The Twisted Hollow

Other encounter sets in this scenario: The First Day, The Forest, Myconids
Residents involved: Theo, Judith, Rachel
Available experience: 1 (Twisted Hollow location) + 2 (Ursine Hybrid) + 1 (save Bertie) + 1 (resolution) = 5XP

Size of the Encounter Deck28
# Enemies12
# Willpower2
# Agility7
# Intellect2
# Fight
# Damage9
# Horror6
# Doom3

My take on this encounter deck: There is a lot of enemies in this one. Even if we don’t count the Forest Watchers as “real” enemies, we are left with more than one third of the deck being out to attack and hurt us. Plus that big bear of course. This is counteracted a bit by the mechanics around the pursuit zone which make it so the players will not immediately get swarmed.
Then there’s the fact that there’s barely any willpower testing in this deck and what little there is isn’t particularly potent. Instead the treacheries mostly care about agility. There are two more willpower tests on locations, but agility and intellect are tested there as well. That is not to say that willpower is completely irrelevant in this scenario. The agenda will test willpower of the lantern bearer each time it flips and increases the darkness level, with increasing difficulty. So maybe consider handing the lantern to someone else than Finn.
We got a solid amount of both horror and damage sources in the deck, especially damage is well represented with almost one in three cards going after our health. It should at least be mentioned here that Swarm, the Day One specific treachery, can be payed for in resources instead, making it much less of a threat.
The doom cards are few, but with a recurring doom threshold of only 3 every Forest Watcher is very likely to be a priority.

My take on the scenario as a whole: Overall i like it. The way the locations path around and the board periodically resets makes for a cool exploration feel. However, a notable strike against the scenario is that there is quite a bit of luck involved in how the location placements work out with several spots where you can just get unlucky and lose a lot of time. During the first act you can struggle to find a Lair location to spend your clues on. The second act is the most consistent one as you can use clues to find your path through the locations pretty well… as long as you don’t trigger a reshuffle from a darkness level increase. The third act is just a complete crapshoot with the resign location being able to spawn literally next to the start … or only turning up after having already looked at ten other ones. The random factor in the last bit can be frustrating as it can be the deciding factor between making it or not.
I am not a huge fan of the pursuit area, but it does its job of preserving the enemies in play even when their locations are returned to the Woods deck. You consistently have to be afraid of enemies turning up, often even multiple at a time and that makes for a suspenseful scenario. The bear is a terrifying enemy and taking it down is not only very satisfying, but also adequately rewarded.
Nice scenario. Not a complete home run, but super solid and even after playing it four times now i don’t feel like I’d want to skip it in favor of a different night-time scenario.

Other scenario specific observations: The first decision you have to make for this scenario is whether to lie to Rachel in the Intro or not. Depending on your answer, you not only get a different token to the chaos bag for the rest of the campaign, but you also gain a different version of the lantern. Generally, the preferable option will be to tell her the truth, as the cultist token you get from that is for the most part much easier to handle than the Elder Thing token you get for lying to her. The “Beacon of Hope” that you get for telling the truth is, at least on the surface, also better than the “Faint Hope”:

Not only does the Beacon also shine into connecting locations, but it also can use its ability to ignore forced effects for other investigators and as a reaction instead of having to commit to it before revealing the location like on the Faint Hope.
That being said, there are two things that can make you go for the Faint Hope. Both lanterns have an ability on their backside that allows picking them back up after an effect makes you drop it. Using that ability costs an action on the Beacon but is a free trigger on the Faint Hope. That means that not only does it cost some time to pick up the Beacon, but you also have to spend longer in the dark because Faint Hope can simply be re-lit in the next player window instead of having to wait for a player’s turn. The other thing is that the ability to also shine into connecting locations isn’t completely an upside. While it is better for the most part, it can be beneficial to have enemies spawn closer to you so you can handle them better. Especially a Forest Watcher that spawns two locations away can be a problem.

Finally, before i get to the scenario specific additions to the encounter decks, a word on this big boi:

You really, really want to defeat it eventually. Not just because of the XP, but also because if you do so, it will earn you a log entry that is going to help you in a big way in The Longest Night… and you really want every edge you can get for that. Now this is easier said than done, of course. Defeating the bear during act 2 is just going to throw it into the pursuit which is not what you want at all. So evasion is going to be the way at first. The only window you have to get this thing into the victory display is going to be during the final “Back to the Vale!” segment. Hopefully you’ll be able to prepare some big guns and burst damage events until then. At 5 fight, Retaliate and a truckload of damage it’s not going to go down easy. Consider using evasion as a way to turn off the Retaliate, allowing you to take riskier attacks and/or not agonize over the tentacle token as much. Defeating the bear becomes harder in bigger groups due to the player health scaling, but at +2 per player it’s at least not outrageous. And for what its worth, the reward for pulling this off does scale with the number of players too. Good luck!

Scenario specific encounter cards

# in the encounter deck: 4

Threat Level: Low to Mid

Obviously, the big X in the middle of the statline is going to determine how difficult this one is going to be. At X=1, this is barely worth talking about while at X=3+ things become more interesting. The scenario is over once the darkness level reaches six, so X=5 is the maximum and that’s quite the bundle of health on an enemy that is in the encounter deck four times. At that point, evasion becomes the more prudent approach to handling it because at darkness level 4 to 5 you are hopefully on the final stretch of the scenario anyways and only looking to make your way to the exit. I quite like Alert on this enemy from a design point of view, which is there anticipating this flip from an enemy you want to defeat to one you want to evade.
Its ability to make you drop the lantern to the ground when attacked is one of the few things in this scenario that favors the “Faint Hope” version of the lantern over the “Beacon of Hope”. While the latter requires a full action to pick up again, the former can just be re-equipped and flipped to its Lit side for free in the next player window.
Overall, this enemy is not terribly scary on its own, but considering the amount of enemies in this scenario it can become part of a critical mass. It also becomes notably more dangerous if evasion is not an option. Fighting through these while they have high health will slow you down in moments where it’s most critical to get going.

# in the encounter deck: 1

Threat level: Very High.

“The empty location farthest from all investigators.” That is scary text in this scenario and often will mean four or more locations away. Personally, i went with the Ancient Evils effect for this each of the three times i have drawn it so far. I don’t anticipate this changing unless the timing really works out in a way that I draw this while the locations just reshuffled themselves. That being said, this scenario applies a lot of time pressure, the doom clock is tight enough as it is and suffering an extra doom is going to matter. With 3 or 4 players you will probably want to do your most to avoid having to take the doom here and instead go and retrieve the lantern. I’d tell you to hold a cancel for this one, but it is Peril to make that as difficult for you as possible. Nasty card.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat Level: Low to Mid

An agility test at the threat of damage, pretty standard. A potential difficulty of 5 is nothing to underestimate though and a good reason to stay in lantern range. It does allow you to pull an enemy from pursuit instead of taking the damage, but that is often not going to be a great option. Not only is grabbing an enemy going to slow you down because you have to handle it somehow. But since it goes by highest fight value, that’s usually going to be a problematic enemy too, like the Stag or a Stalking Hybrid. Or the bear.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat Level: Low

The “willpower or horror” counterpart to Lurking Fear. Actually, the only willpower test in this encounter deck. Much of the same applies here. Pretty standard if you simply stick to the lantern, just like Lurking Fear. However, i think the alternate way of paying for a fail here is a more reasonable ask here. If you are using the “Faint Hope” lantern, picking the thing up again can be done without an action so you might even be able to treat this as a near-freebie. But even if you use the “Beacon of Hope”, paying an action here seems situational worth it as a way to prevent taking 2 horror. For that reason, i think this is a considerably less scary than its agility/damage equivalent.
On a side note, I find it unusual that the Terror traited card with Fear in its name is the one that deals damage, while the Hazard card is the one that deals horror.

Myconids

Set Size5
Number of unique Cards3
RoleEnemy, Intellect, Horror
Threat LevelLow to Mid
# of scenarios2
Appears in: Lost Sister, Twisted Hollow

The Myconids set appears in only two of the scenarios. In terms of theme, it adds some more mutated Flora (something that is expanded on in The Forest). Mechanically, it mostly delivers some sources of horror. Also, a fairly chunky enemy.
This set doesn’t really have a huge amount of impact on the scenarios it is used in, adding more in terms of filler to the encounter deck to bring up the number of enemies and cards to interact with other treacheries or Day/Night mechanics.
That is not to say that this is a bad set, it does a good job of achieving its goals. It’s just hard to be terribly impressed by an angry mushroom in scenarios that have mutated bears, stags and killer crabs. So this set fills more of a support role than being all that scenario defining.

Threat level: Mid to High.

With its chunky statline, the Lichen can actually prove to be a bit of a roadblock that takes at least the better part of a turn to handle, maybe even all of it. Its Day/Night change works out in weird ways in Lost Sister because that scenario has Day/Night effects depend on locations. That means in practice that it will hunt after the investigators… until it reaches a non-Dark location where it will just root down and not move out of it again. The specifics do depend on the random layout of the caves for your scenario, but most of the time this will be usable to just dump the Lichen in a non-Dark location you have no plans to revisit after evading it. If you are engaged with it while at a non-Dark location you can even just move out of it and the Lichen will stay behind due to its “Cannot move” quirk on the Day side. This will cause an attack of opportunity but save you the trouble of having to evade it.
Twisted Hollow is played at Night, so Corpse Lichen will always have the Hunter and Alert keywords. That makes it a lot less attractive as an evasion target than it is in Lost Sister. In Twisted Hollow it also gets some additional presence due to being a Flora enemy, which has some synergies with The Forest, another encounter set used in Twisted Hollow. Corpse Lichen is, together with the Bear and the Stag, one of the bigger enemies to care about in that scenario for sure and chances are that you will want to defeat it eventually. With its statline being relatively high it won’t stay long in the pursuit area either.
I enjoy about this enemy’s design how the Day/Night change does flip the value of fight vs evasion against this enemy on its head. That’s pretty cool.

Threat level: Low

Most enemies get worse when it’s Night… this is the rare exception where I dread it during the day but am absolutely non-threatened by it during the night. When a 2 fight, 2 health enemy spawns directly on me, i don’t really care much about it being Massive, i am just going to wipe it off the board in an action anyways. And even if it were to get an extra hit in from the Massive, that one horror is not going to break me. Now, the Aloof however is annoying and makes it take another action to deal with in most cases. Still not a particularly dangerous or difficult task, but it can take some precious actions.
And you do want to get rid of it because its Forced trigger can actually do a lot of harm if left unchecked. So while it is a fairly weak and non-threatening enemy, it does at least have some urgency to it.
Twisted Hollow has enemies sometimes spawn on Dark locations instead of engaged with an investigator. That can lead to situations where you are affected by the Amanita from a connecting location, but usually you won’t be going that hard for clues at that point anyways.

Threat level: Low

The horror counterpart to Calcification from Horrors in the Rock. This is near-guaranteed to trigger each round and limited to once per round, putting consistent pressure on your sanity. This does completely bypass your soak, so unless you have some good healing at your disposal or are good friends with a certain psychologist investigator, this will need to be dealt with.
Getting rid of the card is easy enough and will take an action and a direct horror to do. If you are confident in passing an intellect test, you can also try that instead of taking the horror. As with most treacheries that use the threat area, other investigators can take the test for you, so your Seeker can discard this card for you. Or just any investigator with a solid amount of left over sanity can pay the direct horror to get rid of the card.
Like with the Amanita, this is a card that is rather easy to deal with, but has enough urgency attached that you’ll not be able to ignore it most of the time. In the typical Hemlock Vale encounter deck I’d usually be pretty happy to see this in my mythos phase, though.

The Forest

Set Size11
Number of unique Cards6
RoleEnemy, Agility, Damage, Doom
Threat LevelMid
# of scenarios2
Appears in: Thing From the Depths, Twisted Hollow

This is a massive encounter set, spanning 11 total cards. The connection between them is more thematic than mechanical, making The Forest act as a very broad addition to the encounter deck that introduces a lot of different things. Some doom, a huge almost-elite-but-not-quite, a couple damage treacheries and finally some area denial in the form of Wall of Thorns and Poisonblossom. I find it surprising that a set that uses this much real estate in the card budget of the expansion is only used twice… i think i would’ve liked to see this somewhere else again because the mix of stuff you get to face here is actually kinda cool.

Threat level: High.

Now this is just a pain to deal with. An Elusive enemy with a good amount of health will take up a good chunk of actions before it finally goes down. As a result, a way to deal three damage in one swing will pay off decently here as it will likely prevent one Elusive trigger.
During the day, you might even decide that it’s not worth it to go after the Stag unless you can herd it in the direction that you are going anyways. Its ability to make your treachery tests more difficult is a bit hit or miss, but the threat is definitely there. There is a lot of testing going on during the mythos phase and while the ability has been worded such that it doesn’t raise the scaling potential of treacheries it will make it more difficult to completely shrug off their effects.
At night, the Stag becomes public enemy number one and can no longer potentially be ignored. The combination of Hunter with Elusive is a nasty one and effectively allows the stag to attack into connecting locations. With 2 damage and 1 horror, it hits pretty hard, likely knocking a soaking asset out of your play area with each attack or just going for the throat directly.
The Forest is used during The Twisted Hollow, which is always played at night and where the Stag is one of the nastier things that you can encounter. If it ends up in the pursuit area during that scenario, it is likely to be one of the first enemies to come out of it again due to its comparatively high statline.
Surprisingly, the Stag is not Elite, giving you some outs against it that wouldn’t quite work otherwise. Its high evasion makes it at least resilient against cards such as Waylay though. And while turning it Aloof with Existential Riddle might come in handy to stop it from attacking you repeatedly, it won’t shut off its treachery boosting ability.
Overall, this is an enemy that will make its presence on the board known and is on the upper end of what we usually see from non-Elites.

Threat Level: Low to Mid.

This is the closest thing this campaign has to a cultist style enemy. In general, Hemlock Vale has very little in terms of doom mechanics on its encounter cards, so this thing is a bit of an outlier. Aloof gives it just a little bit more staying power than a regular Acolyte, but its low fight value means that actually dealing with it will be not difficult at all.
At night, the Forest Watcher gains Elusive. On a 2 health enemy with Aloof, that’s not going to be relevant terribly often as it will usually not attack on its own and also usually go down in one swing. It does prohibit just punching it without a weapon though. And of course there’s always the autofail that can ambush your fight tests. Aside from that, the Elusive might come into play when Watcher is the enemy that gets an attack in from the Call of the Wild treachery in this set.
I don’t think of this enemy as something particularly dangerous, but of course there’s always something to respect about a point of doom and there are certainly situations in Twisted Hollow in particular where it can cut your time short. Speaking of Twisted Hollow, note that the doom on Forest Watcher does NOT count while it is in the pursuit area.

Threat level: Mid

So, this is a trap. It has 3 health, 1 evasion and no Hunter, making it look like a tempting evasion target, something to just exhaust this once and then move on. Don’t. What will happen is that this will accumulate five or more overgrowth counters, you will draw Call of the Wild and be attacked for a truckload of damage.
Just don’t. Kill this thing as it pops up, that way it will never get a chance to scale beyond what’s printed on it. As long as you draw it from the encounter deck the regular way that’s not too much of a problem, considering that it just spawns engaged with you. However, things get notably more complicated in Twisted Hollow, which will often spawn enemies in Dark locations, so one or two steps away from your lantern bearer. That makes it even more tempting to just let it stick around and you will have to make a call there about what to do about the thing. While we are on the topic of Twisted Hollow: Poisonblossom won’t gain any new counters while in the pursuit area, but it will retain any it had when it moves between the play area and the out-of-play pursuit.

Threat level: Low to Mid.

This plays fairly different in the two scenarios it is used in. In Twisted Hollow, it will attach to a location and stay attached all the way until that location is eventually shuffled back into the Woods deck. It will represent at least 1 testless damage (after all, you will have to move out of your location eventually) and can possibly threaten more and/or hit multiple investigators if you were moving as a group… which you likely did because of the lantern mechanics.
The Thing from the Depths scenario is one you will likely play at Day, so Wall of Thorns changes to a one-off 2 damage hit. There’s no potential to hit multiple investigators and you might even be completely able to avoid the damage as long as you aren’t forced to backtrack into that location. However, this is offset by the circumstance that Thing from the Depths uses the Blight set which has a bunch of damage effects in it as well, thus making a hit of 2 testless damage very relevant as it will stack up with Enervation and Desiccation from Blight.

Threat level: Mid.

This is a swingy card that will usually be just fine but can have some worst cases. Even just looking at the three enemies from this set shows the range of what the enemy attack can represent: A point of damage from the Watcher, a more chunky hit from the Stag or an instant-KO by a souped up Poisonblossom with a dozen counters on it. Beyond that, there’s plenty other unpleasantness like the Ursine Hybrid or the Thing From the Depths around.
And you do possibly trigger any tacked on effects from the attack, like Elusive. Note that the enemy doesn’t engage you or move to you as part of the treachery’s effect, but that won’t stop an Elusive enemy from moving further away from you if it can.
We have seen a bunch of different “test agility at the threat of damage” treacheries over the course of the game’s lifespan now and i would rank this fairly high compared to the others. While you can luck out and find that the nearest enemy isn’t too scary, there are more than enough bad cases around that will make this rather rough on average.

Threat Level: Low. Mostly acts as additional copies of other cards.

Personally, i am not in a habit of leaving wounded enemies around from turn to turn, so unless I am struggling to kill a Stag that keeps running away this isn’t particularly likely to fire off its healing part. When it does, it’s going to be incredibly annoying though. The most likely case (and also the worst) is it potentially healing the Thing from the Depth itself which already has a sizeable pool of health and its own healing ability so Bloom can add on a bunch of extra health here. Curiously, Bloom can also heal the Chelydran Hybrid, making your escort mission a bit easier on you and just turning the card into a bonus for you!
The more common occurence for Bloom is going to be that it acts as extra copies of Flora cards. As a baseline, that means any of the enemies and treacheries from this set of course. Twisted Hollow also throws the Myconids set into the mix… but honestly, as annoying as a Corpse Lichen can be, i’d rather draw it (or any of the cards in that set, really) than the Stag, so anything that dilutes the pool of Flora enemies further is welcome. The tentacles of the Thing From the Depths do also count as Flora enemies and they will trigger their Surge when you find them with Bloom. So that can be unpleasant. Overall, that’s not adding extra threat to those cards though, Bloom just acts as additional copies of them.

Horrors in the Rock

Set Size6 (+6 locations)
Number of unique Cards3 (+6 locations)
RoleEnemy, Agility, Damage
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios4
Appears in: Written in Rock, Silent Heath, Lost Sister, Fate of the Vale

Like the Rainforest set from the Forgotten Age, this set comes with a set of locations that is used several times throughout the campaign. What we are interested on this page however is the treacheries and the enemy that are part of Horrors in the Rock. While they appear to be six cards, only four of those do enter the encounter deck. Crystal Parasite basically works like its bonded to Chroma Blight and is only taken from the set-aside cards if instructed by that treachery. It also happens to be one of my favorite enemies from all of the Arkham LCG now.

Threat level: High to Very High. Often it can be dealt with reasonably well, but when things go wrong with this one, they tend to go very wrong.

Crystal Parasite is a very interesting enemy that does a couple cool things. With its six health, it is a huge roadblock that can easily take away a full turn to deal with it. But you are warned about its arrival quite some time in advance.
This warning period is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the turn you draw Chroma Blight you are basically getting a free pass to do what you want with nothing that you need to care about at that moment. So you don’t lose momentum at that point at all. However, when the treachery finally pops and the Parasite is put into play, it will be in addition to whatever other encounter card(s) you drew that turn. This is actually a trick that the Feast of Hemlock Vale campaign is very fond of and pulls off a couple times: Putting you in high pressure situations by spawning multiple enemies on you, by stacking treacheries on top of each other or in other ways forcing you to deal with multiple problems at the same time.
And when you take an enemy that by itself might just take a full turn to defeat and stack it with other things you can see how that can escalate.
Taking a closer look at Chroma Blight first, we can see that we get an opportunity here to manipulate when the Parasite shows up. You could avoid drawing extra cards and it would take the thing six turns to arrive… by that time you might already have finished the scenario! On the other hand, you can use additional card draw to influence its timing or simply to get it out faster because you want that point of Victory on the bug. For timing, i see two basic options here: You can either spawn it intentionally during the investigator phase, which would mean that you possibly don’t have all your actions left but could make it available for your teammates. Or you could time it so the sixth counter goes on the Chroma Blight during upkeep (thankfully after the enemy phase!) so you can meet it with all your actions on the following turn. That does however mean that you go into Mythos with an enemy in your threat area, so that might introduce all sorts of complications ranging from a second enemy to Frozen in Fear.
As for the enemy itself, what sticks out to me first is that we have a high health enemy here without the Elite tag. This means we can use a couple of player cards here to cheat, from Waylay over Existential Riddle to Power Word(Confess). Not all these options do allow us to collect the Victory, but at least they solve the problem which can be good enough or at least buy some time. Not that the Parasite is put into play, it doesn’t spawn at your location. That means that Disc of Itzamna would not be able to trigger and neither does Ambush. In my own campaign, i enjoyed putting the “Can not attack” and “Pay out resources equal to health” cards on it with Rod of Carnamagos(2).
Its base statline allows evasive characters to handle this for a turn easily enough, which can be valuable to buy time if you have another enemy staring down on you.
If you fight it head on, the textbox comes into play. There is a difference between meeting it at Day and at Night. During the finale you will always get the Night version. Written in Rock and Silent Heath you will usually play during the Day. And Lost Sister finally has Day/Night effects depend on the location, giving another wrinkle to when and where you want to have it appear.
Its Day form lets it heal when it attacks which is relevant in combination with either the Hunter or the Retaliation keywords. Since it only has 2 fight you can usually expect to hit it, but an autofail can set you back two attacks here as you not only don’t hit but it will also heal from the previous attack.
The Night form gets stronger as damage stacks up on it, increasing its fight to 4, then 6. And its damage to 2, then 3. Again, Retaliate is particularly relevant here because as the fight value increases so does your chance to fail … while the potential hit you take from the retaliation attack also climbs up.
So… how do we beat this thing in a fight? Well, first off if you can just attack it three times without failing, you are good. Sometimes it’s just that easy, especially at Day when the fight value stays low. If the threat of Retaliate is too much, you could consider evading it first. Especially at Day that can pay off, because failing to defeat it otherwise can just heal it to full between a Retaliate trigger and the following enemy phase. Evasion would shut that possibility down but of course cost another action unless you have tech (Stunning Blow, Sweeping Kick, be Finn…). The ability to defeat it in two actions instead of three also mitigates a lot of the inherent risks of the enemy. Nathaniel has an easy time here because most of the things he does deal three damage. But also if you have something like a Lupara or a Chainsaw… just let loose, you will not find a more deserving target for your three damage charges.
There is a lot of moving parts to this enemy and i like how much of it is actually in player hands. Once the six card countdown starts you can check out your options and prepare for this enemy and lay out how to deal with it. It’s not trivial at all, but the Victory point makes it satisfying to try instead of just going for the evade and run. This is one of my favorite enemies in the game now, alongside Vengeful Serpent from the Return to Forgotten Age (actually, those two enemies have quite some overlap in what they do). Just a fantastic design all around. I also appreciate how different this thing plays depending on the scenario. It has special interactions with the Day/Night mechanics of Lost Sister. And as an Insect enemy, it also does some special things in Silent Heath. Oh right, i should probably mention that. Insect enemies in Silent Heath count for certain abilities while they are in the victory display. They can even return from there. This can absolutely be a factor in how to deal with the Parasite, possibly stalling the Chroma Blight and/or evading the enemy so that you only have to kill the Parasite near the end of the scenario to cash in on the Victory.

Threat level: Low

Another thing that Feast of Hemlock Vale is fond of is limiting the use of your soak. There’s treacheries that force you to put horror and damage onto your assets. And there’s a couple cards like Calcification that bypass it, dealing direct damage.
It triggers a direct damage on your first move every turn and that will of course stack up fast if you let it. Notably, it triggers on moving, not on taking a Move action, so it will indeed deal its damage when the minecart in Written in Rock moves you around.
Luckily, Calcification is pretty easy to get rid of. It costs an action and a damage, which is in line with what we’d expect from a treachery. As a treachery in your threat area, other investigators are allowed to trigger the discard ability for you, so if they can more easily pay the damage to do so, that’s an option. Instead of paying a damage for the discard, you can also go for an agility test. It’s an option if you are reasonably certain to pass or if you have a spare Manual Dexterity that you want to use, but in most cases i found paying the damage to be sure not to waste any more actions than necessary to be preferable. But sure, if you are Winifred or Rita, feel free to de-calcify yourself and all your teammates through the agility test.
Calcification by itself is not enough to worry too much about direct damage, but since there are other such effects in the campaign, do consider putting some healing into your deck. I am aware that healing has a bad reputation as being inefficient, but after the heavy damage/horror focus of Innsmouth, Edge, Keys and now also Vale… it’s time to put those outdated views to rest.

Day One, Two and Three

Each of the three days in the Hemlock Vale campaign has a treachery associated with it that will be shuffled into the encounter decks of the two scenarios you play that day. I will take a look at those three treacheries on this page.

Number in the encounter set: 3

Threat level: Low.

Day One starts out reasonable enough. Grasping Hands is of course a very relevant card, but allowing you to pay your way out of it makes it considerably less threatening. Considering what else the Hemlock Vale encounter decks have in store, this feels like a bit of a breather that can be mitigated in several different ways.
Notably, Written in Rock does use the Ghoul encounter set, so you will end up with both Swarm and Grasping Hands in the encounter deck if you do that scenario on day 1. Low health, low agility investigators like Kohaku may want to keep some resources on hand to at least pay their way past Swarm in that case.
The scenario that will always have Swarm in it (because it can only be played day one) is Twisted Hollow.
Overall a rather standard issue card that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. Especially in the first scenario of the campaign this should be fine because thanks to the Prelude it’s possible to start into the scenario with an asset in play (hopefully an expensive one) and full resources… so you have some to spare.

Number in the encounter set: 3

Threat level: Very High. This might very well be the most impactful treachery in this campaign.

Now this however… this is a problem. This is a spin on the classic False Lead from the Midnight Mask Treacheries, threatening to cost you clues if you fail an intellect test. This is particularly rough if you have gotten those clues through non-intellect means, like investigation spells, clue insights or survivor shenanigans. Spending actions to hold onto those clues is just as rough, as Hemlock Vale isn’t really a campaign that allows you to just skip your turn. There’s just too much pressure on you most of the time to do that.
Where Downpour really outclasses False Lead though is in its impact on pure fighters. Where False Lead would just surge into a replacement when you don’t have any clues, Downpour will simply drain all your precious actions. That can have devastating consequences as it leaves you defenseless and an easy target for all those dangerous enemies that are everywhere in Hemlock Vale.
But wait, there’s more! The Longest Night is the scenario that you can only play on day 2, so it will always have Downpour in it. And it has False Lead as well. And Frozen in Fear. That scenario’s encounter deck can be a bit of a dick and Downpour is a huge part of that.
Absolutely a treachery that left a lasting impression on the first play and it will make you dread day 2 on each successive play.
If you want to prepare for this, make sure that your fighters are capable of picking some clues themselves. A previously played Scene of the Crime can mean the difference between Nathaniel being able to defend against an onslaught of enemies in Longest Night or being stuck in place and watching the carnage. For your non-fighters it’s just the reality here that traditional seekers are more able to hold onto their collected clues than non-traditional ones. If you can’t expect to pass the intellect test, you will need to be able to pick up the clues fast and efficiently again so it doesn’t actually cost you 3 actions.
If you want to get cute and tech for this more specifically, Protective Gear exists and is actually not bad at all in this campaign. There is A LOT of Hazard cards around in this campaign, on a level with the first half of Edge of the Earth. Protective Gear is pricey but if it stops your fighter from skipping their turn or your survivor from dropping all those clues they had to collect through events, then that might just pay off.

Number in the encounter set: 3

Threat level: High to Very High

Following a Grasping Hands variant and a False Lead variant, day 3 then holds a souped up Rotting Remains for us. Just the fact that it tests willpower makes it more manageable than Downpour because willpower tests are something we usually expect to see. Random discard is nasty, but since you can always fall back on horror instead, it is usually going to be a weaker Remains (although still a highly relevant one… avoiding the horror with random discard is a lot more pricey than the resources you can pay for Swarm!).
This all stops being the case when you have a Colour enemy at your location however! Upping the difficulty by 2 means this can deal up to 5 horror or 5 cards discarded to you which is a huge blow and might even be enough to just put you out of commission completely. Discarding cards from your hand often triggers other effects too, which can leave you in situations where you can either take the horror or invite bonus attacks from enemies on discard, putting you in the proverbial space between a rock and a hard place with no good options.
This is of course particularly relevant in the finale which does feature a Colour enemy very prominently and without a way to avoid being at its place for most of its runtime. But the Agents of the Colour set can introduce a Colour enemy as well. This is something to look out for in Hemlock House and Silent Heath. Notably, the Colour enemy in that set, Miasmatic Shadow, does indeed engage and attack you if you discard something, leading to a situation where you can’t avoid the horror cost. Note that following recent rule clarifications on “for each”, you will trigger 5 attacks from the Shadow if you do discard 5 random cards for Visions. So in that case, you effectively do not have much of a choice, it will be correct to just take the horror in 90% of cases (Counterpunch, Guard Dog etc. being the exception).
I’ll also mention that this isn’t the only treachery that is capable of dealing 5 horror in one swoop. The other one, Captivating Gleam, is used in Written in Rock, Silent Heath and in the finale, Fate of the Vale. So there’s no shortage of little blue tokens to collect for your investigators…

Agents of the Colour

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleWillpower, Enemy, Discard, Damage, Horror
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios3
Appears in: Hemlock House, Silent Heath, Fate of the Vale

Like in most campaigns, we do get a new Agents set in Feast of Hemlock Vale, featuring a notable enemy and impactful treachery that are tied to the Big Bad of the campaign and its marquee mechanics. In this case that means delivering another payoff and enabler for the discard theme that runs through the encounter decks of the campaign.
These are both two very scary cards that you will want to keep in the back of your mind when you know you shuffled them into the encounter deck during setup.

Number in the encounter set: 2

Threat level: High

For a non-Elite that does only standard amounts of damage per attack, this thing is really dangerous. Taking it out requires some investment of actions to get past its 3 health and Aloof. That is, if you can even hurt it as it’s invulnerable to conventional weapons.
One might be tempted to ignore for that reason, but there are enough discard triggers all over the scenarios that it’s quite hard to avoid the Forced effect on the Shadow. So keeping it around probably means that it’s going to get the first attack in and the timing might just be inconvenient. The range of 3s across its statline mean that it’s not too difficult to fight and evade for anyone capable, but for anyone else those 3s are just high enough to cause a problem. Fighters without a suitably traited way to damage these things may also find that evasion 3 is a lot for them to overcome and that suddenly they are the ones in need of rescuing.
Now this all sounds plenty horrifying already and like it would easily be worth taking up the notable enemy slot in an “Agents of” set, but at Night these get worse. A lot worse. Gaining Elusive will make them flee whenever hurt, so if you can’t deal 3 damage at once (with the limited options that are able to damage them in the first place) or if you just end up failing the attack they will flee to a connecting location where you need to engage them from their Aloof again. This makes them potentially drain a lot of your actions. Possibly even worse, Elusive also triggers when they attack, meaning that when their Forced effect triggers they hit you, then run away. On the one hand that means they don’t pin your investigator down, but also that they are just really painful to defeat.
Silent Heath and Hemlock House are the two scenarios aside from the finale that use Agents of the Colour, so if you do want to avoid having to deal with powered up Miasmatic Shadows, i would suggest going to those scenarios during the day unless you have good reason to do otherwise.
As a Colour enemy that follows you around, they are also notable for powering up the Otherworldly Visions treachery in the finale (or if you visit the House or Heath on Day 3).
In terms of what options you have to deal with these, the good old reliable Spectral Razor was basically made for these as they are thankfully non-Elite. Ofuda can remove their Aloof and Elusive and save a bunch of actions in return. Fighters might want to take a look at possible Relic or Spell weapons that they can fit into their deck, like Brand of Cthuga or Blessed Blade. Otherwise you can go for cards that defeat or discard an enemy without dealing damage. Due to not being Elite, there is a couple good options here, like Waylay, any of Kate’s signatures, Close Call or parking the enemy on the ass end of the map with Transmogrify. As an Aloof enemy that even follows you around, it can also be a nice target for any Parley shenanigans or to power up Trish. But that comes at the risk of being forced to discard something, of course.
The Shadow is vulnerable to encounter cards, but from what i can tell that only includes the Fire! card and a certain location in the Hemlock House. So that vulnerability is not likely to come up a lot.
To end this nightmare on a high note, you do at least get to throw this thing into the victory display after dealing with it. So it doesn’t come back even if you end up reshuffling the encounter discard. You aren’t actually getting an experience point, but at least they are gone then. That’s something, right?

Threat Level: Mid to High

Not as awful to deal with as the enemy, but still plenty impactful. Often you will simply not have any great options to pick from and wish that you could just pay with your own sanity or health after failing the test. But no you can’t… if you do want to pay with damage or horror to avoid having to discard your key cards randomly, those tokens will need to go on your assets. This is fine if you have solid soak assets that are actually meant to take damage and horror from you like Leather Coats or the like… but quickly gets ugly if that would mean having your Miskatonic allies, Initiates and similar important characteres defeated. Or if you don’t have any soak in play at all! Drawing this on the first Mythos phase can take the hand of cards that you carefully crafted in the prelude and just send it through a shredder.
Since its frontloaded with a willpower 3 test and does offer player choice, it gives some good venues to mitigate the card, so it doesn’t command quite the same level of respect the enemy does. But it’s absolutely a card that can randomly screw you over before that point and while it can not knock your investigator out the same way that a Rotting Remains or Grasping Hand can, it is more likely to do something that you can’t just shrug off.
Note that if you fail this by 3 while at the same location as a Miasmatic Shadow, picking the discard option three times because you don’t want your Dr Milan to die will indeed cause three attacks by the Shadow. Oof. To keep worst case scenarios like that at bay and keep your options open for the eventual autofail on an Alien Whispers, be more conservative about putting damage and horror on your allies and assets when dealing with other sources of those tokens. Basically, don’t max out your soak immediately, keep some on the board to deal with Alien Whispers.

The Feast of Hemlock Vale: First impressions

Introduction

The new Feast of Hemlock Vale campaign is finally out and available. I am currently in the middle of my second playthrough. Time to put down some first impressions. I will try to avoid concrete spoilers, but of course i will have to mention some things. I’ll try to keep it to general remarks or when giving examples, I’ll at least do so without going into specifics about when and where something happens.
Keep in mind that this is both an opinion piece and one with first impressions. The opinions here might very well change over replays and you might very well disagree with them.

For context, I play two-handed solo, on Standard difficulty. For my first playthrough i played a flexy Wilson and a four action Kohaku with Rod of Carnamagos. For my second one i am playing a Bless Nathaniel and evasive Kate.

Good: Campaign structure

Like Scarlet Keys, Hemlock Vale is a non-linear campaign that allows playing many of the scenarios in the box in various orders. This adds a lot of replayability to the campaign thanks to the scenarios each having elements that change depending on whether you visit them on day 1, day 2 or day 3 and on if it’s day or night when you do so.
At the same time, it doesn’t have all that book keeping that Scarlet Keys is bogged down by, there’s no time management or route-planning on a world map involved.
This strikes me as a “Best of both worlds” situation where you have both the variance and replayability from being able to pick your scenario order and the predictable flow of scenarios into each other without a lot of non-gameplay fluff inbetween. It also means that you can’t randomly hose yourself on the first play like you can in Scarlet Keys because wherever you go, there’s going to be something to play there.
Overall, this campaign structure gets two thumbs up from me, it’s making a fantastic first impression.

Bad: Short campaign

That being said, Hemlock Vale is yet another campaign that doesn’t span the full eight scenarios that i expect. It’s fixed at six scenarios so when you finally reach the point where your deck is doing its thing and you see the payoff for your upgrades, the whole thing is already over. I really don’t like this. A major part of the game for me is shaping my deck, upgrading it over time and evolving it into something cool. Not getting to do that or only getting to then play that deck for one scenario simply feels bad.
I suppose i could throw some standalones in there, adding one after day 1 and day 2 each… but the campaign is structured in a way where you need to do some major handwaving to fit them in thematically. I suppose you could pretend like there’s a murder mystery in the boarding house of the village or a werewolf in the swamps near the shore of Hemlock Isle? Eh. Just not great. Let me enjoy my deck, this is not a “less is more” situation, this simply feels like “less is less” to me.

Good: Enemy Design

I do enjoy the enemies in this campaign a lot. As appropriate for a campaign themed around the flora and fauna of the island being warped in various way, the enemies are quite varied in what they do and in many cases wander off the beaten path as well with some interesting interactions that we’ve not seen before.
They are also hard. Like, genuinely threatening. Usually i see enemies in this game as roadblocks that cost some actions, but ultimately not as the thing that i am afraid would defeat me (that’s something that i usually attribute to certain treacheries). But the enemies in Hemlock Vale are quite dangerous. They hit hard, they often don’t go down in one hit or they just straight up come back from the dead.
It’s difficult to go into this more without getting too spoilery, but let’s just say there’s some things with enemy statlines in this campaign that are very unusual and memorable.
I enjoy all of this a lot and the enemy design in Hemlock Vale might just surpass the Deep Ones of Innsmouth Conspiracy which i held up as the best enemies in the game so far.

Neutral: Difficulty

There is a counterpoint to this, where solo players will probably feel like they can get bodied by enemies that will take up all of their turn and not allow progress. Groups without the necessary firepower might also struggle when the encounter deck spikes how much it throws at you. To just give you an idea, one scenario had six enemies at once spawn on my Wilson, one of which was an Elite with oodles of health and Massive. The other five went straight to his threat area. I got out of this situation with pure firepower: Between Chainsaw and discarding a Pitchfork to Ad Hoc, Wilson took out two enemies. Sweeping Kick damaged and evaded the big Massive Elite. Kohaku disabled another enemy with Rod of Carnamagos, then ran over and Spectral Razor’d another thing. All that and Wilson still took two attacks in the enemy phase and of course the Elite readied and engaged both my investigators while I went into the next mythos phase with another round of encounter cards waiting for me. In another scenario, I had eight enemies stalking the board by turn 3, none of which i would be able to defeat in a single action and all of which were converging on my position. And there were more enemies showing up every turn. Those were incredibly tight moments that required putting everything i had towards getting out of them … in my book that’s a good thing! It was very satisfying to get out of these binds, but of course i could easily see this go bad if you didn’t have the means to blast past them.
Those were two extreme examples of course, but even just in general the encounter deck can get pretty nasty. Not only are the enemies quite tough, but the treacheries do also pull off some tricks. You can actually expect to lose allies and assets to treacheries, for one. Damage/Horror doesn’t rain down on you as much as it does in TSK or Innsmouth, but there certainly are spikes of that as well. And there is discard. A lot of it. It’s actually a campaign mechanic, where lots of things trigger when you discard something. Much of the discard is random, so if you are the type of player who builds decks that rely on one specific card and break apart if you don’t have it… well, you are going to have a bad time :D

Good: Treachery design

This really just mirrors what i said about enemies. Putting difficulty aside for a moment, it’s apparent that the treacheries in Hemlock Vale are very varied in what they do. They attack the players from different angles and keep them on their toes. Much of it feels interactive and like i as a player can meet the challenges in meaningful ways and not like the straight up action taxes that a few of the TSK scenarios were bogged down with. We get another run-in with Striking Fear, one of only three Core encounter sets that are used in every single campaign to date and the one Core set I wish we could just forever retire already :D But the Hemlock Vale specific sets are mostly super interesting and do fancy stuff.
To just give one example, I am particularly fond of a certain treachery that is put in your threat area and gets a counter whenever you draw one or more cards. Once it has enough counters, it puts a chunky enemy with Victory into play. So it works in tandem with the discard theme by punishing you for drawing extra cards to mitigate the discard… but at the same time you can try and time it so the enemy comes when you can handle it. And since it has Victory, you do even want it eventually. There’s some neat decision making around this one that i liked. It also interacts with the unique mechanics of one of the scenarios in a specific way that made it play a bit different there than in the scenario i had it first. That’s always a plus.

Neutral: Preludes

So, I don’t fully know yet where i stand on these, so let’s call it a Neutral for now despite leaning towards being positive about them.
So, there’s a thing about interactions with NPCs that i have been complaining about for the last few campaigns. In early campaigns, it used to be that we’d meet an NPC in the scenario map, interact with them through actual gameplay and then get story consequences for our ingame actions. We’d find Jazz in the encounter deck, recruit him through parley and then be able to open the doors to faculties of the Miskatonic University. We’d rescue Clover from his club. We’d meet Ichtaca and then, depending on the capabilities of our investigators, either fight and defeat her or parley her and develop our relation to her from there. The Man in the Pallid Mask haunts us throughout the campaign and he does so purely with game mechanics, even has his own encounter set. However, recent campaigns have you meet NPCs on the back of an agenda, which prompts you to read a bunch of text in the campaign book for a purely text based Interlude, you possibly get called “kitten” a bunch, and then make your decision on how to handle it still in the Interlude with no actual gameplay in-between. When encountering Ichtaca, your investigator matters for your options: Tony and Daisy would have wildly different approaches here. For your encounters with TSK’s Thorne or Ece nothing of this matters in how they play out. Edge has all NPC encounters happen in lengthy paragraphs of text as well and their survival is mostly left to a die roll instead of your own actions. I feel like something got lost there. Despite there being more narrative to read through, i feel like NPCs from old campaigns had more narrative impact because they actually had you interact with them instead of just reading about them.

With that mini-rant out of the way… the preludes in Hemlock Vale are somewhere inbetween these two extremes. We are still getting most of the exposition from the campaign guide (albeit thankfully in bite-sized chunks instead of whole paragraphs), but there is a tradeoff between talking to as many people as possible and preparing for the next scenario. We are investigating the happenings in the village, it’s not entirely predictable where we can find certain people at certain times and there’s a decent amount of actual gameplay here. Couple that with the fact that the scenarios themselves have you also find some of the villagers and have you interact with them within the actual scenario and i don’t have much to complain here. To give an example, in one scenario i was faced with finding an exit within a certain amount of time. On the way i could pick up a story asset or a villager that was lost there. Or both, but that would have been very risky. Again, there were tradeoffs and gameplay reasons to care about the guy, the decision was based on things happening in the scenario right then and he even was helping me to get out after i picked him up.

With all that said, the preludes are a bit slow and I’ll have to see how i feel about them on replays. Before i actually got to play them, i was afraid that they’d be a similarly boring affair as the first turns of Beyond the Gates of Sleep… that didn’t turn out to be the case as they are way more interactive and there is quite a bit to discover. But there’s certainly an element of “alright, can we get on with it already?” to the whole ordeal that i am sure is going to intensify a bit when doing it for the fifth time.

Overall, i think the preludes are likely going to be just fine. And i certainly care more about these people in the village than i care about Thorne, Amy Kensler or Thomas Dawson. They are no Ichtaca or Man in the Pallid Mask, though.

Good: XP

While there are only six scenarios to a campaign which does put a severe limit on what you can do with your deck, the XP payouts per scenario seem to be a lot more reasonable than in the previous two campaigns. You seem to be getting 6-8XP per scenario which is perfectly fine. Weirdly, a lot of these XP are tied to the preludes, so you often end up with a situation where you get more from the prelude than the actual scenario. For example, you might be getting 6XP, but 4 of them come from bonuses picked up while chatting up people and only 2 more from the victory display after braving the dangers of the island. That is a bit strange to me, especially considering the difficulty of the scenarios. But it does mean that even if you faceplant a scenario or two, your deck won’t be stagnating and you’ll be able to “fail forward”. That’s a good thing.
The most i got out of one scenario was 12XP (6 for the prelude, 6 for the scenario). The lowest i got was 5 (3 from the prelude, 2 from the scenario). I entered the final scenario of my first campaign with 35XP which seems above average considering that it’s just been 5 scenarios completed so far. As mentioned earlier, i would have liked to get another game or two out of my 35XP deck, but i am quite happy with the XP distribution itself.

Good: The Finale

We’ve all been complaining about the last couple of campaign finales being a bit forgettable, boring or otherwise flawed. Personally i would argue that Shattered Eons was the last actually good one (although i would accept arguments for the two from Dream-Eaters). So i feel like this is worth giving special attention: Fate of the Vale can be called a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. It’s a ridiculous and completely outrageous piece of art that had me wonder what is even going on. In many ways I felt like when i played Lost in Time and Space for the first time, just wondering “Wait, they can do that?” all the time.
I won’t spoil anything, in fact i will shut up about it completely now but damn … that is one memorable finale.

Overall

After the controversial reception of both Edge of the Earth (which i dislike myself) and Scarlet Keys (which i do like overall once i know which places to skip) it is nice to see a campaign that i think can just be called a win without having to heap on a bunch of qualifiers. It’s highly thematic, it’s flavorful, the artwork is beautiful. And the gameplay is challenging and sharp, with enough replayability built in to last a long time. Even if it turns out that some aspect doesn’t stand the test of time, i am confident that Hemlock Vale will turn out to be one of the greats. There’s a lot in here that reminds me of what i like about Forgotten Age so much: Challenge, replayability, different paths to take through the campaign. In no other previous campaign i ran this often into situations where the campaign book was asking me if i had a certain entry in my log and i didn’t even had a clue what it was talking about. This does point towards there being payoffs for various different paths through the campaign which bodes well for my long-term opinion of the whole thing. While i expect there to be some controversy around the difficulty of the campaign, the worst thing i have personally to say about it right now is that it’s too short.


Return To Tool’s Gold – A Wilson Richards Primer

Intro

A few weeks ago i brought you a Primer on a Wilson Richards deck that i intended to play myself for Feast of Hemlock Vale. That deck was untested and theorycrafted, so now that i actually did play it and went through the full campaign i figured i would return to that article and give some updated opinions on things. There will be no hard spoilers for the Hemlock Vale campaign in here, but of course i am going to talk about it in a general way and touch on things without getting specific.

Last minute change

I already alluded to this in the “Notable omissions” part of the original article, but i was concerned about the complete lack of healing in this deck. I did indeed end up getting cold feet about this and at the last minute i cut the Sledgehammer and a Pushed to the Limit from the deck to put two Medical Students in. That gave me three allies in total for some more soak and of course the little bit of healing from the Student’s triggered ability. Good thing too, those were very important. If you are reading this and considering bringing this deck to Hemlock Vale, put in those Med Students. They were absolutely worth it.

Aside from that i started the deck as offered in the article.

Campaign result

Over the course of the first five scenarios, the deck earned 35XP, almost enough to fully follow the laid out upgrade plan to the end. I ended up never getting that second Overpower and i didn’t get the Fire Extinguisher. Otherwise i followed the script as planned, but cut different cards to make room for those upgrades.
Here is the deck that I took into the finale (scenario 6) of the campaign:
(This deck on ArkhamDB)

This deck was played alongside a Kohaku that was built to take 4 actions every turn, if you are interested you can find the deck here on ArkhamDB.

They did very well over the course of the campaign and truly shined in some desperate situations, but fell just short in the finale. The campaign overall ended in a Loss, but i won’t be marking that as a fail on side of the decks. The campaign finale is just very hard and i had some rough early draws and turns that caught up to me in the end when i doomed out when another two turns would probably have been enough to finish. Fair enough for a blind run!

Notes on the deck as a whole and Wilson himself

I feel pretty much confirmed in what i expected to get out of Wilson. He’s not an exceptional fighter, he’s not an exceptional seeker, but he does a solid job at both making him a good flex. I think that Joe Diamond reference is a solid one and i would put those two investigators on similar levels in terms of power and gameplay role.

Due to the specifics of the campaign, i leaned harder into the fighting side than i planned which especially meant focusing fully on the two-handed weapons. This has some impact on how some of the cards played for me.

As for his own abilities, they proved to be quite good. The resource situation was a lot less tense than i anticipated, the 1 resource discount on tools really stacks up. Once i had an Emergency Cache on SttP, i was pretty much golden. Ever Vigilant even was a bit overkill and not really required. Still good to save some actions, of course.

The Elder Sign was a complete bust for me. I could imagine it coming in useful to refill a Cleaning Kit or Chainsaw at times, but that never happened for me. Everytime i got the Elder Sign all campaign, i opted to not switch any cards around.

Ad Hoc was either unnecessary or incredible, no middle ground. Usually i didn’t want to throw cards into it, but in those situations where things got tense, i was really happy to be able to throw Pitchforks around for 3 damage in addition to my chainsaw attacks.

Hasty Repairs is really annoying. Maybe it’s a Hemlock Vale thing, but just having to basically skip my turn is something that felt really impactful and i had to take a few attacks of opportunity from doing so as well. The Sweeping Kick did some work here to mitigate the weakness and was definitely the right call.

Notes on cards in the level 0 deck

Gravedigger Shovel: Never played it, never discarded it to anything, was among the first things to go. Literally could have been anything in the deck, no opinion Oo
Microscope: Didn’t work out. The reliance on two-handed weapons meant that i was never able to use this well. Maybe if i had two Tinkers in my deck, but these probably should just have been Fingerprint Kits. Or Scene of the Crime.
Old Keyring: Better. Works with Tool Belt and i got my value out of these. It’s just two clues for three actions so it’s not going to win any prices. But it was fine and i’d play them again.
Pitchfork: Actual MVP. The card was insanely good. I expected it to be very solid, but it exceeded expectations. Chunking things for 3 damage is great and the fact that you only have to pay the extra action to pick it up again after actually succeeding makes all the difference when comparing it to something like the Sledge. In one scenario i had a Tinker on it and was passing it back and forth between Wilson and Kohaku who murdered everything with it that came their way. The interaction with Ad Hoc was also super relevant. Seriously good card in this deck.
Sledgehammer: I cut it before i even started for a Med Student. No regrets.
Cleaning Kit: I think i played the level 0 only once and it was fine because it was giving a Chainsaw more life. Did upgrade it right afterwards to its level 3.
Tool Belt: Did the job it was supposed to. Having a Pitchfork in my hands and a backup Pitchfork in your belt gives you a lot of security. That being said, if i were to build this deck again, i would play 2 Tinkers and a Bandolier to enable Microscope instead.
Tetsuo: Notably saved Kohaku from defeat once by tanking an otherwise lethal Grasping Hands for him. Good card, nothing special to note about him in this deck specifically.
Matchbox: This was very good. With a Kohaku that regularly takes four actions per turn this got even better than expected. I’d run four if i could.
Wolf Mask: Every bit as good as advertised. The +agility was relevant often to test against treacheries. I might want to run two, this thing is really good for Wilson.
Emergency Cache: No notes. It’s Cache. We need resources.
Jury Rig: Fantastic card, but i knew that beforehand. Very important part of the puzzle for Wilson to reach suitable skill levels. Run two, no exceptions.
Pushed to the Limit: I cut one from the deck before starting for a Med Student. The other one i never found a good use for despite drawing it all the time. Not happy with this one at all, wouldn’t play it again in this deck.
Tinker: Better than i expected. Had i thought about the option to slap it on a Pitchfork so i can easily pass it back and forth between Kohaku and Wilson, i would’ve taken two from the get go. I like this one!
Toe to Toe: Upgrade out of this ASAP. That extra attack you have to eat hurts a lot, especially if any horror is involved. I might skip this completely for the level 0.
Overpower: Sure. We want this. No notes.
Unexpected Courage: I was always happy to have it because we are really testing all four of our skills.
Vicious Blow: There was one situation where i Pitchfork’d a four health enemy. But otherwise this didn’t honestly do all that much. It’s important to have when you lean more into one-handed weapons, but since all of my attacks already did 3 damage by default, i almost felt like this was skippable.

Notes on the upgrades

Chainsaw(4): Awesome :) It’s always been a fantastic weapon, but Cleaning Kit elevates it to something you play once and then keep murdering with it.
Backpack(2): Broken card that allows me to cheat at deckbuilding. No notes.
Keyring(3): I really should have run a second one. Really good with the Matchbox, even when you don’t abuse the crap out of it through recursion, it’s a guaranteed six clues.
Ever Vigilant(1): Sometimes felt a bit overkill, but when it’s good it’s very good.
Fire Extinguisher(3): I never upgraded into this one because i was so smitten by how well the Pitchfork performed. I’d be interested in playing a version of Wilson some day that focuses on one-handed weapons instead of two-handed ones.
Stick to the Plan(3Ex): Essential to get a good start due to ECache and having that Sweeping Kick on standby. Was a good plan, would stick to it again.
Sweeping Kick(1): Literally saved me from defeat once when faced with six enemies at once by taking out a nasty Elite for one turn. Generally useful throughout the scenario. Great card.
Cleaning Kit(3): Came down clutch in the finale to give the Chainsaw more fuel and let it hit. Good card.
Fingerprint Kit(4): Only had it for the finale where i played it first turn to get some clues going. Had to discard it after using it twice to make room for the Chainsaw, but getting six clues off of it was great in any case.
Emergency Cache(3): Honestly, the (2) was better.
Emergency Cache(2): That extra card from the ECache that i stuck on the Plan felt really good.
Overpower(2): Luxury upgrade, but it’s a good one. No deck specific notes.

Level zero deck in hindsight

So with everything learned here, let’s build a new level 0 deck.

(This deck on ArkhamDB)

What i’ve done here is add the Med Students, add in a FPK for immediate Cleaning Kit payoff and cut some cards that didn’t work out. I also added a second Wolf Mask because it’s a fairly key card. Bandolier and double Tinker make holding an investigation item in addition to our weapon more feasible than Tool Belt did. If you want to take this into Hemlock Vale, just keep the Dynamite Blast. Trust me on this :D Otherwise, feel free to sub into that slot whatever you want. Or put in the Toe to Toe again. Some encounter protection like Take the Initiative could also be good and honestly might outperform the Vicious Blows.

For upgrades, you can follow the upgrade path from my original article until you get to something similar as what i posted at the top of this page.

Hemlock Vale etc. – What’s coming up

Hey. It’s been two weeks since the last post here so i figured i’d just throw out a short update on what to expect.

The Hemlock Vale campaign is out. I got it last Friday and have been playing over the weekend. Just one more scenario to go and i will have my first playthrough in the bag. Following that, there will be a few things that i want to do:

  • Post an article with first impressions. Spoiler: I like it a lot. It’s hard. But very good.
  • Post an update to the Richard Wilson Primer. The deck i suggested there is one of the two that i sent into the Vale and i have some notes on what worked, what didn’t and some adjustments.
  • Get right back into the next playthrough with different investigators.
  • Start on the Hemlock Vale encounter discussions. I made it a rule to only write about scenarios when i played them at least three times, but while i am on my second campaign some of the encounter sets i will have seen often enough soon to start making the usual pages for them where i go over the cards.

I am actually looking forward to those encounter card discussions. There’s some really cool stuff in this campaign.

Alright then. Expect the first impression article within the week. Maybe the update to the Wilson deck as well, we’ll see.

Cheers o/

PS: I am aware that I left the custom Dream-Eaters Return hanging in the air again. I’ll get back to it, i promise. But it has to make way for the Hemlock Vale stuff for now.