Irregular Evils #44: Updating the 2022 scenario rankings with TSK


In both 2021 and 2022 I went over all of the scenarios from released campaigns and ranked them. The way i did it was by first assigning every scenario one of five tiers, ranking them within their campaign and finally within their tier to get a complete list. This year i am not going to go through all of the process again, the only relevant new product since the last time almost one and a half years ago was Scarlet Keys and I don’t think that my thoughts about the other campaigns have changed significantly over the time either.

So as a reminder, here’s the criteria for the five tiers and the complete list from last year:

Scenario rankings 2022

Also, here’s the link to the final article for the 2022 rankings (with links to the others): Irregular Evils #40: Scenario rankings 2022, part IV

Also a reminder: Any scenario in the above list that has an official “Return To” available assumes the “Return To” version.

The Scarlet Keys

I intentionally waited a bit before trying to sort TSK into those rankings, because some of my thoughts about these scenarios evolved quite a bit over multiple replays of the campaign. But now that i feel reasonably confident about my take on them, let’s check out the individual scenarios and what i think of them:

Riddles and Rain: A solid tier 2, maybe even on the upper end of the tier. Like many first scenarios before it, Riddles and Rain manages to make a good introduction into the themes and mechanisms of the campaign. Curiously, it even manages to be a good intro into the game. If the rest of TSK wasn’t so completely hostile to new players, then R&R would’ve made an excellent alternative to The Gathering or Extracurricular Activities for introducing new people into the game.

Dancing Mad: Lower tier 2. It’s better than average for sure and i appreciate that it manages to feature both of the primary mechanisms of TSK and having both of them matter.

Dead Heat: Once again, middle to upper tier 2. This is the scenario that i changed my opinion on the most. I had an absolutely awful first impression of it, but it managed to make a better and better impression with each replay. Having a full on combat scenario around is pretty great once you can prepare for it and not get blindsided. This is a fantastic benchmark for your fighters, it requires evasion in addition to combat and also keeps your seekers busy. The only thing that keeps it out of the upper tiers for me is its dumb encounter deck. I hate the action tax BS that Scarlet Keys gets up to soooo very much. Let me play the game, burying me in Distorted Reasonings, Frozen in Fears and Compulsions is just miserable.

Dealings in the Dark: And what do you know, another middle to upper tier 2. Look, i know it’s looking like high praise for TSK here, but somehow the good scenarios all start with a ‘D’ and i am doing these alphabetically… it’s only going downhill from here. Dealings and Dead Heat are my two favorites from TSK. Dealings does a great job of being “Concealment: The Scenario” and there’s a lot of tight moments in this scenario. It could stand to be a little bit shorter, but the race with the cultists is unique and mechanically well done.

Dogs of War: Lower Tier 3. Just a middle of the road scenario, in any of its versions. I appreciate it as a reasonably easy scenario that can be done early so i will usually play it in my campaigns, but nothing about it particularly excites me.

On Thin Ice: Upper Tier 3. The bossfight is interesting in concept, but doesn’t really get to shine fully once you know what’s coming and that it’s always correct to put tokens on every Wilderness location (but one) before advancing. The first half of the scenario is somewhat generic, too. It’s slightly better than average but probably not enough to break into the next tier.

Sanguine Shadows: Solid Tier 3, saved by its final act from sliding to the lower end of the tier. The other scenario that is mainly about concealment. It’s … fine. Just very repetitive. I don’t mind that too much, but i am obviously also not excited by doing the same thing three to five times. The encounter deck is also very one-note, throwing horror and damage at you like crazy. The possibility of getting the extra act with the Watcher is pretty cool though, and is a suitable motivation to try and ace the repetitive part.

Shades of Suffering: Upper tier 5. Ugh, this one. This is a variant on Wages of Sin, my least favorite scenario due to randomness, difficulty and unfair nonsense. All three of those things are still present in Shades. The randomness is dialed in a bit and you do get the opportunity to face umbrella girl even if you bombed the ghost hunt and both of those things definitely help Shades to be better than Wages. Ultimately that’s the lowest bar i have available though and Shades still repeats most of what i despise about Wages. It also has that insufferable encounter deck that does the same action tax mobbing that Dead Heat does. Due to how scenarios work in Scarlet Keys, chances are i am not going to play Shades of Suffering ever again because i can just choose to skip town with Inspector Flint instead.

Without a Trace: Solid to upper tier 2. The “secret scenario” wins me over with finally making Hollowing matter, something i missed all campaign. It also has some really fancy unique enemies and a novel location mechanic. I am a sucker for novel location mechanics.

Congress of the Keys: Upper tier 5. Oof, this is bad. I am used to campaigns suddenly taking a dive for their last scenario (shoutout to Lost in Time and Space for still being the best finale, six and a half years after release of The Dunwich legacy), but Congress of the Keys is just an incoherent mess. Basically, i love all of the voting stuff and how it ties the campaign that went before it together… and everything that involves cards i sort of look down on. It starts with one of the most infuriating setups (two encounter decks, one of them used for like two turns… talk about wasting my time). It opens with a decent start in the coterie hideout, finding some clues, exposing RGM and fighting a coterie member or two. Fine, but that was literally done in Riddle and Rain already. Then it goes on with a taste of the location mechanics from Without a Trace, but watered down to the point where you don’t get to explore it much. Then some weird memory game that has nothing to do with anything. And a boss fight that offers a final spin on concealment. That boss is actually not bad, but a) it’s pretty much everything the scenario has going for it and b) it’s way too easy to cheese, it even gets completely neutered by one of the Keys you can earn in the campaign.
It’s not the worst finale we’ve seen (i find it hard to imagine that something dethrones Devourer Below there), but it’s not a whole lot ahead. I suppose it’s at least over quickly and so ridiculously easy if you got some keys and/or coterie support that you might as well just skip it because it’s just a foregone conclusion.

Taking stock

So, what do we have? Here’s the ranking within the campaign:

A couple standouts, but nothing that breaks into the highest tier. Some middle of the road scenarios that are perfectly servicable. And two scenarios that skip all the way past tier 4 into “actively offputting”.
I put Dead Heat before Dealings in the Dark here, but those two can pretty much switch places depending on when you ask me.

Full rankings 2023

Integrating these into the full list from 2022 leads to this updated full list:

Dead Heat and Dealings in the Dark go near the top of their tier, between Untamed Wilds and Greater Good.
Riddles and Rain joins The Gathering and Extracurricular Activities, but below those two.
Without a Trace isn’t far behind, i put it between Point of No Return and Secret Name for now.
Dancing Mad goes near the bottom of the tier 2, between Shattered Eons and Boundary Beyond.
In tier 3, On Thin Ice places over Union and Disillusion, but after Black Stars Rise.
Sanguine Shadows is another couple ranks down, between Dim Carcosa and Doom of Eztli.
Dogs of War isn’t actually that far behind, just two ranks down from Sanguine Shadows.
The final two scenarios are easy enough to slot in as there were only 3 of them before in that tier. Both Congress and Shades are better than Devourer Below. Undimensioned and Unseen is better than Shades, but worse than Congress. So there you have it.

That’s Numberwang!

The Scarlet Keys is quite controversial in the community as a whole, and just looking at my own rankings that is also reflected in my own opinions. There are some really nice scenarios in it, but when it missteps it does so hard. One of those scenarios isn’t mandatory and the other one is at least over quickly. So that doesn’t impact my opinion of the campaign too much and i’ll still be happy to replay it, at least as far as the scenarios themselves are concerned. I need to be in the mood for all the bookkeeping around the scenarios as well, of course.

In any case, that was the scenario rankings for ’23. Hopefully we will have more to talk about than just one campaign in a year’s time? Cheers o/

Deck Tech: Joey “Three Decks”

Introduction and Summary

This Joe Diamond is a flex investigator that can both fight and gain clues. While most investigators can just play cards from their hand, Joey “Three Decks” Diamond starts with three decks and can actually gain a fourth pile of cards to draw from as the game goes on. There’s a bit of a gimmick factor to this deck (it does have Versatile!), but that doesn’t detract from its ability to do multiple jobs at the same time. It works best paired up with another flexible investigator (like a Mystic with both investigation and combat spells) or as a third or fourth wheel in a larger group where he can help out wherever he’s needed the most. His first and second deck are the regular deck and his hunch deck. The third deck comes from Ancestral Knowledge. And if he puts down a Crystallizer, that’s going to result in yet another pile of cards that he can use. In addition to having all these decks, he gets special access to his regular deck through Guided by the Unseen. Combine all of this with a good chunk of card draw and you can easily see that despite using a total of 50 cards (flashback to last week’s Mandy deck tech!) across all of his decks he goes through his cards very fast. That of course only adds to his flexibility. Joey “Three Decks” has access to a lot of cards at the same time.
I don’t see this deck doing particularly well as a solo deck. For one, this much access to skill icons is especially helpful when spreading it around the party. There’s also some card choices in the list that were specifically made with multiplayer in mind. That’s not to say that a version of the deck couldn’t be made that works in solo, but it’s not something that was on my mind when doing this deck.

The decklist

Here’s a 29XP decklist. This is mostly designed as a campaign deck, but presented with the 29XP standalone option here nonetheless. I went with 29XP instead of 19XP this time because i wanted to show the deck at the point where it’s already in high gear. A 19XP version that omits some of the upgraded skills and events is possible, but i wouldn’t suggest it as a standalone deck, only as a stepping stone during campaign play.

Deck on ArkhamDB:

If you do want to turn this into a 19XP list, my suggetion is to remove a Guided by the Unseen for a second Enchanted Blade, downgrade both Overpowers, downgrade one Extensive Research and replace both Stirring up Trouble with Scene of the Crime.


Alright, let’s get the cringy part out of the way first. Every Joe deck has to suffer from the fact that his limited access to weapons will keep him from being a truly efficient primary killer. When your best weapon is a .45(2), you know you are in for a bit of a rough ride. This deck runs very few weapons (because damn, are his options bad!) but the high amount of card draw, Tetsuo and two copies of Prepared for the Worst will help him get ready in time. In total, there are five weapons: the two pistols, one enchanted blade, his signature Colt and an Occult Lexicon. To bridge the gap, there are also two damage events: Toe to Toe wipes small enemies from the board and Gang Up is very easy to get to three damage. It can potentially even go to four with this deck list once you find the Crystallizer or Enchanted Blade. Or even up to five if you have both!

If you play this deck in a three or four player environment, consider picking up some Extra Ammunition to get more mileage out of your guns. I play two-handed, so i expect to get by with what’s here, but if you have a lot of enemies to handle you might need more ammo or find the XP for Timeworn Brands.

For anyone who is shaking their head because there is 5 weapons in 50 cards, let me remind you that 15 of those cards start in other decks than the main one. 5 in 35 is still not a lot, but when backed by a large amount of draw it is enough.

The Hunch deck

I want to be using my Hunch event every turn. To that end, i only include cards in my hunch deck that are unconditional (well, mostly): card draw and clue pickup.

Card draw: Deep Knowledge, Preposterous Sketches
Clue pickup: Extensive Research, Stirring up Trouble, Working a Hunch

Do not put the Crack the Case into your hunch deck, it firmly belongs in the main deck.

There’s not much else to say here. The clue events are all testless and are the main source of clues for this deck as it doesn’t use any investigation tools or intellect enhancers. The draw events net you three cards without actually costing you one from your hand, keeping you well topped up. This not only helps with finding your important cards in the main deck, but will also keep Extensive Research cheap or even free.

This deck doesn’t focus much on Joe’s signature gun, but if you can find it with Prepared for the Worst (or just being lucky), using it before you drop the Occult Lexicon can be worthwhile to get more out of your hunch deck. For the most part, the 10 extra Insights you will get from there (plus the occasional extra one from an Elder Sign you might get along the way) will last you for most or all of the typical scenario. By the time it runs out, you’ll be able to just skate by on the back of all the extra commits you get from your card draw and Crystallizer.


The deck runs a total of 12 skill cards, five of which are randomly selected each game to go into your Ancestral Knowledge pile. According to current rulings, the cards are attached facedown, but you can look at them and when drawing from them you can indeed choose which one to get. So what you have here is a toolbox that gives you access to Take Initiative, Deduction and/or Vicious Blow when needed. But more importantly it hands you card draw that you can and should use as soon as possible to get yourself set up. Six of the twelve skills draw at least one card and i did upgrade the Overpowers and Perceptions before i upgraded the Deductions and Vicious Blows specifically because they are so great to have under Ancestral Knowledge for those first turns.

More Skills

Ten of the twelve skills are Practiced, so even when you take five random skills out of the deck there is still enough left to warrant inclusion of Practice makes Perfect here.

Oh, Even More Skills

Guided by the Unseen plucks cards out of your deck to commit them to skill tests. This is just further access to stuff from your deck without having to draw it first, adding to the already insane draw capabilities and skill bonus reserves that Joey “Three Decks” brings to the table.


With all the card draw going on, it’s inevitable that the Crystallizer of Dreams makes its way to our hand. Might not be first turn, might not be third, but it will come. And since its cheap, we can just drop it and from now on get even more skill bonuses just for playing our hunches and other events. We mostly get intellect icons here, with a secondary focus on combat and a couple willpower icons. Agility is our dump stat, don’t expect to ever pass an agility test.


Skills are free and actually so are many events, but some resources are required to get set up. To that end, the deck includes Emergency Cache, Stand Together, Crack the Case and Motivational Speech.
Emergency Cache is boring, but practical. E Cache has the disadvantage of not having any icons for use on the Crystallizer, but that’s just something to live with for now.
Stand Together is a card that i use whenever i can. It’s simply a great card to have in two-handed.
Crack the Case is a resource staple for Seeker, gaining a bunch of econ for you without even costing an action. Keep this one in the main deck so you can hold it until you clear a location with 4+ shroud for best results.
Motivational Speech seems unintuitive at first glance because there’s only 3 allies in the deck. But the biggest expense this deck has is Grete Wagner, pretty much everything else we can pay out of pocket after playing one of the previous two resource cards. Like Stand Together, Speech can also stays useful after we are set up ourselves as we can use it to support other players. Once again, we are relying on our card draw to get Speech and Grete into our hand at the same time.


Grete is pretty much perfect for us. She supports the fighting role with a combat bonus while also adding to the testless clue pickup from the hunches. Just an excellent card. Her only drawback is her resource cost, but since the rest of the deck is mostly cheap events and cheaper skills, that is easily handled.

One copy of Tetsuo adds a bit more redundancy to the weapon setup. Once we have a weapon, Tetsuo can also go and find the Crystallizer or Lexicon for us.

Card draw

As mentioned plenty of times now, this deck draws cards like a fiend. We got the two hunches that just straight up give us +3 cards and the two upgraded core skills that can net +2 cards. The main deck itself also adds Glory to the pile, which digs another 2 cards deep. Together with the card filtering from Guided by the Unseen, Practice makes Perfect, Tetsuo Mori, Prepared for the Worst and Eureka we have little problem finding our relevant one-offs while keeping a hand full of options at all times.

Don’t underestimate the impact that Ancestral Knowledge has in this context. Giving you (likely) immediate access to your draw 2 skills and/or Eureka means that you can draw a fist full of cards just for doing your regular tests during the first turns without any real cost to you in terms of resources or actions. Usually AK will not just hand you 5 extra cards, more often than not it will actually be around 8-10. It’s an extraordinary card.

Upgrading the deck

Since the deck provided above already has 29XP put into it, it’s pretty much done at that point. The only thing left to do is upgrade the Deductions and Vicious Blows for another 8XP, making 37XP the final total. Or 40XP, if you can’t or don’t want to use In the Thick of It.

If you still have more XP to plan for, then Timeworn Brand can be a good way to get at least some halfway decent weapons into the deck.

Evidence(1) is also a much better card than it gets credit for and works quite well in this framework.

Sadly there is a bunch of Guardian upgrades that I would very much like to get, but that are out of reach for Joe’s Guardian 2 access. Having upgraded Grete and Enchanted Blade would’ve been sweet but oh well.


The big achilles heel of Joe is his weapon selection. Most guns that Guardian(2) can get you either are mediocre or require stacking combat from various sources because they themselves only bring a +1 to the table. If you are playing without taboo, then Acidic Ichor is a way to get three damage shots into your deck which will massively improve your combat capability. With taboo, the Ichor is not bringing anything new to the deck, so it’s probably not worth going for. If you are playing a campaign that heavily features 3 health enemies, consider using One-Two Punch as another way to dispatch those in one action.

As mentioned earlier, all the weapons in this decklist use ammo in some way, so if you are concerned about that, you might want to either prioritize melee options like Timeworn Brand or get a pair of Extra Ammunition to make your .45s and Colt last longer.

One other intriguing option that one could go for with this deck is Bestow Resolve. While it doesn’t give you additional access to cards in your decks, it does allow you to use all those commits in a more efficient way and on other investigators, too. Your hand is going to be chock full of icons, might as well spread the joy. Note that Bestow can also commit events that are currently under the Crystallizer, so that’s a nice bit of synergy too. It would also fix our glaring weakness against agility tests.
I couldn’t fit this one into the decklist, but i could see using them instead of the Guided by the Unseen perhaps? Or one of each? For my own deck, i am probably going with one of each, but i felt that presenting the cleaner decklist was the right call for a deck tech article.

There’s a decent amount of deck searching going on, so Astounding Revelation could be an option for extra money and Guided by Unseen uses, but since this deck also draws a whole lot and is rather tight despite running 50 cards, i opted against it. They also can not go on a Crystallizer, so that’s another strike against them.

One notable option for the Hunch deck is Shortcut. That’s another card that is somewhat unconditional (most turns you do want to move) and as free as it gets. I could see a world where this deck has too much card draw in it currently and would get more out of Shortcut than Deep Knowledge. Alternatively, you might find that you have more than enough resources and can cut Emergency Caches for Shortcuts.

My own campaign with the deck

Unlike the decks in the previous deck techs, this one didn’t actually go through a campaign yet. I have the level 0 deck sitting assembled on my desk, though. Next to a similarly flexible Bob Jenkins list. I am going to use them for playtesting a modified A-campaign of Dream-Eaters over the next week. So i do have some expectations for the two decks to be able to walk through scenarios like Search for Kadath and Dark Side of the Moon somewhat efficiently.

Final Verdict (and bonus deck list from the archives)

To be determined, but i am optimistic. I played a Joe with Ancestral Knowledge before, so i know that specific part of the deck to be working very well. Well enough to prop up a somewhat failed curse gimmick i had in that deck 😉 Adding Guided by the Unseen, Crystallizer and Grete on top instead of stuff like Cryptic Grimoire can only be good.

Deck Tech: “Greatest Hits” Mandy

Introduction and Summary

When Mandy got hit with the “always has to play 50 cards” taboo, many thought that this would mean that Mandy is now bad or that she wouldn’t be able to compete with other Seekers anymore. What those lost souls failed to take into account though is that Mandy can play both yellow and green cards, making finding 50 great cards an absolutely trivial matter. This deck is called “Greatest Hits” because it uses all the greatest hits from seekers arsenal of allies and item assets, then uses her access to Rogue events to make the most out of them. Her investigator ability enhances some of those cards and is in general used to find what you need in her deck. We aren’t constructing infinite loops here or doing other abusive shenanigans. We barely will make it through our deck once. But what we do is just casually picking up our 4-6 clues per turn while also being able to handle a few enemies when the Guardian is occupied. One of the goals here is to do our job of seeking clues while doing other things on the side, losing minimal tempo.

The decklist

Here’s a 19XP decklist, very similar to what i had at that point when i played this deck through Innsmouth (together with the Arcane Archer list from the last deck tech).

Decklist on ArkhamDB:

Let’s dig in

So, this being a 50 card list means two things. One, there is a lot of wiggle room with adjusting it to your tastes. There’s a certain core to the deck that makes it function, but there’s plenty room beyond that. Two, we are going to be here for a while, going over the card choices.

Let’s start with the most straightforward part, the Ally package. We are doing a Miskatonic Army thing here, backed by Archeology Funding which offers us three ally slots in total. The goal is getting Abigail and Milan into two of those slots and using the third one as a revolving door for ‘enters play’ effects from cheap Seeker allies. On the event side, this is propped up by Hit and Run and Calling in Favors. Hit and Run allows triggering one of those ‘enters play’ effects without using an action. Calling in Favors is absurdly good in Mandy as it allows her to trade in one of her allies for two from the top 9 cards. This deck plays a healthy amount of allies to enable this play as good as it can. Of course, you can combo Hit and Run with Calling in Favors to gain all the value you could ever dream of. When playing Calling in Favors, your priority is finding Abigail. She is by far the most impactful ally you have, supercharging your Grimoir and Old Book of Lore.

On the asset side, we are ensuring that we can do our job properly, using the two most impactful (seeker) investigation tools around at the moment, Grim Memoir and Fingerprint Kit (aka A Box of Perceptions and A Box of Deductions). Old Book of Lore finds whatever we need and is a nice outlet for our investigator ability if we didn’t use it that turn yet. Since the deck has Research Librarians, Occult Lexicon is an obvious inclusion, too. Finally, there’s a singleton Magnifying Glass. Usually you’ll want something with more oomph in your hands, though.
As with the allies, there’s a support package for those assets to make sure we both find them and that we can use them to their fullest potential. Backpacks can go 15 cards deep for Mandy, turning them into an amazing source of card draw and filtering. From Rogue, we use Sleight of Hand to enable Grim Memoir specifically. It can do a Deduction impression with Fingerprint Kit in a pinch as well, though. In an emergency situation it can even flash an Occult Lexicon into play so you can Blood-Rite something off your back. Also from Rogue, “I’ll take That!” is incredible in Mandy. Oversucceeding on investigations is something she does all the time and being able to drop a Fingerprint Kit into play without an action and for reduced costs is very satisfying to do. Grim Memoir and Breaking and Entering are especially great at enabling a chunky oversuccess.
Worth mentioning in this context is Library Docent, one of the Miskatonic allies. Docent can help you get your tomes into play cheaper, but her primary use is recharging an empty Grimoir by returning it to your hand. The other interesting thing to do with her is returning Occult Lexicon to your hand. This is useful if you already have one or two Blood-Rites in your discard because when the Lexicon returns to your hand, those Blood-Rites return to their out of play zone where they are ready to return from after you replay the Lexicon. In scenarios that are heavy on small enemies (Deep One Lurkers, Ghouls, whatever) this can be a great way to have Mandy deal significant damage when necessary.

Now we can of course not cheat everything into play, so our asset heavy deck does need a good economy, too. Well, it doesn’t get much better than Faustian Bargain. Astounding Revelation is a Mandy staple for good reason and has a double purpose once you do have enough money. To go with the “always be investigating” thing i picked Burning the Midnight Oil for a final resource card. This could easily be boring old Emergency Cache or Crack the Case as well, though.

The skill suite is admittedly super boring. Deduction and Perception are in every seeker list. Eureka is at least in every of *my* seeker lists (and particularly great in Mandy). Manual Dexterity allows leveraging Mandy’s surprisingly high base agility stat.

All my seeker decks need to be at least able to somewhat defend themselves if the other deck (i play two-handed solo) is occupied right now. To that end, there’s Occult Lexicon (which you can find with Librarian), there’s Breaking and Entering (which also doubles as an enabler for “I’ll Take That”), “I’ve Got a Plan”(for when you need to do 3 or 4 damage) and Manual Dexterity (for evasion or encounter protection). As long as one of those cards is in play or in hand, Mandy should be able to get out of the worst, at least temporarily. The goal is not to kill everything that engages her, but to avoid getting pinned for a whole turn.

That leaves only one card i didn’t mention yet. Stirring Up Trouble is simply really good. A way to pick up two testless clues is just a nice thing to have as it does bypass things like Locked Door treacheries as well as being a way to close out a scenario. Between Faustian and Trouble this deck can actually produce a decent amount of curse tokens, but that is largely fine. It will occasionally backfire, but the upsides are outweighing that for sure.

Adjusting the deck

There is a good amount of flexibility in this list to adjust it to your own tastes or the requirements of the campaign you are going into. The following cards are all flexible slots that are not part of the “core deck” and that you could swap around to other things:

Assets: The Magnifying Glass and the second Old Book of Lore. I went with two upgraded OBoL once i had more XP further down the campaign, but relying on the Librarian here and only running one copy is viable too. The Mag Glass is just filler and by far the weakest slot in the deck.

Allies: Medical Student and Library Docent. Especially if you plan on upgrading the Lexicon, the Docents might not have enough targets to be relevant every time. Student is good, but if you have a healer on your team they might not be necessary. If you are cutting either of them, i encourage you to run a different ally instead, to keep a critical mass of allies in your deck that lets Calling in Favors reliably pull two targets.

Events: I’ve Got A Plan, Burning the Midnight Oil, Stirring Up Trouble. I like my seekers to be able to nuke the occasional enemy with IGAP, but if you are fine relying on other players then it’s not necessary. Burning the Midnight Oil can easily be another resource card like Crack the Case or even E Cache. The extra resources might not even be necessary at all, especially if you cut IGAP. I really like Stirring Up Trouble but it’s not core to the deck so feel free to replace it with something else.

Skills: Manual Dexterity. Man Dex is nice since it doubles as enemy handling and treachery protection while also drawing a card. But again, if you think you don’t need the enemy handling, it’s something you might be able to do without.

Those are also the cards to look at to throw out for room if you upgrade into new cards with further XP investment. For example, you might want to kick out that Mag Glass for a Hyperawareness(4) that doesn’t use a hand slot or replace one of the Medical Students with a second copy of Abigail.

Upgrading the deck

A 50 card deck list can obviously swallow a ton of XP if you want to. When prioritizing, i find it more useful to spread the XP around instead of buying one big thing. The exception to that is of course Permanent assets (like Archeology Funding). And i made an exception for Abigail because she is just THAT damn good. With Abigail, your Memoirs can get you up to 2 clues and 2 cards per action at which point you should have no trouble at all just finding the next tome to use once the other got emptied out. Including her second copy is something to look into early on. Looking at the list above, it might be worth dropping the two level 2 Backpacks to level 0 to do that even already at 19XP.

I don’t think the Rogue cards have anything better to offer at level 1 than we have in the level 0 deck already, so the green part of the deck can stay the way it is for the whole campaign.

Deduction and Perception are of course always worth upgrading.

There are two cards in this decklist where upgrading it has some unexpected consequences and you will have to decide for yourself if its worth it to you:
Upgrading to Fingerprint Kit(4) is amazing. Picking up 3 clues with one action is just super and hard to argue with. That being said, at level 4 it can no longer be flashed into play with Sleight of Hand if you are using the taboo. So that’s definitely something to consider. I did the upgrade and was happy with it, Sleight of Hand was also still useful enough afterwards. But Sleight for FPK(0) is one of the more fun plays this deck has early on and upgrading the Kit prohibits it. If you aren’t playing with Taboo, then this is no concern of course. I could see doing a split of having an upgraded and a level 0 one as a viable compromise.
The other card is Occult Lexicon. If you upgrade it to level 3, it will no longer remove the Blood-Rites from play when it itself leaves play. Usually that is a good thing, but we aren’t cycling our deck to recoup those spells and it does mean that the trick with the Library Docent to “reload” the Lexicon no longer works. I decided against this upgrade on my playthrough and instead upgraded my “I’ve Got a Plan”s.

Two other cards worth considering:

Unearth the Ancients(2): The level 0 is pretty bad, but the level 2 does play right into our theme of investigating while dropping assets. This is a great card and again a thing to consider squeezing into the 19XP list even. But definitely upgrade into it eventually.

Hyperawareness(4): Once you are somewhat set up, you start piling up resources pretty fast without having to spend a whole lot of them. Hyperawareness gives you a productive outlet for those resources without taking up a slot in your decklist. I am a huge fan of the level 4 version of these talents, and this one has the exact right skills on it you want to see. Intellect to do your job, Agility to stop enemies from keeping you from doing your job.

Notably absent

A word on a couple of cards that i do not play in this deck and why i decided against them:

This is the rare Mandy list without Practice makes Perfect, a circumstance owed to how asset heavy it is. I simply don’t have enough room to also fit in a skill package. This is perfectly fine, Mandy starts at 5 intellect already and her assets and allies will increase it further without having to throw skills into every test.

Mr. Rook is a great inclusion if you don’t use taboo. I do though and i feel like Old Book Of Lore does his job a lot better in that case. I don’t need both Rook and OBoL, so Rook didn’t make the cut.

I also chose to not play any Researched cards in this list. This is owed to the fact that i realized the need to spend a good amount of XP early on for expensive cards such as Abigail, FPK(4) and Archeology Funding and i wasn’t comfortable with also having the pressure of spending 8ish more experience on a Researched item that you need to dig out of 50 cards both to research it and then to get its benefit. The one i could see running is Dream Diary, as it can be picked up by Research Librarian. The Diary can then be used to enable oversuccess or help with enemy handling. It does use a handslot though and i’d rather have an OBoL or Lexicon in it.

My own campaign with this deck

Luke and Mandy finished their Return to Innsmouth run. They crushed it, except for Light in the Fog where the encounter deck just decided to bury them both in horror and they had to flee on turn 5 because they were about to be defeated if they stuck around. Sometimes the game just says No. But aside from that, both decks were doing their thing extremely well and Mandy in particular did just hoover up clues without stopping. Even though i had to go into the finale without any of the keys already in possession i finished it before Hydra awakes.

Final Verdict

I didn’t play Mandy in a very long time. While concerned about the 50 card deck thing at first, that barely mattered in the end. Turns out that if all your cards are good, you don’t mind what you draw. There are enough interactions in this decklist between various cards that it also never felt like just a “good stuff” pile, but like an actual deck, constructed with purpose. So, no complaints on my end. The one thing that is missing from the deck list is that it’s not really playing anything too special. This is a “Greatest Hits” list after all and pretty much all of these cards(except maybe Hit and Run and Library Docent) see plenty play in other of my decks. So it’s missing that exotic extra mile that the Luke Arcane Archer deck had going on, but for a Seeker list this is fairly interactive and fun.

The (Unofficial) Return to The Innsmouth Conspiracy: Print and Play

It’s Done!

Hell yeah. It took a bit longer than expected, but I can finally share with you the complete Print and Play files for the fan-made Return To Innsmouth expansion. As a reminder, all this stuff you can see on the following image is in it, including all you need to create your own Return To style box and dividers:

There are two versions of the download. One is with bleed margins for professional printing and one without intended mostly for home printing.

Download for the Bleed version is here: <Download as rar>
Download for the non-Bleed version: <Download as rar>

If you are using the Arkhamesque dividers by BGG user Troy (or would like to start using them!), then i have another piece of good news for you. Troy made dividers for this custom Return To as well. More info and links here: <Click>

One note on printing this set

The Unofficial Return to Innsmouth has a somewhat unique thing in it that makes it a bit more awkward to print than regular sets: Locations with shared backs that need to be randomized among each other. Chances are, you will not be able to print your own Tidal Tunnel, Devil Reef or Innsmouth Road locations in a way that they will not immediately be recognizable next to the ones from the original set.

My suggestion is using completely opaque sleeves to solve this problem. For example, you could sleeve all your Tidal Tunnels (original ones and printed ones) in one color and all Devil Reefs in another. You won’t be able to actually see their backs anymore, but that’s not really required for gameplay. You just need to remember that for example your Tidal Tunnels are red and your Devil Reefs are blue.

Alternatives are using placeholders (like Tidal Tunnels from scenarios currently not in use) or throwing dice to determine to which concealed location you go.


Thanks to the tireless help by both Hauke and coldtoes, both of the archive files are chock full of goodies that enable you to get more out of your Innsmouth Conspiracy campaigns.

The cards: Well, duh. The archive has the cards as single png images. High res card backs are also included.
The rules insert: Just like a real Return To, we did the rules insert in the same long format that fits a Return box. It has all the new rules, scenario adjustments, achievements and what else you would expect from it.
A card overview: An excel sheet that has detailed info on what cards are in the set, in which numbers and what back they have.
Instructions to build the box: There are actually two PDFs for that in the archive. One is from Peyo, a member of the french Arkham community that first documented how to build a Return To style box. It is in french, though! The other one is from Hauke who documented (in english!) how he built his own box based on Peyo’s work with plenty of pictures and detail. Hauke also did the graphical assets that you wrap the cardboard in to make it look just like in the picture above.
Dividers: The images needed for the dividers are also in there as PDFs.
MPC instructions: The bleed version also has all the information you need to order the set from makeplayingcards with minimal fuss for yourself. Coldtoes prepared a project file you just need to import, provided you install the proper browser plugin first. She wrote detailed instructions on how to do all that, so just check it out if you are actually willing to drop some cash on having this printed.

There is also a readme file which nobody is going to read, so i made you read it by replicating it in this article. Ha, got you. You just read a ReadMe. How embarrassing for you.

Cheers o/

This set has been in the works for half a year now and i am quite happy to finally being able to move on to the next thing. Enjoy! And see you in The (Unofficial) Return to The Dream-Eaters…