Time for another Nightmare Review! Today I will be reviewing Nightmare Trouble in Tharbad. Now Trouble in Tharbad is a fantastic quest that features a very unique way of advancing to the final stage. You reduce threat by questing and when all players get to zero threat you advance to Stage 2 ready for a showdown with Bellach and a quick escape into the Marshlands. The original quest whilst very unique and fun is definitely on the easy side and so long as you are able to quest hard there is little to no danger of losing. There isn’t a ton of combat and even when there is enemies are more focused on removing time counters or revealing additional encounter cards than dealing damage. There are even a few locations that can be quite beneficial if you travel to them at the right time.
The Nightmare version of this quest turns almost all of this on its head. We are given some seriously fierce new enemies one of which has boss stats and a killer ability (no pun intended!), all the beneficial locations are removed from the encounter deck, there are plenty of extra ways for your threat elimination level to drop other than Stage 1B’s effect and threat in staging is in general a fair bit higher making you work for that threat reduction on Stage 1. Now this really improves the quest as it is still nowhere near the difficulty level of a quest like Battle of Carn Dum or Ruins of Belegost so is not over punishing but is also not just a complete pushover either. It is an actual challenge now and you are forced to make some difficult decisions as well.
I recently did a turn by turn report on Trouble in Tharbad so it will be very fun revisiting this quest but in Nightmare mode instead. I have never actually played this quest in Nightmare mode so I am excited to find out what it holds in store for me. Will my decks have what it takes to escape Tharbad in time? Lets find out!
Now just before I report on the games I played against this quest lets talk about what the nightmare version of this quest brings to the table. Unlike the last nightmare quest I reviewed (The Seventh Level) this one does not introduce a new mechanic. Instead it just boosts the mechanic already existing in this quest. There are extra ways to have your threat elimination level reduced, there is a TON more threat gain and plenty of new ways for time counters to be removed from quest stages.
The first game was tense! The Three Hunters ended on 10 threat and The Last Elven Host ended on 12 threat and both decks had a threat elimination level of 24 at the end. While neither deck was close to that level it was still the lowest threat elimination level I’ve ever had playing this quest and my threat went from 0 for both decks to 10 and 12 within just a few turns. Had I not finished when I had I might have seen cards like City of Spies or Blood Hound over the next few turns and threated out eventually. It was a very real threat looming in the background as I slowly made my way through Stage 1. It was far harder to make big quest pushes as high threat cards like Dark Pathway and Bellach’s Hunter appeared quite often. I also had the location that adds +1 threat to all city locations in staging with a copy of Tharbad Patrol attached. Wanting to avoid the effect on Tharbad Patrol I left this location in staging for almost the entire game. This meant all city locations (which I’m pretty sure is every location in this quest) had +1 threat while in staging. This also slowed me down a fair bit. Ultimately though arriving at Stage 2 was the hardest part of this game. I managed to get things relatively under control with staging empty as I arrived at Stage 2. The effect on Stage 2 however that adds two Orc enemies added an Orc Hunter and Bellach’s Hunter. This was after staging already revealed an enemy and the other Bellach’s Hunter was already engaged with The Last Elven Host from earlier in the game and Bellach himself obviously appears at Stage 2. I had a very worrying round of combat in which Glorfindel ally fell to a strong attack as an emergency defender and various heroes took damage in their defensive duties. I was able to strike back and kill Bellach and one of his Hunters and quest to victory a few turns later. So not as close as it could have been threat and threat elimination level wise but I had a few rounds of combat that were seriously worrying.
The second game was even more tense and I actually came very close to a loss. Both decks had an elimination level of 28 at the end and the decks were on 19 (Three Hunters) and 11 (Last Host) threat at the end. The Three Hunters at one point was only a few threat off its elimination level and I stayed on Stage 1B way too long. I managed to take out a copy of Bellach’s Hunter in staging with Hands Upon the Bow and Gandalf which I was pretty happy about as it meant I avoided the engagement effect. Once I got control and arrived at Stage 2 however it became much easier and after Bellach fell it was a race to the finish. I did encounter quite a bit of threat gain on the second stage and had I taken much more both decks would have been at risk of threating out. Both decks threat elimination level at the end was actually higher than at the end of the first game but because I took so much longer on Stage 1B there was much less of a gap between both decks actual threat and their threat elimination level. I had to quest HARD to overcome the situation I was in and Legolas constantly lowering each decks threat by 2 by placing progress with his ability each time he killed a foe was probably key to my victory. He was placing progress straight on the quest stage because few locations appeared so there as often no active location. Although the encounter deck and its reveals were far nastier in this game the decks ran far more efficiently and I had an army of allies and attachments by the end. Had I played this second game with the same cards I started with and drew during the first game this may have also led to a loss.
Here is a brief breakdown of each Nightmare Card in this quest and my experiences with them during my two games:
Bellach’s Hunter is an awful enemy and potential hero killer with his insanely nasty ability. On stage 2 he combos with Bellach and has -50 engagement cost as long as a player has 5 or more allies which is really awful. This happened to me during the first game and I was forced to engage one (another engaged me earlier). One engaged me earlier and Elrond with Elven Mail soaked 5 damage which I quickly healed. The second time I had to remove 3 time counters from Stage 2 (and raise both players threat) as Elrond already had a point of damage so 5 would have killed him even with Elven Mail. During the second game I only encountered one copy and took it out in staging. The Hunter is an incredibly potent foe ability aside as he has a whopping 6 attack which is worthy of a boss enemy (more in fact than Bellach himself!) and a high 4 armor and 6 hitpoints.
Orc Seeker is not as bad as Bellach’s Hunter but is still nasty in its own way. If you can’t afford to make an additional defense and have to reduce each players threat level by 2 it puts more stress and importance to quest quickly and efficiently. Four attack is nothing to sneeze at either. The shadow effect is nasty as well and punishes you severely for taking undefended attacks. I encountered several Orc Seekers in both games and chose accordingly to my board state but usually took the -2 to threat elimination level as the decks can quest hard and clear Stage 1 fairly easily and then take out Bellach and quest to victory in Stage 2.
Blood Hound looks awful but was not that much of a threat. Early game he can be as you may have high threat (especially thanks to the +5 threat at the start of the game thanks to the Nightmare Setup card) and might be close to threat elimination level after the first time Stage 1B’s time effect triggers. Either way so long as you can quest hard on Stage 1 or beat Stage 2 quickly his +5 threat is fairly negligible. A fairly weak enemy that can be easily destroyed as well. The shadow effect is honestly probably worse than the Blood Hound itself as you area almost always going to take the additional attack as ten threat is just huge. Easily the least threatening Nightmare enemy in this quest. I did not have much trouble from them in either game.
City of Spies is not a location you want to leave in staging. It raises threat for EACH character committed to the quest not just when you commit characters at all. In a way because you are questing to reduce threat on Stage 1 this location is saying -1 willpower to each character. This can slow you down massively if you don’t travel there. I didn’t encounter this location in my first game thankfully and during my second game I was able to travel to the single copy that appeared before it’s effect was able to raise my threat by a single point.
Dark Pathway is the second new location we get in the Nightmare version of this quest. Not as bad as City of Spies in my opinion but still quite nasty. The last thing we need treacheries to be given is surge! So long as you can clear this location quickly it doesn’t pose too much threat and you do get to choose between the threat or letting the effect be active by travelling there. If its effect triggered while it was in staging it would be downright brutal! What I find the biggest concern with this card is if it is the active location during a round in which an awful treachery appears that you cancel, that treachery then gains surge (as the surge is not part of the when revealed part of the card) and replaces itself or reveals an even nastier treachery! I encountered one copy during my first game that I eventually cleared. It made a single treachery (that was in fact cancelled) gain surge which only brought out another enemy which was not that bad. In my second game I saw this location again and again it gave a treachery surge. Essentially with the amount of treacheries in this quest this location is almost always going to trigger. That being said the 5 threat is not something you want to leave in staging either so honestly its best to just clear Dark Pathway quickly. Any effects that allow you to place progress outside of the quest phase are fantastic and could allow you to clear this location while it is active avoiding its effect altogether.
Tharbad Patrol…. There are some nightmare cards that are just gross. You see them and cringe. They have a super nasty effect, have surge as well and are just all round awful. At first glance I thought this was definitely one of those cards. Tharbad Patrol however did not trigger once during both my games. It would either fizzle (when no location was in staging) so it is probably just as well that it has surge or it would attach to a location that I would then never travel to. The worst location this treachery can end up on is definitely City of Spies because if City of Spies sits in staging too long you are going to be severely punished by its effect. Luckily I had Tharbad Patrol attach to locations like Streets of Tharbad and Seedy Inn which already have nasty effects when you travel to them so it is even more beneficial avoiding both their effect and the effect of Tharbad Patrol. Top 2 cards of the encounter deck PER PLAYER is a pretty serious effect especially with the ton of enemies in this Nightmare Quest. This effect could potentially put 4 extra enemies in play in a two player game which is no joke at all. If it was 1 card per player I would risk travelling to the attached location if need be but at 2 cards no thank you! There could certainly be situations in which you have no choice but to travel to the attached location. Honestly other than these situations though I think it is far more beneficial and strategic to just leave that location alone in staging and avoid the effect on Tharbad Patrol altogether. It can be easily removed with condition attachment is something I should mention so decks running condition removal can easily deal with this card. I did not include Power of Orthanc just for this single condition in the quest and decided to face it head on instead. Due to me just avoiding attached locations anyway using Power would have been detrimental as it would raise both decks threat bringing me closer to threat elimination levels!
Waylaid by Agents is the final Nightmare card and is the second Nightmare treachery. This one can be awful at certain moments or inconsequential at others. Often I would discard allies like Galadhrim Healer which have already served their purpose doing healing as they enter play. I canceled a copy of this card in both games to avoid having to discard key allies or losing multiple time counters off the first quest Stage. Each other time it appeared though each deck discarded an ally instead. The Doomed 3 is pretty awful and will definitely trigger in the first few turns you spend at Stage 2 considering you have 0 threat when you arrive at Stage 2. Early game you are more than likely going to remove time counters as you may only have a single ally or two out and losing one of them might be highly damaging to your board state. Late game you are more than likely going to discard an ally as you should have decent forces built up but extra time counters coming off either stage might be disastrous.
This Nightmare Quest is definitely a bit harder than the last (The Seventh Level) but not by that much. It definitely makes the quest a lot more exciting and tense and makes it really feel like you are trying to escape Tharbad undetected. The normal version of this quest is really easy so it never feels like you are in that much danger or are in that much of a rush. Even if your threat elimination level drops to like 30 or 20 so long as you can quest well this isn’t too much of a concern. Also Stage 2 is super easy and can be cleared very quickly, in the new Nightmare quest you cannot place progress on The Crossing at Tharbad if Bellach is in play so you are more or less forced to destroy him before you can actually achieve victory. Not only this but he does not have victory points and is shuffled back into the encounter deck upon his defeat! This means if he appears again after an initial defeat you will have to destroy him again before you are able to achieve victory. I luckily did not have this happen as I was able to clear Stage 2 quite fast after dealing with Bellach but at the same time whenever I was trying to place progress on The Crossing I was paranoid he would reappear and put a pin in my plans. Even just a few extra rounds at Stage 2 can very quickly raise your threat as you have the time effect on the quest Stage itself, plenty of cards that punish you or gain surge if your threat is less than 20 and lots of cards that just raise threat in general like Waylaid by Agents, City of Spies or Blood Hound.
This quest is definitely less “swingy” or variable as Nightmare The Seventh Level but does share some similarities. Both introduce a new boss enemy to a quest that did not feature a boss and both make what is normally a very easy quest an actual challenge. Beyond that they are very different beasts. Both games had me on the edge of my seat at times and I had an absolute blast playing this quest. I loved the various decisions I had to make (honestly this is probably my favourite kind of encounter card; one that offers choices) and the struggle/balance between placing progress and keeping threat low so that I could eventually advance to Stage 2 while also trying to get rid of foes as quickly as possible. I almost encountered a loss during the second game and was only a few points off elimination level with one of the two decks. During the second game however the decks were working at more or less full power so I was able to hang on and turn the game around.
The player voted difficulty of the regular version of this quest on the Quest Companion is 4.3/10 (http://lotr-lcg-quest-companion.com/the-ring-maker-quest-trouble-in-tharbad.html). As usual this is just a very vague and rough difficultly rating as every quest is different depending on both the player and deck taking it on but if I had to I would say that the Nightmare version brings the difficulty of this quest up to a 6.75 roughly. It still remains more than doable for the majority of decent decks but is not anywhere near as easy anymore and requires decks that can not only quest hard but can hold their own in combat as well which I don’t think the original really required. Had a great time playing this nightmare quest and from now on when playing Trouble in Tharbad I will more than likely only play the Nightmare version as it just adds so much more tension and excitement and provides much more of a challenge. Hope that you enjoyed the review! Nightmare Lost Realm is on its way to me right now so I hope to do some Nightmare Reviews on those quests soon!