And so we stumble forth into the dead marshes, a place whose very name is only ever spoken in hushed whispers. The Dead Marshes Adventure pack of course continues the hunt for the creature known as Gollum but it also brings with it a swathe of new player cards, let’s take a look.
This set introduces one of the best Heroes in the game. We’ve seen heroes with auto-ready effects before, like Aragorn and Imrahil but Boromir is simply a beast. For the cost of 1 threat Boromir can ready. This means he can defend you against every attacker and still stand ready to attack back afterwards. Sure, your threat will skyrocket quickly but the versatility that Boromir offers and the peace of mind he gives, knowing that he’s always there if you need him, makes Boromir worth his 11 threat cost.
Dunedain Cache - Continuing the theme of the Dunedain attachments this one can also be passed between heroes in a time of need and confers the keyword Ranged on the attached Hero.
Dunedain Watcher - The Dunedain Watcher is an expensive ally for a basical all rounder. Her ability to be discard to cancel a shadow effect is useful but it’s hard to justify the cost.
Song of Mocking - This card allows you to pile damage onto a hero other than the one being attacked. It feels like it has a really specific use, the primary one that comes to mind is putting damage on Gimli or Gloin.
Vassal of the Windlord - Continuing this cycle’s Eagle allies, the Vassal of the Windlord is a superb choice for any Tactics deck. 1 resource to play with 3 attack and ranged, but it leaves play after it attacks.
We Do Not Sleep - Expensive but interesting in an all Rohan deck. We do not sleep means Rohan Characters do not exhaust to quest, leaving them ready for attack or defence.
Elfhelm - Again, an expensive ally here, but Elfhelm will help keep your threat under control and he has a handy 2 attack and 2 defence.
Silvan Tracker - The Silvan Tracker is another all rounder but she offers unlimited healing capacity, healing all silvan characters in play of 1 damage each time they ready.
Fast Hitch - One of my favourite attachments in the game, fast hitch allows you to ready a hobbit character. Sure, right now they are a bit thin on the ground but bear in mind Fast Hitch is not unique or restricted so you can pile 3 copies of it on Bilbo, team it up with Protector of Lorien and a burning brand and have one of the best defenders in the game!
Song of Battle - Predictably the Song of Battle shows up in this set allowing you to add a Tactics Resource Icon to any hero.
The Dead Marshes
After regaining his trail in the hills of Emyn Muil, the heroes have tracked Gollum to The Dead Marshes, into which he has fled in a last ditch effort to avoid pursuit. Feeling that the hunt is coming to a close, the heroes enter the treacherous marshlands, ready to capture the creature alive.
Before we look at this scenario we need to talk about escape tests. At various times during this encounter the players will be called upon to make an escape test. To do so they commit characters to the test using their Will. Then they reveal a certain number of cards from the Encounter Deck and compare the Willpower committed to the test with the escape value on the cards. If the Willpower is high they pass otherwise they fail.
Into The Marshes
So this card instructs players to add Gollum to the Staging Area along with two other cards. At the end of each turn Gollum forces an escape attempt. If he succeeds the players place 2 resource tokens on him, when Gollum has 8 resource tokens he is shuffled back into the encounter deck. The quest itself is straightforward, make 12 progress and move to stage 2, however there are a couple of wrinkles along the way.
Firstly, most of the cards that make up this set place progress tokens on Gollum. Secondly there are some seriously nasty locations. Impassable Bog, for example is only 1 threat but takes 12 quest to remove. Worse still, when it enters play it adds resources to Gollum for every location in play and there are multiple copies so it’s hard to ignore it.
On top of that this deck also includes cards from the Wilderlands and Sauron’s Reach. The Wilderlands in particular has some nasty cards, our old friends the Hill Trolls and the Brownlands with it’s 5 threat cost, to name just two.
Just 3 progress required here to complete the stage and make the final escape test, the ruck being that if you fail the test the game resets back to the start of stage 1b. So, in order to make the test Gollum needs to be in the staging area, which he might not be if you had too many progress tokens placed on him during stage 1. In which case you better hope he resurfaces quickly, before you progress through the stage.
If Gollum is in the staging area you must pass an escape test with upto 7 cards from the deck, some of which can have a value of up to 5. So ideally you want to progress quickly with as few resources on Gollum as possible.
This is a quest that can be very hard or relatively straightforward depending on what cards come out. Trying to fight off Hill Trolls while also keeping characters back for escape tests is not an easy thing to achieve. You’re going to want some high quest characters you can keep back for the end of round test with Gollum and any that might appear on Treachery Cards. Spirit Cards, like West Road Traveller and Escort from Edoras can come in handy, especially as the Escort only leaves play if he successfully quests as opposed to making escape tests.
Having a Lore hero will help you escape some effects, like A Wisp of Pale Sheen, while the ability to directly place resources on locations, through the help of the Northern Tracker, Lorien Guide and Snowbourn Scout can be invaluable for clearing the Bogs and Fens. However you can’t rely on Will alone as Through the Mist uses Attack instead of will, so holding back Eowyn for such a test would be next to useless.
Certainly Berevor is an excellent choice here, her Lore icon allows her to deal with Wisps, her stats are equal all round and if you don’t need her to take a test you can still exhaust her to draw cards.
This quest can be over in the blink of an eye, if you’re very prepared and very lucky or it can drag on as Gollum escapes and escapes, resetting you over and over back to the start of stage 1, like a marsh themed groundhog day. Progress quickly, cancel as many treachery cards and tests as you can and make sure to have plenty of willpower available right to the end of every turn.