Updated: Sep 16, 2019
The heroes enter the mines of Moria at the behest of the White Council, carrying an important message to Balin. Balin recently led a group of Dwarves back into Moria to establish a colony in the ancient halls of his ancestors. He has not been heard from in some time.
Entering the Mines
Setup: Search the encounter deck for East Gate and Cave Torch. Put East Gate into play as the active location, and have the first player attach Cave Torch to a hero of his choice. Set First Hall and Bridge of Khazad-dûm aside, out of play. Shuffle the encounter deck.
Into the Pit is an exploration style quest where you must travel to various locations, The East Gate, The First Hall and the Bridge of Khazad-dûm before you can travel to stage 2. Each location comes with it’s own perils.
The East Gate does not allow players to engage enemies, meaning they will stack up in the staging area without the help of characters like Dunhere. Once you clear the gate you will face the First Hall. In order to travel to the First Hall you must raise your threat by 3, making you more tempting targets for the goblin hordes that have built up in the staging area. Finally you will be able to travel to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm which prevents players from playing cards.
All of this exploration will cost you time and threat. The quest itself takes 7 progress, while the locations take another 12. And while you are clearing the objective locations you aren’t clearing the other locations in the set, such as the Lightless Passage and the Zigil Mineshaft which are 4 and 5 threat respectively.
However you can make good use of the Cave Torch. This is attached to a hero during setup and can be used to place 3 progress on dark locations. However after use you must reveal the top card of the encounter deck and if it is an enemy add it to the staging area. This is the perfect time to use Rumour From the Earth or Henamarth so you know when it’s safe to use the torch. This can be especially useful should you know Watchful Eyes is atop the encounter deck as you can discard it and gain progress.
When Revealed: Each player must search the encounter deck and discard pile for 1 enemy of his choice, and add it to the staging area. One choice must be Patrol Leader, if able.
Forced: After an enemy is revealed from the encounter deck, discard it instead of adding it to the staging area.
Players clear this stage by defeating all enemies in play or by placing 11 progress, whichever comes first. The Patrol Leader himself is rather nasty, in addition to his considerable stats (4 Attack, 3 Defence) whenever he takes damage he discards the top card of the encounter deck and cancels all damage if the card was an enemy (and did I mention, there’s two of him!). Obviously cards which give you control over the encounter deck, such as Henamarth and Rumour in the Earth can tell you if the Patrol Leader is worth attacking this round.
A lot of cards in this set want to push up your threat so that you have to face all the enemies at once during stage 2. Although the enemies aren’t particularly hard to kill, they do hit hard and there are plenty of annoying shadow effects to contend with, not least the swordsmen who spawn into the staging area through shadow effects. Effects like Goblin Tunnels which adds +3 to goblin attacks can be game ending against most heroes, so having a copy or two of Burning Brand amongst your defenders is a godsend.
A Way Up
Once you hit this stage of the quest it’s just a case of pushing on through to the end. The quest card does not allow players to collect resources during the resource phase, but there are other methods of getting resources if you have to have them. Regardless all you need to do is place 12 progress, you don’t need to kill the enemies you brought with you from the last stage, you just need to run.
This quest is pretty straight forward, quest, quest, quest, fight, lots of quest. The enemies and locations in this set are being used in new and interesting ways. The Goblin Swordsman for example, if revealed as a shadow card becomes a new enemy, like the Wolf Rider from the base set. While the Dreadful Gap immediately becomes the active location, replacing any previously there, bringing with it a potentially horrendous number of quest points, based on the number of characters in play.
There’s also plenty of nasty treachery cards in here to really ruin your day. Sudden Pitfall discards a questing character and cannot be cancelled, meaning you need to always have some allies on the quest. We also have a new condition attachment, Watchful Eyes, which states that if the attached character is exhausted at the end of the combat phase add a card to the staging area, so you’ll want some Miners of the Iron Hills to clear conditions asap.
The biggest problem with this quest are the enemies and the sheer amount of damage they can deal. Allowing undefended attacks will almost certainly end in a hero's death. The Goblin Swordsmen are 5 attack against undefended attacks and there are two shadow cards that can boost that to 7!
A lot of the shadow cards introduce new threats and destroy your strategy by cancelling damage or exhausting characters or racking up high levels of damage so being able to control shadow cards is imperative. The quest also puts the pressure on by continually attacking your threat dial or by increasing the threat in the staging area unexpectedly.
In fact, this whole encounter is about facing the unexpected, it attacks each facet of the game, your questing, you're defending, your card draw, your card playing, your resource production. It adds enemies and locations during phases when they wouldn’t normally be added and can kill characters suddenly and unexpectedly with no recourse.
This encounter definitely rewards a party that is prepared for it, but it is impossible to prepare for all eventualities. Still, having good attack and quest will serve you well, being able to scout the encounter deck and cancel When Revealed and Shadow Cards is invaluable. However you still might want a good dose of luck because a bad draw in this encounter can easily spell doom!