The Line Unbroken – N39: Nightmare Trouble in Tharbad

Trouble in Tharbad, like Encounter at Amon Din in Against the Shadow, was very much the easy quest of the cycle. However unlike Amon Din, the Nightmare transition did not turn Tharbad into a complete monster. In fact, while the Nightmare deck throws in some interesting points, the quest ultimately remains on the easier end of things, certainly by Nightmare standards.

The big thing which always led to Trouble in Tharbad being pretty easy was that since you quest your threat down, you can generally ignore most enemies if you don’t want to fight them (or can kill them in the staging area), and just focus on sprinting through the quest as fast as possible. Also, while the idea of reducing the threat elimination level is an interesting one, ultimately it really doesn’t matter too much if your threat elimination level is 30 when your threat is 0 – and stage 2 of the quest never lasts long enough for your threat to go back up a significant amount.
The Nightmare deck adds in more effects which raise your threat and reduce your threat elimination level, and some lower engagement costs so there may be a few enemies you can’t so easily ignore, but ultimately it doesn’t really tackle the basic structural problem. If one wanted to make Trouble in Tharbad more challenging, my thought would be to try and find a way to make stage 2 last longer – all those threat raises aren’t very impactful when you can wipe them out in the next Quest phase, they just make the game last longer; but if you’re on stage 2 they theoretically become more impactful, especially if your threat elimination level is dipping towards the Secrecy threshold. But you never stay on stage 2 long enough for that impact to really matter.

Regardless, what am I doing here? Well, I’m generally wary of going too hard on staging area attack for TLU as it tends to trivialise things when it works and thus doesn’t do a great job of showing off the quest – but this quest is just so well suited to it, and there are still some wrinkles to be worked out, so Dunhere will be a significant part of my strategy. Questing threat downwards also makes Secrecy a great choice, and one of the best Secrecy cards is Out of the Wild, pushing me towards a victory display approach which I’m pretty fine with.

Hit and Run

Frodo Baggins
Merry (Ta)

Allies (11):
Celduin Traveller x3
Silvan Refugee x3
West Road Traveller x3
Arwen Undomiel x2

Attachments (15):
Resourceful x3
Spear of the Mark x3
Dagger of Westernesse x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Ancient Mathom x3

Events (23):
A Test of Will x3
A Elbereth! Gilthoniel! x3
Feint x3
Foe-hammer x3
Quick Strike x3
Unseen Strike x3
Keen As Lances x3
Courage Awakened x2

Side-quests (1):
Gather Information x1

Thoughts: Dunhere is the focus here, Merry gives me Tactics access for weapons while being low threat and acceptable willpower, while Frodo can be used in emergencies for the few enemies I do have to engage – the threat gains can simply be quested off. Speaking of which, the allies are chosen purely for willpower.
Resourceful is an obvious choice since I can reach Secrecy. Then we have weapons to power up Dunhere – obviously Spears of the Mark are the top choice, but having alternatives makes the deck more consistent. Unexpected Courage is significant to let Dunhere get in multiple attacks in a round, and Ancient Mathoms obviously help the draw to find the key components.
For events, Test of Will obviously, Feint shouldn’t be necessary but it’s nice to have as a backup option. Foe-hammer draws more cards, as probably does Keen As Lances once the victory display is stacked. Unseen Strike lends that extra bit of attack power required for tougher enemies, most notably Bellach. Courage Awakened I can easily afford to play every round once I have Resourcefuls in play, and the extra willpower will be helpful. Quick Strike allows me to take out enemies before quest resolution both to make more progress and to avoid those enemies with low engagement costs which I otherwise would actually have to engage. Finally, A Elbereth! Gilthoniel! offers another solution to low engagement cost or just annoyingly tough enemies – between some engagement costs being lower to start with and Bellach reducing all engagement costs once he enters play (A Elbereth doesn’t say ‘printed’ so modifiers apply), I can very likely banish an annoying enemy to the bottom of the encounter deck and not have to raise my threat at all.
For side-quests, given how stage 1 works Double Back would be kind of pointless, but Gather Information is always useful, and I can wait to do it until I’ve got my threat reasonably low.

Street Smarts

Pippin (Lo)

Allies (10):
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Ithilien Lookout x3
Warden of Healing x2
Mablung x1
Quickbeam x1

Attachments (9):
Resourceful x3
Good Meal x3
Scroll of Isildur x3

Events (29):
Keen As Lances x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Mithrandir’s Advice x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3
None Return x3
Out of the Wild x3
The Door is Closed! x3
Advance Warning x3
Noiseless Movement x2

Side-quests (2):
Gather Information x1
Scout Ahead x1

Thoughts: Since I had the Out of the Wild thought, that really lends itself to a general encounter deck manipulation approach, which fits well with mono-Lore, to which I can add that of course Advance Warning makes a lot of sense with Dunhere in play. So Rossiel for the victory display synergy (she can become an effective quester and defender for those occasions when attacks do actually happen), Mirlonde and Pippin for low starting threat so I can get my Secrecy discount sooner rather than later. Pippin’s modifier to engagement costs may also be relevant when I advance to stage two, as a 30 engagement cost would be taken to 0 by Bellach but then pushed back up to 1 by Pippin, allowing me to not engage it.
Allies offer a bit of willpower, draw from the Minstrels, potential attack and encounter deck manipulation from the Ithilien Lookouts. For attachments, Resourceful again of course, and then Good Meals and Scrolls of Isildur just enable me to do more with the many useful events which are the larger focus of the deck.
So, obviously we have the victory display suite – None Return, Out of the Wild, Keen As Lances and The Door is Closed! Leave No Trace is not required however, as starting active location The Empty Mug shares the City trait with every other location in the quest and has victory points, so I can power up Rossiel’s willpower that way. For card draw I have included Deep Knowledge as well as the more obvious Daeron’s Runes and Mithrandir’s Advice, because I have a lot of important combo pieces to find in both decks so it’ll help a lot, and of course the threat can just be quested off on stage 1. Gildor’s Counsel of course fits into the encounter deck manipulation theme and is a generally fantastic card for getting quests under control (and with a Good Meal I can play it for only 1 resource). Finally Advance Warning and Noiseless Movement can both allow me to avoid low engagement cost enemies and let Dunhere do his thing as normal.
Gather Information is good for the combo pieces again, and Scout Ahead is that bit more victory display/encounter deck manipulation synergy.

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