Encounter Card Set Review: Into the Pit Nightmare
It’s been several ages of Man since I last published an encounter card set review and there have been good reasons for this absence. One was the psychological block I faced when realizing just how long it would take to reach the current quests if I continued to release each set review in sequential fashion from the Core Set onwards (The Hunt for Gollum was my last review). Two was just a general lack of bandwith when there have been so many other hot topics to cover, with keeping up with player card reviews sometimes being a struggle when the releases are coming fast and furious (I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, skeptical reader, but this does happen!). Third, in all honesty, was the simple realization that other articles tended to be far more popular and I had more fun writing these other articles as well. However, I decided to take up the task once more because several things have changed recently. Most importantly, we are in an utter drought when it comes to new releases and so the time is ripe to try something new (or old/new). I also realized that there was nothing tying me to covering quests or encounter sets in order, other than my own sense of obligation, so I have decided to totally throw that approach out the window. Instead, I will cover whatever quests happen to strike my fancy, tending mostly towards the more difficult quests, especially Nightmare scenarios, although I’m open to reader suggestions as well. This will also make it interesting and fun for me to write, which I must admit is a rather important piece of the puzzle as well! Unlike past encounter card set reviews, I’m going to be looking at the quest as a whole, as well as just the particular encounter card set, with an eye towards building a winning strategy.
With that long preamble out of the way, let’s get busy!
Nightmare Into the Pit Set Card Breakdown (21 cards total):
4x Patrol Sentry
3x Goblin Lurker
4x Shadow Dweller
1x Goblin Ambush (new quest card)
Quest Encounter Deck Breakdown (48 cards total):
Overall, the encounter deck for this quest is actually fairly light on enemies, all things considered, and more focused on treacheries than is perhaps normal. This does mean that including a fair bit of treachery cancellation is wise. It also means that while combat should not be ignored, questing can and should be a heavy focus of any decks that are involved in taking on this quest. At least a third of the deck consists of locations, which may hint at the helpfulness of location management, but we’ll have to look at the exact locations involved to see whether this is necessary.
Shadow Card Breakdown:
Cards With Shadow Effects: 63% (30 out of 48 cards)
Shadow Effect Types:
* Cancel damage to enemy – 4 out of 30
* Raise threat (by 2) – 5 out of 30
* Boost attack – 9 out of 30
* Boost defense – 3 out of 30
* Direct damage to defender – 2 out of 30
* Discard the defender (Sudden Pitfall) – 1 out of 30
* Add enemy to the staging area (Patrol Sentry) – 4 out of 30
* Shuffle enemy back into the encounter deck – 2 out of 30
This encounter deck is jam-packed full of shadow effects, with almost 2/3 of the cards having a shadow effect of some kind. This does suggest that bringing along shadow cancellation, or even someone like Balin, would be welcome. Looking at the particular shadow effects that are involved, there are a good number (9 out of 30) that boost the enemy’s attack, so that should be taken into account when deciding between defensive options. Some of these boost depending upon whether the active location has the Dark trait or by the number of Dark locations in play, so keeping an eye on these factors is important as well. Another key theme of the shadow effects is messing with your ability to strike back at the enemy by preventing damage against it. Others make sure that you get to grips with other enemies by adding the shadow card to the staging area as an enemy or shuffling it into the encounter deck so that it may arise as an enemy at some later point. These shadows will all tend to be annoying, but not necessarily worthy of a cancel. The real threat here is Sudden Pitfall, which can instantly discard a defending character. Include this card in all your plans until it appears.
Encounter Card Keyword Breakdown:
There’s a decent amount of surge in the quest, but not too many other effects that chain. There are also Doomed effects, but these range from Doomed 1 to Doomed 2, so aren’t of too much concern. Special attention to these keywords is probably not necessary.
Condition Attachments: Yes
There is Watchful Eyes to deal with, which can be managed either with readying effects or condition removal, along with Shadow-fall, which is placed on a location. The latter isn’t really good enough reason to include condition removal, so you can probably do without, as long as you have readying effects or treachery cancellation to deal with Watchful Eyes.
Average Threat of All Cards (Treacheries count as 0): 1.6*
Average Threat of Enemies and Locations: 2.6*
Average Quest Progress of Locations: 3.2
The fact that the encounter deck contains such a high percentage of treacheries combined with the medium-to-high threat of the locations and enemies that are included (mostly the locations) means that questing each round can be rather unpredictable. This unpredictability is made even worse because some of the treacheries increase the threat in the staging area, while one location in particular bases its threat on the number of Dark locations in play. What this means for questing is that location management can indeed be helpful to knock out the encounter cards that tend to have the highest threat, which are the locations. Keep in mind that this is part of the scenario design to encourage you to use the Cave Torch, but other location management effects, especially Asfaloth, can be really helpful here. One special item of note is Sudden Pitfall, a treachery that discards a questing character from the first player. Since this effect cannot be canceled, you need to plan for it until it appears. The first player should always quest with at least 1 ally or no one at all.
To complete the questing picture, with an average threat of all cards nearing 2, you are looking at from 2-8 threat revealed each round, depending upon the number of players. However, keep in mind this based on the prevalence of treacheries. If a location or enemy is revealed, then you are probably looking at around 3 threat revealed. This should guide your decision-making when committing characters to the quest. For example, when playing solo, between initial staging and the first quest phase, you are looking at an average of 4 threat in the staging area and you need 7 progress to clear the initial active location (East Gate). However, this could jump up higher, to 5-7 threat. In all likelihood, though, taking the target of 4, you will need 11 willpower to clear the active location on the first round. That is a bit difficult to muster, but it can give you a goal to reach for, as you keep the 2 threat per round in mind for subsequent rounds, with the knowledge that you will be probably be looking at 3 or 4 threat many times if a location or enemy is revealed (5 if you happen to hit upon Zigil Mineshaft).
Average Attack Value of Enemies: 3.4*
Average Defense Value of Enemies: 2.7
Average Hit Points of Enemies: 4.4
Average Engagement Cost of Enemies: 28.6
The average attack and defense value of enemies in this scenario is quite high, although this is partially inflated by the insane 7 attack and 7 defense of the Shadow Dweller. Leaving aside the outliers of the strong Shadow Dweller and weak Goblin Scout, you generally need from 6 to 8 attack to destroy most of the enemies in this quest. This is a bit higher than most quests, so the usual approach of having 2 heroes with 3 attack each won’t necessarily get you to the promised land. Instead, you’ll need a bit more attack power either through weapons or attachments. On the other hand, since there aren’t a ton of enemies in this set in terms of pure frequency, you should be able to focus in on the enemies you do face rather than have to handle a swarm (aside from the special 2nd quest stage added by Nightmare). So a general approach to this scenario is questing hard, while keeping from 6 to 8 attack power back to deal with any enemies that might emerge. If the Shadow Dweller appears, you aren’t in too much trouble unless the Cave Torch is out of play. When it comes to defense, leaving aside the outliers once again, you are looking at needing to cover about 4-5 points of defense for each enemy. There aren’t any effects in this quest that punish chump blocking, except for a shadow effect that deals 1 point of damage to the defending character and Sudden Pitfall. So chump blocking is a viable strategy, as long as you are using an ally with at least 2 hit points and/or you have shadow cancellation available. Alternatively, plan on handling 4-5 attack with the potential for this being boosted up by 1-3 points by shadow effects.
Set Description: So far from what we have gathered, we can see that this is a treachery-heavy set with high-threat locations and a handful of relatively strong enemies. It also has a high percentage of shadow effects. This means that you should prioritize willpower, location management, and shadow cancellation, while keeping one eye peeled for Sudden Pitfall at all times.
Individual Card Breakdown:
* Patrol Sentry (20 engagement cost, 1 threat, 4 attack, 3 defense, 5 hit points): There are 4 copies of this enemy, which means you will be fighting him quite often. The Patrol Sentry’s ability is to immediately attack when the Cave Torch is exhausted. This isn’t too terrible, as you can simply avoid exhausting the Cave Torch, or do so only when you can handle the attack. You can also include other location management effects so that you aren’t reliant on the Torch. You’ll need 8 attack to kill this guy, which is a pretty hefty amount and he does hit for 4. This should be relatively manageable in the current card pool.
* Goblin Lurker (50 engagement cost, 3 threat attack, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points): A bit of a strange foe, the Lurker cannot be optionally engaged, but gets +3 attack and -40 engagement cost if the active location is Dark. This basically means that you cannot engage it unless you travel to a Dark location or use some kind of trickery (Westfold Outrider, Son of Arnor, etc.). The Lurker takes the standard 6 attack to destroy and will be hitting for 5 as long as the active location is dark (which it probably will be to get to grips with it). You could travel to a Dark location, then quickly nuke it with some kind of location management effect to be able to engage this enemy without suffering the attack boost. The good thing about this enemy is you can essentially control when to take it on. The negative aspect is that its 3 threat will sit in the staging area until you do so.
* Shadow Dweller (0 engagement cost, 1 threat, 7 attack, 7 defense, 8 hit points): The Shadow Dweller is ridiculously tough for being a regular enemy, with 7 attack and 7 defense. It takes a mammoth 15 attack to kill one of these creatures. However, in practice, the Shadow Dweller can be fairly harmless, because it does not make engagements as long as the Cave Torch is in play. Since it only has 1 threat, you can keep it in the staging area all game long assuming you can keep the Torch around. Really, then, the key here once again is to make sure you have location management available so that you will only need to use the Torch sparingly. Otherwise, this quest is certainly ripe for Ranger Spikes, as none of the enemies are immune to attachments, and you could keep the Shadow Dweller trapped this way forever, even if you do lose the Torch.
* Twisting Shadows (X threat, X quest points): X is the number of Dark locations in play. Twisting Shadows can range from fairly harmless, as it could be 1 threat if it is the only Dark location in play to truly horrible if there are many. Due to the nature of how the game works, this one tends to be much worse in multiplayer than solo, as there will likely be many more Dark locations around in 3 or 4 player games, while in solo play, you’re maybe looking at 2-3 at worst. So in solo games, I wouldn’t worry too much about Twisting Shadows. In multiplayer, something like Thror’s Key (a must-have card against Nightmare scenarios) could reduce its threat and quest points permanently to 0, immediately exploring it. Alternatively, you could use a card like Secret Paths, Strider’s Path, or the Mirkwood Pioneer to ignore the threat during questing so that you can get to grips with it as the active location and explore it.
* Narrow Fissure (3 threat, 1 quest points): This location is a bit tricky to maneuver around. First, it increases the quest points of all Dark locations by 2. Second, progress cannot be placed on it while the Cave Torch is ready. This basically is designed to force you to exhaust the Cave Torch. Again, you could use Thror’s Key here to ignore these restrictions. Alternatively, if you’ve been using the Cave Torch sparingly, you could use it here to deal with the Narrow Fissure.
* Shadow-fall: Shadow-fall attaches to a non-Dark location, giving it the Dark trait and an additional 3 quest points. This is designed to interact with the other effects in this quest that key off of the Dark trait. Overall, this isn’t too terrible as treacheries go, but it does surge and replace itself, while potentially making matters worse for you. Basically what Shadow-fall does is make your calculations a bit more difficult as to how much Dark you will have to deal with on a given turn.
* Goblin Ambush: This new quest stage dumps X enemies into play (1 plus the number of players), with one of them required to be Patrol Leader and one the Patrol Sentry. It also forces players to place progress on it only through killing enemies. This essentially requires the player to prepare to handle a couple of enemies at once at the mid-point of the scenario.
Nightmare Into the Pit is not the most challenging of Nightmare scenarios, but it can certainly cause some trouble if you’re not prepared. Including location management effects that can directly place progress tokens, such as Northern Tracker, Asfaloth, The Riddermark’s Finest, and Ride to Ruin can go a long way towards eliminating some of the difficulty. You also will need strong questing power and a consistent pool of around 8 attack strength available, with defensive options consisting of either chump blocking or a single competent defender. Shadow effect cancellation is also highly recommended in order to guard against a few killer treacheries, but mostly because there simply are a ton of shadow effects to deal with throughout the encounter deck. With the help of all this statistical analysis, you should be well on your way to conquering Nightmare Into the Pit. Enjoy!
I hope this encounter card set review has been illuminating. Readers, let me know what you think about this feature and any specific suggestions for further reviews!