Design Debates: Keywords

Throughout the life of this game the designers have done quite a few interesting things with the mechanics of the quests. Some of these innovations have been repeated in subsequent quests while others have never been seen again. Both categories, and the breakdown of which is which, make fruitful ground for discussion. As broad as the subject is though, I am in this post confining myself purely to those mechanics which were specifically codified as keywords.
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The Line Unbroken – N29: Nightmare The Druadan Forest

The Druadan Forest in standard difficulty is a quest which I and a lot of people have rather mixed feelings about given the presence of some very swingy effects, among them the potential for frankly ridiculous amounts of Archery damage. The Nightmare version doesn’t fix those issues, but it does nevertheless receive a lot of love for how unique it is as a twist on the standard mechanics not just of the individual quest but of the game in general.
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Deck: Willpower is Overrated

This deck is based on a bit of a gimmick idea, but one I found irresistible as soon as it occurred to me. It has taken me a while to actually get round to building it, but as soon as Leadership Eomer was spoiled as one of the heroes coming in Mountain of Fire I’ve wanted to build a deck around this hero lineup – being the three heroes who all trigger their abilities by questing but have only 1 willpower: Eomer (Ld)/Theodred/Thalin.
Edit: I guess I forgot about Spirit Legolas when I came up with this idea. This is a much easier trio for the sphere balance though.
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The Line Unbroken – N28: Nightmare The Steward’s Fear

The Steward’s Fear is a favourite quest for a lot of people for it’s interesting mechanics and good replay value. I’ve always been a fan of it for those reasons, but when in the past I’ve tried to carry that enjoyment over into the Nightmare version it hasn’t worked out so well for me for various reasons. The Nightmare deck adds a couple of things which can really mess you up if you didn’t bring the right kind of deck, in my experience so while I have had some successes I’m somewhat apprehensive coming into this and we’ll have to see if I can figure out something effective.
My Progression-style card pool at this point extends to the end of the Ring-maker cycle.
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Design Debates: Debatable Traits

This is going to be a bit of an oddity as far as my Design Debates series goes – usually I’m doing a general analysis of an aspect of the game before shifting the focus over to more specific examples of where the application is more questionable. In this case, I have little to say about the generality of traits in this game, but there are a fair few examples of their application being arguably a bit weird and they are thus worthy of comment.
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The Line Unbroken – N27: Nightmare Siege of Cair Andros

Heirs of Numenor is once again rounded out by Siege of Cair Andros, but of course this time in Nightmare mode. This quest I feel is a great example of the other aspect of the improved Nightmare design from this point – no rebalancing like the removal of Collateral Damage and Watcher in the Wood (though the Nightmare deck does remove the absolutely game-breaking Power of Mordor), but more of a refocusing around the mechanics. I suppose that was already somewhat of a thing with earlier Nightmares, but I think from HoN they started doing more of it.
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The Line Unbroken – N26: Nightmare Into Ithilien

While I highlighted the improvement of Nightmare decks beginning at Peril in Pelargir, Into Ithilien is the quest which really cemented that feeling for me; since in general they took a very difficult and sometimes unfair quest and transformed it into a more difficult but fairer one, and in specific the Nightmare deck actually removes my most hated card from the encounter deck.

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The Line Unbroken – N25: Nightmare Peril in Pelargir

With the Hobbit sagas done, my journey through the Nightmare quests comes to Heirs of Numenor and the Against the Shadow cycle. In my opinion this point marks a definite improvement in the Nightmare design. It was at this point the Nightmare versions of the quests started featuring some more significant mechanical alterations which are always interesting, and they also started making changes to the encounter decks more along the lines of rebalancing than just increasing the difficulty, sometimes actually removing particularly punishing cards which skew the balance and difficulty of the quest (i.e. the kind of cards I tend to complain about).
At this point the Nightmare decks were coming quite close together, so the only new additions to my Progression-style card pool are The Road Darkens and The Nin-in-Eilph.
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Deck – Galdor’s Fall

As you may recall, some time ago I built a couple of decks based on the principle of using The Fall of Gil-Galad to turn a three hero deck into a two hero Secrecy deck after receiving some sort of benefit from starting with a third hero. Of course, recently, this idea has been kind of expanded on and made easier by the creation of Folco Boffin – but I still think there’s some value in doing it the more complicated way with Fall of Gil-Galad. Folco works for the basic idea but all you get out of him is the extra resources and his stats until you discard him, whereas if you use Fall of Gil-Galad to get more or less the same effect you can use any hero and gain the benefits of their particular abilities, at the cost of Fall of Gil-Galad being obviously tough to find in the deck. So I came back to the concept to polish up one of these I’d been meaning to do since the first two, with the hero intended to die being Galdor.

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Archetype Analysis: Dunedain

The next archetype I want to take a look at for Archetype Analysis is the Dunedain archetype as developed in the Angmar Awakened cycle. In story terms I’ve always liked the Dunedain, so as soon as they started getting developed I was excited by the prospect. They proved not perhaps the easiest type of deck to figure out, but very powerful if you do all the right things, which continued to endear the trait to me. So let’s take a look at what makes Dunedain decks tick.
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