Nightmare The Dread Realm

This is the conclusion of the Angmar Awakened cycle and a strangely controversial quest. It has been one of my favorites ever since I first played it, as it was thematic, interesting in its mechanics, and already pretty challenging. The Nightmare version, as always, makes it even more thematic and bumps up this quest’s difficulty to a truly nightmarish level.

Nightmare The Dread Realm

  • Found in: The Dread Realm Nightmare Deck (you also need the corresponding AP and the Lost Realm deluxe expansion)
  • Difficulty (feeling of the author): 9 (it really is brutal)
  • New quest focus: none
  • Increased quest focus: reanimating cards, Sorcery treacheries attaching to various things
  • Play if: you want some lots of sorcery or horror in your games, you like an extreme challenge, you have a Dúnedain deck to try out, you want the Angmar Awakened cycle to have an even more memorable finish
  • Can I bring side-quests?: You certainly can, as stage 1 will be worthwhile to spend a little more time on and stage 2 doesn’t need any progress. Keep Watch will be incredible because of the high number of 2-attack enemies, especially together with Vigilant Dúnadan to defend for free.
  • Can I run Guarded (X) cards here?: I would not recommend doing this, as there are quite many strong enemies and locations out there which will make retrieving these cards dangerous. It is a way to thin the encounter deck of sorcery treacheries, though.

Removed cards

Nightmare mode always removes some cards, which I’ll just briefly cover here.

The first enemy removed is a card I actually quite liked, as it had a very unique mechanic to it. It was removed, though, probably because it was too weak in stats to be appropriate in a nightmare quest.

This treachery actually used to give me some trouble until I realized a simple card like Star Brooch on a hero whom you’d use to quest anyway can almost completely neuter this Sorcery. Also, the loss of 2-3 willpower won’t be too damaging.

I don’t really understand why they cut out this location, as its threat can get fairly high (5 or higher in solo!) and its quest points are annoying to chew through. They only removed one copy, though, so it isn’t completely gone.

In the original quest, this used to be one of the harder cards to reveal, as it added a bunch of threat to the staging area and would reanimate a card upon being explored. In nightmare, though, the two remaining copies usually are pretty nice to reveal, as they only reanimate one card and the threat is rather low compared to that on some other cards.

For this card, I am very glad the designers cut it, as this gives all of the “undead” scenarios in this cycle a more distinct feel from each other (Dead Lord and the Cursed Dead featured very prominently in all of those). Also, the undead enemies from the encounter deck aren’t usually the ones giving you the trouble, but the Reanimated Dead do.

I can’t really say I miss this card, as it seems pretty unthematic and just shifts your focus away from the Reanimated Dead and sorcery cards attaching to stuff. As it didn’t do too much (presumably 4 threat for one round isn’t much), I am glad they cut all three copies of it.

New Nightmare Rules

Usually, the Nightmare Setup Card gives you additional instructions for the game. In this case, though, you just remove the cards talked about above from the encounter deck and shuffle the cards from the nightmare deck into it. Then, you are ready to begin your descent into the Cursed Halls of Carn Dûm

New Nightmare encounter cards

The new encounter cards in the NM deck enhance the mechanics of reanimating cards and attaching sorceries. Furthermore, they paint a clearer picture of dark, eerie halls and cursed catacombs guarded by the undead servants of Daechanar and his sorcerers.

Silent Guardian

As almost all of the artwork in this pack is gorgeous (though frightening), this one doesn’t really stand out – but it still looks great. The enemy it presents seems to be some kind of statue, perhaps possessed by some evil spirit, and it is secretly brutal. It’s stats don’t seem too bad, at 4 threat, low attack, and quite high defense/hitpoints it almost seems like a good idea to engage and then ignore it. However, it has a nasty forced effect which trigger when you play the first event card every round while it is engaged with you: instead of placing that card in the discard pile, you have to reanimate it. This is enough to frighten me from playing any events at all, as you will want to avoid Reanimated Dead overwhelming you. The only ways you can keep this effect from triggering are to leave it and its 4 threat in the staging area or to quickly destroy this enemy. I don’t think Revealed in Wrath should work, as the forced effect triggers directly when you play the card (but before resolving its effects).

Necromancer of Carn Dûm

This enemy thematically replaces the Witch of Angmar. It is your classic summoner enemy from many video games, as it has rather low stats and summons (reanimates) new enemies instead of attacking. Paired with the many other card effects in this quest that reanimate cards, these can quickly get out of hand, making the necromancer high priority to kill. There is not too much to say about this one, except that direct damage might help against it, dispatching it before it can reanimate more cards and that it is one of the (mechanically speaking) most interesting new cards.

Inner Sanctum

Remember when I talked about high threat in the staging area before? Well, this is one of the main reasons for that. 6 threat is no joke, and that is made even harder by the fact that progress can’t be placed on this card while it is in the staging area! Location control won’t help you here, so if you want to get rid of this card, you have to travel here or use a trick like Heirs of Earendil. If you travel there, though, you’ll have to discard the top three cards of the encounter deck, resolving the when revealed effects on all sorcery treacheries discarded this way! This can easily give you two or three more sorcery attachments on the board, making Daechanar that much harder to kill. This is a horrible location, and if you could get it in the victory display, that would help you a lot, especially since the encounter deck cycles very quickly in this quest.

Cursed Halls

Here you have the obligatory location that grants immunity to other encounter cards (many NM decks include one of these). Its stats are fairly manageable, with moderate threat and slightly above-average quest points, so the real threat this location poses is its textbox, which makes all sorcery attachments immune to player card effects while Cursed Halls is in the staging area. That means the copies of Elrond or Power of Orthanc are going to be useless until you have removed this location from the staging area. Even worse is this card’s shadow effect, which gives attacking enemy +1 attack and defense for each Reanimated Dead engaged with the defending character’s controlling player, frequently adding four or more of each! This card is the main reason you’ll definitely want to run shadow cancellation, as the untimely death of your main defender can ruin your plans completely in this quest.

Power Beyond Death

As you would expect it, the nightmare deck adds new sorcery treacheries as well, starting with one that boosts Daechanar’s defense, making it harder to damage him (and discard sorceries by that). It doesn’t add any threat to the staging area, so it is understandable why it surges. The shadow effect should be manageable unless you are chump-blocking, as the majority of enemies in this quest are the Reanimated Dead, which only attack for two. Overall, this sorcery is one you are probably going to cancel or discard otherwise, as it will continue boosting Daechanar’s defense as long as you don’t get rid of it.

Daechanar’s Curse

Again, the artwork here is gorgeous (though brutal). It shows a person being electrocuted – in this case, I guess it is supposed to be evil sorcery again. Upon being revealed, it attaches itself to the first players deck, mimicking the old card Iron Shackles. Instead of it simply being discarded instead of drawing cards when you would draw cards, this card instead reanimates all cards you just tried to draw. Most times, this is going to be only one, but if you’re running Erestor or a similar card, this might be even more cards. I have usually found the missed card draw to be the most annoying part of this treachery, but that’s probably because my combat decks tend to not run a lot of card draw to make up for it. On top of all that, this card also surges.

All is Lost

Featuring some spooky and scary art, this treachery is the third new sorcery trick Daechanar has up his sleeve. When it is revealed, it is attached to the first players threat dial, raising that players threat by one each time they attack a Reanimated Dead. If this hits a combat deck, you’d better remove it quickly, as threat might be a big danger in this quest due to its length. Note that this card’s effects stacks with other copies of it, making it high priority to get rid of. Its shadow effect simply states that if the attacking enemy is a Reanimated Dead, it does a bonus attack. As those guys only have two attack strength, this effect probably isn’t going to destroy your board state, but might get nasty if you get it at the wrong time.

The Witch-King’s Gift

Closing off this Nightmare decks encounter cards, we have probably the most horrifying (and quite unique) side-quest any player of this game has ever seen. It has Time 5, and when the last time counter is removed from it, every player has to reanimate their whole freaking discard pile! In a Quest where the encounter deck constantly tries to discard player cards and a key mechanic is using cards from player decks to make enemies which are discarded when killed, this can easily lead to every player having 20+ enemies engaged! As you are probably not going to survive that, clearing this card is going to be your top priority. But even when you defeat it, you only place it in the encounter discard pile, so it might return later! The only way of permanently getting rid of it is letting it run out of time counters, as it then is removed from play.

Full stop.

In practical games, though, I have never found this side-quest to be particularly dangerous, as five (four, not counting the round it is revealed) rounds to put eight progress is rather much. Also, as there will be quite many enemies during this quest, it is pretty likely this is discarded as a shadow card. I am not saying that this is a weak card, but it definitely isn’t as nightmarish as it seems.

Nightmare Gameplay

Stage 1 – The Catacombs of Carn Dûm

As in the old iteration of this quest, this stage is going to be both the build-up and the biggest part of it. Here, you’ll mostly try to get rid of the cards revealed during setup and slowly build up your forces. The new nightmare cards are hoing to be most significant at this stage, more than at the other ones. You should try to remove all locations in play before advancing to the next stage, as otherwise you can get location-locked quite easily. Also, all sorcery cards attached to the main quest stage are attached to the next stage when you advance.

Stage 2 – Angmar Awakened

This stage, as well, doesn’t differ from the original one too much. Mostly, you’ll try to get rid of locations in the staging area, slowly remove sorceries from Daechanar by pinging him with cards like Gondorian Spearman and such and then kill him in one final blow. Also, at this stage you will start to really fear the two new nightmare locations (if you didn’t get Altar of Midwinter into the staging area somehow). For that, you will definitely want to run some location control in this quest. Also, prepare for a gigantic battle at this stage, as new undead will quickly come to Daechanar’s aid.

Stage 3 – Daechanar’s Fall

After you have slain the evil sorcerer, you still have to get out of his fortress, and nothing has changed that. As you might have slain most enemies during the last stage already, you should be able to commit most characters to the quest here, which is very much needed to escape before everyone is crushed by stone and, quite possibly, bones from all the crypts. Keep in mind that this is the last stage, so you can probably afford to lose one or two heroes to undefended attacks. Also, Note the the effect on Inner Sanctum prevents it from being placed progress on while it is in the staging area, so you should travel there quickly! Lastly, try to not forget Iâron’s dead body – you still want to bury him, right?

The encounter deck

  • There are 53 cards in this encounter deck, not counting Daechanar and Altar of Midwinter, which are set aside during setup. Due to there being many enemies (mostly Reanimated Dead) and Shadow cards dealt, the deck tends to cycle a lot, though.
  • The chance of getting a shadow effect is quite high, at roughly 56%. These effects increase attack strength, give other buffs or reanimate the defending character if they are killed.
  • Average threat revealed is ~1.5, but Cursed Dead and the many surging treacheries make the effective threat quite a bit higher
  • 11 cards (mostly treacheries) surge, two copies of Restless Evil has a chance to and the five Cursed Dead have an effect very similar to it
  • Doomed 1 or 2 is present on only four cards at whole, putting only little pressure on the players concerning threat management. Note however that this quest tends to drag on very long, so Doomed player cards might not be the best choice.
  •  Immunity
    • Daechanar cannot have attachments and is indestructible while at least 1 sorcery is in play
    • Progress cannot be placed on Altar of Midwinter while Daechanar is in play
    • Progress cannot be placed on Inner Sanctum while it is in the staging area
    • While Cursed Halls is in the staging area, sorcery attachments are immune to player card effects

More than before, threat in the staging area is extremely flexible, making it hard to predict how much willpower you will need every turn. Surging cards shouldn’t be too much of a problem on stage 1 and 3, as they don’t add much to the board.

Tips and Tricks

  • On stage 1, as you might want to stall a little anyway, completing side-quests can be a very good idea.
  • Shadow cancellation is very important for this quest, as there are some very harsh must-cancel shadow effects
  • Direct damage, especially if repeatable like Bow of Yew, can help you a lot by constantly pinging Daechanar and discarding sorceries
  • Straight Shot is your best friend against some of the strongest enemies Carn Dûm has to offer, namely Dwimmerlaik and Wraith of Carn Dûm
  • A combo that might seem cheesy might help you an awful lot in this quest (while not making it trivial in any way) is Vigilant Dúnadan and Keep Watch, helping you against the hordes of Reanimated Dead


As this is a rather new Nightmare Deck (and it can admittedly be quite exhausting to play), I was only able to find one playthrough:

This concludes the quest analysis for the NM deck of The Dread Realm! It is a really enjoyable quest if you like theme and a great challenge, but for the casual player or those who are mainly looking for “essential” nightmare decks, this is probably not one to get too soon.

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