QUEST PROFILE 004
The Hunt for Gollum
QUEST PROFILE: The Hunt for Gollum
ORIGINAL RELEASE: July 21, 2011
WHICH ONE WAS THAT? That one where you sift through the encounter deck looking for a Clue objective called Signs of Gollum.
COMPLETE SCENARIO DECKLIST (48 encounter cards + 3 quest cards):
4x Signs of Gollum
WHERE DOES IT HAPPEN? We are skirting western edge of the Taur-e-Ndaedelos or “Forest of Great Fear” also known as Mirkwood. Most of these locations are already quite familiar to us from our adventures in the Core Set. The only difference is that in this quest, zig-zagging back and forth across the region makes excellent thematic sense as we search for the slinking Gollum. Every location in this scenario is located in the Anduin Valley between the Misty Mountains and the western Eaves of Mirkwood, a most appropriate place to find the tracks of the irascible river-dweller. Check out the locations from this scenario placed on the map at Master of Lore’s LOTR LCG Atlas.
WHAT HAPPENS? We are working for Gandalf now, tasked with finding “the elusive creature known as Gollum”. We won’t catch up to him in this scenario, but victory in the final quest stage tells us that we have discovered “a true sign of [his] passing”.
NOVEL INSPIRATION: For all intents and purposes, the Hunt for Gollum (along with a couple other scenarios in this cycle) could rightly be considered a saga expansion. The story of this quest is lifted straight from the pages of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, directly portraying events narrated in Book I Chapter II “Shadow of the Past” and Book II Chapter II “The Council of Elrond”.
In fact there are multiple hunts for Gollum in the history of Middle-earth. The first was led by the Wood-elves prior to Bilbo’s birthday party and therefore before the timeframe of our game. Although they followed Signs of Gollum “[t]hrough Mirkwood and back again”, they gave up once the trail “wandered off southward” and was lost.
After Bilbo left the Shire in the year 3001, Gandalf’s suspicions about the Ring were rekindled and he enlisted his friend Aragorn to hunt for Gollum with him. They were unsuccessful as well, but Aragorn did not give up. Whereas a successful attempt at the Hunt for Gollum might take us around 45 minutes in our card game, this entry from Appendix B’s “Tale of Years” tells us that Gandalf and Aragorn had a much rougher go of it:
3009 Third Age — Gandalf and Aragorn renew their hunt for Gollum at intervals during the next eight years [emphasis mine], searching in the vales of Anduin, Mirkwood, and Rhovanion to the confines of Mordor.
It wouldn’t be until 3017, after 16 years of attempts, that Aragorn finally captured the miserable creature in the Dead Marshes, but that lore will have to wait for later in this cycle!
BEST ARTWORK: Isn’t the tableau on the first quest card even more epic considering that Aragorn hunted Gollum for over a decade and a half!? Illustrated by Polish artist Igor Kierlyuk, The Hunt Begins depicts the Heir of Isildur standing alone on an outcropping of the Misty Mountains gazing eastward across the Anduin Valley in grim determination.
Aragorn is actually first named in the main text of Lord of the Rings by Gandalf as the wizard is recounting the hunt for Gollum to Frodo while briefing him for his quest. As he tells the hobbit:
[M]y search would have been in vain, but for the help that I had from a friend: Aragorn, the greatest traveller and huntsman of this age of the world.
MY OWN WORST ENEMY: With only four different enemies in this quest, it’s not difficult to spot the chief villain. The artwork on the front of the packaging gives us a clue as well.
In the novel, the Hunters from Mordor do get to Gollum before the heroes, though the shriveled river-hobbit might have walked his way into it. Here again is Gandalf, speaking at the Council of Elrond:
Know also, my friends, that I learned more yet from Gollum. He was loth to speak and his tale was unclear, but it is beyond all doubt that he went to Mordor, and there all that he knew was forced from him. Thus the Enemy knows now that the One is found, that it was long in the Shire; and since his servants have pursued it almost to our door, he soon will know, already he may know, even as I speak, that we have it here.
While an Orc is featured most prominently in the artwork, the Black Rider in the background and presence of the generic Mordor trait on the card would lead us to believe that the “servants” spoken of by Gandalf are included in this motley band of Hunters as well. Nazgûl are on the loose! Receiving boosts in threat and strength whenever they get a whiff of Gollum’s trail, the Hunters from Mordor need to be handled quickly, lest they pose certain doom to our search party.
MUST CANCEL TREACHERY: None of the treacheries in this scenario are a proper game-ender, but all of them will slow you down and turn the quest into a slog-fest. Perhaps the chief culprit in that regard is False Lead which, if able to shuffle away your only Clue on Stage 3B, can reset the quest deck to 2B!
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THAT TRAIT? Here’s one that we see once and only once in the entire game: the Gossip trait. The flavor text on Old Wives’ Tales is taken from Gandalf’s story of the Wood-elves’ hunt for Gollum back before Bilbo’s birthday party:
The wood was full of the rumour of [Gollum], dreadful tales even among beasts and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood. It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles.
This is a fun and nasty card (and arguably much more of a “must cancel” than False Lead). I love the title, text, art, and especially the trait. I wish that the designers had brought back the Gossip trait for our latest healing ally, Ioreth, who is literally called an “old wife” in the text of Return of the King and has the tales to prove it!
The only hint we get to the history of the Old Ford is found buried in a footnote of the Unfinished Tales “Disaster of the Fields” published in 1980. Here we learn that the Old Forest Road “crossed the Anduin by a bridge (that had been enlarged and strengthened for the passage of the armies of the Alliance)” referring to the Last Alliance of Elves and Men which fought Sauron at the end of the Second Age.
According to the same footnote, by the time of The Hobbit, “there is no mention of there having once been a bridge at the crossing”. Clearly this has guided our game’s design as the card’s artwork shows only the remnants of a bridge and poses a high threat to a company of many allies! I am fascinated by the Old Forest Road and this particular footnote which you can read more about in my feature article.
DECK-BUILDING TIPS: No special build is likely needed here. If you are able to quest hard, you may be able to pick up the Signs of Gollum before any Hunters come out, though you better have a strategy in case they do. Heavy combat isn’t needed, but with a number of low threat enemies, you will probably get pesky Orcs coming down on engagement checks which can be problematic if you’re going all in for questing. One solid defender with an army of questing characters or a Feint in hand in case an a Nazgûl picks up your trail isn’t a bad idea. For a full surgical dissection of strategy, check out Ian’s encounter deck review at Tales from the Cards.
MY MOST MEMORABLE PLAYTHROUGH: My guess is that this adventure has a very high nostalgia factor for most players, maybe the highest. For me, it was about a year after I got my Core Set that I decided that I was going to go all in with the game and picked up this pack. I have fond memories of playing The Hunt for Gollum with my brother over Christmas of 2012, sitting on the floor of his apartment over piles of cards like we were little kids again. We were still learning the rules, but through frequent consultations with Kirk Bauer’s Comprehensive Card Reference (an absolutely invaluable resource in those early days!) and the BoardGameGeek forum we figured it out. I don’t remember whether we ever won, just that I had a great time with my little brother!
This week, I played a solo game on OCTGN just to remember the mechanics and cards before writing this article. Everything was going along smoothly until three consecutive Signs of Gollum came up on what should have been my last round. It was like old times. First of all, I had to consult the forums to confirm the rules and, sure enough, all three resolve their Guarded keyword in turn, which brought out a Hunters of Mordor and caused me to threat out. The end.
OTHER MASTER OF LORE LINKS:
• Have I mentioned that I love the Old Forest Road? Learn more about the Old Ford from this scenario in my feature article about Tolkien’s fabled ancient thoroughfare.
• Check out Derek’s theme deck called the Heroes of Wilderland which would certainly have home field advantage while searching for Gollum.
OTHER INTERESTING LINKS:
• Watch Chris Bouchard’s expertly produced fan film The Hunt for Gollum, shot by volunteers with a $5000 budget in England and Wales, “[b]ased faithfully on the appendices”, and intended as “a serious homage to the writing of J.R.R Tolkien and the films of Peter Jackson”.
• Read the official FFG news archives about The Hunt for Gollum (more than twice as many articles as any subsequent adventure pack!):
The Hunt for Gollum is Now on Sale Head to your local retailer today to join the hunt (July 2011)
The Hunt Begins The Hunt for Gollum is shipping this week, despite the Dark Lord’s efforts (July 2011)
The Muster of Rohan A preview of the first and second Adventure Packs for The Lord of the Rings (June 2011)
Travel Through Mirkwood A preview of the first Adventure Pack for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (June 2011)
Your First Clue The Hunt for Gollum Preview Event begins this weekend at a retailer near you (June 2011)
The Hunt is On The worldwide venues for this weekend’s Hunt For Gollum preview event (June 2011)
Catch Sight of Gollum Announcing an upcoming Adventure Pack for The Lord of the Rings (June 2011)
Be Among the First The U.S. and Canadian retailers hosting a Hunt For Gollum Preview Event (June 2011)
Announcing The Hunt for Gollum Preview Event Retailers: Host a preview of the first Adventure Pack for The Lord of the Rings (May 2011)
The Hunt for Gollum Expands An updated list of international distributors for the Hunt for Gollum Preview Event (May 2011)
The Songs of Middle-earth A preview of the first Adventure Pack for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (May 2011)
Hunting High and Low Announcing the first Adventure Pack for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (February 2011)
• Continue exploring these popular series from the community as they Hunt for Gollum: