Hello! It’s been a little while since my last post as I have been fairly busy of late. One of the things I have been busy with is actually trying out new versions of my decks including a pretty big hero change! I changed Galdor out for Galadriel and made several changes to both decks to support the hero change and so that I could include Galadriel’s various toys. I played a bunch of quests to try the decks out and so far have been able to play and beat City of Corsairs, Massing at Osgiliath, Return to Mirkwood and Journey down the Anduin. I will be using these new decks against the Nightmare Quest I am reviewing today. Anyway lets not get sidetracked, on to Today’s article!
This time round I am reviewing Nightmare The Weather Hills! The original quest is the second in the Lost Realm deluxe box and a quest I play pretty regularly to be honest. I really enjoy the mechanics and theme of this quest: enemies entering play after locations are explored, needing to defeat a certain amount of enemies to advance, nasty weather effects and the objective card flipping and serving a different purpose on the second quest stage. You need to bring some serious healing and/or cancellation to the table to deal with weather effects and direct damage from the encounter deck, you need to have decent questing power to clear locations consistently and then quest hard in the second stage and you need to be able to handle combat well as there will be more Orcs than you think in just about every game you play of this quest! That being said it is not that hard of a quest so long as you are prepared. If you bring no healing at all or cannot handle a swing in combat then sure you are probably going to lose some games but so long as you can handle these areas of gameplay with your decks then you shouldn’t struggle too much. I’m hoping that the Nightmare quest does increase difficulty but doesn’t turn this quest into a nigh impossible slog fest. Intruders in Chetwood took quite a few attempts to beat and I hope I can defeat this one more easily.
In the original quest you essentially need to get 5 tokens on Hunting the Orcs (in two player/two handed) by clearing locations and killing Orc enemies and then on Stage 2 you need to clear the Stage’s 20 quest points as well as Amon Forn without letting the tokens on Savage Counter Attack run out. The Nightmare quest is more or less the same but with a few twists. The first of which is the new inclusion of Captured Villagers. Objective allies that you must rescue from Orc enemies and defend until the end of the game. They are shuffled into the Orc Deck and can appear any time you clear a location during Stage 1. They add +5 to the engagement level of the first player once rescued so they draw attention and allow more enemies to engage you which can be a serious problem if you are not capable of handling additional foes. You will not see these Villagers in every game but in most at least one or two will appear and require rescuing. Once rescued they sort of just sit around in play (even if you do boost their stats and quest with them you run the risk of them dying from weather and treachery damage) for the rest of the game increasing your engagement level. Another big change is that the Orc Deck is very different in the nightmare version, there are fewer weak Orc enemies or copies of Concealed Orc Camp and instead we see the copies of Rearguard Ambusher (ready to exhaust characters after they are damaged by treachery effects) and Captured Villager added to the Orc Deck alongside the nastier of the original inclusions such as Angmar Captain and Angmar Orc (who is weak but discards an ally from play or reveals an encounter card). There are also far fewer copies of Cornered Orc and instead we see a bunch of Angmar Raiders in the normal encounter deck (they are not shuffled into the Orc deck just like Cornered Orc). Finally the remaining nightmare cards focus on strengthening or buffing the already existing mechanics of this quest: treachery direct damage, removing resources from the mission objective and punishing the player for having damaged characters.
On to the actual games! The first game I actually managed a somewhat easy victory thanks to killer starting hands and great draws throughout the game. I was able to cancel several treacheries and lock down combat big time and card draw was no problem either thanks to Foe Hammer, Galadriel and Gandalf ally. I saw plenty of nasty Nightmare cards but through selective and careful healing each turn thanks to Caregiver or Galadrim Healer I was able to avoid most effects or even make them work in my favor! I was able to keep Gandalf (Core Set) around a few turns longer thanks to getting him damaged during the combat phase while Cold from Angmar was in play. With StwB he was questing for 5 each round over several turns! Cold from Angmar was pretty damaging against Galadriel (stopping me from using her ability or Nenya) and Elrond (drastically shutting down healing) so I had to make sure I put damage on heroes like Aragorn and Arwen (who had the least important abilities in a way) instead and healed it when I could. Both decks performed admirably and managed to handle anything the encounter deck threw at me! I had a fairly decent army of allies and attachments towards the end and easily slew any remaining Orcs left in Amon Forn. I also cleared both Orc Ambush and Track the Orcs with ease. Galadriel and Gandalf (core ally) were critical when it came to threat reduction as I stayed on Stage 1 for quite a while and the combat deck had pretty high threat by the time I achieved victory. It took quite a while to get 5 resources on Hunting the Orcs as many effects remove counters.
The second game was an absolute disaster and I got completely destroyed very early on… I simply could not muster enough willpower to successfully quest a few turns in and threat in staging just went bananas thanks to a copy of weathered hilltop that got up to about 5 threat, several 3 threat locations and the side quest Track the Orcs keeping enemies in staging. Make Camp was also in play so I could not heal characters and damage was spread across the board with Cold from Angmar also in play. I conceded a turn or two out from either threating out or several heroes dying from undefended attacks/treachery damage finishing them off. Funnily enough there were few Nightmare cards that actually appeared during this game other than a copy of Rain-Washed Tracks that appeared on the first round of staging and shut down questing. This did create a snowball effect though and was the main cause of not being able to keep up with threat in the staging area. I decided that just these two games were not enough so I decided to play a few more till I got another win. After two more losses where more or less the same thing happens and I just cannot clear the staging area and active location fast enough and damage and/or threat piles up I finally get another win! This time it is much closer however and right up until the end I was expecting something terrible to happen to turn it around. The decks kept it together though and overcame the onslaught of orcs and foul weather. The second and third losses were more influenced by the new nightmare cards than the first loss was as the new locations clogged up staging while the new enemies wrought havoc on my heroes and allies.
Here is a brief breakdown of each Nightmare Card in this quest and my experiences with them during my various games:
As you can see you cannot win the game while a copy of Captive Villager is guarded. In my first game I did not even see a single copy of Captive Villager so this meant nothing! In most of my other games I had at least one appear though and in my second victory I saw all three copies by the end of the game. It will always vary how many you see but so long as you can clear the first quest stage quickly you see less chance of them appearing as the Orc deck gets shuffled into the encounter deck at that point. What’s more if you see a copy of Captive Villager appear while you are at Stage 2 no encounter card will be attached to it as there is no longer an Orc deck!! I almost feel as though this is something the developers did not intend to happen but who knows!
Rearguard Ambusher is a fierce enemy and punishes you for having damaged characters. By keeping damage off your combat characters you can avoid his effect from being too detrimental but by placing damage on your questing characters you avoid treachery effects removing them from the quest or placing further damage on them! Essentially heal any damage you can!! I encountered this enemy in pretty much every game but did not have that much trouble against them except for one round where enemies utterly overcame my heroes. Readying effects during/after defending enemy attacks help big time with this foe.
Angmar Raider is even worse than Rearguard Ambusher as it not only hits harder and is harder to kill but its effect can allow it to make several additional attacks especially if you need to heal damage off multiple characters belonging to the engaged player/deck. You need to destroy these guys quickly and having powerful combat heroes, allies and weapon attachments are key to destroying them quickly. The shadow effect is also something to take note of as I had a Cornered Orc receive two copies of this card as shadow cards during one round boosting its defense to a ridiculous level (Ruined Watchtower was the active location as well…) and the weakest of enemies suddenly became untouchable at something like 8 defense. I encountered a few copies of this card during my victories and by focusing all firepower on them when engaged with one I was able to avoid any additional attacks being made at any point. No other enemies in this quest make additional attacks on turns after they engage you so it is fairly stress free to focus your counter attacks on Angmar Raiders first and foremost when they are in play. During some of my losses I had Raiders making additional attacks usually killing allies in the process…
Tracking the Orcs is a fairly nasty side quest. Not only does it completely change engagement and combat by stopping optional engagement but it can also clog up the staging area with enemies by also giving them +10 engagement cost. It even brings an enemy into play when it appears! (so long as you haven’t exhausted the Orc deck by that point). I encountered this card in most of my games but was usually able to quickly clear it so that I would only have to deal with its effects for a single turn. In the second game this side quest and Make Camp both sat in play and contributed as I slowly lost.
Captive Villager really isn’t too bad in the long run. Sure it adds +5 to the first players engagement level for the rest of the game but other than that it doesn’t do that much. You aren’t going to quest with them or use them for combat so you do not risk them dying from damage. Using them to defend would be an insanely silly decision as if a single Captive Villager dies you lose the game. I actually did not encounter a single copy in my first game so this new element of the quest literally did not even appear or affect me at all. They did appear in every other game however but never did one of them die or leave play and only once were they the direct cause of extra enemies engaging and somewhat overwhelming me.
Ruined Watch-Tower is the first of two seriously nasty locations that this Nightmare quest features. If you leave it in staging it adds to the direct damage effects of this quest and damages characters whenever an Orc enemy is revealed. If you travel there it gives an immense defense boost to all enemies in play. Even with its defense boost I found myself traveling to these locations as quickly as possible and clearing them to avoid any extra damage being placed on my characters. There is enough direct damage from treacheries already so locations contributing to that has the potential to shut you down even if you have healing set up. The defense boost only lasts a turn so long as you clear the location the turn after traveling there so the effect can at least be removed quickly. It combos insanely with Orc Ambush or the shadow effect of Angmar Raider and can quickly turn an average Orc into a stalwart wall of defense that you cannot ever hope to damage. It is important to clear these locations and Orc Ambush on Stage 2 with extreme haste! I saw this location quite frequently during my games and either cleared it as soon as I could or had it contribute to my loss. Enemies in this quest can be dealt with via direct damage or staging attack so Gandalf, Hands Upon the Bow and Rumil were all quite handy in helping with enemies that had boosted defense. Tactigorn’s defense reduction and Rivendell Blade on Legolas were also obviously extremely useful and without them and capable combat allies I would never have stood a chance against all the boosted enemies in this quest.
Weather-torn Valley… honestly I cannot decide if this or Ruined Watch-Tower is worse. They both have completely different effects but are both awful locations. Weather-torn Valley doesn’t do anything especially nasty while in staging but does have a very high 5 threat so you don’t really want to leave it in staging either. While it is the active location it stops the very treachery cards you want to be able to cancel from being cancelled: weather cards…If you get an especially nasty round of staging while this card is the active location it could seriously cripple or damage your characters and even your chance at success. The only real option is to clear this location as quickly as possible or leave it in staging and build up willpower as much as you can so that its nasty 5 threat is negligible. Depending on what the situation called for I choose both options a few times over my various games and by quickly clearing it whenever I did travel to it I avoided too many weather effects steamrolling me. I could definitely see this location leading to a loss in certain situations so I always dreaded staging while it was the active location.
The only new treachery card in this Nightmare quest! I found Rain-washed Tracks a fairly interesting card. I was able to use it to my advantage at times by simply removing a resource token from the Mission objective which helped me stay on Stage 1 longer and build up forces for the Orc onslaught during Stage 2. It is a fairly nasty card to appear when you are on Stage 2 which is ironic thematically because the Orcs tracks and trail should no longer matter once you have discovered their hideout and are already doing battle with them! Either way this treachery is really not that bad and can even be beneficial at times. The shadow effect however is pretty nasty as +3 attack is no joke so if this appears as a shadow effect during Stage 2 it might be a very difficult or damaging decision you have to make. I never had too much trouble from this card and was usually happy to see it in place of an especially nasty weather effect or especially nasty enemy. I did see it once during the second game however right at the start before there were resources on the mission objective and had to add 8 extra threat to staging stopping me from clearing the initial Exposed Ridge, this bad start snowballed into a devastating loss so to be honest I am probably not giving this treachery enough credit… it is certainly a very different card depending on when it appears! I still found myself cancelling weather effects in most games but only once ever cancelled a copy of this card.
I really enjoyed this Nightmare quest! Much more than Intruders in Chetwood. The new Nightmare cards definitely ramp up the difficulty but the quest is not as random or swingy as Nightmare Intruders in Chetwood; no insane side quests shutting you down right off the bat). The direct damage and weather effects are nastier than ever and are boosted by locations and enemies now but so long as you plan accordingly you can still take this quest on head first and emerge victorious within a few attempts so long as you employ strategic healing and/or take advantage of encounter cards like Cold from Angmar or Rain-Washed Tracks. Being quick and exploring the right locations first and healing the right characters first are definitely very important elements in this Nightmare quest. Locations like Ruined Watch-tower, Weather-Torn Valley and Weathered Hilltop need to be dealt with quickly before they spiral out of control. Similarly Orc enemies like Angmar Raider need to be dispatched with haste. While you do need to clear encounter cards quickly you by no means have to clear Stage 1 quickly and I found that for my decks and style of play it was far more beneficial to stay on Stage 1 until I was well and truly ready for Stage 2. By doing so my decks were able to beat this quest in two of my five games. Rushing to Stage 2 and being overwhelmed (due to Orc Ambush, Amon Forn and having to reveal an additional encounter card during staging if you can’t/don’t want to remove a resource from the mission objective) early on is probably not a good idea unless you are using decks that absolutely blast right out of the gate and arriving at Stage 2 too fast and being overwhelmed was in fact the cause of my downfall during one of my losses. Cancellation is pretty important in this quest as well and if I had a Test of Will at the start of that second game I may have been able to cancel Rain-Washed Tracks and may not have suffered such a terrible defeat. Cancelling a nasty weather effect at a critical moment can be extremely beneficial and can stop the encounter deck from combo-ing cards together to really shut your characters down with damage.
I strongly recommend buying and/or playing this Nightmare Quest if you are interested in Nightmare Mode as it strongly improves the original quest but still remains very doable so long as you are using the right decks. Easily my favorite of the three Nightmare quests in the Lost Realm deluxe box and one I will definitely come back to time and time again!
As for a rough difficulty rating for this Nightmare quest I would have to say it is around the 7 mark. For reference the player voted difficulty of the regular version of this quest on the Quest Companion is 6.7/10 (http://lotr-lcg-quest-companion.com/the-lost-realm-quest-the-weather-hills.html).
As always I Hope you enjoyed the review! Let me know if there are any other Nightmare Quests you would like me to review!