Good day travelers of Middle-earth! This is Gwaihir, Lord of the Winds, and it pleases me yet again to extend my elegantly large wings and fly down to Elves, Men, and all Free Folk with another video play-through of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. In this video, I continue through the Road Darkens saga expansion with the second quest: Journey in the Dark. In this quest, my feathered friends and I enter the mines of Moria and face off with the Balrog of Khazad-Dum, Durin’s Bane. Will we escape before the fiery Shadow reveals himself? We will cross the Great Bridge and escape the darkness before we meet our certain doom? Will Gandalf shout, “You shall not pass!” and sacrifice himself for the sake of the Fellowship? Watch the video below to find out!
Eyrie Vision (Quest Overview): The Ring Goes South
Encounter Deck Spread: 13 Enemies, 14 Locations, 10 Treacheries, 3 Quest Cards, 56% Chance of Shadow, 4 Burdens (Campaign Mode)
This is the second quest in The Road Darkens and is much more difficult than the first. It is a race against the clock (or drum rather) to see if you can escape Moria before The Balrog is awakened. The quest begins by setting the objective card Doom, Doom, Doom in the staging area and placing ten damage token on it. These are removed every round (and through encounter card effects) and if ever there are no tokens on it, The Balrog comes into play and makes an immediate attack. You can try to quest through all three quest cards before The Balrog comes out, but this is less fun and more difficult in my opinion. The best way to defeat this quest is to take your time setting up your board (but not too long) so that you will be able to deal with two attacks (probably more) from The Balrog per turn for three turns at the most.
The first quest card punishes you for optionally engaging enemies by removing an extra token from Doom, Doom, Doom. Therefore, while on stage 1, do not engage enemies. While this may make it more difficult to successfully quest, it will set you up to defeat stage 2, because the second quest card forces you to defeat 3 enemies while you are on stage 2 in order to advance to the final stage. Since you are forced to travel to Chamber of Marzabul on stage 2, it will automatically bring out the Orc-chieftain when you travel here. This means he will count towards the 3 enemies needed to advance. Therefore, it is actually a good thing to allow 2 enemies to remain in the staging area while on the first quest card so that they can count towards the amount of enemies needed to advance from quest card 2. This will also prevent the forced effect of quest card 2B from triggering, which makes you reveal an additional encounter card if there are no enemies in the staging area.
After you defeat stage 2, you advance to the final stage and The Great Bridge is added to the staging area. In order to win the scenario, you must explore The Great Bridge and place 15 progress on the quest. The trick is, that only 5 progress can be placed on the quest card per round. This means that you have at least 3 rounds while on this stage, giving full opportunity for The Balrog to destroy you before you escape and win. It is imperative that you do not spend more than 3 rounds on the final stage for this very reason if you do not plan on killing The Balrog, since The Balrog will make at least two attacks per round (1 at the end of the quest phase, and 1 during the combat phase). If you want to go for the thematic sacrifice at The Great Bridge, then you must make sure you do not explore it before The Balrog has made his appearance (which it is possible to do with a very good questing deck). The Balrog is strong enough to kill most heroes in a single blow, so make sure to have chump blockers ready or a really beefy Hero or well-fed Eagles of the Misty Mountains to survive a defense. And watch out for the shadow effect on Uruk from Mordor, as it gives the enemy an additional attack if it destroys a character.
As for other enemies, you must be prepared to defend with one of your heroes against the Orc-chieftan (as allies cannot defend against it) and there are a few Great Cave-trolls in the deck that remove progress beyond the remaining hit points of the character damaged by its attack. This is why I recommend you do not do too much chump-blocking in this scenario but rather dress up your heroes with fancy Elvish attachments and weapons. If you are playing Campaign Mode, then you would be wise to include both treachery cancellation and condition attachment removal (such as Power of Orthanc or the new Elrond ally) in order to deal with the objective boon cards that start in the staging area. These can become tiresome really quickly and can upset your plans in a jiffy.
All things considered, this quest is very fun and challenging. I would rate it among one of my favorite to play. The Doom, Doom, Doom card makes it feel like the time counters from the Ring-maker cycle and gives you the sense of impending doom. But I especially like this scenario because you have the option of sacrificing one of your heroes to kill The Balrog, which I find thematically satisfying.
The Deck: Gandalf & Gwaihir Fly to Mt. Doom
The deck I used during this play-through of Journey in the Dark is the same as in my play-through of The Ring Goes South with two additions: I included one copy of the lore event Word of Command and the spirit even Fortune or Fate. Word of Command was included to ensure I drew Fortune or Fate because I only use one core set and this was one of the cards Fantasy Flight Games only provided “one of” in it. As a side, I like the fact that some of the more powerful cards are limited in this sense, as I find it makes the game a little more challenging (that is why you’ll notice I only use one copy of Unexpected Courage in my decks). Fortune or Fate is included for the sole purpose of “re-enacting” the scene from the books where Gandalf sacrifices himself on the Bridge for the sake of the Fellowship. I appreciate the designers choice in allowing players to re-enact the books in this quest by sacrificing a hero to put damage on The Balrog equal to the hero’s threat cost. Consequentially, Gandalf has the highest threat of any heroes in the game and so they really hit a “thematic home run” with this quest and the Gandalf hero card. Therefore, my goal is to sacrifice Gandalf before I defeat the quest and then “resurrect” him immediately via Fortune or Fate so that I can continue to use Gandalf in Campaign Mode. Since there is only one copy in the deck, it will be challenging to draw it, but not impossible due to all the tricks this deck has up its sleeve.
Total Cards: (57)
Ring-bearer: Frodo Baggins (Black Riders)
1x Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
1x Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
1x Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
1x Gwaihir (Trouble in Tharbad)
1x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)
2x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
1x Arwen Undomiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
1x Beorn (Core Set)
1x Radagast (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
2x Gandalf Staff (The Road Darkens)
2x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)
3x Vilya (Shadow and Flame)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
2x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
2x Expert Treasure-hunter (On the Doorstep)
2x Miruvor (Shadow and Flame)
2x Flame of Anor (The Road Darkens)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x Grim Resolve (Core Set)
2x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
1x Word of Command (The Long Dark)
1x Fortune or Fate (Core Set)