Appears in: The House Always Wins, Blood on the Altar
My take on this set: Naomi’s Crew has a lot going on considering it’s just a set with some basic enemies that tide players over until the third act brings out the monsters. Both evading and defeating these enemies has its merits here. Retaliate on the Mobster and the fight value on the Thug beg players to evade these non-Hunters. At the same time, this is setting players up for a trap as those enemies can surprisingly be back and bring the hurt when they get activated by Hunted Down. Neat. There’s also a little resource denial subtheme here, but personally i never experienced it to matter much. That’s fine though, if nothing else it does add to the mobster flavor of these guys. One interesting thing about these cards is how they are influenced by the Return To Dunwich box. The Hired Gun, a special enemy for Return to Blood on the Altar, changes all of these cards and makes them more aggressive, adding Hunter or Surge.
What it does: Mobster is a fairly basic human enemy. With twos across the statline and only 1 damage, it doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of the investigators, but Retaliate and a Forced effect that drains a resource on attack does give it some extra punch.
My take: As long as you have a weapon of some kind, defeating this guy should not be an issue at all. Evading him is also a solution, but Hunted Down is at least something to consider when doing so. If you are playing Return to Blood on the Altar, these can gain Hunter from a Hired Gun, so it’s probably best to just use a charge or an ammo from one of your weapons and wipe these from the board. Retaliate on a low fight enemy such as this one is only an issue for characters that aren’t equipped for fighting. So while it does stop your Seeker from just punching them and hoping for the best, your fighter will easily clean these guys out.
Threat level: Low. Basic filler enemy.
Dealing with it: Evading and defeating are both perfectly valid options here, whatever your investigator is best equipped to do. When evading him, you’d ideally want to get two locations away from him because of Hunted Down. But even if Mobster gets to attack from a Hunted Down that would mean losing a stamina, a resource and and action… that could actually be preferrable to having Hunted Down surge.
What it does: The Thug has four combat, a significant upgrade from the Mobster. He also deals two damage with each attack, so that’s much more relevant as well. Anyone engaged with the Thug is unable to gain resources in any way. This includes not only the 1 resource from upkeep, but also any other income you might’ve gotten from card effects.
My take: This guy has enough of a combat value that he actually becomes a bit of an issue to defeat. Usually still takes one hit, but failing attacks against a difficulty of four isn’t too uncommon. Evading him is easy enough and he lacks Hunter, so that can become a safer and more efficient way of bypassing him. Once more, Hunted Down adds a bit of a risk to that plan and so does the Hired Gun from Return to Blood on the Altar. So if you go for it, consider gaining some distance.
Threat level: Low to Mid.
Dealing with it: My favorite Sneak Attack target. Aside from using such almost tailor-made answer cards, a similar thing goes as for the Mobster. Deal with him in whatever way your investigator is most likely to succeed. Both evasion and combat are viable options.
What it does: All unengaged Criminal enemies move one location towards the player. If any of them engage the player as a result, those get to make an immediate attack. If no valid enemies are around, Hunted Down surges into the next encounter card. Valid enemies for this card are the two enemies from this set, the Pit Boss from House Always Wins, the Hired Gun from Return to Blood on the Altar and also Siobhan and the Bouncers from the All or Nothing Print&Play version of House Always Wins.
My take: I am not in a habit of letting these guys live, so 9 times out of 10, this just surges for me. That being said, the card can be somewhat annoying if it doesn’t. Just engaging and being attacked by one enemy is bad already, but if you’ve been evading enemies all scenario, this could potentially cause multiples to gang up for A LOT of damage. As a result, do keep the existence of this card in mind and try not to fall for that trap. One thing to note about this card is that the surge is not dependent on anyone engaging or moving, it’s only depending on an unengaged Criminal being in play. So even if all this does is move a Mobster on the other end of Dunwich, this will not surge. This can be an argument for leaving some Criminal behind to satisfy the card. Hired Gun will give Hunted Down the Surge keyword. This can stack with the conditional surge from the treachery itself, turning it into something similar to Overzealous.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Can be bad, but it does scale with the number of Criminals on the board. And that is a number the players can usually influence fairly well.
Dealing with it: Kill ’em all. It’s a crude solution, but it works. Otherwise, evade them but keep at least a location buffer between them and you. Bonus points for leaving some Mobster behind just so this card loses its potential to surge. That happens very easily during the first act of House Always Wins where the criminals all are aloof for a while.
Appears in: Blood on the Altar, Undimensioned and Unseen
My take on this set: A fairly low profile set that does add more to the game in terms of flavor than in terms of gameplay. Personally, i don’t give this encounter set a second thought when i add it to the deck at setup. It’s just some cards to play around when i draw them, nothing to prepare for. The one exception might be investigators who are particularly affected by Unhallowed Country.
What it does: This treachery sticks to a location until the agenda advances. While in play, investigators at that location take 1 horror at the end of each round.
My take: Usually this comes from the top of the encounter deck at the start of the round and gives the player a full turn to finish their business there and move on. Even when they have to take a horror, that won’t necessarily be a huge deal. The only way for this card to be more annoying is when it attaches to a particularly important location, like the entry to Silas Chamber in Blood on the Altar. In those cases it can be a bit more relevant thanks to affecting everyone at that location and not just one player. Still, those cases are very rare.
Threat level: Low. Only very specific circumstances can make this card feel relevant, more often it will almost feel like a free pass from the encounter deck.
Dealing with it: Both scenarios that use it have fairly long agenda thresholds, so this card can stay in play for a while. Many groups will run Alter Fate to discard Beyond the Veil and both scenarios with Dunwich in it do not contain the Sorcery set. So that Alter Fate can be used here, should the card really become a problem.Both cards from this set are Terrors, so Logical Reasoning also applies. However, to discard Sordid and Silent, you would need the level 4 upgrade, an expense in XP that is very unlikely to be worth it in Dunwich. And certainly not for this card. In most cases, avoiding to finish your turn on the location for a few rounds shouldn’t be much of an issue.
What it does: The investigator puts Unhallowed Country into their threat area. At the end of each of their turns, they have one chance to pass a willpower test to discard it. While they are stuck with the treachery, the player can not play any Ally assets and any they already have in play are treated as if their text boxes were blank. Noteably, this does not include the stamina and sanity values of those allies, so they can still be used to soak damage and horror.
My take: Some investigators might not mind this card much, but anyone gaining considerable value from their allies can be severely crippled by Unhallowed Country. If those investigators also have low willpower, this effect can be similar to Frozen in Fear, since the templating of the discard test limits how other investigators can help with the test. When this was printed, it wasn’t really all that problematic of a card. For todays card pool this is a very efficient counter to the rogue decks with Lola Santiago and/or Delilah O’Rourke, however. Thankfully, the two ally focused investigators Tommy and Leo do both have decent Will and access to good skill cards for boosting it. So as long as they keep a Steadfast or something similar in their back pocket, they should be fine.
Threat level: Medium. How impactful this is fluctuates wildly with the investigator who gets stuck with it. This really can go all the way from “just ignore it” to “my deck broke”.
Dealing with it: It’s a treachery, it’s a Terror. So as with the previous card, Alter Fate and Logical Reasoning can wipe this away. If none of those is available and getting rid of Unhallowed Country is important, consider having other investigators pitch in a card for the Willpower test. Even a 1 Will rogue like Finn has a decent chance at passing the test if they can get a Promise of Power from a friendly Mystic.
Dreamlands was our destination this week, and to get there, we had to move Beyond the Gates of Sleep. Two more encounter sets from that scenario didn’t have a page yet, so that was rectified as well. Zoogs gives us an (adorable) first view at the Swarm mechanic in the campaign and Dreamlands sets that (less adorable) stage for where the first half of the campaign is happening.
I am enjoying my free time between the holidays, i hope you are doing so as well. To be honest, i didn’t prepare anything to ramble about this week. I’ll leave you with a link to MJ Newman’s blog instead, get your encounter related column right from the source. In the second part of their Behind the Curtain series, MJ shares some insights into scenario design, a very interesting read.
My take on this encounter deck: As far as encounter decks go, this one is quite forgiving, even for a campaign opener. Most of the deck is focused on trying to stall the players and keeping them from investigating the locations around the Enchanted Path. To this effect, the Dreamlands encounter set teams up with Chilling Cold’s Obscuring Fog to increase shroud values while also collaborating with Dreamer’s Curse and the Hidden cards from Agents of Nyarlathothep to restrict player actions. In terms of enemies, there’s seven of them in a deck of 27 here, so about a quarter of the deck. Half of those enemies are small Zoogs that are easy enough to defeat or evade and shouldn’t give anyone much trouble. Two bigger Zoogs, the Ancient and the Inconspicuous one, are a bit more dangerous. The Crawling Mist from the Agents of Nyarlathothep makes its first appearance, but it is limited in its power due to having only three Hidden cards to potentially get boosted from. It’s still a noteable enemy for a first scenario, but usually you will be glad to see it so you can collect your victory point from it. A more dangerous enemy than the Mist actually comes from the set-aside area: Laboring Gug, a 5/5/2 enemy is spawned by one of the locations and requires some investment to defeat if players want to get that victory point. Whenever i play this scenario, i do not really feel like i am under much threat. The first half of the scenario doesn’t even use the encounter deck and once it does, the threats fail to impress me too much. The enemies have a few challenges, but the time pressure from the stalling treacheries doesn’t really matter too much thanks to a rather generous doom threshold on the agenda. As a result, i think this is the easiest first scenario in any of the campaigns, including The Gathering.
What it does: With a three in every of its stats, the Ancient Zoog is more durable than any of its fellow Zoogs. It does not have Swarming, though. When drawn, it will spawn at an unrevealed Enchanted Woods, where it will hang out with Aloof. While in play and ready, each swarming Zoog in play receives an extra swarm card each enemy phase.
My take: “Move -> engage -> attack” is already three actions, so unless you have extra actions or are able to deal 3 damage to this critter with one attack, this has a good chance of living into the enemy phase. How bad that is will depend on what Zoogs are in play and how many. As with Zoog Burrows, addings swarm cards to some Furtive Zoog that was left behind, isn’t anything worth caring about. In the end, Ancient Zoog is another card that plays off of the Inconspicuous Zoog, providing it with fresh bodies to keep disenaging and hunting.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Becomes a priority with Inconspicuous Zoog around, but isn’t all that relevant without it.
Dealing with it: Aloof and three health makes it hard to kill. Even Spectral Razor can’t do it in one shot because the thing is Elite. So unless you have some other way to deal 3 in one go or a way to bypass the Aloof, you might just have to spend a full turn on getting rid of it if you want it gone. One card that comes to mind here is Dynamite Blast. Although slightly overkill when used just on the Ancient Zoog, the Dynamite can potentially take out the Inconspicuous Zoog at the same time, solving almost all of the enemy problems in the scenario in one go.
What it does: Lost in the Woods surges, so its effect always comes in addition with another encounter card. It threatens to deal 1 horror and remove 1 action from each investigator at an Enchanted Woods location. To avoid this, the investigators have to pass a willpower test.
My take: As far as surging treacheries go, this is a pretty bad one. Costing an action on top of whatever else the encounter deck holds is already relevant, but this possibly also applies to multiple players and it also can deal horror. There is a willpower saving throw on the card, which is the saving grace of this innocent looking but lowkey quite impactful little treachery.
Threat level: Mid to High. Surge on a relevant card, always an unwelcome sight.
Dealing with it: That’s what we get for straying from the path, right? Well, unless you really dislike getting experience, staying at the Enchanted Path isn’t really an option so usually players will just need to take this card for granted. Passing the willpower test would be optimal of course, but if that fails, hope to surge into a card that doesn’t also penalize your actions. If this threatens to affect multiple players, this can even be worth canceling despite the Surge still happening.
Appears in: Beyond the Gates of Sleep, The Search for Kadath (barely, only for the first turn or two)
My take on this set: First things first: These are adorable. We need Zoog plushies. Now. With that important piece of business out of the way, let’s talk about the actual cards. Zoogs are the first showcase of the Swarming mechanic and are pretty much singlemindedly focused on working off of Swarm. To be honest, i don’t think they do this as well as some of the spider themed enemies or even the later Cats of Saturn do. Swarming 1 on a 1 stamina creature still lets it be defeated by attacking with one bullet, and evading works against them just as well as it would against “normal” creatures due to the lack of Hunter. Only if Zoog Burrow or a scenario specific card would increase their swarm count, they would start becoming more relevant as that would put their damage and horror at frightening levels. The one exception to this is the Inconspicious Zoog, whose mechanics of retreat, then hunt again can potentially be a huge pain.
What it does: Stealthy Zoog is a minor enemy with Swarm 1. Its agility is high enough to pose a problem for some investigators (which it preys upon) and Alert threatens a counterattack by the full swarm on a fail to do so. However, attacking and defeating it is very easy to do.
My take: The message “Do not evade” is heard loud and clear, as even puny seekers can instead punch this thing to death with two or three actions. Mostly, this plays as a Swarm of Rats with 2 stamina, which does have some implications but not enough to make them stick around for a lot. I would even punch these when playing Finn.
Threat level: Very Low to Low. Anyone even remotely capable to defeat enemies will have no issue at all.
Dealing with it: Just kill them. Due to how swarming works, they can be defeated with a single 2 damage action, so that should be the plan for sure. Evasion is not really a suitable option, as risking 2 horror on a fail is way more than i would want to risk for such a small critter.
What it does: The combat flavored counterpart to the Stealthy Zoog. This one has higher fight instead of evasion and it has Retaliate instead of Alert. Accordingly, it also preys on low fight investigators instead of those that are weak in agility.
My take: Dedicated fighters like most Guardians or Tony Morgan will probably still want to shoot it. But anyone else can certainly use that evasion to defuse them for a turn and move on. They don’t have Hunter and the map layout in Kadath and Gates of Sleep allow for stranding this enemy in a location that is not going to be entered again, so there’s not really anything that would make this plan likely to backfire.
Threat level: Very Low to Low. Arguably, the evasion route is open to even more investigators than the combat one, as anyone can exhaust this creature for only one action.
Dealing with it: It’s not like this is terribly difficult to defeat, but when evasion is such a low hanging fruit, why bother and risk the Retaliation attack?
What it does: Inconspicuous Zoog uses Swarming in a unique manner. Whenever it is defeated, it doesn’t use any additional swarm cards and instead moves to a connecting location. It spawns at a connecting location instead of engaged, but has Hunter.
My take: There’s nothing inconspicuous about this creature, this guy is dangerous! If unanswered, it will hunt into an investigator on its first enemy phase and attack with all of its swarm cards resulting in the same amount of damage and horror as if you were being hit by Azathoth itself. It is important then to be proactive about this Zoog and move to its location and kill it. Of course, it will then disengage and move, so you will need to do this all over again. And then one more time. Between moves and attacks, finally getting rid of this bugger can take away a lot of time on your own. Having someone else around to help can cut this number of actions down considerably, as they can just bounce the Zoog between them. This is pretty much the worst enemy to have to attach additional swarm cards to, so you should put a bit of a priority on defeating it. Else you risk drawing Zoog Burrow (or Ancient Zoog, during Gates of Sleep) and making this even more painful.
Threat level: High. Able to both dish it out and take it. Also bypasses a lot of the commonly played answers to creatures.
Dealing with it: One of the rare enemies where dealing extra damage doesn’t help. As a result, spending charges or ammo should be avoided if possible. Someone with high base fight like Tony or Mark can just punch the Zoog, but melee weapons are a fine answer as well. The forced move on defeat doesn’t specify that the connected location should be empty, which can be used in the investigator’s favor. If two of them team up, they can push the Zoog from one location to the other and back again, at least saving the move actions that would otherwise be needed to catch up with the Zoog every time it disengages. If that is not possible (because the other players are unavailable or simply because it’s a solo game) then having actionless sources of damage (Beat Cop, Zoey’s Cross) can be a big help to deal with this enemy fast. Dynamite Blast and Storm of Souls are also excellent answers to this enemy. Due to how much damage and horror this deals, evasion is a very risky plan. You can’t really run from it during Gates of Sleep either due to the layout of the locations.
What it does: If the investigator fails an agility test, swarm cards are added to the nearest Zoog enemy for each point failed by. If no suitable enemy is around, one is searched up from the deck and discard pile instead. The only enemies that can be targeted by this card’s primary effect are the three Zoog cards from this set, there are no other swarming Zoogs in any of the scenarios.
My take: As long as you can keep Zoogs off the board, this is fine. Fetching up your choice of Furtive or Stealthy Zoog shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. However, if this does get to add swarm cards, things can become a bit uglier. On one of the small Zoogs it’s just a bit extra stamina to chew through (just be aware that failing to do so can lead to a big hit in the enemy phase!). But on an Inconspicuous Zoog, this can really take away a bunch of actions. Since it has Hunter, attacking it to exhaust it becomes a priority because having that thing hunt into you with 5+ swarm cards can take out many investigators in one hit. But still, that’s just a worst case and mostly this can easily be avoided.
Threat level: Low to Mid. The stars have to align a bit for this to become troublesome, but there is a worst case scenario here that at least deserves some recognition. Even if it requires drawing two cards together that both only have one copy in the encounter deck.
Dealing with it: If you managed to “park” one of the non-Hunter enemies on a location that you don’t plan on visiting anymore, you are likely able to dump any swarm cards generated by the Burrows on that enemy. The Inconspicuous Zoog should be public enemy #1 when it enters play anyways, the existence of Burrows only increases its priority. So there isn’t really anything you may want to play differently because of this card, it only reinforces how you’d usually deal with those Zoogs anyways.
Appears in: Beyond the Gates of Sleep, The Search for Kadath
My take on this set: This set attacks the player’s capabilities to investigate locations and collect clues. The power level of the two cards here is wildly different. Dreamlands Eclipse is largely fine, while it’s always a bit of an inconvenience it is rarely a real problem. Prismatic Phenomenon on the other hand is this cycle’s version of Frozen in Fear and can be a huge issue if an enemy handler gets stuck with it. A card to look out for whenever this set is added to the deck for sure.
What it does: This treachery stays in play until the end of the round. While in play, every player who initiates an investigation has to either take 1 horror or have the shroud value of their location go up by 2.
My take:Deep Dark‘s little brother. Sits next to the agenda for a turn and puts a dampener on how much you can investigate. Eclipse allows to bypass its restrictions by paying a horror per action, but of course that can be an issue if the Seeker’s plan was to spend all its actions on investigating. The most important difference between Deep Dark and Eclipse, and the one that makes Eclipse much more benign, is that Eclipse only affects actual investigations, while Deep Dark stops any sort of clue discovery. That means that this card can be bypassed by the likes of Drawn to the Flame, Working a Hunch, etc. As a result, i never found this card to be a particularly bad one. Worst case, the investigation has to rest for a turn and the actions have to be used in some other way. Often, the +2 shroud can even be offset by committing another card to the test.
Threat level: Low to Mid. It affects everyone at the table and for all of their investigative actions, but there are ways around the penalties.
Dealing with it: During Search for Kadath, players are on a timer to get as much done as possible, so having a way to offset the stalling from this card will stop players from falling behind the clock. This is less important in Gates of Sleep, which features a very generous doom clock (provided you didn’t take too long in the first chapter of that scenario). How to best adress the presence of this card when it is in play will depend a lot on the situation, but there are various ways around it. There are no hard restrictions like on Dark Deep, so either taking the horror or brute forcing the increased shroud can both be suitable plays. Finding clues without investigating can ignore the card completely.
What it does: Prismatic Phenomenon enters play through a player’s threat area where it stays until that player successfully investigates a location and forfeits discovering clues. While it is in play, that investigator has to spend an additional action the first time they use the draw, resource or play action each round.
My take: How much an investigator minds this is going to depend a lot on two things: How important is constantly playing cards? And how difficult is passing that intellect test to get rid of it for the player? For some investigators, both of these questions can be answered with “A lot”, and those can potentially be crippled by this card for several turns. For example, Nathaniel Cho could find himself having to spend two actions for each of his attack events until his 2 intellect can finally find a clue somewhere. On the other end of the spectrum, someone like Minh gets by without playing any cards at all past the initial setup and has no trouble investigating either. Of course, even for investigators like Minh, that’s still a successful investigation that was negated by Prismatic Phenomenon.
Threat level: High. Some investigators are hit by this more than they would be by Frozen in Fear.
Dealing with it: Low intellect investigators may need some help here in the form of cards committed from other players at their location. Luckily, all regions in Search for Kadath have some location with 1 or 2 shroud, but going there of course takes more actions away. If there’s an enemy at that location (like at the Ruins of Ib, for example), this can even provoke some attacks of opportunity. It might just be best to treat this card like you would treat Frozen in Fear and reserve either a cancel or an Alter Fate for it. Or both, just to be sure.
This weeks trip to through the Circle Undone led up The Secret Name – a scenario that you either love or hate. Personally, i am a fan. On the way there, i looked over Realm of Death, a little four card set that at least for me is one of the most terrifying in all of TCU.
With that business out of the way, i decided to take the still empty Friday slot and also review The Watcher because it is needed for all three scenarios that i still need to get to in the following weeks. I think this one might be a little bit controversial. Basically, i don’t think very highly of the Watcher itself, i find this guy very uninteresting and lacking the impact that the story text pretends he commands.
FFG just announced the fifth Mythos pack of the Innsmouth cycle, The Lair of Dagon. The thing that jumped at me first: Just last week i was commenting on how great a level 4 Dig Deep is going to be for encounter protection and there it is, confirmed and ready to ship together with the other two missing level 4 talents. Obviously nobody talks about the Talents when there’s much more flashy stuff around (like the Favors… holy shit those have some cool uses), but i can see Dig Deep(4) doing a lot of good work making Survivors laugh even more at the encounter decks of TFA, TCU and TIC in particular. The other Level 4 Talents have similar applications, of course.
I didn’t expect this to happen, but it looks like that scenario will actually be focused on curse tokens and making you fail tests. Interesting and a bit out of left field, at least i expected them to keep the blurse stuff mostly to player cards. I wonder how much that scenario can be trivialized with some curse tech. Dark Ritual, your day has fina… just kidding, that thing is still bad 🙂 The previewed encounter cards don’t look too bad. The treachery seems very mild to me. The Cenarian Deep One is a bit of a pain, but not more so than other scenario specific Deep Ones we’ve already seen like the Ravager or the Emerging ones from In Too Deep. We get a sneak peak at Dagon himself as well. It’s a nice teaser, but without seeing the other side or the location he’s at there’s not really much to say here.
Over the last week, i also got to play Devil Reef, as a standalone with Roland and Bizarro Agnes. That was a wild ride. I really like what they did with the locations here, but you do have to reserve a bit more table space than usual! This scenario is every bit as sprawling as Return to City of Archives or Phantom of Truth, maybe even more. It’s the first time we get to use the Agents of Hydra encounter set and boy is it an annoying one. Random discard is just the worst, especially when you are trying to play an event heavy deck like Almost-Agnes. The vehicle stuff is well integrated, i think. It’s important, but not overstated. It’s something extra you have to care about but it doesn’t take away from the core of the game. Will be interesting to see how Horror in High Gear goes, i expect that the vehicle mechanics (heh.) are taking a more prominent place there. All things considered, a well done scenario with lots of replayability thanks to the layered randomization of locations. Another hit, Innsmouth has been really great so far.
And that’s it for today. I wish all of you a merry christmas, happy holidays and that you can leave all the annoyances of 2020 behind for at least the last couple days of the year.
Appears in: At Death’s Doorstep, The Wages of Sin, Union and Disillusion
My take on this set: Besides Agents of Azathoth, this is the other encounter set from Circle Undone that houses a special enemy that is never added to the encounter deck. Unlike the Piper, the Watcher comes in as a story enemy when certain agendas advance. The story treats this enemy like a driving force that players should work towards defeating, with the final showdown during Union and Disillusion as the payoff. Personally, i never really felt as much about this enemy as the flavor text expected us to. Appearing in only two scenarios (one of which keeps tempting me to resign first turn…) before the showdown didn’t help build this anticipation, but the enemy itself isn’t really anything too special? In the end, he’s just a Ravenous Ghoul that refuses to die for more than two turns at a time… sorry Watcher, the much more impressive and scary Piper of Azathoth stole your show.
What it does: The Spectral Watcher is not actually shuffled into any encounter decks, it appears on certain story beats in the three scenarios it takes part in. It’s an invincible Hunter enemy that instead of dying will exhaust for two turns. It has five health, enough to occupy a Guardian for a turn. Evading it is possible, of course. But the Alert keyword discourages that somewhat.
My take: This enemy is more of a roadblock than a dangerous threat on its own. The high health and regeneration after two turns makes it soak up a generous amount of actions over time. But it doesn’t do more damage than any standard ghoul and its 3 combat and evade don’t ask anything too much from players either. Other enemies with the “Ancient One” trait have commanded a lot more respect from me for sure. And so has the Piper of Azathoth from the same cycle, for that matter. That being said, it is still a formidable enemy. Its high health makes it likely to stack up with other encounter cards that player may now no longer have the actions to deal with because they had to take care of the Watcher again. That he doesn’t ever take up an encounter card and just appears as part of the scenario rules doesn’t help either.
Threat level: High. A huge time sink that helps other encounter cards to do their worst.
Dealing with it: Five health is a lot, enough that it may even be worth putting one player on evasion duty to keep the Watcher down. If a three damage attack is available, exhausting the Watcher with two attacks is usually going to be worth it, though.
What it does: The Watcher is healed and readied, then gets an extra enemy phase just for him. For the duration of that movement and engagement, the Watcher is considered to be preying on the player that drew Watcher’s Grasp.
My take: The Prey instruction doesn’t really do all that much in practice, most notably it is missing the word “only”. If it were “Prey – You Only”, the Watcher would even disengage other players to come for you, now it’s just a tiebreaker in case it’s not already engaged and doesn’t have a closer target. This can be a very annoying effect, undoing much of what the players did to keep the Watcher out of their hair. If they didn’t manage to kill it in one turn, the healing undoes any progress there. But more importantly, the readying does bypass the two turns of quiet that defeating the Watcher usually earns you. Note that the extra attack in the Mythos phase will exhaust the Watcher as usual during attacks, so it will still be exhausted when entering the enemy phase later that turn, skipping the attack there.
Threat level: Medium. The Watcher’s attack isn’t very threatening, but it comes on top of possibly undoing some of the player’s work in leaving the Watcher behind.
Dealing with it: The existence of this card makes evading the Watcher a bit more attractive over defeating it, as drawing this card right after spending cards, resources, charges and/or ammo on defeating the Watcher is just infuriating. Perpetually evading him doesn’t come with such high investment up front. It does expose the evading investigator to an attack when Watcher’s Grasp is drawn, but that should be largely fine.
My take on this encounter deck: Twenty-Three. That’s the number of willpower testing encounter cards in this pile of cards. There are some encounter decks that do not even have that number of cards in total. The Secret Name is a massive onslaught on the willpower of the investigators (and their players) and anyone not prepared for this is better going to use a big table, as they are going to need that space for their threat area. This scenario has a lot of damage and horror effects that peck away at the investigator’s stamina and sanity, making it all about endurance in a notoriously longwinded trip through the witch house. Meanwhile Fate of All Fools, Terror in the Night and Evil Past are at their most potent here, throwing their damage and horror on top of the pile. But of course one of the most memorable things about The Secret Name is its enemies. A witch, her familiar and three rats. And that’s it. But thanks to buffing effects from the agenda and the familar, these creatures are actually able to occupy player’s time. And thanks to some encounter cards and effects on locations, they don’t stay dead long after defeat. With the exception of Nahab, these enemies aren’t really dangerous, but they do stall the players considerably, allowing all those treacheries to do their work. Cancel these: Ghostly Presence, Realm of Torment. Timing is a huge factor in how bad Ghostly Presence is. If Nahab is off the board, then Ghostly Presence merely searches for her, which may not even be worth canceling. But if the card would cause several attacks and/or doom, this is a card that is obviously worth stopping. As for Realm of Torment, there are some locations here without Haunted effect that players unable to get rid of it can stay at and be safe, but it is still a huge impediment when it hits a low willpower investigator.
What it does: The witch’s familiar actually starts out in the encounter deck right away, ready to terrorize the players. Brown Jenkins is an aloof hunter enemy that forces each player to discard their hand at the end of the enemy phase and then draw as many cards. Also, it increases the fight of each readied Creature enemy by 2. Its statline looks pretty weak at 1/1/4, however it does profit from its own fight boost, being a Creature itself. It also gains +1 to +4 health from the agenda. As a result, the thing is actually difficult to defeat, considering you have to engage it first due to its Aloof keyword. Thanks to an ability on the agenda, killing it awards one or two clues from the token bank.
My take: You always know that your Secret Name run is #blessed when you draw this guy from the encounter deck in the first Mythos phase. Brown Jenkin is one of the most memorable enemies in the whole game thanks to how omnipresent and annoying it is. Not terribly difficult to take out at first, you might even want to do so for some extra clues. Once the agenda advanced once or twice, this becomes more and more of a pain to actually do and one can consider to let it stick around. The fight bonus to creatures puts the Swarm of Rats at fight 3, which isn’t too bad and some investigators can certainly handle Brown Jenkin dumping their hand repeatedly. Some might even profit from it.
Threat level: Mid. It’s not really dangerous as such, just highly annoying.
Dealing with it: Having access to some testless damage from cards like Blood-Rite can swat this enemy a few times for easy clues early on. Later on, it’s likely preferrable to have some investigator stay on a different location as the others and keep Jenkin on them. The bonus fight to Rats probably doesn’t matter too much, at least not enough that repeatedly working through a 4-5 stamina enemy with aloof is worth it.
What it does: Meddlesome Familiar searches the encounter deck and discard pile for Brown Jenkin and puts it into play. If Jenkin is not available because he’s already around, a Swarm of Rats is searched instead. Afterwards, Meddlesome Familiar deals 1 damage to the investigator.
My take: Basically this is Swarm of Rats 4 to 6 in this encounter deck. Its main job is making sure that Jenkin is never too far away, but if players decide to keep it in play, then Rats are the replacement. Those are actually not to be underestimated, with the health and fight boost from Jenkin and the agenda, they are decent enemies that can easily take a turn away. That one testless damage is also surprisingly relevant, there are enough other damage sources in this scenario to stack up with. Also… holy crap, that artwork. It’s a nightmare.
Threat level: Mid. As long as a competent fighter is able to whack the rats, this is largely fine.
Dealing with it: Kill all the rats. There are few enemies in this scenario, so one well equipped investigator on rat duty can hopefully keep the board free from vermin and make sure that the others can do their thing in peace.
What it does: Not strictly starting out in the encounter deck, but added to the board early on and then discarded, ready to be drawn again or pulled from the deck by Ghostly Presence. Nahab, the witch herself, collects a doom in each enemy phase. This doom is not removed from her when the agenda advances. Like her familiar, her statline looks weak at first, but she also profits from the extra 1 to 4 stamina provided by the agenda. She doesn’t get Jenkin’s fight bonus, but instead just gets a +1 to +4 fight from the agenda as well. Nahab is a Hunter with Retaliate. That Retaliate becomes more and more relevant as her fight value increases, of course. Killing her rewards one or two clues from the token bank.
My take: She’s a somewhat fragile Hunter that deals two horror. Also, she collects doom each turn. Two good reasons to defeat her as soon as possible, unlike Jenkin there isn’t really a good way to get around that. If you really need a third reason, you will want to have her gone when Ghostly Presence comes from the encounter deck…
Threat level: High. High horror with Retaliate, a doom ability and progressively increasing stats make for a fine boss enemy.
Dealing with it: For a boss enemy, she can not take all that much punishment, at least before the final fight where she regenerates for having doom on her. But until then, just murder her over and over for the clue bounty on her head. Doing so efficiently is important so she’s not able to tip the agenda over prematurely or attack players with her high horror. If you have any burst damage cards available (Spectral Razor, Vicious Blow, etc), i would suggest saving those to dispatch Nahab as soon as she appears. Note that she only gets one extra stamina for each player in the game, so ganging up on her is more effective than usual although that will leave you vulnerable to Ghostly Presence.
What it does: If Nahab is in play, she first hunts, then attacks everyone at her location. During the final showdown with her, she also gains another doom, prolonging the fight. If Nahab is not in play, she is spawned from the deck or discard pile.
My take: Nahab’s version of Meddlesome Familiar is a much more dangerous card. Especially if it’s drawn during the final fight, as Nahab will likely get multiple bonus attacks and also a doom which will act as an “extra life” for her or even advance the agenda. Drawn during the early parts of the game, it’s less dramatic but Nahab is still an enemy to respect even then.
Threat level: High. Has some bad worst case scenarios depending on the timing of when this is drawn.
Dealing with it: This is a card to hold a cancel for. If such a card is not available, then dealing with Nahab is of course being the next priority.
What it does: Strange Geometry is a location that enters play from the encounter deck. It is not connected to any other location and when it enters play, the investigator who drew it will have to move there. At the end of the investigation phase, Strange Geometry is discarded and the investigator at the location is dealt 1 damage and 1 horror while being moved to the location with the most clues on it. To avoid this fate, the player can discover the clue on this shroud 4 location and then move to any revealed location.
My take: This treachery-like location can have fairly bad effects for the investigators left behind if the one transported away is the one who would otherwise be needed to distract Jenkin, to fight Nahab or just to dispatch some giant rats. Anyone able to grab the clue will just lose an action and might even gain something from the free move to anywhere. How much this card matters is very dependent on the investigator. If you’re unable to pass an intellect(4) test or cheat a clue some other way, something that is true for quite a few investigators, this steals a full turn and deals damage and horror on top. Quite nasty.
Threat level: Mid. Low for some, High for others. This is a very conditional card that can range from helpful for some to debilitating for others.
Dealing with it: This is a card i would’ve liked to bank a cancel for, but as a location it is very hard to cancel in the first place. So what is left is considering the options: Discovering the clue if you can. Employ some other sort of movement (Astral Travel, Elusive, Gatebox). Or just accept your fate and use your three actions for something productive. That last option is often the best way to meet this card, as spending 3 actions to finally pass the investigate test can be just as harmful as (or worse than) taking the damage and horror while using the 3 actions to play cards.
What it does: Pulled by the Stars is added to a players threat area where it stays until they spend an action and pass a willpower test. With an exhausted Witch present that willpower test is no longer necessary. While affected by this card, the investigator takes 2 horror at the end of every turn during which they didn’t move.
My take: There’s a decent amount of pressure on player’s sanities, especially from Nahab and Ghostly Presence. So getting rid of this card should certainly happen eventually, even if it isn’t necessarily a priority right away. The only witch in the scenario is Nahab, so making use of that clause about exhausted witches at your location isn’t exactly easy. One thing of note is that even if you expect to being able to move every turn, this can still come to bite you when you draw Strange Geometry and get stuck that way. If that happened to me, i would probably try to spend my three actions at that location to try and pass the willpower test on Pulled by the Stars instead of trying to get out of Geometry.
Threat level: Low to Mid. A repeatable source of horror, but can be mitigated by taking move actions which can help taking the sting out of the card.
Dealing with it: As with all of the Hexes of this kind, any investigator can activate these, even when they are in the threat area of other players. So even if someone like Skids or Wini gets Pulled by the Stars, their teammate with high Will can help them snap out of it. Of course, that would need to happen before the rogue draws Strange Geometry…
What it does: The investigator has to pass a willpower test. If they don’t, they have to discard an asset they control. The difficulty of the willpower test scales with the number of cards in the encounter discard pile, from 2 to 5.
My take: This is fine, as far as asset discard goes. The discard is non-random, so it can be counteracted by having something cheap (or spent) to sacrifice. The willpower test also offers a way out and it starts reasonably low difficulty enough that passing it is feasible. This sort of treachery usually hurts the most in the first few setup turns and that is conveniently also when its difficulty is lowest, so that’s also something going for it. With an encounter deck of 40 cards, it will scale to a maximum of +3 difficulty in the late game. That’s certainly difficult enough to put even Mystics to a challenge, but at that point losing an asset should be something that can be planned around.
Threat level: Mid. It’s a mild asset discard treachery, but still … discarding assets always comes at a cost.
Dealing with it: As is the case with every non-random discard, having something to intentionally sacrifice for the effect can soften the blow by providing an acceptable worst case should you not be able to pass the test.
What it does: After drawing this treachery, the investigator has to pass a difficult willpower test, otherwise they have to put this treachery in their threat area where it stays. While affected, the player has to discard the top card of the encounter deck each turn. When the encounter deck runs out of cards, Disquieting Dreams is discarded and the player has to reveal the top 10 cards of their own deck. Weaknesses revealed this way are drawn, all other cards go into the discard pile.
My take: This is fine. Discarding the top card of the encounter deck introduces some extra variance to the encounter draws and it does accelerate the deck towards the consequences of cards like Evil Past. But not a whole lot past that. By the same token, discarding cards from your own deck isn’t doing anything by itself either and drawing the weaknesses might feel bad in the moment, but in the end it’s still card draw. Worst case, this card makes you draw your weakness(es) one extra time over the course of the game.
Threat level: Very Low to Low. This does marginally increase the threat of some other cards, but isn’t much to worry about by itself.
Dealing with it: Unless you are really concerned about your weaknesses, this shouldn’t disquiet you all too much. Alter Fate can get rid of it, but chances are that there are much better targets for that around.
Return to The Secret Name
My take on the modified scenario: As with the previous two scenarios, the changes to the scenario stem mostly from the exchange of certain encounter sets for new ones. In fact, the only encounter sets that are sticking around are the Rats (and of course the scenario specific cards). The other four sets all get replaced. This leads to a massive shakeup of this scenario. I want to illustrate this by showing the new number breakdown for the encounter deck:
Size of the Encounter Deck
Comparing these numbers to the original ones at the top of the page, we can see that the balance of willpower vs agility shifted from 23:0 to 15:8, making it a much less one-note affair. The potential doom from Fate of All Fools also got axed, which is a relief in this often tight scenario. In terms of damage and horror, the numbers aren’t able to tell the whole picture very well. On the one hand, Diabolic Voices and Fate of All Fools no longer go after the player’s stamina… but on the other hand Unavoidable Demise can easily bring down anyone already on the ropes from “Trespasser!” or Meddlesome Familiar.
Other than that, there’s a couple new locations in the extradimensional deck, but i don’t necessarily think they change much about the scenario – they are mostly just adding variety. No new scenario specific are added to the deck, but as i established above, that wasn’t necessary anyways. I like this new version of The Secret Name, it gives it some more dimensions (pun absolutely intended) and stops it from just being “Willpower: The Scenario”.
Appears in: At Death’s Doorstep, The Secret Name, The Wages of Sin, Union and Disillusion
My take on this set: These cards are terrifying. Both of them have the same effect: Forcing additional triggers out of Haunted abilities. These come in many shapes and forms, and only few of them are no big deal. Haunted abilities range from some lost resources over gaining some points of damage/horror or having to discard assets to losing actions or even throwing doom around. Seeing these trigger every turn due to Realm of Torment or getting a “free” slap in the face from a surging Shapes in the Mist is never good. Note that these will not only trigger the Haunted ability on your spectral locations, but also any additional ones from sources such as Wraith or Nether Mist. That these cards are used in half of the scenarios of Circle Undone doesn’t make them easier to swallow either. I have the highest respect for the Realm of Death set.
What it does: Realm of Torment is put into a player’s threat area. While there, the affected investigator has to resolve all haunted abilities at their location, including ones that are added to the location from other sources. At the end of each of their turns, the investigator has one chance to discard the card by passing a Willpower test.
My take: It’s Frozen in Fear, but worse. There, i said it. Frozen in Fear makes players conditionally lose an action, this thing can do all sorts of shenanigans. A player that can’t get rid of Frozen in Fear is slowed down, someone who is stuck with Realm of Torment might just die to it. A frustrating card that already does as much as most other treacheries on its first activation and only ramps up from there.
Threat level: High to Very High. Can be an absolute show-stopper, but the Willpower test at least allows fighting against it.
Dealing with it: Can i talk to you about our lord and savior, Alter Fate? Or its prophet, Logical Reasoning? Seriously though, all of the Circle Undone wants players to have high Willpower or face the consequences. Anyone who is not able to reliably pass Will(3) tests to shake off cards like this one or any of the Hexes, will need to have a backup plan like one of the cards mentioned. If you are stuck with one of these, you can somewhat control the effect you have to deal with by choosing where to end your turn. But doing so is of course going to eat up actions like crazy.
What it does: Shapes in the Mist triggers the haunted abilities on your location, then surges into the next encounter card in line.
My take: Surge on a relevant card is such a pain. Haunted abilities can be quite powerful, getting one of them on top of what the encounter deck had planned for you anyways feels just bad. A very unpredictable card that sometimes does little, but any effect at all is already enough when Surge is involved.
Threat level: High. Relevant effects with Surge are power spikes on top of the generally already fairly high level of the Circle Undone campaign.
Dealing with it: In theory, one could try and be mindful of where they end their turn when there’s four cards in the encounter deck that care about it. In practice, this is usually not possible or reasonable. This is a card where you just grin and bear it.
Return to Circle Undone: Unstable Realm
My take on this set: This replaces a very impactful set of cards that are notably difficult to interact with, instead offering two toned down versions. I like this replacement set. Unstable Energies is a cool design that ensures additional haunted triggers without being too punishing for low willpower investigators. And From the Other Side feels like a less infuriating version of Shapes to me. Reducing the amount of surging is a good thing in my opinion. Unstable Realm removes the treachery with the dreaded Frozen in Fear template from the game, which is something to be happy about. However, it should be noted that the replacement for Trapped Spirits introduces a new one where there wasn’t one before. So some of the power of this set merely wandered over to that other set. Unstable Realm is also a good set to mix with the old one. Using one copy of each of these cards for a combined set should work very well.
What it does: Unstable Energies attaches to the investigators location and is discarded only if at the end of the round no investigator is still at the location. Each investigator (not only the one that drew the card) that leaves the location will have to resolve each haunted abilities there.
My take: A very interesting card that can potentially hit multiple investigators if they shared their location during the Mythos phase or if they are forced to walk through the location while the treachery is still up. This replaces Realm of Torment as a way to get multiple Haunted triggers out of one encounter card, but spreads them across the team. It’s net impact is going to be similar to the card it replaces, but without the potential of pummeling one player forever.
Threat level: Mid. Depending on the Haunted effect of the attached location, this can be a roadblock that stops players unwilling to deal with it from moving through that location.
Dealing with it: Unless cancels or Alter Fate are involved, this will always trigger at least once. How to deal with the card’s effect is obviously going to depend a lot on the actual haunted ability on the location and on how many people are impacted by it. Small groups will find this card a lot more lenient than Realm of Torment.
What it does: After failing an agility test, the player has to resolve the haunted abilities of their current location. Should they fail by 3 (which is also the difficulty), the haunted abilities are resolved an extra time.
My take: Oh thank god, Shapes in the Mist’s reign of terror is finally over. Its replacement, From the Other Side, threatens to resolve the haunted effect twice, but for one there is a skill test involved that can possibly prevent it in full. Secondly, there is no contingency for situations where there are no haunted abilities on the location. The card is just a freebie then. Finally, and most importantly, there is no Surge anywhere on the card. This is one of those few cases where a replacement is significantly weaker than the original but i am fully okay with it because the original was just such a pain.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Certain haunted effects can be brutal if you have to trigger them twice, but that worst case is not all that likely.
Dealing with it: Is it worth thinking about where to end your turn just because of two copies of this card in the encounter deck? Probably not. Like Shapes in the Mist, this is probably something you will have to deal with unprepared most of the time, but at least you get a fighting chance through the agility test now. Even if your agility is low and you’ll likely fail, consider pitching an icon or two if you have them if you think that can prevent the “fail by 3” clause from becoming active.