A Thousand Shapes of Horror

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Chilling Cold, Ghouls, Locked Doors, Rats, Creatures of the Underworld, Merging Realities

Size of the Encounter Deck34
# Enemies11
# Willpower8
# Agility5
# Doom
# Damage5
# Horror6
The numbers above represent the encounter deck at the start of the scenario, without Endless Descent in it. For the final stretch, Endless Decent replaces Locked Door and Secrets in the Attic, keeping the overall size of the deck the same.

My take on this encounter deck: This scenario comes with a couple gimmicks that are all not really fleshed out enough to carry the scenario on their own, but the combination is at least interesting. Even more so, since those mini-themes have little to do with each other. The first thing to notice is that the Swarm of Rats gains Swarming here. This does give them a bit more staying power and can make them hurt a lot if they actually get to attack. But they are nowhere as much of a pain as they are in The Secret Name. Thank god for that, but as a result they are overshadowed by all the other ghouls and gugs and ghasts in the encounter deck. Then, there is a theme of punishing players for having cards in their threat area. Both Glowing Eyes and Deceptive Memories do this, feeding off Indescribable Apparition, Night Terrors and Glimpse of the Underworld. Only Glowing Eyes really makes much on an impact though and with two of them buried in a big 34 card deck, that theme rarely leaves an impression. Finally then, there are the invincible Unnamable and the rush down the stairs for the finale. The Unnamable harasses the players a bit during their search through the house, but while he’s still aloof, he’s not that much of a presence. Once the agenda flips, this changes drastically though. The race down the stairs is a very tense finale usually and stands in stark contrast to the early part of the scenario. It’s really important to get through that first part quickly so you have as much time as possible to deal with the stair locations. Also, you really want to be able to enter the stairs before the Unnamable loses Aloof because starting on the top stair with the thing right on top of you hurts a lot otherwise. While there are no cards around that add doom, the doom clock itself is fairly short and Endless Descent fills pretty much the same role later on. This is one of the very few scenarios where i doom out more often than not.
Aside from the rats, this deck mostly has humanoid-sized enemies. The Ghouls and Ghasts shouldn’t be a huge problem by themselves, but the Ghouls all forcibly spawn at the same location. That can lead to a group of enemies that waits for the investigators once they want to move on to the final act. Dynamite Blast is one hell of a satisfying card here…
As a final note, there is also a considerable amount of willpower testing in this scenario. Not only do about one in four treacheries care about willpower, but it is also tested for each investigator at the Unnamable’s location at the start of the turn.
To be honest, i don’t really know what to make of this one. There’s so many small unconnected things going on here. It’s a bit of a weird scenario and i feel like the first half is mostly just doing random things in a weird house. While that is certainly fine the first time, i am not a huge fan of it on the xth replay. To be frank, it feels a bit like someone took all the discarded ideas that they decided not to flesh out into a full scenario, put them into a pot and stirred until this scenario was the result. I do like the flight down the stairs, though 🙂
Cancel these: Endless Descent. The rest of the cards do not hold a candle to what damage Endless Descent can do. Save your cancels for the stair part unless you REALLY need to stop a Glowing Eyes from taking away someone’s last bits of sanity or something.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Glowing Eyes is put into the player’s threat area and discarded from there at the end of the round. Before the card is discarded that way, the player takes 1 horror for each card in their threat area, including Glowing Eyes.

My take: Testless horror can become an issue when it gets to stack with other sources. There’s not too much of that going around, but since it can scale with other cards in the threat area, it can become a bigger problem anyways. Luckily there are only two of them in the encounter deck, this is a card where drawing the second one is much worse than the first. But then again, only two of them in a fairly large deck means that it sort of sneaks up on you as you may not feel the immediate need to get rid of your Indescribable Apparations or Deceptive Memories. This can lead to either having to take a large chunk of horror or basically losing your turn after drawing Glowing Eyes because you now need to finally discard from your threat area whatever you can.

Threat level: Medium. Without a cancel or Alter Fate, this will always deal some horror and the scenario certainly offers more ways to get extra cards in your threat area.

Dealing with it: The best way of handling Glowing Eyes is being aware of its existence and factoring it into your decisions on whether to discard other cards in your threat area. That Indescribable Apparition may not look particularly urgent, but it can lead to an awkward turn down the line when you have to decide on either losing two actions to finally discarding it or taking an extra horror on top of the one that Glowing Eyes deals anyways.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Indescribable Apparition enters a player’s threat area and stays there until they spend two actions on discarding it. While affected by this card, the investigator gets -1 to all four of their skills while at the same location as The Unnamable.

My take: I generally find it fairly easy to avoid the Unnamable during the first parts where you’re still investigating the house. So this never feels immediately dangerous to me. There are however at least two good reasons to get rid of this at the earliest convenience: One is Glowing Eyes. As mentioned, it will deal horror to you if you still have this card around. The other is the final part of the scenario where you hurry down the stairs. It’s much more difficult avoiding the Unnamable there and you really don’t want to find yourself at a location that needs you to pass a skill test to move on and failing it while the big monster is right on top of you. It’s not like you can just spend two actions then, either. It’s kinda too late for that then…
Obviously, anyone whose job it is to pin the Unnamable with evasion or to deal the necessary damage to it will want to get rid of this card as soon as possible.

I can also imagine this card being a higher priority in true solo, a single investigator doesn’t necessarily have the luxury of going around the Unnamable while in a group a teammate could pick up the slack.

Threat level: Low to Medium. Will eat two actions eventually.

Dealing with it: The trick is finding a good opportunity to spend those two actions because you will very likely want to do so eventually anyways. As usual, it’s useful to remember than anyone at the same location can activate this card, so if it weighs down a Guardian who should really be fighting something this turn, someone else can discard the card for them.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: After failing a willpower test, Secrets in the Attic deals a horror to the investigator and is then put in play next to the agenda deck. It stays there until the end of the round. While in play, fast trigger abilities on locations can not be triggered.

My take: This stops the group from spending their clues on advancing the game at certain locations for a turn. Depending on how well the investigators have been doing so far, this can be a non-issue. And even at its worst, it doesn’t actually cost any actions, it just messes with the order a bit. I found this card to be harmless, mostly meaning that i have to spend another turn on drawing cards, playing assets… or discarding that Indescribable Apparition card.

Threat level: Low. Unless you draw both of them back to back, they are unlikely to more than just a minor inconvenience.

Dealing with it: This card opens a window where you don’t have to feel bad about finally spending the actions to get rid of the cards in your threat area or to set up some more assets. Or get the players into position to make use of multiple locations next turn to make up for Secrets in the Attic stalling you out this turn. Just use that turn as good as you can to minimize the impact of this card.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Deceptive Memories stays in the threat area of the player until they spend and action and pass a willpower test to discard it. While Deceptive Memories is in play, the affected investigator has to discard a card from their hand whenever they add another card to their threat area.

My take: Unlike Glowing Eyes, this doesn’t count itself for its Forced effect, so it won’t cost a card immediately. Once more, this is a card that doesn’t impress me too much on its own and only gains some impact when combined with Glowing Eyes. The main reason for me to not fear this card too much is that the discard is not random. Being able to chose what to discard here allows players to just sandbag some card they don’t care about in case they have to pitch something. But of course, since it is a card in the threat area that could deal a horror to you down the road and since it is pretty easy to discard, that should probably happen eventually. Although someone with high draw power like Amanda or Patrice can likely just sit this one out.

Threat level: Low. Part of the threat area package, but not impactful by itself.

Dealing with it: Passing a willpower test against a difficulty of 3 should not be a huge deal. If it is, someone else can take the test instead. If you have to let this card stick around for a bit, keeping a card or two extra in hand as sacrificial discards is a good idea as it will protect the more important ones.

Number in the encounter deck: 4

What it does: During the final stretch of the scenario, the investigators have to climb down a series of locations arranged like a staircase. Endless Descent will take the topmost location from that staircase and attach it to the bottom, then randomize all unrevealed locations. That way, the players will need to pass through an additional location before they are able to resign. Endless Descent is then added to the victory display so it can not actually be endlessly redrawn. There are four of them in the deck, though.

My take: This is such a nice visual gimmick. In my opinion, Arkham LCG’s most important innovation over LotR LCG is using cards as location and building boards from them. Having cards like this play with that is just good clean fun. For whatever other complaints i have about Dream-Eaters, it did a lot of cute things with its locations and this is my second favorite from the cycle (behind Weaver).
That being said, in terms of effect on the scenario, this is a powerful card and not cute at all! The scenario can come close to the wire often during these last steps and drawing an Endless Descent from the top can be just as demoralizing as an untimely Ancient Evils can. Aside from canceling it, there’s little you can do… you draw this and suddenly you lost a turn. Or more, some of the locations are really nasty.

Threat level: Very High. The variance on this card is enormous. Depending on which location gets shuffled back down, this can cost more than a turn.

Dealing with it: Cancel it. If you are running cancels in your deck, you had all of the scenario to hoard them in your hand. I know it’s boring but that is by far the cleanest and most effective way of get through this scenario.
If that is not an option, there is little else to do than hope that you draw the right locations that are suited to your group skill set.

One Reply to “A Thousand Shapes of Horror”

  1. For Deceptive Memories, it’s worth expressly noting that enemies count. I think the “Swarm of Rats gain swarming” is meant to be a specific synergy with Deceptive Memories so as to cause multiple immediate discards at untimely moments (instead of the single one that you’re likely prepared for), similar to how drawing a threat-area weakness will cause unexpected discards.

    However, the massive Unnamable in Agenda 3 won’t trigger Deceptive Memories (massive enemies cannot be placed in anyone’s threat area).

    (Obviously enemies also count for Glowing Eyes, but that’s much less likely to matter except when you’re already in an untenable situation.)

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