This scenario has been a favorite of the community since it came out. So many people like the randomness of the fourth stage, and the mid-game reset, that this quest is usually proposed when the age-old question comes up: “What are the four of us going to play today?”. The artwork in this quest is also something that we haven’t seen before, and the Nameless enemy archetype has only returned in a handful of other scenarios over the years. So for players looking to dive even deeper into the earth and uncover the horrors that stalk those empty halls, the Nightmare version of this quest is ideal. It is also the quest whose artwork comes the closest to earning the title “Nightmare” of any quest out there.
Nightmare Foundations of Stone
- Found in: Foundations of Stone Nightmare Pack.
- Size: 19 new encounter cards, of which 5 are added at stage 1. Rules card makes it 20 cards.
- Quest cards: Unchanged from the original. 5 stages, with 4 different stage 4s.
- Increase in Difficulty?: Yes, though not as much as the others in the cycle. The first half of the quest is mostly the same, and the second half requires you to be fast to avoid most enemies. Nameless enemies are still mostly luck-based, so they aren’t that dangerous if you play a cheap deck.
- Fixed loopholes?: Progression to stage 3 now removes Mount and Artifact attachments as well, which were originally used to make the fourth stage a little easier for the players. This change mostly affects Mounts since most Artifacts are also Items (except for rings, which hinders some decks). Players are also no longer allowed to turtle and build an army of allies to bring with them to stage 4. One of the new Nameless enemies also no longer can die when it gets 0-cost cards.
- New mechanics introduced: This quest improves the synergy for Nameless enemies, which isn’t exactly new. It also has two cards that will move between staging areas at stage 4.
- Play this scenario if: You are a fan of the original version and want to increase the difficulty a bit. A new player you’ve introduced via this quest said: “Pff, that was easy” and you want to make them swallow those words. You are not afraid of some enemy designs that are better suited for Arkham Horror.
- Solo or multiplayer?: Foundations of Stone has always been more fun in multiplayer, so definitely bring a couple of friends along. Hopefully, this will help you if you get stuck with a bad stage 4 and need support to get out. More players also helps a lot with getting out of stage 5. Ideally, this quest is played with 4 players, though this will mean that you are going to see some of those tougher Nightmare cards.
- What to look out for: Bigger reset at stage 3 than you may be accustomed to by now. Random stage 4 cards can be scary if you are ill-prepared for some of them. Nameless enemies will hit harder as they receive more cards.
The new rules for this quest are pretty easy to understand since there are no active effects the whole time, only a single trigger during stage 3 when everyone takes a break and resets the encounter deck. See this Forced effect as an extension of quest card 3B, instructing players to discard a few more types of cards than they are used to. On top of the Item, Weapon, Armor, and Light cards, players must now also discard all Mount and Artifact traited attachments. The restriction of Mounts will make it more difficult to get a Rohan archetype through this quest but also shuts down the possibility of Asfaloth clearing locations deep underground (something that was common back when this quest was released). The forced discarding of Artifact attachments mainly hurts players who were playing with the Rings of Power. While the One Ring cannot be discarded, Nenya, Vilya, and Narya are probably the most common Artifacts you will be discarding. This will also discard Sword that was Broken, which wouldn’t be discarded in the normal version, as it is not an Item, like many Artifacts.
Players are also instructed to discard allies from play until each player has allies leftover with a combined cost of 6 resources. This can mean a single Brok Ironfist will survive the plunge or up to 6 1-cost allies. This is calculated per player, so you do not have to discuss which allies to keep with other players. This was done so players cannot spam allies early on and waltz through stages 4 and 5. This impacts Swarm decks like Outlands a lot.
For both of these new restrictions, players will have to ask themselves the question of whether or not it is wise to play the cards now or wait until after stage 3B. You do run the risk of losing your hand at one of the stage 4B quest cards, and the new treachery will punish you for keeping cards in your hand. Best bring some extra copies of important attachments and hope you draw them after you advance to stage 4. This will mean you sometimes have to pay for your attachments again, but you’ll need to if you want to win this quest.
There is no new setup required for the Nightmare mode of this quest. You only have to remove the cards from the encounter deck as per the instructions on the rules card. Then, remember to shuffle in the Mithril Seeker and Giant Cave Centipede, as those enemies have the Goblins of the Deep encounter set symbol. These will add some difficulty to the first 2 stages, adding in a bit of Nightmare difficulty before you are washed away. The other encounter cards from the Nightmare set can be shuffled together with the original Foundations of Stone encounter set, ready to be swapped for stage 3.
The following cards are removed from the original two encounter decks, making way for more difficult cards that are added with the Nightmare deck.
- 3x Goblin Scout (Easy enemy for direct damage or low engagement cost decks)
- 2x Goblin Swordsman (3 copies remain, making some space for the Mithril Seeker)
- 1x Goblin Follower (3 copies remain, making way for some more enemies)
- 3x Burning Low (Easy treachery in low player counts or if you have a good grasp on the staging area)
- 1x Branching Paths (Stacking threat on Dark locations was a bit brutal in 4p games, 2 copies remain)
- 1x Many Roads (Really easy treachery that doesn’t do much in this quest)
- 3x Cave In (Really easy treachery for stalling at the early stages)
- 3x Drowned Treasury (Beneficial location, making way for new ones)
- 1x Mithril Lode (Beneficial location, trivializing stage 5)
- 4x Moria Bats (Weak enemies, replaced by more Nameless enemies for better synergy)
The first two stages of the quest are really not that much different from the original quest. The only new thing is that some cards have been removed from the encounter deck, and 4 new enemy cards are introduced. The removal of all copies of Burning Low does mean that players can be a bit more aggressive with their Cave Torch at the start of the game, though they must be aware that this can potentially drag out some of the newer enemies as well. However, with 6 enemies removed and 4 added back into the deck, players stand a better chance of hitting a non-enemy card at these stages. Especially when some enemies have already shown up, the players can rely a little more on the Cave Torch if they want to.
During these first two stages, the players must make a choice between playing all their cards, having an easier time at these stages, and then discard most of their table state at the halfway point, or risk having a more difficult time early on by not playing cards and counting on playing them at stage 4. In my opinion, I would split it along the middle. Play some early game cards that will help you deal with the enemies and locations from the first two stages, and then play the rest as replacements when transitioning to stage 4. Remember that you are allowed to have allies worth up to 6 resources at stage 3, plus any attachments that do not have the traits described on stage 3B or the new Nightmare rules card.
When the players eventually move on to stage 3, they are instructed to swap the encounter decks, discard all encounter cards in play, and discard the player cards as described by the quest card and the new rules card. Remember that you must discard allies as well at this point, though each player is allowed to save allies until their combined cost is 6 resources or less. Since the quest card instructs players to shuffle any enemy and treachery cards from the discard pile into the new encounter deck, players have the option to manipulate the encounter deck for the final 2 stages. If you really do not want a certain enemy or treachery in the encounter deck for stages 4 and 5, they can play Shadow of the Past (only if the top card worries them) or The End Comes (requiring that they lose a Dwarf character). While this will allow you to remove a lot of encounter cards from the new deck, it does mean that the new deck will have an easier chance to reveal new Nightmare cards and have a better time synergizing around the Nameless enemies. In my personal opinion, it is not worth messing with the deck too much when transitioning, as you’d rather see a Goblin enemy at stage 4 than a Nameless one.
Advancing to stage 4, the setup remains the same as for the regular scenario. Each player is separated into their own staging area and gets a random stage 4B. This can instruct them to do several things, like losing all cards in hand, losing resources, or revealing more encounter cards for their area. At this point, the majority of the Nightmare cards have been added to the deck, meaning that you run a high risk of some dangerous enemies or locations! If you want the best chances of survival, you hope to get a quest card like The Endless Caves or Sheltered Rocks. You, of course, do not get to choose the stages, so it is a matter of luck that will decide your fate here.
When players eventually meet up for stage 5, they will be instructed to reveal an additional encounter card, which can lead to more enemies entering play, people losing heroes to treacheries, and a lot of threat in the staging area. Fortunately, you When players eventually meet up for stage 5, they will be instructed to reveal an additional encounter card, which can lead to more enemies entering play, people losing heroes to treacheries, and a lot of threat in the staging area. Fortunately, you cannot send that many characters to the quest anymore, so you would do well to keep characters back and engage as many enemies as possible to reduce the threat in the staging area. Unfortunately, the Mithril Lode location can no longer help you place progress on the quest, so you will have to focus on getting a lot of willpower from just a handful of characters. It is just a race to the finish though, and with the final point of progress made on the quest, players win the game and can move on to Nightmare Shadow and Flame!
The Encounter deck
Since there are two separate encounter decks for this quest, I will handle each of them separately. Since there is no telling what cards are added to the regular encounter deck at stage 3, I assume no encounter cards are added by the players at that point, as if their encounter discard pile was empty. This is probably never the case, but it helps the statistics a lot here.
Stages 1 and 2
- The encounter deck is made up out of 31 encounter cards, not counting the Cave Torch
- The chances of a shadow effect are pretty low, at just 42%.
- Average threat per card revealed is high, at 1.8 threat/card. This is mostly due to Lightless Passage and Zigil Mineshaft.
- The only surge in the deck occurs if not all players discarded a card for Fouled Well.
- Doomed is not present in the encounter deck. There isn’t much else raising your threat, so you could try some Doomed effects of your own, just stay under the engagement cost of some enemies.
- The only card that is immune to anything is Sudden Pitfall, which cannot be cancelled.
The deck is pretty light on Nightmare cards at this point. The priority goes to locations, which are a problem with high threat and the Dark-trait synergy. However, players do still have the Cave Torch at this point, helping them place some progress.
Stages 4 and 5
- The standard encounter deck has 30 cards for these stages, not counting any cards added by stage 3.
- Shadow chances continue to be below average, with only 40% of cards having an effect. Effects do prefer Nameless enemies at this point.
- The average threat revealed per card now jumps to 2.5 threat per card, ranging upwards to 6 per card thanks to the Primeval Thing. There are no longer 1 or 2 threat cards in the encounter deck (unless they are carried over from stages 1 and 2).
- 6 cards will surge outright, but 3 additional cards have an optional surge if the treachery didn’t discard any cards.
- Doomed makes its comeback, though it is not much to worry about. 4 cards have Doomed 1 on them, and that’s it.
- No cards are immune to anything at this stage, which helps with your options against the encounter deck.
You will notice that the encounter deck is suddenly skewed towards enemies at this point. The 6 locations in the deck will be the most there will ever be, as players are not allowed to carry over locations from stages 1 and 2. This makes Guarded attachments for locations a solid way to thin the encounter deck! The deck will also come with two beneficial objective cards that have not been removed from the deck.
This new Nightmare deck focuses on the enemies, of which 4 new types are introduced for this version. 2 are added at the beginning of the game, and 2 are added later on when the players advance to stage 4.
- Mithril Seeker: This is the new Goblin enemy that will be added to the encounter deck on stage 1, meaning that you can have the misfortune of seeing him early on. In true Goblin fashion, he has low base stats and a low engagement cost, allowing him to start annoying you pretty early on. 5 hitpoints is his most outstanding feature, making him pretty difficult to kill in the early game. Even worse, he will get stronger as time goes on. Each time the Mithril Seeker attacks, he steals one resource from each of your heroes (if able). Each of those resources will boost the Seeker’s attack by 1 (including for that attack that made you move resources in the first place). You also do not get your resources back. This makes it very hard for multisphere decks to get off the ground, as this enemy will sap away resources from each hero, not allowing you to pay for more expensive off-sphere cards. Meanwhile, this enemy only becomes stronger and stronger. You would do well to get rid of this enemy quickly, as it will otherwise delay your development in the early game. However, if you are counting on playing cards after stage 3, then an early Mithril Seeker stealing your resources isn’t the worst, but it will still get scary if you leave him unchecked for long enough. You can prevent his growth by making sure you spend all your resources (sorry Na’asiyah, Timrahil, and Grimbeorn decks).
- Giant Cave Centipede: I’m getting some flashbacks to Peter Jackson’s King Kong with this enemy (as well as with the Nest of Horrors location in this set). I wouldn’t want to find this in a narrow cave with me. To start with, the Centipede has some impressive stats, with 3 threat, 3 attack, 5 (!) defence, and 4 hitpoints. The defence, in particular, makes this enemy troublesome, as dealing damage will require a lot of effort by the players. Direct damage is the way to go here, especially since you could use a Gandalf-bomb to discard this enemy immediately. That does not get rid of the fact that the Centipede has a When Revealed effect that must be dealt with first. When the Centipede is revealed, each player at the stage (yes, the Centipede can carry over to stage 4 if you are unlucky) must shuffle the card with the highest cost in their hand back into their deck. The reason for this is pretty obvious: it stacks your deck with higher-cost cards that could, in theory, appear on Nameless enemies later on. Shuffling just 1 card back into your deck isn’t the worst though, but it can mess up your plans for the next round or the combat phase (no point sneaking in Gandalf if he’s back into your deck). When the Centipede is engaged with a player, it has an additional effect at the end of every combat phase. During stage 4, the Centipede will move to a different player’s staging area at the end of combat. The engaged player gets to choose who gets the Centipede, so make sure it goes to the player who has an answer for its next turn and can quest over the 3 added threat in their staging area. They do not have to trigger the When Revealed effect again though.
- Unspeakable Thing: We move on to the enemies that will be added to the encounter deck at the transition to stage 4. Both of the new enemies are Nameless, but they bring some unique twists to the format established by the other Nameless Things in the original quest. Starting with the Unspeakable Thing, which has a very low threat for an enemy of this caliber, only 15. The Unspeakable Thing has a 5 for all its stats, while there are no cards attached to it. Attack and Hitpoints will change to the total value of the attached cards on this enemy when it receives cards. It will receive cards whenever the Unspeakable Thing is engaging a player or makes an attack. That means that the Unspeakable Thing has the potential to be pretty weak at first (or even die when it engages). But since this enemy will continue to receive cards as it makes attacks, it can become pretty scary. This enemy will also receive more cards from various shadow effects, the Nest of Horrors and the Deep Deep Dark treachery. Kill it while it is weak, so you do not have to contest with it later on when the stats are outrageous.
- Primeval Thing: While hoping that you draw 0-cost cards for your Nameless enemies works for the others, the Primeval Thing has its text worded a little differently. When it enters play, the first player must attach cards from the top of their deck until the total printed cost of all attached cards is 6 or higher. This means that the X values will almost always be set to at least 6, even while this thing is in the staging area. Even if you happen to draw nothing but 0 and 1 cost cards, the first player must continue to reveal cards from their deck until the total is 6 or higher. Combine this with the static 6 threat and defence, and you have an end-level enemy on your hands, reminding me a lot of the Witch-King in terms of stats. The threat on this enemy will be the most important thing, as with 45 engagement cost, the Primeval thing won’t be engaging soon. Radagast’s Cunning is vital here, removing 6 threat from the staging area at the cost of 1 Lore resource. Other effects like a late-game Argalad can also work but take more time to set up. You can also attempt to get rid of this enemy with the Great Hunt, which will discard it during the combat phase. Revealed in Wrath will also blank this enemy’s text box, thus lowering its hitpoints to 0.
With the removal of the beneficial locations of the regular encounter deck, something had to take its place. 2 new locations step up to the task, each bringing new problems with them for the players.
- Nest of Horrors: Solid name for a Nightmare location, and it really is a place you’d rather avoid during the quest. However, with 4 threat on this location, there will be some incentive to travel to this location when it appears in the staging area. Even worse, while the Nest of Horrors is in the staging area, it will provide a passive effect to your stage, which triggers each time a Nameless enemy receives cards from the top of a player’s deck. Whenever this happens, the Nest of Horrors adds one more card to the enemy, potentially making it stronger. This works well with the new enemies, who happen to receive a lot of cards from their engaged player. The Unspeakable Thing especially combos well with this location, as it will get a card whenever it engages or attacks. Now it gets 2 cards each time it does that, so you’d best either travel to this location or explore it while it is in the staging area. The latter is preferred, as the location only has 4 quest points and also comes with a Travel cost. But know that if you need multiple rounds to clear the location, it’s usually better to travel here instead. The travel effect is a bit random, ranging from doing nothing to the players to getting 4 extra Nameless enemies in the staging area right before the engagement phase. Each player at the stage where the Nest of Horrors becomes the active location much discard the top card of the encounter deck. Then, each Nameless enemy revealed this way is added to the staging area. If you are by yourself at this stage, it’s not too bad, especially if you happen to have some scrying before you travel here like Henamarth or Far-sighted. At stage 5 though, you will want to avoid adding more enemies to the staging area, especially now that you have linked up with other players, which can risk you revealing more enemies. Be careful when traveling here, but it’s not difficult to get away with going here and just discarding a treachery from the deck.
- Shivering River: At the bottom world, the waters get cold, so cold even that just the sound of the river sends shivers down the spines of your fellow players. That’s the only reason I can give for why this location is one of two effects at stage 4 that interacts across several staging areas (the other being the Cave Centipede). The location has 3 threat but 7 quest points, making it mostly impossible to clear it whilst the river is in the staging area. However, you are not the only one suffering from the 3 threat in the staging area. While the river is in the staging area, it counts its threat to the total threat across all other staging areas. That means that you will have to prioritize travelling to this location in order to not only remove 3 threat from your staging area but also from all other staging areas. If you are playing solo, or have already linked up with other players, the effect on this location does nothing. Travelling comes at no cost, but understand that you are putting a buffer of 7 quest points between you and the quest card. This location almost begs for some location attachments. Woodmen’s Path is the obvious choice, as you reduce the quest points on this location to 1. Alternatively, the players can also use Power in the Earth or Guarded Ceaselessly to lower the threat of the location. This will, in turn, lower the threat added to the other staging areas as well!
There is just one new treachery added to the encounter deck when players advance to the second half of the quest. There are plenty of other tough treacheries to take into account though, as Sudden Pitfall and Dark and Dreadful can make for a tricky first half as well. These treacheries will also be carried over to the new encounter deck, so you’ll have to get your cancellation ready and always quest with at least 1 ally.
- Chill of the Roots: This only new treachery is a punishment to players who saved their hand with attachments and allies until this point and were looking to play them when advancing to stage 4. The treachery offers each player at this stage a choice. Either they must discard all cards in their hand or raise their threat by the number of cards in their hand. It sounds a lot like something you would find in the Ringmaker cycle but is designed to leave you either with a high threat or with no cards to play. Should all players at the stage decide to raise their threat (either because they want to keep their hand or have no cards left in their hand), then this treachery will surge. Should this treachery hit players more than once per round, then the surge will probably be more frequent, though if players get a chance to lower the number of cards in their hand before this treachery is revealed, then this treachery is not that dangerous. The shadow effect, however, is a lot more dangerous! If the attacking enemy has the Nameless trait, it will receive the top card of the defending player’s deck on it. This will boost the stats, but you cannot be sure by how much. This depends on the cost of the cards in your deck. If this hits a Gandalf, then you are likely losing your defender. If it hits a 0-cost card, then there is no problem. Since you cannot be certain what card will be attached to the enemy (unless you are playing with hero Gandalf or have recently scried your deck), it will be best to cancel this shadow effect if you can. You won’t get a chance to cancel it after the card has been attached to the enemy.
Tips and Tricks
- While Mounts and Artifacts are no longer safe during the transition, you can still run some attachments and rest assured that they won’t get washed away. Songs, Signals, Conditions, Titles, and Skills are probably the biggest traits left on attachments that you can run for this quest. Signals are a good alternative to Weapon and Armor attachments here.
- As always, Dwarf characters will have an advantage in this quest since all locations are Underground (and Dark). This will help with getting out of stage 5 if you manage to play Untroubled by Darkness to get out of there. Other cards like ally Bombur will also be really effective for the new locations in the deck.
- If you want to one-shot Nameless enemies in this quest, bring Revealed in Wrath and a Noldor hero with you. The event will blank the textbox of Nameless enemies, setting their variable X to 0. This means that they have 0 hitpoints, and are thus eliminated. This even works with the new enemies in the deck and makes the quest a lot easier.
Thanks to Foundations of Stone being a relatively popular quest, it is not unsurprising that there are several videos to be found on the nightmare version. Have a look through these for ideas for deckbuilding and what nasty combos you may encounter.
- True solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rLRFjInDwA
- Two player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBEmLQKx_SQ
- Two player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwjLl_etHt4
- Two handed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pgxr2Kgz32s
With only Shadow and Flame standing before us and completing the NM Dwarrowdelf cycle, I’d like to thank everyone for playing along with us as we completed this cycle. I must say that this cycle has been more enjoyable than the first NM cycle. I think Against the Shadow will be a lot more difficult, but with the regular scenarios now all covered, I will have more time to hit my head against the brick walls of those NM quests. I will make another promise to complete the cycle before the end of the year, though I may need some help from fellow authors. I hope you all will help out, too, with comments on tricks we’ve missed.