My Path Less Traveled has led me Into the Pit to conquer the first quest of the Khazad-dûm expansion. Last time I gave a glowing review of the Khazad-dûm player cards—but will they prove to be strong enough to light my way through the perilous hallways of Moria? Or will they leave me lost and alone in the dark, doomed to be eaten by Goblins?
Pick up your torch, because we’re going in!
What we’re up against
As always, I’m going to do my best to avoid story spoilers. If you’re the sort of person who also wants to avoid spoiling the quest mechanics, you can skip over the collapsed sections of this post.
Shine a little light on my life
The first major hurdle that you have to overcome in Into the Pit is getting in through the door. No, really—the game starts with the East-gate as the Active Location, requiring 7 progress. Until you’ve cleared the gate, you’re not allowed to engage Enemies at all, making it easy for the Staging Area to get out of hand, forcing an early game threat-out.
Fortunately, the quest does come with a little assistance to help keep the Staging Area clear in the form of the Cave Torch, a Restricted Objective Attachment that you give to one of your Heroes at the start of the game. You can exhaust the Cave Torch to place 3 progress on a Location with the Dark trait. There’s a catch, though, since every time you do so you also have to discard the top card of the encounter deck and add it to the Staging Area if it’s an Enemy. I guess those Goblins saw you coming!
Other than that, the quest mechanics aren’t too complicated. Most of the Enemies are fairly weak but with low engagement costs, and many of the cards in the deck can be harder on your threat dial than in other quests—but in all, you’re going to find a mixed bag of all different kinds of nasties waiting for you in the darkness of Moria.
You can see everything the encounter deck has to offer over at the Hall of Beorn.
Building a deck
It took me two tries to build a deck worthy of the challenges that Into the Pit had to offer. In my first attempt, I tried to riff off of the similarities between Glóin‘s ability and his son Gimli‘s ability to use damage tokens to their advantage. The deck worked pretty well, but I wasn’t quite able to score a win against this particular quest, so I had to bring it back to the anvil to reforge it. I’ll probably revisit that concept later in this series, though, so I’m not going to go into too much detail how it worked right now.
Instead, I decided I wanted to try using Dwalin, because he seemed to be a better fit for this quest. Dwalin needs a Weapon to really be effective, and I wanted to stick to a Dwarf theme, so I decided to go with Gimli as my second Hero to give me access to the Tactics sphere. That would give me two different Weapons, Dwarven Axe and Dwarrowdelf Axe, both of which turn Dwalin into a much more serviceable attacker.
I have lots of options for my third Hero, but ultimately if I want to find those axes with any amount of reliability, I’m going to want some card draw—and nobody does card draw like the Lore sphere. Bifur gives me that without breaking theme, and his resource-stealing ability comes in handy to pay for some of the more expensive card draw cards like Lórien’s Wealth.
From there, I loaded up on as many Dwarf-related cards as I could fit and filled in the corners with some of my favorite Core Set staples. Because the deck consists of three different spheres, it wasn’t hard to build it up to 50 cards.
Gimli (Core Set)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Erebor Record Keeper (Khazad-dûm)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
2x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
2x Veteran Axehand (Core Set)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)
3x Boots from Erebor (Khazad-dûm)
3x Dwarrowdelf Axe (Khazad-dûm)
2x Dwarven Axe (Core Set)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
2x Self Preservation (Core Set)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Ancestral Knowledge (Khazad-dûm)
2x Feint (Core Set)
3x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Lórien’s Wealth (Core Set)
2x Quick Strike (Core Set)
2x Secret Paths (Core Set)
2x Strength of Will (Core Set)
3x Untroubled by Darkness (Khazad-dûm)
3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Working with the deck
The key thing to realize about this deck is that it doesn’t really have a dedicated defender—instead it relies on either cancelling Enemy attacks with cards like Feint and Quick Strike or taking undefended attacks on Gimli. It’s a bit of a risky strategy, but with all the card draw that the deck has, it can generally draw into whatever it needs to keep itself safe before things get too out of hand.
Both Boots from Erebor and Self Preservation help me keep Gimli alive longer, allowing him to keep tanking undefended attacks without too much fear of dying from them. And if something does go awry, there’s always Hasty Stroke to cancel any potentially fatal Shadow Effects.
Attack duties are shared between Dwalin and Gimli, with Dwalin gradually taking over as I find him Weapons to make him more effective. Excess weapons can be passed off to Gimli so that he’s not so reliant on being damaged to be effective in combat.
I generally send both Bifur and Gimli on the quest with the plan of taking an undefended attack should an Enemy show up. Eventually I should be able to find some form of readying for Gimli, like Unexpected Courage or an Erebor Record Keeper so that I can use him more easily in the combat phase, too.
The willpower curve on this deck is a little low, though, so sometimes I need to rely on making big quest pushes all at once with the help of Untroubled by Darkness. The deck also has some alternative ways to make progress even if I’m coming up a little short during the questing phase using cards like Ancestral Knowledge and Strength of Will.
It takes a little time to get ramped up, but it’s a stalwart deck once it gets going—pretty fitting for a bunch of Dwarves.
The play’s the thing
Victory on: Normal mode
It took me a few plays just to figure out what strategies worked best—should I play aggressively, or turtle? I was doing fairly well with my first deck, but I kept falling a little short of victory. Once I changed things up and built the deck outlined above, however, I was rewarded with a victory on my first attempt!
It was definitely a satisfying play experience, with each game one step closer to figuring it out until I finally managed to score a win.
Give me the details!
In my first few plays, I wasn’t using the Cave Torch aggressively enough—I was afraid of amassing more Enemies in the Staging Area than my deck could handle. These fears turned out to be unfounded, however: Enemies make up less than a third of the encounter deck, so the odds were in my favor and it was worth it to stave off Location lock. Plus, the Cave Torch made nasty Locations like the Zigil Mineshaft easy and relatively painless to clear in one round (by triggering the Mineshaft’s action twice) and the chance of an easy Staging step was worth the risk of maybe revealing an Enemy.
The primary problem that I ran into time and time again with my first deck was threatting out. Without any Spirit Heroes, it didn’t have any access to threat reduction, so it kept getting nickel-and-dimed by all of the Doomed and other threat-raising cards in the encounter deck. It simply took too long to get to the point that it could consistently make serious progress on the quest, and it always ran out of time.
The other thing that frequently did me in were the Treachery cards—and there are some really nasty ones in this quest. Of note is Watchful Eyes, which all but takes a Hero out of commission, forcing me to reveal an extra card in any round that that hero ends up exhausted. The Miner of the Iron Hills was a great way to deal with it, but I didn’t always draw into them since there are only two copies in the Core Set.
Adding the Spirit sphere solved both problems for me, giving me ready access to threat reduction and additional Treachery cancellation in the form of A Test of Will. Those two things were exactly what I needed to tip the scales in my favor!
Into the Pit manages to provide a bracing challenge without relying on gimmicky mechanics. It would make a good next quest after figuring out how to take down Journey Along the Anduin‘s Hill Troll, with a similar level of difficulty but a different set of requirements. The quest is plenty beatable with the small Core Set + Khazad-dûm card pool, too!
Well, that’s one quest down, two more to go! Will the rest of the Khazad-dûm expansion hold up just as well? Next time on my Path Less Traveled, I’ll be sifting through the second quest, The Seventh Level, and seeing if it too is good enough to earn a recommendation from me.
“Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread.”
Next on Darkling Door…
I’ll be trying to come up with a thematic deck to beat the first quest of Nightmare Voice of Isengard, The Fords of Isen. Wish me luck!