It is a custom for the third quest of each Deluxe box to be the most difficult of the three. Look at Escape from Dol Guldur, Raid on the Grey Havens, and Deadmen’s Dike as examples. The Wilds of Rhovanion Deluxe’s third quest has you explore the mines of the Iron Hills, where rumour has it that a dragon has taken up residence in the mines. Defeating this dragon will earn you the favour of the Dalesmen, which secures a refuge for your Haradrim friends.
This quest is the most difficult of the three in this box, which should be obvious as there is a dragon in the quest. On top of that, the quest introduces a new Deep mechanic that will be repeated during other quests in the cycle. The quest can be tough with enemies swinging for a lot of attack, and the encounter deck raising your threat a lot in the early game. If you manage to stay alive long enough, you have to find the Dragon’s Hoard and slay the beast in order to win the quest. This is no small feat, and with the deep places of the world being tricky locations, there is no telling what dangers lie ahead.
The King’s Quest
- Found in: Wilds of Rhovanion Deluxe, scenario 3
- Official difficulty: 5
- Community difficulty: 7
- Encounter sets: The King’s Quest, Lost Caves, Fell Beasts, Deep Underground, Wild Creatures, Dragon Might, Afraid of the Dark
- Quest cards: 3
- Play if: You want a good old Dragon-slaying quest that doesn’t feature Smaug, you enjoy the Deep mechanic but don’t want to play Withered Heath or Mount Gundabad, you want to complete the entire Deluxe in progression mode and this is the next quest on the list.
- What’s different about this quest?: Deep keyword, Dragon bossfight, players advance when certain locations are cleared
- Solo or multiplayer?: This is a very difficult quest in true solo, as you have to both deal with the many tough enemies that come out of the encounter deck, as well as have enough willpower to clear locations to prevent you from stalling. It gets a little easier in higher player counts, but note that all players must be able to tank the Dragon’s attacks. I would say 3 players is probably the optimal number, as 4 will produce a lot more locations for the players than they can hope to clear, but lower than 3 will have a hard time balancing the different aspects of this scenario.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: Yes, I would recommend that you bring side-quests for this scenario. The first quest stage does not require progress, but you will still end up spending a few rounds at that stage. In order to not let extra progress go to waste, I will recommend running side-quests for this early stage. They will be less useful at stage 2, where you will want at least 5 progress on the main quest each round to progress faster. Stage 3 also demands a lot of progress, unless you manage to attack with very few characters. Progress will still be needed. So the early game will be the best time to explore some side-quests.
- What to look out for: Early threat raising effects from the quest card, Dragon attacking all players after stage 1, tough enemies, location lock, Deep locations with unknown effects.
The setup of this quest will remove quite a lot of encounter cards from the encounter deck, so don’t start shuffling everything together at the start of the game. Players first have to create the Caves deck, which will sit next to the main encounter deck. This Caves deck consists out of the 6 Lost Caves locations, which is the entire encounter set. These locations can be recognised by them having victory points and having threat equal to their quest points. Once all 6 have been shuffled and set aside as a new deck (facedown so the players don’t know what location is on top), a few other encounter cards are removed from the encounter deck as well. Fire-drake, Dragon Hoard, and all 4 treacheries of the Dragon Might encounter set are set aside, out of play. Now the players shuffle the encounter deck and discard cards until each player has discarded either an enemy or a location. Add these encounter cards to the staging area to start the game. Since these cards are discarded and added, they are not revealed. This means that keywords like Surge and When Revealed effects do not go off at this stage. Cards like Hobgoblin do still get their effect though. Once all encounter cards have been added to the staging area, stage 1 flips to side B and the players begin the game.
Quest card 1: The Iron Hills – 0 quest points
This first stage is where most of your setup will happen, and you can stall a little at this stage to get everything on the table before you advance to stage 2. This does come at a cost of high threat, but I will go into detail on that later. Since stage 1B has no quest points that need to be fulfilled, the players are free to quest against their side-quests if they brought any. There is no benefit in placing progress on the main quest, other than perhaps use Backtrack on. Good side-quests at this stage include Double Back, to lower your threat. Keep Watch is also great, as there will be many enemies in this encounter deck that can hit hard. Your staples of Send for Aid, Gather Information, and Scout Ahead are also decent quests to go up against. You don’t need to be clearing these side-quests in one turn, but in order to clear them all, I would recommend questing hard against them. After this stage, you will need progress on the main quest, so there won’t be much time to clear any left-over side-quests.
Because of this Forced ability on the quest card, you will find that your threat will increase a lot in the early game if you don’t put the locations in the staging area. This means that Secrecy and Hobbit players will be at a disadvantage, and will have to rely on threat lowering player cards. If the players stall for too long at this stage, threat reduction has to be included in decks, else the players will never see stage 2. In multiplayer games, playing The Galadhrim’s Greeting and Double Back will ensure that all players can raise their threat with relative ease without having to fear engaging big enemies sooner.
Since the players cannot progress through placing progress on the main quest, they instead have to clear 3 locations with victory points. After the third location with points is added to the victory display, the players immediately progress. Note that the locations must have a printed victory X value, so players can’t advance faster through putting other locations in the victory display. This also does not count Forked Passage, as that location can put itself in the Victory Display, but has no victory points. In fact, none of the locations in the encounter deck have a printed victory X value. The location that you have to explore in order to progress must come out of the Caves deck, where all 6 locations have a victory value. Clearing half of these will see the players progress to stage 2.
In order to travel to any of the locations from the Caves deck, the players must travel to a location from the encounter deck that has the Deep keyword on it. As soon as that location becomes the active location (after paying any Travel cost), the location is immediately discarded and the top location from the Caves deck becomes the new active location. This can trigger some abilities on the new location, causing the players to either find enemies, take damage, or do some beneficial things. Not all locations in the Caves deck are horrible. Two will actually help the players by being easy to clear and giving players the ability to find cards, lower their threat, or gain a resource. After a location of the Caves deck has become the active location, the game progresses as usual. Clearing the new active location will put it in the victory display. The cycle now repeats until the third location from the Caves deck has entered the victory display. The players immediately advance after this has happened.
To help you in the later stages of this quest, I will advice saving up certain locations for later. Forked Passage is the main location you will want to keep in the staging area for the entire stage, as it will allow the players to move faster through the second stage by filtering the Caves deck. Also try to have chumpblockers out by the time you progress, as well as having cleared as many enemies on the table as possible. This will all help in making the transition to stage 2 smoother.
Quest card 2: The Lower Depths
With you having explored 3 locations of the Caves deck, you make your way to the lower depths of the mine. While you are now being stalked by the dragon, you cannot yet deal with it until you find its lair. This stage will have you find that lair so that you can slay the beast. When the players progress to this stage, they must place the set aside Dragon Hoard location on the bottom of the Caves deck. This means that it will be the fourth location of the Caves deck. Players then have to add the Fire-drake to the staging area and shuffle the earlier set-aside Dragon Might encounter set into the encounter deck. If the encounter deck was nearly empty by the time that the players advanced to this stage, they will have a high chance of revealing these treacheries early, which can be a problem if the players are not prepared.
Flipping over to side 2B, the players are informed that the Fire-drake is stalking them, but that they cannot do anything about it just yet. The Fire-drake cannot leave the staging area or take damage at this stage. That doesn’t mean that players should ignore the Fire-drake. It has a Forced effect that will trigger whenever the players explore the active location. The Fire-drake then makes an immediate attack against each player in turn order. With the drake attacking for 7, this will kill most characters, so you would do well to chump the attack. On the off-chance that you have a hero up to 7 defence or more, you would help out your team to tank multiple attacks, if you have readying and the Sentinel keyword as well. The fact that the dragon attacks each player instead of just the first player can really screw over some players that don’t have chumps out. Another strategy to get around the Fire-drake is to not explore the active location. But this is rather difficult to pull off, and will take up too much deckspace. Just have some allies on the table that can defend the Fire-drake for you, and have Horn of Gondor on stand-by to gain some resources. With the Fire-drake not being immune to player card effects, you can also cancel the attack for you with Feint or Feigned Voices. Forest Snare won’t work, as the Fire-drake is immune to non-Dragon attachments, which includes traps.
Again, the players do not need any progress on this quest stage to advance, but instead advance as soon as Dragon Hoard becomes the active location. Since the Hoard is at the bottom of the Caves deck, the players will have to travel to locations with the Deep keyword in order to find the Hoard. This will take 4 tries at most, but there are ways to accelerate this process. I mentioned that during the previous stage, player had to save the Forked Passage location in the staging area. This is the time to travel there. By using the ability on the Passage, players can raise their threat by 2 to look at the top 2 locations of the Caves deck. They then put one back on top of the deck, and the other on the bottom. This moves Dragon Hoard one slot closer to the top of the Caves deck, meaning that players can advance faster from this stage and have to take fewer attacks from the Fire-drake.
Another way to advance faster through this stage is with the quest’s own effect. As a response, players can remove 5 points of progress from stage 2B whenever they place progess there from questing successfully. If they remove the 5 points of progress, they also get to look at the top 2 cards of the Caves deck, and put one of those on the bottom of the deck. Players have now also moved the Dragon Hoard up one slot in the Caves deck. Combining this with Forked Passage can lead to a quick escape from this quest, which saves you from Dragon attacks.
This stage has to be done quickly, and I will advice players to clear the board of other encounter cards so that the Fire-drake is the only enemy you have to worry about. Clearing locations in the staging area is also a good idea, although Dark Tunnel can prevent you from placing progress on Dark locations. Still, there are other locations that are missing the Dark trait, so you can still clear those locations in the staging area. Clearing locations this way does not trigger Fire-drake, so you can clear more than one location per round without having to risk getting BBQ’ed all the time. At this stage, locations like Contested Depths are also getting a lot of threat, so clearing those in the staging area will mean that you can place more progress on the active location, and on the main quest, which can allow you to scry the Caves deck. Travelling to Deep locations is also advised to accelerate your team through this stage. Discarding locations through the Deep keyword does not trigger the Fire-drake, and gets you closer to the Dragon Hoard.
Once the players finally have found the Dragon Hoard, they may trigger its Response before advancing the quest. This response allows the first player to choose a player. That player may place any Artifact attachment from their hand onto the Dragon Hoard. That attachment gets the Guarded (location) keyword and is now guarded by the Hoard. If the Artifact already had a Guarded X keyword, it does not get resolved. This is a great way to get any of this cycles Guarded X artifacts out into play, but there are also other attachments that will be useful to get out for free. If no player has any useful Artifact attachments in their hand, then nothing happens. After this optional response has been resolved, the players advance to stage 3A.
Quest card 3: The Fire Worm
Now the final battle begins between your team and the dragon. When this stage is revealed, the players must search the encounter deck and discard pile for a Dragon treachery and attach it to Fire-drake. If the Fire-drake already has both Dragon Breath and Dragon Scales attached to it, then this effect does nothing. If the Fire-drake has neither attachment, then you get to choose which one you want. I prefer the Dragon Scales, as it doesn’t burn my entire board and a simple Bow of Yew can get through those Scales. But if you can tank the 1 damage to all characters, then go with that. After the treachery gets attached, the encounter deck gets shuffled, and the players can flip this stage.
The first thing that players have to keep in mind at this stage is that the Deep keyword gets ignored. That means that when locations with the Deep keyword are made the active location, they are no longer discarded and replaced with the top card of the Caves deck. This also means that the remaining locations in the Caves deck won’t enter play anymore. This is great if you can avoid some of the nastier locations in the Caves deck, but you can also lose out on the Armoury and Treasury.
This quest card really requires players to make a lot of progress on it. If they don’t then they cannot declare as many attackers against the Fire-drake. When players would make an attack against the Fire-drake, they must either discard X progress, where X is the number of attackers declared against the Fire-drake, or the attack is cancelled. This means that it is in the player’s best interest to either deal damage to the Fire-drake through player card effects (since it is not immune) or to have a few characters that have a ton of attack strength. Dwarves are particularly powerful in these situations, where they can attack with characters like Gimli and the Erebor Battle Master (pre-errata, FAQ hasn’t been released yet) and then deal double damage with Heavy Stroke. Players can also use Hail of Stones, Tactics Silvan allies, Swift Strike, and Dour-handed to deal a lot of damage to the Fire-drake. Its lack of immunity really helps the players to deal damage even when there is no progress on the main quest.
Even with all those tricks, the Fire-drake will still require a lot of effort to take down, and will likely take a few rounds to get rid of all 17 hitpoints. While the players have the Dragon Hoard in play (doesn’t have to be the active location, as long as it is in play) the Fire-drake still cannot take damage. This means that the location will need 7 progress before you can start to damage the Fire-drake. This gives you a round of combat where you can try to kill as many other enemies in play, before you have to focus on the Fire-drake. The Fire-drake will also maintain its Forced effect, where it will flee back to the staging area if the players clear the active location. It will then make another round of attacks against all players. Returning it to the staging area does open up Hail of Stones again, which can allow you to win the game. The game is won when the Fire-drake is defeated. There are no other requirements at this stage, so keep a clear board and throw everything you have at the Fire-drake. Making more progress on the quest will allow players to send more attackers against the Fire-drake, so questing will still be important.
Once the Fire-drake is dead, the players win the game. The players can now return to Dale with the dragon’s dying words of vengeance for his death by his mother. This will lead your heroes on a dragon-hunting party in the Withered Heath during the first AP of the Ered Mithrin cycle.
The Encounter Deck
- The encounter deck is made up out of 35 cards in Normal mode, and is cut down to 25 cards in Easy mode.
- The chances of getting a shadow effect is 50/50 in both modes. This is important for the Werewolf enemy, who benefits from not getting a shadow effect.
- The average threat per card revealed from the encounter deck is 1.5 threat/card. This does not count several cards that get more threat from their card text.
- 5 cards in the encounter deck will surge. This gets increased to 9 when the Dragon Might encounter set gets added at stage 2.
- 3 copies of Eyes in the Dark are all the Doomed keywords you will encounter. That does not mean that the encounter deck has no other ways to raise your threat, as the first stage itself has pretty significant threat increasing effects.
- Dragon Hoard is immune to player card effects
- Fire-drake cannot be damaged during stage 2 or when Dragon Hoard is in play
- While the active location has the Dark trait, Black Bats cannot take damage
- Fire-drake cannot have non-Dragon attachments
- While Dark Tunnel is in the staging area, progress cannot be placed on Dark locations in the staging area.
- Stone-troll cannot have player card attachments
Note that this encounter deck is only the one used for stage 1, and does not include the Dragon’s Might encounter set. It also doesn’t feature any of the Lost Caves deck or the Dragon Hoard or the Fire-drake, as those cards never enter the encounter deck. The encounter deck is mostly made up out of locations, meaning that you won’t be discarding too many cards for stage 1’s effect before you hit a location. It also means that location lock can be a threat in higher player counts. After players progress to stage 2, 4 new treacheries get added to the encounter deck, changing the spread a bit more in favor of treacheries over locations.
There are a lot of creatures that call these caverns home. Not only dragons, but also werewolves, bats, spiders, and trolls will prevent you from walking through the mines casually. These enemies are very tough, and some will need a lot of attackers to take down.
- Fire-drake: I have covered this enemy more in detail in the scenario’s analysis, since defeating this Dragon is the main objective for this quest. But I will go over the Dragon here again, and will include some tricks on how to deal with it. The Fire-drake will enter play during the transition to stage 2, and will add 1 more threat to the staging area than there are players in the game. This X value is also used for its defence, meaning that players will have an easier time taking down the Fire-drake in lower player numbers. During stage 2, the Dragon cannot leave the staging area, but once the players have advanced to stage 3, they will likely be over the 35 engagement cost that the Fire-drake has. That does not mean that players will be able to deal damage right away to it. While the Dragon Hoard is in play, the players won’t be able to deal damage to the Fire-drake yet. Once that location leaves play, players will be able to start damaging the Fire-drake, but there is a catch. During this stage, 1 progress has to be removed from the main quest for each attacker participating in the attack against the Fire-drake. This means that if the players have no progress on the main quest, their attacks will be cancelled by the quest. They can still do damage to the dragon, since there are a lot of direct damage effects that can target the Fire-drake both when it is engaged, or when it is in the staging area. This bypasses its variable defence value as well, but you do still have to get through 17 hitpoints. The dragon has 7 attack, which it will be using often, since it has a nasty Forced ability that will allow it to attack whenever the players explore the active location. The attacks will happen against each player in turn order, so the players must be ready for this with chumps or Sentinel defences. Denizen of the Deep will also likely cause the Fire-drake to make an additional attack, though this will only be against the first player. The biggest weakness of the Fire-drake is its lack of immunity to player card effects, which leaves it wide open to a host of abilities and events that can cancel attacks, discard shadow cards, and deal damage to the Fire-drake. Use this to your advantage to lay waste to this beast and claim victory over this quest.
- Stone-troll: When you see the Troll trait, you know that this will be the biggest threat out of the encounter deck when it comes to combat. With big stats and an immunity to player card attachments (which included Guarded X attachments, so you are lucky to discard this guy that way), the Stone-troll will take a lot of effort to take down. The engagement cost of 36 buys you some time if you reveal this enemy in the early game, but with the quest raising your threat a lot, it won’t be long before a player has to start to deal with this enemy. Engaging the Stone-troll does remove its 3 threat from the staging area though. While engaged, the Stone-troll will be making attacks against the first player with a strength of 6. This is enough to be a big problem for decks that don’t run Beregond or another defensive hero. To make matters worse, this Troll doesn’t like being fed chump blockers, as it has a Forced ability that will discard cards from your hand for each point of excess damage dealt after a character dies to his attack. For players who are running Erestor, this is no big deal, and Noldor players in general will have tricks to get their cards back. But for all other players, this can mean that you lose a lot of useful cards if you let this Troll destroy a character. You do get to pick the cards you discard though, so if you defend and end up taking 2 points of excess damage, you can pick 2 cards from your hand to discard, which can be useful to get rid of duplicate unique cards. Attacking the Stone-troll back will take some effort, with 3 defence and 9 hitpoints to get through. There is no penalty to take longer killing this Troll, but you will still have to deal with its attack next round. So pairing up with other players to take down this Troll is highly advised. You cannot keep it engaged with you to play a Forest Snare on it, since it is immune to player card attachments. It is not immune to events or character abilities though, so you can do some tricks to take down the Troll by dealing direct damage or lowering its defence to deal more damage. Once the Troll is defeated, it simply goes into the discard pile of the encounter deck.
- Hobgoblin: At first glance, the Hobgoblin doesn’t look that bad, with a 1/1/1 lineup and a high engagement cost. However, the textbox on this enemy makes him quite interesting, as he can range from 1’s for all his stats, to 7’s if you are unlucky. This is because when the Hobgoblin enters play, it takes the top card of the first player’s deck and attaches that card to itself. It then gets +X to its threat, attack, and defence where X is the attached card’s cost. This can either be a 0 cost card, or it can be a 6 cost card if you included Brok Ironfist or Beorn to your deck. This effect will usually just buff the Hobgoblin to a 2 or 3 for all his stats, but that is enough to make him annoying. His defence is usually the biggest problem, as it can take a while to take down this enemy. But once you do finally defeat this Hobgoblin, the player who’s card was taken gets to reclaim it and add it to its hand. Luckily it doesn’t get discarded, meaning that you can still play the card. The laws of this game will dictate that you are going to attach a copy of Gandalf to this enemy, but if you want to tech against this enemy, then a cheap deck and careful scrying can help you to make the Hobgoblin a simple 1 or 2 attack enemy that can be dealt with easily.
- Werewolf: The Werewolf is a rather unique enemy in design, as it starts out as a pretty weak enemy who’s only big stat is hitpoints. However, the 33 engagement cost will mean that the Werewolf can engage early on, and you will want to avoid this from happening. This is because the Werewolf will start to grow more dangerous as it gets more damage on it. For each point of damage on the Werewolf, it gets +1 attack. This means that players will have to take down the Werewolf in one turn, and prevent the Werewolf from ending up engaged with anyone while it has 6-7 damage on it. However, the Werewolf accelerates this damage increase through a Forced effect that will trigger if it doesn’t get a shadow card with an effect. If that is the case (chances are 50/50 in both Normal and Easy mode), then the Werewolf deals one damage to itself and to the defending character. This raises the attack strength of the Werewolf before the stats are compared. The damage dealt to the defending character is also dangerous, as it prevents players from chumping with 1 HP characters. Because if this damage destroys the character, the attack will be undefended and a hero might die because of it. Defending with a proper hero or ally with more than 1 HP will be your safest bet, using characters like Winged Guardian and Defender of Rammas for other enemies. If the Werewolf deals a damage to itself and gets to 8 damage, the Werewolf dies and the attack is cancelled, but the damage dealt to the defending character still remains. Kill this enemy in one go, or use a Forest Snare or other events to cancel its attack if the Werewolf gets too big.
- Giant Spider: Out of all the enemies in the encounter deck, this is probably the most average enemy, with decent stats that can become annoying, but aren’t as big of a threat like the previous enemies. The Giant Spider has a statline of 2/3/2/3 and an engagement cost of 28, which means that it will start to engage quickly, usually from game’s start. When engaged with players, players must make sure that the Giant Spider doesn’t damage their characters. If it does, then that character cannot ready until the end of the round. This means that the character doesn’t ready during the refresh phase, and will remain exhausted thoughout the entire next round, unless the players manage to ready the character through player card effects during that round. Seeing how this can take out a defender for a turn, it is vital that you have plenty of defence to spare when you go up against this enemy. The shadow effects of this scenario aren’t too bad though, giving the Giant Spider only +1 attack if you hit Dark Places. If you get a Werewolf for the shadow effect though, there is nothing you can do to prevent the character from being exhausted for the rest of next round, unless you can cancel the shadow effect somehow. Taking down the Giant Spider is relatively easy, with only 5 total attack required. Some questing decks might need 2 shots at this, but most other decks can quickly get rid of this enemy.
- Black Bats: This final enemy isn’t that big of a threat, it is more of an annoying little enemy that can get frustrating quickly. The stats on the Black Bats isn’t anything to fear, and with 18 engagement cost, that 1 threat isn’t going to matter much. However, the Black Bats do surge, which can lead to a chain of these enemies ending up in the staging area if the encounter deck was shuffled weird. With 18 threat engagement cost, the Black Bats will almost surely engage during the next engagement phase, meaning that players will end up with an additional enemy that hits for 2. You would think that it is easy to get rid of these guys, since they only have 2 hitpoints, but if the active location has the Dark trait, the Black Bats cannot be damaged. This inability to do anything against the bats is very annoying and might be reason enough for the players to travel to one of the handful of non-Dark locations. If the active location doesn’t have the Dark trait, then these bats are easily dispatched with a character with 3 attack, or with events like Goblin-cleaver or Swift Strike. This allows the players to keep their attackers ready for some of the bigger threats in the game. The bats are a good target for traps like Outmatched, Entangling Nets, and Forest Snare, just to keep them out of the encounter deck, preventing them from surging again.
There are two sets of locations here, one set that can be revealed from the encounter deck, and the other set being the Caves deck that gets put into play with the Deep keyword. These locations are Underground, meaning that Dwarf players will have an advantage during this quest with cards like Ever my Heart Rises and Bombur.
- Iron Hills Mine: Being one of two non-Dark traited locations, the Iron Hills Mine will be an interesting destination to travel to for the players during the travel phase. Not only will it remove 4 threat from their staging area, which is the highest of any location from the encounter deck, except for a late game Contested Depths, but it will also allow them to damage Black Bats and negate the Afraid of the Dark treachery. Travelling to the Iron Hills Mine does come at a Travel cost though. Each player must discard the top 4 cards of their deck to travel here. Dwarf players will love this effect, as it can give them free allies or resources, and Noldor players will have more stuff in their discard pile to bring back. The Travel cost might sound bad, but it isn’t as terrible as you might think. If you are really concerned about this effect, include a copy of Will of the West in your deck to reshuffle everything eventually. When the players have travelled to the Iron Hills Mine, it gains a Response that can trigger when it is explored. When it is explored, each player may return 1 card from their discard pile to their hand. The fact that this card goes to your hand means that you have a wide selection of cards you have either discarded or played before to choose from. This can be a very useful effect to get crucial attachments back, or to give a chump blocker another try when you play it next round. Returning events like Test of Will is also a great choice. And you are going to have something in the discard pile anyways, because of the Travel cost. This location is definitely worth a visit unless you really want to go for those Caves locations early.
- Contested Depths: This is the first card that directly reuses a piece of art we have seen before. While some cards might split an artwork into different cards, art is rarely reused. Yet the Contested Depths has the same art as the Abandoned Mine from the Long Dark scenario. So make sure you don’t get those mixed up. As for the Contested Depths, it is quite an interesting location. First of all, should it be discarded for the effect of quest stage 1, then the players only have to raise their threat by 1, regardless of how many locations are in the victory display. Since the card is out of play, its textbox doesn’t matter. Always pick the option to raise your threat, since adding it to the staging area will increase its threat substantially. This is because the Contested Depths get +1 threat for each location in the victory display, making it a very tough location during the late game. Not only does this location count the number of Lost Caves locations you explored, but adding Forked Passages to the victory display will also boost this location’s threat. So going here quickly is advised should you ever get one in the staging area. Travelling here triggers the Forced effect, where players must either raise their threat by the number of locations in the victory display, or act as if this location has the Deep keyword. Triggering the Deep keyword will replace this location with the top card of the Caves deck. However, it can be advised to go to the Contested Depths and keep it as the active location, raising your threat in the process. This is mostly due to the initial low threat of the location, blocking Dark Places from doing much, and the fact that this location does not have the Dark trait. The lack of this trait allows players to damage the Black Bats, and allows heroes with Afraid of the Dark to have willpower and their textbox back. If the players are starting to get location locked, then this location is a prime candidate for Thror’s Key, which will prevent it from getting more threat from its textbox. It will remain a 1 threat location forever, giving it a very low priority to travel to.
- Deep Chasm: Outside of the Caves deck, this location is the one with the most quest points on it. This does not matter too much, as players will only need to place progress on this location during stage 3, since during other stages, the Deep keyword of this location will trigger first. And that Deep keyword is going to trigger often, since the players must travel to Deep Chasm if there is no active location during the travel phase. Travelling to the Deep Chasm doesn’t come at any cost, and the location will be discarded as soon as it enters the active location slot. Then, the top card of the Caves deck will become the active location, and the text on that location is triggered. The Deep Chasm doesn’t require a lot of strategy, as there is no real need to avoid this location very long, unless you are looking to stall at stage 1 for a while and don’t want to trigger the Deep keyword. In that case, you can blank the Deep Chasm while it is in the staging area with Thror’s Key, so that players aren’t forced to travel here during the next travel phase. All in all, the location isn’t terrible, but it does prevent you from going anywhere else.
- Dark Tunnel: If the Dark Tunnel looks an aweful lot like the Deep Chasm to you, you’re not alone. The location is the left half of one piece of art, with Deep Chasm being the right one. The Dark Tunnel is a lot more annoying than the Deep Chasm, as it shuts down the player’s ability to place progress on Deep locations in the staging area. If you are not playing any cards that place progress on locations in the staging area, then this doesn’t matter too much, but for dedicated location control decks, this will mean that a lot of locations are no longer legal targets. You can still shift some of the effects to the active location, but you won’t be able to do much against the possible location lock in the staging area. Note that the Dark Tunnel only protects Dark locations though. Exploring locations like Iron Hills Mine or Contested Depths is still allowed. But the three threat and the prevention of progress on other Dark locations may be reason enough to travel to the Dark Tunnel. I wouldn’t make it a priority if you want to stall or if there are 2 copies of the location in the staging area, but travelling here will be free, and will still remove threat from the staging area. Travelling to the Dark Tunnel will discard the location during stages 1 and 2, and replace it with the top card of the Caves deck.
- Forked Passage: You will want to keep an eye out for this location, as it can save you a lot of time during stage 2. The Forked Passage is very easy to explore in the staging area (if there is no Dark Tunnel in play), but try to keep it in the staging area without exploring it. Build up as many copies of this location in the staging area during stage 1 as possible, and then travel to this location during stage 2. This would normally trigger the Deep keyword, but before it gets triggered, the players have an optional response that they can trigger if they want to. This ability requires that the players raise their threat by 2 to look at the top 2 cards of the Caves deck and place one location on the bottom. The players will now know what Forced ability will trigger, but there are some beneficial ones in there that you will want to filter out. The usual rule of thumb is that the lower threat location is best, with the 2 and 3 threat locations giving the players some benfits. The exception to this rule is the 7 threat Dragon Hoard, that will advance the game to stage 3. This is a great tool to skip a few rounds at stage 2 and possibly avoid some nasty Caves locations. The Forked Passage does get added to the Victory Display after the players trigger this response, preventing them from repeating it over and over again with A Watchful Peace. Adding it to the victory display will also increase the threat of Contested Depths, so be careful that those don’t get too big.
Caves Deck locations
These locations will be set aside at the start of the game to form the Caves deck. The location will only be made the active location through the Deep keyword, and will be facedown for the entire quest. This means that you don’t know what location you will end up revealing for the Deep keyword when you travel. There are some beneficial locations, but most locations are punishing you. Exploring any of these locations will put it in the Victory Display.
- Dragon Hoard: This location is the only one in this scenario that can enter the Caves deck without being a part of the Lost Caves encounter set. It does follow a few trends that are shared with other locations that are placed in the Caves deck, but what stands out about this location is its high threat and quest points of 7. This can make the Dark Places treachery very difficult to endure during the quest phase, as it adds the threat to the staging area. This is the only location in the Caves deck that is actually important, as having this location as the active location will advance the quest to stage 3. I have explained in the quest’s analysis how you can accelerate finding this location in the Caves deck, allowing you to progress to the final stage quicker. The Dragon Hoard is the only location in the Caves deck that is immune to player card effects, meaning that players won’t be able to explore it outside of questing successfully during the next round. There is some pressure to clearing this location though, since the Fire-drake won’t be able to be damaged while this location is in play. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to clear this location, the Dragon Hoard also has some benefits to give the players. There is an optional response when the Dragon Hoard becomes the active location that allows one player to place an Artifact attachment from their hand on the Dragon Hoard. This will count as that attachment being guarded by the location, and ignores any Guarded X keyword that the Artifact might have. Clearing this location will grant the controlling player the attachment for free when it is explored. This is a great way to get some strong weapons like Durin’s Axe, Glamdring, or Orcrist out to help you in the fight against the dragon. Other Artifact attachments might also help, but if you have the choice, try to go for weapons.
- Lost Armory: The locations from the Lost Caves encounter set all have a few things in common, one of which is that they have threat equal to their quest points, and that no two locations have the same printed value. The Lost Armory has the lowest value of both threat and quest points, at only 2. This makes it a relatively easy location to explore, and makes it so that Dark Places doesn’t hurt as much as it does for the other locations of this Caves deck. The lack of the Dark trait also helps the players a lot. The Lost Armory is also one of two beneficial locations that are in the Caves deck from the very beginning (I won’t count Dragon Hoard as one of the beneficial locations since the location does still have 7 threat and won’t be in the game during other scenarios with the Deep keyword). The Lost Armory has the response where players may search their deck for a Weapon of Armor attachment and add it to their hand when the players make Lost Armory the active location. In order to prevent players with Armory-style decks to draw their entire deck for this effect, the effect is limitted to once per game for the group. This means that there is no benefit in putting this location in the staging area and travelling to it again during the next Travel phase. Since this response targets each player, all of the players can search their deck for these attachments, but you will find that not all decks will run Weapon or Armor attachments. Still, shuffling your deck may prove valuable anyways, so having a free peek at your deck to see what is left in there before shuffling everything may be worth something to you.
- Ancient Treasury: Unlike the Lost Armory, this location will benefit each player, regardless of the type of deck that they are playing. The Ancient Treasury has a 3 for both its threat and quest points, which still isn’t a big deal compared to some of the other locations in this deck. Like the Lost Armory, this location has a response when the players make it the active location, and the response is again limit once per game, since otherwise people would continuously switch the location out with other locations in the staging area to trigger the response over and over again. This response will impact the players regardless of their deck, as they may each choose one of three things to gain. They may either lower their threat by 3, draw 2 cards, or gain 1 resource on any one hero. Note that the resource does not go to each hero that the player controls, like it would with Ranger Provisions. It only grants one resource. That resource can be placed on another player’s hero though, so you can be friendly enough to pass that resource to a fellow player who really needs it. Out of all three options, I figure that the threat option will be the most popular. During the early game, you will find yourself raising your threat a lot, and lowering it by 3 might buy you a turn of not adding a location to the staging area during stage 1. However, the 2 cards can help players with little card draw to dig a little faster through their deck. The one resource can also provide safety during the combat phase if it allows you to play cards like Feint or Hasty Stroke if you have those in hand. The choice will be a situational one, but all of them are useful. Since this location isn’t Dark, it will also give players the chance to deal with Black Bats while this location is active. This is the last time that a Lost Caves locations will be beneficial though…
- Frightful Den: From 4 threat upwards, the locations of this deck become harmful to the players. The Frightful Den has 4 threat and 4 quest points, meaning that it is the easiest of these harmful locations to explore. However, the danger does not come from the location itself, it comes through its Forced effect, that will require players to shuffle the encounter discard pile into the encounter deck and discard cards until one enemy per player is discarded. Those enemies are added to the staging area. With some big enemies in the encounter deck, this can end up causing some panic if the wrong enemies are put into play this way. The Black Bats will likely be the best reveal, as it’s surge won’t trigger and it is relatively weak. However, with the Frightful Den active, it won’t be able to be damaged. Since there is no way to know when this location will become the active one (unless you peeked through card/quest effects), there is no real way to avoid the effect or to plan ahead for it. Just know that you could end up adding another enemy to the staging area, so you should keep characters ready for any unexpected enemies. If you don’t want to risk it, travel to another location without the Deep keyword if able.
- Lightless Grotto: Moving on to the 5/5 location of this deck, the Lightless Grotto does not have an ability that immediately comes into play, but one that will hurt the players during the next round. When players will commit characters to the quest, the must discard the top card of the encounter deck until a treachery is discarded. The ‘When Revealed’ effect on this treachery is then triggered. This means that any keywords like Surge or Doomed aren’t triggered, which can help in case you discard a treachery from the Dragon Might set. But in most cases, the treachery won’t fizzle and will do something horrible to the players before they start staging. Have cancellation ready when this location is the active one, since you know you are revealing at least one treachery this round. Luckily, the Grotto does not do this for each player sending characters to the quest, so that helps a little. Try to beat this location in one go to avoid having to reveal more treacheries in later rounds. You can also try to make progress on this location after it becomes the active location. 5 quest points isn’t too much to overcome if the players are running Tactics Legolas or Blades of Gondolin. Clearing the Lightless Grotto before players commit characters to the quest won’t cause them to take another treachery.
- Crumbling Cavern: Going up to 6 threat and 6 quest points, the Crumbling Cavern returns to the usual format where a bad Forced effect happens when it becomes the active location. When the players have this location as the active one, each player must assign damage equal to the number of characters they control to those characters. This can be distributed however you like, but can cause some swarm-style decks to lose some allies along the way. If you do not have enough healing and the Fire-drake has got its Dragon Breath attached, you are about to lose a lot of characters. The best course of action would be to distribute the damage so that some allies can soak the damage, keeping other alive. Having plenty of healing will come in handy at this point. Exploring the Crumbling Cavern will be important, but there is no rush in clearing this location in one turn. The Forced effect only happens once (unless the players swap out the location and travel to it later, but I don’t know why you would do that). Damage cancellation with Honour Guards and Loyal Hounds can also work to reduce the amount of damage on the board after this effect has triggered.
- Underground Lake: While I place this location last on the list, it doesn’t have to have a higher threat or quest point value than some of the other locations on this list. Especially in the early game, the X/X stats, where X is the highest number of characters controlled by a single player, can range from 1 to more than 15. This can mean that playing more allies will make this location worse, and in the late game, you might not explore this location in one go. It is advised to clear this Lake as soon as you can though, as it has a nasty passive ability that will exhaust each ally that enters play. This counts not only the allies you play during the planning phase, but also allies that enter through other card effects like Sneak Attack. Some allies and effects don’t really care about this, mainly Lothiriel and Ents, since those allies already enter play exhausted. Other allies will either have to wait a round to be useful, or have to rely on ally readying effects played by the controlling player. The Lake does feature the highest threat on it during the late game, when many players will have an army of allies on the table, meaning that the Dark Places treachery will hurt a lot. The best counter to this location (as well as many other locations) will be to send Ghan-buri-Ghan to the quest, whose willpower is equal to the threat of the active location. This buys you a lot of willpower against the Underground Lake, giving you some safety against Dark Places.
Where a dragon has taken up residence, bad things follow. These treacheries will try to waylay you during your quest, and some can wipe out an entire board or cause you to lose the game. Be careful with these treacheries, and keep cancellation ready for these. Know that you can also end up revealing these treacheries for Lightless Grotto before you start the staging step.
- Denizen of the Deep: This card has some weird art, but it does convey a sense of dread when you see those bright eyes being revealed from the encounter deck. When this treachery is revealed, it will trigger an attack by the highest attack enemy in the staging area against the first player. During stage 2 and most of stage 3, this will be the Fire-drake with 7 printed attack. This extra attack will trigger Dragon Breath if it is attached to the Fire-drake. Should the players explore the active location this round, then the Drake will make even more attacks against that player, which can be too much to handle. In some other rare cases, the highest attack enemy will end up being a Werewolf that has a lot of damage, or a Hobgoblin that is guarding either Brok Ironfist or Beorn. During the first stage, this treachery is a lot milder, since you can avoid the Dragon. There is also a chance that this treachery will make a very weak enemy attack, if they are the only one in the staging area. Should there ever be no enemies in the staging area when this treachery is revealed, then it simply surges into another card.
- Afraid of the Dark: It has been a while since we’ve seen Condition attachment treacheries, but Afraid of the Dark is one that should not be underestimated. When this card is revealed, it will attach to a questing hero and remove it from the quest. The attachment will only trigger when the active location is a Dark location, blanking the textbox of the attached hero (except for traits) and reducing its willpower to 0. This can completely neuter a hero whenever the active location is Dark, which is quite often in this quest, with nearly all Caves locations being Dark and only 5 locations in the standard encounter deck not being a Dark location. This treachery is best cancelled right away, or else removed through player card effects like Elrond, Power of Orthanc, Miner of the Iron Hills, and Bulwark of the West. If you do have to take this Condition attachment, try to place it on a hero that has some useful stats during combat, so that you can use them in case the active location is Dark.
- Dark Places: Depending on your situation, this can be the worst treachery to reveal in the encounter deck. When Dark Places is revealed, it will add the threat of the active location to the staging area. This can range from 1 threat at the beginning of the game, to more than 10 threat if the players are unlucky enough to hit this treachery while Undergrond Lake is the active location near the end of the game. But there are plenty of locations in both the Caves deck and the standard encounter deck that will add a lot of threat to this card. Should you have no active location in play at the time that this treachery is revealed, it will discard cards from the top of the encounter deck until a location is discarded, and it adds it to the staging area. Hitting multiple copies of this treachery in the same round, will often lead to you underquesting for a lot, raising your threat even further than you feel comfortable with, possibly costing you the game. Cancel this treachery whenever it is adding more threat than you can handle. Especially when Underground Lake, Crumbling Cavern, or Dragon Hoard is the active location.
- Eyes in the Dark: On top of the first quest card adding more threat to each player’s threat tracker, this treachery will also help in getting you towards dangerously high levels of threat. To start off with, Eyes in the Dark will raise each player’s threat by 1 through the Doomed keyword. After that, each player must choose to either raise their threat by the number of questing characters they control, or discard a questing character they control. In the early game, the threat option will be the most appealing, since you won’t have that many questing characters yet, and might otherwise end up discarding a hero. Your threat isn’t that high either. During the late game, it will be easier to discard a small questing ally for this effect. A strategy that players could adopt is questing after the staging step, with cards like Hobbit Pony and Late Adventurer. This treachery won’t be the end of the world, only hitting the questing players. Players with a focus on combat, who don’t send anyone to the quest, will only have to raise their threat for the Doomed keyword on this card.
- Dragon Breath: Being a part of the Dragon Might encounter set, this treachery only gets shuffled into the encounter deck once the players advance to stage 2. This adds a lot more surge to the encounter deck, as both this treachery and the Dragon Scales will surge. On top of surging, the Dragon Breath treachery will attach itself to a Dragon enemy in play (Fire-drake in this situation) but only if it doesn’t have a copy of Dragon Breath already attached to it. The treachery will then count as a Dragon attachment that is limit one per enemy, and gives the enemy a Forced effect whenever it attacks. When the Fire-drake attacks you, Dragon Breath gets discarded in order to deal 1 damage to each character that player controls. This is done before that player defends, so you must make sure that your defender isn’t toasted before the Fire-drake makes its attack. The direct damage is dealt to each character that the defending player controls, making no exceptions for whether or not the characters are exhausted. This makes it a terrible treachery for archetypes with less hitpoints, like Hobbits and Silvans. This can melt armies of Outlands characters as well if you don’t get an Anfalas Herdsman out before this hits. Luckily, the attachment is discarded from the dragon after this attack, meaning that during stage 2, only the first player needs to worry about this treachery whenever the active location is explored. Cancelling this treachery can be worth it if you don’t have a way to cancel the incoming attack and can’t deal with the 1 damage on each character. But with 2 copies of this treachery in the encounter deck, it won’t be long until the Fire-drake will have another copy of this treachery attached to it. Do note that the attachments are limit 1 per enemy, meaning that the second copy of Dragon Breath will simply surge if it is revealed while Fire-drake already has a copy on it.
- Dragon Scales: The second treachery from the Dragon Might encounter set is a bonus ability for the Fire-drake when it comes to defence. Much like Dragon Breath, this treachery will surge, and then attach itself to a Dragon enemy. It will now count as a Dragon attachment that will do its forced effect whenever the attached Dragon would take damage. Instead, all damage is cancelled and the Dragon Scales are discarded instead. This is much easier to deal with than the Dragon Breath, as there are several tools for the players to use to deal damage to the Fire-drake before they would declare a big attack against it. First of all, note that this can only trigger once the Dragon Hoard has been cleared, since the Fire-drake cannot take damage during stage 2 or while that location is in play. After those conditions have been met, you can use cards like Spear of the Citadel to deal a damage to the Fire-drake during its attack. You can also use the Bow of Yew from this very Deluxe expansion to deal a damage before you calculate the total attack of your characters. This damage removes the Dragon Scales and leaves the Fire-drake wide open for your attack. Other direct damage events can also be enough to get rid of the treachery, so the Dragon Scales isn’t as dangerous as the Breath attachment.
Tips and Tricks
- Since many of the Caves deck locations have a high threat, it will be a good boost to your willpower to include Ghan-buri-Ghan in your deck. This allows you to have a ton of willpower on just one ally, allowing you to hopefully clear some of the Caves locations.
- The early game of this scenario involves a lot of threat raising effects. Hobbits and Secrecy decks won’t be able to survive very long at low threat unless they invest a lot in threat lowering effects. Elfhelm is a good constant counter, as well as completing Double Back at the first stage.
- Since you will eventually want to progress from stage 1, it will be good to keep at least one Deep location in the staging area at all time, so that you can travel to it and get a location from the Caves deck. Getting nothing but enemies at this stage can stall players, so sometimes the Forced effect of the quest should add a location to the staging area, giving the players a chance to advance the quest.
- Side-quests make this scenario a lot easier. Not only will you get the bonuses from the side-quests in the early game, but it also makes Dour-handed and Legacy Blade amazing for the final battle.
- Locations will end up in the victory display quickly, and will allow Rossiel players to get easy access to bonus willpower through the Dark and Underground traits. Enemies will be harder to deal with, since they cover a variety of traits. It will be worth sending some like the Stone-troll and the Werewolf to the victory display though.
- Run at least some direct damage effects to take care of Dragon Scales. A single Bow of Yew can discard the treachery, allowing you to damage the dragon afterwards. This will save you several turns and makes the Dragon Scales also a very easy treachery to reveal for the Lightless Grotto effect.
- With all locations having the Underground trait, Dwarves are a great archetype to bring to this quest. Ever My Heart Rises will trigger each time you travel to an Underground location, readying the attached Dwarf and offering some threat reduction as well. This can be a lot of extra action advantage for the archetype, and is free as well! Other effects like Untroubled by Darkness will combo well with this strategy, since all locations have either trait.
- This quest favours characters with large amounts of attack strength so that few characters are needed to take down the Fire-drake, but also so that enemies like the Stone-troll and Werewolf can be taken down in one shot. Tactics has plenty of these characters, so look into including some Beornings, Eagles, or Dwarves to your party to get rid of these enemies faster.
With the King’s Quest being a rather tricky quest and a relatively new one, there aren’t a lot of playthroughs out yet. But be sure to check these out to see other people struggle against this quest.
- 2 player, modern decks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAo5QaX3l30
With the Wilds of Rhovanion Deluxe box now covered, it is time to move on to the cycle scenarios of the Ered Mithrin cycle. I will probably be doing these quests in order (unless a later one is completed early). These quests can take a long time to complete, as they are quite lengthy. So hopefully I will be able to at least pump out one of these scenario overviews per month. Stay tuned to find out!
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