This quest was made even before the Saga expansions were announced, so in order to relive the movies a little, the developers gave us this quest where you will battle the Tentacles from the Watcher in the Water. This enemy will make its return during the Saga scenario’s in The Ring Goes South, as the final boss of the quest. This quest has been a bit controversial, as there were 2 paths the players could take to defeat the final stage: Either kill the Watcher or speak the password and enter the mines through the Door of Durin. Nowadays, players have a lot more options to get 3 Victory Points, making this scenario poorly balanced. If you really want the true experience of battling this ancient creature, try to kill it instead of cheating and clearing 3 side-quests.
The Watcher in the Water
- Found in: The Watcher in the Water Adventure pack, Dwarrowdelf cycle, pack 3
- Official Difficulty: 7
- Community Difficulty: 6.3
- Encounter sets: Watcher in the Water, Misty Mountains
- Quest cards: 2
- Play if: You would like to cheat this scenario with Side-quests, you want to battle a big boss enemy that regenerates, you want to frustrate yourself by trying to clear the Doors of Durin
- What is different about this quest?: Doors of Durin special location, Watcher in the Water boss, Tentacle enemies
- Solo or Multiplayer?: The scenario can best be experienced with a ton of people, but is also fun in solo, though the battle part may be difficult. Having more people to hack at tentacles may prove a more cinematic experience for the group. It will also be useful for taking down the Watcher or having more cards to discard for the Doors.
- Can I run Side-Quests for this scenario?: Do you want to cheat the game? If the answer is yes, then do bring side-quests. Clearing just 3 will make you pass the final stage of the scenario without having to deal with the boss enemy or the unique location. If you want an accurate experience, then either leave your side-quests in the binder or only clear 1 or 2.
The Setup for this scenario is relatively easy, as players are instructed to remove The Doors of Durin and The Watcher from play. These will get added to the game once players make it to the second stage.
Quest card 1: To the West-Door – 13 quest points
Here is another method of adding cards to the staging area that the developers use to scale the difficulty to the number of players. Players are instructed to reveal cards from the staging area until there is at least twice the amount of threat in the staging area than the number of players in the game. This will mean that any treacheries that are revealed, will go off and target players. Since they do not add any threat to the staging area, they will automatically surge. A very nasty card to reveal at this point is Ill Purpose, if there are any enemies in the staging area (if not, this whiffs). You will have to remove the enemies from the staging area and put them into play engaged with a player. On top of this, players may have to raise their threat.
Once all cards have been added to the staging area, the stage can begin. There is nothing special about this stage, you just have to make the 13 progress. During this time, players are advised to set their board state up, to prepare for the Watcher on stage 2. Players can also decide to clear a couple of side-quests during this time.
Quest card 2: The Seething Lake – 5 quest points
Now things are getting real when this stage is revealed, players have to add the set-aside Watcher to the staging area. They also make Doors of Durin the active location and place any other active location back in the staging area. Finally, all Tentacle cards in the discard pile get shuffled back into the encounter deck. This will make the Forced abilities of the Tentacle enemies more likely to go off. It will also add more Tentacle enemies to the staging area during the staging step. This makes The Watcher less likely to be engaged optionally.
With the Watcher in the staging area, players face a big 4 threat boost to the total threat in the staging area. They also face the wrath of the Watcher if they leave it in the staging area too long. At the end of the combat phase, players are forced to deal 3 damage to a character they control. This targets EVERY player, so before long, players may find themselves without allies and dealing damage to heroes. Clearing this stage in just a few rounds is crucial, as the Watcher creates a slippery slope for players that can result in a loss.
The stage will require just 5 progress tokens, which can be obtained during the next quest phase. Note that any progress that is placed on Doors of Durin (the active location) are instead placed on the current quest card (main quest or side-quest). Then, players need at least 3 Victory Points in order to win this scenario. This can be done in 3 ways:
1. Use player cards with victory points as a cheating way around the other 2 options
When this scenario came out, there would be no player side-quests for many years to come. Even other player cards with victory points were far off and would be too rare to get 3 copies off in the victory display. These days, players are far more likely to complete their own side-quests and play cards like Fall of Gil-Galad, Red Arrow or Justice Shall Be Done. This way, players can very easily obtain victory points during the first stage, and only need 5 progress tokens on the second stage to win. Though it may not be the intent of the scenario, it will be a very easy way around it. Players who are playing these scenarios progression style without a restricted card pool may choose this option to get through this scenario fast.
2. Clear the Doors of Durin
This is slightly harder than shouting: “MELLON” at the card. The unique Doors of Durin location cannot be explored with regular progress or by using location control. Instead, players have the option each round to discard any number of cards from their hand. Then, the top card of the encounter deck is discarded and compared to all discarded player cards. If the first letter of the encounter card matches the first letter of any discarded player card, the Doors open and players have obtained the 3 required victory points. If they also already have the required 5 progress tokens on the quest, they immediately win.
This option has been quite controversial, as the chances of you picking the right cards are very slim if you don’t build your deck accordingly. In the Tips and Tricks segment, I have linked all the first letters of the encounter cards and the matching player cards. To have the most chance at winning this way, have everybody discard a card that has a unique letter, there is no point in discarding 2 player cards that start with an S. Analyse the encounter deck for what letters are on the cards, and how often they appear in the deck. Also, keep a close eye on the encounter cards in play, and in the staging area, as that may influence your discarding options. For instance, if Ill Purpose is in the discard pile, there is no use in discarding Imladris Stargazer, as there is only 1 card in the scenario that starts with the letter I.
3. Killing the Watcher
This is easier said than done. The Watcher is an absolute tank with 7 defence and 9 hitpoints. On top of this, it will regenerate 2 of these hitpoints at the end of each round. This can only heal the Watcher up to his original 9 hitpoints. Then there is the problem with the fact that you are not able to engage the Watcher while any other Tentacle enemies are in play. You will have to defeat all of his tentacles in order to face the body of the Watcher. Having just shuffled all Tentacle cards back into the encounter deck will make this difficult. However, the text on the Watcher only talks about optional engagement, not forced or engagements via player card effects. Having the Watcher in an Ithilien Pit that someone played during the previous stage will make it legal to attack it. Hands Upon the Bow will allow any Ranged character to do some damage to the Watcher, but it is very unlikely that you can kill it. Events like Tireless Hunters and The Hammer-stroke will cause the Watcher to engage a player. You can also bust out Son of Arnor to engage the Watcher.
So there are plenty of ways around the optional engagement limitation, but now you have this big enemy engaged with you, what next? Well, the Watcher doesn’t really have a crazy attack value or ability that raises his attack stat. Shadow effects aren’t very common, but it could boost the attack strength of the Watcher up to 8 maximum (Ill Purpose as Shadow card). This can still be managed by a beefy defender like Beregond or Boromir with Blood of Numenor attached. Defending the Watcher shouldn’t be a problem, though you must be careful that you keep that defender alive and ready to defend. Chump blockers are also allowed to defend the Watcher, there is no penalty for that. Feed some Snowbourn Scouts or Squires of the Citadel to the beast.
The hardest thing about the Watcher is effectively killing him. The 7 defence dictates that you should bulk up all your attack strength into 1 attack dealing 16 damage to it. This way, you circumvent the Regenerate keyword and will only have to face the defence once. If this is not possible, try to lower the defence of the Watcher with Rivendell Blades or Marksmen of Lorien. This should make attacks against the Watcher easier. Direct damage is also a great way to circumvent the high defence, Galadhon Archer, Dwarrowdelf Axe, and Spear of the Citadel can place those few extra points of damage on the Watcher. Be careful that this damage will get removed from the Watcher 2 at a time at the end of the round.
And that is it, you have gathered 3 victory points at least, and are now ready to face the Long Dark of Moria. The road behind you is shut, the only way left is forward, into the mines of Khazad-Dum.
The Encounter Deck
- There are 43 cards in the encounter deck in Normal mode, 33 in Easy mode.
- Shadow effects on cards are quite rare, only on 33% of the cards in Normal mode, 36% in Easy mode
- The average threat on each card revealed from the encounter deck is 1.5 between both modes. This will influence the number of cards you will reveal during stage 1.
- No cards will surge with that keyword, better bring cards that trigger off of that to the next scenario.
- Doomed 5 is quite a common sight in this quest, 3 copies of Disturbed Waters will raise your threat rapidly. This is on top of other effects like Stagnant Creek.
- The Watcher is immune to optional engagements if there are any other Tentacle enemies in play. Besides that, nothing else is immune to player card effects.
- The chances of discarding a Tentacle enemy, or a card with a shadow effect are 60% in Normal mode, and 63% in Easy mode. This highly depends on what cards you have already encountered though, there are 26 and 21 cards that would match these criteria between the two modes respectively.
With a lot of enemies in the encounter deck, this is definitely a scenario to bring your combat decks to. Having only a 1 in 3 chance of a shadow effect will make the Mountain Wargs very likely to bounce back to the staging area. Try to find a way to engage them from the staging area after they have attacked. Tactics Aragorn will be a good choice for this.
The new enemies in this scenario represent the many Tentacles of the Watcher itself. They are supported by the enemies from the Misty Mountains encounter set. The Tentacles sport a high attack but little to no defence. They also have a very low engagement cost so Secrecy decks will struggle with this scenario.
- The Watcher: I have already covered how to deal with this boss enemy best, so check out the paragraphs about the second stage of the quest. The basic rule is, get him out of the staging area asap, and then either kill him or pass through the door.
- Striking Tentacle: This is the tentacle with the highest engagement cost at 18. This will still provide Secrecy decks with a problem, as those usually don’t want to engage a lot of enemies from the get-go. The Striking Tentacle also fields the highest attack out of the 3 tentacle enemies and is the only one that is unable to be discarded outright with Straight Shot. The high attack might be fatal to a lot of heroes, as the ability of the Striking Tentacle will force players to discard the top card of the encounter deck when the Tentacle attacks. If the discarded card is another Tentacle enemy or has a Shadow card effect (chances are 60-63%) the attack is considered undefended. This will mean you have to deal at least 4 damage to a hero, not counting any shadow effect that might go off as well. This can be fatal to all but the strongest heroes. Boosting hitpoints of heroes or cancelling damage with Honour Guards or Raven-winged Helmets will let you survive the attack. The Tentacle is killed rather easily, as it has no defensive ability like some others.
- Grasping Tentacle: This Tentacle is nasty as he has a more defensive ability that can cause your attackers to be paralyzed for the rest of the game. When you attack the Grasping Tentacle, you are again forced to discard the top card of the encounter deck and look if it is a Tentacle enemy or if it has a Shadow card. If so, the enemy attaches itself to one of the attackers and counts as a Tentacle attachment which reduces the attack and defence stats of that character to 0. It is because of this that you should always attack this Tentacle with multiple low attack characters. This gives you options to who you should attach the tentacle to. The good part is, that the tentacle is now no longer an enemy, and will remain out of the encounter deck for the rest of the game (unless the attached character is killed). There is no possibility to discard this attachment, as it is not a condition.
- Thrashing Tentacle: I have often found this enemy to be the worst, as it will redirect the damage you try to deal to it to one of your own characters. It will even ignore defence, so no point in redirecting it to some high defence character like Defender of Rammas. Players still have to discard the top card of the encounter deck and follow the same procedure as the other two Tentacles. I would advise to attack this enemy with only 3 attack strength, and perhaps redirect the attack to a chump that didn’t die this round. Discarding this enemy with Straight Shot is probably your best bet though.
- Doors of Durin: This art is one of my favourites, and I have been using it as my screensaver for a while (no my password isn’t Mellon). The location itself is slightly less fun to see when it gets put into play as the active location during stage 2. This location will clog up your active location slot until you clear the password. During this time, other locations will fill the staging area, making location lock a big problem. So you will have to get the Doors of Durin out of the active location slot, allowing you to travel to other locations. Use a West Road Traveller for this. You can also try to clear other locations using location control and Explorers Almanac in order to cheat around the Doors of Durin. While in the staging area, Doors of Durin is only 2 threat, and players are still able to use its action to try and get the 3 victory points.
- Makeshift Passage: This location is actually quite beneficial. It will add 2 progress on the current quest card, perhaps making the final 2 that players couldn’t place during questing. With shadow effects removing progress tokens, it is also good to make up for those, even if players failed to make that progress, but still have the option to travel. In the staging area, this card is pretty harmless, as it only sits at 1 threat. However, whilst travelling to Makeshift Passage may seem tempting, it will require players to make 5 progress in order to clear it. Failure to do so may result in more locations in the staging area, which can lead to location lock.
- Stair Falls: This unique location looks very interesting, as unique locations usually are, but it is nothing special. The 2 threat is not enough to consider travelling to it, I would rather clear out the 4 quest points in the staging area. Having the first player to exhaust 2 characters will also be tough, as most characters after questing will be needed for combat. Either travel to this location without paying its Travel cost (Ghan-Buri-Ghan, Strider’s Path) or clear it in the staging area.
- Stagnant Creek: This is probably the worst of the locations in the encounter deck. Not only is the 3 threat and 3 hitpoints quite strong, being able to keep the location around after some location control, but the when revealed effect is just horrible. When you reveal this location, players have to discard the top card of the encounter deck. If that card is a Tentacle enemy, the enemy gets added to the staging area, just like if the location would surge. On top of this, each player has to raise their threat by 5 if an enemy gets added this way. This jump in threat may be too much for some decks to handle, especially if Disturbed Waters has also boosted threat this round. I would advice travelling to this location when possible, and perhaps cancelling its when revealed effect. Proper scrying will ensure that you know if an enemy gets added to the staging area this way.
- Perilous Swamp: While the 4 threat on this location is painful to leave in the staging area, do not travel to this location if there are other options. You are not able to make more than 1 progress on it, essentially meaning that you will have to stall your progress on quest cards for a turn. Northern Trackers are perfect tech against this location, perhaps combine it with Guarded Ceaselessly or Power in the Earth to lower its threat a bit.
Being around an ancient tentacle monster will surely bring a couple of nasty treacheries along with it. The scenario also features Bitter Wind. This treachery strips away resources from players, making them less likely to field a big army of allies to chump the Watcher with.
- Wrapped: This treachery is lethal and will force you to have enough ready heroes held back during combat in order to save the attached hero. If this attachment stays on a hero until the end of the round, it is just like during Conflict at the Carrock where you have to discard that hero. This card will change your strategy for that round, so cancelling it is a good idea. Also be careful with sending heroes to the quest. If you exhaust 2 heroes to quest, you will have to attach Wrapped to 1 of them, as you would otherwise lose your ready hero. Positive note though, the hero still has his stats and abilities for the round, so you can still count its willpower if the hero is committed to the quest.
- Ill Purpose: This treachery has been mentioned a lot in this article. That is because it can be the ruin of a single player that round. All enemies in the staging area (including the Watcher) will engage the player with the highest threat. Then, players are forced to raise their threat by the total threat in the staging area after the enemies have engaged. If players are facing location lock, this effect may very well raise their threat by an additional 8 or more. Combat during this round will also be a problem as you now have 1 player engaged with a lot of enemies. Sentinel and Ranged characters will be vital to lighten the load on this player. This is usually the card to cancel unless there is only like 1 enemy in the staging area, and just 3 threat worth of locations.
- Disturbed Waters: Boom, Doomed 5, enjoy the rest of your day. This is the largest hit in threat we have come across from the Doomed keyword. Not to mention that there are 3 copies of this card in the game. Your threat will get out of hand fast if you keep drawing this card. There is not much to cancel either, the best options you have are Elfhelm or Free to Choose. The last card is very useful in this scenario and perfectly counters this treachery.
Tips and Tricks
- If you want to beat the scenario by clearing the Doors of Durin, build your deck accordingly by adding cards of which the title starts with the same letter as encounter cards. The letters used and a good card to include in your deck are:
- Your threat will rise fast in this scenario. Consistent threat reduction will be essential if you want to make it to the end of the game.
- The Tentacle enemies have a very low defence, or even nothing at all if you play with Tactics Aragorn. Combine this with a lot of weapons and Straight Shot in order to discard some of the Tentacles before they would attack.
- Even if you don’t want to play side-quests, you can still add victory points to the victory display using player cards. Consider using Black Arrow, Red Arrow or Justice Shall Be Done. Playing this last event can make for an exciting final round.
- Doors of Durin will make you unable to travel to any other location until you clear it, this makes location lock a big issue on stage 2. Try to swap the location with West Road Traveller to allow you to travel again to other locations.
- With all of these cards triggering off of Tentacle cards or cards that have a Shadow Effect, it is very much worth it to see what is coming next. Effective scrying with Scout Ahead or the Palantir will make decisions around which enemy to attack easier. You can immediately see if the attack will succeed or if it will backfire. It can also make you decide whether or not to cancel the when revealed effect on Stagnant Creek.