Nightmare The Long Dark

After a bit of break from the blog, I have returned to release some more articles. Today, I posed myself the challenge to get through a Nightmare quest analysis as quickly as possible. And wouldn’t you know it: a perfectly forgettable quest presents itself to us, this time in Nightmare form. Many people often praise the Dwarrowdelf cycle for its quests, from the tough-as-nails fights against the Watcher and the Balrog to the memorable explorations of Moria’s foundations. But the Long Dark is the exception to this rule. The quest is often glossed over, and players who play progression mode forget this quest exists before encountering it. 

As for me, I quite enjoy the regular version of the Long Dark as a testing quest for my location control and heavy-willpower decks. If the stars align, you can beat this quest with minimal effort in as few as 3 rounds (2 if you are playing with more people and get some global willpower boosting effects going). The quest offers little challenge in its base version, and the new Locate tests are the only thing worth remembering. So today, let’s see how the Nightmare version of this quest changes it and if it is worth attempting again!

Nightmare The Long Dark

  • Found in: The Long Dark Nightmare expansion pack
  • Size: 1 new rule card and 19 encounter cards
  • Quest cards: 2, this is unchanged from the regular version
  • Increase in Difficulty?: Well, there is no way to make this quest much easier than it was before, so yes. However, I think that this quest still falls for the same traps as the base version did. So if you bring enough willpower and some location control, the quest won’t be significantly harder. Move too slow, and you will definitely get more Locate tests thrown at you. The punishments for failing these have become harsher, so you better get enough cards in your hand.
  • Fixed loopholes?: Not really, there are some more Lost effects in play now, including one permanently. This ensures that players cannot intentionally lose Locate tests and suffer no consequences.
  • New mechanics introduced: The quest puts more of a focus on the Locate tests and the Lost effects that can be triggered. No new synergies appear for this version, though there is more interaction with cards that have the PASS text printed on them. There is also an attempt being made at shutting down card draw engines. Players also will have a harder time keeping cards in hand.
  • Play this scenario if: You want to refresh your memory on the Long Dark quest and don’t mind playing a more difficult version. You have a deck that pumps out a ton of willpower, and you want to test it against a quest that requires serious willpower. You have a Noldor deck or other deck that draws a stupid amount of cards and need a quest mechanic to get them into the discard pile.
  • Solo or multiplayer?: I have been a fan of doing this quest in true solo. Not only because it is hard to find people to play this quest with, but also because in lower player counts, you are at an advantage when dealing with Locate tests. Should you fail one, then there are far fewer encounter cards in play in solo than in multiplayer. You will also encounter far fewer treacheries that force you to make a Locate test. You will be first player all the time though, so perhaps two players is the ideal amount for this quest. It is not impossible in solo though.
  • What to look out for: Losing too many Locate tests in a row. Location lock. Lost effects discarding heroes and allies at a faster rate than you can replenish them. Enemies that are quite tough to deal with if all you focus on is willpower.

New Rules

No longer a free encounter card

There are two effects added to the new rule sheet that are pretty minor. Still, it is something to keep in mind when playing this scenario. The first new rule states that the objective card Durin’s Greaves now gains surge. This is a pretty logical addition to the card, as it isn’t guarded and just a free encounter card otherwise. It will now surge into another encounter card but does still add its +1 defense to any hero. I like that they didn’t just straight-up remove the Greaves, as it now gives you something to search for.

The second new rule is not so much a rule as it is a constant Lost effect that you cannot get rid of. This Lost effect instructs the first player to discard an ally from play when this effect is triggered. This does not have to be an ally that is owned by the first player; it can be any ally that is deemed the least important at that moment. This effect has a chance to whiff, as there are decks out there that just use their heroes without allies. This effect won’t do anything but is still a potential target for Dreadful Deep or the shadow effect for Eastern Mines. This effect does mean that decks that run allies have to be careful not to fail any Locate tests or quest unsuccessfully. There will now always be a Lost effect to trigger as punishment.

New Setup

Setup remains unchanged from the base version, only that the cards in the encounter deck are swapped out for the Nightmare cards. This is done before anything else, meaning that for the effect on stage 1B, you can reveal some of the new locations. There are two of them, each having quite a lot of threat. So if you reveal one of these, you will be punished with more threat in the staging area, but there are no active effects on either of these locations that could make your start even more difficult. It’s just the added threat.

The rest of the setup acts as it normally does. The first player gives the Cave Torch to a hero of their choice, and X locations are discarded from the top of the encounter deck where X is one less than the number of players in the game, with a minimum of 1. Playing with 2 players will give you the best start of this quest out of any player count. Note that all other discarded cards are added back into the encounter deck after all locations are in the staging area. This means that you cannot escape the treacheries you potentially just discarded, but it also means that all the PASS cards are still in the encounter deck. The game then starts.

Cards removed

The following cards are removed from the encounter deck at the start of setup. These cards are replaced by more difficult versions or were removed for being too easy. The Nightmare cards from the pack are shuffled into the encounter deck afterwards.

Obvious to see why this was removed
  • 4x Goblin FollowerEasy enemy that makes way for some NM ones
  • 1x Branching PathsPrevents boosting threat of locations too high, 2 copies still remain
  • 3x Burning LowGetting an easy way to escape the threat increase here isn’t good enough for NM mode.
  • 2x Stray Goblin – Very easy enemy when playing this quest in solo, 1 copy remains
  • 2x Chance EncounterThis treachery focuses more on enemies, and thus only 1 copy remains
  • 2x The Mountain’s RootsVery easy 1 threat/1 quest point location in solo
  • 1x Abandoned Mine2 copies remain, one was removed to make way for different locations.
  • 2x FatigueThis makes way to increase the number of Locate test treacheries in the deck
  • 4x Goblin SneakEasy enemy
  • 3x Rock AdderEasy enemy with direct damage and Straight Shot

The Quest

This Nightmare variant of the Long Dark does exchange some cards for worse versions, but it doesn’t impact the gameplay too much. There are no new mechanics here that you have to build for; just make sure that you will have to do some more Locate tests. Proper management of the cards with Lost effects will be important here. In higher player counts, bring some form of location control because the threat in the staging area can get out of hand quickly. Stage 1 doesn’t help things a lot, as it grants all locations +1 threat. Players will often forget this, so keep some sort of token on your locations to signal the +1 threat on each of them. Get even more tokens on there if you have copies of Branching Paths in play, which will add more threat to Dark locations. Your Cave Torch will be a useful tool against the locations, but it shouldn’t be your only tool in higher player counts.

The best way to beat this quest is still to pump out a lot of willpower in the early game and advance to quest stage 2. There are 13 quest points required to advance, on top of any quest points you might have on the active location or any location with Explorer’s Almanac on it. When you are looking to transition to stage 2, make sure that the first player has a lot of cards in their hand. They will be making a Locate test soon, so they must be ready for it. You can stall for a few turns to kill some enemies and lower the number of encounter cards with Lost effects in play during this time. Side-quests are also an option, but I tend to avoid side-quests for this scenario.

Once the players advance to stage 2, the first player must make a Locate test. Completing this test will allow the players to advance without any negative effects triggering. Failing the test is considerably worse in this Nightmare mode. Players must then each reveal 1 card from the top of the encounter deck and add them to the staging area. Lost effects are triggered immediately afterwards. This means that if two copies of Lost and Helpless are revealed, two heroes will be dying. You do still get the option to cancel these cards’ When Revealed effect with cards like Dunedain Lookout and Test of Will.

Stage 2 is a lot easier than stage 1, thanks to locations no longer getting the +1 threat boost from the quest card. All you need is 17 progress on the main quest to win, and by this time, you should be having more than enough willpower to complete this in one or two rounds. A final push of willpower with some big effects like Untroubled by Darkness, Faramir, The Free Peoples, etc., will help you to secure the victory!

It is important to note to never get stalled out by the encounter deck so that you fail the quest. If you ever fail to quest successfully during either stage of the game, you must trigger all the Lost effects in play. Your game can quickly snowball out of control from there if you are forced to discard a hero or your questing allies. Make sure most Lost effects are out of play if you ever do end up questing unsuccessfully.

The Encounter deck

Global

  • The encounter deck for this quest is massive, at 55 cards in total. You are unlikely to have to reshuffle this, so don’t bring your own player encounter cards to this quest.
  • Shadow chances are 38%. This is pretty light for the quest. The new shadow effects attempt to trigger more Lost effects or force you to make a locate test late in the round.
  • The average threat per card revealed was a bit tricky to calculate, more on that after this paragraph. For now, the average threat is 2 threat per card, but this can change from 0 threat treacheries to 5 threat locations, not counting any threat buffs to those locations.
  • The chances of hitting a card with PASS on it is 35% with a full encounter deck. These chances change a lot depending what cards are in play or have been discarded already.
  • 4 cards in the encounter deck surge right away, including Durin’s Greaves according to the new rules card. Chance Encounter has the potential to surge if revealed early on. The biggest concern here is the one copy of Gathering Ground, which will give each enemy revealed from the encounter deck surge, as long as the attached location is in play. Get condition removal for this card or explore the attached location quickly.
  • The Doomed keyword only appears on Massing in the Deep for Doomed 1 twice. There isn’t a huge focus on getting the players to high threat. However, there is still Vast and Intricate, which will boost the threat of all players by 7 if the Locate test is failed. Keep that in mind when bringing Valour or your own Doomed cards.
  • Immunity

A few assumptions are made to determine the average threat per card revealed. The first stage will boost the threat of all locations by 1; this is ignored for the statistics. It is also assumed that there is only 1 player, meaning that the Stray Goblin and Mountains’ Roots are 1 threat. Buffs from Branching Paths and Orc Drummer are not calculated either, except for Branching Paths itself, which will always be at least 2 threat while in the staging area. Orc Drummer is assumed to give itself +1 threat for these measurements. TL;DR: Bring some tokens to do the math when playing the game; there are a lot of effects here that increase threat in the staging area.

With about a third of the encounter deck being enemy cards, you will have to carefully consider when (and if) you trigger the Cave Torch. The locations tend to be the killers in this quest, but a poorly timed Great Cave-Troll or Trapdoor Spider can be the end of you. Scrying the top of the encounter deck will be your safest course of action!

Enemies

The generic Goblin enemies are removed from the encounter deck in favor of some slightly more thematic enemies. These enemies come with their own Lost effects, as well as interacting with the PASS text on certain cards. Some can also prevent you from drawing more cards to replenish your hand, so having some combat potential in your deck would be wise!

  • Goblin Stalker: For a Nightmare enemy, the stats on the Goblin Stalker are pretty low. I suppose it’s still a Goblin, but you do expect enemies that can’t be demolished by Gandalf at this point. While the Stalker might only take 5 attack to kill, it has the potential to hit very hard. With an engagement cost of 28, you will likely start to engage this enemy in the early game, though heavy willpower Spirit decks can maintain a low enough threat to keep this enemy in the staging area, where it will add 3 to the threat total. When this enemy attacks you though, it will get an additional shadow card (like the Dol Guldur Beastmaster, for example). The problem not only lies in potentially having 2 shadow effects here but also because of the second Forced effect on this enemy. If any of the shadow cards have the PASS text on them, then the Stalker will hit for +2. This drastically increases the chances of getting an enemy with a higher attack, especially since this effect can stack if both shadow cards have the PASS text. In reality, this is very rare, and if you have cards like Armored Destrier, you can start to discard some of these shadow effects before they boost the attack. Still, this enemy can suddenly hit for very hard, making it a difficult enemy to take undefended. Low-tier defenders can still do well against this enemy, even if it gets +2 attack. It should also be noted that this is one of only 2 cards in the new NM encounter deck that come with the PASS text themselves.
  • Trapdoor Spider: The other enemy with the PASS text is this new Spider enemy. And you will want to see it during your locate tests because revealing it regularly will be a headache. The Spider has 4 threat, which it will add to the staging area for quite some time, as the engagement cost of 42 will prevent it from engaging players without them wanting to. However, the players aren’t completely safe, as the Lost effect on this Spider will cause it to engage the last player (or first player in a solo game) and make an immediate attack. Fortunately, if you can avoid having to trigger the Lost effect, then all you need to worry about is staying below the engagement cost and finding a way around the 4 threat of the enemy. Radagast’s Cunning is quite useful for this enemy. Should the Spider ever engage you (through the Lost effect or regular engagements), then you have quite the battle ahead of you. This enemy hits for 5 attack strength and has a nasty effect that will discard any character that gets damaged by this attack. Considering that the encounter deck has some nasty shadow cards, you could end up having to discard a hero if you are not careful. Damage cancellation can still save your characters though. If you are chumping this enemy, then there is no problem, as the attack is already over, so it won’t be considered to be undefended or anything. Attacking the Spider will take some effort, as it has 6 hitpoints guarded by 3 points of defense. One-time effects like a Black Arrow or Tactics Eowyn will make short work of this enemy, but consider that there are still Trolls in this encounter deck that might need effects like this as well. A proper way to handle this enemy is to trap it in a Forest Snare (and Followed if you can pull that off). That way, this TRAPdoor Spider won’t be making attacks, and you can ignore the threat it will pose in the staging area. It will still move if Lost effects are triggered, but it won’t make an attack.
  • Sentinel of the Deep: This final enemy is trying to reduce the player’s chances of passing Locate tests. Not only does it not have the PASS text, but it also prevents engaged players from drawing any cards from player card effects. This is particularly annoying if you are playing a Cirdan-deck, as you will be discarding the card that you draw at the end of the turn. All other decks will be limited to drawing one card per round at the beginning of the round until this enemy is no longer engaged with you. It will engage quickly, thanks to its 12 engagement cost. When engaged, the Sentinel will attack for 4, which is tricky to defend, but as there is no extra text to this enemy, chumping could be a solution, as well as defending with characters like Winged Guardian and Defender of Rammas. Killing the Sentinel will be a priority for many players and will take a total of 7 attack to accomplish. Not impossible, but it will take some attack power away from other enemies. Still, if that allows you to continue to draw cards again, that will help you a lot! There are only 2 copies of this enemy in the deck, so you might not see this enemy if you are fast enough. It does mean that you should save cards in your hand for the tests in case you cannot draw more after this Uruk engages you.

Locations

The deep places of the world open up a little more with these two new locations that are added in the Nightmare pack. These locations have no PASS keyword but also don’t have a Lost effect. They are quite big though, so it will be a challenge to overcome.

  • Eastern Mines: This first new location is a tough one, sporting 5 threat out of the gate, which can be 6 threat during stage 1. Luckily, this location does not have the Dark keyword, so any buffs from Branching Paths will skip this location. However, that does also mean that the Cave Torch cannot be used for this location; you will have to find alternative ways to place progress here. With so much threat, players will likely want to travel to this location as soon as possible. There is no other punishment than the high threat for having this location in the staging area, but with location lock always looming, it tends to be a good place to start when travelling. The only thing standing in your way is the Travel cost for this location. This requires the first player to make a Locate test. If the test is passed, Eastern Mines becomes the active location. If it is failed, the location is returned to the staging area (players cannot travel to another location unless they make use of a Travel Action to do so. Examples are South Away, Thror’s Map, or Ghan-buri-Ghan). Aside from having to keep the location in the staging area, all Lost effects in play must also be triggered. This can be a problem going into the engagement phase, so I wouldn’t travel here unless I am certain that I will pass the Locate test. There are three other ways to get rid of this location. The first is to place 4 progress on it in the staging area. With the right tools, this isn’t difficult and can even save you some progress if you trigger the effects before quest resolution. The next is to blank the textbox of the location with Thror’s Key. This isn’t the ideal location for that attachment though, so I do not recommend it, but it does still work. The final method is to use some of the earlier mentioned cards to travel to this location without paying its travel cost. South Away will require some setup, but Ghan-buri-Ghan can be discarded in exchange for easy passage to the Mines. Bit of a shame to sacrifice him though, as the Mines will boost his willpower by a lot!
  • Bottomless Chasm: I mentioned that there are better targets for Thror’s Key in the previous section. This is one of them! The Bottomless Chasm is so bottomless that it will continue to eat cards as you make more progress on it. For each point of progress made on the Chasm, the players must choose and discard 1 card from a player’s hand. This is obviously done to make Locate tests more difficult, especially if you are the only player at the table! Discarding up to 6 cards to this location can be terrible, so you would do well to find a way around this location. With 3 threat, the Chasm will be a medium-priority location to travel to, but you could clear it with 2 uses of the Cave Torch thanks to its Dark trait. This will discard 3 cards per use, so make sure to time this right! Luckily, the players get to select who discards what card for this effect, allowing you to pick the last player, who will be unlikely to make a Locate test soon. Other ways to beat this location are with attachments. Thror’s Key obviously works, but Woodmen’s Path is a better solution to clearing the location right away. This attachment lowers the number of quest points on the Bottomless Chasm to 1, which means you now only have to make 1 progress to clear, thus discarding only 1 card instead of 6. This is far more manageable, especially in lower player counts. The shadow effect on this location also acts as a bottomless pit for your hand. If the attack in which this card is dealt as a shadow card destroys a character, the defending player must discard their entire hand. This sets them up poorly for the next planning phase and for any Locate test they might have to make in the future. Cancellation or Silver Harps will be useful here.

Treacheries

There are plenty of treacheries already that make Locate tests, so the new treacheries focus on adding more Lost effects into play as well as getting more triggers for those Lost effects. They are quite nasty, but I tend to hold my Test of Will for the Locate test treacheries for this quest.

  • Dreadful Deep: First of all: Stunning artwork here! I really like the mood this portrays, even though the title of this treachery is more pessimistic. The effect of this treachery does match that pessimistic tone though. When revealed, this treachery will force each player to select one Lost effect and trigger it. This has to be a different Lost effect if able. Thanks to the new rules card, there will always be at least one Lost effect to trigger, even if it doesn’t do anything (if there are no allies in play, for example). It is unclear what has to be done when there are more players than Lost effects, but it would stand to reason that in that case, an effect can be triggered multiple times. This can be dangerous though, as these effects really shift the balance of the game away from the players. This is an interesting way to do more with the Lost effects, especially if players pass all of their Locate tests. The shadow effect on this treachery is a tough one though. The defending player must make a Locate test. Should that test be failed, the attacking enemy returns to the staging area, and all Lost effects must be triggered. It will be better to see this treachery being revealed during the quest phase than as a shadow card!
  • Lost and Helpless: This second treachery is one that players might want to consider cancelling if they are not certain that they will pass the next Locate test. When revealed, this treachery will attach to a hero of your choice. This treachery will act as a Condition attachment that will add an additional Lost keyword to the game. Should the players ever be forced to trigger this Lost effect (either by questing unsuccessfully or by Dreadful Deep), then the attached hero is discarded. In solo, that usually means Game Over, unless you are fine with losing a hero as you play a deck with either Bond of Friendship, Sword-Thain, or ally Prince Imrahil. Regardless, losing heroes sucks, so you will want to avoid that from happening in any case. The way around this card sounds easy: “Don’t trigger the Lost effect.” However, there may be some situations in which you quest unsuccessfully or fail a Locate test. It’s better to have this effect off the table than have to risk a hero (or two, as there are two copies in the deck). Condition removal is your best bet. There is also still the Gathering Ground condition in the encounter deck, so you won’t be bringing a Miner of the Iron Hills exclusively for this treachery. Cancellation of the treachery also works and will be easier, though you might wish you saved that cancellation for something else down the line. The card’s shadow effect is also worth cancelling, as it can lead to a hero’s death quite quickly. If you have no cards left in your hand, the defender is straight-up discarded, thus causing the attack to be undefended. This can delete two heroes in one attack, so have a Hasty Stroke on standby.

Tips and Tricks

  • Strong early willpower is key in this quest. You want to avoid getting locked with locations and failing the quest, as that will demand you trigger all Lost effects over and over again. Eowyn, Treebeard, Cirdan, and Galadriel+Nenya are great starting heroes for this quest.
  • Get a way to draw cards quickly. The obvious answer to this is hero Erestor, but also look for heroes like Haldan, Galdor, and Beravor, who can draw a lot of cards in this quest. Getting a draw engine going is essential as you will want fuel for the Locate tests.
  • If you cannot get a draw engine going and want to hang on to the cards in your hand, get some Silver Harps. These allow you to discard a card from your hand for the Locate test and then return it at the cost of exhausting the Harp. These attachments are Restricted though, so be careful who you put them on. 3 copies might be a bit much for 3 heroes, but it gets you 3 extra tries for a Locate test each round.
  • Run some cards that you don’t mind discarding from your hand as you can easily replay them. Elven-light and Glorfindel ally are obvious inclusions here. Also, consider running some copies of the events from The Grey Havens, which stack the more copies are in the discard pile. This gets you powered up super quickly.
  • Between Gathering Ground and Lost and Helpless, there is enough reason to run some condition removal for this game. There is a chance you won’t see these treacheries in your games, but if you do, you will wish you brought a Miner of the Iron Hills.
  • Remember that you win if you place the final progress on the second quest card no matter what. Tank a few enemies if you have to; all that matters is making enough progress. If you are fast enough, you can just chump your way through this quest. This strategy is dangerous though, as losing too many characters can stall you out and cause a quick loss.
  • Scrying is a really powerful tool to see if you stand a chance during a Locate test. Far-Sighted is amazing to scan the deck 5 cards deep. If you do not see a PASS, then you might as well not discard any cards for the test! Scout Ahead can dig even deeper in higher player counts and even allows you to move a PASS card closer to the top.

Playthroughs

The following players managed to record some games of NM Long Dark. Check out their videos below!

And that concludes this rapidly written quest analysis. I hope this has inspired some people to attempt this quest again, even if it isn’t in the Nightmare version. I will be continuing my work on the Land of Sorrow quest soon, but I wanted to get this article out of the way first. Just 3 more scenarios have to be completed in Nightmare mode before the NM Dwarrowdelf cycle has been completed! Next up for me will be the Foundations of Stone, which is a long one!

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