Is Nightmare Mode worth the Nightmares?

Nightmare Mode is a fun, more challenging, and thematic mode. Just kidding, it is near impossible! Some of the decks like Passage Through Mirkwood fit that description, but others simply make me wonder why someone would invent this. I only have four nightmare decks and am already on the fence about picking up more, but everyone agrees that the best one by far is Passage Through Mirkwood. It is more of a well-rounded nightmare perfect for testing new decks, and the cards that are included in nightmare mode aren’t too bad, but still challenging enough to make you lose a few times with good decks.

Now for those who don’t know exactly how the Nightmare decks work, I’ll explain it briefly. Basically, it comes with about twenty to thirty cards for each quest, so if you get one of the deluxe ones it will have around ninety cards for all three quests. Then it has some instructions on which cards to remove from the deck (which are usually the easy ones you hope to reveal in normal mode), then replace them with all the nightmare mode cards. Some even come with special cards such as the Grey Havens quest Voyage Across Belegaer, which added two new nightmare stages to the quest, making it longer and harder. Then the entire game you usually hope to reveal normal mode cards, and if you reveal a nightmare mode card you usually die instantly (especially the shadow effects).

I decided to pick up the Passage through Mirkwood expansion and the first three Grey Havens expansions since that’s when I got back into the game after a hiatus. If you are wondering whether to pick up these expansions, that’s why I made this article. But maybe not start with the Grey Havens.

I’m nowhere as experienced as these other authors here to do in-depth scenario analysis, especially on nightmare mode, but I can say that these decks are recommended for a certain few. I think I’ll address the first problem here though and say that these decks are usually only on the official website. I’ve seen some on Amazon and my local store only carries regular decks, so if you get them you may have to wait a while and pay a little bit more for shipping.

That aside though, Passage Through Mirkwood is worth it. The deck makes the tutorial more of an average quest, where you can test decks such as traps, themed decks, weird combos or whatever. In fact, I find it a little easy, but it is great for testing new decks as there are very little specific things to watch out for, like where more quests focus on unique mechanics that require a specific deck to beat.

Another point I should make is don’t attempt nightmare mode until you have a lot of player cards. If you have just a few expansions and enough cards to make a few decks, that might not be enough. You will need plenty of good cards from good expansions to make sure you can handle certain quests. For example, for the Grey Havens Nightmare Mode, I had enough cards to make a Rohan Ally Swam deck that I almost won with, until my ships were brought down to 1 hit point on the last stage, and I lost. But the sailing was easy since I had the right deck, with plenty of allies to swarm the board and sail with, but I used several expansions to make it all Rohan to get Theoden’s cost reduction.

The thing I personally like about Nightmare Mode is the fact that all the cards are built specifically for that quest, making it more thematic and epic, which as a Lord of the Rings geek makes it a lot more fun for me. But another one of the bad sides of the game (and expensive), is the backs of the cards are slightly different, so you should probably sleeve the encounter deck. I don’t have all the expansions because I’ve been trying to sleeve the recent ones, and spent a lot of money on card sleeves, so much that my local game store had to restock that colour of sleeves, and they had about ten boxes of it. But the point is you probably need sleeves, so you don’t know that the next card will be a nightmare card from the card back.

As for the specific quests you want in Nightmare Mode, if you are first jumping into it I recommend Passage through Mirkwood, but for the other quests, they are all near impossible, but I personally chose the ones that were the most fun regular quests for me. I liked the Grey Havens because that’s where I jumped back into the game after a few years, and they were generally fun quests for me, so choose the quests you like, or at least the ones you will have the most motivation to beat after failing several times.

For the specific review-based people, here are the pros and cons of buying them.


  • More thematic and epic gameplay
  • More of a challenge
  • Adds replay value to your favourite quests
  • Fixes some loopholes in certain quests
  • Gives a great feeling when you beat it!
  • The art is amazing and really gives the scenario an extra sense of dread


  • More Expensive for not too many Cards
  • Sleeves are sort of Mandatory
  • Requires lots of Player Cards
  • Can be too difficult for casual players
  • Some Nightmare decks require specific deckbuilding
  • More rules to keep track off

So hopefully I helped you make up your mind, and if you at least want something really fun just pick up the Nightmare Passage through Mirkwood, and if you don’t trust my perspective since I am pretty bad at the game (or just on the fence), read some other reviews and they will most likely be positive about that quest.

If you are looking into buying Nightmare decks, and don’t know which ones are worth it, check out this buying guide for Nightmare scenarios. It explains briefly how the scenario has been improved and how much more difficult it has become.

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