Intro to the Khazad-Dum cycle: There and Back Again

“For a while we had news and it seemed good: messages reported that Moria had been entered and a great work begun there. Then there was silence, and no word has ever come from Moria since.”  

So one complete cycle is done and it’s a very exciting time for me as I begin a brand new cycle which I remember to be very rich in theme. ‘Khazad-dum’ brings a totally different feel to the game from ‘Shadows of Mirkwood’ as leafy glades and paths get changed to darkly lit mines and twisting underground passages.

In this cycle we get 8 new Heroes – Bifur and Dwalin in the Deluxe set and then Elladan, Elrohir, Aragorn (Lore), Hama, Glorfindel and Elrond in the Adventure Packs. They are some great Heroes that I’ll discuss as I go through the cycle, but I do feel it’s odd that apart from the initial 2 Dwarves, we get no less than 4 Noldor elves in a cycle that’s all about Moria and the Dwarf culture!

There are also loads of new player cards in the cycle, many of which are dwarf-themed.

Favourite new player cards: From the deluxe set, I love the Khazad, Khazad attack bonus and the Dwarrowdelf Axe is a fantastic new weapon and possible starting attachment. Untroubled by Darkness is a great questing card for Underground locations. The infamous Zigil Miner needs no extra discussion. Ancestral Knowledge is a cheap way to clear active Underground or Mountain Locations. Narvi’s Belt and Durin’s Song become Dwarf staple cards and Boots from Erebor is a cheap Neutral boost that could be a starting attachment too.

In fact there are so many great cards from this cycle, no wonder that players and fans of the game are all clamouring to get their hands on the adventure packs. Fortunately I got mine when they all first came out so I can put all the lovely cards into my decks!

A Hero’s Story – Bifur and Dwalin: Bifur is our first Lore Dwarf Hero and is only Threat 7 which is a nice low cost. I believe his ability comes from him being the organiser and record-keeper of Thorin’s group. Dwalin is our first Spirit Dwarf Hero and has a terrific Orc-slaying/threat reduction ability linked to his hatred Orcs – killing them to keep them quiet and not raise any alarms. I foresee this being incredibly useful in the depths of Moria!

All the player cards in this deluxe set are ‘solo friendly’ so we don’t need to have any solo tweaks from there, and only a few from the cycle as a whole:

Solo Tweaks – Dwarrowdelf Cycle:

Renewed Friendship: Response: After you play an Item or Title attachment on a hero you control, you may ready 1 of your heroes, or draw 1 card, or lower your threat by 2.

(Slightly narrowing the focus of the attachments that gain the benefit to stay with the theme of the card)

Rivendell Bow: Gains ‘Restricted’

(This brings it into line with the other Bow cards)

Rider of the Mark: Action:  Spend 1 Spirit resource and exhaust Rider of the Mark to discard a shadow card dealt to an enemy you are engaged with (Limit once per round).

(The idea behind this is that the rider scouts ahead and reports back the Enemy plan)

Song of Earendil: Attach to a Noldor Spirit hero. Response: After Song of Eärendil enters play, draw 1 card. Response: After you raise your threat outside of the quest phase, discard Song of Earendil to reduce your threat by the same amount.

(A slight restriction on who can use the attachment and a re-wording of the Response for solo play)

Steward of Gondor: Another re-theme of this staple Core Set card that I’m calling Agent of Erebor and that attaches to any (Leadership or Noble) Dwarf Hero.

Havens

As we start a new cycle, I have designed three new Havens and another Stronghold cards for this expansion:

Thorin’s Halls                   Resources: 3    Threat: 2. Set Up: All Heroes must be Dwarf. You may not play Silvan cards.
Resources: Dwarf player cards.
Actions: Spend 1 resource here and exhaust 2Dwarf allies or Thorin Oakenshield to either Add a Weapon or Armour attachment from discard pile to your hand OR Search the bottom 5 cards of your deck for a Dwarf ally and add it to your hand.    

(A natural choice for this cycle with another Dwarf Haven that is slightly different from Erebor. Silvan cards cannot be played and the draw engine is tuned to combat or allies.)

Eagle’s Eyrie                  Resources: 2    Threat: 1 Set Up: (Delay) Gwahir or 2 Eagle allies in play.        
Resources: Eagle player cards.
Add a resource here each time an Eagle leaves play (unless destroyed)
Actions: Spend 1 resource here and exhaust 2 Eagle allies or Gwahir to either: Look at top card of the encounter deck OR Travel to a non-Underground Location. ignoring its Travel cost.

(A Haven to add to the Eagle theme developed in the last cycle. Note the Delay set up which means that although the Threat rise is at the start of the game, a player cannot utilise the advantages of the Haven until some feathery allies hit the table).

Rhosgobel                         Resources: 2       Threat: 1 Set Up: (Delay) Radagast            
Resources: Radagast or Creature player cards.
Resources may also be used to Heal wounds on Creature allies.
Add a resource here each time a Creature ally leaves play (unless destroyed)   
Actions: Spend 1 resource here and exhaust Radagast or a Creature ally to look at the top card of the encounter deck.      

(Since we visited Rhosgobel in the last cycle, plus Radagast has just become a Hero in the latest Adventure pack ‘Fate of the Wilderland’, I thought this would be a nice Haven to include. It’s also got a lot of synergy with the ‘Eagle Eyrie’ if playing a 2 player game. Again with this Haven, if you are using the Ally version of Radagast, there is a possible Delay before you can use Rhosgobel’s abilities.)

Strongholds

Moria                                 Danger: 2.           Threat: -3.    
If there are 3 Underground Locations in the Staging Area at the end of the round, add a Dangertoken here.
For each Quest card completed: Underground and Dark Locations gain +1 Threat and +1 quest points, Orc and Troll Enemies are +1 Threat and -1 Engagement cost, and unique Nameless Enemies are +1 ATK.  

Once again, the choice of a Stronghold for this cycle was pretty obvious:

(You don’t want to get lost in the dark, twisting passages of Moria or the place gets a whole lot more dangerous. The deeper you go, the more nasty your encounters will be – just ask the dwarves…)

Additional rules

A new mechanic introduced in the Dwarrowdelf Cycle was Secrecy. This was a neat idea from the design team to give cards that were cheaper if your Threat was lower than 20 and was really thematic too. The problem in solo play is that you need every Hero you can get and the chances of having 3 Heroes with less than 20 Threat is slim (although not impossible), so I’ll just tweak it a little for Story Mode

Example of a card with Secrecy cost reduction

Secrecy: If a player starts with 2 Heroes, he still gets a total Cost of 3 for Starting Attachments, so 1 Hero may have a Cost 2 (non-unique) Starting Attachment. If a player starts with only 1 Hero, that Hero may have a total of Cost 3 in Starting Attachments, including 1 unique attachment.

(This may encourage players to trial decks with a single Hero, such as Gandalf or Radagast, and be able to play a few starting attachments on them – including their respective staffs…)

I’m also going to test out a new Haven mechanic for Story Mode that might help out Secrecy:

Example of a hero that can serve as a Lord: buffing characters from the Haven

Lords: This mechanic offers a little more narrative theme to represent a powerful Hero, such as Elrond or Dain Ironfoot staying at a Haven and offering advice and support from there rather than travelling with the heroes. During Set Up, you may decide that a Hero mentioned on the Haven you are playing is a Lord of that Haven.  That Hero cannot quest, attack, defend, be the target of player or encounter card effects, or carry Objective attachments. The Lord has 0 Threat on Set Up, generates resources and may use any abilities as normal.

(This will help see more Secrecy decks in play although it could be far too over-powered with some loop-holes that players could exploit. Certainly Galadriel, who personifies this mechanic as she can’t quest, attack or defend anyway, is a good deal. On the other hand, in solo play cutting a third of your active Heroes that cannot quest, attack or defend could be suicidal. However, the only way to find out is to do some playtesting…)

I’m really looking forward to creating new decks with Dwarf Heroes and themed cards that I haven’t previously touched so far due to the theme of the quests in the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. I can also introduce the 2 Dwarf Havens of Erebor and Thorin’s Halls and see how they play out with different Dwarf decks. Finally, a whole new cycle of player cards has become available for my card pool and I can’t wait to include them.

I hope you’ll join me…

“The Road Goes Ever On…”

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