The Attack on Dol Guldur – Streamlining the Adventure

In Cards, Lord of the Ringsby PaulLeave a Comment

Dol Guldur, sitting in the South of Mirkwood is BAD NEWS. Necromancers, Nazgul, Orcs oh my! Franky, it’s needed a good siege in a long while, and that is exactly what it gets in last year’s Fellowship event quest. This quest can be played in Epic Multiplayer where up to 12 players go against it, or in “standard game mode”. The only standard thing about it is the number of players.

I have played and beaten the quest a couple times playing solo (full disclosure, I was using Seastan’s One Deck), and its been a solid experience every time. What those play throughs have taught me is that there’s a lot of admin going on in the scenario and its very easy to get lost in that and spend too much mental energy trying to keep track of bits and pieces rather than taking actual game decisions. The scenario also rewards good knowledge of certain parts of the timing windows, requiring a level of game mastery to overcome. (As any scenario that is trying to be the pinnacle of a game as challenging as Lord of the Rings LCG should do!)

This article is written to capture my learning to help players coming to this scenario piece together the play order, the various triggers and what they all mean. This is most definitely not an engaging read written in the usual Mostly Off-topic whimsical style. In fact, I would suggest that its more of a reference to have available when you’re playing the game. The flowchart embedded in the article may be the most useful thing to extract (contact us if you want a copy!) as basic as it is, and that may be what you take away from this.

I’m also hoping that by demystifying the encounter a little more people will be encouraged to give it a go, focusing on the quality of their deck building and their playing rather than asking questions about, “…er so what forced effect happens next then?”

This is NOT a strategy article talking about how to beat the quest, either piloting decks or building decks. If you’re looking for that then it is worth stopping reading right now!

This article also only talks about Standard Mode. Whilst much of it is relevant to Epic Multiplayer, the flowchart may confuse and make your lives more difficult if you try to follow it in that context!

Overview of the Scenario
The Win Condition

To beat the scenario the players have to:

  • Reduce Dol Guldur’s city strength to 0 and keep it at 0; this removes the Indestructible keyword from the four Lieutenant enemies and means that they can be defeated
  • Travel to each of the stage 3 locations so that they can encounter the Lieutenants whilst they can be killed
  • Survive the immediate attack that the Lieutenant will make/li>
  • Defeat the Lieutenant in combat so that they’re all finally in the victory display

The victory condition is only checked at the end of a round, so it is theoretically possible to lose (threat out, player elimination) even having defeated all four Lieutenants.

The Quest Stages

The scenario is built from three quest stages (the third stage has four separate quest cards).

The first quest card puts an enemy into play for each player in the staging area. It’s hard coded that there will be three full rounds before this quest advances and this is a good time to get as much setting up done as possible. This also puts Power of Lorien into play in the staging area; this card collects any progress placed on the main quest at the end of the round. When the three rounds are up, if there is 10 progress on this the first player gains control of Host of Lorien (a useful objective ally). If they have 30 or more progress they can gain Power of Lorien, which allows a one-time full cancel-and-not-replace of an encounter card (including cancelling Surge & Doom keywords as well as when revealed effects, and it is not an event so won’t feed the Shadow Road either). Note quest cards aren’t “Encounter Cards”, so the when revealed text is always going to fire.

At the end of the round the players can also raise their threat by 1 to draw 1 card and add 1 resource to a hero’s resource pool, which is usually a good trade (even more so if Ally Elfhelm is in play as his owner may be able to ignore the 1 threat increase). My reading of this is that the players agree to do it for everyone or no one; individual players don’t get to opt in or opt out.

Note: As this is a response, it isn’t triggerable on the third round as the Forced effect happens first and the players will move onto the second stage.

The second stage simply lets the players take Host of Lorien and / or Power of Lorien if they have enough progress, puts a Dol Guldur location into play per player into the staging area and then advances to a stage 3 of your choice.

All of the Dol Guldur locations that can be chosen can only be travelled to and progess placed if their linked quest is the active quest. Thus it is most normal to choose the stage 3 quest card that corresponds to a location that is in play. As such if there are less then four players, I’d take a look at the quest cards first, decide which you want to leave out and choose the locations based on that. The players are not directed to select different locations and there are two instances of each Dol Guldur location. However, I’d advise choosing different locations to give the most flexibility in quest card choice.

Each Dol Guldur location has a “when in the staging area” impact, so watch for these when playing; both to trigger them and also to NOT trigger them when that location is the active location. Oh and none of them are immune to player card effects either; its very easy to assume that they are given their importance. (However, that doesn’t stop the ban on progress unless their linked card is the quest card; Northern Tracker, Asfaloth et al can’t place progress tokens)

Each third quest card is constructed in a similar manner:

  • Remove all tokens from any in play Lieutenant and set it aside (there won’t be one in play in the very first stage 3)
  • This happens even if you’ve travelled to the same stage as you had previously
  • Add the linked Lieutenant to the staging area, unless it is in the Victory Display (i.e. has been beaten)
  • If Dol Guldur city strength

Players then quest as usual, with the aim to:

  • Get 5 progress onto the stage to avoid bad stuff happening
  • Get 10 progress onto the quest card to obtain a benefit

Note the more progress placed the more likely the Lieutenant is to be engaged and have to be dealt with. If the Lieutenant is engaged but Dol Guldur’s city strength is not 0 then the Indestructible keyword means that the Lieutenant won’t be destroyed even if you have more damage on it than its hit points…

…Excepting, if you have done enough Siege points to reduce the city strength to zero when it gets calculated as this happens before the Lieutenant gets wiped clean. Therefore there is a point of time when the Lieutenant is in play with more damage and has lost indestructible.

And NOW it gets complicated

And now let’s slow down a little bit to run through the steps that happen after the combat phase. I can be a lazy player and not operate this part of the game in strict adherence to the rules. Mashing together the Refresh Phase, End of Round, Resource Phase and Planning Phase into one big ‘ready, ready, ready, threat, resources, draw’ mess.

I’ve tried to summarise this order in the flowchart here (I am neither graphic artist nor process analyst, so it is a bit… raw).

This is how I see all of my games!

However, the strict order is very important in this quest:

  1. The Ready Phase starts
  2. All exhausted cards are readied
  3. Threat is raised
  4. First player token is passed
  5. PLAYER ACTION WINDOW
  6. Refresh phase ends

The we hit the Round ends triggers, which go like:

  1. Remove 5 progress to avoid bad stuff
  2. Remove another 5 progress to get good stuff
  3. Reduce Dol Guldur’s city strength based upon siege cards explored or defeated
  4. Resolve the bad stuff on a random stage 3 card not in play (i.e. trigger the forced effect usually avoided by removing 5 progress)
  5. Discard progress from stage 3
  6. Select a new stage 3 (which may be the same as the one just played)
  7. Reveal that new stage
  8. Remove tokens from any in play Lieutenant, set it aside, bring a (maybe) new one in
  9. If Dol Guldur’s city strength is
  10. Check whether all four lieutenants are in the Victory Display and Dol Guldur’s city strength is at 0… Win the game?
  11. End the Round

The important part of the refresh phase is if you are going to cop an immediate attack from the Lieutenant. That attack is going to be incoming before the players have drawn cards, collected resources, and had opportunity to put allies and attachments into play.

That last player window is vital, particularly if the Lieutenant is coming in for an immediate attack. For instance, you might:

  • Use healing from an ally that has just refreshed so that your defender is at more health to soak up the immediate attack the Lieutenant is going to make.
  • Or use some encounter deck scrying to know what Shadow Card is going to be dealt for the first attack.
  • Or trigger some card draw to get a Hasty Stroke…
  • Sneak Attack in a Sentinel character to help out your poor questing buddy
  • etc
Getting through the third quest stages

In my experience, the most effective approach is to avoid choosing The Gate of Dol Guldur as the location in stage 2, so that you can always have the opportunity for the forced effect on Siege of Dol Guldur to fire which has the least impact on your board. Cycle around the same quest stage twice (once to travel to the location, the second time to clear the location). Clearing locations and killing enemies will cause the city strength to slowly drop.

Defend against the Lieutenants if needed but don’t waste actions attacking them when they’re indestructible.

Then head back through the quest stages based upon the locations you pull out to avoid location lock. Then once you’ve got Dol Guldur city strength to 0 hit each quest in turn to get rid of the Lieutenants, trust that you’ll do enough siege to counter-act pulling the increase by 3 effect.

It’s not so much an attack on Dol Guldur as it is a here and there and everywhere… AND BACK AGAIN Benny Hill rumble!

Conclusion

Attack on Dol Guldur is an incredible experience; fun to play in standard mode, immense fun to play in Epic Multiplayer mode. And very difficult in every mode. Part of that difficulty is keeping track of all of the triggers, forced effects etc and working out what happens when and where. I hope that this article helps you to take care of the game admin and concentrate on the decisions that will make or break taking down the Shadow in the south of Mirkwood!

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