This quest is in my eyes the most frustrating of the cycle, and many players tend to agree with that. Even much so, that just mentioning Nin sends shivers down the spines of many players who have been stuck in this marsh for 12 turns, only to be eaten by the boss shortly after. This scenario is unique for its shifting quest stages during stage 2 and 3, which depends on the time keyword. If players are unable to bring enough willpower to the quest, they lose all their progress and are forced to go to another stage. This repeats for a few turns, and if the players manage to survive, they end up facing the Ancient Marsh Dweller, a creature much like the Watcher in the Water, as the final boss. Let’s dive into the murky waters of:
Or Swanfleet in the common tongue
- Found in: The Nin-in-Eilph, AP 4 of the Ringmaker cycle
- Official Difficulty: 4 (hahahahahahahahahaha, no)
- Community Difficulty: 6.8
- Encounter sets: The Nín-in-Eilph, Weary Travellers
- Quest cards: 8 quest cards, but only 4 stages. stages 2 and 3 have 3 quest cards each.
- Play if: You haven’t beaten this quest yet and you are a completionist, you are playing in progression style and have the bad luck of having to go up against this quest, you want to test a deck with a lot of early willpower but that is still able to kill a boss level enemy in the end, you somehow like Nalir and are tired of playing Trouble in Tharbad.
- What is different about this quest?: Shifting quest stages with different horrible passive effects, the return of Nalir, Ancient Marsh-Dweller enemy
- Solo or multiplayer?: While it is hard for you to convince your friends to play this quest, but you will be better off with more players. This will mean that you can contribute more willpower to the quest, and are better set up against the Marsh-Dweller. More players will mean more locations, which tend to pile up in this quest, and more time counters removed due to encounter card effects. So I think the line should be drawn around the 2-3 player count.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: Heh, good one. Only if you are actively trying to avoid clearing certain stages in time do you have the option to explore side-quests. I will say that Rally the West and Explore Secret Ways can be useful in this quest, as it lowers the threat in the staging area and boosts your own willpower. However, you will not likely have enough time to clear both the main quest and the side-quest before the main quest runs out of time counters. For stage 4, you are free to play any side-quests you want, this also neutralises Shifting Marshland, allowing you to prevent unwanted attacks from the boss enemy.
- What to look out for?: Location lock, removing too many time-counters which will raise the threat of players, enemies take a lot to kill and are generally immune to attachments, locations add passive effects while in the staging area and are hard to explore, not easy to get set up in the early game.
In order to set up this quest, the first player must take control of Nalir. I know you are not really excited about this, but you will be unable to avoid him, I’m sorry. Then, the players will set the unique Ancient Marsh-Dweller aside, out of play. This enemy will be added to the staging area when stage 3 rolls around (should you ever reach that stage).
After the objective ally has been claimed by the first player and the boss has been set aside, out of play, the players must each choose a different location and add it to the staging area. There are 4 locations in the encounter deck in total, so in a 4 player game, you will have to add them all. I will run down each location briefly for those of you that are not playing this quest with 4 players so you can make your decision more easily.
- Fen of Reeds: While it has a relatively low threat and doesn’t take much to explore, this location is a poor choice in a multiplayer game. When players advance this stage (which the immediately will) they must each exhaust a character they control. While the first player can exhaust Nalir, the other players must exhaust a hero. This puts the players at a disadvantage from the start. Pick this location only in solo or in 4 player since you won’t have a choice.
- Sinking Bog: This is actually a pretty good location to have out there. With only 1 threat, it is easy to quest over. Its passive effect won’t harm you during the early game, as long as you are not playing attachments (looking at you, Dale). If you build your deck around this location, it is pretty harmless and an excellent choice.
- Finger of the Glanduin: 3 threat from the start is pretty hefty, but you should be able to travel to this location in the first travel phase. This location will shut down some location control cards, but it is rare that you play these in the early game. For higher player counts, this is a pretty good option.
- Hidden Eyot: If you are looking to advance the first stage 2 you reveal, then this location might just be for you. It will add more time counters to the main stage, giving you time to place all the progress you need. Do not attempt this location if you are looking to stall and complete some side quests. 3 threat to the staging area is also a lot, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to overcome in higher player counts.
My picks for these locations would be: Sinking Bog – Hidden Eyot – Finger of the Glanduin – Fen of Reeds, but this does depend a little on the decks you are bringing. Try different combinations and see what works best for you. After each player has picked a different location, the players flip stage 1.
Quest card 1: Fleeing from Tharbad – 0 quest points
The B side of this quest card is really easy, as the players must immediately advance to a random stage 2. This can be done via a random number generator, the throw of a dice or shuffling the stages and just picking one. Remember that advancing from this stage will trigger the Fen of Reeds location if it is in play, causing every player to exhaust a character before the game has already started.
Quest stage 2A: Through the Marsh
There are 3 different stages 2B for this stage, but the A-sides are all similar. The stages also have the same number of Time counters and quest points. Whenever players advance to a stage 2A, whether that is from stage 1 or a different stage 2, they must raise their threat by 1. This forces the players to not stall forever, as their threat will slowly increase. Spirit ally Elfhelm is a good piece of tech against this trigger, as the controlling player will lower his threat by 1 when it is raised by the quest, balancing it out a little.
There are a couple of strategies that players can use to plough their way through these stages. The first will be to stall and clear some side quests instead. However, since you cannot know for certain what stage you will find yourself at, you may find yourself only playing a few cards per round, making it harder to turtle. Clearing side quests will be a good way to give yourself a boost, but it will also cause locations to clog up the staging area, and to have players more rounds of combat, putting some heroes in bad shape for the later stages. Since you will be stalling, you might run out of time counters often, forcing you to go to different stage 2, raising your threat constantly. Nalir doesn’t help either, making the turtling strategy only viable for 3 turns max.
Players can also try and beat the first stage they come across before time runs out. 13 progress tokens aren’t impossible to achieve in the early stages of the game, especially when playing with multiple players. If you find yourself at a nice stage 2, you might want to sit there and beat it in 2 turns, advancing you to the next stage. This allows you to keep a relatively low threat (depending on your deck), but you might find your board state a bit weak for the third stage. A proper balance between these strategies is required to put you in the best position for the next stage, but this isn’t easy.
All stages have a time 3 keyword. If the last time counter has been removed before the players have advanced their stage, they must choose one of the other 2 stages and reveal that one. This puts their former stage back into the quest deck. This can cause an endless loop if players do not advance a stage. This, in turn, leads to a loss because players will likely threat out. In order to buy yourself more time, you can explore a Hidden Eyot location, giving you more time to make all the progress you need.
If the players are able to make all 13 progress on a stage, they immediately advance to a random stage 3. This works the same as stage 2, only with a few twists. The different stages 2B of this scenario will now be discussed.
Quest card 2B: A Forgotten Land – Time 3, 13 quest points
This is probably the worst of the three quest stages to start off with. The B side of this quest states that every player can only play 1 card per round. This includes events, side-quests, attachments, and allies. This is a leg up from Escape from Dol Guldur, where you could only play 1 ally per round, but was free to play any number of attachments and events. This stage shuts down your early game a lot, only allowing 1 card to be played. There are some ways around this effect, though they require specific decks. Vilya and Tactics Imrahil can still put cards into play without taking up that 1 card per round slot. The same holds for other put into play effects like Reinforcements and A Very Good Tale, though those events will count towards the limit. It is very difficult to get your board state going when this is your first stage, but in the mid game, you should be better set up.
You will also likely save a lot of resources during this time. These might be spent for extra triggers of Warden of Healing or any of the kickers for events (Tides of Fate, Heed the Dream etc). Once players go to a different stage, you will likely have a lot of cards to play, allowing you to have a turn in which you pump out half your hand and strengthen your board state. But for this stage, you will be depending heavily on your heroes and any other cards that you already put into play at this point.
Quest card 2B: No End in Sight – Time 3, 13 quest points
This is also a painful quest card for some decks in the early stages of the game. No End in Sight does not allow players to use player card effects to either gain resources or draw cards. This renders some cards in your hand like Daeron’s Runes or Wealth of Gondor useless. But allies like Gleowine and Squire of the Citadel are also affected by this. There will be no way to accelerate your deck as quickly as you would like to when this is the active quest.
There is a way around some of this though. Master of the Forge does not draw you a card, but it lets you add an attachment from your top 5 cards into your hand. With this terminology, it does not count as drawing a card, making it a legal move. Shifting resources between heroes with Errand-riders is also not an effect that lets you gain resources, you just shift them around a little. Be careful with what cards you are playing when at this stage, and keep the passive effect in mind. it is easy to activate a copy of Steward of Gondor when it is not allowed. Heroes like Thorin, Erestor, and Bilbo are hurt severely by this quest stage, rendering them less effective. Keep this in mind when preparing for the quest.
Quest card 2B: A Weary Passage – Time 3, 13 quest points
This is in my eyes the least harmful quest stage at this point in the scenario. It does not hinder your board state so much, and its passive effect can be countered by card effects. When players are at this stage, they must discard a random card from their hand in order to commit characters to the quest. This random discard is usually not a problem unless players have no cards in their hand. Then, they are unable to commit characters to the quest and will have to rely on other players to help the group out of the swamp.
This does not effect non-questing characters, like Galadriel + Nenya, Argalad, and enemies in Followed. These effects do not count as questing, so their controller does not have to discard a random card from their hand in order to use these abilities unless that player is also sending other characters to the quest.
In order to get your discarded cards back, I can advise you to either run Dwarven Tomb or Silver Harp to return discarded cards to your hand (Dwarven Tomb restricted to Spirit cards of course). You could also just shuffle your entire discard pile back into your deck with Will of the West. But discarding 1 card to commit your characters to the quest isn’t as punishing as the other two stages at this point in the quest.
Quest stage 3A: Lost in the Swanfleet
Once the players have made 13 progress on any of the random stages 2, they immediately advance to a random stage 3. This is done in exactly the same order as stage 2 so that the players don’t know what stage they will end up at. Once they reveal a random stage 3, they must trigger its When Revealed effect. This again raises the threat of all players by 1, just like stage 2 would. Players now also have to add Ancient Marsh-Dweller to the staging area. This can either be from out of play (when it is defeated on the previous stage or when players advance from stage 2) or from the board where it was engaged with a player. Players will then have to heal all of the damage off of the Dweller, and then flip over the stage.
All of the different stages 3 have Time 3 that will decide how long you can stay at each stage. The players will have to make 16 progress on the main stage, averaging at 6 progress per turn. With so many effects that remove progress tokens, you will likely want to make more than 8 progress per turn, just to be safe. When the time counters run out on the main quest, the players must choose another Stage 3 at random. The previous stage is then placed back into the quest deck. This will raise the threat of the players and return the Marsh-Dweller to the staging area and heal it.
During these stages, try to clear the staging area as much as possible. The Ancient Marsh-Dweller will start to contribute more and more threat as players remove time counters. This makes stalling at a certain stage also a bad idea. The longer the players are at stage 3, the bigger the Ancient Marsh-Dweller will become. You can negate his threat for a while by either engaging it or using Radagast’s Cunning, but that only lasts for so long. Since the Marsh-Dweller isn’t immune to player card effects, you can use cards like Feint and Coney in a Trap to prevent the Marsh-Dweller from attacking. This saves you from taking some big attacks and removes a lot of threat from the staging area for that stage. Note that the Marsh-Dweller will return to the staging area after players advance to another stage 3. If the players manage to kill the Marsh-Dweller, it will return from the victory display at the moment players advance to a different stage 3 or if they advance to stage 4. The good thing about this is that the Marsh Dweller won’t have any tokens on him at that point, making him less of a threat.
Quest card 3B: Impassable Marshland – Time 3, 16 quest points
This quest card I actually find the least troublesome out of all three possible stage 3s. The only thing that this quest does, is to boost all locations in play (including the active location) by 1 threat. This can be worrying for players who are facing location lock, but in lower player count, this is unlikely. Having more threat in the staging area will likely cause players to run out of time before they can place all 16 progress on the quest. I, therefore, see this quest stage as a bit of a resting place, where you can gather your strength for the last push on another quest stage. Maybe get some side-quests explored in the meantime. This is not me saying that you should stall, just saying that it is a proper strategy.
This is also the quest stage where your location control cards will shine. Heirs of Earendil can now get rid of more threat for the same cost, and blowing up locations with Backtrack or Mirkwood Explorer will leave the staging area clear of threat. This, in turn, nullifies the passive effect on the main stage.
Quest card 3B: A Treacherous Swamp – Time 3, 16 quest points
This is a particularly nasty quest stage if the players have managed to get their board set up with a lot of allies. Swarm decks are not uncommon and would be very good against this quest. However, this stage ensures that you may only ready 5 characters per player during the refresh phase. Remember that this will include your heroes, so you will likely just be readying 2 allies unless one of your allies is more valuable than a specific hero. If characters have built-in readying effects, you will have more freedom with who you keep ready. Boromir, Quickbeam, Treebeard, and any hero with Unexpected Courage/Fast Hitch can remain exhausted and be readied later.
In case you are running swarm decks, global readying effects like Strength of Arms and Grim Resolve will benefit the group greatly. This can cause you to commit plenty of characters to the quest and make the progress you need. This is probably the most difficult quest stage to advance, as you won’t have enough characters to commit both to the quest, and use for combat. If you invest in only having a couple of really strong allies instead of an army (Harad synergy), then this stage will be less troublesome.
Quest card 3B: Creatures of a Forgotten Age – Time 3, 16 quest points
This quest stage has my vote for the most annoying out of the three. Its effect may seem minor, but it has some big consequences. While at this stage, all enemies (including the Ancient Marsh-Dweller) get -20 engagement cost. This means that you will be unable to avoid enemies in the staging area unless you are using cards like Grey Cloak and Advance Warning. While players might already have to engage the Neekerbreekers and the Adders, the Marsh Dweller will suddenly also be at a dangerous 25 engagement cost. If players have stalled for a while, then this enemy will be coming down swinging for at least 6 attack. On the bright side, the threat from the Marsh Dweller is no longer counted during questing when he engages a player, making clearing this quest a bit easier than the other two stages 3.
If you do find yourself at this stage, try to engage the Marsh Dweller and cancel his attacks. While he may be immune to attachments, he is not immune to effects like Feint. This can cripple him for a while, giving players the chance to deal with any other enemies that have come down.
Quest card 4: Out of the Swamp – Time 2
You have survived the shifting quest stages, but now a monstrous enemy stands between you and victory over this scenario. If you haven’t been lucky and got some rapid willpower out during stage 3, the Marsh Dweller will have collected a fair few resources, making him a formidable enemy that will take some characters down with it. When players advance to this stage, they add Ancient Marsh Dweller back to the staging area (either from engaged with a player or from the victory display if players killed it during the previous stage). It is also healed back to full strength. Then, the Marsh Dweller will make an immediate attack against each player, in player order. This can cause some big problems for players who have been avoiding combat and don’t have a character ready to deal with the attack. Chumping will be your safest bet for this attack. There is no real point in defending this attack, better save your proper defender for the combat phase (unless your defender has multiple defences per round). Players who are not set up to defend the Marsh-Dweller can ask for Sentinel defenders to defend for them, but they should get more chumps out quickly. After the Marsh-Dweller has attacked each player, the players flip this stage and move to stage 4B.
At this stage, the players will encounter the Time 2 keyword. This does not shift quest stages but will cause something even more horrible to happen. Once the final time counter has been removed from the quest, the players will each have to stomach an attack from the Marsh-Dweller in player order. This is the exact same format as the attack that happened when you advanced to this stage, so keep a chump ready for this stage. The quest will get 2 new time counters after the attacks have been resolved, setting up the Marsh-Dweller for another round of attacks. You can extend the attacks by exploring some more Hidden Eyot locations, which add time counters to the quest.
The objective of this stage is to kill the Ancient Marsh-Dweller. The second the final damage token is placed on this enemy, the players win the game. This is easier said than done. The Marsh-Dweller has some impressive stats, and the players will be weary from the previous quest stages and the ongoing attacks. With 4 defence and 9 hitpoints, the Ancient Marsh-Dweller will need a big combined attack to take down. Luckily it doesn’t heal its damage during this stage. Players will be able to chip him for a damage here and there, though a big combined attack is a far better option. Tactics Eowyn is a good boss killer, but she will need some help to deal the final blow. Players can use Ranged attacks to deal with the Marsh-Dweller, and even damage dealing effects like Hail of Stones will work. The Marsh-Dweller should be the top priority, as killing it will be the only thing players have to do in order to win. The quest doesn’t require any progress, so turning some questers into attackers or chump blockers will help during combat. Don’t forget about questing though, as failing the quest can put your threat at a dangerous level this late in the game.
After the Marsh-Dweller has fallen to your heroes, you immediately win the game. You have survived the very long route through the swamp and will now have to dig in an Elven ruin for an ancient artefact. The story continues in Celebrimbor’s Secret.
The Encounter deck
- The encounter deck is thin to average size with 29 cards in Normal mode, and 23 in Easy mode
- Shadow effects appear on 69% of cards in Normal mode, and 62% in Easy mode.
- Average threat on cards revealed is 1.4 in Normal mode, and 1.6 in Easy mode. A lot of cards have 3 threat so you may find yourself adding more threat per round per player.
- Only 5 cards in the encounter deck surge, making it pretty reliable that you only reveal 1 card per player.
- Doomed is not a thing in this quest, but between Nalir and the quest stages, you will be raising your threat a lot.
- Time can get removed by 5 cards, but they have a big impact on the game, as enemies and locations synergise with you losing time counters. cancelling these treacheries will save you from attacks and having to reset your quest stage.
The statistics above do not include Nalir and the Ancient Marsh-Dweller, as they are not in the encounter deck. The encounter deck is primarily focused on locations, though enemies will be pulled out with some treacheries.
Nalir is back, and while Trouble in Tharbad had a lot of ways to lower your threat, this quest makes him even worse. Not only can he die really quickly to Neekerbreekers, but he is also counted towards the characters players control when dealing with effects like A Treacherous Swamp and Low on Provisions. There really is no upside to him, see my rant during Trouble in Tharbad… The only corner case scenario where you might actually want to have him is in a Dwarf Swarm deck with Bombur to get to 5 Dwarves from the first round.
Nalir will be a big contributor to a race against your threat, as he will raise your threat at the end of the round by 1 for each player. This is done just before passing him to the next player who is then the first player. While his effect is almost negligible in solo, in 4 player, this effect will result is quick jumps in threat. The nett gain in threat is still equal, but it feels like a lot more threat in 4 players. Threat reduction is not outlawed in this scenario though, so players can continuously lower their threat to not threat out in a few turns.
With just 3 enemies in the scenario and 1 of them being unique, you would imagine the quest to be light on combat. However, the enemies are very tough and will require you to kill them in the same turn that you engage them in order to avoid their effects. On top of this, there is a final boss enemy that can become huge in a matter of a few rounds.
- Ancient Marsh-Dweller: This knock-off Watcher in the Water will start stalking you from stage 3, and will continue to haunt you until you kill it on stage 4. Notice that killing it on a stage 3 will return into the staging area from the victory display after the players advance the stage. All the while the Marsh-Dweller is in play, it will accumulate resources. These resources will boost its already impressive attack stat, as well as his threat. Note that it only gets 1 resource, regardless of how many time counters you remove at once.
It can get more than 1 resource per round though if players are forced to discard time counters. The best way to deal with this guy is to engage him in order to remove his threat from the staging area during stage 3. This frees up some willpower that you can use to beat the stage. When engaged, I will definitely advise an event like Feint to prevent you from having to defend him. In the staging area, the Marsh-Dweller can also be countered by Radagast’s Cunning, saving you a lot of threat. Once the players arrive at stage 4, they will have to kill this enemy by throwing everything they got at it. It will always take 13 attack to kill this guy, as his defence doesn’t get boosted by the resources. In order to reduce the number of resources on the Marsh-Dweller, I would argue it is a good thing to kill it at stage 3, just to have it out of play for a while. Then, at stage 4, it comes into play again but will have lost all the resources, making it easier to defend and less of a threat. This buys you some time to kill it for the second time. For the first time, don’t bother using one-time effects like Black Arrow or Tactics Eowyn, save those for later. It should be noted that the Marsh Dweller will attack often, both through quest effects and shadow cards. Shadow cancellation and attack negation can be very powerful tools against this enemy. For the rest, feel free to play any event that deals damage to this enemy, as he is not immune to player card effects. Hail of Stones is a quick and easy way to get rid of this enemy, provided you have 9 characters.
- Neekerbreekers: Their name is so funny for some reason, but these things are actually a real thing in Middle Earth, only in the Midgewater Marsh next to Bree. These Insects aren’t the biggest threat because of their stat line, but they are surprisingly difficult to kill. 6 hitpoints make them very resistant to direct damage. Their 1 attack is nothing to really fear, but it still should be defended, just in case. There are some nasty shadow effects that can suddenly boost their attack substantially, potentially killing a hero. Their own shadow effect is actually also a pain, as it will destroy capable defenders like Defender of Rammas, piercing all defence and dealing 1 damage to the defender. The real pain with these Neekerbreekers is two-fold. First, their low engagement cost of 20 (or 0 at a certain stage 3) can cause you to have to engage them often. While this does draw their 2 threat out of the staging area, they will start to chip away at your allies with their ability. That is the second part that makes them so nasty. Dealing 2 damage to an ally you control will not only kill some of them, it will also make sure that you will remain weakly set up against the encounter deck whenever a Time counter is removed. This can happen more than once per turn, causing the engaged player to continuously damage and discard allies. In the early game, if the players have few allies, even Nalir may become a target. While he is sturdy enough to take 1 of the hits, he can’t take a second, causing players to lose the game. The best tech against these Neekerbreekers is actually Ranger Spikes, which pin them in the staging area, contributing no threat. They are the only enemy who can be targeted with these Spikes, so it will always hit on them, basically removing them from the game.
- Giant Swamp Adder: This enemy has better stats and protection than some lower level boss enemies, and there are quite some of these adders in the deck. With 3/3/3/6, the adder will take 9 attack to kill, which is a daunting task, especially with how this quest punishes your set up. The 3 attack stat is high enough to be troubling, as it should be defended at least, unlike some Neekerbreekers. The Adder also has immunity to all attachments, making him harder to counter with traps. He is also immune to Forest Snare in particular, which would have made for a great counter to this enemy. This is because the Giant Swamp Adder will be making attacks each time any number of Time counters are removed from the current quest. But since this happens at the end of the round, players could use effects like Andrath Guardsman and Coney in a Trap to cancel the first attack. The Adder will then be unable to attack during the rest of the round, potentially saving you from multiple attacks in the combat and refresh phase.
There are just 4 different locations in the encounter deck that players can encounter. They are built to withstand a lot of location control, but they are not immune. Since they are not really boosting each other, you will find that prioritising just some locations over others makes the travel phase rather easy. Location control is still advised in higher player numbers, as a large part of the encounter deck consists out of locations.
- Finger of the Glanduin: As good as location control is for this quest, the worse this location becomes. This 3/3 location will counter any copy of Northern Tracker by removing a progress token from each location in play at the end of the round while it is in the staging area. This includes the active location, making location lock a problem. The best course of action is to make this location the active location as quickly as you can. This removes its 3 threat and shuts down its Forced ability. Note that these abilities stack and also target itself. Players will still be able to make progress on locations though, and cards like Mirkwood Explorer can definitely snipe some locations after having quested successfully multiple times.
- Hidden Eyot: A patch of dry land in a swamp is a helpful relief, and so is this location. While it is 3 threat, players will be motivated to travel here because of its response. Exploring the Hidden Eyot will add 2 time counters to the quest. This prevents players from having to shift stages or it prevents the Marsh Dweller from making attacks against all players. The players do not necessarily have to have this location active in order to benefit from its response, clearing it in the staging area can also trigger the response. This buys players more time to stall and beat this quest. It is advised that players explore this location in the staging area, because of a travel effect where each player has to exhaust a character he controls. The first player will have Nalir available, but the other players might have to exhaust a character they need. There are ways around this travel cost though.
- Sinking Bog: Dale decks beware, this location shuts down your synergy immediately. While this location is in the staging area, each character with an Item attachment will be weighed down by it, resulting in a -1 to all basic stats for each Item that character carries. This is an incredible thematic location, but can also screw with your math a little. For questing characters, it is an annoying location to have in play, but even more so for combat characters. Weapons and Armour tend to also be items, making Sinking Bog terrible for combat. Luckily, this effect does not stack with other copies of the location, but it will punish players who play a lot of items on a few characters. If you build around this location though, it becomes an easy 1 threat location that you can leave in the staging area.
- Fen of Reeds: Finally, this location is the least troublesome in terms of stats, contributing just 2 threat and needing 3 progress to clear. This makes it a poor option to travel to, were it not for its Forced ability while it is in the staging area. Whenever players advance to a quest stage (which also counts when running out of time at stage 2 and 3), players must exhaust a character they control. This effect does stack with other copies of itself, making a staging area full of this location a terrible sight. Location control can make short work of this one though, knocking it out of the staging area. If revealed early in the game, the players will have enough time (hopefully) to clear this location before they advance to a different stage.
On top of the treacheries from the Weary Travellers encounter set, this scenario features 2 new treacheries. One focuses on accelerating the Time keyword on the stages, while the other drags out more enemies for you to handle.
- Shifting Marshland: While this treachery looks harmless, it is often the cause of many losses in this scenario. The treachery will simply remove 1 time counter off the current quest and is then replaced by another encounter card because of its Surge keyword. While this might not seem like a big deal, losing 1 time counter will likely force players to stall since they lose a round in which they can advance a stage 2 or 3. If they were just 1 progress away and this forces them to reset the quest, it can be fairly frustrating. On stage 4, this effect will cause the Ancient Marsh-Dweller to make more attacks per round, and it will also fuel the beast with an additional resource. In order to avoid having to remove as many time counters from the main stages, try to have a side-quest as the active quest if you know this card is coming up. While this may take some scrying, it can be a great way to avoid more time counters being discarded. Try to cancel this effect if you can. Not only will it advance the quest stages, but all the enemies will trigger effects, causing direct damage or attacks outside of the combat phase. The card will still surge, but at least you managed to avoid removing 1 time counter extra this turn. The shadow effect on this card is also worth mentioning, as an additional attack from the Marsh-Dweller is usually the end of the game. Sure, it can hit the Neekerbreekers, but knowing this game, you will face this shadow effect at some point. Shadow cancellation is a must in order to stay alive.
- Remnants of Elder Days: I had a good look at the art of this card, and I think I recognise that serpent. The Core Set Marsh Adder shares a lot of similarities with the serpent of this art. Anyway, moving on. This treachery will pull out 1 enemy for each player and put it engaged with that player. There is nothing really you can do against this treachery, as its effect cannot be cancelled. This treachery was included to increase the combat aspect of this quest a little bit, preventing it from becoming the Hills of Emyn Muil but with time counters. The players will have the choice between the Neekerbreekers and the Giant Swamp Adder when picking an enemy. The choice is up to the players, but I think that players are better suited to take down Neekerbreekers before more Adders. There is a possibility that this treachery whiffs if the players have already found all enemies and they are either in play or in the victory display with None Return/Out of the Wild. This could be a rare case in a 4 player game, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t bother adding Items to your deck, it will be very hard for you to keep characters at full potential with so many copies of Sinking Bog in play. This makes Dale a horrible archetype to bring to this quest. The location targets characters, so even your allies will be affected if they carry an Item.
- The Spirit version of the Elfhelm ally is actually a great tool to avoid having to raise your threat whenever advancing stages. Since he lowers your threat by 1, it is just negated. This saves quite some threat over the course of the game.
- With all enemies and all locations sharing common traits, victory display decks with Rossiel can get online really quickly. This provides an added benefit in willpower or defence strength within a few turns.
- Traps are next to useless in this scenario, as every enemy except the Neekerbreekers are immune to attachments. For the Neekerbreekers alone, you could add Ranger Spikes to your deck, just to neutralise the threat that they pose. This is situational though, and the pay off is not substantial, the resources are probably spent better elsewhere.
- Have a side quest ready for stage 4. Not only does the main stage not require any progress, but if your side quest is the active quest, Shifting Marshland will remove the time counter from that quest, and not the main quest. This can save you a lot of unnecessary attacks from the Marsh-Dweller. This also works with Giant Swamp Adders, if the main quest has no Time counters to remove, they don’t make additional attacks.
- While Nalir is not useful in any shape or form, he will allow decks with 3 Dwarf heroes and Bombur to get to the 5 Dwarf threshold from turn 1. This can greatly accelerate your Dwarf deck if you are able to play cards in the early game. This puts you in a strong position for the later stages.
- In order to avoid the massive threat from the Ancient Marsh-Dweller during the end of the game, try to use Radagast’s Cunning. This can help you to advance the quest more easily since you are cancelling at least 3 threat in the staging area with that event.
- You can make things a lot easier for you if you manage to kill the Ancient Marsh-Dweller during stage 3. If you immediately advance to stage 4 after you killed it (not going to another stage 3 before that) the Marsh-Dweller comes back into play without resources on him. This makes the immediate attack easier to handle and reduces the threat in the staging area.
- Between the quest stages and Nalir, you will be raising your threat a lot every few rounds. Being able to lower your threat consistently will prevent you from facing that 50 threat limit in the final stage. This is especially helpful for players who stall a bit in the early game.
- Because of the quick gain in threat, valour decks are actually quite viable against this scenario. This benefits players with more powerful cards in the later stages of the game. On the other hand, don’t bother with Secrecy, it is very difficult to maintain without draining your deck of resources and abilities.
- If you really don’t want to end quest stages because of the time keyword, run Shadow of the Past or Watchful Peace to keep recycling Hidden Eyot to the encounter deck. This will have put more time counters on the quest, making sure you don’t have to switch. Having more time counters does make some shadow effects nastier though.
- Condition removal in this quest can be a lifesaver if you get a copy of Off Track on the table. Being able to get rid of this treachery will not only save you from switching quest stages every round, but also from facing a monstrous Ancient Marsh-Dweller.
Since this quest isn’t so popular among players, there aren’t so many playthroughs to be found. I will update the list as more videos get uploaded though!
- 2 players, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=614XdwU9cys
- 2 handed, progression style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf8OSXVfZ4M
- 3 players, updated card pool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlrPuvUiiv8
- 1 player, updated card pool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqLBIcAdZ2Y
And so concludes one of the scenarios I am most reluctant to play. This also brings an end to the Ringmaker cycle and its Time keyword. Soon, we will be bringing you the different scenarios from the Angmar Awakened cycle, where we will be discussing Undead enemies, Weather treacheries, and encounter side-quests. Hope to see you guys then!