My wanderings along the Path Less Traveled have led me to the North, where lie the ruins of The Lost Realm. Here the Dúnedain perform their thankless toil, ever undoing the works of the Enemy in the wilds of Eriador.
The Lost Realm and Angmar Awakened form the fifth cycle of the Lord of the Rings Card Game. What would happen if I had jumped straight here from the Core Set? Would the player cards still hold up without the support of the previous four cycles? Would I even have the tools necessary to turn back the evil brooding in Angmar?
Let’s hunt for the answers together.
Our new toys
The player cards from the Lost Realm introduce a unifying mechanic for the Dúnedain trait, based around getting benefits for being engaged with multiple Enemies. Both of the Heroes from this box, Tactics Aragorn and Halbarad, support the archetype by making it easier to engage extra Enemies.
Halbarad’s has an ability which allows a second optional engagement per round, whereas Aragorn has an ability which allows him to engage an Enemy whenever he kills another one. While the interesting timing of Aragorn’s ability can be used to pull off some shenanigans (like getting to play Forest Snare on a powerful Enemy before it has a chance to attack) I find that both of these abilities are much more useful in multiplayer, where ensuring that the right Enemies engage the right decks is more important.
But both Heroes have other abilities as well: Aragorn gives each Enemy engaged with you -1 defense, and Halbarad quests without exhausting if you’re engaged with an Enemy. These other abilities are much more useful in solo play.
All of the Allies in the Lost Realm box are Dúnedain, and most of them support the mechanic of getting bonuses out of engaging Enemies. Warden of Annúminas gets +1 willpower for each engaged Enemy, Sarn Ford Sentry lets you draw 1 card for each engaged Enemy when she’s played, and Dúnedain Hunter helps you get the Enemy engagement ball rolling by digging an Enemy out of the encounter deck when he’s played (he costs 0 to compensate for the inconvenience of having to deal with an extra Enemy).
When seen alongside the other two Dúnedain Allies in the Core Set, Northern Tracker and Son of Arnor, Dúnedain as a whole are pretty pricey, with most of them costing 3 or 4 resources, and being spread out across many different spheres. The Lost Realm provides an answer to this in the form of Heir of Valandil, a 2-cost attachment which reduces the cost of one Dúnedain Ally per turn by the number of engaged Enemies. This can result in huge cost savings over many turns if you manage to find some way to keep 2+ Enemies engaged with you.
The Lost Realm also contains a few other Attachments and Events to support the Dúnedain strategy, like Star Brooch (+1 willpower when engaged with an Enemy) and Tireless Hunters (engage an Enemy and discard its shadow card). The box as a whole is pretty focused, so you can get started playing with the new mechanics right away, without needing to pick up any other expansions.
Dúnedain is my all-time favorite archetype in The Lord of the Rings Card Game. It relies on a high-risk, high-reward mechanic that takes some time to learn how to play well and get into the rhythm of it. In general, I’ve found that Dúnedain decks do well to avoid playing cards until they absolutely need them, spending their resources on only that of which there is the utmost need and holding their cards in hand until they can be of greatest use. They’re usually about managing tempo, sometimes intentionally giving up ground in one round so they can turn a greater advantage later on.
This box also introduced one of my favorite player card keywords of all time: the Encounter keyword. It contains a pair of cards that go together, Ranger Summons and Ranger of the North. Ranger Summons is a 1-cost Event, and when you play it, you shuffle 1 copy of Ranger of the North (which has an encounter card back) into the encounter deck. When it gets revealed, it deals 2 damage to an Enemy or places 2 progress on a Location, Surges, and then becomes a 2 / 2 / 2 / 3 Ranged Sentinel Ally for any player. Not bad for a 1 resource investment!
If I’m honest, though, it’s not the best card. You can’t count on getting the boost when you need it, and sometimes Ranger of the North gets discarded as a Shadow Card. I like to pretend it took the place of some disastrous Shadow Effect when I see it go that way, but it’s usually a bit of a letdown. I’ve had a few games where the Ranger of the North came out at just the right time to turn things around, but more often than not it shows up at a time when it’s only of moderate use (or it never shows up at all).
I like the Encounter keyword anyway. It’s fun to hope against hope that the next card in the encounter deck might not actually be out to get you.
Getting a little sidetracked
The final noteworthy addition to the player card pool in the Lost Realm is the first-of-its-kind Gather Information, a player Side Quest. Side Quests are played during the Planning phase and provide the option of questing against them instead of the main quest. The Side Quest must be chosen to be the “current quest” at the start of the Questing phase, and any excess progress is lost (in other words, it doesn’t roll over to the main quest).
Gather Information lets you exchange a quest phase or two trying to rack up 4 progress for any one card each player wants from their deck. This can be huge for decks that rely on finding a particular card to work, in a sense serving as a fourth copy of a card.
The Lost Realm also gives us a Tactics threat reduction card, an Ally to help dig up Signal cards (of which Ranger Summons is the only instance in this limited card pool), a Location control card, and a new healing card that doubles as Condition removal. All in all, it’s a pretty good haul. You can take a look at the full set over at the Hall of Beorn.
What we’re up against
As always, I’m going to do my best to avoid story spoilers. If you’re the sort of person who also wants to avoid spoiling the quest mechanics, you can skip over the collapsed sections of this post.
You’re invited to a party
Intruders in Chetwood starts with a copy of Orc War Party in the Staging Area. The War Party is a tough 3 / 6 / 3 / 6 Enemy who is immune to Attachments and prevents damage to Enemies while they’re in the Staging Area. There are 3 total copies of Orc War Party in the encounter deck, and the players cannot win as long as any of them are in play.
There’s only 1 quest stage, which requires 30 progress to complete. At the end of each round, the players raise their threat by the total number of Enemies left in the Staging Area, so there’s pressure to engage Enemies as often as possible. To further underscore that point, Enemies do not make engagement checks during this quest, so barring any player card shenanigans you can only optionally engage one per round. If the Enemies build up, so too will your threat.
The primary focus of the quest is on gaining control over the Staging Area and not letting Enemies build up too much, so in many ways it’s pretty straightforward.
Still getting sidetracked
Intruders in Chetwood also serves as an introduction to encounter Side Quests, of which there are 4 in the encounter deck. Like player Side Quests, the players choose whether to quest against the main quest or a Side Quest at the start of the Quest phase. Unlike player Side Quests, which usually do something good when they’re completed, encounter Side Quests tend to do something bad until you clear them.
Several of the other encounter cards relate to Side Quests, like Rugged Country, which gets +2 threat when the current quest is a Side Quest, or Shrouded Hills, whose threat is equal to the number of quest cards in play. The quest even starts with an Objective-Ally in play: Iârion, whose willpower, attack, and defense are equal to the number of quest cards in play, and who readies whenever a new Side Quest is revealed from the encounter deck. Iârion is one of those ubiquitous “if he dies you lose” sorts of Allies, so take good care of him.
You can see everything the encounter deck has to offer over at the Hall of Beorn.
Building a deck
I’d like to put some of the new Dúnedain cards to use in this first quest. I’m going to base the deck around Heir of Valandil so that I can get as many of the expensive Dúnedain Allies down as possible. So that means I’m going to need a Leadership Hero. Thèodred might make a good choice to help with high Ally costs, but since I’m doing the whole Dúnedain thing I might as well give the new Halbarad Hero a try.
What other spheres do I want in my deck? Well, the two most expensive Dúnedain Allies, Warden of Annúminas and Northern Tracker are in the Spirit sphere, so I’ll probably want a Spirit Hero. Dúnedain tend to suffer from a slow start, so it’s hard to pass up using Èowyn to help cover my questing bases in the early game.
Now I just have to pick a final Hero. I could go with another Spirit or Leadership Hero, but there are a few Lore cards I’d love to include if I could—namely Forest Snare (which takes the bite out of the whole “keeping Enemies engaged” thing) and Sarn Ford Sentry. Plus, if I’m going to be taking attacks round after round I could probably use a little extra healing, and maybe some Shadow Effect scrying in the form of Dark Knowledge so that I can more efficiently plan my defenders. So I guess I’m going to go tri-sphere for this one!
It might be fun to use Beravor as my third Hero for thematic purposes, but what I really need is an early game defender while I’m still trying to get my board state set up. The only Lore Hero who really seems to fit that bill is Denethor. Plus, if I end up not needing him as a defender I can use him to scry the top card of the encounter deck instead, an ability which is super powerful in solo play.
Since I’m using three spheres, it was easy to find enough good cards in the pool to get me up to 50! This is what I came up with:
Denethor (Core Set)
Éowyn (Core Set)
Halbarad (The Lost Realm)
2x Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core Set)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Sarn Ford Sentry (The Lost Realm)
3x Snowbourn Scout (Core Set)
2x Son of Arnor (Core Set)
3x Warden of Annúminas (The Lost Realm)
3x Weather Hills Watchman (The Lost Realm)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
1x Dark Knowledge (Core Set)
2x Forest Snare (Core Set)
3x Heir of Valandil (The Lost Realm)
2x Self Preservation (Core Set)
1x Star Brooch (The Lost Realm)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Radagast’s Cunning (Core Set)
3x Ranger Summons (The Lost Realm)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)
Player Side Quest (1)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Maneuvering the deck
This is a Dúnedain deck that trades some early game power for an impressive bevy of Allies by the late game.
The key card is Heir of Valandil, which is what I mulligan for. Importantly, though, I don’t usually end up playing it until much later in the game. I hold it until I have at least 2 engaged Enemies, and I only play it if I can use it to get a discount on a Dúnedain Ally that turn as well. The cards in the deck are expensive, so I can’t afford to spend my early game resources on things I can’t immediately use.
Another excellent card in this deck is Sneak Attack. Many of the Allies are too expensive to play until I’ve spent a few turns building up resources, but with Sneak Attack I can get that emergency defender or extra attack power to help me out in a pinch. It’s worth even more if I combine it with an Ally like Son of Arnor to engage an Enemy during the Quest phase (useful for Dúnedain bonuses as well as just getting its threat out of the Staging Area) or Sarn Ford Sentry to help me draw extra cards.
Despite all of the effects that give me bonuses based on the number of Enemies I have engaged, it’s usually not a good idea to try to keep them around forever. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a bad round from the encounter deck, so I generally still try to whittle down Enemies with more than 2 attack. It’s okay if I can’t kill them in one round, but I want to be ready to finish them off if things get too hot. Unless I can Forest Snare them, of course, in which case they’re mine forever.
The Lore cards in the deck tend to be a little more expensive than the other spheres, so Steward of Gondor (appropriately) goes on Denethor. That being said, the deck is all about adapting to the changing board state, so if I’ve got some expensive Spirit Allies in hand that I could use right now, I won’t hesitate to grant the title to Èowyn instead.
The play’s the thing
Attempts required: 1
Victory on: Normal mode
I might have run into a bit of good luck in my first game of Intruders in Chetwood, but it seems like this quest is a perfectly reasonable challenge with a reduced card pool. The mechanics are fairly straightforward, and it seems like it would make a good step up in difficulty after having mastered the Hill Troll in Journey Along the Anduin.
Give me the details!
The fact that engagement checks don’t happen in this quest helped me to regulate the flow of Enemies throughout the game. My first few encounter reveals were Locations and Side Quests, giving me the opportunity to keep clearing things by questing without having to do much in the way of combat. A Side Quest captured Iârion early on, but I was able to use Denethor’s scrying ability to calculate exactly how much willpower I needed so that I could be sure I would save him before time ran out.
On turn 4, I managed to get Iârion back, and he and the Allies I had been amassing were able to take down the Orc War Party. Fortunately I didn’t bump into any other copies of the War Party for the rest of the game.
On turn 6, I was able to Forest Snare an Angmar Marauder, and by turn 7 my engine was in full swing with a total of 3 engaged Enemies, one of which was the dinky 2-attack Angmar Orc. At that point my two Wardens of Annúminas were questing for 3, and it was only a matter of placing enough progress on the quest to clear it, which I was able to do on round 10.
My biggest concern during the game was my rising threat, which ended at 43. I wasn’t sure at first how many rounds it would take to get the 30 progress I needed, and a few ill-timed Enemies might have caused me to threat out before I could reach the end.
Intruders in Chetwood was fun, and seems like it would be a good quest to play right after the Core Set. It has a moderate-to-high level of difficulty (there are some tough Enemies in this quest) but there are plenty of ways for clever players to manage the obstacles the quest throws at them.
The Dúnedain player cards worked surprisingly well, too. When they first came out I remember people thinking they weren’t good enough on their own, and that they still needed more development before they would become viable. That was not my experience with this deck at all—the archetype seems to be fully functional right out of the box.
I’m looking forward to seeing what other decks I can build out of these player cards, as well as finding out if the rest of the Lost Realm quests are just as manageable as this first quest!
“Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread.”