This is another one of those quests that I frequently come back to. I usually play this quest solo with a combat heavy deck. The number of enemies that can be revealed in this scenario is crazy, which makes it the perfect quest to bring Tactics Legolas and other combat-related cards. The Seventh Level is also a quest that focusses on not much else than killing Goblins and Trolls. If you want to test your combat prowess, this is the quest to play.
The Seventh Level
(or just 7th lvl for short)
- Found in: Khazad-Dûm deluxe box, Scenario 2
- Official Difficulty: 3
- Community Difficulty: 4.2
- Encounter sets: The Seventh Level, Plundering Goblins, Goblins of the Deep
- Quest cards: 2
- Play if: You have a combat deck to test solo and you are not really focussing on willpower, you want to introduce players to a combat heavy quest, you want to say that they have a Cave Troll.
- What is different about this quest?: Book of Mazarbul objective, heavy enemy focus
- Solo or Multiplayer?: Any number of people will do, though I find that games with fewer people tend to take a bit longer. More people with Ranged and Sentinel can make for surprisingly fun gameplay across the board.
- Can I run Side-Quests for this scenario?: You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You are free to clear the two stages at your own pace, the sooner you are through them, the sooner you finish the quest. If I would recommend any side quest, it would be Keep Watch, as that makes combat a lot easier.
The quest starts off easy with the first player taking out the unique Book of Mazarbul (Book of Records) and attach it to a hero he controls. This Book has a benefit to the hero, as it doesn’t have to exhaust in order to commit to the quest. This is the same as Light of Valinor, only this time it doesn’t have to go on a Noldor or Silvan character. However, the hero is also not able to attack while the book is attached to it. The best characters to attach this book to are high willpower heroes that you would like to keep ready for their ability or to use them as a defender. Optimal characters for this are Elrond (3 willpower and a Vilya activation if the Ring is attached to him), Cirdan the Shipwright (high willpower and Narya), Argalad (can quest and use his ability), Dain Ironfoot (Ability and he makes a good defender) and many others. Note that the Book is restricted, keep this in mind if you want to put it on your defender. You may want to attach Armour attachments on those characters instead of the book.
After the book has been attached to a hero, the stage is flipped over and the scenario can begin.
Quest card 1: Search for the Chamber – 15 quest points
We start the quest off with the standard When Revealed effect where every player has to reveal a card from the top of the encounter deck before Planning. Good cards to reveal during this step are Undisturbed Bones (no allies in play), Plundered Armoury (get weapons/Armour out faster, save you resources for other cards), and Hidden Threat (little to no enemies in the Staging Area, last player probably hasn’t got an attachment yet (unless you play solo)). There are also enough cards that will be horrible to reveal early in the game, these include a Cave-Troll, Orc Horn Blower, Goblin Archer, and Watchful Eyes. After this step, there is around 1.5 to 6 threat in the staging area before the planning phase.
The rest of the quest is pretty straightforward, there are no additional triggers or effects on this side of the stage. The 15 quest points should be easy to acquire, as most of the enemies will move out of the staging area during the engagement step. Still, in solo, you might have to take a few turns extra in order to pass to the next stage. Luckily there are not a lot of locations in the encounter deck to soak up your progress. Bringing cards like Tactics Legolas and Blade of Gondolin will also help with placing progress on the quest. The blades will prove very useful in this scenario with a lot of Orc enemies.
Quest card 2: The Fate of Balin – 17 quest points
After you have successfully passed the first stage, you move to stage 2. The When Revealed effect from this stage will have you removing the Book of Mazarbul from the game. This frees up a Restricted slot on your hero, but that hero is no longer able to commit to the quest without exhausting. You will be able to use that hero for attacking again though!
The rest of the stage is mostly the same as the previous stage, only this time there is an additional trigger after the staging step. After staging, players are forced to reveal an additional card per player. From this second batch of cards, only the enemies get added to the staging area. All of the other cards will get discarded. Careful planning and scrying can result in this effect whiffing, especially in low player counts. Remember that the quest is resolved after this effect so any threat on the enemies added to the staging area will be considered during the quest resolution. This effect can cause a significant rise in threat between the first and second stage of the quest. It can also bring out a lot more enemies to handle with, making characters less likely to commit to the quest. Be prepared for this step up in difficulty by having enough willpower to commit to the quest and ways to deal with enemies in the staging area to reduce the threat that way. Playing Ranger Spikes or Followed on enemies is also a nice way of reducing the threat in the staging area.
The rest of this stage is pretty standard, players need to battle through all of these orcs and make 17 progress on the stage. They immediately win after the last progress token is placed. Enduring the hordes of enemies and fully committing to willpower is a strategy that can work, but it has a high risk. You will have to endure multiple attacks, some undefended, which can lead to the untimely death of a hero.
The Encounter deck
- There are 34 and 26 card to reveal in this encounter deck between Normal and Easy mode respectively
- The chance that an enemy has a Shadow effect when it attacks is 47% (normal) or 50% (easy)
- The average Threat on cards revealed from the deck is 1.5 (normal) and 1.8 (easy)
- Surge is only present on the Hornblower
- Doomed 2 is present 3 times on each Upper Hall location
- No cards are immune to player card effects, none of the enemies are unique, which opens up possibilities.
The encounter deck is quite small so you will cycle through it a few times if you are stalling or playing with a lot of people. Note that over half of the deck are enemies, so sneaking through the scenario is a no-go. Easy mode removes a couple of hard cards but makes up for this by increasing the chances of Shadow effects and increasing the average threat per card revealed.
The Book of Mazarbul is a helping hand during the first stage of the quest. The Artifact makes sure that you can commit some willpower to the quest whilst keeping your defender up. Like I mentioned, there are a couple of good heroes to attach the book too. You should either pick your defender if they have high willpower or a character that has to exhaust to use an ability (Argalad, Spirit Merry). If ever the Book of Mazarbul is detached from the hero, for instance, if that hero dies or if Hidden Threat makes you discard the attachment, the book is returned to the Staging Area. There is can be claimed by a different hero by exhausting that hero. I would recommend claiming the objective after the combat phase, just in case you need a ready hero to defend the attack or add their attack to kill an enemy. Killing Goblins takes priority over this attachment. You are not required to hold on to the book, it gets discarded during stage 2 anyway.
While you are at the Seventh Level of Khazad-Dum there are a couple of locations you will have to clear. Though there will be many cases in which there is no option to travel, as locations are rare in this encounter deck.
- Goblin Tunnels: The 7 quest points required to clear this location will be tough to get through. However, it is still worth it to travel to this location as soon as you can. The Goblin Tunnels will remove a progress from the current quest card (could be a side-quest) each time a Goblin is revealed from the encounter deck. This effect will stack with additional copies of the location, making it hard to keep your progress on the cards. Ways around this without travelling involve over questing during you last-ditch effort to overcome stage 2. The 7 progress make the Tunnels less than ideal to use location control on, but you might be able to whittle down the progress tokens on there over time. Having multiple Northern Trackers commit to the quest is a good way to clear these locations.
- Plundered Armoury: This is a location you must get out of the staging area at all costs. Either travel to it or use some easy location control to get rid of it. DO NOT LET THIS BE IN THE STAGING AREA DURING COMBAT! This location will boost the attack strength of each enemy by 1. This effect will stack between the 2 copies of this card in the deck. This boost to attack can be the difference between a successful, and an unsuccessful defence, killing allies and (mortally) wounding heroes. Add this to an undefended attack from a Goblin, and you discarding heroes left, right, and centre. In solo, this location is perhaps the most innocent, as there will not be a host of enemies waiting for you. But make sure that this location gets travelled to, or explored when you are about to battle a large horde of orcs. There is a silver lining to this location though: after it leaves play, players get to play a Weapon or Armour attachment from their hand for free. This will only be relevant for a couple of decks, in a couple of cases, but it is still a nice touch to the location. It might even save you 4 resources for a Citadel Plate.
The scenario focusses a lot on getting a host of enemies in front of you. Not only are there cards that surge multiple times to reveal more enemies, but shadow effects add new enemies to the staging area. These will make questing next round harder unless you can engage them with for example Tactics Aragorn. Most of the enemies are wimpy Goblins, but there a couple of heavy hitters in the deck as well!
- Cave Troll: Say it with me now: “They have a Cave Troll!”. Actually, they have 2 of these heavy hitting Troll enemies. They share a couple of things with the dreaded Hill Troll from the previous cycle. The Cave Troll has a higher than average attack, and an ability that prevents chump blocking. Any access damage dealt beyond the hitpoints of the defending character must be dealt to another character you control. If you block enough damage, you could redirect 1 or 2 points to characters you would like to take some damage like Ents, Gloin or Gimli. For defenders, I would recommend tossing a Winged Guardian or a Defender of Rammas. These have a very high defensive stat, making sure that you don’t have to take a lot of excess damage. The trolls have Victory Points, so if you can kill them, you won’t see them again during the quest. Note that these enemies are the only non-Orc enemies in the deck, so direct damage from Firefoot or Mighty Prowess is not applicable to these enemies.
- Chieftain of the Pit: All of these Orcs need some leadership among their ranks and the Chieftain fulfils that role. This 1 off enemy will be the toughest in play, besides any Cave Troll. He is also one of the reasons why you might want to keep your threat low. The Chieftain of the Pit gains a plus 3 to his attack stat during the round he enters play. Note that the Chieftain is not a unique card, so he is vulnerable to effects like traps and events. Trapping this enemy with Ranger Spikes is the most luck you will ever have. It negates his 2 threat completely and allows you to ignore the Chieftain during the rest of the game. However, if this enemy gets revealed during the late game, you will have to face his 7 attack, as he will engage you during the same round. A chump blocker is the best way around this, or a beefy defender if you have that setup. Killing the Chieftain isn’t too difficult, his 2 defence is easily overcome, and his 4 hitpoints even makes him vulnerable to a Sneak Attack Gandalf.
- Goblin Spearman/Swordsman: These swarming enemies will make up the bulk of the enemies you will face during the scenario. They appear pretty innocent on the outside, with mediocre stats and relative few hitpoints. However, there are a lot of these buggers in the deck, which will clog up the staging area. Their low engagement cost will make sure that you have to engage every last one of these enemies, making Secrecy decks not viable against this scenario. Once engaged, you must defend all of these attacks or face a +2 attack to their stats. This makes you deal 4 to 5 damage directly to a hero, killing most of them unless you bring effects that redirect damage or increase hitpoints. Think of Dori, White Tower Watchman, Ring mail, and Close Call (Very thematic!). Once all the attacks have been dealt with, you are free to kill the enemies with whatever characters you have left ready. It doesn’t take a lot to kill these pests, most heroes with weapons on them can take care of them. Note that these enemies will get added to the staging area if they are revealed as a Shadow card. This will make sure you have plenty to fight with during the next turn. In case you are wondering, there are 5 copies of each of these swarming Orcs, though it does feel like a lot more.
- Orc Horn Blower: He is the closest thing we have ever come to a Surge 2 card. The Hornblower is a 1 off copy but will drag out 2 extra cards if you reveal him. My tip with him is to let him sit in the staging area. The encounter deck gets recycled a lot during this quest, so if you kill him, you might see his Surge 2 again sometime later in the game. His 45 engagement cost will keep him sitting in the staging area for most of the game, so don’t bother killing him.
- Goblin Archer: We’ve seen this style of enemy before during the last cycle. The Archer will sit in the staging area, unable to be brought down by optional engagement. With an engagement cost of 48, you must be living extremely close to the edge in order to drag these guys down. While they are alive, the Archers will ping a character for 1 damage each time an enemy is revealed from the encounter deck. This effect gets out of hand during stage 2, where there are 2 phases where enemies can get revealed. The Archers do have a weak spot though, they can be targeted in the staging area by Ranged characters. Bringing a couple of these characters with you on the scenario is a very good idea, as you will have a good answer to these terrible enemies. My personal favourite is still Legolas with a Blade of Gondolin on him. Note that you can also play Revealed in Wrath to clear their text box, making them able to be optionally engaged.
Though there are only 8 treachery cards in the deck and only 3 different kinds, the treacheries can hurt your board state. They can either make you reveal more cards outside staging, they can raise your threat or they can hurt (and probably kill) an ally.
- Watchful Eyes: This is probably the treachery you want to cancel out of all 3. Watchful Eyes attaches to a hero controlled by the first player as a Condition attachment. The attachment will only trigger if that hero is exhausted at the end of the combat phase. If that is the case, he will have to reveal the top card of the encounter deck and add it to the staging area. This probably adds another enemy to face during combat next round. There are a couple of ways around this effect:
- Discard the attachment. This can be done by Hidden Threat if it targets the right player. You can also bring some condition discard effects of your own. Power of Orthanc, Bulwark of the West or Miner of the Iron Hills will make short work of the attachment.
- Don’t have that hero exhausted at the end of combat. The game gives you the perfect tool for this during the first stage: The Book of Mazarbul. The attached hero can still commit to the quest, but won’t trigger the effect after combat. Other readying effects might also come in handy if you have multiple copies of the treachery on your heroes.
- Don’t care. If your board state is strong enough to reveal an additional card every round, then just go about your business like you would normally do. However, if you are facing multiple copies of this treachery, the effects will stack, adding a new staging phase at the end of combat almost. Be careful with this treachery, as it might bite you harder than you might initially think.
- Undisturbed Bones: Basically this card makes you discard an ally during the late game. In swarm deck you can easily need to deal 10 or more damage to an ally, so you might as well play a single ally you don’t really care too much for. This card is ideal to draw during setup, as nobody will have played an ally yet. In the early game, you might be able to save your allies as you will only control a small number of them. Bringing healing effects could make sure that the ally is saved from near death at the hands of this treachery.
- Hidden Threat: This card isn’t too bad if it is revealed as the first (or only) card from the encounter deck. By that time there shouldn’t be too many enemies in the staging area to raise your threat by. Perhaps a couple of Archers or a high engagement cost enemy you want to avoid. The increase in threat doesn’t really matter too much unless you were trying to avoid a Cave Troll. In that case, I would recommend cancelling this treachery. The second part of the treachery reads that the last player (in solo the first player is also considered to be the last) has to discard an attachment he controls. Perhaps have some decoy attachments ready that you don’t care too much for, or if you have another copy in hand to play next turn. Note that the Book of Mazarbul counts as an attachment, so you could discard that one and place it in the staging area.
Tips and Tricks
- Bring Direct Damage to the quest. With so many enemies in the deck, you won’t be able to defend them all. Better to kill them before they kill you first. Thalin does amazing work in this quest as a lot of enemies have very few hitpoints.
- Placing progress on the stages by killing enemies is a good way to progress through them. Adding a few Blades of Gondolin or Tactics Legolas will really help against this scenario.
- A lot of enemies share the same trait, this makes Firefoot and Mighty Prowess very useful to take care of multiple enemies in 1 attack.
- Bring Ranged characters. This will not only help your fellow players with killing their enemies but will also help you against taking the damage from the Goblin Archers by killing them. A single Marksman of Lorien is enough to kill the Archers.
- Try to travel whenever you can. The locations are not to be left in the staging area for too long, having location control can only do so much against the Goblin Tunnels.
- Traps are sure to go off on enemies in this scenario, bring Ranger Spikes to negate at least 1 enemy from engaging you. Forest Snare on the Troll or the Chieftain is also a good way to make sure that they don’t get recycled again.
- Try to defend your attacks with heroes first, there are a couple of shadow effects that will discard your allies, making the attack go through undefended. I have had this happen to me on numerous occasions.
- 3 players, updated decks: https://youtu.be/0FphgE7Fgh8?t=2880
- 2 players, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD8BbrgztbA
- 2 players, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JLTFZAxkh4
- 2 handed, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo_SlBNrFgA
- True solo, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDfVi8SfOOY