Weekly Evils – #25

Week in Review

Trucking along the scheduled scenario and encounter set reviews, it was Circle Undone’s turn this week. Spectral Predators and Trapped Spirits are two closely related sets about spirits and their interaction with the Haunted mechanic. And which better scenario to showcase Haunted than At Death’s Doorstep, which pushes this mechanic hard?
This leaves two more scenarios from TCU for another time. Next week I’ll be finishing up The Dream-Eaters, however!


I’ll save the lengthy introduction, instead i will continue right where i left off last week with the personal rankings for the scenarios within their campaign. As a reminder, here’s what the colors/tiers mean:

Let’s go.

As mentioned last week, this ranking assumes the Return To campaign where possible and for TFA, that is very important. I mentioned this before, but RtTFA managed to make this my favorite campaign, even beating out Carcosa. Like Carcosa, it doesn’t have a real stinker in its lineup. At the bottom sits HotE#2, and its biggest crime is only being a bit boring and not adding anything interesting to the campaign. At the top sits Threads of Fate, one of the best scenarios in the whole game. For some, it’s even the best. Depths of Yoth is not only a great singleton scenario, it also fulfills an important role in campaign play, delivering the payoff for the Vengeance mechanic. Untamed Wilds is a great first scenario. It introduces the exploration mechanic, offers a meaningful choice right away around how to handle Ichtaca and offers a challenge level that is just right. The rest of the campaign is just super solid. City of Archives went from one of my least favorite scenarios to being quite interesting due to the new option from Return To. Boundary Beyond profits hard from the exploration changes. Doom of Etzli is basically a whole new scenario. HotE#1 and Shattered Aeons are the only ones that were left a bit behind. Especially Shattered Aeons is kinda weak for a final scenario. But it’s still … fine.

I have a love/hate relationship with TCU. It was my first campaign after Core and Dunwich and i initially liked it a whole lot. But while TFA managed to become better and better with each replay, i soured on TCU a bit more each time i played it. Wages of Sin is an absolute mess of a scenario, i find little redeeming features about it. Before the Black Throne makes me feel completely helpless, like the scenario is actually playing me instead of the other way round. Too much variance makes it appear like my actions have little relevance to the outcome. Another clear miss for me.
On the other side of the spectrum sits Clutches of Chaos and i am very aware of how controversial i am being here. This scenario constantly ranks near the bottom for anyone else, but i just love it. It has everything i want: A big map, lots of investigations to do, enemies to fight, interesting treacheries. And a super neat gimmick mechanic on top.
Say what you want about The Secret Name, but its certainly memorable. It again features a good gimmick and poses a very real challenge. I also appreciate that it doesn’t go as all-in on Haunted as many other TCU scenarios do.
The Greater Good again comes with a big map, stuff to collect, enemies to fight, various ways to success and branching story bits depending on what you do.
Witching Hour doesn’t really do anything wrong, it’s just a bit basic when compared to other first scenarios like Curtain Call or Untamed Wilds that came before it. Death’s Doorstep is the Haunted scenario and i don’t particularly enjoy Haunted…
Which leaves Union and Disillusion. It focuses on two things: The Watcher and the circle tests. I don’t care much about the former and i feel like there’s too much variance with the latter. Some investigators have little chance to pass some of these tests and randomly drawing the “right” locations can make or break the scenario for those. Meh.
Fingers crossed that Return to Circle Undone can make me like this campaign again!

I have little love for the full Dream-Eaters campaign. Again, i am aware that it has its fans and i want to make clear that this is just my personal opinion. But i find little to like about the A-Campaign in particular. The B-side is pretty good, though! Waking Nightmare and Point of No Return are once again fairly “classic” investigate and fight scenarios that are always a hit for me. By what i read everywhere else, i also seem to be the only one who doesn’t mind the infestation tests in Waking Nightmare? Of course, the finale of B is Weaver of the Cosmos and that is just a mad thing. I love that it exists. It’s not the most challenging thing to replay the 5th time, but the setup with the giant rotating spider in the middle is just brilliant. The low end of B is Thousand Shapes of Horror, which throws a bunch of different mechanics at the wall and sees what sticks. It’s not annoying to play or anything, but imo it fails to do anything particularly well.
As for campaign A, it is just a sea of mediocrity to me. It never gets low enough that i would want to put it into a tier with the likes of Wages of Sin or Devourer Below, but except for Search of Kadath nothing comes close to really making me want to play it more often. Search for Kadath almost manages it, but the fiddly midgame setups are just such a bother. Gates of Sleep is … okay on the first play. But on replays the first half is just going through the motions for some time and then it’s just a central location with a few clustered around them with little really cool going on. Dark Side of the Moon can be fun if you specifically pick your investigators for it at the start of the campaign. Otherwise, the agility tests come out of left field and you just get buried in alarm levels. It’s kinda like coming into the Where Doom Awaits with low intellect before it got fixed by the Return To. I do applaud Where The Gods Dwell for the mechanics of its final “fight”, but i feel like the scenario has too many bugs to be enjoyable out of the box. An unforgiving doom clock that can run out even when you do everything right, a huge variance on where in the encounter deck the target cards sit and treacheries that can just set all of your progress back are just too much.

Alright, that’s my rankings for the full campaigns published so far. Obviously, everyone will disagree with something here and that’s fine. It’s an opinion piece 🙂
I want to do one more post next week on this little thought exercise, with a bit of a summary, comparison of the campaigns and a look at what we have seen from Innsmouth so far.

If you got this far, thanks for suffering through my rambling. Cheers 🙂

At Death’s Doorstep

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Chilling Cold, Inexorable Fate, Realm of Death, Silver Twilight Lodge, Spectral Predators, The Watcher, Trapped Spirits

Size of the Encounter Deck30
# Enemies9
# Willpower10
# Agility2
# Doom6
# Damage5
# Horror5
(These numbers do not include The Watcher, who is set aside at the beginning of the game and never enters the encounter deck)

My take on this encounter deck: This scenario introduces the players to the Haunted mechanic and it does so with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. All three encounter sets related to the Haunted keyword are present here and ready to interact with all of the locations once the first agenda and act advanced.
There’s another unique twist around that agenda flip. Before it happens, all enemies drawn from the Spectral Predators and Trapped Spirits encounter sets are set aside and a doom is placed on the agenda. This is quite the dramatic increase of doom related effects for the first part of the scenario and actually makes it very unpredictable and random how much time the players have to collect their clues. Drawing multiple of those enemies during that phase is very punishing, as you are not only getting doom out of it, but those enemies do actually enter play all at the same time once the agenda threshold is reached.
As is standard for The Circle Undone, one third of the encounter deck asks for Willpower tests. This number includes the Lodge Neophytes, so it’s not as extreme as other TCU scenarios in practice.
Depending on how keen the players are on parleying Josef Meiger and saving him, the tone of the scenario varies a bit. If they choose to ignore Meiger, it’s mostly a fairly standard task of collecting clues and getting out while having to deal with the Watcher and with doom on the cultists. If they go for Meiger, the cultists are no longer a threat, bringing down the number of enemies to just the four spirits and the Watcher.
Speaking of the Watcher, unless someone is playing a very combat heavy Guardian (or Tony) capable of repeatedly dishing out 3 damage per attack, it is probably a lot easier for most teams to evade it when it comes close to catching up. Having a high agility investigator use most of their turns on keeping the Watcher in check frees up A LOT of actions for the rest of the team.
Cancel these: Realm of Torment, Watcher’s Grasp. In a scenario that maximizes its interaction with Haunted, Realm of Torment can really drag someone down if they are unable to get rid of it. Having a cancel or Alter Fate handy for that occasion can pay off big time. When controlling the Watcher via evasion, Watcher’s Grasp can break through it and get extra attacks off. Even worse, it can prematurely “awaken” the Watcher after its defeat that would otherwise keep it down for two turns. When you are not saving Meiger, Mysteries of the Lodge is also worth consideration as it does add extra doom to the board.

Return to At Death’s Doorstep

My take on the modified scenario: The Return does quite a few things here. There’s a new room in the mansion, the Wine Cellar. It’s entirely optional (unless you have Meiger spawn there) but offers a powerful doom reduction ability as long as the investigator is able to beat the 5 shroud. Senator Rhodes, a new Silver Twilight traited enemy card starts together with the investigators at the entry hall with doom on him. Using parley, these doom tokens can be turned into clues and acquired. More importantly, this means that there will always be a target around for encounter cards and token effects that are looking for cultists.
A massive four encounter sets are swapped out – a total of 18 cards, so almost two thirds of the deck. These changes are very noticable as they include the dreaded Realm of Torment which gets weakened a bit. This is easily counteracted by the new Trapped Spirits, which features a Geist enemy that is much more of a problem than Wraith. Chillings Mists replaces Chilling Cold, which is a fairly even trade. Finally, Inexorable Fate gets axed in favor of Unspeakable Fate, meaning that this is the first scenario where investigators have to deal with Unavoidable Demise and the huge damage potential it represents. As a result of these swaps, the number of agility tests on encounter cards rises from 2 to 7. At the same time the number of willpower tests goes down from 10 to 5. This is of course a huge swing that will be felt differently depending on which investigators your group brings.
There’s also a new unique enemy cultist in the deck. While he’s certainly got some punch to him, he pales in comparison to what the encounter set replacements bring to the scenario.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: Dmitri Konstantinov is just shuffled into the encounter deck at game start like any other encounter card. He spawns with 2 doom on him at the location that is farthest away and not yet occupied by a cultist. At 4 fight and 3 health, he’s not a trivial enemy to defeat, but in a scenario that asks players to deal with the Watcher and with the Banshees from Bloodthirsty Spirits, he’s nothing too special either. He’s easy to evade and oversucceeding at the evade opens an alternate route to remove doom from him.

My take: Two things stand out to me here immediately. First, note that this guy can spawn at a location that has another investigator as it doesn’t specify “empty”. It could also spawn right on top of the Watcher, which would take this problem out of your hand right away. The other thing is that he doesn’t have Aloof like all the other cultists, so dealing with him is both a bit easier but also sort of pushed on you. This makes drawing him in the first act when the Silver Twilight enemies are still untouchable highly irritating if you can’t reliably beat his evade and oversucceed at it as well. Having extra doom land on him then (like from Mysteries of the Lodge) can also be all sorts of awful and bring you close to that second agenda in short time. Thankfully the Senator is often the one closer to you so he’ll get the doom instead. Once Dmitri can be killed, there’s little reason to not do that … even if you want to ally with the lodge, nobody will bat an eye over him as long as you rescue Meiger.

Threat level: High to Very High when drawn early. Mid to High otherwise. Just the fact that it comes into play with 2 doom earns it a solid amount of respect.

Dealing with it: He’s an inviting target for Spectral Razor, but those should probably be saved up for Banshees. Either way, killing him shouldn’t be a huge issue. If it is (for example because he’s still protected by the agenda), then just see if you can’t evade him. Look, more agility requirements in TCU. I smell a theme.


Continue reading here:

Trapped Spirits

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleEnemy, Damage, Haunted
Threat LevelLow to Mid
# of scenarios2
VariantsBloodthirsty Spirits
Appears in: At Death’s Doorstep, Wages of Sin

My take on this set: Like Spectral Predators, this set appears only in two of the scenarios and does interact with the Haunted mechanic. At Death’s Doorstep even has the full Haunted extravaganza assembled, with Trapped Spirits, Spectral Predators and Realm of Death all being around on a board that only has haunted locations.
Among those sets, Trapped Spirits is the one that is the least threatening, but it does contain a reasonably powerful damage treachery to look out for.
Wraith is a fairly weak enemy despite its recursion ability, it is pretty much a flavor homerun though.
All things considered, i don’t mind this set much. It’s not one that leaves a great impression due to being overshadowed by the two other Haunted themed encounter sets, but it does add a few solid cards to the encounter deck. Fair enough!

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Wraith’s stats aren’t scary at all, with just 2s across the board it is neither difficult to kill nor to evade. It does however inflict two horror on attack and has Hunter, so that’s something to look out for. If Wraith is killed without using a Relic or Spell, it is attached to the location where it can re-spawn if Haunted is triggered there.

My take: Not particularly threatening, but if it ends up recurring, it can at least cost an extra action here or there. I found this to be a nuisance mostly, the scenarios using this set have bigger threats to worry about. It does stack up with all the other Haunted effects, so it’s basically just another cog in that particular bunch of card interactions.

Threat level: Low. While it does threaten two horror on each attack, it is relatively easy to deal with and also easy to prevent from recurring.

Dealing with it: A charge from Shrivelling is all that it takes to stop this thing from doing anything more than a core set ghoul. Enchanted Blade will also do the trick. But even if it attaches to a location, it is usually not that difficult to prevent the Haunted from triggering again. Having a Wraith on a location can be a reason to end the turn on a different one, to play around the cards from the Realm of Death set.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: After performing an agility test, the investigator has to take a damage for each point they failed by. Should this test happen at a haunted location, the player can only commit card to it if they resolve those haunted abilities.

My take: A straight upgrade from the Ghouls set’s Grasping Hands. During Wages of Sin and (most of) Death’s Doorstep, all relevant locations are haunted, so this will always prevent pitching extra icons if the haunted ability is not triggered. Depending on the location this can be a real tough ask. And since this is one of the very few agility tests in a willpower heavy campaign, chances are that the investigators are not necessarily well suited for those agility tests in the first place.
As a result of these circumstances, this card is much more dangerous than Grasping Hands. Death’s Doorstep doesn’t apply a whole lot of pressure on the stamina of the investigators but Wages of Sin has several other sources that can stack up with it.

Threat level: Low to Mid in At Death’s Doorstep. Medium in Wages of Sin due to the increased pressure on stamina from other places.

Dealing with it: This card is difficult to handle and how bad it becomes will depend almost entirely on what haunted effects are present at your location. This is when cards like Nether Mist suddenly become a more pressing issue than previously thought. If soaking the damage from this card is possible, then that’s often going to be the preferred option. Personally, i would only take the haunted triggers if they are really benign or if the damage threatens to outright defeat my investigator. Otherwise, i’d be too wary of being haunted first, then pitching a card or two and then drawing the -4 or tentacle anyways…
Keep this card in mind when deciding whether you can take another 2 direct damage from Fate of All Fools!

Return to Circle Undone: Bloodthirsty Spirits

My take on this set: This is a spicy replacement set. Many of the other Return to Circle Undone sets are weaker than their base campaign counterparts, but this one is an exception. While Trapped Spirits was not a weak card by any means, Wraith was always just a bit irrelevant. In this new set, both cards have a notable presence.
As is the case with many of the replacement sets for Circle Undone, this one can also be combined with the base set simply by including one copy of each card.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: A geist with 3 health, low evasion and passable combat. It has Hunter, just like the Wraith it replaces. Dealing damage to the Banshee with anything but spells or relics forces the investigator to resolve all of the haunted effects at the Banshee’s location.

My take: The swap of Wraith for Banshee removes two additional sources of haunted abilities for two additional cards that can trigger haunted. This makes a lot of sense to me, after all having more effects is irrelevant if they don’t by chance get tripped by something from the Realm of Death set or from the seeker pulling a tentacle. Banshee is a lot more dangerous than the Wraith is, simply by having better stats and by having a Forced effect that actually does something.
If my reading of how a “When…”-Forced ability works is correct, the Banshee should also cause the haunted trigger if it gets hit for 3 damage in one strike. So the only way around it is using relics or spells, most of which are unable to deal 3 in one action, so they will need to take two actions (and possibly charges).

Threat level: Mid. Killing it is not outrageously difficult, but the haunted effect can make it a bit more costly than usual.

Dealing with it: In theory you’d want to evade this thing and not killing it. However, it is used during Death’s Doorstep and Wages of Sin. The former will have the Banshee attack the Twilight cultists, which can be an issue if you want to save them. The latter has a whole lot of Hunter enemies already. Both feature a lot of backtracking. So evasion is rarely going to be a satisfying answer, leaving you to either invest Shrivel charges, spend a Spectral Razor or just engage and kill it on a location where Haunted doesn’t bother you too much.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Bloodthirsty Spirits enters play in the threat area of the investigator that drew it. At the end of each turn, that investigator has a chance to pass a willpower test to discard it, otherwise Bloodthirsty Spirits sticks around. While it’s in play, the affected investigator can only commit cards to skill tests at haunted locations if they resolve those haunted abilities first.

My take: Anything that follows the Frozen in Fear template can be ridiculously hard to get rid off for some investigators. Of those cards, Bloodthirsty Spirits is relatively mild, but again some investigators that rely on skill play can be impacted a lot more than others. Amanda and Silas sit on the crossroads of both of these conditions, as they both have low base willpower and focus on skill cards. Amanda is even forced to use a skill each turn and will have to trigger haunted in turn.

Threat level: Mid to High, depending on the investigator.

Dealing with it: Having ways to discard cards like this or the Hexes is a core requirement for investigators to do well in Circle Undone. That can mean willpower boosts, Alter Fate or a wall of cancels. Whatever it is, you should have a plan for cards like this.

Weekly Evils – #24

Week in Review

In a bit of a sprint to the end, this week finished up the Forgotten Age. Deadly Traps was the last encounter set on the to-do list. The rest of the week went towards reviewing three scenario decks: Doom of Eztli, Threads of Fate and Heart of the Elders #2.


As a sort of thought experiment, i ranked the scenarios within their campaign from best to worst. After doing so, i also put them into 5 different tiers, to make the rankings from one campaign with those from the others. There were some interesting things i noticed, so i thought i would make two posts about this here. Before i go on with part one, here’s what the colors/tiers mean:

I should also mention that (where applicable) i ranked the Return To versions of the scenarios because those are the ones that i am actually playing. Also, these rankings are from the perspective of someone who already played all of these many times. So replayability is a huge factor here. Many of these would rank much higher if i were to look at my initial impressions when they were new. Alright, let’s start. I will post my ranking (with my favorite at the top) and then write a few short sentences about it. I’ll try to keep it brief, i could probably ramble about each of the lists for a long time, but i kinda want to spend not more than two, maaaaaybe three of these Soapbox columns on this.

Despite there only being three scenarios in this mini campaign, i had to have a little think about The Gathering vs Midnight Masks. In the end i decided to put Gathering over Masks in the end, the reason being that i basically never play Masks anymore. Threads of Fate pretty much replaced it. The Gathering however still sees some play as a standalone or side scenario (Let’s play Carcosa, but first let’s burn our house down!) and i like it quite a bit in its Return To version. Devourer Below is on of the four scenarios i put into the lowest tier, there’s only one other that i like even less than this punishing crapshoot of a scenario.

The first “real” campaign, this one has something from every tier. Lost in Time and Space is my favorite final mission, it is wonderfully alien and till today no other scenario dared to shuffle all of its locations into the encounter deck. BotA is a nice, meaty scenario that has all the usual ingredients, but caps it off with a remarkable boss enemy and threatens some consequences that can impact the player’s decks for the rest of the campaign. Extracurricular is the scenario that new players should play first, i think it’s a better introduction into Arkham than Gathering due to showcasing the campaign structure, multiple endings and all that fun stuff instead of just being super linear. On the other end of the spectrum are Where Doom Awaits and Undimensioned and Unseen. U+U is just tedious. Unless players don’t have the necessary willpower to even hurt the Broods, then it’s just dumb and worth a turn 1 resign. Where Doom Awaits got fixed somewhat in the Return To, but it’s still quite unremarkable and not worth being the last scenario before the finale. As for the three in the middle, i always had a soft spot for Museum so i put it on top. I very much enjoy the idea of having only one enemy around and Return To Museum fixes this scenario to a point where it usually works. House goes to the bottom because it’s a bit boring? While the first play of it is pretty cool and atmospheric, at least on replays there is little here that is really all that interesting.

Carcosa, the fan favorite. I always liked about this campaign that it doesn’t have a real stinker in it. Even the two that i put into tier 4 are at the upper end of that tier. Echoes is near trivial. Dim Carcosa is sort of robbed of its wonder once you’ve seen the backsides of all cards and once you’ve seen the same sort of locations used en masse in Dream-Eaters (which did it better). What is left is okay, but for a campaign finale i expect more than that. On the top of the ranking however are two of my absolute favorites. The locations in Pallid Mask are amazing and the whole scenario is quite dynamic and very, very replayable. The Last King is very different, can be played in a multitude of ways and again scores with immense replayability. Oath is hard, Oath is tense, Oath is satisfying to complete. Sadly, Oath can be a bit ridiculous as well sometimes, especially the Return To has it’s infuriating moments. Looking at you, Sign of Hastur. Curtain Call is a good scenario, i wish it was the third in the campaign or something so players already have some XP cards in their deck. It’s really difficult and comes with a few “gotcha” moments that can really screw you over in the first scenario. No spells or relic weapons? Enjoy this poltergeist!
Phantom of Truth is really two scenarios. I like the one where i hunt the Organist a lot more than the one where i run from him. Either way, evasion is way too good here. Black Stars loses a lot of its charme on replays. Once you know what to look for inside the church, figuring out the correct agenda is quite easy, making the rest of the scenario way easier than it is on the first couple plays.

(to be continued next weekend, with TFA, TCU, TDE and a little bit of TIC)

Spectral Predators

Set Size5
Number of unique Cards3
RoleHaunted, Horror, Enemy
Threat LevelMedium
# of scenarios2
Appears in: At Death’s Doorstep, Union and Disillusion

My take on this set: This set is used only twice during the Circle Undone campaign and it always comes paired with Chilling Cold, The Watcher, Inexorable Fate and Realm of Death. As a set that focuses on providing additional Haunted abilities and opportunities to trigger them, it does interact especially well with Realm of Death.
This interaction makes the set have a bit more impact than the somewhat tame cards would suggest when looked at on their own. Especially At Death’s Doorstep can really throw out a lot of extra Haunted triggers due to the combination of those encounter sets.
The standout card here is Nether Mist, an enemy that constantly taunts you with its victory point and begs you to waste your actions to deal with it. Meanwhile, it attacks from aloof should you ignore it. Very cool enemy.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: Nether Mist is a sizeable Hunter with Aloof. That means it doesn’t engage and attack on its own, but it will follow investigators around. While at a location, that location gains a Haunted trigger that causes Nether Mist to attack the investigator that failed their test. Nether Mist has enough health to soak a hit or two, but does award a victory point on defeat.

My take: This annoying thing can be ignored as long as players manage to pass their investigate tests. However, there are good reasons for trying to defeat it proactively. Not only does it award a victory point, but it also interacts with the forced Haunted triggers from the Realm of Death set and the Shadow Hound and also with various symbol token and location effects that care about spectral enemies and Haunted effects. Defeating it takes up a whole turn, so finding a good moment to do so is not always easy. A very interesting enemy.

Threat level: Mid to High. A considerable action sponge if you want to get rid of it.

Dealing with it: The danger of this enemy lies in how it never seems like something urgent. It’s tempting to just let it be and work towards other goals instead. And then suddenly you realize this thing has been hitting you three times already and is still around. Its four health puts it in a place where killing it with the usual tech against aloof enemies suddenly stops working. Even Spectral Razor will only save one action, but not defeat it outright. Some of the best ways to kill it are actually Seeker cards like the damage version of Ancient Stone or even Gaze of Ouraxsh.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Shadow Hound is a Hunter enemy that will not only deal a point of damage on attack, but will also trigger all haunted abilities on the location. Its stats are fairly low, but three health is enough to often require two actions to overcome. It does have Retaliate which can lead to additional attacks (and thus haunted triggers), but its low combat stat makes that only relevant for investigators with similarly low combat values.

My take: An above average threat that should be somewhat of a priority to take out. It’s not all that difficult to do so, but you don’t really want to have a Hunter skulking about that threatens to trigger extra Haunted effects.

Threat level: Low to Mid. While not exceedingly dangerous, it does pose somewhat of a priority.

Dealing with it: Overcoming the three health is the only real challenge here, allowing to possibly save an action if the investigator has some way of delivering that damage in one blow. Otherwise the card is fairly straightforward. Should the Shadow Hound have engaged a player that can’t reasonably attack the enemy without risking the Retaliate, evading it and having someone else deal with it is recommended.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Whispers in the Dark stays in play for the rest of the round. While in play, each location gains an additional Haunted ability that will have any investigator take a horror when they trigger it.

My take: This is a softball from the encounter deck. It’s rare that this does all that much, as Haunted is usually somewhat avoidable and one point of horror is neither enough of a deterrent to stop me from investigating nor is it enough of a payoff when comboing with Realms of Death or Shadow Hound.

Threat level: Low.

Dealing with it: It’s a point of horror. Sometimes. Maybe. Soak it and move on.

Threads of Fate

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Dark Cult, Locked Doors, Midnight Mask Treacheries, Nightgaunts, Pnakotic Brotherhood

Size of the Encounter Deck30
# Enemies8
# Willpower7
# Agility4
# Doom12
# Damage7
# Horror7

My take on this encounter deck: This is one of the most well-liked scenarios in the game, and for good reason. It shares a lot of its DNA with Midnight Masks and in fact shares most of the encounter deck. As reflected by using only one of the encounter sets from the Forgotten Age deluxe box, Threads of Fate is a departure from the rest of the campaign, trading the jungle for familiar locations all around Arkham.
The encounter deck mostly runs on two things: Denying clues and advancing the doom clock, thus pushing hard against the player’s tries to further their various goals. Moreso than in Masks, this scenario does also sport a good amount of damage dealing treacheries, and players can easily find themselves overwhelmed from On Wings of Darkness, Hunting Shadow and The Secret Must Be Kept.
Despite the low number of enemies in the deck, the amount of Hunters can be an issue, especially since players usually have other things to do here. Return to Threads of Fate can even throw the Harbinger of Valusia into the mix, but the base scenario does have enough of a punch with Nightgaunts and Brotherhood Cultists already.
Dealing with these enemies is an important step towards staying ahead of the doom clock as well. Most of the enemies here are cultists with their usual doom shenanigans going on. Putting a stop to that and preventing an early advancement of an agenda should be a priority.
The really unique thing about Threads of Fate is of course the existence of multiple act decks and the player choice that comes from being allowed to work on them in any order. These all feature some heavy clue requirements to advance and either require a fight or a parley in the middle, keeping everyone further occupied.
One of the best scenarios in the game.
Cancel these: Nobody’s Home, Conspiracy of Blood. Threads of Fate doesn’t really have any must-counters that stick very far out. The Secret Must Be Kept is the only exceptionally dangerous card, but since it has Peril, holding out a cancel for it is probably not worth it. The rest of the cards should be evaluated by how many actions they waste and for many of them this is going to fluctuate a lot. Nobody’s Home has the potential to be a huge pain, but might also just stick to a location you can safely skip. In a similar way, the Nightgaunt Taxi to the center location (On Wings of Darkness) can be either a big time waster, a minor nuisance or even beneficial depending on the circumstances. Conspiracy of Blood is the only piece of doom acceleration in this scenario that can not be counteracted by shooting someone or something, making it an attractive target for cancels.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: After failing a willpower test, the investigator is dealt both horror and damage. This card scales massively with the number of completed act decks. For each act deck that is no longer in play, The Secret Must Be Kept deals and extra point of damage, and extra point of horror and has its willpower test difficulty increased by one.
The Secret Must Be Kept has Peril, making it harder to cancel and preventing other players from helping with the test.

My take: If you are on your last act deck, this thing deals 3 damage and horror to you if you don’t pass a will(5) test. During Return To Threads of Fate, it can scale even higher. This is a huge threat in the late game and every one of them that you can draw early on is worth a sigh of relief – although a card that deals a horror and damage each is still not exactly harmless.
Usually, this would be a card to hold a cancel for, but Peril makes that less attractive as well. It’s a truely hideous card that can punish investigators for trying to finish up “just one more act” before resigning. It reminds me a lot of Timeline Destabilization, which serves a similar purpose in Boundary Beyond, the scenario that comes right after this one.
Luckily, this is still early in the campaign, so hopefully the players didn’t rack up a lot of trauma yet to make this card even more likely to overwhelm them.

Threat level: High. This is one of the cards that limit how long you can stay in the scenario.

Dealing with it: Keep track of how many of these are still in the deck as you are getting close to finishing up one or two of the act decks. Depending on how much damage these could do, you should reserve some of your health and sanity specifically for these. Otherwise you risk meeting a huge chunk of damage and horror out of left field, something that can easily take an investigator out of the game.
If possible, consider keeping the last bit of an act in play instead of advancing it for as long as you can while working on a different act instead.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Nobody’s Home attaches to the player’s location where it stays until all the clues there are discovered. If no clues are around when the card is drawn, the card surges. While Nobody’s Home is in play, investigating the attached location requires an extra action.

My take: Anyone being able to grab multiple clues per investigation or bypassing investigative actions alltogether is less impacted. Also, this card makes failing the intellect test hurt a lot more than usual. As a result anyone who is already only mediocre at clue finding is punished a lot more by this card than specialised cluevers.
This card will often tax multiple actions out of the group if they want to pick up those clues, in many cases it may be preferable to just move on and leave the location be. Of course that is not always possible, as it can easily attach to a location that is the target of one of the acts.
I’ve used Alter Fate on Nobody’s Home before, that can certainly be worth it if you don’t have cards that discover clues without an investigation.
Random fun fact: This is the only “Mystery” traited encounter card in the game.

Threat level: Mid. Potentially wastes several actions, but players are often free to just move to another location instead. Also, there is a good number of commonly played cards that bypass this.

Dealing with it: If you can pick up the clues without having to investigate, this card becomes a freebie. Scene of the Crime, Working a Hunch and so on are all great for this. Failing that, having stuff like Deduction or Finger Print Kit can neutralize the action loss.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Conspiracy of Blood attaches to the current agenda and reduces its doom threshold by one. It is discarded when the agenda advances. To discard it before it can cause the agenda to advance a turn earlier than planned, it can be discarded by parleying a Cultist enemy, spending an action and passing a willpower test. However, should the willpower test fail, a doom is instead added to that cultist.

My take: I usually ignore the parley ability, but it can be worth going for it in big groups where losing a turn can equate to losing 12+ actions. For less players, the action investment, the risk of failing and adding doom, and the fact that you are engaging a cultist without fighting them is too much of a deterrent.
Lowering the doom threshold by one is functionally very similar to adding a doom to the agenda, making this card a weaker Ancient Evils. The main difference comes from Conspiracy not being immediately able to advance the agenda, so if drawn at the right time it can even be a free card.

Threat level: High. Threatening the loss of a full turn is significant, but there are at least ways around it.

Dealing with it: Reserving an Alter Fate or Ward of Protection for Conspiracy of Blood can go a long way towards keeping the doom clock in check. Fine Clothes can make that parley option a lot more attractive, but since Fine Clothes is not really a card that shines in Forgotten Age, it’s more of an option that Rogues with Adaptable. Alternatively, someone might plan far enough ahead to include it in their level zero deck to help with Ichtaca in Wilds, carry it through Doom of Eztli, use it here and then upgrade out of it. Not sure if that is really worth it, but it is an option. There is a good chance for Fine Clothes to be helpful in other places during Threads as well, half of the possible act decks require parleying with some person to advance.

Return to Threads of Fate

My take on the modified scenario: Did you think this scenario can’t get any better? Well, think again because Return to Threads pulls it off. Adding a new fourth act with great rewards, an appearance of the Harbinger and keeping everything else wisely intact makes this an improvement all around. The encounter deck doesn’t really change much, the only thing is swapping out the Dark Cult for the Cult of Pnakotus. Those guys are a bit more swingy than the original, because they allow for dumping a whole lot of doom on the table at the same time. This of course can be a bit of a crisis considering that the agenda thresholds are only six. The best way to combat them is to seek them out early before they can snowball. The spawn instruction on the new Acolytes is something that should encourage players to actually engage and kill those Brotherhood Cultists, since that will benefit them in two ways: Not only is the Acolyte then unable to power up the Brotherhood Cultist, but if there is currently no other cultist enemy around this will allow players to spawn the Acolyte right on top of their enemy handler. Which in turn will help towards making future Acolytes less dangerous. This strategy pays off in Return to Threads where four act decks make sure that every single action you can save somewhere can go towards possibly getting more of the objectives done.


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Heart of the Elders #2

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Agents of Yig, Deadly Traps, Forgotten Ruins, Poison, Yig’s Venom

Size of the Encounter Deck33
# Enemies6
# Willpower2
# Agility7
# Strength5
# Doom4
# Damage7
# Horror5

My take on this encounter deck: Like Heart of the Elders #1, this is a very thematic and synergistic encounter deck that focuses on one thing. But instead of drowning the players in Hunter enemies, the second part goes all-in on the area denial plan. Between No Turning Back, Entombed, Poisonous Spores and Deep Dark, the encounter deck manipulates where the players can or can’t move and tries to slow them down that way. At the same time, the doom clock is advanced by the cards from Forgotten Ruins. Poisoned investigators in particular also have to contend with a plethora of damage dealing treacheries chipping away at their health. The scenario features only few enemies, a notable contrast to Heart of the Elders #1, which was just swarming with creatures. The Harbinger makes an appearance but due to the lack of other enemies to back it up, it can be driven off easily.
There is a high focus on agility and strength tests here, possibly to give something to do to those who would usually be on enemy handling duty.
As long as the group doesn’t struggle with agility tests from the encounter deck, this is a somewhat unexciting affair. If you have chalk in your supplies and thus can skip the setback on the backside of act 1, it’s even downright trivial. To be honest, i think this is one of the more boring scenarios. Probably my least favorite scenario from this campaign.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: No Turning Back attaches to the player’s location or one connected to it, then blocks it off. The affected location can not be entered or left by investigators. To discard this card, a player at that location or a connected one has to spend an action. If they don’t carry a pickaxe, they also need to pass a strength test.

My take: You will usually put this at a location behind you, cutting off the way back. This can become an issue if that investigator is one ore more locations ahead of other party members, as that will impede those from moving further ahead.
The pickaxe is not a particularly important supply and (at least in my personal opinion) i’ll usually only take it if i have supply points to spare after Threads of Hope.
In any case, if someone is needed to do that strength test, that is often not too troublesome either. There is not a whole lot of enemies in this scenario and fighters can find a way to leverage their strength skill here.

Threat level: Low. This is a scaled back version of Entombed, which is also in this scenario and much more scary.

Dealing with it: In smaller groups, chances are that this can be put somewhere where it doesn’t stop players from moving on. It will then only restrict the options to backtrack, something that is usually not important in this scenario. In bigger groups, it’s more likely to split up the team, but in that case it’s also more likely that someone has the strength (or the pickaxe) to get rid of it. Occasionally, this interacts with Poisonous Spores, but aside from that this is a relatively benign treachery.

My take: Pitfall and Poisonous Spores make a repeat appearance from Heart of the Elders #1. Their role in the scenario doesn’t really change all that much. Pitfall gets some extra damage sources to stack up with Final Mistake from the Deadly Traps set while Poisonous Spores interacts with the scenario specific No Turning Back and Deadly Trap’s Entomb. On the plus side, there are fewer hunter enemies around that would shepherd you into the Spores, so it kinda evens out. For more thoughts on these two cards, please refer to Heart of the Elders #1.

Return to Heart of the Elders #2

My take on the modified scenario: This scenario isn’t changed too much. No new scenario specific treacheries are added. There are some new locations that have interactions with supplies, but that’s only some extra variety. So once more, the changed exploration rules are the main feature of the Return To scenario. Which of course is a positive change for sure.
Yig’s Venom is swapped out for Venomous Hate and that does indeed change the scenario a bit. The addition of the Vengeful Serpents has been very relevant for all the scenarios it is used in and Heart of the Elders #2 is no exception. The swap increases the number of enemies in the deck from 6 to 8, and due to how the Vengeful Serpents work, some of them are even recurring. This does increase the amount of fighting happening inbetween by a lot and just like in HotE#1, the area denial works wonders to make running from Hunters a difficult thing to do.
Return to HotE#2 improves on the base scenario, but not by enough to make it a quest to actually look forward to. It’s still kinda basic, with everything before and after it just being more engaging.


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The Doom of Eztli

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Chilling Cold, Agents of Yig, Deadly Traps, Forgotten Ruins, Poison, Temporal Flux, Yig’s Venom

Size of the Encounter Deck34
# Enemies6
# Willpower7
# Agility5
# Doom4
# Damage5
# Horror3

My take on this encounter deck: This is a rather big deck with few enemies in it. Accordingly, the main threat in this scenario comes from not finding the Relic and getting out of the temple before the doom clock runs out. The only doom acceleration in the encounter deck comes from the Forgotten Ruins set, but the locations are actually the driving force here. All of them (except for the Entryway) have abilities that spawn doom on them triggered by certain player actions.
Chilling Cold pulls double duty here. Crypt Chill partners up with Temporal Flux’s Lost in Time and Snakescourge from Yig’s Venom to neutralize players assets. Meanwhile, Obscuring Fog, Deep Dark from Forgotten Ruins and Deadly Trap’s Entombed keep the players from progressing down the temple. While this is going on, there is also the risk of amassing enough damage from treacheries, especially for poisoned investigators this can be a concern.
The low number of enemies gets some reinforcement by the introduction of the Harbinger of Valusia, a recurring enemy throughout the campaign. She’s not super hard to repel, but doing so takes up two actions per investigator, making the group lose almost a full turn.
I am not a huge fan of this scenario, it’s reliance on treacheries and location effects makes it feel a bit non-interactive to me. The doom clock is also tight enough that the variance from drawing the wrong card at the wrong time can easily cost you the game. Due to the consequences of losing this scenario (either having to replay it or taking a massive amount of Yig’s Fury) this can put a huge feel bad moment on the campaign right from the start.

Return to The Doom of Eztli

My take on the modified scenario: A significant improvement. No new scenario specific cards are added to the deck, but the locations are overhauled to shift the whole focus of the scenario around. Now the locations no longer all produce doom on them, but come with a wider variety of effects that players can interact with, including more ways for some of the supply items to matter. Of special note among those locations is the Snake Pit, though. Make sure that any location that can connect to the Snake Pit is only being explored by the investigator with binoculars or else you may find yourself in a huuuuge pile of problems that you are unlikely to get out of. At least not without amassing some more Vengeance.
Yig’s Venom gets swapped out for Venomous Hate, increasing the number of enemies that the players face by a very noticable amount. This also adds the Serpent Guardian, which is Obscuring Fog on legs that bites, so it fits right into the deck. Potentially a lot of trouble.
I like this version of the scenario a lot more. Scaling back the pure doom griefing and increasing the number of enemies and interaction points with locations gives Doom of Eztli a lot more dynamic and makes me feel much more like playing the game instead of just watching a random thing unfold.
Of course, this together with the adjustments to the exploration rules makes the scenario also more forgiving and easier despite having an additional location in the exploration deck. I do however feel strongly that this drop in difficulty is absolutely appropriate for what is just the second scenario of a campaign. It’s still a scenario that applies plenty of pressure on the group. It’s just the sort of pressure that you can actually do something about.
Very nice rework of the scenario, much more than with many other Return Tos this feels like a whole new and improved thing and not just like a few tweaks to improve replayability.


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Deadly Traps

Set Size5
Number of unique Cards2
RoleDamage, Stalling
Threat LevelMid to High
# of scenarios2
Appears in: Doom of Eztli, Heart of the Elders #2

My take on this set: Deadly Traps puts some skill tests for agility and strength into the encounter deck. Both cards in the set have fairly relevant effects and are ready to punish anyone who can not pass such tests.
The Forgotten Age is notorious for being the first campaign really asking the players to care about their agility scores and this encounter set does a good job of enforcing this theme. It’s deceptively powerful, as well. Despite looking like fairly basic effects, they interact well with the other cards in the encounter decks of the two scenarios they are in: There are plenty other damage sources to form a critical mass. Also, there are enough ways to make a movement restricting card like Entombed feel urgent beyond just the lost actions themselves.
Excellent set. Clean, simple, relevant.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: The investigator has to pass an agility test. otherwise they have to take 2 damage. The difficulty for this test starts out as pretty easy, but scales up with the amount of doom on the location.

My take: The doom scaling isn’t terribly important here most of the time, but it’s not nothing either. The increase from 2 to 3 can make a difference, but mostly this card is going to be rough for those investigators who have low agility by default. Characters like Harvey are going to have a rough time throughout the Forgotten Age anyways, this is just more pain to pile on.
Getting hit for 2 damage is quite significant, but that test offers a fair way out of it.
Passing this test is quite important for anyone who is poisoned, as those players really can’t afford taking that damage in addition to whatever Creeping Poison will do.

Threat level: Mid. A considerable chunk of damage, but with an easy saving throw attached.

Dealing with it: Being prepared to pass agility tests is one of the basic requirements for investigators tackling the Forgotten Age campaign. Final Mistake doesn’t ask anything out of the ordinary, then. The difficulty of the test is low enough that even someone like Harvey or Leo can throw in a Manual Dexterity and have at least an okay chance at passing it.
Throwing some icons into this test to make sure you pass it is usually worth it, as the damage from this card stacks up easily. Not only are there 3 of them in the deck, but it also shares a deck with Poison, Pitfall and similar cards.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Entomb is put into the player’s threat area, where it sticks until discarded. To do so, the player has to pass either a combat or an agility test. Failing the test lowers the difficulty for the rest of the round by one, so repeat tries get easier.
While under effect of Entombed, the investigator can neither move nor disengage enemies.

My take: This is one of the cards that punishes investigators with insufficient physical skills. Any of the seeker type investigators who have middling to low agility and strength are going to struggle a lot getting rid of this card. And even those with a high skill value could easily take several tries.
Being tied down by this card not only wasted player actions from trying to dig yourself out of it, but it also increases the danger from many other cards, most importantly Hunter enemies and (in Heart of the Elders #2) Poisonous Spores.

Threat level: High. Potentially a massive time waster in scenarios that do not afford that luxury.

Dealing with it: If really necessary, you can brute force your way out of the card. Note that other players can also take the test for you and that the reductions to the test difficulty persist through all of the player turns. If you are sharing the location with someone else, it’s worth thinking a second about how to most efficiently share the burden of this card.

Weekly Evils – #23

Week in Review

Dinner’s served at the fancy cast member’s gathering of The Last King. An exceptional scenario in theme, setup and mechanics that sets the tone of the Carcosa campaign right from the start. At that dinner, the players also have to deal with The Stranger again.
The final review of this week is Byakhee, finishing up the encounter sets for Carcosa. So next time we get to Carcosa, we just have two more scenarios to do and the campaign’s fully on the site. Things are coming to a close 😉


A few weeks i had a realization that was somewhat surprising to me. Carcosa is no longer my favorite campaign. Return to The Forgotten Age is just THAT good. Even before RtTFA was released, i felt like i liked TFA a bit more each time i replayed it (and at the same time, i liked TCU a bit less with each play…). Now, with the fixed exploration mechanics, the Vengeful Serpents and the reworks to especially Doom of Eztli and City of Archives, TFA is just a delight throughout for me.

The thing i always appreciated a lot about Carcosa is how there’s no scenario in there that is a real dud on the scope of Wages of Sin. Worst scenario in Carcosa is Echoes, and that is just a bit trivial sometimes. Now, with Doom of Eztli and City of Archives being massively improved, i feel similar about TFA. Heart of the Elders #2 is basically that campaigns Echoes, the rest is genuinely something that i look forward to setting up.

I write this having just finished another RtTFA campaign last week, with two decks (Sefina and Patrice) that i thoroughly enjoyed as well. Sefina + Chuck Fergus make a good team, and Pilfer is a bomb during Threads and Boundary Beyond especially. For Patrice, an On Your Own build getting maximum mileage out of Keep Faith was in order. Between Keep Faith, Scrounging for Supplies and Resourceful, i basically managed to keep the bag between 6 and 10 bless tokens at all times. As a result, failing tests wasn’t really an option anymore. Anyone who is still saying that Bless tokens are bad without spending them on other stuff is just wrong 🙂

That being said, here’s how that campaign ended:

That’s the first Mythos phase of Shattered Eons, involving two of the cards from the Dark Cult replacement set Cult of Pnakotus. Sefina draws Stolen Mind. Bad enough, but Patrice then gets From Another Time and pulls a tentacle on the Intellect test. Four doom are added to the Mind, another one from its own ability, resulting in a 6/4/3 that threatens to advance the agenda if i can’t kill it NOW. I couldn’t. Things got ugly. I played another turn just to see what happens, then scooped it up. Sometimes Arkham just is like that…