Resurgent Evils: Return to The Night of the Zealot

Introduction

The “Return To” boxes expand the original Arkham LCG campaigns by adding more cards, more mechanics, more challenges to the existing scenarios. This series of articles takes a look at each of them, one by one. Immediately following this Introduction is a spoiler-free verdict on the viability of the product, answering the question “Should i get this box?” without spoiling anything about the campaign relevant contents of the box.

Anyone not phased by spoilers can continue reading as i will go into detail about the player cards, the encounter replacement sets, the campaign wide changes and of course the changes to each scenario. You should have played the base campaign before… but considering this is Night of the Zealot, chances are you did so. I close the article with a more detailed verdict, mirroring the spoiler free one, but with more details.

Spoiler-free Verdict

Return to Night of the Zealot doesn’t change anything too substantial about the mini-campaign. It adds some replayability, but doesn’t change the quality of the scenarios themselves.

The player cards are nice, there are a few gems in there. Also, the actual box with the dividers serve as card storage very well. The box is the main argument to get this product.

It’s the weakest of the Return To boxes and i would suggest only buying it if you already have everything else and are looking to round out your collection.

Newer players are better served expanding their collection with a deluxe box instead of this Return box. Veteran players will probably have little interest in replaying Night of the Zealot a lot. This leaves this product with a somewhat small target audience based almost completely on the physical storage box and the player cards.

Spoilers Below!

This is where spoilers start. The Return To doesn’t change anything about the story or the campaign structure, so if you played the campaign, i wouldn’t say that these give away anything meant to surprise you. You will see these cards when setting up the scenario anyways. But still, if you want to go in totally blind, tag out now. Final warning.

Content

The big storage box is filled relatively sparsely with just a small leaflet explaining how to use the cards and of course with the cards themselves. Included are 20 player cards and 47 encounter cards. The encounter cards break down to two encounter set replacements (13 cards) and 34 cards spread over the 3 scenarios of the campaign.
The majority of the box is taken up by an insert that can be recycled once you want to use all of the space to store all of your campaign cards. To help with this, the final piece of content in the Return to Night of the Zealot is a set of dividers to help organize your encounter cards by set/scenario.

The box itself is sturdy, looks good and using it as a storage solution for your scenario cards works well. Of course, you will probably want to use the other Return To boxes as well once you start…
It should be noted that these boxes are designed to fit full 8 part campaigns and all their encounter sets, so the box is a lot bigger than it needs to be specifically for Night of the Zealot. That means you either got a lot of free space that you will need to fill with some custom insert or… i don’t know, deck boxes or sleeves or something.

Player cards

There’s 10 new pairs of player cards, two per investigator class. All of them are up- or downgrades from previously existing cards. The selection of cards is actually quite decent. While not every of those cards is a hit, there is some useful stuff in there: Link to the player cards on ArkhamDB

Every class gets the level 2 upgrade for their core set talent. These aren’t used very often, but especially Physical Training and Arcane Studies certainly have their place. Guardians gain Dynamite Blast(2), which was a fine card but sadly also was outclassed by the level 3 version in the Nathaniel Cho investigator deck recently. Both the Seeker’s Barricade(3) and the Mystic’s Mind Wipe(3) are marginal niche cards at best. But then again, Hot Streak(2) and Rabbit’s Foot(3) are both excellent and are included in decks often.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but i feel like there’s enough to like in these. Two of them are downright staple cards. A few of the cards got outclassed by more recent releases, but i don’t think it’s fair to retroactively hold that as a point against this product.

Campaign wide changes

Unlike more recent “Return To” products, the changes from Return to Night of the Zealot do not extend past their individual scenarios. There is no additional scenario text or changes to scenario outcomes. Since Night of the Zealot is barely a full campaign itself, that is not too surprising… but it is a bit of a strike against the box when compared to more recent Return To sets.

Replacement Encounter Sets

Two of the encounter sets of Night of the Zealot are being replaced with variants here. I do go into detail on the individual cards on their own page elsewhere on this site, so i will leave it with a short summary and a link to those pages. Please refer to those for more a in-depth look.

Ghouls of Umôrdhoth: These are replacing the core Ghouls with versions that have a slight mechanical twist towards forcing players to discard cards from their hand. The replacement for Grasping Hands tilts the encounter deck further towards willpower instead of agility and takes some pressure off for low stamina investigators.

The Devourer’s Cult: This is a significant difficulty increase from the core Dark Cult. Both the Acolyte and the Wizard of the Order got replacements that are more difficult to kill and also have additional abilities. The replacement for Mysterious Chanting doesn’t add doom, which is appreciated, but it does further increase the stats of the cultists, making it more difficult to remove the doom that comes from them.

Both of these sets are thematically and mechanically firmly tied into the Night of the Zealot campaign, making them awkward to use outside of it. So if you were hoping to use these to for example replace the Dark Cult in Essex Express or the Ghouls in Thousand Shapes of Horror, that is going to be a bit janky. The replacement sets in the Return to Dunwich work much better for that task.

Return to The Gathering

The changes to The Gathering are maybe the selling point of Return to The Night of the Zealot. They elevate what used to be a short but tense tutorial into a full length scenario that can take some time to go through and that doesn’t hold back on challenges.

The house is expanded by a couple rooms and the cellar and attic both gain variants that randomly can replace the ones from the base set. Two more big ghouls complement the existing ones and give investigators plenty to fight before the Ghoul-Priest even enters play.

The result is a formidable, if a bit basic scenario, that doesn’t deviate from the core scenario in how it plays out but adds a bit of everything to prolong it. Personally, i have used Return to The Gathering a couple of times as a side scenario early in other campaigns and as a quick testing ground for level 0 decks.

Return to Midnight Masks

This scenario is mostly untouched – which is fair, after all it’s widely considered to be excellent. Some new locations can randomly replace the existing ones. More importantly, there are new unique enemies for the cultist deck included. These two sets of cards do severely increase the replayability of Return to Midnight Masks, but don’t really change much about its quality. Which, as noted is fair enough. Midnight Masks is pretty great.

Return to The Devourer Below

Like Midnight Masks, The Devourer Below isn’t shaken up much by scenario specific additions. There is now a minor discard theme woven through the encounter deck, but not in a manner that is likely to do much. The notorious difficulty of the scenario is untouched, in fact the scenario got harder because one addition addresses the “trick” of spawning Umôrdoth without advancing the acts. A new pair of rather nasty treacheries doesn’t help either. Like the other two scenarios, Return to The Devourer Below comes with some extra locations to randomly swap with the core ones for replayability.

Verdict

Of the Return To boxes, this is the one that can most easily be skipped. Few people are replaying this campaign very often and the changes to the scenarios don’t go very far beyond adding some replayability through random location draws and a little twist here and there. The Gathering is the exception here, seeing a considerable upgrade that could be nice if you plan on revisiting it.

The selection of player cards is good. I wouldn’t say they are a reason to get the box in itself, but if you are also factoring the storage box into the price, then that might get you there. It did for me, but i am also a bit of a completionist… i suppose if you’d have to skip something else for it due to budget restraints, you should get whatever else before you get Return to The Night of the Zealot. In the end, NotZ is the smallest campaign and therefore least in need of a dedicated storage box. It could just stay in the core set box…

Final verdict: Weakest of the Returns. Get only if you already got everything else. Any deluxe box, any other Return To and even most mythos packs are going to offer you more for your money.

Surge

Continue reading here:

Best-Laid Plans: The Dunwich Legacy

Spoilers

This page doesn’t hold back anything. There are detailed spoilers for the full Dunwich Legacy campaign ahead, including the “Return to” box. I highly suggest that you stop reading now if you have not played this campaign once or twice before. Don’t ruin that blind run experience for yourself. Come back once you at least gave it a try. Don’t forget to share your Essex story afterwards in the comments, everyone has one of those.

Introduction

The Dunwich Legacy is the first of the big campaigns for Arkham LCG with the full range of scenarios stretched over a deluxe expansion and six mythos packs. As the first of its kind, it had some technical teething troubles that were widely adressed with the Return To Dunwich box. The campaign thematically follows up on one of HP Lovecrafts more popular stories, the Dunwich Horror. Mechanically, it’s a bit more restrained than the following campaigns, but does still offer a serious step up from the core mini-campaign and parts of it can actually be quite difficult even with current day card pools.
This article is meant to take a comprehensive look at the challenges in play when facing this campaign and to give some suggestions on meeting those challenges in terms of investigator choice, deck building and other gameplay decisions.
This article is not going to look at each encounter set and each scenario in detail, this site already has pages for those. Please refer to those for more zoomed in views on the single cards that make up the encounter sets and encounter decks.

Intellect

If Forgotten Age is the agility campaign and Circle Undone the willpower one, then Dunwich is the one focusing on intellect. This isn’t necessarily apparent from the encounter cards, those mostly key off of willpower. However, several of the scenarios require fast and efficient clue discovery to progress.

Miskatonic Museum for the most part consists of picking up clues from almost a dozen locations and spending them on advancing the scenes before one or more of the timers that are in place – the growing monster, the doom clock and Beyond the Veil – catch up with the players. Blood on the Altar works in a similar way with the doom counter pulling double duty there in not only drawing closer to the scenario end, but also removing allies from the campaign permanently. The boss fight can even be circumvented by collecting a large pile of clues instead.

Fast and efficient seeking is rewarded. Actually, i suppose it would be better to say that being slow with it is punished.

The Essex County Express is the most obvious example of this, though. Failure to move from one wagon to the next in a brisk pace will not only fail that scenario, it will also possibly undo a lot of campaign progress and strip story assets from the investigator decks.

Finally, Where Doom Awaits features some locations that expect investigators to be able to pass tests against their intellect without being able to use alternate ways of investigating there, leaving mystics that were relying on Rite of Seeking so far without a way to progress. This luckily has been resolved in Return to Where Doom Awaits with a set of replacement locations, but anyone playing the base version should be aware of this being a thing.

Beyond the Veil

One major theme that runs through many of the encounter sets of the Dunwich campaign is discarding cards from the top of the player decks and then either triggering off of cards in their discard or from the deck depleting and having to reshuffle. The most important of those cards is Beyond the Veil, to the point where it’s campaign warping.

Part of the Sorcery encounter set, Beyond the Veil is used in four scenarios: Extracurricular Activity, Miskatonic Museum, Where Doom Awaits and Lost in Time and Space. All of those except for Where Doom Awaits also feature The Beyond, the other encounter set that is a major driving force for the deck discard theme.

One of the most important encounter cards that have been printed to this day, this card holds a complete campaign hostage

While Beyond the Veil is primarily intended to provide a payoff for those other encounter cards, it’s actually most dangerous to any investigator that would draw a lot of cards on their own accord. Seekers like Amanda or Harvey will find themselves in trouble fast just from their own investigator ability. The same goes for Patrice, although she does have access to about the best card pool (and an amazing Elder Sign!) when it comes to defending against Beyond the Veil.

Possible answers to Beyond the Veil include:
Shuffling back your discard pile with Quantum Flux or Patrice’s Elder Sign to delay the damage trigger.
Negating its damage with cards like Deny Existence or Devil’s Luck.
Straight up canceling the card with a Ward or discarding the treachery from play with Alter Fate.
Tanking the hit using damage soak from body armors and allies to survive a 10 damage blow.
Using encounter manipulation like from First Watch or Gloria’s investigator ability to push additional copies of Beyond the Veil to those that already have one or are in possession of one of the other answers.

Having a plan for surviving Beyond the Veil is essential for some investigators, but really anyone should at least have some idea on how to address it. Even an asset focused guardian that only draws a single card per turn can find themselves threatened by this card following a Visions of Futures Past or two.

Deck Decay

Beyond the Veil is not the only payoff for this subtheme, though. Pushed into the Beyond (or its Return To replacement, Haunting Recollections) deals horror based on specific cards in the discard. This stacks up really well with the horror that is dealt for reshuffling the discard when the deck runs out, of course. There’s also a couple scenario specific enemies and treacheries around that care about this, like the Yithian Starseeker from Lost in Time and Space which add doom when attacking players with too many cards in their discard. Or the Rites Howled in Where Doom Awaits that make sure that weaknesses are put back into what little remains of the player decks.

The main driving force behind accelerating the deck decay are Visions of Futures Past from Sorcery and Arcane Barrier/Infinite Doorways from The Beyond. But again there are many scenario specific support cards going around, like Miskatonic Museum’s Passage into the Veil or the token effects in Extracurricular Activity.

Beyond the Veil’s partners in crime

Without Beyond the Veil on the board, the effects of this theme are mostly not too bad, but as is so often the case they stack up on each other and can escalate due to that.

Many of the relevant treacheries do test willpower to determine their effects, so that would be the best way of defending against this series of cards. Many of the silver bullets discussed for Beyond the Veil do apply to the larger deck decay theme as well, of course.

Story Allies

Not everything is bad for our investigator’s though. Throughout the Dunwich Legacy, there is a handful of potential allies to recruit, all with their own asset card to add to the players decks. Luckily Charisma was released in the Essex County Express mythos pack, otherwise that single ally slot would’ve been a bit of an issue!

Protecting these allies (with the exception of Naomi) is also a theme during the campaign. At first, they can either be “kidnapped” or “rescued”, which correlates with them available for players to add to their decks or not. After Blood on the Altar, they are either “sacrificed” or “surviving”, depending on whose blood ended up on the altar after all. Naomi arrives late to the party and is only available for the final two scenarios. She doesn’t play into the happenings that come to their close in Blood on the Altar at all.

Dr. Henry Armitage is rescued during the first Interlude, unless the players screwed up The House Always Wins so much that they had the final agenda run out. He’s a cheap ally with good soak and icons and an ability that allows turning card draw into cash in an efficient manner. Very useful for guardians and mystics to fund their expensive toys.
Prof. Warren Rice is rescued during Extracurricular Activities, but only if the players play this scenario first and finish it by spending clues at the Faculty Offices. Every other resolution will lead to Rice being kidnapped. He’s an ally that boosts intellect and draws a card for clearing a location from clues. He’s fine but has serious competition by Milan Christopher and Alice Luxley.
Dr. Francis Morgan is rescued during House Always Wins, but only if the players play it first and escape with him from the Clover Club. He boosts the combat skill and draws a card on defeating an enemy. Notably, he also has 4 stamina which is exceptional and makes him stand out from competing player cards.
Zebulon Whateley is added to the potential sacrifices in Blood on the Altar and will be available for the players should he survive. He boosts willpower and draws a card after resisting a willpower treachery. Also, he boasts an impressive sanity soak of 4.
Earl Sawyer is added to the potential sacrifices just like Zebulon. If he survives, he will join the player’s cause. As can be expected now, he boosts agility. He draws a card after evading an enemy. Evasion isn’t all that strong in this campaign, so he’s likely the weakest of the five story allies.
Naomi O’Bannion is an addition to the campaign for Return To Dunwich. If the players play House Always Wins as the second scenario and manage to save Peter Clover from his club, Naomi will be available starting with the setup of Where Doom Awaits. At 5 resources she’s expensive, but she boasts increases to both intellect and combat, excellent soak and a very powerful chaos bag manipulation ability. She also has very decent icons, but chances are you will want to play her if you got her…

The ally slot is getting crowded

Aside from Blood on the Altar which will permanently kill off one or more of the story allies whenever the agenda advances, the other important scenario playing into these mechanics is Essex County Express. Failing the scenario will cause the players to lose not only the Necronomicon, but they will also need to record Armitage, Rice and Morgan as kidnapped.

Player’s should take the existence of these allies into consideration when building their decks. Either they have to shell out for Charisma to get additional ally slots or they can cut back on running allies of their own.

There are various other story allies that players encounter during the campaign, but they are all scenario specific and will not get permanently added to any investigator’s deck. They also do not take up ally slots. Most of them require protection with more or less dire consequences for failing to do so.

Chaos Bag

The Dunwich Legacy starts out with a very tame chaos bag, using only two skulls and a cultist for symbol tokens (plus the obligatory elder sign and tentacle, of course). There are however several opportunities for players to add more to the bag. By knowing about these opportunities, it is possible to make more informed decisions on which routes to take:

Extracurricular Activities: Failing to save the students from the Experiment will add a tablet token to the chaos bag. To prevent this from happening, the players need to either kill the Experiment or evacuate the dormitories by spending the required amount of clues there. This means that it is not possible to rescue Dr. Rice without also adding the tablet.
The House Always Wins: The first act offers players the ability to once per round cheat the chaos bag. Doing so will add an Elder Thing token to the bag. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.
Miskatonic Museum: Taking the Necronomicon instead of destroying it comes at the cost of having another Elder Thing go into the chaos bag. This is a much more enticing trade-off. The book is a useful asset and the story branches unlocked by it are also neat. Just make sure that you get through Essex Express without immediately losing the book again!
The Miskatonic Museum also has you “escort” someone through the scenario. Getting them killed will add a permanent tablet token to the bag, so that is obviously to be avoided. There are two possible story allies to get there, depending on how you enter the museum. If you spend the clues, you gain Adam Lynch who can save an action when activating the ability on the Security offices. If you break into the museum instead, you gain Harold Walsted instead. Not only does Harold have a way better ability (+2 intellect on investigations), but you also get him only near the end of the scenario so you do not need to protect him for so long. On the flip side, breaking into the museum does require a successful fight test against difficult 5, so that is going to be very difficult for many investigators.

Apparently, adding intellect enhancing assets to your deck also comes with symbol tokens for the chaos bag.

Additionally, there are two points that add a numbered chaos token (depending on the difficulty) to the bag. These are at the setup of Essex Express and Where Doom Awaits. For reference, on Standard those are a -3 and a -5 token, so these are significant.

But even with those three extra symbol tokens (or four, if you let your museum ally die), the chaos bag is still not as punishing as those from more recent campaigns. And since at least two of the tokens are easy enough to avoid, this campaign can be played with a very lenient chaos bag. Potentially that could be used to do gimmicky decks that are built around cards like Winchester, to maximize chances of drawing specific tokens (no matter if its elder signs, skulls, blesses or curses) or to minimize the chances that some mystic assets like Shrivelling backfire on the spellcaster. Mostly, it just means that the bag is a bit easier, though.

Enemies

The Dunwich Legacy has some pretty terrifying enemies and evading them all is not really a possibility due to the cramped nature of many of the maps. Of course, there is also a healthy amount of small enemies around, like the Human Thralls or the Mobsters. But most encounter decks hold some very impressive enemies in addition, many of which would be considered Elite and/or Victory enemies in other campaigns.

The two most important encounter sets to be aware of with regards to big monsters are Hideous Abominations and Beast Thralls. Both of those add large Hunter enemies to the scenario and what makes them especially dangerous is that they are added straight into the encounter deck. So they are not triggered by some development on the agenda or scene, you might just draw a Conglomeration of Spheres or an Avian Thrall on your first Mythos phase. Something similar goes for the Yithians from the Agents of Yog-Sothoth. While they aren’t Hunters, they can be very daunting when drawn early. Potentially they could be the very first encounter card you see in the whole campaign.

Stuff like this is just waiting in the encounter deck and you could draw it anytime.

There is also a number of rather chunky scenario specific enemies around, including the Hunting and Grappling Horrors on the Essex Express, the Pit Boss in House Always Wins and the Yithian Starseeker from Lost in Time and Space. Defeating The Experiment in Extracurricular Activity is optional, but rewards an extra 2 victory if you pull it off.

For that reason, players should bring the firepower to deal with these enemies. I recommend a healthy mix of melee weapons and firearms/spells. You will need to use melee weapons to not run out of ammo or charges halfway through a scenario, at the same time there are at least two good reasons to not go all in on Machetes, Knives and Baseball Bats: Both the Conglomeration of Spheres and the Avian Thrall punish players for using this sort of weapon against them and they are among the more nasty enemies in the first place.

A very, very different beast that players may need to be aware of is the Whippoorwill. At a measly 1 stamina it doesn’t look like much, but since it’s Aloof, killing it becomes a time sink. But if players opt to keep it around, it will make everything else harder on them, so that’s not really an option either.

Ignore at your own peril.

A common solution to the Whippoorwill problem is using cards that can deal damage to enemies without engaging them. Beat Cop and Blood-Rite are good examples for that kind of player card. Using cards that can engage for free also work well, so “Get Over Here!” or the Riot Whistle could be worth considering. It’s certainly not vital for the success of the campaign to have a dedicated answer to these birds, but it does make the relevant scenarios a lot smoother. Those scenarios are Extracurricular Activity, Undimensioned and Unseen and especially Blood on the Altar.

Silas Bishop and the Necronomicon

For the conclusion of Blood on the Altar, the players meet Silas Bishop or – more accurately – the monster that became of him. They have the choice to either fight and defeat him or to collect all of the clues in his chamber. Depending on their choice and on whether the players have the Necronomicon in play, there are three (successful) ends to this encounter, all of which have some sort of consequence for Where Doom Awaits:

The investigators put him out of his misery: Defeating Silas with damage leads to this ending. During the setup of Where Doom Awaits, the Hideous Abomination set is added to the scenario. A Conglomeration of Spheres appears at the Ascending Path right from the first turn. This adds an extra XP to Where Doom Awaits, but also increases the difficulty significantly.

The investigators banish him: This is the resolution for collecting all the clues and not controlling the Necronomicon. Nothing special happens.

The investigators restore him: To do so, the players need to win by collecting the clues and also have the Necronomicon in play. Just having it in hand or in the deck doesn’t suffice, it needs to actually be in the play area as an asset. As a reward, Where Doom Awaits will use a special version of it’s act 2 card which leads to Seth Bishop not entering play on Sentinel Peak.

For the first two option, the state of the Necronomicon determines which other act 2 card is used at the finale of Where Doom Awaits. If the investigators lost the Necronomicon due to failing Essex or Blood on the Altar, Seth Bishop enters play on Sentinel Peak at full strength. The same is true if they never recovered the book due to failing Miskatonic Museum. However, if the investigators chose to destroy the book or successfully held onto it, then 1 damage per investigator is placed on Seth Bishop when he appears.

Experience

Dunwich is notorious for being very stingy with the experience it hands out. Players will find themselves fighting for every little bit they can get and still come up short for anything but their most important upgrades.

As a result, some decks are even borderline impossible to play in this campaign or need to get stripped down to their basics. Luxury upgrades like Deny Existence(5) or high level exceptional rogue cards like Double Double are probably not going to fit in the budget. Investigators that come out of the gate quickly without depending on certain high level cards have a definite edge here, an example would be something like Dark Horse Ashcan. Player cards that grant XP like Delve Too Deep can provide some relief as well.

Available XP per scenario/interlude:
Extracurricular Activity: 3 (locations) + 2 (Yithian Observers) + 1 (Wizard of Yog-Sothoth) + 2 (The Experiment) = 8XP
The House Always Wins: 2 or 3 (locations) + 1 (Pit boss) + 1 (Servant of the Lurker) = 4 or 5XP
The Miskatonic Museum: 5XP (locations)
The Essex County Express: 2 (locations) + 2 (Emergent Monstrosities) = 4XP
Blood On The Altar: 2 (Silas/Chamber) + 2 (resolution) = 4XP
Undimensioned and Unseen: 5XP (Broods)
Where Doom Awaits: 2 (Sentinel Peak) + 1 (Seth Bishop) + 1 (Crazed Shoggoth) + 1 (Wizard of Yog-Sothoth) + 1 (Servant of the Lurker) = 6XP
Lost in Time and Space: 1 (Servant of the Lurker) + 2 (Yithian Observers) + 5 (resolution) = 8XP

So you could in theory be entering Lost in Time and Space with 36XP (assuming 4XP for House Always Wins), but likely you will have gotten a good amount less due to a lot of the XP being tied to enemies in the encounter deck that you may not even draw. Similarly, Museum and Essex both have XP on randomized locations that may not be in play. Extracurricular Activities will have 1 less XP on its locations when played after House Always Wins. The total number of XP available in Undimensioned and Unseen depends on how well you did in Blood on the Altar: If a lot of unique allies got sacrificed, there will be fewer Broods in play during Undimensioned. The Servant of the Lurker will only be in the encounter deck during Where Doom Awaits if the players defeated Silas Bishop earlier. Restoring Silas will remove Seth from the game here, dropping the total on Where Doom Awaits to 4XP for that path.

Plan getting around 25XP, but make sure your deck works with the 15ish points you get for Extracurricular, House and Museum because from that point on you will have to pry every little point from the scenarios.

All of these numbers assume successful completion of the scenarios. The campaign hands out a few pity points for failing which can theoretically be (ab)used to get a higher total XP count. Notably, failing House Always Wins by having the doom clock run out will lead to Armitage being kidnapped and the investigators getting 2XP instead. Intentionally failing Essex Express after collecting all of its XP (including the Engine car) could net an extra XP, but comes at the cost of earning a weakness and losing all your assets… so that’s absolutely not worth metagaming around.

House Always Wins features a location that works in a very non-intuitive way. The Back Alley location which has the resign ability on it is also a victory location. However, when a player resigns, their clues are dropped onto the location, making it no longer count for the victory. As printed, the scenario features no way to get all victory location’s XP while still getting out with everyone.

Back Alley
Intentional? A bug? You decide.


You basically have three options if you do want to get that VP: Have someone intentionally die and drop all the excess clues on an irrelevant location like the Darkened Hall. The others can escape through the Back Alley. This will trade the trauma on one player for a point of XP for everyone.
Or have a rogue in your team run “I’m Outta Here!”. The rogue can carry the excess clues to a non-Victory location and resign from there using that card.
The third option (and the one i am personally going with) is just ignoring this nonsensical interaction which is likely not intentional in the first place. Sadly, the Return To box does not fix this particular issue, so you have to decide for yourself if you want to fudge this or not.

Return to The Dunwich Legacy changes very little about the XP numbers of the campaign. It adds two new Exhibit Hall locations to Miskatonic Museum for some randomization of the locations. One of these locations has victory, the other one doesn’t. So while the maximum rises to 6XP, it also introduces the possibility to only be able to get 4XP. A new enemy with victory 2 is added to Lost in Time and Space, but at that point gaining more XP doesn’t really do anything.

Extracurricular Activities and The House Always Wins

Players have a choice right at the start of the campaign: They can either play Extracurricular Activities first or The House Always Wins. The one they didn’t choose is then played as the second scenario. Only the story ally associated with the scenario played first can be rescued, the other is always going to be abducted.

In the base version of the campaign, it is commonly agreed that there are only few reasons to start with Extracurricular, but multiple for starting with House instead. Comparing the story assets themselves, we got Warren Rice on the one side, Francis Morgan on the other. They are roughly similar in their abilities, but Rice can be easily replaced by Milan or Luxley. Francis doesn’t have a close equivalent, the closest one would probably be Jessica Hyde who is an XP ally that is also available to only very few fighters who’d be interested in the combat boost.

What seals the deal however is the circumstance that saving Warren Rice is penalized with a tablet token for not saving the students from the rampaging monster. If the plan is killing the Experiment or evacuating the dorm, then you might as well do that as the second scenario and go save Francis first.

House Always Wins is also a fair amount easier than Extracurricular Activity. So being able to gain a couple XP before having to meet Yithian Observers, the Wizard of Yog-Sothoth or even the Experiment while Whippoorwills are fluttering about and Beyond the Veil is ticking down is certainly appreciated.

On the other hand, going for Extracurricular Activity first will offer the chance to save Peter Clover in House Always Wins. Doing so is not easy, but will remove the Naomi’s Crew encounter set from Blood on the Altar. This is of questionable value, however. The Return to Dunwich gives some much needed extra incentive for choosing this path by not only giving the players access to the extremely powerful Naomi O’Bannion asset, but also by making the Naomi’s Crew set be much harder during Blood on the Altar.

Another reason to go for Extracurricular first could be the higher XP that is rewarded by that scenario. While House usually rewards 3-4XP, you can expect around 5-8XP for Extracurricular. Extracurricular is the scenario with the most XP in the campaign and having the extra time for going there first can be instrumental in fishing for the victory enemies in the encounter deck. Going there second actually even removes 1 XP from the locations.

Personally, i find these two choices not all that equal even after Return To enhances the less attractive choice. Going for House first wins on pure efficiency in my opinion, mostly due to Francis being more useful and not coming with a tablet token attached. However, getting to add Naomi to your deck is really cool and certainly worth going for as well as a fun option to shake things up. I’d still not save Rice, though… sorry, he’s just not worth the tablet token.

Investigator Choices

Taking all of this into account, there are some recommendations that can be done for choosing your investigators. Due to Dunwich featuring both heavy fighting and the requirement for fast and efficient clue grabbing, a classic duo of a guardian and a seeker is a good start. Bigger groups will probably not want to rely solely on one person to hover up clues, unless that person is hyperefficient they might run into trouble with Essex Express otherwise. For that reason, having your enemy handlers be able to grab the occasional clue as well pays off.

The other big concern is Beyond the Veil. Some investigators are just very, very vulnerable to it and would have to devote a chunk of their deck (and maybe their XP!) towards safeguarding against it.

Finally, the investigator should be able to function with only few upgrades due to the low amount of available XP. If you want to play Sefina with Chuck Fergus and Double Double, you might want to pick a different campaign…

Some suggestions, i’ll keep it to two per class:
Roland Banks: Both guardian and seeker, Roland has all the tools available to him to shine here. His free clue generation gives him action efficiency exactly when it is needed.
Leo Anderson is an able fighter and at 3 intellect he can at least help out with clues as well. He’s also already very likely to run Charismas, so those story allies can be worked into his deck strategy quite well.
Joe Diamond is similar to Roland in that he’s sitting at the overlap of the guardian and seeker card pools and can equip himself very well for Dunwich.
Rex Murphy‘s main strength is baked right into his investigator ability, meaning he can do his thing without having to draw tons of cards like many other seekers do. Thus he doesn’t open himself up to Beyond the Veil more than necessary.
Preston Fairmont can run on a surprisingly low amount of experience. Many of his key cards are low level, like High Roller and Easy Mark. His survivor access gives him Alter Fate(1) to deal with Beyond the Veil.
Tony Morgan will have no shortage of stuff to kill, so (with the exception of the museum) he can play to his strengths. His intellect 3 and access to seeker or survivor events can make him surprisingly decent at collecting clues, too.
Agnes Baker is representing almost all the high willpower mystics here. They can use their spell assets to become cluevers and fighters at the same time. This is true for Dexter, Gloria and several others as well, but Agnes sticks out because her investigator ability means that Whippoorwills basically do not exist anymore around her.
William Yorrick, like many survivors, gets by with very few expensive upgrades. His signature event even allows him to generate one extra victory point per scenario. This will certainly be appreciated by the whole team.
Ashcan Pete: Another very undemanding survivor, no matter if it’s the Dark Horse version or not. His biggest strength starts right in play at the start of the game, everything else is just gravy. Just be aware that Duke CAN be kidnapped during Blood on the Altar, something you will absolutely want to prevent.

With the exception of Preston and Joe, all of the investigators mentioned above also have at least 3 willpower, which is somewhat important if you don’t want to just watch from the sidelines during Undimensioned and Unseen and at least helpful with most of the tests on the encounter cards.

On the opposite end are investigators to avoid because they either draw tons of cards (Patrice, Amanda) or are XP hungry (Sefina, Mandy). Generally speaking, evasion plays second fiddle to defeating enemies and agility isn’t tested very often from treacheries. So agility specialists (Finn, Rita) might find that they can’t always play to their strength.

I want to make clear that this is just some suggestions. The deck building in this game is open enough that you can make a lot of things work, even under the XP restraints present here. To give an example, i have played Patrice through Dunwich before myself. It required devoting a chunk of XP and deck space towards otherwise not terribly useful cards just as insurance against Beyond the Veil, but it is doable for sure. Similarly, evasion can certainly work as well here, especially in solo. However, that will leave you with even fewer XP because so much of it comes from victory enemies.

Notable Player Cards

To finish off this extensive look at The Dunwich Legacy, let’s take a peek at some player cards that are worth pointing out in the context of the campaign. I will try to mention cards that aren’t too obvious, you probably don’t need me to tell you that Spectral Razor, Ward of Protection and Pathfinder are good cards. As with the investigators, i’ll keep it to two cards per class:

Beat Cop, specifically the upgraded one, takes care of the Whippoorwills without any fuss and he supplements your fighting in other spots.
Well Prepared can leech icons of the story allies, so if you plan on running multiple of those, you could make them pull double duty with this. Armitage even has double wild icons.
Occult Lexicon is another card that offers an easy solution to aloof critters.
Miskatonic Archeology Funding gives you the ally slots to run Armitage and either Rice or Morgan while still leaving you with your original ally slot to use whatever you want in addition. This can save some XP over Charisma, very convenient.
Pilfer is generally a pretty great investigative tool, but shines particular bright during Essex Express.
Lockpicks is the other notable card in the rogue cards pool that lets them do a seekers job. It won’t help them with the intellect requirements of Where Doom Awaits, but everywhere else it’s gold.
Mind Wipe has a niche use during Undimensioned and Unseen. The Broods aren’t elite, so blanking their textboxes will make them vulnerable to conventional weapons. It will also remove the victory, though.
Quantum Flux has obvious applications in a campaign that has deck depletion running as a subtheme.
Alter Fate is yet another silver bullet for this campaign’s most game warping treachery.
Waylay is one of the few ways how a high agility can be leveraged to do something remarkable in Dunwich. There’s a bunch of great targets for it, spearheaded by Broods of Yog-Sothoth and the Servant of the Lurker. It’s also one of the most efficient ways to wipe a Conglomeration of Spheres from the board.
Charisma is almost essential if you want to make use of the story allies.
Fine Clothes are a good include in the initial decks at campaign start. Both Extracurricular Activity and House Always Wins expect players to parley someone and the Clothes make this trivial. After the second scenario, players can just upgrade out of them, they aren’t used for the rest of the campaign.

Surge

Continue reading here:


Horror in High Gear

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Ancient Evils, Fog over Innsmouth, Malfunction, Shattered Memories

Size of the Encounter Deck28
# Enemies7
# Willpower10
# Agility2
# Intellect6
# Doom3
# Damage4
# Horror4

My take on this encounter deck: Horror in High Gear is … different. The scenario takes the reins away from the players and limits their options in terms of movement by tying them to the car that is pacing on at a constant speed. If players are unable to discover all clues from the current location before they are automatically moved on, bad things happen to them: Mostly damage and horror, but also new enemies or what is basically a saving throw against dying right there as the card is in danger of just driving over a cliff. The player can either take this on the chin and tank it or stop the car, which will allow pursuing enemies to catch up. Stopping and starting the car also takes away an action each, so this should be reserved for emergencies.
I am mentioning all this because for this scenario looking at the encounter deck alone doesn’t really paint a full picture. The enemies are more like framework to force the players to keep on moving instead of things to fight. And the treacheries mostly deal more damage, horror or discard cards which all stacks up just perfectly with the effects of the locations. More than any other scenario, Horror in High Gear is a gauntlet that the players have to run through and hope to come out in one piece on the other side.
It’s a good thing then that this sort of scenario is the exception. It takes a lot of control away from the players and almost plays itself at times. As a singleton scenario that is fine, but it’s certainly not something intriguing and deep as the rest of Innsmouth Conspiracy.
Cancel these: Eyes in the Trees, Memory of Oblivion. Obligatory mention of Ancient Evils as well, of course. The scenario does offer enough time to get into the last location at the default one location per turn pace (and has a handful turns extra for detours or unintentional stops along the way), so Ancient Evils isn’t too bad here. Of course it does make bad situations only worse…
Eyes in the Trees and Memory of Oblivion both go after player cards in hand and both with the potential of stripping away a lot of cards at that. Cards that are likely needed to pick up the clues off of key locations.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The first of the three different enemy vehicles that pursue the players. The Hit Van spawns at the rearmost location, moving through its Hunter keyword at a pace of 1 location per round, just like the player cars do. If it catches up, it doesn’t get to immediately attack. This, combined with its high health of 5 and the Retaliate keyword, points players towards evading it instead of trying to defeat it.

My take: The least scary of the three vehicle enemies. For the most part, it becomes part of a wall of enemies that stack upon each other at the rearmost location. So it contributes to a critical mass of enemies that threatens to overwhelm players if they are not able to keep a step ahead, but are not all that impressive on their own. Evasion keeps the Hit Van in check easily enough.

Threat level: Low. Investigators with no agility might run into troubles here, but everyone else can just spend an action or two over the course of the scenario to leave it impotent.

Dealing with it: There are not a whole lot of enemies in this scenario, so if the group has someone with ways to defeat it in two actions, that’s certainly an option. But as mentioned, the lack of an immediate attack in the enemy phase following the Hunter movement makes this enemy quite easy to handle with evasion. It’s probably best to reserve the best attacks for the Motorcars, the Winged One or even the Terror from Devil Reef.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The Pursuing Motorcar shares some of its characteristics with the Hit Van. It also spawns at the rearmost location and it also uses Hunter to match the player’s default space. But while its low agility invites an evasion approach as well, that is actually a bit of a trap because this is where similarities end. If the Motorcar catches up with the player’s, it does indeed attack as one would expect. However it attacks all players in that vehicle instead of just the one. And at 2 damage per attack this can hurt a lot. Should it get to attack a player outside of a vehicle it even does 4 damage.

My take: The most likely enemy to deal significant damage or horror to the investigators. Attacking everyone in the car gives this enemy’s attacks a lot of punch, so evading it after that just sets players up to take another one of these hits down the road. At 4 stamina and 4 fight, it’s also not trivial to take down at all.

Threat level: High. Lots of damage on an elite sized body that’s hard to take down.

Dealing with it: Ideally you never have to engage this enemy in the first place, it’s main role is forcing players to keep their foot on the pedal and keep on plowing through the locations. Maybe even using the acceleration action to propel the car ahead one location at the cost of an extra encounter card. If you do have to engage it, try to take it out for good if you have the firepower on the board. If not… evade it, i guess. And don’t have it catch up again. It’s worth pointing out that this is a non-Elite high health enemy with low evasion, meaning it’s a valid target for Waylay. As a Humanoid, it can even be handcuffed. Both of those are true for the other two vehicles as well, but Motorcar is surely the best target for such silver bullets.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Unlike the other two enemies, the Hybrid Assassin doesn’t spawn behind the players, it spawns the default way engaged to the player who drew it. It only deals a single horror on attack, but at 3 health it does have at least some staying power. And while it only has a single point of evasion, it will catch up with the players easily: Each time it hunts without engaging someone for the first time, it hunts again.

My take: While the other two enemies are dangerous in their own way, this guy is mostly harassing the players and eating some of their actions away when they really would rather be investigating. So it can be a danger in its own if it takes away more than one action from a critical turn. Having 3 damage for one action available is obviously great here and players would do well to save up one for just this occasion.

Threat level: Low to Mid. A nuisance, but can situationally be more relevant than it looks like

Dealing with it: In the vast majority of cases, players will be able to either smash this guy in one action or have the time to use two actions on it and still be able to handle their location. In the rare cases where things align to make the Hybrid a bigger threat, the evasion can come in as a failsafe to only lose the one action to it for now. It will lead to having it engage again two or three turns later, but since it only deals a single horror that can be okay.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: All enemies with the Hunter keyword get to resolve it immediately. This will make them catch up with the players and, should they reach them, engage. Note that this will not cause an immediate attack, though.
Should no enemy be moved by this treachery (because there are none or they are already engaged), cards from the encounter deck are discarded until a Vehicle enemy shows up. That vehicle is then spawned at the rearmost location.

My take: This can really put the pressure on the players as it causes those motorcars and hit vans (and kraken!) that have been stacking up in the rearmost location to catch up. This treachery is the reason why players should always try to keep an empty location between themselves and the enemies. If necessary, the driver should consider that taking the action on the car to jump ahead one location.

Threat level: Medium. This card is a power multiplier for all the vehicles in the scenario.

Dealing with it: Thankfully, the worst cases that could result from this card are fairly easy to prevent. Stay ahead of this treachery by keeping a buffer location between yourself and the enemies. This is where the option to drive an extra location at the cost of an encounter card comes in handy.
Should you end up with a handful of enemies in your threat area suddenly, everyone in the car should probably focus on evading them and just barrel into the next location – and hope that the fallout from not being able to grab clues this turn is not going to be too bad!

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: This treachery deals horror for failing a willpower test, but depending on whether the investigator is in a vehicle or not the exact details vary. If they are in a vehicle, the driver has to take the test instead and on failing the horror is dealt to everyone in the same car. If they are on foot, the treachery will only affect themselves but the difficulty of the test is increased from 3 to 5 and the horror dealt goes up from 2 to 3.

My take: There are next to no reasons to leave the vehicle, so this should usually force the driver to test against this treachery. Depending on their willpower, the horror from this card can potentially add up with the other horror sources quite fast. Between this, Macabre Momento from Shattered Memories and various location effects there’s certainly enough going around to drive someone insane without ever engaging an enemy.

Threat level: Medium. The ability to hit multiple investigators is what puts this one over the top when compared to other horror treacheries.

Dealing with it: Having a competent driver that can pass willpower tests is of course the best defense here. If this is not a given, then saving up a Guts or two to shore up defenses can be a good idea.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Every willpower/horror treachery needs its agility/damage counterpart, so Bumpy Ride mirrors “I Can’t See!” to prive exactly that. Agility is tested instead of willpower. Damage is dealt instead of horror. Otherwise, this works exactly the same, including the dependency on whether or not the investigator is in a car.

My take: Naturally what was said before goes for this one as well. It should be noted that the damage treachery in the Shattered Memories set doesn’t actually use agility, it uses intellect instead. So these two don’t stack up as neatly, but this is offset by agility being tested on the cliff locations and by enemies predominantly dealinging damage.

Threat level: Medium. Same deal as before, being able to hit two players at once can be bad.

Dealing with it: I would consider agility to be more important than willpower for the driver because of the cliff locations that you really don’t want to fail if you have to take the test.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: After failing a willpower test, the investigator has to discard a card from their hand for each point they failed by unless they choose to discard an asset from play instead. If they failed while in a car, the other investigator will have resolve this effect as well.

My take: Unless you have a spare asset to feed into this treachery, it can be a royal pain. Having to choose between losing a critical asset you already invested resources and actions into or discarding up to four(!) cards from hand is often hard.
And that’s before you consider that it might even hit the whole car.

Threat level: High. Possibly the worst treachery in this encounter deck.

Dealing with it: Unless you have either a cheap sacrificial asset or managed to fail by only one point, this is usually going to get ugly. Passing the willpower test would be optimal of course, but at difficulty 4 that’s just not going to be possible all the time. Players should consider prioritizing a cheap asset if they have it in their hand because chances are high that they will need to take one or two of these on the chin during the scenario.

Best-Laid Plans: The Forgotten Age

Spoilers

This page doesn’t hold back anything. There are detailed spoilers for the full Forgotten Age campaign ahead, including the “Return to” box. I highly suggest that you stop reading now if you have not played this campaign once or twice before. Don’t ruin that blind run experience for yourself. Come back once you at least gave it a try (and likely died somewhere in the jungle, mangled and poisoned as is tradition).

Introduction

The Forgotten Age has a very rough reputation as being unfairly harsh, punishing or just straight up difficult. While some of that reputation is not completely unfounded, TFA’s difficulty is often mitigated by just knowing what is coming up. For no other campaign the difference between going in blind and going in with previous experience is as big. Considering that The Forgotten Age is built around a theme of exploration, this actually is weirdly appropriate.
This article is meant to take a comprehensive look at the challenges in play when facing this campaign and to give some suggestions on meeting those challenges in terms of investigator choice, deck building and other gameplay decisions.
This article is not going to look at each encounter set and each scenario in detail, this site already has pages for those. Please refer to those for more zoomed in views on the single cards that make up the encounter sets and encounter decks.

Poison

There are many ways for investigators to become poisoned, with varying degrees of being able to avoid it. This is mostly facilitated through the use of the Poison encounter set, which provides the weakness cards for the players and two surging treacheries that deal some damage to the poisoned players.

Better get used to seeing these, they are used in all but two scenarios.

But of course that is not the only consequence for getting poisoned. Some scenarios have chaos token effects that turn into autofails. Those are Untamed Wilds, Heart of the Elders (both #1 and #2) and Shattered Eons. There are also a couple of locations that trigger off of it (one in Depths of Yoth, two in Untamed Wilds and Heart of the Elders #1). The encounter set Yig’s Venom gives some additional poison payoff during the four scenarios it is used in, however that is completely replaced when using the Return To version Venomous Hate which no longer has any poison relevance except for one card that causes it.

Most of these effects are fairly minor: a damage here, a lost action there. But it does stack up over the course of a game. In terms of more lasting consequences, there are three points between the scenarios where poisoned players gain a physical trauma. These are after Untamed Wilds, after Boundary Beyond and after the City of Archives.

The only way of getting rid of poison is using the medicine supply between scenarios or spending XP after Threads of Fate. Doing so before gaining any trauma should be a priority, some investigators (especially those with high stamina) might decide to carry it over between scenarios otherwise.

So, how does one get themselves poisoned? The most obvious one is getting bit by a snake. The Pit Viper will poison anyone who gets damaged by it and is used during Untamed Wilds and Heart of the Elders #1. When playing the Return To TFA, it is also used during Doom of Etzli on a particularly nasty special location. The same encounter set also has Snake Bite, a treachery that requires either a difficult evasion test or sacrificing an ally to avoid being poisoned. The two Heart of the Elders scenarios have Poisonous Spores which will give you a turn to move away from. Finally, the Yig’s Venom set has a singleton treachery that poisons you unless you are willing to draw two more encounter cards.

Untamed Wilds has two more opportunities to get poisoned: One is on the backside of the first agenda, affecting anyone who fails a willpower test. The other is on the backside of the second (and final) agenda, giving everyone a complimentary poison weakness in addition to their defeat.

It’s really not a matter of *if* you get poisoned, only *when*. And *how often*.

Looking at all of this, it becomes apparent that there are some poison hot spots that players will need to be especially cautious about. The two most important ones are Untamed Wilds (which has the additional challenge of being scenario 1) and Heart of the Elders #1 (which you might even need to run through twice. Or more).
When purchasing supplies, you should definitely budget for one full round of antidotes. Especially the agenda flip in Untamed Wilds will usually get at least half the team. Anyone with low agility can also expect to be bitten by a Pit Viper some time along the way. Even high agility investigators can be caught off-guard by the Snake Bite treachery. There is a resupply point after Threads of Fate where you can buy more medicine, but your initial load should at least cover a rough Untamed Wilds.

Supplies

Medicine is of course not the only supply you need and since you have a limited budget, it’s not easy figuring out what to take. This is the mechanic that is especially puzzling for players on their blind playthrough as there is really no knowing what is important and what isn’t. Also, there is a second chance to buy supplies after Threads of Fate (and if playing Return to, you can potentially have a huge amount of supply points there). Since the selection is different then, some supplies are only available at the start, thus increasing their importance to buy early on.

Finish them all and Return to Forgotten Age will make it rain supply points.

These are the supplies available at campaign start: Provisions, Medicine, Rope, Blanket, Canteen, Torches, Compass, Map, Binoculars, Chalk, Pendant.
These are available after Threads: Provisions, Medicine, Gasoline, Blanket, Canteen, Compass, Binoculars, Chalk, Pocketknife, Pickaxe

Only at start: Rope, Torches, Map, Pendant
Only after Threads: Gasoline, Pocketknife, Pickaxe

Rope and Pendant aren’t particularly important in my opinion, but Torches and Map are a must have (even more so in Return To, but they are both plenty relevant in base TFA). So i strongly advise to pack both Torches and a Map right away. Among other things, they are used to manipulate the exploration deck in some scenarios, allowing you to sidestep the treacheries that wait in there and make more educated attempts at steering your path towards more useful locations.

Provisions look important (after all, who would go on a trip without food), but many investigators are actually able to skip them. As a result, they would enter a few scenarios with three fewer start resources, but there are certainly investigators able to live with that.
Medicine, as discussed in the previous chapter, is important to prevent trauma and other consequences of getting poisoned. Bring some. If you are playing Return To, bring an extra Medicine to possibly spend it during Threads of Fate, there’s an act deck there that can offer a significant shortcut in exchange for 1 medicine.
Rope is used for a shortcut in Depths of Yoth. If you plan on getting high Yig’s Fury, you might want to grab the Rope to give you a bit more leeway in Depths. Otherwise, it only has some effects on locations which is not really worth the 3 supply points.
Blankets prevent trauma from happening. While this does sound important, i think these can be skipped. Or at least postponed until after Threads. Failure to bring a blanket will hand out some trauma, but each time you are able to choose which type of trauma. For that reason i think that at least initially the supplies are better spent on bringing medicine.
The Canteen is cheap and offers some smaller benefits. Take it if you have two points to spare. It is necessary if you do want to collect the Eztli key for use in the hidden scenario, though.
The Compass is a huge help during HotE#2 especially, but appears on some locations earlier as well. It’s not a priority on the initial loadout, but make sure to grab it after Threads.
Binoculars i would consider part of the important initial loadout. Having them is rewarded with 2XP right at the start, while not having them is punished with trauma. That’s reason enough for me to not wait with getting it until Threads.
Not buying Chalk at the start of the campaign means gaining an extra point of vengeance during Doom of Eztli. If you can live with that, you might put this off until after Threads, however i would make sure to get it then. It makes Heart of the Elders #2 a lot easier as it is used to skip some nasty agenda instructions there.
The Pendant is only used during City of Archives where it will help with resigning and with the result of a failed scenario. Unless your investigator expects to struggle with City of Archives, i would definitely skip this.
Gasoline is needed two times. If you fail to bring it, investigators are unable to take mulligans in the next scenario which is just very bad unless you happen to be soloing Sefina… Just buy two of them after Threads.
The Pocket Knife has two uses: Protect yourself from the Strangleweed, an annoying enemy in Heart of the Elders. And to stop Ichtaca from taking the Relic away from you leading up into Shattered Aeons. Both aren’t *that* important, and players who are forging their own path will not even be able to run into the second one.
Finally, the Pickaxe offers some benefits during HotE#2 and Depths of Yoth, but also not enough to make it a priority.

To sum things up, my suggestion for the initial loadout is buying Torches, Map, Binoculars, and Chalk. Then some medicine, depending on your confidence of getting through Untamed Wilds unpoisoned. Some provisions, possibly skimping on them a bit if some low maintenance investigators like certain Survivors are around who can take the loss of 3 resources… or some Rogues who can generate that money back in quick time. If you got some leftover points, grabbing the canteen isn’t bad either. But you might as well get an extra medicine, just to be sure.

For the second supply round after Threads, get the two Gasoline for sure. Buy Chalk or Binocs if you didn’t initially. Investigators with concerns about their trauma will want to pack a blanket now that the budget isn’t as restricted as at the start. I like the Pickaxe enough to get it here as well. For the rest of the supplies, restock on Medicine and Provisions. If you are playing Return To and did well during Threads, you will find yourself with lots of supply points here and can possibly buy out the store.

Trauma

A big part of TFA’s bad reputation comes from having a bunch of extra opportunities to earn additional trauma from various sources. Both Poison and Supplies tie into this. The interludes following Untamed Wilds, Boundary Beyond and City of Archives will add a physical trauma to everyone who is still poisoned at that point. At the same time, any investigator without a blanket will have to suffer one trauma of their choice. Not having binoculars on at least one investigator will cause one mental trauma to someone.
Of course, the above average difficulty can also easily lead to getting defeated early and doing its part to making the following scenarios even more difficult.
As the final cherry on top, you can gain one or two physical trauma (or be outright killed) after a failed Depths of Yoth with less than four depth levels done. This should usually only happen if the group collected too much Yig’s Fury over the course of the campaign.

Kill too many of his children and the father of snakes will get furious. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

So basically TFA has three campaign-wide mechanics that lead to additional trauma: Poison, Supplies and Vengeance. But while that sounds very daunting (and on your blind play it certainly is), these can all be managed fairly well by being conscious about them. And while you will certainly not want to just take all of them on the chin, it’s not like you lose automatically if you just pick up two, three or even five trauma. Especially the blankets aren’t all that necessary as long as you keep winning the actual scenarios, since you can always pick the kind of trauma that you can handle best. The difference between starting with 6 stamina or 7 stamina (or sanity) isn’t *that* large, and supply points are very few during the initial campaign setup.

One thing to notice is that there is almost no strictly mental trauma being dealt here. Except for the missing binoculars, this is all stuff that either deals physical trauma or lets the player pick. So anyone with high stamina can be much more relaxed about the trauma situation here, while someone like Daisy or Mary is going to have a harder time making it through all of this. Such vulnerable investigators might want to invest into some more soak or healing to counteract the trauma they are gaining. Usually healing cards are somewhat shunned for being action inefficient, but when trauma makes everyone start with damage and horror already on them, they become a lot more valuable.

Agility

At its release, The Forgotten Age was the first campaign to put much of an emphasis on agility. A large number of treacheries use agility tests instead of the more common willpower tests. Also, the Vengeance mechanic strongly encourages using evasion instead of fighting to deal with a portion of the enemy base. On a blind playthrough, this will usually catch players completely off-guard because it is such a departure from conventions up to then. Even when playing the campaigns out of order today, the difference is quite staggering. While agility tests are a much bigger part of the encounter deck in the more recent campaigns than in the early days of the game, it did so far never reach the same levels as in TFA again.

This has some implications for the investigator choice and for deckbuilding. While it is not impossible to play low agility investigators through The Forgotten Age (after all, Leo Anderson was released in this deluxe box), those will need to either make concessions to that in their deck or find some other way of preparing for being bullied by treacheries all day. What are you going to do when a Pit Viper engages you? What when you draw Snake Bite? How about when you get stuck with an Entombed? How many Last Mistakes can you afford to do? Ideally you have answers to such questions because you’ll be asked them throughout the campaign. Over. And over. And over again.

However, it should be pointed out that while this campaign tilts more towards agility than others, that doesn’t mean that the usual willpower tests become unimportant or that you should evade your way through all of the scenarios. There are still plenty of very important willpower tests around, starting right from Untamed Wild’s saving throw against poison on the agenda backside and continuing over several treacheries right until Shattered Aeons. Shattered Aeons has half its encounter deck filled with willpower stuff and willpower is one of two skills that are used to seal the locations and finish the scenario.
There are also quite a lot of enemies that you will want to defeat permanently, including a bunch of hunter enemies, big beasts with victory on them and cultists that stack doom tokens.

Vengeance

A lot of the snake enemies throughout the campaign will have Vengeance on them. Just like cards with victory, these will go into the victory display when defeated. However, doing so is not a good thing, as the players will collect Yig’s Fury over the campaign this way. Also, the scenarios might have short term repercussions for the Vengeance in the victory display as well.

Ignore Vengeance at your own peril. The encounter cards won’t.

Short term consequences include worse tokens, increased difficulty of treachery tests, increased shroud and increased stats on enemies. They are usually balanced in such a way that small amounts of Vengeance already have a noticeable effect and can spiral out of control when it really starts to pile up. The cards from Agents of Yig are good examples for this. Of course, these effects overlap with the consequences for poison on many occasions. Investigators that have a couple points of vengeance in their display and are also poisoned might find themselves with a truly horrible chaos bag in some scenarios.

Any Vengeance earned is 1:1 converted into Yig’s Fury at the end of the scenario. The big payoff for this happens at the start of Depths of Yoth, which will become considerably harder with high Fury counts, to the point where it can become borderline impossible. Unless the players are exceptionally fast at clearing the locations and moving on, the likely result of that is failing to reach depth five in that scenario and falling the rest of the way, resulting in trauma or even straight up death. Low Fury lets players breeze through the scenario with plenty of time instead, possibly not even encountering this campaign’s Great Old One: Yig, the father of serpents.

Depths of Yoth uses thresholds of Fury to determine how many agenda cards are discarded at setup. These thresholds are 1, 6, 11, 15, 18 and 21. Personally, i think collecting up to 10 Fury is perfectly fine, all that will cost you is one agenda card with 3 doom on it which still leaves you with plenty of time to get through the scenario without having to fight Yig. Note that reaching 11 Fury will cost you the second agenda, which not only discards another 3 doom from your timer, but will also cost you the chance to pick up the “strange liquid” for the secret shortcut within the secret extra scenario.

Picking up further Fury during Depths of Yoth doesn’t matter too much. There is one more punishment for Yig’s Fury coming up during the setup of Shattered Aeons, but it’s not too terrible: For each 10 points of Fury, Shattered Aeons starts with one point of Vengeance already in the victory display. Staying at 9 Fury (or 19) is something you might want to keep in mind.

Snakes on a campaign

Picking up some Fury over the course of the campaign will be very difficult to avoid. While it does primarily come from enemies, there are also some treacheries that will add Vengeance if the players aren’t willing to play around them. Of special note are two cards: Resentful Wilds from the Return To can be literally impossible to avoid if it attaches to the wrong location. And Ancestral Fear is a surging peril Ancient Evils whose doom persists through the agenda advancing… unless you take the Vengeance instead. In which case it still surges! Horrible. Just horrible.
There are a couple of points that allow players the choice to gain extra experience if they are willing to gain some extra Vengeance. The two most important ones are the decision on whether to collect all clues from the Chamber of Time in Doom of Eztli and on whether to kill Padma Amrita or not in Boundary Beyond.
So if you make an effort to keep your Yig’s Fury low, you can afford to pick up more experience for your team, which is nice for sure.

Hunter enemies

There are two notable things to talk about when looking over the pool of enemies in The Forgotten Age. One, there is a lot of Hunter enemies going around. Two, a lot of the enemies have 3 health.

Some of those Hunters come with Vengeance, which is really bad news. Drawing an early Boa Constrictor is one of the worst things that can happen to you in Untamed Wilds and Heart of the Elders#1, as you will either need to take that Yig’s Fury or have to play the rest of the scenario with this thing breathing down your neck. Heart of the Elders actually doubles down on this by also having Basilisks. And Return to Heart of the Elders triples down on it again with Feathered Serpents. Are we having fun yet?

These guys can eat a bullet and live. Plan accordingly and bring better bullets.

Most Hunters can be killed without permanent consequences, though. So come prepared to do so, however keep in mind that not a single one of those Hunter enemies from the base version of the campaign has only one or two health. (Return To has the Vengeful Serpent as a 2 health Hunter, but that thing comes with its own host of issues…) The two most often encountered Hunters are the Brood of Yig and the Brotherhood Cultist, both clocking in at 3 health. Scenario specific enemies go beyond that with 4-6 health or scaling with player count. This trend for higher health pools goes further than just the Hunter enemies, of course. As a result, your basic Shrivelling charges or .45 ammo counters sometimes feel woefully inadequate.

The Harbinger

As soon as the investigators put their hands on the Relic during Doom of Eztli, the Harbinger of Valusia starts her pursuit of the players, following them across various scenarios throughout the campaign.

She has 5 Vengeance, so killing her is usually a bad idea. It’s not all that easy in the first place, as she starts out with 10 health per investigator and will flee after being attacked or evaded 2 times per investigator. If you aren’t playing solo this means that one turns worth of attacks is not enough to make her flee. If she does get to attack, she deals two horror and damage, so you will likely want to incorporate evasion here to avoid this or gang up on her with multiple investigators.

Here she is, before and after her “Return To” facelift.

Evasion isn’t the answer to all problems with her either. Since evading her also disengages, you can’t just take consecutive evasion actions the same way you can with attacks. She doesn’t regenerate her health from appearance to appearance, so the default way of handling her will usually mean a mix of attacks and evasion, enough to make her flee but without killing her. This is actually one of the few moments where punching without a weapon can pay off to make sure you can keep attacking her, just make sure that your combat value is high enough because she will punish missteps with her Retaliate… and she has an extra ability to do so even when exhausted, so evading her first will not help. This extra ability was actually removed with Return To, so feel free to evade her there before attacking to be on the safe side. To compensate, she starts out with 1 extra evade value, but at least you got some more tools to handle her then.

She makes her appearance during Doom of Eztli, Boundary Beyond, Heart of the Elders #2 and Depths of Yoth. Additionally, Return To introduces her into Threads of Fate. So you will meet her plenty of times. Depending on how much health she has left, killing her during Depths of Yoth before Yig shows up can be a good idea. But until then it’s usually better to make her flee because she has enough Vengeance on her to push you over another threshold at the Depth of Yoth setup.

Exploration

Exploration is another recurring mechanic throughout the campaign. Instead of putting the locations into play at the start of the game into fixed positions, they are shuffled up into a deck that you draw from. Added to that deck are some encounter cards that represent the dangers of exploration. To draw from the deck costs an action, but if do successfully explore into a valid location, you do get to move to it as well, more or less refunding that action spent on exploring. Of course, this makes finding a treachery (or, if you are playing Return To, an enemy) really bad as you not only have to suffer from that card, but you also lost an extra action to the exploration. So you’ll need to find ways to mitigate the risk as best as you can and if possible, avoid doing exploration with your last action.

The exact details around how the exploration deck is used to vary from scenario to scenario, but only two of them do not use exploration at all. Those are Threads of Fate and City of Archives.

You thought there were only locations in the exploration deck? How precious.

The whole exploration concept was overhauled by the Return To box in a major way. Two changes in particular did a lot to make exploration less random and easier to manipulate. With Return To, there are no longer any treacheries in the exploration deck at the start of the scenario. Instead, the top card of the encounter deck is shuffled into the exploration deck whenever a location was successfully explored. This means the risk for pulling from the deck increases over time, instead of frontloading the danger like the base TFA box does. It is also more interesting as you never know what sort of danger waits for you in the exploration deck. The other big change concerns the use of certain supply items to scout or manipulate the exploration deck. In base TFA, you need to be at the starting location to use your torch or map. With Return To, you can use them from any location, giving players much better options of using their actions. It also improves the value of those supplies greatly.

If you do not use Return To, it is worth keeping in mind that exploration is most dangerous at the start of the game, but gets less risky over time as you start removing the treacheries from the deck (by having to draw them, but still…). Using the correct supply item from the starting location can help a lot to get the first one or two locations on the table and get started on collecting clues and whatnot. If you do use Return, be aware that there can be enemies in the exploration deck now. So even more than before, do not explore with your last action or risk drawing an enemy and taking it straight to the enemy phase with you. Also, abuse the hell out of those supply items, making sure that you draw what you want to and to be able to look at the deck and learn what cards you had to shuffle in.

Depending on what encounter cards you had to shuffle into the exploration deck, consider who spends the actual action. Having someone with good agility and/or willpower do it increases your chances of at least being able to pass the tests on any treacheries you might draw. Similarly, a high agility for evasion can save an investigator who explores into an enemy they can’t or don’t want to kill.

Snake Pit
Why did it have to be snakes?

Like the supply mechanics, the ones around exploration feel a lot different on replays than they do on the blind run. When you are still unfamiliar with the locations and their connections, diving into the exploration deck produces seemingly randomized spots to move on to and the scenario plays … well, like an exploration. You keep learning about your surroundings as the game goes on. However, if you played the campaign a couple of times you start knowing what to expect. You start looking at the printed connections on your locations and can use this information in your decision making. While playing Depths of Yoth, you might realize that your current location can not possibly lead into Steps of Yoth, so you might move one location over to a location that can before exploring. During Return to Doom of Eztli you might notice that your current location can lead into a Snake Pit and thus be extra careful about exploring there. While having this knowledge after a while will take some of the “magic” out of the mechanics, it does make them more interesting to interact with as it offers some agency to players to get a leg up on the scenario.

Experience

For all the nastiness that Forgotten Age is known for, there is one silver lining. This campaign pays out a lot of experience points, provided of course that you do a good job of clearing those jungle locations, slay the victory enemies and fulfill the scenario goals. When all is said and done, you should be entering Shattered Aeons with about 50XP under your belt.

This allows you to do three things: It enables some cool upgrade heavy decks that would not even be possible to do in a more XP starved campaign. It allows to get some luxury upgrades that you would otherwise not be able to get. It gives you the necessary XP to pick up the cards geared towards mitigating all the dangerous stuff mentioned before.

Available XP per scenario/interlude:
Untamed Wilds: 8 (locations) + 1 (Ichtaca) + 1 (Serpent from Yoth) = 10XP
Interlude 1: 2XP for one investigator (binoculars)
Doom of Eztli: 5 (locations) + 1 (Serpent from Yoth) = 6XP
Threads of Fate: 4 (locations) + 3 (locations/enemies in the agenda decks) + 3 (resolution, 1 for each first agenda) = 10XP
Boundary Beyond: 2 (Padma) + 1 (Serpent of Tenochtitlan) + 6 (1 for each cleared location) = 9XP
Heart of the Elders#1: 5 (locations) + 2 (Apex Strangleweeds) = 7XP
Heart of the Elders#2: 6 (locations) + 1 (Serpent from Yoth) = 7XP
The City of Archives: 6 (locations) + 2 (Yithian Observers) + 4 (perfected process) = 12XP
Depths of Yoth: 5 (depth levels) + 5 (Yig) + 2 (Eater of Depths) + 1 (Serpent from Yoth) = 13XP
Interlude 5: 2XP (only for investigators carrying a map)
Shattered Aeons: 4 (locations) + 2 (Formless Spawn) + 2 (Ichtaca) + 2(Alejandro) + 1 (Serpent from Yoth) = 11XP

Included in the numbers above are the opportunities where you can choose to gain XP if you also take Vengeance. Not included are the bonus XP you can get for forging your own path.

Going by these numbers, you can potentially go into Shattered Aeons with 77XP. Note that to do so, you’d have to only get 5 ways in Boundary Beyond or you’d skip the possibility to pick up the 7XP of HotE#1.

Changes to all of this from Return To:
Doom of Eztli: only 4XP on locations and one of them requires a map, total is now 5XP
Threads of Fate: agenda XP is increased massively, but can no longer go towards upgrades. New total for card upgrades is 8XP.
City of Archives: one more XP on a location, raising the total to 13XP

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t really change a whole lot to the XP distribution. The change to the resolution of Threads is the most impactful, but the extra supplies are worth the couple “lost” XP, actually they pay off by making it easier to earn more XP later.

Alejandro Vela and Ichtaca

These two people will accompany the players all the way from Untamed Wilds to Shattered Aeons. Aligning yourself with either of them (or none) marks the three paths along the campaign, with various consequences.

Aside from getting access to their asset cards, you will have to add different chaos tokens to your bag. For following Alejandro, tablet tokens are added. For following Ichtaca, you get cultist tokens. Generally speaking, there is no better or worse set of tokens between these two, both aren’t that great.

Would you trust these people with your life?

The tokens also serve as a device to track your influence with either of them and two scenarios change their encounter decks depending on if you have more tablets or more cultists in your bag. Those are Boundary Beyond and Shattered Eons. If you had been favoring Ichtaca, you get more cultist enemies in those scenarios while siding with Alejandro adds serpents and/or Eztli warriors. Personally, i think that the cultists add a lot more difficulty to those scenarios than the alternatives do due to all the doom tokens coming from Dark Cult and Pnakotic Brotherhood.

To make up for this, Ichtaca is generally a better ally than Alejandro. Your milage may vary, of course. Ultimately both are actually really nice and if you are strapped for ally slots, they also both come with pretty good skill icons.

During Shattered Aeons, you will run into an enemy version of at least one of them. Both Alejandro and Ichtaca are very hard enemies that put up a fight worthy of a campaign finale. They also have Parley options that allow you to switch your scenario goal to another scene where you try to save Valusia or Pnakotus instead of your world. In what is a bit non-intuitive, this means that if you (for example) want to finish the campaign by helping Ichtaca restore Valusia, you can not earn her trust leading up to Shattered Aeons or she won’t appear in the scenario. A bit strange how that works, but it is what it is.

As usual, we had the choice between evil and slightly different evil. Isn’t this game great?

To earn Ichtaca’s trust (and thus prevent her from appearing in Shattered Aeons to fight you), you need to complete the Ichtaca related scene deck in Threads, then find at least 3 ways during Boundary Beyond and also have 2 cultist tokens in the bag during the resolution of Boundary.
In order to not have to deal with Alejandro in Shattered Aeons, you need to complete the Alejandro related scene deck in Threads, control the Custodian at the end of City of Archives and have 2 tablet tokens in the bag at that point.
Unless you are going for the third option (keep reading…), try to fulfill one of these. Having to deal with both of those boss enemies at the same time in Shattered Aeons is a huge pain that should absolutely be avoided.

As a third option, you can decide that you want to trust neither of them, instead choosing to “forge your own path”. This is an option that you have during setup of Threads of Fate, provided you first chose to give the artifact to Harlan Earlstone (thus acting against Alejandros will) and then letting Ichtaca go without talking to her during Threads of Fate setup. Doing so will remove all tablets and cultists from the bag, but add an Elder Thing token to take its place (and another one at a later point). You will also no longer be able to add either person’s asset to your decks. However, you will gain 2XP whenever you would have added one of their assets. You can gain a good amount of XP for doing this, but the Elder Thing is worse than either cultist or tablet for sure. You’ll also get a mix of the flexible encounter sets in Boundary Beyond and will have to add both flexible sets in Shattered Aeons. Shattered Aeons will feature both enemy versions of Alejandro and Ichtaca, which can be quite challenging. Forging your own path is more difficult than the other two paths, but the additional XP can make it feel rewarding enough. It is also a prerequisite if you want to go for the final bonus scenario.

The City of Archives

The scenarios for themselves all have their own page on this site, so i don’t want to go over them one by one again. The City of Archives however, deserves a second look here as its influence can go a bit beyond the usual because it can be a breaking point for some decks or investigators.

Losing all your special investigator abilities can leave some decks without any coherence, so that’s something that you may want to consider straight from the initial choice of the investigator before even starting the campaign. How good is your Yorrick deck if you are unable to recur your assets? What about Leo no longer being able to cycle through his allies for cheap? Does your Nathaniel deck fall apart if you can no longer add your bonus damage to those events you are packing in your deck? Calvin players should know that all the trauma they’ve been stacking will transfer to the Yithian body, making you very fragile in this scenario.

Pictured: William Yorrick, Diana Stanley, Finn Edwards (left to right)

This is certainly not going to cripple every investigator, in fact most will be just fine. Some might even be better off, like Lola. But if you find that your deck relies a lot on its investigator ability to even function, you should be aware that City of Archives is going to be a tough one for you. To compensate, maybe pay some extra attention to having good skill icons on your cards so you can at least make better use of the Yithian investigator ability.

The Hidden Final Scenario

The split of the Heart of the Elders mythos pack into two scenarios brought up the number of scenarios for this campaign to 9, but there is actually a tenth scenario that can be unlocked after Shattered Aeons if the investigators did follow exactly down a certain road.

First off, you need to be forging your own path as described above. During Threads of Fate, you will then need to recover the artifact by finishing the correct scene deck. Doing so will earn you a special version of the Relic (“Repossess the Past”) during the interlude between Depths of Yoth and Shattered Aeons. Playing Shattered Aeons, you need to not parley with either of the two enemy versions of Ichtaca and Alejandro, instead finishing the scenario by fulfilling Mend the Shatter (scene 4a). The resolution of Shattered Aeons will then send you off to the scenario Turn Back Time.

Good luck.

Turn Back Time is basically a re-run of Doom of Eztli, but with a very nasty chaos bag. The four Elder Thing tokens you have at that point will all give a large negative modifier and add a doom on failing the test, which plays right into what Doom of Eztli already does. Instead of running out of the temple, you will need to fight Yig in the end, a challenging fight that is rewarded with getting to the “true ending”.

Return To introduces a way to make this scenario a bit easier by collecting a key that opens a shortcut to the Chamber of Time. To get this key, you will need to find the “sticky goop” from a location in HotE#2 and also collect the “strange liquid” in Depths of Yoth. In both cases, you need to have a canteen to be able to write down these two special supply items. Getting the strange liquid happens automatically when advancing the agenda in Depths, however you need to reach that scenario with a maximum of 10 Yig’s Fury or the agenda is removed from the game at setup. The required location in HotE#2 is the Subterranean Swamp, however there is a 50/50 chance that this location isn’t even in the exploration deck, making finding the key impossible… good luck!

Investigator Choices

Looking back at everything said before, a few things stand out as far as requirements go that our investigators must overcome, either based on their own strength or by building the deck for them. They should be able to withstand tests from encounter cards, mostly agility and willpower. They should be able to defeat enemies (including some very chunky ones) but also be able to get past some without adding their vengeance to the victory display. Finally, the ability to withstand an above average amount of incoming damage, even after picking up some trauma, makes surviving everything a lot easier. Picking up trauma should be expected, for that matter. While there is some horror coming from treacheries and enemies, a high stamina is certainly worth more than a high sanity when tackling this campaign. Finally, they should be able to function during City of Archives.

Some suggestions, i’ll keep it to two per class:
Mark Harrigan is a wellrounded investigator without any glaring weaknesses and Sophie lets him crush treachery tests. He also has a pile of health to boot.
Tommy Muldoon can throw allies in front of most things and actually get paid for having horrible things target him. His low agility will need to be compensated for, but the survivor card pool has some nice options for that, even if it’s just Lucky.
Ursula Downs is pretty much custom made for this job, combining mobility with high agility and decent willpower while not being as fragile as the common Seeker.
Amanda Sharpe is similarly tough and able to use her skill cards to beat TFA’s nastiness.
Finn Edwards should feel right at home in the jungle, getting a lot of mileage out of his free evades. He’ll have to compensate for his willpower, though.
Trish Scarborough‘s high stamina for a seeker(ish) investigator gives her a leg up against the many dangers of the campaign. Keeping enemies around instead of killing them is exactly what she wants to do anyways.
Luke Robinson‘s mobility through the gate box does a good job of keeping him several steps ahead of pursuing enemies while giving him a pseudo evade when staring down a Boa or similar after all because he drew it. He is however quite fragile and will have to stay aware of that.
Diana Stanley is the sort of hybrid character that can do everything at the same time, and she’ll do it while keeping the encounter deck in check with her cancels.
Calvin Wright likes getting trauma. Sure, he’ll have to to make sure he doesn’t die to it ultimately, but nobody sleeps without a blanket as confidently as he does.
Rita Young is often underappreciated (included by me). However, her mix of abilities is really quite nice for this campaign. She can evade like few others, her 3 fight enable her to dispose of cultists and her ability allows her to run circles around Hunters. If there is such a thing as the perfect campaign for her, this is it.

I would avoid investigators with very low agility (Norman, Preston), with low stamina (Mary) or both (Daisy, Gloria) unless i am really sure i can work my way around that. Something similar goes for characters like Nathaniel and Tony who are so specialized on killing stuff that this can come back to bite them when they are expected to let stuff live for once.

A Preliminary Analysis of Preston Fairmont – Rite of Seeking
“Listen here, Boa. I am giving you $100 if you piss off.” – Famous last words

I want to make clear that this is just some suggestions. Ultimately, the deck building in this game is open enough that you can make anything work if you want to and especially in a group setting you can have one person pick up the slack for someone else. I’m not saying “Don’t send Preston into the jungle”. I am saying “If you send Preston into the jungle, make extra sure he can survive it” because he’s going to have a tougher time than Trish or Mark would.

Notable Player Cards

To finish off this extensive look at all things Forgotten Age, let’s take a peek at some player cards that are quite good in the context of the campaign. I will try to mention cards that aren’t too obvious, you probably don’t need me to tell you that Spectral Razor, Ward of Protection and Pathfinder are good cards. As with the investigators, i’ll keep it to two cards per class:

Handcuffs have a surprising amount of good targets, including the Brotherhood Cultist, the Brood of Yig and even Boundary Beyond’s Serpent of Tenochtitlan.
Well Prepared is simply fantastic here, all of the many story assets come with a lot of icons to copy. The Relic is of course leading the pack with 3 wild icons, but Ichtaca, Alejandro and the Journal are all worth leeching off as well. Return To adds Veda Whitley for further insanity.
Tooth of Eztli: Encounter deck defense and card draw, this card can go a long way to keeping investigators safe, as long as they bring at least some agility and willpower themselves.
Dr William T. Maleson basically exists to die for you. Now that Rook has been taboo’d to hell and back, there is little for seekers to soak some damage for you at a reasonable price. If you don’t want to go for Bulletproof Vests or something from the off-class (if available), then the good doctor does the trick of dying for your Final Mistakes just fine.
Backstab: Dealing three damage with one action is a big deal in this campaign and this is how rogues do it. I am a fan of this card in general, but for TFA i consider it a staple unless i am playing Tony or Preston or something…
Slip Away: This can tie down a lot of otherwise very dangerous enemies that you don’t want to kill. Like the Boa or Basilisk. This card can save your bacon against enemies like that and you should take a serious look at the upgrade, too.
Mists of R’lyeh: Of all the evasion options for Mystics, this one sticks out because it also moves you, giving you further distance from a Hunter. To be fair, Mists is usually considered the best of the evasion spells, but in this case something like Ineffable Truth would even be actively bad because it kills Pit Vipers.
Mind Wipe: Blanking text boxes removes Vengeance and allows you to kill a Vengeance enemy without adding it to victory display. This is a bit of a wild piece of tech, you decide if it’s too janky for your tastes.
Close Call allows survivors to shuffle something back into the encounter deck after evading it, which is a clean way of getting rid of monsters with vengeance or big health pools. In other campaigns i favor Waylay over Close Call, but the additional use case against vengeance makes it worth the 2XP difference.
Hiding Spot is one more piece of anti-enemy tech. The nature of the exploration mechanics mean that you might very well backtrack through some enemies that you left behind. From Pit Vipers you evaded three turns ago to hunters that are still catching up, Hiding Spot allows the whole team to pass the creature in one turn and move on. The bigger the group, the better your timing needs to be for this, though. So this is more of a card for solo players and 2 player teams.
Thermos is expensive, but if there ever is a campaign where you can be sure to get your money’s worth, it’s this one.
Bulletproof Vest is an easy way to give someone fragile like Daisy a lot more leeway in how they have to approach things. And Forgotten Age is generous enough with the XP that you can afford these sort of things.

Surge

Continue reading here:

Weekly Evils – #30

Week in Review

Today marks the end of the breakneck schedule that aimed at catching up with the product cycle. The Innsmouth deluxe had two more encounter sets for us: Agents of Hydra is a set of four cards that rip cards out of the player’s hands and goes after their actions while it’s at it. Nasty stuff. Malfunction is a much easier pill to swallow, deactivating abilities on vehicles until a test succeeds… sure, that’s something we can deal with. Both are used in Devil Reef, a long trip around a couple of islands in a fisherboat. It tests not only the investigator’s stamina, but also the player’s.

Starting now, as announced two weeks ago, i will switch to a much slower update schedule. Depending on what new things there are to cover and what other ideas for articles i have, expect two, maybe three new articles per month. At least that’s the plan. We’ll see how it shakes out.

Soapbox

The Return to Circle Undone has finally been announced officially. And it looks quite promising. Three weeks ago i posted some wishes for what i want from the box, so let’s see…

For obvious reasons, the article is very light on spoilers regarding scenario changes, so talking about those will likely have to wait until we have this box in our hands in … 3 months or so? Should be around in June, going by previous timeframes between article and actual release.

What we can do however is deduce the replaced encounter sets from the picture on the top of the article. It’s all missing just a couple pixels to be really clear, but i’m pretty sure that Trapped Spirits, Inexorable Fate and Spectral Predators are visible on the Return to Death’s Doorstep scenario card. The fourth is less clear, but since it’s repeated on the Return to Union and Disillusion, it’s probably Realm of Death. Union and Disillusion also shows a replacement for Ancient Evils. Also, we can see another replacement set being shared by Greater Good, Witching Hour and Clutches of Chaos. City of Sins is the only one that fits that bill.

So in summary, that’s Trapped Spirits, Spectral Predators, Inexorable Fate, Ancient Evils, City of Sins, Realm of Death. Six sets, about in line with what we’ve gotten before. My wishes were Anette’s Coven, Inexorable Fate, Ancient Evils, Spectral Predators, Trapped Spirits. Four out of five, i’ll take it!

The article teases a good amount of player cards, which is especially interesting because for the first time, the Return To comes with completely new cards instead of “just” up- or downgrades. This is used to give us more tarot assets and an absolutely fantastic accessory to support that tarot playstyle. I was hoping for a revamped Anna Kaslow, but the new Moon Pendant is so much better than anything i hoped for in that department. And the two spoiled level 3 tarot cards, Star and Hierophant, are also really good. That is quite exciting, the 1011 tarot Lola deck basically builds itself 🙂

The picture shows Sign Magick, Trial by Fire and Well Connected as examples for cards we are getting new versions of. One of those, Sign Magick, was on my wishlist. The other two are cards i am already playing a whole lot, so i am looking forward to getting upgraded ones.

The article also previews a new story ally that is supposed to be at our side for certain scenarios. Now, i don’t know which ones those are, but with that ability to cancel Power treacheries, Erynn MacAoidh breaks Clutches of Chaos wide open. Fingers crossed we can use her there.

And then there’s the tarot deck. We are getting a major arcana with really pretty artwork that can be used to randomly assign modifiers (good and bad) to our plays. Sounds cool enough. This is the sort of thing i will likely use only rarely once i have done so a few times, but i like this sort of fun bonus stuff.

So yeah, gimme gimme gimme. Looks great.

One more thing

This was the final Weekly Evil, at least for now this series goes on hiatus. I contemplated doing a Monthly Evil instead, but settled on not tying myself to a schedule like that anymore. If i have something to talk about, i will just do so in a news post. I rewired the top menu a bit to reflect this. The News&Articles section is a bit barren right now (it’s the Weekly Evils and the Well Prepared series), but i got some things in the works … 😉

Devil Reef

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Agents of Hydra, Creatures of the Deep, Malfunction, Rising Tide

Size of the Encounter Deck33
# Enemies9
# Willpower5
# Agility9
# Intellect2
# Doom0
# Damage9
# Horror6

My take on this encounter deck: This is a big encounter deck, which is fitting for this somewhat long scenario. Featuring a lot of locations that are laid out in randomized islands, there is a lot of ground for the investigators to cover. Their goal is finding all of the keys, which are seperated into 4 minor keys and 3 major keys here. Grabbing the major ones requires having combinations of the minor ones first, so it is very likely that the players will need to backtrack to islands they already visited earlier. Helping with that is the fishing vessel, a vehicle that saves up actions by allowing one person to move the whole group – kind of like a twisted take on the player card Safeguard. On the other hand, crossing the ocean locations that are connecting these islands takes up a lot of extra actions without the boat, so splitting up the group is likely not going to be sensible.
As is custom for such open scenarios with lots of locations, the enemies are mostly Hunters, which of course plays well with the need for backtracking and the fact that these enemies are not in any way impeded by the ocean locations. There are two particularly big enemies around: The Lloigor from the Agents of Hydra set and the scenario specific Terror of Devil Reef. The Terror is a massive kraken thing that, depending on how Pit of Despair went, is either tough to kill or impossible to kill. Evading it will be the most likely course of action, meaning that it crosses the players paths every time they set out to move to another island.
This is substituted by a good number of treacheries that deal damage and/or horror, chipping away at their sanity and stamina over time. As a result, preserving you mental and physical health in the face of all those hunters is important.
A large number of treacheries also deals with keeping players out of the boat or punishing them for being in the boat. The ocean locations are dangerous places to be and this scenario does a very good job of getting that across.
I like this scenario a whole lot. Wide open maps like this just do it for me and the two-layered approach to randomizing the locations gives this scenario a great deal of replayability. It’s also challenging and features a cool boss monster. Good stuff.
Cancel these: Horrors from the Deep/Shapes in the Water. I am usually not one to be too concerned about this sort of treacheries, but in absence of doom acceleration in the deck the damage and horror coming from the encounter deck becomes the primary limiter to how long you can survive Devil Reef. Especially if someone is particularly vulnerable due to having either low stamina or sanity from the start, protecting those precious points is worth keeping up cancels for. Be aware that this scenario uses Agents of Hydra, so there are a few cards in here that cause random discard. These can pull saved up cancels from your hand as well.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: One of the two scenario specific Deep One Hunters, the Predator is significantly more difficult to fight than it is to evade, making it somewhat resilient despite having only 2 health. Whenever the Predator engages an investigator, that investigator has to move one of their clues or keys onto the Predator. Whoever defeats or evades it, gets control of all clues and keys on it.

My take: Not so bad. It is another Hunter in a scenario that is already full of them, however. If that wasn’t the case, i would be tempted to just let it live, but considering that there’s alredy so many enemies roaming around, i would really prefer to kill it. Most armed fighters shouldn’t find that too difficult and 2 stamina is also in the range of many damage events.

Threat level: Low. It has weak attacks and its engagement ability is also not that impactful.

Dealing with it: Even if it gets to attack once or twice, i would be more worried about the lost actions for evading it multiple times than i would be about the horror dealt by its attacks.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The other scenario specific enemy around, this Hunting Deep One is more dangerous than the Predator. It does have a more balanced stat line with 3s across the board. Especially the difference between 2 and 3 health is quite relevant. It also has a more impactful engagement ability: The investigator that was engaged either has to leave its vehicle or, if they weren’t in the fisher boat to begin with, has to lose 2 resources. While the investigator stays engaged with the Hunting Deep One, they are also able to board the vehicle again or gain more resources.

My take: This little guy can be a pain. By pulling an investigator out of the boat, it can force the whole team to drop whatever they where doing and fight this thing before they can move on. In some situations, this will also dictate the order in which players will want to act as the one who went over board will surely want to be able to re-enter the vehicle on their turn.
The resource loss can be very hard as well during the first turns. Dropping a 3/3/3 on the party while they are still preparing and possibly stopping one investigator from playing their assets as they planned can be a severe annoyance.
With its 3 health it also either asks the players to spend two actions on defeating it or using some of their burst damage to deal all 3 in one blow. There are some other big threats in this scenario where those (usually quite limited) resources would also be very important, so this is actually a relevant choice. Spending two actions on this to preserve your Razors, Plans, Backstabs and One-Two-Punches for when the Winged One and/or the Kraken show up might be a good idea.

Threat level: Medium. As far as ghoul-sized enemies go, this one is about as dangerous as it gets due to the context it is used in.

Dealing with it: I highly suggest not letting this live. While there is certainly some merit to evading a lot of the enemies in Devil Reef, this is one i wouldn’t want to have to engage over and over again. Both the resource loss and the restriction from vehicles can have some dire consequences if things go bad.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Dragged Under enters the investigator’s threat area and immediately forces them to leave any vehicle they were in. To discard it, a player at its location needs to spend an action, then pass either a strength or agility test. While affected by Dragged Under, the investigator is unable to enter vehicles.

My take: Devil Reef might be the first scenario that introduces vehicles into ArkhamLCG, but at the same time it seems to be hellbent on keeping players out of them. Between Dragged Under, Hunting Deep One and Malfunction, this fishing vessel is maybe the most unreliable boat i have ever seen anywhere 🙂
Dragged Under itself isn’t all that problematic, but since it appear in tandem with Malfunction here, a solo investigator would need to be able to pass both intellect and either strength or agility tests to keep being able to use their boat. For many investigators that might be an issue. Investigator teams have it much easier here, since they will usually have someone who is at least somewhat decent for any of the skills.

Threat level: Low to Mid. It’s a lost action at best, but there is some urgency to it.

Dealing with it: As usual, remember that anyone at the treacheries location can take the action and test to discard it and not only the one who has it in their threat area. Like with the Hunting Deep One, this card might have some impact on the order in which players take their turn, so the one who does the test goes before the one who just had to leave the vehicle.

What it does: This is a group of threacheries that deals damage and/or horror to the players when drawn. All of them are particularly dangerous to players who are currently at flooded locations, which usually means on board of the boat.
Stowaway affects everyone who is currently on board of the vehicle. Each of them has to either take 1 damage and horror or be forced to leave their vehicle without being able to enter it again for the rest of the round. Should no investigator be inside a vehicle, Stowaway instead surges.
Horrors from the Deep asks the player to pass an agility test. If they don’t they are dealt 2 damage. Similarly, Shapes in the Water requires a successful willpower test from the player or they are dealt 2 horror. The difficulty of the tests on Horrors and Shapes are increased on flooded and even more so on fully flooded locations.

My take: This is a series of cards that deal damage and horror to players on high seas. It’s a potent package that stacks up very well with the rest of the scenario. As is so often the case with this sort of treachery, they are not exactly terrifying by themselves, but drawing multiples can wear someone down. Between the smaller hunters and the bigger monsters, and the engagement effects of some Deep Ones, it’s easy to collect some damage and horror here and there. Devil Reef is also a scenario that takes a while to play through, so there is plenty of opportunity to draw these treacheries.
Managing the loss of sanity and stamina can be tricky and is one of the more difficult challenges of Devil Reef. If using soak to create a buffer for your own health isn’t an option, then you might want to limit the time you spend at flooded locations. Doing so will avoid Stowaway completely and keep the difficulty of the other two cards manageable.

Threat level: Low to Mid individually, but the whole package is actually a lot more impactful than that.

Dealing with it: There are plenty of good reasons to not stay on the boat for too long. By mostly staying on the islands and possibly making good use of the Underwater Cavern locations, you can make yourself less vulnerable to these treacheries. And to Dragged Under and Hunting Deep One as well, while you are at it.
The option to leave the vehicle on Stowaway i would only take in dire emergencies. Leaving the vehicle means that either the rest of the group has to wait for next turn when you can rejoin them in the boat to move on. Or you have to swim the rest of the way. Neither option seems worth a point of damage and horror to me in the majority of cases.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Aquatic Ambush is put into play next to the agenda, where it stays until the end of the round. While in play, attacking enemies at flooded locations becomes more difficult, requiring players to reveal an additional chaos token.

My take: Obviously, this is bad news if you were planning on killing something this turn. Revealing two chaos tokens means not only that the potential negative modifier to the test can be a lot higher, it also doubles the chances of drawing the autofail.
In some situations this can be bypassed at the cost of taking an attack of opportunity by dragging the engaged enemy over to a non-flooded location. But most of the time it will be the choice between either risking the now much more difficult attack or going for an evasion instead. Drawing this just as you were going to fight the kraken would pretty much be the worst case… but then again, it very often does very little as well and then automatically discards itself at the end of the round. It’s a very swingy card.

Threat level: Medium. There will be many turns when this is drawn and doesn’t matter at all. But when it does, it’s very impactful. This is a card that goes up in value with player count, as it increases the chance of drawing both this and a tough enemy in the same turn.

Dealing with it: The default way of reacting to this treachery becoming active is probably to prioritize evasion for the rest of the turn – or to not get into fights in the first place. This is of course not always going to be an option and that is when this treachery can severely limit your options of how to deal with any engaged creatures. Investigators who have testless damage options available may want to save them for such an emergency.

Malfunction

Set Size2
Number of unique Cards1
RoleIntellect
Threat LevelLow
# of scenarios2
Variants
Appears in: Devil Reef, Horror in High Gear
Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Malfunction is attached to the nearest vehicle, where it stays until an investigator at the location spends and action and passes an Intellect test. While attached, the action abilities on the vehicle can not be used.

My take: This card plays very differently depending on the scenario. During Devil Reef, it attaches to the fisher boat and until the treachery is discarded, it can not move around. Fairly simple. The intellect test isn’t too bad either. So unless you are playing solo with a low-intellect investigator, this will just take one or two actions. Could be a bit of a pain when the kraken is around, but otherwise it’s probably fine. Things are a bit different during Horror in High Gear. For one, the time pressure is much bigger there than it is in Devil Reef. Often, you will have only one turn to deal with your location and having to allocate actions towards discarding Malfunction is a much bigger ask. Also, during High Gear, this card doesn’t actually stop the car from moving. In fact, it stops the car from stopping! These two circumstances make it play very differently between those two scenarios and i appreciate that a lot.

Threat level: Low. Ultimately it can be discarded in an action by most investigator teams, so on paper that’s not a big deal.

Dealing with it: In Devil Reef, there isn’t much choice. You need the fishing vessel (unless it’s late in the scenario), so you will need to discard the card. During Horror in High Gear, an argument can be made that you can let this thing stay attached if you can spare the action that would now be missing on investigating the location. It’s worth pointing out that Alter Fate does an excellent job of discarding this, bypassing the test and not even taking up the action. A cancel would have a similar effect, of course.

Agents of Hydra

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleWillpower, Random Discard, Enemy
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios2
Variants
Appears in: Devil Reef, Into the Maelstrom

My take on this set: Random discard is one of those few effects that impact pretty much every player, no matter what investigator they are playing. No matter if you are built around skills like Amanda and Silas, around events like Diana or Sefina or around assets like Leo or Daisy… ultimately you put a lot of value into the cards in your hand, the resources spent on them and the order in which to play them. And that is exactly where this set attacks by adding four sources of random discard to the deck. All of these cards also potentially cost the players valuable actions, the other other big bottleneck for how much the players can achieve in the time they have.
This is quite the impactful little set that isn’t even used until the investigators are four scenarios deep into the campaign.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: The Lloigor boasts some impressive stats that are usually reserved for Elite enemies. While it is not Elite, it does indeed rewards players with a victory point for defeating it, though. The Lloigor is an aloof Hunter enemy, following the investigators around but not attacking at first. Instead, any player at this enemy’s location has to discard a random card during each enemy phase. If any investigator has no cards in hand, Lloigor loses Aloof and goes on the offense.

My take: “Ach! Hans, run! It is the Lloigor!” Running away from this thing is sensible, as it’s quite big and takes a while to beat down. Especially if you also need to spend an action to engage it, hoping to take it down in one turn takes some serious firepower and/or teamwork. It is not an elite enemy, and there are some ways to abuse that, but the 4 agility do at least make it put some resistance up against Waylay, the most common anti-non-Elite tech.
Random discard is always something worth avoiding. Even someone with a full grip of cards can be severely impacted by having to ditch the one card they were holding on to. And this overgrown Whippoorwill can even hit multiple investigators at the same time.

Threat level: High to Very High. A consistent drain on cards or a one-time big drain on actions, ammo and/or charges. Either way, this is a card that will take an above average amount of resources to deal with.

Dealing with it: If you want to defeat it, you ideally have either someone with an empty hand of cards to bait it into losing aloof or a card like Spectral Razor or Get Over Here to skip the engagement action. But even if you do, you will likely need a full turn (or more, if the chaos bag isn’t cooperating) to take this thing out. It’s a victory point that you will actually have to earn.
If you want to run from it, that is of course a possibility. Especially Devil Reef is a massive map and you can put a good amount of space between yourself and the Lloigor if you want to. Just be aware that you are running from another big enemy in that scenario and you don’t want to get stuck between them…

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: The investigator has to discard a random card, then take a willpower test. The difficulty of that test scales with the cost of the discarded card. If they fail, they also lose an action. Should the player have no cards in hand when they draw Psychic Pull, the card isntead surges.

My take: I hate this thing. Random discard is annoying as hell. Losing actions is really something to avoid in between all those Hunter enemies that the Innsmouth campaign throws at you. And having three of them in the deck just makes it so much worse on all fronts. Among other things, these are really good at pulling cancel events out of your mystic player’s hand. What a package. Don’t get me wrong, this is a well designed card and i like that it exists. I just wish i wouldn’t draw it ALL. THE. TIME.

Threat level: Medium. Has a guaranteed effect that is already in line with many other encounter cards, but then has a chance to cost another action on top.

Dealing with it: There’s not much you can do here about the card itself except making sure that you have enough cards in hand to feed into this to protect your more important ones. Of course, due to the nature of random discard this isn’t fool proof, but at least that would reduce your chances of having to discard something important.
Important assets should be played rather sooner than later if you know this card is in the encounter deck. Sure, you might not immediately need that weapon, but rather play it now than having to discard it next turn when you do actually need it. Obviously, event heavy players do not have this option, but at least they tend to have more cards in hand in general. Another reason to get those assets into play is that they often cost more resources than events, making it more likely that the willpower test fails when you’d have to discard them.