Nightmare The Siege of Cair Andros

The final quest of the Heirs of Numenor Deluxe is also often deemed the most difficult. And that is saying something, as the other two aren’t considered a walk in the park either. But the Siege of Cair Andros is a different beast altogether. You have to defend 3 locations from being destroyed, and if you can clear them fast enough, you are able to advance the quest much faster. With a deck dedicated to clear locations in the staging area, this is no big deal, but if you are bringing a generic deck against this one, you’ll regret it. The nightmare version of the quest patches a few holes in the quest’s design, chiefly the removal of the Power of Mordor treachery, which broke the quest on occasion. The new mechanics introduced are certainly worth the attempt if you haven’t played this quest in a while, but don’t expect to win on the first try. This quest is brutal, and you have to be fast and lucky to make it to stage 5. And even then, victory is not assured.

Nightmare the Siege of Cair Andros

  • Found in: The Heirs of Numenor Nightmare pack, quest 3
  • Size: 19 encounter cards and 1 rules card.
  • Increase in Difficulty: There wasn’t much more that could be made difficult, but the developers still found a way. Old strategies will still work, so a dedicated deck that can beat the regular version stands a good chance to beat this one too. The extra focus on shadow effects is not making combat any easier, but you can now also get more locations in the staging area to divert damage to, with a bit of luck.
  • Fixed Loopholes?: Yes, several, in fact. The old Power of Mordor treachery would instantly discard all Battlefield locations in play, forcing the players to advance to the next stage with little to no hope of removing the other quest stages from the deck. That card has now been removed, so you are no longer forced to run the gauntlet of clearing all 5 stages if you drew that treachery turn 1. The new rules also do not count the victory points on player cards until the end of the game, meaning that players cannot cheat their way to 4 victory points with side-quests or cards like Black Arrow. It will depend on their ability to kill the Lieutenant of Mordor and clear Battlefield locations, whether the final stage is Siege or Battle, making it more difficult to prepare for either outcome.
  • New mechanics introduced: The new Battlefield locations to accompany the old ones. These will do dangerous things to your game if the enemy destroys them, but it also gives any progress-placing cards you have some more targets. It’s a nice change of pace from the original quest, where only the Orc War Camp was in the encounter deck as a location.
  • Play this scenario if: You want to see if your deck that beat the regular version of the quest can beat it in Nightmare mode. Other than that, I do not see a point in attempting this quest unless you are doing a Nightmare progression mode.
  • Solo or multiplayer?: I prefer this quest with a low player count. That way, you can take some time to clear the Battlefield locations before encounter cards start damaging them. You’ll be responsible for making all progress yourself, but you’ll have a better time if you can do it quickly. In higher player counts, you have to either have everyone focus on the location on the first turn or accept that you’re in it for the long haul.
  • What to look out for: The quest will become a lot longer if you are letting the enemy destroy the original Battlefield locations. There’s a lot more Archery in this quest. Enemies will get buffs from receiving more shadow cards. Shadow effects now also target Battlefield locations. New locations will hurt the players if they are not explored on time.

New Rules

The rules card for this quest is pretty brief; it only has 1 line that players have to take into account when playing the quest in Nightmare mode. Until the end of the game, any victory points on player cards in the victory display are not counted towards the total. You still count them after you have won (or lost) for your final score, but they do not count during the game. This only really impacts the final stage, where your victory points determine whether the stage has the Siege or Battle keyword. You need 4 Victory Points on encounter cards in the victory display to change the keyword. These points can now only be collected by exploring The Citadel (3), The Approach (2), or The Banks (1) locations. You can also kill the Lieutenant of Mordor for 3 extra points. The new Nightmare cards do not have any victory points on them, so if you managed to develop a strategy for getting to 4 victory points in normal mode without counting player cards, then the same strategy will work here.

New Setup

Nothing changes from the original quest’s setup. You start with the Banks, Citadel, and Approach in the staging area and play on from there. In true solo, starting with 6 threat in the staging area is pretty nasty, but this is still unchanged from the original quest.

Cards removed

The following cards were removed from the original encounter deck because they were deemed too easy or to make space for the new nightmare cards:

The Quest

The quest mostly plays the same way as you would play a regular game of Cair Andros but will demand that the players bring some location control and a lot of (early) defence. Since stage 1B is a Siege quest, you aren’t getting through the active location without a lot of defence, so you better bring Beregond and hope for a few Gondorian Shields in your opening hand. Stage 1 is where you hopefully spend most of the time trying to clear Battleground locations to get rid of stages 23, and 4. Because of this, you do not want to make 9 progress on this quest card. If you cannot help yourself, try going to a side-quest to soak up the extra progress you make. I would advise going to Keep Watch, as the enemies in this quest hit very hard, and lowering their attack value seems like a good idea. 

During stage 1, you need to clear the BanksApproach, and Citadel locations before they are destroyed by the enemy. This will happen quickly, thanks to the new treachery included in the deck and some effects that spill over damage from enemy attacks. Your goal should be to clear the Banks with progress in the staging area, allowing you to travel to one of the other locations to get more threat out of the staging area early and chipping away at their 7 or 11 quest points. This will not be easy, as the high-defence characters you bring to the quest will also need to hold back the horde of enemies engaging you soon. Readying abilities like Steed of the NorthBehind Strong Walls, and Unexpected Courage are useful to have your defenders quest and still be ready for combat later on. If you are going to consider taking attacks undefended instead, then you should note that damage from these attacks will go onto the lowest threat Battleground location in play instead. You do not lose heroes this way, but destroying these locations isn’t great either. Losing one of the starting three locations means you will need to go to that stage later in the game, and getting one of the other new Battleground locations destroyed will trigger horrible effects. It will be better to chump or cancel attacks than to take them undefended.

In the normal version of the quest, you never needed to make 9 progress on the main quest card to advance, as you would go to the next stage whenever all Battleground locations were cleared. In this version, that will be more difficult to do, as there are now more locations with that trait. In order to still progress, I would suggest a combination of traveling to Battleground locations and just making enough progress on the quest card. I know this sounds like I’m oversimplifying things, but it is just the only way to make it through stage 1 unless you happen to have no Battleground locations left in play.

After stage 1, your next stage will depend on how well you did exploring the regular three Battleground locations. If you cleared them all yourself, you move onto the end of the game at stage 5. However, if The Banks was destroyed by the enemy or is still in play, you go to stage 2. This is the only time where willpower will be important, so you might not be ready to quest against this stage. The additional encounter card each turn is also brutal in lower player counts. Many games can end at this stage just because you cannot muster enough willpower to make 9 progress. Because of this, the Banks are usually a priority target to explore during stage 1.

If somehow you get through stage 2 and have not yet cleared The Approach or the enemy has destroyed it, you move on to stage 3. This has the Battle keyword instead, for which the players will be better prepared. Stage 5 has a chance of having Battle as well, so you should have some high attack characters ready to go. The downside is that you cannot use that attack power to kill as many enemies, which may risk you getting overrun. This is not helped by the Forced ability on the quest, which does not raise your threat if you quest unsuccessfully. Instead, each player must discard a character they control. Players relying on the Forth, the Three Hunters! contract cannot afford to lose a hero, so you must do what you can to bring enough attack strength to the quest. Stall the enemies engaged with you for a while now that your defenders are freed from having to quest, and just try to get through the 7 quest points as fast as you can.

Stage 4 is only reached if The Citadel is still in play at this point or if it was destroyed by the enemy along the way. It has the highest number of quest points so that it can survive a while. But the continuous damage over time will destroy the location eventually, causing you to end up here. This is another Siege quest, but the only extra thing here is that the quest card adds a static 5 threat to the staging area. This is not too bad since you might have arrived here from stage 1, allowing you to continue questing with defense as if nothing changed. This stage only requires 5 progress, so if you got an engine going that blew you through stage 1, it will likely work here.

Regardless of what quest stages you arrived at, all paths lead to stage 5. You can get here quickly if you explored all three Battleground locations during stage 1, or you may have had to clear a few additional stages. Regardless, the quest now demands each player to reveal 1 encounter card and add it to the staging area. Note that this is revealed, so enemy and treachery effects will go off. This can cause you a lot of delays if you just finished a staging step, as there are now double the number of encounter cards in play, none of which are particularly pleasant. The combat phase after arriving at this stage is likely the breaking point. If you can make it past here, you stand a real chance of winning the game.

That is not to say that victory is assured, though. You still need 15 progress on the quest card. And depending on how well you’ve done during this game, the quest has either the Battle or Siege keyword. If you have 4+ victory points (without counting player cards in the victory display), then you can use attack strength to quest through the stage. Otherwise, you are stuck with questing with defense like during stage 1 and 4. This means that if you prepare your deck for Siege questing all game and do not clear The Citadel in time, you can reliably quest through the entire scenario using only defence. But it will not be easy, as using all that defense will cause you to have to take a lot of attacks on the nose. And now, there is no safety net for undefended damage. This stage is often beaten by players in one big push to the finish, committing everything they have. Make sure you bring treachery cancellation if you attempt this, though, as a single Orc Assault can stop you in your tracks, even if the quest has the Battle keyword. 

Once the players make 15 progress on this stage, they win the game. They do not have to defeat every enemy still in play, which is a huge relief. If you have won this version of the quest, congratulations! It is not an easy quest to beat, and it will prepare you for the horrors that will come in the coming 6 Nightmare scenarios.

The Encounter deck

Global

  • The encounter deck is made up of 43 encounter cards at the start of the game.
  • Typical for the Against the Shadow cycle, there is a high chance of hitting a shadow effect, as 74% of cards have a shadow effect. These often force you into more shadow cards or deal damage to Battleground locations.
  • The average threat per card in this quest is pretty high, thanks to the low number of treacheries in the deck. On average, an encounter card counts for 2.1 threat, ranging from 0 to 5.
  • The Orc Scramblers are the only surging cards in this scenario, which is 3 out of 43 cards. However, there are several effects like stage 2 and Anduin Wharf that force players to reveal more cards during a round.
  • Doomed is the most common keyword in this quest, with 8 cards having Doomed 2 or 3. You will want to avoid bringing your own threat-raising abilities, as the engagement cost of many enemies is not that high. You will be forced to engage high-attack enemies faster that way.
  • All of the enemies with Archery that the original encounter deck had are now gone. They are replaced with 3 copies of Southron Mounted Archer, who is a lot worse in lower player counts thanks to his constant 5 points of Archery.
  • Immunity
    • While an Orc enemy is in play, no progress tokens can be placed on Orc War Camp while it is in the staging area.
    • Mûmak cannot have attachments and cannot take more than 3 damage each round.
    • The Lieutenant of Mordor can only be defended by heroes, not by allies.
    • While Orc Vanguard is in the staging area, resources cannot be spent by heroes with a Leadership, Spirit, or Lore resource icon (Tactics and Neutral are fine).

These statistics do not take the 3 starting Battleground locations in mind. Note that the encounter deck build-up is mostly enemies, so you can use this knowledge for cards like Wingfoot. The Nightmare version does contain more locations, though, so it is less reliable than the regular version of the quest. The quest contains a fair few high-threat cards, so a lot of early defense for the Siege quest will be demanded.

Enemies

The many easier Orc enemies from the base game were removed for this quest and got replaced with enemies that will specifically target Battleground locations in the hope that you end up destroying them sooner than you would have liked.

  • Southron Mounted Archer: With the removal of all other Archery enemies from the original encounter deck, something had to step in and bring the keyword back! The Southron Mounted Archer fills that role with an Archery value of 5! This is the highest printed Archery value in the game (not counting potential situations with Archery X). With an engagement cost of 45, this enemy is happy to just sit in the staging area and ping your characters for 5 damage each round. This is a death sentence in low player counts, especially if more copies of this enemy are revealed. Luckily, the textbox on the Mounted Archer does allow you to place any number of Archery damage tokens on Battleground locations instead. You can pick and choose locations, as well as your own characters. This is dangerous, though, as some shadow effects later in the combat phase can destroy a location because of the extra damage it took. The safest way is to have a location take all the damage, being 1 away from being destroyed, and then use cards like Evening Star to clear the location in the staging area before engaged enemies attack. Otherwise, I hope you brought healing, damage cancellation, and plenty of allies with hitpoints to spare. Because of the Archery damage and 3 threat that this enemy adds to the staging area, you may want to engage this enemy optionally. That allows you to be rid of the threat, and if you can kill the enemy, you can also be rid of the constant damage. With 4 attack, the Mounted Archery doesn’t hit hard for this scenario, but with a potential +3 attack shadow effect, this enemy is still dangerous to defend. It only takes 6 damage to defeat this enemy, which is mild for a Nightmare enemy. You can also select this enemy for Gandalf’s damage, for which it makes an excellent target.
  • Orc Saboteur: While stage 1 lets you put damage from undefended attacks be placed on Battleground locations instead of your heroes, the Saboteur steps it up a notch and forces you to place any damage taken from his attack on locations in play. With 5 attack, you will need to have a defender to at least reduce this amount; else, the Saboteur can blow up locations like The Banks and the Courtyard. The good thing is that this attack will not hurt your defender, so a single Defender of Rammas can ensure that you reduce the damage dealt to a location by 4! However, shadow effects can still increase the attack, making this strategy dangerous, and you do also still have to exhaust the defender for this attack. You can select whatever location you want to place the damage on, so if you are about to clear the WharfCitadel, or Approach, you can risk defending this attack with a low defence character and just suck up the damage on the location. Do note that undefended attacks during stage 1 will still have their damage dealt to the lowest threat Battleground location in play; you only get to choose when you are defending the Saboteur’s attacks. Killing the Saboteur is a lower priority than some other enemies in the deck, but if you can spare 7 attack, this is a good enemy to get rid of. Especially if several copies are in play and there aren’t that many locations to put the damage on!
  • Orc Ravager: This final enemy is just a replacement of the standard Orc enemy from the spare encounter sets that focus more on shadow cards and not so much on destroying locations in the staging area. It is also probably the easiest enemy introduced in this pack, but adding this enemy on top of the other high-level enemies in the game will still make this annoying to engage. With 30 engagement cost, that engagement will happen soon, though you do not have to worry about the 3 threat for very long. The main gimmick with this enemy is that he gets +2 defence for each shadow card dealt to him until the end of the phase. That means that any shadow effects dealt during the quest phase (Ruin and Wroth) or during the encounter phase (Orc Arsonist) do not raise the defence of this enemy during the combat phase. This is a welcome limitation, as otherwise, the Ravager would be very hard to defeat besides dealing direct damage. He does still get +2 defence from his regular shadow card, and any cards dealt to him during the combat phase. Effects like his own shadow effect will boost his defence to 5, making it harder for you to defeat him. If you get lucky and only have him take one shadow card during the phase, it will take 7 attack to defeat this enemy. Since he only attacks for a base of 3, the Ravager is not a high-priority target during the combat phase, but you still might want to kill him just in case it becomes more difficult to kill him later. Direct damage is the best way to defeat this enemy, as you just tank his attacks over time.

Locations

The normal version of this quest featured almost no other locations than the three Battleground locations, allowing you to focus on them completely. However, for the Nightmare version, three new types of Battleground locations are introduced. These come with a fair few quest points, but when destroyed, they will seriously harm the players.

  • Anduin Wharf: With 6 quest points, this location will take the most punishment out of the three new locations before it is destroyed. However, with 3 threat and a passive ability, while active, it is still a thorn in the players’ side. Traveling to this location is without penalty, but while the Anduin Wharf is active, all allies cost 1 more matching resource to play. This hinders your ability to swarm allies on the table, which you are likely doing to combat the Archery damage or to have enough characters to commit to the quest. The additional cost is pretty horrible, so do what you can to either clear this location in the staging area or as soon as it is active. Tactics Legolas can make some good progress to this location, perhaps even clearing it before you get the chance to play allies again. Otherwise, you will have to wait for a turn and play more characters during the next round. Alternatively, the players could let this location blow up with damage. This is not beneficial to them, as the location may get discarded but is replaced by 2 encounter cards from the top of the deck. This will not work in your favor, especially in lower player counts. A strategy for all these new locations is to simply blank them with Thror’s Key, but since that is a unique attachment, it only works on 1 location. And I would argue that this is not the worst location to have to blow up, depending on the situation.
  • Walls of Cair Andros: These walls are not as strong as the other Battleground locations, as they only require 4 progress or damage to clear. Only The Banks is weaker than this. With 4 threat, this location will hinder you a lot, but there is not much stopping you from traveling here. As the active location, the Walls will be vulnerable to cards like the Battering Ram’s When Revealed effect, but if you are quick, you can clear it before the enemy does. 4 progress isn’t much compared to the other locations in play, so some location control can swiftly clear this location. If the enemy breaches the walls by placing 4 damage on them, then it is discarded, and each player must deal 4 damage among characters they control. Note that this is per player, so have healing on stand-by before the Archery of that round will be dealt, and make sure you have characters with a few spare hitpoints. This effect is arguably the weakest of the three but can still be a nuisance considering that it does not take a lot to go off. Especially in higher player counts, you will find that this location does not stick around for long. One way or another, it will be explored.
  • Besieged Courtyard: I love the art on this one, but its “When Explored” effect is, in my eyes, the worst. With only 2 threat, you can see this become a target for the Stage 1 effect where undefended damage is dealt to lowest threat Battleground locations soon. And if this location ever gets 5 points of damage on it, then each ready character has to be exhausted. You are still allowed to ready characters through whatever effects you have available, but if you did not pack any action advantage cards, then this ability can swiftly lead you to a loss. Any enemies engaged that you cannot defend will target the next Battleground location, causing an avalanche of trouble before the end of the round. Because of this, I would advise to travel to this location or find a way to clear it quickly. Alternatively, you can pack cards like Grim Resolve or more faction-specific readying effects to stand your characters back up after this location blows up. If it is destroyed because of an enemy attack, make sure it was the last attack that turn, and just have peace with the fact that you won’t have characters available for the counterattack.

Treacheries

Only 1 new treachery is introduced in this set, to replace the broken Power of Mordor treachery. This one will interact a lot with both the enemies and battleground locations in play.

  • Ruin and Wroth: This treachery does everything in twos. First off, it raises the threat of all players by 2. This will put you closer to the engagement cost of nastier enemies like the Mumak or the Lieutenant of Mordor. Though with not a ton of other threat-raising abilities in the game, just a little threat reduction should be enough. The When Revealed effect on this treachery is a lot worse. Each enemy gets dealt 2 shadow cards, even if they are in the staging area. In a 4 player game, you can, in theory, run out of cards during this, but since you are still in the quest phase, you have to reshuffle the encounter discard pile and continue to deal out shadow cards. These shadow cards are going to make for a hard combat phase, so be ready for that. Alternatively, you can try to cancel as many attacks as you can with various events. Advance Warning can prevent enemies in the staging area from engaging players, and Thicket of Spears or Hobbit-sense can cancel attacks made by enemies engaged with you. At the end of the combat phase, the shadow cards will be discarded, even if they weren’t used during combat. That way, you don’t risk every enemy engaged with you from getting incredibly powerful or attacking multiple times.
    The final thing that this When Revealed effect does, is that it deals 2 damage to each Battleground location in play. This is an upgraded effect from the Orc Scramblers, and getting effects like this in quick succession can lead to many destroyed locations before the end of the staging step. This is a slippery slope to a longer game and eventual defeat. All in all, I would encourage you to cancel this treachery. There are 3 copies, so I pray you don’t get several copies of this back-to-back, as that can be reason enough to restart.

Tips and Tricks

  • Being able to quickly place progress on locations in the staging area is still the key to clearing some of the Battleground locations in the quest. Evening StarAsfalothNorthern Tracker, and Woodmen’s Path are important cards to bring to this quest as you can reduce the number of quest stages by a lot in the early game.
  • Use location attachments as well! Explorer’s Almanac can clear extra locations in the staging area with extra progress that you make. Woodmen’s Path is also important for the Battleground locations, as you can reduce the progress required to clear this location to 1 without risking destroying the location early on as well (like you would in Celebrimbor’s Secret).
  • Mono-sphere decks are crucial here, as you can still get destroyed by The Master’s Malice. If you are playing off-sphere heroes/allies, make sure you have healing and enough hitpoints on those characters. This treachery might not be new, but it is certainly worthy of being in a Nightmare scenario.
  • Remember that stage 1 will likely require all progress to be explored. In normal mode, you could get by with clearing the three locations and advance with no Battleground locations in play. But with the extra locations added by this Nightmare mode, you will likely still have a location in play to prevent progressing to the next stage immediately. So you will require a bit more defense in the early game than normal.
  • Remember that this quest has some hard-hitting enemies with the Mumak, Battering Ram, and Orc Vanguard. While you are able to transfer damage from undefended attacks to locations in play, it may be a better idea to bring some attack cancellation for these enemies. Otherwise, you will lose your locations fast and are required to go through most of the quest cards.
  • Since so much of the quest will depend on questing with defense, you will need to start the game with some high-defense characters. Heroes like Dain Ironfoot and Beregond are solid picks here. Cheap defenders like Winged Guardian and Defender of Rammas are a good investment too. Especially in solo, you will want to have as much defense from the start of the quest as you can!
  • If you can reliably clear The Banks in the staging area, forget about packing any willpower whatsoever (as long as you don’t bring side-quests either).
  • Attack cancellation might make a difference in this scenario. Yes, the enemies hit hard, but what’s worse is that you likely sent most of your defenders to the quest. It will be easier just to play a Feint than to ask yourself what location to blow up in the staging area or which hero to lose.

Playthroughs

There weren’t many videos to be found of this quest in nightmare mode, as it requires a more specific deck than other Nightmare quests. This makes it less viable as a deck test quest. Still, here are 4 playthroughs of Cair Andros on Nightmare difficulty.

This concludes the review of Nightmare The Siege of Cair Andros and, with it, the Nightmare Heirs of Numenor pack. That now leads me to the rest of the Against the Shadow cycle, which will be 6 quests on a brutal difficulty level with sometimes completely revised mechanics. I’m not looking forward to doing this, so I will take a bit of a break before I start with the Nightmare Steward’s Fear article.

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