As a child Mirkwood was a fascinating place to me and one filled with horror. The idea of this dark, corrupted wood that was also home to elves and magic streams was the perfect fuel for my imagination.
This shadowy and mystical realm then is the perfect backdrop for an epic battle against giant spiders as you fight to save your unconscious brethren from being devoured. Flies and Spiders is the first of three scenarios in the #Onthedoorstep expansion which forms part 2 of the #hobbitsaga for the #LordoftheRingsLCG
"Stick to the forest-track, keep your spirits up, hope for the best, and with a tremendous slice of luck you may come out one day and see the Long Marshes lying below you, and beyond them, high in the East, the Lonely Mountain where dear old Smaug lives."
Flies and Spiders introduces the idea of unconscious characters, simulating the intoxicating effects of the waters in Mirkwood and poison, a new condition attachment which interacts primarily with the spiders and their shadow cards.
Poison is simple, each venomous enemy also poisons when they cause damage, by attaching the facedown top card of your deck to the character. Poison can be got rid of through condition removal or through the Forest Stream location.
If a character accrues poison equal to their health they fall unconscious. Characters can also become unconscious through shadow cards like Lazy Lob or treachery cards like Caught in Webs. And as the quest card states they cannot really take part in the adventure until they are awakened. Becoming unconscious however does handily cure you of your poison cards.
Stage 1 then is a simple enough jaunt, depending on the cards you reveal and the amount of time you want to spend there building up. Once you’re ready to push on just place down 9 progress and travel to stage 2. Make sure to spend up your resources and use Bilbo’s new hero effect to dig out Sting and Bilbo’s Magic Ring, you’re going to need them.
Lost in the Dark
This is simply a setup stage.
Captured by Spiders
We were not prepared for this stage at all. I had been building up resources for a big turn and ended up with nothing. I understand that the scenario strips the resources a) for thematic reasons and b) so that Bilbo has no resources to trigger the effect on the quest card… Still a little heads up would have been nice.
This is not the only quest to create separate staging areas, while separated the players cannot interact in any way, which sucks as we had built our decks to work together. As the Bilbo player your goal is to escape as quickly as possible by placing 11 quest, but that is not as easily done as said. You only have Bilbo, and hopefully Sting to bolster his will but once spiders start turning up you’ll need to defend and quest and, to be honest, if you can’t kill the spiders too you’re going to die from threating out or being poisoned. It’s not a good day to be a hobbit.
If you dug through your deck for Bilbo's Magic Ring you can at least use that for resource acceleration meaning hopefully you can have a hero back each turn, as long as your threat holds out. Dropping Willpower boosts on Bilbo during stage 1 will dramatically reduce the amount of time you need to spend here and will get Bilbo back into the action asap.
Battle with the Spiders
Meanwhile, your friends are battling spiders in the Spider’s Glade. This is a horrible place to be. This stage looks so easy, just place 3 progress and you win. Of course you need to clear the Glade first, but it is immune to player card effects and cannot be travelled to unless you can exhaust Bilbo, which means you need to wait for him to rejoin the adventure.
On top of that the Glade is spitting out additional spiders every round and those attacks are going to add up. This is a pitched battle. There’s no turtling here, the engagement costs are low enough that most three hero decks are taking the spiders as they come and even if they weren’t you’d need to engage them just to keep the threat out of the staging area.
A good defender with readying capabilities is essential here. Boromir with a Gondorian Shield and a bunch of copies of Behind Strong Walls will keep the worst of the spiders at bay, but he’s not very thematic. The easiest spider is 1 attack, but +3 if you control any poisoned characters and you’re going to because Old Tomnoddy is handing out poison like it’s candy. After that they jump up to 3 attack and all the way up to 5.
Fortunately they are not particularly strong with health ranging from 2 to 4 and very little in the way of defence. Still finding ways to incapacitate the enemy or declaw them might prove useful. It’s also worth being aware of the Crazy Cob who attacks upon being revealed so you should plan to take at least one more attack per round than you can foresee.
Clearing this stage is a matter of speed, if Bilbo cannot rejoin you quickly you will die. Not only are you facing multiple attacks each round but at least three enemies will dole out poison without needing to hit you and Poisoned by Spiders will turn that poison into actual damage, Giant Web will sap your stats and pretty much every shadow effect will get worse.
We scraped through this scenario on our first try but we absolutely were mis-playing the Spider's Glade as we forgot to add an additional spider enemy each round.
This is a fun scenario. It’s not easy but I think it does a good job of realising it’s theme. This is a scenario you are going to want to build two different decks for. You want a strong will party to be in control of Bilbo when you transition from Stage 1. Ideally you will have piled plenty of willpower boosts on the hobbit before that allowing him to easily escape being Captured by Spiders.
On the flip side of that you need another party that is capable of both attacking and defending and making at least a small amount of quest. Cards that allow direct damage, such as Goblin-Cleaver and Swift Strike could be enough to bring down some of the spiders before facing their damage, especially if combined with Thalin.
Overall, I like this one, it's a challenge certainly but it felt possible and nowhere near as random as the scenarios found in #OverHillandUnderHill.