A Phantom of Truth

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Agents of Hastur, Midnight Masks Treacheries, Byakhee, Evil Portents, The Stranger

Size of the Encounter Deck30 (29)
# Enemies6
# Willpower14
# Agility2
# Intellect2 (4)
# Doom4
# Damage3 (0)
# Horror6
Numbers are for the Conviction version. The Doubt version (numbers in brackets) uses False Lead instead of Hunting Shadow and Twin Suns instead of Black Stars Rise.

My take on this encounter deck: Depending on the status of Doubt versus Conviction in the campaign log this scenario plays out quite different. Either you are fleeing from an invulnerable Hunter (and several smaller ones from the encounter deck), trying to survive until the agendas run out. Or you are the hunter yourself, following that enemy yourself and trying to attack him enough times before the time runs out. All of this happens on a massive map with enough locations to give enough space to all of this hunting around the city.
The encounter deck only has minor variations between the two modes of play, mostly to switch out Twin Suns against Black Stars Rise, because of how adding/removing doom works differently.
The first thing to notice when looking at the numbers is that almost half of the cards in the deck ask for a willpower test of some kind. Not all of them are difficult or even super important to pass, but the sheer amount of them means that you need to carefully budget your willpower icons that you might have in your deck for treachery protection.
The other thing that’s special here is the amount of enemies. All of them are Byakhees, medium sized Hunter enemies that keep harassing the players. While there is only 6 actual enemy cards in the deck, this number is misleading. Two treacheries add another 5 cards to the deck that search for these Byakhees and potentially put them into play. As a result, this can be a very combat heavy scenario, especially on the Doubt version where you also have to fight the Organist.
There’s not a whole lot of damage and horror dished out by the encounter deck, but it can become an issue if the players had to tank a few attacks already.
Phantom of Truth is a fine scenario, even though i like the Doubt version a whole lot more than the Conviction one. “Run away from this enemy for 20ish turns” is just not something that feels very interesting to me.
Cancel these: Frozen in Fear, Black Stars Rise. Frozen in Fear is an enormous weight on anyone even at the best of times and this scenario is almost perfect for it to be the worst it can be. If you don’t feel confident in the willpower of whoever drew it, cancel it. Black Stars Rise (and Spires of Carcosa) are both high impact doom cards that you might want to get rid of. This is more important during Doubt than it is during Conviction, but probably worth it in either.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Stealthy Byakhee is a Hunter enemy. It has an impressive fight value of 5 that gets reduced to a much more palatable 2 whenever it is exhausted. It has two health, so it dies to most attacks with weapons. If it gets an attack in, it does hit fairly hard for 2 damage and 1 horror.

My take: Adding to the number of Byakhees, this is the scenario specific one that brings the total count of them up to 6 cards. While it does have only 2 health, it will still often take two actions to get rid of it. Either because you decide to defeat it the way “as is intended”, by evading it first. Or because you might just fail an attack or two when trying to bruteforce your way past the 5 fight. What makes this card particularly dangerous is the two damage on its attack, you’ll want to make sure that it is wiped from the board as soon as you can. Also, while it is meant to be evaded first, its evade value is still a solid 3. Nothing an evasion based investigator can’t handle, but not trivial either. It may very well be that evading it and defeating it has to be done by two different players, further adding to how much effort needs to be spent on this creature.

Threat level: Medium. A very solid threat that can occupy multiple investigators.

Dealing with it: The primary way to deal with it is printed on the card. Taking an action to evade it, then another one to shoot or stab it is going to be the most common way of taking it out. If you are an investigator with a particularly high fight value (like Tony or Mark), you can attempt to overcome the 5 fight as well. It’s risky but can pay off with a saved action. The cleanest way of defeating it probably comes from testless damage, for example from a Blood-Rite or from Ancient Stones.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: After failing a willpower test, cards are discarded from the encounter deck until an enemy is found. That enemy is either drawn (and spawned engaged as usual) or discarded. If it is discarded, the player has to suffer one attack from it. Should no enemy remain in the encounter deck, the player has to take 1 horror instead.

My take: This three-of card together with Hunted by Byakhees from the Byakhee set makes sure that there’s no shortage of those pesky demon things throughout the scenario. They effectively bring up the number of Byakhees to 11, more than a third of the encounter deck. Deadly Fate of course can be avoided completely by just passing a simple willpower test, but there’s a lot of those going around in this scenario and you’ll probably want to hold your Guts and similar cards for more important cards.
The only enemies in the encounter deck are the three Byakhees, so this will always draw one of those (or, if all have been pulled already, reshuffle the encounter deck to “reload”). Depending on which one you draw and your current stamina/sanity situation, taking the one hit to save the actions is often worth it. I would consider doing so the default way of resolving this treachery and only consider putting the enemy into play if there is currently little else going on and you can lose two actions to kill it.

Threat level: Low to Mid. Not very dangerous on its own, but an important piece of “glue” that holds the scenario together.

Dealing with it: If you have to choose between taking the attack or spawning the enemy, it’s a decision between health/sanity and actions. Usually actions are going to be the more precious commodity, so take the hit and soak it if you can. Health and Sanity pools are a resource to spend, after all. Having the actions available to react to everything else that is happening on the board is likely going to pay off.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: After failing a difficult willpower test, Torturous Chords is put into a players threat area with one resource on it for each point they failed by. While there are still tokens on this card, each card played by the investigator costs an additional resource and removes a token.

My take: Surprisingly annoying card, especially for investigators that rely on events. If this would simply make you lose the resources in one swoop when its drawn, it would be a fairly minor card. This is a lot worse primarily for two reasons
One notable difference is that this card will always eat up those resources. Should you not have the resources at that point, some other card would have you just lose what little you have and then forget the rest. This one doesn’t, it stays in play until you can pay your debts.
The other thing is that these stack insanely well with each other. If you have two of them in your threat area, each one needs to be payed off individually when you play cards. This can lead to situations where digging yourself out of that hole can become very problematic, after all who wants to spend 2 resources on playing an Emergency Cache?

Threat level: Low to Mid. One of them is usually not that bad, but their ability to stack up can be a real pain.

Dealing with it: Play your resource generating cards early and start stockpiling if you depend on having the money available. Get those Emergency Caches and Faustian Bargains out right when you draw them even if you don’t really need the cash yet. You don’t want to be stuck with them in your hand when this card asks you to pay money to get money. Same goes for any assets you need. Being a bit more proactive than usually about playing your cards can save you a good amount of resources in the long run.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: After failing an intellect test, the investigator take 1 horror for each point they failed by. Alternatively, they can remove 1 doom from the agenda.
This card is only used during the Conviction version of Phantom of Truth, replacing the very similar Black Stars Rise.

My take: This is basically the same card as Black Stars Rise from the Evil Portents, except that it removes a doom instead of adding one. This is of course a concession to the two variants of the scenario where you either want to see the agendas advance or not.
Despite being mirrors of each other, Twin Suns is much less of a deal than Black Stars. Having to play one more turn is just much less of a punishment than potentially facing a premature game over when the doom clock runs out.

Threat level: Low to Mid. Worst case, it does add an extra turn to the scenario, but even that fairly mild worst case has several ways built in to mitigate it.

Dealing with it: I don’t think you need to be afraid of this card much. As long as you can keep the board free from swarms of enemies and/or the Organist in check, it just makes you go through the motions for an additional turn. Of course, if you can just take a horror instead, that could be worth it as well.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Frozen in Fear latches onto a player and consumes up to an action per turn when mov… wait we have done this before!

My take: In a scenario as focused on moving around and with an already high amount of willpower treacheries, Frozen in Fear is a perfect fit. Apparently the designers decided that they didn’t also want Rotting Remains and Dissonant Voices in here, so Frozen in Fear got a reprint to make setup a bit easier on the players. The setup instructions are already fairly involved with the two variants of the scenario, so they likely didn’t want to clarify to only grab two cards from one of the core sets. Fair enough.
Obviously, this card is as dangerous as ever in this scenario. Running away from the Organist becomes almost impossible when you effectively only have two actions per turn, so if you are vulnerable to this due to low willpower, save your extra icons on cards for this card.

Threat level: High to Very High. You simply can not allow this to stick around.

Dealing with it: See the original entry for this card.

Return to A Phantom of Truth

My take on the modified scenario: Return to Phantom of Truth isn’t much changed from the base version. There’s some extra variation in the locations and two copies of a somewhat minor encounter card are added to the deck. Nothing of that changes how the scenario plays out. Which is fine, of course.
The Agents of Hastur make way for Hastur’s Envoys. Sadly, this removes two victory points from the scenario, replacing the Screeching Byakhee for a Preying one. While the new Byakhee is a bit easier on the players, i certainly would’ve preferred keeping the victory in play. Using Hastur’s Envoys also means that we have to cope with Sign of Hastur. To be honest, that card isn’t so bad here. While the agendas do tend to draw out a bit, potentially keeping the treachery on the table for a while, the pressure on the sanity isn’t as huge here as in the other two scenarios using the card.
I think this is one of the scenarios that are most unchanged by their Return To version.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Figure in the Shadows basically gives an extra movement to the Organist. Depending on whether you are on the Doubt or the Conviction route, this movement is either towards the players or away from them.

My take: A subtle little card that doesn’t make huge waves, but does nudge the Organist just that little bit along the way. Especially if the players where pinning the Organist with evasion, this allows the guy to break free and do its thing again. Since the extra movement occurs during the Mythos phase, the players are the first ones to act afterwards, though. That keeps the impact of Figure in the Shadows rather low. Should the Organist already be engaged during the Conviction route, the card even does nothing – remember that resolving Hunter does not give an extra attack.

Threat level: Low. It’s a nice little break in the rythm of the game, but nothing truely upsetting to the board state.

Dealing with it: Usually, this card should be offset by just spending an extra action or two. Nothing really to worry about.


Continue reading here:

Leave a Reply