This article was written by Bobbymcbobface
Na’asiyah: “This is either madness… or brilliance.”
Prince Imrahil: “It’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.”
Pirates of the Belegaer: The Curse of the Stormcaller
There are a select few scenarios where it feels thematically satisfying to amass an army of heroes and allies to go up against the enemy. Many of the stories and quests in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game are best experienced and pictured as two or three characters on a heroic mission. But when there comes a scenario that allows players to pit every character they can muster against the worst the encounter deck has to throw at them, it often leads to the most enjoyable and memorable moments of gameplay. A Storm on Cobas Haven is one of these quests, and Nightmare mode brings it to its height of epic gameplay.
The original A Storm on Cobas Haven is rated by players as the hardest scenario of the Dream-Chaser cycle (7.7) and is also arguably the most fun. It brought the Sailing mechanic to its peak, combining the typical punishments for straying off course with combat also being much more involved and common, especially in multiplayer. Some of the ships and other cards in normal mode are so nasty; it is hard to imagine how they could be worse. But never fear! They can. Therefore, if you have a strong desire for your deck to be turned into a jar of dirt, read on!
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” – Gandalf
Nightmare A Storm on Cobas Haven
- Found in: A Storm on Cobas Haven Nightmare Deck (you also need the corresponding AP and The Grey Havens deluxe expansion)
- Difficulty (feeling of the author): 8 (more difficult than original, but by no means impossible
- New quest focus: none
- Increased quest focus: direct damage to Ship objectives, interaction with the Dol Amroth objectives, Condition attachments for Ships
- Play if: you want to experience Ship combat at its height, you enjoyed the Dol Amroth objectives and want more, you need an excuse to listen to Pirates of the Caribbean music for three hours
To tighten up the encounter deck, and remove those cards deemed too easy, Nightmare mode removes a few cards, as described in the Nightmare Setup card.
- 2x Belfalas Islet – It is no surprise that this one threat location, which allowed the players to choose a Ship to be considered out of play while it was active, was cut for Nightmare mode. The stats are too easy, and the Response can give the players a leg up. To Davy Jone’s locker with you, Islet!
- 2x Cobas Haven – Once again, a low threat location, with a beneficial ability (Boarding is reduced by one on each Ship while active) sees copies removed. It can also be noted that neither of these previous two locations bore shadow effects. The only sad part is that the location bears the name of the quest, so it would have been nice to see in all modes of the scenario.
- 2x Fog Bank – This card was removed, not only because it is a fairly weak card that doesn’t really belong in Nightmare mode, which can be seen by the fact that it is removed by the Nightmare cards of all three scenarios it appears in, but also for thematic reasons. This quest is a massive naval battle. As the Dol Amroth weatherman said this morning, today’s weather will be mostly sunny with no fog, but a 70% percent chance of Corsair invasion.
- 2x Corsair Skirmisher – One of my favorite parts of the original Cobas Haven scenario was the highly thematic Corsair Skirmisher. Once defeated, you could discard three willpower’s worth of allies to take control of the Skirmisher as a Ship objective, representing those allies becoming the new commanders of the captured ship. I can understand from a difficulty and gameplay perspective why both copies of this card were removed for Nightmare mode, but I wish there was another way of getting this theme across. It seems like a great loss to the scenario and is my least favorite part about playing Cobas Haven in Nightmare mode. It is interesting to note that none of the eight cards removed so far had sailing success symbols.
- 1x Ramming Speed! – This treachery has an interesting effect that is undoubtedly worse in multiplayer, as it is much more likely to trigger at a higher player count. An immediate attack can be bad, but in my experience, Ramming Speed was much more likely to have its Doomed 2 trigger instead. Either because the players are on course or that there aren’t any Ship enemies engaged. This fact, combined with the fact that the card has a sailing success symbol and does not have a shadow effect, explains why one copy is removed. One copy remains, however, obviously to show up at the most inopportune time.
- 2x Corsair Infiltrator – The decision to remove this card was a good one, both from a difficulty and a thematic perspective. I mean, we are engaged in a naval battle, so infiltrators don’t seem quite as thematic as, say, a Fang of Sahir. That aside, a 2/3/3/2 enemy is pretty weak and not too much of an issue to see appear off of the Corsair deck. No complaints about removing both copies for Nightmare mode!
- 1x Cunning Pirate – One out of three total copies of the Cunning Pirate is removed for Nightmare mode. I find it interesting that one of him, and not any of the Southron Sailor, is removed, but this can be attributed to the fact that there are so many high threat Ship enemies that the Sailor can actually be a pain to players. Very few are the times that the Cunning Pirate actually discards an expensive attachment and gets a big stat boost.
- 1x Umbar Raider – Finally, the last card removed for Nightmare mode is one of three copies of Umbar Raider. This removal is pretty straightforward and understandable. The 2/3/2/4 stat line is not very intimidating, and the four Corsairs removed are replaced by three nice and nasty Fangs of Sahir!
New Nightmare Rules
You may now go back to whatever you were doing before reading this. If you were to continue on, the cards may be too much for someone fresh out of 2020.
“If you were waiting for the opportune moment, that was it.” – Captain Sahir
The front side of the Nightmare Setup card has three additions to the typical A Storm on Cobas Haven rules, besides the obligatory text “You are playing Nightmare mode.” As if you didn’t already know that after removing cards from the normal encounter deck and shuffling in 19 new red-bordered nasties.
The first text only triggers once. The Setup effect reads, “When choosing a Dol Amroth objective to put into play during setup, players must choose randomly among all 6 Dol Amroth objectives.” I will get into this effect more when I go over the two new Dol Amroth objectives, but this is a major change to the Setup of the game. Many decks built specifically for this scenario are built around choosing a certain objective for Setup since each has different beneficial effects once freed. With the addition of two new objectives, each of which have very nice effects, the chance of getting any one objective is one in six. This randomization of the objectives is a nice innovation, however. It is Nightmare mode, after all. You didn’t exactly come here to get your way, now did you?
The second line is a short sentence: “Raider Flagship cannot guard objectives.” Most likely, this is due to the unintended effect that can occur with The Raiders’ Assault, namely, that the Raider Flagship can be attached to an objective, forcing you to defeat it to beat stage 2. This can make the last stage of the quest unnecessary and taking the choice of pursuing victory through questing or combat away from the players. The second line fixes this small issue.
The third section of text reads, “While any player is engaged with Raider Flagship, no more than 5 progress can be placed on the current quest each round.” Once again, this fixes a minor issue with the original quest and also makes the quest harder. The issue was that once you advanced to Stage 3 of normal mode, all you had to do was quest rush the final stage to win. Now, only five progress can be placed on Stage 3 each round since the Raider Flagship engages a player when the players advance to Stage 3. The players thus must either attempt to destroy the Flagship, a job made more difficult with no possibility of getting extra Corsair Skirmishers to attack it, or else survive multiple rounds with at least one nasty ship engaged.
New Nightmare Encounter Cards
Aearlang is the first of two new Dol Amroth objectives added in Nightmare Mode. The first item of interest is the presence of the Besieged trait as well as the Dol Amroth trait. Not quite sure why it was added to the new objectives when the old ones did not have it. There is no interaction in the quest or anything with the trait. Second, the beauty of the art is amazing. I am always amazed by the quality and detail of Nightmare art. Just like each of the other objectives in the base scenario, Aearlang features a sailing success symbol.
Now let’s get into the Action. “Exhaust Aearlang to ready a hero. Any player may trigger this action.” This can be very helpful. In a round when one more enemy came out than you were expecting, you can ready your defending hero one more time. In the round when you just need a little more attack, you can ready your attacker. One very interesting item to note is the grief potential of this card in multiplayer. Any player can trigger this action. Therefore, during the quest phase, you could use it to ready someone’s Eowyn or Arwen. “Oh, you were going to ready Beregond to help defend that Umbar Captain and your other five enemies? Sorry about that!” Also note, since Aearlang is an encounter card, it can be used to ready hero Beorn. All in all, a great addition to the quest. This objective can be very helpful for early game action advantage.
“You need to find yourself a girl, mate.” – Halbarad
The Docks of Dol Amroth objective gives the players options of a completely different nature: heal the ships. It reads, “Action: Exhaust Docks of Dol Amroth to heal 2 damage from a Ship objective. Any player may trigger this action.” Let’s first tackle this from a theme perspective. I get the theme of stopping in the docks to repair your ship, but I’m not quite sure if you have time to stop in the docks while the entire Corsair fleet is besieging you. Who knows? Anyway, this objective provides the players with a very powerful ability. The ships are all immune to player card effects, so typically, whatever damage they take is with them for the rest of the game. Healing of two damage may not seem like much, but it can be the difference between surviving one more attack and losing the game. And the fact that it is repeatable, every round, makes the Docks very powerful.
Both new objectives add new options for the players and are overall a great addition to the scenario. In fact, I would even suggest a potential house rule for normal mode: select four random objectives out of all six used for nightmare mode and use them for normal mode, setting the other two aside.
One last item to note on the added objectives is the increased likelihood of more encounter cards during setup. With six objectives in the deck, it is possible now, more than in normal mode, for the revealed card to guard your initial objective to be another objective, forcing you to reveal two more cards. In fact, I once had four objectives show up during setup! (I lost)
Next up is a true Nightmare of a ship. When you reveal this one and then go alternate universe, you can just tell your buddies,
“The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”
Or, if you really are as masochistic as most LOTR LCG players, you can confront this four-threat warship. At first glance, the Ramming Ship may not look that bad. It has a lower printed attack than the Scouting Ship! And no Boarding! Do not be so easily deceived. First, the Ramming Ship can hurt with its four threat. But the real danger is the one-time punch it packs. “Forced: After Ramming Ship engages you, it gets +4 attack until the end of the round.” This means that the ship will be attacking for eight on the round it engages. This is a brutal hit to take, rivaled only by the Corsair Warship. This is only made worse by the fact that damage is permanent on Ships for the most part. The Ramming Ship is not the easiest thing to kill either, with three defense and eight hit points.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of this card is its shadow effect: “Put the top card of the Corsair deck into play engaged with you and deal it a shadow card.” This is very nasty. Though it essentially means you are facing an additional attack, this is worse than a simple extra attack. It is an extra enemy engaged with you, meaning you must deal with any “when this enemy engages you” effects, along with any “while engaged” effects, like the Umbar Captain. On the whole, this is a very thematic card and a great addition to Nightmare Mode.
Since four enemies in the Corsair deck were removed, a new Nightmare Corsair enemy was needed to replace them. Fang of Sahír answers the call. He has five attack and thus stands in the ranks with the Raid Leader and the Umbar Captain. Three defense and three hit points mean he is not going to be an easy kill, but not too difficult. The main threat is in his ability. “Forced: When Fang of Sahír engages, you either deal 3 damage to a Ship objective you control, or Fang of Sahír makes an immediate attack.” This puts a good deal of pressure on the players, and it is rarely an easy decision. Three damage to a Ship is a lot in a quest that deals it out like curse words from a pirate. But the alternative, an extra attack, is not a good option either, made worse by the high attack value, so that leaving it undefended is probably not an option. In my opinion, this is a great replacement for the removed Corsairs, with bonus points for an awesome name and great art.
The first location for Nightmare Mode builds on the theme of direct damage to Ships. It only has two threat, so the initial response might be just to let it hang in the staging area. However, the effect can be very nasty if left untended. Archery 2 that must be assigned to Ships isn’t horrible. This card really bites when more Archery cards are in play, like the Siege Ship, Corsair Warship, or another City Under Siege. The damage on Ships ramps very fast, even with the very minute healing provided by the Docks, so proper management of this location is paramount. The six quest points can present an issue as well, when trying to chip away at it in the staging area or traveling to and trying to quest through it.
The Shadow effect can be dangerous as well. It adds unexpected threat to the staging area for the next round, and also means a Ship enemy may potentially be Boarding more enemies next round. Staging area attack decks can be good tech for situations like this.
The next location can punish players in a completely different way – high threat in the staging area. It reads, “Sea-wall gets +2 threat and +2 quest points for each objective guarded by an encounter card.” The two threat and two quest points can skyrocket quickly. If this card comes out in the early game, most likely, it will at least be a 4/4 location since you start with one guarded objective. Depending on how you have been managing the objectives, in late game this card can easily have eight to ten threat, especially in multiplayer. It is most dangerous to reveal the round after advancing to stage 2, since that stage forces each unguarded objective to become guarded. Thror’s Key can be a very useful tech for the Sea-wall.
Depending on when it hits, the Shadow effect of +1 attack for each guarded objective can hurt a lot, especially if boosting the attack of a Ship which likely already has a high attack.
Calaerion: Still thinking of running, Sahír? Think you can outrun the world? You know, the problem with being the last of anything, by and by there will be none left at all.
The Thing in the Depths: Sometimes things come back, mate. We’re living proof, you and me.”
Pirates of the Belegaer: At Andrast’s End
The final location could accurately be called the “Siege Ship” location. It has the exact same “if an objective is unguarded at the end of the quest phase, it is now guarded by the card effect.” Three threat and five quest points mean it is an issue whether left in the staging area or traveled to. And traveling is no picnic. You have to deal two damage to EACH Ship to travel there. This is admittedly an extremely thematic ability. You go to waters tearing with war; you probably get hurt a bit. It is also worth mentioning that all three locations in this set have AMAZING art. If anyone wants to get wall prints for me, feel free to DM me on Discord. 😉
If the situation represented by this treachery came about through mechanical negligence and not military clash…
Captain Sahír: You are without a doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of.
Spirit Pippin: But You Have Heard Of Me.”
Pirates Of The Belegaer: The Curse Of The Stormcaller
Both of the new treacheries included for Nightmare Mode attach to Ships and attempt to punish the players in new and worse ways. The Broken Rudder makes it more difficult for the players to get back on-course. It is easy to forget amid all the explosions and rammings and awesome naval outfits that not only do you need to kill things, you also need to stay on-course, to avoid damage on stage one and to avoid the Raider Flagship engaging before you’re ready. While attached, the Broken Rudder requires you for each Sailing success found to either deal a damage to the attached Ship or cancel it. Like the other Conditions, it can be discarded by exhausting three characters. The card itself does bear the Sailing success symbol, but if discarded to a Sailing test, it attaches to a Ship committed to that test after the test resolves.
The final card in this Nightmare Deck has a pretty straightforward effect, “When Revealed: Attach to a Ship objective. (Counts as a Condition attachment with the text: “Attached objective cannot ready. Action: Exhaust 3 characters you control to discard Grappled!”) This treachery is also nasty, especially since every Ship-objective is immune to player card effects, so the only way to get rid of Grappled! is to use its action. Having a Ship basically out of commission can be a mortal blow if you already have to deal with multiple Ship-enemies in play.
The added burden of this card is that you can still come across it as a shadow card, since its shadow effects attaches Grappled! to the defending character if the defending character is a Ship.
Tips and Tricks
- Solo is very difficult due to the high threat cards that can come out and the swarms of three or four enemies at once when ships engage.
- Bringing plenty of ranged and sentinel in multiplayer is definitely helpful.
- As always in sailing quests, ally swarm decks are very good, both for sailing and removing Condition attachments.
- Condition removal is a must if you don’t have a lot of allies.
- Cards that can directly discard enemies (The Great Hunt, Fatty Bolger, or even Hunting Party) can be helpful to circumvent the big ships.
- Since you have no direct, reliable way to heal Ship-Objectives, attack prevention cards like Feint or Grimbold can be useful to stop an eight attack Ramming Ship or Warship from hitting.
There are currently no video playthroughs of this scenario, due both to its newness and the increased difficulty from the original scenario.
This completes the nightmare A Storm on Cobas Haven article! It’s been a lot of fun, and this is one of the best scenarios and best nightmare additions in the whole. Stay safe on the high seas!
As for me, my next article will probably be backtracking a bit in the Dream-chaser cycle… Things might get slimy.