As an aside, readers and listeners should definitely tune in to the second podcast episode, where I will spend some time eating my words about the card "Tighten Our Belts". Anyway, on with the quest review!
The Nin-in-Eilph quest picks up with our heroes having fled Tharbad with the dwarf, Nalir, in tow. Nalir sticks with us through this quest as well, much to the chagrin of many players. Tolkein himself never really fleshed-out the Nin-in-Eilph region in the books, but a fantastic article at Master of Lore delves into how he did offer some clues about this region in a letter he sent to a fan. Even still, the information that exists is scant, and so the game designers had a great deal of liberty when determining what to make of this quest.
In terms of theme and background, I'd say the designers did a stellar job. Florida native and podcast member Sierra will likely feel right at home in this swampy environment, but the setting that the designers invoked still feels distinctly Tolkein-esque, as opposed to some generic marshland.
Looks like something I killed in my bathroom this morning
WARNING: Entering Spoiler Territory for Quest Mechanics
The Nin-in-Eilph, like the other quests in this cycle, introduces and reinvents quest mechanics that players have gotten used to. None of the quests in this cycle have been a traditional "ready-quest-go" type of adventure, which is fine with me. The Nin-in-Eilph's most distinct feature is the way that players advance during quest stages two and three. If the players cannot defeat a stage before time counters run out then they are forced to switch to a different quest card of the same stage.
For example: Parker, Steve, and Sierra were unable to place 16 progress on Impassable Marshland before the third time counter was removed:
They would then have to go to another random stage three card, negating any progress that had previously been made in that stage.
A similar quest mechanic was introduced in the Old Forest quest, which like the Nin-in-Eilph was supposed to simulate the feeling of getting lost in a certain environment. However, I would say that the Nin-in-Eilph's quest cards are far more hostile.
This quest features another defining trait of this cycle: there is a lot to keep track of during each quest stage. It behooves players to pay careful attention to each and every encounter card and quest stage effects. Newer players should either hold off on playing this quest or make sure that a more experienced player is on hand to help keep the game moving.
This quest can be tough for a solo game because it's hard to place enough progress before all time counters are removed. I first beat it playing two-handed (below), but it wasn't a pretty win. I just wasn't able to get my Wardens of Healing on the table, which was rough with all of the direct damage effects.
The last thing I'll recommend is that you really hold off on reading the quest's epilogue until after you've beaten it. So far I've been loving the narrative of The Ring-Maker cycle, and after reading the epilogue for this quest I was totally jazzed for the next adventure!
Overall Summary: Like most AP's I really can't recommend against buying them. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better gaming value for the price. The game designers have done a great job expanding the Tolkien mythos, and simultaneously gave us some great new players cards, several of which are now an auto-include for certain decks. The random nature of the quest gives it a lot of replay value, but may not be new-player friendly because of it's complexity. The quest isn't the most difficult one in the cycle by any means, but is definitely complex. That said, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.