Review – Siege of Annúminas

A little while ago the copy of Siege of Annuminas I bought off Ebay arrived and the following night I dove straight into the Print on Demand quest eager to finally experience what others got to at last years Gen Con. I am a huge fan of the special Print on Demand quests and some of them are even among my favourite quests for this game namely The Massing at Osgiliath and Ruins of Belegost so I was expecting this quest to be epic but oh boy was I pleasantly surprised. Not only is this quest easily one of the most exciting, difficult and tense quests released to date but it has instantly become one of my favourites. I had such a great time and enjoyed the quest so much that I decided I had to write an article/review about my experience.

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Angmar awakens indeed!

I absolutely love the lore and stories surrounding the Fall of Arnor and it’s war against Angmar so this quest is right up my alley. The remnants of Angmar’s foul forces we see in this quest includes Werewolves, and I believe this is the first time we have seen them, and a powerful Sorcerer. I really love some variety amongst enemies and being able to encounter and battle rare and interesting foes from Tolkien’s world is one of my favourite aspects of playing this game. Print on Demand quests always have a unique mechanic and the city strength mechanic featured in Siege of Annuminas is one my favourites to date. Not only do you need to successfully defend the Ancient ruined city of Annuminas but you also need to hold off the scores of foes and defeat the enemy captain to route the vile army from Angmar. There is even a battering ram the forces of Angmar use against you!

 

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It’s no Grond but it can still bring Annuminas down with ease if you don’t stop it quickly!

Now unfortunately I am unable to try out Epic Multiplayer mode as I play this game exclusively on my own. At some point I will have to seek out some fellow players if for no other reason than to try this new game mode. There are now a few quests that can be played in this way including this years Gen Con/Fellowship quest: Assault on Dol Guldur as well as the Black Gate/Mount Doom combo in the upcoming final Saga box The Mountain of Fire. Now playing it with two handed in the “standard game mode” means I won’t see the extra quest stages and mechanics that are exclusive in “epic multiplayer mode” but there are still many moving pieces and effects I will both need to plan and keep an eye out for.

 

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One day I will eventually try this game mode out! Hold the Door!

 

Now going into the quest my main game plan was more or less the same as it always is when taking on a quest of this difficulty and complexity; survive the first several turns while slowly amassing an army of allies and attachments that will allow me to turn the tables mid to late game and decimate whatever the encounter deck throws at me. Rather than go into too much detail in regards to strategy and my eventual win after two epic losses I am going to instead talk about my experiences on each quest stage as I progressed through the quest.

Rebuild-the-Defenses-1B

The starting quest stage begins with an attempt to strengthen Annuminas and increase its overall city strength. You get three turns before you are forced to progress to Stage 2A and you must remove 10 progress from Stage 1B in order to strengthen Annuminas by 10. I was not able to strengthen Annuminas via this effect at ANY point playing this quest! Enemies like the Orcs, Warg Riders and Wargs themselves remove any progress you are able to make after treacheries like Caught in the Press or Weary Warriors severely reduce your ability to quest and place progress to begin with.

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The Angmar Warg-Rider with its potential to make additional attacks and archery damage is actually surprisingly one of the nastier enemy threats in this quest. Due to how easy it is to get swarmed by enemes in this quest any additional attacks or extra points of damage can put quite a bit of strain on your defense.

 

My first loss was due to me not handling Stage 1B effectively and conceding after Annuminas took several points of damage and multiple allies fell to extra enemy attacks I was not able to stop. Both decks also had sub par hands and were not building their board state fast enough so I saw that it was very likely a lost cause to continue. From then on I focused on simply placing enough progress on Stage 1 so that I could then remove it to stop extra encounter effects from triggering while also prioritising combat and stopping any enemies from surviving the turn they appear in order to keep Annuminas as strong as possible. During the third game that I eventually won I was able to keep Annuminas at it’s full original strength of twenty by the time I progressed from Stage 1. One last thing worth mentioning is that it is very easy for the staging area to fill with locations quickly even during the very first quest stage as you not only start with 2 in play but they pretty much all feature nasty travel effects so you may not be able to travel every turn or every time you hope or plan to.

Gate-of-Annúminas.jpg
Gate of Annuminas was often stuck in the staging area for the majority of my games as you cannot travel here unless EACH and every player engages an enemy in the staging area to do so. Often I wanted to engage or attack enemies via other means such as Hands Upon the Bow or Tactics Aragorn engage ability or even more often (especially at the start of the game) there were either not enough enemies in  the staging area for both decks to engage in order to travel here or I needed to travel to a more pressing location instead.

I had to contend with there always being at least a few locations in the staging area at all points of this quest during all three games I played and any time Hills of Evendim or Shores of Lake Nenuial were in staging as well, which was more often than you would think, I could not place progress on locations in staging or cancel when revealed effects either. Only towards the end of my eventual win was I able to clear the staging area of all locations but one and even then a few turns later several new locations had entered play and sat in the staging area so that I could avoid their travel effects as well as clear Battering Ram and Stage 3B quickly instead.

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Not only was the staging area always full of several locations but during all three games there was a copy of this location in staging for at least several turns of the game stopping me from cancelling any when revealed effects. During my victory I actually did not cancel a single when revealed effect because of this location for the entirety of that game.

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As you move onto the second quest stage the focus shifts and the forces of Angmar are upon you en masse and ready to take the city from you should you falter! The forced effect on Stage 2B is one of the absolute nastiest effects on a quest stage I have ever seen.
Should you leave a nasty enemy with high attack strength in the staging area each player must face an attack from it after commiting characters to the quest and if you keep the staging area clear of any foes you instead have to reveal an additional encounter card. Now because of how nasty the foes can get in this quest (especially from Stage 2 onwards considering the Host of Angmar is now in the encounter deck!) facing multiple attacks from one of them can easily spell your doom and my second loss/conceded game occurred after I not only let a copy of City Wall be overtaken damaging Annuminas but after also losing multiple heroes to the Host of Angmar attacking each player due to the quest stage effect.

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City Wall is one of the more threatening locations as it can deal some serious damage to Annuminas. You have to reveal an encounter card just to travel to it and you only have a few turns to clear it before the ability triggers anyway. I am proud to say that I only let one copy of City Wall go off and damage Annuminas during all three of my games.

During my third and final victorious attempt at this quest I instead faced a somewhat less menacing Vanguard of Carn Dum making multiple attacks via this effect. I was easily able to manage this and then destroyed both the Vanguard and Host of Angmar with ease. The Host luckily appeared during a turn with no other enemies in play so after a Dunedain of Annuminas valiantly fell protecting my heroes and defending against the Host of Angmar my forces were able to attack en masse and destroy the Host in one attempt and for good!

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Less fearsome than the awful Host of Angmar but easily the second nastiest foe you can encounter in this quest and not an enemy you should underestimate. Not only does it have impressive stats and 8 hitpoints but if you leave it in the staging area it can stop you from placing progress and completely counter a big questing push.

Even after defeating the Host of Angmar and Vanguard it was a long slog to the end of Stage 2B as it still has 40 progress points even with Host of Angmar in the victory display.
I essentially focused on avoiding the quest stage effect as often as possible while also continuing to focus on combat stopping Annuminas from taking damage whenever possible. This way I continued to build my board state and slowly build progress on Stage 2B whilst also keeping Annuminas as close to full strength as possible. The one good thing about this quest stage is the healing effect it provides as Elrond boosts this so it actually provides a very reasonable 4 points of healing per turn. I was only able to advance past this stage and onto the final Stage 3 during my third attempt and victory.

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The Third and final Stage 3B is the showdown with the Lieutenant of Angmar and counter attack against his forces. Now the thing that made this quest so enjoyable for me is that unlike most even after I had my board state well and truly set up and at a level where it would normally dominate the encounter deck things continued to be both tense and difficult and there were still several moments that could have swung things back in favour of the encounter deck. Not until the final turn when I achieved victory were things ever truly secured or guaranteed.

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A few times this Treachery in particular allowed the encounter deck to either seriously slow my tempo or turn the tables somewhat by discarding key attachments like Steward of Gondor or by dealing a ton of damage if I refused to discard an attachment.

I was admittedly able to clear and ‘destroy’ the battering ram very quickly and turn focus onto the Lieutenant which was key in staying afloat during the final Stage. The Lieutenant of Angmar whilst not the most menacing boss I have ever seen is also no joke as he makes two attacks per turn with his decent 6 attack strength and cannot take damage until you have cleared the Battering Ram and placed 10 progress on Stage 3B. After placing a ton of progress on Stage 3B in one big push I was able to finally bring him down and achieve victory. Taking him down as fast as I was able to was key at that point as he was still posing a serious threat even with my built up forces and the few rounds he was able to make multiple attacks he had several enemies backing him up providing their own attacks coming very close to the point of overwhelming me. The second Dunedain of Annuminas in that game to fall defending my heroes was during one of these final rounds.

 

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The Lieutenant has 0 engagement so will always engage and attack and will also always return himself to staging to not only make a second attack but to contribute his threat to the staging are the following round.

Here is a picture of my final board state for reference. As you can see all enemies have been cleared but several locations remain in the staging area.

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For reference Yellow Dice are resources/progress, black dice are damage and eye of sauron treachery tokens represent characters being exhausted. The decks are on 42 and 33 threat respectively. Host of Angmar and Battering Ram are in the victory display. So is Lieutenant of Angmar but I have left him engaged with the combat deck with his fatal 11 damage still on him. There is 22 progress on Stage 3B and Annuminas has a remaining city strength of 13!
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I love that whenever you lose a Dunedain of Annuminas from damage it is placed in the encounter discard pile and can reappear at a later point in the game. Various copies of this objective ally helped in combat at critical moments throughout my  various games. This almost provides a new element to this quest that boosts both the gameplay and theme. The Dunedain of Annuminas aiding my heroes and forces was something I enjoyed immensely.

Other than perhaps Ruins of Belegost this is now easily my favourite Print on Demand quest as it just has such great mechanics, theme and such a perfect difficulty level for my style and format of play. Like most players I love objective allies and cool locations that actually represent siege equipment or weapons and as mentioned at the start of this article I love fighting unique or rare enemies like the werewolves featured in this quest (even if they are one of the less threatening enemies featured!). Siege of Annuminas is just an all round fantastic quest that I highly recommend getting your hands on if you have not already. I hope you enjoyed the review! Once I get my hands on the newest Gen Con Print on Demand Quest; Attack on Dol Guldur I will write my next POD review.

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