Appears in: The Witching Hour, Wages of Sin, Union and Disillusion, In the Clutches of Chaos
My take on this set: I’m not a fan of this set. It’s supposed to represent one half of the central conflict in The Circle Undone, the coven of witches that oppose the lodge of the Silver Twilight. But where the Silver Twilight Lodge set does offer an intriguing spin on the Cultist theme and game play mechanics that prop up whole scenarios, the Coven set has little impact on gameplay. Their gimmick of discarding cards from the encounter deck doesn’t do a whole lot and has little payoff in other sets. It also lacks a clear tie to what it represents thematically, unlike the doom shenanigans on the cultists. Sadly, this encounter set is a major miss for me, i think it fails at establishing the witches as a major faction worth caring about. Thus, i fell like the Witches Coven is mostly represented ingame by scenario specific cards like Anette Mason herself and the Witchcraft set.
What it does: Coven Initiate’s statline of 2/2/2 is unimpressive, but she does come with a revelation effect. When she enters play, the top two cards of the encounter deck are discarded. If those were the last cards in the deck, the investigator has to draw the topmost Hex treachery from the discard pile.
My take: I’ve played through TCU a couple of times now (it’s one of my favorite campaigns) and seen a bunch of Initiates enter play. I have however never seen that ability to pull a Hex back from the discard pile actually fire. Discarding two cards is just not enough to matter in the vast majority of cases and the probability of those two cards being the last ones in the deck is minimal. There’s also only little payoff for the discard itself: For every Diabolic Voices that could be spilled into the discard, the ability might as well dump a Daemonic Pipings. In the end, Coven Initiate is little more than a vanilla Ghoul Minion. Maybe even less.
Threat level: Very low. They are easy to kill and do very little in addition to being filler enemies.
Dealing with it: An investigator that is currently affected by one of the Hexes from the Witchcraft set (or from the scenario specific ones) might want to evade the Initiate to fulfill the “exhausted Witch enemy at your location” condition. Everyone can just dispatch the enemy with whatever weapon is around. Or just punch her to save ammo. Defeating the Initiate will power up a later Priestess of the Coven, so depending on how much you feel threatened by this, you could consider evading the Initiate instead and just leaving her behind.
What it does: Priestess of the Coven is a much more dangerous enemy than her little Initiate sister. At three health, she’ll usually take an extra attack. But the more important thing is how she gets extra fight and evade from witch cards in the discard pile. Fully powered up, her five fight and evade are much more impressive and thanks to Retaliate, attacking her becomes a much more risky plan as well.
My take: How much of a problem the Priestess is going to be depends wildly on how far into the scenario you are when she appears. If she’s feeding off a full discard pile, she’s a resonably powerful enemy that can take a turn to take down and still threaten some damage through the Retaliate. Drawn very early, she’s only slightly more dangerous than her sisters and can be evaded and left behind.
Threat level: Mid to High. She has the potential to be a big threat, but the conditional nature of her stats limit her impact often.
Dealing with it: Evading her is somewhat unsatisfying, due to the scenarios in which she appears. In Witching Hour, she’ll move towards the Circle in the last act and catch up with the investigators there. In Wages of Sin and Clutches of Chaos, investigators will often want to backtrack and can not just leave evaded enemies behind cleanly. All the while, the Priestess will grow over time if she’s not at full power already. When trying to defeat her while she’s at full strength, it’s best to find a way to deal all three damage in one blow – both to conserve an action, but also to minimize the risk of retaliation.
(replaces Hideous Abominations from The Dunwich Legacy)
Goal of this replacement set: There are two issues i have with the base Abomination set and both revolve around the Conglomeration of Spheres. First, i think it punishes certain playstyles a lot more than others. For example if you have a Survivor as your enemy handler, evasion is really the only option because all they have for weapons is melee traited. The other thing i dislike is that those Conglomerations do not come with Victory points. For an enemy that can potentially take six actions to defeat, that would have seemed very appropriate. Also, it turns The House Always Wins into a lottery where you either get the opportunity to gain another VP or not because the first abomination drawn is random. The only two scenarios using this set are The House always Wins and Lost in Time and Space (and possibly in Where Doom Awaits if you killed Silas), so it’s not like that would have introduced too many XP into the campaign. The attempt of fixing both issues lead to the Proto-Shoggoth, a creature that punishes all manners of attack evenly, but rewards Victory for doing so. The other creature, the Reaver is modeled fairly close to the Lurker it replaces, with some stats switched around and a Forced effect that is more likely to fire. For using this set I suggest swapping out the whole thing, but making an Abomination set with three of the four enemies is certainly an interesting option as well. For Where Doom Awaits, I suggest using the original set since it calls out one of the enemies by name in the story text.
About this card: Investigators will have to team up to defeat this monster in one turn while solo investigators would need to use one of their actions to evade if they want to kill it without being hit back. The fight value of three was chosen so that most investigators may still want to use a weapon when attacking Proto-Shoggoth, even if it’s just for a combat bonus. I chose to reduce the evasion of both enemies in this set, to open up another venue to finishing the scenario (maybe even saving Peter Clover!) for players who are not able to deal with these monsters yet (it’s the first or second scenario after all).
About this card: Just like Servant of the Lurker, the Reaver is a tough enemy to fight, so claiming the Victory point becomes an ordeal. This is especially true under the time pressure of The House Always Wins which also can have players running around with their level zero starting deck, so the evasion of 1 was done as a failsafe that players can exploit if they need to get past it without being dragged into a fight with this enemy.
Goal of this replacement set: The Dunwich set revolves around the inhospitality of the town of Dunwich and of the lands around it. With the replacement set, Dunwich Folk, i want to zoom in closer on the people themselves and represent them with their own card during the two scenarios they are used in: Blood on the Altar and Undimensioned and Unseen. The second card in this set then combines ideas from the two original cards into one, dealing horror and countering ally assets. Both of the scenarios using this set have players move around a lot and revisiting previous locations and both of the cards in Dunwich Folks have effects that play off of that.
About this card: A top to bottom design that started out as the desire to have the Dunwichers themselves show up in the game and be a bit of a pain as investigators will have to placate them while in their town. Nosy as they are, they follow players around who then will have to spend extra effort to get where they want. Of course this can get them killed if they actually follow the players to where some real horror is… say, one of the Broods of Yog-Sothoth. Or a creature from the Beast Thralls or Monstrous Thralls. Players will just have to deal with these guys being around because if they decide to straight up murder them, they will have to live with their guilt – a mechanic that is lifted from the Helpless Passenger in Essex County Express. Note that being discarded by a monster will not trigger this horror, because defeated and discarded are different things.
About this card: Sordid and Silent always felt like a bit of a do-nothing card to me. Great flavor, but little to no effect on the actual game. By triggering the effect on moving into a location, i aim to fix that on my own version, Shut Out and Excluded. The horror is only dealt to allies, as a nod to the original Unhallowed Country card.
(replaces Bishop’s Thralls from The Dunwich Legacy)
Goal of this replacement set: The Bishop’s Thralls set doesn’t have any glaring problems in need of fixing. The Thrall card itself is somewhat unexciting, but by and large that is fine. Light of Aforgomon is maybe a bit punishing to some characters, but its effect is still something that i would like to keep around in some form. As a result, this replacement set largely follows the same structure (and weirdness) of the base set: There’s three small and largely harmless enemy creatures, there’s a somewhat dangerous Hunter enemy. Oh, and there is a random treachery related to Aforgomon, who as the god of time apparently doesn’t appreciate you using your assets for soaking? This replacement set puts a larger focus on the one Hunter enemy, with the smaller Thralls facilitating its arrival and possibly even its rebirth. This set is designed to replace Bishop’s Thralls in both Extracurricular Activities and Where Doom Awaits, but works especially well in the former. Due to the close mechanical interaction between the Harbinger and the Vassals this set is not well suited to be used with the original set in a mix-and-match style. I suggest doing a full swap of the sets when you want to use these alternate cards.
About this card: An unassuming enemy on its own, taking up any so far empty location on the board. Aside from just being some small enemy, the Thrall can act as a conduit to put Harbinger of Yog-Sothoth into play, should that enemy have been discarded either from play (for example by its own Forced effect after a successful attack) or from the encounter deck (for example by players digging for “Jazz” in Extracurricular Activity).
About this card: While the Harbinger has reduced combat stats when compared to the card it replaces, it’s enough for it to get off one attack to cause a lot of damage and inflicting another treachery. Harbinger is then discarded, possibly causing it to reappear with full health and a new treachery at a Vassal’s location. If the players want to claim the victory point and get rid of this creature for good, they will either have to catch it without a treachery attached or kill it in one turn.
About this card: Like the original card, Gaze stops players from using their assets efficiently for soak. It does however offer a way out of it for players who are punished by it more than others by having them sacrifice two of those assets. It will also not do anything as long as players kill off their assets before act or scene advance. As a final point, this replacement card affects only the person who drew it and not the whole group. While that makes it lower impact in total, this card does not run into situations where it’s just discarded right away either. The player will have to deal with this card in some way, something that often wasn’t the case with Light of Aforgomon.
Welcome to the first installment of Weekly Evils. As the name implies, one of these will go up every week. There’s not a specific day set aside for it, it will just happen some time on the weekend. These posts will serve two purposes, each of them gets its own little sub-headline. First, the week in review. This is a recap of developments on the Ancient Evils site itself. So, new posts on encounter sets, changes to layouts, additions made, etc. Basically everything related to this site itself. I’ll try to keep that part relatively short unless i actually did do a lot of changes. Second, the soapbox. That’s where i look beyond the confines of this site at whatever else is happening in ArkhamLCG land that i feel like commenting on. I might not always have to say something, we’ll see. But enough of the preambles, let’s get to it.
Week in Review
This week’s additions to the Main Content were the Serpents encounter set, a look at the Heart of the Elders #1 full encounter deck and then moving on to TCU’s Agents of Azathoth set. I added another replacement set to the custom content section: Monstrous Thralls is intended to replace Beast Thralls and has some nasty critters on display. More custom sets will be coming shortly, i have several mostly done that i only need to give the last bits of extra care. Return to the Forgotten Age saw its release, so i also added my full and revised thoughts on three of the four sets to the pages of the sets they replace. The ones added are the Cult of Pnakotus, the Doomed Expedition and Temporal Hunters. I don’t have a page for Yig’s Venom yet, so the review on Venomous Hate will have to wait until then. In those pages i went into much more detailed thoughts than in the first impressions that i had posted a few weeks ago. Playing with the cards (and in two cases, actually reading the card properly) also changed my opinions on several of them quite a bit, so check that out if you are interested.
I managed to snatch up a copy of RtTFA and am currently in the middle of a campaign, playing two-handed with Silas and Carolyn, both investigators i never played before. It’s … a challenge! I really like the RtTFA box, it improves many of the mechanics in the campaign, adds a solid amount of variety and i do enjoy the new encounter sets quite a bit. Great product, i wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to replay TFA. Looking at what the rest of the community says, i do not seem to be alone with this opinion, general reception seems to have been excellent.
Parallel “Skids” O’Toole takes everything that made up “Skids” identity card, tossed all out the window, took a completely unrelated investigator with wildly different abilities and card access and called that thing “Skids”. Now everyone is losing their minds about how great the rework is and i just don’t get it 😀 Don’t get me wrong, i think this new investigator looks great fun. Those deck building options are amazing and make my head hurt with all the crazy stuff you can do with it. But how is this a rework of Skids? It’s completely new and the only thing remaining from the original is the stat line and the signature cards… signature cards that weren’t terribly exciting in the first place. Compare to the rework of Daisy Walker. Parallel Daisy is noticably different, but she is still very much Daisy, with the same themes as her original. It’s like telling me you know how to make a bland salad really tasty … and then replacing it with a steak. It’s an improvement, sure. But did you actually do what you said you would do? In the end my complaints are largely academic, though. We got new content, it’s good content, it’s free, so i am happy about it. I like steak. And for what it’s worth, the two Skids being so different from each other means that the option to mix and match their fronts and backs makes for some very fascinating combinations as well. That wasn’t really the case with Daisy and her shadow clone, so Skids got that going for him. Once i got through my first trip through the jungle, i will print up that shadow Skids and see what fun things can be done with him for sure.
Appears in: The Witching Hour, In the Clutches of Chaos, Before the Black Throne
My take on this set: A refreshing detour from the other “Agents of” sets, this one basically consists of only one enemy and the convoluted way of how it enters play. I very much like this design and how it achieves making a card that immediately does nothing more than “Nothing happens, draw another card.” into something that i dread drawing from the deck. My only gripe with the set would be how different these sort of set collection cards work depending on player count. In four players, going through the encounter deck happens a lot faster than at two or even one players and as a result meeting the Piper is much more likely there. Now granted, the Piper’s stats and abilities really do call for a coordinated effort in taking it down, so maybe that’s all fair enough in the end. But as someone who only plays at two player count myself, i don’t think i saw the Piper outside of Before the Black Throne so far. A bit of a pity.
What it does: Daemonic Piping has no immediate effect except for being put into play next to the agenda deck and surging into another encounter card. Once all three copies of Piping have been put into play this way, this will however summon the Piper of Azathoth, a powerful Hunter enemy that deals a lot of horror damage to investigators at its location. The Piper can only enter play through the treachery effect because it is set aside at at setup and is not part of the actual encounter deck. Should the Piper already be in play when drawing the Daemonic Piping treachery, each investigator at its location and the ones connected to it will suffer further horror.
My take: An interesting and unique spin on a boss enemy. The requirement of having to draw all three Pipings first makes sure that the Piper will only enter play a couple turns in, when players are set up with their assets and ready to fight it. That sort of failsafe is sorely needed; the Piper is a formidable enemy that is very hard to take down. The high fight stat in combination with Retaliate and a lot of life can lead to frustration even for seasoned enemy handlers such as Tony Morgan or Mark Harrigan. These are some very hard to earn victory points indeed and will usually require two or more investigators working together.
Threat level: Mid for the Pipings, Very High for the Piper itself. Pipings might be the most frightening “Do Nothing but Surge for now” treachery in the game.
Dealing with Daemonic Pipings: Obviously there’s a bit of variance to when the Pipings are drawn. In games with one or two investigators, there’s a good chance that you won’t even go through the encounter deck during the scenario and that the third Pipings never shows up. In Witching Hour and Clutches of Chaos(Coven), there is also a number of cards in the encounter deck that discard encounter cards, possibly defusing the threat of a Piper appearing until the next reshuffle. Canceling one of the treacheries is a good way to prevent the Piper for a while, but it should be noted that a card like Ward of Protection(0) or (2) or Forewarned will only cancel the revalation effect, so the Surge will still happen. Only Ward(5) will completely stop the card from doing anything.
Dealing with the Piper of Azathoth: The achilles heel of this enemy is its low agility of only 2. Just evading it can be a temporary solution, but especially with its ability to attack even when exhausted it can be hard to completely avoid being smacked for two horror here and there. To deal with it in a permanent way, exhaust it by evading it before beating down. This will shut down the Retaliate keyword, removing a lot of the risk that comes from engaging the Piper. To avoid being attacked in the enemy phase, investigators should team up to have a chance at taking down the monster in one phase. Seven health translates to about three to four successful attack actions. Add the evasion action on top and it’s apparent that these are two hard earned victory points indeed. Using whatever burst damage is available, from Vicious Blow over Timeless Brand to Beat Cop activations, is going to be key to minimizing the amount of damage that the Piper can deal to you. A card like Dynamite Blast can also be useful to soften up the Piper before engaging it.
Goal of this replacement set: There is nothing wrong with the original Beast Thralls, so this is not a replacement set that is meant to fix anything. Instead, it just attempts to provide more variety and add to the card pool to draw from when playing the two associated scenarios, Where Doom Awaits and Undimensioned and Unseen. Since each card stands on its own perfectly fine, i could see running one of each of the original cards with one of each of the replacements instead of swapping out the whole thing. The original set consists of a couple really high powered cards, in turn i enjoyed getting to create some nasty critters of my own here.
Replaces Avian Thrall. Number of these in the encounter set: 2
About this card: Ursine Thrall is meant to follow a similar line of play as the Avian Thrall. It spawns right on the investigator who drew it and is difficult to defeat. Instead of having high fight to let it endure, this one has a damage prevention effect. Where Avian Thralls are easier to defeat with specific weapons, Ursine Thrall is easiest to kill when you can deliver big chunks of damage at the same time. Because of the large amount of actions that Ursine Thrall could eat up if it has to be defeated with regular two damage attacks (and being invulnerable to anything less than that) i made it easy to evade and even gave anyone trying to do so a head start by making it come into play exhausted.
Replaces Lupine Thrall. Number of these in the encounter set: 2
About this card: The aggressive counterpart to the sluggish Ursine Thrall, this monster pig uses the same Spawn conditions as the original Lupine Thrall and then starts hunting. Players are advised to come towards this enemy themselves because if they get caught by the Hunter movement, this will lead to a truly hurtful three damage attack. It has an ability to disengage and try for another ram attack when it is hurt, but i lowered its health to three, so there is a chance to take it out in one hit.
Replaces Altered Beast. Number of these in the encounter set: 2
About this card: Like with the original Altered Beast, it’s not enough to look at this card with the other cards from this set in mind. Instead, one has to consider which other enemies are also possible to be affected. Most importantly, that means the Broods of Yog-Sothoth in Undimensioned and Unseen, but also the lowly Thrall from the Bishop’s Thralls set in Where Doom Awaits. The extra damage is relevant on all these enemies, but the addition of the Elite trait was done specifically with the Broods in mind. Exploiting their non-Elite status with Waylay and similar cards is a thing, to the point where Return to U&U added two copies of a card that grant Elite to a Brood. In addition to being nasty on their own with the extra damage and horror, the Bestial Rage can be considered redundancy to that fix from Return to U&U.
My take on this encounter deck: On the flavor side, it’s worth mentioning that there are no non-TFA sets used in either of the Hearts of the Elders scenarios (or Depths of Yoth, for that matter), hammering home that we are truely far away from home here in the jungle. As for the contents of the encounter deck itself, i think the best word to sum it up would be “Hostile.” This is an incredibly nasty encounter deck, dead set on killing your stuff, poisoning you and dumping Yig’s Fury on your campaign. There are only few enemies in the deck and all of them go to the victory display, so there’s no recurring threats if you should kill some of them. Despite of this, the small map and the additional threat of the scenario specific Feathered Serpent means that the scenario feels much more crowded with enemies than the numbers would suggest. Especially players who want to avoid taking any Vengeance upon them will feel the pain as four big Hunter enemies are breathing down their necks while the rest of the encounter deck tries to hurt them or block their path. Between Ants, Snake Bite and Low on Supplies it’s hard to keep assets on the field. This in turn means that it’s harder to soak any of the numerous sources of damage that are around. Poison Spores, Overgrowth, Strangleweed and Lost in the Wilds can block players from moving, making them vulnerable to the Hunter enemies. There’s a lot of synergy in the encounter cards here, and that is the main reason for this scenario to be much more threatening than one would expect from one that only makes up half of a Mythos pack. Counter these: Ants!, Lost in the Wilds. Ants potentially costs way too many cards than is reasonable; preventing a major blow to a player’s assets and cards would be well worth a cancel. Lost in the Wilds is this scenario’s premiere time waster, costing precious actions and leaving the investigator open to attacks from the Hunter enemies. It thus also earns a spot on this list of priority targets.
Number in the encounter deck: 3
What it does: Poisonous Spores attaches to the player’s location and has no immediate effect. However, at the end of the round it will poison any investigator at its location. Investigators who are already poisoned take two horror instead. The treachery is then discarded for good.
My take: In most other scenarios this card wouldn’t be too bad, however the small map, the Hunter enemies and the other movement restrictions around play right into this card. Avoiding the Poison weakness will likely cause the players to lose a few actions to play around this card and actions are very precious in this scenario.
Threat level: Mid. Moving out of the location and back in the next turn equals two lost actions, which can be considered the standard impact of the card. Depending on other circumstances the card can be much worse (when already under pressure) – or almost a freebie (when you already were planning on moving along).
Dealing with it: If it appears on a location that still has many clues left, it’s usually best to just accept the loss of two actions and not risk the poison. In other cases, investigating the last clues and either moving or exploring then can be the correct choice instead, albeit a risky one as a failed exploration can get you stranded in the location. Investigators that are already poisoned might consider just soaking the horror if able. There is not a whole lot of other pressure on horror in this scenario, so taking the hit could save some much more important actions.
Number in the encounter deck: 3
What it does: Similar to Grasping Hands from the Ghouls set, Pitfall asks the player to take an agility test and then deals damage depending on how many points they failed by. Pitfall does offer a choice to the player, though: Instead of immediately dealing with the effect, they can choose to shuffle Pitfall into the exploration deck. Once drawn from the exploration deck, it can not be shuffled back, it has to be resolved then. The card has Peril, so no other players get a say in the decision and they are also not able to help with card commits or cancels.
My take: An interesting variant of a classic Core set card, there’s an extra player choice here. Appropriately enough, this is largely a trap though as postponing the effect will cost an extra action down the line from the failed exploration. Still, for players who are already carrying a lot of damage tokens with them this can be an option that saves their lifes. It also means that the card loses its teeth once there is no more exploration to do.
Threat level: Low to Mid.The extra player choice weakens the impact somewhat, but Peril counteracts this. It’s slightly less weaker than Grasping Hands, but not enough to warrant a “Low” rating – Graspng Hands is already on the higher end of the Low to Mid category.
Dealing with it: Unless the players do not plan on doing further exploration (or only very little), shuffling the card into the exploration deck should be avoided to prevent the extra action cost from a failed exploration. An exception could be made if the bulk of the exploration is being done by a high agility investigator or if the player who drew this card is risking death on a failed agility test.
Number in the encounter deck: 2
What it does: Basilisks are large Hunter enemies with an impressive 4/4/4 stat line. They deal two damage on an attack, which is absolutely to be avoided considering the amount of other damage sources in this scenario. Killing it will incur a Vengeance 2 penalty, but they come with a special Forced effect that can get rid of them temporarily: Whenever a player pays the clues for another pillar token, one Basilisk is shuffled back into the encounter deck. As a rules clarification, note that the Forced effect is only active while the Basilisk is in play. So it won’t be shuffled back from the encounter discard or the victory display.
My take: These snakes make up half of the Hunter enemy contingent in the first part of Heart of the Elders. They hit hard, they are difficult to evade and defeating them is tough. When these show up, they are basically always a huge problem.
Threat level: High. It’s a large enemy that can not be ignored and whatever way you choose of dealing with it, it will likely cost multiple actions.
Dealing with it: Evading and running away from it is probably the standard way to keep the Basilisk from eating you. That being said, the evasion on this serpent is quite high and if nobody in the group is up for the task, it comes down to either killing it (which requires a dedicated fighter and will lead to two points of Yig’s Fury) or triggering its Forced effect. The latter requires running all the way to the starting position and back to the group, possibly running into other Hunters (like the Feathered Serpent) or obstacles along the way. It is not an Elite enemy, so there exists some tech in the player cards that can neutralize the Basilisk cleanly, such as Waylay, Close Call or even just Stray Cat.
Number in the encounter deck: 2
What it does: At 6 health, the Strangleweed will usually require at least a full turn to defeat. It has strength and agility of three, so the difficulty to hit or evade it is standard, but failing any of those will be punished by the Alert and Retaliate keywords. Should the Strangleweed get to make an attack of opportunity, the victim will have to lose all actions and end their turn immediately unless they carry a pocketknife. Killing the Strangleweed awards a victory point. Rules clarification: Attacks resulting from the Alert and Retaliate keywords do not count as attacks of opportunity, so they will not trigger the Forced effect.
My take: For a proper fighter, grabbing this victory point isn’t very difficult, but it does cost a considerable amount of actions that may be needed elsewhere. If the plan is not to defeat this card, it will usually act as a roadblock that sits on a location and makes players take another route on their way back to the starting location. Not getting hit by the Forced effect is perfectly avoidable but it will mostly stop a player from deploying a weapon or spell while engaged.
Threat level: Mid to High. Unlike the Basilisk, a successful evasion allows to deal with the card more permanently.
Dealing with it: Fight and Flight are both very vald options here and which one to pick will mostly depend on how well you are doing at that point. If it’s fine to spend the two or three extra actions, killing the Strangleweed is a good way to earn extra experience. Otherwise let it stick and take a different path on your way back to deliver the clues.
Number in the encounter deck: 3
What it does: The player has to take an agility test at difficulty four. If they fail, they’ll have to discard a random card from their hand or a chosen card from their assets for each point they failed by.
My take: Yuck. With Ants!, drawing a bad chaos token or simply being bad at agility tests can really rain on your parade. And with a -5 and the autofail in the bag even on Standard, this is a real possibility even for high agility investigators. Losing up to four cards can be really impactful and you don’t even get to choose which cards to discard from your hand.
Threat level: High. The test has a high enough difficulty that even someone like Rita or Wendy has to be afraid of this treachery.
Dealing with it: As with every scaling tests, it can be worth committing cards to the test. Ideally you’d want to commit something with two or more agility pips, of course. But even though committing a single icon card only breaks even, it does at least give some control over which cards to lose. Having disposable assets in play that can be discarded to the effect can help soften the blow and so can keeping lots of cards in hand. However, it should be noted that this approach is not perfect as there are three Ants! cards in the encounter deck and the second one is likely going to hurt a lot more than the first. If you are running cancel cards like Ward of Protection, Test of Faith or Deny Existence, consider holding one of them back to neutralize the Ants.
Return to Heart of the Elders #1
My take on the modified scenario: There’s only one card that is added to the encounter deck by the Return to Forgotten Age box. The brunt of the changes to the scenario are the result of the new exploration rules and the new Rainforest locations. The Expedition set is replaced by Doomed Expedition, a change that i don’t care much about. That replacement set is not better or worse, it’s just different. Which is perfectly fine, of course. The first act now has to be advanced, so you can no longer ignore the Serpent. All things considered, nothing huge changed about this scenario. You are still running through the jungle, grabbing clues while being followed by a bunch of Hunter enemies that you can’t kill without collecting Vengeance. It is fitting then, that the new card that is added to the deck twice is another Hunter enemy. That you can not kill without collecting Vengeance. On a final note, the change to the resolution of the scenario that lets you skip repeated plays of HotE#1 for a price doesn’t do anything for me at all. The price is so comically high that it fixes nothing. But to be honest, i never had to replay this scenario before anyways. Final verdict: Return to Forgotten Age is a great box that changes up many scenarios and makes them more interesting. This is not one of those scenarios, it plays exactly as before. The exploration change is nice, but that’s pretty much it as far as HotE#1 is concerned.
Number in the encounter deck: 2
What it does: Feathered Serpent becomes a Hunter as soon as three pillar tokens are placed on Mouth of K’n-yan. Unless the investigators horribly bungled Boundary Beyond, that should be the case pretty much at all times. Their stats are in line with other Hunter enemies in this scenario, but as a unique twist they can be evaded automatically by using the Mysterious Scepter, a supply that possibly can be picked up during Return to Doom of Eztli. Killing the Feathered Serpent will add a Vengeance to the victory display.
My take: Nothing too new here. The Feathered Serpent doesn’t change how the scenario works, it just adds more Hunters to the deck, making it more likely to be swarmed right away. The interaction with the scepter is cute, but you aren’t guaranteed to get that thing in the first place. Maybe the most relevant thing here is how they are another Vengeance enemy in a scenario that is already hard to do without angering Yig.
Threat level: Mid. Three life is a lot less than four, so these flying snakes play second fiddle to the creatures from the base scenario.
Dealing with it: Picking up the scepter in Doom of Eztli is not terribly difficult, so do that for sure if you get the option. Aside from that, treat these enemies just like the other enemies that are following you through the jungle. Try to evade them, stay ahead of them and only kill them if you have to.
My take on this set: Poison, dead allies and annoying enemies. That’s what to expect when the Serpents set is shuffled into the encounter deck. All of these cards are dangerous in their own way, i have the utmost respect for this batch of cards. Thematically, they are responsible for a lot of the impression that the Forgotten Age campaign is filled to the brim with snakes. For that reason, i was surprised when i realized that this set is actually only used in two of the nine scenarios.
Number in the encounter deck: 3
What it does: Pit Vipers only have one hit point, but at three strength and agility they at least demand some minimum of capability to be hit or evaded. If they die, they are added to the victory display where they will count as one point of vengeance. If a player gets damaged by the Viper, they become poisoned.
My take: This creature is, as it says right there on the card, deadlier than it seems. The one point of health is daring players to kill the snake and make them earn Yig’s wrath. If the player doesn’t have enough agility or other means to evade the Viper and leave it behind, killing it is at least preferrable to getting poisoned.
Threat level: Medium. In spite of its low stats, the abilities on the Viper mean that dealing with it isn’t a simple question of making a test, there’s some decision making behind it.
Dealing with it: First off, please don’t get poisoned by the Pit Viper. That fate should be entirely avoidable, even if it means just killing the thing. Note that soaking the hit does not protect from the poison. You will get that weakness even if an ally or other asset takes the damage for you. But do try to evade them when possible, the Vengeance really does add up and the payoff for it later in the campaign will reward you for not stepping on every snake you find.
Number in the encounter deck: 1
What it does: With four health and strength, the Boa is a formidable opponent in a fight. Evading it is easier, but it does have Hunter to come after the investigators on the following turns. Whenever it attacks, it ties down the exhausted cards of the victim for a turn in addition to dealing horror and damage. Killing the Boa leads to two points of Vengeance.
My take: A dangerous Hunter enemy with a special perk on attacking and you even get punished for killing it. This creature is a huge pain, especially when drawn early and you still expect having to use several actions on exploration. The grid of locations isn’t particularly large in the Forgotten Age scenarios and there’s a lot of connections between them, making it easy for Hunters to catch up with the players. As another thing to pile onto the unpleasantness of this enemy, consider that Heart of the Elders also comes with the Feathered Serpent and two Basilisks to double down on this theme.
Threat level: High to Very High. Either spend actions to evade this enemy over and over or take the two vengeance – provided you are able to take it down easily in the first place, which isn’t trivial. There’s just no winning situation here.
Dealing with it: The Boa is easy enough to evade, but the small and interconnected maps make it hard to stay ahead of it once its in pursuit. Depending on how early you still are into the scenario when you draw the Boa, getting rid of it permanently can be an option despite the Vengeance hit.
Number in the encounter deck: 3
What it does: Snake Bite asks the player to take a test against agility. If they fail, they either have to deal five damage to an ally or one direct damage to themselves. If they choose the latter, they are also poisoned.
My take: There’s three of them in the encounter deck. Three! What this translates to is a whole lot of dead allies unless you are willing to be poisoned. This is one of the primary sources for poison in the campaign and a nightmare for any investigator that is low on agility. The only ones who can look at this card a bit more relaxed are investigators who can expect to pass that test and those who are already poisoned and can just take a point of damage.
Threat level: High. As long as these are around, keeping allies on the board can become difficult.
Dealing with it: On the one hand, you don’t want your important allies like Leo de Luca or Jessica Hyde to die. On the other hand, using disposable allies to take the hit for you is a valid strategy against this card if the investigator has low agility and doesn’t want to get poisoned. Investigators who run Charisma will find that they can deal with this card a lot better than others as they are more likely to have disposable allies.
My take on this set: Aside from providing a critical mass of locations for the exploration deck in the two scenarios it’s used in, the Rainforest set adds two treacheries to the encounter deck. Fittingly, both deal with exploring: One stops players from exploring a certain location, the other one punishes players for not exploring. Both are reasonably powerful cards that have some impact on the game.
Number in the encounter deck: 2
What it does: Overgrowth is attached to the current location until a player manages to spend an action and pass a test against strength or intellect at a difficulty of four. While Overgrowth is in play, players can not explore at that location.
My take: It’s Locked Door, except for exploration. Unlike Locked Door, which always seeks out a location where players may want to investigate, Overgrowth has no such clause and will just attach wherever the investigator currently stands. As a result, Overgrowth will often be drawn in places where exploring isn’t necessary because either the connections have already been found or they can be found from a different location. When it is relevant, it is quite annoying though. The tests are high enough to require some extra work and there are no easy ways to bypass the card like there are for Locked Door.
Threat level: Medium. Overgrowth has a tendency to attach to locations where it is no longer a huge deal, similar to Obscuring Fog from the core set. Whenever it is in the way, it’s a bit of a problem though.
Dealing with it: If nobody with naturally high strength or intellect is around to dispatch this card, it can be worth moving to a connecting location and exploring from there. If that’s not an option either, getting rid of Overgrowth can take several actions or a serious expense of cards committed to the test.
Number in the encounter deck: 2
What it does: After drawing Voice of the Jungle, the player will have to keep it in their threat area until they spend an action and pass a willpower test. While affected by the treachery, they take one horror each turn unless they successfully explored.
My take: I like this card’s design a lot. Anyone who doesn’t have the willpower to get rid of this card will have to consider if they are better off taking the horror instead of risking extra encounter card draws from failed explorations. It’s very tempting to go for the exploration to keep the Voice from hurting you until you find a solution for it, and after all you’ll want to explore eventually anyways … but that can just see the player run straight into the arms of the next problem while others are still on the board. Great theme.
Threat level: Low to Medium. If it’s allowed to stick around, the card will reward bad decision making… until there’s actually nothing to explore left at which point the card just turns into a clock that will slowly eat away the investigator’s sanity. Luckily the difficulty of the willpower test is fairly tame and should be doable for anyone who is properly prepared.
Dealing with it: Passing willpower tests or having a way around them is a basic requirement for any investigator, Voice of the Jungle is merely the next card enforcing this expectation. Remember that anyone at the same location as the affected investigator can attempt the test, so someone with better willpower can bail out their friends.