Quest Profile 001: Passage Through Mirkwood

QUEST PROFILE 001

Passage Through Mirkwood

001-passage-through-mirkwood-encounter-sets

ORIGINAL RELEASE: April 20, 2011

WHICH ONE WAS THAT? That one where you randomly select A Chosen Path for the final stage and either quest through or fight a boss spider.

001-passage-through-mirkwood-encounter-set

Scenario 001: Passage Through Mirkwood (click image for higher resolution)

COMPLETE SCENARIO DECKLIST (36 encounter cards + 4 quest cards):

Enemy (16)
1x Black Forest Bats
1x Chieftain Ufthak
2x Dol Guldur Beastmaster
3x Dol Gulder Orcs
1x East Bight Patrol
4x Forest Spider
1x Hummerhorns
2x King Spider
1x Ungoliant’s Spawn

Location (13)
2x Enchanted Stream
2x Forest Gate
2x Great Forest Web
3x Mountains of Mirkwood
2x Necromancer’s Pass
2x Old Forest Road

Treachery (7)
2x Caught in a Web
1x Driven by Shadow
1x Eyes of the Forest
3x The Necromancer’s Reach

Quest (4)
1A/B  Flies and Spiders
2A/B  A Fork in the Road
3A/B  A Chosen Path / ’Don’t Leave the Path!’
3A/B  A Chosen Path / Beorn’s Path 

WHERE DOES IT HAPPEN? As the name suggests, we travel through Mirkwood (the forest formerly known as Greenwood the Great) located east of the Misty Mountains. Gradually sickening after the return of Sauron to Middle-earth, the forest has become known as Taur-e-Ndaedelos or “The Forest of Great Fear” in the Sindarin tongue. Check out the locations from this scenario placed on the map at Master of Lore’s LOTR LCG Atlas.

north-mirkwood

“Wilderland” from The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn-Fonstad (1991)

WHAT HAPPENS? Our heroes are tasked with carrying a message from King Thranduil west across Mirkwood to the Lady Galadriel. The forest is infested with spiders and orcs, issuing from the influence of the mysterious Necromancer of Dol Guldur.

NOVEL INSPIRATION: The Hobbit Chapter 8 “Flies and Spiders”

BEST ARTWORK: Ben Zweifel established the look of Middle-earth for FFG with his evocative paintings of Mirkwood in the Core Set. His signature sparkles in the scenery give an appropriately enchanting quality to our game’s first adventure! If you’d like to learn more about about his Lord of the Rings art and other projects, Mr. Zweifel was kind enough to do an interview with me in October 2013 and another with WWPD in February 2015.

flies-and-spiders-by-ben-zweifel

“Flies and Spiders” by Ben Zweifel (Core Set #119)

MY OWN WORST ENEMY: The boss spider in this scenario is called Ungoliant’s Spawn referring to the name of a monstrous evil spirit from the First Age who took arachnid form. Ungoliant used her webs of pure darkness to help Melkor infiltrate Valinor and steal the Silmarils. Upon arriving in Middle-earth, Ungoliant threatened to devour the original Dark Lord in her “clinging thongs” until he let out a terrible cry and was rescued by an army of Balrogs. Legend says that Ungoliant eventually consumed herself in her ravenous appetite for darkness, but not before producing a brood of spiders which have carried her poisonous legacy in Middle-earth down into the timeframe of our story.

ungoliants-spawn

Ungoliant’s Spawn is a filthy descendent of that primal mother of all spiders, a mere shade of her ancient namesake. Still, this wretched enemy literally consumes those who love the light, sucking one willpower from everyone who is committed to questing. In the Nightmare version of the scenario, she’s grown double in size and power. If you are unlucky enough to draw her from the deck before the final stage, you may get the chance to fight this nastiness twice! Still hungry for more on the legend of Ungoliant’s Spawn? Check out my previous feature article for more details!

MUST CANCEL TREACHERY: Who can forget The Necromancer’s Reach? Brutally punishing in its day, it is still a terrifying treachery that can wipe out an army of questing allies! Even now, looking at that lidless red eye triggers tremors of memory and regret.

necromancers-reach

GO TO YOUR HAPPY PLACE: Before card draw effects were plentiful, the Forest Gate provided a nice chance to boost your hand. Unlike many later locations, this one doesn’t cause any foul effects if you just want to leave it in the staging area.

forest-gate

MOST OBSCURE LORE: The most obscure Tolkien reference in “Passage Through Mirkwood” is found on an enemy that is not mentioned anywhere in the text of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. In fact, this creature originally wasn’t part of Middle-earth at all!

hummerhorns

The Hummerhorns are drawn from a line from one of Tolkien’s early poems called “Errantry”. The Professor discusses this poem in Letter 133 calling it his “most attractive” creation, noting that it is written in a very difficult metre which he personally invented and used “in a single impulse” only this one time.

Originally published in The Oxford Magazine in 1933, the poem was later included in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in 1962. There it was categorized as a Hobbit poem from Middle-earth and attributed to Bilbo Baggins. You can hear it set to music by Donald Swann here. Speaking of the adventures of a mighty mariner, the stanza in question reads:

He battled with the Dumbledors,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb,
and running home on sunny seas,

in ship of leaves and gossamer,
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up,
and burnished up his panoply.

Who knew that that this insect enemy had its inspiration in a rare verse of “trisyllabic assonances and near-assonances”? All I knew was that in the early days of the game, unless I had a Citadel Plate, the Hummerhorns meant a dead hero!

DECK-BUILDING TIPS: With the notable exception of the Tactics sphere starter deck in the Core Set, you can beat this one with just about anything. Don’t include too many squishy 1-hit point allies (the Necromancer is reaching!) and try to win before your threat tracker hits 40 as that is when the Hummerhorns stop being an intriguing poetic allusion and become a violent menace to your hero’s survival.

MY MOST MEMORABLE PLAYTHROUGH: When Small Target was first released, I wanted to make a mono-Spirit Hobbit deck that used hiding and other Halfling shenanigans to survive solo. A video record remains of my attempt against this quest and the final round is suitably epic. Enjoy!

OTHER MASTER OF LORE LINKS: Check out my feature article on the Old Forest Road. Of all the writing I’ve done on this blog, this article remains one of my personal favorites.

USEFUL LINKS:
• Read the original release article from FFG published on April 20, 2011.
• See the official FFG Product Page for the Core Set.
• Get rules, ratings, and FAQs for this scenario at Online Quest Companion: Passage Through Mirkwood.

14 comments

  1. Thaddeus · · Reply

    Very nice. I look forward to more in this series.

    1. Thanks Thaddeus, any particular quest that you’d like to see featured?

      1. Ooh, good question. Trouble in Tharbad leaps to mind. As maligned as it might be, The Hills of Emyn Muil could be interesting for this purpose. Any of the Dunland-related quests. The Morgul Vale.

      2. Celebrimbor’s Secret could be an interesting piece of lore for us readers. Legend has it that the quest is set in the regions of Middle-earth from whence came famous Hobbit adventurers such as Harrison Overford, Steven Spielburrow, and George Lu…. Lu…. aww, heck. George Lucas.

  2. Grimbeorn the Old · · Reply

    Thanks for a great trip down memory lane….keep ’em coming 🙂

    1. Will do! I’ll have to start skipping around eventually, but I’ll make sure to hit the fan favorites like the one with your namesake. 🙂

  3. Great article!! What a wonderful deep dive into the background. Looking forward to more!

    1. Thanks Andrew, any particular quest that you’d like to see featured?

  4. This is a great article to a relative newbie like myself who has only just recently completed the Mirkwood cycle… are you planning to cover all those initial 9 scenarios, or just a few ? It’s a great way to record how they played out, content list etc.. I would certainly find it really helpful to have something for each quest like this 🙂

    1. Welcome to the game Jim! I don’t think I’ll cover every scenario in the game sequentially as there are over 70 now, but I will definitely hit a few from every cycle. Is there one in particular that you’d like to see from the Mirkwood cycle? It’s awesome to see new players discovering the game and I hope this blog helps add some thematic flavor to your adventures. Happy questing!

  5. Søren Pedersen · · Reply

    Great post – I will print this and keep with the quest – please do as many you can – I am after all a completist.

    1. Ha ha, excellent! I am a completist as well, which is why many of my posts border on obsessive detail. I will certainly do as many quests as I can, though I expect to start jumping around a bit and not be able to cover them all. If there is a favorite quest you’d really like to see, just let me know. Thanks for reading!

  6. Awesome!

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