Quest Profile 002: Journey Along the Anduin

QUEST PROFILE 002

Journey Along the Anduin

journey-along-the-anduin-encounter-sets

QUEST PROFILE: Journey Along the Anduin

ORIGINAL RELEASE: April 20, 2011

WHICH ONE WAS THAT? That one where you start with a 30 engagement cost Hill Troll in the staging area and end with a big combat phase against all the enemies you couldn’t optionally engage while questing down the river.

002-journey-along-the-anduin-encounter-deck

Scenario 002: Journey Along the Anduin (click image for higher resolution)

COMPLETE SCENARIO DECKLIST: (47 encounter cards + 3 quest cards)

Enemy (20)
1x Chieftain Ufthak
2x Dol Guldur Beastmaster
3x Dol Gulder Orcs
3x Eastern Crows
2x Goblin Sniper
2x Hill Troll
1x Marsh Adder
3x Misty Mountain Goblins
2x Wargs
1x Wolf Rider

Location (13)
2x Banks of the Anduin
3x Gladden Fields
2x Enchanted Stream
2x Necromancer’s Pass
2x The Brown Lands
2x The East Bight

Treachery (14)
2x Despair
1x Driven by Shadow
3x Evil Storm
3x The Necromancer’s Reach
1x Massing at Night
2x Pursued by Shadow
2x Treacherous Fog

Quest (3)
1A/B To the River…
2A/B Anduin Passage
3A/B Ambush on the Shore

WHERE DOES IT HAPPEN? This scenario covers more ground than literally every other quest in the game. The locations included in the encounter deck span a sweeping stretch of Wilderland beginning in northern Mirkwood (as deep in the woods as the Enchanted Stream!) and continuing south along the river through the storied Gladden Fields as far as the barren Brown Lands beyond Mirkwood near the Emyn Muil.

The travel phase gets a bit nonsensical in this one as our heroes may find themselves traversing nearly 500 miles of Middle-earth multiple times as they go back and forth between the forest and the river on their way to Lothlórien. Check out the locations from this scenario placed on the map at Master of Lore’s LOTR LCG Atlas.

core-set-wilderland

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

WHAT HAPPENS? We are still trying to deliver that “urgent message for Lady Galadriel” we picked up from King Thranduil at the beginning of the previous quest. But if our journey is to finally arrive at her kingdom in the golden woods of Lórien, we must pass perilously near to Dol Guldur, a sinister stronghold of foul orcs and treachery.

NOVEL INSPIRATION: The Fellowship of the Ring Book I Chapter IX “The Great River”

BEST ARTWORK: There have been six special art sleeves released by Fantasy Flight Games for the Lord of the Rings LCG and one of those pieces was first featured in this encounter deck. Available as the “Nazgul” sleeve design on FFG’s website, this painting by Matthew Starbuck is featured on the Pursued by Shadow treachery card. Presumably this is one of the three Ringwraiths stationed at Dol Guldur by Sauron, swooping over the River Anduin on his fell beast (assuming they had access to their winged steeds even before losing their horses at Fords of Bruinen).

pursued-by-shadow

“Pursued by Shadow” by Matthew Starbuck (Core Set #117)

Notice how the art director flipped Mr. Starbuck’s image for the card and sleeve. In visual storytelling, hero characters traditionally move from left to right, while villains move right to left (impeding natural progress). Do you think that makes the original look more menacing? Either way, it’s an awesome illustration!

custom-nazgul-sleeves

MY OWN WORST ENEMY: In an encounter deck where only 18 of 47 encounter cards (38%) have a shadow effect, these otherwise generic Wargs can be positively infuriating! Aren’t you glad that the designers started putting shadow effects on location cards after the core set? Oh wait…

wargs

Another “worst enemy” situation can occur if you reveal a second Hill Troll in the first couple rounds of staging. It seems to happen more often than it should with such a thick encounter deck, doesn’t it? Don’t worry though. If you have a strategy to take on one, why not two?

double-hill-troll

Anyone else wonder why that “1” is so tiny on the Hill Troll‘s threat level?

MUST CANCEL TREACHERY: Remember when treacheries could whiff? Depending on how high your threat dial has climbed, the Evil Storm is either completely harmless or a supernatural disaster that leaves you longing for the relative sweetness of The Necromancer’s Reach!

evil-storm

GO TO YOUR HAPPY PLACE: Especially for a solo player, the Banks of the Anduin can provide for a relatively easy journey through Stage 2B if you have no enemies engaged. Just sit back in your raft, grab a chilled flask of miruvor, and watch the world float by.

banks-of-the-anduin

MOST OBSCURE LORE: Not only is it the most unlikely place our heroes would travel to in a “Journey Along the Anduin”, but it is also the only location in this scenario whose name appears nowhere in The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. For that reason, I’m glad we do get to go there in this quest, however implausible!

The East Bight refers to “the great indentation in the eastern border of Mirkwood”. The space was simply left blank on the map originally printed in The Lord of the Rings in 1954 but was given its name in 1980 when Christopher Tolkien published The Unfinished Tales.

east-bight-comparison-map

(Top) Map of Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien published in Lord of the Rings (1954); (Bottom) Map of Middle-earth by Christopher Tolkien published in Unfinished Tales (1980)

In Unfinished Tales, the previously unnamed region is mentioned in the history of “Cirion and Eorl” which gives the origin story of Rohan and explains who put this awful dent in the forest. Writing about the Éothéod, the ancestors of the Rohirrim, Tolkien states:

They were a remnant of the Northmen, who had formerly been a numerous and powerful confederation of peoples living in the wide plains between Mirkwood and the River Running, great breeders of horses and riders renowned for their skill and endurance, though their settled homes were in the eaves of the Forest, and especially in the East Bight, which had largely been made by their felling of trees.

the-east-bight

The Éothéod eventually emigrated from this deforested region after the Steward of Gondor gifted them the land of Calenardhon (afterwards named Rohan) for their aid in war against the Easterlings about 500 years before the events of Lord of the Rings. Since then, the East Bight has remained empty and desolate. I wonder if King Elessar made Éomer reforest this wasteland after the War of Ring. Aragorn does like replanting trees after all!

DECK-BUILDING TIPS: You need a Hill Troll strategy. In the past couple years, it could be as simple including Beregond and his Gondorian Shield, but before 2013 a limited card pool required us to get creative. With the Hill Troll engaging once your threat reaches 30 and other effects like Evil Storm getting pretty diabolical after 35, keeping your threat down can make for a smooth journey.

MY MOST MEMORABLE PLAYTHROUGH: This is hard to pin down as I’ve probably played this quest more than any other in the game. It’s easily the strongest quest of the Core Set and gained traction in the community as a sandbox for field testing new decks since it offers an early punch, the need for a big quest push in the middle, and a final battle with a swarm of enemies. Do you want to know if your new deck is well-rounded? Give it a try on “Journey Along the Anduin”.

I used to keep a handwritten journal of my playthroughs, and unearthed some notes of one particular evening in April 2013 in which I played this quest solo 11 consecutive times to fine tune a deck called “Cheap Bag of Tricks”. That’s memorable not only because I still count that deck as one of my favorites, but because it reminds me of what my life was like before beginning my marriage and master’s program. I offer this observation without commentary.

jata-quest-log

In each playthrough, I recorded how I dispatched the Hill Troll. In this 11th attempt, I was able to do so without engagement.

OTHER MASTER OF LORE LINKS:
• Derek digs into Tolkien’s lore and the mythological inspiration behind that vile Hill Troll.
• Learn about a pivotal event in the history of the One Ring in my Hasty Stroke on the Gladden Fields.

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: Journey Along the Anduin.
• Ian explains (in great detail) various methods for “How to Kill a Hill Troll” at Tales from the Cards.
• Watch Mitch and Matthew take on “Journey Along the Anduin” using only the core set in their awesome Progression Series reboot!

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13 comments

  1. This quest can be a challenge, and I too will still use it as “field test” quest, but you may have been making it even harder on yourself. Stage 1B says to search for a Hill Troll “if one is not already in play”. Getting a Troll for your stage 1A random card is actually the best possible draw.

    Stage 2B also makes it clear that you can still optionally engage an enemy each turn. In my experience you can use this to pretty effectively winnow enemies down so that you’re not too swarmed by the third stage.

    1. Not only do I fear that I’ve never completed an error-free playthrough of this quest, I also wonder if I’ve made an error-free blog post! I’ve made a couple updates to reflect your astute observations.

      Firstly, I’d like to think that I was aware of the Hill Troll exception on the quest card and yet, I have distinct memories of battling two trolls from time to time. I think those memories must be of a second Hill Troll revealed in the initial rounds of staging before engaging the first. It wasn’t just a bad dream about dealing with multiple trolls, was it?

      Secondly, I do remember the optional engagement on the river in stage 2B but with the additional reveal each round, as well as two more once you disembark from your raft, it can still be quite swarm in the end! I revised my summary of the quest to reflect that more clearly.

      Thanks for the feedback and comments. It makes this fun!

      1. Oh I’ve definitely had to face Hill Troll twins a few times. Especially, if you’re taking your time to set up your kill against the troll, the second one has a decent chance of popping up as well.

  2. Nicolette · · Reply

    I love that you are going through the game from the beginning!!! I hope you do this to the whole thing!

    1. I imagine that I’ll run out of steam or start jumping around eventually, but at least at the beginning here, every quest has such a strong nostalgia factor that I’m going to keep going in order for a while. I’m glad you are enjoying it!

  3. With the current card pool the Hill Troll is not the force it used to be but can still spell disaster if you don’t have a plan to deal with it! Even though this is the second quest we ever got I still find myself coming back to it time and time again as it just has such great mechanics and encounter cards. Some of the battles I have had at Stage 3 have been epic as well. The Nightmare version of this quest is one of the best Nightmare quests out there. Loved the article! Can’t wait for the next one!

    1. I haven’t gotten into Nightmare play as much, though I’m appreciating the overviews of the Nightmare scenarios on your blog. I do actually have the Nightmare deck for this one. Perhaps it’s time I give it a try!

  4. Great article – not sure I’d ever really registered just how stupid the geography on this one was! Looking forward to reading the rest of the series

    1. I didn’t realize how goofy it was either until I started making my atlas and realized that just about every scenario in the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle includes an encounter set with locations splashed across the entire region. I would say that of all the scenarios in the game though, this one is the most illogical.

      In future expansions, the designers have moved more systematically through the region with each scenario taking place in a more or less centralized location. I can imagine a version of this cycle that does the same with entire quests taking place in the Mountains of Mirkwood or the East Bight rather than each of these being single location in more expansive quests.

      As much as these early quests rate high on nostalgia, they also show us how much the quest design has improved over the years with experience and feedback!

  5. Brillant concept, these quest profiles, and expertly executed! A joy to read, I really love the way you link them to Tolkien’s work and so many other aspects. I have just started playing the game and am still desperately trying to beat this scenario solo with just the core set cards. I have come close a few times, but yes, evil storm can wreak havoc! Keep up the good work, I am looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Welcome to the game! It’s a thrill to see comments from new players and I hope that the links at the bottom (especially Mitch and Matthew’s Progression Series) are helpful as you seek that elusive victory. I learned the game from those guys and the production value on the videos is top-notch. This game is difficult, but that definitely makes you feel satisfied when you finally beat a scenario. Quest on!

  6. peacefrog3 · · Reply

    This is a really cool series, can’t wait to read more! Keep up the great work!

  7. […] inconsistencies in these quests, with places from hundreds of miles away somehow cropping up as you sail along the Anduin or investigate strange goings on at Dol […]

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