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Quests Revisited: The Long Dark

by on August 16, 2016

 

mines of moria

Thomas N. returns with the next installment of his Quests Revisited series. Enjoy! -Ian

‘How long is that going to take us?’ asked Frodo.

‘I cannot say,’ answered Gandalf. ‘It depends on many chances. But going straight, without mishap or losing our way, we shall take three or four marches, I expect.’

-Journey in the Dark, The Fellowship of the Ring

Our heroes survived the Watcher and must journey through the long dark of Moria. Luckily, Háma and Dain Ironfoot lead the way through the Dwarrowdelf, carrying a torch to light the way. As Gandalf tells Frodo upon entering Moria, if they do not lose their way, the journey will take three or four marches.

Deck Construction:

 

hamaJust like before, one deck features the AP’s hero and the other deck complements it. The two decks are listed below and at this link: http://ringsdb.com/fellowship/view/701/hama-journeys-through-the-long-dark

Háma’s ability requires cards in order to continuously recycle tactics events; lore naturally provides card draw so I selected Bifur to pull extra resources when needed to pay for Lorien’s Wealth or put other dwarves into play. Gimli is picked over Thalin because he has more hit points and willpower. Combat is necessary to stall the orc onslaught and the other deck contains Dain, Glóin, and Dwalin.

Dwarves are one of the strongest arch-types at this point in the game. It also makes thematic sense Erebor-Battle-Mastersince the setting is within Khazad-dûm itself. As such, throwing in as many dwarf allies as possible gets the party off their feet and moving through Moria. Legacy of Durin provides extra cards while assembling the Longbeard army. The Erebor Battle Master works best in a deck that has tons of dwarves. He can singlehandedly take down a troll if enough dwarves are controlled by one deck. Most lore and tactics dwarves are included in Háma’s deck to boost the Battle Master’s attack. Veteran of Nanduhirion, Longbeard Map-Maker, and Miner of the Iron Hills are not included because of their high cost or not requiring condition removal. Erebor Record Keepers provide cheap willpower and readying effects if Bifur has extra resources.

I also included Daughters of Nimrodel and Wardens of Healing to keep Gimli and Glóin alive. Part of the idea is once they have enough hit points, either can take undefended attacks and boost attack strength or generate resources, respectively. Boots from Erebor, Citadel Plate, and Ring Mail nearly guarantee that both can take undefended attacks and not die immediately. Finally, Feint and Quick Strike are included so Háma has something to recycle. Constantly feinting attacks every round is powerful and entertaining.

Ever-My-Heart-RisesDain’s deck includes all leadership and spirit dwarves except Brok Ironfist since he is an overly expensive card and not worth including. Instead, Rohan allies followed Háma to Moria and assist the King Under the Mountain. Beyond that, I included many dwarf specific cards such as Durin’s Song and Lure of Moria and ways to draw cards for either deck. While this deck contains Steward of Gondor, it is not necessary because of Glóin’s ability to gather resources; it goes on either Gimli or Háma to provide extra tactics resources. This allows Bifur to pull resources from either deck, depending which deck needs the resources next. Narvi’s Belt goes on Glóin so he can pay for spirit cards; you can substitute Song of Travel instead since it is one resource cheaper, but either card gets the job done.

Ever My Heart Rises is an extremely situational but powerful card. Since we are in Moria, every single location is underground. As long as a location is cleared every single turn, it provides threat reduction and readying effects. This lets Gimli or Glóin quest for three while Dain is ready and can attack or defend during combat. Between the dwarf swarm, Rohan allies, Untroubled by Darkness, and Bombur, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t always clear a location every single quest phase.

Game Experience and Strategy:

This scenario introduces the ‘lost’ keyword on many of the locations. It represents the various twists and turns present within Moria that make the journey difficult. Throughout the scenario, players may be forced to make a locate test. The chosen player may discard a player card to discard the top card of the encounter deck. If that card says ‘Pass,’ nothing happens and you move on. If not, the player can discard another card and repeat the process until either a ‘Pass’ appears or the player runs out of cards. That’s the fundamental new mechanic introduced and used only in this scenario.

One thing that can happen is a pile up of locations if cards come out a certain way. Remember the Cave Torch from Into the Pit? It’s Cave-Torchback and starts equipped to a character. If the players didn’t start with the torch, I can somewhat see how locations might be a bit more dangerous. It can place progress on most locations and it explores many of them instantly. There is a slight risk of adding enemies to the staging area, but I personally feel the risk is worth it most of the time. None of the enemies instantly end the game and the worst ones are avoided if threat is low. Additionally, if a location leaves play during the quest phase due to the Cave Torch, it boosts questing and the party gets closer to the end of the game.

Cave-SpiderThe easiest way to beat this quest is questing hard every turn. With two dwarf heavy decks supported by high willpower Rohan allies, it’s simple to have enough willpower every turn. For the most part, the locations and enemies don’t have extremely high threats. The most I ever had in the staging area at any given time was eight, and by that point there were enough allies in play that it didn’t matter.

The encounter deck has some annoying cards, but generally speaking, it’s possible to handle most of them with little to no problem. Take Cave Spider for example. It forces you to discard cards when revealed and when it engages a player. Annoying, but one way to counter it is to play out your necessary cards as soon as you can. There were a few instances when it discarded the last card from one deck. If there isn’t a card that forces that deck to attempt a locate test, all that happened was losing a card. Even if that deck has to try a locate test, many times the tests aren’t terrible.

The two cards that have the worst consequence for failing a locate test are Foul Air and Vast and Intricate. Foul Air is a much more Foul-Airdangerous version of Necromancer’s Reach from the Core Set. Dealing two damage to all characters is brutal if it comes up at the wrong time. However, there are two ways to deal with it. One is passing the locate test like the scenario wants to. The other is to use A Test of Will. It’s fairly straightforward.

Vast-and-IntricateVast and Intricate is not as potentially game ending as Foul Air is, but it is definitely one of the worst effects in this scenario. Resetting all progress, raising all threats by seven, and triggering all lost effects hinders the players. This card can be dealt with in two ways, exactly like Foul Air. A Test of Will is a phenomenal card and should be reserved for either of these two cards. Most of the rest are annoying, like the Cave Spider, but not game ending.

Generally speaking, the simple way to beat this scenario is drawing a bunch of cards to have plenty to pass any possible game ending locate tests, have enough resources to play out allies, and quest hard every turn. One thing I noticed throughout my plays was how easy it played out. According to Gandalf, it’s possible to pass through Moria in three or four marches, if you know the way. That is exactly what happened every time I played this quest. I almost always beat the scenario after three or four rounds; the longest a game went was round five. The locate tests were never an issue because I had enough card draw between the two decks that they didn’t even matter.

One thing sticks out from the different plays: the encounter deck was inconsistent. The three sets compose a nearly seventy card encounter deck. There isn’t a ton of surge so a two player game draws about two cards a turn. If the game is over after three or four rounds, the players probably see about ten cards, this includes shadow cards for any enemies. That’s approximately 14% of the entire encounter deck. 14% is not a large enough number for any sort of consistency. Even after thoroughly shuffling the encounter deck, there were games where all I saw were cards NOT from the Long Dark encounter set. I even played through this scenario more than I did for other entries because it seemed odd how simple it was. This scenario isn’t on Passage of Mirkwood level in terms of difficulty, but it didn’t seem hard whatsoever. Part of it is because dwarf decks play themselves, but even if I hadn’t used dwarves it would take probably a round or two more to reach the same results.

Closing Thoughts:

Overall, I think this a lousy quest. The decisions aren’t particularly interesting and it ends quickly if a ton of progress gets made every quest phase, which is fairly easy to do. The enemies are not memorable and are similar enough to other sets that they aren’t interesting or difficult. I think the locate tests are a great attempt at capturing the essence of being lost in Moria, but they weren’t punishing enough when failed for it to drastically affect the game state, Foul Air and Vast and Intricate excluded.  To a degree, I felt like Flight from Moria’s quest cards handled the ‘lost in the mines’ theme better than this scenario. As I already stated, the biggest fault of this quest is the size of the encounter deck. The larger the deck, the less consistent it is. That’s why most players view the fifty card player deck minimum as a maximum; it increases the likelihood of the deck working as designed. If the encounter deck was considerably smaller, I could see this quest being bearable, but never something I want to play repeatedly.

Our party is one step closer to finding the cause of Balin’s demise and an explanation for what the Nameless Thing is. Now they must travel further into Moria and hold off all manner of foul creatures as they approve the mine’s stone foundations. But before the party reaches the mountain’s roots, they encounter a powerful Elven warrior sent by Elrond to assist the party.

 

Decks:

Hama has Longbeards

Heroes: (3)

Bifur (Khazad-dûm)

Gimli (Core Set)

Háma (The Long Dark)

Allies: (27)

2x  Bombur (Road to Rivendell)

2x  Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core Set)

3x  Erebor Battle Master (The Long Dark)

2x  Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)

3x  Erebor Record Keeper (Khazad-dûm)

3x  Gandalf (Core Set)

2x  Gléowine (Core Set)

3x  Gondorian Spearman (Core Set)

1x  Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)

3x  Veteran Axehand (Core Set)

3x  Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachments: (13)

3x  Boots from Erebor (Khazad-dûm)

2x  Citadel Plate (Core Set)

3x  Dwarrowdelf Axe (Khazad-dûm)

2x  Legacy of Durin (The Watcher in the Water)

3x  Ring Mail (The Long Dark)

Events: (10)

2x  Ancestral Knowledge (Khazad-dûm)

2x  Feint (Core Set)

2x  Khazâd! Khazâd! (Khazad-dûm)

2x  Lórien’s Wealth (Core Set)

2x  Quick Strike (Core Set)

 

Dain the Torch Bearer

Heroes: (3)

Dain Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)

Dwalin (Khazad-dûm)

Glóin (Core Set)

Allies: (24)

3x  Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)

2x  Bofur (The Redhorn Gate)

2x  Erestor (The Long Dark)

2x  Faramir (Core Set)

3x  Gandalf (Core Set)

2x  Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core Set)

3x  Snowbourn Scout (Core Set)

2x  West Road Traveller (Return to Mirkwood)

2x  Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)

3x  Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachments: (9)

2x  Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)

3x  Ever My Heart Rises (The Long Dark)

2x  Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-dûm)

2x  Steward of Gondor (Core Set)

Events: (17)

2x  A Test of Will (Core Set)

3x  Durin’s Song (Khazad-dûm)

3x  Fresh Tracks (The Long Dark)

3x  Lure of Moria (Road to Rivendell)

2x  Sneak Attack (Core Set)

2x  Untroubled by Darkness (Khazad-dûm)

2x  Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)

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