On behalf of his highness Morgoth, supreme Valar, I welcome you back to my Corridor.
By request of puny mortals, I have decided that my Corridor will now focus upon one of two things: difficult encounters and community-requested encounters. This next edition happens to be both. We are going to look at the draw hating, absolutely invulnerable monster packing, time-based quest from
my next vacation spot Hell, The Dunland Trap.
Pulls pen out of pocket protector and powers on TI 86
Numbers first, of course. The Dunland Trap consists of three encounter sets, The Dunland Trap, Dunland Warriors, and Weary Travelers. Thanks to the influx of treacheries from Weary Travelers, this encounter deck is a perfect balance of monsters, locations, and treacheries– 15 of each for a total of 45 cards. A mere 22 of these cards have a shadow effect, making only a 52.4% chance of a shadow card coming from the deck (accounting for the cards removed during setup that can’t come from the deck). The main goal of these cards is to punish card draw with horrible forced effects. While this quest varies from others of the cycle in that it rarely punishes one for having lots of cards in his or her hand, it is seemingly always punishing the act of drawing a card– and often it punishes everyone, not only the person who actually drew the card. This will turn you power thirsty humans on one another faster than Ungoliant can kill a forest.
The scenarios of this encounter are pleasing to me. The first, The Road to Tharbad, has 18 progress and a Time 2 keyword. This means that it’s nearly impossible for you to quest through it before the Time Effect triggers. This effect makes you discard your hand and draw 2 cards. Before you think drawing those two cards as nice, remember what quest you’re on: Drawing cards is your biggest evil in this quest. It can cause anything from raising the threat of a location by 1 to instantly being punched in the face by a monster. So now that we’ve established that your hand WILL be going into the toilet (fun fact, balrogs have to use the bathroom in total darkness… we are shy), let’s look what else this encounter has to offer. When you start the game, you have to search the encounter deck for a Boar Clan enemy and put it into play engaged with you. So let’s recap: You are guaranteed to have an enemy engaged with you (when’s the wedding date, puny human?), you have two turns to quest for 18 progress before the time ticker goes off, and that time ticker will make you discard your hand AND draw. Sounds pretty great to me!
If you can manage to get past the first scenario card, you’re in for a treat! The second one leaves almost immediately! All that happens in A Well Laid Trap is you add a 6 quest point location that adds +1 attack and defense to every monster in the encounter deck, discard all of your in play items and mounts, discard all but one of your in play allies, choose an enemy from the deck or discard pile to engage, and draw a card. But hey, you get to shuffle your discard pile into your deck! Fun, right!? Right!? Beautiful human tears… It’s a shame it leaves at the end of the combat phase…
So now you’ve moved onto step 3, and it’s only a 3 step program, so be glad of that, mortal! This scenario card, No Way Out, is simple, all you need to do is not lose a hero before the time runs out. After the time runs out (5 times the number of players Time counters), the enemy gets to sucker punch you one last time and if you live, you win. Simple right? Oh, also Chief Turch is there engaged with the first player. He’s impossible to remove from play, so don’t bother attacking him,
Now lets look at the exceptionally brutal cards that the encounter deck will be throwing at you while you work.
Dunland Chieftain is my pick for prettiest monster. Not only does he boast 5 attack and 9 one round toughness (defense + HP), he bolsters it with 3 threat and a nice effect that punishes players for having cards in their hand by giving them more baddies to fight. Amazing! His one round toughness is above the average 5.9 of the encounter deck, with a threat of 3 exceeding the average of 2.5. Dunland Chieftain’s only drawback is his reasonably high encounter number. However, many of you puny humans are bringing very threatening heroes with you to try to tackle this quest, so that’s not a huge concern.
The location was a simple choice for me, as this is a very pleasing location to see on the board– Munuv Duv Ravine. This location enters play as the active location, has 6 quest points (the quest average is 3.87), and boosts the attack and defense of every monster in the encounter deck by 1. Additionally, if you do manage to move it to the staging area, it has 4 threat, which skims above the average of 3.8 for the quest. It’s so diabolical that it makes Joffrey Lannister seem kind (balrogs love Game of Thrones, it’s beautiful with all of the dying and such). There’s not much else to say on this one, you silly “brave” adventurers can’t avoid seeing it, and it simply makes your job awful in every way. On behalf of Sauron, you’re welcome.
The treachery was a bit harder of a choice, but I have one that makes my Mortal Enemy, Adam of house Stapley, especially angry: In Need of Rest. This treachery attaches to a hero and deals a damage whenever a Time counter is removed. Because both of the sustaining scenario cards have time counters, this is essentially a dead hero when encountered early on, and this is not a quest that takes lightly to that. Oh, it also removes that hero from the quest, just as an extra
black-axe-to-the-face kick in the stomach.
I also chose a shadow card of concern. Dunland Berserker causes the attacking enemy to make an additional attack. This is universally awesome. It either takes away shadow cancellation from the adventurers, exhausts a character, or (hopefully) damages/kills a character and then goes again! Because there are 17 shadow cards that increase damage, the next attack may well come back stronger than the first (you know, that one that you blocked with the person you actually wanted to block it).
“How will such small, insignificant humans ever conquer this, Gothmog?” you ask. Well, good thing Gothmog, the reigning “Best Tactician” since the death of Voldemort (did you know the “t” is silent? It’s French), has you covered. Try including some of the following:
While there are normally preferred ways to raise one’s defense, Dunedain Warning sticks out in this quest. When moving to scenario 2A, all players must discard their items. Dunedain Warning is a good way to increase defense that stays, as it’s a signal. This makes it superior to the likes of Gondorian Shield and Raven-winged Helm.
Close Call is a good choice here. This quest doesn’t take the average set of heroes very long, and losing due to threat has rarely been a concern in my observation. This can be a get out of jail free card in the right situation, as long as you haven’t been failing to quest often.
Ride Them Down. This allows you to not be wasting that progress you’re making on the “unprogressable” phase 3 quest. It also deals direct damage, making it easy to bypass the high defense of a few monsters in the encounter deck, and before they get a chance to attack no less. Additionally, it makes those characters that you put in to help you past the 18 quest point first scenario still be useful.
Elrond, the puny half elf of legend, is hugely helpful here. Namely the ally version. He allows you the utility to remove one of the several nasty Condition attachments of the encounter deck or heal all of the damage on that hero that has been defending everything, but also gives you a strong defender for the turn. His utility puts him as my most useful card from a sphere that seems half-detrimental in this quest (being the sphere where most card draw lies and all).
An honorable mention goes here for any card that uses the words “add to your hand” rather than draw. It’s a loophole which allows you to get extra cards into your hand without being punished by the quest.
Being as this quest hates a very necessary and common part of a deck, and it discards some of the best attachments mercilessly, it requires a reasonably specialized deck. Because of this, and its difficulty even with a specialized deck, I give The Dunland Trap 7 evils out of 10.
I’d like to leave you hideous readers with an example deck that someone with the tactical mind of a balrog would construct to beat this quest. In fact, Adam of the house Stapley defeated this quest 2 out of 5 times with the following deck:
Weather Hills Watchman (TLR) x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden (CS) x3
Naith Guide (TDT) x2
Legolas (ToS) x1
Galadhon Archer (NiE) x2
Gandalf (Core) x1
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x2
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x1
Elrond’s Council (TWitW) x2
Gaining Strength (TSF) x3
Tighten Out Belts (NiE) x3
Ride Them Down (TAC) x2
Close Call (TDT) x3
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3
Dunedain Signal (RtM) x1
Dunedain Mark (THfG) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x2
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2
Nenya (CS) x2
Mirror of Galadriel (CS) x2
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x2
Elven Mail (TTT) x2
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x1
Dagger of Westernesse (TBR) x1
The Day’s Rising (TAC) x1