Even further north than the cold reaches of Erebor and Dale, there is a split in the Grey Mountains. Between this fork of the mountain range, a valley is created that was once inhabited by the Longbeards. But dragons came from the far north and settled in this valley, burning the Dwarves down to Erebor and the Iron Hills. Here the dragons still remain, sleeping on ancient treasure and breeding the next generations. Your fellowship hopes to find the brood mother of the dragon you slew at the Iron Hills, but the Withered Hearth has more threats than just dragons to be careful of. This long quest is the first adventure pack of the Ered Mithrin cycle and was released during GenCon 2018. The quest has some interesting mechanics, but it’s length can prohibit many players from playing this quest.
The Withered Heath
- Found in: The Withered Heath Adventure Pack, Ered Mithrin cycle 1
- Official difficulty: 6
- Community difficulty: 6.6
- Encounter sets: The Withered Heath, Lost Caves, Lost in Wilderland, Wild Creatures
- Quest cards: 4
- Play if: You have plenty of time on your hands to play a quest. You want to fight a Dragon, but don’t fancy being burned alive. You want a moderate difficulty quest that is pretty new.
- What’s different about this quest?: Caves deck with Deep locations, finding Dragon signs to advance the quest, boss enemy has 2 phases.
- Solo or multiplayer?: I prefer to play this quest in 2 player, as true solo will find it difficult to balance questing capabilities and fighting the dragon. It is not impossible, but I strongly recommend 2-3 players for this quest. Higher player counts do make this quest even longer though, so I won’t recommend 4 player for that reason.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: Yes, all quest cards have an extra parameter that must be met in order to advance the quest. If you wait a while with claiming Dragon Signs in the early game, you can clear some side-quests while you find those objectives. At stages 2 and 4, the quest cannot be defeated while the Cold-Drake has hitpoints remaining, so after all progress has been made on the main quest, you are free to clear some side-quests with your decks. Be sure to bring a few, you will have plenty of time for them.
- What to look out for: Heavy hitting enemies, long quest draining your deck, boss level enemy that heals inbetween encounters, nasty treacheries, unknown Caves deck locations.
The quest starts with quite a bit of setup, but it isn’t very difficult setup, so you should be ready pretty quickly. You start by removing all 4 copies of Dragon Sign from the game, as well as the Cold-Drake enemy. The Caves deck is then constructed, which is done by simply setting the Lost Caves locations aside as a separate deck facedown. Now you take 2 of the 4 Dragon Sign objectives, and shuffle them into the Caves deck. Make sure to really shuffle them well, as their placement will determine the difficulty of the game in the early game. The players then shuffle the regular encounter deck and discard cards until each player has discarded one location. Those locations are added to the staging area and the quest can begin. This discarding of encounter cards can allow you to get rid of some nasty treacheries and enemies, setting up a slightly easier start. As for the locations that you might be looking for, Creature Den will be a good location to get, as it allows you to fish out Dragon Signs from the Caves deck. You have no control over what locations you discard though, so it comes down to luck. With 1 location per player in the staging area, the quest card flips to 1B and the players start their game.
Quest card 1: Searching for Dragon sign – 6 quest points
The first stage of this quest isn’t difficult. All you need to advance is just 6 points of progress and at least 1 Dragon Sign in the victory display. You get these Dragon Signs by going to Deep locations and getting lucky with the Caves deck so that it gives you a Dragon Sign instead of a nasty location. These Dragon Signs will be guarded by enemies, but in the early game, most enemies aren’t that tough, with the exception of the Snow-Troll and the Werewolf, who can take some effort to clear.
This is the stage where you want to take things slow, clearing as many Cave locations as possible so that you have better chances of finding Dragon Signs in the future. Because the quest only requires 1 Dragon Sign to be cleared (on top of 6 progress), you will want to put progress elsewhere. Cards like Backtrack, Explorer’s Almanac, and any side-quests will slow your progress on the main quest, allowing you to get fewer non-Deep locations in the staging area, and getting additional rewards with the side-quests. Take this time to also setup your board and build your engines, as they will be put to the test in the next part of the quest.
The only other thing to keep in mind at this stage is the Forced effect on the quest card. This triggers whenever the active location is explored. This does not include when a location with the Deep keyword is discarded from the active location slot, as it is not considered to be explored. When the active location is explored, the first player takes a look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck. One of these has to be revealed, while the other two are discarded. This allows you to somewhat filter the encounter deck for specific cards you will want that hit the least hard. There aren’t many great cards to add through this effect, but at least it will allow you to bypass some nasty treacheries, enemies, and shadow effects. If you are low on Deep locations, this is a great way to scout the encounter deck for some new locations. This only tends to be a problem in lower player counts though, as 3-4 player games will have a constant flow of locations coming in during this stage. This Forced effect is an easy one to forget, so keep some sort of reminder on the active location to make sure you trigger the effect whenever it is explored.
At this stage, you will also want to look for the two Creature Den locations. These allow you to search the Caves deck for a Dragon Sign without having to leave it to chance with the Deep keyword. This is a good way to get the second Dragon Sign at this stage, but make sure that you don’t use both this early on. These locations will send themselves to the victory display, so you only get to find 2 Signs through their effect. You will want to save at least 1 of these for stage 3, so don’t waste them here. If you run low on locations in the Caves deck, then that is a good thing, as it will increase your chances of finding Dragon Signs later on.
After 6 progress has been placed on the main quest (preferably after you have obtained 2 Dragon Sign objectives) and have put at least 1 Dragon Sign in the victory display (again, preferably 2), then the players advance to stage 2. Be sure to have plenty of attackers and defenders ready at that point, as you will have to start doing some damage at this stage.
Quest card 2: The Cold-drake Attacks! – 3 quest points
After the players advance to this quest stage, they add the Cold-drake to the staging area that was previously set aside. With enough clues, you have come across a Dragon big enough to spawn the one from the Iron Hills. This Cold-drake has some impressive stats, of which the most notable are its 6 attack and 18 hitpoints. While at first glance, the Cold-drake seems to be weak in terms of defence and threat, its textbox gives it a +1 to each for each Dragon sign that is in the victory display. This means that if players have found both Clue objectives at stage 1, the Cold-drake is a 3/6/3/18 enemy with an engagement cost of 10.
But that is not all. The Cold-drake also has several other tricks up its scales. It cannot have any attachments which will prevent players from trapping the Cold-drake or debuffing it with cards like Secret Vigil. It also cannot take non-combat damage, meaning that direct damage decks have to focus their efforts elsewhere. Luckily the other enemies in this encounter deck aren’t immune (not at all times at least). To keep the ball rolling, the Cold-drake also comes with a Forced ability that reads: “Forced: After Cold-drake is dealt a shadow card with no shadow effect, the defending character cannot ready until the end of the round.” With shadow cards having a chance of 54% of having an effect, there is a significant chance of the Cold-drake exhausting the character until the end of the round. Remember that this includes the Refresh phase, causing the defender to be exhausted during the next turn as well, unless a readying effect is used. A useful counter against this is to ready the defender with a readying ability right after the defender is declared. Heroes with Unexpected Courage or heroes like Quickbeam and Boromir should use their abilities to ready before the shadow card is flipped. There is an action window here, so that will be useful to exploit. Remember that while the defender will be ready for this, it won’t ready during the refresh phase if you exhaust it before the end of the round (for instance to defend another attack). A second strategy to counter this is to simply chumpblock. There aren’t a lot of penalties for this, and 6 attack (with the potential to be even higher) is reason enough to throw an ally under the dragon. Won’t matter too much if the shadow card has an effect or not.
Turning over to side 2B, there are a couple of things worth discussing. First of all is the fact that the Deep keyword is ignored at this stage. If players travel to a location with the Deep keyword, they just keep that location as the active location and don’t swap it out for the top card of the Caves deck. This is to prevent players from running out of cards in that deck by stage 2. It also means that if you only found 1 Dragon Sign, you won’t be able to find the next one until stage 3. Because of all of this, I would recommend taking your time at this stage to instead explore some locations that don’t have the Deep keyword. This gives you enough locations in the staging area to go to at stage 3 to resolve the Deep keyword and find your final signs.
Another important rule on this quest card is that the Cold-drake cannot leave the staging area despite its low engagement cost. Instead, it is considered to be in play with each player. This allows all players to attack the Cold-drake, but also means that the Cold-drake will attack each player in turn order during the combat phase. Another important thing to note is that the Cold-drake cannot leave the staging area even if it has more damage than its hitpoints. This basically translates to the Indestructable keyword on the Cold-drake.
The final rule on this quest card prevents the players from dealing more than 6 damage each round to the Cold-drake. On top of this, the Cold-drake cannot have more than 18 damage in total, as that would make the healing mechanic at stage 3 not function correctly.
With all of these rules in place, the priority at this stage is to make sure that you deal enough damage to the Cold-drake each round. This will require 6 damage to be dealt through combat damage each round, which allows the players to advance in 3 rounds. The players are not able to advance unless 3 progress is placed on the main quest (which isn’t difficult and leaves plenty of time for side-quests), and the Cold-drake has no hitpoints remaining. In an ideal situation, this takes 3 turns of 6 damage dealt in each turn. If you take longer, the Cold-drake will continue to make attacks against you, which can be the end of some players in multiplayer. Remember that the Cold-drake is not immune to player card effects though, and its attacks can be cancelled through events like Feint.
Since each player is allowed to attack the Cold-drake individually, not all damage has to be dealt by the same player. If 3 players manage to deal 2 damage each to the dragon, then that also is the maximum that the dragon can take. This will require each player to get past the defence value though, so Ranged support on one player’s attack might be the optimal strategy. Once the Cold-drake has no hitpoints remaining and the main quest has 3 progress tokens on it, the players advance to stage 3.
Quest card 3: Hunting the Beast – 9 quest points
The Cold-drake flees from you, and you will have to find it again to deliver the final blow. To do this, you will need more clues as to where you can find the dragon. When the players arrive at stage 3A, they shuffle the final 2 set-aside Dragon Signs to the Caves deck. Note that you don’t have to shuffle any locations back into the Caves deck, so the more locations you explored at stage 1, the higher the density of objectives is in the Caves deck.
Players then return the Cold-drake to the out-of-play area, but do not remove any of the 18 damage from it. Players then shuffle the encounter discard pile into the encounter deck and discard cards until X locations area discarded, where X is the number of players in the game. All of these locations are then added to the staging area. This means that if you have been unsuccessful to explore a lot of locations, you might be looking at a potential location lock if you are low on willpower at this stage. With the dragon removed and the locations added, the players flip the card to stage 3B.
At this stage, the players will have to hurry up to find the Cold-drake before it heals its wounds. This is done at the end of each round, where the Cold-drake will heal 3 damage while out of play. This gives you 6 rounds to get through the stage before the dragon is fully healed. It is highly recommended that you only take 2-3 turns at this stage to get to stage 4 as quickly as possible in order to not have to spend 6 more turns fighting the dragon at the final stage.
The quest will require the players to have 9 progress on the main quest, and have a total of at least 3 Dragon Signs in the victory display. This is the time to use any Creature Dens you have built up in the staging area to find the remaining objectives quickly. You have had plenty of time to clear side-quests that you can now throw all your willpower at the main quest again, but if you manage to make all 9 points of progress before you get your third Dragon sign, then you will have a window to clear some side-quests before you advance to stage 4.
The Forced effect from quest card 1B makes a return on this quest card as well, where the players have to look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck and reveal one of these cards whenever the active location is explored. This shouldn’t trigger as often as it did at stage 1, but will still keep a steady stream of encounter cards in the staging area.
Once the players have found a third Dragon Sign (or maybe a fourth if you really want to) and have placed 9 progress on the main quest, they immediately advance to stage 4 for the final confrontation. It is paramount that you clear this part of the quest as quickly as possible, so that you prevent the dragon from healing too much during this stage. Two or three rounds should be the number to aim for, taking more time will cause you to need more rounds at stage 4. Make sure that you take this time to bring out more combat-related characters, as that allows you to hold your own during the transition to stage 4.
Quest card 4: A Cornered Dragon – 0 quest points
Now we finally come to the final stage. It isn’t rare for players to have taken more than 15 rounds to get here, but hang in a little bit longer to see this quest through to the end. When the players eventually arrive at this stage, they add the Cold-drake to the staging area, with all the left-over damage on it. The dragon makes an immediate attack against each player in turn order. This will still exhaust defenders until the end of the round if the shadow card for this attack has no shadow effect. Remember that you can cancel these attack if you want to, since the dragon and its attacks are not immune to player card effects.
Flipping over to side 4B, the Cold-drake gets a couple of different rules than it got on stage 2B. The dragon is now able to leave the staging area, and has to be engaged in order to be attacked. The damage cap has now also changed from 6 per round to just the amount of Dragon Signs that the players have collected up to this point. This means that the players as a group can only deal 3 or 4 points of damage per round. However, the players will still need a lot of attack strength to get this far, as the Cold-drake’s stats have changed now that the players control more Dragon Signs.
You are able to search for the fourth Dragon sign if you didn’t find it during stage 3. This allows you to deal more damage each round, but comes at the cost of increasing the stats on Cold-drake and on the Dragon Hatchling by an additional point. The Deep keyword is not ignored at this stage, so you can continue to dig for that final objective if you really want to. This is a good idea if you took too long during stage 3 and the dragon has healed a lot of damage. It allows you to get to 18 damage a lot faster this way, but will come at a cost. I usually don’t go for the fourth one, and instead try to deal 3 damage each round so that I finish this stage in as many rounds as stage 3.
The Cold-drake’s final ability is probably the nastiest of the bunch, where at the beginning of the quest phase, it returns to the staging area. It then makes an immediate attack against each player in turn order. This is pretty brutal if you have to endure it for long, so ending this fight as quickly as you can will be the safest bet. I have had a lot of success with using Grimbeorn the Old for these attacks (who came in this pack, seems fitting). Since the dragon will attack so early in the round, it’s damage cap has been reset. This means that during your final round, you can defend an attack that is made in this timewindow with Grimbeorn. You can then counter attack to deal the final 3-4 points of damage and kill the Cold-drake before the staging step of the quest. This saves you from other enemies and having to quest in the final round. This does depend on a few factors though, including the dragon’s shadow effect and how much Grimbeorn has been built up at this point. It does end the fight faster than it otherwise would, which is great.
Once the players have eventually dealt enough damage that the Cold-drake has 18 damage or more on it, the dragon is defeated and the players win the game. They do not need progress on the main quest for this, so willpower is less important at this point. Willpower can instead be used on side-quests or on Explorer’s Almanacs, which clears locations in the staging area. With the dragon defeated, the players are finally finished with the quest, and progression players may move on to Roam Across Rhovanion.
The Encounter deck
- The encounter deck is of average to small size, with 37 encounter cards in Normal mode, and 26 in Easy mode
- Shadow effects will appear on 54% of encounter cards in Normal mode, which is reduced to 50% in easy mode
- The average threat of cards revealed from the encounter deck is 1.4 in Normal mode, and 1.6 in Easy mode. This can range from 0 threat treacheries to the High Falls, which scales with the number of locations in the staging area.
- Surge is only on the Black Bats enemy, making it appear on just 3 cards in the encounter deck
- The Doomed keyword is slightly more common, as it appears on 4 cards, do note that this quest can take a long time, so you will end up with high threats, even if players don’t bring Doomed cards of their own.
- Cold-Drake cannot have attachments and cannot take non-combat damage
- The enemy or location guarding the Dragon Sign is immune to player card effects
- While Mountain Pass is in the staging area, the “When Revealed” effects of Weather treacheries cannot be cancelled.
- Snow-troll cannot have player card attachments.
- Progress cannot be placed on Dwarven Door while it is in the staging area.
- While the active location has the Dark trait, Black Bats cannot take damage.
The statistics above do not count the Cold-Drake, Dragon Signs, or the Caves deck locations to the encounter deck. These cards never enter the encounter deck. From the statistics, you see that the encounter deck is quite well balanced between enemies and locations, which can cause the problem of location lock in higher player counts. Easy mode removes a lot of the treacheries from the encounter deck, skewing the balance more in favor of locations, making those a bigger problem. There are also a lot of immunities to remember, so keep an eye on those.
Dragon Sign is the only objective in this scenario, but there are 4 in total to find by the players. All four are set aside out of play at the beginning of the game, but during stages 1A and 3A, 2 copies are added to the Caves deck. Enemies and quest card effects will scale depending on how many of these Signs you have in the victory display, so finding them will advance the quest, but will also make certain encounter cards hit harder. Good examples of this are for instance the Dragon Hatchling and the Cold-Drake.
Since the signs start off in the Caves deck, forcing you to find them through travelling to Deep locations. You then have a decent chance of revealing this objective instead of a location. If this happens, there will be no active location, but the Dragon Sign is added to the staging area. You then discard cards from the top of the encounter deck until an enemy has been discarded. That enemy will now guard the Dragon Sign. The enemy will be immune to player card effects, which can be easy to forget. However, with no active location, you can get very lucky and get the Black Bats enemy guarding this objective. This not only allows you to avoid the surge on that enemy, but also makes for a very easy fight in order to claim the sign. Snow-trolls or Werewolves guarding these objectives will be harder to beat though. Once the attached enemy has been defeated, the sign goes into the victory display. This can advance the players to stage 2 if they have enough progress, or this can advance them to stage 4 if they have 3 Dragon Signs claimed and all the progress on stage 3.
Players can also get this sign a lot more reliable through the Creature Den location. This attaches the Dragon Sign to the location instead of resolving the Guarded keyword. However, it will come at the cost of getting a random enemy in the staging area, though it won’t be immune to player card effects as it is not guarding the objective. The attached Creature Den will still be immune because of the Dragon Sign.
The main strategy with these objectives is to get both signs that enter the Caves deck at stage 1 as soon as possible. This will require some luck, but will allow players to progress through stage 3 a lot faster (and possibly stage 4 as well). If you don’t get a Dragon Sign from the Caves deck after a couple of attempts, a Creature Den will a way forward, though it will mean that you have to find 2 of them during stage 3. The best strategy is to turtle at stage 1, clear some side-quests, and get 2 Signs. Then advance to stage 2, and to stage 3, where you can use a Creature Den to get the third Sign you need in order to advance to stage 4. Getting the fourth Dragon Sign can be worth it, as it allows you to damage the Cold-Drake a little harder at stage 4. However, several encounter cards will scale up as well, and you must be ready to take that risk. I tend to stick to 3 signs for my playthroughs, but you can experiment and see if you prefer 4 instead.
The Withered Heath is home to many enemies other than dragons. These enemies will waylay you in your search for the brood mother. Some enemies from the King’s Quest scenario also make a return. Their strategy can be read in that article.
- Cold-drake: I think I covered this enemy more than enough, as this boss-level enemy appears twice in this scenario. Read the stage analysis for stages 2 and 4, and remember that the drake is not immune to player card effects.
- Snow-troll: Dragons aren’t the only creatures residing in the Withered Heath, large trolls are also a part of the local inhabitants. This Troll enemy is what you have come to expect from trolls by now. Big stats, immunity to attachments, and nasty effects when they kill characters. With 5 attack, this troll isn’t as bad as some of its bretheren like the Hill Troll, but it will still be tough to defend if he comes out early. Luckily, the 35 engagement cost will give most players a few rounds to build up before having to engage this enemy. The most difficult part of this enemy is that it takes 12 attack in total to bring him down. While players should be able to do this during stages 1 and 3, when the Cold-drake is in play, you might want to focus it more than this Snow-Troll. This can cause the Troll to remain in play for longer, dealing out a lot of damage to your characters. Should the troll ever destroy a character with its attack, then it gets returned to the staging area, where it will add 3 threat to the total. However, having this enemy in play removes his shadow effect from the encounter deck, which is useful. This shadow effect will cause the attacking enemy to make another attack. If this hits the Cold-drake at some point, you have to be ready to deal with another big attack from it. This is a shadow effect worth cancelling. Also note that killing the Snow-troll will not put it in the victory display, so you may end up fighting this enemy more often than you’d like, especially with the length of this quest.
- Dragon Hatchling: This enemy takes the medal for funniest art in the pack. I just love the expression of that goat. The actual enemy is quite interesting. The more Dragon Signs you find, the worse he becomes. The starting stats of 2/2/0/4 are quite low (especially for Dragon trait enemies!) but they will grow with +1 threat and +1 attack for each Dragon Sign that the players have put into the victory display. This can make the Hatchling quite scary in the late game, getting stats that range up to 6 for both attack and threat. However, the other two stats of this enemy are its soft underbelly, literally. With 0 defence and just 4 hitpoints, it won’t take much to bring down the Hatchling. Direct damage can get him close to death, or players could even rely on Straight Shot to get rid of the enemy right away. A far more dangerous thing about this enemy is its shadow effect. This grants the attacking enemy a buff to defence and attack, scaling with the number of Dragon Signs in the victory display. This can make the fight with the Cold-Drake very difficult, as it suddenly goes up to 10 attack, and even a potential 8 defence. This means that players will either have to bring shadow cancellation, or they will have to be prepared to receive more damage, and deal a lot more damage, especially at stage 4.
The Withered Heath has a long history of Dwarven and Creature occupation. These homes make up for many of the entrances to the underground locations of the Caves deck. On top of those, the frigid cold wastes also pose a challenge to your fellowship searching for signs.
- Mountain Pass: With 2 threat and 4 quest points, the Mountain Pass isn’t exactly a location you need to worry about based on stats alone. With it not having the Deep keyword, you will have to resolve the location as normal when you travel to it. Travelling here does slow down your progress, as you won’t be finding Dragon Signs through this location. This makes it a more optimal destination during stages 2 and 4, when you are not looking for those signs anyways. You will eventually want to travel here, as the Mountain Pass prevents the players from cancelling the ‘when revealed’ effects of Weather treacheries while it is in the staging area. This only prevents the players from cancelling the 2 new treacheries from this encounter set, but they are both worth cancelling in order to maintain action advantage over the encounter deck. However, if more than one Mountain Pass is in the staging area, it will be best to travel elsewhere if you can. Travelling to one won’t make much of a difference. The location isn’t immune to progress, so clearing it in the staging area while keeping your cancellation ready for other treacheries will probably be the best way to approach this location.
- Dwarven Door: Dwarf doors are invisible when closed, so no progress can be made on them unless they are the active location. With 3 threat, they can be a decent target to travel to. When doing so during stages 1 and 3, the Deep keyword will discard this location from the active slot, and replace it with the top of the Caves deck. This makes it a potential tool of finding the Dragon Signs at those stages. During stage 2, the Deep keyword is ignored, forcing you to resolve the location as normal. This requires you to place just 3 progress on the location to clear it, which is easy to do. This location isn’t a bad card to get for the Forced effect on stage 1, as it doesn’t do a lot of negative things, besides being immune to progress while in the staging area. This does add a little to the location lock that players might start to encounter, but travelling here while focussing progress placing abilities on other locations will take care of that problem.
- Cave Entrance: The Cave Entrance is another Deep location, but this one starts out as a very easy location, getting more difficult with time. The starting threat of the Cave Entrance is 1, but this will get boosted by 1 for each Dragon Sign you have in the victory display. For the majority of the game, this will make the Cave Entrance up to a 3 threat location, which is pretty standard. It is only after advancing to stage 3 and 4 that the location will start to become scary, as you get you final objectives. This location might be a good enough reason to avoid going for the fourth Dragon Sign, as that will push this location to 5 threat. Besides its growing threat, the Cave Entrance is pretty vanilla. You will want to select this location for the quest card effects of stages 1 and 3 if you have the choice, as you will want some more Deep locations in the staging area, at least in lower player counts. When the players decide to travel to the Cave Entrance, they each have to raise their threat by 1. This isn’t terrible, but considering the length of this scenario, you will need to bring some threat reduction for the final stages. The 5 quest points are only important during stage 2 or when trying to explore this location in the staging area.
- Creature Den: While the stats on this location are pretty big, especially in the first few rounds, this location is actually a helpful tool in clearing the requirement for stages 1 and 3 faster. The Creature Den allows you to fish out a Dragon Sign when it is made the active location. You then ignore the Guarded keyword and attach the Sign to the Creature Den instead. This also removes the 4 threat on this location from the staging area, which is nice. In return, you have to shuffle the encounter discard pile into the encounter deck, and discard until you reveal an enemy. That enemy then gets added to the staging area, but won’t be guarding the objective (as it is already being guarded by the location). You can get very lucky with this and pull a Black Bats, but there are some bigger enemies you can get from this. On top of that, the encounter discard pile just got added back to the encounter deck, meaning that nasty things you encountered earlier will make a return sooner than anticipated. Save the 2 copies of this location to find at least 1 sign during stage 3, as that allows you to move on faster, preventing too much damage being healed off of the Cold-Drake.
- High Falls: With location lock being one of the bigger threats in this scenario, this location will be your main cause of concern. The High Falls has a variable threat of X, where X is the number of locations in the staging area. This can really pile up, and with at least 2 copies of this location in the encounter deck, you will be looking at a lot of threat if you are not careful. Luckily, there isn’t really anything stopping you from travelling to it. There is a Travel cost, where you have to deal X damage to characters in play. Note that this does include High Falls as well, since travel cost is paid before making it the active location. This works a bit like Archery, but it can start to pile up, especially if you just went through Deadly Cold. But with some healing, you will be able to clear up some of that damage over time. The High Falls do have the Deep keyword, so during stages 1, 3, and 4, you don’t have to worry about the 6 quest points on it. Their main purpose is likely to dissuade players from using location control on this location. This can be a high priority location to travel to, especially if you have some way to survive the direct damage. Don’t let this location sit in the staging area during higher player count games, as it will be a tough location to crack. Alternatively, you can play Thror’s Key on it to blank it completely. This reduces its threat to 0, but you also lose out on the Deep keyword. You can simply leave it in the staging area at that point, where the worst it will do is raise the threat of the second copy of High Falls.
Detailed info on the locations in the Caves deck can be found in the King’s Quest article. All of those locations are added to the Caves deck during setup.
While you must be very brave or very stupid to hunt down dragons, the biggest treacheries in this quest are actually the cold environment of the Withered Heath that will punish you the most. On top of 2 new treacheries, the Lost in Mirkwood treacheries from Journey Up the Anduin are also added to the encounter deck.
- Heavy Snow: Coming up to the high north gives us some more troublesome weather that we remember from our time in the Angmar Awakened cycle. Snow, wind, and low temperatures are rough on your characters. This first Weather treachery will raise the threat of each player by 1 through the Doomed keyword. This might seem insignificant, but as the game will take a while, those Doomed 1 effects will start to stack up. Combine this with a large number of rounds that increases threat at the end, and threat can suddenly be in the higher 40s by the end of the game. So some threat reduction will be nice to include. Besides raising your threat, Heavy Snow will demand that each player exhausts one character they control. Then, until the end of the round, players cannot ready characters through player card effects. This means that any characters with a built in readying ability or an attachment that allows them to ready will have to use those abilities before the quest phase (if they are committing to the quest or are exhausting for other reasons). While there are just 2 copies of this card, you don’t want Boromir exhausted before the quest phase, and then find out that you can’t ready him for the rest of the round if you were counting on his stats for combat. This also shuts down any events that ready large groups of characters, though playing those beforehand might be a bad idea, as the second treachery in this pack will exhaust most of those characters, and deal damage to any that remain ready. Heavy Snow is worth keeping a cancellation event for in your hand in some circumstances. However, if Mountain Pass is in the staging area, the players cannot cancel the treachery, which means that your Test of Will is only able to target other, non-Weather treacheries that round.
- Deadly Cold: The second Weather treachery of this set will try to slow you down, or hurt you if you don’t slow down. When this treachery is revealed, each player must decide for each ready character to either exhaust it or to deal 1 damage to it. Exhausted characters are not targetted by this effect. Utility allies like Gleowine, Master of the Forge, Imladris Stargazer, and Warden of Healing should therefore be used before the staging step, which seems a little counter-intuitive to some players. But that is the only way to get some use out of those allies, as otherwise they will exhaust for this effect, or be killed, as utility allies don’t tend to have that many hitpoints. This treachery is good to have revealed back-to-back, as the second time doesn’t hurt as much. It will mean that if you are hoping to keep a character ready, it will have to take at least 2 points of damage to remain ready. This treachery also synergizes with Heavy Snow quite well, so that characters exhausted by this effect won’t be able to ready until the end of the round by player card effects. If you are hoping to use a lot of your characters for combat, then this is certainly worth cancelling. It can also target any chumps you might want to use for the Cold-Drake, so if you don’t cancel it, you will need to risk defending with whoever you have left ready at that point.
Tips and Tricks
- Strap in for a long quest. Have plenty of time reserved for this game, and make sure to bring snacks and drinks. This quest can take a long time depending on your deck’s capability to deal damage to the Cold-Drake. Luck is also a factor, as finding Dragon Signs early can advance the quest a lot faster.
- Always ready your characters before revealing cards from the encounter deck during the quest phase if able. Heavy Snow will prevent them from readying, costing you precious action advantage in this quest. However, if Deadly Cold is also near the top of the encounter deck, then it will be a waste of readying effects, as you will have to either exhaust all character again, or deal damage to them.
- Be sure to stall at stage 1 for a while, getting at least 2 Dragon Signs and clearing as many Caves locations as possible. This allows you to push through stage 3 a lot faster, since the new Dragon Signs will be in a depleted Caves deck at that point.
- With this being quite a long quest, some threat reduction will be nice to keep you in the game for longer. Double Back is a great side-quest to bring out during any stage, as it buys you a few rounds of time.
- With a lot of Underground and Mountain locations, Dwarf decks will be better suited for this quest. Not only will it be a thematic win, but you can also get plenty of buffs out of Ever My Heart Rises and Untroubled by Darkness.
- You will have to make a tough decision on whether or not you want to have just 3 signs and take longer to kill the Cold-Drake, or if you want 4 and instead suffer higher stats on enemies, locations, and shadow effects. I tend to prefer going for 3 signs, as the fourth doesn’t buy you a lot of extra damage at the final stage.
- Be sure to travel every time you can, and explore the active location in one round if possible. Location lock is a real threat in this scenario, and you have to make sure that you keep the staging area clear of locations as much as possible.
- With stages 1 and 3 allowing you to find an encounter card from the top 3 cards whenever the active location is explored, it isn’t a terrible idea to add some player encounter cards to the encounter deck. That way, you will have some solid allies or events triggering instead of revealing another nasty encounter card.
- Hobbits are not a good match for this quest. The Cold-drake will make several attacks against each player, and if someone else is unable to defend for you, you will be losing characters quickly. The Cold-drake also has an engagement cost of 10, meaning that your bonuses are not going to trigger, unless you have managed to keep your threat lower than 10 (or increased the Dragon’s engagement cost by a ton). Stick to some sturdier archetypes for this quest.
- With so little progress required for most stages, you really should be using that progress to clear some locations if you are able. Explorer’s Almanac and Backtrack are great tools to get you out of location lock in this quest, using excess progress tokens to clear some locations in the staging area. This also won’t trigger the effects on stages 1 and 3, which helps to keep the staging area clean.
Despite it being a relatively new quest, there are plenty of playthroughs to be found on this quest. Give them a watch, but be warned, they can be quite lengthy.
- 2 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq7oYpH0n10
- 2 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaS19PtB7p0
- 3 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wayfhiQfus
- 3 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9UsHSUJrho
With the start of the Ered Mithrin cycle of adventure packs, the blog will try to cover all of the scenarios one after another. These won’t be done in strict chronological order, but we do hope to complete the cycle before October, as that will tie in well with the Con of the Rings 2020 extraveganza quests this year.