Nightmare The Watcher in the Water

The fight against the Watcher in the Water is one of the more iconic battle scenes in the Fellowship of the Ring. It’s a fight against something completely different than the players have faced before when playing in progression mode. For the Nightmare version, the players are probably a little bit better prepared against the many tentacles after quests like Thing in the Depths, Ruins of Belegost, and The Ring Goes South. The Nightmare version doubles down on the fight with the Watcher, removing all other enemies from the game except the Watcher’s tentacles. This will be the main synergy for the deck. The quest will also prevent the players from cheating to win this quest quickly, thanks to a few new rules that were added.

Nightmare The Watcher in the Water

  • Found in: The Watcher in the Water Nightmare deck
  • Size: 1 rules card and 19 new encounter cards
  • Quest cards: 2, this remains unchanged from the normal version.
  • Increase in Difficulty?: Yes. A heavier focus on the Tentacle enemies means that they are more unpredictable, and characters might get wrapped by the tentacles a lot easier. Combine this with a new version of the Watcher with triple the original’s health points and the fact that you have to kill this enemy, and it is safe to say that this version is significantly more difficult. There is no more stalling and luck involved with this quest, so you will have to bring your combat characters if you want to stand a chance. However, I do personally think that this is a slightly easier NM scenario compared to others.
  • Fixed loopholes?: Yes, quite significantly actually. The new rules will require that the players kill the Watcher and clear the Doors of Durin. Both cards must be in the Victory Display in order to defeat this quest. That means that the strategy of clearing side-quests is no longer viable like it was in the normal version of the quest.
    The quest also prevents players from scrying the encounter deck with a new location. This means that players can no longer peek at the top cards of the encounter deck to see if there are Tentacles on top.
    The new version of the Watcher is also immune to direct damage and has a lot more hitpoints to get through. All of this means that new strategies will have to be implemented in order to stand a chance.
  • New mechanics introduced: A new Watcher enemy gets damaged each time a tentacle enemy is destroyed. Players will have to clear both the Watcher and the Doors of Durin in order to win. Heavier focus on Tentacle enemies and their effects.
  • Play this scenario if: You are into tentacle-stuff. You enjoyed the regular version of this quest and are looking for a battle against the Watcher without being distracted by Wargs and Orcs.
  • Solo or multiplayer?: I would actually prefer higher player counts against this quest. Not only will this make it easier to kill the Watcher, since more Tentacles will come out, but you are also able to clear the Doors of Durin by drawing from several decks, increasing the chances of adding the Doors to the victory display.
  • What to look out for: A lot of smaller enemies with very low engagement costs. Doomed 5 treacheries. Some nasty treacheries that can prolong the game or end it in defeat really quickly. High threat locations that will need to be travelled to.

New Rules

The additional rules card to this quest comes with 2 new rules and one extra pre-requisite to beating the quest. The first of these effects is that the Watcher cannot be engaged while the Doors of Durin are in play. And with the Watcher being immune to damage by player card effects while it is in the staging area, you’re not going to cut through those 21 hitpoints quickly. So your objective will be to clear the Doors of Durin first, before you can start hacking away at the Watcher with your characters.

In the meantime, while you are trying to solve the riddle of the Doors, you can start to chop off some tentacles, which will damage the Watcher, even if it is in the staging area. The second rule on this card is actually helping the players to get past the 7 defence on the Watcher. When the Watcher is in play (at stage 2), the players will deal 1 damage to it each time a Tentacle enemy is destroyed. Note that the players must destroy the Tentacles and not simply discard them with effects like Great Hunt or Put Off Pursuit. Damage must be dealt equal to the hitpoints on the Tentacles, and then the Watcher will get 1 damage. There is a way for the Watcher to heal off this damage, but not as fast as the Regenerate keyword on the original version. This new effect can potentially even kill the Watcher if 21 Tentacles are destroyed, though I doubt that players are able to get so many Tentacles in play and defeated before they clear the Doors of Durin.

The final bit of text on this quest card shuts down the strategy of getting 3 victory points through other means (side-quests, Black Arrow, etc.) and winning without killing the Watcher or escaping through the Doors. Instead, the players must now clear both unique cards and add them to the Victory Display in order to win the game. This is difficult and will greatly increase the length and difficulty of this quest over the original. My advice is to clear the Doors as quickly as possible before somehow dealing enough damage to the Watcher to defeat it. The 7 defence on the Watcher may be rough, but it is not immune to player card effects.

New Setup

The setup of this quest does not change a lot. At the beginning of the game, the Doors of Durin and the Watcher are set aside from play. Note that you set aside the correct, Nightmare version of the Watcher, as the original version will be removed from the game. When progressing to stage 1B, players will be instructed to reveal cards until there is at least X threat in the staging area, where X is 2 times the number of players in the game. With more 4 threat cards in the encounter deck, there is a real chance that you only have to reveal 1 or 2 cards from the top of the deck for a solo or 2 player game. Higher player counts will increase the chance of revealing treacheries, which will have to be resolved, so you will be off to a worse start. Revealing the new treacheries will only cause them to surge this early in the game. There is no difference with the setup aside from this.

Cards removed

The following cards are removed from the encounter deck prior to the start of the game. These cards are either replaced by new versions or are removed to improve the theme and setting of this quest. This time, not a lot of cards are removed. The encounter deck actually increases in size in Nightmare mode, which isn’t usual.

The Quest

When the players have gone through the setup of this quest and have revealed enough cards to get at least two times the number of players worth of threat in the staging area, the game can begin. This first stage is relatively easy, with no active text on the quest card and both the Watcher and the Doors of Durin being out of play. The focus in the first two turns should be to get a few defenders ready, as most of the Tentacles will engage you during the round they are revealed. You can also take this time to explore some side-quests if you want, but understand that you cannot win this scenario anymore by getting 3 side-quests explored and thus getting the 3 victory points for stage 2. I will still suggest that player side-quests are useful here, as you can get a nice advantage over the encounter deck during later stages. Keep Watch, Gather Information, and Double Back are very useful against this scenario. Note that Scout Ahead will be tricky to pull off, as the Hideous Depths will shuffle the encounter deck after you have taken a look at it. Still, you could time it right, and you will at least get to put a card in the victory display.

Once players are set up for combat, they can start to make progress on the main quest. I would suggest taking it a little slow with this, as you should really get the bulk of your deck on the table by the time you progress. So try to travel whenever you can to clear threat from the staging area, and use your progress to clear active locations as well. Explorer’s Almanac can also help to clear more locations in the staging area, which will be a great solution for several tough locations. After 13 progress has been made on the main quest, the players immediately advance to the second stage.

This second stage is where the difficulty increases, as both the Doors of Durin and the new version of the Watcher enter play. The Doors of Durin become the active location, returning any previous location to the staging area. Players are unable to travel to other locations while Doors of Durin are in play unless players use cards like The Hidden Way or West Road Traveller to swap locations. This is a valid strategy, as players will still be able to trigger the action on Doors of Durin and clear some threat in the staging area by travelling to other locations. The action on the Doors of Durin will be discussed in a segment later in this article, including the breakdown of what letters are ideal for discarding.

The new Watcher enemy also enters play and will sit in the staging area. There it will continue to damage characters each round that it remains in the staging area at the end of the combat phase. Players are unable to damage the Watcher directly but can start chopping off Tentacles, which will do 1 damage to the Watcher for each Tentacle destroyed. This way, you can still go through those 21 hitpoints whilst avoiding the Watcher’s 7 attack. The players are only able to engage the Watcher after the Doors of Durin have been cleared. It is advised that the players engage the Watcher as soon as they are able and throw everything they have at it to try and deal sufficient damage. In order to achieve this, the players should ideally have their attackers ready by the time the Doors of Durin are cleared. You can prioritize defence over attack for the majority of the game, but you will need to attack back at some point. Luckily, the Watcher is not immune to any player cards once it is out of the staging area. You are free to play attachments, do direct damage, and trigger other effects with your characters and events to deal as much damage as possible. Remember that the Watcher will continue to take damage whenever another Tentacle is destroyed. So if you are unable to get past the 7 defence, then maybe it is easier to take out a Tentacle or two to deal damage.

In order to win, the players must have at least 3 victory points. But they must also clear both the Doors of Durin and the Watcher, so the victory points aren’t that important. Focus on clearing the Doors first, and continue to hack away at Tentacles to deal damage to the Watcher. Once the Doors are cleared, engage the Watcher and kill it, which might take a few turns. Once the Watcher is defeated, the players will have met all pre-requisites to winning the game. The only thing left is having 5 progress on the main quest. This should already have been placed by that point, as progress passes through the Doors of Durin, directly onto the current quest. If the players have cleared the main quest before the Watcher or the Doors are down, then they can try and make more progress on side-quests, though it is usually better to hold back some characters from the quest and use them to deal more damage to the Watcher. Once all criteria have been met, the players have won the game!

The Doors of Durin

A quick extra section in this article is dedicated to the Doors of Durin and their action. The location remains unchanged from the regular version of the quest, but with a different composition of encounter cards, the players will have different chances of beating the Doors’ riddle. Make sure to keep this into account when deckbuilding for the quest since the Doors will have to be cleared in order to win. Note that the letter M is removed from the encounter deck, and several new letters are introduced. The best strategy is to bring a deck that draws a lot of cards and can scry the top card of the encounter deck (make sure that Hideous Depths are not in play). That way, you know exactly what to discard in order to clear the doors.

The encounter cards in this quest start with the letters:

The Encounter deck


  • The encounter deck is pretty thick, at 50 cards at the start of the game.
  • Shadow chances are very low, with only 12 cards having a shadow effect. This is just 24%, opposed to the 55-70% for regular scenarios.
  • For most of the tentacles, you have to discard a card from the top of the encounter deck and check whether or not this is a Tentacle enemy or if it has a shadow effect. With a full encounter deck, this is a total of 31 cards or 62% of all cards.
  • Average threat on cards revealed is 1.78 threat per card. This can range from 0 threat treacheries to 4 threat enemies or locations.
  • Surge only appears on Rippling From Beneath (3 cards) and if Pulled Under does not damage characters (2 cards)
  • This quest is notorious for its Doomed 5 treachery that cannot be cancelled by A Test of Will. There are 3 copies of this card, making for quick losses if players don’t bring threat reduction. Stagnant Creek also boosts threat by 5 sometimes, though not through the Doomed keyword.
  • Immunity
    • The Watcher cannot take damage by player card effects while it is in the staging area
    • The Watcher cannot be engaged while the Doors of Durin are in play
    • While Turbulant Waters are the active location, players cannot optionally engage enemies
    • Perilous Swamp can only get 1 progress token per round.

These statistics do not count the Watcher itself or the Doors of Durin. The split between player cards is important, as there are more enemies in the deck than other cards. This means that the abilities on Tentacles will have a decent chance of hitting. Keep track of how many enemies you have already come across to stand a better chance against some enemies.


With the Orc and Warg distractions being removed from the game in this version, there is room in the encounter deck for even more Tentacles! The quest also features a new version of the Watcher, which deserves some attention.

  • The Watcher: Aside from the Balrogs in this game, this version of the Watcher has the most hitpoints ever to be printed on an enemy card in the game! Combine this with a defence of 7 and immunity to taking damage by player card effects while the Watcher is in the staging area, and you are up for a challenging boss-fight against this Watcher. The Watcher enters play when the players advance to the second stage. It will sit in the staging area for a while as the players try to clear the Doors of Durin. Remember that the players are not allowed to engage the Watcher because of the new rules if the Doors are in play. While the Watcher is sitting in the staging area though, it is not a passive 4 threat and nothing else. Instead, the entire text box on the enemy is in effect and will try to waylay you. First up, while the Watcher is in the staging area, it is immune to damage by player card effects. This not only includes direct damage like Gandalf or Hail of Stones but also attacks made by heroes like Éomer or a Ranged hero with Hands Upon the Bow. None of these effects can damage the Watcher, so please orientate those effects to other enemies instead. Killing other Tentacles is the only way to deal damage at this point. For each Tentacle that is destroyed, one damage is placed on the Watcher (even when it is engaged with you later on). Because the Watcher has 21 hitpoints, it is unlikely that this will kill the Watcher before you clear the Doors of Durin.
    The other effect that is active when the Watcher is in the staging area triggers at the end of the combat phase. If the Watcher is in the staging area at this point, each player must deal 3 damage to 1 character they control. This will most likely kill any ally you control or will seriously hurt a hero. Hobbit players will really have to start throwing bodies towards this effect, as their heroes cannot survive 3 direct damage without their hitpoints being boosted. This constant damage to each player’s characters will make this a war of attrition, where you have to pump out more bodies than the Watcher and its tentacles can snatch up. Decks that don’t run as many allies will have to invest in healing their heroes, especially if the Watcher remains in the staging area for several rounds while the players are trying to clear the Doors of Durin.
    As soon as the Doors of Durin is cleared, the players are able to engage the Watcher. I advise that they engage immediately (unless Turbulent Waters prevents this), as the Watcher isn’t that bad when it is engaged with just one player. While the 7 attack strength on this enemy will surely kill some characters, it is not going to deal damage to each player anymore. The 7 attack strength is concerning though, and will require either a chump-blocker or a very dedicated hero to block this. Luckily, you can cancel the attacks it makes with events, which can save you from discarding some allies.
    When the Watcher is engaged with a player, it also loses its immunity to damage by player card effects. And since the Watcher is not immune to anything else, players are free to throw everything they have at this enemy. Direct damage, Ranged attacks, Attachments, and one-time-big-attack abilities should be used at this point. The Watcher has 7 defence to get through, which is rough and will negate a lot of attack power when only 1 person is attacking. But you can slowly get through the 21 hitpoints, especially with the use of direct damage effects. Killing other Tentacles at this point will also still damage the Watcher.
    Once the players defeat the Watcher, they will likely win the game, as they have had enough time to make 5 progress on the quest card and will have cleared the Doors of Durin as well.
  • Writhing Tentacle: Contrary to all the other tentacles in the game, this one is actually designed to stay in the staging area for a long time, and not engage immediately. With 46 engagement cost, the players are allowed to avoid the Writhing Tentacle for a while at the cost of leaving 4 threat in the staging area. Counters to this could be the Ranger Spikes or Radagast’s Cunning, but that will require some timing. The only time that players will have to engage this Tentacle outside of the regular engagement phase is if Ill Purpose forces this Tentacle to engage the first player. When the Writhing Tentacle engages, the top card of the encounter deck is discarded. If that card is a Tentacle enemy or has a shadow effect, the Writhing Tentacle will make an immediate attack. Once this attack is resolved, the Writhing Tentacle will attach to the defending character and act like a Tentacle attachment that prevents the attached character from committing to the quest. This is usually not a big deal, as defenders rarely quest at all. The harm in being a Tentacle attachment is that the Writhing Tentacle can set up Pulled Under, which will deal 3 damage to your defender. If you are defending with a hero, the initial attack might not damage you so much, but each copy of Pulled Under will chip away at your defender until they die. The other option is to chump the 4 attack of the initial attack. That way, you do have to suffer another attack in the combat phase, but at least the Tentacle won’t attach to anything. If the Forced effect on the Tentacle does not go off, then it will act like a regular enemy, attacking for 4. It is killed really easily by just 3 damage, which any character can deliver thanks to the 0 defence on this enemy.
  • Choking Tentacle: This next Tentacle is a lot more dangerous in combat and will engage pretty quickly. With just 10 engagement cost, the 2 threat on this enemy can almost instantly be ignored. In combat, this Tentacle will attack for 5 and trigger the Forced effect on this enemy. Players must discard the top card of the encounter deck and check if the card has a shadow effect or is a Tentacle enemy. If it is, then the Choking Tentacle must attach to a character that the defending player controls. Luckily, this does not have to be the defender; it can be any character. When attached, it counts as a Tentacle attachment (watch out for Pulled Under) and will damage the attached character each time it readies. This can bring down characters within a few turns or make them useless to the player. However, there are some decent targets if you do not have a disposable ally for this effect. Especially heroes that boost other characters can stay ready all game and not require to exhaust. Dain Ironfoot, Leadership Brand son of Bain, Leadership Boromir, and Celeborn are good examples of this.
    In case the Forced effect fails (or doesn’t trigger since you used Feint on the attack), then the Choking Tentacle requires 5 attack to kill. With 4 hitpoints, direct damage becomes a little more difficult unless you have a Gandalf ready to go. But 5 attack should not be difficult to get and allows you to get rid of this enemy and deal a damage to the Watcher if it is in play.


Location lock can be a serious issue in this quest, and the new locations certainly don’t help with that. The locations in this quest have a lot of threat, and all would be a great target to travel to. The new locations add to that, with passive abilities that hurt the players when these locations are in play!

  • Banks of Sirannon: This first location that is new to the deck attempts to make it harder for you to kill Tentacle enemies. It does this by increasing the defence of any Tentacle enemy (including the Watcher!) by 2. However, there are 3 copies of this location in the deck, and these buffs will stack on enemies. This means that you can get really unlucky and get +6 defence to all Tentacle enemies. The easiest way around this ability is to travel to the Banks. However, if the players just advanced to stage 2, the Doors of Durin will become the active location and players are unable to travel anywhere else. Players could get around this with AleP’s Widfast or with Thror’s Map. If the players do not have the ability to travel here, then players should invest in some location control. The Banks of Sirannon luckily only have 3 quest points, so they are easily explored. I wouldn’t even waste a Thror’s Key on one of these, though that is still an option if you do not have progress placing cards in play yet. It is advisable to travel here quickly, as the +2 defence is quite significant for these Tentacles, and it prevents Straight Shot if you were counting on that card to work for you.
  • Hideous Depths: The other location card in this deck is the Hideous Depths, which prevents the players from knowing what lurks just beneath the surface of the murky depths of the encounter deck. While the Hideous Depths are in play, whenever the players look at the top of the encounter deck, the encounter deck shuffles. Players would want to look at the top of the encounter deck because of the many effects on the Tentacle enemies that would discard a card and trigger something terrible for the players if a certain card is revealed. Players would also want to look at the top card of the encounter deck to know what the starting letter of the encounter card is, so that they can resolve the Doors of Durin while only discarding one card. But if this new location forces you to reshuffle the encounter deck each time you take a peek, those strategies are not going to work anymore. If the players weren’t bringing any scrying cards to this game, then there is no harm in leaving this location in play. Otherwise, the goal will be to clear this location as soon as you can, so you can learn more about the cards on top of the encounter deck. With 5 quest points, the Depths aren’t cleared as easily from the staging area, so travelling would seem appealing. However, this will trigger the Travel cost of the location, which reveals the top Tentacle enemy from the encounter discard pile. If there are no Tentacles in the discard pile, then the players are not allowed to travel here. With 3 copies in the encounter deck, you can be sure that there will be a long stretch of time where scrying is not allowed. Even when these locations are the active location, the ability still remains. One copy can be blanked with Thror’s Key, but the others will have to be blown up with progress placing cards or by travelling to them quickly. Luckily, you do remove a decent amount of threat from the staging area when travelling here.


Fighting a kraken-like being is not without its hazards. Two new treacheries add to all the original ones to hurt the players and make the battle even more fierce! Remember that the Doomed 5 treachery is also still in this quest.

  • Pulled Under: The art on this one looks very much like a Nightmare some of us might have. The treachery is designed to punish players for having Tentacle attachments and will deal 3 damage to each character with a Tentacle attached to them. Players can get Tentacle attachments from the two new non-unique enemies in this Nightmare scenario, as well as through the Wrapped treachery and the Grasping Tentacle. This treachery reminds me a bit of the Forest Patrol player card, where players would deal 3 damage to enemies caught in a trap. It is nice to see the roles reversed for this scenario. The damage will have to go to the attached character, so if a hero is being Wrapped, they could die before you get the chance to save them. Make sure you have damage cancellation available for this effect or accept that you are going to lose some characters through this effect. Cancellation is an option here if you have already seen the Ill Purpose treachery and are not saving your A Test of Will for anything else. Should this treachery hit early in the game when there are no Tentacle attachments in play, then the treachery will surge instead. The best case scenario is that you just deal 3 damage to an easily replaced ally and move on. This treachery will also likely fill the encounter discard pile with detached Tentacle attachments, so make sure you discard the Tentacles in an order that seems best to you.
  • Rippling from Beneath: This is the only way for the Watcher to heal during the game, and luckily, it is not a very strong effect. This treachery doesn’t hit very hard, which is why it will always surge. This makes it more of an annoying extra step during staging. Luckily, this card does not come with a shadow effect and is not a Tentacle enemy, so revealing this for a Tentacle’s effect won’t trigger anything. But if you reveal this treachery during staging, there are a few things that you have to do. First, the players return X Tentacles from the discard pile to the encounter deck. The players are free to choose which Tentacles they want to return, in case you might have a preference for a certain Tentacle (my personal preference is the Grasping Tentacle). Then, the players must heal X damage from the Watcher if it is in play. Since X is the number of players in the game, the maximum value that the Watcher can heal by is 4 through this effect, which isn’t too much, though it can be annoying if the Doors of Durin are taking a long time to clear. This treachery does nothing else to harm the players but sets things up for a higher concentration of Tentacles in the encounter deck. You will have less luck discarding cards to Tentacle effects in the future, especially if the encounter deck was running low. I will advise to only shuffle in Tentacles that start with the same letter if you still have to clear the Doors of Durin. Knowing what letter is most common in the encounter deck will aid your efforts to beat the riddle on the doors.

Tips and Tricks

  • Silvan decks will be doing pretty well against the Doors of Durin. Many cards start with an S (for Silvan) and with W (Woodland). They even have some T cards in the deck as well (The Tree People and The Elvenking). Other archetypes will, of course, also be viable, but you stand a decent chance discarding cards from Silvan decks.
  • Build your deck with the Doors of Durin in mind. Since you have to clear the location, you must at least match one of the letters in the deck with a fair few of your cards. If you only include cards starting with the correct letters, then you will have an easier time with the Doors (though it is not a guarantee).
  • If you are bringing a One Ring deck, you better keep a low threat! This quest can cause you to jump in threat a lot if Disturbed Waters or Stagnant Creeks are revealed in quick succession. One Ring decks threat out at 45, and will cost everyone the game. Have threat reduction in play, and be sure to bring Free to Choose to counteract the treachery.
  • There are no real benefits to running secrecy decks against this quest, other than the fact that you can survive a few more hits from Disturbed Waters or Stagnant Creek than others. The enemies in this quest all have a low engagement cost (except the Watcher and Writhing Tentacle), so you are not avoiding combat with a Secrecy deck. Grey Wanderer is also a very poor choice, thanks to the Wrapped! treachery!
  • Location control will really help you lower the threat in the staging area, as many of the locations have 3 or 4 threat each. Northern Trackers are very useful, as they can clear Perilous Swamp without the players needing them to travel there. Other effects like Evening Star are also worth a lot for this quest.
  • There is a lot of direct damage in this encounter deck that will be targeting single characters with a lot of damage. Players should run some damage cancellation or healing to make sure that they don’t lose a lot of characters to a Pulled Under or to the Watcher’s effect. You can also avoid damage aimed at your characters through the Thrashing and Striking Tentacles this way.
  • Boosting hitpoints is also advised! Global effects like Bill the Pony, and Hardy Leadership, will make sure that many of your characters are a little bit better prepared for the direct damage to come!
  • Note that most Tentacle enemies only check for other Tentacle enemies and not the Tentacle trait on a card. Some treacheries might have the Tentacle trait, but they will not count to these abilities (unless they also happen to have a shadow effect).
  • Prioritize defence over attack, as the Tentacles hit hard but don’t require much to kill. The new Tentacles can even leave play before you get the chance to attack back. Offense is still important for the Watcher, but get your defence up and running first!


There are a few playthroughs to be found online of this quest. This list will be updated as more videos are released.

With plenty of nightmare scenarios having been covered in the past weeks, I will now turn my attention again towards the Vengeance of Mordor cycle. The Land of Sorrow is one of only two quests remaining in the cycle, so I will start with that one. The Fortress of Nurn will be done by Mortendall when he finishes his article on Road to Isengard eventually. Once the cycle has concluded, I will turn my attention to reworking the rest of the Shadows of Mirkwood quests as well! In the meantime, I also mean to get some articles done on the individual contracts. Those haven’t been touched in a while, and I should really finish that series some day. I will let you all know when I make some progress on that!

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