Well, it is time to wrap up another cycle of Nightmare quests in The Line Unbroken. The Ring-maker cycle didn’t have the best quests to start with in my opinion, and as tends to be the case the Nightmare decks accentuate what’s already there, which can lead to additional frustrations… that said, looking back I’ve still had a decent experience with this Nightmare cycle on the whole, because even in the cases of frustration, it has been the frustration of a challenge I need to work to defeat, which is something I appreciate, though others might not. I do think I would be less appreciative of these quests if I were just bringing in generic prebuilt decks rather than custom building for each one.
Looking at my player card usage, I just can’t shake off Glorfindel. Even with more viable alternatives appearing, I still keep putting him in just for Asfaloth. That said, I *do* now have more viable alternatives for Spirit heroes, and naturally I immediately made use of Arwen and Cirdan each in two of the three quests I coul use them for. Aside from Glorfindel the other heroes I used 3 times throughout this Nightmare cycle were Elrond – a testament to the power of both the healing boost and Vilya – and Bifur, who kept appearing because efficiency was such a frequent concern in these quests.
One thing I started noticing in building for these quests was that it became at times more of a struggle not to just use Beregond all the time – Nightmare tends to mean stronger enemies, sometimes with lower engagement costs than you might expect, and if an early 5-6 attack enemy is a plausible problem you might have to deal with, it’s difficult to choose any other defender. I did manage not to just use him for everything, but it was a concern I had to consider.
The other card which really stood out to me for how much I pulled it out was Gildor’s Counsel. For several of the Ring-maker quests I’d say it’s more optimal to try and keep a clear staging board than just accumulate more power than the encounter cards in play, and as such I just kept coming back to how good Gildor’s Counsel is. Though on the same lines of cards I know are good but don’t necessarily use that often, Secret Paths, Radagast’s Cunning and Thror’s Key also showed their value in some of these quests.
Finally, there were a few more surprising inclusions which I was pleased to get in – finally managing to pull off my idea of OHaUH Gandalf + Defender of the West, a reasonable use of Keeping Count, two uses of Rossiel and one of Dori? As a fan of odd combos and underappreciated cards, I’m fairly happy to use these effectively, and in Nightmare no less.
Oh also, side-quests are good. I said some variation on that many times because I usually had little else to say about my inclusion of side-quests in my decks. Whoever said side-quests mixed poorly with all the Time effects in this cycle was kind of wrong.
Next up, let’s talk quests:
Fords of Isen has definitely become my favourite of the three quests in the deluxe, though that’s not a particularly high bar to clear. In general though, as time has gone on I’ve come to appreciate the Dunlending quests more, because I find it very satisfying to play a deck which is very much tuned to be efficient and thus repeatedly empty its hand rather than hoarding a huge selection of unnecessary cards. It’s very nice to have a deck running well enough that the encounter deck forcing you to draw cards goes back to being a positive thing for the extra options it gives rather than a problem because it exacerbates the enemies and locations. Fords of Isen is the most straightforward implementation of a Dunlending quest and thus the go to choice for that experience. The Nightmare deck, as I said in the blog post on it, is basically just more of the same stuff which was already there.
To Catch an Orc on the other hand has gone down in my estimation every time I’ve played it. The out of play deck was an interesting idea, but ultimately just makes the quest too random with regard to how much of your own deck you have access to, how long the quest lasts, and at what point it tries to horribly murder you. The Nightmare deck mostly just added an extra dose of potential horrible murder to the mix.
Into Fangorn is, and has always been, too easy. I noted in the blog post for this quest that the biggest adjustment to the difficulty was adding a location which removed the Hinder keyword from the enemies while it was in the staging area, rather than really doing anything to make the Hinder keyword more of a problem. Thinking about this, I feel like Into Fangorn would be a great quest to consider a hypothetical redesign of if I were to do another What Might Have Been.
The Dunland Trap as I noted in the blog post for it was primarily notable for the lack of change in the transition to Nightmare. It was already a good quest, in Nightmare it’s still a good quest, just with some changes to the encounter deck which make it harder.
The Three Trials found a good solution to making non-boss combat a bit more of a concern without negating the basic feel of the quest being focused around a sequence of boss fights, by having the Spirits themed around the three bosses and potentially buffing them. In fact the Nightmare deck introduces a total of 7 different new cards to the encounter deck, of which 6 are in some way associated with the Guardians and/or the Key objectives, so the quest is very nicely focused.
Trouble in Tharbad differs significantly from its counterpart in the previous cycle – this time the rather easy third quest remained fairly easy in Nightmare instead of getting the most monstrous of difficulty spikes. There were clearly attempts to spike the difficulty a bit, and some of it might be more impactful if playing with generic decks rather than custom built ones, but ultimately I have to stand by what I said in the blog post for this quest – making some of the problems of the quest more impactful would be better achieved by trying to drag out stage 2 rather than stage 1. As it is, the Nightmare version of the quest is liable to be more time consuming, but not significantly more difficult than the original.
The Nin-in-Eilph is to a large extent the inverse of To Catch An Orc for me, in that initially like most players I was not a fan, I found it frustrating, but playing it more I have come to find greater appreciation for the particular brand of challenge it presents. There are things I might like to change, but probably mostly just swapping out the stage 2 quest card which only lets you play one card per round (perhaps even keeping it but exchanging that limitation with one of the stage 3 ones). As far as the Nightmare transition goes, it was interesting that initially I thought it would be awful to have the boss in play right from the start, then on reflection I thought it wouldn’t be so bad because I wouldn’t have to engage it, but then on the experience of deck testing I found it was perhaps the most significant problem I had to build around because of the ever increasing threat it provided to the staging area.
Celebrimbor’s Secret I’ve generally been very negative about in the past, partly because it was simply not at all what I was expecting it to be and partly because a significant thing it can do is just flood you with encounter cards through Surge and Scour. Looking back though I did kind of enjoy playing it this time round despite those problems, so I guess it’s kind of a matter of having the right deck(s) for it. I still wouldn’t call it a favourite, but I’ve warmed to it a bit at least. The Nightmare deck makes The Orcs’ Search a much more significant concern, which I guess helped my perspective because it brought the quest more into focus for me as being something you really want to go fairly aggro and blitz before it kills you one way or another.
The Antlered Crown in the transition to Nightmare retained its most problematic characteristic, that being an enemy which removes additional Time counters which can be really easy to forget about while playing. Only in Nightmare it’s a different enemy. Beyond that, as with so many of the quests in this cycle, the Nightmare transition didn’t do a whole lot to alter the basic characteristics of the quest, just introduced some more difficult cards.
The general theme of how I felt about most of this Nightmare cycle seems to be just “the same only harder.” No really notable differences between the difficulty levels.
The hardest quests: The Nin-in-Eilph, The Antlered Crown.
My favourite quests: The Dunland Trap, The Three Trials.
My least favourite quests: To Catch an Orc, Into Fangorn.
The biggest difficulty spikes: To Catch an Orc, The Nin-in-Eilph.
The best transitions: The Dunland Trap, The Three Trials.
The worst transitions: To Catch an Orc, Into Fangorn.
And that fully concludes my run through the Nightmare Ringmaker cycle. Next up I return to my Nightmare campaign. Hope you’re enjoying the series!