Dark Minions Survey

Well, sorry this is so late, I just had a time crunch and also grossly under- estimated how much time the data collection the survey involved. So, enough with excuses, what are the opinions on Dark Minions?

Most people seem to really like this expansion. There's lots of new ideas, old cards that people were wanting, improved strategies, and the art, if anything, got better. So, what are the specifics?


Who is your favorite minion? The best? The coolest?
People's favorite minions vary quite a bit. The Grimburgoth barely edged out four other minions. The Grimburgoth is either the best minion or the one that's easiest to appreciate. Runners up: Baduila, Golodhros, Anarin, Elerina, Wormtongue.
The overwhelming choice for best minion is The Grimburgoth. He can attack a company during M/H phase with +2 to his normal prowess of 7 (9 if he's face down). This can be a formidable surprise to anybody. He can also use Sorcery, which should crop up in Lidless Eye (sounds dangerous ;-) Only drawbacks are his 8 mind (so you can have him and three similar characters) and his homesite of Dol Guldur, which is actually close to a lot of places.
The largest vote for coolest minion went to Wormtongue. People have been calling for Grima since about a month after the game came out, and he's finally here to mess around with your opponent. He can also knock out an Edoras-based strategy double-handedly ;-) Coming in second was The Grimburgoth, giving him 24 total votes in those three categories (out of about 32 voters).

What is your favorite piece of minion artwork?
Another close one, Dror (Tom Cross) won out over Firiel and Wormtongue. From Dror you get the feeling of an outcast dwarf in the cold mountains, plotting revenge. A good mood is set as well. I would like to give honorable mention to Bill Ferney (two votes behind Dror) by Chris Cocozza. Bill looks almost real...

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with five being great), how well do you like the concept and rules of minions?
The average on this comes out to ALMOST exactly 4. Minions (agents really) were a much needed addition to the game. While they've got some interesting quirks that will definitely take getting used to, I think Minions are a very well worked out addition, and I can only hope at what Lidless Eye holds with being able to use minions as characters.

What is the worst part about minions?
The general consensus is that there are two bad things about minions: the rules are hard to understand and remember (what was that modifier for being at his homesite again?) and they take up your sites. The first will probably be cured after we have used them for long enough (just as the original rules were). The second can be really agravating. The first game we played with minions, a couple of times we had to modify our strategies because agents were occupying the sites we wanted to go to. There are a few ways to get around this. The first is the new maps coming out from ICE. They let you move your companies around without site cards (AFAIK), leaving your sites to your agents. The second way to avoid that is careful planning of your agents. If you are largely in the north, you might want to include Mordor-based and Gondorian agents, for instance. Ah! I just found out from Mike Reynolds (of ICE) that you still have to use the sites whenever you play :-( Scrath that forthcoming strategy.


What is your favorite hazard? The best? The coolest?
Again, lots of different answers to people's favorite hazards (only three received more than one vote). However, Durin's Bane got seven votes, and is probably the high point of this set. It's got pretty good art (more in a moment), is pretty nasty, and fits in well with complaints of the first balrog (this one has BODY!).
As to the best hazard, more cards got multiple votes (Khamul even got two votes and he's not in the set!). Again, however, Durin's Bane took the cake, followed by Revealed to All Watchers. Durin's Bane ties Shelob for the highest modified strike in the game, two of them to be precise, and has a wider range than Shelob does. While against some decks he may never come out, he is almost every Under-deeps deck's worst enemy. Revealed to All Watchers is also a really powerful card. It allows you to get a hand chock full of hazards to slam your opponent with, and then you get your resources back. My vote here actually goes to Two Or Three Tribes Present, because it has EXTREME versitality and can really spell doom for a company.
Durin's Bane also easily takes coolest hazard. Hey, it's the Balrog (a great part in the books), but it's BETTER than the first one (which was practically saying "Come and get some MPs at your leisure."). My vote here goes to My Precious, who came in second. It's great fun to have the game conversation suddenly turn into hisssesss and ssssmall noisssesss.

What is your favorite piece of hazard artwork?
You guessed it, Durin's Bane (Stefano Baldo) by quite a bit. I love some of the resources Baldo has done (especially Elf-song), and I really like the figure of this balrog (much more detail than the earlier one), but the bright orange background kinda turns me off (maybe I'm just a resource kinda guy). Nevertheless, the image of a hideous winged creature with flaming sword and whip heading at at you definitely adds to the fear and shock value .

What is your favorite new hazard concept (e.g. not counting against hazard limit, attacking from discard pile, etc.)?
There were several new concepts in this expansion which really expanded the strategic options of a many different strategies. The tie for first place vote in this category goes to taking prisoners and not counting against the hazard limit. Prisoners can be a great way to take your opponent's key characters out of his service for a couple of turns, and thus throw an orc- wrench into his strategy. It's also a great opportunity to call the council (well, you just went down by 10 MPs...). Not counting against the hazard limit can really mess up a small company. It makes largish combos possible, makes it possible to play what would be an allowance hazard and then the creature hazard to be played as one, or with the embodiment of this new idea (Two Or Three Tribes Present), completely annihilate an entire company with a hazard limit of two or three.

What strategy do you think increased the most?
Perhaps the most deadly hazard strategy is now undead. There are several undead helpers to add to the two or three existing ones as well as several new undead, giving us more than four. Undead are now no longer a corruption- corrilary, but a full-fledged stand-alone kick-ass hazard strategy. 18 strikes at 12 is something for any company to fear. Coming in behind is orcs and orc- variants (orc/troll, orc/nazgul, orc/men, etc.). With several new orc-specific hazards as well as some that help them as well as others (Two Or Three Tribes are still present), making a formerly wussy strategy a possible danger.

What resource strategy do you think was hurt the most?
The two biggest responses here were "Indiana Jones" decks and faction decks (or variations). Indy was considered one of two broken strategies for quite a while, but it got hit with some recent erratta and it is also now hard to keep enough characters untapped to play that Thorough Search and Rescue Prisoners along with another item. Curiously enough, The Under-deeps seem like some pretty good Indy territory to me, if you can handle the trip there. Factions were hit pretty hard by agents, being able to influence your stuff away while your opponent's companies are wandering around somewhere else. However, agents can't reveal an identical card and also can't use cards like muster, so they are most effective at home (which can still be pretty bad if you concentrate your factions in one place like the south-east).

What do you think is the worst hazard?
I though In Darkness Bind Them would be a sure shoe-in, but it only came in second to Whisp of Pale Sheen (odd, as most people said Undead got a lot of help...). Whisp taps anybody who has mind is equal to or less than its prowess, but most of those people would tap anyway. It is widely playable, but there are better ways to soften up a company for undead without giving them an MP.

What type of hazard do you think there should have been more of?
The overwhelming one in this category was creatures in general (and several more votes for specific types of creatures like spiders). I see this expansion as more as a set that helps several types of creatures (that were in need of it) than a set to propagate creatures. Needless to say, I look forward to seeing several new creatures in Lidless Eye.


What is your favorite resource? The best? The coolest?
Just as Durin's Bane was the runaway favorite hazard, a lot of people like Aiglos. It can make a character kick some serious butt (especially when Doors is out, when there is more butt to be kicked). Plus, it's the spear of Gil-galad. Aiglos took favorite and best easily and narrowly edged out Fate of the Ithil-stone for coolest. My votes for favorite and coolest go to Mallorn, however. With all these nasty creatures like Durin's Bane are running around, it's nice to have a place to sit and enjoy the nice things in the world. Plus, it also made non-One Ring Hobbit decks quite a bit more viable.

What is your favorite piece of resource artwork?
The card that took this category by storm was not Aiglos, as one might expect, but To The Uttermost Foundations (maybe people just really like Balrog picts). John Howe depicts the action in a great way (better than True Fana, one of my favorites). It takes in one frame the terror of the Balrog and the tattered but triumphant Gandalf atop him. The effect is pretty nice too.

What is your favorite new resource concept (e.g. "quest" events)?
By far the favorite resource concept is quests. Many people were longing for a) some reason to go to sites like Barad-dur and Dol-guldur and b) wanting some sort of definite quest to complete. Cards like Mithril and Fate of the Ithil- stone do this while giving some hefty MPs and helping certain strategies along. Several of them also provide good reasons to go spelunking.

What strategy do you think increased the most?
This category also had ranging opinions. The result is a tie between Hobbit and Dwarf decks. Hobbits got cards like Mallorn, Noble Hound, and Fireworks/ Rebuild the Town (yes, that is a good Hobbit combo). The Dwarves got cards like The Dwarves Are Upon You! as well as a whole bunch more places to get shiny items. Some other strategy increases worth mentioning are minor items and wizardless. Minor items, though not yet a FULL strategy can help several strategies along with cards like Armory, Cup of Farewell, and the Lost Knowledge cards. Wizardless decks are now quite a lot more possible with cards like Saw Further and Deeper (on the flip side, The Windord Found Me is also a nifty card).

What hazard strategy do you think was hurt the most?
This biggest answer here was, interestingly enough, corruption. Cards like Free To Choose (and the general lucrativity of creatures) has lured people away from corruption decks. However, with the Under-deeps, corruption could be a pretty deadly strategy (Lure of Expedience anyone?). There also weren't very many corruption cards in this set (though Pale Dream Maker and Foes Shall Fall are pretty good).

What do you think is the worst resource?
Again, a lot of different opinions here, but the top vote getter is The Hunt (which a couple people said was the BEST resource). This card has some really good art, but it may not be worth the risk. Sure, you can get to call your shot on a couple MPs, but you have to have faced it before (you can't have Pallando looking at your opponent's discards and Alatar running around). Is it worth the risk of Alatar dying for just one or two MPs (which is probably going to be the best choice). He can't use spells or get help from his company, and you've probably bailed out on it before.

What type of resource there should have been more of?
Another close one, with items just beating out factions. More items would be nice, as we now have all these new sites where we can crank out the items. I would like to argue, however, for more factions. The last two expansions have given us all of one faction (and that's a pain in the eye to get out).


What is your favorite Under-deeps site? The best? The coolest?
The Under-grottos edged out The Under-courts and Under-gates as the favorite site of this expansion. It's got a sweet picture (yes it does, my precious), a decent auto-attack (equal to Moria's), and gives you +2 on your ring checks (another Scroll of Isildur). It's missing greater, but it's pretty good now.
Under-gates narrowly beat Under-grottos and Under-galleries in the vote for best new site. It's under Moria, one of the best sites in the game, and can play anything but hoard and special items. It also has access to a wide area of the Under-deeps. The auto-attack is the most dangerous in the game (aside from the added ones like at homes). However, if you want to defeat your own Balrog, you can get into the Under-gates pretty easily.
The Under Galleries won in terms of coolest new site. Sure, it's under Udun (and "Any site in Udun" makes me think more are coming), but you can get two minor/major/greater items there. And then when you're done, you get 3 MPs (of what type, BTW?). I like that idea.

Do you think the Under-deeps are worth the risk for what you can get there?
The overwhelming answer is YES (18 votes compared to 6 for both no and sometimes). My experience with the Under-deeps has been pretty greuling, so I would be inclined to go with sometimes (only if you are REALLY prepared).

What site do you think has the best artwork?
The winner here (by a whole bunch) is the Under-courts (which I don't have and have just seen briefly). From what I saw, it wasn't all that spiffy. Just a bunch of clutter, but I won't comment further. I will say I like the art on Under-grottos (Ted Nasmith) a lot.

On a scale of 1 to 5 with five being great, how do you rate the concept of the Under-deeps?
This averages out to about 4.2. The Under-deeps give rise to some new strategies and help out some old ones (who cares if there's a Snowstorm up there?). They are pretty powerful, but balanced (maybe overbalanced) with pretty dangerous auto-attacks (not to mention our friend Durin's Bane).


What is your favorite card from this expansion?
There was not as much variety in this category as one might suspect. Durin's Bane didn't win this one, but he came in third tied with Mallorn (my personal fave). In second was Aiglos, and the Grammy goes to.... My Precious. Now we can build a Gollum based deck, or just put him in and hiss to our tongue's content.

What is the most powerful card?
Not much of a surprise here, Durin's Bane edged out Aiglos. I think Aiglos gives a better (permanent) advantage, but in order to get it you may have to deal with old DB...

What is the coolest card?
Here third goes to Aiglos, second to Durin's Bane and first to, you guessed it, My Precious. This is potentially the coolest card in the whole game. Great art, and all the fun of Gollum. Plus, you can keep attacking your opponent to give him that minus one MP :-)

What card has the best artwork?
Here the winner is To The Uttermost Foundations (mentioned earlier) followed closely by Pass the Doors of Dol Guldur (John Howe again) which was got more votes as the all around best piece of artwork than it did best resource piece. This card gives another nice view of Gandalf blowing in the wind and making a flare. What happened to Durin's Bane you say? It got third. My personal favorite, though, is Twisted Tales. It captures the scene perfectly, not to mention it packs a punch to the term "Wormtongue."

Other than Under-deeps and minions, what do you think is the best new concept (e.g. not counting against the hazard limit, quest cards, etc)?
Quest narrowly beat prisoners here. Quests were a much needed addition and can be great fun in longer games. Prisoners, as I mentioned, can really turn the tide of a game.

What overall strategy changed the most?
This turned out to be a tie between Undead and Orcs/whatever. Both went from so-so strategies to in-your-face I-WILL-kill-your-characters strategies. Plus, with Angmar Arises, Reaching Shadow, and (sort of) In Darkness Bind Them, Gondor and the sea may be the only places to avoid these two strategies.

Compared to Dragons, how do you rate this expansion? Compared to Wizards?
Overwhelmingly, this is a MUCH better expansion than dragons (26 votes for better, two for worse, and two for the same). This set introduces more ideas and helps more than just two or three strategies. Plus, it gave us more cards we were clambering for. It's very difficult to compare this set to Wizards, as that's got most of the characters, factions, good commons/fixeds, etc. I just put that in to see if people thought this improved upon Wizards. I hope Lidless Eye is this good!

So there you have it, general ideas about Dark Minions. Hopefully ICE is paying attention and can use this information to better sets down the road. Have fun with all your new cards!

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