Irregular Evils #46: Too many hands in too many pies. Also, i was on a podcast

Hey, just a quick headsup. No update this and last week. I am plugging away at several articles that are a bit longer right now, nothing that is in a state i want to share yet:

  • The scenario page for the Hemlock Vale finale has a bit more on it than usual
  • I am making good progress on the “Best-Laid Plans” comprehensive deep dive for Hemlock Vale
  • There’s likely going to be a ranking of the investigators “by enjoyment”. Not quite as excessive as the big investigator power rankings, but excessive enough…
  • I also started designing for the Unofficial Return to Dream-Eaters again. My plan is finishing up the B side and making it available to play on TTS in the near future, then turn towards the A side which has a lot more questionable stuff in it still.
  • Some other small bits and bobs, related to my drive to update a few of the existing pages.

So there’s plenty cooking, just nothing finished yet. Maybe next week, but don’t be too surprised if there’s nothing then either.

However, i have one neat thing to share. I was on the Los Archivos de Arkham podcast to chat about the fan-made Return to Innsmouth and some of the design ideas behind it. The whole podcast is 3.5h and in spanish, but the segment where i am on is in english.

Los Archivos de Arkham, Season 6, Episode 15 on iVoox

The english language part starts about 100 minutes in and goes on for about an hour.
My thanks to the three hosts for having me on, it was good fun and i’d be happy to return at any point.

The Lost Sister

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Blight, Horrors in the Rock, Mutations, Myconids
Residents involved: Theo (day 1 and 2), Gideon (day 2 and 3), William (day 3), Helen (any day)
Available experience: 1 (parlaying Helen/Theo or William) +2 (resolution) +2 (Limulus Hybrid) + 2 (Crystal Parasites) = 7XP
Available experience on day 2/3: as before, but also +1 from helping Gideon = 8XP

Size of the Encounter Deck26
# Enemies8
# Willpower3
# Agility5
# Intellect2
# Fight5
# Damage9
# Horror7
# Doom2

My take on this encounter deck: This is a relatively small encounter deck that has a little bit of everything in it. With Reclaimed by Nature it even has an encounter card that has something of everything on it!
The encounter deck takes a bit of a step back and lets the mutated crabs that are set aside at setup be the clear stars of the scenario instead. Notably, the enemies in this encounter deck are quite soft: Cavern Moss is barely even an enemy, Amanita is not all that dangerous. And Crystal Parasite at least gives you plenty of warning before it arrives. The one copy of Corpse Lichen is really the only case where an enemy can unexpectedly pose a challenge to your enemy handling. That being said, Crystal Parasite at least is not something to underestimate.
Calcification and Desiccation together put a bit of a strain on investigator’s health however and can let some of the other damaging treacheries appear a bit more impactful than they look at first glance. Aside from that, there’s not much to specifically mention here as standouts. This deck tests everything just a little which means that on the one hand you don’t need to prepare anything special for this scenario. But on the other hand, it also means you can’t really prepare yourself and if random chance happens to serve you with multiple cards that all exploit a particular weakness of your investigator and deck, you can just end up in a bad spot. It’s not particularly likely to happen though.

My take on the scenario as a whole: I like this one for putting some of the encounter cards that work off dark/light mechanics into a different context. I also think that the Elite crabs are fun to fight, at least as long as you don’t have someone on your team that can just blast past the mechanics with raw power.
Personally, i would have wished for the encounter deck to have more of a presence here, it’s at times very mild and only provides minor background noise. That is fine as long as you are tackling a crab and busy with that, but kind of unimpressive while you are just making your way through the caves.
But that doesn’t distract (much) from this being a fun scenario thanks to a cool central mechanic that puts a spin on the day/night things we see in the rest of the campaign.

Scaling/Variants: This scenario is key if you want to follow Theo’s and Helen’s story, reuniting the two with each other. To do this, you need to parley with Theo multiple times while Helen is around and then finish the scenario successfully, saving the lost sister. This unlocks version 2 of the finale (which can alternatively be reached by reconciling William and River in their own path) and allows you to add Helen Peters to an investigator’s deck. This is true no matter if you do the scenario day 1 or day 2, however there is a subtle difference in that Helen will not be available to “share a dance” if you do this day 2.
On day 3, this is no longer possible and you will instead find William who can simply be parleyed with for a small chat (and an XP). Gideon is around on day 2 and 3 and requires help finding his “treasure”. If you manage to do that, this not only rewards an XP, but also unlocks the final stage of Gideon’s personal path which can also come into play to unlock a version of the finale.
There is some limited day number scaling on the smaller of the Elite enemies in this scenario, but not something that i would really consider when deciding when to play this.
Since the scenario doesn’t actually work differently between day and night, this can be played fairly well at night, in place of either Twisted Hollow or Longest Night. Doing so will remove all of the interactions with residents from this scenario however. Considering that Lost Sister is quite rich in that department, that feels like a shame to do.

The smaller ones of the Crab Hybrids. There are two of these lobsters and their main job is making up for the lack of enemies in the encounter deck before the investigators reach the big guy. Defeating them doesn’t earn any victory, but they do at least go into the victory display so you don’t have to see them again. They basically teach you how to handle the dark/light mechanic in this scenario so you can put that into practice when the big crab shows up.
The enemy flips sides depending on whether it is in a dark cave or an open spot. In the light, it becomes hard to kill, with only 1 damage per attack getting through to it. That coupled with its Elusive means that it takes quite a few actions to defeat with attacks in this state as you will either keep running after it or evade it first. And evading it is even reasonably difficult.
If it moves (either through Hunter or Elusive) from a light into a dark area, it will however become easier to damage. Its fight value goes up slightly, but that is of course still preferable to only dealing 1 damage per action. When flipping into this state, it will deal 1 damage to each investigator at its location. This makes it hit relatively hard when it hunts into you, but in most cases doesn’t do anything on an Elusive move.
Depending on the day, its health scales from 4 to 6, without any player scaling. This means that they are a lot more dangerous for small groups than for big ones.
Something to be aware of is that the damage reduction on their light side only applies to attacks. So if you are able to hit them with damage from other sources, that will go through in full. What’s more, that sort of damage will also not trigger their Elusive. As a result, keeping multiples of something like Blood-Rite or Sneak Attack can give you a way of getting rid of one of these lobsters without having to interact with any of their mechanics.

This massive horseshoe crab is the big boss of this scenario. It uses the same day/light mechanic to switch sides as the Crustacean Hybrids but with some twists. The first one (and one that is easy to miss, i know i played this wrong the first time i went into this scenario) is that the light side of the Limulus Hybrid doesn’t have Hunter. So you need to attack it and trigger its Elusive if you want it to move into a dark area again. It also means that this thing will not follow you forever, if for some reason you need to flee from it and recover or dig for another weapon, you can do so… as long as the doom clock permits, of course. That being said, having it in the light is actually good for you. There is no damage reduction here and the lack of attacks of opportunity can be used in your favor.
If you are fighting the crab in the dark, this is getting a lot tougher. The fight value goes up and the thing gains Retaliate, always a dangerous combination. It also dishes out a lot of damage in this form, further supported by a Forced ability that hits anyone attacking it with a melee weapon. Since we already noted that dwindling health can be an issue due to effects from the encounter deck, this can become very dangerous. Notably, the crab doesn’t have Elusive in this form, so once you are fighting it in the dark, it will stay with you. That can be a good thing if you are able to just burst it down with a good fighter, but can also mean that you might want to have it hunt towards you into a light location again for it to swap back into its more tame form.
Having it swap back and forth is also rewarded with a damage trigger on the light side. Weirdly, this trigger scales with player count… so while a solo player will only deal a point to the Hybrid here for 1/8th of its life, a 4p group will chunk the beast for 4 damage each time it flips to light which is almost a quarter of its full health.
Unlike the lobsters, the crab does not scale its life by day number. It does however scale by player number in the usual way that we expect from this sort of boss enemy.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Low.

What a weird card mechanically. While it’s pretty clear how it’s supposed to work from a thematic point of view, this created a lot of questions for me on how it interacts with various cards. Questions that i have seen repeatedly asked elsewhere as well. So take this with the usual grain of salt when it comes to edge cases in this game, but the way i understand it is that Cavern Moss does still count as an enemy at your location while attached to an item in your play area. That means you can use it to fulfill the condition on Scene of the Crime or Trish Scarborough. Or you can parley it with the likes of Grift. It does however not count as an enemy engaged with you, so it won’t attack you. Not even if it is attached to an item in your threat area like Daisy’s Necronomicon. On that note: Yes, Cavern Moss can blank Item weaknesses for you.
There is no limit on how many mosses can attach to one Item, so if you have a good spot to stick it (like a weakness or a Hallowed Mirror) or are simply able to do without one of your items you can basically ignore any further Cave Moss you draw and just put them on the same item.
You can choose to engage Moss which might be useful if you want to trigger something like a Wolf Mask or if you want to evade it. Evading it will exhaust it and stop it from blanking your asset for a turn. It will however not detach and once the moss readies your item is blanked again. This is rarely going to be useful.
There are some other wild edge cases like Markmanship being really good for sniping moss off your items – since Moss isn’t engaged with you, Marksmanship will deal three damage to it.
So, once we push past all of the rules weirdness that comes from attaching enemies to items … how dangerous is this card in the end? I’d say it’s almost a player card. Blanking weaknesses and enabling parley or similar cards is very much in the player’s favor. And even when it does its thing and takes away one of your assets, it’s only temporary and can be dealt with rather easily.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Mid

Of the two modes on this card, i am definitely more afraid of the daytime one. Damage is just much more relevant than horror in this scenario and the alternate choice of having an enemy attack is also more relevant that healing a damage from enemies.
With the big Elite crabs around that can take a bunch of attacks the healing isn’t completely irrelevant, but doesn’t really move the needle much. Notably, you do have to pick an option that changes the gamestate however. So if there is no enemy on the board, you have to take the 2 damage on the day effect. If there is not damaged enemy nearby, you have to take the 2 horror on the night version.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Low

Turns a dark cave into a light location. This effect is going to be highly context dependent but is usually not going to end up being scary enough that you actively want to pursue the test to discard it. You might do it if you are already at the location and have nothing better to do, but keeping it around can even work out in your favor, especially if it leads to multiple locations without Dark next to each other where you can herd the Limulus Hybrid back and forth without having it enter a dark location so you never give it the Hunter ability and can fully control the pace of combat. The main counterpoint is that having more light locations makes Black Aminata and the lobster hybrids more annoying to deal with.
And there is of course the fight/damage bonus to consider.

The Silent Heath

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Agents of the Colour, Horrors in the Rock, Refractions, Transfiguration, Blight, Striking Fear
Residents involved: Leah (day 1), Rachel (day 3). On day 2, Rosa is around.
Available experience (day 1 and 2): 2 (Brood Queen) + 2 (Crystal Parasites) + 3 (Crystal Remains) = 7XP
Available experience (day 3): As day 1, but also 1XP for parleying with Rachel = 8XP

Size of the Encounter Deck38
# Enemies10
# Willpower13
# Agility2
# Intellect2
# Fight4
# Damage12
# Horror12
# Doom2
(the enemy number includes the Crystal Parasite)

My take on this encounter deck: This is a chunky encounter deck and with that comes a lot of variance. There’s eight Insect enemies in the encounter deck (3x Larva, 3x Soldier, 2x Parasite), so about 1 in 5 encounter cards. Not actually as many as i would have expected! There are two more enemies in the deck, the Miasmatic Shadows. These don’t have a whole lot of synergy with the rest of the encounter deck though. There is some incidental discard in Transfiguration and Blight. This scenario’s Commanding Resonance also has possible discard on it. But considering the size of the encounter deck, it’s not a whole lot so you can reasonably avoid triggering the Shadow’s engage for a long time, possibly for the whole scenario.
A bigger worry is the amount of damage and horror. 1 in 3 cards deal damage, 1 in 3 cards deal horror and there is also some overlap between them of course. You can basically expect that half of the encounter cards come after your health and/or sanity. The cards that deal horror seem to be a bit more dangerous though, especially if you are struggling with passing willpower tests.
To be honest, I’m not sure this encounter deck really needed to be almost 40 cards. Seems a bit bloated and the variance you can get from it could be something to worry about. That being said, it hasn’t been a negative for me so far and i have not heard anyone else talk about it.

My take on the scenario as a whole: This is a cool scenario. You can make a decision early on to either go loud and murder your way through the swarm or try to sneak by. Either way works well, however be ready for a very tense turn when the Queen shows up if you went on a killing spree. I had a good time on my blind playthrough, figuring out how to best deal with the situation when the number of enemies spiked up from “the board is clear” to “there’s six enemies in Wilson’s threat area and another massive on on his location” in the blink of an eye. Since then i had another play of the scenario with Kate and Nate who were much better prepared to fight and evade anything that came up and finally a third one with Finn and Skids who claimed all three remains without killing a single enemy. I really appreciate when a scenario can play this differently depending on how you approach it.
There’s some interesting interactions with soak and damage/horror here. You have a lot coming your way from the encounter deck just in terms of raw numbers, but some of it is direct. Some of it can only be put on assets. There’s the treacheries that get easier when you have damage/horror on you. There’s story assets that you don’t want to see defeated. Those story assets actually deal damage and/or horror to you as well while you get them to their drop-off location. Some of the locations also deal a considerable amount for revealing them or ending your turn on them. It quickly becomes a bit of a number puzzle as you try to figure out the best way to distribute all these horror and damage tokens while keeping your options open.
This is a good one that i enjoy both the gameplay and the theme of.

Scaling/Variants: The residents that are here depending on the day aren’t terribly influential for how this scenario goes. Leah earns a clue for each investigator, Rosa draws some cards and/or peeks under locations. And Rachel hands out an XP, to make up for the circumstance that you only get the Pearl Diary asset if you do this scenario before end of day 2. It’s also one of the few opportunities to gain relationship with Rachel. Meeting Leah here on day 1 will also gain you a log entry, however this will ultimately lead to nothing.
The health of the Brood Queen scales with day number and player number multiplicatively, meaning she can gain anywhere from one (day 1, 1 investigator) to twelve (day 3, 4 investigators) bonus health. This can obviously make a big difference in how difficult she is to defeat, especially when considering that higher player counts will likely also have more Insects spawn alongside her.
If you want to do a different scenario than Twisted Hollows during night 1, this is a good choice. While it doesn’t gain anything specific from being played at night, it also doesn’t lose much. You can gain full XP for this scenario and can recover the Diary asset as well. Note that if you play Silent Heath instead of The Longest Night, you will however not be able to pick up the Diary because you missed the trigger for that to happen by a hair.

How much the arrival of the Queen on the board is going to impact you is going to depend a lot on how things went so far. That’s because for a 2VP Elite boss she’s not even all that tough. But she does arrive with every Insect you killed so far and that can be a huge deal as it will see you swarmed in a way that you are likely not going to be able to handle in full.
So, what does this mean for us? First off, you will likely not want to spend the effort to kill Crystal Parasites if you expect that the Queen will make an appearance. And as soon as a Parasite is in the victory display, it will only be a matter of time before that happens. So either defeat the Parasites after the Queen is dealt with or as close to your time of resigning if you plan on skipping her.
In a best case situation, you kill one Larva or Soldier early on and then immediately get the Queen afterwards, leading to a situation where she doesn’t get much in terms of reinforcements. You can then kill the Queen and from then on play the rest of the scenario without having to worry about the whole thing.
As long as she doesn’t show up, you constantly have to ask yourself if defeating an Insect is worth the later trouble though. Likely, it won’t be. Once you advanced the agenda, the Queen will be likely to appear rather sooner than later even with just two Insects in the victory display so I’d recommend avoiding any more than that for sure.
One final thing to note about the Queen is that she doesn’t have Hunter. If you evade her and run, you can let her be. Since she hits pretty hard and life/sanity are so valuable in this scenario, that can be a reasonable option.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat Level: Mid to High

The ceiling on what this can do to you is pretty high as both the second option and the third one can trigger an attack by an enemy. The first option only deals a damage, but stacks up nicely with any of the other choices in a scenario that already has a whole lot of damage and horror on its encounter cards.
So if things go really wrong and you fumble the test at the worst time possible, this will make you engage a Miasmatic Shadow and the nearest Insect, both will attack you immediately and then you get another damage on top. Pretty brutal worst case.
Now, this extreme case isn’t particularly likely, but even just at base level this is just a grab bag of unpleasant effects that will on average be worse for you than Rotting Remains.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat Level: Mid to High.

Honestly, the horror worries me most on this one. Taking 2 points when there’s already so many other horror sources around is bad news. As long as an Insect is in play, it will put down a doom instead and (luckily?) that is the likely outcome because you usually don’t have a reason to murder everything in your way in this scenario. Defeating the enemy will take care of the doom, but of course that will also put the Insect into your Victory display, something you might have wanted to avoid. If you are trying to get through the scenario without ever having the Brood Queen appear, you might even decide to just let the doom happen. In that case, the treachery hits you more than if killing the Insect is no big deal to you.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat Level: Very Low.

These are almost no threat at all, at least not directly. Their Forced effect will put them directly into the Victory display however and there is a decent amount of effects around that could cause a Larva to attack. When that happens they will make it more likely for the Brood Queen to appear (and bring them back).
They also deal a horror which is a bigger concern than damage in this scenario.
So the Larvas aren’t a complete freebie, but overall you will likely be glad to draw these in the Mythos phase instead of something more pressing.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat Level: Low.

Another Aloof enemy (as long as they aren’t with the Queen or at a location that makes them lose the keyword) that doesn’t pose an immediate threat. They make investigations at their location more difficult which can be a problem if multiple of them congregate. Often you will be able to effectively “park” them on a Cave location that you are finished with however, simply by keeping a clue or two on the location for them to guard while you plunder the rest of the map.
If you have to kill them, that isn’t too difficult either. Their 2 health betrays what their flavor text and artwork presents them at. I would have expected more from a 3 meter long creature made of chitin! In any case, this is another enemy that isn’t terribly dangerous on its own and that i would be happy to draw during my Mythos phase instead of almost any of the treacheries.

Irregular Evils #45: Updating the Site and my Takes

New Header menu

I am currently in the process of remodeling and updating some things on the site. This starts with a new header menu that is no longer broken down all the way to the last encounter set. That menu was causing issues for a while, both for using it and behind the scenes on a technical level. Linking every single page i put out somewhere in it was reasonable when i started the site a few years ago, but stopped being so like four or five expansions back. So i paired it down significantly. This has two main advantages: It’s now faster and less buggy. And it allows me to actually spotlight some of the content on this site that was previously buried in submenus of submenus. Most importantly, this puts the buying guide and the campaign deep dives to the front of the line where they belong.
I am still changing some details here and there, but i am largely satisfied with the new reduced look of the header.

Update to the Buying Guide

Speaking of the Buying Guide, i updated it with infos on the latest two expansions. And changed the recommendations for the Return To boxes due to the increasingly awful supply situation around them.

Update to the Investigator Set Reviews

The largest part of this site update was going over all of the Investigator Set Reviews and re-reviewing the cards to see if i still agree with my takes. I made a bunch of changes to ratings there. Some of those changes were because those reviews were the early ones i posted and i was still zeroing in on how i define my ratings, like where is the line between “Okay”, “Okay to Good” and “Good”. The Dunwich review in particular had a lot of cards where i didn’t even give such a rating. The last three campaigns (Edge, Keys, Vale) also just had me change my opinions on the cards a bunch after playing with them more since posting their reviews.
Notably, this update moves the Hemlock Vale review from “Hot Take Edition” that i made when the set wasn’t even released yet into something based on multiple campaigns played since i got the set and based on actual hands-on experiences. As with Edge and Keys, i do expect more changes to my opinions of the cards when i do my next round of updates in half a year or a year or whenever.

What follows now is a changelog of all the ratings i changed on the cards in their respective Investigator Set Reviews (formatted as “old rating -> new rating”). Sometimes this was accompanied by also changing the explanatory short text that i post with each card, but often this wasn’t even necessary. I’ll just post this changelog uncommented as it would be too much to go over everything. If you are interested about specifics, you are as always invited to ask and/or challenge me on my takes.

Investigator Starter Decks

Flesh Ward: Okay to Good -> Good
Safeguard(0): Good -> Good To Excellent
Clean Them Out: Okay -> Okay to Bad
Monster Slayer(0): Okay -> Okay to Bad

Arcane Enlightenment: Okay to Good -> Okay
Encyclopedia(0): Okay -> Good
Library Docent: Good to Excellent -> Good
Whitton Greene(0): Good -> Excellent
Burning the Midnight Oil: Good to Excellent -> Staple
Extensive Research(0): Bad -> Okay to Bad

Beretta M1918: Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Lonnie Ritter: Good -> Staple
Mauser(0): Good -> Good to Excellent
Mauser(2): Good -> Good to Excellent
Backstab(3): Okay -> Good
Daredevil(0): Okay to Good -> Good

Arcane Studies(4): Good -> Excellent
Robes of Endless Night(2): Good to Excellent -> Good
Voice of Ra: Good -> Excellent
Prescient: Okay to Good -> Okay

.18 Derringer(0): Good -> Excellent
.18 Derringer(2): Excellent -> Staple
Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Okay to Bad -> Bad
Granny Orne(3): Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Mysterious Raven: Okay to Good -> Okay
Grit Your Teeth: Bad to Okay -> Bad
Will to Survive(0): Okay -> Bad


I’ve Had Worse(4): Excellent -> Good
If it Bleeds: Okay to Bad -> Bad
Taunt: Okay
Taunt(2): Okay -> Okay to Bad
Teamwork: Okay
Leadership: Okay to Good

Art Student: Okay
Higher Education(3): Excellent
Laboratory Assistant: Excellent -> Staple
Deciphered Reality: Bad
Expose Weakness(1): Bad
Preposterous Sketches(0): Okay to Good

Hired Muscle: Okay -> Okay to Bad
Joey The Rat: Okay
Liquid Courage: Okay
Streetwise(3): Staple -> Excellent
Think on your feet: Bad
Double or Nothing: Excellent
Opportunist(2): Bad to Okay -> Bad

Blood Pact(3): Okay -> Good
Jewel of Aureolus: Okay -> Good
Ritual Candles: Okay to Good -> Good to Excellent
Delve Too Deep: Staple.
Ward of Protection: Okay -> Good

Newspaper: Okay to Bad -> Okay
Stroke of Luck: Okay to Good -> Okay

Emergency Cache(2): Okay to Bad -> Okay to Good


.32 Colt(0): Okay -> Okay to Bad
First Aid(3): Okay to Good -> Okay

Arcane Insight: Okay -> Okay to Bad
Charles Ross: Okay to Good -> Okay
Logical Reasoning: Excellent -> Staple

Pickpocketing(2): Good -> Excellent
Suggestion(4): Good -> Okay

Spirit Athame: Good -> Okay
St Hubert’s Key: Staple -> Excellent
Torrent of Power: Okay -> Okay to Bad

Gravedigger’s Shovel: Okay to Bad -> Okay
Not without a Fight: Okay to Good -> Okay

Forgotten Age

Kerosene(1): Okay -> Okay to Bad
Venturer: Good -> Okay to Good
Blood Eclipse(3): Good -> Okay
Reliable: Good -> Good to Excellent
Scene of the Crime: Excellent -> Staple

Dr. Elli Horowitz: Good -> Good to Excellent
Tooth of Eztli: Excellent -> Good to Excellent
Persuasion: Okay -> Good

Decorated Skull(0): Okay -> Bad
Coup de Grace: Okay to Good -> Okay
Olive McBride(0): Excellent -> Staple
Protective Incantation: Okay -> Okay to Bad
Shards of the Void: Okay to Good -> Okay

Backpack: Okay to Good -> Okay

Circle Undone

Alice Luxley: Okay to Good -> Okay
Delay the Inevitable: Good -> Okay
Interrogate: Okay to Bad -> Good

Hawk-Eye Camera: Staple -> Excellent
Connect the Dots: Good -> Okay
Curiosity: Good -> Okay

The Moon: Good to Excellent -> Good
Tennessee Sour Mash (3, Rogue): Good -> Good to Excellent
Money Talks: Okay to Good -> Okay
Cunning: Okay to Good -> Okay

Prophesy: Okay to Good -> Okay


Safeguard(2): Excellent -> Staple
Self-Sacrifice: Okay -> Okay to Bad

Extensive Research(1): Okay to Good -> Good
Surprising Find(1): Good -> Okay

Burglary(2): Okay to Good -> Okay
Gregory Gry: Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Swift Reload: Excellent to Staple -> Excellent

Summoned Hound: Okay to Good -> Okay
Twila Katherine Price: Good to Excellent -> Good

Scavenging(2): Excellent to Staple -> Staple


Book of Psalms: Good -> Okay
Ancestral Knowledge: Staple -> Excellent
Guided by the Unseen: Excellent to Staple -> Excellent
Deep Knowledge: Excellent -> Staple
Gaze of Ouraxsh: Good to Excellent -> Good
Stirring up Trouble: Excellent -> Staple
Plan of Action: Bad to Okay -> Okay

.25 Auto(2): Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Eye of the Djinn: Excellent to Staple -> Excellent
Tristan Botley: Good -> Okay
Breaking and Entering: Excellent -> Staple
Justify the Means: Good -> Okay

Eye of Chaos(4): Staple -> Excellent
Blood Pact(0): Okay -> Good
Ward of Radiance: Excellent -> Good

Mariner’ Compass: Excellent to Staple -> Excellent
Harmony Restored: Okay to Good -> Okay
Signum Crucis: Okay to Good -> Okay

Tempt Fate: Staple -> Excellent

Edge of the Earth

Geared Up: Good -> Okay
On the Hunt(3): Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Sweeping Kick: Excellent to Staple -> Staple
Defensive Stance: Good -> Excellent
Medical Student: Excellent -> Staple
Protective Gear: Good to Excellent -> Okay to Good
Quickdraw Holster: Okay -> Okay to Bad

Archive of Conduits: Good to Excellent -> Good
Join the Caravan: Okay -> Good
Unearth the Ancients(2): Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Survey the Area: Good -> Excellent
Medical Student: Excellent -> Staple

Underworld Support: Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Black Market(2): Staple -> Excellent
Quickdraw Holster: Okay -> Okay to Bad

Close the Circle: Good to Excellent -> Good
Occult Theory: Good -> Excellent
Prophetic: Excellent to Staple -> Staple

Bandages: Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Schoffner’s Catalogue: Excellent to Staple -> Staple
Blood will have Blood: Okay to Good -> Okay
Jury-Rig: Good to Excellent -> Excellent to Staple
Dauntless Spirit: Good -> Excellent
Protective Gear: Good to Excellent -> Okay to Good

Rod of Animalism: Okay to Bad -> Bad

Scarlet Keys

Obsidian Bracelet: Okay -> Good
Runic Axe: Excellent -> Staple
Bolas: Okay to Good -> Okay
Custom Modifications: Excellent -> Good
Breach the Door: Okay -> Good
Field Agent: Excellent -> Good to Excellent
Girish Kadakia: Good to Excellent -> Excellent

Alchemical Distillation: Good -> Okay
Grim Memoir: Excellent -> Staple
Captivating Discovery: Good to Excellent -> Okay
Analysis: Okay -> Good
Lab Coat: Good -> Okay
Map the Area: Bad -> Okay to Bad

Damning Testimony: Okay to Good -> Good to Excellent
Hit and Run: Good -> Okay
Kicking the Hornet’s Nest: Good to Excellent -> Good
Calculated Risk: Okay to Good -> Okay
Stylish Coat: Good to Excellent -> Good
Dirty Fighting: Excellent to Staple -> Staple
Breaking and Entering(2): Excellent to Staple -> Staple
Thieves Kit(3): Excellent to Staple -> Excellent
Underworld Market: Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Clean Sneak: Okay -> Okay to Bad

Summoned Servitor: Good to Excellent -> Good
Power Word: Good -> Excellent
Eldritch Initiation: Okay to Good -> Okay
String of Curses: Excellent to Staple -> Excellent
Binder’s Jar: Good -> Okay

Pocket Multi Tool: Good to Excellent -> Good
Idol of Xanatos: Okay to Bad -> Okay
Makeshift Trap: Good to Excellent -> Okay
End of the Road: Good -> Excellent
Exploit Weakness: Okay to Good -> Okay
At a Crossroads: Excellent to Staple -> Staple
Gumption: Staple -> Excellent
Katja Eastbank: Good to Excellent -> Okay to Good

Hyperphysical Shotcaster: Good -> Okay
Refine: Good -> Okay
Tool Belt: Okay to Good -> Okay to Bad

Hemlock Vale

Katana: Bad to Okay -> Okay
Ofuda: Okay to Good -> Okay
Absolution: Okay to Bad -> Okay
Task Force: Okay -> Good
Tinker: Okay to Good -> Good
Cleaning Kit(3): Good to Excellent -> Excellent
Miracle Wish: Okay to Good -> Okay

Microscope: Good to Excellent -> Good
Control Variable: Okay to Good -> Good
Thorough Inquiry: Good to Excellent -> Good
Gabriel Carillo: Excellent to Staple -> Staple
Esoteric Methods: Okay to Good -> Okay to Bad

Bianca Die Katz: Okay to Good -> Okay to Bad
British Bulldog(0): Excellent -> Staple
Fake Creds(0): Okay to Good -> Okay
Scrimshaw Charm: Okay -> Good
Bank Job: Good -> Excellent
False Surrender: Good to Excellent -> Good
Grift: Okay to Good -> Good
Diabolical Luck: Good to Excellent -> Excellent
British Bulldog(2): Excellent -> Staple

Speak to the Dead: Okay to Good -> Okay
Wicked Athame: Excellent -> Good
Rod of Carnamagos: Good -> Excellent
Accursed: Okay -> Okay to Bad
Read the Signs(2): Excellent to Staple -> Excellent
Spectral Razor(2): Excellent to Staple -> Excellent

Matchbox: Excellent to Staple -> Staple
Pitchfork: Good to Excellent -> Good
Pushed to the Limit: Good -> Okay
Stall for Time: Okay to Good -> Okay
Hatchet: Okay -> Good
Persistence: Okay to Good -> Okay
Hunting Jacket: Excellent -> Good

Written in Rock

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Horrors in the Rock, Refractions, Chilling Cold, Ghouls
Residents involved: River (Day 1), Simeon (Day 1/2), Leah (Day 3)
Available experience: 3 (locations) + 2 (Crystal Parasites) + 2 (saving Simeon/Leah or killing the Beast) + 1 (helping River, only day 1) = 8 XP (7 XP on days 2 and 3 and during the night)

Size of the Encounter Deck31
# Enemies12
# Willpower4
# Agility10
# Intellect
# Fight2
# Damage10
# Horror8
# Doom
(the enemy number includes the set-aside Crystal Parasite)

My take on this encounter deck: That’s a lot of agility testing and all of it threatens some damage if you don’t pass it. If you play Written in Rock on day 1, you can even add Swarm as another “test agility for damage” treachery to the pile. Much of this damage is aimed at defeating the villager that you meet in the mines, but will generally just put a huge strain on your soak and health. The fact that there is also a large number of enemies around only reinforces this. Looking at the numbers, horror seems to be almost on the same level, but that isn’t the case in practice. Almost all of it comes from the Refractions set and as long as you can avoid triggering Captivating Gleam you should be good on that end. There is very little forced discard in this scenario, so that is generally not much of a problem to stay ahead of.
The biggest threat does come from the enemies for once, keeping your investigators busy while the mine cart rumbles ahead on its path. Reminiscent of Innsmouth’s Horror in High Gear, you need to find the time to nonetheless pick up enough clues to use the scenario’s special rules and prepare the track ahead.
Overall, this is an encounter deck i like quite a bit. Ghouls are criminally underused and it’s always neat when you get to use them (and the OG Grasping Hands). Enemies have a tendency to not do too much beyond just being a bit of an action soak, but the ones specific to this scenario do sidestep that issue and bring a good amount of impact with them.

My take on the scenario as a whole: I don’t really enjoy the gimmick of the scenario a whole lot, but that’s a very subjective take. There isn’t really much wrong with the scenario itself and the conceit of having to find your way through the mines and escape before time runs out, also can you rescue the villager, can you pick up the story asset or can you possibly both? That’s a good risk/reward decision to make.
I do also like the fighty nature of the scenario, i feel like this one strikes a nice balance between the usual clue grabbing and having to fend off enemies.
Well, but then there is the whole gimmick with the slide puzzle and just personally, I think it overstays its welcome just a bit. It’s neat to do a first time, maybe a second. But at least for me, it loses a lot of its luster on replays. This would be perfectly fine (most scenarios go down a bit on replays) if it weren’t for that huge slog of a setup that you have to go through before finally getting to play.
So, taking a step back, this is actually a fine scenario. It’s also well integrated into the campaign with repercussions for multiple villagers, which is great. But at least for me, meta reasons do spoil the fun more than I’d like. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Variants/Scaling: This scenario is one of the more important ones for the narrative, because it decides the fate of Simeon and Leah Atwood and is thus a prerequisite for the “fireworks” variant of the finale. If you don’t enter this scenario on days 1 or 2 and rescue Simeon, he will be crossed out and that version will be no longer available. If you don’t go for the mines on day 3 either, Leah will share that fate. Leah will only be crossed out if you never entered the mines. So if you went on day 1 or 2, but failed to rescue Simeon, then Leah will *not* get lost in the mines. So at least you aren’t losing two villagers for one failed scenario. Similarly, going at night will sacrifice Simeon, but not Leah.
No matter if you meet Simeon or Leah, the scenario plays out the same with them waiting to get picked up by you on the top row of the map.
All three residents involved in this scenario (River, Leah, Simeon) give stat bonuses while you control them (in the same order: willpower, fight, agility), so they don’t fundamentally change anything either.
If you go day 1, you get an opportunity to earn another XP and a point of relationship with River, however that will require you to take her with you through the mines and also keep 2 clues per investigator unspent. Failure to do so will not earn the XP and even cost you relationship.
The scenario at night gets a new wrinkle through the appearance of the Subterranean Beast, a big Elite that hurries after the mine cart in pursuit of the investigators. This makes up for the lack of a resident to rescue and the relative ease with which you can go after the Prismatic Shard. Since it has Victory, it also makes up for the 2XP that you’d otherwise be able to gain for getting the villager to safety. I like this and it gives the scenario at least some appeal to be played at night, even if it’s just to see a different variant of the scenario. If you don’t care about Simeon surviving, but about Leah, you can use this night trip to make sure she doesn’t get crossed out on the final evening while also earning a decent amount of XP and the story asset that bypasses the need for playing Twisted Hollows and Longest Night to unlock version 1 of the finale.
There is no explicit scaling by day number in this scenario, but it’s worth pointing out that Downpour(day 2) can be particularly bad in this scenario because you want to hold onto your clues. And Swarm (day 1) stacks up neatly with all the other agility/damage cards, something you might want to avoid if you are weak in agility.

The Subterranean Beast only appears during the night, to make up for not having to care about rescuing Simeon or Leah from the mines. It reminds me a lot of the Conductor from the Return to Essex Express, in that it’s a massive enemy that follows you around and is a bit of a pain to kill. Thankfully, it doesn’t hit as hard and also doesn’t reappear after being defeated.
When resolving the Hunter ability on the Beast, remember that Hunter triggers an additional time in this scenario unless it already caught up with you. This makes evasion a somewhat unsatisfying answer because chances are that the Beast is going to be able to get you again rather sooner than later. The clue ability to “super-evade” is much more potent. It does present a drain on your clues that could otherwise be spent to move the tracks around, but with Simeon and Leah no longer around, you can focus on just grabbing the Prismatic Shard and getting out.
If you manage to kill it, it’s also worth a chunk of victory points which is appreciated. It does have a very healthy amount of stamina however and at 3 per investigator, it does scale rather aggressively. There’s a bunch more enemies with high health in this scenario, so if you spend your spike damage on bursting this thing down, you could find yourself short when trying to handle a Crystal Parasite or Frenzied Miner later.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Mid to High.

A 3/3/3 that hits for a damage and horror is the line where the more notable enemies start. Both attacking and evading does require some solid stats of your own to succeed and at 3 health it won’t go down in just any attack either. We have seen these stats a couple of times before of course, in fact the Ravenous Ghoul is right there with it in the encounter deck.
The real juice is in its ability however and that can mess up things pretty badly for you. At the very least it will lead to a cost you have to pay in clues or resources to fix the track ahead and might very well even cause you to spend a switch to stop moving if you can’t immediately make sure the way ahead is safe.
As just an enemy it’s not a particularly dangerous enemy, but there’s already a lot of enemies crawling around and the ability makes it always relevant.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Mid to High

This guy is a problem. It doesn’t take long into the scenario before you are probably going to be on the right side of the map and have X scale rather high. For some godforsaken reason he has 4 health which combined with 3, 4 or even 5 fight and evade makes him a threat that would often warrant an Elite tag. Except he isn’t, there’s 3 of them in the deck and he can come down at any point.
Evading him isn’t all that attractive in spite of his high health as he will likely catch up to you thanks to the double Hunter movement. He does hit every investigator and (more importantly) Resident at the location which will threaten Simoen, Leah or River directly.
During the day this is likely the most dangerous card in the encounter deck and you should be happy to see it early when it’s still sitting at relatively small values of X and don’t have a Resident asset to protect yet. During the night, the Miners are a bit less of a problem because you won’t be picking up a villager, so evasion becomes a more reasonable option.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: Low

It’s an action to clear and any investigator can take it. Getting rid of the Cave-In shouldn’t be a particularly big problem unless you are already swamped by enemies. But even then, it will likely just cause you to spend a switch so you can take care of the Cave-In the next turn.
The text on the card looks pretty scare with the 2 damage to everyone, including the residents. But it’s just so unlikely to come up. This is a very mild card.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Low to Mid?

So, this is a weird one. On the surface, this looks pretty gnarly, threatening an early demise through running off the tracks or deling a bunch of horror/damage to players and residents. Or at least requiring you to spend two switches if you want to stop those extra moves. The agility test is also hard enough that it might as well have been a testless card that simply gets added to the threat area.
The weird part however is that in my games this worked out in my favor like 3 times out of 4. Since you can build the track ahead of your cart, you will run into situations where Wild Ride asks you to move 2 additional times and you gladly do it because that just saved you two whole turns of playing the scenario and put you ahead of any Hunter enemies on the board.
So yeah… strange card. When it’s bad for you, it’s very very bad. But it seems to work out to be fine surprisingly often.

The Thing in the Depths

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Mutations, Blight, The Forest
Residents involved: Rosa (day 1), River (day 2/3)
Available experience on Day 1: 3 (resolution, escorting Shelly) + 3 (locations) = 6XP
Available experience on Day 2/3: 2 (The Thing in the Depths) + 1 (River) + 3 (locations) = 6XP

Size of the Encounter Deck31
# Enemies10
# Willpower
# Agility5
# Intellect3
# Fight2
# Damage15
# Horror
# Doom4

My take on this encounter deck: Well, how about that… not a single willpower test or point of horror in sight. Instead half of the encounter deck deals damage and that doesn’t even count the enemies. This scenario is out to kill you via damage, with very little else on its mind. Notably, it’s not just that willpower tests are completely absent, but tests in general are rare. As is tradition, agility is the most important thing to have to avoid at least some of the incoming damage.
Doom mechanics are rare in the Feast of Hemlock Vale, this scenario does however use both Mutations and The Forest and therefore both of the encounter cards that put doom into play. The doom from Unnatural Growth and Forest Watcher can be removed through defeating an enemy, so it shouldn’t be too much of a bother however. The doom clock is fairly generous in the first place, unless you have Shelly backtrack which is much more important to avoid than anything else.

My take on the scenario as a whole: Pretty good, but doesn’t quite reach its potential. Escort missions are historically looked down upon in games, but i think it works reasonably well here. Keying the Chelydran Hybrid as an enemy instead of an ally makes a lot of sense, both in terms of theme and in mechanics as it for example allows us to work the Elusive keyword in our favor.
It’s a bit of a pity that the Thing in the Depths is so easy to disable via evasion, this takes a lot of the bite out of the scenario. It especially means that staying in a Sunken location isn’t really all that scary with only the Sinking Sludge treachery really hurting us for it.
Since i only play two-handed myself, i can not confirm this, but i suspect that there is a lot of player scaling happening here. With more players, the board gets a lot more crowded and entering Sunken locations becomes more difficult to avoid. Solo players don’t have the option of having one investigator on evasion duty while the others do the escort thing (well, unless you use Beguile, Power Word or Servitor to remotely do the evading!). In a two-player game, i feel like i am exactly sitting at the spot where the location mechanics are easy to minimize while also being able to effectively disable the big baddie.
I am not a fan of how escorting the Hybrid still leads to its death unless you do it day 1. Just feels unnecessarily bad. I have a vague understanding that this was likely done to compensate for prelude 1 not giving any XP while prelude 2 and 3 do… but it doesn’t feel right. The log entries around the fate of the Hybrid never matter anytime during the campaign either, so … i don’t know. Something feels off or incomplete here.
Related to that, this scenario sadly doesn’t really offer any incentive to go for it in terms of campaign payoffs. If you come here day 2, you can earn a relationship point with River… and that’s pretty much it. The Thing in the Depths isn’t tied into any of the villager’s storylines the way that the other scenarios are, it’s just kinda there. Still worth playing because it’s a good scenario and the XP is decent… but i feel like there’s a missed opportunity to make this scenario matter more in the grand scheme of the campaign.

Scaling/Variants: This scenario plays out very similar, no matter when you play it. The Grasping Tendril’s health scale by day number and that makes them a lot more resilient especially if you decide to do this scenario day 3. My suggestion would be to either do this on day 1 (the “canon” route where you follow Rosa around) or day 2, if you want an additional opportunity to get on River’s good side.
I don’t see a reason to play this scenario at night. All that does is give Tendrils Aloof and buff several of the cards in The Forest, while removing any support or payoff you could get from villagers or Rosa.
Depending on how late in the campaign you play this, you also add one of the three day-specific treacheries. Both the Day 1 and Day 3 treacheries add more sources of damage to the encounter deck, but both also have alternate ways of paying for failing the test. The Day 2 treachery is a rough one no matter where, but at least doesn’t get too much additional bite here. In fact, i’d argue that clues quickly don’t become important in this scenario at all, so this is one of the milder scenarios to have to put up with Downpour.
As mentioned, there are no specific campaign related payoffs that would make you want to go here particularly early. There is no scaling with day number on the cards either, but on day/night 2 you will start with a doom in play and on day 3 with yet another addditional doom. The doom clock is relatively forgiving in this scenario however, so this shouldn’t make or break the scenario even when though it does give a little less wiggle room for worst cases where Shelly wanders off the path you want it to go.

The Chelydran Hybrid, or “Shelly” if you’ll indulge me, is nominally an enemy, but we are actually tasked with escorting it. As long as we can make sure that there’s always an empty location available next to it that brings us closer to the finish line, we are good. We also need to root out any Abomination enemies at its location, which usually is going to mean Grasping Tendrils.
This escort business isn’t terribly difficult as long as someone can keep the Thing in the Depths occupied. Note that aside from its Patrol movement and the clue ability on the act, there’s actually another thing you can do to keep it on track or make it go faster: You can attack it, triggering the Elusive. It’ll cost you an engage and then an attack action, but this can accelerate her quite a bit. Bonus points if your attack misses and you don’t even hurt her in the process. I am going to leave you with the mental image of Preston Fairmont, hitting the turtle with his walking cane to speed it along the swamp. You are welcome.

The primary enemy of the scenario and it does seem suitably dangerous at first glance. 10 health plus another 5 per investigator is a huge pool to go through if you want to kill it. It has an amount of keywords and abilities that would make Akroma proud and they all fit together quite neatly. Its Hunter keyword does get a lot of extra riders in particular. The map is relatively small, which in combination with its ability to directly hunt into Sunken locations will make it very hard to avoid attacks from the Thing. What’s more, whenever it attacks, it also regains life and gains an Elusive move. All of this will also happen on Retaliate. And Massive turns its attacks into area attacks.
This seems all super rough… until you realize that it gets completely deactivated by evasion. While exhausted, it just shuts down completely. No elusive, no hunter, no retaliate, none of the effects on attack, nothing. Pass an agility(2) test and the Thing just becomes a pile of health which you can either hack your way through to finish the scenario. Or you can let one of the investigators evade it every turn while the others escort Shelly.
Solo investigators are sort of screwed here, however. They better hope that they can chew through the health fast enough, because escorting Shelly while also keeping this Thing evaded is going to be near-impossible.

# in the encounter set: 5

Threat level: Mid.

This is the main thing to look out for when escorting, as these will just pop up and stop Shelly from moving. Since they also surge, this happens in addition to whatever other fun the mythos phase has in store.
Obviously, the day number matters a lot here, as the difference between 1 health, 2 health and 3 health on these things is pretty huge. They are somewhat difficult to evade, so defeating them will be the usual approach to taking care of them. That being said, an evaded Tendril has a couple neat advantages. For one, it doesn’t have Hunter, so it will just stay on the board instead of potentially coming up again after a reshuffle. It will also make that location non-empty which cuts off the way back for Shelly, which can be useful if the way forward is blocked and it would otherwise turn back.
Finally, it’s worth noting that its Flora and Mutated traits give it some interaction with the Mutations and The Forest sets. Of special interest are Sudden Mutation and Bloom which can act as additional copies of Grasping Tendrils.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Mid

Ground Disturbance looks pretty dangerous at first glance, but i found it to usually be rather mild. There’s two reasons for that. One, it tests either intellect or agility, and most investigators are either good in one of those or do at least have a good amount of health. Although to be granted, Mystics in particular are going to look at this with more concern… hopefully they have a Deny or Ward if things get dicey. The other reason is that often, the sinkhole won’t actually matter, at least as long as you don’t have to backtrack.
Where this treachery suddenly becomes very dangerous however is when there are no Bog locations left. The potential to be hit for up to 4 damage then is not nothing, especially with all the other damage sources around. Hopefully you finished the scenario before that happens though.

# in the encounter deck: 4

Threat level: High

This however, is much more of a problem. If you are on a Bog location, Sinking Sludge does very little. It adds a sinkhole, but that’s perfectly fine as the effect of the encounter card. It’s almost a freebie. When you are at a Sunken location however, this comes after your Ally assets while also directly damaging you. The damage to yourself isn’t sooo bad, but many allies are already defeated from just one damage. There’s four of these cards in the encounter deck, so it should be a factor in your decision to stay around on a Sunken location or not. You don’t get a test to avoid it either, the only way to not get hit by it is anticipating and playing around it.
Sinking Sludge makes it so you can’t rely on your allies to tank for you. Non-ally soak and healing becomes more valuable as a result.
If you are depending on a particular ally, you are in a bit of a pickle in this scenario because you will really want to avoid ending your turn in a Sunken location then.