Appears in: The Vanishing of Elina Harper, Lair of Dagon
My take on this set: I really like this set. The twists on the doom mechanics are quite simple, but have serious repercussions for how to deal with them. Like most cultists, these can cause the agenda to advance early, but unlike previous versions they don’t become harmless afterwards. They’ll just collect more doom. In fact, they get another “buffed” round with all of their abilities active after the agenda advances. Great spin on a formula as old as the core set, these are both more dangerous and a higher priority than what we’ve seen before. I also appreciate that this cycle’s cultist set does not come with a variant on Wizard of the Order…
What it does: The Initiate of Dagon is this cycle’s version of the basic cultist. Like other cultist rank and file before her, she is a small enemy that spawns at an empty location and carries a doom token. However, this one doesn’t come into play with the doom right away, she only gets it if she is ready at the end of the round. While she doesn’t have any doom on her, her fight and evade values are greatly increased.
My take: A great twist on the basic Acolyte. Despite coming into play without a token, she still is going to have a token on her on the next mythos phase, so she is not slower than her predecessors from the Core set. So dealing with her right away is usually what players will want to do – and that is exactly when she is strongest. 4 fight and evade are a significant barrier, stopping just any Seeker from punching her. Another notable interaction here is that she stays relevant even after helping the agenda to advance because she can just go ahead and collect another doom token.
Threat level: Medium. A serious step upwards from the basic Acolyte and much more likely to live through the Mythos phase.
Dealing with it: If you do have the time, waiting a turn before engaging her can help a lot. The difference between fight 2 and fight 4 is quite big. Ways to deal testless damage also shine here, from Beat Cop over Ancient Stone to Small Favor. Evasion is a way to stall her doom for one turn, but since that will always have to go against evade 4 when it is relevant and since she is able to collect more doom after the agenda advances, you will likely not want to have her stick around.
What it does: The Priest of Dagon borrows some mechanics from the Initiate, but plays very differently in spite of that. Like the previous card, he spawns at an empty location and will collect a doom token at the end of the round if he’s readied. If he is defeated or evaded while still not having doom on him, he instead heals, readies and gains a doom token.
My take: A major pain. Two health puts him out of range to just punch him or ping him with Beat Cop. So unless you are using a melee weapon, you will likely need to spend ammo or charges on defeating him. And if your investigator isn’t able to both evade and fight (something that few investigators are), then you will need to spend two of those tokens. Even if you can use evasion first to get his ability out of the way, you will still end up spending two actions. Of course, like the Initiate, this guy can keep collecting doom after the agenda advances, making him something that you probably can’t afford to ignore.
Threat level: Medium. A beefed up version of the Initiate. If you can wait a turn for him to collect his doom before defeating him, that will take a lot of the threat away, though.
Dealing with it: If he needs to die right away because the agenda is about to flip otherwise, then you will just need to go through the whole ordeal of defeating him twice. The first attack can be substituted by an evasion, to save ammo or to make use of the high agility on someone who can actually both fight and evade (like Finn or Winifred). If you do have the luxury of waiting a turn, that is often worth doing because it reduces the Priest to a fairly basic 3/2/3 enemy. You can plan accordingly when deciding where to spawn this guy. Note that any card effects that “discard” an enemy instead of “defeat”ing them will bypass the priest’s ability, but those are quite rare. Handcuffs do stop this guy in his tracks, though.
Appears in: Vanishing of Elina Harper, Horror in High Gear
My take on this set: This is a mini set of only three cards that puts a sizeable Hunter enemy into the encounter deck together with a card that lowers the players chances at getting to successfully investigate their way through Innsmouth. Both of those cards are best evaluated on their own, there is very little tying these two together except for their flavor and a minor interaction concerning the shroud value on locations. That is fine, though. Both cards stand on their own perfectly. Winged One is a card that can have a lot of impact on the board state when it hits and Fog over Innsmouth synergizes with a lot of other cards that are used throughout the campaign.
What it does: The Winged One is a big Hunter enemy that not only has 5 stamina, but also takes less damage from anything but cards that are either Ranged, Firearm or Spell traited. This damage prevention ability can’t reduce the attack damage to lower than 1. Its evasion value fluctuates depending on the location it is at, it’s equal to the location’s shroud. Defeating the Winged One awards a victory point.
My take: Very tough to take down if you don’t have something with the required traits around. And even if you do, it will often take a full turn away. Running and evading it is certainly a possibility, especially if you are pressed for time like in Vanishing of Elina Harper. The shroud values of the locations vary heavily within Innsmouth, ranging all the way from 1 to 5, so having an eye on that can pay off if you do end up having to engage and evade the Winged One at some point. There is the possibility for Winged One to gain some extra evasion from Obscuring Fog or this set’s Fog over Innsmouth, but in practice this will rarely matter much.
Threat level: Mid to High. It doesn’t deal a whole lot of damage and horror, but it is hard to take down and will occupy a good amount of actions in any case.
Dealing with it: The victory point is certainly a strong incentive towards defeating it, but without the correct assets available that can be way too costly in terms of actions. If all you have available are Survival Knifes, Machetes or even Timeworn Brand, fighting this thing takes more effort than it’s worth. Innsmouth is a very open town with lots of connections between locations, so running from Hunters isn’t trivial either, though. If that is the plan, it may require someone to evade the Winged One on low shroud locations from time to time to slow it down for everyone. It is not an Elite, so Waylay does very good work here (as it does through most of Innsmouth, actually)
What it does: After failing a willpower test, the player takes 1 horror and puts Fog over Innsmouth into play. If they pass the test, they can choose to prevent one of those two options. If Fog over Innsmouth enters play, it stays there until the end of the round when it is discarded to its own Forced effect. While in play, each location’s shroud value is increased by one.
My take: This is right on the sweet spot where i don’t feel immediately concerned about it, but then end up failing something because of it. Giving each location +1 shroud is not all that bad on its own at first glance, but it does apply to everyone in the group and for all of their investigations this turn. It also stacks with things like Obscuring Fog and Innsmouth Look to make testing for clues a challenge.
Threat level: Low in solo. Medium in a full group. Scales in between for 2 or 3 players.
Dealing with it: It discards itself at the end of the round, so throwing some specialized card like Alter Fate or even a cancel at it is likely not the best use of resources. Mostly, you’ll want to try and pass the willpower check so you can decide to discard it and just take the horror instead. Of course, there is a chance for the card to do very little if your current priorities are lying somewhere else (fleeing from Hunters, setting up assets, discovering clues without investigation).
And with that, Dream-Eaters is in the bag. The last encounter set of the cycle was first, Creatures of the Underworld. Not the most exciting set, but it’s not like there’s anything wrong with it either. The rest of the week was dedicated to a whopping three full scenarios: The Search for Kadath, a scenario that is mechanically very sound and interesting, but is bogged down by taking forever and being a bit of a pain with its multiple setups. Thousand Shapes of Horror, a scenario that throws a thousand different little mechanics at the player without committing fully to one. And Point of No Return, a surprisingly “classic” scenario amidst the eccentricities of Dream-Eaters.
Okay, let’s wrap up the scenario ranking stuff from last week and the week before that. As a reminder, here is the table again that shows what the colors mean:
Also, once more: Whenever i talk about scenarios from NoTZ, Dunwich, Carcosa or TFA, i am assuming the Return To versions. But I want to kick this off today by giving my initial thoughts on Innsmouth first, at least as far as i played it so far.
I did already play Horror in High Gear, but only once so i didn’t include it yet. The first four i played at least 3 times each, so i feel much more firm in commenting on them. And it’s looking pretty great! Innsmouth hits all the right buttons for me, i am digging the large maps and the enemy design in particular. The quality that my two top picks share is replayability. Both Vanishing and Devil Reef employ a lot of randomizing that actually matters a lot and changes the scenario significantly between replays. That’s a huge plus in my book. The lack of this is also what i miss most from In Too Deep, which is otherwise super interesting as well. Pit of Despair is a great first scenario and doesn’t hold back any punches. The Amalgam fell mostly flat for me and didn’t do much in any of the plays i had with the scenario, but otherwise it sets the tone for the campaign right away. Best use of the flood tokens so far as well. I am seriously blown away by the first half of the campaign. I am not as high on Horror in High Gear, because i thought it wasn’t very … interactive? Like, you are mostly being played by the scenario? Dunno, got to give it another two or three plays before i can say more. In the bottom half of tier 3 as my first impression, i definitely like the somewhat similar Essex Express more.
What you see here is my overall ranking of all the scenarios. To get there, i took the tiers as i put them for the campaigns and then ordered the scenarios within their tier. It’s not an exact science of course, but close enough to represent what i think of the individual scenarios and where i would put them on the ladder. I don’t think i need to say too much about the scenarios themselves, i already said one or two sentences about each of these over the last two weeks. And if you need more details, i got articles for almost all of them on the site where i often give my own 2 cents somewhere. If i had to plop Horror in High Gear somewhere in there, i would do so right now between 30 (Black Stars) and 31 (House Always Wins).
And that’s it for this little project. Was fun to do and interesting to think about.
Next week i’ll catch up with announcements of the rest of the Mythos packs, i think. Or maybe i’ll talk a bit about my current “Joe and Preston visit Innsmouth” experiment. Or both. We’ll see.
The contents of the encounter deck shift around during the scenario, with whole encounter sets being added and/or removed whenever the act advances. At first, the Terror of the Vale (Dhole), Descent into Pitch (Tar Spiders), Nightgaunts and Agents of Atlach-Nacha are all set aside. They take the place of Striking Fear and (possibly) Ghouls down the road. The numbers above are from the start of the scenario, so they do not include those four extra encounter sets.
My take on this encounter deck: This is a long scenario that sees the players traverse a wide map with lots of locations that are sequentially revealed as the acts advance. Their goal is finding a certain location in the Sea of Pitch before the doom clock runs out, but aside from Ancient Evils there is not a whole lot of pressure on this clock. What the deck does instead is throw a lot of different enemies at them to halt their progress and also batter them with damage and horror treacheries at the same time. The enemies in the deck start out fairly tame, with Ghouls and Creatures of the Underworld adding mostly “normal” humanoid sized critters (and one Gug). As the acts advance and more of the map is revealed, the enemies get bigger and more dangerous, though. Nightgaunts and the Dhole are rather dangerous hunters and the final act also adds Grey Weavers to the mix. So the Guardians and other fighters certainly are going to have enough to do here. In terms of treacheries, this is the first scenario since the core set that has both Grasping Hands and Rotting Remains in it. And this iconic pair is used as the foundation for many more treacheries that directly attack the player’s sanity and stamina. Coupled with the scenario being somewhat long and full of enemies, managing the incoming damage and horror becomes the central challenge to Point of No Return. Personally, i like this scenario a whole lot and view it as sort of a “fixed” or “better” version of Search for Kadath. It offers the same sort of playing rather classic Arkham clue gathering and fighting on a changing map, but No Return gets the balance right between doing interesting things and being tedious to actually execute. Cancel these: Ancient Evils, Dhole Tunnel. I never actually had much of an issue with the doom clock here, but especially if you have to start the scenario with 2 damage on the scenario card, it can become an issue. There are multiple reshuffles of the encounter deck, so the potential for variance to strike and bombard you with Evils is at least there. Reserving cancels for the second and third Dhole Tunnels can take most of the threat out of the Slithering Dhole, something that is worth doing. That being said, having a cancel or two in your back pocket to stop a life threatening Grasping Hands or Rotting Remains is also a consideration. Long story short, there’s plenty of targets for cancel cards in this scenario, and maybe Ancient Evils isn’t even the worst thing to worry about.
What it does: The investigator has to take a willpower test. If they fail, they have to take a damage for each point they fail by, but can mitigate this damage by putting clues on their location or the nearest enemy instead.
My take: I don’t think this card is particularly bad. I would most certainly rather draw it instead of Grasping Hands which leaves me with less choice in the outcome. Due to the number of cards that deal damage to the players drawing them, the choice isn’t all that easy, though.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Not a terrifying card on its own, but it is part of a deck that has many more damage cards to stack up with it.
Dealing with it: On the one hand, preserving stamina is a very good idea in this long scenario. On the other hand, not losing actions from having to pick up clues again is also worthwhile. One nice thing about this card is how someone with a lot of clues that fails by two or three can put those clues onto one enemy where it can be recouped by a fighter fairly easily.
What it does: Lit by Death-Fire adds extra effects on top depending on how far into the scenario the players are. First, it only costs a resource. Then, it also discards a card. Finally, it also removes an action. The increase in effect is tied to the traits of the locations, roughly equivalent with the current act.
My take: Even at full strength this isn’t too bad. If i had a choice of always drawing an encounter card that costs me a card, a resource and an action to deal with, i’d gladly take it. Most encounter cards cost me much more in terms of game resources. That it does even less for two thirds of the game is a bonus.
Threat level: Low. Hits about what i would expect from an average encounter card at full strength, but dips severely below that for the first parts of the scenario.
Dealing with it: There is some counterplay that could be done based on which location to end the turn on, but that’s not really worth doing with only two of these in the deck. I think this is a card that you just draw and take as printed, then be thankful that it wasn’t anything worse.
What it does: If the investigator fails a difficult test against intellect or agility, the nearest enemy is readied, moves to their location and engages them. Should they have failed by three or more, the enemy also gets an immediate attack. If no enemies are on the board, the card deals a damage and a horror instead, with no opportunity to take a test to avoid it.
My take: This card is deceptively powerful. Even the damage and horror when no enemies are around is significant in this scenario, but most importantly there are some really nasty enemies around that could be pulled to you from failing the test on this card. Lumbering Gug, Gug Sentinel, Slithering Dhole, Hunting Nightgaunt and Grey Weaver are all potentially a big problem and this card gives them some extra legs if they were evaded and thought to be no immediate threat.
Threat level: Medium. A card to watch out for, as it can be punishing in multiple ways.
Dealing with it: If you can keep the board free from enemies, this card becomes more predictable and possibly easier to handle. But of course, the damage and horror does stack up with all the other sources around, so that’s not a perfect solution either. Realistically, keeping all enemies dead is quite the task anyways, as there are a lot of enemy hit points going around between Nightgaunts, Weavers, the Dhole and the Gugs. The primary goal then should be to not fail by three to suffer the extra attack. This might require pitching in an icon or two to at least prepare for the -4 in the bag. The tentacle can always ruin this, but that’s just what it does, no sense in worrying about things you can’t change. Note that the Elder Thing token in this scenario has an effect that is very similar to this treachery. So if you can manage to keep enemies off the table, that would pay off there as well.
What it does: Slithering Dhole is a massive Hunter enemy that spawns at the nearest Dhole Tunnel. Its movement is not strictly bound to only locations with these tunnels, but it can move from one tunnel to another in just one go. Its combat and evade stats are relatively low for a massive Elite enemy like this, but it does have 5 stamina, so it can easily take up a turn’s worth of actions to defeat. Defeating it awards a victory point, as long as it is still in the victory display at the end of the scenario – which is not bound to be the case at all. The reason for this is the Dhole Tunnel, a card that has three copies in the encounter deck and can return the Dhole to play from the victory display. If the Dhole is already in play when the tunnel is drawn, it gets an extra move and attack. If the Dhole is still somewhere in the encounter deck, the tunnel is merely added to a location 2 or more connections away from other tunnels. Both of these cards are added to the encounter deck (together with the Nightgaunts) when advancing the act for the first time.
My take: This thing is a massive time sink, getting most of its threat out of being a pile of hit points that can come back from the victory display. As a massive enemy, it can attack multiple investigators at the same time when it hunts into a location, so the players will probably want to take it out. An untimely Dhole Tunnel can undo the effort spent on killing it quickly, though. This is a really cool and memorable enemy and its interaction with the tunnels works just great on a large map like this.
Threat level: High. A priority enemy that can enter back into play from the victory display. Yikes!
Dealing with it: If the group has cancel cards available, saving one or two of them for the tunnels can allow the fighters to kill the Dhole and not worry about it coming back. This is about the best way of securing that victory point. Failing that, you will have to see if you can take out the Dhole in two actions. That would require at least one attack that deals three or more damage, however those attacks are usually a finite resource and this scenario comes with a couple more targets for them.
What it does: Pitch Spiders are swarmers that appear in Sea of Pitch locations. Individually weak, their swarming scales with the amount of damage on the scenario card. When attacking, each spider deals either a damage or a horror. The player is allowed to choose for each of the spiders in the swarm individually, so they can be dealt a mix of horror and damage. These (and the Agents of Atlach-Nacha) are added to the deck when advancing the second act and setting up the Sea of Pitch locations.
My take: These punish you for doing badly before. Aside from possibly starting with one or two damage on the scenario card, there are more ways to “earn” those damage counters. Most importantly, these start to scale if the investigators are cutting it close near the end of the scenario when the agenda adds one counter every four turns. Luckily, these only have 1 stamina each, so each attack can usually kill multiples which is a good way to keep them down. At this point, the investigators are just trying to find the correct Sea of Pitch location, so even just using the last bits of stamina and sanity to soak the attacks of any remaining spiders can be an option.
Threat level: Low to Mid. They are capped in how much they grow because the scenario will end at 5 damage counters. This keeps them from being too horrible as long as they don’t get to attack before you can attack them.
Dealing with it: When facing these, it’s the last sprint to the end of the scenario, so there’s no reason to hold back any damage sources still left. Using your remaining ammo, fight events, Ichor charges or whatever else at hand should make it no issue at all to kill these or bring their swarm low enough that you can soak their damage or horror.
What it does: Failing a willpower test, the investigator is dealt 1 damage and 1 horror. This willpower test scales with the amount of damage on the scenario card.
My take: More damage and horror. Obviously, this fits right in with the rest of the treacheries. At the point where this card is in the encounter deck, the agenda likely advanced at least once, so the willpower test’s difficulty is usually going to be around 3 or 4, but can potentially scale up to 6. In most situations, i would still rather draw this than a Grasping Hands or Rotting Remains.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Like all the other damage/horror treacheries, this goes on top of a pile of other similar cards, which makes all of them more potent.
Dealing with it: These are added to the deck for the last couple of turns, cranking up the pressure on the stamina and sanity values that are likely already suffering. Hopefully, soaking it is still possible, as passing that willpower test can certainly be a problem for most investigators.
The numbers above represent the encounter deck at the start of the scenario, without Endless Descent in it. For the final stretch, Endless Decent replaces Locked Door and Secrets in the Attic, keeping the overall size of the deck the same.
My take on this encounter deck: This scenario comes with a couple gimmicks that are all not really fleshed out enough to carry the scenario on their own, but the combination is at least interesting. Even more so, since those mini-themes have little to do with each other. The first thing to notice is that the Swarm of Rats gains Swarming here. This does give them a bit more staying power and can make them hurt a lot if they actually get to attack. But they are nowhere as much of a pain as they are in The Secret Name. Thank god for that, but as a result they are overshadowed by all the other ghouls and gugs and ghasts in the encounter deck. Then, there is a theme of punishing players for having cards in their threat area. Both Glowing Eyes and Deceptive Memories do this, feeding off Indescribable Apparition, Night Terrors and Glimpse of the Underworld. Only Glowing Eyes really makes much on an impact though and with two of them buried in a big 34 card deck, that theme rarely leaves an impression. Finally then, there are the invincible Unnamable and the rush down the stairs for the finale. The Unnamable harasses the players a bit during their search through the house, but while he’s still aloof, he’s not that much of a presence. Once the agenda flips, this changes drastically though. The race down the stairs is a very tense finale usually and stands in stark contrast to the early part of the scenario. It’s really important to get through that first part quickly so you have as much time as possible to deal with the stair locations. Also, you really want to be able to enter the stairs before the Unnamable loses Aloof because starting on the top stair with the thing right on top of you hurts a lot otherwise. While there are no cards around that add doom, the doom clock itself is fairly short and Endless Descent fills pretty much the same role later on. This is one of the very few scenarios where i doom out more often than not. Aside from the rats, this deck mostly has humanoid-sized enemies. The Ghouls and Ghasts shouldn’t be a huge problem by themselves, but the Ghouls all forcibly spawn at the same location. That can lead to a group of enemies that waits for the investigators once they want to move on to the final act. Dynamite Blast is one hell of a satisfying card here… As a final note, there is also a considerable amount of willpower testing in this scenario. Not only do about one in four treacheries care about willpower, but it is also tested for each investigator at the Unnamable’s location at the start of the turn. To be honest, i don’t really know what to make of this one. There’s so many small unconnected things going on here. It’s a bit of a weird scenario and i feel like the first half is mostly just doing random things in a weird house. While that is certainly fine the first time, i am not a huge fan of it on the xth replay. To be frank, it feels a bit like someone took all the discarded ideas that they decided not to flesh out into a full scenario, put them into a pot and stirred until this scenario was the result. I do like the flight down the stairs, though 🙂 Cancel these: Endless Descent. The rest of the cards do not hold a candle to what damage Endless Descent can do. Save your cancels for the stair part unless you REALLY need to stop a Glowing Eyes from taking away someone’s last bits of sanity or something.
What it does: Glowing Eyes is put into the player’s threat area and discarded from there at the end of the round. Before the card is discarded that way, the player takes 1 horror for each card in their threat area, including Glowing Eyes.
My take: Testless horror can become an issue when it gets to stack with other sources. There’s not too much of that going around, but since it can scale with other cards in the threat area, it can become a bigger problem anyways. Luckily there are only two of them in the encounter deck, this is a card where drawing the second one is much worse than the first. But then again, only two of them in a fairly large deck means that it sort of sneaks up on you as you may not feel the immediate need to get rid of your Indescribable Apparations or Deceptive Memories. This can lead to either having to take a large chunk of horror or basically losing your turn after drawing Glowing Eyes because you now need to finally discard from your threat area whatever you can.
Threat level: Medium. Without a cancel or Alter Fate, this will always deal some horror and the scenario certainly offers more ways to get extra cards in your threat area.
Dealing with it: The best way of handling Glowing Eyes is being aware of its existence and factoring it into your decisions on whether to discard other cards in your threat area. That Indescribable Apparition may not look particularly urgent, but it can lead to an awkward turn down the line when you have to decide on either losing two actions to finally discarding it or taking an extra horror on top of the one that Glowing Eyes deals anyways.
What it does: Indescribable Apparition enters a player’s threat area and stays there until they spend two actions on discarding it. While affected by this card, the investigator gets -1 to all four of their skills while at the same location as The Unnamable.
My take: I generally find it fairly easy to avoid the Unnamable during the first parts where you’re still investigating the house. So this never feels immediately dangerous to me. There are however at least two good reasons to get rid of this at the earliest convenience: One is Glowing Eyes. As mentioned, it will deal horror to you if you still have this card around. The other is the final part of the scenario where you hurry down the stairs. It’s much more difficult avoiding the Unnamable there and you really don’t want to find yourself at a location that needs you to pass a skill test to move on and failing it while the big monster is right on top of you. It’s not like you can just spend two actions then, either. It’s kinda too late for that then… Obviously, anyone whose job it is to pin the Unnamable with evasion or to deal the necessary damage to it will want to get rid of this card as soon as possible. I can also imagine this card being a higher priority in true solo, a single investigator doesn’t necessarily have the luxury of going around the Unnamable while in a group a teammate could pick up the slack.
Threat level: Low to Medium. Will eat two actions eventually.
Dealing with it: The trick is finding a good opportunity to spend those two actions because you will very likely want to do so eventually anyways. As usual, it’s useful to remember than anyone at the same location can activate this card, so if it weighs down a Guardian who should really be fighting something this turn, someone else can discard the card for them.
What it does: After failing a willpower test, Secrets in the Attic deals a horror to the investigator and is then put in play next to the agenda deck. It stays there until the end of the round. While in play, fast trigger abilities on locations can not be triggered.
My take: This stops the group from spending their clues on advancing the game at certain locations for a turn. Depending on how well the investigators have been doing so far, this can be a non-issue. And even at its worst, it doesn’t actually cost any actions, it just messes with the order a bit. I found this card to be harmless, mostly meaning that i have to spend another turn on drawing cards, playing assets… or discarding that Indescribable Apparition card.
Threat level: Low. Unless you draw both of them back to back, they are unlikely to more than just a minor inconvenience.
Dealing with it: This card opens a window where you don’t have to feel bad about finally spending the actions to get rid of the cards in your threat area or to set up some more assets. Or get the players into position to make use of multiple locations next turn to make up for Secrets in the Attic stalling you out this turn. Just use that turn as good as you can to minimize the impact of this card.
What it does: Deceptive Memories stays in the threat area of the player until they spend and action and pass a willpower test to discard it. While Deceptive Memories is in play, the affected investigator has to discard a card from their hand whenever they add another card to their threat area.
My take: Unlike Glowing Eyes, this doesn’t count itself for its Forced effect, so it won’t cost a card immediately. Once more, this is a card that doesn’t impress me too much on its own and only gains some impact when combined with Glowing Eyes. The main reason for me to not fear this card too much is that the discard is not random. Being able to chose what to discard here allows players to just sandbag some card they don’t care about in case they have to pitch something. But of course, since it is a card in the threat area that could deal a horror to you down the road and since it is pretty easy to discard, that should probably happen eventually. Although someone with high draw power like Amanda or Patrice can likely just sit this one out.
Threat level: Low. Part of the threat area package, but not impactful by itself.
Dealing with it: Passing a willpower test against a difficulty of 3 should not be a huge deal. If it is, someone else can take the test instead. If you have to let this card stick around for a bit, keeping a card or two extra in hand as sacrificial discards is a good idea as it will protect the more important ones.
What it does: During the final stretch of the scenario, the investigators have to climb down a series of locations arranged like a staircase. Endless Descent will take the topmost location from that staircase and attach it to the bottom, then randomize all unrevealed locations. That way, the players will need to pass through an additional location before they are able to resign. Endless Descent is then added to the victory display so it can not actually be endlessly redrawn. There are four of them in the deck, though.
My take: This is such a nice visual gimmick. In my opinion, Arkham LCG’s most important innovation over LotR LCG is using cards as location and building boards from them. Having cards like this play with that is just good clean fun. For whatever other complaints i have about Dream-Eaters, it did a lot of cute things with its locations and this is my second favorite from the cycle (behind Weaver). That being said, in terms of effect on the scenario, this is a powerful card and not cute at all! The scenario can come close to the wire often during these last steps and drawing an Endless Descent from the top can be just as demoralizing as an untimely Ancient Evils can. Aside from canceling it, there’s little you can do… you draw this and suddenly you lost a turn. Or more, some of the locations are really nasty.
Threat level: Very High. The variance on this card is enormous. Depending on which location gets shuffled back down, this can cost more than a turn.
Dealing with it: Cancel it. If you are running cancels in your deck, you had all of the scenario to hoard them in your hand. I know it’s boring but that is by far the cleanest and most effective way of get through this scenario. If that is not an option, there is little else to do than hope that you draw the right locations that are suited to your group skill set.
“Size of the Encounter Deck” does not include enemies. The enemy count fluctuates a lot throughout the scenario. The count above is the number at the start of the game, but each time the locations change, there are new enemies added, and sometimes others removed. Nightgaunts are also entering the deck through location effects. For the most part, the encounter deck size will float around 25, give or take 2 cards. The other numbers include all of the encounter cards used throughout the scenario, including all enemies.
My take on this encounter deck: This scenario has a lot of enemies to fight all over the place. Not only is about one third of the deck made from enemies, but there are also various other ones scattered all over the islands as part of the midgame setups. As a result, the investigators will find ways to get past those without losing time, because time is exactly the resource they don’t have enough of. As one of the scenarios where the goal is not a binary “fail/pass”, but doing as much as you can, every action and every point of doom counts. The enemies are very varied and the players will need to evaluate each one if they want to rather defeat or evade it. The correct answer isn’t always obvious, either. So that’s very well done and interesting. Almost the whole rest of the encounter deck is made up of cards that try to stall out the player’s investigation and of cards that accelerate the doom clock. This is reminiscent of previous scenarios like Threads of Fate, which has a deck that follows a very similar base structure. The specific cards used are very different, though. The Search for Kadath has a noticable theme going on of making tests harder, with Dreamlands Eclipse impacting investigations and many of the creatures coming with abilities that modify their combat values. Whispers of Hypnos fits into this quite well, too. Something else to note is how often the deck reshuffles. On advancing the first agenda or any of the acts, all cards from the discard go back into the encounter deck. This increases the variance of the draws a lot, which is meaningful for the four doom cards and means that no enemy stays defeated forever. The scenario has a lot of intriguing things going on with the encounter deck that are quite cool. However, they are bought with significant administrative overhead, as you will need to go through extra setup steps in the middle of the game for each island. This severely impacts the flow of the game and (in my opinion) turns what could have been a fantastic voyage into a tedious affair that seriously taxes my patience and straight up ruins the fun for me. And what good is a great premise and well thought out mechanics if they aren’t enjoyable to play? For what it’s worth, i think that Devil Reef does the “multiple island” gimmick a lot better. While certainly less ambitious than Search for Kadath, it is just more fun, at least to me. Cancel these: Song of the Magah Bird, Wondrous Lands. With two Evils-like cards in the deck and the doom clock being the primary restriction of how far you can get in this scenario, the most important cards to cancel are fairly obvious. Both of those cards can also be discarded with Alter Fate. So if you have that at the ready, your priorities might shift to something more generally impacting but outside of the two cards Dreamlands cards, there isn’t really a whole lot else worth cancelling here. The main threat are certainly the enemies.
What it does: Priest of a Thousand Masks starts out as a lowly 2/2/2 cultist that only deals a single point of horror on attack, but as the players progress and gather more Signs of the Gods, the cultists get stronger. First, their fight and evade are increased by one. Then, it gains 2 stamina. Finally, it gains a point of damage and Retaliate, making the final form a 3/4/3 with one damage and horror.
My take: These guys are quite the nuisance and with three of them in the deck and frequent reshuffles of the discard pile into the encounter deck they are bound to show up again and again. While not particularly dangerous at first, their first two upgrades are both significant. The final one isn’t all that bad in comparison.
Threat level: Low to Mid. As far as cultists go, these feel fairly impactful.
Dealing with it: This is a straightforward enemy that can be dealt with in the usual ways. Killing and evading are both equally worthwhile here, although the stamina increase once the players collect 4 signs does shift it a bit towards evasion. This is offset a bit by the setup of the locations, which usually lend themselves to a lot of backtracking to the Port locations and by the mid-game setups which mean that you can’t just evade them early and then not care about them for the rest of the game. When advancing the act, the reshuffling of the encounter discard into the encounter deck happens before the next island is set up (and therefore before cards in play are discarded), so evasion will get keep the enemies out of the encounter deck for longer than defeating them will. Something to keep in mind for this scenario in general if you want to minimize the chance to run into certain enemies.
What it does: Nightriders enter play with one swarm card. They do have a very high evasion, but this evasion drops significantly once the Nightriders have no swarm card under them. If Nightriders is evaded, it is discarded immediately.
My take: This is a cute mix of mechanics that push players towards using a mix of evasion and combat. It’s not a very dangerous enemy as such, but being hit by it while it still has its swarm card will cost 2 sanity. Pure evasion characters mind find themselves with a bit of a problem here, should they not be able to pass the 5 evasion. Without a weapon, it takes two hits to remove the swarm card, so for such an investigator it could be a full turn to get rid of the beast. On the other hand, some investigators like Rita or Winifred might actually just evade the whole swarm and instantly defeat it.
Threat level: Low to Mid.
Dealing with it: What the card wants us to do it attack it once to defeat the swarm card, then evade the enemy itself to discard it. Which is fair enough, it’s going to be the most efficient way to deal with the card in most situations. There are some investigators that might want to try and evade the whole swarm, but it’s at least risky.
What it does: This Nightgaunt is very similar to its brethren from the Core set, sporting high fight and stamina values, but very low agility. It is also a Hunter, of course. They have a unique ability to follow the investigators to the next island whenever they advance the act: Instead of being discarded like the other enemies that may still be in play, these are set aside and then returned to play in any City location. Often (but not always) the port where the players land is the only city location, so the Nightgaunt would be able to engage someone right away. Something else to note about these enemies is that they don’t enter the encounter deck the same way the other enemies do. Instead of being added when doing a midgame setup, these are added as part of the veiled effects on some locations.
My take: This is a relatively tough enemy that you will need to defeat eventually. While its low agility score invites evading it, it will catch up with the investigators soon enough. At 4 combat and 4 stamina, defeating it is a fighter’s job for sure.
Threat level: Mid. The low agility keeps it from being able to pin down vulnerable investigators, but it is still a rather large threat.
Dealing with it: Whoever is capable of defeating the Nightgaunt should probably do so proactively whenever there is time for it. Having big Hunters skulking about impact everyone, especially in small grids of locations like in this scenario.
What it does: Vooniths are small swarm creatures. While very easy to defeat and evade at first, they do get a bonus to their fight and evade once their swarm card is gone. One of these is put into play at the initial setup and the other one is in the deck. Once the act is advanced for the first time, these are both removed from the deck and never seen again.
My take: Should you ever get hit by a swarm of these, that’ll be 2 damage and 2 horror. That’s a lot. However, this realistically shouldn’t happen. If it does, someone screwed up horribly. These are easy to evade and don’t have Hunter, so that’s the preferred way of getting around them for sure. It’s not like they stick around in the game for long anyways.
Threat level: Low. Very easy to deal with, but could in theory hurt if they get to attack.
Dealing with it: Evade and move on. The first island is completely linear with no backtracking at all, so there is no reason to clear them from the board.
What it does: This curse attaches to the location until it either triggers its effect or is discarded. To discard it, an investigator has to spend an action and pass a difficult test against either willpower or strength. If a player moves out of the location without discarding the card first, that investigator is dealt one horror and they have to play 1 doom on the current agenda. The Song of the Magah Bird is then discarded as part of the effect. The doom from this card is able to immediately advance the agenda.
My take: Yuck. Obviously, placing doom on the agenda is bad news and that is even more true in this scenario where the players race against the doom clock to get as many locations investigated as possible. The card does offer a way out, but the difficulty on both tests that are offered are high enough to pose a problem and possibly waste actions and/or cards. The frequent reshuffling of the encounter cards doesn’t make this card easier to bear either.
Threat level: High to Very High. While the attached test is a significant concession in the players favor when compared to Ancient Evils, the scenario punishes additional doom very harshly.
Dealing with it: This card is enough reason on its own to bring Alter Fate into the campaign. If that is not available, Guts or Overpower can offer the necessary skill value to get past the test.
What it does: Wondrous Lands attaches to the player’s current location and gives it -2 shroud. However, when that location is investigated, Wondrous Lands is discarded and the player who did the investigation is dealt 1 horror. Also, 1 doom is placed on the agenda, possibly advancing it immediately. Should there be no clues at the player’s location when drawn from the encounter deck, Wondrous Lands surges.
My take: Great, more doom. This is even worse than Song of the Magah Bird, as it offers no way of discarding it without triggering the Forced effect. Depending on the location, this can mean that there is no way around it. Or it can mean that it just sits at the location, not doing a whole lot. That’s a wide gap of possible outcomes for one card.
Threat level: High. The card can whiff by attaching where it isn’t hindering much, but when it is relevant, there is little that can be done to avoid it.
Dealing with it: Again, Alter Fate comes to the rescue. Other than that, it’s probably best to just take this as a straight up Ancient Evils and take it on the chin.
Appears in: Thousand Shapes of Horrors, Point of No Return
My take on this set: This is not a set that left much of an impression on me. It’s mostly a servicable set of enemies that provide something to fight and evade, but with some mechanical bits that provide the possibility for neat interactions. Both scenarios using this set also use the Ghouls, and the similarities between the Hunting Ghast and the enemies from Ghouls are pretty obvious.
What it does: Hunting Ghast is a basic Hunter enemy with middling stats all around. It’s slightly more difficult to evade than defeat it, which together with Hunter makes it pretty clear what you are supposed to do with it. When it enters a location that also has a Gug enemy, those Gugs are all readied and the Ghast takes one damage.
My take: I have never seen that Gug readying ability happen, which isn’t too surprising considering there are only two Gugs around for the two scenarios using this encounter set. Mostly, it means that sticking around an evaded Lumbering Gug is still dangerous because you might draw this Ghast in the Mythos phase, causing the Lumbering Gug to engage again. Which is fair enough, but does leave the Ghast as a fairly basic enemy on par with the Ghouls it shares all scenarios with.
Threat level: Low. It says “Hunter” on the card, but actually it is easy prey.
Dealing with it: This is a bog standard filler enemy, a bullet to the head should do.
What it does: Lumbering Gug is a fairly big enemy that not only can take a punch or two, but also deals a lot of damage when it attacks. Its does however only have 2 evasion, which opens up a route to deal with it. Whenever it exhausts, no matter if its due to being evaded or due to attacking, it will not ready in the next upkeep phase.
My take: One of the rare cases where it’s actually relevant to remember that enemies do exhaust when they attack. It’s best to not let it come to that however, since it deals quite a bit of both damage and horror. Keeping it down with evasion is the most likely plan to deal with this card, since there is neither Hunter nor a victory point on it. During Point of No Return, it is usually easy to leave this guy behind as it requires little backtracking. If it spawns in a bad spot during Thousand Shapes, it can be a bit more annoying though. Some of the locations are frequented a bit more often, so it may require repeated evading there.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Can be a bit of an action sink if things go wrong.
Dealing with it: Its achilles heel is printed right there on the card and most investigator teams will find it relatively easy to exploit it. Move into its location, evade it and get your business done in a turn or two before moving out again and leaving the thing. As mentioned, Hunting Ghast could potentially be a draw that messes with this plan, but even then it’s not too bad, unless its an investigator with very low base agility.