This living card adventure game offers many different expansion scenarios, providing superb storytelling and tactical game challenges. I only play this game solo with one support deck, so this does influence my view of which quests i like the best, and I prefer scenarios that provide a themed adventure, and do not rely too much on remembering complex mechanics. So far i have explored the Core set & Mirkwood cycle, Khazad-dum & Dwarrowdelf, Isengard & Ringmaker, Lost Realms & Angmar, and from the saga series the two Hobbit boxes, Black Riders and Flame of the West. I am now entering The Sands of Harad & Haradrim. My ongoing thoughts are grouped in a scenario and story perspective and may help steer newcomers around some of the expansion choices to be made.
Here are my favourite adventure quests of the 49 i own, from a solo one deck play perspective and combining together themes of the expansions.
1. Beneath The Sands (Haradrim Cycle) – is a spiders themed quest, where heroes search though caverns under the sands to destroy the brood mother. A great solo test which switches your journey from being off track, when the party need to search tunnels for the correct path, before moving on track when the spider menace increases. This encounter deck mixes spiders, sand adders and giant scorpions, and has many tricks up its sleeve, and progress is more measured as you can’t simply apply success to the main quest every turn. Passage to Mirkwood (Core Set), an excellent introductory quest which is a relatively easy to beat and is very customiseable, adding in alternative cards from the nightmare deck for extra variety and to tailor the difficulty level. Return to Mirkwood (Mirkwood Cycle) has an alternative spider encounter deck with a tough Attercop boss, but sees you looking after Gollum who causes rising threat each round requiring quick questing. It is almost too tough for a solo player, but if you adjust the rules and add the Gollum threat every other round (to compensate for only one player), then it becomes an enjoyable adventure. Finally a venom theme spider encounter with more great artwork is found in Flies & Spiders (Hobbit On The Doorstep).
2. Seventh Level (Khazad-Dum) & Long Dark (Dwarrowdelf Cycle) – are thematic quests in the goblin mines, where enemies attack you thick and fast, and if you are unlucky a troll emerges from the tunnels to make things even more difficult. Goblins should generally be dispatched easily enough, but you need to control them, so allies are essential, but you will also need some condition and shadow help. The Long Dark has an added theme of being lost in the dark tunnels and does have changeable difficulty levels dependent on encounter card draw. Both these scenarios capture the feeling of being over-run by goblins, and whilst being tricky, are very playable with a solo deck. Also in Khazad-Dum is another great mines quest Flight From Moria where you search frantically for your way out against a more location and treachery driven encounter deck. The opening quest Into The Pit focuses on a torch mechanic and is location heavy and not quite as exciting as the high standards set by others. Overall Khazad-Dum is not too tough and is my favourite deluxe box expansion set, with the mines best thematically played using Dwarves.
3. Redhorn Gate (Dwarrowdelf Cycle) – is an escort quest that sees you crossing the icy mountains, where snow drifts, blizzards and biting cold will hamper your progress and wargs are a constant threat. This is a great scenario, not overly hard to beat with the right deck, but is one that constantly meddles with your best plans. The wargs, snow trolls and goblins provide varied enemies and they will be trouble if you let the mountain locations pile up. You will be escorting Arwen Undomiel, who provides you helpful questing ability and resources, which eases the difficulty. The theme and artwork in this quest is excellent, and it really feels like an adventure with the snowy weather playing a key role. I enjoyed this quest so much that i purchased the nightmare cards to add variety and difficulty. Your escort continues with Road To Rivendell (Dwarrowdelf Cycle) which moves into goblin territory where enemy ambush is a huge threat. Whilst less weather influenced, it is another great adventure, but is more difficult due to its tricky treachery and shadow effects. These two scenarios fit together as one of my favourite mini sets and work well with Elrohir and Elladan as heroes.
4. Wastes of Eriador (Angmar Cycle) – has a strong theme of being hunted in the hills with Amarthiul helping you. In Eriador you roam the hills of Armor and are being tracked by a pack of wargs. This is a tricky quest, where you move from day to night which changes the encounter effects in play. During the day you must quest hard and enemies will remain distant, however when night falls your threat will rise and the wargs will close in as a pack. It is a brilliant idea, and the warg artwork is excellent and well themed too. Now this is very tough to beat solo with the extra night encounter triggering, so i do often reduce this to every other night (to compensate for only one player), also i may add in different warg cards from other packs to customise its difficulty. Across the Ettenmoors (Angmar Cycle) continues the hunting theme with trollspawn searching for you, and with roaming giants and large trolls being a constant threat. You will be seeking out safe locations to hide from the numerous enemies that come after you and it is another great quest, albeit a little trickier to remember all the event triggers in play.
5. Watcher In The Water (Dwarrowdelf Cycle) – is a memorable monster fight encounter with the watcher creature from the lake. You have two ways to defeat this quest, by opening the doors of durin or defeating the monster itself. This quest is built around the huge tentacles which emerge from the lake to attack your characters, and this battle does require patience, as many times the monster will defeat you. The watcher, once it has fully emerged, will pick off your heroes and allies each round, regardless of whether you have engaged him or not, so you cannot hang around, and you will need plenty of allies to help you. The secret doors require you to discard precious cards and hope that you unlock the hidden code. This quest gives you some really tense endings, and if you want the ultimate challenge then try to both defeat the watcher and open the doors as well. An alternative boss fight is found in Shadows and Flame (Dwarrowdelf Cycle) where you take on the nasty Balrog in the mines. This is an even tougher scenario which requires quite specific deck assistance to beat it and is more a puzzle than an adventure, although it is very thematic, and rounds off an excellent cycle overall.
6. Escape From Mount Gram (Angmar Cycle) – is a dungeon escape quest where you start with just one hero, and you must first find and then free the others. You begin with two player decks, with one holding all the captured allies and attachments, and you will have to recover these gradually as you search through the prison cells. The goblins encounter deck initially features guards, jailors and torturers, but eventually when you near the end of the quest the Angmar Orcs will join in to hunt you down as you flee. This is a very story driven scenario, has really nice artwork with a slightly different style and is a lovely quest to play. It has a notably easier difficulty level than most quests, and is one i decided to buy the nightmare cards for. Another dungeon escape themed quest was Escape From Dol Guldur (Core Box) but here for the solo player it has one of the highest difficulty levels, and is largely a frustrating experience.
7. Treachery of Rhudaur (Angmar Cycle) & Deadman’s Dike (Lost Realms) – where you enter ancient ruins to fight the undead in atmospheric locations, and featuring Thaurdir as the main wraith boss. In Deadman’s Dike the undead will be draining away your life force by discarding your player deck, and you will lose the game if it runs out, and this is a clever new design technique that works thematically well. Treachery of Rhudaur is arguably even better and continues the story, but this time you are assisted by an ally called Amarthiul, and must try to uncover a series of clues by way of completing side quests, which if obtained add a bonus to your quest, attack or defense statistics. You eventually face a deadly pursuit by Thaurdir who will be quickly picking off your party as you try to escape. Both quests are tough but are beatable solo from time to time, and having a similar theme are great to play together. Two more undead quests in the Angmar cycle include The Dread Realm and Battle of Carn Dum but both of these are known to be particularly hard and i have not yet purchased them.
8. Journey Along The Anduin (Core Set) & Nin-In-Eilph (Ringmaker Cycle) – offer wilderness & swampland adventuring with creatures to fight such as snakes and wargs. Anduin is another great core box quest which opens with a tough hill troll battle which you must prepare for, and then features a more leisurely journey down the river. While you travel, goblins may try to shoot you, and enemies will gradually accumulate on the river banks waiting for you to finally land. Eventually if you have not kept the enemies under control you will have a massive end battle on your hands. The swampland quest Nin-In-Eilph is extremely difficult but has become a challenge i really enjoy. You trek through bogs and marshes with various creatures attacking you, and locations shifting around. It has a straightforward adventuring style and a neat boss creature ending. The artwork and theme of both quests are excellent and it is relatively easy to switch in alternative creature encounter cards to tweak the difficulty level. An arid adventure is found in Crossing the Desert (Sands of Harad) which is a race against time as the temperature rises quickly leaving you no room to delay. It is another creature based adventure with sand vipers, worms and scorpions and is fun while it lasts, but is a relatively quick adventure that needs a lot of questing power.
9. Ruins Of Belegost (Gencon) – are the half sunken ruins of the dwarf city of Belegost, and this adventure is the closest to a dungeon crawl scenario, as you will be searching locations for treasures that you can use, while being threatened by a dragon and other sinister creatures. Now this quest is almost impossible to solo with one deck as originally written, so i tend to tweak the rules using the ‘Stalking the Ruins’ card as time counter which after 3 resource tokens brings Naurlhug into play for that one round, before disappearing under the water out of play at the refresh stage, and resetting the resource counters on the card to zero. This acts like the time keyword as the dragon still picks off your allies and causes damage, but without remaining to destroy games early on. I also optionally remove the requirement to add a hazard card when using the discover keyword to search for treasure (as this often overloads the staging area for one player). The artwork and theme here is excellent and with amended rules it can become one of the most enjoyable solo quests.
10. Battle of Pelennor Fields (Flame of the West) – is an epic 5 stage quest where you must defend the city of Minas Tirith from the witch king’s army. It has some extremely tough cards such as siege towers, but is cleverly designed and great fun, but may require toning down a little as a solo challenge (the witch king forced effect may be reduced to every other round to compensate for one player). Passing Of The Grey Company is another great undead adventure with a small encounter deck focused on escalating threat, where phantom enemies initially increase threat rather than dealing damage, and your starting card hand is depleted, taking time to rebuild. With the right heroes and planning it is not too hard providing a great solo scenario. Siege of Gondor sees you attacking corsairs on a fleet of ships, and is set up to be played as fast as possible as the fleet strength escalates every round. It is a nicely themed quick quest with a small encounter deck, but is not as strong as the other two scenarios in the box. This saga box is excellent, has brilliant artwork, provides two of the strongest heroes in the game.
11. Escape from Umbar (Sands of Harad) – provides a city escape where you are pursued by guards, soldiers and archers, and it really feels like a chase scene. It requires a balance of questing and fighting, and the number of enemies appearing will be critical. It is really great fun with lovely artwork. Trouble in Tharbad (Ringmaker Cycle) provides another city adventure where spies are searching for you and a dwarf you are protecting. This is very threat focused, where you sneak around the city streets and inns, and climb onto the rooftops. Eventually the chief spy Bellach will send in orcs to track you down, and your threat will rise quickly, so you must act fast to reach the crossing safely. Bellach returns in Celebrimor’s Secret (Ringmaker Cycle) where you look for a secret chamber in an older ruined city before the orcs find it. This quest has a scour effect constantly bringing in additional enemies, and I found it cumbersome to monitor all the effects, and not overly enjoyable to play.
12. Intruders in Chetwood (Lost Realms) – where you must stop a raiding orcs war party in the woods. This looks straightforward being a one card scenario but is pretty tough to play, with side quests constantly diverting your attention and questing power is key. The orc enemies are tricky and the treachery can play havoc at times but it is one of the best orc scenarios. Weather Hills sees you hunting down these orcs, and you will track your kills while dealing with severe weather. This is equally tough to solo as treachery events and orcs trigger extra encounters, and some healing support in your deck is advised. The final quest in this box is Deadman’s Dike featuring an excellent battle against the undead. The new feature of this expansion box had you optionally extend adventures by engaging in side quests to receive additional rewards or remove nasty staging effects, bringing in new questing choices, and it works really well. This is an enjoyable and recommended expansion box with a good cycle following it, and is a fairer challenge when compared to Voice of Isengard.
13. Journey To Rhosgobel (Mirkwood Cycle) – is an enjoyable and uniquely different quest where you are on a rescue mission to save a wounded eagle. You are required to find different ways to protect and heal the eagle as you journey to safety, and offers up a nice objective to play, but needs a specially planned support deck. Other favourite quests in this cycle are Return to Mirkwood which features a journey through the forest with captive Gollum and has an alternative spider deck theme, and Hills of Emyn Muir which is very underrated and journeys across nice locations against Orc enemies, which i enjoy playing with only core set cards. Conflict at Carrock is a neat troll battle, but is more a tricky puzzle and very hard to solo without resets, but fighting trolls is fun. The remaining quests are not as good, Hunt For Gollum swings a bit too much from hard to easy on solo depending on surges and quest encounter triggers, and Dead Marshes features a Gollum escape test, and trying to capture him can become too long and drawn out. Generally easier than the following cycles, you will want to pick them up to start building up important player support cards.
14. Foundations of Stone (Dwarrowdelf Cycle) – is a highly regarded quest with changing paths each time you play. It is an underground quest using the torch which features split routes, and you won’t be sure where you will end up after being swept away. It has two encounter decks that change half way through, but the initial encounter deck can be slightly repetitive early on. It has some great features, is very tough and not all parts of the design will fully impact on solo players, but it really has an adventure feel to it. The Three Trials (Ringmaker Cycle) has changing set ups and is a highly regarded multi-player quest where you take on three different guardians of three keys in three different barrow locations. It has superb artwork and mixes up the challenge each time you play to keep it interesting. However beating it solo is nearly impossible, as the time rules make it frustrating, and the end location showdown sees all guardians coming back to fight again. Both quests are clever, will change each time you play, but don’t fare quite so strongly as a solo experience.
15. Knife In The Dark (Black Riders) – finds you trying to escape the clutches of the Witch King and his ringwraith guardians, and features a build up mechanic where you aim to keep out of trouble early on, only to find yourself surrounded by wraiths in a final showdown. The quest features spies at the Prancing Pony Inn and wraiths, and you need to plan ahead because if you get too many wraiths in your encounter deck then you will be unlikely to survive. Also in this box Flight to the Ford is another good and fast to play quest which is treachery heavy. With Frodo injured you face a race against time to get him to safety as his life trickles away. The opening adventure Shadows of the Past requires you to leave Bag End and regularly test your ability to hide from the riders, and so questing choices are the main event but it is more fiddly to play compared to the other two. All of the black riders box quests have a similar theme and so won’t provide huge variety, but its quests are solo friendly. It also has essential cards to build a hobbit based hero game with deck support and is overall a good purchase, and is best played thematically with the hobbits.
16. Battle of Five Armies (Hobbit On The Doorstep) – is a thematic battle and a tough scenario that allows you to build a solo deck using more of the tactics theme, as you can quest with your attack power. Flies And Spiders is another spider themed adventure with a venom keyword which will poison your heroes alongside the usual damage, potentially rendering them unconscious. During this quest Bilbo will become the only conscious hero and must quickly revive your party before you are overwhelmed by the spiders, which does add an element of high tension. The final quest in this box The Lonely Mountain has you are stealing treasure from Smaug the dragon, which is a really nice idea but plays out as too frustrating due to many instant wipe-outs as he can attack you multiple times. Overall this box has a good variety of quests and is much better than the first hobbit set, but it does also have some annoying areas in its quest design.
17. Fords of Isen (Voice Of Isengard) – features battles against the dunlendings boar tribe with encounter cards throwing up tricky forced events, often requiring you to get rid of cards from your hand as soon as possible. The mechanic and art is different, but is frustrating to solo play unless you ignore the time mechanic. Dunlendings return in Dunland Trap (Ringmaker Cycle) where you must survive the boar clan chieftain and the trap he has set, and Antlered Crown (Ringmaker Cycle) features a final battle with the raven clan. These quests require you track loads of card triggers, which are usually too much to actually deal with. Voice of Isengard box also contains To Catch an Orc where you must capture an Mugash, but the difficulty level again is too high, with emerging encounters having tough forced conditions and the orc escaping is simply repetitive. Into Fanghorn is a slightly unexciting journey through the famous forest to recapture Mugash, where trees provide a threatening presence, and combat rules have been adjusted. Overall the Isengard box is more frustrating than fun, with the new time mechanic feeling like an unnecessary extra difficulty which rushes your progress.
18. Over The Misty Mountains Grim (Over Hill & Under Hill) – is a quest with a two separate decks to play against, featuring giants & goblins. You start in the mountain pass where stone giants are your biggest threat, before journeying down into a goblin town, where the great goblin and his minions await your arrival. This is a nice easy quest, and the goblins offer a fair fight without relying on trickery to beat you and is a relaxing solo adventure. Sadly the other quests in this box are the opposite, becoming mean and annoying due to their more complex rules and tricks to overcome, and this does not make them solo friendly. We Must Away features the trolls battle but has really frustrating sack cards that make it the worst quest i have played (get Conflict at Carrock instead). Dungeons Deep & Caverns Dim features Gollum and a riddle deck and feels too fiddly, and can be overly zealous on adding cards to the staging area. The mountains are usually where i would choose to play using this set, which overall as a box expansion has a low rating from me.
Nightmare Versions – generally i find the original quests hard enough to play solo and so nightmare decks are not something i need, preferring a new expansion instead. However where a quest is particularly enjoyable and thematic and i feel the need for some additional variety or difficulty then i may add it. So far i have 9 nightmare packs : Passage to Mirkwood and Return to Mirkwood as these enable me to build in extra spiders and customise Mirkwood adventures. Redhorn Gate is a unique snowy adventure which can definately take some extra difficulty, and Khazad-Dum (3 quest pack) and The Long Dark are great mines adventures, but don’t really need to be too much harder. I have recently added Wastes of Eriador and Escape from Mount Gram as they have great quest themes, and the latter can do with being a bit tougher.
Further thoughts can be seen specifically on some of the > box expansions