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A door five feet high and three broad was outlined, and slowly without a sound swung inwards. It seemed as if darkness flowed out like a vapour from the hole in the mountain-side.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
The time has come to summon up your courage once more and rejoin the illustrious burglar, Bilbo Baggins, along his adventures through the second half of The Hobbit. However, this time, the woods are darker, the enemies are stronger, and the threat of death by dragon flame is greater than ever…
The Hobbit: On the Doorstep Nightmare Decks are now available for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. With new encounter and setup cards for you to add to the classic scenarios from The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, these Nightmare Decks add new challenges, twists, and replay value to some of the game’s best loved adventures.
Think you have what it takes to confront Smaug in Nightmare Mode? Developer Caleb Grace shares more about the new challenges these Nightmare Decks offer the veteran players daring enough to confront them.
Flies and Spiders
I remember that the most daunting part of designing On the Doorstep was coming up with a fresh way to represent the Spiders of Mirkwood in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Several of the scenarios from the Core Set and the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle did a fantastic job of bringing them to life, and I wanted to introduce something equally compelling but mechanically unique. The scenario’s poison mechanic ended up doing that for me, and the Nightmare Mode version pushes this mechanic to the extreme.
Poison created a sort of countdown timer for characters, but in Standard Mode characters that are poisoned don’t appear to be adversely affected right up until they are made unconscious. In Nightmare Mode, this changes. In Nightmare Mode, the whole Flies and Spiders scenario is loaded with effects that represent the harmful qualities of the spiders’ poison. Even as the poison surges through your characters’ bodies and pushes them toward unconsciousness, it makes them susceptible to other threats, as well.
Two of my favorite are Attercop (Flies and Spiders Nightmare Deck, 2) and Dark Colony (Flies and Spiders Nightmare Deck, 4).
The six-Attack Strength enemy, Attercop, cannot be defended by poisoned characters, and it gets a one-point reduction in engagement cost for each poison card in play. Meanwhile, the four-Threat Strength location, Dark Colony, prevents poisoned characters from readying while it is the active location. Effects like these really bring the threat of spider poison to the forefront of this scenario, and to drive it home, the Flies and Spiders setup card (Flies and Spiders Nightmare Deck, 1) forces each player to give one poison to a hero he controls during at the start of the game!
The Lonely Mountain
The Lonely Mountain was originally designed before Easy Mode and Nightmare Mode existed, but our team was already discussing ways to introduce multiple levels of difficulty. I saw an opportunity to merge a scaling difficulty with the scenario’s theme by giving players the option of deciding how much treasure they wanted to steal from Smaug’s hoard. It seemed fitting that the greedier players who sought to burgle all Smaug’s treasures would also face a greater degree of difficulty.
As a result, the easiest way to defeat the scenario was to steal just a single treasure from under The Lonely Mountain (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 43) and move on. In Nightmare Mode, we’ve taken away that option. The setup card for The Lonely Mountain (The Lonely Mountain Nightmare Deck, 1) decrees that the players cannot advance to stage three while there is at least one card stacked under the titular location. That means the players have to successfully burgle all five treasure cards from under The Lonely Mountain before they can advance to the final stage.
The scenario’s setup card also makes it harder to defeat Smaug. Now, it is impossible to damage him without first attaching A Bare Patch (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 39). Smaug was already a formidable enemy, so it wasn’t really necessary to make him any more aggressive. Instead, we wanted to prevent players from being able to destroy the dragon immediately after reaching stage three. This decision to make the players discover Smaug’s weak spot before being able to damage him seemed both thematically appropriate and mechanically wise since it reinforced the theme of burgling at stage three.
The rest of the cards in the encounter set focus on increasing each player’s threat to represent the heroes raising Smaug’s suspicions and arousing his ire. Speaking of which, Belching Fire (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 50) is replaced by four copies of the treachery card, The Dragon’s Ire (The Lonely Mountain Nightmare Deck, 6). Where previously Smaug could attack one player unexpectedly during the quest phase, now the dragon can attack each player!
The Battle of Five Armies
Many of the players who have played through The Hobbit: On the Doorstep have named The Battle of Five Armies as their favorite scenario. The decisions they make each round about which quest stage to tackle, and the repercussions of those decisions, give players the feeling they are caught up in a conflict bigger than their heroes, and they just can’t be everywhere at once.
In Nightmare Mode, these decisions are given even greater weight and importance with the introduction of more aggressive enemies and locations. Instead of a Gundabad Wolf Rider (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 55), who removes one progress from the current quest when it attacks, players will have to face the Frenzied Warg-Rider (The Battle of Five Armies Nightmare Deck, 3), who removes one progress from each quest stage when it attacks. Then there’s the Embattled Valley (The Hobbit: On the Doorstep, 5), which forces each player to assign X damage among heroes he controls at the end of each round, where X is the number of quest stages with no progress on them. The result is that you have more reason than ever to place progress upon each quest stage, but you have to work harder to do so.
Of course, if you were playing The Battle of Five Armies in Standard Mode, you’d gain a reprieve from all the effects that remove progress from the quest as soon as you reached stage five, since progress cannot be placed on that stage. However, there’s no escape from these effects in Nightmare Mode. Instead, we used these effects to further enhance the feeling of battle at stage five by adding an exciting effect to the scenario’s setup card (The Battle of Five Armies Nightmare Deck, 1):
“While the players are at stage 5b, this card gains: &lsqu