Into the Pit: There and Back Again

“The doors of the East-gate hang crooked on their hinges. The darkness inside the doorway is still and impenetrable, shutting out the last beams of a sinking sun.”

Welcome to my latest article as I start ‘Khazad-dum’, and a new cycle of adventures for the LCG. This cycle was eagerly awaited – both when it first came out in 2012 and in any subsequent reprints, due to its excellent player cards and exciting theme of exploring the lost Dwarven kingdom of Moria.

The story begins with concern over a lack of messages sent back by Balin after his quest to reclaim the ancient city of the Dwarrowdelf and the Heroes have been sent to investigate what happened…

I decided to go for cards from all 4 Spheres with Bifur, Dwalin and Dain as my heroes. I wrestled over not having a Tactics hero and both Gimli and Thalin had a close chance to get in for a long time, but Dain had to be an automatic include. My starting attachments are Song of Battle on both Dain and Bifur and Ever my Heart Rises on Dwalin. I had a starting Threat of 27, but I included Erebor as a Haven so this increased my Threat to 29. My deck was almost exclusively Dwarf themed and had a fair balance of the different Spheres, although I decided to take a risk and NOT include Gandalf or Sneak Attack. I also raised the number of cards to 54 in total.

My first attempt ended in defeat. Although I got through the fixed Locations of East Gate, First Hall and The Bridge of Khazad-dum and into the second quest card, the nasty Patrol Leader Goblin plus a few of his goblin pals soon finished me off. The staging area got full of nasty Locations and the quest ended unsuccessfully.

My second attempt went a lot further than before and I managed to get to the third quest card which is really nasty as it doesn’t allow you to collect any more Resources. Not knowing this at the time, I didn’t save enough up before I got there and my Dwarves just expired as they were attacked by the hordes of goblins that came at me. Once a Patrol Leader got a really lucky swipe at Dain and killed him, I knew my time was up. My opening hand and draw deck were both fairly poor with no real key cards forthcoming and with very few allies or good attachments which is really the heart of Dwarf decks.

Third time lucky? Not really as I never even got past East Gate this time before the staging area was over-run by nasty locations and goblins and my threat hit 50 before I knew it. The same was true for my fourth attempt although I did last a little longer but still didn’t get into the mines at all.

So I had one last attempt and this time I managed to beat the quest! It was a close call though with a final threat of 47 and with all my heroes dripping wounds from the goblin patrol attack before I finished the final nasty third quest stage – and that was with 2 last-minute Cave In cards!

Favourite card combo: Ever My Heart Rises on Dwalin (and other heroes) was very handy in this quest because you get to Travel to so many Underground locations that you can lower your threat and then ready him almost every turn to make an attack on a Goblin – which then lowers your threat even more.

What a fantastic themed quest this was – so different from the Mirkwood quests, and you really feel like you’re exploring the dark and twisting mines of Moria with Goblins jumping out at you at every turn. I feel the designers really did a good job here and the mechanics of the massing hordes of goblins in the shadows was cool. I also thought that little touches like the starting locations and the Cave Torch were hugely thematic and clever.

It was really strange working with a new set of Heroes and knowing how they operate together (and not having Beravor to draw more cards). It was the same with a totally new deck of cards. I had to take it much slower, and really had to take my time reading the cards and thinking through my strategy which meant that the quest felt fresh and exciting. I really missed not having Henamarth Riversong or Rumours from the Earth to rely on at the start of the turn to scrye the encounter deck, as well as the occasional appearance by a certain Grey Wizard…

Dwarves as a deck play really differently too from the decks I used last time with lots of great card synergy. Once you get some key cards (Legacy of Durin, Narvi’s Belt, and Agent of Erebor – my Steward of Gondor re-theme) on the table these little guys can rally, swarm and march their way through the dark passages of Moria without so much as a ‘Hi Ho’…. It was nice to use Erebor as a Haven card too for some more thematic flavour.

Still no sign of Balin though? Perhaps he’s sent me a text…?

“The Road Goes Ever On…”

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