Good day travelers of Middle-earth! This is Gwaihir, Lord of the Winds, and it pleases me yet again to descend the snowy peaks of the Misty Mountains with yet another video play-through of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. In this video, I finish the Road Darkens saga expansion with the third and final quest: Breaking of the Fellowship. In this quest, having vanquished The Balrog of Moria, we find haven with the Lady of the Woods and then head down the Anduin River coming that much closer to Mordor. However, along the way, we are ravaged by Uruk-hai who bear the White Hand of Saruman and are faced with the toughest decision yet that causes dissent within the Fellowship. What will the Ring-bearer decide to do? And what will become of the Nine (Eight?) Walkers?
Eyrie Vision (Quest Overview): Breaking of the Fellowship
Encounter Deck Spread: 12 Enemies, 14 Locations, 8 Treacheries, 4 (+1 for each additional player) Quest Cards, 50% Shadow Cards, 2 Burdens (Campaign Mode)
This quest marks the finale of the three included in The Road Darkens. If you are playing Campaign Mode you get to attach one of the four following Boon cards: Phial of Galadriel, Three Golden Hairs, Lorien Rope, or Leaf-wrapped Lembas. These all have powerful effects, but can only be used once throughout the entire Campaign. Three Golden Hairs has the most beneficial effect if you are playing solo, as it allows you to draw three cards and reduce your threat by three.
The first stage of the quest is very similar to the second stage of the Core Set quest Journey Along the Anduin in that enemies build up in the staging area. However, this quest is more restrictive in that you cannot engage any enemies whatsoever. It not only requires you to skip the encounter phase, but you cannot even engage enemies through player card effects (sorry Westfold Outrider!). In addition, enemies get +2 Defense so it even becomes difficult to kill them while they wait in the staging area through card effects such as Hands Upon the Bow or the hero Dunhere’s special ability. To add further pain on the players, the enemies in this quest have two nasty keywords, one of which is entirely new to the game. The first is the keyword “Ranged,” which was introduced in the Heirs of Numenor Deluxe Expansion. “Ranged” forces you to put damage among characters you control equal to the “Ranged” value at the beginning of the Combat phase. So while the enemies wait and you cannot engage them, they shoot you from afar. Therefore, be ready to heal. The second keyword these enemies have is the new keyword “Toughness.” This keyword forces you to reduce the amount of damage dealt to the enemy equal to the “Toughness” value on the enemy. This further decreases your chances of killing enemies in the staging area, since direct damage effects often are in small amounts. All this to say, you want to quest through Stage 1 as quickly as possible before enemies build up in the staging area and contribute their threat against you. What makes matters worse is that you cannot pass Stage 1 until you have explored both Sarn Gebir and The Argonath in subsequent order. These locations are not too difficult to explore, but just make sure you are ready to deal one damage on each exhausted character when you explore the rapids of Sarn Gebir.
The second stage is an interesting one in that you remove the Ring-bearer from play and must skip the travel phase as soon as your advance here. This stage only lasts until the end of the refresh phase where you are then forced to shuffle Seat of Seeing and Fordo’s Choice (an objective encounter card) into the discard pile and place those cards on the bottom of the encounter deck. You then advance immediately to a Stage 3A of your choice (if playing multiplayer, this is when the Fellowship breaks into different Stage 3’s). The Stage 3 quest cards are all the same in that side 3A reads: “After stage 2B is discarded, if the total [threat] of encounter cards in this staging area is less than 4, reveal 1 encounter card.” However, each quest card is unique in that side 3B offers the players different “Response” effects to aid the players when they quest successfully. One quest card allows you to discard a non-unique location in any staging area, another to discard an enemy engaged with a player, another to choose a player to draw 2 cards and reduce his threat by 2, and the last to ready all of a player’s heroes. Further, there are no quest points on each of these cards because quest progress is made in terms of discarding cards from the encounter deck until Frodo’s Choice is discarded, which is then revealed, returning the Ring-bearer to the game and allowing you to advance to the final stage of the quest.
The final stage requires you to explore the location Parth Galen and make 16 progress in order to win the game. Things can get out of hand quickly if you delay making progress as you are forced to reveal an additional encounter card during the quest phase for each player in the game (for solo players, that means 1 additional card). However, they designers did add a little benefit for the players on this stage in giving us a “Response” effect that can pull enemies revealed during the quest phase to engage with you by raising your threat equal to the enemy’s threat. This allows you to make more progress and hopefully win the game before you have to face all of the enemies being revealed. Thus, all you must do is survive and quest hard, rather than defeating all enemies (this is what makes Journey Along the Anduin so difficult and this quest far easier than that one).
As for enemies, there is no boss battle or any one enemy that is really tough. The most difficult one would be Uruk-hai Captain, who has 5 Attack and 2 Defense. However, he also has the keyword “Toughness 2,” which mean you have to must up 7 Attack strength in one go to one-shot him even though it only has 3 Hit Points. But what really makes this enemy “tough” is not his keyword, but rather his passive ability that forbids characters with less than 3 Hit Points to defend against it. This means that you cannot chump block against the Uruk-hai Captain with Snowbourn Scouts or send the Squire of the Citadel “under the bus.” You certainly do not want to take his attack undefended, so make sure you have a hero (or ally with at least 3 Hit Points) who is ready (and able) to defend against it (or have a Feint or Feigned Voices up your sleeve). Lastly, while none of the locations should give you too much trouble, there is one treachery card (and I mean only one copy of it as well) that could cause your fellowship to truly break. Fallen into Evil is a condition attachment that attaches to one of your heroes and then, after being seduced by the Ring of Power, turns on your company and becomes an enemy who fights against you. This can cause all sorts of problems with your game so make sure you either have A Test of Will in hand or some way of discarding condition attachments, such as Power of Orthanc, Miner of the Iron Hills, or the new Elrond ally. An easy solution also is to just use The Black Riders version of Frodo to cancel the card and reveal a replacement.
The Deck: Gandalf & Gwaihir Fly to Mt. Doom
The deck I used during this play-through of Breaking of the Fellowship is the same deck I have been using for the previous two quests of The Road Darkens with a few modifications (For a detailed explanation see the original post of the deck here: The Ring Goes South). In this variation of the deck I included the two boons gained from The Ring Goes South as well as two copies of the neutral event Hidden Cache. This event works as a consistent means of resource acceleration when paired with the hero Gandalf, his Wizard Pipe, and the lore attachment Expert Treasure Hunter. Hidden Cache grants you two resources on any hero when it is discarded from the top of your deck. Expert Treasure allows you to discard the top card of your deck when you quest successfully and then put it into your hand if you guessed the correct card type (ally, attachment, or event). Thus, these two cards alone give you an automatic two resources when it is discarded from the top of your deck. However, since hero Gandalf allows you to play with the top card of your deck face up, you will always guess the correct card type (in this case, Hidden Cache is an event) and therefore you can recycle it back into your hand. Hidden Cache will still trigger (read the card carefully, it says you “discard” the top card, and then you put it into your hand), giving you two resources, and then you can put it into your hand. With Wizard Pipe, you can then put it back on top of your deck next turn before the quest phase so that it will discard again and give you another two resources. Just rinse and repeat and voila! You now have a consistent means of resource acceleration every turn, on par with Steward of Gondor (a card I intentionally avoided to pull the power back a bit as well as leave it open for other players to use in multiplayer–I am also just tired of that card and wanted to find ways to win without using it).
Total Cards: (55)
Ring-bearer: Frodo Baggins (Black Riders)
1x Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
1x Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
1x Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
1x Gwaihir (Trouble in Tharbad)
1x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)
2x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
1x Arwen Undomiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
1x Beorn (Core Set)
2x Gandalf Staff (The Road Darkens)
2x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)
3x Vilya (Shadow and Flame)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
2x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
2x Expert Treasure-hunter (On the Doorstep)
2x Miruvor (Shadow and Flame)
1x Glamdring (The Road Darkens)
1x Anduril (The Road Darkens)
2x Flame of Anor (The Road Darkens)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
2x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)