Hemlock House

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Agents of the Colour, Transfiguration, Blight, Locked Doors, Rats
Residents involved: Gideon and William(day 1), William and Judith(day 2), Judith and Theo (day 3)
Available experience: 2(locations) +1(Shapeless Cellar) +2(resolution, 10 seals or defeats) =5XP.
Additional experience dependent on the day: 2XP on day 1 or 1XP on days 2 and 3, bringing up the total to 7XP (day 1) or 6XP (day 2/3)

Size of the Encounter Deck25
# Enemies7
# Willpower4
# Agility6
# Intellect
# Fight8
# Damage8
# Horror4
# Doom
The scenario can also involve Fire! which will add more agility tests.

My take on this encounter deck: There is a lot of fight and agility testing happening in this scenario, much more so than usual. However, that’s more or less where the things of note about this encounter deck end, as i find it mostly unimpressive. There’s some damage floating around, but not in an amount that would scare you much unless you are someone particularly fragile like Daisy or Luke. The enemy side is one half Rats. The other half is Miasmatic Shadows which are a credible threat for sure and Grappling Spawns which at least have their moments.
The scenario specific treacheries do interact with the central mechanics of the enemy-locations, either providing additional triggers to flip locations or pulling players to those enemies.

My take on the scenario as a whole: The real driving force of the scenario however is supposed to be the House itself, the double sided locations which turn into enemies. I am not quite sure they fulfill that promise either however. In general, i had a very easy time with Hemlock House each time i played it. Discard effects are around, but scarce enough that you can avoid triggering Miasmatic Shadows fairly well. The Spawns are hard to fight on higher floors, but easy to evade. Rats are almost a freebie. Many of the treacheries ended up either being freebies as well and not particularly threatening even when they do something.
The Predation Test mechanic works similar to the Infestation bag from Dream-Eater’s Waking Nightmare. An extra bag is set up with three kinds of tokens. One does nothing. One flips a room to its enemy side. The final one makes every room attack anyone in them and shuffles all tokens back. Depending on when you play the scenario, the number of “Do Nothing” tokens varies. On day 3 there’s literally only 3 tokens in the bag, one of each. This mechanic does what it’s supposed to. It’s slightly fiddly because of the extra bag, but just like with Waking Nightmare i didn’t find it to be a huge problem. Definitely expect to forget it two or three times over the course of the scenario though 😉 Again, if you played Waking Nightmare, you know already how this goes.
I like the general setup here, but I think the location-enemies are too far on the tanky side and don’t have enough “bite”. There’s two ways to play the scenario, one by collecting clues and sealing everything, the other by attacking the location-enemies and tearing the place down. The first is a whole lot easier than the second and since the scenario rewards you for sticking to one of the routes, there’s just not enough reason to actually fight the house.
It’s an okay scenario, but i would call it one of the weaker ones from Feast of Hemlock Vale, at least once you are replaying it for the Xth time and the enemy-location mechanic has worn off its novelty value.

Variants/Scaling: There are a couple things that are different depending on when you play this scenario. Let’s start with the residents, because there is actually a bunch of things happening here. Day 1 has you meet Gideon and William and you get a chance to improve your relations with each of them. You also get access to the Little Silvie story asset which is a doll that takes up the accessory slot, but lets you replace discard effects with putting cards to your deck. This not only preserves your cards, but also stops Forced triggers that activate on discard from working (like on the Miasmatic Shadow), so this story asset is actually pretty nice to have. On day 2, you meet William and Judith and witness an argument between the two where you will need to take a side, earning you relationship with that person and an XP. Finally, day 3 has Theo and Judith. They are great allies for the scenario, one of them giving you a free move, the other a free attack. Judith also tells you she wants to “remodel” the place… by tearing it down. If you do so, you gain an extra XP in the end. All three of these options have their merit and depending on if you want to deepen your relationship with one of them, a different one might be interesting to you. However, if you after relations, note that you won’t gain any for Theo and to gain a point with Judith on day 3, you will need to defeat at least 8 location-enemies which is no small ask. Getting relationship points is certainly easier on day 1 and 2.
There is no scaling by day number on the cards or the token modifiers, except for the already mentioned influence on the predation bag. There is a good amount of scaling by floor number and notably you start on level 4 on day 3 so you are possibly getting harder tests right away. But you can always just go down the stairs immediately if that is a problem so i wouldn’t put much of an importance on this in terms of deciding when to go to the Hemlock House.
Finishing the scenario doesn’t earn you any kind of log entry, so no repercussions for the rest of the campaign either. Sadly, William will not care at all about you potentially burning down his family home.
Bottom line, all three days offer something interesting from the residents there and the different combinations do change the tone of the scenario remarkably well. There isn’t really another notable consideration when you want to decide when to go here. Oh right, there is no incentive to come here at night at all. All that will do is tune up a few enemies slightly and remove the villagers from the scenario.

Before we dive into the encounter deck, let’s take a look at the location-enemies first. These all follow similar guidelines, with some numbers switched around a bit. What they have in common is that they are easy to evade, have large health pools and fight values of 3 or 4. They all can’t make attacks of opportunity and often they will trigger some sort of effect when turned from their location side to their enemy-location half, like doing an extra predation test or attacking every investigator at the location.
There’s two ways to get rid of an unruly location: You either defeat it in combat or you seal it with clues. The former requires to punch your way through all of its health which will move it to your victory display and collapse the house to fill up the space. The latter requires dropping a clue per investigator onto the location-enemy to turn it back to being dormant. And then spending an action and another set of clues to seal it. A sealed location will never “wake up” again. Now here’s where i think the balance is a bit off: Dropping the clues to flip the location is a free trigger. Sealing the location costs an action. So while you did have to acquire the clues first, you only need to spend an action in the location’s presence to do the thing. Meanwhile, a fighter will be spending their full turn (or more) on beating down on it and some of the locations have Retaliate as well. Following the damage route also requires rooms to wake up in the first place. While you can just seal any location for cheap while it’s still dormant. There simply isn’t enough incentive to actually stay at an awake location which undercuts almost any of the threat the scenario tries to present with its enemy-locations. The final location, the Shapeless Cellar, is almost an exception but evasion handles it so incredibly well that it can’t really do much to you either.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: Mid.

We don’t see a lot of monsters that change their health value up and down as the game goes on. This leads to a slightly awkward interaction where you can put three damage on this thing while on a higher floor, evade it and when it follows you downstairs it dies because its health went from 4 to 3.
This mechanical weirdness aside, these are pretty tough to fight. Scaling anywhere between 3 and 6 health coupled with a very solid fight value does give them some staying power. Evading it works very well as a stop-gap, but since there are so few enemies actually worth fighting in this scenario you might as well unload on these.

# in the encounter deck: 4

Threat level: Low.

Of those possible options i almost only care about the middle one. But let’s start at the top.
When you are standing at an enemy location, you are dealt a damage and horror each. Not all that terrible in the big picture, especially not considering that there’s an agility test to deflect it. As far as “test agility to avoid damage” treacheries go, this is fairly weak. Not sure why it deals flat damage and horror instead of making the room attack. That would have been more flavorful and given a bit of extra punch in some of the rooms.
The second option flips over a room to the enemy side. That mostly represents a speed bump because you now need to turn it back to sleep with some clues, but will also likely trigger some sort of “when revealed” ability on the room. If you are going the route where you want to destroy the house, this might actually be a card you want to see because you can’t fight dormant locations.
Finally, if your location is sealed, you discard a random card. Since it’s random, it can be annoying, but usually will not be anything too tragic. This effect is something to remember however if you have a Miasmatic Shadow on your tail. If you end your turn in a Dormant location with a Shadow, then the discard from Out of the Walls will have that Shadow engage and attack you.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: Low to Mid.

The fact that enemy-locations don’t deal attacks of opportunity means that Pulled In very often does very little. It can even be the setup for you to just pay the clues afterwards to seal the whole thing. If you fail hard enough, you get attacked and that can stack up with Out of the Walls and the treacheries from Blight and Transfiguration, but happens rarely enough that you’ll probably not be too bothered by this one either.

Refractions

Set Size5
Number of unique Cards2
RoleHorror, Discard
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios3
Appears in: Written in Rock, Silent Heath, Fate of the Vale

This is a dangerous set. Three copies of a Beyond-the-Veil-alike card are definitely the thing that immediately draws attention here, but that other treachery is not to be underestimated either. It represents quite a bit of hand disruption that stacks up with a lot of the rest of the encounter sets. Note that both Silent Heath and Fate of the Vale use the Transfiguration set as well, which means that through Strange Mutations another “Willpower for horror or discard” treachery aside from Empyrean Brilliance can be found in the encounter deck. Alien Whispers from the Agents of the Colour also goes in a very similar direction and that set is also used in both Heath and Fate. This can actually lead to a bit of a deceptive impression about the campaign. If you don’t play Silent Heath as one of the day scenarios, then you’ll likely find that you aren’t actually testing willpower a whole lot… only to then face that combination of encounter cards in the finale and get a bit of a rude awakening as you are suddenly bombarded with willpower tests.

Number in the encounter set: 3

Threat level: High.

Oh great, we are doing Beyond the Veil again… and looking at the flavor text, the designers aren’t all that subtle about it either! This gives all the various discard effects in this campaign a capstone payoff, something that will elevate all of those from being a nuisance and disruption to a genuine threat that can defeat a player.
Captivating Gleam is a lot less campaign warping than Beyond the Veil though. Completely running out of cards is mostly avoidable, even if it does require the odd action spent on card draw here and there if you don’t have some extra draw capabilities in your deck already… which a good deck should arguably have.
What really turns Gleam into a frightening card is the word “Surge”. Even if it only impacts you a little, it will likely still be something you have to care about. And since it doesn’t take up your actual encounter draw for that mythos phase, even that little impact would come tacked on to another full encounter card. That’s not great, especially when considering that the encounter decks in this campaign are already pretty packed with high impact cards.
Obviously, any discard effects can become a more pressing matter when Captivating Gleam is around. Cards that discard multiple cards are especially scary, like Strange Mutations from the Transfiguration set… or Empyrean Brilliance from this one! However, the actual card to be concerned about is the Hemlock Curse, the campaign weakness that you can earn for “finishing your meal”. Failing a test with Hemlock Curse committed to it will discard your entire hand and thus immediately trigger Gleam for 5 horror.
Which brings us to the specific threat that Gleam presents, a hit of 5 horror. Five horror is a much smaller number than the ten damage that Beyond the Veil dealt for triggering. While the 10 damage were all but guaranteed to take out a player unless they are able to hide behind a lot of soak, 5 horror are a lot more reasonable to actually survive. Of course it is still going to be a huge hit and Gleam is not going to be the only source of horror around… but at least it’s not an instant-KO like its bigger sister card from Dunwich.
Overall, this card deserves some respect but not in the same way that Beyond the Veil did. It hits for a hefty chunk that you need to avoid, but it won’t just defeat you outright (well… unless you have 5 sanity and no soak, i guess). Triggering it is also much more avoidable and doing so asks you to do something you wanted to do anyways (draw cards). In comparison, Beyond the Veil was largely inevitable and wanted you do do something against your own interests (avoid drawing cards). It’s a suitably powerful card that manages to make an impact without overshadowing everything else. I like it!

Number in the encounter set: 2

Threat Level: Mid to High at Day, High at Night.

This card changes pretty drastically depending on Day and Night.
During the day, it primarily goes after your cards in hand, trying to knock two cards out of it. The willpower test is manageable as long as you don’t have a lot of cards in your hand but gets a very significant bump once you do have 5 or more cards. At least the discard isn’t random, so with a lot of cards in hand you hopefully have some to spare that don’t hurt you too much. It works quite similar to Enervation and Strange Mutations in that it gets more difficult to pass the test if you have a lot left to lose of what the treachery goes after.
At night, Empyrean Brilliance will always trigger a discard. While it can no longer discard two cards, the one card will be at random and it happens before you take a test so there is no escape from it. This means that Empyrean Brilliance will be able to trigger any Miasmatic Shadows that are following you around as those are frequently used in the same encounter decks as Refractions. In addition to losing a random card (which can already be plenty disrupting), the investigator might also have to take 2 horror if they fail a willpower test. That can be very rough as it will make Captivating Gleam that much more threatening. And if you did indeed provoke an attack by a Miasmatic Shadow this way, you are suddenly down 3 sanity, 1 health and a random card. I am honestly more afraid of this card than i am of Captivating Gleam. The Hemlock Vale campaign does scale the amount of willpower testing back a bit to make room for more intellect, fight and agility tests… but cards like this one make sure that your willpower absolutely still matters a lot, no matter if it’s Night or Day.

Mutations

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleDoom, Enemy, Discard
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios2
Appears in: Lost Sister, Thing from the Depths

This set is used only twice during the campaign. Actually, since those two scenarios are among the five optional ones, you can get through a whole campaign of Hemlock Vale without ever encountering Mutations. When you do shuffle these cards into the encounter deck, it is worth taking note of that, however. Because while it’s only four cards small, it does pack one hell of a punch, both cards in it are very powerful and you will usually not appreciate seeing these in your mythos phase.

Threat Level: High.

The treachery has two largely unrelated modes, depending on if there are enemies around or not. And both sides are rather nasty. One of the very few cards in Hemlock Vale that deal with doom which is of course always something to take note of. However, placing a doom on an enemy does give you a good way out. So when this doom lands on an enemy that you were going to kill anyways, you can gain some momentum here by clearing two encounter cards in one go. Notably, this isn’t restricted to non-Elite however, so this doom can end up being placed on The Thing from the Depths or the Chelydran Hybrid, which all but removes the option to defeat the enemy to take care of the doom. Often, this will affect an enemy that you decided on leaving behind, for example a Black Amanita, making you regret or at least rethink that decision as you will likely want to backtrack and kill it after all.
So while there are some cases where the added doom is taken care of swiftly and without losing any more time to it because it ends up on an enemy you wanted to kill anyways, there are absolutely enough bad cases around to make this a scary card.
Should there be no enemy on the board at all, which basically only happens during Lost Sister (and it’s not particularly likely there either), then the random discard of two cards hits hard as well. Possibly even harder than the doom.
Now, with all that unpleasantness out of the way, there is one silver lining here: The doom placed by Unnatural Growth does not force the agenda to advance. So if you draw this card during the “Witching Hour”(the turn before the agenda advances anyways), you get a freebie.

Threat Level: High

Sudden Mutation plays into something that Hemlock Vale pulls off fairly often: Making you have to deal with multiple enemies in one turn. When this finds its way onto an enemy you need to kill, you will not be able to properly plan your turn ahead because the variety of enemies waiting for you in the encounter deck is pretty massive. While Sudden Mutation will only attach to non-Elites (so not to the Thing from the Depths, Shelly the Hybrid or any of the big crabs in Lost Sister), it has no restrictions on what it can reveal from the encounter deck through its Forced effect. The limitation to the Mutated trait doesn’t apply then either, but that trait is cosmetic anyways – all the enemies in the respective encounter decks are Mutated.
A common thing that happens with this during the Thing from the Depths scenario is that it attaches to one of the tentacles of the Thing. Which you will then have to deal with to protect Shelly. And which will then either roll into another tentacle… or something even worse like a Cochleal Stag. Note that the enemy isn’t necessarily spawned engaged with you, meaning that if you have multiple fight-ready investigators at the location, the second enemy can be engaged by a different investigator, preferably one that didn’t take their turn yet of course. It does however also mean that Aloof enemies (Amanita, Forest Watcher) will get to do their aloof thing.
This is a very dangerous card and like Unnatural Growth it does come with a hefty amount of bad cases that will put a lot of pressure on you. You will sometimes see Sudden Mutation attach to an enemy that you might be okay with not defeating. Like a Black Amanita or a Poisonblossom. This can allow you to ignore Sudden Mutation… but you do risk that this enemy experiences some Unnatural Growth or a Call of the Wild later on, so weighing the risks is important there.

The Longest Night

Other encounter sets in this scenario: The Second Day, Transfiguration, Blight, Chilling Cold, Midnight Mask Treacheries, Striking Fear
Residents involved: Any two you are sufficiently bonded with
Available experience: 5 (no damage on The Captives) + 2 (Ursine Hybrid) = 7XP

Size of the Encounter Deck29
# Enemies
# Willpower9
# Agility4
# Intellect5
# Fight4
# Damage9
# Horror7
# Doom2
The scenario also uses the Fire! set, which doesn’t start in the encounter deck but can be added through player actions and will potentially add more agility tests to the scenario.

My take on this encounter deck: This is one of the roughest encounter decks we had to face. Since all the enemies were shifted into its own separate deck, this is 29 cards of just treachery after treachery, each one more terrifying than the one before it. The goal of the scenario is surviving 10 turns against the enemies that are coming at the farmhouse from four sides and the treacheries are mostly geared towards disrupting the player’s ability to deal with those enemies. There is a smattering of damage and horror dealing cards in there as well, but the focus is clearly on disabling assets, knocking cards out of the player’s hands and taking away the clues they need for putting down more barricades, decoys and traps.
There is a focus on willpower here, primarily because of the presence of both Chilling Cold and Striking Fear. But the other three skills are all also tested on a handful of cards and for the most part those are not cards that can be ignored either.
There’s a good amount of redundancy in this deck, with some treacheries doing a very similar thing to another one. As a result, this deck appears very coherent and like it has internal synergy despite attacking from so many different angles at once. For example, Crypt Chill gets backed up by Fungal Rot in the asset hate department while Downpour and False Lead together will knock a significant amount of clues out of your hands. Also, Desiccation does a similar thing to Dissonant Voices while Strange Mutations closely resembles Rotten Remains. I think this redundancy is the key part to why this encounter deck appears as punishing. It’s easy to roll into a treacheries that double up on each other, with basically the second one punching you while you are still down from the first one.
There are only two different scenario specific treacheries in The Longest Night, but both of them are also extremely dangerous.
The bottom line is that while the enemy deck is the flashy thing that draws your attention with creatures that appear super strong, it’s actually the regular encounter deck that needs to be feared here. There is pretty much no dud in this deck and it is deliberately tuned to hurt common player strategies by coming after their assets and/or disrupting their ability to play cards in general.

My take on the scenario as a whole: It’s one of my favorite scenarios in a while. It shifts so many things around that you really need to re-evaluate many things that the game taught you up to this point. Having the goal of the scenario to just survive (and if possible, protect the middle location) lets the scenario put some serious hurt on the players, confronting them with more each turn than they are likely able to handle on their own. It is down to creative use of investigator abilities, card triggers and the clue options the scenario offers to stall the scenario long enough to make it out before you are overrun. That makes for a suspenseful affair from start to finish. While the whole thing takes only 10 turns which is a handful less than usual, so much happens compressed into that time that it really doesn’t appear to be over that quickly.
It’s a scenario that rewards being able to adapt to shifting board states and to make the most out of your abilities. It doesn’t repeat the failures of something like Carcosa’s Echoes of the Past where you could just kill everything as it pops up or Scarlet Keys’ Alexandria scenario where a single evader allows the rest to just wait out the doom clock (that particular problem is repeated by a different scenario in Hemlock Vale though…).
What i like most about The Longest Night is that everyone gets to contribute. Fighting is important, evading is important and gathering clues is important. Whatever your job in the team usually is, you do have a way to stall the tide of enemies. Through the center location, even single-minded fighters get to participate in the clue-driven defense mechanics. It’s a scenario that lets everyone leverage their best abilities.
High marks all around from me.

The enemies: Let’s have a closer look at the enemy deck first. I’ll try to loosely rank them by how dangerous they are, starting at the top.

When the scenario starts, the Ursine Hybrid is at the west location, three steps away from the farm house. Hopefully you wounded it already in the Twisted Hollow scenario, otherwise taking it out is going to be a lot more difficult. And taking it out is something you should absolutely plan on doing so you have one less thing to worry about. You don’t want this thing stalking you for the rest of the scenario. Note that this is the only enemy that doesn’t Patrol towards the farmhouse, it has regular Hunter. That means you can lure it away from the middle and towards the edge of the map again, possibly letting it walk into traps. This is a particularly viable plan if you happen to get the Ajax asset early on. As already experienced in the Twisted Hollow, that combination of 5 fight, Retaliate and damage/horror worthy of an Old One is to be feared and respected. Use evasion as appropriate to stop it from retaliating and try to get it down as far as possible through traps or Fire! treacheries before trying to finish it off. This is something that is going to be a lot easier in low player counts because the player scaling has really significant consequences here: The health of the bear rises in high player counts, but the number of traps you can put in its way stays the same because you can only put one trap per location. Again, having it come into play with 2 damage per investigator from wounding it in Twisted Hollow is paying off big time here.

Molting Hybrid is public enemy number one. Well, after the bear, of course. Ignoring Barriers is very strong and the ability to reduce damage coupled with Aloof makes it incredibly annoying to deal with. At the same time, 4 evasion with Aloof means that you really don’t want to use evasion on it either. The best case you can hope for is that it moves into a location that you have prepared with both a trap and a decoy. That will exhaust it and deal two damage to it (one from the trap, one from the decoy). You can then move in, engage it and punch it. Still costs you two clues to put those defenses back up again and a bunch of actions, but at least it’s gone then. Molting Hybrid is also quite vulnerable to Fire! treacheries. Setting up a decoy in a fire is a good way of taking care of enemies in general and the bird is one of the enemies where that tactic pays off the most.

Slithering Hybrid is the other Aloof enemy and like the bird it ignores barriers. It actually ignores everything, even the Fire! treachery which means an investigator has to actively engage and defeat it. That isn’t terribly difficult but does of course require a couple actions to do. If you have multiple locations to chose from when spawning this one, see if you can’t make it move over the Vineyard. It allows engaging an enemy from Aloof for free, saving you an action. This thing is rather easy to underestimate because it lacks the flashy abilities that many of the other hybrids have, but just the necessity of having to deal with it yourself and not being allowed to pawn it off to defenses makes this one of the more annoying enemies in the deck.

The Capra Hybrid is one of two Elite enemies in the Enemy deck. It can be stalled with barriers, but ignoring Decoys is certainly a strong ability as well. With 5 health it can even shrug off two traps. This thing will usually spawn and take out a bunch of your defenses, then still need a personal touch to go down. Anything that can be stalled by barriers is automatically a lot more easy to handle than the bird and the slug but this will still take away a sizeable amount of actions from you.

The Equine Hybrid will always need three damage sources before it goes down, which is actually not all that different in practice than the 5 health on the goat. It ignores traps but that’s actually a good thing as we wouldn’t want to waste them on the damage reduction of this enemy. Instead we are happy to see these run into a decoy or two until they stand in front of a barricade for a while, waiting for us to finally finish them off. With their low stats, these can often be an afterthought to clean up while doing other things.

The Lupine Hybrid is an Elite, but i struggle to understand why. There isn’t a whole lot about this one that appears particularly elite to me. On the contrary, in an enemy deck that is populated with powerful enemies that have Aloof, damage reduction and/or abilities to ignore our defenses, this is just a regular dork. Sure, 4 health is not nothing, but considering that we’ll probably be able to let it run into a trap and or decoy before meeting it, that is perfectly fine. The dog should pose no problem to you as they will run into any sort of defense you put up. Love the flavor text, though!

Other notes on this scenario: So those are the enemies and they do look imposing enough and like they are a pain to defeat. However, the key to this scenario is remembering that this is not Echoes of the Past. You aren’t supposed or required to kill everything, you only need to stall them for a couple turns. It’s completely normal and expected to finish the scenario with half a dozen or more enemies still on the board, scratching away at a barrier. The bird and the slug are the two enemies that you should be prepared to kill on sight because you can not stop them from reaching the center without engaging them. Everything else can be stalled at a price of a clue per turn. Now obviously you don’t have enough clues to do that for every enemy every turn, but you do get enough to do this for a good while. Decoys are the best thing you can get for a clue. Barriers can be spammed either to barricade the center location in or to make enemies stand in a fire. Often you can combine the two. Traps are a good deal less important, but they help with the bear, the goats and the dogs.
The Fire! treachery can be a great tool to butter up enemies that pass through it, but you should only consider that option if you are prepared to pass an agility(4) test. With each Fire! you put on the board, another one goes into the encounter deck. Having one of them attach to The Farmhouse and stick around would be catastrophic, so you do need to be able to put out a Fire! if necessary. If you aren’t, then don’t risk it. The Fire! mechanic is a completely voluntary opt-in.
Don’t underestimate the amount of movement you have. The center location offers a free move for resources. Ajax lets you move twice or jump to a Fields. There’s a location that allows you to drop traps and decoys to other locations and some of the Outer Fields allow moving defenses around on the map. Between all these options you should always be able to do *something* no matter where a new threat popped up.
Remember that everything you have is a resource. Even your health and sanity. You only need to reach turn ten. If that means in the final turns to engage everything so it can’t move into the Farmhouse… that is perfectly fine as long as you don’t die from the attacks you are going to suffer.
Finally, i found the ability on the center location to just grab a clue from the bank to be incredibly useful and key to having more productive turns with investigators that aren’t able to grab a lot of clues themselves. When I played the scenario with Nathaniel and Kate, Nathaniel used that ability almost every turn and got fantastic use out of it. In a roundabout way, it’s an action to damage and exhaust an enemy as a free trigger later on, that’s really respectable.

Alright, to finish this off, let’s check out the two scenario specific treacheries.

Scenario specific encounter cards

Number in the encounter deck: 4

Threat level: High to Very High

Four of these are in the encounter deck. That’s two more than i am comfortable with… These things can really mess up your day. They are the only encounter card that tests evasion (unless you decide to put Fire! into the encounter deck, but that’s on you!) and if your group is weak in that skill this card will punish you quite harshly.
Basically, what this does is shift the enemy movement and attack to an earlier point in the turn than usual. This can ruin a lot of carefully considered plans and just the threat of this happening will mean that you might want to build some redundancies into your defenses. Drop an extra barrier here and there just in case. Because otherwise you might suddenly find three enemies attacking the farmhouse during Mythos that you were planning on handling over the course of the coming investigator phase. Or, and that is always just great, you might get mauled by a bear that you were planning to evade.
Speaking of the bear, it creates an interesting tension with regard to when you’d want to draw Incursion. If you draw it early, that bear might get an extra attack in which sucks. If you draw it late, the amount of doom might already mean that X is 3 or more which is when Incursion starts to really hurt in terms of enemy advancement and depletion of your barriers.
There is one silver lining here. Any attacking enemy attacks as if it were the enemy phase. What that means is: it exhausts. So it won’t move and attack again during the actual enemy phase later in the turn. Remember this! The card is rough enough as it is, no need to make it harder on yourself. Of course, this is only relevant if the enemy got to attack. If it merely moved and/or destroyed a barrier, then nothing is going to stop it from doing that again because those things don’t exhaust it. This card is yet another reason why decoys are so good. If an enemy walks into one because of Incursion but doesn’t attack, it will still be exhausted for the enemy phase.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: High

Yeah, there’s no good choices here, this is awful back to front. Let’s go over them one by one.
Removing a doom from the agenda means having to sit out another turn. Another round of encounter draws. Another round of every enemy on the board trying to get to you. That is significant and should not be taken lightly. If you are in control of the board and think you have a good grip on everything, feel free to pick this. But if you are unsure, this can easily be what makes the difference between barely finishing and barely losing.
Dealing 2 damage to the captives is actually not thaaaat bad if your goal is just finishing. As long as you aren’t getting battered too hard, the 10 health on the Captives can stand to lose a little bit. This seems preferable to another round of the scenario if the goal is just finishing the scenario with a success. Here’s the rub though: The XP you gain for the scenario scales with how little damage is on The Captives. In other words, picking the second option basically adds a “Victory -1” to the resolution. If you are like me, that can be hard to swallow… I really value my XP payouts 😀
Finally, we have the third option which isn’t subtle at all. You can avoid any of the two previous outcomes and instead get chunked for 3 damage and 3 horror. Direct, no soak allowed. This can be an option on the final two turns when you know you only need to survive another one or two turns. But i would not risk it when drawing the treachery early on. The encounter deck doesn’t focus on damage and horror, but there is some around. A Rotten Remains is a lot scarier than usual if you decided to take 3 direct horror on a previous turn and so are many of the enemies if you can’t afford to take a hit or three.
As much as i groan when i draw this card, i suppose i have to acknowledge how well it manages to give you three options and still be actually a tough card to resolve. Usually just the presence of a player choice does mellow cards considerably. I don’t really feel that this is the case here.

Transfiguration

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleHorror, Asset hate, Willpower, Fight
Threat LevelMid
# of scenarios4
Appears in: Hemlock House, Silent Heath, Longest Night, Fate of the Vale

This small set is something that you are likely going to be seeing multiple times during a campaign since it is used both in the finale and in The Longest Night. Both treacheries in it do have a solid impact. While they are probably not going to be the main thing you are worried about, they can certainly be a pain.
In three out of the four scenarios, it is used alongside Blight, another encounter set that does share some characteristics with Transfiguration. Strange Mutations and Enervation are both treacheries using the same template with one of them caring about fight and damage, the other about willpower and horror. Having these two treacheries around pushes players to rely less on their soak and instead take some damage/horror on their investigators instead. The way these two treacheries scale makes it likely that players will have to suffer some initial damage and/or horror early which will in turn make other sources of the same more relevant while at the same time making Strange Mutations and Enervation less threatening.
The other thing where Blight and Transfiguration overlap is in them testing fight, which is a bit unusual. But between Enervation and Fungal Rot, your fighters will for once be able to use their best stat to protect from the mythos. It’s still only four cards in the encounter deck, but add the enemies on top of that and your fight stat suddenly goes a long way.

Threat Level: Low to Mid.

Like its damage counterpart, Enervation from the Blight set, there is a scaling component happening here where this card hits very hard in the early turns and falls off later on due to the reduction in difficulty once you have some horror on you.
At difficulty 5, this will usually even ask your high willpower mystics and guardians to devote some sort of resources to your test if you want to pass and even then it will not be a sure thing at all. In almost all cases it will be preferable to just accept the fail and treat this as two testless horror. You do have the option of discarding two random cards instead, but again this will early on not be all that viable because you risk getting your setup severely impacted.
As the game goes on, this becomes a lot easier to handle. Not just because the difficulty goes down if have gotten some horror from other sources already, but also because the alternate price of two random cards becomes easier to stomach. Generally speaking, i would rather want to pay the alternate cost on Enervation (discard your highest cost card from hand) than on Strange Mutations, though. For investigators with heavy skill or event focus this does hit a bit harder, as losing two random cards is going to be more difficult for them even after they have set up their assets.
The player choice available does a reasonable job of reining this treachery in. While it looks pretty ghastly by the numbers (and i am certainly not claiming it is trivial) you can at least always make sure to pick the lesser of two evils. As long as you have at least one card in hand, this won’t defeat you. Actually, once you are in danger of being defeated by this, you likely reduce the willpower test low enough to pass it in the first place.
Having Strange Mutations in the encounter deck can be a reason to put horror on your investigator intentionally even when you do have soaking assets in play because the difficulty reduction will only take horror tokens into account that are actually on you, not on your soak.

Threat level: Mid

There’s a decent amount of asset hate in this campaign, trying to undo our early setup. Unlike something like Crypt Chill, Fungal Rot is not completely ditching that asset however. Instead it is just disabled until someone spends the action and successfully passes the fight test. Fungal Rot is, next to the earlier mentioned Enervation from Blight, one of two notable treacheries that test fight instead of one of the other, more commonly tested skills. So for once, the guardian can come to help the mystic or seeker with their treachery.
How hard this treachery hits is going to be incredibly context dependent. By itself, it just asks for an action and a relatively easy test to be undone so sometimes you just get lucky and it doesn’t do much. But when it does matter, it does so in a big way. To get the obvious one out of the way, The Longest Night keeps you under high pressure every turn. With a constant barrage on enemies on your doorstep, having your main weapon suddenly turn off is going to be a problem. And it’s not like your guardian just has the time to walk over to your rogue to turn their Lockpicks back on, either. Silent Heath and Fate of the Vale certainly have their moments of high pressure as well, but one other thing that makes Longest Night stand out is that it also has Creeping Cold and therefore Crypt Chill in its encounter deck. With both Crypt Chill and Fungal Rot against you, you can run into serious problems when you are overly dependent on one certain item.
Fungal Rot is a whole tier below Crypt Chill in terms of how scary it is though, mostly because it doesn’t permanently disable the asset. Since it uses a fight test, the group of investigators that is most dependent on having a certain Item (=their weapon) available is also best able to free it up again. The one thing where Fungal Rot is worse than Crypt Chill however is that its effect is frontloaded, you only get a saving throw to deal with the aftermath, not to deflect the effect in the first place. That is relevant, but let’s be real… 9 times out of 10, we fail the willpower(4) on Crypt Chill anyways.
In total that means two things that i would advise to already think of when building your decks for the Hemlock Vale: One, don’t go all in on just one Item asset. That’s a bad idea in general, but here even more than usual. Think about what your deck does when it doesn’t have its Cyclops Hammer, Ancient Stone or Becky available. Does it fold? Bad deck. Have a backup plan. Again, i believe this to be just generally sound deckbuilding advice, but it’s somewhat enforced here. Two, play some cheap Item assets that you can afford to lose or have disabled for a couple turns. Examples would be something like a Scroll of Secrets or a Magnifying Glass. The cycle of Masks from the Hemlock Vale investigator expansion are also fantastic for holding a Fungal Rot for a bit. That being said, the best Items to get a Fungal Rot on are probably Occult Lexicon and Hallowed Mirror… not only does that not impact your Blood-Rites and Soothing Melodies, but with their text boxes blanked you can even discard them and free up the slot without losing the events from your deck. Not something that you can really plan for, but hey… it can happen!

Blight

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleCombat, Damage, Discard
Threat LevelMid
# of scenarios5
Appears in: Hemlock House, Silent Heath, Lost Sister, The Thing From the Depths, The Longest Night

Blight is used in five out of eight scenarios in the Hemlock Vale campaign. It is therefore the most common encounter set around and the investigators will face it at least three times. Blight is at its core a very simple set, focused on dealing damage to the players.
This adds a considerable amount of attrition to the encounter deck, which can especially help to wear you down in scenarios that go on for a while (Silent Heath), that already apply quite some pressure through enemies (Lost Sister) or both (Longest Night).
This is unlikely to be an encounter set you particularly fear, but it’s one that certainly does its part. Desiccation in particular can really sneak up on you and limit your good options.
Notably, none of the cards in this set can force you to take damage, you always have alternate options: You can discard a card for Enervation or do things other than play cards with your actions. Now, these options aren’t always going to be particularly pleasant either. At least these treacheries won’t actually kill you the way a Grasping Hands would… but they can certainly put you in a bad spot. Speaking of Grasping Hands, a bit of good news is that the one scenario that uses the Ghouls set in Hemlock Vale doesn’t also use Blight. So you don’t have to be afraid of any of the following two cards setting up a lethal Grasping Hands. Hey, nothing wrong with being grateful for small mercies. Because as we’ll see there some other stacking up of effects going on that isn’t exactly pleasant!

Threat Level: Low to Mid.

A test versus difficulty 5 is super difficult and something that even a Mark or Tony can expect to fail unless they devote further resources into the test. Luckily, the difficulty goes down for anyone already hurt, but the threat of 2 damage or your most expensive card in hand is something that you will often not have a good choice between.
There’s a couple things i find particularly interesting here. For one, this is the rare treachery that is most impactful at the start of the scenario when you probably don’t have any damage on you yet except from trauma. Later in the scenario, once you have been beaten down a bit, this can even become a freebie or at least an easy test.
Another remarkable thing about it is that it’s a fight test. Usually we’d expect an agility test on treacheries like this. Feast of Hemlock Vale actually has a couple fight tests on treacheries as part of its efforts to test investigators on all four skills. Notably, there is a pretty big overlap between “having low fight” and “having low health” on investigators, which can turn this card into a problem for these sort of frail characters.
This only counts damage “on you” for its reduction of the difficulty. That means it rewards taking damage on the chin instead of using soak, as damage on your allies, leather coats, etc. will not count towards lowering the threshold here.
All that being said, giving the player a choice to either take the damage or lose one of their cards (even when it’s a specific one) is providing them with a way to mitigate the worst case. Losing a card is often not a terribly bad deal, but of course with all the discard synergy going on in the campaign it can become situationally a lot worse, for example when it triggers a Miasmatic Shadow to engage you.
Overall, this can be pretty bad when drawn in the first turn as it will ask you to pick between losing one of your best cards or taking 2 damage. Later on, it often drops off massively as you will either be able to more easily lose a card or already have taken a couple points of damage so that the difficulty of the test drops to reasonable levels. Compared to its horror counterpart from the Transfiguration set, Strange Mutations, this also notably gives you all the information you need when deciding whether to invest into trying to pass this test or not as it doesn’t involve random discard. Often you will look at your hand, check which card is your highest costed one and just decide that losing that card is perfectly fine. Strange Mutations doesn’t offer that luxury.
If you have a decent combat value, consider putting some of the damage you get from other sources on yourself even when you have soak available to get the difficulty of the Enervation test into a range where you can reasonably pass it. If you happen to fail anyways, you can always put the damage from Enervation on the soak then. But at least you’ll give yourself a small edge through an easier test if you intentionally take some damage on yourself as well.

Threat Level: Mid (High in four player games?)

And here’s one of the primary reasons why that damage might have accumulated. While this won’t shut down your card plays completely the way Dissonant Voices from Striking Fear does, it will simply ping you for each card played. And it will do so for all investigators. This can translate to a hefty chunk of damage dealt overall by this treachery because typically Hemlock Vale doesn’t really allow you a turn off. Desiccation turns where nobody gets damaged are kind of rare, even in two player games you’ll usually be willing to take a ping or two so you don’t lose momentum.
As someone who only plays two-player games, i can only speculate how terrifying this must be in four player groups. Not only because it scales up with player count, but also because drawing two of them in one turn means that you take 2 damage per card played… and then only discard one of them at the end of the round so everyone is still impeded on the following turn. That’s incredibly rough! Honestly, I don’t really see why only 1 per round discards when they do actually stack while in play.
Silent Heath and The Longest Night both use the Striking Fear set which means those two scenarios do have both Dissonant Voices and Desiccation in them. Which opens up the possibility to have a turn where you can’t play anything at all only to move into a turn where playing things to catch up with the previous turn hurts your life total. Or the other way round, a turn where you decide not to play your cards during Desiccation because you want to save up some health… only to draw Dissonant Voices the turn after and have to sit out another turn. Considering that this is The Longest Night, this sort of delay can be very harsh.
This card is of course particularly hard on investigators that are event based like Sefina, Nathaniel or Diana. But it can randomly be a huge pain on anyone. I find myself underestimating this card a lot and will often take two or more damage from it across investigators even in a two player game. The damage is spread out across players which makes it appear less of a problem, but this is likely not going to be the only damage you have to suffer.