For the second part of our Trouble in Tharbad review, I'd like to go over the quest itself. As usual I'll try to be as spoiler-free to the narrative as possible, while still giving a good overview of the quest and the mechanics involved.
Trouble in Tharbad picks up after our heroes have resolved the Three Trials, which has freed them from the clutches of the Boar Clan Dunlendings. They must go to the town of Tharbad, find a dwarven explorer named Nalir, and recover an artifact from him (in the interest of being as spoiler-free as possible I won't say what the artifact is). Of course, our heroes run into trouble, and must dispatch some uncouth elements from Mordor and keep Nalir alive in the process.
So that's the story. In terms of actual game mechanics there are a couple of new wrinkles that will definitely give players a challenge. This quest plays around with the players' threat levels in ways that haven't really been seen before. For example: players cannot defeat stage one of the quest until they've reduced their threat to zero, which is accomplished by a unique quest rule - instead of placing progress on the quest, you instead reduce your threat by an equal amount. At the same time as this is happening there are treacheries (and Nalir himself) raising everyone's threat. If that wasn't enough, time counters are set on the quest, and every time they have to be reset the players reduce the threat elimination level (50, normally) by 10.
In stage two the players must fend off a host of enemies while avoiding threating-out. Conventional threat-reduction cards must also be husbanded, because using a card effect to reduce threat removes that card from the game entirely, as opposed to simply discarding it. For example: if you play "Sneak-Attack" to bring Gandalf into play, and choose to lower your threat, you do not return Gandalf to your hand - instead you would remove that card from the game. This also means that you can't use "Dwarven Tomb" to bring back "Galadrim's Greeting"
On top of everything else, if Nalir dies, you lose. Yeah, it's like bad A.I. in video games.
Also, I got the feeling that this wasn't as thematic as the other quests in this cycle have been, nor was it as challenging. The difficulty definitely increased with two or more players, but I've beaten this quest solo every time I've played it, with a few different style decks.
(That said, I love the theme-mechanics relationship of this location)
Overall I like the threat manipulation mechanics, but I feel that this quest loses out on theme. It feels more like a D&D adventure than a Tolkein-esque quest.
Final Review: The Trouble in Tharbad is definitely worth buying, I want to be clear about that. The player cards are rock-solid, Haldir is a ton of fun, and the quest has introduced a couple of mechanics that will probably feature in future quests. That said, I don't think this quest will be anyone's favorite, and I'm looking forward to the next adventure pack that will hopefully get this cycle back on a more thematic bearing.
Thanks for reading!
Hall of Beorn Card Search