Wrapping up the Khazad-dum deluxe expansion, this quest introduced the Balrog, the Nameless Fear, Durin’s Bane, for the first time! A fun introduction as these first two cycles kind of mirrored some events of the book before the game really took off in great, coherent storytelling adventures. I remember first playing this box and seeing the Nameless Fear and, indeed, being a little scared. But, with careful planning and game management, the big bad doesn’t pose too much of a threat. However, this is Khazad-dum, and all plans can, and probably will go awry. This quest is quite unpredictable, and you’re subject to wild swings that can drastically alter the game. Nevertheless, the quest can be fun!
No surprise here, Leadership Aragorn continues to be the stalwart presence in this deluxe box. His role continues to be quest/attack, and as usual, bring along some of his best attachments. Sword That was Broken can be quite crucial in this quest, if the Nameless Fear rises in threat. It can get to some fairly gaudy numbers, so having the willpower boost is really something you want to have available. However, sometimes, having too much willpower can backfire, so it is a delicate balance.
I’m continuing to include Roheryn, mainly just for Aragorn to gain the Tactics icon, as the attacking portion is less important here. I included the steed in order to support the other characters, allowing me to play a few Tactics attachments. But, there are some terrifying enemies, besides the Nameless Fear, which you thankfully never have to actually fight. The Great Cave-troll is quite powerful, so Gondorian Fire is here as insurance. Furthermore, Steward of Gondor will generate resources that I’ll need for some allies that I’m using for the first time.
Once again, I’m featuring a different defender, making that three new heroes to the series, and a new hero each quest. Dain Ironfoot, his Leadership version, makes an appearance as I finally felt I needed to at least honor the dwarf realm with the inclusion of a dwarf theme. Dain provides another willpower boost for the dwarf allies in the deck, and with some added defensive attachments, becomes a solid defender. Though, if I owned his newer Spirit incarnation, I certainly would’ve gone that route!
Dain will be equipped with the Dwarven Shield, as well as every Dunedain Warning I can find. The shield is a fun card that can possible give him resources, which when it came out, was intended to help bolster Leadership Gimli’s ability, but in this case, supports a couple of allies. Dain needs to be ready at all times, to provide willpower and attack boosts, so the Armored Destrier offers that, and also Unexpected Courage.
The allies Dain will be boosting include the Gimli ally, as well as the Dwarven Sellsword. I’ve never used them before, and so long as you have the resources to spare, they’re amazing for only 1 Leadership resource out of hand. I only included two, as paying for 3 each round felt too steep. They are why I included Steward, and the Dwarven Shield can help pay for them as well if Dain takes damage. Another dwarf is Bofur, who effectively, has a neat little sneak attack ability, and if I’m flush with Spirit resources, I may wind up just playing him normally and leaving him on the table. Gimli is all around versatile, as he can quest and attack or defend if an enemy is revealed, allowing him to ready. Dain boosts all of these dwarves to 3 willpower characters, which is fantastic.
I’ve also tossed in a couple copies of Dwarrowdelf Axe, as I can play them with Roheryn attached, and this weapon attaches to dwarf characters, not just heroes. So, I will look to play them on Gimli or the Sellswords. If Dain is ready, this will give those allies 4 attack, plus the extra direct damage.
Galadriel continues to be an amazingly useful ally, with high willpower, and a free attachment, hopefully. Stacking those cards to draw is great. Gandalf of course, serves his usual purpose, and for the most part, I find myself only using him with Sneak Attack and card draw. Late in the game, he can be good to just play and quest, or attack, if a Cave Troll shows up. The last ally is just a little Andrath Guardsman splashed in, solely for the potential “feint” effect on a possible Cave Troll.
Opening Hand and Strategy
Card draw is important to see in my opening hand, so hopefully Elven-light or Galadriel. I would say that some form of defense buff for Dain is the best thing to see next to card draw, so either a Dunedain Warning or the Dwarven Shield. Without one of my card draw options, though, it’s tough to handle this quest, if things go sideways. Allies are nice, as there are some Sudden Pitfalls in this encounter deck. However, I don’t want to play a Sellsword at a time where I know I will be stuck without the resources to pay for them to remain in play. Bofur might be the best ally to see in an opening hand, as he can provide insurance for failing a quest phase.
The biggest strategy here, I guess, is just to survive and try to find those Abandoned Tools. There are only two means of escaping Moria, and one involves seeing the quest stage Narrow Paths, then Escape from Darkness; but the other is a major gamble: Blocked by Shadow. I have to say, I love to gamble on Blocked by Shadow, to my detriment. I love to see Narrow Paths early, as usually the Nameless Fear is only 2 threat, and thus, failing a quest phase isn’t that terrible in the early game, since you’ll only be able to count one character’s willpower (Arwen).
I like to bypass quest stages selectively, so this is not always something I’ll do. For instance, you can’t place progress on Escape from Darkness, except via Abandoned Tools, so I might stay on that stage for a couple turns if need be, to cut out the randomness of the quest, and allow myself to build up allies and such. I also try not to quest too heavily, as it can be terrible to commit a lot of willpower, then reveal something like A Wrong Turn, and wind up boosting Nameless Fear by adding it to your victory display. Similarly, if Narrow Paths is my active quest, I try to quest lightly, so that I only place 1 or 2 progress on it, as opposed to fully exploring it.
Overall, this is quite a random quest, and it can be extremely frustrating. If I have A Test of Will, then I will save it for New Devilry. In most cases, I can handle the damage from A Foe Beyond which cannot be canceled, but New Devilry is such an aggravating card, and can literally take you from 1 progress away from victory, to totally re-setting the game. That treachery is the worst. So I will always hope to cancel it, but it can be demoralizing, so beware. Enjoy the game!