Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Return to Mirkwood is the epic conclusion to the first cycle of Adventure Packs and so it is a fittingly difficult scenario with tough enemies and terrible treacheries. Thankfully we’re not facing it alone.
Dain Ironfoot makes his first appearance in this set as a Leadership Hero, inspiring all other dwarves to greater feats, providing +1 Will and +1 Attack, while Dain is ready. Here’s the rub though, it’s easy to not send Dain questing, his single willpower does not outweigh his bonus to all other Dwarves in play, however it’s harder to justify not defending with him. Dain has an impressive 3 Defence and with other attachments, like Dunedain Warning he can become a block of unyielding stone, but if you do defend with him you lose the bonus to attack, unless of course you can find a method of readying him again.
Dawn Take You All - All players can discard 1 shadow card from an enemy with which they are engaged. The problem with this card is once again, the cost. For 2 resources Burning Brand cancels all shadow cards, for 1 resource Hasty Stroke cancels a revealed shadow effect. Dawn Take You All discards multiple cards, but only 1 from each player, making it a weak choice solo and it could discard a card with no effect at all.
Dunedain Signal - This one closes out the Dunedain attachments and gives Sentinel to whomever it is attached to.
Eagles of the Misty Mountains - This is a 4 cost ally but it is worth every penny. 2 in each stat and 4 hit points. The kicker here is that each eagle that leaves play boosts the Eagles of the Misty Mountains’s Attack and Defence. This means that when a Vassal of the Windlord or a Wing Guardian would normally be lost to the discard pile, they are instead attached to your Eagles of the Misty Mountains.
Support of the Eagles - This is the capstone to the Eagle strategy. Support of the Eagles is attached to a Tactics hero and the attached hero can exhaust the card to gain the attack or defence of an eagle ally in play. Using the Eagles of the Misty Mountains will offer you an ever increasing stat boost, but even the cheaper allies like the Vassal of the Windlord gives you a +3 attack boost and better still you can use that attack without losing the Vassal.
Astonishing Speed - +2 Willpower for each Rohan Character in play. This is extremely useful, especially in encounters where you are being buried by locations and struggling to make progress on the quest. Combine it with We Do Not Sleep and you have all Rohan characters questing without exhausting for a huge amount.
West Road Traveller - I find the West Road Travellers ability sometimes difficult to actually use (swap the active location with a location in the staging area) but regardless she still sees a lot of play for her 2 willpower and low cost, plus she has the Rohan trait.
Mirkwood Runner - This silvan ally can ignore armour when he attacks alone, he is rarely powerful enough to take down high armour enemies on his own, but he can stack up damage over a couple of rounds, as long as you have a defender to hold off any repercussions.
Rumour from the Earth - A free event that reveals the top card of the encounter deck, this is invaluable in solo play (until you can get Henamarth into play) and being able to pay a single resource to return the card to your hand is definitely worth doing if you can.
Shadow of the Past - Return the top card of the encounter discard pile to the top of the deck. I can see uses for this one, perhaps a vital card just got discarded as a shadow card effect and you need it to finish the quest, but it doesn’t see much play in my decks.
Return to Mirkwood
After cornering and capturing Gollum in The Dead Marshes, the heroes must now escort the creature north, through Mirkwood forest, so that he can be held and interrogated at King Thranduil’s palace. The journey will not be easy, however: Mirkwood is always a dangerous place, the Dark Lord’s forces are eager to take Gollum for their own purposes...and Gollum himself is eager to escape
In this scenario the players must keep Gollum alive long enough to get him back to the Wood Elf King. Any damage from undefended attacks goes on Gollum. Gollum counts as an ally but cannot attack, quest or defend but can have attachments etc.
Through the Forest
The first stage is a simple 12 quest. Of course, it’s never that simple. The Wilderlands is back with it’s Trolls but it’s the Spiders you have to watch out for. As well as the spiders from the base set, which includes the enormous Ungoliant’s Spawn, we also have the new Attercop, Attercop.
This ridiculous beast automatically engages the player guarding Gollum, regardless of threat or other factors. It has a crazy high defence of 4 and 6 hit points, meaning it can even shrug off a Gandalf. It is however Attercop’s 8 Attack that is really scary. Sure, you can keep feeding it Snowbourn Scouts but eventually they will run out and what are you going to do then?!
During this stage the player guarding Gollum cannot commit characters to the quest. Fortunately it’s a short stage but if they quest unsuccessfully the game is over.
To the Elven King’s Halls
During this stage the player guarding Gollum cannot play cards. This is an annoyance, especially if you are playing a support style deck with lots of events but the stage is reasonably short and it should be over quickly.
Forced: At the beginning of the combat phase all enemies in play engage the player guarding Gollum.
You better be prepared to face this stage when the time comes, Hill Trolls, Ungoliant’s Spawn, Attercops, it’s all bad news and it’s all coming for the one player. Fortunately the players can raise their threat at the end of a round to pass Gollum, which should help put the enemies against the player best prepared to take them.
If the players defeat all enemies in play and have 2 or more progress on the quest they win the game and finish the Mirkwood Cycle.
Phew! This one is hard! Those spiders and trolls hit hard and because the final win condition is “Defeat All Enemies in Play” you can’t just put them in a Forest Snare and forget about them.
So, there are many moving parts to this scenario. You need a good fighter and defender, plenty of cheap allies as sacrificial pawns and of course someone who can make good progress on the quest. The player guarding Gollum is not going to have a good time of it during this scenario, not only will their threat ratchet up quickly but there are plenty of treachery cards which will attack them. Gollum’s Anguish raises your threat by 8, Gollum’s Bite deals 4 Damage to a hero (enough to kill most of them) and Wasted Provisions causes you to discard 10 cards.
So, you need a good all round team. Ideally you want someone to cancel When Revealed Effects, for example Eleanor and a hero capable of suffering 4 damage. Having some healing ability, through attachments like Self Preservation will be handy, possibly even attached to Gollum. Thalin can prove really useful in this scenario, placing damage on all enemies revealed by the deck and dispatching bats before they even get chance to surge. Legolas is another useful hero, especially equipped with two Blades of Gondolin, as he can progress through the quest stages while dispatching enemies for the endgame condition.
Speaking of Conditions, we’re back using the Spiders of Mirkwood set and that means Caught in a Web is back. Having Miner of the Iron Hills or Test of Will handy is going to be essential.
My final recommendation for a Hero here is Boromir. Yes his threat cost will be a detriment but his ability to fight and fight and fight some more can make short work of the enemies in play and of course he can be sacrificed to drop a hefty 2 damage on all enemies engaged with a single player, which in the final stage will be all enemies in play.
This is a tough scenario but it is doable. Use the first stage to prepare, pack plenty of “cancel when revealed” and make sure to have at least one hero who can keep Gollum on his short leash.