My take on this set: The two enemies in this set are suprisingly potent. The engagement abilities make sure they have some sort of lasting effect even if they are drawn by the enemy handler. The set is only used in two scenarios (random side fact: they are the same two scenarios that Decay & Filth are used in) and its impact is fairly different between the two. For one, the treachery gets some extra kick in Last King, where it can randomly apply to the unique mini-bosses. On the other hand, the two enemies gain some extra meaning in the Unspeakable Oath. Oath is a scenario that features a lot of backtracking and is generally putting investigators under a lot of pressure throughout its rather long runtime. Those little pings of damage and horror matter a lot more in that scenario because there’s just so much that also goes after those resources. There’s also no easy resign option in Oath and the stakes are very high, so every point of stamina and sanity just matter so much more. This is a pretty great set, offering enemies that are both challenging and different. It’s great then that the whole engagement mechanic is being revisited three and a half years later in the Innsmouth cycle with the Deep Ones using exactly that as their central gimmick.
What it does: Maniac has a surprisingly beefy statline considering it’s just a human asylum inmate. After engaging, Maniac deals one point of damage to the investigator and to himself, effectively turning him into an enemy with 3 stamina which is still enough to often take two actions. He has a low agility score of only 1 so he’s easy enough to evade.
My take: A respectable enemy. Dealing a testless damage right away is relevant for sure, and what is effectively a 3/3/1 enemy afterwards is not exactly a pushover either. Evasion is tempting, but opens up the possibility of being hit by the engage effect again at a later point. Both Last King and Unspeakable Oath feature a good amount of backtracking, so the decision whether to evade or kill the Maniac is going to be very dependant on context.
Threat level: Medium. It’s not a high profile enemy, but will always be a noticable speed bump. The engage effect also guarantees some lasting effect.
Dealing with it: If evasion is an option, then that will usually be the more efficient way of dealing with the Maniac. Killing the Maniac with a 3-damage action is usually worth it, though. Having some extra soak from allies or other assets can give the necessary room to afford engaging this enemy more than one time, making evasion a more attractive option even when it’s at a location you plan on revisiting.
What it does: Young Psychopath has only low combat stats, she does however have an engagement ability that makes the investigator choose: Either they take a horror, or the enemy gets a hefty bonus to her fight value.
My take: Declining the horror puts her fight stat to 5, more than enough to make even seasoned fighters put some effort in if they want to consistently succeed. Like with the Maniac, there is some interesting decision making involved in determining how to deal with this one. Taking the horror and slapping the Psychopath for two damage is what i consider the default option. I would only consider skipping the horror if i either plan on evading her or if i had a source of two testless damage. 5 fight is just too much to push through with a standard fight roll, i wouldn’t want to spend ammo, charges or even just actions on failed tests here.
Threat level: Low to Mid. As long as the horror is fine, this enemy doesn’t pose too much of a problem.
Dealing with it: Anyone with testless damage can get out of their encounter with the Young Psychopath without much of an issue. Anyone else will likely have to take the horror to keep her from being too difficult to defeat. Evasion based investigators have that option open to them, of course. But her agility of 3 is enough that many other investigators would even have some problem with doing so reliably.
What it does: The investigator takes a willpower test at difficulty 3. After failing, the nearest Lunatic enemy will move to their location, then engage and attack. If no Lunatics are in play, Dance of the Yellow King surges.
My take: Aside from the damage and horror from the attack, this card will also trigger the engagement ability from the Maniac or Young Psychopath if one of those two moved towards you and engaged. Considering that both of those enemies do have some incentive for evading them instead of killing them straight up, this can have those enemies get some extra mileage out of their abilities. In practice, this treachery rarely lives up to its potential, though. For one, there needs to be a Lunatic around and the damage/horror needs to be relevant right now which is not always the case. Even when everything aligns that the treachery would be bad to deal with, the willpower test offers a reasonable way for most players to deflect it. As a final note, this card has extra value in The Last King. All of the party guests become Lunatics when they transform, so Dance can deliver some very powerful enemies right to you threat area.
Threat level: Low in Unspeakable Oath. Medium in The Last King. The average consequences of this card are fairly low and the willpower test is able to defuse it most of the time when it would excel.
Dealing with it: The primary way of dealing with this card is dealing with the enemy that would be moved. If that enemy would be a huge bother, especially during Last King, committing cards to the Willpower test can be worth it.
The first look at the Innsmouth Conspiracy came to a close with the post on its well-received first scenario, The Pit of Despair. While it does have one of the most cheesy titles ever (sounds like something the Master prepared to capture the Doctor), this is a suspenseful and really quite difficult first step into that campaign. After that, it was back to Dunwich for Lost in Time and Space (again, sounds like something from Doctor Who!) and one of its encounter sets, Hideous Abominations. LiTaS is to this day the best campaign finale in my opinion.
I was originally going to post part #2 of my Arkham storage and components showcase that i started last week, but something else came up that i want to talk about instead this week. MJ Newman, Lead Designer for Arkham LCG, posted a behind-the-scenes article about enemy design on their blog, which you can find here. Give that post a read for sure if the design behind encounter cards is interesting to you in any shape or form (if not, what are you even doing on my site?). It’s obviously very relevant to my interests and to the content of my site, so i wanted to … well, compare notes.
Some of what they wrote in their blog of course mirrored what i pieced together myself or with my own observations about how enemies and investigators interact. As someone who also played LotRLCG (but never got into the design behind it as much as i do now with Arkham), i thought the comparison of how the enemies work in the two games was interesting. Makes perfect sense to me. While LotR certainly has its standout enemies as well (that Hill Troll in Journey down the Anduin comes to mind for those who are familiar with the game…), it never gets quite as personal as in Arkham.
The concept of ‘pinning’ an investigator was also something that i liked seeing spelled out. It’s something that we usually try to adress in deck building, so having to skip a full turn hopefully never really happens – either because we have a timely “I’ve got a plan!” for that occasion or because we partnered up with Mark Harrigan who will gladly take care of the issue for us. But by intentionally giving enemies the capability of threatening such a circumstance the designers made this sort of planning necessary in the first place. And in turn it creates good gameplay at every step along the way – from building the deck to playing out your turns.
Over the last weeks and months, i looked at a lot of different statlines for Arkham enemy cards, leading to recognizing some of the things MJ explained with their examples. Much of what i write about when discussing enemies is the question of Defeat vs Evade and how some keywords or mechanics or stats push in one corner or the other, just like with the example given about changing an enemies keyword from Retaliate to Hunter. If you are looking for another really non-subtle example, compare Furtive Zoog to Stealthy Zoog. I think this whole idea came to its pinnacle just now with the Creatures of the Deep, where some enemies pull you one way, others the other way and your current situation will dictate how to get out of it. MJ went into this a bit by discussing the Deep One Bull.
Having them explicitly mention boss and final boss enemies and the mechanical distinction is neat. And their explanation of why Massive works the way it does is something i didn’t pick up on before. Makes a lot of sense to me in how it facilitates a fight with everyone in the group for a showdown.
Of course, they finished their post with a spoiler for A Light in the Fog. In what i am sure what is a complete coincidence (wink wink), the FFG website posted the A Light in the Fog announcement the next day, giving us even more context on how to look at that adorable little Deep One Puppy.
Now, i am going to cut a long story short, but i have to say, that Hatchling really is a thing of evil. Surge on a relevant card always is a pain, and the Hatchling is absolutely relevant. Much more so than the usual 1-2 horror or damage we usually see on Surge cards. The whole interaction of Hatchling with the Deep One Nursemaid makes me shiver already. First you draw the Hatchling and surge. Then you kill the Hatchling because maybe you have to. This makes the Nursemaid engage you and surge again. That’s a lot of extra encounter cards. And there’s apparently four Baby Deep Ones in the deck? Look, we know little about this scenario yet, but i can already tell you that i am going to bring some Dynamite Blasts. “How dare i do this?” indeed.
In any case, that’s what i have for today. I always enjoy reading these looks behind the scenes for games that i play and getting some confirmation on my own theories about the design behind stuff. And there’s more to come as well? Sweet.
My take on this encounter deck: This is the first proper campaign finale that was done for the game. Accordingly, this encounter deck is filled to the brim with impactful cards. There’s almost nothing here that offers a bit of a reprieve, it’s just one big hit following the next. The Dunwich campaign is fairly heavy on fighting and Lost in Time and Space is no exception: Around a fourth of the deck is enemies which is pretty standard, but not a single one of them is filler. Interstellar Traveler with its 4/3/2 statline and an ability to generate doom every round is already the smallest enemy and it only goes up from there, with Yithian Observers, the Abominations and another scenario specific Yithian. Six of the enemies are Hunters, so that’s something to look out for as well. The combination of Sorcery and The Beyond gets a last feature here, so players will have to be mindful of Beyond the Veil and its enabler cards. Thankfully, there are no further enablers present in the scenario specific cards except for one location that discards 3 cards from the player’s deck. Rounding out the deck is a smattering of damage and horror treacheries across the encounter sets and from the scenario specific cards. Most of it is testless, and in the one case where it isn’t, a completely failed test can lead to up to five horror. These sources of horror stack up with effects from the advancing agendas which also deal horror to everyone. In a unique twist, the locations are shuffled into the encounter deck, diluting the high average power of encounter cards a bit. Despite the deck being a tower of more than 40 cards, the players will likely go through the deck multiple times. This is because players will use the ability on the act to discard cards from the deck, searching for the locations. Also, each of the agenda advances triggers a reshuffle, so all the high profile threats from the deck are never really gone (except for those with Victory, of course) The whole scenario is really wild and interesting, with locations popping in and out of existence and the players trying to navigate through that maze, scratching their heads as they try to figure out which location is connected to which. Lots of one-way connections feature to make moving around already a challenge in itself. The encounter deck complements this perfectly and puts a consistent amount of pressure on the investigators. It is a difficult scenario like many other campaign finales, but not as random as Before the Black Throne or weirdly anticlimactic as Shattered Eons. In my opinion, LiTaS is still the best campaign finale out of all that have been released until now. Cancel these: Beyond the Veil, Collapsing Reality. Removing Beyond the Veil from the list of worries you have to care about will give you some more leeway in dealing with other things and take the sting out of its enabler cards. Collapsing Reality can be a supremely nasty card and throw a wrench into your plans while dealing damage and horror and stranding you on top or near big enemies.
What it does: Interstellar Traveller is a Hunter enemy that spawns at any of the extradimensional locations and goes after the players from there. Whenever it enters a location (including on spawn), a doom is placed on this Yithian. If possible, this doom is taken from the the location by flipping a clue token. It is easy to evade, but since it generates doom, letting it live isn’t really an option. Its fight of 4 and stamina of 3 mean that most fighters will need two actions to kill it.
My take: While this is actually the enemy that is easiest to defeat in this scenario, it is not exactly one that i like to see most of the time. Having doom on a notable enemy like this can be a real issue, especially with the doom thresholds on the agendas being fairly low. These are a priority to kill as soon as possible. Luckily their spawn instructions do not state that the location has to be empty, so these can be spawned right on top of your enemy handlers if they happen to be at an extradimensional location.
Threat level: Mid to High. They have a potential to escalate, but usually it should be possible to take them out fairly well.
Dealing with it: Spawn them right on top of your Guardian or whoever is on enemy duty if possible. Otherwise just spawn them as close as possible. Having them appear in an unreachable place would be a disaster, but should be very rare. As usual with three health enemies, you can gain some good value if you do not have to spend two actions on killing it. The usual suspects apply, from Spectral Razor to Beat Cop. Dynamite Blast is also fantastic in this scenario, not just because of the Traveller, but also to weaken any of the other big boys in this encounter deck.
What it does: Another Yithian enemy. The Starseeker spawns at the Another Dimension location, the starting location and the fallback for investigators who find their current extradimensional location disappearing under them. Starseekers are hard to evade and at least competent fighters, with Retaliate for some extra risk when fighting them. If it gets to attack an investigator with 10 or more cards in their discard, a doom is placed on the Starseeker.
My take: Being sent back to the starting location is bad enough already – but when it happens to a vulnerable non-fighter like a Seeker and this enemy is waiting for them, things can get messy quick. Evading isn’t an option for most investigators here, making this creature even more of a problem. Worst case, the enemy handler needs to move back to the Another Dimension to defeat this thing, a considerable waste of time.
Threat level: High. A massive inconvenience at best, a huge threat for vulnerable investigators otherwise.
Dealing with it: There aren’t really any great ways of minimizing this card’s impact. It’s almost always going to be a pain. When it appears, try to find a moment for your enemy handlers to kill it without completely having to go out of their way. Until then, avoid having to go back to the starting location. This means not grabbing the last clue from Prismatic Cascade or feeding doom/resources into other locations to stabilize them until you are able to move away from them. Still, drawing Collapsing Reality at the wrong time can still ruin this plan eventually.
What it does: After taking a willpower test, the investigator takes one horror for each point they failed by. The difficulty of this test scales with the number of extradimensional locations, up to a maximum of 5. If no such locations are in play, Vast Expanse surges.
My take: As the game goes on, this treachery can get quite scary. At least part of the damage is somewhat avoidable by letting locations expire that are not being used right now. But still, this is a potent variation of the Rotting Remains effect.
Threat level: Mid. There’s a lot of extra horror sources in this scenario, players can’t really afford being hit by a decently sized Vast Expanse.
Dealing with it: Some locations discard themselves at some point. Some others leave deciding on whether to discard it or not to the players, giving them a way to keep the number of extradimensional locations in play in check. There’s three of these cards in the encounter deck, so it’s worth keeping this in mind when deciding on whether to let a location stick around or not.
What it does: If the investigator is currently at an extradimensional location, that location is discarded and the investigator takes 1 damage. Discarding the location will lead to another horror from the agenda and move the player to the Another Dimension. If there is no extradimensional location to discard, Collapsing Reality deals 2 damage instead.
My take: Another potentially horrible card. Two testless damage is bad enough, but can be managed thanks to a lack of other damage treacheries. But if the player is hit by this card while at a location that can be discarded, things become a lot more impactful. Aside from the horror and damage, actions are being wasted by setting the investigator back to the start. Things get really grim if a Yithian Starseeker is waiting for them… Even if not, there are a bunch of Hunter enemies likely stalking about the web of locations and most are not very far from the Another Dimension. At that point, we didn’t even talk about losing a location yet. That might very well have been important as well and will now need to be rediscovered.
Threat level: High. The damage and horror isn’t the main problem here, the forced movement and the loss of a location is. This card can rip holes into an otherwise carefully executed plan.
Dealing with it: Ending the turn on an Extradimensional location is something to avoid in the first place because keeping that location in play is often linked to a cost of some sort. Still, it can not be avoided completely and a few of the locations are actually safe(ish) to stand on. In those cases, an untimely Collapsing Reality can be a huge blow. Aside from canceling the card, there’s not a whole lot that can be done at that point.
What it does: The topmost location from the encounter deck is revealed and put into play. After resolving the revelation ability of the location, the player is moved there. This forced move will deal 1 horror to the investigator via the Forced ability on the agenda.
My take: This is the one card in the encounter deck that can actually do some work for the investigators instead of against them. This will discover a new location without having to pay actions for it, which can be worth paying a point of sanity for and dealing with the forced move.
Threat level: Low. It’s not all upside and the forced move can certainly cause some complications, but just being potentially beneficial is already a welcome break in this loaded encounter deck.
Dealing with it: Just ride it and see what happens. This can potentially throw you back towards the beginning of the path, but it might as well propel you forwards. Depending on how many Hunter enemies are around, this can be dangerous, but for the most part the actions saved by getting a “free” location can at least counteract that somewhat.
Return to Lost in Time and Space
My take on the modified scenario: The Return to Dunwich campaign doesn’t modify this scenario too much, which in my book is a good thing. There are no additional cards shuffled into the encounter deck except for some extra locations that go under in the 45 card deck. Seth Bishop can make another appearance as a mini-boss. Yog-Sothoth gets its own location, giving it immunity to damage. This was done to remove the option of just smashing Yog with a Baseball Bat to finish the scenario. Makes sense to me! The most relevant change is probably that investigators that would be sent back to Another Dimension are now instead sent right into Yog-Sothoth’s tentacles at its unique location. Investigators who have this happen to them when they are out of actions will get attacked by the Big Bad. In terms of replacement sets, this scenario uses Yog-Sothoth’s Emissaries and Beyond the Veil instead of Agents of Yog-Sothoth and The Beyond. Both are roughly even trades that don’t introduce any new challenges. Return to LiTaS feels and plays much the same as standard LiTaS, the developers rightly chose not to screw too much with a scenario that is already quite good and instead improved on it in several smaller ways.
Appears in: The House Always Wins, Lost in Time and Space. Additionally, this set can be used during Where Doom Awaits if specific conditions were met.
My take on this set: These are very impactful enemies that act as mini-bosses in their respective scenarios. Their most important appearance is during The House Always Wins, where the investigators are still using underdeveloped decks and can struggle taking these down. Even if the players do have the necessary tools to defeat these creatures, it will likely still take an above average number of actions to do so. In turn, the biggest danger from these cards comes from them stalling out the investigators.
What it does: It may have a very low fight score, but since it is sporting an impressive 6 stamina, the Conglomeration of Spheres can take some punishment nonetheless. Additionally, investigators attacking it are encouraged to either attack bare-handed or using ranged weapons and spells as an ability of this enemy will discard any melee weapons used to attack it. The Conglomeration is a Hunter, going after enemies with the lowest willpower (presumably because those are less likely to use spells and more likely to use melee weapons?).
My take: The weaker one of the two abominations from this set, but still far from a push-over. The pile of stamina to work through makes this a considerably roadblock. If you find yourself in the situation of having to use fisticuffs against this enemy because you are left without a suitable weapon or agility score, this becomes downright awful. Usually this enemy is fine, though. My one criticism here, and it is a big one, is the lack of a Victory point on this card. Come on, now.
Threat level: High. There are ways to deal with it, but even the best case scenarios will likely take a full turn from someone. Probably even more.
Dealing with it: Obviously this enemy becomes a lot easier to manage if players have access to non-melee weapons. If they do, the Conglomeration’s low fight score means it’s usually just a matter of putting in the actions to defeat it. But unless players can deploy two ways to deal 3 damage in one action, defeating it will still eat up 3 actions and any charges or ammo tokens required.
What it does: Servant of the Lurker has impressive combat stats, at 4 fight and 5 stamina it’s not easy to take down in one turn at all. Only its evasion of 2 offers a weak point, one that is very necessary as well because being attacked by Servant will cost the player 2 stamina, 2 sanity and 2 cards from the their deck. Servant of the Lurker is a Hunter enemy, going after players with low agility, which of course makes sense with its own stats in mind. Defeating the Servant awards a victory point.
My take: This is quite the enemy to throw at the group in scenario 1 or 2. As it’s often not possible to take this down in one turn, being able to use the evasion option to prevent being hit for a whole lot of everything is a godsend here. In The Dunwich Legacy, picking up every victory point you can get is important, but this is frequently one of the hardest one to earn in the whole campaign.
Threat level: High to Very High. It’s not quite as bad as some true Elite bosses, but since it appears so early it can have immense impact.
Dealing with it: As long as someone is able to exhaust this enemy on command via evasion, defeating the Servant only becomes a matter of time. But of course that may not always be a resource that players have a lot of – especially during House Always Wins when it is played after Extracurricular Activity every turn counts.
Not all of these cards start out in the encounter deck right away. The numbers above are from the second half of the scenario, once the Amalgam and the cards relating to it are added to the game.
My take on this encounter deck: The first scenario of the Innsmouth Conspiracy has a lot going on at the same time, throwing the players into the deep end right away. The goal is collecting keys and bringing them to certain locations, not only to find the actual exit that allows resigning from the scenario but also to remove pesky tokens from the stuffed chaos bag that would otherwise stick around for the rest of the campaign. Time is not on the players side, as there are at least three mechanics working towards limiting how long the players have to get out: One, there is a doom clock just as usual. It offers 19 turns before the final agenda advances, a very reasonable amount if taken for itself. There is also nothing in the encounter deck that would accelerate the rate at which doom tokens are acquired. Two, the new flood mechanic is heavily tied to the advancement of the agendas here, causing all locations to become fully flooded by the end, with the Rising Tide encounter set further providing some extra opportunities for locations to become flooded ahead of time. As this goes on, players will find that they are more and more impacted by a drowning effect on the agenda that threatens to deal 5 damage to them if they don’t find at least a partially flooded location once per turn. Three, this scenario has a staggering amount of damage and horror effects wearing down on the stamina and sanity of the investigators. Token effects, engagement abilities from enemies, triggers on locations and revelation effects on most of the treacheries deal some sort of horror or damage and a lot of it is testless. Especially on hard or expert this can become a problem real fast, as the token effects will trigger there even if the test in which the token was pulled did not fail! This is a major difference between Standard and Expert play, much more so than usual. The number of enemies in the encounter deck is comparatively high, especially considering that there is also a recurring Elite Deep One appearing from time to time. Aside from the Deep One Bull in the Creatures of the Deep encounter set, the enemies here are all somewhat easy to defeat, but the engagement effects of the Deep Ones make sure that these creatures are still not something to just dismiss. Only the Rats set provides a bit of a breather here, as the Swarm of Rats is easy to defeat and not subject to any special interactions with the rest of the scenario. As mentioned, the number of enemies is further propped up by a unique Deep One, the Amalgam. This enemy isn’t terribly hard to defeat but it will recur from its own set aside zone, popping in and out of play similar to the Hunting Horror from the Miskatonic Museum. Willpower and Agility are evenly tested, and there is even some strength and intellect tests on some of the treacheries. The punishments for failing these tests is big enough that doing well feels like a big relief, it’s certainly worth having resilience to the encounter deck baked into your investigator here. If not, patching up such weaknesses in deck building is encouraged. All things considered, this is a surprisingly tense and difficult scenario for a campaign opener. I would rate its difficulty on a level with Untamed Wilds, but still slightly behind Curtain Call. The placement of the locations provides some variance to the difficulty, for two reasons. The locations will dictate which keys you get in which order and how far you have to go for them, thus possibly leading to some backtracking. Also, the position of the two locations that can not be fully flooded can be important. Having both next to each other can lead to a large part of the map being fully flooded and highly dangerous for players to be in during the final turns. As a final note, i absolutely appreciate the huge difference between the Standard and Expert side of the scenario card. Expert feels very different because handling your damage/horror is much more important than usual, but of course it’s also much more stressful due to constantly having to commit calculated risks. It offers almost two very distinct ways of playing the scenario. I find this much more interesting than just throwing an extra -2 on each token. I would very much like to see mechanical differences like that in the future, it would certainly make me want to play Hard more often. Cancel these: You could stop the Amalgam from being a factor by throwing your cancel cards at Blindsense and From the Depths, but i don’t think that is really worth it. My suggestion would be to hold your cards for those treacheries that threaten to deal a lot of damage or horror to players that already have a stack of it and can’t afford more.
What it does: The investigator has to take an agility test against a difficulty of 3. Failing it will engage the Amalgam with that investigator, no matter if it’s in play or in the depths, and cause an immediate attack.
My take: The immediate attack translates to one damage and one horror dealt. Engaging means that the Amalgam can snatch one of the keys held by that investigator. Those are fine effects, the damage and horror do stack up well with all the other sources for them. Potentially it could even lead to a second attack right away if the player decides not to give up one of their keys to prevent it. I almost feel like the agility test ruins the primary purpose of this card, which is pulling the Amalgam back into play from its special set aside area. The test is somewhat easy to pass and doing so will prevent anything from happening at all. Every copy of these that is pulled by an investigator with passable agility can stop the Amalgam from having another appearance, which i find a bit easy to do considering that it is a central recurring enemy.
Threat level: Low to Mid. The agility test offers a way of mitigating this cards effects straight up, the threat level from this card is mostly carried by the immediate attack.
Dealing with it: The Amalgam itself isn’t a terribly difficult enemy as such, so even if the agility test can not reasonably be passed, this isn’t a card to be too worried by. Just make sure that the Amalgam isn’t able to return to the depths with one of your keys attached, which becomes a lot easier if you can deal 3 damage in one attack.
What it does: If the Amalgam is currently out of play, it enters the board engaged with the investigator who drew this card. If it already was in play, it instead moves to its special depths area, taking any keys placed on the Amalgam with it. If moving from play to the depths, From the Depths will also surge.
My take: There is no saving throw on this card, so unlike with Blindsense, there is no stopping the Amalgam from entering play here (unless you outright cancel the card’s revelation effect, of course). That makes it the more important card in my opinion, even if there is no immediate attack happening it will still possibly snatch up a key. The second half of the card is a lot more interesting as it will see the Amalgam retreat while surging into the next encounter card. While removing the enemy from the board could be a good thing, it can also mean that it holds a key hostage until the players manage to draw the Amalgam out of its hiding spot again.
Threat level: Mid. The Amalgam is more of an annoyance than a real threat, but the possibility of having the creature escape with one of the keys can be a real issue considering the time restraints on the players.
Dealing with it: The existence of this card means that players will want to get rid of the Amalgam as soon as possible whenever it holds one of the keys. Or at least snatch the key back up with the “evade by two” trigger on the Amalgam. There’s three of these cards in the encounter deck, making it the primary way for the Amalgam to engage players. By taking the keys from the creature but keeping it alive, players can cause From the Depths to remove the creature instead of spawning it, minimizing how often they have to meet the Amalgam. However, this will cause Surge on this card and this may very well be worse than having another encounter with the Deep One.
Finally, some fishpeople. This week was Innsmouth’s first appearance on Ancient Evils, with pages for the three encounter sets Shattered Memories, Creatures of the Deep and Rising Tide. I like the first two a lot. Memories is an interesting twist on effects we know and expect from the encounter deck. And Creatures gives a unique identity to the primary enemy type of the campaign. Rising Tide i am a bit more torn on, but it’s at least solid. My main complaint would be that the card Rising Tides doesn’t really do a whole lot when the agenda already does most of the flooding.
In any case, next week on Monday (so… tomorrow) the review for Pit of Despair will go up. After that it’s back to Dunwich on Wednesday and Friday.
Something that always gets a lot of talk from new and veteran players alike is what players do to customize their storage and game components. Since the game doesn’t actually come with any sane ways to keep your cards stashed away, this is a hot topic that is unlikely to ever go away. I’d like to take this opportunity to use two of my Soapbox spaces to show off my storage solutions and what upgrades i made to the tokens. Storage today, tokens at a later point. One disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the stores or manufactures linked below, i am just some dude who liked these products.
Let’s get the FFG solution out of the way. I own the four Return To boxes and those are a fine place to store their campaigns. The inlay that comes with those boxes is trash, it’s only used so the cards that come with it stay in place during shipping and transport. Instead i use a single box of sleeves when necessary. That isn’t even the case for all of them. Alternatively, that extra space can be used for a token box or something similar. Thanks to the generous dimensions of the box, they easily fit all the campaign cards, encounter sets and the leaflets from the Mythos packs.
There’s not a Return To for all campaigns, so a solution is needed for the rest of them. I found a good solution in these so-called “Ultimate Guard Stack’n’Safe Card Boxes”. They are listed at an MSRP of 12€ at Ultimate Guard’s page, but i actually found them for 10€ on eBay. Very satisfied with these. They can be configured to have 3 to 6 compartments which works out perfectly. One small compartment each for the encounter sets and for the leaflets. Two big compartments for the scenarios.
Next up are player cards. I opted to go for one massive chest instead of having multiple smaller ones. This is an e-Raptor TCG Storage Big Box, available directly from e-Raptor. It listed at 100€, but is often discounted by a lot. Right now, as i am typing this, it is actually available for 60€, so if you want one, waiting might pay off. One thing to keep in mind with boxes like these is that they aren’t meant to be lugged around. You need a spot in your house where you plant it and then keep it there, this thing is massive. It does however indeed have room for all of the player cards, the investigator cards and the weaknesses. And enough room to spare for a future cycle or two.
Finally, all the loose books and leaflets go into the core box. That’s really all it’s good for (and barely, the Return To paper slips don’t even fit -.-), but it does an okay job at that. Barely. If you care about keeping them in mint condition or something, this won’t work for you.
To also answer another topic that often comes up and is related to storing your cards: Yes, i sleeve my cards. I usually don’t for my board games, but i throw so much money at the Arkham LCG that not sleeving it seems criminal to me. I prefer Dragon Shields, for one simple reason: They are never out of stock. Every store has them, they come in lots of colors and their price to quality ratio is … reasonable. They aren’t the cheapest, but they also don’t feel cheap. After playing this game nonstop for abou 30 campaigns i had to replace two sleeves. Whatever. I did come up with a bit of color coding to make setup and tear down a bit easier. All cards that go into player decks are in black sleeves. Everything that goes into the encounter deck is is petrol. Cards that are set aside and never enter the encounter deck, (like The Experiment in Extracurricular Activity) are in red. Clear sleeves for the investigator cards and some double sided story cards that are shuffled. I don’t sleeve locations, unless they are shuffled. A lot of money (hundreds of €) went into sleeves over time. I sometimes wonder if sleeving all of the player cards was a mistake. But then i start building or upgrading decks and can just do so without fiddling around with sleeves and it seems worth it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And that’s it for today. I will make a similar post about my tokens and bag upgrades at a later point. Might already be next week, if there’s nothing better to talk about that i want to use my soapbox for.
Appears in: The Pit of Despair, In Too Deep, Devil Reef, A Light in the Fog
My take on this set: This set provides escalation and some payoff for the flooding mechanic that is used in several Innsmouth scenarios. Two of the six cards act as accelerants, causing some early and unpredictable floodings. The other two provide the usual effects that you’d expect from treacheries (damage, horror, discard), but only at flooded locations. The intention is punishing players for standing in flooded spots while drawing these, but i am not convinced they actually meet that goal. Due to surging when drawn at non-flooded locations, the player is going to be hit by something either way and especially with Undertow there’s a good chance that the next encounter card is actually worse than the original draw. Arguably, someone with high agility should end their turn in a flooded location to stop these cards from surging into something they can’t handle with just a test … which is a bit weird. Rising Tides provides a bit of variance to the speed at which the flood progresses which is good. But at least during Pit of Despair this card is completely dwarfed by the flooding that happens from the agenda cards. In Too Deep supplements the flooding from Rising Tides with two more cards from the Syzygy set, which helps a lot with making the flood mechanic be more dynamic and unpredictable at lower player counts.
What it does: The nearest viable location has its flood level increased. If no location is able to be flooded further, Rising Tides surges.
My take: I am surprised to see only two of these in the set. Its effect is fairly straightforward, every time this card is drawn the flood level goes up somewhere. While this has no immediate consequence, it provides the condition for other cards to do their thing. That includes the other four cards from this set, but most importantly it enables scenario specific effects like the drowning damage on Pit of Despair’s agenda.
Threat level: Scenario dependent. By itself, the rising flood doesn’t do anything. But depending on what effects play off of it, the stock of this card goes up and down. So while it’s a very minor card in Pit of Despair (where the agenda flooding overshadows this card massively), it’s a big threat in Light in the Fog where players are tasked with keeping the flood away from certain locations.
Dealing with it: This isn’t really something to specifically deal with, it’s more an extension of the scenario rules.
What it does: If at a flooded location, Undertow is put into a players threat area. It stays there until they either spend a card from their hand and pass a fight or agility test or until they move. If discarded by moving, Undertow deals 2 damage and 2 horror to that investigator. If drawn by an investigator at an unflooded location, Undertow simply surges into the next encounter card.
My take: Two damage and horror is quite a lot, luckily it’s delayed and can be avoided by discarding a card and passing a test. The test itself isn’t terribly hard, having a choice between two different skills makes it more accessible as well. It also doesn’t take an action, as long as the player doesn’t run out of cards they can keep retrying the test. Only some investigators that lack either skill (Harvey, for example) may need help from another player if they can not afford taking the damage and horror on the chin.
Threat level: Medium. The effect itself is punishing enough, but most investigators should at least have a fair chance of avoiding it.
Dealing with it: Not taking up any actions is a godsend here. Often this will end up just discarding a card or two, a perfectly fine result from an encounter card considering that the discard isn’t even random. Not taking any actions also means that getting rid of Undertow won’t provoke any attacks of opportunity from engaged enemies, meaning that there is no reason to have it stick around for long.
What it does: Like Undertow, Riptide only has an effect when the investigator is at a flooded location, surging otherwise. Riptide has the player make an agility test against a difficulty of 3 or 4, dependent on the current flood level. After failing the player has to discard one of their assets. If no assets can be discarded, they will have to discard a card for each point they failed by instead.
My take: As far as treacheries that attack assets go, this is a mild one. It only works on flooded locations and it does allow a saving throw unlike someothers. It also allows players to discard something of their choice instead of going for the most expensive one as some cards from other campaigns (for example Threads of Reality) do. This sort of card is usually most impactful during the first few turns when players may only have one key asset in play, like the classic round 2 “Crypt Chill vs. Leo de Luca” situation. This is when Riptide’s restriction to flooded locations will often cause it to surge instead. This defangs the card severely.
Threat level: Medium. Losing assets and their associated actions and resources spent on them always stings. But compared to other cards of its ilk, this one has several conditions keeping it from being too punishing.
Dealing with it: Anything said about previous asset destruction treacheries applies here as well. Having some cheap sacrificial asset like a Scroll of Secrets or a Fine Clothes will keep the impact of this card low and protect your more valuable allies, weapons and spells.
Appears in: The Pit of Despair, In Too Deep, Devil Reef, A Light in the Fog, Into the Maelstrom
My take on this set: The Deep Ones are one of the most iconic creatures of the Mythos and are of course central to anything that happens in Innsmouth in particular. Creatures of the Deep is thus a very important set, laying the foundation for any Deep Ones in scenario specific encounter sets. I’d argue that this set manages to both make them relevant and unique. The Deep Ones are united by having effects that are triggered whenever players engage them. A central decision that players will have to make when facing these enemies is whether to defeat them or to evade them and all of these cards have arguments for at least one of those options: The Lurkers are easy to kill, but hard to evade. On the other hand, the Bull is easy to evade and not only is it hard to kill, it also punishes players for killing other Deep Ones. Then again, Assault punishes those who evade the creatures, but also keeps the Deep Ones coming for players who are killing a lot of them. The Young Deep One from the Agents of Cthulhu set slots right in the middle as a neutral option whose 3/3/3 statline provides some challenge no matter what your plan is. The result is an interesting array of decisions to make, making the Deep Ones more than just your generic cannon fodder. This is something i appreciate a lot.
What it does: Lurking Deep Ones are easy to defeat, having only low fight and stamina values. They do immediately deal a point of damage whenever they engage an investigator, however. Their evade value is high enough that evading them is basically a non-option unless the investigator is really specialized towards it, considering that they are much easier to beat in combat and that they will deal another point of damage whenever they get to re-engage.
My take: The main feature of this enemy is its ability to deal a guaranteed point of damage on engagement, including when the player draws the card from the encounter deck for the first time. Aside from that, getting rid of it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I found that i often default to finding these in the encounter deck when Deep One Assaults makes me grab a Deep One because they are fairly painless to defeat.
Threat level: Low. Mostly translates to a point of damage and an action spent on an attack. It can be more of an issue if the player is unprepared, without a weapon. But that’s going to be the case very rarely.
Dealing with it: Smack it over the head. While it doesn’t have Hunter, evading it is still more effort than just killing it. The damage ability stacks up well with other damage sources from encounter cards, so that’s something to look out for. Having three sources of testless damage in the encounter deck can mean that low stamina investigators like Sefina or Mary may want to plan on bringing some extra soak.
What it does: Mirroring the Lurking Deep Ones, the Bull has impressive combat stats but is weak to evasion. Their engage ability causes investigators to discard one of their cards each time they enter combat with a Bull. While it doesn’t have outright Hunter, it does have a similar ability: Whenever an investigator kills another Deep One traited enemy, the Bull moves one location towards them.
My take: This is a pretty beefy enemy for something that is just shuffled into the encounter deck and can come out any time. Its statline points players towards evasion as the primary way to deal with it and the movement ability further encourages using evasion against other Deep Ones as well. While it’s easy to evade the Bull, that isn’t necessarily true for others. The Lurking Deep Ones do have enough evasion that they aren’t easy to be handled that way at all. A noteworthy difference between the Bull’s movement trigger and regular Hunter is that it isn’t immediately followed by an attack. So you can kill a Lurking Deep One, have the Bull move over to your location and then evade it before it gets to attack in the enemy phase. Of course, that will trigger the engage discard, but at least you are not hit for damage right away. As another relevant difference, the Bull is readied when it triggers. So it can’t be completely locked down by cards like Slip Away or Handcuffs. Finally, the ability also triggers while the Bull is already engaged. It will then disengage and move towards whoever else just killed something. Potentially this can lead to further engagement triggers down the line.
Threat level: High. This is a big chunky enemy that can occupy a lot of your time.
Dealing with it: Can your Guardian reliably kill it in two or three actions? If so, that can solve a lot of your problems as you will otherwise have to dedicate more actions and effort towards dodging this guy. Evading it isn’t difficult but it will drain an action and a card every time.
What it does: This treachery will disengage every Deep Ones in the threat area of the investigator, then immediately re-engage them. Additionally, any Deep Ones on connecting locations also engage them. While this doesn’t immediately trigger attacks, it will cause each of the enemies engaged this way to trigger their “on engage” abilities which are present on (almost) all Deep Ones. If no enemies were engaged this way, Deep One Assault will find a Deep One in the encounter deck and engage that one with the investigator.
My take: Potentially a dangerous card, but in practice a lot of things have to come together before it does a whole lot. If it only re-engages a single enemy or simply finds a Lurking Deep One from the encounter deck, this card is not terrible. For it to scale higher than that, the players would have to run an evasion strategy, leaving Deep Ones behind on the board. In those situations, the threat of this card goes up as it will potentially cause multiple enemies to trigger their engage effects and also will allow those enemies to catch up with the players again. The card also gets extra power in big player groups where enemies are more plentiful and Deep One Assault could also trigger enemies that were drawn before in that same mythos phase.
Threat level: Mid to High. Often, this will be equivalent to drawing a Lurking Deep One, but there is the potential for the card to be more troubling.
Dealing with it: Groups that focus on killing their enemies instead of evading them have a much easier time when facing this treachery as it will merely deliver just another body to defeat. Evasion focused groups will have to be more conscious about the existence of this card, as it can potentially lead to multiple creatures ganging up on one investigator, even if those enemies were previously engaged with a different player. Note that the search effect can either be used to minimize the effect, searching for the enemy that is easiest to handle for you right now. Or it can be used to fish for enemies with victory points, if there are any in the scenario. Finally, it can be used to intentionally grab more powerful enemies like the Bull while you can afford spending time to kill it, preventing it from showing up at a later, more inconvenient time.
Appears in: The Pit of Despair, Horror in High Gear, Into the Maelstrom
My take on this set: Cool set. The treacheries here all do something very simple, something we have seen many times before. There are two twist to the whole thing, though. First off, this set tests willpower and intellect instead of the more common willpower and agility. This makes sense both thematically and mechanically. In terms of theme, this set represents the memory loss our investigators are fighting against. Willpower and intellect are the two “mental” attributes as opposed to the two other “physical” ones, so testing those makes a lot of sense. In terms of gameplay, the Rising Tide set already has four agility treacheries that also dish out horror, damage and card loss. Having the same here would just be redundant. The other twist is the auto-fail on pulling specific tokens. In the Innsmouth campaign, we start out with a chaos bag full of these tokens, representing our memory loss. As we experience flashbacks and have our past experiences return to us, we discard these tokens. So there is a very clear thematic link between that representation of amnesia in the chaos bag and how it makes fighting these treacheries harder… leading to an autofail when our memory fails us. Neat. Really, really neat. In terms of gameplay, they are also interesting because they do not only act as the usual encounter deck filler that provides the basic effects, but also as a small payoff for finding the flashbacks. I like all of these a lot. A good showcase of doing a whole lot with very little actual text.
What it does: After failing a willpower test against difficulty 3, the investigator has to take 2 horror. Revealing a cultist token as part of the test will automatically fail it.
My take: The newest iteration of the tried and true “Horror vs. Willpower” treachery. As is usually the case with these, their power scales a lot with how many other sources for horror are around. Pit of Despair is chock full of horror (and damage) sources, many of them testless, so these treacheries deserve some respect, even if there are only two of them in the deck.
Threat level: Low to Mid, depending on the pressure from the rest of the scenario.
Dealing with it: This is a very common effect that any investigator should have a plan for. Either soaking the damage with assets or healing it can remove a lot of the tension this puts on the investigators sanity otherwise. Something interesting about Pit of Despair: The cultist token deals damage if investigators are at a flooded location… which is pretty much every location in that scenario. So pulling Cultist on this card will often lead to getting both damage and horror.
What it does: Fractured Consciousness uses Macabre Memento’s template word for word, only changing the variables. Instead of willpower, intellect is tested. Instead of horror, Fractured Consciousness deals damage on failing the test. And instead of the cultist token, this card auto-fails on pulling a tablet.
My take: Testing intellect on a treachery like this is unusual, but despite that the gameplay around this card is pretty much the same as for Macabre Memento. Critical mass is key for these effects to be truely terrifying because otherwise they can just be soaked away with assets. At least in Pit of Despair, there is enough extra damage around that it becomes a problem fast.
Threat level: Low to Mid, depending on the pressure from the rest of the scenario.
Dealing with it: Again, soaking the damage will help players from losing control against stacking up multiple damage effects. In Pit of Despair, the tablet token deals horror to players holding a key. So just like with Macabre Memento, the token effect mirrors the effect of the treachery and leads to being dealt both horror and damage if a tablet is revealed for the test on Fractured Consciousness.
What it does: Memory of Oblivion gives the player the choice on testing either willpower or intellect, however the difficulty is one higher than on the other treacheries from this set. Failing the test has the player discard a card for each point they failed by. The test auto-fails on revealing an Elder Thing.
My take: Pulling the bad token on this card is a lot rougher than on the other two cards because this one is balanced around scaling with partial success – and the Elder Thing will completely bypass that, causing the player to discard the maximum number of cards. Usually, that will be four, enough to rip apart most hands. At least the player gets to choose which ones if they have more. Only few investigators are very weak in both intellect and willpower, so aside from the elder thing token the player will usually have at least a chance of minimizing the card’s impact by testing the skill they are better at and possibly throwing in a card with double icons. Notably, the card doesn’t have any sort of fallback effect that would replace the discard if the player has no cards in hand. So you can get (somewhat) lucky and draw this card while only having a card or two to throw away anyways.
Threat level: Medium. While the other two cards depend on stacking with other damage and horror sources to become threatening, a single auto-fail can be really nasty. And Elder Things do count as auto-fails here…
Dealing with it: There’s two of these in the deck, so preparing specifically for this card is likely not necessary. A scaling test always means that there is merit to only partially succeeding, so committing cards can be worth it even if they won’t lead to a pass.
This week’s update to the main content part of the site is Merging Realities, an inoffensive set of filler treacheries and Waking Nightmare, my favorite scenario from the Dream-Eaters cycle.
I’ve also been doing another replacement set for ARES: Circle Undone. The Unyielding Fate hopes to fix the poor player count scaling of Fate of All Fools and Terror in the Night from the Inexorable Fate set.
While the first couple of leaked cards for Horror in High Gear are already making the rounds, people found their Glorias and In Too Deep packs in their mailboxes. Personally, i didn’t receive the novel yet, but i got my first play of In Too Deep in a few days ago. Again, a really good scenario with lots of replayability and different ways to approach it. We are only three scenarios into the cycle so far, but for now every one of those scenarios has been a hit. This cycle is shaping up to be just great.
Other than that (and i’ll leave it at that regarding ITD for spoiler reasons), i don’t really have a whole lot to soapbox about this time, so let me use this space to give you a preview of upcoming things instead. Next week it’s going to be Innsmouth’s turn to get its card sets reviewed for the first time. I do plan on having the pages for Creatures of the Deep, Rising Tide and Shattered Memories up next Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The week after i’ll be following up with the scenario page for Pit of Despair and move into Dunwich with Hideous Abominations and Lost in Time and Space on Wednesday and Friday. I was briefly considering taking a full two weeks for Innsmouth’s four pages, but felt that was unneccessary after all. This way i do not disrupt my new schedule and stay on track for catching up with the reviews in February.
Actually, let’s have a look at the numbers for that schedule. Ignoring Innsmouth for a second, Ancient Evils is still missing the pages for 21 scenarios and 16 encounter sets. If i were to do one scenario per week, then i’d be finished in mid April. However, despite Innsmouth also coming on top of that, i still expect to finish a bit earlier due to being able to do two scenarios per week once the encounter sets run out. I also already have a little bit of buffer prepared ahead – and i do tend to pick up the pace a bit once i am nearing the end of a project. So I am still hoping for a mid February finish line. Maybe i’ll even do a huge content dump near the end instead of dragging the content out over weeks. I am not going to lie, while this has been fun to do and offered me a lot of interesting insight into the design of the game, i will be relieved when it’s done and i can turn my attention to new stuff when it pops up instead of overanalyzing the content of yesteryear 😀