Nightmare Intruders in Chetwood

Rangers have sighted a large group of Orcs making its way towards Bree-land. The Dúnadan, Iârion, has asked you to help him intercept the war party before it can reach the quiet village. The Orcs are a day ahead of you and moving fast, but there is hope you can catch them with the Ranger’s tracking skill…

Intruders in Chetwood

Our first mission in the Lost Realm storyline puts us in the quintessential role of the Dúnedain: protecting the unsuspecting villages of Bree-land from roving bands of Orcs. Prepare your horses and sharpen your weapons; we must stop these Intruders in Chetwood at all costs!

It seems simple at first glance

This quest has a single main quest card, requiring 30 progress to complete. Throughout the quest, Enemies won’t make engagement checks on their own, so players must use their optional engagements to grab them manually. But don’t let Enemies build up in the Staging Area, since you must raise each player’s threat by 1 for every Enemy there at the end of each refresh phase.

The quest card starts you off with a handful of Locations as well as a single Orc War Party—a beefy 6-attack Enemy who prevents you from damaging Enemies in the Staging Area. More importantly, the game cannot be won while any copy of Orc War Party is in play—and there’s a total of 3 of them in the deck. There are a few effects that fetch them, too, ensuring you can’t relax, even if you manage to kill one.

That seems straightforward. But as you play, you begin to realize that there’s a little more to this quest than immediately meets the eye.

It’s easy to get distracted

It was in this box that encounter Side Quests were first released, and Intruders in Chetwood makes full use of them. The Nightmare version of the quest has 6 Side Quests hidden in the encounter deck, each of which has its own unique way to ruin your day if you don’t deal with it quickly.

Furthermore, the Nightmare version adds several cards to the deck that fetch specific Side Quests (even snatching them back from the Victory Display) under certain circumstances. This ensures you’ll be seeing lots of Side Quests as you play—making it that much harder to find the time to make that 30 progress you need on the main Quest.

Many of the encounter cards also scale with the number of Side Quests in play. Shrouded Hills, for example, has threat equal to the number of Quest cards in play. Even worse is the shadow effect on Rugged Country, which gives the attacking enemy +1 attack for each Quest card in play. And I’ve had more than one game ruined by Weight of Responsibility revealing tons of extra cards just when the Side Quests were beginning to pile up.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. The first player gains control of the Objective-Ally Iârion, whose willpower, attack, and defense are equal to the number of Quest cards in play. Even better, he readies whenever a Side Quest is revealed from the encounter deck, so you’ll get a timely opportunity to use those extra stats whenever he gets a new buff. As is usual with Objective-Allies, though, you don’t want to let him die, or you’ll lose the game.

If you manage to keep the board clear of Orc War Parties and stay focused on the main Quest, 30 progress nets you the win. The trick, I have found, is in being able to engage and kill Enemies almost as quickly as they appear.

But what sort of deck is capable of a feat like that?

Deck: Simple Folk

Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).

Concerning Hobbits, The Fellowship of the Rings

Theme: Normal, everyday hobbit-folk

Hero (3)
Pippin (The Black Riders)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
Tom Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)

Ally (24)
2x Barliman Butterbur (The Black Riders)
2x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
3x Bywater Shirriff (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Farmer Maggot (The Black Riders)
3x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
1x Halfast Gamgee (The Crossings of Poros)
2x Halfling Bounder (The Sands of Harad)
2x Merry (A Shadow in the East)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
2x Rosie Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)

Attachment (7)
3x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
2x Staff of Lebethron (The Land of Shadow)
2x Woodmen’s Clearing (The Withered Heath)

Event (18)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Halfling Determination (The Black Riders)
3x Raise the Shire (The Mountain of Fire)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)
3x Unseen Strike (The Redhorn Gate)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards

Check out this deck’s description on RingsDB for info on how to play it.

Inspiration

I knew that I wanted to build a deck that was capable of optionally engaging the initial Orc War Party and killing it on round 1—and believe it or not, when I think “aggressively takes down big Enemies” I think Hobbits. (Well, first I think of Tactics Éowyn—but after her I think Hobbits). The reason is that they have access to lots of inexpensive buffs against high-engagement cost Enemies (you know, the big ones) as long as you manage to keep your threat down.

In this deck, Tom Cotton makes major contributions to both attack and defense. For a single Leadership resource, Hobbit Cloak gives him a hearty defense of 5—which is easily achievable on round 1. Furthermore, he grants access to the vital Raise the Shire, which lets me fetch a 2-attack Hobbit Ally—which he boosts to a grand total of 4 attack right off the bat. Not a bad place to start!

For this quest, I was simply doing the math: I wanted to build a deck with a decent chance of getting 9 attack on round 1. Raise the Shire combined with Tom gets me 4 attack right off the bat, and if I choose Farmer Maggot, I get an extra 2 damage from his ability, bringing me up to 6. Sam Gamgee readies and gets +1 to his stats from his ability, so his 2 attack brings me to an easy 8. I only need another 1 attack to bring me to the golden number of 9—so even if my hand presents me with no other options, I can always keep Pippin ready to help deal the killing blow.

So, all I need to draw is a single card—Raise the Shire—and some sort of defensive solution, and I can guarantee I’ll be able to kill the big Enemy on round 1. After round 1, my deck will only get stronger, with the slow and steady buildup of more and more Allies, so killing an Enemy per round should be more than doable. I’ve played aggressive Hobbit decks like this one in the past, so I knew the little guys would be up to the challenge.

Thematic concessions

At first glance, Woodmen’s Clearing seems like a bit of a strange choice for a Hobbit deck. It’s clearly meant to synergize (both mechanically and thematically) with the Woodmen trait found on the men of Mirkwood forest.

Since Hobbits live and die by their threat dial, I wanted to make sure I had enough threat reduction in the deck to keep it under control. The Shirefolk is great, but it wasn’t enough by itself. This card caught my eye when I was skimming through the list of threat reduction cards on Hall of Beorn.

So, I thought about it, and realized that there were probably lumberjacks among the Hobbits as well. Surely they could be described as woodmen? I like this explanation, since it makes this card fairly generic in theme, and Lore decks can really use access to a solid threat reduction option.

The play’s the thing

Win ratio: 5 / 5

Looks like we’re starting off the cycle strong, with a perfect win ratio! Sometimes a perfect score indicates to me that the quest was too easy, but I don’t think that’s the case here. The encounter deck had plenty of nastiness to send my way, and threat was always running a little hotter than my Hobbits liked it by the end of the game. I think my deck was just well-suited to the challenges that this quest threw at me.

I was able to kill the first Orc War Party on round 1 in four out of my five games, generally accepting failure on the first quest phase and using all my Heroes to help with combat. I didn’t always get the early game Hobbit Cloak I was hoping for—sometimes I had to chump with a free Curious Brandybuck—but I always had some sort of repeatable defensive solution like Gaffer Gamgee on the board by round 2.

The MVP of the deck really was Raise the Shire, though. Generally, I used the first one to fetch Farmer Maggot, who was awesome for ensuring I could kill Orcs quickly. But I found that its usefulness stretched beyond the combat phase, too. In one game, I had Maggot in my opening hand but didn’t have a defensive solution yet, so I used it to nab Rosie Cotton, who could serve as a defense buff in a pinch (and then switch to questing later). In another, I used a late game Raise the Shire to find Merry, who gave me the big willpower boost I needed to close out the game.

Whether I chose to clear or ignore Side Quests depended on how far along I was in the quest. In the early game it was important to clear them as quickly as possible, to ensure things didn’t get too far away from me when I was small and vulnerable. By the late game, though, I found that it was okay to let them build up a bit—after all, it can take a few rounds to make 30 whole progress. The biggest danger was my threat surpassing the Enemies’ engagement costs—which would turn off most of my bonuses and likely lead to my untimely demise. Most games saw me end in my 30s.

Final thoughts

Intruders in Chetwood is a pretty simple quest at its core, although the Side Quests go a long way towards keeping things interesting. I like that the Nightmare version doubles down on the whole Side Quest focus, ensuring that at least a few of them will come out to give you a hard time. I had a good time with it, and I’m happy with how my aggressive little Hobbit swarm deck turned out too.

That’s a solid way to start the cycle! I’m looking forward to seeing how the next quest, The Weather Hills, shakes things up as well. Is that the rumble of thunder I hear in the distance? I’d better get going!

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