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.
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 *