Updated: Sep 16, 2019
Balin’s colony ended in death and darkness. After paying their respects at his tomb, the heroes fought their way out of the Goblin infested Seventh Level and made their way down toward the gate. But exiting Moria will not be easy, for a shadowy form masses at the end of the hall, and fear and terror go before it. The heroes must escape Moria before it is too late.
A Presence in the Dark
Setup: Prepare the quest deck. Add The Nameless Fear to the staging area. Remove all copies of A Foe Beyond from the encounter deck. Then, shuffle 1 copy of A Foe Beyond per player back into the encounter deck.
When Revealed: Reveal 1 encounter card per player, and add it to the staging area. Then, add A Presence in the Dark to your victory display.
This card is basically a setup card designed to set the base threat of the Nameless Fear, so let’s talk about him.
The Nameless Fear is placed into the staging area at the start of the game, he cannot be engaged in anyway and is immune to player cards, although, despite this he has 27 health for some reason. His stats are X Threat X Attack X Defence where X is equal to the number of victory points in the display, which at the start of the game will be 2.
However, every quest stage has victory points too and even worse, the Cave Trolls of which there are 2 have 3vps each. Normally this would be great, once you kill them they head off to the Victory Display never to be heard of again, but here they become a real catch 22. Don’t engage them and they add 2 threat to the staging area and become a constant looming danger. Engage them and they deal 7 damage a round with shadow cards to boost that even higher. They are immune to attachments so Forest Snare is no use and if you do kill them they add 3 threat to the Nameless Fear.
Once you have dealt with set up you remove stage 1 of the quest but do not reveal stage 2. The Stage 2 deck consists of a series of, generally, low quest point cards but you don’t know which one you’ll be facing until you have already committed characters to the quest. Clearing the stages is generally bad as they will go to your victory display and add to the Nameless Fear’s threat. After the combat phase you may, if you wish, bypass the stage, putting it to the bottom of the deck. You are searching for one of two exits from the mines. Let’s take a look at the potential quests.
Heading Up or Down
These two quest cards cause each other to return to the quest deck if the alternate card is in the victory display, Both have a reasonable number of Quest Points making them harder to accidentally quest past.
A Wrong Turn
When Revealed: Reveal 1 encounter card per players, and add it to the staging area.
Wrong Turn sucks, not only will you end up facing twice as many encounter cards as you planned for this turn but it also has a single Quest Point so there's a good chance it’ll add 2 more VP’s to your display.
When Revealed: Each player chooses 1 questing character he controls. Each questing character not chosen does not count its willpower until the end of the turn. Forced: After placing the 1st progress token on Narrow Paths, search the encounter deck and discard pile for Abandoned Tools and add it to the staging area, if able.
Narrow Paths gives you access to the Abandoned Tools which are required for the “safe” exit from the mines. You could draw abandon tools randomly but Narrow Paths will guarantee it for you.
When Revealed: Shuffle all copies of A Foe Beyond from the encounter discard pile back into the encounter deck. Reveal the top 2 cards of the quest deck. Choose 1 to become the active quest (flipped to side 2B) and put the other on the bottom of the quest deck. Then, add Hasty Council to your victory display.
Yep, Hasty Council sucks for many reasons. It immediately adds 2 to the threat of the Nameless Fear but it also adds copies of A Foe Beyond back into the deck.
A Foe Beyond is a Treachery Card that reads “When Revealed: The last player deals damage equal to The Nameless Fear's attack to a hero he controls. This effect cannot be canceled.” Bearing in mind that the Nameless Fear’s attack is equal to your vps and if you have faced only Hasty Council and A Presence in the Dark that will be 4, more if you have killed any trolls or completed any other quest stages. Given that even the best heroes have a health of 5 this card is a killer without other Hit Point boosts, such as Boots of Erebor or Citadel Plate.
Blocked by Shadow
When Revealed: The first player chooses 1 of the following:
Each player discards 1 card from the top of the encounter deck. If the card is a treachery card, the discarding player is eliminated from the game.
Reveals the next quest card, putting Blocked by Shadow on the bottom of the quest deck.
If the players defeat this stage, they escape and win the game.
The odds of surviving this test are give or take 50/50 and in solo play you can use Henemath or Rumour in the Earth to always make the right choice.
I’m not sure how I feel about player elimination coming down to what is essentially a coin toss. Sure there are ways to mitigate it but it still sucks, especially if you draw Blocked by Shadow late in the game, after an hour or more of hard slog. That said, there is definitely a lot of tension before you flip that card!
Escape from Darkness
Abandoned Tools gains: "Refresh Action: Exhaust attached hero to put a progress token on Escape from Darkness." Progress tokens cannot be placed on Escape from Darkness except by Abandoned Tools. If the players defeat this stage, they escape and win the game.
This is the safe way out but if you haven’t already visited the Narrow Paths and found the tools you could be in for a long wait.
So, Flight From Moria attempts to create a frantic search as you are pursued by darkness. If you allow the pursuit to go on too long the looming threat devours you. However and it’s a big however, you can shortcut this scenario and win in 10 minutes. You see you can search for the exit for ages, it can be the last card you draw, or it can be the first card. Drawing Blocked by Shadow on turn one means you don’t need to keep searching. Sure, you have to survive the When Revealed effect (which is trickier with 2 or more players) but given the odds you might as well go for it.
If you do survive the Nameless Fear only contributes 2 Threat to the staging area and all you need to win is to provide 9 quest.
If your first quest is instead Escape from Darkness you might as well stick around and just mine the encounter deck for Abandoned Tools. Once you have the tools Boromir can simply hack his way out of the mines with no help at all. Even if you don’t have Boromir or other self readying powers you only need to survive 4 more turns and because you’re not adding cards to the victory display the Nameless Fear doesn’t get any harder, unless of course you draw the Great Cave Trolls!
The flip side of all of this is if you don’t find either of these cards quickly you can end up getting buried by threat as the Nameless Fear grows stronger. If you have the chance you should always bypass a quest card rather than add it to your victory display, however the low number of quest points on the cards can often mean you complete them on the turn they are revealed.
This quest is rated a 7 and when it’s hard, it's really hard. There’s plenty of nasty enemies, difficult to clear locations and treachery cards that just want to kill your friends. But when the cards fall the right way it can also be a cakewalk and unfortunately, when this game is too hard or too easy, it’s just no fun. So while I enjoy the quest and the setting, it can really be hit and miss with this quest whether or not I’m going to have fun when it hits the table.