Updated: Sep 16, 2019
This week we continue our journey through The Voice of Isengard as Saruman the White tasks us with hunting down and capturing an orc... However, there is something about that old wizard I just don't trust.
To Catch an Orc
Saruman has tasked you with a dangerous mission: journey up the Misty Mountains southern peak in search of the Orc, Mugash, and capture him alive.
Mugash and his Orcs have been raiding the surrounding countryside from their hidden lair in Methedras, and carrying loot and captives back into the mountains. It's time to put an end to this menace…
Orders from Orthanc
This stage is simply a set up card. It instructs you to create a separate 20 card deck for each player from their player deck and shuffle either Mugash or one of his guards into each deck. This is their search deck. The objective of the game is to capture Mugash.
The quest then puts into play 2 mountain locations, none of which are particularly favourable. Methedras boosts the threat of other locations while it’s active, while Orc Cave adds more enemies to the staging area.
Searching for Mugash
Time 2: Forced: After the last time counter is removed for this stage, shuffle the discard pile into the encounter deck and reveal 2 encounter cards per player. Place 2 time counters on this stage.
This stage is supposed to represent the heroes sneaking about in the mountains searching for Mugash. When time runs out they have been discovered. There are ways to place an extra time counter which is ESSENTIAL! If you run out of time on this stage of the quest you are screwed. Playing with 2 players you will have 6 additional cards added to the staging area by the end of the next encounter phase, as a minimum because there are also cards with Surge. On top of that the average threat amongst the possible cards is 3 and 18 threat is just not that easy to quest past as early in the game as turn 2. You cannot afford to fail to quest, you need to place an extra time counter every turn until you find Mugash.
The Wizard's Prize
Time 3: Forced: After the last time counter is removed from this stage, return Mugash to the staging area and reveal X encounter cards. X is the number of players in the game minus 1. Place 3 time counters on this stage.
It’s time to fight Mugash, who is reasonably tough but not unkillable. The problem is you can’t place progress on this stage until you have captured Mugash and after 3 turns he will return to the staging area where you will have to fight him again.
This is not an easy quest. The timed part of stage 2 is a problem. As you remove a time counter at the end of each round you cannot fail to quest for even a single turn. You will begin the game with a minimum of 5 quest in the staging area and have an average of 6 threat added per turn with 2 players. This is a big ask, turn one, and remember if you travel to get rid of the locations out of the staging area they block the quest and you need to place enough progress to clear the location and put at least 1 progress on the quest to re-up the time.
To this end you should take some location removal cards, Asfaloth for example, or Northern Tracker, Lorien Guide, Snowbourn Scout or Ride to Ruin would all be useful to prevent death by location.
You’re also going to need some capable fighters. Mugash himself has 4 defence and 8 health so taking him down won’t be easy and you need to take him down before you can progress in stage 3. He also has 7 attack so most heroes won't be able to stand up to his attack so make sure to pack some ablative allies instead. Mugash is also immune to attachments so don’t bother trying to Forest Snare him.
The other enemies in this set are also nigh on impossible to face alone. The guards have 6 attack, the weakest orc has 3 and the wolves have 1 plus as many locations as are in the staging area.
But you can’t just pack fighters and hope for the best. The final dash in stage 3 requires 15 progress be placed very quickly (2 turns to be precise) and if you have a lot of locations and enemies in play, this will not be an easy task.
The Time mechanic really squeezes the heroes in this scenario, if you fail to quest even once during stage 2 you’re on the back foot and struggling. If you actually let the time count out you might as well restart because there is so little chance you can deal with the additional cards. The high threat, high fight enemies in this set really make life hard. They have reasonably high engagement costs so you could choose not to engage them but their threat cost makes that an unworkable strategy quickly. In addition the treachery card Orc Hunting Party could bring out all the enemies when you aren’t ready to deal with them and give them all an additional shadow card.
This scenario feels like it would be doable with a little extra time in stage 2, as it was, we were buried by threat over and over again until eventually we got lucky, killing Mugash in stage 2 and then using Astonishing Speed to lay down 26 willpower and bust out of stage 3 before he could escape again.