Updated: Sep 16, 2019
I remember as a young child the first time that Tolkien really blew my mind. I had heard of elves and orcs and wizards but the idea of trees that could walk and talk, that held me spellbound. So when FFG announced that we would venturing into Isengard and the forest of Fangorn for our next installment of the Lord of the Rings LCG, I literally jumped for joy.
In this first scenario our heroes ride to the aid of the king's aid, Grima Wormtongue, who is beset on all sides by the wildmen of Dunland.
Before we can talk about the scenarios in the Voice of Isengard expansion we must first discuss the new Time mechanic. The designers and developers over at FFG found that players were often “Turtling” during games, using the unlimited time of each stage to lower their threat and build up before rushing the scenario. The Time Mechanic is designed to stop that. Personally I found the scenarios difficult enough without the Time element, I might occasionally wait a round to get some more allies into play, but I would not deliberately put off attacking the scenario.
Anyway, Time X appears on a lot of quest cards going forwards. A number of Time Tokens equal to X are placed on the stage and one token is removed at the end of each round (more can be removed by enemies, locations and treachery cards). When the last token is removed an event occurs, which quite often resets the clock, meaning the event will occur again in X rounds.
This mechanic basically puts a time pressure on the players as the effects of the timed events are almost always bad, as you will see when we take a look at the scenario.
The Fords of Isen
A small band of mounted Rohan warriors, knights of King Théoden’s household, were trapped at the center of the ford. From both sides of the river, scores of Wild Men from Dunland were attacking. Many of the Dunlendings brandished leather shields emblazoned with the crude sigil of an angry boar.
Water rushing at the knees of their mounts, the knights were trying to protect an emissary in their midst. The nobleman was riding a grey mare and wore a black cloak. He flinched as the green shields of his protectors broke the deadly flight of the Wild Men’s arrows. Already, arrows had claimed two of the knights, their bloodied detritus floating among the boulders.
Fight At The Ford
Time 5: Forced: After the last time counter is removed from this stage, discard Gríma from play. The players cannot advance unless the first player controls Gríma.
The game begins with the Islet in play with Grima attached to it. This is a simple location providing 1 threat and 1 quest point but is immune to player cards so it cannot be cleared by the use of Snowbourn Scout or Northern Trackers. It also add 1 threat to each Dunlending enemy in play while it is the active location.
Players must also place a Dunlending enemy into play and there are plenty to choose from, all of them bad. At first glance the Dunland Tribesman seems like the best choice, 0 threat, 37 engagement cost and he gives you an extra card. However, you will quickly realise that this scenario punishes you, and punishes you hard, for having too many cards in hand.
You need to clear this stage in 5 rounds or lose the game. Not too difficult although The Kings Road can be a problem, if you are holding too many cards you will be forced to travel to it and it will have 5 quest points. As you need to travel to the Islet to rescue Grima, any such detours can really hinder your progress.
Time 2: Forced: After the last time counter is removed from this stage, each player assigns X damage among characters he controls where X is the number of cards in his hand. Place 2 time counters on this stage.
When this stage is revealed you must add 1 different Dunlending enemies to the staging area for each player. Again, choose wisely and try your best to eliminate as many cards from your hand as possible.
This stage requires 14 progress and progressing quickly will limit your damage from the timed event.
Hold the Fords
Time 3: Forced: After the last time counter is removed from this stage, discard the top X cards from the encounter deck. X is the number of cards in the first player's hand. Add each enemy discarded this way to the staging area. Put 3 time counters on this stage.
Once again, this stage will bring forth more Dunlendings from the deck and you cannot complete the stage while there are any enemies in play. Requiring 16 progress and no enemies in play is a big ask. There aren’t any cards that remove progress so once you’re done you can concentrate on the enemies, just be careful not to get buried by locations.
This is not an easy scenario, like the Woes in the The Drúadan Forest, the Dunlendings punish you for a strategy that is normally advisable, i.e Card Draw. In this scenario you want to get down to 1 or 2 cards after turn one and stay that way. There are treachery cards that inflict threat and damage for cards in hand. Enemies that power up or surge while you have cards in hand and locations that become tricker to clear while you stockpile cards.
Having extra ways to burn cards can be very useful, Eowyn will allow all players to burn a card every turn, while Protector of Lorien can allow a player to burn up to 3 cards per phase. Having a stash of Cancel When Revealed cards will prove invaluable, while keeping your threat under 30 will allow you to pick and choose when you engage all but one of the Dunlending Enemies.
Being able to make progress is vital in this scenario, so high quest allies and heroes are a must, while the ability to deal with locations in the staging area can really help keep your threat from spiralling out of control in the later stages. Also, don’t be afraid to use Grima for his 2 Will as there are no treachery cards that can damage questing characters.
Be aware that some of the enemies in this scenario can get very high attack values, such as the Bandit, the Raider and the Chieftain so having some high defence allies and heroes, coupled with ways of cancelling shadow cards could be useful. Failing that lots of cheap allies as meat shields, but be aware there are shadow cards that get worse if the attack destroys a character or that allow the enemy to attack a second time.
The Time element adds another level of difficulty here. You have a fair old bit of time during stage 1 to get your ducks in a row, but once you enter stage 2 you want to quest hard to keep the number of enemies from getting out of hand and reduce the damage from the timed event. Failing that, attempt to get your hand size down to zero and you’ll be safe from the worst of the enemies and treacheries.