The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat – Player Card Reviews – Part 1

Cirith Gurat

Quests that feature capture mechanics typically require specific deck building and aren’t usually very playable true solo. For these reasons, I wasn’t very excited about The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat, though some very positive reviews from the community did start to intrigue me. Having played the quest now, I can appreciate the positive sentiment, and it does feature some fun mechanics, but it is still very difficult in true solo. The amount of threat that can quickly amass in the staging area is no joke, and I found myself often getting into a rut within the first few turns with this one where I could no longer quest successfully. Fortunately, even if the quest isn’t quite your cup of tea, this adventure pack does provide some very interesting and useful player cards. In this installment, we’ll cover the new lore hero as well as the new allies.

Folco Boffin

Gameplay: ringringringring

Theme: ringringringringring

Art: ringringringringring

Folco Boffin is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings along with Fredegar (“Fatty”) Bolger as a younger friend of Frodo, who very much admired Bilbo and had visited Bag End often. Both Folco and Fatty helped Frodo pack his belongings when he feigned moving to Crickhollow at the outset of his journey to Rivendell. After Tom Cotton, Folco is the second hobbit hero we’ve received recently, though we’re still waiting on further hobbit allies to make the most out of Tom’s abilities.

In terms of gameplay, Folco has one big rival – Lore Pippin. While Pippin can fit into some non-hobbit themed decks (mostly for card draw and lower starting threat), Folco is actually quite at home in non-hobbit themed decks, so we’ll need to evaluate him in two ways.


First, in the context of a hobbit deck, is Folco better than Pippin? It’s not as straight forward as it might look, but I think he is. If you’re playing hobbits, chances are you’re in secrecy. You might not have a lot with the secrecy keyword specifically printed on it, but your game plan probably revolves around keeping your threat lower than enemy engagement costs. This allows you to trigger hero Sam, Hobbit Cloak, Dagger of Westernesse, etc. A problem that hobbit decks can run into if the game goes long, or if you get hit with a high number of doomed effects, is that you lose Sam’s readying and stat boosts, and you lose the benefits of the Dagger and Cloak. If you haven’t been able to build up a large army of allies by that point, you may have reached the beginning of the end for your band of adventurers. Keeping your threat low as the game goes on – not just starting low –  is often very important for a hobbit deck. Spirit Merry is great for this, but Tactics Merry is also great in a hobbit deck, and since you’re probably not playing Fatty, you’re not going to have in-sphere access to threat reduction (apart from ally Gandalf) without Spirit.

The first clause of Folco’s and Pippin’s texts are pretty similar. Folco getting -1 starting threat cost for each Hobbit may look like it’s merely the inverse of Pippin’s +1 engagement cost to enemies, but it actually does more than that. Rather than doing something to make your threat level behave differently for engagements, it actually alters your threat level, which could have a minor impact on quests that look for a specific threat level (Evil Storm from the core set, for example). More importantly, it lets you stay in secrecy longer from the outset of a game. With Pippin, Merry, and Sam, you would start the game at 20 threat exactly. With Folco, Merry, and Sam, you would start the game at 18, buying you an additional two turns in secrecy (without further threat reduction).

It should also be pointed out that Folco’s additional point of attack over Pippin actually makes him significantly more useful as a body on the table, though the biggest difference between the two heroes (and the hardest to evaluate) comes in the second clause of their game texts. Folco lets you discard him to reduce your threat by 7, once per game per the group. Pippin draws you a card every time you engage an enemy with an engagement cost higher than your threat. Let’s be clear – Pippin’s card draw is nothing to sneeze at. The reason why he sometimes finds a home in non-hobbit decks is because of his card draw ability. For hobbit decks, however, that care so much about maintaining low threat, Folco’s ability wins the day in my opinion. Think of it in terms of he buys you an additional seven turns in secrecy. Combined with the two you already have by starting him over Pippin, you’ll get nine turns in secrecy as opposed to Pippin’s one. That is a huge advantage for a deck concerned with keeping low threat. Also think about it like this – nine extra turns in secrecy is also nine extra turns of card draw to get the cards you need, some of which probably require the secrecy keyword to play efficiently. Will you engage nine enemies with higher engagement cost than your threat over the course of a game with Pippin? Maybe, but in most games probably not. Nine enemies is a lot for most quests I believe, and that’s assuming your threat is going to be low enough to get the card draw trigger from Pippin. In a hobbit deck, I feel like Folco is the clear winner over Pippin.

What makes Folco really shine, is that he also fits very well into any other secrecy deck. Pair him with any two heroes and use his ability on the first turn. Your threat will always start one lower than it would have otherwise. For any deck looking to try to get away with two heroes (Silvan secrecy with Galadriel and Celeborn? Any deck with Strider?), Folco will be an auto-include third hero to start the game. Besides, with the inclusion of ally Imrahil in the card pool, you could start with three heroes and relatively low threat, only to end up with three better heroes and still relatively low threat.

The only thing that holds me back from giving Folco a full five rings for gameplay is the tenability of secrecy as a game mechanic. The concept of keeping your threat at 20 or lower isn’t the problem, the problem is the stats you’re bringing to the table on your heroes if your starting threat is that low. In a game about having more stats than the encounter deck, you need to find ways to, in essence, “come from behind” and gain enough momentum to keep from quickly getting threat locked in the staging area or overrun with enemies you can’t fight. Discarding Folco buys you some extra turns by lowering your threat, but it also loses you a resource every round. I think Folco is an outstanding addition to the card pool, and I’m excited to play him in my hobbit deck. While he is a surprisingly versatile hero, he probably doesn’t bring the power needed to make him a top tier hero.

In terms of theme, I must say it took me a little while to puzzle out how Folco’s game abilities tie in with his character in the story. Folco was one of the hobbits who helped Frodo pack up at Bag End. His discard action (along with his art) seems to come from the idea that he’s taking a cartload of Frodo’s goods to Crickhollow, thereby lowering suspicion around Frodo’s leaving Hobbiton and decreasing the danger in which his friends find themselves. That seems to me to be the perfect theme for the secrecy mechanic, so I give Folco 5 out of 5 rings for theme.

The art likewise supports the theme and the card’s gameplay abilities, earning it another 5 stars. I love the colors and tone of the work, and I feel like it looks rather traditional. The pipe makes me think of the hobbit pipe mechanic in the game, which also has to do with lowering threat, so bonus points for the reference (though I’m sure it wasn’t intentional).

Knight of Dale.jpg

Gameplay: ringringring

Theme: ringringringring

Art: ringringringringring

The Knight of Dale is a fun addition to the card pool, looking forward to the coming deluxe expansion and cycle. In terms of gameplay, the 3 rings are because I like the options he provides, and I feel like he may get stronger with the coming cycle, but he’s not quite there yet. Action advantage is always great, and in this case it’s probably going to be used to quest and then attack. I’d be more sold on this ally if he had another point of defense, though that would probably make him more in the range of a 5 cost ally. I would probably even take an extra point to defense if it meant he only had 1 attack but still costed 4. In Leadership, the extra resource to ready him isn’t prohibitive, though it is a drawback he is Dale traited, so he won’t necessarily synergize with certain established Leadership ally themes like Gondor. For a valour deck, he’s a great addition, as his action advantage wouldn’t even cost any resources. In that case, especially, though, I’d prefer him to have the extra defense.  One combo I do think could be good with this guy is A Very Good Tale. You’d be able to exhaust two of these knights, for example, fish out two allies, and then ready the knights with two resources. That would get you up to two new allies with a combined cost of 8, for only a cost of 2, and your allies will all still be ready to go questing or attacking.

We’ve already had some previews of the Dale theme that revolve around items and trade. Because of that, I actually rather like the idea of spending resources to ready the knight. It solidifies the connection between the Dale trait and trade. That may not have been the intention, especially since resources are a theme of Leadership anyway, and the knight doesn’t have anything to do with attachments, so for that reason, I think the knight only gets 4 rings for theme. As far as art, I like the representation of the knight himself, and I love that you can see parts of the city of Dale in the background. 5 rings from me!

riddermark knight

Gameplay: ringringringringring

Theme: ringringringringring

Art: ringringring

I have long awaited a card like the Riddermark Knight. We had Rohan allies that could discard to ready heroes, put progress on locations, quest harder, and defend, but nothing that mirrored Rohan’s discard theme for attack. I’ve found myself using Tactics Éowyn in a lot of my Rohan decks since she was released, and I’ve always been sad about the mediocre selection of Rohan allies in Tactics. This ally fills a much needed niche in the Rohan theme. The best part is that since his boost and discard is a response, you can choose when you need to do it, unlike Escort from Edoras. All of this gives him an easy 5 rings for gameplay, short and simple.

Unlike Folco’s discard ability, the Rohan discard theme represents their mounted warriors gloriously charging into certain death (or merely just riding away). This card represents that well, and again I feel like it’s easy to give it 5 rings for theme. The art is another story, however, and I would only give it 3 rings. The details on the horse look great, but the position of the rider looks awkward to me, and his features aren’t that clear. It is fun that he has some red clothing, and it is a Tactics card. The art just doesn’t do it for me in this case, however.

Eregion Survivor

Gameplay: ringringringringring

Theme: ringringringringring

Art: ringringring

They say that good marketing creates a need that the customer doesn’t know he or she had. The Eregion Survivor fits this definition at its best. Whereas I’ve always wanted an ally like the Riddermark Knight, I never even imagined an ally like the Eregion Survivor. But now that I know it’s a thing, I feel like it makes perfect sense that we should have always wanted it, I feel like I’ve always wanted it, and I’m relieved we finally got it. I love hero Erestor. I use him in so many decks from broken Boromir (well, not anymore) to big Noldor allies pumped by Narya. As long as you can maximize your card advantage every round, Erestor is a great addition to a wide variety of decks. I often find myself filling Erestor decks with cheap cards, though, so I can play them every round, or with using them for other purposes, like To the Sea, to the Sea! or Protector of Lorien. That means that I often find myself with no cards in hand after the planning phase. Given my play style with Erestor, this happens more rounds than not. In such a deck, Eregion Survivor is an amazing ally. An ally with 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, and 3 hit points would cost at least 4 otherwise, if not 5. The fact that he costs only 2 means that you’ll be able to reliably play him before having to discard him with Erestor, and that you’ll likely be able to get his built in stat boost more often than not. The only drawback in an Erestor deck is that Erestor is Lore and this guy is Spirit, but it’s fairly common to combine Erestor with hero Arwen and/or Círdan, so having Spirit resources in an Erestor deck shouldn’t be a problem.

The theme on this one is spot on for a survivor. The Noldor already have a card draw and discard theme, representing their wisdom and learning but also the fact that they remain in Middle-earth unchanged while the rest of the mortal world passes away around them. If the discard part of the Noldor theme represents loss, then the Eregion Survivor’s stat boost after you’ve discarded all your cards makes a lot of sense.

While I love the gameplay and theme of this card, I probably like this art even less than the Riddermark Knight. I get that he’s a survivor and rather old, but his skin and hair are a little too pale for my tastes. He almost looks more like a vampire or a wraith than an elf. He is the Eregion Survivor after all, not the Eregion undead.


Gameplay: ringring

Theme: ringringringringring

Art: ringringringringring

We couldn’t get a bunch of great allies in a pack, along with a good hero, without having something of a coaster. I love ents, and I love the named ent characters we have so far, but Leaflock is a little disappointing. I can’t think of anything more depressing for an ent deck than drawing this guy on the first few rounds of the game. Consider that the Wellinghall Preserver has the same cost, attack, defense, and hit points, but starts with 3 willpower and a sweet ability (that is hilariously at odds with this card). Having damage turn on your characters’ abilities is always a little risky, but having to have four damaged ents to get full use out of this guy seems a little much. His attack, defense, and hit points are all good for a 3 cost ally, but he has the entish restriction of entering play exhausted. Combined with the fact that that the Preserver is more efficient and non-unique, I don’t see myself really using this card very often (maybe a one of in a heavily themed ent deck).

The theme of this card is pretty good, however. Treebeard notes in The Two Towers that Leaflock got so tired that he practically became dormant and slept through entire seasons. This explains the 0 willpower at least from a theme perspective. As other ents get damaged, Leaflock is roused to action and gains an increase in willpower and resolve. The art is also pretty good. He is a very treeish looking ent. The name “Leaflock” refers to being covered with leafy hair. This particular depiction of Leaflock doesn’t have a lot of hair on his body, but it does look like he has a rather long beard, which seems suitable. I also really like the light shining through the trees from behind his head.

Readers, what do you think about the new character player cards from Cirith Gurat? Have you thought of some great uses for Folco? Am I too up on the Riddermark Knight and Eregion Survivor or too down on Leaflock? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading, and check in soon for part two!


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