perhaps they’re a cowardly thief and you need to bully them into giving back stolen goods?  Maybe they’re a noble guardian and you need to convince them of your integrity to let you pass?  Possibly you need to flirt with the royal envoy for them to send aid?  Okay, so all of this requires you to INFLUENCE that person.  Which means a saga or quest card might ask you to “INFLUENCE the HERMIT to obtain the LOCATION of the SPELL, and use this to STUDY the DEMON threat.”

Woah, do I have to look at all those shouty capital letters?  Well, maybe not that many.  But believe me, it helps the pertinent stuff stand out.  It’s brief enough to keep the game moving, and it provides a neat little narrative for you to string your gameplay actions to.

This time you might want to pick a lock, or hide from a beastly monster, or creep into an enemy fort.  Well, to me it sounds like those actions would make you a real SneaKy sort.

Next up you may need a Spell to help you on your way.  Well, you’ll have to Study hard to learn it.

But when it comes down to it, and you find you can’t Sneak past that Doom Guard, or Influence it to join you, or Study its weaknesses...  Well, then you’ll just have to Fight the damned thing.

Fantasy tropes and familiar game mechanics are impossible to avoid without fragmenting a game like this into too abstract a level.  So where I could, I’ve endeavoured to keep the good stuff in, keep it simple, keep the game moving, and keep it interesting and fresh.  Hopefully I’ve succeeded.  Here’s a quick spoiler of one of the nicer PLACEs you can visit in Fantasy Quest:





Until next time!

What is Fantasy Quest?


Fantasy Quest is a card game of high fantasy with a gothic edge, where 1-4 players must adventure forth to develop their heroes and save the land from a growing evil. They will visit strange places, stranger people and overcome powerful enemies in their quest to discover mysterious artifacts and ancient treasures.
Playable in 1-2 hours.
The following is taken from my design journal but I don't want to give too much away at this stage so I hope this will suffice for now:
This game has been in development for a long time and has undergone so many permutations in the last six years that I’ve literally ripped it up and started again numerous times. From board game, to miniatures game, to proto-RPG I’ve finally settled on a format I hope will be cost effective and elegant: the card game.

Fantasy Quest sees 1-4 players taking a humble adventurer on a journey through a dark world of magic and peril and following their tale from modest beginnings through an epic story to an exciting climactic battle for the fate of the world.


Drawing inspiration from titles we’ve already seen like combat-heavy tactical dungeon crawls (Descent, D&D, etc.), condensed overland adventures concerned either with combat (Runebound) or random encounters (Talisman), games that stretch into story-telling (Tales of the Arabian Nights), cooperative games against insurmountable odds (Arkham Horror, Defenders of the Realm), and tactical adventure card games (Lord of the Rings: The Card Game), I’ve always been looking to design a game that distils the heroic story telling of an in-depth role playing game down into an amount of time that’s playable in an evening. It’s something that many of us crave as we get older and have kids and relationships and jobs and so on which preclude us from throwing all that time away on months of role-playing games.
So whilst I wanted to include all the high fantasy stuff that many of us love, and which in many ways mostly stems from Tolkien’s work, I also tried to develop new techniques of weaving them together to create story-based gameplay.


The two key drivers for the game are the Heroes' Sagas and the Politics of the Kingdom. These are both represented by card decks of the same name. The Sagas represent the tales that the heroes will tell as they progress on their journey to fame and fortune, whilst the Politics are global affairs that affect everyone living in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom itself is a perilous land filled with nefarious monsters, mysterious strangers and dangerous locations, and dominated at its centre by The Sprawl, a huge city where the heroes begin the game. Throughout the Kingdom various factions vie for power over each other, such as the supposedly noble Order of the Rose or the terrifying Doom Guard.  And presiding over the world outside the kingdom is the ever-present Overlord, Masklaw.
Here's a preview of one of the more benign locations, which offers a number of methods of interacting with the place by using the symbols - more on the symbols later:













Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Defenders of the Realm - Companions and Catacombs


The following is a collection of three session reports using the upcoming Companions and Catacombs supplement for Richard Launius’ kick-arse game Defenders of the Realm...






GAME 1: WIZARD + DWARF


Upon hearing that they were not alone in the Realm, and that there were other eager young adventurers around willing to help them take on the malicious Generals, the Wizard headed to the Inn early, realising how valuable that help would be.  At the Gryphon Inn, his tales of the approaching generals and the inexorable spread of their armies enthralled all those present, and from a shadowy corner next to the fireplace a hooded figure stepped forward.


Throwing back their cloak, that very person was revealed to be a beautiful young maiden, who was very famous, and popular with the kids.  “My name is Princess Karollyn and I will join you.  But in doing so I must warn you that even now the Dark Lord has summoned his Warlords and Darkness is spreading across the land as we speak.  We must not tarry.”


From the opposite corner of the Inn a mighty knight clad in gleaming armour kicked back his stool and stood to his feet, towering over the rabble of drinkers.  His face looked flushed and there was a whiff of whisky.


“Sir Robert Crowsdell!”, gasped a local, “Surely he will hell aid us in our hour of need?  Have you come to lead us from darkness, Sir Robert?”


There was a pause as the courageous knight swayed a little.


“Pzz off, shn’b lizl.  ‘Hisky dammit!”  Sir Robert bravely belched and staggered out of the tavern door, never to be seen again.  (FYI - I blame DrCrow entirely for this personal dissing, it was clearly nothing to do with me not having the right hand of cards...)


Unfazed, the Wizard and Princess set off together and fell upon the Generals’ minions with a vengeance, first hunting down the terrible Warlords plaguing the lands.  The Wizard became an Undead and Orc Hunter and later would face off against Varkolak and prove victorious, also becoming the Undead Slayer.


Meanwhile, the Dwarf took a similar tactic and decided to get some help of his own.  He quickly enlisted Dakk Wulfe, who was happy to come along.  For a turn.  Whereupon he was discarded to clear out minions from a particularly nasty location.  “Fare the well, Dakk, thanks for coming,” the Dwarf snarled.


The formidable Dwarf fought on alone to become the Demon slayer and the Dragon slayer.  Then he entered the deadly Dungeon.  Boulders came crashing down around his head as he darted through the dark caverns.  Orc archers emerged from the shadows to defend their home but were quickly cut down by the seething Dwarf.  Racing through the dank caves the tireless Dwarf stumbled upon a Demonic spawning pit.  As hellspawn began to emerge from the rank pit the hardy Dwarf stood at the edge and swung his axe repeatedly, guiding the hapless devils back to their ethereal homes, albeit headless and bleeding.  When no more emerged, the (insert choice adjective) Dwarf lit a cigar and rested against a cracked Boulder - which had been following him through the dungeon - surveying the entrance leading deeper into the depths.


Just then an orc patrol emerged from the passageway.  They glanced at the giant axe concealing a disgruntled Dwarf, then they looked at the pile of demon heads littering the floor.  The Dwarf sighed deeply and dug his cigar butt into the boulder.  “Come on then, ye blighters,” he snarled.


Seconds later he was stepping over the bits of orc and entrail and running for his life.  The ceiling was collapsing again, and more vicious Boulders dropped and rolled, trying in vain to crush the unfortunate Dwarf.


He had been running for so long, it seemed as though the Corridors were Endless.  Thankfully they weren’t, and he came upon an underground lake, a magical pool where he bathed and rested for a while to regain his strength.  He slowly finished his last cigar and stared at the huge, ancient doorway leading to the Treasure Chamber.  Getting to his feet and towelling off the magic waters, he pushed the door open and stepped through, “Right then, you bastar-” he started.


From within a legion of invincible Gargoyles teemed out and battered the beleaguered Dwarf.  Ripping at his flesh with their stone claws and teeth the Dwarf fought bravely as they chased him all the way back out of the dungeon.  The mean Gargoyles beat the crap out of the poor Dwarf and kicked him out of their dungeon, whereupon he stumbled into the arms of awaiting minions, who promptly chopped his face off and stole his beard.  Which now serves as a knitted blanket for orc babies.


The Dwarf was replaced on his quest by the ever eager Eagle Rider who was around for just long enough to follow the Wizard and watch him kill Gorgutt for the win!






GAME 2: CLERIC + ROGUE


The Cleric had been travelling for days and finally had found the Helm of Power.  Resting it carefully on her head, she stepped over the bodies of the dead minions scattered around her and gingerly entered the Dungeon of Bones.  Crossing the long, quaking Stone Bridge she screamed as it suddenly fell apart beneath her.  Nearly plummeting to her doom into a Demon Pit, she caught a handhold and clambered back onto the bridge, narrowly avoiding the arrows of the Orc Archers waiting for her on the other side of the Bridge.  A brief battle ensued but was ended quickly when Boulders - deadly, crashing, evil, almost sentient Boulders - fell from the ceiling crushing nearly everything and filling the caverns with choking dust.


Running from the dust cloud and deeper into the dungeons the Cleric shrieked again and was swarmed by thousands of biting, nipping Rats pouring from the walls and ceiling.  Brushing herself off as they disappeared back into the cracks and crannies around her she discovered a Magical Fountain, where she bathed in slo-mo, restoring her energy and pausing briefly to pose for an impromptu Sports Illustrated Swimwear shoot.  The Troll photographers turned on her when she refused to trampoline for them and things got nasty, gory and bloody real fast.


Wiping the Troll brains from her mace, the fraught Cleric stepped into the Treasure Chamber and finally faced the evil, always laughing, but never joke-sharing, Black Knight.  In a somewhat protracted, epic battle, they actually ended up killing each other simultaneously, the Cleric dashing the Black Knight’s brains in with her mace at the exact same moment that his black sword took her head from her shoulders.  The Cleric’s Helm of Power clattered to the floor as her head rolled out of it.


Whilst at the same time...


The Cleric’s BFF, ‘Rogue’ the Rogue, quested like a lunatic, becoming a Demon Hunter and discovering the Crystal of Light.  Going up against the Generals she wasted no time in becoming the Orc Slayer and the Undead Slayer.  And whilst getting absolutely wasted during a victory piss-up at the Inn, her tall stories attracted the attentions of Balikk the Wayward Fireballing Wizard who decided to join her and pledge to her his Balls of Fire.


Together they entered the Dungeon of Bones to avenge the poor Cleric.  Instantly they were trapped inside by a slamming Portcullis, accosted by Harpies and harangued by Orcs.  Being the Orc Slayer, Rogue instantly slew the miserable Orc squad.  Only to see a vile Beholder flying down the corridor at them.  Running away into Endless Corridors and avoiding the ubiquitous falling Boulders, Rogue and Balikk eventually came face to face with...  An Army of Minions.  Slaying the crap out of them - and with Balikk Fireballing their heads off - Rogue staggered into the Treasure Room, victorious.  With a cry of joy she held aloft the totally awesome Flaming Sword! 


Glancing at the Cleric’s dismembered body the Rogue casually picked up the Cleric’s Helm of Power, and, whistling nonchalantly, she headed out of the dungeon and back into the daylight.


Our tragic heroine the Cleric had been quickly replaced in a last minute script rewrite by (my personal favourite) the Ranger, who overcame his uncanny predilection for rolling ‘1’s to be called a Dragon Hunter and the Dragon Slayer.  He even successfully petitioned the King of the Gryphons for assistance in the war, and, finally, he killed Balazarg becoming the Demon Slayer and defending the Realm for the good of all and FOREVER*!






* not actually forever.




GAME 3: SORCERESS + PALADIN


The Sorceress was an addicted quester.  This ‘Questing’ business was catching.  She’d been to classes and groups to try and overcome her addiction but to no avail.  “I Quest all the time,” she complained, “I can never get anything done.  I haven’t even washed these clothes in weeks, I’ve been so busy bloody Questing.”


She also gossiped like nobody’s business and overcame Rumours, Hunted Dragons, Envoyed the Duke, enlisted the Gryphon King, and found the Crystal of Light (which presumably the Rogue had dropped somewhere a long time ago whilst pissed up on booze).  The Sorceress had also heard from the Wizard that Princess Karollyn was game for pretty much anything, so she headed to the Inn to enlist her.  After a few days’ drinking she also decided to take the curios, slightly withdrawn Night Feather along for a laugh, who she ended up using and abusing so much that he eventually just shouted “Screw this, I hate you”, and left.


The Sorceress’ brother, who was a graduate from Paladin College, had long ago decided that he would take all the glory in the world for himself and he feverishly hunted down the Generals one by one, assassinating the Orc, Dragon and Undead Generals to become Chief Slayer of Almost Everything.  Picking up his only friend Cyriss Glenn along the way, he found the Banner of Valour, the Amulet of the Gods, the Tree of Magic, and became Envoy to the Elves.  Songs were written of his legend.


But those same songs were quickly erased with giant mind-rubbers just a few days later...


It transpired that there could be such a thing as “altogether far too much Questing”.


The Camel-Straw-Back interface came when the Sorceress flashed her Questing right in Balazarg’s face.  “Haha,” she giggled to the bemused Demon Lord as he looked at her with annoyance, “I’m even Questing YOU,” she taunted, as she danced around Scouting his location and casually breaking his minions’ necks.


Her Paladin Bro stormed into the clearing, “Enough of this tomquestery!  Avast, yon Demon, thou hast breathed thine last!  I, who slew the Orc King, who slew the vile Undead Lord, and who – lest thou forgetst - also didst slayed - slew – slay Sapphire, the Dragon Lady, have cometh to kill you!”  He drew his sword and held it to the Demon Lord’s throat.  Balazarg sniffed impatiently and snapped the Paladin’s sword in two.


You could hear the Paladin gulp.


Flicking his tail, the Demon Lord launched both Paladin and Sorceress into the air.  As they flew through the air they discussed plan for retribution (FYI the plan was, to quote the Paladin, “The same again”).  A couple of miles later, their plan complete, they landed in two fortunately placed bales of hay.


The second time around Balazarg was even less impressed.  Before the Paladin could begin his sermon, the Demon Lord plucked one of his arms off and began gnawing on it.


“I’m alright, I’m alright,” the Paladin mumbled to his sister as they staggered away, defeated, and repeatedly slipping in the poor Paladin’s blood as it spurted all over the place from his gaping wound.


Realising his time was short, the Sorceress wiped away her tears and asked her dying brother, “Do you have any regrets?”


“Frankly?” he gasped, as Balazarg marched his unstoppable army into Monarch City, “I probably didn’t do enough...  Dungeoneering...  Bleurrrurrrrgh....”








OVERALL




Just.  Epic.  Stuff.
We literally will not be playing without the C&C rules anymore and I look forward to the official release with baited breath.  Richard’s support for this game is legendary, and his plans for its future are inspiring.  It’s fair to say that there is no game designer around that works as hard to keep his product alive and truly kicking arse.  And I’ve not even got started on the Summer League stuff yet!


Epic.


Big thanks to Richard for all his work on this, and shouts out to DrCrow for his awesome support as the real life “Chief Slayer of Almost Everything” - even if you did diss me back at Gryphon Inn.  ;)

Resident Evil: Deck Building Game Solo Mercenaries Mode - quick, casual observations of (gulp) 36 games...





Way back over the Easter break, so not all in one day, I caned Mercenaries mode with every single character from the basic game plus Lost In Nightmares Jill and Chris, using the Custom Starting Inventories, and using each of the three available Resource Setups.

Here's a quick glance at the victory points scored by each character in each of the setups provided:

SPECIAL FORCES SETUP

Rebecca Chambers - 65
Leon - 5
Jill (Lost In Nightmares) - DEAD
Jack - 16
Chris (Lost In Nightmares) - DEAD (10)
Jill - DEAD (4)
Barry - 68
Chris - DEAD (2)
Sheva - 67
Ada - DEAD (1)
Wesker - DEAD (4)
Claire - 70

LIMITED MOVEMENT SETUP

Rebecca Chambers - 9
Leon - DEAD (0)
Jill (Lost In Nightmares) - DEAD (4)
Jack - 23
Chris (Lost In Nightmares) - 16 (10 Life left)
Jill - DEAD (2)
Barry - 46
Chris - DEAD (9)
Sheva - 10 (80 Life left)
Ada – DEAD (2)
Wesker - 5
Claire - 35

JACK OF ALL TRADES SETUP

Rebecca Chambers - 2
Leon - 13
Jill (Lost In Nightmares) – 28 (45 Life left)
Jack - 7
Chris (Lost In Nightmares) – 45 (80 Life left)
Jill – 22 (30 Life left)
Barry – DEAD (12)
Chris - 16 (55 Life left)
Sheva - 20 (35 Life left)
Ada – DEAD (1)
Wesker – DEAD (2)
Claire – 28 (30 Life left)




For some reason I seem to have only sporadically recorded the Life remaining of each character.


Some Casual Observations


I stress ‘Casual’ since my playing style, learning curve, and the random card draws all contribute to massive variables here...

1. Custom Starting Inventories are especially skewed, as they are in the base game, but I think more fun than everyone just starting with the same setup.

2. Item Management is essential in Mercenaries Mode, although choosing whether to have one or two in your deck is an agony.

3. Jack is a consistent survivor, albeit low-scoring due to his fairly weak knives. With more practice I reckon he could be great in this mode though, since enemies are at a 40 Life maximum.

4. Rebecca is a surprising survivor, although difficult to reliably score with.

5. Sheva, Barry and Claire start with a massive advantage and are able to easily capitalise on this by quickly racking up great scores.

6. Wesker (normally my favourite) rewards the long game and so suffers in Mercenaries Mode as his abilities take proportionally longer to unlock.

7. Ada and Jill (both versions) are a bit rubbish.

8. Chris (both versions) is unexpectedly difficult to manage and play successfully.

9. Leon’s pistol abilities are tricky to bring to bear in this shorter game mode.

10. With the clock ticking, all characters have to quickly and efficiently balance healing with managing and trashing cards, building up ammo, and sourcing effective weapons.

11. You can’t rely on your Levelling abilities, even once you start killing. Combos can mean that you won’t even see your Level benefits for a number of turns, by which time the game can change dramatically.

12. It plays speedily and elegantly and you can fire through games at a pace.



Overall

Great fun! And probably more satisfying solo than the Story Mode, where you have to use Mandatory Exploring to really have a challenge.

Took me a while to pluck up the courage to deviate from the Story Mode but I see this as a way of getting a lot more play out of the game, since it rewards shorter playtimes.

And a quick note on multiplayer - whereas for a two hour game my group would prefer something a bit meatier than a deck building card game, at just 20-30 minutes a time, Mercenaries mode delivers all the same zombie blasting fun in a digestible, bite-size morsel!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game EdgeMage's Scenario - The Unruly Brood

EdgeMage designed the following scenario for those who bought two core sets.  Personally I won't be buying more than one set but I look forward to trying this using just one set of Spiders of Mirkwood cards.  This is just a print layout version, all design and credit goes to EdgeMage and the original article can be found here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/article/6695042


Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Kløve Reviews NinjaDorg's scenarios

Thanks to Christian Kløve for taking the time out to review my LOTR scenarios:

http://boardgamegeek.com/article/6793565#6793565



Review of four new scenarios created by NinjaDorg



Note: This is not a review of the base game. Instead this is a review of NinjaDorg’s fan-made quests. You can find the questshere. 

I will try to avoid spoilers in reviewing the quests, but if you're like me and like to play the scenarios without knowing what you're about to face, then skip to the end for my conclusions.

BGG user

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has created four new scenarios, three of which form a trilogy of sorts, like the three scenarios in the base game. The fourth scenario is a stand-alone. NinjaDorg has named them in the order he published them, so scenarios 1, 3 and 4 make up the trilogy, while scenario 2 is the stand-alone. Because scenario 2 is unlike the other 6 available quests, I will review the the trilogy of scenarios first, saving the odd man out for last. Note that I use the terms quest and scenario interchangeably.

Generally the components are good. The graphics are nicely evocative, and every quest card has flavour text on both sides, nicely setting up the action. The set-up text is generally easy to understand and everything is easily readable on my cards.

I played the trilogy solo using a spirit/leadership deck, that does well against the two first quests of the base set. The deck is made from a single core set, and contains two copies of Gandalf.

Scenario 1: Old Forest

Thematically this quest sends you searching for the lair of a group of Orcs, leading to encounters with their two leaders with a little surprise at the end. The initial set-up has each player searching the encounter deck for an orc card, placing it in the staging area. Also Chieftain Ufthak and a Hill Troll are placed to the side of the encounter deck, ready to pounce on the heroes at an inopportune time.

Compared to the Journey Down the Anduin, I found that Old Forest gave me quite a bit more time to build up my resources, and I didn’t have too much trouble advancing to the final stage. The Hill Troll is certainly a formidable foe, but facing him later rather than sooner shifts the power balance in favour of the heroes. All in all, I didn’t find the quest too hard – I would probably rank it at the same level as Journey Down the Anduin, difficulty 4, rather than the difficulty 5 Ninja-dorg has given it.

Scenario 3: Forgotten Ruins

The second quest sends you into a crypt, with boss fights against Ungoliant's Spawn and the Nazgul of Dol Guldur. Also it utilizes the Shadow Key objective card – though in a way that negates some of its negative attributes.

Now, this quest gave me a harder time than the Old Forest. With no cards in the staging area, I found it difficult to control the pace of the first stage, leading to an early showdown with Ungoliant's Spawn (which emerges when you place the last progress token on the quest). Also, this quest uses the Orcs of Dol Guldur, the Wilderness and the Spiders of Mirkwood encounter cards, which contain some of the nastier enemies. At one point I was facing Ufthak, a Hill Troll, the Spawn and had just evaded the Hummerhorns. Of course you sometimes run into those perfect storms of ad-bass mofos, but the harder encounter sets make that a bit more likely. I found this quest harder than both Old Forest and Journey Down the Anduin, and would probably rate it a 5, which incidentally is the rating NinjaDorg has given it.

Scenario 4: The Elven Assembly

The last scenario has our heroes fighting an orcish ambush, trying to reach the Elven King. The starting set-up has every player searching through the encounter deck for the first orc they find, and stage 1B has every player engage one of those enemies. The second stage is a race, as players cannot engage enemies, even optionally. The last stage once again has players search for and engage an orc from the encounter deck.

Now, I should note, that NinjaDorg has updated this quest since I printed my cards, so I did not play with the correct rules. In particular, my card only stated, the the players not make engagement checks in the second stage, but not that optional engaging enemies was prohibited. This gives a different, more urgent feel to the stage. That said, I did find this quest quite a bit easier than the other two quests, quite simply because you don't have any of “boss encounters” other than what the game throws at you. I would probably rate this a 3, when comparing to Old Forest and Journey Down the Anduin. However, playing with the updated rules might easily raise this to a 4. NinjaDorg rates this a difficulty 5 quest.

Scenario 2: The Lost Road

The Lost Road takes a new spin, only allowing the players to start with one hero. The set-up also notes, that players only play one sphere of influence, but it is not clear, if NinjaDorg is commenting to the players or set a rule into effect. I could have Aragorn in play with Celebrian's Stone, allowing him to play spirit cards. I am not sure, if the scenario allows me to build that deck. Also, the songs coming in the expansion will make cross-sphere influence much easier, but I suspect those previews have come after NinjaDorg published this. Still, it would be nice, if NinjaDorg had released a FAQ 

Setting out with just one hero is certainly a different experience. The scenario compensates for this by not having anything in the staging area at start, and by only have players reveal cards from the encounter deck every other turn after the first. This, however, was the only time (the one sphere issue aside), I felt unsure how to read the rules. Every other turn, after the first; is that the first and second, then skip the third – or is it the first, skip the second? As always, I chose the harder path – it is supposed to be a challenge after all.

And it was challenging. Having only one hero has a profound impact, obviously. The main issue is, that you're very fragile. In one game, I was Caught in a Web, which is tantamount to “Game Over – please insert coin”. I definitely found this harder than the rating of 3 NinjaDorg has given it, but truth be told, it is a hard quest to compare and contrast to a “normal” quest simply because it is so different. This is the quest, I would most like to try with more players, to see how it behaves in that situation.

Conclusions

One thing, I crave in games, is variety, which is part of why Lord of the Ring: the card game has taken such a hold on my, I suppose. Therefore these new quests are a godsend as far as I am concerned. In general they are well-constructed and take a different approach than the three original quests did. They are not too hard, but not too easy either. I love that NinjaDorg has put the effort into supplying us with new toys, in particular since it seems the expansions are coming later than I would have liked. I did, however, like Old Forest and Forgotten Ruins a bit more than the other two. Elven Assemblyfrankly felt a bit on the easy side – I one attempt I finished it in four rounds, which left me feeling unfulfilled rather than triumphant. I would like to play The Lost Road again with more players, but because it changed the parameters, it wasn't the experience, I was looking for in the solo game. That said, I think everyone should get these quests and try them out – they change the pace and takes a different approach at challenging the players. Also, send NinjaDorg a box of chocolate and give him a hug.

* hugs NinjaDorg *