The Heart of Madness, part II: Stirring in the Deep

Encounter sets in this scenario: The Heart of Madness, Stirring in the Deep, Ancient Evils, Chilling Cold, Striking Fear(parts of), Agents of the Unknown, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Penguins
Available experience: 2 (Unsealed Phantasms) + 10 (Resolution) = 12XP

Size of the Encounter Deck37
# Enemies6
# Willpower15
# Agility3
# Doom5
# Damage3
# Horror5
# Tekeli-li10

Synopsis: Whatever nameless horror has been sealed away in the installation of the Elder Things, it’s starting to seep through and break free. The investigators have to make sure this doesn’t happen by destroying the City of the Elder Things and everything below it. Specifically, five pillars hold up the structure and destroying those will lead to everything collapsing. Of course, once that is done, the team also has to flee the place in time…

My take on this scenario: The second part of Heart of Madness concludes the Edge of the Earth campaign. We usually go into these campaign finales with a certain expectation of what expects us and i have to say, this one isn’t really one to meet all these expectations. This isn’t always bad, in the end Heart of Madness #2 is a fine scenario, but like part 1, it’s also not that impressive either.
The Ancient One here is certainly creative and different. Spread across 15 cards, it takes over the map and gradually smothers the players in its presence. That’s a cool mechanic, but it also kinda doesn’t make for a very satisfying resolution… after all you aren’t actually able to defeat it in any way.
Like the Innsmouth finale, this scenario also suffers from being a bit too easy. Now, it should be said that taken by itself, the difficulty here is good. There’s some challenging enemies and treacheries, there’s lots of ground to cover and destroying the pylons does take some effort. However, if you go into this scenario with a few of the seals from Heart of Madness #1, this difficulty shatters dramatically. Those seals are incredibly powerful and if you have three or more of them (or just the right one, really) destroying the pylons becomes almost trivial and in turn the whole balancing for the time pressure is off. Especially the seal that lets players deal extra damage with each source of damage to a pylon is kinda nuts.

Scenario specific encounter sets: As in part 1, Primeval Terror and Roots of the Earth take the part of being the Grasping Hands/Rotting Remains ersatz. Because of this, Rotting Remains actually stays in the box despite the rest of the Striking Fear set being used here. The scenario specific set, Stirring in the Deep, only adds a pair of enemies to the deck. The Unsealed Phantom guards the Mist-Pylon locations and investigators will need to get past it if they want to try and damage those pillars.

Act/Agenda: There are basically two parts to the scenario. In the first, the investigators have to destroy the five pylons. Once that is done, they have to get out in the second part. For the first part, there’s one act card and two agenda cards. The act states the terms for advancing (destroying all Myst-Pylons) and provides an ability to use clues for damaging the pylons. The first agenda has a threshold of only 3, basically offering a short setup period before the scenario goes into full swing. Once it advances, the Nameless Madness enters play and all investigators have to resolve all of the Tekeli-li in their decks (and then return them to their decks!). The second agenda card doesn’t have any doom threshold, instead a copy of Nameless Madness enters play whenever a doom would be put into play. If fifteen copies of Nameless Madness are in play, the agenda advances.
The second part begins if either the act card or the second agenda card advances and consists of only one card that is both act and agenda. It states the goal (“Run!”) for the last bit of the campaign. Interestingly, it doesn’t have a fail condition. Instead the scenario relies on The Nameless Madness being able to eventually overwhelm the players.

The Nameless Madness: This is the final boss of the campaign… sort of. The Nameless Madness consists of fifteen (!!!) copies of the same card, which come into play over time until they cover the map. This replaces the usual doom counter for the first part of the scenario. The Nameless Madness can not be defeated or even damaged, but players can exhaust multiples by oversucceeding on evasion or fight tests. The difficulty for these tests does scale with player count, making this enemy a whole lot more dangerous in big groups. At 3 and 4 players, the Alert and Retaliate keywords even become a major issue to care about here. It would pay off very well if you have someone like Winifred for this scenario who can evade a lot of Nameless Ones at once or Tony Morgan who can turn his firepower into a similarly good tool to keep these in check.
For the second part of the scenario, these gain Hunter and will thus start to stack up on each other. This can make it very difficult or even impossible for investigators to escape as they would need to evade too many of them and still be able to move (which is further complicated by the mechanics of the Titanic Ramp) or would have to take a lot of attacks of opportunity.

Enemies: Like in Heart of Madness #1, there aren’t a whole lot of enemies around, but the ones that are in the deck are quite relevant. The penguins make a return here and together with the ever expanding mass of Nameless Madnesses, a lot of locations quickly become hard to navigate. The Unsealed Phantasm are sturdy and need to be defeated (or at least exhausted) to get to the pylons they guard. At least they have Victory, so you only need to defeat them once. There’s two copies of the Phantasm in the deck. Finally, Primordial Evil is another resilient enemy that can take a couple of hits and is able to dish out a good amount of pain itself. Consider evading it, since that is easy to do and you will likely be in motion throughout the scenario anyways.

Tekeli-li: The final scenario of the campaign once more uses the seemingly omnipresent Nameless Horrors and its signature card, Blasphemous Visions. That alone is enough to make Tekeli-li worth caring about. Also be aware of the effect on the back of the first agenda: Once the first three doom are done, that agenda advances and all Tekeli-li from the player decks are resolved in random order, then shuffled back into the player decks. This can be immensely painful. If possible, consider purging Tekeli-li from your deck with William Dyer’s option during the third interlude (following City of Elder Things).

Seal locations and Mist-Pylons: Any inactive seals that the players got during Heart of Madness #1 are transferred into Heart of Madness #2 and the locations to turn those seals active are still around. Do note however that the locations where the seals are first picked up are replaced by the Myst-Pylons now, so any seal that wasn’t picked up in HoM#1 isn’t available during HoM#2 at all. Obviously that means that these locations are without a function (aside from providing clues) if you skipped HoM#1.
The Mist-Pylons are what the players are seeking to destroy in this scenario. The difficulty to attack them is determined by their shroud, while the clue value is their amount of hit points. At all of the pylons, one of the seals can be used if it is activated and will give an impactful bonus towards “defeating” these locations.

Other notable locations: The rest of the location grid is the same as in Heart of Madness #1. Please see that article for details.

The escape: For the final bit of the scenario (of the campaign, actually), the players have to flee the compound using the Titanic Ramp. The ramp consists of four locations in random order that the players have to pass through. To get from one location to the next, they need to either pass agility tests or spend clues. By itself, this isn’t terribly difficult, but you do have to ward off the growing number of Nameless Madnesses at the same time. Some of the encounter cards can also really throw a wrench into the works here, most importantly the penguin and Frozen in Fear.

Suggested partner assets: Both Cookie and Eliyah can help a lot with exhausting the Nameless Madnesses, especially when they are resolute and are able to do so as a free action. Other than that, just use whoever fits your deck/investigator the best.

Reward and Failure: The reward for completing this scenario is winning the campaign! Congrats! You gain a bunch of XP and some complimentary trauma, both of which are just for flavor, of course.
The penalty for failing is… well, failing the campaign. All investigators go insane and it was all for nothing. Oh no! Not optimal, try to avoid this!

The Heart of Madness, part I: The Great Seal

Encounter sets in this scenario: The Heart of Madness, The Great Seal, Ancient Evils, Locked Doors, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Penguins, Shoggoths
Available experience: 5 (Active Seals) + 1 (Rampaging Shoggoth) = 6XP

Size of the Encounter Deck29
# Enemies7
# Willpower7
# Agility5
# Doom5
# Damage5
# Horror7
# Tekeli-li9

Synopsis: Reaching the final destination of their journey, the team decides to investigate the gate that locks away the ancient evil closer. They discover magical seals that can be turned active to aid them with defeating the thing behind the gate. Those seals have to be handled with care, having multiple active ones in the same place would have cataclysmic consequences.

My take on this scenario: Heart of Madness #1 is an optional scenario that allows preparing for the finale by acquiring a couple of seals that will prove quite useful in Heart of Madness #2. Considering that this is near the end of the campaign, this scenario isn’t all that difficult, so you’ll absolutely want to do this one.
Handling the seals is interesting enough to do. Especially the first half of the scenario when you are still exploring the locations, hoping to find matching pairs that allow securing a seal is good fun and rewards the sort of mobility that you needed for previous scenarios as well. Note that this scenario uses a total of 16 locations and that they are arranged in a way that will bust most kitchen tables, though 😀 This might be the Arkham scenario that requires the most table space.
This is a rock solid scenario that i don’t have any major complaints about. The encounter deck is a bit generic and the low amount of enemies can lead to a couple of turns that are somewhat uneventful. But the locations offer enough of play to make this scenario worth visiting for sure.

Scenario specific encounter sets: The first of another multi-part scenario, Heart of Madness #1 uses an encounter set that is shared between both Heart of Madness scenarios and an encounter set that is unique to it.
The shared one (aptly named “Heart of Madness”) adds two treacheries that provide yet another variant on the template provided by Rotten Remains and Grasping Hands back in the Core: Test agility or suffer damage, test willpower or suffer horror. The unique twist this time is that the difficulty scales with the distance from the central location.
The encounter set for this specific scenario adds another treachery that deals horror and damage in Electrostatic Discharge. It surges and makes it just a bit more dangerous to hold those seals for too long. Protoplasmic Mass from the same set is one of the few enemies in here and it’s actually quite dangerous, especially for anyone with an activated seal in their possession.

Act/Agenda: Both the act and agenda deck are fairly straightforward. The act deck states the goal of the scenario: Find seals, activate them and place them on the central location. The first seal placed this way gives a special bonus, depending on the seal.
The agenda offers a total threshold of 17 doom, distributed over three cards. On advancing the first agenda, yet another mid-scenario interlude tries to kill off a random team member. This time, the loss can be averted if a specific other partner is around, though. When the agenda advances again, everyone who holds a seal is being punished for it – even more so if they hold an active seal. Similar to the bonus on the act, the exact penalty depends on the specific seal. If the agenda runs out completely, everyone is defeated and has to either take a mental trauma or shuffle three Tekeli-li into their deck for the finale. So make sure to resign in time.

Enemies: There is only few enemies in this scenario, but they all have considerable impact. The scenario specific Protoplasmic Mass fits in very well with the rest of the Shoggoths from their set. Together, they are five tough enemies that can hit hard and present a challenge to the fighters in the group. The Mass does have less hit points than the other Shoggoths, but its impressive fight value of 6 makes up for that easily.
The only non-Shoggoth enemies are the penguins which do a good job of being a pest. You need to move around quite a bit in this scenario and especially if you are trying to avoid running into the hunting Shoggoths, the locations that are held by a penguin might as well be barred completely. Having a way to kill them from a connecting location is worth a lot here, for example through the Dynamite campaign asset or a player card like Marksmanship.
Be aware that all of these enemies start in the encounter deck right away, so you might want to brace for drawing Rampaging Shoggoth in your first Mythos phase…

Tekeli-li: Nameless Horrors and Shoggoths are the two sets dealing with Tekeli-li. While there certainly have been scenarios that put a bigger emphasis on these weaknesses, you will probably start playing with a few of them already in your deck, making Blasphemous Visions very relevant right from the start.

Seal locations: All of the play around seals is done through location abilities. There’s a set of five locations like Undercity Altar that bring the seals into play and allow investigators to take control of it. They then have to carry that seal to another location like the Forsaken Temple where they can activate the seal. Finally, the active seal has to be brought to the center location, the Gate of Y’quaa. Due to the size of the map and the locations all starting face down, this requires some initial exploration first to find out what the players are supposed to do and where.

Other notable locations: Aside from the central Gate, two other locations are worth mentioning. The Vaulted Corridor allows investigators to save on actions when moving around, as long as they can pass the agility test. The Subnautical Sprawl offers up a good amount of clues at a low shroud value, ideal for survivors (and investigators with a flashlight) to get some easy clues for use at the seal locations. There are three Corridor and two Sprawl locations on the map.

Suggested partner assets: At this point in the campaign, you should probably just bring whoever fits your deck most and/or who is best at covering up some glaring weaknesses of your investigator.
Both Eliyah and Cookie can be very useful for dealing with the Shoggoths. Especially in their resolute versions, being able to defuse a situation like a bad Tekeli-li (-1 action, discard critical asset) on engaging Forgotten Shoggoth can be a life saver.
Ellsworth can interact with Locked Doors and Miasma, but i wouldn’t think that either of those sets is really worth bringing a silver bullet for.
For the rest, your campaign status is going to be the deciding factor. So sure, bring Danforth or Claypool if you are swamped with weaknesses or Frost tokens.

Reward and Failure: This is another optional scenario, but there’s little reason to skip it. The only price you have to pay for going into Heart of Madness #1 is having to go through another interlude that might make you lose another partner asset. This can be an issue if you are dependent on someone but didn’t have the opportunity to turn them resolute yet. But otherwise, this scenario should definitely be played. It’s rather short and you have the option of resigning through the Gate at any point.
As a reward you can get a handful of XP to buy yourself a last minute upgrade before the finale, but most importantly you gain access to the seals in the final scenario and those are really powerful. Getting three or more active seals here downright trivializes a lot of Heart of Madness #2.

City of the Elder Things

Encounter sets:
Version 1: Locked Doors, Elder Things, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Penguins, Shoggoths
Version 2: Chilling Cold, Creatures in the Ice, Elder Things, Nameless Horrors, Penguins, Silence and Mystery
Version 3: Chilling Cold, Locked Doors, Creatures in the Ice, Miasma, Penguins, Shoggoths
Available experience: 8 (spent keys) +3 (locations) + 1 (Terror of the Stars) + 1 (Rampaging Shoggoth)= 13XP, however note that this is only possible in version 1. Version 2 has neither the Terror nor the Shoggoth, so it’s maximum is 11XP. Version 3 doesn’t have the Terror, so it goes to 12XP.

Size of the Encounter Deck344135
# Enemies121413
# Willpower71010
# Agility535
# Doom225
# Damage434
# Horror565
# Tekeli-li91310
These are the numbers after the first act advanced. At the start of the game, depending on the version of the scenario, either Shoggoths or Creatures in the Ice are set aside at first.

Synopsis: Following the arduous climb up the antarctic mountains, the expedition arrives at the City of the Elder Things and has to make its way deeper into it. There’s three distinct ways through and depending on which members of the group are still alive, a different one is chosen. All three versions of the scenario share the fact that they are played on another huge map made out of 17 locations, but the layout is different for each version. One of the locations needs to be unlocked before the players can progress and to do so, pairs of keys need to be collected from the other 16 locations. Not all of the keys are required, but finding more than the minimum is rewarded very well, so the players will want to push to get the most out of this scenario. Along the way, the investigators have to defend themselves from all sorts of enemies: Shoggoths, elder things, eidolons and the most evil of them all… penguins!

My take on this scenario: This scenario has a whole lot going on at the same time. No matter which version of the map you get, you always will have to traverse a rather large amount of locations. While you do get a ability from the agenda that will help you with moving around, the sheer number of locations and therefore clues to clear means that your seekers will have a lot to do.
The encounter decks are rather large and do contain a number of enemies well above the average. So this scenario is not only heavy on clues, but also on fighting. Tekeli-li again takes a spotlight, with Nameless Horrors, Creatures in the Ice, Miasma, Elder Things and Shoggoths each being present in two of the three scenarios (but thankfully never all of them together).
Looking at the numbers in the table at the top of the page, the breakdown is similar for the three scenarios with only few deviations. There’s a couple things worth noting, though.
Version 2 doesn’t have the Shoggoths, which removes a big headache from the encounter deck. It does at least partially make up for it by being the one with the most Tekeli-li interactions which can spiral out of control. It’s also the only version that uses Silence and Mystery and depending on your Frost token count, Dark Aurora can be a big issue. The large encounter deck also makes version 2 a bit more random and unpredictable than the other two.
Version 3 is the only one using the Benign Elder Thing, which adds some doom mechanics to the proceedings. The only other doom card in the scenario is Wuk Wuk Wuk, and interestingly the Penguin set is the only set that is used in all three versions of City of Elder Things.
I quite like this one. Lots of things to do for everyone and the variety that comes from not only having three versions, but also a lot of variety from the diverse and large encounter decks is appreciated.

Scenario specific encounter sets: Dawning of the Truth and Crumbling Ruins are added to all three version’s encounter decks. They follow the classic template of dealing horror/damage unless the player succeeds at a willpower/agility test. They both have a mechanic that interacts with keys at the players location, but in different ways. Either card is able to deal 3 points of horror/damage. Damage and horror can become threatening if Tekeli-li cards also trigger a lot of it, but especially be on the lookout for horror in version 2, which has Dark Aurora. Two different enemies are also part of the encounter set. Reawakened Elder Thing takes keys from players and can force them to clear their location from clues to recoup the key. It is used in versions 1 and 2. The Benign Elder Thing is only used in version 3. It has doom on it and defeating it will just add the doom to the agenda. So players instead need to parley with willpower to get rid of the doom (and the creature). Of note, the Benign Elder Thing doesn’t have Aloof so if you move into its location, you will have to deal with it. Finally, the Terror of the Stars is back again, at least for version 1.

Act/Agenda: The agenda is shared between all three versions of the scenario. It offers a total of 16 doom over two cards. Also, it provides players with free triggers to spend their clues for movement or for scouting facedown locations. After the first doom threshold of 6 is met, the agenda advances, leading to an interlude that once more has a random team member die.
The three versions all use their own pair of act cards. The first tasks the players with collecting two specific pairs of chaos tokens from the locations. Once those are done, the act advances. At that point, the set aside encounter set is shuffled into the encounter deck and the Hidden Tunnel is revealed opening the exit. Also, another negative effect is triggered, depending on the version the players either have to spawn the Terror of the Stars, add a Frost to the bag or draw encounter cards. The second act gives the final objective of the scenario: Reach the Hidden Tunnel and clear all clues from it. It also offers another opportunity to spend a pair of chaos tokens, for a persistent bonus. Except for version 2, where this bonus merely removes a Tekeli-li from each player deck, these are quite influential. Version 1 allows to heal a trauma per investigator which is nice, but the real jackpot is version 3, which allows purging all Elder Thing tokens from the bag for the rest of the campaign.

Terror of the Stars: This big monster didn’t change much from its previous appearances in Forbidden Peaks and Ice and Death. It’s still a Hunter with an impressive amount of health and it still attacks for 2 damage and horror each with Massive. The new wrinkle here is that it forbids interacting with keys at its location. That isn’t actually that bad and if you aren’t starved for that victory point, evading this enemy and dodging it for the rest of the scenario is a real option.

Other enemies: As mentioned, there are a lot of enemies in this one. Depending on the version, you get some combination of Elder Things, Creatures of the Ice and Shoggoths. All versions also have to deal with Penguins for the first time. This results in a lot of enemy health to chew through, Benign Elder Thing is the only enemy with fewer than 3 stamina. The vast majority of these enemies are hunters, and you will likely not be able to evade them all, so prepare for a fight. The enemies are also where most of the Tekeli-li cards come from, so your enemy handlers will be open to collecting many extra weaknesses.

Locations: The first location among the many in this scenario that is worth talking about is the Hidden Tunnel. It’s where the investigators are trying to get to. At first it’s unrevealed and can’t be entered, but after advancing the act it flips and can be investigated. Clearing it can be done with any attribute, but you aren’t allowed taking shortcuts like discovering the clues with card effects.
Stone Bridge is in the scenario three times and offers another way to move around the map in a more efficient way. Of course it needs to be revealed first to be a viable target for movement, so this is mostly useful for backtracking.
Temple of the Elder things allows switching around keys, again a good tool to save actions on finding the keys you need for advancing the act.
A couple of the locations also allow moving clues around, which is a somewhat unique ability that we’ve not seen before. You can use this for example to bypass Polar Mirage or to make convenient piles of three clues for Deduction(2) or Pilfer. Or simply to shuffle clues to locations with lower shroud value or those that you already took the key from.
Only two of the City Landscapes have victory on them. So it’s usually going to be more useful to grab more keys for XP instead of hunting after these locations.

Suggested partner assets: City of Elder Things has lots of challenges from every direction, therefore you’ll be finding uses for anyone. At this point in the campaign, your choice of partners is probably going to be dictated by who you upgraded via Fatal Mirage and/or who your investigators are and what weaknesses they might need to plug.
The one expedition member worth highlighting is Danforth (especially for enemy handlers) because there’s a lot of Tekeli-li going around here.
There’s not a whole lot of location based treacheries in any version of City of Elder Things, so Ellsworth can probably stay at home for this one.

Reward and Failure: In terms of rewards, there’s a lot to gain here due to the bonuses from collecting pairs of keys and spending them. As mentioned earlier, each version of the scenario has a unique opportunity to get a persistent effect from the second act: Either heal a trauma per player (v1), remove a Tekeli-li per player (v2) or remove all Elder Thing tokens from the bag (v3). Additionally, the Cylindrical Tower location allows removing two Frost tokens in any version. With 11-13XP, there is a nice amount of victory points to gain here as well, although it’s certainly not easy to get all of them. Still, you should walk out of the scenario with a decent amount of XP to spend for the final stretch of the campaign.
On the negative side of things, you will lose another team member here when the agenda advances. Also, you will have to add an Elder Thing token to your bag if you play version 1 or 2. Version 3 does not have this additional token (as mentioned, it even allows purging existing ones).
Failing the scenario by defeat actually doesn’t incur any penalties (except for the usual trauma for being defeated, of course). There’s a slightly different entry made into the campaign log but that doesn’t seem to have any actual effect later on. Having the agenda run out also doesn’t lead to any additional punishment except for missing out on XP and key effects.