Path Less Traveled: The Fate of Númenor

For this installment of my Path Less Traveled series, I will be taking on The Fate of Númenor, the second quest in The Grey Havens Deluxe expansion.

This quest has the players exploring a deserted island far off the Western coast of Middle Earth. If I owned only The Grey Havens and the Core Set, would this quest be a peaceful stroll along the beach? Or would it leave me marooned with no hope of survival? Let’s find out.

Flooded_Ruins_Art

Flooded Ruins by Juan Carlos Barquet

What we’re up against

As with last time, I’m going to do my best to avoid story spoilers. I’m going to be talking in-depth about the mechanics of the quest. I’ll do my best to hide the biggest mechanical spoilers in collapsed sections, but some minor spoilers may be unavoidable. You have been warned!

An uncharted island

The Fate of Númenor is a Location-focused quest. The new central mechanic here is the Uncharted keyword. Uncharted Locations have their own separate deck because they are double-sided. One side is always labeled Lost Island and has 2 threat. When they first enter play, these Locations start with the Lost Island side face-up. If the players place 4 progress on a Lost Island Location while it’s in the Staging Area, they can peek at the other side of the card and find out what the Location really is.

Lost-Island

But the primary way of finding out what a Lost Island card represents is simply by travelling there, which automatically flips the card over. Most of these Locations have a Forced effect which triggers once it’s flipped, which might be digging an Enemy out of the discard pile or returning itself to the Staging Area unless you exhaust your ready Heroes, as a few examples. The unknown nature of Uncharted Locations makes the Travel phase much more tense and interesting, since you’re never sure quite what’s going to happen.

To further emphasize the “wandering around a lost island” theme, the only way to place progress on the first quest stage is by clearing Locations: when a Location is explored, the players place an amount of progress on the quest equal to however many quest points it has. It also contains some text that ensures that the Staging Area is always full of Uncharted Locations, replacing them from the set-aside Uncharted deck each time the players travel to one. Because of this, the number of Lost Islands in play never goes down until the last stage of the game (but it can go up as a result of the Ruins of Ages Past Treachery card, so watch out for that).

Ruins-of-Ages-Past

The final quest stage adds a few more Lost Islands to the Staging Area as well as a special set-aside Uncharted Location (which First Age nerds will surely love—but no spoilers). The players win if they manage to locate and clear that particular Location.

Enemies with expensive tastes

The other key mechanic in this quest can be found on its many Undead Enemies. Several of them, such as the Servant of the Deceiver, discard the bottom card of your deck and give the Enemy a bonus if that card costs 2 or less. There are several Shadow Effects in the deck to the same tune, and even some cards which try to put 1 and 2 cost cards on the bottom of your deck—so it actually pays to bring more expensive cards to the table for this one.

The quest does provide a partial answer to some of these effects, however, in the form of the Objective-Ally Calphon. Calphon is one of those “don’t let him die or you lose” sorts of characters with piddly stats. His real power is his Action, which allows you to exhaust him to switch a card in your hand with the bottom card of your deck. You can use this either as a way to filter through your deck and find better cards or to drop something expensive down there as insurance against the Undead during the combat phase.

Calphon

You can see everything the encounter deck has to offer over at the Hall of Beorn.

Building a deck

I already wrote in length about the player cards from The Grey Havens in my post on Voyage Across Belegaer, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. If you’re not familiar with the new toys we get in this box, pop on over there to see an overview.

Unlike in my last Path Less Traveled post, where I started with a predefined deck and tweaked it to suit the quest, I’m going to set sail into uncharted waters for this one and build a new deck from scratch—that way I can see as much of my card pool as possible.

I’m going to need some strong willpower to ensure I can keep clearing Locations at a quick pace. Strong willpower usually means Spirit, and there’s nobody better than Éowyn at power questing, so she’s my first choice. Plus, her on-demand discard ability synergizes well with some of the new Noldor cards, letting me drop an Event on top of the discard pile for Sailor of Lune, or discarding my first (and least useful) copy of Elwing’s Flight.

I want to include some more expensive cards in my deck this time around, so it will probably be helpful to use Leadership as my second sphere since it gives me access to Steward of Gondor. Whenever I’m building Spirit / Leadership decks, I’m partial to using Aragorn as one of my Heroes because I can use Celebrían’s Stone to smooth my resources between the two colors. There’s only one copy of the Stone in the Core set, so perhaps that’s not the best reasoning, but Aragorn’s all-around stats should come in handy here regardless.

My final Hero will determine which direction my deck leans, whether more towards Spirit or Leadership. Ultimately, I think this comes down to the Allies: Spirit has a few expensive and powerful Allies like Northern Tracker that I definitely want to include in this deck. With that in mind, I’ll pick a Spirit Hero for my last choice. But which one?

Well, it probably makes the most sense to try out the new Círdan the Shipwright Hero, seeing as I want to feel out the card pool. His 4 willpower will definitely come in handy for clearing Locations quickly, and as an added bonus he can even become a Leadership Hero once I find his ring, Narya, for even more resource smoothing.

Having chosen my Heroes, all that’s left for me to do is fill in the rest of the deck with whatever solid Spirit and Leadership cards I have access to. I’ll try to bias more towards Spirit cards since I have more Spirit Heroes. Plus, then I can free up Aragorn’s resources to fuel his ability rather than to always saving them to play cards.

That should be everything I need to get going. It’s time to hit the beach!

Decklist

Hero (3)
Aragorn (Core Set)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Éowyn (Core Set)
Ally (20)
2x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
3x Lórien Guide (Core Set)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Sailor of Lune (The Grey Havens)
2x Silverlode Archer (Core Set)
3x Snowbourn Scout (Core Set)
2x Wandering Took (Core Set)
Attachment (7)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
Event (17)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Common Cause (Core Set)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Elwing’s Flight (The Grey Havens)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Stand and Fight (Core Set)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3 Heroes, 44 Cards

This deck on RingsDB

Piloting the deck

This deck has a huge amount of questing potential from round 1. The biggest trick is in figuring out when to hold characters back for the Combat phase.

Most of the time, I leave Aragorn ready (whether by spending his resource or by simply not sending him on the quest) just in case some Enemy appears to ruin my day. He makes a serviceable defender in the early game, and a good attacker once someone else is around to take over the defensive duties.

Later in the game, hopefully I’ve found Narya and can use it to ready up some defenders. This means that unless I have managed to find my single copy of Unexpected Courage, I’m going to be holding Círdan back from the quest too. But once I have a hearty supply of Allies in play, his 4 willpower is less important than the security Narya brings to the table.

I think the best mulligan card is Steward of Gondor, but a good hand with Unexpected Courage would be hard to pass up. Círdan’s filtering ability should help me to find most of the additional cards I need as I play, but 1-of cards like Unexpected Courage aren’t guaranteed to come up every game.

steward-of-gondor

Ultimately, this deck can quest much more effectively than it can fight. It’s important for me to play to those strengths, leaving Enemies in the Staging Area when possible and generally trying to complete the quest quickly before something scary shows up. As long as I keep my head down and quest hard, I should be fine.

The play’s the thing

Attempts required: 1

Mode: Normal

Neither too easy nor too difficult, this quest seems to hit a sweet spot that makes it a challenge, but not an overbearing one. I was able to beat it on my first try, but it was definitely a close game by the end.

Give me the details!

Questing was never really a problem all game (no surprise there) but combat posed a bigger threat. I left one Soulless Cadaver in the Staging Area almost the entire game, using a well-timed Galadhrim’s Greeting to buy myself some more time at one point. I ended up with another two Enemies engaged with me most of the game, but I could never quite muster enough actions to be able to return fire. Narya turned out to be invaluable for buffing my Allies so that I could take hits without dying.

Steward of Gondor showed up fairly late in the game, after I was already set up. I think things might have gone smoother for me if it had showed its face a little earlier: some more early game Allies would have worked wonders to muster the extra attack power I needed to keep the board clear of Enemies. Perhaps I could bring a little more card draw along next time (and in this card pool, that basically just means Valiant Sacrifice).

The game ended on a desperate all-or-nothing quest push. I revealed Throngs of the Unfaithful as one of my encounter card flips, and with its 26 engagement cost I was going to have to fight it. I picked a Lost Island at random to travel to, and lo! It was the one I needed to find to end the game. Victory was within sight! But it also brought with it more Throngs of the Unfaithful. When added to the 2 Enemies I had been wrestling with most of the game, I was going to have to tank 4 attacks—and after using Narya I only had 3 ready characters.

Throngs-of-Unfaithful

That was okay, though, I thought. I could take an undefended attack from a Throngs of the Unfaithful and still survive. But the Shadow Cards wanted to tell a different story. First, they granted one of the Throngs an additional attack—which I could still weather, but it would leave each of my Heroes at only 1 health remaining. But the Shadow Effect for that second undefended attack was the real kicker: Lingering Malevolence, which was one of those discard-the-bottom-card-of-your-deck cards, granting the Enemy +2 attack if the discarded card was of cost 2 or less. I winced as I flipped over the bottom card: Snowbourn Scout. One of my Heroes was going to die.

As it turns out, it didn’t really matter which Hero I threw under the bus—they all had 4 willpower (because Aragorn had Celebrían’s Stone attached) and I had no cards in hand (because of an effect on the Active Location). Eventually I decided that Círdan—may his soul find rest in the Halls of Mandos—met his end on that little island in the middle of the sea.

Then it was the final round. It was all or nothing. I wasn’t going to survive another assault from the Enemies in play. I had to clear the final Location all in one go. I committed everyone I had to the quest, shouted “FOR CÍRDAAAAAN!” and flipped the top encounter card: Lingering Malevolence was back for more, but at this point it was essentially harmless. I did indeed have enough willpower to clear the Active Location, winning the quest with 4 progress to spare.

It was pretty exciting.

Final thoughts

After all of the confusion I encountered during Voyage Across Belegaer, I was paying extra attention to the complexity of the rules in this quest. While the Uncharted keyword and its associated separate deck definitely do add to the number of things to keep track of, they felt much more manageable than the previous quest’s extra rules. The mechanics, while different from your standard quest, were easy to remember and caused things to happen at predictable times.

It probably also helps that my deck had a lot less going on, too. This deck is much more straightforward than my last one. Círdan and Éowyn make a fearsome team during the Quest phase, and could probably form an excellent foundation for a lot of good solo decks.

The Fate of Númenor would be a pretty good quest to play right after the Core Set, having moderate levels of difficulty and complexity, while also feeling quite novel from a thematic standpoint.

I’ll save my final verdict on The Grey Havens box as a whole until after I’ve completed the last quest, Raid on the Grey Havens, which I’m planning to tackle next. After that, I’m heading back to my Thematic Nightmare series wherein I’ll be starting in on the formidable Nightmare Heirs of Númenor quests!

“Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread.”

8 thoughts on “Path Less Traveled: The Fate of Númenor

  1. Good stuff. Appreciate the comments about avoiding spoilers. I avoiding dwelling on the what we’re up against section and then I scanned down the decklist and piloting the deck and playthrough to get a feel for the design element. Couldn’t help the spoiler for the undead but hey ho! It’s all good.

    Thinking about spoilers, the paradox for the LOTR LCG adventures is that while I want to be surprised by the mechanics, interaction created with the encounter deck, artwork and the theme boiled into them, generally a deck needs to be built and tailored to a particular encounter. Initially when I started playing I would go in blind with the last deck I built, and occasionally still do that with a good deck that is fun to play, but this inevitably always goes back to tweaking, or more commonly a new rebuild, to actually reach for success. Most often now I scan the pending encounter deck, consider especially the types of treacheries, and work some theme and utility for the encounter to come; going ‘half-blind’ to the card interactions. This tends to work much better, but the drawing board is still utilised almost as much as the playing board.

    This is probably a long winded way of saying I appreciate the time you spend to explain your design and the wrinkles of card interactions and I’m prepared to read those with a degree of spoilers as I would probably do the same before I play the encounter anyway.

    Many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate the feedback. I’ve always personally been the sort of person who likes to get spoilers as soon as possible. A lot of my fun happens away from the table, trying to decide what decks to build next or which decks might pair well with particular quests. The more information I have, the more time I can spend dreaming up cool interactions and fun combos.

      I know not everyone works that way, though, so for this series I’ve been trying to reduce story spoilers at least. I’ll give some thought to trying to sequester the mechanical spoilers in their own sections as I write my next post to see if I can make it even easier to skip sections and keep surprises intact. We’ll see how hard that turns out to be in practice. 🙂

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    • And now your comment has inspired me to go back to this and a few other Path Less Traveled articles and add “details” tags to de-spoilerize them as well. Thanks again for your insight!

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  2. I’ve been enjoying this series. If I played on OCTGN this is a deckbuilding exercise I’d probably practice more often. This does make me wish for more “formats” in our game. These would probably only be done on the FLGS level but it would be cool to go to a LoTR event knowing you are playing with a set limitation of cards. Similar to how Magic has Standard, Modern, Legacy, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear you’re enjoying it! I like the idea of LotR “formats”. I feel like there’s still plenty of space for fan-made gameplay variants like Beorn’s Bear Draft, CotR’s Keeping Count, or Banania’s Tale of Years that add additional depth to the game by creating new ways to experience it.

      One of these days I’ll get around to finishing the “randomized encounter deck” rules I’ve been toying with.

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      • It’s only a half-baked idea at the moment. I am looking for a way to extend the life of the game by changing up the contents of the encounter deck with cards from other quests. Ideally I’d like to do it without completely sacrificing theme, but my attempts so far haven’t really been successful.

        I haven’t spent a lot of time on it yet though. It’s just something I have been dabbling with on and off for a while. If I ever get around to finishing it, you can bet I’ll post about it here. 🙂

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