For months now I have been hanging out to play the Khazad-dûm expansion, having heard many good things about its scenarios and how powerful the dwarf trait becomes over the course of the Dwarrowdelf cycle. Dain Ironfoot gave me a taste of what was in store, and for the past few weeks I have been salivating at the thought of a Dwarven army boosted by Dain’s ridiculously good ability. Last week I finally cracked the seal on the box and ventured into the mines of Moria…

Dwarves!

The player cards in the box have certainly not left me disappointed. Every single card is either a Dwarf, has Dwarf synergy, or features an illustration of a Dwarf. I love the fact that the designers fully committed themselves to the theme of Khazad-dûm by focussing almost exclusively on the Dwarf trait. It makes a change from the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, which developed several traits simultaneously, and sometimes felt scattershot as a result. The card quality in Khazad-dûm is stellar too. Almost every new player card feels essential, and I had a hard time building my deck for the first scenario, Into the Pit, because I didn’t want to leave anything out!

The first game

Despite all the Dwarven goodness my first game got off to a rocky start:

I have lost numerous heroes to treachery cards, but I think this is the only time it has happened on the first turn!

If you’ve played Into the Pit then you will know that Sudden Pitfall is the single worst card in the encounter deck, and that the first round is the worst possible moment for it to make an appearance, since it probably spells instant death for a hero.

Unsurprisingly I lost that first game, but as it turns out I made so many rule errors that a victory would have been meaningless anyway.

I did manage a legitimate win in my second game though, thanks in no small part to my new favourite Dwarf, Dain Ironfoot. Even though he sits on the table doing nothing for most of the game, his passive willpower boost is just phenomenal.

Into the Pit

Into the Pit plays like a classic dungeon crawl, fast paced and with a good balance between exploration and combat. I haven’t yet built a deck that can consistently beat the scenario, so each replay has provided me with a decent challenge. Knowing that there is a treachery in the deck that cannot be cancelled adds a sense of urgency to the quest and can make for some nail biting games.

Thematically, Into the Pit is as close to perfect as I’ve seen yet. In some of the Shadows of Mirkwood scenarios there is a disconnect between the remote locations you need to explore and the action happening closer at hand – interrupting a raft journey down the Anduin to nip off and explore Necromancer’s Pass, for example – but Into the Pit’s locations and treacheries fit perfectly with the narrative.

Branching Paths is one location with a particularly devious thematic effect: while it is in the staging area Branching Paths boosts the threat of Dark locations, including itself, but if you choose to explore its tunnels you might discover an even nastier surprise waiting for you…

Another clever mechanic is the Cave Torch objective, which lets your company explore Dark locations, but at the risk of attracting the attention of nearby goblins.

1 Player Guild Into the Pit challenge

BoardGameGeek’s 1 Player Guild Lord of the Rings LCG September Challenge happens to be Into the Pit, so I decided to have a crack at the Story Mode challenge by attempting the scenario using a progression-style deck built around Gimli.

Tactics decks are not my forte, and at first I struggled to build a deck that could get the job done. Into the Pit is quite location heavy, and even with Dain on the table my Tactics allies just weren’t bringing enough willpower to the party. In frustration I decided to ditch all the Tactics cards from my deck, and try a Spirit, Lore and Leadership deck instead. Narvi’s Belt would be my deck’s only way to pay for Spirit cards, and until the Belt made an appearance my plan was to use Bifur’s ability to convert Gimli’s redundant Tactics resources into Lore resources.

This strategy (or desperate measure, if you will) proved successful, and I won my next game quite handily, despite not seeing Narvi’s Belt once. Admittedly I had an extremely lucky encounter deck draw, but I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth!

You can read about my game in the challenge thread.

Final thoughts

So far I am loving Khazad-dûm, which is fortunate since I have the entire Dwarrowdelf cycle ahead of me! Into the Pit seems like a fairly gentle introduction to the cycle, much like Passage Through Mirkwood is to the core set, so I expect that The Seventh Level will ramp up the difficulty level and properly test my deck building skills. Up we go!


Header art by Tomasz Jedruszek