Conflict at the Carrock – Quest Analysis

With the writeup for Escape from Dol Guldur recently finished, and the playthrough of the Hunt for Gollum already up on YouTube, it’s time to turn our attention to the next quest in the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle: Conflict at the Carrock.

Narratively, this quest represents a diversion from the overarching story of the cycle – hunting down and capturing Gollum. In the story as it is presented to us, we are taking a side trip from our dedicated tracking in order to fight off a band of Trolls that has taken up residence on or near the Carrock and its environs. This could present some narrative difficulties – if the hunt for Gollum is really that important, then why are we taking time off to deal with some two-bit trolls from the mountains?

Luckily, the narrative we have crafted so far gives us a ready-made answer. As I’ve noted before, the Hunt for Gollum is – in the end – Aragorn’s quest. He’s the star of the show, and the one who ends up accomplishing the near-impossible, tracking down the creature and bringing him to the Elves of the Greenwood. But the focus of our narrative is Eleanor and Lanwyn – and to some extent, Thalin. If we take the group tracking Gollum in the Anduin valley, it makes sense that they might send some of their number off to deal with some Trolls and build trust with the Beornings while Aragorn and the main party continue the search.

Now that we’ve established our narrative bona fides, let’s turn our attention to the quest itself, linking first to our favorite quest analysis blog, Vision of the Palantir.

Trolls at War

Conflict at the Carrock is a quest defined by its boss fight at the end. No fewer than four powerful Trolls come down from their rocky fastness to engage any players foolhardy enough to come near. In addition, other Hill Trolls roam the region, and the quest cannot be defeated while any Troll enemies remain in play. This will push us towards decks that are incredibly capable in combat.

There are generally two approaches towards dealing with these enemies – we will either have to build a set of decks that are capable of taking on all four Trolls at once, or we will have to build a deck that keeps a low threat, so that we can engage and eliminate one Troll at a time.

I think that the most fun would be to take on all four trolls at once, so when we make our way towards deckbuilding, that will be the first thing we focus on. For now, let’s look at the combat demands the quest will make of us.

The first and most glaring point will be the need to defend against or otherwise deal with four simultaneous attacks of at least 6. While the Carrock is the active location, all Trolls get +1 attack, and while the unique troll Morris is engaged with a player, all Trolls get a further +1 attack. So, either we will need a lot of action advantage on a single powerful defender, or we will need multiple defenders, each capable of taking on those attacks. Whichever solution we aim towards, we will need to have this defender online early in the game, because the possibility of a Turn 1 or 2 Hill Troll adds an additional wrinkle to the quest.

The shadow cards are potentially nasty as well, and can range from reducing a defender’s defense value to ignoring it entirely. Other effects can bring an enemy into play for an immediate attack, heal a troll, or even incapacitate a hero with a debilitating Condition attachment.

But the Trolls are not the only danger we will face. In addition, we will need to deal with Wargs, a Marsh Adder, Goblin Snipers, and – most prominently – Muck Adders. These annoying little enemies only attack for 2, but if even a single point of damage gets through the defending character’s defense value, you must discard the character. When combined with the defense-reducing or ignoring shadow effects, these enemies require even more care to be taken with the combat situation, and punish you for taking attacks undefended.

In addition to needing to defend all of these attacks, we will also require our deck or decks to be able to muster significant offensive power. It will take 14 points of attack power to strike down one of the unique Trolls while they are fully boosted by the Carrock and Stuart being engaged with the players.

All in all, the climax of this quest will pose a challenge to our deckbuilding.

Questing with the Beornings

Conflict at the Carrock also imposes very interesting requirements on the questing aspect of the game. Mustering willpower early will lead to the decks advancing too fast, ending up with the Trolls engaging before we are ready for them. On the other hand, we still need to be able to muster a fair amount, because we need to be able to clear the Carrock quickly as soon as we advance.

In addition, there are a few locations that will require attention. The River Langflood gains +1 threat for every Troll enemy in play. If one of those remains in the staging area when we advance the quest, it will be 6 threat at a minimum while we attempt to quest past it to clear the Carrock. This further argues towards a strategy of engaging all of the trolls at once, so that we don’t have to try and quest past 4 trolls in addition to whatever the staging area is full of when we advance to stage 2.

Other than that, all of the other new locations for this quest are actually beneficial – they aid in recruiting the objective-ally Grimbeorn the Old. If we can muster the 8 Leadership resources necessary to pay his cost, he is a powerful aid against Trolls.

But, all things considered, although we cannot completely ignore bringing willpower to the quest, Conflict at the Carrock does not demand anywhere near the amount of questing power that later quests will. Location control will not be critical – although it can, of course, be useful.

More worrisome than the locations or the non-Troll enemies are the treacheries. Two in particular stand out as being worth using Eleanor to cancel – A Frightened Beast, which raises our threat by the amount of threat in the staging area (although it does have an alternate means of avoiding its effect), and Roasted Slowly, which destroys all heroes with the Sacked! condition attachment. The Sacked! card is also something we will need to build around, but since it cannot be cancelled, we will either need to build decks that can function without their heroes participating in the quest for a portion of the game, or we will need to bring enough condition removal to free our poor heroes from the Troll sacks as they get captured.

Well, that concludes this quick overview of the quest. Join me next time as we discuss what sorts of decks we might put together to meet this challenge, and how they can fit into our ongoing narrative.

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