Free Enlists The Elves To Escape From Dol Guldur! #MiddleEarthMonday

January 10, 2022 by fcostin

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A new year is in, and it's time to continue our adventure through The Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game. No, we are not skipping through the hills and mounds of The Shire nor taking a whimsical adventure to Bree on Buckleberry Ferry. We are heading into a hotbed of orc activity in Dol Guldur and readying up our heroes for the final scenario of The Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game Core Box.

'Escape From Dol Guldur' is renowned for being notoriously difficult, even for a party of four players. But, as I am a single player of card games and have always been - as the game promises one player, I will try my damned hardest to achieve it!

The Lord Of The Rings - LCG - Escape From Dol Guldur

Escape From Dol Guldur Scenario // The Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game

Pre-Order Your Own Updated Core Set!

How many times did I attempt Escape from Dol Duldor? Eighteen times. I eventually won by adapting my strategy each time I played. By the sixth time, I was banging my head against the table. The luck of the draw, as per usual, was on setup. And by then, my Christmas holidays were overrun with frustration from the Core Box.

No matter what combination I tried: our trusty Beravor, Theodred and Eowyn combo - Fail. Aragorn, Gimli and Gloin - Fail. Legolas, Denethor and Dunhere - Fail. No luck. There was no progress in the story. It was time to look at the broader scopes of cards available across the universe.

Shadow And Flame - Lord of the Rings LCG

Shadow And Flame Expansion Cards // The Lord Of The Rings: The Living Card Game

I wanted to enjoy the game. I wanted to feel like a cog in the battle against Sauron and his dark army. It was time to take a new method, as I was no longer in the tutorial stages! We had a challenge, and I was ready to pull my sleeves up for some filthy deck building with heroes suited for the task.

Escape From Dol Guldur, in my opinion, is not just your first real chance to play the game in full-spectrum. It cranks the difficulty up to the unexpected. Like a kid in a candy shop, sifting through card after card, with opportunity after opportunity across different expansions, I pulled together a deck that brings Middle-earth's finest warriors into action. So I could have tension-filled fun without feeling like each round would be the death of my heroes and me.

Card List...

Heroes -

  • Éowyn
  • Elrond
  • Arwen Undomiel

Allies -

  • 3x Warden of Healing
  • 3x Jubyar
  • 3x Master of the Forge
  • 3x Gandalf
  • 3x Firyal
  • 2x Northern Tracker
  • 2x Glorfindel
  • 2x Gléowine
  • 2x Treebeard
  • 1x Elfheim
  • 1x Faramir
  • 1x Beorn
  • 1x Hazan

Attachments -

  • x3 Vilya
  • x1 Strider
  • x1 Unexpected Courage
  • x1 Golden Shield

Events - 

  • 3x Elven-Light
  • 2x Hasty Stroke
  • 2x A Test of Will
  • 2x Galdrian's Greeting
  • 1x Stand and Fight
  • 1x Fortune Or Fate
  • 1x Dwarven Tomb
  • 1x Will of the West
  • 1x Quickstrike
  • 1x Heed the Dream

Beravor and Theodred are out, and Eowyn takes off her gown and steps into her armour. Alongside this trio and a fearsome deck of Middle-earthian good-guys, we are ready to venture onto the Hill Of Dark Sorcery.

Quest Card 1: The Necromancer's Tower – 9 Quest Points

The Necromancer's Tower - Escape From Dol Guldor

The Necromancer's Tower // Escape From Dol Guldur

Setup on the first quest states that one hero card needs to be randomly selected. In this case, it was Eowyn. The three Object Cards were placed in the staging area as they carry the 'Guarded' keyword. We deal another card from the Encounter Deck on top of the Objective Cards. These need to be resolved to progress through the Objective.

Quest 1 - Start -Necromancer's Tower

In our first hand, we were lucky enough to draw Vilya without having to mulligan. We were able to get this out in our first turn using the abilities of Arwen to add resources to Elrond. The very first activation of Vilya gave us Treebeard for free.

Vilya allowed me to get some powerful allies out; when combined with clearing Mountains of Mirkwood, we were able to get Unexpected Courage on Elrond allowing more actions per turn. We were pretty fortunate early on that the objectives were covered with locations, and we could clear them with relative ease. And hopefully, get Eowyn back in the party ASAP. The characters we were able to get out allow us to start stacking up Treebeard with his resources to turn him into a force of nature later in the game.

Quest 1 - Middle

We went questing with Elrond and Firyal and drew Dol Guldur Orcs from the Encounter Deck. Cleared the location Necromancer's Pass, Breezed through combat with our team of hard-hitting allies: the spider and the orcs were both killed in the skirmish as quick as you can say Mount Gundabad.

So we ended our turn. We then went questing with Arwen, Firyal and Elrond, who we do not need to exhaust (thanks to the Strider-Elrong Hybrid title). We then spent one of Arwen's resources on a Test of Will to stop the 'when revealed' effect on the Driven By Shadow card, allowing us to add +9 progress to the first quest.

We can't move on yet, though! Until we pick an Objective Card to carry with us. In this instance, we are giving Gandalf's Map to Arwen, raising our threat by +2 and meaning that she can no longer attack and defend as long as she holds this object. Yay.

Quest 1 - End

We cleared the location, Great Forest Web, freeing up the Objective to end the turn. We chose to engage the Dol Guldur Beast Master during the attack phase. Defending with Jubayr allows us to discard one Shadow Effect Card upon defence. It was a stalemate, and then we deleted it from existence using Treebeard and Elrond. Also known as, in my game, "The Wood Elf Combo".

Quest card 2: Through The Caverns – 15 quest points

Through the Caverns - Escape From Dol Guldor

Through The Caverns // Escape From Dol Guldur

We quested with Firyal and Elrond and drew 'Iron Shackles', which means it must be placed on top of our Draw Pile. When this card is added to our hand, the next time we draw a card, we discard this card instead - simply stopping us from drawing for one turn. This, however, meant that we quested unopposed, allowing us to add +8 progress to the quest, giving us back our consistent hero from imprisonment - Eowyn. Unfortunately, bringing a Nazgul along with her!

Quest 2 - Middle

We choose to engage the Nazgul and defend it with Jubayr. There is no shadow effect, so we do not need to kill one of our allies. And our ally takes -1 damage. Eowyn and Treebeard team up gloriously to take a Nazgul down, not letting her imprisonment slide. Engaging her ability (one use per game) increases our threat by +3.

Quest 2 - End

Taking a massive gamble, as we have no threat reducing cards readily available, we choose to see if we can clear this quest and move on into the light as quickly as possible. We commit Eowyn, Arwen and Firyal to the quest. We draw Mountains of Mirkwood, giving us +8 progress on the quest. We attach the Dungeon Torch to Eowyn and the Shadow Key to Elrond, moving us out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Quest card 3: Out Of The Dungeons – 7 Quest Points

Quest 3 - Out of the Dungeons - Escape From Dol Guldor

Out Of The Dungeons // Escape From Dol Guldur

The newly attached objective cards mean our threat increases +2 at the end of each turn, and the Shadow Key will slowly bleed Elrond dry. Causing +1 damage at the end of each round.

We enter the final stage of this quest, facing off against one attack, one defence, and 1HP Orc Guards. These are signified by one of our cards from our deck and are added to the engagement area at the beginning of each turn. They do not hit for much, but we can soon get overwhelmed by them if we do not control them properly!

During the Quest Phase this turn, we manage to clear the Mountains of Mirkwood Location Card, allowing us to search the top five cards of our deck and add them to our hand. We added the Galadhrim's Greeting which gives us some much-needed threat reduction.

During the Attack Phase, Eowyn with her Golden Shield soaks an attack from the Cavern Guardian, for him to be taken down by Treebeard. Start the next turn, a new Orc Guard arrives.

Quest 3 - Middle

From this point, as we hold all of the Objective Cards, and there is very little threat in the Encounter Deck, we go and commit everybody to the quest for an accumulative total of seventeen.

Quest 3 - End

We draw a Cavernous Guardian, no matter how many of them found themselves in our way: they could not stop us from leaving Dol Guldor. Win!

Final Thoughts

The Core Set is a fantastic tool to teach players the fundamentals. However, the challenge that players face when reaching the Escape From Dol Guldur scenario is that when just using the card from the Core Deck solo, accessing one sphere limits the deck building possibilities. The core set is excellent - but it only has basic entry-level cards - it is literally designed to be conquered as a team. All of the cards work together fluidly across the board, but doing this on your own with just the Core Set is incredibly difficult.

This means that if you want any enjoy-ability out of the game, without feeling like you want to jump into the pits of Mount Doom every time you see a Nazgul or Ungoliant Spider pop up, then diversifying your fellowship may help!

Shadow And Flame - LOTR LCG

Shadow And Flame Adventure Pack // The Lord of the Rings The Living Card Game

Dol Guldor taught me that if you fail something enough, each playthrough gives you a glimmering hint into what is missing from your deck. By no means was Dol Guldor easy with the deck I settled. Utilising cards elsewhere such as Elrond, Vilya and Arwen certainly make the journey more of a challenge. As opposed to a single-handed nightmare with a one in a million chance of winning.

Having access to Middle Earth's greatest warriors sits behind a paywall. Suppose you want a chance of winning by travelling through the story solo? In that case, you will need access to some high-quality heroes and cards embedded across several different expansions to ensure it is not too painful.

Hunt for Gollum - Adventure Pack

The Hunt For Gollum Adventure Pack // The Lord Of The Rings: The Living Card Game

Now that we have broken out of the Core Set, I can make my path through Middle-earth. I will continue my journey by continuing with The Shadows Of Mirkwood Cycle. Be sure to head back next Monday for The Hunt For Gollum.

Did you make your way out of Dol Guldur? 

"Beravor and Theodred are out and Eowyn takes off her gown and steps into her armour..."

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