Best-Laid Plans: The Crew of the Theodosia

Introduction

There’s nine members to the expedition team and they are a huge part of the campaign with a total of 27 cards dedicated to them, three for each person: The initial story asset card represents them in gameplay. A second asset card, the resolute version, can be earned along the way to replace the initial card, upgrading the abilities and stats. Finally, each person also has a memento card, which players can earn if the team member died.

There are two main ways to interact with these characters. For each scenario, each player is allowed to take one of the crew with them as a partner asset that is in play from the start, giving access to their abilities and soak. During interludes between the main scenarios, the players are also allowed to get help from the team which can give such bonuses as trauma removal, extra XP or additional cards on the next starting hand. Additionally, there are several points in the campaign book where having certain people around will prevent bad things from happening or aiding in other ways.

Dr. Amy Kensler

The professor of biology is the leader of the expedition. Her ability allows investigating at a high base value while also scouting the top card of a deck. She does have a good amount of sanity. The resolute version gives her an additional point of stamina and turns her ability into a free action. Her memento is Kensler’s Log, which allows investigating at high base value while picking up an extra clue.

Visiting her during interludes doesn’t give an immediately tangible benefit. Instead she shares her research with the players, which gives some unique campaign log entries, possibly unlocking a special ending to the campaign.

Going into Heart of Madness, you will pick up a physical trauma if Amy is no longer alive then.

My take: I rarely take Kensler on missions. Her investigation is nice of course, but that’s something that your investigators should be able to do anyways. And three charges ultimately don’t change a whole lot, it’s just a potential three extra clues picked up. Once resolute, getting those without having to spend an action makes it more attractive, but it’s still just value and doesn’t really solve an actual problem. Especially when upgraded, her stats are really nice, though. If you are looking to pawn off some horror to a partner, she can fill that need quite well.
She uses secrets, so her uses can be refilled with several Seeker cards. Those are usually able to refill something better, though.
Kensler’s Log however is excellent, possibly one of the best mementos actually. Its value depends a lot on if you are able to get more mileage out of it, either by feeding secrets into it to refill it or recycling it with the likes of Scavenging. In the right deck, Kensler’s Log can turn into a sort of super charged upgraded Ice Pick, providing a steady stream of two-clue investigations.

Roald Ellsworth

Roald Ellsworth is a seasoned explorer and as such helps investigators when it comes to dealing with persistent treacheries which usually represent weather or other environmental dangers. He has a high amount of supplies and his ability can be used as a free action even on the non-resolute version which means there’s a very low opportunity cost to triggering his ability. He’s got good stamina which the resolute version increases further. The resolute version also no longer requires charges to be used, the charges can instead be spent to trigger him multiple times per turn. His memento is Ellsworth’s Boots, a piece of footwear that offers free moves after clearing the last clue from locations.

Visiting him during interludes rewards unique campaign log entries that give minor bonuses during the setup for the next main scenario.

There are no explicit penalties or bonuses in the scenario setup texts for keeping Roald alive.

My take: Roald is amazing, at least for the first half of the campaign he does A LOT of work. Treacheries that stay in play are everywhere and are often quite annoying to deal with. Roald can just switch those off for a turn without losing any tempo. It really can’t be overstated how excellent this ability is and how many dangerous situations it defuses. Especially during Forbidden Peaks, his ability can make the difference between winning and losing the scenario as having to stay on a spot with a treachery while engaged with one or more enemies is a common occurrence.
His resolute version is fine, but not as much of an upgrade as many others are because he’s already at free action speed from the start. Also, as the campaign goes on, he becomes less and less important, so this devalues the resolute version as well.

He uses supplies, so he could be refilled with Emergency Cache or Contraband, but this is hardly going to be necessary as he already starts with a generous amount of uses and even gains the ability to be used without spending anything.
The memento is okay, but it’s really just a copy of the seeker card Hiking Boots, except without the agility bonus (but better icons). A bit disappointing, to be honest. But usually worth including if you had the misfortune of seeing Ellsworth die on you. Can be nice if you have someone on clue duty who is not a seeker, as it will give them some good amount of extra mobility their class (particularly survivor and mystic) might not be able to provide otherwise. Still, this is one explorer that is 100% worth more to you alive than he is dead.

James “Cookie” Fredericks

Like Roald, James is a veteran explorer who has been on expeditions before. His stats are slanted towards stamina even more, and even the resolute version never gets a second point of sanity. His ability is a fight ability, using a high base skill but without any extra damage. The enemy that is attacked by Cookie will not be able to attack for the rest of the round, unless it is Elite. The resolute version gives James another point of stamina, a point of base attack and most crucially, it turns his ability into a free action. His memento is his revolver which only has two shots in it, but is fast and can attack with a high base attack. Unlike James himself, the revolver does actually get the bonus damage.

During interludes, Cookie can be visited for an extra point of experience.

In the setup for City of Elder Things, investigators have to add a Frost token to the chaos bag, unless they have Dynamite and Cookie is still alive.

My take: Cookie is a bit of a hard sell for me. Since he doesn’t have that crucial extra damage to his fight action, it can be tough to find opportunities to uses for his ability that are worth spending an action. It gets better when Cookie is resolute, as the change to free action means that he can be used similar to the Garotte Wire, finishing off those 3 health enemies that are everywhere in this campaign.
If you are expecting to run into situations where you are getting swarmed by enemies, Cookie can be a good failsafe. Especially during Ice and Death #3 and Forbidden Peaks, the ability to turn off the attack of an enemy can take the edge of hectic combat situations. Sadly both the Seeping Nightmares and the Terror in the Stars are Elite, though…
If you are using the resolute version a lot to control combat like that, it can be worth thinking about ways to generate more ammo for Cookie, using cards like Contraband or Venturer.
The back half of the campaign heavily features the Miasma set, which is relevant because the encounter card Nebulous Miasma is able to kill Cookie in one hit. So be very aware of that.
Most enemies in Edge of the Earth do have more than 2 stamina and that makes his revolver very awkward to use. On paper, it’s a fine weapon and both rogue and guardian have ways to replenish it. But in practice the 2 damage just doesn’t cut it, killing a a basic Eidolon or Elder Thing will usually already take both shots of this weapon. If you are a low fight investigator that is looking for an emergency option, Cookie’s .32 can do the job but usually I’d hesitate to even pick this card up if Cookie dies.

Takada Hiroko

Takada Hiroko is the mechanic of the expedition and as such she is able to assist the investigators in acquiring their gadgets. This is represented by an ability to request a good amount of resources from her. Her soak is evenly divided between stamina and sanity at first, the resolute version gains an extra sanity. Also, she hands out an extra resource when resolute, effectively increasing the payout from 9 to 12 resources. Her memento is Takada’s Cache, a super charged version of Emergency Cache that is not only fast, but also draws an extra card.

When visited during an interlude, Takada will let an investigator start the next main scenario with an extra 3 resources.

During setup for Forbidden Peaks, players will have to either a Frost token to the bag or gain a mental trauma. This will be prevented if Takada is still alive at that point.

My take: Takada is a very solid pick to bring on scenarios. Her even split stats mean that she’s not particularly vulnerable to certain treacheries. And her ability is equivalent to having three Emergency Caches on tap. This is huge for decks that want to spend their first turn or two playing expensive assets. Having a guarantee that these resources are available can be very impactful. Compared with most other partner assets, her resolute version isn’t that much of an upgrade. You do get an extra resource out of activating her afterwards, but that’s not nearly as important as when you turn the ability of other crew members into a free action or gain extra charges. So turning her resolute only becomes a priority if you are playing a deck that actually relies on these resources. Once you can be sure that she sticks around, she does indeed open up some interesting deck building options, though.
Should you be unfortunate enough to have Takada die on you, you do at least get a quite powerful memento card for it. Takada’s Cache gives you a shot in the arm once during the scenario without costing you an action or a draw, just straight 3 resources into the pool. This is obviously great and well worth picking up. But of course it’s a card that is shuffled into the deck, so it’s not as reliable and enabling for the first turns as Takada herself is. It’s “just” good value.

Avery Claypool

Avery Claypool joins the expedition as their guide through the antarctic weather conditions. His ability allows cancellation of Frost tokens up to five times. Like Takada, his stats are evenly split, but when resolute he does gain an extra stamina instead of sanity. The more important part of him turning resolute is how his ability changes. Instead of having to spend supplies to cancel a Frost and reveal a new one, Claypool is then able to do this just for exhausting. If he spends a supply in addition, he can even make it so no other token has to be drawn. Claypool’s Furs is his memento, a body slot asset that offers great damage soak for a low price. Additionally, it is Fast and comes with an ability to spend some of the soak to cancel Frost tokens.

During Interludes, Avery can remove a Frost token from the chaos bag for the remainder of the campaign.

In the setup leading up to Forbidden Peaks, Avery’s presence will prevent the addition of another Frost token or physical trauma.

My take: Avery Claypool might just be the most important crew member to survive if you want the campaign to go somewhat easy on you. Even before considering that you can take him on scenarios, his interlude ability is excellent and will make sure that the Frost tokens don’t take over the bag. I would suggest using it every time you can.
His ability as a partner asset starts out strong, with 5 uses and no further costs he can tip five tests in your favor. It can become downright ridiculous once Avery turns resolute, as there is no longer a limit to how often his ability can be used (well, except for exhausting). And by spending his supplies you can even turn Frost tokens into something beneficial for you, stopping to draw further tokens and guaranteeing success similar to how Ancient Covenant works. You could even consider leaning into this strategy by providing Claypool with additional uses through Emergency Cache, Venturer or Contraband.
Claypool is a great ally and having him die on you basically means playing the campaign in Hard Mode. There’s this weird bit of tension between his interlude ability and his partner asset ability: If he’s alive then he can purge Frosts from the bag, making him less of a necessity to bring along. However, if he’s dead the Frosts start piling up and that’s when you’d really want to have him during the scenario.
Now, if disaster strikes and Claypool does indeed die, you do at least get his furs. This asset is quite good, even without the ability attached a 2 resource asset with Fast that soaks 3 damage is ahead of the curve. Note that the cancellation on the Furs works differently than on Claypool himself, the cancelled token is thrown back before redrawing. It’s still a fine ability to have, of course.

Dr. Mala Sinha

Mala is the medic and her abilities do reflect that through and through. Three times, you get to spend an action to heal damage from investigator or an ally (not Mala herself, though) at your location. Once resolute, you can even do this as a fast action. Her memento is the Medical Kit, a cheap asset that can be used at fast speed three times to heal either a damage or a horror.

Players can visit Mala during Interludes to heal a point of physical trauma on either themselves or on a crew member. She can heal herself with this ability at least, but you’ll usually want to remove a player trauma instead.

Should Mala no longer be alive by the time the group goes into the City of the Elder Things, every player will have to add a Frostbitten weakness to their decks.

My take: She’s useful, but only in specific circumstances i would actually bring her along on scenarios. Spending an action to heal two points of damage is actually a fine ratio and thus she can be a good solution if your investigator did manage to pick up a bit too much physical trauma for comfort. You could use her ability to get more out of certain allies like Grete Wagner, but for that to be worth it you’ll probably want her to be resolute so you don’t have to spend the action on it. She can also be a good solution if you are stuck with a Leg or Arm Injury as your random basic weakness.
As with many other partner allies, she uses supplies so you can use something like Emergency Cache to create more healing activations if it’s necessary.
Her memento, the medical kit, is quite good. It’s cheap and it can be used without spending an action, so there is very little opportunity cost here. Unlike Mala herself, the medkit is also able to cure horror, which is certainly useful.

Eliyah Ashevak

Eliyah is a hunter and a dog handler. His ability allows evading an enemy with a high base skill. Once resolute, this base skill is further increased and the evasion can happen without spending an action. Either version also allows a free move following a successful evasion. He has an evenly split statline and is the only one who gains both a point of sanity and stamina on turning resolute, bringing his total up to 8 instead of 7 like everyone else. His memento is the dog Anyu, a versatile ally that offers free moves or help with skill tests.

During Interludes, Eliyah can be visited to cure a point of mental trauma, either to an investigator or to a partner ally.

In the lead up to the Forgotten Peaks a Frost token is added to the bag. This can be prevented if Eliyah is still around and if the players salvaged the Wooden Sledge item.

My take: Eliyah sort of mirrors Cookie in many aspects, but at least for my money he’s almost strictly better. Cookies ability to attack only deals a single point of damage, so it’s mostly useful for disabling an attack. Eliyah does the same through evasion, though. And disengages the enemy. And switches off things like Retaliate. And it works on Elites. And you do get a bonus move on top. He also has a much more useful distribution of stamina and sanity than Cookie does. I find Eliyah quite useful, his evasion can be a real life saver. If your investigators aren’t able to evade themselves, Eliyah is also one of the best solutions to get past Frenzied Explorer from the Left Behind set who can otherwise be a huge issue. Turning him resolute is a priority, getting to evade without spending an action is a lot better than the regular version.
The one thing that is a bit awkward with Eliyah is his use of secrets instead of supplies or ammo, which makes it somewhat difficult to recharge him if you want to lean into his ability more.
If Eliyah dies, you do get to keep Anyu. She’s sort of a Pathfinder on legs, which is already a very nice thing to have. Anyu can also help passing other skill tests and does also possess Eliyah’s ability to evade at a fixed base value. That value is lower than it is on Eliyah, but can still make the difference for dealing with things like Frenzied Explorer or even the Nameless Madness in the finale.

Professor William Dyer

One of the people who returned from the original trip to the “Mountains of Madness”, William Dyer is on this expedition to make sure it doesn’t share the fate of the first one. His stats are focused fully on sanity, not even his resolute version picks up a second point of stamina. In addition to being a great source of horror soak, he is also able to cure horror from investigators and other allies. This requires an action until he turns resolute, which will make his ability become a free trigger. His memento is Dyer’s Sketches, a fast card draw event.

Investigators that visit Dyer during interludes can remove up to five Tekeli-li weaknesses from their decks.

During setup of City of Elder Things, the investigators have to add a Possessed weakness to their deck if William is no longer alive.

My take: His usefulness during scenarios is similar to Mala, providing the ability to deal with mental trauma. There are a few things that make him a bit less generally useful than Mala, though. For one, his statline can be a bit of a problem because just a single point of damage can defeat him. This is particularly an issue in scenarios with the Deadly Weather set, due to the Polar Vortex card that will just kill him. For that reason, he really shouldn’t be chosen to accompany you to the Forbidden Peaks. Unlike Mala, he uses secrets instead of supplies, so replenishing his uses is a bit more difficult as well.
Dyer’s Sketches, his memento event, is certainly good enough to pick up. Drawing three cards for 2 resources is a great deal, especially for classes that don’t have good card draw available from their own card pool.

Danforth

Dyer’s student Danforth is the second survivor of the original expedition into the Antarctic. He’s on this journey because he actually feels like being drawn to the place again. Like Dyer, his stats are skewed towards high sanity, but not quite as extreme. His ability allows drawing additional cards whenever you draw a Tekeli-li, to make up for the lost draw and the negative effects. When resolute, he draws even more extra cards and discards any further Tekeli-li, so you don’t chain into them anymore. His memento is the Collected Works of Poe, which can be used to pluck Tekeli-li weaknesses out of player decks.

During interludes, players can visit Danforth to start the next scenario with two extra cards in their starting hand.

If Danforth is no longer alive when the investigators go into Heart of Madness, they suffer a mental trauma each.

My take: Danforth is one of my favorite partner allies to bring with me. His ability takes the sting out of drawing Tekeli-li. Despite not actually cancelling the weaknesses, you do at least not have to give up your draw and even get a bonus card out of it to somewhat offset the bad effect of the Tekeli-li. Turning Danforth resolute turns this ability up to eleven, drawing even another card on top and also preventing Tekeli-li chains. With Danforth on the table, it can sometimes even be beneficial to draw those weaknesses. He has 5 secrets which is plenty. Use them all and you drew 10 extra cards. 15, if resolute. For no cost. That’s insane. Of course, if you do have tech to refuel his secrets, it can be worth it. If you do plan on using Danforth a lot, unlocking the resolute version should be a priority. The upgrade is really quite significant.
While Danforth is very useful himself, his memento is much less so. It allows digging through the top of the deck for Tekeli-li to remove, however doing so costs an action. And since the ability only searches through the top six cards, it can easily miss… which wouldn’t be so bad if the ability wouldn’t also reshuffle, so you can now have your weaknesses on top afterwards. It also only has three charges. I think his memento is possibly the weakest of the bunch, maybe tied with Cookie’s revolver. It’s just all around underwhelming and i don’t think i would even pick it up if it could be used as a free action.




The Heart of Madness, part II: Stirring in the Deep

Encounter sets in this scenario: The Heart of Madness, Stirring in the Deep, Ancient Evils, Chilling Cold, Striking Fear(parts of), Agents of the Unknown, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Penguins
Available experience: 2 (Unsealed Phantasms) + 10 (Resolution) = 12XP

Size of the Encounter Deck37
# Enemies6
# Willpower15
# Agility3
# Doom5
# Damage3
# Horror5
# Tekeli-li10

Synopsis: Whatever nameless horror has been sealed away in the installation of the Elder Things, it’s starting to seep through and break free. The investigators have to make sure this doesn’t happen by destroying the City of the Elder Things and everything below it. Specifically, five pillars hold up the structure and destroying those will lead to everything collapsing. Of course, once that is done, the team also has to flee the place in time…

My take on this scenario: The second part of Heart of Madness concludes the Edge of the Earth campaign. We usually go into these campaign finales with a certain expectation of what expects us and i have to say, this one isn’t really one to meet all these expectations. This isn’t always bad, in the end Heart of Madness #2 is a fine scenario, but like part 1, it’s also not that impressive either.
The Ancient One here is certainly creative and different. Spread across 15 cards, it takes over the map and gradually smothers the players in its presence. That’s a cool mechanic, but it also kinda doesn’t make for a very satisfying resolution… after all you aren’t actually able to defeat it in any way.
Like the Innsmouth finale, this scenario also suffers from being a bit too easy. Now, it should be said that taken by itself, the difficulty here is good. There’s some challenging enemies and treacheries, there’s lots of ground to cover and destroying the pylons does take some effort. However, if you go into this scenario with a few of the seals from Heart of Madness #1, this difficulty shatters dramatically. Those seals are incredibly powerful and if you have three or more of them (or just the right one, really) destroying the pylons becomes almost trivial and in turn the whole balancing for the time pressure is off. Especially the seal that lets players deal extra damage with each source of damage to a pylon is kinda nuts.

Scenario specific encounter sets: As in part 1, Primeval Terror and Roots of the Earth take the part of being the Grasping Hands/Rotting Remains ersatz. Because of this, Rotting Remains actually stays in the box despite the rest of the Striking Fear set being used here. The scenario specific set, Stirring in the Deep, only adds a pair of enemies to the deck. The Unsealed Phantom guards the Mist-Pylon locations and investigators will need to get past it if they want to try and damage those pillars.

Act/Agenda: There are basically two parts to the scenario. In the first, the investigators have to destroy the five pylons. Once that is done, they have to get out in the second part. For the first part, there’s one act card and two agenda cards. The act states the terms for advancing (destroying all Myst-Pylons) and provides an ability to use clues for damaging the pylons. The first agenda has a threshold of only 3, basically offering a short setup period before the scenario goes into full swing. Once it advances, the Nameless Madness enters play and all investigators have to resolve all of the Tekeli-li in their decks (and then return them to their decks!). The second agenda card doesn’t have any doom threshold, instead a copy of Nameless Madness enters play whenever a doom would be put into play. If fifteen copies of Nameless Madness are in play, the agenda advances.
The second part begins if either the act card or the second agenda card advances and consists of only one card that is both act and agenda. It states the goal (“Run!”) for the last bit of the campaign. Interestingly, it doesn’t have a fail condition. Instead the scenario relies on The Nameless Madness being able to eventually overwhelm the players.

The Nameless Madness: This is the final boss of the campaign… sort of. The Nameless Madness consists of fifteen (!!!) copies of the same card, which come into play over time until they cover the map. This replaces the usual doom counter for the first part of the scenario. The Nameless Madness can not be defeated or even damaged, but players can exhaust multiples by oversucceeding on evasion or fight tests. The difficulty for these tests does scale with player count, making this enemy a whole lot more dangerous in big groups. At 3 and 4 players, the Alert and Retaliate keywords even become a major issue to care about here. It would pay off very well if you have someone like Winifred for this scenario who can evade a lot of Nameless Ones at once or Tony Morgan who can turn his firepower into a similarly good tool to keep these in check.
For the second part of the scenario, these gain Hunter and will thus start to stack up on each other. This can make it very difficult or even impossible for investigators to escape as they would need to evade too many of them and still be able to move (which is further complicated by the mechanics of the Titanic Ramp) or would have to take a lot of attacks of opportunity.

Enemies: Like in Heart of Madness #1, there aren’t a whole lot of enemies around, but the ones that are in the deck are quite relevant. The penguins make a return here and together with the ever expanding mass of Nameless Madnesses, a lot of locations quickly become hard to navigate. The Unsealed Phantasm are sturdy and need to be defeated (or at least exhausted) to get to the pylons they guard. At least they have Victory, so you only need to defeat them once. There’s two copies of the Phantasm in the deck. Finally, Primordial Evil is another resilient enemy that can take a couple of hits and is able to dish out a good amount of pain itself. Consider evading it, since that is easy to do and you will likely be in motion throughout the scenario anyways.

Tekeli-li: The final scenario of the campaign once more uses the seemingly omnipresent Nameless Horrors and its signature card, Blasphemous Visions. That alone is enough to make Tekeli-li worth caring about. Also be aware of the effect on the back of the first agenda: Once the first three doom are done, that agenda advances and all Tekeli-li from the player decks are resolved in random order, then shuffled back into the player decks. This can be immensely painful. If possible, consider purging Tekeli-li from your deck with William Dyer’s option during the third interlude (following City of Elder Things).

Seal locations and Mist-Pylons: Any inactive seals that the players got during Heart of Madness #1 are transferred into Heart of Madness #2 and the locations to turn those seals active are still around. Do note however that the locations where the seals are first picked up are replaced by the Myst-Pylons now, so any seal that wasn’t picked up in HoM#1 isn’t available during HoM#2 at all. Obviously that means that these locations are without a function (aside from providing clues) if you skipped HoM#1.
The Mist-Pylons are what the players are seeking to destroy in this scenario. The difficulty to attack them is determined by their shroud, while the clue value is their amount of hit points. At all of the pylons, one of the seals can be used if it is activated and will give an impactful bonus towards “defeating” these locations.

Other notable locations: The rest of the location grid is the same as in Heart of Madness #1. Please see that article for details.

The escape: For the final bit of the scenario (of the campaign, actually), the players have to flee the compound using the Titanic Ramp. The ramp consists of four locations in random order that the players have to pass through. To get from one location to the next, they need to either pass agility tests or spend clues. By itself, this isn’t terribly difficult, but you do have to ward off the growing number of Nameless Madnesses at the same time. Some of the encounter cards can also really throw a wrench into the works here, most importantly the penguin and Frozen in Fear.

Suggested partner assets: Both Cookie and Eliyah can help a lot with exhausting the Nameless Madnesses, especially when they are resolute and are able to do so as a free action. Other than that, just use whoever fits your deck/investigator the best.

Reward and Failure: The reward for completing this scenario is winning the campaign! Congrats! You gain a bunch of XP and some complimentary trauma, both of which are just for flavor, of course.
The penalty for failing is… well, failing the campaign. All investigators go insane and it was all for nothing. Oh no! Not optimal, try to avoid this!

The Heart of Madness, part I: The Great Seal

Encounter sets in this scenario: The Heart of Madness, The Great Seal, Ancient Evils, Locked Doors, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Penguins, Shoggoths
Available experience: 5 (Active Seals) + 1 (Rampaging Shoggoth) = 6XP

Size of the Encounter Deck29
# Enemies7
# Willpower7
# Agility5
# Doom5
# Damage5
# Horror7
# Tekeli-li9

Synopsis: Reaching the final destination of their journey, the team decides to investigate the gate that locks away the ancient evil closer. They discover magical seals that can be turned active to aid them with defeating the thing behind the gate. Those seals have to be handled with care, having multiple active ones in the same place would have cataclysmic consequences.

My take on this scenario: Heart of Madness #1 is an optional scenario that allows preparing for the finale by acquiring a couple of seals that will prove quite useful in Heart of Madness #2. Considering that this is near the end of the campaign, this scenario isn’t all that difficult, so you’ll absolutely want to do this one.
Handling the seals is interesting enough to do. Especially the first half of the scenario when you are still exploring the locations, hoping to find matching pairs that allow securing a seal is good fun and rewards the sort of mobility that you needed for previous scenarios as well. Note that this scenario uses a total of 16 locations and that they are arranged in a way that will bust most kitchen tables, though 😀 This might be the Arkham scenario that requires the most table space.
This is a rock solid scenario that i don’t have any major complaints about. The encounter deck is a bit generic and the low amount of enemies can lead to a couple of turns that are somewhat uneventful. But the locations offer enough of play to make this scenario worth visiting for sure.

Scenario specific encounter sets: The first of another multi-part scenario, Heart of Madness #1 uses an encounter set that is shared between both Heart of Madness scenarios and an encounter set that is unique to it.
The shared one (aptly named “Heart of Madness”) adds two treacheries that provide yet another variant on the template provided by Rotten Remains and Grasping Hands back in the Core: Test agility or suffer damage, test willpower or suffer horror. The unique twist this time is that the difficulty scales with the distance from the central location.
The encounter set for this specific scenario adds another treachery that deals horror and damage in Electrostatic Discharge. It surges and makes it just a bit more dangerous to hold those seals for too long. Protoplasmic Mass from the same set is one of the few enemies in here and it’s actually quite dangerous, especially for anyone with an activated seal in their possession.

Act/Agenda: Both the act and agenda deck are fairly straightforward. The act deck states the goal of the scenario: Find seals, activate them and place them on the central location. The first seal placed this way gives a special bonus, depending on the seal.
The agenda offers a total threshold of 17 doom, distributed over three cards. On advancing the first agenda, yet another mid-scenario interlude tries to kill off a random team member. This time, the loss can be averted if a specific other partner is around, though. When the agenda advances again, everyone who holds a seal is being punished for it – even more so if they hold an active seal. Similar to the bonus on the act, the exact penalty depends on the specific seal. If the agenda runs out completely, everyone is defeated and has to either take a mental trauma or shuffle three Tekeli-li into their deck for the finale. So make sure to resign in time.

Enemies: There is only few enemies in this scenario, but they all have considerable impact. The scenario specific Protoplasmic Mass fits in very well with the rest of the Shoggoths from their set. Together, they are five tough enemies that can hit hard and present a challenge to the fighters in the group. The Mass does have less hit points than the other Shoggoths, but its impressive fight value of 6 makes up for that easily.
The only non-Shoggoth enemies are the penguins which do a good job of being a pest. You need to move around quite a bit in this scenario and especially if you are trying to avoid running into the hunting Shoggoths, the locations that are held by a penguin might as well be barred completely. Having a way to kill them from a connecting location is worth a lot here, for example through the Dynamite campaign asset or a player card like Marksmanship.
Be aware that all of these enemies start in the encounter deck right away, so you might want to brace for drawing Rampaging Shoggoth in your first Mythos phase…

Tekeli-li: Nameless Horrors and Shoggoths are the two sets dealing with Tekeli-li. While there certainly have been scenarios that put a bigger emphasis on these weaknesses, you will probably start playing with a few of them already in your deck, making Blasphemous Visions very relevant right from the start.

Seal locations: All of the play around seals is done through location abilities. There’s a set of five locations like Undercity Altar that bring the seals into play and allow investigators to take control of it. They then have to carry that seal to another location like the Forsaken Temple where they can activate the seal. Finally, the active seal has to be brought to the center location, the Gate of Y’quaa. Due to the size of the map and the locations all starting face down, this requires some initial exploration first to find out what the players are supposed to do and where.

Other notable locations: Aside from the central Gate, two other locations are worth mentioning. The Vaulted Corridor allows investigators to save on actions when moving around, as long as they can pass the agility test. The Subnautical Sprawl offers up a good amount of clues at a low shroud value, ideal for survivors (and investigators with a flashlight) to get some easy clues for use at the seal locations. There are three Corridor and two Sprawl locations on the map.

Suggested partner assets: At this point in the campaign, you should probably just bring whoever fits your deck most and/or who is best at covering up some glaring weaknesses of your investigator.
Both Eliyah and Cookie can be very useful for dealing with the Shoggoths. Especially in their resolute versions, being able to defuse a situation like a bad Tekeli-li (-1 action, discard critical asset) on engaging Forgotten Shoggoth can be a life saver.
Ellsworth can interact with Locked Doors and Miasma, but i wouldn’t think that either of those sets is really worth bringing a silver bullet for.
For the rest, your campaign status is going to be the deciding factor. So sure, bring Danforth or Claypool if you are swamped with weaknesses or Frost tokens.

Reward and Failure: This is another optional scenario, but there’s little reason to skip it. The only price you have to pay for going into Heart of Madness #1 is having to go through another interlude that might make you lose another partner asset. This can be an issue if you are dependent on someone but didn’t have the opportunity to turn them resolute yet. But otherwise, this scenario should definitely be played. It’s rather short and you have the option of resigning through the Gate at any point.
As a reward you can get a handful of XP to buy yourself a last minute upgrade before the finale, but most importantly you gain access to the seals in the final scenario and those are really powerful. Getting three or more active seals here downright trivializes a lot of Heart of Madness #2.

City of the Elder Things

Encounter sets:
Version 1: Locked Doors, Elder Things, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Penguins, Shoggoths
Version 2: Chilling Cold, Creatures in the Ice, Elder Things, Nameless Horrors, Penguins, Silence and Mystery
Version 3: Chilling Cold, Locked Doors, Creatures in the Ice, Miasma, Penguins, Shoggoths
Available experience: 8 (spent keys) +3 (locations) + 1 (Terror of the Stars) + 1 (Rampaging Shoggoth)= 13XP, however note that this is only possible in version 1. Version 2 has neither the Terror nor the Shoggoth, so it’s maximum is 11XP. Version 3 doesn’t have the Terror, so it goes to 12XP.

v1v2v3
Size of the Encounter Deck344135
# Enemies121413
# Willpower71010
# Agility535
# Doom225
# Damage434
# Horror565
# Tekeli-li91310
These are the numbers after the first act advanced. At the start of the game, depending on the version of the scenario, either Shoggoths or Creatures in the Ice are set aside at first.

Synopsis: Following the arduous climb up the antarctic mountains, the expedition arrives at the City of the Elder Things and has to make its way deeper into it. There’s three distinct ways through and depending on which members of the group are still alive, a different one is chosen. All three versions of the scenario share the fact that they are played on another huge map made out of 17 locations, but the layout is different for each version. One of the locations needs to be unlocked before the players can progress and to do so, pairs of keys need to be collected from the other 16 locations. Not all of the keys are required, but finding more than the minimum is rewarded very well, so the players will want to push to get the most out of this scenario. Along the way, the investigators have to defend themselves from all sorts of enemies: Shoggoths, elder things, eidolons and the most evil of them all… penguins!

My take on this scenario: This scenario has a whole lot going on at the same time. No matter which version of the map you get, you always will have to traverse a rather large amount of locations. While you do get a ability from the agenda that will help you with moving around, the sheer number of locations and therefore clues to clear means that your seekers will have a lot to do.
The encounter decks are rather large and do contain a number of enemies well above the average. So this scenario is not only heavy on clues, but also on fighting. Tekeli-li again takes a spotlight, with Nameless Horrors, Creatures in the Ice, Miasma, Elder Things and Shoggoths each being present in two of the three scenarios (but thankfully never all of them together).
Looking at the numbers in the table at the top of the page, the breakdown is similar for the three scenarios with only few deviations. There’s a couple things worth noting, though.
Version 2 doesn’t have the Shoggoths, which removes a big headache from the encounter deck. It does at least partially make up for it by being the one with the most Tekeli-li interactions which can spiral out of control. It’s also the only version that uses Silence and Mystery and depending on your Frost token count, Dark Aurora can be a big issue. The large encounter deck also makes version 2 a bit more random and unpredictable than the other two.
Version 3 is the only one using the Benign Elder Thing, which adds some doom mechanics to the proceedings. The only other doom card in the scenario is Wuk Wuk Wuk, and interestingly the Penguin set is the only set that is used in all three versions of City of Elder Things.
I quite like this one. Lots of things to do for everyone and the variety that comes from not only having three versions, but also a lot of variety from the diverse and large encounter decks is appreciated.

Scenario specific encounter sets: Dawning of the Truth and Crumbling Ruins are added to all three version’s encounter decks. They follow the classic template of dealing horror/damage unless the player succeeds at a willpower/agility test. They both have a mechanic that interacts with keys at the players location, but in different ways. Either card is able to deal 3 points of horror/damage. Damage and horror can become threatening if Tekeli-li cards also trigger a lot of it, but especially be on the lookout for horror in version 2, which has Dark Aurora. Two different enemies are also part of the encounter set. Reawakened Elder Thing takes keys from players and can force them to clear their location from clues to recoup the key. It is used in versions 1 and 2. The Benign Elder Thing is only used in version 3. It has doom on it and defeating it will just add the doom to the agenda. So players instead need to parley with willpower to get rid of the doom (and the creature). Of note, the Benign Elder Thing doesn’t have Aloof so if you move into its location, you will have to deal with it. Finally, the Terror of the Stars is back again, at least for version 1.

Act/Agenda: The agenda is shared between all three versions of the scenario. It offers a total of 16 doom over two cards. Also, it provides players with free triggers to spend their clues for movement or for scouting facedown locations. After the first doom threshold of 6 is met, the agenda advances, leading to an interlude that once more has a random team member die.
The three versions all use their own pair of act cards. The first tasks the players with collecting two specific pairs of chaos tokens from the locations. Once those are done, the act advances. At that point, the set aside encounter set is shuffled into the encounter deck and the Hidden Tunnel is revealed opening the exit. Also, another negative effect is triggered, depending on the version the players either have to spawn the Terror of the Stars, add a Frost to the bag or draw encounter cards. The second act gives the final objective of the scenario: Reach the Hidden Tunnel and clear all clues from it. It also offers another opportunity to spend a pair of chaos tokens, for a persistent bonus. Except for version 2, where this bonus merely removes a Tekeli-li from each player deck, these are quite influential. Version 1 allows to heal a trauma per investigator which is nice, but the real jackpot is version 3, which allows purging all Elder Thing tokens from the bag for the rest of the campaign.

Terror of the Stars: This big monster didn’t change much from its previous appearances in Forbidden Peaks and Ice and Death. It’s still a Hunter with an impressive amount of health and it still attacks for 2 damage and horror each with Massive. The new wrinkle here is that it forbids interacting with keys at its location. That isn’t actually that bad and if you aren’t starved for that victory point, evading this enemy and dodging it for the rest of the scenario is a real option.

Other enemies: As mentioned, there are a lot of enemies in this one. Depending on the version, you get some combination of Elder Things, Creatures of the Ice and Shoggoths. All versions also have to deal with Penguins for the first time. This results in a lot of enemy health to chew through, Benign Elder Thing is the only enemy with fewer than 3 stamina. The vast majority of these enemies are hunters, and you will likely not be able to evade them all, so prepare for a fight. The enemies are also where most of the Tekeli-li cards come from, so your enemy handlers will be open to collecting many extra weaknesses.

Locations: The first location among the many in this scenario that is worth talking about is the Hidden Tunnel. It’s where the investigators are trying to get to. At first it’s unrevealed and can’t be entered, but after advancing the act it flips and can be investigated. Clearing it can be done with any attribute, but you aren’t allowed taking shortcuts like discovering the clues with card effects.
Stone Bridge is in the scenario three times and offers another way to move around the map in a more efficient way. Of course it needs to be revealed first to be a viable target for movement, so this is mostly useful for backtracking.
Temple of the Elder things allows switching around keys, again a good tool to save actions on finding the keys you need for advancing the act.
A couple of the locations also allow moving clues around, which is a somewhat unique ability that we’ve not seen before. You can use this for example to bypass Polar Mirage or to make convenient piles of three clues for Deduction(2) or Pilfer. Or simply to shuffle clues to locations with lower shroud value or those that you already took the key from.
Only two of the City Landscapes have victory on them. So it’s usually going to be more useful to grab more keys for XP instead of hunting after these locations.

Suggested partner assets: City of Elder Things has lots of challenges from every direction, therefore you’ll be finding uses for anyone. At this point in the campaign, your choice of partners is probably going to be dictated by who you upgraded via Fatal Mirage and/or who your investigators are and what weaknesses they might need to plug.
The one expedition member worth highlighting is Danforth (especially for enemy handlers) because there’s a lot of Tekeli-li going around here.
There’s not a whole lot of location based treacheries in any version of City of Elder Things, so Ellsworth can probably stay at home for this one.

Reward and Failure: In terms of rewards, there’s a lot to gain here due to the bonuses from collecting pairs of keys and spending them. As mentioned earlier, each version of the scenario has a unique opportunity to get a persistent effect from the second act: Either heal a trauma per player (v1), remove a Tekeli-li per player (v2) or remove all Elder Thing tokens from the bag (v3). Additionally, the Cylindrical Tower location allows removing two Frost tokens in any version. With 11-13XP, there is a nice amount of victory points to gain here as well, although it’s certainly not easy to get all of them. Still, you should walk out of the scenario with a decent amount of XP to spend for the final stretch of the campaign.
On the negative side of things, you will lose another team member here when the agenda advances. Also, you will have to add an Elder Thing token to your bag if you play version 1 or 2. Version 3 does not have this additional token (as mentioned, it even allows purging existing ones).
Failing the scenario by defeat actually doesn’t incur any penalties (except for the usual trauma for being defeated, of course). There’s a slightly different entry made into the campaign log but that doesn’t seem to have any actual effect later on. Having the agenda run out also doesn’t lead to any additional punishment except for missing out on XP and key effects.

Shoggoths

Set Size3
Number of unique Cards2
RoleEnemy, Tekeli-li
Threat LevelVery High
# of scenarios2
Variants
Appears in: City of Elder Things (v1, v3), Heart of Madness #1

My take on this set: This is a spectacular set that introduces three high power enemies to the final stretch of the campaign. Both of these Shoggoths hit very hard and killing them takes a lot of time. The decision to fight or flee from them is an interesting one and will actually depend on the board state and how far along the scenario you are. Having these around in the encounter deck is scary, as you don’t know when they will make their appearance. They remind me of the Deep One Bull in that way.
Both the Forgotten and the Rampaging Shoggoth are able to deal out Tekeli-li cards to the players, but note that this works differently than usual. These Tekeli-li aren’t added to the player’s deck, they are instead drawn and resolve immediately which will just put them under the Tekeli deck again. They basically add a semi-random effect to their attack/engagement which can throw off your combat math severely. Of course anyone currently suffering from Blasphemous Visions will want to stay as far away from Shoggoths as they can.
I like these enemies. On other encounter set pages, I have been critical about the enemies being a bit bland in this campaign, but the Shoggoths do make quite the impression. They are dangerous, they are interactive and they require some effort to take down. Good stuff.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Forgotten Shoggoth is a terrifying Hunter enemy that deals 2 horror on attack and is hard to take down. At 3 fight and 6 stamina, expect your fighter to take a turn just dealing with this thing. It can be evaded somewhat easily, however this not only brings with it the usual issue of having Hunters roaming around, but also that you might trigger its ability multiple times: Whenever the Shoggoth engages you, you have to draw the top Tekeli-li card. Note that this doesn’t shuffle the card into your deck – so it won’t cost you a draw later, however you do have to suffer the effect immediately.

My take: Thank god for that low evasion which can act as a bit of an insurance for any investigator who ends up drawing this thing and isn’t able to handle it otherwise. Of course the evasion might lead to triggering the Forced effect again at a later time, but that’s at least favorable when compared to being pummeled for 2 horror and a damage. If you are able to run away from it is going to depend a lot on where you are in the scenario. Both City of Elder Things and Heart of Madness do feature large maps, but if you are in a situation that requires backtracking (to get towards some token you need, a seal or a pillar) it’s quite possible that you need to deal with the Forgotten Shoggoth in a more permanent way. Doing so isn’t difficult per se, after all it just has 3 fight, but chewing through 6 health will usually take a full turn.
Having to draw a Tekeli for engaging can be devastating here. If it costs a turn or makes you discard a critical combat card or asset, defeating this before it gets to attack can just become a lot harder or even impossible.

Threat level: High. On the upper scale of what we are used to seeing from non-Elites.

Dealing with it: What really makes this enemy dangerous is how it is just a regular card in the encounter deck and can come out at any point. City of Elder Things will have these set aside at the start of the game and only introduce them later, but Heart of Madness could just throw these giants at you on the first mythos phase. So get your enemy handlers combat ready as soon as possible there… you are going to need the firepower for other things like the penguins as well.
When engaging it on your own terms, be aware that the Tekeli-li card might throw a wrench into your plans for your turn by immediately costing you an action or a key card.
Since this is a large non-Elite enemy with low evasion, i of course have to mention Waylay here as well, a survivor card that is generally pretty good in Edge of the Earth and that can deal with this monster in a very efficient way.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: Rampaging Shoggoth is a huge Elite enemy and a real threat to the whole group. While it does have only 3 fight, which is moderate for this sort of Elite, it does boast a large pool of 6 to 12 hitpoints, depending on player count.
Rampaging Shoggoth is both a Hunter and Massive, which enables it to attack multiple investigators at the same time for 2 damage. In addition to this, another 2 damage on top of the attacks are dealt to each investigator and non-Shoggoth enemy at its location, which can put some investigators on the brink of death just by itself in one phase. To make matters even worse, each investigator damaged by the Forced effect also has to draw and immediately resolve the top Tekeli-li card.
Defeating the Rampaging Shoggoth awards a victory point.

My take: Yikes. This thing shares its basic stat layout with the Forgotten Shoggoth: middling fight, high health and low evasion. The last part is key to enable running away from the Rampaging Shoggoth or to defeat it over the course of multiple turns. Do however note that its Forced effect of dealing damage and a Tekeli-li to everything in the enemy phase will still trigger even if the monster is exhausted.
In any player count but true solo the Shoggoth sports enough health that you will want to attack it with multiple investigators at the same time if you want to take it down in just a turn. If that’s not possible, either plan on weaving an evasion into your attacks so you don’t get slapped around in the enemy phase or weaken the enemy beforehand with attacks from connecting locations like Dynamite, Marksmanship or Fang of Tyr’thrha.
The timing for the Tekeli-li card is actually less problematic than it is for the Forgotten Shoggoth, so you can move into its location without immediately having to suffer a semi-random effect.
The rampaging effect of this enemy can hit other non-Shoggoth enemies, but i have at least not seen this being relevant myself. The one enemy where i could see this coming up is a penguin that i left behind, but the 2 damage won’t even kill that annoying bird.

Threat level: Very High. This is a big chunky enemy that will take a lot of resources to defeat.

Dealing with it: Whatever you do, don’t become a victim to this enemy’s full force of attacks in the enemy step. If you evade this and it catches up to you later, it will deal 4 damage, 1 horror and a Tekeli-li effect to you. That’s huge! And possibly this thing can even hit multiple investigators. Unless you are sure that you can stay ahead of it, keeping this menace on the board is quite dangerous and i would only do so as a last resort. At the point where this enemy appears, the 1 victory point isn’t hugely important anymore, but i found myself to be plenty motivated to kill it nonetheless.

Irregular Evils #40: Scenario rankings 2022, part IV

The result of last three parts were the rankings of the scenarios within their campaign and putting them into one of five tiers. Next up is ranking the scenarios within their tiers and thus coming to a full list of scenarios against each other.
In case you missed any of the previous ones, here’s the handy list of links for you:
Part 1: Core, Dunwich, Carcosa
Part 2: Forgotten Age, Circle Undone
Part 3: Dream-Eaters, Innsmouth, Edge of the Earth

Instead of more preambles, let me cut straight to the final list.

Scenario rankings 2022

This paints a much clearer picture than the individual campaign rankings, especially for the second and third tier which both have a good number of scenarios in them. For example there’s quite a difference between what i think of Pit and Despair and what i think of Essex Express, despite them both landing in tier 2. Or between Search for Kadath and Thousand Shapes of Horror within tier 3.

Alright then, let’s compare it to last year and see what changed. As a reminder, i did this year’s ranking without looking up stuff from last year, so i do expect some fluctuation for sure.

Scenario rankings 2021

Starting at tier 1, we got three new entries, two of them from Innsmouth. In Too Deep went from middle of tier 2 to tier 1, which makes sense to me. It’s a scenario that proved to be really fun on replays as well, so it only managed to improve on its good first impression. Light in the Fog wasn’t released last year yet. The other one is Unspeakable Oath and i am really not sure why i didn’t put it near the top last time. While it can have it’s outrageous moments (Sign of Hastur…), it’s an extraordinary scenario. Leaving tier 1 are Clutches of Chaos, Point of No Return and Waking Nightmare. Waking Nightmare didn’t fall very far, it’s still at the top of tier 2, but slightly below other first scenarios from other campaigns. Again, this seems right to me. Clutches dropped a bit further down, all the way to #25. I attribute this to both Innsmouth and Edge making the sort of wide map that Clutches has more common. When i made the list last year, having more than 10 locations was almost a novelty and a big thing in Clutches favor. Point of No Return has some fun interactions, but looking at it now, it’s really not tier 1 material. The rest of tier 1 sees some minor reordering, but nothing too wild. The Pallid Mask stays at the top, but followed closely by Oath and Devil Reef.

There’s something that i find interesting about tier 2 right away. At the top of tier 2 are a lot of the introduction scenarios to the campaigns. Curtain Call, Pit of Despair, Ice and Death, Waking Nightmare, Gathering, Extracurricular Activity, they are all in one lump. Witching Hour is a bit further down, but still in the same tier. I guess the campaigns do know how to make an entrance. Compared to last year, the tier 2 is a lot bigger than it used to be. This can partially be attributed to Return to TCU upranking some scenarios and to Innsmouth just being good. But it’s also noticable that a bunch of what made up tier 3 has moved to the bottom of tier 2 now, scenarios like Essex Express, Phantom of Truth or Witching Hour. So maybe i was just a bit more generous this time around with where i drew the line.

This impression of maybe being a bit more generous continues through the last three tiers, with all of them being a bit more weighted towards the better tier. Note that this doesn’t have to be a fault of the process, it’s a valid conclusion to take from this that i might just like the game more as a whole than i did last year! Search for Kadath deserves a special mention here because i do actually think that i treated it a bit unfairly last year. It does have its annoyances from the midgame setups and general weirdness, but it’s not a bad scenario at all. I put it straight at the top of tier 3 this year and that seems like a much better place for it. Similarly, Dim Carcosa is a bit dull in my opinion, but it doesn’t deserve to be put into the company of scenarios like Gates of Sleep or Echoes of the Past that are truly boring.

Not much changed at the bottom, but it should be noted that Return to TCU did indeed save Before the Black Throne. I think it’s perfectly fine now.

Bonus round

Okay, here’s one more thing. I apologize for the colors in advance, i know that this looks absolutely ridiculous:

Scenario rankings by campaign

So what’s this? This is the scenario rankings 2022, but i replaced each scenario name with the name of its campaign. Then i gave every campaign its own color for a first impression. Then, i also calculated the average placement for each campaign.

What we end up with is Innsmouth and Carcosa at the top, with average rankings of 19.5 and 22.25. This should come as little surprise, after all these two campaigns are responsible for 7 of the 9 scenarios i put in tier 1. Forgotten Age follows with 28.7, quite a bit behind the first two, but still noticeably ahead of the following one. NotZ, Dunwich and Circle are all quite close, in the 33.0 range give or take a bit. (Of course NotZ is an outlier here with only three scenarios to its name, so it probably shouldn’t even be included in this comparison, but whatever. It’s not like i am doing science here, this is just messing around with numbers). Way behind the rest, we got Dream-Eaters and Edge of the Earth at the bottom. I was actually shocked to see Edge even below Dream-Eaters, considering the low opinion i have of Dream-Eaters… but it is what it is.

Now, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions here of course. Especially when it comes to Edge of the Earth, i don’t think it looks all that grim. This exercise only looks at the individual scenarios, not at the campaign as a whole. And EotE certainly has a very strong campaign structure that makes up for it’s individually mediocre scenarios. In a similar vein, Innsmouth might have the strongest set of scenarios, but its campaign is sadly very linear and loses a lot of its strengths on replaying it. At the same time, TFA has a great campaign structure as well, with different routes to take, lots of choices to make and scenarios changing depending on these choices. So this “result” up there is not at all how i would rank the campaigns among each other, there’s more to it than just having good scenarios. (For the record, my current campaign ranking would be RtTFA > RtPTC > TIC >>>> EotE > RtTCU > RtTDL >> TDE > NotZ, with a very large difference between TIC and EotE. Those top three campaigns are completely in a class of their own compared to the others.)

That’s Numberwang!

And thus ends the scenario rankings 2022. Thanks for checking it out, see you next year.

Penguins

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleEnemy, Doom, Action Tax
Threat LevelMid to High
# of scenarios3
Variants
Appears in: City of Elder Things (v1, v2, v3), Heart of Madness #1 and #2

My take on this set: Among a number of rather conventional enemies in Edge of the Earth, the Penguin set stands out as something that is actually a bit more situational in how you handle it. So there are some decision to be made when you encounter it which is always a good thing. I feel like Wuk! Wuk! Wuk! is missing a certain something to make it really cool, right now it’s just basically another two copies of the penguin and it usually won’t matter which card from this set you drew. But the enemy itself is a great addition to the game. It’s high impact without featuring any big numbers and has an ability that asks for player interaction in one of two different ways (defeat it or leave it) while also opening up the possibility to tech for it with certain card choices from the player pool. Good stuff.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Giant Albino Penguin is an Aloof enemy with respectable 3 health, but only 2 fight and evasion. Entering or leaving the Albino Penguins location costs an extra action. So while this enemy doesn’t pose a threat in the traditional sense, it is a huge action sink between Aloof and its main ability.

My take: I like this one. If you have to move through its location it’s a huge bother because it would cost you 2 actions extra. Fighting it makes the action tax go up even further. Luckily it spawns right on top of you, though. That means your choice is usually to fight and kill it right now (and do so through Aloof and 3 health) or just move ahead and leave it behind. That way you’ll only lose 1 action to it, but the critter will stick around and hinder you if you need to backtrack. Or hinder your teammates that might want to pass through the same location.

Threat level: Mid to High. These can drain a lot of actions from you. They become extra relevant the more players you have in your group.

Dealing with it: These penguins are just tailor-made to see the business end of a Spectral Razor, aren’t they? Anything that lets you bypass the Aloof engage action is of course very valuable here and so is anything that lets you deal 3 damage in one attack. Without at least one of those, you are looking at a whole turn just to shoo some bird away. What makes this more complicated is that it spawns on the investigator who drew the card. And that’s not necessarily the one that does the enemy handling, so they would have to move into the penguin’s location (which is taxed by another action) first. If your enemy handler is able to run cards that deal damage to connected locations, that is going to be very valuable. In fact, it’s something to spend XP on past Forbidden Peaks just so you are able to deal with these enemies more efficiently. Marksmanship is great here and so is Get Over Here!. Dynamite Blast works just fine as well and the campaign actually offers you a stack of Dynamite through one of the expedition assets.
In one or two player, seriously consider just moving on though. If they aren’t at a location that you need to move to again, you can just eat that one extra action to leave the location and be done with it. At least until…

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The investigator has to either move the Albino Penguin that is farthest away to their location or put a doom on the enemy. If none of the penguins is in play, one is found from the encounter and discard piles and then drawn.

My take: I don’t think the option for doom is all that viable except for very few corner cases like when you are about to take out the thing with a Dynamite Blast anyways. So for the most part, Wuk! Wuk! Wuk! is just another copy of the Albino Penguin.

Threat level: Mid to High.

Dealing with it: Instead of dealing with this card, you’ll be dealing with the penguin. See above for notes on how to do that.

Irregular Evils #39: Scenario rankings 2022, part III

Welcome back to the scenario rankings.
I’ll just post the tier scale again, then get right into it:

Today’s entry will have the rankings for Dream-Eaters, Innsmouth and Edge of the Earth. The common thread between them is that these are the campaigns that do not have a Return To box yet, so I’ll just be looking at the base campaigns.

Looking at the ranking for Dream-Eaters, the immediately obvious thing here is how much higher i think of Web of Dreams than of The Dream-Quest. The ones i put into tier 2 are all from the B side of the campaign, with only Search for Kadath coming close from campaign A. To be fair, Search for Kadath is at the top end of the tier 3 though. But it’s been frustrating me often enough that i didn’t feel like putting it in the green. It does a lot of things that i like, but the fiddly mid-play setups and the frequent reshuffling let it down. Despite them having the same tier, there’s a big gulf between Search for Kadath and the other two scenarios i put into tier 3, Thousand Shapes of Horror and Dark Side of the Moon. Those two actually rank near the bottom of tier 3, as they are often rather uninteresting or (in the case of Dark Side) can be too punishing towards certain investigators. They both have some cool mechanics and interactions that i didn’t want to just shove them into tier 4 where i put the actual boring/frustrating scenarios. In this case, that means Where the Gods Dwell which destroys all good will that its novel boss mechanic would earn by having an utterly ridiculous doom clock and a random uninteresting first half that just straight up shouldn’t exist. Also at the bottom is Beyond the Gates of Sleep, possibly Arkham’s most boring scenario on replays. There’s just nothing happening here. You walk a few locations in a straight line without even an encounter deck, then come to a clearing with a few locations around it and investigate them all. It’s carried by story on the first and second plays, but after that there’s just nothing here. It truly puts me at the gates of sleep.
Saving Dream-Eater’s honor are the three scenarios at the top. Waking Nightmare scores with a creepy setting and an innovative (though slightly fiddly) gimmick. I also have a thing for spider enemies, so there’s that. I view Point of No Return as a better Search for Kadath. You investigate a large area that unlocks only piece by piece, but you do it without having to setup the game again in the middle. It also has some cool stuff going on with its enemies, playing off some interactions between ghouls, gugs and ghasts and also features the Slithering Dhole as a recurring enemy. Weaver of the Cosmos is the most gimmicky gimmick that ever gimmicked up an Arkham scenario, but it works. The fight is a bit easy for a finale, but there’s just no way i could ever dislike the rotating spider-god.

Yep. I like The Innsmouth Conspiracy‘s scenarios a whole lot. I mentioned this plenty times before, but i do like Arkham the most when i get to investigate large maps and when the scenarios feature randomization that keeps replays interesting. After all, i did put The Pallid Mask as my #1 last year because it excels at exactly those two things. Well, Innsmouth is basically “Pallid Mask: The campaign” with its Tidal Tunnels making sure that most scenarios have some of those randomization elements and of course plenty of room to explore. I also really like the design behind the Deep One enemies, they are one of the few cases where fighting vs. evading becomes a situational thing and you actually have to think a bit and plan ahead. At the top, there’s Devil Reef, a scenario that i hear a lot of people talk very negatively about. But in my book, the layered randomization (first into islands, then into locations within those islands) is just great. Coupled with a simple but interesting movement mechanic (the boat), getting around this scenario requires some thought. The layout changes considerably based on where the Underwater Caverns land, etc etc. And there’s a fancy boss around. I love it. In Too Deep isn’t randomized, but there are different ways to approach moving around Innsmouth and there’s a bunch of stuff in the encounter deck that can make you have to improvise while a horde of fish monsters is on your tail. Vanishing of Elina Harper’s central investigation is super interesting. Narrowing down your suspects and leads makes for good drama every time. Light in the Fog is this campaign’s Unspeakable Oath, coupling high stakes with a lengthy trip around its map. It’s not quite as good as Oath (few scenarios are), but this is still always a thrilling scenario. It also uses some really cool interactions in its encounter deck with the Nurses, Hatchlings and Deep One Assault making sure you are never quite safe.
Pit of Despair is one of the best intro scenarios to any campaign. This is a quick and dangerous one and i see it on a level with Curtain Call and Untamed Wilds, both in quality and difficulty. Horror in High Gear is another quick one. It’s quite suspenseful which saves it from being ranked lower, but i do have an issue with it. It often feels like the scenario is playing me instead of the other way round. This is a scenario where the players often just react to what’s happening without much of their own agency. For a single scenario that doesn’t take too long this is fine though and even a nice change of pace. Closing out the ranking for Innsmouth are actually the last two scenarios of the campaign. Lair of Dagon’s curse integration doesn’t really feel great to me. I feel reminded of TCU’s Union and Disillusion in how different this scenario hits depending on your investigators. Into the Maelstrom has some really cool parts to it. I like the double Elder Ones and that you try to achieve your goal before they awaken. Having to reverse the flood makes a lot of thematic sense after being pushed around by the flood tokens all campaign. There’s a lot to like here… except it’s all really, really easy. A bit of a shame really. Still, both Lair and Maelstrom aren’t all that terrible, but after what came before it feels like Innsmouth didn’t quite manage to stick the landing after a really impressive first half.

This was really difficult to do. Edge of the Earth is carried hard by its campaign structure, the interludes and from having effects persist from one scenario to the next. As a result, i for example had a fantastic time playing the Ice and Death trilogy for the first time. However, this doesn’t really translate well to what i am doing here, evaluating each scenario for itself and Ice and Death is a really good example of that. Part I is clearly the best one, where you do the most part of exploring the map and setting yourself up for the following ones. Compared to part I, part II is really not all that interesting. You have only little time and poke at some locations, hoping to randomly find the correct facedown cards. It makes sense in context, but as a scenario there’s very little here. Ice and Death III has a bit more meat to its bones with all the fighting and some different options on how to tackle the Seeping Nightmares, so that’s not all that bad. Like part II, the part III is laser focused on just one thing, though. This can leave some investigators without much of a job. Forbidden Peaks can lead to some frustration due to how all-or-nothing it is with regards to failing it or not. There are enough cool things happening here that i can’t justify putting it into tier 4, though. Between the appearance of the Terror in the Stars and the challenge of having to conserve actions for managing the story assets, there are some things here that i find genuinely interesting. City of the Elder Things gives us not only one, but three different layouts for a huge randomized map. There’s even a second layer of randomization here with the tokens on the locations. Having to find pairs of tokens for bonus effects is a good mechanic, i like that a lot. What keeps me from throwing this into the same tier as other “huge map” scenarios like Pallid Mask or Devil Reef is the encounter deck, though. I generally find the enemies in Edge of the Earth quite uninteresting and a big step back from Innsmouth’s Deep Ones. The penguins are fine and two versions of the City even have the Shoggoths, but aside from that there’s not a whole lot going on here that we haven’t seen many times before. Heart of Madness I and II is a fine finale. The seals from part 1 do make the part 2 quite easy, though. I don’t really see a reason to ever skip part 1 unless you are really worried about losing another random crew member before the final scenario. The final enemy is weird, but i kinda like it. You really don’t want to be stuck there without someone that can evade really well, though.
Finally there’s Fatal Mirage, which i don’t like very much. It’s very formulaic and repetitive, a huge sin for a scenario that you are meant to replay even within the same campaign. At my third replay of Edge of the Earth i was already sick of Fatal Mirage and just didn’t do it. That being said, it does have some cool locations that are worth exploring until you’ve seen them all so i’d at least settle it somewhere near the top of its tier.

Fatal Mirage

Encounter sets in this scenario: Fatal Mirage, Agents of the Unknown, Left Behind, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Silence and Mystery, Chilling Cold
Available experience: For each of the 9 team members, there’s either 1XP (if they are alive) or 2XP to gain (if they aren’t), for a theoretical total of: 18XP

Size of the Encounter Deck38
# Enemies9
# Willpower13
# Agility2
# Doom12
# Damage4
# Horror8
# Tekeli-li10

Synopsis: The investigators, exhausted from the things they had to go through, enter a dreamscape in their sleep. In this, they meet up with their team mates and relive events from their past, which they hopefully are able to face and steel their resolve for the things to come. Alternatively they meet echoes of their fallen partners and learn from them. Either way, the investigators are facing a rather big map consisting of 19(!) locations that can be put into play as the players make progress on grabbing clues and spending them for progress. It’s way too much to uncover in one go, so there are up to 3 opportunities to enter Fatal Mirage along the campaign trail. For each expedition member, there are three locations that connect it to the central one (with the first being shared among several partners). At the end of such a trail, the players either have to defeat a special elite enemy to turn their partner “resolute” or, if the partner is already dead/missing, they just gain some experience as they learn more about the person.

My take on this scenario: This scenario uses a rather large encounter deck, which leads to some increased variance in draws. There are some main themes to expect, though. For one, there’s a bunch of doom acceleration here that players will need to deal with if they want to achieve as much as they can. Then, there’s a decent amount of Tekeli-li related cards around which will likely lead to players finishing the scenario with more of those weaknesses in their deck then when they entered Fatal Mirage. Finally, the scenario very noticeably cuts back on the agility tests and damage sources that are everywhere else in Edge of the Earth. Instead, willpower and horror take the front stage, like it used to be in Carcosa times.
The strength of this scenario lies in it’s narrative, containing valuable background info on the people you have in your expedition. It’s also a way to protect your favored partner assets from random disaster later on. Mechanically and in terms of gameplay i don’t find Fatal Mirage all that enticing, though. Despite the high concept and the number of locations and special enemies, it all plays out very formulaic and repetitive. I just don’t think Fatal Mirage holds up very well on replays. This is a big deal, considering that it’s supposed to even be replayed up to three times in one playthrough. If i’m perfectly honest, i wish the massive amount of card budget that was spent on locations and enemies here would’ve been spent on enhancing the other scenarios instead or on making two more “conventional” scenarios.

Scenario specific encounter cards: The Fatal Mirage set adds three cards to the deck, each of them with three copies. Horrifying Shade is an aloof hunter enemy that punishes players for discovering clues at its location in the worst possible way: With doom tokens. You’ll certainly want to get rid of this one. Also playing into the doom theme, Anamnesis threatens to be an Ancient Evils… but you get a chance to take 2 horror instead. Considering the amount of horror sources around this could be an issue. Finally, Evanescent Mist adds extra clues to locations and slows them down by making them either spend more clues or taking damage. With how few other damage sources are around, taking that damage should often be not too much of an issue.

Act/Agenda: While there are 3 act cards and 3 agenda cards in the Fatal Mirage set, only one each is used for a play of the scenario. The three versions only differ in doom threshold and flavor text and are used depending on if this is your first, second or third visit to the dreamscape in this campaign. The act only vaguely hints at a goal and that there are limited opportunities to leave Fatal Mirage. This is true, the only opportunity to finish comes when players either defeat a Memory elite or reach the final location for a dead partner. The agenda offers the ability to warp to the central location as a free action at the cost of a horror. A fair price to pay if it saves multiple actions. Of course, it also provides the doom threshold, which is different depending on how many Fatal Mirage plays you already did. It’s 15 doom for the first time, reduced to 13 and 11 for the second and third visit.

The Memory Eidolons: At the end of each partner specific trail waits a memory to be defeated, as long as the partner in question is still alive. These are elite enemies with above average stat lines, Retaliate or Alert (or both) and some sort of alternative way of defeating them. This can be something like accepting Frost tokens to defeat them or dealing them damage on evading. There’s nine different ones of course, one for each team member. Defeating them will flip them to their story side, awarding 1XP and turning the expedition member into their resolute version with better abilities, stats and protection from randomly being chosen by murderous story events. The group then gets the choice to resign or to continue and try to get another memory done. Most of these aren’t terribly hard to defeat, but if you aren’t able to fulfill their special condition for extra damage, their stamina pool can make them take a lot of time… time that you usually don’t have, especially if you plan on going for more memories afterwards.

Other enemies: Agents of the Unknown throws Primordial Evil into the mix, a quite dangerous hunter enemy. Opposite of that, there’s the missing researchers from Left Behind, which add to the doom theme and require alternate ways of getting them from the board than just killing them. The scenario specific Horrifying Shade lies somewhere in the middle, being a milder but still respectable foe in combat than the Evil, and it’s using doom mechanics to play into what the Left Behind set is doing. The hunters can be an issue in this scenario because it’s somewhat linear and can require backtracking, but remember that if necessary you can spend a horror and warp back to the starting location.

Tekeli-li: About 1 in 4 encounter cards are relating to Tekeli-li weaknesses, which isn’t an excessive amount but the high variance of such a big deck can still leave you with draws that stack these on top of each other. The combination of Agents of the Unknown with Nameless Horrors can have a huge impact for investigators with low willpower as they are neither able to resist The Madness Within or easily capable of discarding Blasphemous Visions. Danforth is very useful in Fatal Mirage, both as a way to soften the blow from Tekeli-li and to provide an emergency soak for excessive amounts of horror. Speaking of Danforth, should you follow his line of memories, you will have to go through locations that all also relate to Tekeli-li in some way.

(open in new tab and zoom for details)

Locations: The large stack of locations and the Mirage keyword make this look a lot more complicated than it really is. You have your central location, the Prison of Memories. From there, you can discover ways into one of three hub locations. This is the red lines in the image above. From there, you can move into three further locations, indicated by the yellow lines. Finally, you follow a green line from there into one or two final locations. What this means is that you need to cross three locations to get to your first memory, but some memories share locations with others so successive ones might be easier to get to afterwards. As an example, to find William Dyer’s memory and make him resolute, you need to move from the Prison of Memories into either the Deck of the Theodosia or the University Halls, then into the Standing Stones and finally into Dyer’s Classroom. Afterwards, getting to Claypool’s memory is going to be easier because his final location The Black Stone also branches off of the Standing Stones.
In terms of shroud values, it starts rather tame near the center of the map but gets more difficult on the final locations that hold the memory. Having the right partner with you will lower the shroud value, but you should probably save any limited investigation tools (like Drawn to the Flame or Read the Signs) for those difficult ones.
The amount of clues to discover in this scenario is gigantic and having a consistent source of extra clues(Pilfer(3), Rex Murphy…) is going to be even more powerful than ever here.
As a final note on these locations, take care to read their connections correctly. They don’t all allow for moving back to the previous location, but they all connect back to the Prison of Memories.

Suggested partner assets: Unless you are using a specific expedition member to fix a central issue with your own deck (like using Eliyah to be able to evade the Frenzied Explorers from the Left Behind set or using William to keep your Tony Morgan sane), my suggestion would be to bring those that you are looking to turn resolute. This will reduce the shroud value of the final locations, making it easier for you to get through to the memory and conserve your resources and cards for other locations that might prove difficult.

Reward and Failure: In theory you could grab quite a lot of XP in this scenario, to do so you would need to go after the locations of team members that already died. If you flip a final location of a dead partner, you get 2XP immediately without even having to defeat an elite enemy. So that could be a way to finance some extra card upgrades. On the other hand, turning your crew resolute has a lot of advantages as well, especially for those that have their ability turned into a free action.
Failing the scenario by hitting the doom threshold on the agenda can happen quite easily in Fatal Mirage, as you aren’t allowed to resign except for whenever you finish up your business with one of the partner assets. Depending on if this is your first, second or third visit to Fatal Mirage, the consequences are different, becoming gradually more severe every time. At the first try, everyone gets defeated and has to shuffle a Tekeli-li into their deck. No trauma though, so unless you are running Charon’s Obol you get out with just a slap on the wrist. Second time, you either get two Tekeli-li or a mental trauma, your choice. Third time, you just straight up get a mental trauma. As far as punishment for failure goes, this is actually fairly tame, so taking some risks to hopefully get another branch of the dreamscape done in a couple turns can look attractive enough to just go for it.

Irregular Evils #38: Scenario rankings 2022, part II

Alright, let’s continue our scenario rankings. If you missed it, check out part I HERE.
Also, to repeat just the most important stuff, here’s the tier scale again:

Also, remember that this includes the Return to, whenever possible.
… Enough chit-chat, let’s go.
Today we got TFA and TCU, both scenarios that have been changed a lot by the Return To box, much more so than RtDunwich (which is mostly bugfixes) and RtCarcosa (which is mostly just some neat encounter sets and little else).

I am an outspoken fan of The Forgotten Age and particularly of Return to TFA. Without the Return, there’d be a lot of yellow in here (and Boundary even lower), but Return pushes everything up a tier or two. On the top sits Threads of Fate, one of the most loved scenarios in the wider community. I don’t think i need to justify this more, it’s a fantastic scenario that changes depending on your campaign state and allows you to manipulate which roads down the campaign you want to follow. Untamed Wilds has a bad reputation because it’s one of those scenarios where Ancient Evils can randomly mess you up, but i find that happens very rarely (at least at 2 players) and i do enjoy this one a lot actually. A short and sweet bout of exploration and then the final conflict with Ichtaca. I deeply appreciate having to make my story choices ingame instead of during the setup/resolution/interlude walls of text. Depths of Yoth has one thing it does well and it does it so well that the Return didn’t even see a need to fudge with it. City of Archives used to be a scenario that i despised, but again the Return saved it with more options for objectives, making it a bit easier and introducing player choice. Great! Shattered Aeons i fail more often than i win it, but since its a finale that works for me. Some story threads are resolved here, you get opportunities for last minute twists and it features a bunch of iconic locations and weird enemies that make it memorable. Boundary Beyond used to be a hellscape of failure and misery, but the updated exploration makes it much more reasonable and i quite like it now. A good amount of diversity in locations, a nice selection of encounter cards capped off by a boss (and mini-boss!) that tempt you with XP if you are willing to also take some Vengeance. All very neat. Doom of Eztli has basically been reinvented by the Return, which is a definite improvement, but compared to what the campaign has to offer otherwise it lags behind. HotE#1 gets a lot of ill will by the community that i don’t necessarily share. It’s a small map with a bunch of Hunters. That’s it. Nothing too special but it’s short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome… as long as you don’t have to repeat it. I never had to 😉 Finally, there’s HotE#2 which commits the same sin as Carcosa’s Echoes of the Past: It’s just boring. It doesn’t need to exist, it achieves nothing, it’s just there. Big meh.

I talked a lot about the Return changes for TFA because of how influential they are and a similar thing is true for Circle Undone, at least for a couple of the scenarios. But let me start at the bottom for this one to get it out of the way. Wages of Sin is in my opinion the worst scenario in the game and the Return doesn’t really change that. It’s a scenario that is so damn random and hard that you would usually be glad to get two Heretics, often even resigning after only one. Barely. And the Return asks you to get three Heretics and then give up the XP for them to get anything out of it. It’s … it’s just a bad joke, honestly. Anyways, moving on.
Two of the scenarios in the green saw good improvements from the Return. Greater Good now can have an additional location connection that makes moving around the mansion easier to do. It’s always been one of the better TCU scenarios and i felt like putting it on the top now. The Return to Secret Name profited massively from the exchange of many willpower cards with agility cards. It’s still a very exhausting affair, but much more interesting due to the diversity in challenges. Witching Hour i always though was good, i actually like the gimmick of splitting up the party. The Return stuff is challenging to do, but much more achievable than what’s waiting in Wages. However, if you fail to get the three Heretics in Wages, your work in Witching Hour is undone, so … it’s kinda back to ground zero with the Return stuff. Might as well ignore it in the first place. Clutches of Chaos is a scenario i like quite a lot, with its large map and running around for clues and closing rifts. Used to be my favorite TCU scenario, but it got little more than a set of locations from the Return, while Greater Good and Secret Name both got some significant improvement.
Union and Disillusion is where a lot of story threads come together and to a conclusion, so it should’ve been a grand thing that blows you away. And it tries, with the circle tests as a cool central mechanic and the final showdown with the Watcher as huge story beat. But for me, it always ends up a bit too random for my tastes with some investigators just being unable to do certain locations while others just breeze through it. In true TCU fashion, this is also a long and exhausting one sometimes so i am not always looking forward to dive into it. Before the Black Throne was massively improved by the Return. It used to be an absolute crapshoot of a scenario where you are basically just the punching bag of the doom clock and the encounter deck. Now, this is not completely gone, but the removal of Ancient Evils from here is great and so is the introduction of the Nightgaunt Steeds which act as a safety valve against bad layouts. It’s still a flawed scenario that relies on the doom clock for drama too much, but it’s much more bearable on the Return. I’d go as far and actually call it fair now. Finally, there’s Death’s Doorstep, a scenario that is built around the Haunted mechanic. I don’t like Haunted, so that makes me dislike Doorstep. I realize it’s not a bad scenario and the thing about saving the cultists is even really cool. But i find it hard to get over some of the annoyance i get from all the Haunted nonsense you get bombarded with here and i also really don’t like the Watcher all that much.