The Line Unbroken – NC1: Nightmare Shadow of the Past

Alright, time for The Line Unbroken to return to Nightmare for a while. Specifically, it’s time for me to begin my Nightmare saga campaign with Nightmare Black Riders. I’ve been looking forward to this, because campaign mode is fun, though I have no special love for the Nightmare versions of the saga quests (nor much antipathy, I haven’t really played them yet). So let’s get into it.

Now, for my standard difficulty Line Unbroken campaign of course I’ve been switching heroes around a fair bit to accommodate new releases and try somewhat to match the original story. Here I am throwing off those restrictions and so I intend to do what I imagine most people probably do when they play saga campaigns, which is of course to take the same deck(s) through the whole campaign (more or less). So what do I want to take? There is some guidance to be had from the nature of the campaign quests, like the fact a focus on powerful heroes rather than an ally swarm can work out better in some quests, and the fact I may want to plan which hero is getting thrown off the Bridge of Khazad-Dum with the Balrog (I could get around that with Sword-thain, but I feel that would be against the spirit of the thing). Beyond that, though, it’s more a question of my own preferences. Oh, and the card pool at the time of this Nightmare release was Lost Realm and no further.
Preferences then. My favourite hero is Gandalf, so he’s going to feature. I’d like to try and create my own version of the Fellowship of the Ring, with a similar variety of races – Frodo and Aragorn will turn up automatically for Hobbits and Men, so I definitely need a Dwarf and an Elf – and if I want to break it down further there’s the Silvan/Noldor and Gondor/Rohan/Dunedain splits to consider, plus les common traits like Dale or Beorning. And of course I want to include all four spheres. For my elf, Arwen springs to mind but she isn’t available to me at this point. Galadriel is always a favourite though. My options for Dwarves are more limited since I don’t want to build a Dwarf deck – my reasonable options I think are Bifur, Balin, Gimli and Gloin, with the latter two obviously requiring a bit more building around. If I want to go for all the racial traits then I want Silvan and Gondor… Haldir is a good choice and Denethor’s pretty great, not least because once the card pool advances a bit I can use the Leadership version. Finally, actually one of my first thoughts beyond Gandalf was that I kind of wanted to use Hama as my Tactics hero – I haven’t used him since the errata and I feel like could still be decent. The immediately noticeable downside was a shortage of willpower, though I could potentially get around it in the long run of each game. I started thinking about switching him out for that reason, then figured I could work with it given some retooling, but encountered a problem when I reached Flight to the Ford, that being the high threat inherent to a Gandalf deck versus the engagement cost of Fell Riders. So naturally I replaced him with the even higher threat Beorn – because I’m pretty much going to have this problem whatever I do, so if I have to deal with early engagements I may as well have a load of early-game power to handle it – Beorn’s starting 5 attack and ability to cover defences can keep things under control until Haldir and Denethor come properly online. And as a Beorning of course he is still from a different race of free peoples compared to everyone else. Story-wise I feel like it works out OK – we just have to imagine Beorn is longer-lived than he was actually meant to be and so we have a group coming to help Frodo composed of two of Bilbo’s old friends, Galadriel seeking to avert catastrophe and bringing one of her most skilled captains to assist, Gandalf obviously, and we imagine a less embittered Denethor heeding Gandalf’s warnings and taking prophetic dreams as a potent enough threat to warrant the direct attention of the Steward himself rather than just sending his sons to Rivendell.

For Shadow of the Past specifically the requirements haven’t changed from standard difficulty. Willpower and action advantage for Hide tests are still the order of the day, with a preference for low ally counts since on stage 2 your number of allies is added to the threat discarded for a Hide test. For what allies I do have Galadriel fits in nicely since they won’t exhaust to quest the round they enter play, and of course once she has Nenya she can potentially contribute her willpower to a Hide test on either side of the table, after the cards are discarded, which gives a lot of flexibility. One other thing is that it can be nice to stall for a bit on stage 1, but given the quest stage has only 1 quest point it’s a tough mark to hit unless you can bring side-quests. I can at least bring Gather Information, but no others due to the time of release.

Vigilance Against the Darkness


Allies (10):
Arwen Undomiel x3
Bilbo Baggins x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Bofur (Sp) x1

Attachments (25):
Bow of the Galadhrim x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Mirror of Galadriel x3
Light of Valinor x3
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Nenya x3
Wizard Pipe x2
Shadowfax x2

Events (14):
Feint x3
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Dwarven Tomb x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x2

Side-quests (1):
Gather Information x1

Thoughts: Gandalf mostly just quests and helps the deck run efficiently, Galadriel can contribute willpower with Nenya and otherwise also just helps the deck run efficiently. Beorn obviously just covers combat, especially in the early-game.
Arwen is essential to get Denethor established as a defender, with the Sentinel being the most important aspect, though the +1 defence is also pretty handy. Bilbo can make the deck more efficient by finding the Wizard Pipe faster, Handmaidens are standard generic willpower and of course the threat reduction may be relevant both because of this deck’s high starting threat and the other deck’s desire to never engage anything at all, and Bofur’s a nice potential little splash of additional willpower.
Attachments are a lot of the core of this deck – Bows for Haldir and a Shield for Denethor are crucial components of the combat setup, while Unexpected Courage and Light of Valinor (for Haldir) provide that all-important action advantage, primarily for combat but Hide tests could also be a thing. Light of Valinor is actually a lot more important than I would’ve initially expected, because it’s very important that Haldir be ready for combat, but as noted I don’t have the best starting willpower so that extra 2 from Haldir is a big deal. The Mirror of Galadriel is another thing which can help the deck run efficiently and find the things it needs. The random discards shouldn’t be that big of a problem partly because I can use Dwarven Tombs to retrieve any discarded Spirit cards and largely because the cards which are important enough for me to be really bothered by losing them are also important enough that I’m going to play them as soon as I can so they shouldn’t be in my hand to be discarded. Nenya is very useful with regards to Hide tests as mentioned, Gandalf’s Staff is always great, Wizard Pipe is very important and only downgraded to x2 because it can be fetched by Bilbo. Shadowfax is not actually that important, but it’s nice to have at least.
Dwarven Tombs are here mainly because of the Mirror as already noted, threat reduction is significant as already noted, with Elrond’s Counsel having the extra benefit of being another way I can add willpower to a Hide test after discarding the cards for it. Feints are of course also standard, but additionally attack cancellation is more significant than it might be in other contexts as my primary defender requires some setup and Beorn can only go so long.

All Strengths Combined

Haldir of Lorien

Allies (9):
Master of the Forge x3
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Errand-rider x3

Attachments (19):
Song of Battle x3
Steward of Gondor x3
King Under the Mountain x3
Dunedain Mark x3
Cram x2
Lembas x2
Thror’s Map x1
Fellowship of the Ring x1
Celebrian’s Stone x1

Events (21):
Campfire Tales x3
We Are Not Idle x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3
Secret Paths x3
Hands Upon the Bow x3
Unseen Strike x3

Side-quests (1):
Gather Information x1

Thoughts: The main point of Balin is that he’s a Dwarf to be perfectly honest, but having shadow cancellation available is always nice. Otherwise he just quests. Haldir and Denethor handle combat once they’ve been powered up with attachments, and when he has actions spare of course Denethor’s encounter deck scrying can come in very handy.
This deck carries some significant vestiges of the version where my Tactics hero was Hama – I found that with this card pool and setup I didn’t have a lot of obvious events to recur with him, with Unseen Strike and Hands Upon the Bow being two good options but in the wrong deck (and since Hama has to attack to trigger his ability I wanted him in a different deck to Haldir). So I ended up with the idea of using Song of Battle and then with Hama able to permanently hold on to relevant events I could Message from Elrond them over to this deck. It was an interesting but very janky idea which was somewhat unnecessary. But all the same I kept the Tactics events and Songs of Battle in here.
The ally choices are all about efficiency – digging out attachments and events with Master of the Forge and Galadhrim Minstrels, and shuttling resources to where they need to be with Errand-riders. Since I’m working with Master of the Forge I can potentially get away with having less copies of some attachments.
Attachments are once again a significant core of the deck. I’ve addressed the Songs of Battle already. Steward of Gondor and King Under the Mountain are both staples for good reason. Dunedain Marks in combination with the Bows from the other deck can get Haldir’s attack as high as 10 before events. Cram and Lembas provide some additional on-demand readying in case I lose actions to Hide tests which I then need for combat as well, and I split between the two because Lembas is also healing, but conversely costs a resource, and I don’t expect to take a lot of damage except on Beorn. Fellowship of the Ring and Celebrian’s Stone are both nice willpower boosts especially when I’m trying to keep my ally counts low. Finally Thror’s Map is a card I often skip for The Line Unbroken, because in the spirit of showing off how the quests play I feel I should demonstrate them with Travel costs actually happening (which is then also a superb demonstration of why Thror’s Map is such a powerful card). But in this instance, it’s Nightmare so I’m pulling out some more stops, and in particular this quest has multiple Travel costs to make Hide tests, which ca cause a bunch of problems, and also if I get the map on stage 1 then switching out Bag End for a different location is another great way to stall while I establish a board-state.
Event-wise, there’s plenty of card draw and the already addressed Tactics events, and then there’s a little bit of encounter deck control. Given that as mentioned I’m a little light on starting willpower, the way to handle that (besides playing more willpower) is to keep the threat in the staging area under control. Secret Paths can negate some of that threat to ensure I’m knocking out locations efficiently, and Gildor’s Counsel preventing an entire card reveal further limits the encounter deck’s ability to block me. They also potentially make it easier to control questing early on to try and avoid advancing the quest before I’m ready to do so.

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