Shades of Suffering

Encounter sets in this scenario: Dark Veiling, Mysteries Abound, Scarlet Sorcery, Spreading Corruption, Striking Fear
Available experience: 4 (locations) + 3 (saved geists) + 1 (Tzu San) +1 (using the Reaper against Tzu) = 9XP

Location: Kuala Lumpur (unlocked through Shanghai)
Involved Coterie Members and Keys: Tzu San Niang, The Shade Reaper
Time spent: 1 for the scenario itself, but getting there from Shanghai will require 5 more
Nearest other scenarios: Alexandria, Tunguska (2 time)

Size of the Encounter Deck30
# Enemies2
# Willpower7
# Agility0
# Doom2
# Damage0
# Horror5
# Concealment4
# Hollow0
Please note that in addition to the horror and damage cards in the table above are 4 cards that can cause enemies in the shadows to attack.

Synopsis: Agent Flint is on the tails of Tzu San Niang aka “Lady with Red Parasol”, an exceptionally influential woman. Either with or without Flint’s help, the players make their way from Shanghai over Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur where they finally catch up to her. As they soon learn from a local Bomoh (a Malaysian shaman), Tzu San and her parasol feed on the pain of the restless spirits in three places among the city. To stop the Lady with the Red Parasol, the investigators need to put those spirits to rest and finally confront Tzu San if they want to take possession of the artifact for their own purpose.

My take on this scenario: For better or worse, this is an iteration on the much maligned Wages of Sin from The Circle Undone. The parallels are immediately obvious, with the players being tasked to put spirits to rest using some conditions on the backside of the cards of those spirits. There is a lot of time pressure and efficient use of actions is key to getting somewhere in either scenario. I consider Wages to be one of the (or maybe THE) worst scenarios in the game, so i am happy to see a scenario that improves on it.
That being said, Shades of Suffering has its own problems for sure. Especially all the action taxing that we are exposed to here is too much for me. Far too much. The combination of Spreading Corruption with Striking Fear is already painful enough in other scenarios of the Scarlet Keys campaign, but here it is coupled with a key that takes away actions whenever it shifts and scenario objectives that don’t exactly help the situation. Moving around the locations and activating whatever is required to meet the geist enemies demands takes away a lot of available actions and so does messing around with the concealment part.
This scenario also scales very heavily with time already spent. Depending on how far along the campaign you are, the Shade Reaper already starts with 0, 3, 6 or 9 charges which not only makes the skull token a pain, but also makes Tzu San’s ability in the final confrontation a lot more deadly than it already is. Having more cultist tokens in the chaos bag will also contribute to this by putting charges on the Reaper whenever that token comes up.
One of the biggest differences to me when comparing this scenario to Wages is that there are almost no random enemies around. While Wages would bombard you with a constant barrage of unkillable shades, exploding witches and of course the Watcher, Shades is content with having the scenario mechanics stand on their own. I approve of this.
While i do like Shades of Suffering a lot more than Wages of Sin, i do still think it’s possibly the low point of the Scarlet Keys campaign. Constantly having my actions been taken away is just not any fun to me and the final confrontation also feels a bit cheap and non-interactive to me. You either have to tech fairly heavily for beating the fight or you can just randomly run into a situation where you don’t have the tools to do anything worthwhile. At least you have the option of resigning at any point, so you can just go for the victory points on the locations and hoof it when things start to derail too much.

Scenario specific encounter sets: Two scenario-specific treacheries are added to the encounter deck and looking at them already gives us a preview of how central the Shade Reaper is to this scenario. Spirit Harvest gives a rather difficult choice of dealing damage and horror to everyone or giving Tzu San an opportunity to shift her key and also charge it up. Shifting the key makes everyone lose an action, so whatever the choice, it will affect everyone at the table. Actions, sanity and stamina are all in short supply, so this is going to be an awful card pretty much every time. And since there’s three of them in the deck that’s going to be a frequent occurrence. Excruciate isn’t quite as bad. While it will always place a charge on the Reaper, it will at least give the chance to either pass a willpower test or discard cards to mitigate the damage. There are two copies of Excruciate.

Chaos Tokens: This one is nasty, with none of the symbol tokens being particularly pleasant. The Tablet is the only one of the four that doesn’t tie into the Shade Reaper mechanics. It’s just a -1, but at a location with a Geist another token will have to be revealed, so it becomes quite problematic then. It becomes a lot worse in Hard/Expert, where it’s a -3 and will autofail any test in the presence of a Geist. Oof. The Cultist is a -4 and will put a charge on the Reaper on a fail by 2 or more. Hard cranks this up to -5 and will always put a charge, even on a success. In comparison, the Elder Thing looks almost tame. It’s also a -4, but the player can choose to put a charge on the Reaper to treat it as a 0. Hard increases these numbers to -6 with the option to bring it down to -3. So there’s quite a few large modifiers around, even on Easy/Normal and each test taken during the scenario has the potential to increase the power of the Shade Reaper. An immediate payoff for this power is the Skull token, which is -X. On Easy/Standard, X is half the amount of charges on the Reaper, to a maximum modifier of -6 for the Skull. Hard and Expert just define X as the amount of charges (so no halfsies there) and there is no cap on the modifier either. Seeing the modifier grow to -20 and beyond is absolutely possible and unless you are Jim Culver you can probably expect them to just be extra autofails during the final bits.
This is a chaos bag that pulls no punches, which is oddly appropriate for this scenario.

Act/Agenda: With 3 cards each, there is some meat to both the agenda and the act deck. The scenario is neatly divided into three parts, with a pair of agenda and act cards for each part. The first act has the investigators try to find Tzu San while having a few clues at hand. Not too difficult, but the agenda only offers 3 doom worth of time to do so. Failing to do so is punished rather harshly with the loss of an ally, charges on the Reaper and 1 doom on Tzu San for good measure. No matter if the agenda or act is fulfilled first, getting to that point will trigger an interlude with additional setup that leads to act and agenda 2. Three Geist enemies spawn at seperate locations and Tzu San returns to the shadows, with herself and two decoys at the locations of the Geists. The act tasks the players with bringing the spirits to rest before Tzu can exploit them for her own cause. Tzu will make one such attempt every 3 doom (4 in solo) and the only way to prevent it is either removing her from the shadows in time or pacifying the spirit at her location. This cycle of Tzu returning to the shadows and making attempts at subjugating another geist before the players get to it returns until all geists have left play, either into the victory display or facedown under the Tzu San. The third act sets the stage for the final confrontation with Tzu San and the players will have to defeat her to win Shades of Suffering. The agenda for this has 4 doom and should it run out, everyone is defeated and suffers mental trauma.

Tzu San Niang: She is the primary opponent in Shades of Suffering and defeating her will ultimately win the scenario. But first you will have to stop her (in her “The Lady with the Red Parasol” form) from harvesting spirits to power up her artifact. There’s not much to her at that point and the mechanics are mostly driven by the action economy of making it to the spirits in time. The direct confrontation happens with her “Out for Blood” backside which is one of the most terrifying enemies this campaign throws at you. While her stats make her look rather unimpressive, it’s that Forced effect that can be just utterly devastating. Oversucceeding against her 2 fight or evasion is punished with an amount of horror and damage that is equal to how many point you succeeded by. This ability is limited by the amount of charges on the Reaper, but at this point there are often double digits of charges on the thing even if happened to save most of the Geists. To be able to defeat Tzu without immediately defeating yourself as well, you will need to manage at least one of the following:
– Keep the number of charges on the Reaper low. This is very difficult to do and will pretty much require you to go to this scenario early in your campaign to avoid starting changes through passed time and to keep the number of Cultist tokens in the bag low.
– Be able to take the pain. If you have exceptional amounts of soak at your disposal, then you might just be able to power through what the Reaper inflicts on you.
– Have testless damage available. If you don’t have to take tests, you can’t oversucceed and thus you won’t trigger the Reaper’s wrath. Shoutout to Brother Xavier for both bringing exceptional soak and testless damage.
– Don’t oversucceed (much). I feel like i have to mention this, but i don’t really see how you can plan for it. With the chaos bag being as nasty as it is, keeping your fight value low (by maybe attacking without a weapon) in hopes of not succeeding by too much just will make you fail … and of course Tzu San also has Retaliate to punish that! I suppose you can at least hold back your Overpowers and Darings.

The Geists: There are three different Geist enemies and the players should try and banish them before Tzu San can exploit them. Doing so requires defeating the enemy while having one of the special actions on the locations already fulfilled. It’s not strictly required to defeat these Geists in the first part of the scenario, but failing to do so will put them into play alongside Tzu San in the last part while also putting more charges on the Shade Reaper. You are awarded a Victory point for each geist you save from being exploited by the Shade Reaper.

Other enemies: The only other enemy in this campaign is the Coterie Envoy from the Mysteries Abound set. This guy is quite annoying here as he limit you options when it comes to sniffing out Tzu San among her decoys to buy time. At the same time he can, between his 3 health and Aloof, take away a complete turn to be defeated. So either way, he increases the time pressure on the players in a big way.

Treacheries: This is a very narrow-minded encounter deck that does two things and it does them in a horribly efficient manner. On the one side are cards that deal damage and/or horror to the players, from cards like Seeing Shadows over In Plain Sight to Rotting Remains. On the other side are cards that take actions away. Like the Marrakesh scenario, Shades of Suffering combines Spreading Corruption with Striking Fear to make sure players barely get to take turns. However, Shades cranks this up further with the Shift ability on the Shade Reaper itself, which will take actions away from everyone through the scenario-specific Spirit Harvest and even the surging Key Charge.

Locations: The location grid isn’t anything too special. There’s a total of seven of them making up Kuala Lumpur and players are going to need to backtrack between rather often to find the correct location abilities that match with whatever the Geists are requiring to be put to rest. A resign location is available right from the start *wink wink nudge nudge*

Reward and Failure: Apart from the sheer satisfaction of putting this horrible person in her place, there are a total of 9XP to gain here. Four of them are on locations and another one of the boss enemy itself, so these aren’t hard to miss. One more is awarded for each geist you manage to pacify before Tzu San gets to them. If you get the final one will depend on a choice you have to make in the resolution: either use the Shade Reaper against Tzu San or don’t. If you do, you get the XP, but you will also gain a physical trauma. You will also put Tzu San under your sway which will have her abstain from the final vote.
Should you spare her, you won’t get either XP or trauma, but you will “not have seen the last of” Tzu San and she will vote against you in the finale.
Either outcome will make you the new proud owner of the world’s most horrifying umbrella. As impressive as it was in Tzu San’s hands, it’s considerably less so in yours. It does have a very useful ability that moves enemies and possibly makes them attack each other, however the steep cost to flip it back from Unstable to Stable put a strong limiter on how often you can take advantage of it.
Should you lose the scenario, either through full defeat or resignation, you’ll at least keep the XP from the locations and any geists you managed to put to rest already, but of course the Shade Reaper stays with Tzu. And since she is going to be added to the “not seen last of” list, you might run into her with that thing in hand in later scenarios which can be rather annoying. Her “Whisper in Your Ear” form that follows you around is a rather generic Hunter with high fight and evade values and Retaliate to make further use of those stats. Oversucceeding against her will make her shift her key, but at least that doesn’t deal damage anymore, it will “just” cost your team an action each. She’s a respectable enemy but not much worse than for example the Red-Gloved Man.

Secret War

Set Size6
Number of unique Cards3
RoleEnemy, Willpower, Hollow
Threat LevelLow to Mid
# of scenarios3
Appears in: Dancing Mad, Without a Trace, Congress of the Keys (all)

My take on this set: This set is mostly notable to me for Secrets Lost. Most campaigns do have some sort of treachery that potentially discards a lot of cards from a player’s hand and i consistently find those very hard to play around if i am unable to meet whatever tests are on them. Mimic is a bit too dependent on a card from another set to really matter, but it is a card from a set that is always used when Secret War is. Finally, Memory Variant only pulls its weight in one of the scenarios unless your deck is particularly vulnerable to having key cards removed (…which is a bad idea in Scarlet Keys in the first place…).
So in total this is a bit of a mixed bag of conditionally relevant cards propped up by a potent mass discard treachery. Fair enough.
I feel like this set is let down by a lack of good payoffs for the hollow mechanic. By itself it’s really good at setting those up however. If there was some other way for hollow cards to matter in one of the encounter sets commonly used with Secret War, the distinction between removing something and having it in the discard would be a lot more relevant.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Otherworldly Mimic doesn’t engage the player directly, instead it hangs back with Aloof and follows them around with Hunter. While ready and in the same location as an investigator, it will attack that player whenever they play, commit or activate a card which has a copy in the set-aside hollows. This attack deals 2 horror, so it’s rather threatening. Once engaged, it is not all that difficult to defeat.

My take: Otherworldly Mimic tries to go for a similar line of play as the Paradigm Effacer from Agents of the Outside: Hang around aloof, trigger the occasional attack and threaten to come down if the player happens to draw Matter Inversion. I don’t think it succeeds at being as much of a balanced threat as Effacer is, though. For one, it’s ability barely ever triggers, so it’s much easier to ignore and just have it stick around. And if you do want to get rid of it, that’s also much easier, as the difference between 2 and 3 health here is huge. Even if you have to engage it first, defeating it in two actions is not all that difficult. And if you have something like Blood-Rites or Sneak Attack that deals damage to unengaged enemies you can even do it in one.
Mimic has a rather high evasion difficulty, but that matters very little as you’ll very rarely have situations where you evade enemies with Aloof.

Threat level: Low. Mostly a vehicle for Matter Inversion from a different set and often completely ignorable on its own.

Dealing with it: As it has only 2 health and not a particularly noteworthy fight value or combat ability, Mimic is easy enough to handle by a fighter. Most cards that deal damage to enemies at your location are also able to defeat this cleanly and without much fuss.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Following a failed willpower test, the player has to hollow one card from their hand for each point they failed by. As a silver lining, succeeding by 2 or more allows the player to regain one of their hollows to their hand if they are willing to take 1 horror for it.

My take: This is one of the cards from The Scarlet Keys that i dread the most. As someone who enjoys their low willpower rogues, this card has the potential to just shred my hand. Thankfully it is limited to 3 cards, so it isn’t quite a repeat of Innsmouth’s “Memory of Oblivion”. But it’s still plenty rough. Even high willpower investigators can easily lose a card or two to this treachery and just the threat of an autofail can of course mean the same for anyone.
Secrets Lost gets additional power from being one of the few ways the game has to set up the various hollow synergies on some encounter cards in a consistent way.
Succeeding by 2 or more can get you a card back, which is nice to see on a treachery. It will only rarely come up (it hasn’t for me yet after playing more than 4 full campaigns…) but when it happens it’s going to feel good… that point of sanity you have to pay for the card is a real cost as well, though.

Threat level: Mid. Shreds your hand and sets up various synergies with hollow for further punishment down the road.

Dealing with it: The Scarlet Keys doesn’t test willpower overly much, but when it does the repercussions of failing are fairly harsh. Therefore is pays to have plans for passing a couple of these tests in your decks, for example by including cards like Savant or Defensive Stance in your decks that can give you 3+ icons.
Of course, even a Promise of Power for +4 won’t reliably make a 1 willpower investigator pass this treachery so anyone vulnerable to the treachery should probably anticipate it and keep a couple sacrificial cards in their hand if possible.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Memory Variant stays in play next to the agenda until an investigator spends and action and succeeds at a rather difficult willpower test. While active, any events played by any investigator is hollowed instead of discarded.

My take: Often you can almost ignore this thing because just losing a couple cards in itself matters only if you use recursion or plan on cycling through your deck often. And even then, it needs to be drawn rather early to have an impact. Getting it in the later half of the scenario is almost a free draw. I say “Almost”, because notably this is one of the better cards for setting up hollow synergies. Also there are a few event based investigators like Sefina or Nathan that will have this become rather worrisome. In terms of payoffs, there isn’t really a whole lot. This set has the Mimic and for Dancing Mad that’s already it. Congress of the Keys adds Substance Dissimilation from the Outsider set as a potent payoff. But the real important scenario for this card is of course Without a Trace where the number of hollowed cards plays into the scenario mechanisms.

Threat level: Low to Mid. Can be a freebie and unless you are playing Without a Trace, this usually isn’t going to impact you too much, …

Dealing with it: … however *when* it does bother you because you are one of the investigators or deck types this targets and you drew it early enough to matter, it’s remarkably difficult to remove. Increasing the difficulty on the test to 4 from the more standard 3 makes this a big bother to get rid off.

Dead Heat

Encounter sets in this scenario: Scarlet Sorcery, Spreading Corruption, Ghouls, Striking Fear
Available experience: 1 (Amaranth) + 1 (Khalid) +2 (more civvies saved than dead) + 2 (twice amount of saved than dead) = 6XP

Location: Marrakesh
Involved Coterie Members and Keys: Amaranth, Razin Farhi, The Last Blossom
Time spent: 1-2 time (2 only if you restore Amaranth to her real self, 1 in all other cases)
Nearest other scenarios: Alexandria, Havana, Istanbul (2 time), Anchorage, Buenos Aires (3 time)

Size of the Encounter Deck32
# Enemies8
# Willpower7
# Agility3
# Doom2
# Damage5
# Horror3
# Concealment0
# Hollow0
Note: These numbers do not include the two copies of Ancient Raider and the unique Khalid elite enemy. Those three cards do start out of play and enter the deck as the acts advance.

Synopsis: Following reports of dead people walking the streets, the investigators arrive in Marrakesh to confront Amaranth, the likely source of the troubles. What follows is straight out of a zombie movie, with risen dead and ghouls feasting on the remaining survivors. It’s the group’s job to fulfill two goals at the same time: Stop Amaranth, gaining control of her key. And save as many civilians as possible before they are slain by the enemy horde. Sounds simple enough, right?

My take on this scenario: You know how the scenarios have some sort of dossier coming with them and how those have a sort of threat rating at the top? For Amaranth, the dossier says “Subject Class: Red.” and they aren’t kidding around. This is basically your only warning to not just stumble into this scenario right after Riddles and Rain on your blind playthrough and get absolutely slaughtered.
Marrakesh takes a break from what is going on everywhere else in Scarlet Keys mechanically, with not an Outsider or concealed enemy in sight. Instead we are getting the first real zombie apocalypse scenario (unless you count The Gathering) and its a doozy. It’s actually a really simple scenario in concept and mechanisms, just put a bunch of small enemies in a cramped arena and add an Elite or two. And voila – panic in the streets of Marrakesh and on the table in my house as well. This is a stressful scenario to play that pushes fighty characters to their limits. With the amount of enemies around, even the usually less combat-ready characters are sort of expected to chip in – even if it’s just throwing a few Blood-Rites, Toe to Toes or Improvised Weapons around to take some of the heat from the dedicated fighters that have to deal with Amaranth, Khalid and Razin.
What makes this scenario really stand out as so difficult is two things. For one, the encounter deck has some nasty treacheries in it. Striking Fear and Spreading Corruption work together very well at disabling players and making them struggle to even find the actions to fight back. Two, Scarlet Keys is generally just not that heavy on fights. So Dead Heat asks for a skillset that many other scenarios don’t need, at least not to that extent.
This is one of the scenarios that has the potential to really make an incredibly bad first impression as it blindsides the players with a hefty difficulty spike and also incredibly punishing consequences for failing. I do like that this scenario exists now on replays as it provides a certain challenge that i might want to overcome but the first play is potentially just very frustrating. I wish the resign option was more viable, similar to how The Last King in Carcosa also offers a very early and difficult combat challenge but allows players to bug out if it gets too much.

Scenario specific encounter sets: The encounter set contains several unique enemies that are set aside at first: Amaranth, who is the main antagonist. Razin Farhin, who Amaranth is trying to bring back from the grave. And Khalid, her … pet zombie lion. Yep, you read that right. Also set aside are two copies of Ancient Raider, who join the undead horde in the final act. Immediately into the encounter deck go 4 copies of Thrall, who is rather weak by itself (and even comes with an ability that lets players evade it for free), but an enemy with Surge is never good news. Since there’s 4 copies, you will see these a lot. Two copies of Famine provide a bit of redundancy for Striking Fear’s Dissonant Voices, making it harder to play your cards. It’s on the tamer side of cards in this deck, though. Finally, we get two copies of Cornered!, because apparently having both Grasping Hands and Rotting Remains wasn’t enough and we needed another scaling source of up to three damage.

Chaos Tokens: How bad this chaos bag is, depends wildly on your difficulty. The gulf between Easy/Normal and Hard/Expert is extreme on this one. It also scales quite heavily with how late you are doing this scenario in the campaign because coming later will not only add Cultists to the bag but also make the skulls start with a negative modifier instead of being a +0 at first. Skulls scale with slain civilians, so as long as you can keep a lid on that you are somewhat fine. Notably there is no upper limit for how negative the skull can go, so this does have the potential to escalate. On Hard, where the skull is worth -2 for each 1i slain civilians (i is number of investigators), the skulls are certainly a bigger concern than they are on Standard where they are only half as bad. The Elder Thing is a -3 (-4 on Hard) which is well within expectations, with a discard on fail which is also pretty regular. The Tablet however has a quirk that is nasty. On Standard the Tablet is just a -1, but the player has to either take 1 damage or have a civilian die. So it adds to the damage coming from the encounter deck and plentiful enemies, but it at least allows for a choice. This choice is taken away on Hard, where the Tablet is -2 and the player both gets a damage and has a civilian slain at their location. Especially that last part is incredibly punishing (i’d go as far and call it unfair) and i would recommend anyone who wants to tackle Dead Heat on Hard or Expert to make choices that remove Tablets in favor of Elder Things. The Cultist token is the highest negative modifier at -4 (-6) aside from the skulls so there’s value in coming here early to not have many of those in the bag. In addition to the modifier, the Cultist token will ready a non-Elite at your location and have it attack. On Standard, this happens only on a fail, but on Elite this again happens on every draw of the token. For most enemies in the scenario this “just” means an additional point of damage and/or horror, but both Khalid and the Ancient Raider are also viable targets of this token’s effect for additional pain or slain civilians.

Act/Agenda: There are two agenda cards, for a total doom threshold of 15. Their fronts modify the spawn abilities of all Risen and Ghoul enemies, making them spawn in random locations instead of engaged. Once the first agenda advances after 8 doom, a number of Risen and Ghoul enemies are spawned depending on how many civilians were slain so far. Also, each player has to either have a civilian at their location be slain or they have to let every Elite in play heal 2 damage. Note that if there is no damaged Elite in play, you have to pick the other option which especially in high player counts almost guarantees that civilians die here (Note: This was confirmed by lead designer Duke. The card is missing the word “must” here and will be errata’d to do so.)
The act deck consists of three cards, one for each stage of the confrontation with Amaranth. The first has the players search for her by finding clues and spending them at the Ritual Site. This will spawn Amaranth, shuffle Khalid into the deck and put the story card “Save the Civilians” into play and start act 2. Once either a certain amount of civilians died or Amaranth was defeated, the fight escalates. If the civilian threshold was met, Razin Farhi joins the fight alongside Amaranth. If she was defeated, she is flipped to her second form instead and moved to a random spot. In either case, the Ancient Raiders are finally also shuffled into the deck. Act 3 simply states the final goal: Neither Amaranth nor Razin may stay in play.
Parallel to the act and agenda, the story card “Save the Civilians” handles everything related to saving and slaying the people of Marrakesh. It provides an action to save a civilian at an investigators location for a cost in clues. Saved civvies go onto this card until the end of the game when the card is flipped for a sort of endgame scoring. If more civilians ended up saved than dead, then everyone gains XP. Even more if it’s twice the amount saved. However, if more civilians were slain, then everyone gets trauma. If it was twice the amount slain, it’s even two trauma.

Amaranth and Razin Farhi: Immediately after finishing act one, Amaranth engages the investigators at the Ritual Site, with the Lost Blossom attached to her. She hits fairly hard and the small circular location layout makes it difficult to stay far enough away from her to not be threatened by her Hunter keyword. If you have a damage dealer that can reliably deal 3+ damage in one action, you could burst her down fairly fast, but otherwise she can take a decent amount of punishment… enhanced by the healing she gets from her flower. She’s also rarely going to be the only enemy on the table, making her a lot more dangerous in practice than her card text and stat line would immediately suggest.
Defeating Amaranth during the second act will flip her into her second form which sees her horror and damage values inversed. But more importantly, she will now trigger the flower on every attack, healing herself more often. And she will gain a point of combat and Retaliate… which of course is yet another venue for her to attack you and heal herself. This version of Amaranth is incredibly dangerous and to defeat her you will pretty much need to be able to repeatedly hit her hard or at least to keep her evaded all the time so she can’t outheal the damage you put on her. If your modified skill on attack isn’t comfortably high, then evading her somehow can be worth it just to prevent Retaliate from being a factor. Missing her, being damaged yourself and seeing her heal is the worst! Note that when flipping her from Lurking Corruption to Corruption Revealed, you keep every token and attached card on her. This includes the damage tokens from act 2 that you used to defeat her in the first form! Of course that gives her something to heal away with the Last Blossom, but you are at least not starting from zero again.
If you didn’t manage to defeat the first version of Amaranth in time and the act advances because too many civilians were killed, then Razin Farhin joins the fight and the group now faces both Amaranth and him. This will keep Amaranth from flipping to her stronger version, but Razin is arguably worse as you will now face two Elite enemies at the same time which is harder to control through evasion and any healing triggers from the Blossom (or other sources) will pull double duty. Hopefully, Amaranth is already at the brink of defeat when Razin shows up so you can concentrate on him after quickly finishing her off…

Khalid and the Ancient Raiders: Khalid is yet another sturdy and dangerous Hunter enemy and gets shuffled into the encounter deck as soon as Amaranth shows up for the first time. From that point on, you can draw it at any point and whenever you do, things are sure to get rough. Kahlid hits just as hard as Amaranth does and also has Hunter. It doesn’t scale its health with player count which means that when playing solo and arguably even at two players, Khalid is tougher than Amaranth herself. Dealing with both Amaranth and her cat at the same time (while the encounter deck also heavily taxes your actions) is very hard and likely going to be the most difficult part of this scenario overall. Again, the ability to deal big chunks of damage at once is essential. Without that, you need to at least be able to keep Amaranth from triggering the heals from her key while you whittle down Khalid. As a small silver lining, Khalid is not Elite. So you might be able to use some potent cards on it, like Waylay or Disguise. Its ability on entering play is a bit random in what it actually achieves, but notable consequences are possibly pushing enemies into your location and more importantly, turning a location into its “Abandoned” version.
A pair of Ancient Raiders only enters the encounter deck during the final act, so small groups might not even draw one before the scenario is over. These simply serve to bring up the number of undead bodies in the deck a bit. At 3 health, they are stronger than most others, but not outrageously so. Their most potent feature is the ability to cause civilian losses on attack, something that can even be triggered on Retaliate if you are unlucky.

Other enemies: Except for the big Elites, the encounter deck throws only small enemies at the players. They do however come in impressive numbers, with the Thrall even surging into another encounter card. While these aren’t dangerous by themselves, the investigators are already occupied by one or more dangerous Elite enemies and possibly shackled down by treacheries to the point where they will find it difficult to actually deal with these creatures. Only Ravenous Ghoul (and the two Ancient Raiders in the final stretch) have more than 2 health, so these mostly go down in one swing and you can save your big guns for … well, the enemy’s big guns.

Treacheries: In terms of treacheries, the encounter deck mostly does two things: One, deal damage and horror. Two, take away player actions. This is only the second scenario since the Core that has both Rotting Remains and Grasping Hands in it (the other one is Point of No Return) and it actually triples down on the theme with Cornered!. Remains is the only horror treachery in the deck, but of course Amaranth herself deals plenty of horror on her attacks – enough to make Remains relevant as a thing that can either put you on the brink or finish you off. Low willpower investigators have more to fear than Rotting Remains, however. Public enemy #1, Frozen in Fear, is back to torment us. Whats worse, it gets significant backup from both Compulsion and Distorted Reasoning as cards that stop players from reacting to what’s happening to them.
Finally, the Scarlet Sorcery set has two potent cards for this scenario. Bound in Red can absolutely not be allowed to stick around on any of the Elite enemies as it takes their damage/horror up to eleven while the fight increase makes especially the Retaliate on Amaranth a huge threat. Key Charge is a heal with Surge (triggering the Blossom) and can range from simply annoying to utterly frustrating when it affects multiple enemies.

Locations: The map consists of five locations arranged in a circle, so it’s a small and intimate encounter with very little room to run away from one of the Hunters in this scenario. At best, you can be two locations away from wherever they are.
Each location exists in two versions, with the regular being swapped out for the Abandoned version once all civilians there have been either saved or slain. Note that Khalid showing up is going to turn its random spawn location into the Abandoned one as any remaining civilians are scattered to the two connected locations.
Of special note is the Bahia Palace Gardens, which is the Ritual Site. The investigators need to go there to spend the clues for advancing act 1 and it is also where Amaranth will appear (and likely immediately engage whoever is there).

Reward and Failure: Up to 6XP can be earned here, but they are earned indeed. There are no handouts in this scenario. No locations have Victory on them, you do need to defeat Amaranth and save the city to walk out of this scenario with anything to show for it. In addition to the XP, you do get the Last Blossom which is a very powerful key. Just using it first turn when everyone is still in their starting location can wipe away a lot of trauma. It would be worth using it just for that, but it’s also able to flip back as long as there’s an enemy with damage on it around that you can heal. (Note: You do need a damaged enemy in play to be able to shift the Blossom back to Stable. A very strict reading of the card could imply that ALL enemies in play need to be damaged for the ability to be usable, but this is unclear for now. Duke suggested playing it as if only one enemy needs to be healed until this is resolved.) Unless you knew Amaranths real identity and restored it, the group will “not have seen the last” of her. When randomly encountering her later, she retains much of her abilities but thankfully is lacking her high health then. So she can be dispatched reasonably cleanly with a Vicious Blow or something like that.
It’s possible to avoid the unpleasantness that is Amaranth following you around by getting the “best” resolution where you restore her to her real self and make her shake off the evil influence she was under. Doing so requires getting the intel on her from San Francisco before going here and then finishing the scenario successfully. This will stop her from randomly appearing in later scenarios and also remove her from the vote in the finale. Since this game doesn’t just hand you things (not even things you already payed for in time by jetting around the world to get this intel), this resolution will however for some reason cost you an extra time.
Failure has dire consequences in this scenario. Not even resigning will protect you from them, as all remaining civilians will be counted as slain when everyone resigns or gets defeated. If more civilians were slain than rescued, a mental trauma is dealt to each investigator. If twice more civilians were slain than rescued, everyone even gets another mental trauma. That means that if you got defeated, you will likely leave Marrakesh with 3 trauma, zero XP, no key and with either “the lovers united” (which has both Amaranth and Razin vote against you in the finale) or with Amaranth on your tail, still wearing the Blossom. Yikes!
Marrakesh is only 1 time away from London, so together with Istanbul it’s one of the more inviting places to go right after Riddles and Rain. A bit of a trap, if you ask me! So you will only want to come here if you feel confident in your ability to handle several big Elites at once, something that is a big ask at the start of the campaign. Don’t wait too long though, after some time the scenario starts with some civilians already slain and Amaranth already in play. Yet some time later, and there’s not even a scenario in Marrakesh anymore, only a description of the carnage, a few pity XP and some mental trauma. The sweet spot would be arriving in Marrakesh at 9 time. At this point, you don’t have any additional cultists in the bag yet and also don’t have to start with slain civilians. That’s enough time to do Istanbul and/or Dogs at War first to get some upgrades that help you deal with the carnage in Marrakesh. Alternatively you could use that time to go to San Francisco for the intel on Amaranth and do either Anchorage or Havana on the way back.