You have entered the dark, half–sunken ruins of Belegost in search of powerful artifacts and ancient treasure. Inside the Dwarven city, you can feel an evil presence stalking you…Ruins of the First Age
When The Ruins of Belegost first came out, I remember sitting in my hotel room with a friend trying over and over again to beat it with the decks I had brought with me to GenCon. It was such a fun, dynamic quest that we must have played it twenty times over the course of the con, and even though we never ended up beating it, it remained the highlight of our weekend.
A perilous dungeon crawl
Despite Gary Gygax’s infamous protestations to the contrary, there’s no question that The Lord of the Rings was a major influence on Dungeons & Dragons. Both take place in fantasy realms and feature stories of liberating treasures from dragons, dangerous journeys through subterranean realms, and epic battles between orcs and elves, dwarves, halflings, and men. But the two focus on slightly different things, with D&D being much more heavily focused on the dungeon crawl—wherein a group of heroes enters a dungeon, dodges deadly booby traps, fights the monsters who live there, and walks out with packs full of treasure (those who survive the journey, at least).
The Ruins of Belegost takes a lot of cues from D&D’s dungeon crawls—so much so that it feels like an homage. Our heroes are tasked with entering the abandoned Dwarven city of Belegost in search of Loot Objectives—but little do they know that a Dragon has taken up residence here, and they will have to defeat it if they want to leave the ruin alive!
The players acquire Loot through the Discover X keyword, which is found on all the Locations in this quest. When you travel to a Discover X Location, you must look at the top X cards of the encounter deck, attach one Loot Objective found there to the Location, and reveal one Hazard card that you find there. Clearing the Location gives you access to the Loot, which always comes along with some helpful benefit.
To make matters worse, the Dragon Naurlhûg is Stalking the Ruins, constantly searching for our Heroes. A token is placed on the Stalking the Ruins Objective at the beginning of the Quest Phase each round, with Naurlhûg getting added to the Staging Area once you’ve built up 3 tokens, and the number of tokens determining how high Naurlhûg’s threat is, as well as how much direct damage he spreads out amongst your characters with his fire breath every time he attacks. There’s a trick to it, however: whenever you clear the current Stage and move on to the next one, Naurlhûg is removed from play as your Heroes manage to put a little distance between themselves and the terrible behemoth.
A branching path
To add some additional interest, there’s more than one way to make your way through Belegost. Each quest Stage until the final one can lead to two different Stages, depending on which Loot Objectives you have recovered. If you have the Loot called for by the current Stage, you take one path, and if you don’t you take the other. This means that you can play through The Ruins of Belegost several times and take different routes each time, depending on what order you get your Loot in. Especially astute players may be able to use encounter manipulation cards to stack the deck intentionally so that they can take the route through the dungeon that best fits their decks.
No matter which route you take, however, you will eventually end up at Naurlhûg’s Lair, a Location which, when explored, finally allows you to damage the Dragon. If you’re lucky, you might even run across the Sword of Belegost, which is only shuffled into the deck during the final Stage, to help you with your final task: to slay Naurlhûg.
Once the beast is dead, the game is won, and your Heroes will be all the richer for it.
Deck: Throng of Dwarves
He had hardly turned the knob, before they were all inside, bowing and saying “at your service” one after another. Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin were their names; and very soon two purple hoods, a grey hood, a brown hood, and a white hood were hanging on the pegs, and off they marched with their broad hands stuck in their gold and silver belts to join the others. Already it had almost become a throng.An Unexpected Party, The Hobbit
Theme: A small party of dwarves
1x Fellowship (A Shadow in the East)
1x Azain Silverbeard (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Bifur (On the Doorstep)
2x Bofur (The Redhorn Gate)
1x Bombur (Road to Rivendell)
1x Brok Ironfist (Core Set)
1x Dori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Dwalin (On the Doorstep)
3x Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Glóin (On the Doorstep)
3x Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Dwarven Shield (The Sands of Harad)
3x Ever My Heart Rises (The Long Dark)
2x Hardy Leadership (Shadow and Flame)
3x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-dûm)
2x The Arkenstone (The Withered Heath)
2x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Captain’s Wisdom (The Thing in the Depths)
2x Reforged (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x Stand and Fight (Core Set)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)
3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Check out this deck’s description on RingsDB for info on how to play it.
I knew I wanted to use a Dwarf deck against this quest, since taking back ancient treasure-laden dwarven cities from dragons seems to kind of be their thing. I also wanted to try out some relatively new cards that I haven’t had a chance to use yet.
After trying a few options, I eventually settled on the idea of trying out the new Fellowship Contract released in the Shadows of Mordor box, which only allows you to play Unique Allies but gives them a bonus +1 to all stats as long as you control 9 characters. After all, thanks to the company of dwarves from The Hobbit, there are lots of Unique Dwarf Allies to choose from, and many Dwarf cards already benefit from having 5 or more Dwarves in play at once.
I realized that Fellowship combos well with another Dwarf-themed card that I haven’t had a chance to make work yet: The Arkenstone, a Guarded Attachment which grants +1 willpower to all Unique characters in play. At that point, it seemed like I was aiming to stack global bonuses, so that brought good old Leadership Dáin Ironfoot into the deck for even more overpowered Dwarf goodness.
I’m happy with how it turned out—I got to try out two new cards in one deck, with a strong theme. The result is a fresh take on the old Dwarf swarm strategy.
The play’s the thing
Win ratio: 3 / 5
What a great batch of games! Every single one of my wins was down to the wire. Because I have very little healing in my deck, in two of my three wins I wouldn’t have survived another round of dragonfire. Talk about exciting!
Both of my losses were a result of getting overwhelmed by Enemies faster than I could handle them. I attribute one loss to a foolish decision not to mulligan away a hand that was missing King Under the Mountain. I ran out of cards and simply couldn’t keep up. In the other, I got unlucky with Discover checks, which consistently dumped nasty Hazard Enemies on me until the Dragon took me down.
In all three of my wins, I was able to find the Keys of Belegost in the first few rounds, allowing me to skip the Quest Stage that brings out the Lurker of the Depths mini-boss. Sometimes this was just through the dumb luck of it being near the top of the encounter deck, other times it was due to pulling a Secret Chamber early enough that I could fetch it myself. While I suspect it’s not 100% essential for this deck to avoid the Lurker, it certainly helps me keep any early leads.
My most exciting win featured an unlikely savior—so unexpected that when it happened I actually stood up from my chair to cheer!
I had reached the Dragon’s lair at the final quest stage, and the great wyrm was standing between my Heroes and safety. My Fellowship bonus was going strong, but the dragonfire had softened everyone up—I couldn’t take more than two rounds of it before suffering a total board wipe. Dáin was well set up to defend—between the Fellowship bonus and his two Dwarven Shields he was poised to tank the Dragon with a hearty 6 defense. Alas, it was not meant to be! Naurlhûg’s Shadow Card granted the foul beast a bonus to his attack, and Dáin was struck dead.
Losing a key Hero is bad enough—but it also brought me below nine characters, breaking my Fellowship bonus. I was counting on that bonus to allow me to deal enough damage to the dragon to kill it in two rounds, so I sprung into action and used Stand and Fight to bring back an Ally from the discard pile.
But the next round, I discovered that I had another problem: I had to use a chump blocker to defend the dragon one more time, which meant I would lose my Fellowship bonus to attack once again. Also, without Dáin’s global buff to Dwarf characters, I was going to fall woefully short on the attack power I needed to slay my foe. I desperately searched my hand for a solution, despairing that this was probably a loss—until I made a realization, a stupid grin slowly spreading across my face.
I had a way out. And his name was Brok Ironfist.
I blocked the dragon with my second-to-last Hero, Nori, and as he fell, I activated Brok’s ability from my hand to put him into play for free. I still had my nine characters, which meant I still had my attack bonus from Fellowship. I had just enough attack left to slay the dragon and end the game.
Brok Ironfist, that old, useless coaster from the Core Set had just saved the day.
With lots of different ways to progress through the quest, a strong dungeon crawling theme, and a tough difficulty curve, The Ruins of Belegost comes out on top as one of my favorite quests in the game. I had a grand old time developing a new Dwarf deck for it, which was fun and interesting enough on its own that I brought it with me to Con of the Rings this year! Plus, I finally found a deck where Brok Ironfist can do his thing. I’d call it a very successful run!
Next up, I’ll be embarking on a journey deep into the heart of Eriador for the Nightmare Lost Realm / Angmar Awakened cycle. I’m very much looking forward to building all sorts of fun new decks around my favorite archetypes from the region!