Deck Tech: Robinson Hood, Arcane Archer

Introduction and summary

This is a deck built around the Enchanted Bow, providing the ability to snipe into connecting locations. This is done with Luke Robinson, for synergy with the Dream-Gate and because he can use a couple cards through his Seeker access that pair well with the Bow. Raven’s Quill and Prophetic make up for the lack of an upgraded bow to stay competitive and Twila makes sure that we don’t run out of magic arrows. A suite of events makes the most of Luke’s investigator abilty and supports the sniping across locations.
I built it for Innsmouth which has lots of enemies and many of them Hunters. So you have plenty of targets to make the most of both its sniping ability and its capability to shoot at targets at your location without spending charges. This deck would also work well in other target rich environments like the B-side of Dream-Eaters or in cultist heavy campaigns like The Circle Undone.

The decklist

Let’s start you off with the 19XP decklist right away, then we can use that as a base to discuss it further.

ArkhamDB link here:

The Enchanted Bow

This thing is pretty cool. Since it’s able to shoot into connecting locations, we can use it from the Dream-Gate to shoot at any revealed location to take out enemies from a safe distance. Due to how Lukes ability works, this will even bypass Aloof. So what we have on our hands with the bow is a fantastic way to deal with all sorts of cultists, aloof enemies or just small critters in general.
Shooting into other locations is the flashy part of the Enchanted Bow, but there’s actually something else that it is notable for: It doesn’t use charges if you fire it into your own location. That makes it very valuable in situations where you constantly run into enemies and a Shrivelling wouldn’t last very long.
As another upside, the bow has four traits that are all useful in some contexts. For this deck, we are mostly interested in the Spell trait, though.

There are a few hurdles to overcome with it as well, though. It uses a total of three equipment slots, so after playing the Bow, all you have left is a single arcane slot for additional weapons or investigation tool. It has only three charges, limiting us in how much we can use it for sniping. It exhausts on use, so we need events or a secondary attack spell to take down big enemies engaged with us in one turn. There is no highlevel Bow, so we can’t upgrade it further. So we are stuck with a version that gives +1 skill value and +1 damage only. Finally, the snipe ability can’t be used on Elites.
This decklist adresses most of those issues, but of course will need to keep them in mind to get the most out of the bow.

Building around the Bow

Since the Bow only gives +1 skill value and can’t itself be upgraded further, we need additional help from other assets to reach comfortable skill levels. Luckily that isn’t terribly difficult. Prophetic is incredible and an easy early pickup because it virtually upgrades not only our bows, but also the Shrivels. A singleton Rosary is there simply because it’s just a staple that is hard to beat. I usually run only one of them because i never want to draw a second one of its kind. If i wanted a second one, i’d include the mystic Tarot because that way the two cards can stack. Finally, as Luke we are able to run Raven’s Quill which is a fun option to have in this deck. 2XP buys us the Mystic Vane upgrade for +2 skill value. The deck also runs 6 cards that can be committed for at least 2 willpower, so if we draw a troublesome enemy before being completely set up we can deal with that too.

The number of equipment slots taken by the bow isn’t a huge problem for us, except for a backup Shrivel this deck doesn’t plan on putting much out. However, just putting one extra XP into the Raven’s Quill allows it to negate the bow’s slot requirements. What this means is we can then have two bows in play which is not necessary at all… but when it happens it’s great!

For my ally slot, i use Twila Katherine Price, a card that doesn’t see an exorbitant amount of play because you usually can just replace a spent spell with another one. The bow however is rather unique, so Twila making it last forever is actually nice. Since the bow exhausts it can be used only once per turn anyways, so Twila just straight up makes it no longer spend any charges. Pretty neat.

To deal with that exhaustion issue, the deck simply includes a bunch of other cards that can deal with enemies. Luke can use one spell per turn into a connecting location, so any of the combat events can support the sniping here. Anything directly engaged with us gets shrivelled.

The rest of the list

The other deck slots are filled with typical Luke Robinson fare. While this one is primarily a fighter, his investigator ability really rewards you for having a couple investigation spells as well. Being able to project them across the board allows for some neat tricks or picking clean victory locations without having to go out of your way for them. I use Stirring up Trouble and Read the Signs for that. If you don’t like Stirring up Trouble, then Drawn to the Flame is a perfectly fine alternative. Wards of Protection are just nice to have and can save our fragile little butt from an untimely Grasping Hands. Uncage the Soul and Emergency Cache provide some economy so we can drop our assets on the board during the first few turns without having to wait for money or worse… use actions for money *shudder*. The nice part is that once we are set up, we don’t really need much money anymore. With Twila around, neither the bow nor the Shrivelling should realistically run out so they only need to be played once. The events are fairly cheap and most can be payed for with Prophetic in a pinch. I could actually imagine dropping the Caches for upgraded cards later on.

Elite enemies

So, this list does a pretty good job of negating the drawbacks that the bow has, but there is one thing that remains: This Luke deck sucks at fighting Elites. It’s not just that we can’t snipe them from afar, but String of Curses and Existential Riddle also don’t work on them. And Razor is at least not that great against them. What that means is to kill Elites, we need to actually engage them head on and deal 2 damage per action to them like some Guardian clutching their puny little .45 Auto. It’s not pretty and it’s definitely a big strike against my list but ultimately Luke can manage it.
There are some ways to adress this issue. One of them is evasion. Either to buy time or to just disable the enemy so the team can run away from it, having something like Mists of R’lyeh available would help a lot to make Elites more comfortable. I opted against it because my thinking was the Luke can just always flee into the Gate anyways, but playing the deck i actually miss the option a lot. Actually, this might even finally be Ethereal Form’s time to shine as i’d probably would not want to give up the Shrivelling so i don’t have an arcane slot for Mist.
The other way to deal with enemies is upgrading your Shrivelling to level 5. Once you have a spell that deals 3 damage per action you can melt most enemies away fairly well. And Twila would give you good mileage out of the investment, too. This is the route that i am going in my current campaign, but both the evasion and the firepower option are equally valid.

Options and further upgrades

Aside from those two ways to deal with Elites there are some other interesting options that warrant inclusion or at least consideration for the list. If you are playing campaign, then you will hopefully have more than 19XP to spend, so let’s look at what to do with that.

Arcane Studies(4): I like this one a lot. Since it is slotless, it stacks with everything we already have in our deck and it is an outlet for any excess resource that will start to stack up once we have everything on the table that we need.
Four of Cups: Fine. Not great. I like it because it’s (pretty much) slotless and can stack up with a Rosary, so it’s at least better than running a second one of those. But tbh just run Arcane Studies, it’s so much better.
Knowledge is Power: This is a neat one in Luke because it allows projecting a spell asset into a connecting location. Since we are already doing that with the bow, that’s not that special in this particular list so i kept it out. But it’s a decent option if you want to have more actual damage spells instead of String of Curses and/or Existential Riddle.
Existential Riddle: Speaking of Riddle, that card is pretty fantastic and actually a lot better than String of Curses. I had only room for one of them in the 19XP version, so i am mentioning it here again as a reminder to get a second one rather soon. Cut a String for it.
Banish: Throw something to the arse end of the map where it can’t hurt you… but you can still hurt it! Again, sadly limited to non-Elites but quite possibly also better than String of Curses, depending on how many cultists style enemies you expect to see.
Blinding Light, Ethereal Form: Hey, evade spells that can hit Elites. As discussed earlier, that’s valuable. Blinding Light is probably the better one of the two. Its upgrade can even serve as a kill spell. The potential downside on drawing a symbol token is a bit scary though, especially when you want it for Elite handling. So Ethereal Form might be the safer pick.
Mists of R’lyeh: It does need an arcane slot, so that kinda sucks. It would be playable alongside the bow and a shrivel as long as Raven Quill is on the bow and maybe that’s good enough? Mists not only evades, it also lets you move in sniping distance which is really attractive. So that might make it worth over the evade events.
Occult Lexicon: Usually a very strong card for Luke, who can of course project those Blood-Rites all over the map too. Simultanously, it provides card draw and a useful outlet for our resources. The hand slots are spoken for though. It’s not an unsolvable problem, especially since Lexicon is a tome… but i opted against it this time.
Robes of Endless Night: This seems like a good upgrade for the Emergency Caches if there’s some spare XP unaccounted for. Not necessary at all though, the resource economy works as it is.
True Magick: Most decks i have seen with Enchanted Bow use it with True Magick to circumvent the issues with the slots and the charges. And that is a perfectly fine thing to do, but seems like a bit more assembly required than i am comfortable with. True Magick is good when you are doing something more toolboxy, for this deck i want to lean hard into the bow so i skip it. Simply put, i think the True Magick version is a really different deck.
Arcane Initiate: I could see a version of this deck that either runs Initiate instead of Twila or in addition to her with Charisma.
Dayana Esperence: A bit of a Luke staple for me, Dayana gets you more Spectral Razors to throw into connecting locations. She’s very good and like Initiate i could see a version of the deck that involves her.
Recharge: If one were to substitute Twilas with Initiates, Recharge could pick up the slack in terms of providing extra uses. I would only consider this if paired up with someone that feeds curses and/or blesses into the chaos bag because in that situation, Recharge actually becomes pretty reliable.
Uncage the Soul(3): Uncage(3) can kinda work like a Recharge as well, if you squint enough.
Word of Command: Usually not a great card, but to its credit, it can find the bow. And it can act as extra copies of a level 5 Shrivel. This deck doesn’t draw a whole lot of cards, so using some sort of tutor like this to make up for the lack of Arcane Initiate isn’t unthinkable. If only it had skill icons -.-
Versatile: Look, i am a huge fan of using Versatile for fun and profit whenever reasonable but since this is a deck with very little card draw/filtering and built around getting a very specific card, this really isn’t a great time to increase your deck size. Please don’t. Not even for Dynamite Blasts, no matter how fun those are in Luke.

My personal plan for the decklist is getting the Arcane Studies and another Existential Riddle, in place of the two Strings of Curses. Upgrade both Guts and both Wards to level 2. Upgrade both Shrivels to level 5 (alternatively: do that with one of them and replace the other with Mists of R’lyeh level 4). That’s another 23XP, for a total of 19+23=42XP. So the deck isn’t going to significantly change anymore, it’s just improving some numbers on the cards, nothing actually new. If i have a lot of XP left near the end, i might get into something fancy like Charisma and Initiate. Or Charisma and Dayana. Or two Charisma and both!

My own ongoing campaign with this deck

I am currently playing The (Unofficial) Return to The Innsmouth Conspiracy two-handed, using this deck and a taboo-compliant Mandy (so she’s 50 cards). It’s going extremely well and the duo actually managed to pick up all 7 keys during In Too Deep which is in my opinion one of the more notable accomplishments in the game right now. They also crushed Vanishing together, narrowing the suspect and location down to one each. First time i got the accusation completely right :>
As mentioned, Elites are a pain (i didn’t even try to kill the kraken in Devil Reef this time, usually i do) but everything else falls rather quickly. Next up is Horror in High Gear, looking forward to sniping at the pursuing cars already!

Final verdict

I am very happy with the deck. Well, obviously. Otherwise I wouldn’t have shared it. But what makes this one stick out for me is that it’s built around a rather unpopular and kinda clunky card and despite that it really works exceptionally well. Not only that, but the enablers for it are even some other cards that see little play like Twila and the Raven’s Quill, which definitely is a plus in my book. Add a strong interaction with a specific investigator’s special ability and you get all the hallmarks of what i consider to be an interesting deck that is fun to build and play.

Top 10: Most game-changing cards from the Scarlet Keys Investigator Expansion


About one and a half years ago i wrote a piece about what i considered the notable game-changers from Edge of the Earth as one part of a series of Top 10 lists to close out the year. I thought it would be fun to revisit this particular list and do a similar one for Scarlet Keys, so here we are. Quick reminder: “Most game-changing” doesn’t necessarily mean “most powerful”. As an example, Cyclopean Hammer is without doubt incredibly powerful, but it’s just another dumb weapon so it doesn’t really change much in the big picture except for being one of the more blatant pieces of power creep in recent memory.

But first, the cringe

When i made the list for Edge, the set was barely a month old, so there was a big “Hot Takes” part to it. So let’s review how well i fared…

#10: Protective Gear: I feel like this one didn’t really live up to expectations. I did consider it for a few decks here and there (actually i was thinking about putting it into a Daniela deck just yesterday) but afair it never actually made one of my decks. That 4 cost is just too much and i feel like the Gear would have needed to trigger on any investigator at its location to be more consistent. And now it also got its thunder stolen by Hunter’s Armor.
#9: Quickdraw Holster: Complete miss. This card is just garbage. Overcosted in two ways and without a home. Even when it works, it does so only barely.
#8: Black Market: Not a card that revolutionized anything, but it does at least see play as green card draw. I actually prefer Friends in Low Places in that slot now, but i could see Black Market being better in a 3p or 4p situation.
#7: Composures: Yep, these are good and well worth their 3XP.
#6: Ice Pick: Similar to Black Market, these see play and i could justify their inclusion on the list. They’d probably make the #10 slot if i were to remake the list today.
#5: Counterespionage: I love this card, i play it a lot. Great one-off iforyour Rogue to hold onto.
#4: Sled Dog: Hell yeah. I built so many Sled Dog decks and almost all of them were awesome. Like, i am serious here. No meme. Sled Dogs are incredibly efficient in the right deck and it pains me to see so much Sled Dog slander on the internet.
#3: The Tri-Class Talents: Yes, these are great. Prophetic in particular might even be good enough to be problematic. Buying Prophetic almost feels like upgrading all of your spells at the same time.
#2: The injuries: I still enjoy this cycle of weaknesses. Not too punishing, but both interesting and relevant. These hit a sweet spot that few weaknesses do. Are they game-changers, though? Eh.
#1: In the Thick of It: Yeah, this one is every bit as ridiculous as expected and then some. Unlike some others that voiced their opinion on this one, i do like that it exists. It does open up some decks that would otherwise be very awkward and i feel like that is more valuable than the concern about some slight power creep.

So we got two big misses, a couple near misses and some that worked out as expected. Fair enough? So what did i miss? Well, one thing is pretty unforgivable and that was pointed out mere minutes after i posted the article: Where are the level 0 permanents? You know, Forced Learning, Short Supply, etc…. And that is an excellent question, they deserve to be #2 behind ITTOI. I barely build decks without one of them anymore, they have absolutely been transformative to the point where i am considering ITTOI for Versatile to put the yellow, red or purple one into my decks. Three other cards i probably should have mentioned over some of the chaff above:
Jeremiah Kirby: By now he’s been taboo’d, but for a while there he was fighting with Dr. Milan for the throne. That’s a considerable achievement.
Medical Student: Good lord, this card is in every one of my decks now. It’s obscene how much play this guy sees. Healing two, then soaking for another one or two is already great. Add in potential interactions with Calling in Favors and she becomes stellar.
Toe to Toe: If the deck has blue cards, i at least pulled these out of my box when building the deck. Usually it makes the cut, too. This is a great way for off-class Guardians to wipe enemies away without much fuss and i got a lot of mileage out of this card across many investigators.

The Scarlet Keys

But enough of the past, eyes to the front and focus on the current hotness. The TSK investigator box has been around for almost 10 months, so these cards are pretty well established by now. Accordingly, this isn’t really much of a Hot Take situation, but more of a review after all. Let’s get to the cards!

#10: At a Crossroads: I am putting this one on the lowest rank of the list because it’s ultimately nothing completely new, it simply draws some cards. But hot damn, this goes into pretty much every Survivor deck i build now. Good red card draw was pretty much limited to Take Heart until now (or Drawing Thin, if you must) and At a Crossroads quickly became a glue card for me, one that makes sure that the rest of the deck holds together strongly by making sure you draw whatever you need. I still have not used the second option 😀

#9: Girish Kadakia: The ally slot for guardians is stacked with great cards. It takes one hell of a card to break into the established ranks of Guard Dog, Beat Cop, Medical Student, Grete Wagner and Tetsuo, but Girish brings so much power to the table that he’s able to muscle his way in. Lots of soak, self healing, repeatable +2 to any skill and all of that can be spread to other investigators as well. Truly remarkable and that is despite the hefty cost of 4XP to get him. He also combos nicely with Well Prepared, as he not only brings a great set of icons, but his ability stacks up with Well Prepared to crush most tests (and in turn, heal himself).

#8: Elle Rubash/Sin-Eater: These two make the doom archetype happen. They are also the reason that playing a doom deck feels like you are required to pay a 10XP tax before being ready to go because these two cards are just so essential to the archetype and many of the associated cards have been balanced around the existence of these two. Still, even if i have my issues with the execution of the archetype, anything that moves purple away from the clutches of the Willpower stat is welcome. It’s going to take a bit more juice to make the archetype competitive with spell mystics, though. The doom charms really aren’t in the same league as even the Core set staples Shrivelling and Rite of Seeking, nevermind more recent and pushed cards like Sixth Sense or Brand of Cthuga. I like the direction here, but i want to see this archetype developed a bit more, right now we got great enablers with mediocre payoff cards. What we need now is a great payoff card or two and we are rolling.

#7: Dirty Fighting: Cards that open up new playstyles are predestined for a game-changer list and Dirty Fighting is one of them. The whole evade/fight hybrid playstyle has been seeded into the cardpool before with the likes of the .25 Automatic, Sneak Attack or Hatchet Man. But Dirty Fighting takes it to a level where it becomes competitive instead of just a gimmick on the side. Notably, this card also finally gives Rita something that she can do exceptionally well (and better than any other survivor). Being a fight/evade hybrid is exactly her thing and Dirty Fighting supercharges her to new heights and out of the shadows of Wendy and Silas.

#6: Summoned Servitor/Power Word: I am going to group these two together because they are actually quite similar in that they are both Customizables that allow the Mystic to use actions remotely and without using their own stat line. This does a whole lot towards unshackling these investigators from their addiction to Willpower. It’s also a playstyle that is quite different to anything else out there. Like with the the doom archetype, i really do appreciate the move away from “Willpower Matters” that was done in TSK and i think these two already do an excellent job of being a centerpiece for a deck to build around.

#5: Friends in Low Places: One of two customizable cards that is perfectly fine without putting any XP into it, this one ties together a Rogue deck like few other cards can. Easy Mark is the only card that i can think of that does a similar job of being such a glue card in Rogue and playing both makes your deck feel reaaaaally good. With just a smidge of XP investment, this swiftly surpasses Prepared for the Worst at its job while also being able to fulfill other needs than just weapons. I particularly like the upgrade that makes it Fast, as it allows the card to stay relevant in later stages of the game as well, simply as a value card. If you can build your deck around a few traits, this can become incredibly consistent, but even without trying you can usually hit a lot of your deck just by naming Item, Trick and/or Ally.

#4: Gumption/Shed a Light: I wasn’t able to decide which of these two cards is better suited to represent the whole “drop to zero” playstyle that was planted in Scarlet Keys. I could have also picked Old Keyring(3), a card that puts seekers to shame in how absurd it is when used in the right deck… or even Darrell himself who i personally think is just straight up better than Rex. The point is, Scarlet Keys threw a whole new deck at us and it’s pretty bonkers.

#3: Custom Modifications: We haven’t seen a one-handed Firearm in Guardian in a looooong time. In fact, there are still only two of them in the whole game. Utterly ridiculous. Even if you widen the search to one-handed weapons in general, this is your list of options. What a sad state of affairs. To make things even more embarassing, the .18 Derringer, a Survivor(!!!) gun, is better than 90% of that list. So if you want to get a better gun than Survivor has in Guardian, you are forced to go into two-handed options. Custom Mods changes this by giving you the option of sinking up to 10XP into your one-handed weapons to turn them into something beautiful. Reliable and Enchant Weapon existed before as a way to build your own super weapon. But Custom Mods takes this approach to a whole new level and in turn opens up new playstyles for fighty guardians other than “Are you going to take Flamethrower or Lightning Gun?”.

#2: Grim Memoir: I don’t know about you, but for me this one changed the game for Seeker. I absolutely adore this card and how it fuels your early game. A hefty +2 bonus to intellect makes this one of the best cards to drop on your first turn and be hypercompetent straight away. And the extra cards you draw from it help you to get the rest of your setup as well. This is controversial and i don’t expect that this is going to become the widespread take on this card, but for me Grim Memoir has replaced Magnifying Glass as the default Seeker tool. That’s how good i think it is.
On a less important sidenote, Grim Memoir gives Daisy the ability to use her free tome action on an Investigate. That’s an option that she didn’t have before.

#1: Thieves Kit: Using your agility to investigate was already possible in sort of a flex position with Lockpicks and Pilfer, but Thieves Kit (and to a lesser extent, level 2 Breaking and Entering) pushed this strategy into a tier where a high agility rogue can just play the role of a seeker in full. The upgrade is also a lot better than i initially thought, removing all issues with money you might have had before. When your asset that enables your job is simultanously also an econ card, that does a lot for the consistency of your deck. This is a really good card, every bit as good as Sixth Sense is for Mystic. I also appreciate how well balanced this card is. Despite being as good as it is, it doesn’t just straight up replace Lockpicks, but works great in tandem with it. One for those difficult to get clues at high shrouds (or to enable oversuccess shenanigans) and the other for the bread and butter investigations.

Signing off

Scarlet Keys, like Edge of the Earth before it, is a high powered expansion with lots of cards that do impact deck building. As such, i could have mentioned a lot more than the above ones and chances are, you are reading this and asking yourself now why i didn’t mention a particular card that managed to impress you in the last months. So let’s look at some honorable mentions. The first thing that comes to mind is that i glanced over several other Customizables. I almost could’ve put all of them on the list (with notable exception of the red ones, those are kinda boring). Especially the Armor and Axe in Guardian just barely missed the cut here and either could easily be the #11. I also skipped past the whole clue dropping thing. Eh, i just think that it’s ultimately not that special or different from your regular seeker fare. It’s also largely propped up by what i firmly believe is an oversight on how Research Notes work when you have two in play. Other notable cards that i considered for the list are Motivational Speech, Existential Riddle, Disguise, Embezzled Treasure, “I’ll Take That”, String of Curses, Salvage and Hyperphysical Shotcaster. All of those are cards that are either particularly useful and thus can go into tons of deck or that offer something that wasn’t quite available before. Great set.


Continue reading here:

Best-Laid Plans: The Scarlet Keys


This is a campaign deep dive and as such it doesn’t hold back anything. There are detailed spoilers for the Scarlet Keys campaign ahead. I highly suggest that you stop reading now if you have not played this campaign once or twice before. Give the campaign a try on your own first, then come back later, once you have been globetrotting for a bit.


Weirdness abounds and this time it’s not just restricted to some small town in Massachusetts for some reason. All over the world, things and people are disappearing from existence. At the same time, a mysterious “Foundation” agency press gangs the players into investigating an equally mysterious “Red Coterie”. This coterie consists of exceptional people in exceptionally red clothes and soon it becomes clear that they are related to the disappearings… somehow. The investigators are free to travel around the world and interact with the Red Coterie to uncover the secret behind what’s going on.

This article takes a deep dive into the challenges posed to the players as they make their way along the campaign with all of its twists and turns, special mechanics and recurring themes. As in previous Best-Laid Plans, i will also give some suggestions for investigators and player cards that might work particularly well in The Scarlet Keys. Due to the intricate nature of the campaign, parts of this Deep Dive have been spun off into standalone articles because it would otherwise become way too large for a single page. You’ll find the links to those articles in the appropriate places.

Traveling the world

The most flashy new feature of The Scarlet Keys is its non-linear campaign structure. While the first and the last scenario are fixed, you can move around a world map in whatever way you want. This means you can determine yourself which other scenarios to visit and in which order.

Find all the details about the world map and what’s on it behind this link:
Best-Laid Plans: Traveling the World

The Red Coterie

The are two primary factions that provide the enemies for this campaign. The first is the Red Coterie, a cabal of people (using this term loosely) with extraordinary abilities and influence. Their prime members are in possession of “The Keys”, a bunch of artifacts that are the source of their powers. Like any cult worth its salt, the Red Coterie also has a bunch of rank and file followers and those are making up much of what we find in the encounter deck in terms of enemies.

Their signature keyword is “Concealed”, a new ability introduced in this campaign that spawns these enemies in a dedicated play area called “the shadows”. Notably, enemies in the shadows also have abilities that allow them influencing the game from the shadows even when they aren’t currently on the board at a location. They might attack from there or simply carry a doom like the well-behaved cultists they are. The common coterie enemies aren’t terribly dangerous, but having to root them out of the shadows before being able to engage them does turn them into considerable action drains. Basically, concealment is sort of an enhanced version of Aloof.

The Outsiders

The other faction consists of a weird kind of otherworldly enemies that aren’t human (or even humanoid) themselves, but able to mimic whatever they want to. They are what’s behind the disappearances and in an ongoing conflict with the Red Coterie. Like with the coterie, outsiders come in various levels of impact. There are some truly terrifying Elite level threats among them, but of course also plenty of more common enemies which form the main body of what the players will have to deal with.

Outsiders are also tied to a central mechanic, called “hollowing”. These are effects that remove cards from the game, most often from the top of a player’s deck but there are also some that remove cards from hands or even from play. After removed that way, these cards count as “hollows” which can be referred to by other card effects, for example to trigger extra attacks or provide additional health to an Outsider. Outsiders are much more dangerous than Coterie in a straight up fight, but hollowing is less impactful than concealment as an ability.

It should be noted that since Outsiders are able to mimic other entities, there are some that employ concealment as well.


With that out of the way, let’s take a look at these two signature mechanics. Concealment is used a lot throughout the whole campaign, with a couple of scenarios even built around it and using it as a centerpiece. Actually, every scenario but Marrakesh features concealment in some capacity, so being able to deal with it is paramount to doing well in this campaign.

To determine how to best deal with it, let’s first look at the mechanical details:
– When an enemy with conceal spawns, it doesn’t appear at a location or engaged to a player, but is instead put into the shadows.
– While in the shadows, the enemy can’t be discarded, defeated or damaged.
– It is represented on the board by a face-down mini-card that is shuffled together with a certain number of decoy mini-cards which are spread across the nearest locations. So the enemy is actually at one of X locations and it’s the players job to find out which one.
– Exposing a face-down mini-card takes an action and a successful test against combat, intellect or agility, using the location’s shroud as difficulty.
– Alternatively, mini-cards can be exposed by replacing any testless Fight or Evade effect, the testless discovery of a clue or the application of one or more points of damage. Only one mini-card can be exposed this way per effect.
– If a face-down mini-card is spawned at a place that already has one or more such mini-cards, they are shuffled together at that location so the players don’t know which of them is the new one.
– If no enemies are in the shadows, all mini-cards still on the board (presumably decoys) are removed from play.

There are some immediate conclusion to draw from this. The first is that Concealment is a rather heavy form of action tax. Potentially, a player has to go through each of the decoys and uncover all of the mini-cards before being able to interact with the actual enemy in a meaningful way. So even a meager Coterie Agent with 1 fight and 1 health would need up to three actions to be exposed because they come into play with 2 decoys. In fact, it’s even worse than that because those three mini-cards are spread across three locations. So rooting out the Agent would potentially also need extra movement to cover these locations. For that reason, some thought should be put into where to put those mini-cards when spawning the enemy. The instructions say to spread them across the nearest X locations. This does include your current one, but you often have a choice which connecting locations you want to choose for the rest.

The next thing to take away is that the difficulty scales with the shroud value on the locations. That means you will want to be able to routinely pass tests against intellect, combat or agility with varying difficulties. And preferably you will want to be able to do so without having to use a limited resource like charges, ammo or resources unless you can make sure that you have a steady supply of them. This massively favors investigators with a printed 5 (or at least a 4) in at least one of those skills. Since exposing with a basic willpower action isn’t possible, this is a challenge to overcome for many Mystics. But also many investigators with more balanced stat lines (or even the dreaded 3/3/3/3) will have to make up for their shortcomings in dealing with The Scarlet Key’s central mechanism.

Especially in high player counts, the mini-cards put into play by one enemy might overlap with those of another. Since this triggers a reshuffling of the mini-cards at that location, this leads to them stacking up in a way that makes it even more difficult to root out specific enemies. Having many concealed enemies will also prevent previous decoys that were put into place from being wiped from the board, so enemies that were dealt with rounds ago can still have a lingering effect until the final enemy was dragged from the shadows. It is therefore recommended to not let the number of concealed cards grow too much. Even if they don’t have an immediate impact, they can become a problem at a later point so it’s usually going to be a good idea to just go after enemies as soon as they appear.

Ways to prepare for concealment in your deck include:
– Lowering shroud values. Skeleton Key busts this mechanic wide open and in a more limited fashion so does Breach the Door. But even just something like a lowly Flashlight can put in some work.
– Testless effects that can replace expose tests. Discovering testless clues or dealing testless damage can be a great way to help with concealment. Not only does this allow bypassing high shroud values, but often you can get such effects in addition to something else, so you aren’t actually spending a full action on exposing a single card. As examples, triggering Grete Wagner or Alice Luxley can do the job, as can a Breaking and Entering.
– Investigator choice. Some investigators come with repeatable abilities that either grant bonus actions or testless effects that can do a lot of work. Examples include Roland Banks, Ursula Downs, Finn Edwards, Agnes Baker and Rita Young. Anyone with a printed 5 in combat, intellect or agility also has a definite advantage here.
– Bypassing the spawn trigger. Concealment is anchored on replacing the spawn of an enemy. So if you can “put it into play” instead of “spawning it”, you will not have to deal with concealment on that enemy at all. Kicking the Hornet’s Nest and On the Hunt are the two cards to mention in this context.
– Bonus points if you find ways to expose cards at connecting locations. Not only can that save you move actions, it can also stay out of locations with mini-cards in them (which is sometimes relevant) and make it so exposed enemies enter play without engaging anyone. Examples for cards that do this are Grete Wagner, Intel Report and, if you are feeling spicy, Dynamite Blast.


Where Concealment brings a whole new dimension of gameplay to the table as it does warp much of the decision making around it, Hollowing is a much more grounded ability. At its core it is simply an ability that removes player cards from the game, something that is not all that new. It is usually a rather rare effect though and having it around in this campaign in a more prominent fashion is certainly not without its consequences. Marrakesh, Alexandria, Kuala Lumpur and Buenos Aires all don’t have any Outsiders in it at all, but for the other six scenarios there is at least a little bit of hollowing going on. The mechanic has its peak in the secret scenario and the finale.

There are two parts to hollowing. The setup and the payoff. Setup means removing cards and putting them out of play “as a hollow”. This alone has not further immediate implications beyond the fact that these cards are now removed. Some cards do provide some extra payoff however, like enemies getting extra attacks whenever a card is played that has a copy in the hollows, enemies gaining health scaling with the amount of hollows or a treachery discarding copies of hollowed cards from hand and play.

The payoff effects are very far and between. Often scenarios will go by with the distinction between hollowing and just removing a card barely even mattering. So the primary concern about this mechanic comes from the limited access to player cards. There are some considerations to make based on it, if you want to prepare yourself for dealing with Hollowing as best as possible.

These include:
– Spreading out your upgrades. Investing your hard earned XP into two copies of a 5XP card and then seeing them removed from the deck sucks. A lot. Consider spreading out your upgrades, maybe upgrading 5 cards to level 2 instead of 2 cards to level 5. That way, the innate swingyness and variance of Hollowing can’t hit you that hard.
– Bring redundancy. If you build your deck around one specific card and then see it go bye-bye on turn two, your deck should still be able to function. This could concern cornerstone cards like Salvaging or True Magick, but also something like weapons or combat spells for your enemy handlers. Better pack some extras.
– Avoid being particularly vulnerable to removal of cards. What i mean with this is to not base your deck around something like a cornerstone card in the first place. But there’s also a couple cards that will hurt you more than others when they get removed. For example, this is really not the campaign to go and assemble Three Aces or the Pendant of the Queen because having one of the three pieces removed will strand you with two junk cards that will annoy the hell out of you.

Elite Enemies (and other big baddies)

Almost all of the scenarios are in some way tied to one of the prime members of the Coterie and the player’s attempts to either gain their support or their “Key” artifact. More often than not, that means having to deal with that coterie member in the game where they usually take the form of an Elite enemy with impressive stats, oppressive abilities or both. The scenarios centered around the Outsider threat also feature big monsters to overcome. As a result, being good in combat is a hard requirement for most of the campaign. The prevalence of big enemies also lends a lot of value to evasion, to stop them from attacking for a lot during the enemy phase and/or from retaliating on failed attacks.

Marrakesh, which features neither concealment nor hollowing, is built around this completely. It’s one of the most fight heavy scenarios in all of the Arkham LCG, with swarms of enemies only rivaled by some of the peaks in Innsmouth or the waking side of Dream-Eaters.

While the large number or Elite enemies would suggest that cards that specifically work on non-Elites are a bit devalued, there are actually enough big targets among the non-Elites as well to put your Waylays, Spectral Razors and Disguises to good effect. For example, the Outsiders encounter set features an enemy very reminiscent of Innsmouth’s Deep One Bull and chucks that into the encounter deck as early as scenario 1.

Damage and Horror

As has been a trend with the last couple campaigns, there is a large amount of both horror and damage raining down on the investigators. Mostly this comes from treacheries, but of course the large amount of enemies also does its part. The scenarios that test your soak the most are Buenos Aires (Carmen Sandiego keeps sniping at you while the encounter deck is full of damage/horror), Marrakesh (constant onslaught of enemies, among them several hard hitting elites) and especially Kuala Lumpur (umbrella girl carries a nuke).

I assume the countermeasures are well known by now: Bring extra soak on assets and also consider using healing to stay out of reach of damage spikes. As usual, a high willpower and/or agility allows dodging some of the treacheries, but there is a decent amount of testless sources around so this is less of a thing to feel safe behind than usual.

Chaos Bag

This campaign has by far the worst chaos bag of any of the existing campaigns so far. High negative modificators are everywhere and many of the token effects do have impactful extra consequences on failing (and you will fail. a lot.)

One of the prime offenders is the Cultist token. You start with none of them in the bag, but as the campaign goes on, you are instructed to add another token at certain time thresholds. These are usually -4 or even -5, usually with other things tacked on. But the other token modifiers for your regular skulls, tablets and Elder Things aren’t restrained either.

The campaign also uses a particular token effect multiple times that can be particularly devastating for some investigators, where the modifier itself is minor, but all icons from committed cards are ignored. Something to keep in mind if you are playing an investigator like Winifred or are relying on the likes of Grizzled or Promise of Power to push through crucial tests.

The rough chaos bag combines with a relatively high difficulty on many tests (especially shroud values) to make reliably passing tests in this campaign a real challenge. Even Easy and Normal often will require you to be at least 4 skill value over difficulty to have a solid chance. This does again put a huge disadvantage on any investigator with balanced statlines (or worse) and pushes players towards specializing in doing one thing really well. The Scarlet Key Investigator Expansion might have come with a 2/2/2/2 and a 3/3/3/3 investigator, but i would really advise to take those into a different campaign unless you are sure that you know what you are doing and that you are compensating for how much behind the curve they are here from the start.

Trust vs Deception

While we are on the topic of the chaos bag, now and then the investigators are asked to either trust or defy someone they meet. Depending on their action, the chaos bag changes. Whenever they choose to trust someone, agree to deals or help that person, a Elder Thing in the chaos bag is removed and a tablet is added. On the other hand, if they lie or betray or simply refuse cooperation, they remove a tablet and add an Elder Thing. The chaos bag starts with one of each of those tokens on all difficulties. Adding the token is not tied to the removal of the other, so even if you have zero of one and two of the other, you can still add a third of the second type of token.

Opportunities to choose between Trust and Deception are:
London(R&R): accept or refuse Flint’s offer.
London(Interlude): tell the truth to Taylor or not
London(revisit): tell the truth to Quinn or not
Buenos Aires: handle Bolivar’s inquiries
Istanbul: help or deceive Ece
Anchorage: make a deal with Thorne or not
Alexandria: work with the Knight or not
Kathmandu: accept or refuse the whistle

Should the players be instructed to add a token, but already have all four in the bag, they gain an XP instead. Since there are a total of eight times where this choice could come up and they already start with one of each symbol token already in the bag, they could gain 5XP in total this way if they always choose the same thing (and run into all those choices in the first place).

The players could also go for a balanced approach and make their choices in a way that they never add a token without also removing one. The reward for this is a somewhat more friendly less hostile chaos bag.

Action Taxing

One other thing that this campaign features in a noticeably large way is how it taxes your actions. Meaning, you have to regularly spend some of your actions on scenario or treachery effects and are thus unable to advance your own gameplan (or at least slowed down a lot). I already identified concealment as an action tax mechanic and as mentioned it’s in all but one scenario. But many of the treacheries also stack up on this. Most importantly the Spreading Corruption encounter set does a lot to stop players from actually getting to play the game, as does everyone’s least favorite omnipresent Core set menace: Striking Fear. Three of the scenarios even have Striking Fear and Spreading Corruption at the same time and it’s just a huge pain.

In response, players should aim to be very efficient about their actions that they actually get to take. Additional actions are of course great, as are effects that don’t require actions like events with Fast or free trigger abilities. Sandbagging a Ward of Protection(2) to neuter Frozen in Fear also goes a long way.

The Keys (and other story assets)

Obviously, the so-called Keys are an important element to the campaign, important enough to name the whole thing after them. Although i would just like to note here that only three of the keys are actually red, nevermind scarlet… and except one, maybe two, they don’t resemble keys either! But anyways, these things are artifacts of varying degrees of power, ranging all the way from “barely worth talking about” to “gamebreakingly strong”. And of course the players will want to get their hands on them, preferably on as many of the latter category rather than the former.

So here’s an overview over all the Keys, how useful they are and how to get them:
Best-Laid Plans: The actual Keys of The Scarlet Keys

Note that several of them fulfill criteria that we already identified as useful to deal with concealment, as you can for example use the Weeping Lady or the Mirroring Blade to expose mini-cards without spending an action or passing a test.

Alternate endings

The campaign always ends in the same place, in Tunguska. However, there are three different versions of the final scenario and it is preceded by a trial where the members of the Red Coterie vote on how to deal with you. There’s six different outcomes to this vote, from the coterie being destroyed to you taking a place among them.

Again, i will leave you with a link to a standalone article which goes into the details, so please read on here:
Best-Laid Plans: Scarlet Politics


Okay, bear with me here because this is going to be quite a bit more complicated than usual. The truth is that the sort of XP overviews that you could use to gauge how much you could expect to pick up during the campaign is not going to work very well for Scarlet Keys. This is because depending on your route through the campaign you could end up with very little XP overall or if you are lucky with at a somewhat healthy amount. Unless you are going to supplement your XP income with the likes of Delve Too Deep or Charon’s Obol you are not going to swim in experience ever, though. All together you can assume like 4-5XP per scenario plus a handful earned during travel. The rough part is that these XP are often tied to actually winning the scenario. If you end up failing a scenario or two, you might leave them completely empty handed.

Alright then, let’s get into listing all the stuff up for grabs and see where that leads us. The scenarios first:
London: 3 (locations) + 1 (Apocalyptic Presage) + 1 (Red-Gloved Man) = 5XP
Buenos Aires: 3 (Targets) + 2 (Sanguine Watcher) = 5XP
Istanbul: 5 (locations) + 1 (Umbral Harbinger) +1 (Emissary of Yuggoth) = 7XP
Marrakesh: 1 (Amaranth) + 1 (Khalid) +2 (civilians saved) + 2 (more civilians saved) = 6XP
Kuala Lumpur: 4 (locations) + 3 (saved geists) + 1 (Tzu San) +1 (subjugate Tzu) = 9XP
Havana: 4 (locations) + 1 (Desi) = 5XP
Alexandria: 1 (Bourse/Catacombs) + 1 (Beast/Claret Knight) + 4 (Key Loci) = 6XP
Anchorage: 3 (locations) + 1 (Void Chimera) + 1 (Apocalyptic Presage) + 1 (Emissary of Yuggoth) = 6XP
Without a Trace: 5 (locations) + 1 (Protoplasmic Reassembler) + 1 (Apocalyptic Presage) +1 (successful resolution, with Agent Quinn)= 8XP
Tunguska: 4 (locations) + 1 (Apocalyptic Presage) +5 (successful resolution) = 10XP

In addition to these, XP is also awarded for:
San Juan/Quito/Reykjavik/Kabul: retrieving your stolen key: up to 4XP
Nairobi: If Tuwile sees you as a friend: 1XP (locks Bermuda)
Bermuda: If Tuwile sees you as an enemy: 3XP (1XP otherwise)
San Francisco/Moscow: Taking XP in each safehouse: 2XP
London(revisit): Too late to start Without a Trace (or lacking the whistle): 2XP (1XP if able to start WaT instead)
Shanghai: Helping Flint: 1XP
Bombay/Stockholm: After visiting both of these locations: 2XP
Rio De Janeiro/Perth: meeting Dr. Irawan for the first and second time: 2XP
Manokwari: Too late to meet Dr. Irawan for the third time: 2XP
Ybor City: Picking up the Mirroring Blade in Desi’s safehouse: 2XP
Kathmandu: refusing to take Aliki’s offer: 1XP

As mentioned, you also gain an XP if you are instructed to add a tablet or Elder Thing to your chaos bag while it already has four of them. The maximum is 5XP.

When looking at this massive list of XP sources, one could think that you are in for a rain of XP that leaves no wishes unfulfilled. However, remember that every single one of these numbers comes with a cost of time. And very often, this time cost is actually higher than the XP gain. Generally speaking, if you are able to trade a time for an XP, that is a trade worth doing because you will usually not get that exchange rate over the course of the campaign on average. My suggestion is assuming that you go into the finale with 30-35XP and plan your deck accordingly. For reference, that is roughly what you’d expect to get in Path to Carcosa. It’s enough for most deck ideas, but if you want to go deep on something fancy (like the new Customizables) then you will probably want to look into some player cards that give XP (or make upgrades cheaper) as well.

Investigator Choice

There is quite the large roster of investigators available to us by now and not everyone is going to be equally well equipped for the specific challenges of The Scarlet Keys. To recap what was said earlier, i would value a good statline pretty highly due to it making it much easier to interact with concealed mini-cards. You’ll also want to be fairly durable. The campaign rewards being able to both fight and evade well within your team.

Here are two suggestions per class:
Nathaniel Cho: If you plan on going very combat heavy, maybe even moving into Marrakesh straight away, then Nate can do an excellent job of providing the necessary muscle. Thanks to concealment, he’s even useful outside of combat in this campaign.
Sister Mary: People constantly underestimate the impact that a steady supply of bless tokens has on the chaos bag. Having Mary around can do wonders to keep the bag a bit more friendly, as a support character you’ll want to play her in a full group though. That being said, you’d be surprised at the tests that you pass with Mary wielding two Ritual Candles.
Daisy Walker: Not only does she have that crucial 5 intellect that does *everything* in this campaign, but she also has a bonus action. When the game relies that heavily on draining all the player’s actions, it’s good to have a freebie to fall back on so you get something done every turn.
Minh Thi Phan: She is not only a great seeker, but she can also play a support role and have an impact on other peoples tests with loads of icons from commits.
Trish Scarborough: Her ability allows evading Elites without testing, something that comes in extremely handy in several places.
Finn Edwards: Even without a printed 5, he brings a very valuable statline to the table. What’s more, he gets a free action every turn that can be used on exposing a mini-card.
Akachi Onyele: Dealing with concealment puts a heavy drain on charge based spells. Akachi is the one who’d be best equipped to deal with that heads on, but using cards that don’t actually use charges (for example Sixth Sense, Summoned Servitor) might be even better.
Lily Chen: Can start with a 5 in a non-Willpower stat, which is of course exceptionally valuable here. Of course, she’s not really a Mystic but a Guardian, but oh well.
Darrell Simmons: Turns out you don’t have to care what sort of hellscape is going on in your chaos bag if you drop all important difficulties to zero.
Silas Marsh: Silas is excellent both at fighting and evading and that sort of flexibility pays off a lot in Scarlet Keys. He can also use his skills very efficiently, giving him a needed leg up on the chaos bag.

As usual, i want to stress that these are only suggestions. This is even more true here as some of your requirements surely are going to shift depending on what places you visit. If you feel like you aren’t bringing enough combat to the table for those scenarios, you can just feel free to not stop in Marrakesh or Kuala Lumpur. I am certainly not going to stop you from going into TSK with a team of Amina, Carson and Patrice either. I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathy. Nah, seriously though… you can totally make anything work, the card pool we have today is nuts.

Notable Player Cards

Speaking of the nutty cardpool, the same applies here as for the investigators. You can make pretty much anything work, but there are a couple cards that stand out as especially great in the context of the specific campaign challenges.

Again, let’s look at two per class:
Alice Luxley: Poor Alice isn’t really all that great in other campaigns, but here she can use that free damage to expose an extra mini-card per turn as long as you pass an investigate test.
On The Hunt: Allows pulling enemies out of the deck without triggering their concealment. This can save a lot of hassle down the road. Kicking the Hornet’s Nest does the same thing (and more because it also lets you expose a mini-card at the same time) for Rogue.
Ancient Stone(Elders): This is pretty much a battery of free mini-card exposes.
In The Know: Certainly a niche card, but i do try and mention those here. The ability to remotely expose mini-cards is quite useful and In The Know can help a Seeker to both save some actions moving around and lets them stay away from harm.
Skeleton Key: Allows cheating at concealment. This card is ridiculous here, especially when it comes to certain Elite encounters that heavily feature concealment which makes them scale with shroud.
Underworld Market: Are you afraid that some Outsider effect is going to hollow your expensive upgrades? If they are Illicit, you do have the option of stowing them away in their own side deck, where they are safe from such shenanigans.
Wither: Ha, i did it! I snuck Wither into a list of recommended cards! Look, it’s the cheapest way you have of being able to unconceal enemies using your Willpower without spending charges. I suppose you could use Sword Cane instead but for what it’s worth, that one exhausts and Wither doesn’t. The cane also takes away a hand slot and you are going to need those for your…
Ritual Candles: These are just amazing whenever the chaos bag starts acting up. Once you walk around with two candles and all those -4 cultists and tablets are actually only -2, you can play much more relaxed.
Ms. Doyle: No matter which cat you get, all of them are able to expose mini-cards at skill level 5. Once you can use the ability to trade a cat for another, you can even guarantee your exposes. This is really nice for a wide spread of survivors which tend to have rather flat statlines.
Will to Survive: The ability to not reveal any tokens for your tests has rarely been better.


Continue reading here:

Resurgent Evils: The (Unofficial) Return to The Innsmouth Conspiracy


“Resurgent Evils” is a series of articles on this site that looks at the “Return To” boxes which expand the original Arkham LCG campaigns by adding more cards, more mechanics, more challenges to the existing scenarios. Usually, this series of articles is meant to be a sort of review for the product, but this one is a bit different. Unlike the previous entries in the series, this one covers a fan-made product, not one from Fantasy Flight Games. And what’s more, it’s something I designed myself… and I’m certainly not going to review my own thing.

So this will act as more of a Design Notes/Release article sort of deal. The intention is giving an overview of what’s in the box and also sharing some behind-the-scenes and design thoughts behind the changes. I’ll be losely sticking to the format of my previous Resurgent Evils posts, meaning i will start with spoiler-free surface level summaries and get more detailed and spoilery as the article goes on. So you can decide where you draw the line for yourself if you want to stay unspoiled.

Since this doubles as a release article, i should probably also show you where to get the set in the first place.
The digital version is meant to be used with the mod for Tabletop Simulator, you can find it in the TTS Workshop: <Click Here!> or as a direct download: <Click Here!>
The Print and Play version includes a version with bleed, one without and the graphical assets for the dividers and the box: <Find everything you need for that here!>

Spoiler-free Summary

The Unofficial Return to The Innsmouth Conspiracy does not significantly alter the scenarios the way that for example Return to Forgotten Age does. Instead it focuses on deepening what is already there and lets the replacement encounter sets do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to how the campaign plays. I consider the scenarios in the Innsmouth campaign to already be excellent, so i didn’t feel much need to tinker with them extensively beyond some variance and plugging a few holes where especially Luke could unhinge some of the scenario mechanisms. One significant new campaign feature however is the inclusion of a “Deep One trait matters” theme. This picks up a major thread from HPL’s original Shadows over Innsmouth story and introduces the possibility for the player investigators to become Deep Ones themselves, with ups and downs associated with the change.
The player cards are of course revisiting bless and curse. Due to the unique opportunity of making some bless and curse cards, the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth includes an extra player card per class when compared to previous Returns, for a total of 3 per class, 1 neutral and 1 weakness.
I would compare the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth to the (Official) Return to Circle Undone: A bit more of a focus on the player cards than usual. And the replacement encounter sets do play a big part in how the scenarios play differently, sometimes more than the actual scenario specific changes.
The set is available as a digital plugin for TTS and as a print and play. Thanks to Hauke, the print and play even includes the instructions and graphical assets to create your own authentic Return to Innsmouth card box and dividers for all the encounter sets.

Spoilers Below!

This is where spoilers start. The following paragraphs ramp up in how “spoilery” they are, starting with just descriptions of what’s in the box, going over the player cards and then moving into the changed mechanics and campaign contents. Finally, i will give you a summary of what changes per scenario. So feel free to tag out whenever you think that you don’t want to see anything else. It should be noted though that these things are kinda spoiled while setting up the scenarios themselves. So going into a Return To scenario “blind” is not really going to happen either way.


As a fan project that is completely free to download and is not monetized in any way, it obviously can’t provide you with already assembled products… so how great the box is going to be will depend on your own arts and crafts abilities.
As for cards, there is a total of 106 cards, with 33 of them being player cards and the other 73 being encounter cards. 25 of those encounter cards go towards new encounter replacement sets, the other 48 are specific to one of the scenarios.
All the assets for a set of dividers is included to help you organize your old and new campaign cards within the box.
The rules insert comes in the form of a PDF, with the usual info on how to use replacement sets, additions to the campaign log and achievements. There are also some new rules in there related to Deep One investigators and also a clarification on how replacement sets interact with setup instructions that call out certain cards by name. And as with the official Return sets, this one offers a set of achievements that you can try and beat to demonstrate your mastery of this campaign!

Player cards

Each class gets three pairs of new cards. There’s also one neutral card and a (rather harsh) weakness for the basic pool. One card in each class continues something that the original Innsmouth player cards did for the first time: Shifting a card from one class into another with the upgrade while integrating it into either bless or curse mechanics. Like with the Holy Rosary that did this first, all of those class shifted upgrades are level 2.

Guardian gains Tides of Fate(2) from Mystic, which makes combos involving turning curses into blesses and then sealing them more accessible. At the same time, the upgraded Tides provides horror healing as an additional benefit. Book of Psalms(2) is now a Seeker card that fuels both bless and curse synergies at the same time. As a tome with secrets, it also feeds directly into multiple existing Seeker mechanics. Rogue gains Plan of Action(2) from Seeker, a powerful skill that starts at two wild icons and only ramps up from there, including a mode that adds blesses to the bag if you oversucceed your test. Mystic now has Keep Faith(2), which does add one fewer bless to the bag than the original Survivor card, but does remove a curse and potentially shuffles itself back into the deck. Finally, Survivor gains Priest of Two Faiths(2), which flips the token mechanics from the Rogue original on its head: The Survivor version adds curses on entering play, but pays out a bless per turn from then on.

The other two cards in each class are more traditional upgrades of existing cards from the original Innsmouth cycle. Guardian gains Blessed Blade(2), which allows sealing a bless token on it if it didn’t generate one for the bag that turn. That token can then be called on during an attack, making the upgraded Blade more consistent at dealing with enemies and an intermediate upgrade between its level zero and the level five Holy Spear. Meanwhile, Hand of Fate gets a massive level 4 upgrade that not only allows it to “Dodge” an enemy in a connecting location, but also exhausts that enemy for two turns.
Seekers get a new upgrade for the Cryptic Grimoire, turning curses into both extra actions and economy… provided you can build around it properly. There’s also a level 3 upgrade for the Cryptographic Cipher, which upgrades both abilities on the card subtly while also giving it an extra use. Since the Cipher’s second ability can now be used without exhausting, players can potentially spend all four uses within the three actions of their turn.
Rogues gain a level 3 version of Under Surveillance. Like many of the trap cards, this does require some setup to get full value out of, but the level 3 version can now trigger multiple times, so it does raise the ceiling on how much value you can get from it. Tristan Botley now has a level 5 upgrade that gives +1 to every skill. More importantly though, this highlevel Tristan can be played from the discard for free as well when three blurse tokens are pulled, allowing for a huge amount of stamina and sanity soak if you are able to do this reliably.
For Mystics, the level 3 Sword Cane leans fully into its strength as a quick response asset, as it can be returned to your hand for a sizeable bonus to your skill value when using it to evade or fight. Level 5 Abyssal Tome raises the ceiling for doom on it slightly, but more importantly it can come into play with up to two doom already on it, bypassing the ramping up over several turns involved in the original Tome.
Survivors show up with Butterfly Effect(3) which removes all limits from the original card. After playing the card, any investigator at their location is allowed to commit or retreat any amount of cards from a test. Token of Faith(5) is an incredibly powerful curse/bless engine. With it, the survivor can double dip on any curse effects, gaining bless tokens not only when curses are drawn, but also when they are added to the bag.
The first of the final two player cards is Manipulate Destiny(3) which keeps drawing tokens until both a curse/tentacle and a bless/Eldersign are revealed, then scales its effects off of all those tokens. This card has a particularly high ceiling when combined with sealing, but can have huge effect even without shenanigans. The other one is the weakness. Accursed, when drawn, will add another random basic weakness to the deck. This can happen once per game and while it does give XP in exchange every time, these weaknesses can stack up over the course of a campaign especially for investigators that draw many cards and cycle their decks.

The new player cards are intended to provide new hooks for decks, introducing payoffs for tokens the class didn’t care about before and some key pieces to build around.

Campaign wide changes

The original Innsmouth campaign is a fairly linear affair, with few decisions by the players really affecting much of what happens. This is not really changed by the Unofficial Return in a very significant way, mostly because the existing structure is quite rigid.

There is however one new thing that is seeded through all of the campaign now and that is the idea that the extended stay in Innsmouth can have an influence on the investigators. This doesn’t mean that the investigators suddenly sprout gills and fins from one hour to the next (at least not at first…) but that they feel the Call of the Sea and might just succumb to the same temptations of power and wealth that Innsmouth fell for. Mechanically, this is represented by investigators gaining the Deep One trait, either temporarily from a treachery or possibly even permanently through a player card that is added to their deck. Whether an investigator is a Deep One can have implications for locations, treacheries, enemies, resolutions, even the epilogue. It is in no way required, though. And it is something that is kept track of per investigator, not per group. Being a Deep One has both positive and negative implications throughout the campaign, which does make it an actual tradeoff that you as a player are supposed to be tempted by to go for. Probably not for the whole team, but your group would certainly profit from having one or two Deep One investigators in it.

There are also a few “bugfixes” to the campaign, mostly to stop Luke Robinson from making a mockery of the campaign mechanics.

Replacement Encounter Sets

There are six replacement encounter sets in the box, including one from the Core set and variants on the Tidal Tunnels.

Barricaded Doors: Replaces Locked Doors. There is plenty of agility testing in the campaign and Locked Doors felt excessive and/or redundant. Barricaded Doors is easier to clear, but will usually at least waste an action and deal some damage. Barricaded Doors could potentially also be used in other campaigns that feature Locked Doors (that’s literally all of them as of now).

Innsmouth Haze: Replaces Fog over Innsmouth. The main attraction here is the Immaterial One, which replaces the Winged One. Winged One has an interesting mechanic of scaling its agility value with the shroud of its location, but then never does anything with that. Immaterial One expands on this and is rather impactful as a result as it can only be permanently defeated while exhausted.

Occultation: Replaces Syzygy. Syzygy is one of the more prominent encounter sets from the final stretch of scenarios. Occultation has two high impact treacheries that inject some additional spice into Lair of Dagon and Maelstrom in particular. Like in Syzygy, one of them acts as this campaign’s signature version of Ancient Evils while the other one has a major impact on the Flood mechanic.

Rolling Tides: Replaces Rising Tides. This is a major set for the campaign and is used a lot. This set can move flood marker around, make players give up their assets for fear of drowning or make them walk into floods as they hear the call of the sea.

Stalkers of Cthulhu: Replaces Agents of Cthulhu. This set anchors the Deep One theme in the first few scenarios by giving another treachery that gives that trait to investigators and also an enemy that specifically goes after Deep One investigators.

Return to Flooded Caverns: Combines with Flooded Caverns. The usual replacement set rules don’t apply for this set. Instead of swapping out the sets wholesale, the default way of using this set is using one Tidal Pool, Underground River and Underwater Cavern from the original set and one each from the replacement. So you end up with six unique Tidal Tunnels in your locations, increasing the variance in the many scenarios that use them.

These encounter sets were chosen to provide an even amount of replacement sets used per scenario, with at least two each. As mentioned before, they do a lot of the work towards making the Deep One subtheme tick and especially Occultation and Rolling Tides are major influences on how the flooding behaves.

Return to Pit of Despair

There are two new treacheries involved in Pit of Despair. One, Lost in the Caves, is fairly harmless but can occasionally be inconvenient, as it forces a movement, if possible into an unrevealed location. The other one, Troubling Memories, is potentially scarier. Its effects scale with the number of memories recovered, so near the end of the scenario this treachery can become very ugly. In terms of replacement sets, Pit uses Stalkers of Cthulhu for a first taste of the Deep One trait and Rolling Tides to make the flooding even more serious than it is in the base game. The intention behind the changes is keeping the scenario mostly the same in feel, but mellowing the first couple of turns a bit in exchange for some additional pressure near the end. A replacement agenda fixes an issue that could stop the Amalgam from entering the game completely if Luke does Luke things.

Return to Vanishing of Elina Harper

This is probably the scenario that got the most flashy change with the Unofficial Return To. The Leads deck now contains three additional cards at start. Those are neither Suspect enemies nor locations, but story assets that represent inhabitants of Innsmouth that players can acquire and use to help for the rest of the investigation. While these assets do initially water down the deck, their long term effects make up for that. The original Vanishing had the problem that pulling locations from the Leads was way superior to pulling Suspects, due to the latter not giving any XP. This is correted now, as Suspects will grant XP during the resolution. Also, one of the new story assets in the Leads deck specifically helps with gaining clues off of Suspects. When pulling cards out of the Leads deck, new encounter cards are only shuffled into it when a Suspect or location was put into play. So there’s no additional punishment for finding encounter cards or one of the three story assets. Addionally, there’s a new treachery added to the encounter deck, Growing Suspicion, that interacts with Suspect enemies.
Innsmouth Haze and Barricaded Doors are used in this scenario, so players should be somewhat afraid (or at least aware) of the possibility that the Immaterial One shows up. That thing can be a real showstopper when revealed early and/or unprepared.

Return to In Too Deep

This scenario would be almost unchanged… if it weren’t for the encounter replacements. In Too Deep uses Occultation, Rolling Tides and Stalkers of Cthulhu, all of which are quite impactful here. The combination of Occultation and Tides can cause a lot of floodings ahead of time, with a wide range of consequences. While Pit of Despair had Stalkers of Cthulhu and Vanishing had The Locals, this scenario has both of those encounter sets and thus both treacheries that can grant the Deep One trait are in play. This has implications for several of the other cards from the replacement sets. This is also the first scenario that can permanently give a player the Deep One trait through a permanent story asset if certain conditions are met.

Return to Devil Reef

Devil Reef is a scenario I personally like a lot, but it is somewhat infamous for being very hard to do in solo. The Return tries to help in that regard with a new version of the Fishing Vessel that grants a bonus move while only one passenger is aboard. Also, there’s a new Devil Reef location that connects to all other Ocean traited locations, granting several new ways of moving around the islands through its connections and through its ability. It’s also both a Cave and an Ocean, so it does serve as a way to hide your boat from the kraken.
Rolling Tide is the only replacement set (aside from the Tidal Tunnels) used here, making this scenario the one that sticks closest to the original one.
There is another new location to this scenario, and it’s actually shuffled into the encounter deck. When drawn, the Shrine to Hydra tempts a player into accepting the Deep One permanent in exchange for riches and progress. If none of the investigators in your group ended up as Deep Ones during In Too Deep, then this Shrine to Hydra offers the final attempt by the Old Ones to get you in on the deal with them.

Return to Horror in High Gear

The Return to Horror in High Gear was guided by one idea primarily: Making Malfunction matter. Usually, when playing this scenario, players could mostly ignore Malfunction and just keep on rolling. Now there is a new treachery in the deck, Wrecked!, which will flip any running vehicle with an attached Malfunction to its “Stopped” side. So better care about that Malfunction before it comes to bite you when its the most inconvenient. Two new locations can appear in the Roads deck. Mud Tracks has to be cleared completely from clues before the players can move on. Straight Section has no clues and can be moved through at no cost at all, but any enemies that enter it, gain a free activation of their Hunter keyword. Ideally, players should use the straight section to use the extra movement on their car as well to stay ahead… if it isn’t blocked by a Malfunction.
Innsmouth Haze is used in this scenario, but it’s not a huge influence when compared to the rest of the changes.

Return to Light in the Fog

One of my favorite scenarios overall, this would have needed no touching up at all. But of course it does get some significant things that build on existing mechanics anyways. First off, the combination of Rolling Tide and Occultation really does a number on the flooding in the new version of this scenario and depending on your encounter draws you might have to work extra hard in the Pump Room to keep the relevant locations usable. A pair of new treacheries builds on the two interesting mechanics from this scenario: Born to Breed shuffles back all Deep One Hatchlings from the encounter discard, making those pesky critters even more annoying than before. Deep One Grappler is an enemy that only starts appearing during the final phase of the scenario when the flood level repeatedly increases. It builds on the effect on the agenda that pulls players to deeper levels: Grapplers pull players down a level the same way whenever they engage a player, however they can only move into fully flooded locations when not already engaged.

Return to Lair of Dagon

Occultation and Barricaded Doors are the two replacement sets used here, both with decent impact on the scenario. The main change to the scenario however comes with the introduction of two alternate Doorway to the Depths locations that provide some variety to the part where the players are running around the Tidal Tunnels again. The investigators still need to acquire the green key and a number of clues to proceed, but depending on the version of the Doorway you get, you have to either explore, investigate or fight to get that key.
Once Dagon himself is in play, an encounter card called Stirring in his Sleep is added to the encounter deck which can hasten his awakening. This isn’t terribly impactful just yet, but that extra point of doom can make the difference. It mostly acts as a thematic preview of what’s coming in Into the Maelstrom, though.

Return to Into the Maelstrom

The primary concern that many people have with Innsmouth’s finale is how easy it is. While that’s not all that possible to solve while still keeping the scenario itself intact (with all its frills like the alternate acts and the flashback), the Return does tighten up the doom clock considerably. And it does awaken Dagon ahead of Hydra, so you are very unlikely now to just finish the scenario before having an Old One stomping around the caverns. The Occultation set is very impactful here, both as a source of a quasi-Ancient Evils, but also through fully flooding locations again with King Tide. Two copies of Stirring in their Sleep do each add a doom to a sleeping Old One, working towards having to deal with Hydra and Dagon. Once the two big fishgods awake, Presence of the Father and Presence of the Mother are added to the encounter deck, cards that enhance the Brood of Dagon and Hydra while those are near their respective lairs.


Continue reading here:

Best-Laid Plans: Traveling the World


In the Scarlet Keys campaign, the investigators have to decide how to best spend their limited time on moving across the globe. The first one to three plays of the campaigns should be spent exploring and i strongly urge you to not immediately consult a guide like this to make your decisions. But once you have seen most the campaign has to offer, you will be aware of certain goals that you might want to go for and/or want to spend a bit more time planning in advance to get the most out of each play. This guide is meant to list things that you might want to be aware of when making your preparations.

Time spent per location

Just because you have 35 time to spend, doesn’t mean that you get to visit 35 locations. Many places take multiple time away from you. In fact, even the initial Riddles and Rain can either take 1 or 2 time away depending on your choices. In many cases, the time spent at a certain location varies depending on conditions, so i can’t really give a great overview of everything here. At least not one that would be particularly useful. I’ll try to mention time spent on things in any of the following sections.

The scenarios – General information

Out of the 10 scenarios in the Scarlet Keys, six are readily available on the map if you travel there. They take up a varying amount of time (in addition to the travel time) and some might vary in how they work depending on total time passed.
Dancing Mad: Havana. Takes 1-2 time. If players arrive after 20 time have passed, the first part of the scenario changes.
Dead Heat: Marrakesh. Takes 1-2 time. Has various stacking penalties that apply during setup after 11, 15, 18 time. If you arrive after 25 time, the scenario is no longer available. Offers a better resolution if you went to San Francisco before and acquired intel on Amaranth.
Dealings in the Dark: Istanbul: Takes 2-3 time. The cultists you race against do get an increasing head start if you arrive late during your campaign, the breakpoints are 11, 18 and 25 time.
Dogs of War: Alexandria. Takes 1-3 time. There are 3 versions of this scenario. Arriving before 20 time gives players the choice between v1 and v2. Afterwards will lead to v3.
On Thin Ice: Anchorage. Takes 3 time. For each 5 time that passed before coming here, Thorne gets 1 doom worth of a head start towards reaching the key before the investigators do.
Sanguine Shadows: Buenos Aires. Takes 1-3 time. No special time scaling or requirements.

The other four are special cases. Let’s start with the two easy ones, the start and the end of the campaign. These two don’t factor into the details of your your travel prep, but there are some useful things to know:
Riddles and Rain: London. You always start your campaign here, so it can neither be missed nor skipped. Takes either 1 or 2 time, leaving you with 33 or 34 for the rest of the campaign.
Congress of the Keys: Tunguska. This is where it ends. The scenario unlocks after 15 time, from that point you can visit it at any point and end your campaign there. If you hit 35 time at any point during your campaign, you are immediately transported here (with a complimentary Cultist token for your chaos bag), so anything you want to achieve in your run will have to happen in the first 34 time. There are three different versions of this scenario and how to get to each will be covered in detail later.

To get to the Shades of Suffering scenario, you need to go through several locations. This is still somewhat straightforward and you are guided through it by the Campaign Book, but it is going to take up some more time than usual.
Shades of Suffering: Shanghai > Hong Kong > Kuala Lumpur. Getting to this scenario starts by talking to Flint in Shanghai, then following the story. The scenario itself takes 1 time, but you spend at least 5 more time getting from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur. Depending on how late you arrive, the Shade Reaper key starts with an increasing amount of bonus charges. The breakpoints are 12, 19 and 27 time (which does of course include the 5 travel time, so if you want to play this one without any penalty, you need to reach Shanghai before 7 time. Since moving there from London takes 4 time and Riddles and Rain also took at least 1, this barely allows for stopping in Istanbul for Dealings in the Dark (and only if you do it without Ece’s help because otherwise you spend 3 time there instead of 2).

Finally, there’s Without A Trace aka “The Secret Scenario”. To gain access, you need to do several specific tasks. I’ll go into this in detail in its own chapter:

Without a Trace

To be allowed access to Without a Trace, the players need to do five specific things.

Step 1 and 2: Visit Kathmandu and Sidney. The order in which you visit these two doesn’t matter. This will have you meet Aliki who gives you a whistle and will unlock the return visit to London. Note that accepting the whistle will give everyone a point of trauma (while refusing it gains an XP instead), but accepting it is mandatory if you want to do Without a Trace.
You will need to visit Sidney before 20 time have passed, otherwise Agent Quinn won’t be around anymore to unlock the London location for you.

Step 3: Visit London. If the cell told the truth to Taylor way at the beginning of the campaign, you can do no wrong here. Otherwise, you will need to tell the truth to Agent Quinn here to proceed towards Without a Trace. You also need to arrive here before 30 time. If you did everything right, you should now have “the cell is off-mission“.

Step 4: Visit Rome. As long as you are “off-mission”, going to Rome will unlock a special location in the Bermuda Triangle that you can reach from either of the surrounding locations: Ybor City, San Juan, Bermuda.

Step 5: Visit the Bermuda Triangle. This is where the scenario is. Doing it will take 1-3 time, depending on how well you do. Best plan for 3 time.

If you wanted to just go straight from Riddles and Rain to do Without a Trace, that would take you a total of 17 time: 3 to get to Kathmandu, another 3 to move on to Sydney, then 4 to get back to London, 1 from there to Rome, and finally another 3 to get to the Bermuda Triangle and up to 3 to play the scenario. That leaves you with another 15-ish time to spend on other things either along the way or before/afterwards. Notably, the route will lead you through Buenos Aires and Istanbul and closely to Havana, Shanghai, Marrakesh and Alexandria. Only Anchorage is a bit out of the way, but you could easily incorporate it into your route as well. So while the logistics around Without a Trace do take up half your available time, there is still a decent amount of freedom left to do another 3 or 4 scenarios before having to go to Tunguska.

The scenarios – Early or Late?

One of the guidelines you might want to apply when thinking about in which direction to go after Riddles and Rain is how the different scenarios change if you arrive there particularly early or late.

These are the scenarios you can move towards the end because they either don’t change or don’t necessarily change for the worse:
Dancing Mad: While the scenario has a more tense opening act if you arrive after 20 time, most of it is unchanged. If you do want the Mirroring Blade, do allow for the collection from the safehouse in Ybor afterwards, but otherwise Havana isn’t terribly urgent.
Dogs of War: The easiest version of the scenario (v1) is no longer available after 20 time, but if you are shooting for the key, then the difference between v2 and v3 isn’t huge.
Sanguine Shadows: This scenario doesn’t scale with time, so you are free to do it whenever.

These are the ones you’ll want to tackle early because they get considerable penalties as the time goes on:
Dead Heat: Depending on when you arrive, a number of civilians are already slain, Amaranth starts in play or the scenario isn’t available at all. The Marrakesh scenario is one of the hardest ones in Scarlet Keys in the first place, so this is a priority if you do want to go for it.
Shades of Suffering: Speaking of hard, the Shanghai/Kuala Lumpur scenario is right up there with Marrakesh. Arriving there late puts initial charges on the Shade Reaper which makes chaos tokens harder, scales some treacheries and increases the danger during the final confrontation with Tzu San. All of these things are very bad for your health.

These are the ones that are somewhere in the middle between the two extremes:
Dealings in the Dark: The head start that the cultists get makes the first part of the scenario more difficult, but not extremely so. And even if they get to the key before the investigators do, stealing it back from them in the final part is an option. This one can wait, if you want to.
On Thin Ice: Do you want to claim the Sable Glass for yourself? If you do, you will probably want to go here early because if Thorne beats you to the key, you will have to fight them for it … and Thorne is a terrifying enemy. If you don’t care about the key, then On Thin Ice can wait at least a bit. You do get some initial doom, but the total doom threshold for the scenario is fairly generous. It’s just the first agenda that determines if you find the key before Thorne does that is very tight.

The other consideration to make when deciding on scenario order is the relative difficulty of them. Now, this is of course a bit subjective and changes with investigators you use as well, but as a rule of thumb:

Easier: Dancing Mad, Dogs of War, Sanguine Shadows
In the Middle: On Thin Ice, Dealings in the Dark
More difficult: Dead Heat, Shades of Suffering, Without a Trace

Usually, you’d want to go for easier scenarios first and build up your deck and XP for later ones… however as you can see the difficult ones are exactly the ones we tagged as scaling with time earlier. And the easy ones are those that can be done near the end of the campaign without much of a penalty. There’s not really a great way to solve this tension, it just is what it is and you will need to make a decision which criteria is more important to you. This is where you also consider that you will likely not be able to do every scenario and for example skipping Dead Heat and Shades might become a necessity if your investigators aren’t strong enough on just a handful of XP.

Istanbul > Alexandria > Marrakesh

One constellation of locations that i want to highlight is the one between Istanbul, Alexandria and Marrakesh. These are all scenario locations and they are not only very close to each other, but they are also right next to London. This makes them an attractive set of places to visit at the start of the campaign. Moving from London through these 3 locations takes only 4 time in total. The fourth location you move through is either Lagos (where you can spend another time to pick up Intel that needs to go to Tokyo) or Rome (whch gives a 1 resource bonus for the next scenario). Istanbul is particularly well suited for a first scenario because while it can be somewhat challenging, you can employ the help of Ece Sahin who is quite powerful. The scenario also gives a decent amount of XP that will help jumpstart decks. Alexandria is not particularly difficult, especially if you pass on the Light of Pharos. Marrakesh is a tough nut, but if your team has the ability to handle enemies well, doing it this early should be doable. Remember that you can go through Rome when moving from Alexandria to Marrakesh to collect a bonus resource that will apply to Dead Heat, making iteasier to get set up which is desperately needed.
As a result of doing these three scenarios, you will have collected a good amount of XP, at least one excellent key (the Blossom) while only spending a minimum amount of time on travelling. You are now only two time away from Havana or can move through South America into Oceania to continue.
If your team includes investigators that are able to consistently evade Amaranth (and her lion) while also killing undead on very few XP, you might even consider going through these locations the other way round. This is harder to do, but with a strong setup like that you can probably also claim the Light of Pharos from the Claret Knight and/or take the Twisted Antiprism for yourself in Istanbul. This will set you up very comfortably for whatever else you might want to do. For example, you could head to Kathmandu next and get started on the Without a Trace storyline or just move into Moscow and take a ticket to wherever you want.

Other notable locations and things to earn

Doing scenarios is not the only thing that you can do while traveling the map in The Scarlet Keys. There are several mini-quests scattered around that reward you with XP, story assets or even just information.

Tuwile Masai/The Bale Engine: Getting Tuwile Masai on your side and your hands on the Bale Engine key is a questline that starts in Nairobi. If you arrive there and have already proven yourself to be an ally to the coterie (by getting favorable resolutions with at least three out of La Chica Roja, Claret Knight, Aliki, Desi, Thorne, Ece), then Tuwile will immediately be on your side and hand you the key. In that case, the whole ordeal only costs 1 time to resolve, but of course you had to do the legwork beforehand. If you didn’t, Tuwile will flee to Bermuda. In Bermuda, the condition for a positive resolution will invert: You will get him as an ally and get to claim the key, but only if you didn’t make more than one of the previously mentioned coterie members into an enemy. If you did, that’s still not too bad… while you won’t get the key or the support from Tuwile, you do at least get 3XP for your troubles.
The Bale Engine is a rather weak key and not really worth the trouble, but if you care about the resolution of the vote in the finale, then Tuwile is an important ally to gain. He will by default vote against you, so swinging that in your favor does double duty in gaining a majority in your favor.
Moving from Nairobi to Bermuda takes at least four time, a considerable amount. It doesn’t even lead through particularly worthwhile locations, so this is a prime opportunity to use an Expediting Ticket if you have one.

Dr. Dewi Irawan/The Ruinous Chime: To get the Ruinous Chime and secure the support of Dr. Irawan, start in either Perth or Rio de Janeiro. This will have you meet Dr. Irawan for the first time and point you to the other city next. Arriving at the second location will then unlock Manokwari in New Guinea where you will finally finish this scavenger hunt and gain both the key and Dr. Irawan as a story asset.
There are some time requirements to this one. You need to arrive at the second location before 25 time went by. Once you do, it starts a timer of 10 time. If you fail to move to Manokwari in those 10 time, you will get neither the key nor the story asset as both will have vanished from existence.
Unlike the Bale Engine, the Chime is actually worth getting and can be a huge help in scenarios with powerful Elites, like Dead Heat or Dogs of War.
Dr. Irawan is not a member of the Red Coterie and therefore doesn’t have an influence on the vote in Council of the Keys.
Moving from Rio de Janeiro to Perth takes 3 time, continuing from Perth to Manokwari takes another 2 time for a total of 5. If you start in Perth, you need to backtrack an extra location on your way from Rio to Manokwari, for a total of 6 time.

Inspector Flint: The inspector has his own story asset and if you get on his good side, you can add him to one of the investigator’s decks. To do so, you have two options, the hard way or the easy way. The hard way is doing Shades of Suffering, although you don’t need to actually finish it, you get to add him at setup. The easy way is open to you if you opted to hide the truth from Taylor after Riddles and Rain. This will allow you to convince Flint to drop his case on Tzu San when you first encounter him again in Shanghai by going with the “Forget her. We need your help” option. This will lock both Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, but will add Flint as a story asset to your decks with minimal fuss.

Agent Ari Quinn: Agent Quinn is a very powerful story ally, but getting her is easier said than done: You need to start Without a Trace and throw away the whistle during the introduction to the scenario. This will add Quinn as an ally (instead of Aliki who get hollowed now…). For the details on how to get to Without a Trace, see above.

Foundation offices: The Foundation has offices in Moscow and San Francisco and making a stop there gives three options: Collect an XP, gain an Expedited Ticket or get intel. Stopping at the office doesn’t take time, so you might as well do it if you move through the location. Gaining the XP is unlikely to be worth it, as the Expediting Ticket does translate into enough extra time that it will likely allow playing an extra scenario which is worth a whole lot more.
The Moscow office has intel on Desi, allowing the team to tell the fake Desi from the real one in Havana. This is particularly useful if they count on Desi’s vote in the finale for one of the non-standard resolutions of the council.
In San Francisco, the team can pick up intel on Amaranth, allowing them to free her host from Amaranth’s influence and getting rid of her permanently.

Strange Architecture: If the investigators pass through both Bombay and Stockholm, they can pick up some extra XP. It costs an extra time at the second location, but is rewarded with 2XP for the whole team.
This isn’t worth doing even a slight detour for, but if you move through these, you might as well pick them up. Stockholm is a bit out of the way of everything, the only likely opportunity you will have to move through it is when moving between Reykjavik and Kabul on the search for your stolen key.

Intel Delivery: The Foundation needs some intel delivered between Lagos and Tokyo and will employ the investigators to do it for them. The intel is added as a weakness card to each players deck at the first location. The only way to get rid of it is moving to the other one and spending an extra time there. As a reward, the players get to nudge one chaos token’s modifier in their favor by 1.
I don’t think this reward is worth the effort at all, the slight improvement to one chaos token has very little impact on the living hell that is the Scarlet Keys chaos bag. It’s barely worth the extra time, not to mention having to deal with a weakness for a while. I suggest just moving through Lagos and Tokyo without resolving their location.
The quickest way from Lagos to Tokyo (or vice versa) leads through North America and takes up 5 time. The saving grace here is that if you move from Tokyo to Lagos, you pass through the San Francisco office where you can pick up intel on Amaranth who can meet in Marrakesh, right next to Lagos. So there’s some synergy there.

The wait for Desi’s Safehouse: After finishing the Havana scenario, you don’t immediately get the Mirroring Blade (if you earned it), but instead have to collect it from Ybor City, right next to Havana. The catch is that 6 time have to pass after finishing Havana before you can gain access to the safehouse, so you need to pass the time somewhat productively in the mean time.
There are basically five options on how to handle this: One, do On Thin Ice in Anchorage. Two, do Sanguine Shadows in Buenos Aires. Three, rummage through Quito and San Juan to hopefully get your stolen key back. Four, just move on and come back later. There’s no expiry date on the password, so you could just travel the world more and return for the key near the end of the campaign. Five, just move on and let the key stay in the safehouse. It’s a rather good one, so i would recommend picking it up, but depending on what your plans are, you might not be able to fit in the extended stay.

The stolen keys: After 20 time, a random coterie member will steal a random key from you. To get it back, the players will have to search the four possible hiding places in Quito, San Juan, Reykjavik and Kabul. Which one is the right one is random, so your chances are 25%, 33% and 50% on the first, second and third location you check, respectively. Searching the wrong places wastes a lot of time, but you do at least get an extra XP for each wrong lead… as long as you finish the whole thing. If you stop mid-search, you gain nothing.
This can be a very annoying event, depending on which key gets stolen and who gains it. The coterie member might use it against you in future scenarios and there are certainly some combinations that are absolutely brutal.
In some cases, accepting that the key is gone and not investing a crazy amount of travel time is actually the right play.
If i plan on hitting the Quito and San Juan locations, i like doing Havana first, as the time spent on searching for my lost key in those places nicely bridges the time before i gain access to the Ybor City safehouse.

Campaign endings

Another thing that might be a factor in where you want to go could be that you are trying to achieve a certain version of the final scenario, Congress of the Keys. In total, there are six different outcomes to the vote that happens in the prelude to the finale that lead to three different versions of Congress of the Keys:

Version 1: The investigators are deemed enemies and/or a liability by the coterie.
Version 2: The investigators are deemed assets by the coterie and might even join their ranks or reform it.
Version 3: The vote isn’t carried out in full, because outsiders and the coterie clash directly with each other, either because he investigators managed to convince the coterie that the outsiders are an immediate threat or because the outsiders managed to infiltrate the coterie completely.

For more details on the requirements for these outcomes, refer to Scarlet Politics, which is its own article and will give you pointers on which locations to hit in which order.


There’s a whole lot of different approaches to how to plan your route. You can even go in and just wing it, with maybe just some loose ideas in the back of your head on things you might want to go. However, if you do want to spend some time on planning ahead, this page should give you all the tools you need to do so.

My suggestion would be to start with a central idea (like “Let’s do Without a Trace!” or “Let’s join the Coterie!”) and look at the minimum path required for that. Then expand from there with notable things along the way and maybe a detour or two to fit in additional scenarios (or even standalones). Personally, i’d aim for 5-6 scenarios in addition to Riddles and Rain and Congress of the Keys, to match the typical length of a campaign.

Best-Laid Plans

This page is part of my “Best-Laid Plans” series of campaign Deep Dives. For Scarlet Keys, i had to break it up into parts due to sheer volume. Find the rest of the Deep Dive and other articles about this campaign at my Scarlet Keys hub.

Irregular Evils #43: State of the Website and Going Forward

Alright, here’s the problem

It’s now been a full month since i posted some new content on this site. Considering that i used to have like 2 articles per week for a while and had it as my goal to settle on one per week, i feel like this is a good opportunity to take a step back and rethink some things. Now, the time that i am spending on designing and putting together the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth set certainly plays a part in why there’s not much happening here lately, but I’d be lying if I were to just claim that’s all there is to it.

See, i have this half-written page on the Dogs of War scenario prepared… and no actual desire to finish it right now. I opened it like seven or eight times over the last couple weeks, looked at it, went “Uuuugh.” and closed it. And i want to make clear that this is not a Scarlet Keys thing. I made it through full coverage for Edge of the Earth after all and that box was just mediocre through and through. Scarlet Keys is a lot better and more interesting than Edge.

So, what’s going on then

When i started Ancient Evils, it was as a way for me to dig into the innards of the game. To see how it works, what design choices were made and to learn from it. Simply out of interest. And that’s still the case, as far as my primary intention goes. The issue i find now is this: Most of what i am actually spending time on here is not working towards my intention. It’s just bookkeeping. Busywork. Listing stuff. Which is fine as long as i get something from it, but lately i didn’t really. And i am going to cut away some of what i find uninteresting from now on.


Let’s take the Scarlet Keys content as an example. I do like the card-by-card pages for the encounter sets (example). I frequently find myself noticing stuff while writing those up and they are easy to do and actually fun. So those stay. The other side of the coin are the scenario pages, though (example). When i expanded them from a card-by-card format to a more expansive format, i clearly overdid it and i need to reel that back. Waaaay back. Anything that is just chronicling how the scenario goes instead of analyzing it is too much. Those pages aren’t supposed to be walkthroughs either and especially for TSK i found that i have been writing a lot about the larger campaign context instead of the scenario itself as well. While that’s not bad content at all, it’s not really what i want from those pages. Maybe those pages even need to go completely and merge into the Deep Dive.

Speaking of the “Best-Laid Plans” Deep Dive, that one i like quite a bit and I’d want to keep it for sure. I could even see that one growing a bit if i let the scenario pages die. Oh, and don’t you worry, the XP overview is going nowhere. I am well aware that it’s one of the most opened pages on Ancient Evils.

But wait, there’s more

There’s one other thing that keeps me from updating my site currently: I find that the design and development of the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth is just much more interesting to me than just chronicling Scarlet Keys. Considering that people have been asking about a possible Return to Dream-Eaters and that i have some other ideas as well, that could mean that i will need to have an even more closer look at what one person can realistically do without burning out.

I also found some other side-projects like the Buying Guide, the reviews for every single player card and the two single-card deep dives way more interesting to do than what i set out to do originally on Ancient Evils. And i certainly have some more ideas on what to do in that direction as well.

So… uuuuh… bottom line? Tl;dr?

I guess all of the rambling above can be summed up by saying that i am going to realign some things on the site. I don’t know how exactly yet, but something has to be done because i have too much going on right now. I pretty much know that the next campaign box is not going to get such a time-intensive treatment as Edge and Keys have gotten. Speaking of Keys… i am not sure if i am going to finish it the same way i started it. I kinda want to because having incomplete things sucks… but i also kinda just don’t want to because i don’t feel like it. Will you ever see that Dogs of War page? I give that a solid 50/50. Chances are, i will move onto more parts for the Deep Dive next instead and see if i can’t put a cap on that whole Scarlet Keys business somewhat in the near future. I actually have a half-written article for that lying around as well… and it doesn’t even make we groan when i look at it. And as for next campaign, we’ll see. I’ll come up with something that still provides the info but without costing me sleepless hours and weekends on end. And then i can finally decide on what new and exciting stuff i can spend those hours and weekends on.

Cheers o/