How can we forget the fabled Hills of Emyn Muil where Sam and Frodo spent most of a book wandering aimlessly lost until that “sneak” Gollum found them and brought them to the Black Gate.
This scenario however is not about that encounter, but instead we find our heroes searching this barren land for the creature Gollum, to capture him before he can do any harm. But before we get to that, let's take a look at the player cards that can be found inside The Hills of Emyn Muil.
Brand Son of Bain, famed archer of the waterside village of Dale joins our merry band of heroes in this Adventure Pack. Brand represents the second Hero with the ranged keyword and notably both of them are from the tactics sphere.
As Brand’s power, to choose and ready another player’s Hero after he defeats an enemy engaged with that player, is predicated on there being a second player, makes Brand a useless solo Hero. However, in a two or more player game Brand is actually very good for his cost of 10. His attack is easily equal to any of the other heroes for the same cost, while his will and defence are also high. His weakest asset is his low health, but that can be solved through the addition of Citadel Plate.
Keen Eyed Took – Initially this card seems a little expensive for what it offers, 1 willpower. However it’s ability to let you know what card is coming up in your next hand can be useful, especially when you really need a specific card.
Rear Guard – Rear Guard continues the sacrifice theme of the Leadership deck. Discarding 1 Leadership ally to give all heroes committed to the quest +1 Willpower. If used with a cheap ally like Snowbourn Scout this can be a really useful card. Especially when you consider you can use it to trigger other cards like Valiant Sacrifice or even Prince Imrahil’s ability.
Descendant of Thorondor – While DOT’s stats are not that impressive his ability to inflict 2 damage to one enemy in the staging area when he enters or leaves play can be helpful, especially against enemies like Hummerhorns. That said I tend to run high threat decks so the chances of anything being in the staging area combined with DOT’s high cost means that I tend not to make much use of this card.
Meneldor's Flight – This event card allows you to return an Eagle to your hand. I tend not to use it but if combined with Descendant of Thorondor or other cards that are triggered by Allies leaving play it could be handy. Also it can be a good way of keeping precious allies from ending up in the discard pile.
The Riddermark's Finest – This card is the first creature card not to be part of the tactics sphere, giving Radagast a place in a mixed Spirit/Tactics deck. For 2 resources this is an ok Ally or a good way to rid yourself of some unwanted locations as it can be exhausted and discarded to place 2 progress on any location. Because this is an action you can use it after encounter cards are revealed to prevent you failing to quest.
Ride to Ruin – Discard a Rohan Ally to place 3 progress on any location. Again, this is a good combination with Snowbourn Scout as for 2 resources you can place 4 progress on any location.
Gildor Inglorion – Gildor is the most expensive Lore ally to date, however his three quest and defence and 2 attack are worth the price. His ability to exhaust to allow you to look at the top three cards of your deck, swap one card with a card in your hand and return the other cards is pretty cool and can help out in a tight spot, especially if you have a copy of Ever Vigilant to hand.
Gildor’s Council – This card, at a cost of 3, is expensive and useless in solo play, but it allows you to reveal one less card from the encounter deck. It can be useful but I feel it’s too expensive for me to ever really bother with unless I’m desperate.
Song of Travel – This song allows the attached hero to spend resources as if they had a spirit icon.
The Hills of Emyn Muil
The hunt for Gollum has led you to the south, and you are now approaching Rauros Falls and the nearby hills of Emyn Muil...
You are certain that Gollum has fled into this area, and you must explore until you find the fresh trail.
Hills is a unique scenario in that it features only a single quest card. To win the scenario the players must collect 20 Victory Points and have no Emyn Muil cards in play.
Play begins with two Emyn Muil locations in the staging area Amon Lhaw and Amon Hen, both of which have 5 VPs, meaning you need only find 10 more to complete the quest.
Unfortunately the two starting locations have X threat where X is equal to twice the number of players.
In addition most of the new locations impact the players negatively while they are being explored. Although the scenario is mostly about eliminating locations there are some new enemies too.
The Orc Horse Thieves' attack powers up off the number of locations in the staging area and their defence of 2 and 6 hp could mean they’ll stick around for a while. However, if there are enough locations in the staging area to make them a serious combat threat then you may already be in serious trouble.
The Hills of Emyn Muil is probably my least favourite of the adventures in the first cycle. The single quest card meant that the scenario never changed, it was just a case of completing locations as quickly as possible.
I think the scenario would have been more challenging with the Wilderness set instead of the Dol Guldor orcs, plus Trolls and Wolves would have felt more appropriate in the rocky wilderness.
Brand is a good new hero, unless you play mostly solo and while all the player cards have their uses with the exception of the two spirit cards, most of them are not finding homes in my current deck builds.
So, although this pack has some cool artwork and a nice concept it just falls flat for me overall. The scenario was not only easy but just a little dull too. Will things pick up in the next adventure? Well you’ll just have to keep checking back to find out!