Appears in: At Death’s Doorstep, For the Greater Good, Union and Disillusion, In the Clutches of Chaos
My take on this set: This is one of The Circle Undone’s primary factions and as such it is used quite a lot throughout the campaign. The encounter set follows a very similar template to Core Set’s Dark Cult, but tries to make the cultists more annoying to fight while offering different approaches to dealing with the doom tokens they bring to the table. As a result, it often does play similar to Dark Cult in practice, but the Aloof and Parley abilities do manage to give the set it’s own proper identity and feel. A well done set in my opinion that even despite being used fairly often doesn’t overstay its welcome. Players that are playing a campaign where they joined the Lodge will often want to parley with these enemies instead of just murdering them. Some investigators (like Preston) are badly equipped for that and might want to shore up their weaknesses here running cards like Fine Clothes or stat boosters.
What it does: The Neophyte sports the exact same stat line as its predecessor, the Acolyte. It also enters play on an empty location and carries a doom token, threatening to accelerate the agenda deck if not dealt with. Neophytes have the Aloof keyword, so engaging them will eat up an extra action. As an alternative to combat, a low difficulty Parley test against Willpower can remove the doom from this enemy.
My take: I think they are slightly easier to deal with than standard Acolytes, but not by much. Having to engage and kill them is a bit annoying, but well worth it if it removes a doom from the board. The parley option is really attractive here and i have been using it frequently.
Threat level: Mid. Everything that was said about Acolytes applies to Neophytes as well. The doom token is clearly the actual threat here and while removing it is usually easy enough, it certainly should be a priority.
Dealing with it: Activating and passing the Parley action will leave them on the board without any further impact, so that’s often a good plan. Of course a card like Mysteries of the Lodge can reactivate them, but that can arguably even be a good thing if it stops Mysteries from surging or putting its doom on a bigger enemy. If it’s better to just kill them will depend on the size of the board and how much trouble it would be to backtrack for them. Since they require an extra action to attack, having a way to deal a point of damage out of combat (Beat Cop, Ancient Stone, etc) is very worthwhile if you want to get rid of Neophytes permanently.
What it does: Almost identical to the Wizard of the Order, the Keeper also has the same ability to accumulate doom from turn to turn. Its stat line is almost identical, with just an extra agility thrown in. Like the Neophyte, he is Aloof and has a Parley action that gets rid of the doom he collected so far. This Parley action tests Intellect and at a difficulty of three, it’s not nearly as easy as it is for Neophytes.
My take: Functionally identical to Wizard of the Order, except it also has Aloof. That extra evasion is pure fluff without consequence and the Parley action isn’t really an option, because the Keeper will just get right back to collecting doom on the next Mythos phase. So he needs to be fought and taken off the board permanently. Aloof will take away an extra action for that and due to the Retaliate keyword and a decent fight stat, the extra horror the Keeper deals over the Wizard can be relevant too. As far as i am considered, this is a straight upgrade on an already immensely impactful card. Wizard of the Order has a bit of a reputation for spawning in unreachable places, this is far less pronounced for Keeper. I think the only scenario where this can happen is For The Greater Good.
Threat level: Very High. Drop what you are doing, this is now your priority. Otherwise he will cut the time you have to deal with the scenario in half as long as he is allowed to live.
Dealing with it: Ignore the Parley, it’s a trap. At best, it’s a way for the Seeker to buy a turn until the Guardian on the other side of the map made their way over to the Keeper’s location.
What it does: This treachery places a doom token on the nearest cultist and then makes that enemy tougher to deal with for a turn. Unlike its Core Set equivalent, Mysterious Chanting, this card doesn’t search for any cultists if there are none around. It will simply surge in that case.
My take: Fairly low impact most of the time, as it will usually add a doom to an enemy you already were looking to kill anyways. It can reactivate Neophytes, if that’s a good or a bad thing depends on the rest of the board state. If it’s a bad thing, don’t let it happen in the first place. The lack of a search clause if no cultists are around removes a lot of the player agency that Mysterious Chanting has, which is a bit of a pity.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Mysteries does add doom to the board, so it’s not completely toothless, but usually you will be happy to draw this card instead of a worse one.
Dealing with it: Just deal with whatever enemy got the doom added to it. You likely were already going to, the only thing that changed is how much of a priority the task has.
Mid (High for investigators that rely on key allies)
# of scenarios
City of the Damned
Appears in: The Witching Hour, The Secret Name, Wages of Sin, For the Greater Good, In the Clutches of Chaos
My take on this set: This set is interesting to me because both cards are very different and yet they synergize with each other well due to how they work mechanically. Centuries of Secrets can, depending on the investigators in play, be a very important card to play around. There’s three of them in the deck, so expect to draw them often. Evil Past is much less scary, and mostly filler to up the count of Curses in the encounter deck for Centuries to trigger off. In my opinion, discarding cards from the encounter deck in itself is a more relevant effect than discarding cards from player decks. It leads to the deck depleting quicker, which in turns leads to a reshuffle of the encounter cards. Quicker turnarounds of the encounter deck make it less predictable, possible to see particular cards a lot more than one would assume and ultimately feeds into itself because you are just going to redraw cards like Centuries of Secrets much quicker. I think this is a more relevant thing than the one point of horror attached to a player deck reshuffle.
What it does: Depending on how well (or badly) the player does on a Willpower check, cards from the encounter deck are discarded. If a Curse treachery is among those cards, that player’s investigator and all of their allies are dealt one direct damage.
My take: A very potent card that changes the rules just for existing in a scenario. Not only is direct damage a problem for some investigators like Calvin or Daisy, but especially the damage to allies is a huge deal for many. The difficulty of the Willpower test is high enough that even Mystics will often have to discard a few cards to this, potentially triggering it and losing their Arcane Initiate or similar.
Threat level: High. This is one of the cards that, just for being present in the encounter deck, have a sizeable impact on how players can use their cards. There are only few allies around that are immediately defeated from one damage (Arcane Initiate and Peter Sylvestre are the two most important ones), but this card can easily be drawn multiple times and even if not it limits players in how they can use their allies for soak if they don’t want to risk losing them.
Dealing with it: Know it’s there and think about it when placing damage on your important assets. Investigators with higher health are much less threatened by this cards because they have a buffer to work with, while someone like Sefina will struggle a lot. For those characters with few health points to work with, consider investing into non-ally health soak like Leather Coat or even Bulletproof Vest. The Willpower check is usually not worth pitching cards to, the difference between discarding 2 or 4 cards is not that large due to only one Curse card already triggering the full effect. A final note on Curse cards: The only other Curse treachery in the non-scenario sets is Diabolic Voices from the Witchcraft set, but there are extra Curses in Secret Name, Wages of Sin and Clutches of Chaos.
What it does: Evil Past attaches to a player, doing nothing until the encounter deck runs out. Once that happens, the investigator is dealt two horror and is allowed a Willpower check to discard the treachery. Should the test fail, Evil Past sticks around to trigger again once the deck runs out at a later point in time.
My take: No initial impact means that this card offers a bit of breathing room to deal with lingering threats from previous rounds and/or to progress towards the scenario goals. There’s not much to be done about this card, it will just deal some horror eventually. While it’s one of the few instances where the damage happens without any saving throw, this can easily be considered a lucky break when drawn.
Threat level: Low. Being dealt two horror isn’t a large effect in the bigger picture in the first place and this card usually offers some time to prepare for it. The repeatable part doesn’t matter all that much usually either. And again, if it should matter, there is time to prepare for the Willpower test by saving up a card or two to pitch for icons. The threat level goes up when playing with 3 or 4 players due to depleting the encounter deck faster, but in the grand scheme of things it should still be more than fine.
Dealing with it: Grin and bear it. The first two horror will happen, not much to be done about it. If already at low sanity, then digging for some asset to soak can be a consideration, but that should be the exception.
Return to Circle Undone: City of the Damned
My take on this replacement set: I like it, mostly on the back of Unhallowed Land. Removing Centuries of Secrets from the picture which is very punishing towards certain deck types is a good thing, and so is replacing a couple willpower tests with agility. Vice and Villainy is a bit low impact, but i wasn’t terribly impressed with Evil Past either. Either card can really only get out of hand in full groups where the encounter deck cycles a lot faster than in the two-handed games that i am used to. I’d be interested in mixing and matching the new and the original set. Playing with 1 Evil Past, 1 V&V and a random set of three from Unhallowed Land and CoS would be spicy indeed.
What it does: Following a difficult agility test, the investigator has to discard a card from the top of the encounter deck for each point they failed by. If a Curse treachery is discarded this way, a direct horror is dealt to the investigator and each of their allies.
My take: Unhallowed Land closely mirrors the original Centuries of Secrets which it replaces. Instead of a willpower test, there’s an agility test and instead of a damage it deals a horror to the affected targets if a Curse gets shaved off the top of the deck. Switching damage for horror makes a big difference here, at the time of writing this there are only 5 allies in the game that die to this but survive a Centuries of Secrets. On the other hand, there are 24 allies that die to Centuries but survive Unhallowed Land. This immediately makes this treachery a lot less oppressing than Centuries, even if the agility test is arguably more difficult than a willpower test is due to players being less prepared for it in TCU. Of course, this card still keeps Anna Kaslow from the board, which is a travesty considering that TCU would be the campaign where i’d thematically want to do a proper Tarot centric deck.
Threat level: Low to Mid. If you aren’t losing an asset to this, it’s actually fine.
Dealing with it: Players that run a host of allies at the same time (like your typical Leo or Tommy deck) will not be too happy to see Unhallowed Land, but everyone else is going to sigh a breath of relief that Centuries of Secrets left the encounter deck. It’s still a direct horror to the player and some stress on the soaking assets, so be aware of that should you be vulnerable to that due to low initial sanity or having already taken a few hits.
What it does: The investigator attaches this card to one of their assets. Whenever the encounter deck runs out of cards, the attached asset is discarded. If the asset is discarded to this effect or for any other reason, Vice and Villainy has to be attached to another asset unless the player passes a willpower test.
My take: This seems rather soft to me. This directly replaces Evil Past, substituting the loss of 2 sanity with the loss of an asset of the player’s choice. That seems to me like it’s usually in the player’s favor, especially as it won’t discard the asset immediately like a Crypt Chill (or similar) would. So, the player has time to spend all charges/ammo/secrets from that asset before it gets discarded. The only drawback is that Vice and Villainy can trigger before the encounter deck runs out too, as the Forced effect will fire when the asset is discarded for any reason. That could potentially be annoying for someone like Dexter or Yorick, but can be interrupted by passing the willpower test.
Threat level: Low. No immediate impact and even the delayed payoff isn’t all that impressive.
Dealing with it: Depending on how confident you are on passing the willpower test, you might want to hold off on playing another asset into the same slot as the one that has this treachery attached, just to keep the amount of reattachment triggers to a minimum. (Edit: As pointed out by commenter Whimsical below, the upgraded Mag Glasses can be used to defang Vice and Villainy completely by returning and replaying it in the right player windows. Might be of interest if you don’t mind a little bit of cheese with your card play.)
My take on this encounter deck: The composition of the finale’s encounter deck varies depending on whether you’ve mostly been favoring Alejandro (1), Ichtaca (2) or both/neither (3). And i have to say, the encounter deck is much more difficult with Dark Cult in it than with Agents of Yig. There is not a single point of Vengeance in the encounter deck, only two that come from the agendas, so at this point the Serpents shouldn’t pose any threat that the players can’t handle. The Serpent from Yoth can’t even get its final bonus. Not putting one or two points of Vengeance on Ichtaca is a missed opportunity in my opinion… On the other side, the Cultists synergize very well with both the Pnakotic set and the Ancient Evils. They layout of the locations also is very favorable for the Cultists and Wizard of the Order in particular can become a complete show stopper. There are not a whole lot of enemies in the encounter deck, which is due to the story enemies from outside the deck doing some heavy lifting in that regard. Half or a third of the encounter deck puts more Doom into play and about one in four cards try to stall the players by putting clues back on locations and/or moving the players around. This pressure is further increased by having some of the Doom cards come from the exploration deck. The encounter discard reshuffles into the deck twice from agenda progress, so that adds some high variance to the doom progress as well. It should also be noted that there is a high number of Willpower testing treacheries in the deck. While not necessarily on the most impactful cards in the deck, being prepared to pass a few Willpower tests will pay off by taking less damage and horror overall. Counter these: Ancient Evils, Between Worlds. Especially if Dark Cult is also present, Ancient Evils becomes once more a large threat due to its pressure on the time players have to complete the acts. Between Worlds has a terrifying worst case scenario that leads to a lot of lost actions and horror taken, possibly even having to engage the Formless Spawn. So if that can be prevented with a cancel card, that’s good value for sure. Return to Shattered Aeons adds a very nasty treachery as well, so holding a cancel for that can also absolutely be worth it.
What it does: These big enemies will only come into play once the players reach act 2b which shuffles the Shattered locations into the exploration deck. As soon as it’s on the board, the Temporal Devourer will pose a credible threat with its high health and above average fight and evade values. It has Hunter, but players may want to seek out the Devourer anyways because whenever the Devourer enters a location it will add a clue to that place. Due to how the locations are grouped only one step around a central location, they usually won’t spawn very far away.
My take: Aside from the story enemies and maybe Wizard of the Order, this is the only enemy in the scenario that puts up a fight when engaged. It will take a dedicated fighter to deal with the Devourer and even then it will likely take a full turn. The clues that are left behind can lead to further horror or damage down the line. This is just an all around strong enemy and a pain to deal with. At least it doesn’t deal a lot of damage.
Threat level: Mid to High. Can’t be ignored, has high combat values, Hunter and another annoying ability attached. What keeps it from being too overbearing is how it can only spawn once the first two acts were advanced, so it can not appear while investigators are still setting up.
Dealing with it: The fighter of the group should probably make the Devourer their priority so it can’t add more clues to the board. While the clues are not strictly necessary to be cleared to progress, they can deal a sizeable amount of damage to the player group from the Forced ability on the A Pocket in Time location.
What it does: Wracked by Time deals two damage to a player that fails a Willpower test. Unlike most other treacheries, this will not only affect the player who drew the card but also anyone else who is currently at a Shattered location. If assets are used to soak this damage, the assets will be reshuffled into their decks if not defeated.
My take: These are a good bit more dangerous than most other damage treacheries. It can hit you even if you are not the one who drew it which makes it easier to stack up on damage from multiple Wracked in Time. Once the Shattered locations are in play, getting further damage from the Pocket in Time can also contribute. Mitigating the damage comes with a downside, but in most cases that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. There are three of them in the deck and two reshuffles on the agendas, so Wracked in Time is a fairly constant presence throughout the scenario.
Threat level: Mid. Much harder to ignore than similar cards and much harder to mitigate due to the damage potentially stacking up fast.
Dealing with it: Mostly, keep in mind that this card exists and make sure that you can either soak the damage or that you have enough health available to tough it out. If possible, try not to end your turn on a Shattered location and instead move back to the central location which is safe from Wracked in Time.
What it does: Between Worlds forces the player to move to a new location connected to the Nexus of N’kai. Should the player still be at that location at the end of the round, they are dealt damage and horror and moved to the Nexus.
My take: This card terrifies me because its worst case scenario is pretty bad. In the first turns of the scenario, the card is somewhat benign and at most eats up a move action or two while dealing one horror from the Forced ability of Nexus of N’kai. Later on, this becomes a lot worse, though. Not only does it consume more actions for moving back, but it also drives the player right back into the arms of the Formless Spawn.
Threat level: Low to Mid to High. How threatening this card is depends entirely on whether the Formless Spawn is present on the Nexus. If it isn’t, then the impact is fairly low as distances in this scenario are short and moving back shouldn’t cost too many actions and a horror on its own is okay. If the Spawn is there, then this can cause bigger problems, especially if the player isn’t able to reliably evade the Spawn to prevent the attack of opportunity.
Dealing with it: This card is one of the main reasons to be proactive about the Formless Spawn and kill it while it’s still at two fight and evade. That will take several actions but can save a lot of implicit damage dealt by this card later. Moving from the location created by Between Worlds to the Nexus deals 1 horror from the clue on the location, which of course can be prevented by investigators that can pick up the clue beforehand. If that is worth it or not depends on the situation, usually the action should be more valuable though.
What it does: Creeping Darkness enters play with a doom token on it and attaches itself to the Nexus of N’kai. It also provides the Formless Spawn with some extra health. The card can be discarded by spending two actions and either carry a torch or pass a Willpower check.
My take: The extra health on the Spawn doesn’t matter too much, although i think it’s curious that it scales with investigator count while the Spawn itself doesn’t. The more important part is the doom added. Aside from the usual implications of advancing the agenda earlier, this doom also boosts the Formless Spawn’s fight and evade value.
Threat level: Mid. The main threat comes from the doom added, but there is a way to get rid of it built into the card. Creeping Darkness can become a bigger problem if the Spawn is still in play.
Dealing with it: That double action will of course trigger an attack of opportunity from the Spawn, so evade it first. Better yet, kill the Spawn early on so this card (along with Between Worlds) loses a lot of its impact. In true solo play, ignoring the Spawn completely is a consideration, as moving to the location and discarding this card would take more actions that you’d lose to the doom token.
What it does: If the player fails a Willpower test, each location aside from the Nexus gets another clue added to it. This makes moving around a lot more dangerous due to the Forced abilities on Nexus and Pocket in Time.
My take: Not that bad, actually. It might put a lot of clues on the board, but usually only few of them still matter. Might eat up an action or three from the Seeker, but as far as encounter cards go in Shattered Aeons, this one is a bit of a breather.
Threat level: Low. A few points of damage or horror, avoidable by taking extra investigation actions. Nothing too serious.
Dealing with it: By “completing” one location before even revealing the next one, this card’s impact can be kept to a minimum.
Return to Shattered Aeons
My take on the modified scenario: Only one card is added to the encounter deck, but this is a scenario that is impacted significantly by the exploration rules changes. Especially at low player counts, the final stretch of the scenario is now a lot easier as the Return to scenario dumps a stack of eight locations into the exploration deck, making successful explorations very likely. The new treachery is a huge threat but comes with a choice to avoid it once and shuffle it into the exploration deck instead. Thanks to the thick stack of locations this is actually a valid choice. The lower difficulty due to the more forgiving exploration is partially offset by the encounter replacement sets. Temporal Flux and Dark Cult are upgraded to their RtTFA counterparts. Especially the Cult of Pnakotus is really quite dangerous if the cultists get to appear in a location behind the Nexus and the Formless Spawn.
What it does: The player has the option to either resolve this treachery right now in full or to shuffle it into the exploration deck. Of course, when drawn from the exploration deck, they no longer get this choice. Once the first option is chosen, the player has to reveal four chaos tokens and is dealt one damage and one horror for each bad symbol drawn.
My take: I frequently look down on treacheries that just deal a few points of damage or horror, but a card that can potentially deal four of each has me afraid as well. If i draw this in the second half of the scenario, once the eight Shattered locations are added to the deck, i would always choose to shuffle it into the exploration deck. I’d rather gamble on not drawing this again than i’d want to gamble on the tokens coming up in my favor. With the smaller exploration deck of the first half, this might just be something to take full on.
Threat level: Very High. In a scenario that already is chock full with effects that deal damage or horror this card can easily defeat a player or at least strip away their soak.
Dealing with it: Usually i’d be very hesitant to shuffle things into the exploration deck as that will often only postpone the effect and then cost an extra action for the failed exploration. In this case, there are good reasons to do so however. One, the effect is suitably dangerous and with an investigator that could actually die to it on a bad token pull i might just not want to risk it. Two, for big parts of the scenario, the exploration deck is kind of huge and there’s a good chance you may not see this card again after all. A card that is fairly good at dealing with Unknowable Past is the Veda Whitsley story ally from the Return to Threads of Fate. She can either fish this treachery out of a small exploration deck or she can just be used to tank the effect with her three health and sanity.
Appears in: Threads of Fate, The Boundary Beyond, Shattered Aeons
My take on this set: A fine set that puts some unique spins on the cultist theme. Shadowed in particular is a card that i have a good amount of respect for. It just works very well in context with all the other cultist related cards, doing the usual doom thing while dealing some horror on top to make sure it won’t just be completely negated by killing whatever cultist.
What it does: The Brotherhood Cultist starts out as a fairly harmless enemy with low combat stats but grows in danger with each attack he survives. Whenever attacked, a Doom token is placed on the Cultist, which in turn increase his fight and evade values. At three health, he can reasonably expect to survive the first attack. Thanks to the Hunter keyword, he will follow the players around, but if he manages to attack, he only deals a horror.
My take: Not as tough as he looks at first glance, but can become a problem in some circumstances. If no attack that deals three damage is available, then taking the Cultist off the board requires an attack against fight 3 and another against fight 4. For most fighters that is not unreasonable at all, but failing one of the tests of course means that the Cultist will earn another doom from the failed attack, increasing his fight value further. Luckily, he only deals a single point of horror, so the consequences of having him stick around are not too terrible as long as he doesn’t cause the agenda to flip. He obviously comboes very well with the other two cards from this encounter set.
Threat level: Mid. Much of Brotherhood Cultist’s impact depends on the availability of a three damage attack. If left to grow out of hand from failed attacks, Shadowed or Mysterious Chanting, he can turn out to be a roadblock. But at least the Hunter keyword means that he carries those doom tokens towards the investigators instead of hiding out with them at some remote corner of the board. If he does get to escalate, he can become a huge issue, but there are usually enough ways around it.
Dealing with it: All through the Forgotten Age campaign, enemies with three health are a common sight. This is one of the enemies where it pays off the most to be prepared for that. Cards like Backstab, Spectral Razor or Vicious Blow make sure that the Cultist is dealt with before he can become a bigger problem. Evading him is also a consideration as that will not put Doom on him, but the Hunter keyword means that he will at least try to catch up again. Should you not be prepared to deal three damage in one swoop (for example on your first playthrough), the danger that comes from this enemy rises dramatically.
What it does: Shadowed puts a Doom token on the nearest cultist enemy. In addition, the player has to take a Willpower test against that cultist’s fight value and take 2 horror if he fails. If no Cultist is around, Shadowed will not only Surge like so many other cards, but it will also deal a horror on top.
My take: I’m never happy to see these. Putting doom on cultists is something that we are are used to doing and dealing with. But having the threat of two horror on top puts Shadowed into the next tier. Drawing it with no cultists probably feels even worse as you just get a horror dealt in addition to whatever shenanigans the next encounter card has in store for you.
Threat level: Mid. Shadowed is a case where multiple standard effects are combined into a deceptively potent whole.
Dealing with it: Most cultists have fight values of 3 or less, so at least the Willpower test is in reach of most investigators most of the time. A notable exception is of course the Brotherhood Cultist from this set who can use this doom token as a jumpstart to become too big to handle. Dealing with the primary effect of the card, the doom token, means seeking out the cultist and defeating him. Usually that is something that players would be keen on doing anyways as most cultists already have Doom on them. So in a way, this card often only increases the priority of dealing with the issue.
What it does: Words of Power latches onto an investigator and stops them from damaging enemies with doom on them. If an enemy with doom is present, that investigator is also stopped from discovering clues. To get rid of the treachery, two actions can be spent.
My take: In many cases, it is very tempting to just leave this card alone in the threat area. When to do that and when to just spend the two actions to be done with it, is often not all that obvious. It’s an interesting card for sure, but in terms of impact on the gameplay it’s rather weak.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Fighters need to get rid of it immediately of course. If drawn while already engaged, this can be a bit of a problem as it provokes an attack of opportunity and takes two valuable actions away. Outside of that scenario, the consequences are much less dire.
Dealing with it: A character that is escorted by a fighter can ignore this card somewhat safely. Investigators whose primary way of dealing with enemies is evading also have an easier time with the card, but are of course still subject to not being able to pick up clues on the location. If in doubt, it’s probably best to just spend the two actions at the next opportunity that doesn’t disrupt plans too much.
Appears in: Untamed Wilds, Doom of Eztli, Heart of the Elders 2, Depths of Yoth, Shattered Aeons
My take on this set: Agents of Yig is one of the payoffs for the Vengeance mechanic. None of the cards provides Vengeance itself, but all of them get stronger if the players did already earn points for killing snakes or otherwise angering the Father of Serpents. Obviously this makes the set vary in power depending on how much vengeance players earned so far, but even without boosts this set is not exactly a pushover. The presence of this set in the scenario should make players avoid getting vengeance by all means as the enemies here can put a lot of pressure on them otherwise.
What it does: Starts out with below average stats except for the 3 health that stop most attacks from taking down the Brood in one hit. It has Hunter to follow the players around. This combined with appearing in scenarios that have a lot of other enemies as well means they will require being dealt with permanently. This becomes harder with each point of vengeance in the victory pile.
My take: Even one or two vengeance make a big difference in how hard these serpents are to kill. So that is obviously to be avoided. While they are easy to evade, it’s usually better to evade the snakes with vengeance on them and killing the Broods of Yig instead. It’s certainly preferable to doing it the other way round…
Threat level: Low to Mid. They are usually just ghouls with an extra health. While that is certainly relevant, it doesn’t make them particularly dangerous. If the players start to gain Vengeance, the power of these goes up dramatically though, until evading can even become the only realistic option.
Dealing with it: Avoid having to take vengeance. This goes for the complete Agents of Yig set, of course. Aside from that, there’s not much to it. One interesting bit is that Vengeance is usually earned in larger quantities when players are unable to evade the enemies. And the Brood will force players to evade in that case, which can be a bit of a challenge despite the low agility value on the card.
What it does: Even without any vengeance in play, the Serpent from Yoth hits hard and has a lot of health. This makes it a credible threat worth the victory point on the card. With vengeance, the Serpent earns new abilities that make it stronger: Retaliate for the first point, Hunter for the second. From the third point of vengeance on the Serpent will take 1 less damage from every attack which will make it truly resistant and hard to take down.
My take: This big boy is not to be underestimated. At its base values it already takes about a full turn to take down and it only gets worse from there. This is one of the victory points that actually takes a little bit of effort to earn. I really like the set of abilities this enemy gains, they play well off each other and turn the Serpent into a real threat without having to repeat the same stat bonuses that the Brood gets.
Threat level: High. This is what the big guns in your Guardian decks are for. Especially if players manage to pick up the third vengeance, having attacks that deal three or more damage are basically a must have to kill the Serpent without wasting two turns.
Dealing with it: Avoid having to take vengeance! There’s only one of them in the deck, but once it arrives, it has a large presence on the board. The conditional Hunter keyword on this creature works wildly against the players here: If it’s weak and players want to kill it for its VP, then it doesn’t have Hunter and needs to be sought out. If it became a boss monster that the investigators might not even want to fight, it gains Hunter and goes after the players.
What it does: The curse of Yig makes the player gain the Serpent trait. In exchange, they get a penalty of 1 to their health and fight value. To get rid of the card, the player can spend an action and attempt a Willpower test against current Vengeance plus 2.
My take: That’s one bad trade. The Serpent trait doesn’t do anything, as far as i am aware. But the minus one to fight and health is certainly not great. All things considered this is one of the weaker cards in most encounter decks, as its easy to discard unless the players went and slaughtered every snake they could find. And if they did, they can likely take the hit to fight and health. Most investigators can take it anyways.
Threat level: Low. While this does deal the equivalent of one damage in a backwards way, the card usually only has a noticeable impact on investigators that use their fight value. Everyone else can likely just ride this out.
Dealing with it: You probably already guessed it, but … avoid having to take vengeance. If you do, the willpower test is easy to pass. Often enough it’s not even actually worth the action to do so, though. The only way for this card to become annoying is when players accumulated a lot of vengeance and the card is drawn by the primary fighter. In that case, remember that other investigators can make the Will test in their stead, so for example a Mystic could use his higher Will to free the Guardian from the curse.
Appears in: Doom of Eztli, Boundary Beyond, Shattered Aeons
My take on this set: This is a rock solid set with a noticeable but not overpowering presence in the encounter deck. Both cards are closely related to infamous encounter cards from the Core, and especially Lost in Time can lead to blowouts if not careful.
What it does: Another member of the Rotting Remains line of encounter cards, this deals horror depending on how well a player does on a Willpower check. A Tear in Time allows players to mitigate this horror by spending actions instead.
My take: Due to the extra player choice attached, it is by default weaker than Remains, but losing actions is a tough choice to make. So that part will likely only come into play once the investigator is already close to losing his sanity. Most of the time this will just play as a straight up horror for Willpower, which is on the lower end of what is expected from the encounter deck.
Threat level: Low. This kind of card only becomes dangerous once a player draws multiples and is weak in Willpower. Even then, the horror can be mitigated. Since the card allows to lose an action, it lacks the worst case scenario of actually being defeated by its effect.
Dealing with it: The standard ways of mitigating horror all apply. Thanks to the Willpower test and the option to lose an action, the cards has other ways of lowering its impact already built in.
What it does: The player has to choose one their assets and shuffle it back into the deck. Of note, the limitation to non-story means that cards like the Expedition Journal or Ichtaca are not eligible choices. If damage or horror was placed on the asset, those aren’t discarded but placed on the investigator instead, undoing the soak the asset was used for. Finally, if Lost in Time fails to reshuffle something, the investigator has to discard three cards.
My take: What a terrifying card. It will almost always cause an above average amount of trouble. Crypt Chill from the Core set is high impact enough to warrant playing around and Lost in Time is worse for the players on several levels. The lack of a saving throw and the effect of undoing the soak that the asset was used for are the biggest upsides of this over Crypt Chill – but even the restriction to non-story asset can be relevant in this campaign that is somewhat filled with various story allies and other assets. This is one of the cards from the Forgotten Age that i am most worried about.
Threat level: High. There is almost no way around it, drawing this card is going to cost you.
Dealing with it: The best way of bracing for impact is having cheap sacrifical assets around. Losing a Leather Coat or a Fine Clothes will still cost the card and action to play it, but at least it’s better than having to reshuffle a key ally like Milan or Leo. You could get lucky and have a depleted weapon or tool to feed into Lost in Time, in which case the reshuffle can even turn out to be slightly beneficial. But that’s rarely something to set up on purpose. If cancels like Ward of Protection or Test of Will are available, reserving one to deal with Lost in Time can be worth it.
Return to The Forgotten Age: Temporal Hunters
Number of unique Cards
Discard(Assets), Discard(Deck), Discard(Hand)
My take on this set: My favorite new encounter set from Return to Forgotten Age, even though it doesn’t contain my favorite of the encounter cards (that would be Vengeful Serpent). The Tindalos is a splashy card with lots of board presence and a lynchpin for many interesting interactions between player cards and this treachery-enemy-hybrid. Merging Timelines is a very impactful card and with three of them in the deck, it will make its presence known loud and clear. My one gripe would be that it punishes both Myriad and large handsizes a lot, but to be honest i am not terribly sad about seeing Seekers draw the short straw just this once.
What it does: Merging Timelines discards five cards off the player’s deck, who will then have to discard any matching card from their hand. For each matching card, they also have to lose one action, potentially costing them their turn. Weaknesses discarded this way are shuffled back into the deck, thus increasing the chance to draw those weaknesses later on.
My take: If stars align against you, you ditch your hand and your turn. Luckily, this is not terribly likely, but even just one match can severely hurt your plans and getting two is often not that unlikely. If it doesn’t hit any matching cards, you get a bit of a breather. It will still advance you towards drawing your weakness and towards decking out, but that isn’t all that bad. This card hits anyone with Myriad cards in their hand pretty bad, good luck assembling a Three Aces with Merging Timelines being in the encounter deck three times.
Threat level: High. Even when you are just being hit for one card and an action, it’s on par with most other treacheries and there is serious potential to scale a lot higher. It does have a chance to near-miss as well, but by and large this is a card to respect.
Dealing with it: Play Highlander decks! Can’t find duplicates in your deck if you aren’t playing any! Joking aside, it’s not worth compromising your deck for just one encounter card, so there’s not too much you can do about it except play your cards when you draw them and keep your hand lean. The more cards you have in hand, the more likely this card is to cost you those cards and also precious actions. Myriad cards are especially susceptible to this. Play your pendant pieces when you draw them if you have this encounter set against you.
What it does: Tindalos Alpha is an enemy card, but mostly works like a treachery. Should the Tindalos Alpha attack, the investigator has to shuffle one of their non-story assets back in the deck. It has both Alert and Retaliate, so this attack will also happen if the player fails an attack or evasion against the creature. Tindalos Alpha will discard automatically after making an attack or, should it not have been able to make one until then for some reason, at the end of the enemy phase.
My take: What an interesting take on Lost in Time, the card it replaces. On the one hand, you now can take either an agility or a fight test against difficulty 4 to try and prevent losing your asset. On the other hand, this will actually take one of your actions, something that this sort of saving throw on treacheries doesn’t do. In case you want to fight the Tindalos instead of evading it, you will also need to be able to deal three damage in one blow… or take and pass two tests, spending two actions. But then again, other investigators can do this for you, either fighting the creature for you or engaging and evading it. You could even use something like Spectral Razor to deal with this card. There are a lot of intricate little differences between this sort of creature and a regular treachery and that is super interesting. Great card.
Threat level: High. If things go wrong, you are looking at losing an asset, being dealt a damage and horror and having spent an action on your failed attempt to evade/fight. That’s a lot of fallout from a single card.
Dealing with it: Evading it is certainly the cleanest option, but not every investigator has it. Four agility on the hound is quite a lot, after all. Following that, a single attack for three damage, for example with the Ornate Bow, would also deal with it cleanly. One option that should not be forgotten is that you can just decide to let it happen. Instead of spending an action on a test that may or may not pass, you could just continue on with whatever you wanted to do and take the attack of opportunity. This will deal a damage and horror each and shuffle a card of your choice back. This can be an option when actions are important or when you can afford to just shuffle back one of your assets. Remember that any damage and horror on that asset are moved to you, so you can not use that same asset to soak the Tindalos attack before reshuffling it. Well, you can but it won’t do you any good…
My take on this encounter deck: This is a very busy encounter deck that keeps the players occupied. Of the 12 enemies in the deck, many are pretty weak but there are two additional huge Hunter enemies that enter play from outside of the deck as well to keep fighters engaged. Cluevers also have a lot to do in this scenario. Not only do the catacombs themselves ask them to gain clues to progress, but there is also a very unusual amount of encounter cards in the deck that either ask for intellect tests or manipulate the shroud values of locations. Willpower tests take a step back and are less prevalent than usual. Grasping Hands is the only agility testing encounter card in the deck. There is both horror and damage treacheries around to keep in mind if fights went bad, trauma was already earned in the campaign or the investigators just go low on health or sanity for other reasons. Crypt Chill is in the deck, so that as well should be kept in mind during the first turns. I really like this encounter deck. It puts pressure on all players from various angles and the high number of scenario specific cards means that this scenario is full of stuff that was specifically designed to interact with each other. The Pallid Mask is my favorite Carcosa scenario and a contestant for favorite scenario overall. The incredibly interesting encounter deck is a big reason why. Cancel these: Obscuring Fog, The Pit Below. There is no real standout treachery in this scenario, which one to cancel is very much dependant on the circumstances. If there’s no way around the shroud increase, then Obscuring Fog can be a huge pain here because of the number of high shroud locations and how reliant the players are on grabbing the clues. Pit Below can additionally force players to backtrack which can be awkward with all those Hunters skulking about.
What it does: The Docent is a weak enemy that spawns at an unrevealed catacomb. It can be killed fairly easily, but players can also take advantage of its parley action first. By passing an intellect check the player can use him to peek at one of the nearest unrevealed locations. The Docent is a regular enemy, so he will engage the player and attack in the enemy phase, dealing one horror.
My take: One half of a neat combo from the encounter deck, but the Docent also has interesting things going on when taken at face value. The intellect check is difficult enough to require a dedicated clue getter to pass reliably, at the same time that player may need an escort if he’s not a hybrid character like Joe. This may take some time to set up, but there is reason to try and deal with the Docent somewhat fast… Lots of interesting decisions to make here.
Threat level: Low to Medium. This is not a dangerous enemy by itself, but depending on how you want to deal with them, they could take a surprising amount of actions away.
Dealing with it: To get rid of this enemy, the players have to: Get to the unrevealed location it appeared. Then decide if they want to interrogate it. Then finally, kill it. All these steps do take at least some time, with the last part actually being the easiest one. Keep in mind that you might want to take this guy out early because otherwise you may find yourself staring down this fellow:
What it does: If a Catacomb Docent or any of the ghouls are in play when a player draws the Corpse Dweller, one of them is discarded and replaced by this much scarier threat. Note that if playing without Return to Carcosa, the Corpse Dweller can also break out of the Man in the Pallid Mask, discarding but not defeating him. Corpse Dweller hits fairly hard and with five health he will usually take at least a full player turn before he is defeated. Retaliate makes him even more risky to fight and Hunter makes sure he needs to be dealt with somehow eventually.
My take: The interaction with Man in the Pallid Mask is a really unfortunate oversight and i highly suggest that anyone uses the updated wording from Return to Carcosa that fixes it. Aside from that, the Docent/Dweller combo is just fun, i really like how these two cards play off each other. Removing Docents becomes somewhat of a priority because Dwellers are a pain to deal with. But the whole process of getting to the Docent can burn a number of actions as well, so players have real decisions to make here. Even the fairly unimpressive ghouls can turn into a dweller, so they should be killed as well instead of just evaded.
Threat level: High. These are large, hit hard and even if a fighter is right on hand to dispatch them, they will keep that player busy for at least a turn.
Dealing with it: The best way to deal with them is clearly to get rid of any potential hosts before the Dweller can even spawn. If playing with the broken interaction with Man in the Pallid Mask, preventing these becomes a lot more difficult as he can spawn on the other side of the map. Once Dwellers are on the board, it will take a fighter with a weapon to kill them. They have only three fight, but the amount of health leaves little room for failed attacks.
What it does: The investigator affected by this treachery has to discard either all of their resources or all of their cards at the end of the turn. The only way to prevent this from happening is by spending an action, however that will cause the effect to repeat on the next turn. Only once the player chooses to discard either resources or cards, the treachery is discarded with them.
My take: The line “Action: You look behind you.” is amazing. It’s not just a great flavor piece, though. Often, investigators can not afford dropping their hand or all of their resources and delaying the decision becomes a serious consideration.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Usually, all of the player choice that is part of this treachery can be used to make the actual impact of the discard minor. However, at that point the treachery might have already done its job by costing multiple actions.
Dealing with it: If drawn in the Mythos phase as usual, there is a whole turn of time to set up being able to choose one of the discard option without it hurting too much. Most of the time that means spending all but one resource (or close to it) and then choosing to discard resources. If not able to, the delay action can be considered, but that should be the exception.
What it does: It deals horror for failing a Willpower test, just like Rotting Remains from the Core. There are limitations applied to how the horror can be distributed, preventing to soak all of it with just one asset.
My take: Mostly this will just work like Rotting Remains, which of course is a perfectly fine and even sometimes scary card. There’s three of them in the deck, but the only other set dealing in horror is Hauntings, so there’s not much danger of horror stacking up on a player just from the encounter deck. The card itself is perfectly fine, but feels a bit random in this encounter deck because it stands almost completely on its own, without contributing to what is going on mechanically in the other places.
Threat level: Low. The horror can be mitigated, even with the extra clause to distribute evenly most players should not need to take more than one horror from this card directly on their investigator. The pressure from sanity loss is fairly low unless the investigator only has 5 sanity in the first place or went into the scenario with mental trauma.
Dealing with it: The Willpower test isn’t too hard and even partial success lower the horror that is dealt, so that’s the first step in keeping the impact low. The remaining horror can be dealt with in the usual ways, by soaking with assets and having some sanity to spare.
What it does: The Pit Below attaches to the investigator’s location and threatens to deal a big chunk of damage if they are still present at that location at the end of the turn. On top of that, the location’s shroud value is increased by one.
My take: Dreadful, this card has been a wrench in my plans a couple of times. The shroud increase makes it so you have a harder time just blowing past the location and moving forwards, so it can force the players to move back, something you really do not want to do in this scenario which sees you followed by several huge Hunter enemies. I have taken the three damage to my investigators before, just so i don’t waste so many actions moving back and forth. Maybe i was just unlucky, on paper the card doesn’t even sound that bad. But i certainly have a lot of respect for it due to the experiences i had with it.
Threat level: Mid. The location it attaches to is the important factor here. On a low shroud location the +1 increase can turn out to be not too bad and if there is no clue left there anyways the treachery can feel like it doesn’t do at all as the group just pushes forward. But the chance to block off a place for a turn is certainly there and can translate to a whole lot of wasted actions because every player is affected by it.
Dealing with it: Try blowing past it by picking up the clues that are needed to do so. If you can not, then moving back a spot might be required to avoid the damage. One way to protect from the card is reserving spare clues so even without getting to investigate at that location the next catacomb can be opened in a pinch.
Return to The Pallid Mask
My take on the modified scenario: I like it. Return to the Pallid Mask is largely unchanged from the original, and i do appreciate that because it is after all one of my favorite scenarios. I think it actually doesn’t need anything, there is already so much going on for every kind of investigator that additional mechanical bits might have just been too much. The only thing added by Return to Carcosa is the errata that makes Corpse Dwellers ignore the Man in the Pallid Mask, a couple new locations to freshen up the catacombs deck and this fellow who goes straight into the encounter deck without any bells, whistles or explanations:
What it does: It’s another huge Hunter enemy, joining Haruko, the Specter of Death and the Corpse Dwellers in herding the investigators through the tunnels. With a statline of 4/4/1 it’s easy to evade for anyone and for dedicated fighters it’s not unreasonably difficult to take down. A special ability of the Malformed Skeleton makes sure that the investigators can never keep very far ahead of the Skeleton, so even after a successful evasion this enemy will stay on target. When hit by this enemy, the player gets to choose if they want to take horror or damage, however it’s a chunk of three points.
My take: The incredible artwork and those six damage icons make this enemy look a lot bigger and tougher than it actually is. Any competent fighter set up with a weapon should be able to take this monster down without too much of a problem. Shuffling only one new card into the encounter deck feels a bit random, but the card fits perfectly into what the scenario is already trying to do. Cool enemy, but i wish FFG had saved the jaw-dropping artwork for an enemy in a bit more prominent role in another scenario or something. Feels almost like a waste hiding only one copy of it in the Return of a specific scenario.
Threat level: Mid. Of all the Hunter enemies crawling in the catacombs, this is the weakest one. It has the fewest hit points and while it hits for three, the player choice of taking horror or damage means that it’s very unlikely to be life threatening by itself. It does set up the damage and horror treacheries perfectly, though.
Dealing with it: Its teleport ability means that evasion is only a very temporary measure, this enemy should be killed off permanently by the team’s fighter. If it manages to land a blow, at the decision on whether to take the horror or damage, remember that the encounter deck has three copies of Eyes in the Walls in it, which can deal 3 horror unannounced if things go really bad. However, there are also three copies of Grasping Hands in the deck that deal up to 3 damage, so keep those in mind as well!
Appears in: The Gathering, Midnight Masks, Miskatonic Museum, Where Doom Awaits, The Pallid Mask, Doom of Eztli, City of Archives, At Death’s Doorstep, Union and Disillusion, Beyond the Gates of Sleep, Thousand Shapes of Horror, Weaver of the Cosmos, The Vanishing of Elina Harper, Fatal Mirage, City of Elder Things(v2, v3), Heart of Madness #2, Riddles and Rain, On Thin Ice
My take on this set: The two cards from this set don’t share much mechanically or even thematically, so it’s best to look at them on their own merits. Crypt Chill is an impactful card that should have some influence on the player’s actions. Meanwhile, Obscuring Fog is very hit or miss depending on the location it attaches to. Together, they form an encounter set that is neither particularly impressive nor a total pushover. Just a regular, okay set.
What it does: Crypt Chill sets the standard for how asset hate looks when it’s coming from the encounter deck. The investigator is allowed a Willpower check at a non-trivial difficulty and if it fails, he has to choose and discard an asset.
My take: A Willpower test at difficulty 4 is easy to fail, even Mystics will want to commit some icons if they can not afford to lose an asset. This card is the bane of any Guardian who is still setting up the cards he needs to fight. And even with the player choice, losing an asset will often hurt in the first few turns. After all, having to choose between Beat Cop and a Machete after spending all your resources is still enough to throw off many plans. Once the initial setup turns are done and some of the more optional assets enter play, Crypt Chill can sometimes be shrugged off, but in general it’s a relevant card.
Threat level: Medium to High. Losing an asset often translates into losing a considerable amount of player resources as not only the card and action to play it are neutralized, but also the resources invested into it. If Chilling Cold is part of the encounter deck, this alone can force players to drop their assets more carefully than usual or they open themselves to an untimely Crypt Chill.
Dealing with it: The player choice of which asset to discard means that key assets can be protected by having other things around to sacrifice. If available, play cheap assets like Fine Clothes or Cherished Keepsake before commiting to more expensive ones like a .45 Thompson or Leo de Luca.
What it does: Obscuring Fog attaches to a location and makes it harder to investigate. The only way to discard the card is by passing an investigation check, which means it protects itself.
My take: This is one of the encounter cards that i changed my opinion about the most as i kept playing the game. When i started out, this card felt like its very hard to deal with. With a growing card pool, and starting to supplement basic investigation more and more with alternate ways of collecting clues, Obscuring Fog lost a lot of its impact. Today i am mostly glad to see this come from the encounter deck.
Threat level: Low to Medium. Obscuring Fog can become very annoying, but a few things have to come together for that. First, it has to land on a location that even still has a clue left to collect. Second, the location has to already be high shroud. Third, the investigators need to not have other ways to collect the clues.
Dealing with it: Alternate ways to collect clues bypass the Obscuring Fog completely. Typical examples are Drawn to the Flame, Scene of the Crime and Roland Banks’ investigator ability. If those are not available, the best bet is to commit enough icons to brute force the test and hope not to draw the auto-fail token.
My take on this set: Creeping Cold ties the two cards in it a bit closer together than the base set does, as both deal in discarding cards and can play off each other. Like the cards they replace, Inexplicable Cold can be impactful while Oppressive Mists is very situational. This is an okay replacement set, on par with Chilling Cold.
What it does: Inexplicable Cold changes the willpower check to an agility check. Instead of a binary pass/fail, the effect of the treachery scales with how much the test was failed by. For each missing point, the player has to either discard a card from play, from their hand or take one damage.
My take: This is a rare example where player choice was introduced into a “Return To” card, but the power level is still around the same as the base card. At full strength, this makes the player choose their poison four times which can certainly offset not going for the assets directly. The move to an agility check i like in this case as it makes the card more impactful for a wider range of investigators.
Threat level: Medium to High. The player choice does dampen how threatening the card feels, but the high ceiling of the card lets it keep most of its bite.
Dealing with it: Partial success still helps to weaken this cards impact, so even low agility investigators should consider pitching cards with multiple agility icons if available. Other than that, losing cards from hand or taking damage is usually much preferred to discarding assets, so having any of those to spare should keep the worst case scenarios away.
What it does: Like Obscuring Fog, the Oppressive Mists attach to a location, but that’s where the similarities end. There is no interaction with shroud or clues at all, instead Oppressive Mists makes investigators discard cards whenever they draw and fail a willpower test. To get rid of the card permanently, a player can spend two actions.
My take: Even more than Obscuring Fog, this card often fails to have any notable effect. Even if the willpower save and the two action discard option were not present, this wouldn’t be all that dangerous.
Threat level: Very Low. To be affected by this card, an investigator would either need to end their turn on the location with this already attached or draw extra cards during the investigator phase. Both scenarios are easy to avoid.
Dealing with it: Using the double action to clear the Mists is rarely worth it. Instead it should be easy enough to avoid triggering the card. The two actions would be better spent on just drawing two cards.
Return to Circle Undone: Chilling Mists
My take on this set:This is a neat replacement set that puts a spin on the original set without changing a whole lot about its place in the game or its impact. On the one hand that means that the swap doesn’t really change anything too significant about the campaign except removing a pair of willpower tests for agility, which is something that TCU desperately needs. On the other hand, this means the set fits neatly into any other campaign as well. I foresee using this set, both as a full replacement or as a mixed deal, in all the campaigns from time to time.
What it does: After failing a difficult agility test, the player has to discard cards from their hand or their play area with a total cost of at least the amount they failed by.
My take: This is a rough one. It’s difficult to not lose anything to this card, as passing an agility(5) test is certainly not something that most people would expect to do. If you fail the test in a major fashion, this can also easily discard multiple cards. The saving grace is that you are allowed to discard from your hand. So you don’t run into the classic situation where you invest a bunch of resources into one card only to have it fall to Crypt Chill in the next Mythos phase… unless you don’t actually have enough cards in hand to discard. All things considered, this is about on the same level as Crypt Chill and a card that deserves some respect.
Threat level: Mid to High. Will usually do at least something and has a high ceiling. Player choice mellows the effect at least a bit.
Dealing with it: Supernatural Tempest hits both your hand and your board, so there is little need to playing around the card. If you can, try keeping some high cost card in your hand instead of committing it for its icons, like a second copy of a ally or a spare gun. That way you can feed it into this and effectively cancel it. Otherwise, just take it as it comes and see what you can spare then. Generally speaking you’ll want to discard cards from your hand instead of from play.
What it does: Mists from Beyond attaches to a location where it increases the shroud by 1 as long as it stays attached. At the end of each round, Mists moves towards the nearest location with clues on it should there no longer be any on its current one.
My take: I really like this design. Where Obscuring Fog just discards after the investigator pushes past it once, this one sticks around. And not only that, it follows towards where the clues are. In exchange, it only increases by +1. Still, that can make the difference and work towards getting an extra haunted trigger from a failed investigation. While it doesn’t come with a built in trigger that discards it (like Fog and Oppressive Mists do), there are some ways to strand it at some non-victory location or something like that. Could lead to some interesting ingame decisions, which i am all for. I am almost a bit sad that this set only gets used twice during the RtTCU campaign.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Somewhat minor effect, but consistent and able to stick around for a long time.
Dealing with it: If you don’t want to Alter Fate it, the best way of getting rid of it would be directing it to a location you don’t intend on fully clearing and letting it sit there. Unless you are really strapped for clues that should be possible in the vast majority of cases.
My take on this set: A very interesting set that focuses on Intellect instead of the usual Agility or Willpower. Poltergeist is a cool twist on enemies that is most vulnerable to traditionally combat weak enemies while preying on the fighters. There are a lot more weapon relics around today than at Carcosa’s printing, but the poltergeist can still blindside a lot of players. I appreciate this small set a lot for how different it is.
What it does: Poltergeist is an enemy that poses a very unique threat. Its combat stats are on the low side, with average fight and only two life. However, the only way to damage it is by using spells and relics. Or encounter cards, which mostly refers to its own parley ability. Investigators can put one damage on the poltergeist by passing an Intellect check. If none of those options are available to the player, things are complicated by the poltergeist’s agility value of 4, making evasion difficult as well. At two horror per attack it can not be ignored for long either.
My take: Poltergeist is a surprisingly upsetting creature in some situations. It is hard to deal with for many investigators, putting Mystics and Seekers at the forefront for removing it from the board. Cool enemy, i’m glad stuff like this exists to keep players on their toes.
Threat level: Medium. Poltergeist deals enough horror to matter in the turns where it can not be removed early. If no Relic or Spell is around, the Seeker will find himself in the unusual role of having to kill an enemy, something that keeps him from doing his actual job and thus costing important actions.
Dealing with it: In a weird twist, the ways to deal with the poltergeist are actually printed right on the card. One interesting non-obvious piece of tech however is Fine Clothes. Since the option to investigate the poltergeist counts as Parley, Fine Clothes will drop the difficulty of the intellect to 1, allowing anyone to handle it with ease..
What it does: Spirit’s Torment attaches to the player’s location and asks for a clue and an action to defuse it. Otherwise, any time an investigator leaves that location, he will have to lose an action or take a horror.
My take: For investigators that can expect to be able to pick that clue right up, this treachery can be discarded by using two actions. So this baseline can be used to decide if it’s better to use that action or to just take the horror or action loss. Losing two actions is a significant cost to pay, so this card usually has an impact.
Threat level: Medium. Dealing with this treachery will usually require two actions, but has the potential to take more since there is a test involved in picking the clue back up. If the players will not need to return to that location, just taking the horror can become an option that makes drawing this encounter card a lot less troublesome.
Dealing with it: Thanks to the built in action to discard the treachery, the worst case is not too terrible. Like with Poltergeist, it is interesting that the clue getter of the group does have slightly less trouble with this card.
Appears in: The Gathering, The Devourer Below, The Pallid Mask, Thousand Shapes of Horror, Point of No Return, Dead Heat
My take on this set: Arkham LCG’s combat tutorial. The Ghoul set introduces the most basic enemies to the game with clean and simple 2/2/2 and 3/3/3 stats. Alongside those, we get one of the very few cards from the early life cycle of the game that tests agility, and that card is a reason to have some respect for this encounter set even when playing more advanced scenarios.
What it does: Grasping Hands deals damage to the investigator, based on how badly he does at an Agility test. With three of them in the encounter deck, these can stack up quick to become dangerous if one person draws multiples.
My take: I think this card is a good deal more threatening than its Willpower testing counterpart Rotting Remains. Willpower tests are much more common than agility tests, so players are usually more prepared for them. For low agility investigators, the damage from these can become significant fast once it starts to stack up with combat damage or additional copies of Grasping Hands.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Like all cards that deal non-direct damage or horror, the card for itself isn’t all that threatening because its effects can be soaked and there is no immediate break in momentum. It can become a serious issue at the tail end of a mission though if players are already battered up by whatever else was going on.
Dealing with it: For low agility investigators: First line of defense is staying above four life. Second line of defense is preparing for the agility test, for example by keeping some icons in hand. As an example, this is one of the few opportunities to actually make use of that icon on the .45 Automatic. Third line of defense is making your allies take the hit for you.
What it does: Ghoul Minions are weak enemies that usually go down in one hit from a weapon. Even most non-fighters can be expected to be able to take these down with fisticuffs if they need to.
My take: There’s three of them in the deck and usually you will be happy to see them because they tend to be one of the least threatening cards in the encounter deck. Defeating them only takes a single action in most cases and the low fight value means that missing them is little concern if you are even remotely prepared for a fight.
Threat level: Very Low. They are just not all that tough and can be dispatched or evaded easily.
Dealing with it: Pretty much any weapon will do. An investigator with high base fight value might even consider punching the Ghouls to save their ammo for later. Evading them is always an option as well, of course.
What it does: The Ravenous Ghoul is the baseline for an enemy that starts to pose an actual threat to the investigators. At three life, it usually requires an extra action to defeat. At three fight and evasion, low-skilled investigators can no longer expect to pass a test without investing in it.
My take: This card teaches how much of a difference an additional point in a stat can do. The increase from a 2/2/2 stat line to a 3/3/3 is huge, a valuable lesson to learn.
Threat level: Low. While an increase of strength over the Ghoul Minion, the Ravenous Ghoul is still a low impact enemy when looking at the greater picture. Its stats mean that a Seeker or similar character might need help from his teammates to deal with it, but even if the Ravenous Ghoul gets to attack once, he doesn’t hit hard enough to pose a serious threat.
Dealing with it: There’s only one of them in the deck, so no planning ahead is necessary. The standard ways to dealing with enemies apply.
Return to The Night of the Zealot: Ghouls of Umôrdhoth
Number of unique Cards
Enemies, Willpower, Discard(Hand), Damage
My take on this set: The replacement set for the Ghouls changes very little about the actual enemies. The change to the damage treachery is much more extensive, it has been reworked to be the primary piece of a discard theme that was added to all cards in the set. Due to a lack of further discard support in the Return to Night of the Zealot, this theme largely doesn’t come together though. Even Return to Devourer Below which threatens to immediately kill a player should they be left without a card after drawing a certain treachery, only gains little extra from the discard mini-theme. This hurts the impact of these cards, most importantly Chill from Beyond is not even half the card that Grasping Hands is.
What it does: Chill from Below replaces the Agility test on Grasping Hands with a Willpower test. Instead of dealing damage, it attacks the cards in hand and only deals damage once there are no cards left to discard.
My take: I heavily dislike this card. I dislike that the agility test gets scrapped and replaced by a Willpower test because there are too few agility tests around in the first place. I dislike that the damage part gets weakened by discarding cards first, removing every bit of threat that came from Grasping Hands. What is left is a card that is in the encounter deck three times and just doesn’t do a whole lot.
Threat level: Low. Low to Mid during Return to Devourer Below. Willpower tests are something that players are usually prepared for and 3 is not a particularly difficult number to beat. It might cost a card in hand or two at times, but that’s not a particularly dangerous effect from an encounter card.
Dealing with it: This card is usually not worth special attention. If protecting specific cards in hand is a concern for a player, keeping a couple other cards to feed into a Chill from Below is a good idea to lower the chances to hit something relevant. During Return to Devourer Below, Chill from Below feeds into the discard theme that can lead to an instant kill on Umôrdhoth’s Hunger. That interaction gives the card a bit more relevance there.
What it does: Grave-Eaters replace the Ghoul Minions in The Return to Night of the Zealot. They keep the iconic stat line and damage. They gain a new ability that discards cards from a player’s hand when they attack.
My take: Technically, they are an upgrade on the Ghoul Minion, but in practice this is not really all that relevant. After all, it’s rare that a Ghoul actually lives through the investigator phase.
Threat level: Very Low. The extra ability doesn’t increase the strength of this enemy in a way that matters much.
Dealing with it: No changes from the unmodified version.
What it does: The Acolyte of Umôrdhoth replaces the Ravenous Ghoul. It loses one point of evasion, but instead gains an extra ability that stops investigators from evading if they have no cards in hand.
My take: A slight downgrade of the Ravenous Ghoul. The ability only matters if no cards are left in hand, a rare occasion … unless you got hit by Chill from Below and/or Grave-Eaters a couple of times, i guess. I have to say, if this is the payoff for the discard theme running through this replacement set, that’s one hell of a weak payoff. Totally not worth to ruin a perfectly fine 3/3/3 stat line for that.
Threat level: Low. The difference to the Ravenous Ghoul is minor. Worst case the special ability of the Acolyte of Umôrdhoth translates to having to draw a card, taking one Attack of Opportunity.
Dealing with it: The standard ways to dealing with enemies apply.