Theme Deck: Heroes of Wilderland

As I mentioned in our most recent episode of The Grey Company podcast, I’ve picked up the core rule book for The One Ring Roleplaying Game. Being one of the only tabletop RPGs set in Middle-earth (and, by all accounts, the most accurate), it had been on my radar for years. I finally possess the book now and, though I’ve been unable to get a group going for it, I’ve been very impressed with the product. It was created by Franceso Nepitello, an Italian writer/game maker known for the War of the Ring game.

Darkening of Mirkwood by Jon Hodgson

Darkening of Mirkwood by Jon Hodgson

In brief, the game is set in Wilderland (otherwise called Rhovanion in Sindarin) in the years between the defeat of Smaug and the discovery of the One Ring by Gandalf (sound familiar?). Wilderland is, of course, the land that Thorin and Co. pass through to get to the Lonely Mountain. The region is boxed in by the Misty Mountains to the west, the Grey Mountains to the north, the River Running to the east, and the Limlight to the south. Much of the Shadow of Mirkwood cycle is set here.

So this region has been on my mind. In the same episode mentioned above, we talked a bit about other cultures or traits or factions our LCG might explore and, because they’re playable cultures in The One Ring, I brought up the Woodmen and Beornings. It also helped that a Woodman ally was spoiled for the forthcoming Nin-in-Eilph pack. By the same impetus I set out to design a deck that would, using the limited options we have, feature the people of this region of Middle-earth; it became a serious exercise in thematic deck-building choices.

Here is my original design for the deck:

Dáin Ironfoot

Silverlode Archer x2
Lórien Guide x3
Henamarth Riversong x1
Silvan Tracker x3
Beorning  Beekeeperx3
Bifur x1
Dwalin x1
Glóin x1
Bofur x1
Veteran Axehand x3
Winged Guardian x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3

Narvi’s Belt x3
Cram x3
King Under the Mountain x2
Rivendell Blade x2
Blade of Gondolin x2
Support of the Eagles x2

Hands Upon the Bow x2
Gaining Strength x3
Lure of Moria x3
We Are Not Idle

Beorn is, of course, the only option to represent his people. Who better than prince Legolas to represent the Woodland Realm? And, ideally, the Lord of Durin’s Folk, Dáin Ironfoot, should be there to represent the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

However to create a thematic deck I needed ally representation from these people as well and the options, especially for Silvan Elves, are really very limited (to say nothing of Beornings or Bardings). Worst of all, the only sphere-match present for Silvan is Leadership. I had multiple Lore and Spirit elves to choose from but no hero to pay for them. I also needed as many questing dwarves as possible and most of those come from other spheres as well. So, I attempted to compensate for this by making Dáin as rich as possible through thematic means (We Are Not idle) and then using Narvi’s Belt to give him the needed spheres to put these allies on the table.

I realized the impossibility right up front; leaving the bulk of the necessary resources to not only 1/3 of my heroes, but further splitting that hero by making him responsible for two other spheres. But I hoped against hope that the cards would draw right and the system would fall into place. Beorn and Leggy are left to sip fine Dorwinion wine in the sun, as there were only a handful of Tactics cards for them to pay for. It also doesn’t help that overpriced, albeit thematic, allies such as Silverlode Archer and Beorning Beekeeper are there to gum up the works.

Beorning's Settlement by Jon Hodgson

Beorning’s Settlement by Jon Hodgson

Such is the trouble of making a workable theme deck.

Naturally the system did not prevail. Starting at 32 threat meant the clock was ticking and by the time my questing dwarves were ready to set out my threat would be in the 40s. It was nice having so much firepower by my Tactics heroes, but it doesn’t matter when everyone round counts and the “when you control 5 dwarf characters” abilities don’t trigger easy because you only start with one.

So what are my options here? My first choice for a sole Dwarf hero was Glóin: he has reasonable stats and his ability means quick resource generation. I might even be able to keep my original plan with Beorn and Legolas. So I tried it and it worked, but his resource engine dies quickly when his hitpoints run out. The inclusion of healing to keep the gold flowing would mean a full overhaul.

A second option would be to make a pair of decks: bring in King Bard, along with Legolas and Beorn, to make a full Tactics deck with lots of eagle support, then another deck of Dwarves and Elves. This would not do. I set out to create a solo deck and by Eru that’s what I will do!

Back to the drawing board I went. I thought it fitting for a deck representing truly diverse peoples to be tri-sphere (if not more!). It’s also necessary to access more spheres for easier payment of allies, so I included Mirlonde as my representative of the Silvan folk. There’s a serious and obvious disadvantage here: her ability is absolutely wasted. However I wished to keep Beorn and Dáin, so it means a slightly more reasonable starting threat of 30.

Wandering-TookThe exclusion of Legolas freed up space as I took out the attachments meant for him, so there was room to facilitate what I expected from this deck: lots of allies representative of the people of Rhovanion. This also meant removing Narvi’s Belt for the slightly more practical option of Song of Travel (and a rather thematic card as we travel about Wilderland). And as I started to build the deck the thematic side really took over. I found myself throwing more and more allies in just to show who we might find wandering over the Edge of the Wild after the death of the dragon. So a Man of Dale (Ravenhill Scout) makes an appearance, as does a mischievous Hobbit (Wandering Took), who really have limited strategic value but belong here just the same. In the end it amounted to putting single copies of the characters I wanted in there just for fun, while keeping multiples of those that would make the deck function. Old friends make appearances, as do cards that are just there to help us feel more like we’re there in Wilderland. But there are too many high-cost allies for a tri-sphere deck, so it takes a long time to ramp up. The good news is that A Very Good Tale is often worth 6 and lots of allies mean it will always hit and, as always, it pairs nicely with Fili and Kili (anachronistic choices, but necessary). In the end it looks like this:

Dáin Ironfoot

Silverlode Archer x1
Lórien Guide x2
Henamarth Riversong x1
Silvan Tracker x3
Beorning Beekeeper x1
Bifur x1
Dwalin x1
Glóin x1
Bofur x1
Veteran Axehand x3
Landroval x1
Haldir of Lorien x1
Mirkwood Runner x2
Winged Guardian x3
Fili x2
Kili x1
Ravenhill Scout x1
Wandering Took x1
Gandalf (core) x1
Radagast x1

Cram x3
King Under the Mountain x2
Song of Travel x3
Boots from Erebor x1

Gaining Strength x3
Lure of Moria x3
We Are Not Idle x3
A Very Good Tale x3


M1544So what can we say about this deck? There are certainly plenty of tweaks and improvements that can be made. As an aside, Beorn is awesome 5 attack out of the gate can handle many, many problems. But the ally situation is obviously wonky albeit very fun, and leaning on discard abilities like King Under the Mountain and A Very Good Tale can put one in a dicey situation if key cards like Song of Travel get discarded. But the highlights are a sampling of many different ally factions (Silvan Tracker really shines and will be in high demand once this cycle’s Silvan cards get kicking) and thematic moments like the aforementioned Very Good Tale and a timely use of We Are Not Idle — doubly appropriate as the Dwarves of Erebor are the true economic engine of this region once the Mountain gets its wheels turning again.

Thematic/trait/bookish decks, whatever you care to call them, are tricky and hard to make work, but can be enjoyable to play and rewarding to create.


  1. I love the One Ring. It’s one of my favorite rpgs these days. I’ve tried playing around with some Wilderland-inspired decks myself. I’m glad to see that Sylvan will be getting more love soon. I’d also like the Beornings and Dale to get more too though.
    Can you play Quickstrike on Beorn, though? I figured his “Immune to player card effects” text meant that he couldn’t be targeted with events like that.

    1. Good catch! Fixing now…

  2. Any advice on which Shadows of Mirkwood quest this deck would have the best chance to succeed against?

    1. I beat Passage (of course) and Journey Down The Anduin with minimal difficulty, so I think you’d do fine just about anywhere. It may get bogged down in Emyn Muil if you can’t get the questing allies out quick enough, and there’s no healing for Wilyador, so keep that in mind.

  3. Thomas · · Reply


    I’m very much interested in the one ring RPG for a while now. But I don’t have a playgroup to play it with. Is there any other value in the game other then playing it with X amount of people, so I can still enjoy it? Is there a 2 player option in it? Or maybe even some solo play for example?

    1. Just as Thaddeus says, you can play with 2 players; it just means the Loremaster has to fill in the gaps. There are online groups via PBP (play-by-post) and RPG clients like Roll20.

  4. Like with most table top rpgs, playing The One Ring solo isn’t really an option. Playing with just one other person certainly is. However, being a part of a company or fellowship is a pretty big deal, so I’d suggest having at least a couple of npcs that are on the adventure as well. If you want more opinions about the game, I discuss it pretty frequently at (where you can also find reviews) and the Cubicle 7 webpage has its own One Ring forum.

  5. […] Check out Derek’s theme deck called the Heroes of Wilderland which would certainly have home field advantage while searching for […]

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