|Size of the Encounter Deck||30|
My take on this encounter deck: This scenario introduces the players to the Haunted mechanic and it does so with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. All three encounter sets related to the Haunted keyword are present here and ready to interact with all of the locations once the first agenda and act advanced.
There’s another unique twist around that agenda flip. Before it happens, all enemies drawn from the Spectral Predators and Trapped Spirits encounter sets are set aside and a doom is placed on the agenda. This is quite the dramatic increase of doom related effects for the first part of the scenario and actually makes it very unpredictable and random how much time the players have to collect their clues. Drawing multiple of those enemies during that phase is very punishing, as you are not only getting doom out of it, but those enemies do actually enter play all at the same time once the agenda threshold is reached.
As is standard for The Circle Undone, one third of the encounter deck asks for Willpower tests. This number includes the Lodge Neophytes, so it’s not as extreme as other TCU scenarios in practice.
Depending on how keen the players are on parleying Josef Meiger and saving him, the tone of the scenario varies a bit. If they choose to ignore Meiger, it’s mostly a fairly standard task of collecting clues and getting out while having to deal with the Watcher and with doom on the cultists. If they go for Meiger, the cultists are no longer a threat, bringing down the number of enemies to just the four spirits and the Watcher.
Speaking of the Watcher, unless someone is playing a very combat heavy Guardian (or Tony) capable of repeatedly dishing out 3 damage per attack, it is probably a lot easier for most teams to evade it when it comes close to catching up. Having a high agility investigator use most of their turns on keeping the Watcher in check frees up A LOT of actions for the rest of the team.
Cancel these: Realm of Torment, Watcher’s Grasp. In a scenario that maximizes its interaction with Haunted, Realm of Torment can really drag someone down if they are unable to get rid of it. Having a cancel or Alter Fate handy for that occasion can pay off big time. When controlling the Watcher via evasion, Watcher’s Grasp can break through it and get extra attacks off. Even worse, it can prematurely “awaken” the Watcher after its defeat that would otherwise keep it down for two turns. When you are not saving Meiger, Mysteries of the Lodge is also worth consideration as it does add extra doom to the board.
Return to At Death’s Doorstep
My take on the modified scenario: The Return does quite a few things here. There’s a new room in the mansion, the Wine Cellar. It’s entirely optional (unless you have Meiger spawn there) but offers a powerful doom reduction ability as long as the investigator is able to beat the 5 shroud. Senator Rhodes, a new Silver Twilight traited enemy card starts together with the investigators at the entry hall with doom on him. Using parley, these doom tokens can be turned into clues and acquired. More importantly, this means that there will always be a target around for encounter cards and token effects that are looking for cultists.
A massive four encounter sets are swapped out – a total of 18 cards, so almost two thirds of the deck. These changes are very noticable as they include the dreaded Realm of Torment which gets weakened a bit. This is easily counteracted by the new Trapped Spirits, which features a Geist enemy that is much more of a problem than Wraith. Chillings Mists replaces Chilling Cold, which is a fairly even trade. Finally, Inexorable Fate gets axed in favor of Unspeakable Fate, meaning that this is the first scenario where investigators have to deal with Unavoidable Demise and the huge damage potential it represents. As a result of these swaps, the number of agility tests on encounter cards rises from 2 to 7. At the same time the number of willpower tests goes down from 10 to 5. This is of course a huge swing that will be felt differently depending on which investigators your group brings.
There’s also a new unique enemy cultist in the deck. While he’s certainly got some punch to him, he pales in comparison to what the encounter set replacements bring to the scenario.
What it does: Dmitri Konstantinov is just shuffled into the encounter deck at game start like any other encounter card. He spawns with 2 doom on him at the location that is farthest away and not yet occupied by a cultist. At 4 fight and 3 health, he’s not a trivial enemy to defeat, but in a scenario that asks players to deal with the Watcher and with the Banshees from Bloodthirsty Spirits, he’s nothing too special either. He’s easy to evade and oversucceeding at the evade opens an alternate route to remove doom from him.
My take: Two things stand out to me here immediately. First, note that this guy can spawn at a location that has another investigator as it doesn’t specify “empty”. It could also spawn right on top of the Watcher, which would take this problem out of your hand right away. The other thing is that he doesn’t have Aloof like all the other cultists, so dealing with him is both a bit easier but also sort of pushed on you. This makes drawing him in the first act when the Silver Twilight enemies are still untouchable highly irritating if you can’t reliably beat his evade and oversucceed at it as well. Having extra doom land on him then (like from Mysteries of the Lodge) can also be all sorts of awful and bring you close to that second agenda in short time. Thankfully the Senator is often the one closer to you so he’ll get the doom instead. Once Dmitri can be killed, there’s little reason to not do that … even if you want to ally with the lodge, nobody will bat an eye over him as long as you rescue Meiger.
Threat level: High to Very High when drawn early. Mid to High otherwise. Just the fact that it comes into play with 2 doom earns it a solid amount of respect.
Dealing with it: He’s an inviting target for Spectral Razor, but those should probably be saved up for Banshees. Either way, killing him shouldn’t be a huge issue. If it is (for example because he’s still protected by the agenda), then just see if you can’t evade him. Look, more agility requirements in TCU. I smell a theme.
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