This week completed the pages for Circle Undone. First was Union and Disillusion, a difficult scenario that curiously uses a whole lot of Dunwich Legacy cards. Last (and least) there is Wages of Sin. I will fully admit that i dragged my feet on this one and kept it for last, both because i think it’s just not all that great and because it is actually one of the more involved ones to review with its 45 cards across two encounter decks.
Next week i’ll finish up the last two remaining encounter sets from the Innsmouth deluxe and put up my words on Devil Reef. And after that i will switch to the slower pace of articles that i talked about last week.
Well then. I was hoping i get to talk about my initial reactions to the Return to The Circle Undone today, but alas it looks like FFG has more tarot cards to tease us with than anyone has any ideas on what they could be used for. If you haven’t yet, check them out on their twitter here.
As for actually playing the game, i currently got two campaigns going on and i suppose both are worth talking about for a bit while we wait for FFG to spoil … something 🙂
The first one is an ongoing Innsmouth campaign that i will keep going until all of the packs are released. Obviously that means it will be in hiatus for long periods because who knows when i will get those packs (still waiting on Light in the Fog…) but that’s not an issue. For this one, i had a bit of an interesting idea that goes against everything i usually preach on this site. Joe Diamond teams up with Preston Fairmont for this run through all of Innsmouth. Meaning that neither is really able to pass any agility or willpower tests the encounter deck throws at them, so they are just fighting uphill against whatever the mythos phase brings. I wanted to do this as a bit of an experiment to challenge my own ideas about how the game is supposed to be played and i have to say … it worked out A LOT better than i thought.
Turns out that Preston and Joe are actually able to speed through the scenarios fairly well with both of them being flexible enough to do both clue grabbing and enemy control. Pit of Despair was a breeze. The Amalgam was strangely absent and going from location to location to pick up clues and shoot fish people was not difficult at all. Joe and Preston split up here, as they both were able to do both parts. Vanishing of Elina Harper went great as well, although Preston ran out of steam for the final bit and had to resume so that Joe could win by just killing the kidnapper.
In Too Deep was super fun and the first time that the encounter deck started to really punch the two vulnerable dudes around. Pulled Back lead to some high drama more than once. But Preston and Joe got out with 5 keys, so that’s cool. Devil Reef could’ve been a disaster, but i got lucky. I was severely lacking in firepower to deal with the kraken, the Winged One and all those fish people. The lucky part is how the Underwater Cavern locations were placed in such a way that i didn’t need to use the boat to collect all three relics after recovering the keys. So i never had to run into the Terror of Devil Reef and was able to flee from most Hunters as well. That could’ve gotten ugly otherwise.
Horror in High Gear with Preston and Joe was actually the first (and so far, only) time i played that scenario. And holy crap, i feel like i did very little there. They were both in the same car and that car had two Malfunctions stacked up on it fairly quick. I decided to just let Jesus take the wheel and see what happens when you no longer have brakes. So the car just barreled from one location to the next each turn, some crap happened in the Mythos phase that usually stacked more horror on the guys and at some point the car actually arrived at Falcon Point with both investigators still alive. Barely. They were both one horror short from going insane. Flicking through the encounter deck afterwards made me realize that the chances of getting through that were extremely slim. So yeah.
The lesson here is that conventional wisdom is to prepare yourself for the encounter deck’s shenanigans if you want to survive. But it turns out that you can make up for your shortcomings there if you can just be quick about steamrolling the rest of the scenario. You do certainly leave a lot of your fate up to random chance, though. I do prefer being in control of my fate, but this was/is a fun experience as well for sure.
After slamming the Dream-Eaters cycle pretty hard in my recent ranking of all the scenarios, i also wanted to give that full campaign another go. I still have Weaver on the table, but the rest is done. Luke and Wendy went into campaign A, Nathan and Norman into B. To cut a long story short, that campaign has me deeply confused. I actually had a pretty great time with Search for Kadath this time around. On the other hand, Point of No Return was lacking anything eventful this time. Dark Side was as annoying as ever and Gates of Sleep still manages to put me to sleep IRL. But i finally managed to finish Thousand Shapes without having anyone die on the steps near the end. So that’s cool. I even finished Where the Gods Dwell successfully! With 5 doom still on the clock and without using Mandy to cheat my way through the encounter deck! Madness. I think how enjoyable this campaign is does depend a lot on which investigators you bring to it, more so than other campaigns. As an example, Wendy felt right at home in Dream Eaters A and just crushed any challenge put before her. Evasion is really strong in this campaign and i think Waylay in particular is as strong nowhere else. I’m quite unhappy with my Nathan deck this time around, but the investigator is strong enough to just smash through enemies anyways. And so is Norman “My entire deck is my Hunch deck” Withers, for that matter. I have little doubt that they will just wipe the floor with the Weaver later this weekend.
The lesson here is that while i did rag on this campaign a bit whenever i had the opportunity to, it is still a neat thing to play. I do find it inferior to the other campaigns, both because of the selection of the scenarios and because of the stunted mini-campaign format. But it is still clean ArkhamLCG fun. The other lesson is that my rankings are nowhere near definite. If i had to do them today, i would certainly put Point of No Return and Search for Kadath both into tier 3 instead of tier 1 and tier 4. But like i said then, all of that was highly subjective from the start…
Until next week, for what is likely going to be the final Weekly Evils. I hope we can talk about some undone circles then. 🙂
The Watcher set is not included in the numbers above.
My take on these encounter decks: Oh boy, Wages of Sin. Full disclosure, this is my least favorite scenario. I’ll make an effort to not have that paint my opinions on the individual cards because those are actually largely fine. As its central gimmick, Wages of Sin uses two encounter decks and two-sided locations. Depending on which location side you are currently at, you draw from either the spectral or the non-spectral deck. Neat. A bit fiddly and prone to accidentally drawing the wrong cards, but not more so than other scenario gimmicks like infestation tests or random Brood movements. The worldly deck is themed around witches and their hexes, so it is full of willpower tests and a few enemies. There’s also a surprising amount of damage and horror coming from these cards. As the game goes on, the locations are locked into their spectral side and accordingly the spectral deck takes over. The focus from willpower, damage and horror disappears. The enemies are also largely weaker than the ones in the witch deck. Instead, there’s the interactions with the Haunted keyword and … well, that’s basically it. The scenario comes down to seeking out the Heretics, a bunch of previously set aside enemies, defeating them and escorting their backside story card “Unfinished Business” to another location to lay them to rest. The difficulty of those tasks is heavily randomized and might take several turns. Or just an action or two. While lugging this Unfinished Business from one corner of the map to the other, you have to keep all those enemies and treacheries at bay while the Unfinished Business also triggers some effects each turn. Oh, and the Watcher is also on your tail. This scenario is notorious for being quite difficult, the saving grace here is that you only require to banish one of the Heretics to gain full completion. Everything after that is only victory points. So resign at your own discretion. I do like the thing with the two encounter decks, but sadly i feel like it’s mostly been a wasted opportunity here. There is only a very brief window in which players actually get to choose whether they want to flip locations around, instead the locations are locked to either side for most of the scenario. Really a pity, this could have been a fun exercise in weighing which side you want to be at, with risk/reward from the interactions of enemies with spectral locations as well. Oh well. Maybe some other time. I can’t help but think that this scenario would have been better off without the Watcher as well. It’s hard enough already, having this damage sponge constantly breathing down your neck while you have to backtrack all over the map is grating. As a final point that i’d like to make, i think the spectral deck is quite a bit less interesting than the worldly one. It lacks the focus on doing something really well that the worldly one has. Inexorable Fate in particular is really weird in here. The deck is only used for about half of the scenario (maybe slightly more), so those “collect three” cards are even less likely to come together than usual despite the smaller deck size. I suppose that changes with higher player count, but that’s a whole other issue that is already baked into Inexorable Fate itself. Cancel these: This is the rare scenario that doesn’t have a particular card stick out as being a priority in my opinion. My suggestion is to hold onto those cancels for as long as you can and use them to protect whoever is carrying an Unfinished Business. They need to spend as little time as possible on dealing with any treacheries so they can work towards finishing the mission.
What it does: Both decks have two copies of a somewhat powerful Hunter shuffled into them, this is the spectral one. It spawns at the Chapel Attic or Crypt and it only gains Hunter while at a spectral location, so as long as those two locations are not flipped, it stays put. It is however able to hunt from a spectral location into a non-spectral one. While it remains at a spectral location, its damage and horror values are increased. It can be defeated relatively easily, but the only way to do so permanently is with a Spell or Relic card. Each other way of defeat will only banish it to a spectral location of the player’s choice where it will appear exhausted, but healed.
My take: If you don’t have a spell or relic at hand, these guys are nasty. This scenario requires a lot of backtracking along the locations to get the Heretics where they need to be. This will mean that you have to dodge these multiple times over. Which can become a bit of a chore, considering you might also try to dodge the Watcher while suffering from whatever negative effects the Heretic inflicts on you. On the other hand, if you do have the appropriately traited cards at hand, these enemies are almost trivial. Spend a charge from your Shrivelling, don’t pull the autofail and all you have to do is to make sure they don’t hunt into you.
Threat level: Medium. Hunters that hit hard are dangerous and this scenario’s layout plays to their strength.
Dealing with it: So, hopefully you have something that kills them permanently. For Wraiths, that wasn’t that important, but these can be a pain if you don’t. Your only bet in that case is be quick about your business and banish them to the other side of the map whenever possible. Maybe even straight to where another fighter is so he can spend an action the next turn to take it down again.
What it does: The spectral deck has four copies of cards that interact with the Unfinished Business side of the Heretics. Half of those are Burdens of the Past, which triggers the Forced ability on the Unfinished Business. If the player controls no Unfinished Business, Burdens of the Past surges.
My take: There’s four possible effects that can be triggered by this: gain 1 damage, gain 1 horror, lose 2 resources, discard 2 cards. Alternatively, flip the Unfinished Business back to its Heretic side (which you don’t want, obviously). I suppose all of those effects are relatively okay considering they come from your encounter card for this turn. The only issue comes from the timing with the card. Since you draw this in your mythos phase, you just had to suffer through that effect at the end of the previous round. If that left you without cards to discard or resources to lose, you’d have to flip the card to its Heretic side.
Threat level: Low to Mid. A relatively weak effect that can possibly lead to having the Unfinished Business become an enemy again.
Dealing with it: It’s sort of hard to prepare for this card, often you don’t know what sort of Unfinished Business you are going to pick up when defeating the Heretic. Unless you spent the clues to peek, of course. In that case you could at least have saved up some resources or drawn some extra cards to prepare for this eventuality. Luckily, the chances for all of this coming together are fairly slim and likely not worth specifically worrying about.
What it does: This is the other card that deals with the Unfinished Business. After drawing Bane of the Living, the player has to either turn an Unfinished Business back into a Heretic (at half health) or spawn and engage the next Geist enemy from the spectral deck.
My take: There’s only four enemies in the spectral deck and all of them are Geists. So this will have you engage either a Wraith or a Malevolent Spirit. Both are probably fine, as they both die to any weapon attack and fairly easily so. Sure, it might require a relic or spell to defeat them permanently, but when you are trying to get rid of a Heretic, this card shouldn’t take away much of your time in the short term. Should the player who draws this card not have an Unfinished Business, they have to draw out the enemy, of course. So in a way, this card makes up for the low creature count in the spectral deck by providing another 2 “wildcard” copies of those enemies.
Threat level: Either Low or Medium, entirely dependent on which enemy you pull.
Dealing with it: I don’t consider the first choice on the card to really be an option. Either of the enemies from the deck is easier to defeat (or at least semi-defeat) than the Heretic. Also, delivering that Heretic to whatever other location is the actual goal of the scenario. So i don’t see any reason why one should voluntarily flip it over.
What it does: The other scenario specific Hunter enemy, this one goes into the non-spectral deck with the rest of the witches. Vengeful Witch has a 3 in all of her stats, making her a good deal tougher than most of the other enemies in the two encounter decks. Not only does she attack for 1 horror and damage each, she will also deal this as direct horror and damage when defeated to every investigator at her location. She also is Alert, so evading instead of defeating also carries the risk of some extra attacks.
My take: Ugh, i hate her. She’s more difficult to defeat than most of the other enemies and will even give you a last slap on her way out. Having her deal the damage and horror to multiple investigators should usually be easy enough to prevent, but still. Having her hunt into your location means she gets to deal 2 damage and 2 horror to you while taking either at least 2 actions to defeat or some of your limited amount of burst damage that is also in demand for dealing with the Watcher and the Heretics. All all-around bad deal for the players.
Threat level: Medium to High. She’s not the most threatening thing around by far, but she pushes all the right buttons to be as much of a pain as possible.
Dealing with it: Unless you are already at the Gallows or Graves, she will need a couple turns to get to you. A fighter should meet her proactively, moving into her location and kill her. That way you do get to avoid the attack from her moving into you and you get to contain her attack on defeat to only one investigator. Preferably, this should be done by someone with a 3 damage attack, of course. While it does take a Spectral Razor or similar away from your arsenal for dealing with the Watcher, it’s likely worth spending to not have the witch become more of a threat.
What it does: On reveal, Punishment is put into the player’s threat area where it sticks around until someone at their location spends an action and passes a willpower test. With an exhausted witch at the same location, this test automatically succeeds. While under effect of Punishment, the investigator suffers 1 damage whenever an enemy is defeated anywhere.
My take: Another in a long line of Hex treachery that follow the same template. At least this one doesn’t stop the player from doing their things like Bedeviled and Wracked do. But still, while not immediately threatening, the damage from this stacks up over time and there are enough other sources of damage around that you’d want to get rid of it rather sooner than later.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Depending on your tolerance for some extra damage, this isn’t as urgent as other Hex cards.
Dealing with it: Have the investigator with the best Willpower discard this for an action at your earliest convenience. It’s usually not worth having to spend extra actions on moving around for, so just find the time when you get an opportunity to discard it. The damage can be counteracted by soak from assets, but shouldn’t be underestimated. While there’s not too many fights happening in this scenario, it can rack up a good amount of testless damage over time. Note that defeating the Watcher or banishing (but not discarding) Wraiths and Malevolent Spirits will still trigger this card.
What it does: The player has to choose between one of two effects. Either they have to pass a willpower test or take 2 horror. Or they have to draw from the spectral deck, adding Peril and “can not be canceled” to that card.
My take: Anyone with high willpower can take the test, i guess. I actually do like my chances with the spectral deck, though. The cards that trigger haunted effects do just whiff (or worst case, surge) when drawn here and so do the ones that mess with Unfinished Business. The enemies aren’t all that dangerous. Drawing out an early Malevolent Spirit can even be beneficial. Sure, it will add Peril and can not be canceled, but many of those spectral cards do already have Peril.
Threat level: Low. It’s a surge-like effect that can also be replaced with a test. Nothing to worry about too much.
Dealing with it: Well, ultimately you deal with the card you draw afterwards, provided you don’t just take the test. There is a decent amount of extra horror going around, interestingly enough most of it is in the worldly deck, though. So taking that test can be a relatively safe option if you don’t want to risk pulling something like Fate of All Fools.
What it does: When drawn from the non-spectral deck, this is shuffled into the spectral deck and surges. When drawn from the spectral deck, it deals 2 damage and is put into the non-spectral discard.
My take: Cute. It deals 2 testless damage, but you have to draw it twice. This thing is actually sort of dangerous. During the first half of the scenario, you mostly draw from the worldly deck, so any Grave-Lights drawn then are moved over to the other deck where they wait for the second half of the game, when the pressure on players ramps up. Cards like Grave-Light will punish those who let Punishment stick around for too long or those who lost a chunk of life to the Forced effect of an Unfinished Business in particular, but anyone who took a couple attacks might also be in danger. Something to keep in mind for sure.
Threat level: Medium. Although you need to draw it twice before it does something, the first time surges. So this is basically 2 testless damage from one encounter draw.
Dealing with it: It’s testless and without any player choice attached, so there isn’t much you can do about it. The usual applies: damage and horror are only relevant once they take away your last point. Keep a buffer, deploy soaks and when close to the edge of being defeated, stay away from fights or similar risks. Better yet, resign if you are in actual danger.
Return to The Wages of Sin
My take on the modified scenario: Considering that Wages of Sin is generally considered on of the least fun scenarios around, hopes were high for a fix that reworks this scenario the same way that RtTFA did for Doom of Eztli. Sadly, this is not what we got. Despite what looks like an enormous amount of changes, the scenario barely changed for most people. Five of the seven encounter sets are swapped out (Watcher and Coven are the ones that stick around) which does two things: One, agility tests become a thing. Two, the powerlevel of some notable cards got taken down a peg. Certainly a good thing in total, but the fundamental issue of the scenario (Heretics, purging them, the random aspect behind them) is unchanged and so is the obnoxious amount of Hunters on this map. Some new Heretics and locations introduce some more variety, as we are used to by now. For anyone following Erynn’s storyline, there’s a new objective here that can allow you to recruit her – however that will require purging 3 Heretics, so it’s very difficult to actually do and requires sacrificing the XP you would usually get for the Unfinished Business cards. All things considered, there’s a lot of card stock from the box devoted to changing up the scenario, but at least for my money the changes don’t actually fix the things i didn’t like about Wages of Sin.
What it does: Two of these are added to the worldly encounter deck. Like Grave-Light, they go from the worldly deck to the spectral one on reveal and will only do their actual effect when drawn the second time from there. When revealed from the spectral deck, all Haunted abilities are triggered twice and Witchweed either surges or is shuffled back into the worldly deck.
My take: First things first, i will always shuffle this card back into the standard encounter deck when given the choice. By the time you find this card from the spectral deck, the standard deck is already basically out of play anyways. The effect on reveal from spectral is a good deal stronger than Grave-Light’s. Triggering Haunted twice can be rough, like causing a lot of discard effects or adding two encounter cards to player’s threat area. This is offset by being a freebie on the first draw, though.
Threat level: Low to Mid. A freebie on the first draw and with high variance on the second draw. Can really screw you over if things align against you, but it’s equally likely to be mild.
Dealing with it: Witchweed makes up for Realm of Death’s replacement with a slightly more manageable version. So it doesn’t actually introduce something too new to the scenario, but it does increase the chance of having to interact with the Haunted mechanic more. This is tough to avoid, after all the scenario really dictates where you have to go and you rarely get to pick locations based on where you would like to be during the Mythos phase. With 4-6 treacheries that care about Haunted in an encounter deck of 20-22 cards it’s not really worth playing around much. Which in turn only makes this card have more impact when it does come up. It does also have Peril, so cancel cards aren’t the best answer either. You might just have to take these on the chin.
As we are used to by now, The Watcher set (and the single copy of Watcher’s Gaze) enters the deck at a later point in the scenario and is not included in the numbers above. The Lodge and the Coven sets are also set aside at the beginning of the scenario and will enter only for the final stretch. They are also not included above.
My take on this encounter deck: At 35 cards with another 8-10 cards set aside, this looks like a huge pile of cards at first, but 6 of those cards have Surge, bringing the initial numbers effectively down to a much more conventional 29 cards. About a third of them has willpower tests on them, something we gotten used to in Circle Undone by now. There are two major themes running through this deck, one being the Marked for Death/Eager for Death spiral of horror and damage leading into each other. And the other is another big focus on the Haunted mechanic. Both of these themes do neatly stack on top of each other due to most of the haunted location triggers dealing more damage or horror. As a result, damage and horror mitigation are key to surviving long enough here. Mostly thanks to the reprint of two treacheries from the Dunwich cycle and also doubling up on them with a card that switches damage for horror (or vice versa). As soon as someone starts gaining some damage tokens, they become more susceptible to get horror from Eager for Death. Which in turn makes them more vulnerable to Marked for Death. Which in turn makes the next Eager for Death hit harder… this vicious cycle is accelerated by Psychopomp’s Song and the appropriately named Death Approaches. Solo players will struggle with this more than groups, as the latter at least can spread those cards around to break up or at least delay this escalating bunch of treacheries. Aside from those central treacheries there is of course a good amount of other damage and horror treacheries around, from the Inexorable Fate set and ultimately also from the Haunted cards. Finally, a smattering of Hunter enemies is also out for the player’s blood. Since this can be a somewhat long scenario with short paths between locations, these enemies are pretty much constantly in your face. And that includes the Watcher who joins the party midway through the scenario. The deck includes six cards that can trigger Haunted outside of investigation tests, with a seventh card added when the Watcher appears. Mostly those haunted triggers just lead to more damage and/or horror, with only few exceptions. While the encounter deck is trying to kill them, the players will have to pass the so-called “circle tests” at a couple of locations. Basically, two to three skills are added together and tested at the same time. Clues can be used to drop the difficulty of the tests. How easy or hard this becomes will depend a lot on the investigators used. A LOT. God help you if you fail a test that you invested a bunch of clues into if you are depending on them as well. You only get one freebie from the Puzzle Box (if you got it during Greater Good) and if you are someone like Preston or someone with high fight/agility facing a will/intellect test, you are going to need it. Oh, and somewhere inbetween all of this, the gang is split up again and possibly has to face a dangerous elite enemy on their own. Oh, and the Coven or the Lodge shows up at the end. Not for very long, shuffling in those cards for a turn or three is unlikely to matter, but if things are close, then some doom from some random Neophyte can ruin your day. Yeah, there’s a lot going on here. While i like this in principle, this is one of the scenarios that keeps frustrating me more and more each time i play it. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly, but i think the wild differences depending on which investigator you brought and which locations you randomly drew plays a big role. Cancel these:Ancient Evils. There’s a bunch of stuff worth canceling here, removing a piece of the damage/horror engine can be key in getting ahead of it early. That being said, this scenario can come close to the doom threshold, so Ancient Evils should probably be the priority. This is especially true when you allied with the coven, as that will put another couple doom generating cards in the deck that can make this particularly close near the end.
What it does, Threat Level, Dealing with it: This is a straight reprint from the Dunwich Legacy deluxe box. See here for details.
My take: Whippoorwills are making their comeback here and it is oddly fitting. The scenario revolves around the circle tests that add multiple skill values together. In turn, these little birdies will give -2, -3 or even -4 to those tests as long as they are at those locations. For that reason, they become a higher priority than they’ve been in Dunwich. While you were often able to just take the -1 during something like Extracurricular Activities and not bother with the Whips, you will pretty much need to kill these guys off here.
What it does, Threat Level, Dealing with it:The other card from the Whippoorwills set from Dunwich, it makes sense for it to also appear alongside the creature itself. See here for details.
My take: This mostly works the same here as it did in Dunwich. Adding more sources of horror, especially Death Approaches, does give it some extra spice.
What it does: This card is a mirrored version of Eager for Death. Instead of willpower, agility is tested. Instead of getting more difficult with damage, it’s horror that adds to the test. And instead of taking horror when failing, it’s damage now.
My take: A rare agility test among the sea of willpower treacheries. Getting dealt additional damage is a big deal in this scenario due to the sheer number of Hunters around and also several other treachery cards and haunted location effects going after the investigators health pools.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Part of a larger assault on the investigators stamina.
Dealing with it: As with Eager for Death, there is a bit of a two staged approach to mitigating this card. Either see that you can put that damage on an asset of yours. Or try to use those same assets to soak the horror you are getting to keep the difficulty of this test low. Eager for Death and Marked for Death do feed into each other. Failing to soak the effect of one will increase the difficulty of the other. Try not to get caught in that feedback loop.
What it does, Threat Level, Dealing with it: Yet another 1:1 reprint from the Dunwich Legacy cycle, this time from the Blood on the Altar mythos pack.
My take: Blood on the Altar introduced this hellish little card that has the audacity of dealing 2 testless damage while surging. While that damage is delayed a bit, it usually would find its way to resolve eventually and only the player choice behind who should get the card kept it down. Now the card is back for another go and it is actually quite a bit more terrifying here. As mentioned when discussing Marked for Death, there is quite a bit of damage coming from the encounter deck here. Most importantly, both Psychopomp’s Song and Death Approaches do work to accelerate the feedback loop between Eager for Death and Marked for Death, allowing them to push their damage past soaking assets. Anyone without such assets or at least the high stats to pass the tests on those two cards will find themselves in dire straits soon if they have one or two of either Psychopomp’s Song or Death Approaches resolve on them.
What it does: Another mirrored version of a reprint, Death Approaches is the horror version of Psychopomp’s Song. It surges and is added to the player’s threat area. The next time that player takes horror, they will have to take an additional 2 horror and discard this treachery.
My take: See my comment on Psychopomp’s Song above. Eager for Death, Marked for Death, Psychopomp’s Song and Death Approaches do form a deadly machine together that comes for the player’s sanity and stamina very hard.
Threat level: Mid to High. Like with the Song, the only thing keeping this card from being completely busted is the player choice behind it, allowing you to spread these cards around so that everyone gets a piece. Solo players are kinda screwed, though…
Dealing with it: Deciding who gets to add this card to their threat area can be a tough decision. The goal should be to distribute them among the players so that everyone can use their assets (especially the allies who can tank both horror and damage) towards keeping these cards in check.
What it does: The Spectral Raven is a Hunter enemy that goes after the investigators with the lowest intellect. It does have low combat values and health by default, but whenever it engages a player it gets a boost to fight and evade unless that player resolves all of the haunted effects on their location. This will raise both fight and evade to 4, which is significant not only because it makes it harder to pass tests targeting the bird, but also because it has Alert and Retaliate which become a lot more relevant when that boost is active.
My take: It looks so innocent, but it’s actually a lot meaner than the first glance suggests. One important thing to point out here is that this enemy does deal both damage and horror, something that only The Watcher also does (and the Mist, but that’s a bit of a special case). This is relevant because that means that it can set up either Death Approaches or Psychopomp’s Song or both. All the other Hunter enemies (Whips, Hounds, Wraiths) would only trigger one of them. At 4/2/4 they are also quite resilient and require an actual fighter to take out. Unless you are willing to take Haunted effects, which are a bit hit or miss in this scenario. There is a few that are relatively safe (like increasing circle test difficulty for the round) but most just deal more damage, more horror, add doom or search for Whippoorwills! No thanks.
Threat level: Medium. In a scenario that sees you hunted by murderous ghosts and spirit hounds, this birdy might just be the most dangerous (non-Elite) thing lurking about.
Dealing with it: I dropped dynamite on this thing before and i regret nothing. But of course there are other less extreme ways of dealing testless damage available that can do the trick. If you want to spend those on the Ravens or rather save them for Whippoorwills or even the Watcher, will be up to you though. There’s likely no correct answer to that, it will entirely depend on how your game is going so far. Of course, this is scenario number 6… so hopefully your fighter should be able to deal with these the regular way as well. Things mostly only get awkward when your non-fighters draw these.
What it does: Watcher’s Gaze virtually adds another card to the The Watcher set. No matter who drew the card, everyone has to take a difficult willpower test. Everyone who fails has to resolve all Haunted abilities on a location, either on their own or on the Watcher’s location. Watcher’s Gaze doesn’t start out in the encounter deck, it is only added together with Watcher’s Grasp once the big guy appears.
My take: As mentioned before, this scenario does come with some haunted effects that can be a bit of a pain. There are only a few that are okay and drawing Gaze while the Watcher is at such a location can be great. Usually, that won’t be the case though. The willpower test is hard. At difficulty 5, anyone is in danger of failing it even if they are Mystics and/or they came prepared for TCU’s constant willpower shenanigans. As a result, this card usually will hit everyone at the table, maybe with an exception or two. The most common consequence will be more damage or horror, but at least each investigator might have a little bit of choice between the effects of two locations here. Once more this is a card that seems tailor made to set off the ticking time bombs that are Psychopomp’s Song and Death Approaches.
Threat level: Medium. The player choice to pick the location from which the haunted abilities are triggered keeps this card reasonable. Most of its power comes from hitting every investigator.
Dealing with it: Trying to pass that willpower test by throwing in a bunch of symbols is not likely to be worth it. Choosing the easier to handle consequence from the haunted effects is usually going to be the thing to do here and then just taking it on the chin. At least there’s only one of these and it is added to the encounter deck fairly late.
Return to Union and Disillusion
My take on the modified scenario: Once more, the changes to this scenario are mostly carried out by replacing a big chunk of the encounter deck. Four sets are being swapped out, among them Ancient Evils to relieve some of the time pressure. The other three introduce agility tests and flatten the impact of Haunted a bit, just like we’ve seen in previous RtTCU scenarios. Two copies of a new treachery are also added to the deck, and it’s a rough one that adds more circle tests to the scenario and makes all of them more difficult. Whenever it pops up, it’s a noticable spike in difficulty, so save your Alter Fates for these. Union and Disillusion is one of the scenarios that gets significant amounts of new setup/resolution texts. While these do not change how the gameplay itself works out, it does offer some good story beats. Erynn’s storyline can come to a close here, should the investigators have decided to ally with the lounge and with Erynn. There is also the option for a premature “win” with the coven now, similar to how there is one with the lodge in the base scenario. In total, these changes do not change the scenario all that much, but they do change it for the better.
What it does: Brazier Enchantment is put into play next the the agenda deck. While in play, all circle tests on locations are made more difficult. To discard it, a player has to do a circle test using their two lowest skills. Should they fail the test, all Haunted abilities at their location have to be resolved
My take: Awful, just awful. Alter Fate this thing on sight. Increasing the difficulty of the tests basically translates to having to spend another clue to succeed. The test on the card itself is also quite difficult, even Jenny and Lola (the two investigators with the highest base skill here) would test 6 against 6 and would require spending clues or risk triggering Haunted effects. If you have to get rid of this card the hard way (by passing the test), then you have to weigh having to spend multiple clues on this circle test against having to spend an extra clue on each following one. If it’s late in the scenario, you might be better off just letting the treachery stick around.
Threat level: Mid. Effectively drains clues from you that you’d need for the location circle tests. Can be a bigger issue if drawn early.
Dealing with it: As mentioned, Alter Fate does wonders here. It’s a card that you probably run when playing TCU and there’s only few other good targets for it in this scenario. Otherwise, see who in your group is best set up to pass the test on the card, find a location where the Haunted effect is bearable and invest some clues into passing on the first try.
Long story short, my big Encounter Set Review project is coming close to its end and i have been thinking about how to continue with the Ancient Evils page from here on. The only two unreleased articles i have in my back pocket are the pages for Wages of Sin and for Union and Disillusion. Those are going up next week. After that, all that is left is the back half of Innsmouth.
I finally caught up with the release cycle. A major, major, major milestone for me. And it means that i now have a full archive of encounter sets, encounter cards and scenarios for you to browse. Kinda cool 🙂
One thing is for sure, though. That wild update schedule with three posts per week? That is history. I am very happy i got this done and i fully intend on scaling back my efforts massively. Probably all the way down to like one or two articles per month. Weekly Evils are going to be put on hold as well. Not sure if it’s going to become a Monthly Evils or just be dropped completely. We’ll see.
So what can be expected from Ancient Evils in the future? Mostly i will keep updating everything when new product comes out, covering Innsmouth and Return to Circle Undone next. I also have some ideas for longer articles that i didn’t have the time to do yet. Among them are some more fleshed out versions of things that i posted in this Soapbox space: “LotR vs Arkham (vs Marvel)”, “Token and Storage” and maybe a revisit of the encounter set rankings with a bit more detail once Innsmouth is done. I also want to do a sort of “Comprehensive Guide to <campaign>” series. I started doing this for TFA, but when scoping out what should go into it i quickly found that this thing would be massive and would have taken me too much time before. Now, with the heavy schedule out of the picture, i might get to it. I am also not too happy with the “Well Prepared” articles that i posted. I feel like those also had to suffer a bit under time constraints and could benefit a lot from getting an overhaul. One thing that i currently have no further plans for is the custom card section. I simply don’t feel the need for any custom cards right now.
See you next week when i finish up TCU, just in time for (i hope…) the RtTCU announcement 🙂
Numbers are for the Conviction version. The Doubt version (numbers in brackets) uses False Lead instead of Hunting Shadow and Twin Suns instead of Black Stars Rise.
My take on this encounter deck: Depending on the status of Doubt versus Conviction in the campaign log this scenario plays out quite different. Either you are fleeing from an invulnerable Hunter (and several smaller ones from the encounter deck), trying to survive until the agendas run out. Or you are the hunter yourself, following that enemy yourself and trying to attack him enough times before the time runs out. All of this happens on a massive map with enough locations to give enough space to all of this hunting around the city. The encounter deck only has minor variations between the two modes of play, mostly to switch out Twin Suns against Black Stars Rise, because of how adding/removing doom works differently. The first thing to notice when looking at the numbers is that almost half of the cards in the deck ask for a willpower test of some kind. Not all of them are difficult or even super important to pass, but the sheer amount of them means that you need to carefully budget your willpower icons that you might have in your deck for treachery protection. The other thing that’s special here is the amount of enemies. All of them are Byakhees, medium sized Hunter enemies that keep harassing the players. While there is only 6 actual enemy cards in the deck, this number is misleading. Two treacheries add another 5 cards to the deck that search for these Byakhees and potentially put them into play. As a result, this can be a very combat heavy scenario, especially on the Doubt version where you also have to fight the Organist. There’s not a whole lot of damage and horror dished out by the encounter deck, but it can become an issue if the players had to tank a few attacks already. Phantom of Truth is a fine scenario, even though i like the Doubt version a whole lot more than the Conviction one. “Run away from this enemy for 20ish turns” is just not something that feels very interesting to me. Cancel these: Frozen in Fear, Black Stars Rise. Frozen in Fear is an enormous weight on anyone even at the best of times and this scenario is almost perfect for it to be the worst it can be. If you don’t feel confident in the willpower of whoever drew it, cancel it. Black Stars Rise (and Spires of Carcosa) are both high impact doom cards that you might want to get rid of. This is more important during Doubt than it is during Conviction, but probably worth it in either.
What it does: Stealthy Byakhee is a Hunter enemy. It has an impressive fight value of 5 that gets reduced to a much more palatable 2 whenever it is exhausted. It has two health, so it dies to most attacks with weapons. If it gets an attack in, it does hit fairly hard for 2 damage and 1 horror.
My take: Adding to the number of Byakhees, this is the scenario specific one that brings the total count of them up to 6 cards. While it does have only 2 health, it will still often take two actions to get rid of it. Either because you decide to defeat it the way “as is intended”, by evading it first. Or because you might just fail an attack or two when trying to bruteforce your way past the 5 fight. What makes this card particularly dangerous is the two damage on its attack, you’ll want to make sure that it is wiped from the board as soon as you can. Also, while it is meant to be evaded first, its evade value is still a solid 3. Nothing an evasion based investigator can’t handle, but not trivial either. It may very well be that evading it and defeating it has to be done by two different players, further adding to how much effort needs to be spent on this creature.
Threat level: Medium. A very solid threat that can occupy multiple investigators.
Dealing with it: The primary way to deal with it is printed on the card. Taking an action to evade it, then another one to shoot or stab it is going to be the most common way of taking it out. If you are an investigator with a particularly high fight value (like Tony or Mark), you can attempt to overcome the 5 fight as well. It’s risky but can pay off with a saved action. The cleanest way of defeating it probably comes from testless damage, for example from a Blood-Rite or from Ancient Stones.
What it does: After failing a willpower test, cards are discarded from the encounter deck until an enemy is found. That enemy is either drawn (and spawned engaged as usual) or discarded. If it is discarded, the player has to suffer one attack from it. Should no enemy remain in the encounter deck, the player has to take 1 horror instead.
My take: This three-of card together with Hunted by Byakhees from the Byakhee set makes sure that there’s no shortage of those pesky demon things throughout the scenario. They effectively bring up the number of Byakhees to 11, more than a third of the encounter deck. Deadly Fate of course can be avoided completely by just passing a simple willpower test, but there’s a lot of those going around in this scenario and you’ll probably want to hold your Guts and similar cards for more important cards. The only enemies in the encounter deck are the three Byakhees, so this will always draw one of those (or, if all have been pulled already, reshuffle the encounter deck to “reload”). Depending on which one you draw and your current stamina/sanity situation, taking the one hit to save the actions is often worth it. I would consider doing so the default way of resolving this treachery and only consider putting the enemy into play if there is currently little else going on and you can lose two actions to kill it.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Not very dangerous on its own, but an important piece of “glue” that holds the scenario together.
Dealing with it: If you have to choose between taking the attack or spawning the enemy, it’s a decision between health/sanity and actions. Usually actions are going to be the more precious commodity, so take the hit and soak it if you can. Health and Sanity pools are a resource to spend, after all. Having the actions available to react to everything else that is happening on the board is likely going to pay off.
What it does: After failing a difficult willpower test, Torturous Chords is put into a players threat area with one resource on it for each point they failed by. While there are still tokens on this card, each card played by the investigator costs an additional resource and removes a token.
My take: Surprisingly annoying card, especially for investigators that rely on events. If this would simply make you lose the resources in one swoop when its drawn, it would be a fairly minor card. This is a lot worse primarily for two reasons One notable difference is that this card will always eat up those resources. Should you not have the resources at that point, some other card would have you just lose what little you have and then forget the rest. This one doesn’t, it stays in play until you can pay your debts. The other thing is that these stack insanely well with each other. If you have two of them in your threat area, each one needs to be payed off individually when you play cards. This can lead to situations where digging yourself out of that hole can become very problematic, after all who wants to spend 2 resources on playing an Emergency Cache?
Threat level: Low to Mid. One of them is usually not that bad, but their ability to stack up can be a real pain.
Dealing with it: Play your resource generating cards early and start stockpiling if you depend on having the money available. Get those Emergency Caches and Faustian Bargains out right when you draw them even if you don’t really need the cash yet. You don’t want to be stuck with them in your hand when this card asks you to pay money to get money. Same goes for any assets you need. Being a bit more proactive than usually about playing your cards can save you a good amount of resources in the long run.
What it does: After failing an intellect test, the investigator take 1 horror for each point they failed by. Alternatively, they can remove 1 doom from the agenda. This card is only used during the Conviction version of Phantom of Truth, replacing the very similar Black Stars Rise.
My take: This is basically the same card as Black Stars Rise from the Evil Portents, except that it removes a doom instead of adding one. This is of course a concession to the two variants of the scenario where you either want to see the agendas advance or not. Despite being mirrors of each other, Twin Suns is much less of a deal than Black Stars. Having to play one more turn is just much less of a punishment than potentially facing a premature game over when the doom clock runs out.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Worst case, it does add an extra turn to the scenario, but even that fairly mild worst case has several ways built in to mitigate it.
Dealing with it: I don’t think you need to be afraid of this card much. As long as you can keep the board free from swarms of enemies and/or the Organist in check, it just makes you go through the motions for an additional turn. Of course, if you can just take a horror instead, that could be worth it as well.
My take: In a scenario as focused on moving around and with an already high amount of willpower treacheries, Frozen in Fear is a perfect fit. Apparently the designers decided that they didn’t also want Rotting Remains and Dissonant Voices in here, so Frozen in Fear got a reprint to make setup a bit easier on the players. The setup instructions are already fairly involved with the two variants of the scenario, so they likely didn’t want to clarify to only grab two cards from one of the core sets. Fair enough. Obviously, this card is as dangerous as ever in this scenario. Running away from the Organist becomes almost impossible when you effectively only have two actions per turn, so if you are vulnerable to this due to low willpower, save your extra icons on cards for this card.
Threat level: High to Very High. You simply can not allow this to stick around.
Dealing with it: See the original entry for this card.
Return to A Phantom of Truth
My take on the modified scenario: Return to Phantom of Truth isn’t much changed from the base version. There’s some extra variation in the locations and two copies of a somewhat minor encounter card are added to the deck. Nothing of that changes how the scenario plays out. Which is fine, of course. The Agents of Hastur make way for Hastur’s Envoys. Sadly, this removes two victory points from the scenario, replacing the Screeching Byakhee for a Preying one. While the new Byakhee is a bit easier on the players, i certainly would’ve preferred keeping the victory in play. Using Hastur’s Envoys also means that we have to cope with Sign of Hastur. To be honest, that card isn’t so bad here. While the agendas do tend to draw out a bit, potentially keeping the treachery on the table for a while, the pressure on the sanity isn’t as huge here as in the other two scenarios using the card. I think this is one of the scenarios that are most unchanged by their Return To version.
What it does: Figure in the Shadows basically gives an extra movement to the Organist. Depending on whether you are on the Doubt or the Conviction route, this movement is either towards the players or away from them.
My take: A subtle little card that doesn’t make huge waves, but does nudge the Organist just that little bit along the way. Especially if the players where pinning the Organist with evasion, this allows the guy to break free and do its thing again. Since the extra movement occurs during the Mythos phase, the players are the first ones to act afterwards, though. That keeps the impact of Figure in the Shadows rather low. Should the Organist already be engaged during the Conviction route, the card even does nothing – remember that resolving Hunter does not give an extra attack.
Threat level: Low. It’s a nice little break in the rythm of the game, but nothing truely upsetting to the board state.
Dealing with it: Usually, this card should be offset by just spending an extra action or two. Nothing really to worry about.
My take on this encounter deck: That is a lot of doom related cards. This scenario uses two agendas, so naturally the additional doom effects get diluted a bit by having to cover both of them, but still this is a major thing to worry about here. Generally, i don’t find this scenario all that difficult, but a lot of that comes from having replayed it a couple of times. When you don’t know what is coming, this is a lot harder as the unfamiliar way of having to manage doom and the surprising amount of horror coming your way can prove to be a deadly combination. As is appropriate for the last scenario before the finale, there are also a bunch of tough enemies around. Most of them lack Hunter, so having someone around that can competently apply evasion is a huge boon here. The final interesting twist is how the encounter deck changes depending on which agendas advance. Focusing on “a” adds Tidal Terrors to the deck and powers up the Crashing Flood treachery. Putting a priority on “c” instead will make Riftseekers appear and will make Worlds Merge be more impacting. Deciding on focusing on one or the other or on making it an even split between the two is a cool way for the players to have some influence on what dangers they face. Ultimately all four of the cards mentioned are quite demanding, though. This is a neat scenario. While it does lose some of its teeth once you played it a couple of times and can metagame some of its twists, i think this both more challenging and more interesting than Dim Carcosa. Cancel these: Spires of Carcosa, Crashing Flood/Worlds Merge. Both of the treacheries that are tied to a certain agenda can hit really hard once they are powered up a bit. Having a cancel or two in the back pocket to step in when it would threaten someone is a good idea. Among the doom cards, Spires of Carcosa sticks out. Not only does it count for both agendas, but it also adds two doom. If you don’t have someone at the scene who you are confident that they can discard Spires in two actions, feel free to just bin it with a Ward.
What it does: Tidal Horror is a big Hunter enemy. With 4 health and 4 fight, it is reasonably tough to defeat. It has only low evade though. Tidal Horror hits for 2 horror and 1 damage on attacking, which is also above average. It spawns on either the port or the chapel, so it likely does take a few turns for it to catch up with the players. This enemy is not in the encounter deck at first, it gets added when the “a” agenda advances.
My take: Something for the Guardian to do. These guys are just a little bit shy from being an Elite enemy, this is about as dangerous as it gets for the “normal” monsters. Since this is the penultimate scenario, it can be expected that players are able to deal with enemies like this. What makes it interesting is that there are quite a few enemies like this in the encounter deck. Between this, the Spawn of Hali and the Riftseekers, the players potentially have to chew through a lot of enemy health, quite possibly leaving them without ammo or charges when the Beast of Aldebaran shows up. The good news: When this enemy shows up, the group is likely already within the church, so the Tidal Horror will need about 4 or 5 turns of hunting before it gets to engage something. That could very well be enough to finish the scenario at that point.
Threat level: High. It’s quite dangerous in combat and part of a deck that has more enemies to back it up.
Dealing with it: How to best deal with this enemy is going to depend on how far into the scenario you are. If you are well on your way to finishing up, you can likely run away from it and maybe evade it once or twice to stall it. That way you can save your consumables and devote them to kill other things in your way like that Beast of Aldebaran. If that is not an option (maybe you advanced the “a” agenda early and you immediately drew one of these) then killing it is probably preferable to having it follow you around into the church. It hits too hard to be kept alive then.
What it does: Rift Seeker is an enemy with above average stats, giving it some resilience to attacks. Whenever it attacks, the target of that attack needs to either take an additional damage and horror or add a doom token to each agenda. Instead of defeating it the usual way, it can be parley’d by spending an action, taking 2 horror and placing a doom on each agenda. This enemy is not in the encounter deck at first, it gets added when the “c” agenda advances.
My take: I’d have to be either very desperate or very confident to consider using that parley option. Taking extra doom just to kill something that has three fight and health isn’t really something i am interested in. If things go very wrong and you are still engaged with this on your last action while also being low on stamina or sanity you might use the Parley to just be done with it. Also, if you are already well on your way to the final location and just need to wrap up the scenario with doom to spare, this option can be nice. Usually you’ll just want to hit this thing once or twice though.
Threat level: Low to Mid. It isn’t terribly difficult to defeat, but it hits fairly hard if it lives.
Dealing with it: As usual, being able to deal 3 damage in one go saves an action. If it does get to attack, you are hopefully able to take the extra damage and horror, as adding doom should really be avoided. While getting low on sanity or stamina leaves you open to get defeated by Worlds Merge, Crashing Flood or Marked by the Sign, there is also plenty of doom effects going around that would punish you for taking the doom instead. It’s going to be a very situational choice. Note that Rift Seeker is the only Byakhee without Hunter, so evading it can be an option for those who can beat the evade value of 4. The scenario is fairly linear with minimal backtracking, so you’d probably be able to leave it behind without having to worry about it later.
What it does: After failing an agility test, the player has to take damage and lose actions. The damage and number of actions lost scale with how far the “a” agenda advanced.
My take: This is the only damage treachery in the deck, so even though there are three of them and they can deal up to three damage, that part usually only gets too worrysome if you are already wounded from fighting some enemies or if you are particularly vulnerable by nature (like Sister Mary with her 5 stamina). Losing actions can be very brutal, though. A fully powered Crashing Floods can make someone skip their whole turn, leaving them vulnerable to any enemies on the board.
Threat level: High. The enemies in this scenario are too dangerous to skip your turn around them.
Dealing with it: See the next card.
What it does: After failing a willpower test, the player has to take horror and discard cards from their hand. The horror and number of cards scale with how far the “c” agenda advanced.
My take: I usually do not care too much about the discard here, at least it is not random. But taking up to 3 horror is a big deal. There are three of this card in the deck, together with another three horror treacheries from The Stranger and several enemies that can deal 2 horror per attack. As a result, you might just be defeated from drawing two of these and failing to pass the willpower test.
Threat level: High. One of the most threatening horror treacheries in the game.
Dealing with it: Arguably, this is even the weaker one of the two agenda related treacheries in this scenario. Worlds Merge and Crashing Flood are the two treacheries that get stronger depending on which agenda you decided to advance. The thing with Crashing Flood is that it can potentially cost a full turn, which can then lead to being attacked by one of the many monsters in this deck, effectively also pressuring the sanity and stamina of the player. Bigger groups can make up for someone losing a turn more easily, so those should probably advance “a” before “c”. For a solo player, losing all their actions can absolutely be fatal, so they will likely want “c” over “a”. For two and three players, it’s going to be somewhere in between, maybe even without a “right” answer. Personally, i usually advance “c” first, because i also don’t want Tidal Horrors in my encounter deck too early. This does add extra pressure on the sanity of my investigators, but in the Carcosa campaign, i do plan for that by default.
Return to Black Stars Rise
My take on the modified scenario: This scenario is mostly unchanged. Two locations are now included in the randomization at setup, but that doesn’t change a whole lot. Two new cards are added to the encounter deck that deal some testless damage or horror. Those are dangerous because there is enough other stuff in the encounter deck to back it up, especially on the horror side of things. The only encounter set that is being replaced is Ancient Evils, which gets dropped for Delusory Evils. This change just doesn’t make sense to me at all. This whole scenario is built around the doom interactions with the agenda, why would one remove Ancient Evils? It wasn’t even a problem here, it was borderline helpful. One of the agendas even references the card by name, giving it Surge! Nope, doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. And it doesn’t help that i find Delusory Evils itself incredibly off-putting and irrelevant. Among us: I ignore that swap and keep using Ancient Evils. Don’t tell the boardgame police, please 🙂
What it does: Hastur’s Grasp an Gaze is a pair of treacheries that are secretly added to the player’s hand as a Hidden card when drawn. They both trigger when a doom token is added to “their” agenda, they will then discard and deal 2 damage or horror to the player.
My take: Just like with Crashing Floods and Worlds Merge, it’s the “a” agenda that deals damage and the “c” agenda that deals horror. This makes them stack up with those treacheries very well, which is especially relevant for Hastur’s Gaze. After all, sanity was already under attack quite severely and this doesn’t help. I don’t really see the point of them being Hidden cards. Aside from Delusory Evils, they are the only ones in the encounter deck. And the delay on dealing the damage or horror likely isn’t going to matter.
Threat level: Low to Mid for Grasp, Medium for Gaze. More damage and horror to stack up with Crashing Floods and Worlds Merge.
Dealing with it: Unless you are willing to break at least the spirit of the Hidden rules, you’ll likely just have to take this testless damage or horror rather sooner than later. At least you get to play a soak asset from your hand first if you got one. If you are playing solo, you might delay this a bit, but there’s not really much of a point to that either. The card is going to trigger eventually.
My take on this encounter deck: For Undimensioned and Unseen, the campaign takes a wild step to the side and attacks the players from a direction that is very out of character for the rest of The Dunwich Legacy. In a campaign that is otherwise dominated by intellect centric scenarios, this one asks for willpower a lot. A LOT. Not only does almost one third of the encounter deck consist of cards that require willpower tests, but the Broods of Yog-Sothoth which are to be eliminated here, can only be fought with willpower instead of fight. This puts many investigators out of a job right from the start. Aside from the Broods, the only enemies in this deck are the Whippoorwills and the Beast Thralls, all of them Hunters and at least something for the fighters to do. Those two are good sets and they both come with a treachery that is very relevant in Undimensioned and Unseen. Eager for Death from Whippoorwills is two of eleven horror treacheries, easily enough to push investigators over the brink to insanity. Altered Beast from Beast Thralls can attach to Broods of Yog-Sothoth and heal them while giving them a horror trigger. When that happens, just flip the table, the playthrough clearly is cursed anyways… Where the Broods appear, when they appear and how they move is all at least semi-random and often leads to the scenario moving on at a snail’s pace and taking what feels like an eternity. It’s just not all that great, honestly. One of my least favorite scenarios in the game. Cancel these: Altered Beast, Frozen in Fear. If you are stuck with a Frozen in Fear, you might aswell limp towards the Dunwich Village and resign. Having the mobility to react to the Brood’s movements is key in surviving here and Frozen in Fear removes exactly that. Altered Beast will always find a target here because it can attach to a Brood. If that happens, it can be devastating because the Brood will now deal horror each time it moves into an investigator’s location, something that will leave that player vulnerable to the big chunk of other horror sources waiting in the encounter deck.
What it does: Towering Beasts attaches to a Brood in play which will get +1 fight and stamina while it stays attached. If the Brood is at the player’s location, the investigator is dealt 1 damage. Towering Beasts has Peril, mostly to make it more difficult to cancel it.
My take: The +1 health is the important part here. The difference between 6 fight and 7 fight isn’t all that large, but having to attack through it an additional time is. Unlike the base health of the enemies, this card doesn’t scale with the investigator count. As a result, this is less impactful at higher player counts.
Threat level: Mid to High. This directly affects your chances at defeating that Brood. If you draw multiples and they stack up on one Brood, that can even put it out of reach unless you can throw a lot of clues at it.
Dealing with it: Do you plan on defeating every single Brood? Or are you fine with having one survive? If the latter is true, consider throwing all of these onto one Brood and then just kill the others. If that is not an option, then you might need to offset this card’s effect with additional clues on the monsters and extra actions for the attacks.
What it does: Each investigator that shares a location with a Brood has to pass an agility test. If they fail, they take a damage for each point they failed by. If nobody is at the same location as a Brood, Ruin and Destruction surges.
My take: This is the only way for a Brood to “attack” a player after moving into their location before the player gets their turn. It’s the Grasping Hands effect that we know from the core set, but the potential to hit multiple players at once is scary. Anyone who is affected by Ruin and Destruction of course is also still at the same location as a Brood, so this naturally stacks up with the danger coming from that.
Threat level: Mid to High. It’s a bit more situational than Grasping Hands, but the ceiling is way higher.
Dealing with it: The timing of the card makes it hard to avoid. After all, you probably want Broods to move into your location at some point. Luckily there isn’t too much other damage coming at players from treacheries, so as long as they can avoid being mauled by Broods or Beast Thralls, they should be able to soak this.
What it does: Attracting Attention makes each Brood in play move one location towards the player. The card then surges.
My take: Has the potential of having multiple Broods all move into you at the same time which is certainly troublesome. That being said, it can also be a helpful card, getting the Broods into the position where you are waiting for them.
Threat level: Depends on the number of Broods on the table.
Dealing with it: If you find yourself ganged up on by multiple Broods, evasion might be your only way out of it without taking a whole lot of damage and horror. If necessary, other players might want to come and help with that. Their semi-random movement (even when exhausted from the evasion) hopefully leads to them going in different directions afterwards.
What it does: The player either needs to take 2 horror or spawn a new Brood. That Brood enters play at a random location. This card has Peril, so other players do not get to factor into the choice and are also not allowed to cancel or otherwise mess with this card.
My take: This card is massively dependent on the context of what else is happening in the game. When drawn early, it can double the danger coming from the Broods and be a massive pain. On the other hand, it’s the only way aside from the agenda flip to spawn more Broods. Since your goal is killing those, you might actually end up with no Brood on the board and actively hoping to draw this card so you can get on with the scenario. Due to the reshuffling of the encounter deck, it can happen that no Broods are set aside anymore when you draw The Creature’s Tracks. If that happens, it turns into a straight up testless 2 horror treachery. This can be quite dangerous due to Rotting Remains and Eager for Death also being in the deck.
Threat level: Low. Even if it can be slightly dangerous sometimes, it does advance the player’s ability to fulfill the scenario goals. Once you run out of Broods to spawn, this card’s stock goes up dramatically.
Dealing with it: If you aren’t planning on just killing one Brood and getting out, you will want to spawn the Brood here. It can be a bit inconvenient in the short term if you now have multiples on the board, but that’s preferrable to twiddling thumbs with nothing to do later.
Return to Undimensioned and Unseen
My take on the modified scenario: Return To Undimensioned and Unseen replaces the Broods themselves with individual variants that add some variety to the enemies that are central to the scenario. All of these variants are upgrades for the Broods, adding either additional movements, more health or even Retaliate. This makes the scenario quite a bit harder, even though their damage or horror is reduced by one. Especially the Retaliate can be a real problem on these enemies, forcing players to spend extra clues to make sure they will only fail to the tentacle. The Striking Fear set is replaced by Erratic Fear, and for once i do think this is a good switch. It removes Frozen in Fear from the deck, a card that this scenario really doesn’t need. It also swaps out the horror from Rotting Remains for some damage from Idle Hands and Violent Commands. This balances out the encounter deck a lot between horror and damage sources, making it a lot less overly punishing for low sanity investigators who are suffering enough already from also likely having low willpower. Return to Undimensioned and Unseen is a step up from the original version, but in the end the core mechanics are unchanged and it’s still a scenario i actively don’t like to play.
What it does: Imperceptible Creature attaches to a Brood in play and removes one clue from that enemy. The Brood also gains Elite. The card then surges.
My take: As a Surge card with a relevant effect, this is something you’d rather not pull from the deck. The removal of the clue is annoying, it’s difficult enough to get them on there in the first place. The Elite trait is added to plug some loopholes that allowed killing the Broods in creative ways, for example through Waylay or Mid Wipe.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Undoes a clue, then surges straight into the next encounter card.
Dealing with it: Overspending clues in anticipation of this is not worth it. In fact, this card is a reason to have at least one Brood without a clue on it around, so you can attach this card on it. If the card can not remove a clue, it loses most of its impact. The presence of this card doesn’t really mean that the non-Elite tech cards are no longer good in this scenario. They still can do some work against Broods that don’t have this attached, of course. If you designated one of your Broods as a “dump” for Towering Beast cards, that one can take one of these as well.
Striking Fear and the Hideous Abominations do not start out being in the deck, but are added midgame. The above numbers include those sets.
My take on this encounter deck: There’s a lot to like about The House Always Wins, but the encounter deck isn’t necessarily a big part of it. The deck adds some flavor through the Bad Luck and Naomi’s Crew sets, but the main appeal of the scenario comes from the agenda and act cards and how they change what is important from one moment to the next. Fighting isn’t a large part of the scenario unless you feel like taking it up with the abominations. They are mostly something to run away from, though. The Rats don’t provide much of a challenge, so that leaves the O’Bannions as the prime baddies to fight. Especially the Pit Boss which starts on the board can be a tough nut to crack for fledgling investigators who are either on their first or second scenario here. Going through the locations as they open up and grabbing their clues isn’t particularly hard, but most locations come with effects that either cost resources or prevent gaining them. Together with a couple treacheries that also attack player’s resources this means that players will find it hard to accumulate bigger sums. If you got big plays to do like expensive allies or tools, do so right away while you still can. Event focused investigators may find it difficult to have resources for their expensive cards when they need them later. All things considered, this isn’t a difficult scenario. When played first in the campaign, it offers quite a generous amount of time to find your target and get out with them before the big abominations can catch up with you. When played second, it’s at least easy to finish the scenario. Rescuing Peter Clover is a bit notorious for how hard it is without cheesing it (using cards like I’m Out of Here) because it requires diving back into the lounge while at least two big monsters are rampaging there, then passing multiple willpower tests and finally getting out again. At least he helps with the escaping part once he’s under your control. Due to the number or required willpower tests to parley Clover scaling with player count, this is one of the rare cases where it’s actually a lot easier to do solo than in a group. Oh, and one final note although that should really go without mentioning it: Don’t cheat. Ever. Cancel these: Arousing Suspicions, Frozen in Fear. During the early turns, Arousing Suspicions can really mess with your plans to set up and get into positions before the agenda advances. Being able to remove that possibility is huge. Frozen in Fear is just its usual self, a huge hindrance to some investigators and stopping it from doing its thing is always appreciated.
What it does: Each Criminal enemy at the player’s location has a doom added to them. If none are around, the player loses 2 resources instead.
My take: This card is especially relevant early on as it can force an immediate advancement of the agenda, skipping the phase where the enemies are still aloof. If that happens, it can be quite annoying as it removes the setup grace period and will have players staring down the Pit Boss right away. During the later parts of the scenario, this will mostly miss and just cost 2 resources which isn’t much of a cost at all.
Threat level: High in the first three or four turns. Low afterwards.
Dealing with it: During the initial turns, there’s two of these cards in what is efficiently a 17 card deck, so it’s actually quite likely to draw it. Aside from avoiding having the Pit Boss move on top of you or outright canceling the card there isn’t much to do about it, though. If you are playing in a group, split up so the Pit Boss can only move on top of one of you to minimize the chance of having this card matter.
What it does: Something in the Drinks makes each player who “had a drink” lose 1 action. It then surges.
My take: Each player may spend two resources and an action at the bar to discover two clues and draw 2 cards. Doing so might have them lose another action down the line from this card. I think it’s absolutely worth it. Worst case you are paying 3 actions and two resources for 2 cards and 2 clues. Which is still quite fair.
Threat level: Low. While the effect can be quite bad when drawn, it is something that you opt into.
Dealing with it: Just know that it exists and factor it into your decision on whether to buy a drink or not.
Return to The House Always Wins
My take on the modified scenario: The changes to the scenario are minor and do not really have much of an effect on how the scenario plays. There is a new location variant here, which is nice but nothing dramatically impacting. Also, we add two pairs of cards to the encounter deck. One of them, Raise the Stakes, is actually interesting because it adds another two cards (in addition to Arousing Suspicions) that can mess up the first couple turns. The other one, Caught Cheating, does literally nothing, though. In terms of replacement encounter sets, Striking Fear is replaced by Erratic Fear, a set i have little love for. This switch does remove Frozen in Fear from the deck, which can be a huge deal in the final dash from the exit. Idle Hands actually gives an extra action instead, something that can come in very handy indeed. The removal of Rotting Remains means that players no longer have to fear losing their sanity, instead there are some extra damage sources from Erratic Fear that can be relevant. Return to The House Always Wins doesn’t change my opinion about this scenario in the slightest, it’s not all that relevant to be honest. In the end, the most important thing here might actually be that there is a new payoff for rescuing Peter Clover, but that doesn’t change how the scenario itself plays.
What it does: Raise the Stakes makes the player choose one of three options. They either have to remember that they “cheated”, they need to lose 5 resources or put the card into their threat area. If the last is chosen, Raise the Stakes will give +1 fight and evade to Criminals or make them lose Aloof.
My take: The important part to remember here is that you can take the second option even if you don’t have 5 resources, just as long as you have at least 1 resource. Paying off the treachery this way is certainly the most painless way to get rid of it, but there are situation where putting it into your threat area is also fine. Increasing the Thugs fight value from 4 to 5 is the main deterrent here, but if they are both already gone or if you just don’t care about it (because your fighter can handle it or you have testless damage available), feel free to just pick option three. Never pick the first one. It adds a Elder Thing token to your bag for the rest of the campaign and you definitely don’t want that. Unless someone else already cheated, in which case feel free to also do that, i guess. I would question that other player’s wisdom, though 🙂
Threat level: Low to Mid, especially during the first couple turns. Falls off dramatically in relevance once the abominations enter the scenario, though.
Dealing with it: I guess you could technically Alter Fate it, but with Striking Fear in the deck you will likely want to hold onto that card. Just pay the resources or deal with the slight increase in combat prowess of the syndicate guys.
What it does: Any player who “cheated” loses two resources and takes 1 damage. The card surges.
My take: Easy, just don’t cheat. Like… i mean it. Don’t. This card is the least of your worries if you do.
Threat level: Low. Another card you have to opt into for it to have an effect.
Dealing with it: Don’t cheat. Sorry, don’t really have much more to say about this card. Using the cheat option in this scenario is really bad and i wouldn’t pick it ever. I’d rather take the trauma for being defeated.
We’re almost done with the Innsmouth Conspiracy deluxe box now, as another two encounter sets and a scenario get their page on the site. Fog over Innsmouth is a miniset that cares about shroud values and adds a big critter with victory points to the deck. Agents of Dagon is this cycle’s obligatory cultist set, with a little twist that makes these cultists a lot more threatening than the Acolytes from the Core. Both of these sets feature in The Vanishing of Elina Harper, a set that put me into a bit of an awkward spot when putting together the page for it. On the one hand, it is one of my favorite scenarios in the game, on the other hand i don’t have many remarkable things to observe about its encounter deck. “The magic” all happens between agenda, act, lead deck and setup, which makes this one of the very few cases where my strategy for these reviews basically fails to capture what makes the scenario tick. Oh well.
Recently, there has been some chatter in the community (both on reddit and on Discord) about the Return to The Circle Undone box. It has not been officially announced yet, but that shouldn’t probably take too long now that all of the Mythos packs from the Innsmouth cycle have been.
I thought i would take this spot here today to post some wishes, things i would like to see int that box. Some of it might be out of scope, but you never know… the excellent Return to The Forgotten Age also had a bunch of goodies in it that i never would have expected.
I don’t actually have many major scenario specific gripes that i would target. Wages of Sin and Before the Black Throne are the two that i think are in the most dire need of being improved. Not sure how that’d look though. The doom mechanics from BtBT are baked into the root of the scenario, arguably they are the whole point of it. And Wages is broken enough that it’d need a complete overhaul. Personally i have no idea where even to start there, but as mentioned RtTFA has shown that MJ and Jeremy are willing to make sweeping changes as well. It worked for Return to Doom of Eztli, i hope they figure out Return to Wages.
Throughout the campaign we collect all kinds of mementos. Sadly these end up mattering very little. Something that RtTFA did is add a lot of locations that care about certain underused supply items. Maybe something similar could be done here?
My nominations for replacement encounter sets are: Anette’s Coven. The base set is just completely unimpressive and their abilities barely fire at all. Let’s have something with a stronger interaction with Hexes and/or encounter deck depletion, something that actually matters. Inexorable Fate. As it is, it fights with other mechanics from the cycle and has trouble mattering in low player counts. These cards are really good in principle, but only really get to do their thing in full groups. There must be a way to fix that, these deserve to be campaign centerpiece like Beyond the Veil is. Ancient Evils. It’s used four times throughout the campaign. Let’s give us a new version of this, that might actually be a part of fixing BtBT. Spectral Predators and/or Trapped Spirits. Except for the Mist enemy, these two sets are really forgettable. Only being used twice doesn’t help, of course. But still. Meh. These sets could have some more punch.
In terms of player cards, a few things come to mind that i could make good use of. Some people are talking about new tarot cards or upgrades to the existing ones, but the thing that i would much rather see is a better Anna Kaslow. Now, sadly the base version is already level 4, so there is not much room upwards. Maybe downwards could be an idea? In any case, the base version’s ratio of cost to rewards is very off and i would like to see a more playable version that would get me to actually do something fancy and gimmicky with it. Other cards i would be interested in seeing upgrades for: Alice Luxley (on the cusp of playability, but not quite there to muscle past Grete and Beat Cop), Fingerprint Kit (similar case here), Sign Magic (make it 1 resource and i would probably pay XP for it), Deny Existence (level 0 to 5 is a big jump, how about a stepping stone at 2 or 3 XP?) and Act of Desperation (gimme a version that ditches the restriction to Items and lets me sacrifice *anything*…). I also wouldn’t mind upgrades for the cycle of threshold skills, maybe they could offer some return according to what their threshold cares about? (Steadfast heals, Curiosity draws, Cunning gives money. Not sure what Prophesy and Able Bodied would do…) Eh, we probably got enough skills lately.
That’s it for my wishlist. Not a whole lot, actually. TCU is not really in need of much fixing, except for those two scenarios i mentioned, i like it … kinda. It’s a campaign that i initially was very high on due to the theme. With every replay, i soured a bit on it, kinda the opposite of what happened with TFA which i liked more and more with each revisit. I have hopes that RtTCU can put some of that initial hype i had for it back into the campaign.
My take on this encounter deck: I don’t know about you, but i do get excited whenever i see that i get to put the Midnight Mask treacheries and the Nightgaunts into an encounter deck. That is usually a sign that i am going to like that scenario, and Vanishing of Elina Harper is no exception. Once per campaign, we get a sprawling map with tons of clues, Hunter enemies and a non-binary win condition. Threads of Fate perfected this template, Vanishing of Elina Harper is the latest attempt to dethrone it. While it doesn’t quite get that far, it’s still an excellent scenario that adds a few new wrinkles to the proceedings. The map isn’t quite as large as we’ve seen before, but depending on what you pull from the lead deck, additional locations do enter play. Instead of our basic Dark Cult, we get to meet the Agents of Dagon for the first time here, and they add a significant presence, asking for some timing in how and when to deal with them and just generally being a bigger pain than other cultists. In addition to the Nightgaunts, there’s the Winged One and the Innsmouth Troublemaker around, for a total of 7 Hunter enemies that pack a punch. Anyone who suffered an attack or two by one of those will be particularly vulnerable to the damage treacheries in this deck. Between Hunting Shadow, Wings of Darkness and Furtive Locals, there’s enough damage going around to finish someone off. The rest of the deck mostly consists of things to stall out the investigations. Obscuring Fog, Locked Door, Fog over Innsmouth, Innsmouth Look, Furtive Locals, both of the Midnight Masks cards… it’s all stuff that messes with the ability to grab clues. The composition of the encounter deck isn’t anything too special, as mentioned it follows similar lines as the ones for Midnight Masks, Threads of Fate, Blood on the Altar or Clutches of Chaos. It is well executed though and the trappings around the special scenario rules elevate this scenario into one of the best around. Cancel these: False Lead. There is no real standout in this deck, but False Lead does have some potential to screw someone over. The ability on the act card does encourage spending a lot of clues at once, so you might accumulate a pile of them on a single investigator. If that one draws False Lead, that can hurt a lot. Especially if they aren’t high intellect and acquired their clues through cards like Look What I Found or Intel Report, consider banking a cancel to protect their investment.