For the month of September we are going to delve into the Lore Sphere again! Not only is this a Sphere in which I have the least experience (though that is beginning to change) this Hero represents a trait I have almost never used… Dwarves! If the giant picture didn’t already give it away, the Hero of the Month for September will be Bifur!
Let’s jump right into the lore (no pun intended). Bifur was a member of Thorin’s company, having been exiled from the Lonely Mountain when Smaug invaded. He was with the group when they arrived at Bag End that fateful night when Bilbo hosted an unexpected party. And he was there at the Battle of Five Armies, survived, and lived on in the Lonely Mountain after Smaug was defeated. Throughout the story Bifur’s presence isn’t as noticeable, easily Dwarfed (sorry for the puns) by the likes of Thorin, Balin, or Dwalin. Even so, he was a valuable member of the company, having bravely fought the trolls who threatened to eat Bilbo (though Bifur was caught regardless), and proved to be a fairly decent warrior. He was not of Durin’s Line, though he still assisted them in their quest, and was related to Bombur and Bofur, being their cousin.
So yeah, there’s not a lot about Bifur that we learn other than his participating in the quest for Erebor. And even in that quest his actions are hardly noticeable. It’s hard to say if his card is thematically appropriate or otherwise.
Bifur has 7 threat, with a stat-line that reads 2/1/2 and 3 hitpoints. He has the Dwarf trait (you’ll note he’s not noble) and his ability reads:
“Action: Pay 1 resource from a hero’s resource pool to add 1 resource to Bifur’s resource pool. Any player may trigger this ability. (Limit once per round.)”
As I often tend to point out, I came into this game during the Voice of Isengard Deluxe. By then Dwarves had already hit critical mass and I was drowning in a sea of new cards I was trying to learn all at once. The timeline for when I was introduced to cards is a bit off but from what I can tell, Bifur’s ability was pretty groundbreaking at the time of his release. Though Leadership had it’s fair share of resource generating options, the card pool was at a point where expensive cards still felt costly and there wasn’t some key attachment you needed to reduce the cost of a trait specific card. Resources were hard to come by. Bifur provided the ability to ramp resources even further, and especially shined in multiplayer where someone is bound to have an unnecessary resource. Then there is the sphere Bifur represents! Even today, Lore can be pressed for resources. In a tri-sphere deck, simply splashing Bifur almost makes it feel like you have 2 Lore Heroes when you may only have one. In a dual-sphere deck build, or a mono-sphere one, the Lore resources start to flow.
Most of Bifur’s usefulness lies in his ability, not so much his stats. His willpower of 2 means he will almost always be questing. Having 1 attack point, Bifur won’t be doing much offensively. If you have incorporated some action advantage into Bifur and find him ready during the combat phase, his 2 defense points can be used to some effect, though in recent quests he will most likely struggle. If you wish to use Bifur as a defender, Boots from Erebor and Ring Mail can bring his defensive stat to 3 and his hitpoints to 5! Certainly not bad.
This delves into his ability a little bit, but assuming you’ve thrown Steward of Gondor on Bifur, then attachments like Blood of Numenor become interesting choices. With Bifur’s ability granting him a possible 1 resource every turn, Blood of Numenor can be put to great use on this unlikely Dwarven defender. A quick note, his 3 hitpoints are particularly useful for questing these days since he can soak up a few direct damage before needing a heal. Since he won’t be in combat all too often, he is an easy target for those effects.
Bifur’s ability is far more useful than anything his stats would allow you to do. He can get you out of a tough bind when you’re strapped for Lore resources, essentially functioning as 2-Lore Heroes in that regard (and assuming you have a willing donor). Attachments like the previously named Steward of Gondor can further accelerate Bifur’s resources to new heights, as well as many Dwarf specific cards such as We Are Not Idle. There is, however, one attachment that works quite harmoniously with Bifur.
Coming in as the 3rd card in the Khazad-Dum set is the 2-cost Leadership attachment Narvi’s Belt. This card can be attached to any Dwarf Hero and doing so gives that player the opportunity to exhaust the belt and give that Hero one of the four main spheres until the end of the phase. Since Narvi’s Belt was #3 in the player card list, right after #2 in the cycle…. Bifur, it’s almost as if the designers hit the players over with a hammer saying “Here, go have fun!” And you most certainly can.
At that point the Dwarven-deck archetype wasn’t quite yet a thing. There was Dain Ironfoot which granted a global buff, but the Dwarf-swarm didn’t exist. Bifur, in conjunction with Narvi’s Belt, provides the option to play out of Sphere without relying on a Song card. With the Dwarf-Swarm strategy in mind, however, and the need to get as many Dwarves out as possible, Bifur’s synergy with Narvi’s Belt gets even better. Suddenly getting those Dwarven allies out seems less stressful on your resources and if you’re lacking in variety (or having issues with the uniqueness rule) then you can dabble into Dwarves that are out-of-sphere without a worry.
Alas, my experience with Bifur is exceedingly small, having only dealt with him across the table from me, never on my own board. That being said, I could never deny his usefulness and would often find myself throwing an unnecessary resource to my fellow player. In a 4-player game (or even 2 players) Bifur’s ability should go off every turn, it’s just a matter of clever card-play and simply not being greedy with your own cards. Have A Test of Will in hand but 2 spirit resources? Chuck one over to Bifur and let that player do their part while you wait for the questing phase to do yours. In the end it’s for the betterment of the game.
Let’s have someone who does know a little more about Bifur go into what he likes about the Dwarf, and ways he has put him to good use. Sean, from Cardboard of the Rings, was kind enough to share his thoughts:
Bifur is the best splash hero in the game. There. I said it. Despite the fact that he gets no fanfare, no one is calling him broken on the forums, and he rarely is implicated in any of the cheezy combos that seem to be all the rage these days, he is still one of the most versatile, and high value heroes around. As you may know, Bifur is a member of that illustrious club of heroes whose total stats count fewer than their threat cost. Thus, his value proposition is extremely high. For a pittance of 7 threat, Bifur slots into about any deck ever. His ability does a few different things, but primarily it works toward increasing your availability of lore resources. Expanded to multiplayer, provided you have a benevolent fellowship, he could be increasing your availability of resources in general. And, as it turns out, extra resources are pretty good.
Bifur’s resource grabbing skill can also work to smooth out resources within your own fellowship. If lore is your off-sphere, Bifur can scoot a resource on over from your other hero whenever you need it, allowing you to push the cost curve of your lore cards to places it couldn’t go with another lore hero. As 2HT pointed out, Bifur is a great candidate for Narvi’s Belt. Since you’re likely to be funneling resources his way, why not turn them all kinds of colors while you’re at it? That engine alone can smooth out the resources for most decks.
Bifur’s glue card prowess is on great display in one of my favorite decks ever, the Quad Sphere Dwarf Swarm. In this deck, he allows early game smoothing to get down cheap dwallies (most of which are lore), and by mid game, with Narvi’s belt, and a little help from his friends, he’s keeping the dwengine rolling, throwing down whatever dwally is most useful in the moment.
Bifur will never produce the great stories. He’s not going to singlehandedly one-shot a cave troll, he’s not going to defend that big boss enemy, and he’s not going to quest for 30 for the win. Glory in battle is not his way. Bifur’s is the way of subtle aptitude, of quiet brilliance, of…well, support. So play him, and experience the sneaky prowess for yourself.