The Pallid Mask

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Ghouls, Chilling Cold, Hauntings

Size of the Encounter Deck29
# Enemies12
# Willpower5
# Agility3
# Doom0
# Damage6
# Horror3

My take on this encounter deck: This is a very busy encounter deck that keeps the players occupied. Of the 12 enemies in the deck, many are pretty weak but there are two additional huge Hunter enemies that enter play from outside of the deck as well to keep fighters engaged. Cluevers also have a lot to do in this scenario. Not only do the catacombs themselves ask them to gain clues to progress, but there is also a very unusual amount of encounter cards in the deck that either ask for intellect tests or manipulate the shroud values of locations. Willpower tests take a step back and are less prevalent than usual. Grasping Hands is the only agility testing encounter card in the deck. There is both horror and damage treacheries around to keep in mind if fights went bad, trauma was already earned in the campaign or the investigators just go low on health or sanity for other reasons. Crypt Chill is in the deck, so that as well should be kept in mind during the first turns. I really like this encounter deck. It puts pressure on all players from various angles and the high number of scenario specific cards means that this scenario is full of stuff that was specifically designed to interact with each other. The Pallid Mask is my favorite Carcosa scenario and a contestant for favorite scenario overall. The incredibly interesting encounter deck is a big reason why.
Cancel these: Obscuring Fog, The Pit Below. There is no real standout treachery in this scenario, which one to cancel is very much dependant on the circumstances. If there’s no way around the shroud increase, then Obscuring Fog can be a huge pain here because of the number of high shroud locations and how reliant the players are on grabbing the clues. Pit Below can additionally force players to backtrack which can be awkward with all those Hunters skulking about.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: The Docent is a weak enemy that spawns at an unrevealed catacomb. It can be killed fairly easily, but players can also take advantage of its parley action first. By passing an intellect check the player can use him to peek at one of the nearest unrevealed locations. The Docent is a regular enemy, so he will engage the player and attack in the enemy phase, dealing one horror.

My take: One half of a neat combo from the encounter deck, but the Docent also has interesting things going on when taken at face value. The intellect check is difficult enough to require a dedicated clue getter to pass reliably, at the same time that player may need an escort if he’s not a hybrid character like Joe. This may take some time to set up, but there is reason to try and deal with the Docent somewhat fast… Lots of interesting decisions to make here.

Threat level: Low to Medium. This is not a dangerous enemy by itself, but depending on how you want to deal with them, they could take a surprising amount of actions away.

Dealing with it: To get rid of this enemy, the players have to: Get to the unrevealed location it appeared. Then decide if they want to interrogate it. Then finally, kill it. All these steps do take at least some time, with the last part actually being the easiest one. Keep in mind that you might want to take this guy out early because otherwise you may find yourself staring down this fellow:

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: If a Catacomb Docent or any of the ghouls are in play when a player draws the Corpse Dweller, one of them is discarded and replaced by this much scarier threat. Note that if playing without Return to Carcosa, the Corpse Dweller can also break out of the Man in the Pallid Mask, discarding but not defeating him. Corpse Dweller hits fairly hard and with five health he will usually take at least a full player turn before he is defeated. Retaliate makes him even more risky to fight and Hunter makes sure he needs to be dealt with somehow eventually.

My take: The interaction with Man in the Pallid Mask is a really unfortunate oversight and i highly suggest that anyone uses the updated wording from Return to Carcosa that fixes it. Aside from that, the Docent/Dweller combo is just fun, i really like how these two cards play off each other. Removing Docents becomes somewhat of a priority because Dwellers are a pain to deal with. But the whole process of getting to the Docent can burn a number of actions as well, so players have real decisions to make here. Even the fairly unimpressive ghouls can turn into a dweller, so they should be killed as well instead of just evaded.

Threat level: High. These are large, hit hard and even if a fighter is right on hand to dispatch them, they will keep that player busy for at least a turn.

Dealing with it: The best way to deal with them is clearly to get rid of any potential hosts before the Dweller can even spawn. If playing with the broken interaction with Man in the Pallid Mask, preventing these becomes a lot more difficult as he can spawn on the other side of the map. Once Dwellers are on the board, it will take a fighter with a weapon to kill them. They have only three fight, but the amount of health leaves little room for failed attacks.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: The investigator affected by this treachery has to discard either all of their resources or all of their cards at the end of the turn. The only way to prevent this from happening is by spending an action, however that will cause the effect to repeat on the next turn. Only once the player chooses to discard either resources or cards, the treachery is discarded with them.

My take: The line “Action: You look behind you.” is amazing. It’s not just a great flavor piece, though. Often, investigators can not afford dropping their hand or all of their resources and delaying the decision becomes a serious consideration.

Threat level: Low to Mid. Usually, all of the player choice that is part of this treachery can be used to make the actual impact of the discard minor. However, at that point the treachery might have already done its job by costing multiple actions.

Dealing with it: If drawn in the Mythos phase as usual, there is a whole turn of time to set up being able to choose one of the discard option without it hurting too much. Most of the time that means spending all but one resource (or close to it) and then choosing to discard resources. If not able to, the delay action can be considered, but that should be the exception.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: It deals horror for failing a Willpower test, just like Rotting Remains from the Core. There are limitations applied to how the horror can be distributed, preventing to soak all of it with just one asset.

My take: Mostly this will just work like Rotting Remains, which of course is a perfectly fine and even sometimes scary card. There’s three of them in the deck, but the only other set dealing in horror is Hauntings, so there’s not much danger of horror stacking up on a player just from the encounter deck. The card itself is perfectly fine, but feels a bit random in this encounter deck because it stands almost completely on its own, without contributing to what is going on mechanically in the other places.

Threat level: Low. The horror can be mitigated, even with the extra clause to distribute evenly most players should not need to take more than one horror from this card directly on their investigator. The pressure from sanity loss is fairly low unless the investigator only has 5 sanity in the first place or went into the scenario with mental trauma.

Dealing with it: The Willpower test isn’t too hard and even partial success lower the horror that is dealt, so that’s the first step in keeping the impact low. The remaining horror can be dealt with in the usual ways, by soaking with assets and having some sanity to spare.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: The Pit Below attaches to the investigator’s location and threatens to deal a big chunk of damage if they are still present at that location at the end of the turn. On top of that, the location’s shroud value is increased by one.

My take: Dreadful, this card has been a wrench in my plans a couple of times. The shroud increase makes it so you have a harder time just blowing past the location and moving forwards, so it can force the players to move back, something you really do not want to do in this scenario which sees you followed by several huge Hunter enemies. I have taken the three damage to my investigators before, just so i don’t waste so many actions moving back and forth. Maybe i was just unlucky, on paper the card doesn’t even sound that bad. But i certainly have a lot of respect for it due to the experiences i had with it.

Threat level: Mid. The location it attaches to is the important factor here. On a low shroud location the +1 increase can turn out to be not too bad and if there is no clue left there anyways the treachery can feel like it doesn’t do at all as the group just pushes forward. But the chance to block off a place for a turn is certainly there and can translate to a whole lot of wasted actions because every player is affected by it.

Dealing with it: Try blowing past it by picking up the clues that are needed to do so. If you can not, then moving back a spot might be required to avoid the damage. One way to protect from the card is reserving spare clues so even without getting to investigate at that location the next catacomb can be opened in a pinch.

Return to The Pallid Mask

My take on the modified scenario: I like it. Return to the Pallid Mask is largely unchanged from the original, and i do appreciate that because it is after all one of my favorite scenarios. I think it actually doesn’t need anything, there is already so much going on for every kind of investigator that additional mechanical bits might have just been too much. The only thing added by Return to Carcosa is the errata that makes Corpse Dwellers ignore the Man in the Pallid Mask, a couple new locations to freshen up the catacombs deck and this fellow who goes straight into the encounter deck without any bells, whistles or explanations:

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: It’s another huge Hunter enemy, joining Haruko, the Specter of Death and the Corpse Dwellers in herding the investigators through the tunnels. With a statline of 4/4/1 it’s easy to evade for anyone and for dedicated fighters it’s not unreasonably difficult to take down. A special ability of the Malformed Skeleton makes sure that the investigators can never keep very far ahead of the Skeleton, so even after a successful evasion this enemy will stay on target. When hit by this enemy, the player gets to choose if they want to take horror or damage, however it’s a chunk of three points.

My take: The incredible artwork and those six damage icons make this enemy look a lot bigger and tougher than it actually is. Any competent fighter set up with a weapon should be able to take this monster down without too much of a problem. Shuffling only one new card into the encounter deck feels a bit random, but the card fits perfectly into what the scenario is already trying to do. Cool enemy, but i wish FFG had saved the jaw-dropping artwork for an enemy in a bit more prominent role in another scenario or something. Feels almost like a waste hiding only one copy of it in the Return of a specific scenario.

Threat level: Mid. Of all the Hunter enemies crawling in the catacombs, this is the weakest one. It has the fewest hit points and while it hits for three, the player choice of taking horror or damage means that it’s very unlikely to be life threatening by itself. It does set up the damage and horror treacheries perfectly, though.

Dealing with it: Its teleport ability means that evasion is only a very temporary measure, this enemy should be killed off permanently by the team’s fighter. If it manages to land a blow, at the decision on whether to take the horror or damage, remember that the encounter deck has three copies of Eyes in the Walls in it, which can deal 3 horror unannounced if things go really bad. However, there are also three copies of Grasping Hands in the deck that deal up to 3 damage, so keep those in mind as well!

Surge

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Chilling Cold

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleDiscard(Assets), Willpower, Stalling
Threat LevelMedium
# of scenarios16
VariantsCreeping Cold, Chilling Mists
Appears in: The Gathering, Midnight Masks, Miskatonic Museum, Where Doom Awaits, The Pallid Mask, Doom of Eztli, City of Archives, At Death’s Doorstep, Union and Disillusion, Beyond the Gates of Sleep, Thousand Shapes of Horror, Weaver of the Cosmos, The Vanishing of Elina Harper, Fatal Mirage, City of Elder Things(v2, v3), Heart of Madness #2

My take on this set: The two cards from this set don’t share much mechanically or even thematically, so it’s best to look at them on their own merits. Crypt Chill is an impactful card that should have some influence on the player’s actions. Meanwhile, Obscuring Fog is very hit or miss depending on the location it attaches to. Together, they form an encounter set that is neither particularly impressive nor a total pushover. Just a regular, okay set.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Crypt Chill sets the standard for how asset hate looks when it’s coming from the encounter deck. The investigator is allowed a Willpower check at a non-trivial difficulty and if it fails, he has to choose and discard an asset.

My take: A Willpower test at difficulty 4 is easy to fail, even Mystics will want to commit some icons if they can not afford to lose an asset. This card is the bane of any Guardian who is still setting up the cards he needs to fight. And even with the player choice, losing an asset will often hurt in the first few turns. After all, having to choose between Beat Cop and a Machete after spending all your resources is still enough to throw off many plans. Once the initial setup turns are done and some of the more optional assets enter play, Crypt Chill can sometimes be shrugged off, but in general it’s a relevant card.

Threat level: Medium to High. Losing an asset often translates into losing a considerable amount of player resources as not only the card and action to play it are neutralized, but also the resources invested into it. If Chilling Cold is part of the encounter deck, this alone can force players to drop their assets more carefully than usual or they open themselves to an untimely Crypt Chill.

Dealing with it: The player choice of which asset to discard means that key assets can be protected by having other things around to sacrifice. If available, play cheap assets like Fine Clothes or Cherished Keepsake before commiting to more expensive ones like a .45 Thompson or Leo de Luca.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Obscuring Fog attaches to a location and makes it harder to investigate. The only way to discard the card is by passing an investigation check, which means it protects itself.

My take: This is one of the encounter cards that i changed my opinion about the most as i kept playing the game. When i started out, this card felt like its very hard to deal with. With a growing card pool, and starting to supplement basic investigation more and more with alternate ways of collecting clues, Obscuring Fog lost a lot of its impact. Today i am mostly glad to see this come from the encounter deck.

Threat level: Low to Medium. Obscuring Fog can become very annoying, but a few things have to come together for that. First, it has to land on a location that even still has a clue left to collect. Second, the location has to already be high shroud. Third, the investigators need to not have other ways to collect the clues.

Dealing with it: Alternate ways to collect clues bypass the Obscuring Fog completely. Typical examples are Drawn to the Flame, Scene of the Crime and Roland Banks’ investigator ability. If those are not available, the best bet is to commit enough icons to brute force the test and hope not to draw the auto-fail token.

Return to The Dunwich Legacy: Creeping Cold

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleDiscard(Assets), Discard(Hand), Damage, Willpower, Agility
Threat LevelMedium

My take on this set: Creeping Cold ties the two cards in it a bit closer together than the base set does, as both deal in discarding cards and can play off each other. Like the cards they replace, Inexplicable Cold can be impactful while Oppressive Mists is very situational. This is an okay replacement set, on par with Chilling Cold.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Inexplicable Cold changes the willpower check to an agility check. Instead of a binary pass/fail, the effect of the treachery scales with how much the test was failed by. For each missing point, the player has to either discard a card from play, from their hand or take one damage.

My take: This is a rare example where player choice was introduced into a “Return To” card, but the power level is still around the same as the base card. At full strength, this makes the player choose their poison four times which can certainly offset not going for the assets directly. The move to an agility check i like in this case as it makes the card more impactful for a wider range of investigators.

Threat level: Medium to High. The player choice does dampen how threatening the card feels, but the high ceiling of the card lets it keep most of its bite.

Dealing with it: Partial success still helps to weaken this cards impact, so even low agility investigators should consider pitching cards with multiple agility icons if available. Other than that, losing cards from hand or taking damage is usually much preferred to discarding assets, so having any of those to spare should keep the worst case scenarios away.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Like Obscuring Fog, the Oppressive Mists attach to a location, but that’s where the similarities end. There is no interaction with shroud or clues at all, instead Oppressive Mists makes investigators discard cards whenever they draw and fail a willpower test. To get rid of the card permanently, a player can spend two actions.

My take: Even more than Obscuring Fog, this card often fails to have any notable effect. Even if the willpower save and the two action discard option were not present, this wouldn’t be all that dangerous.

Threat level: Very Low. To be affected by this card, an investigator would either need to end their turn on the location with this already attached or draw extra cards during the investigator phase. Both scenarios are easy to avoid.

Dealing with it: Using the double action to clear the Mists is rarely worth it. Instead it should be easy enough to avoid triggering the card. The two actions would be better spent on just drawing two cards.

Return to Circle Undone: Chilling Mists

My take on this set: This is a neat replacement set that puts a spin on the original set without changing a whole lot about its place in the game or its impact. On the one hand that means that the swap doesn’t really change anything too significant about the campaign except removing a pair of willpower tests for agility, which is something that TCU desperately needs. On the other hand, this means the set fits neatly into any other campaign as well. I foresee using this set, both as a full replacement or as a mixed deal, in all the campaigns from time to time.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: After failing a difficult agility test, the player has to discard cards from their hand or their play area with a total cost of at least the amount they failed by.

My take: This is a rough one. It’s difficult to not lose anything to this card, as passing an agility(5) test is certainly not something that most people would expect to do. If you fail the test in a major fashion, this can also easily discard multiple cards. The saving grace is that you are allowed to discard from your hand. So you don’t run into the classic situation where you invest a bunch of resources into one card only to have it fall to Crypt Chill in the next Mythos phase… unless you don’t actually have enough cards in hand to discard. All things considered, this is about on the same level as Crypt Chill and a card that deserves some respect.

Threat level: Mid to High. Will usually do at least something and has a high ceiling. Player choice mellows the effect at least a bit.

Dealing with it: Supernatural Tempest hits both your hand and your board, so there is little need to playing around the card. If you can, try keeping some high cost card in your hand instead of committing it for its icons, like a second copy of a ally or a spare gun. That way you can feed it into this and effectively cancel it. Otherwise, just take it as it comes and see what you can spare then. Generally speaking you’ll want to discard cards from your hand instead of from play.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Mists from Beyond attaches to a location where it increases the shroud by 1 as long as it stays attached. At the end of each round, Mists moves towards the nearest location with clues on it should there no longer be any on its current one.

My take: I really like this design. Where Obscuring Fog just discards after the investigator pushes past it once, this one sticks around. And not only that, it follows towards where the clues are. In exchange, it only increases by +1. Still, that can make the difference and work towards getting an extra haunted trigger from a failed investigation.
While it doesn’t come with a built in trigger that discards it (like Fog and Oppressive Mists do), there are some ways to strand it at some non-victory location or something like that. Could lead to some interesting ingame decisions, which i am all for.
I am almost a bit sad that this set only gets used twice during the RtTCU campaign.

Threat level: Low to Mid. Somewhat minor effect, but consistent and able to stick around for a long time.

Dealing with it: If you don’t want to Alter Fate it, the best way of getting rid of it would be directing it to a location you don’t intend on fully clearing and letting it sit there. Unless you are really strapped for clues that should be possible in the vast majority of cases.

Hauntings

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleEnemy, Intellect, Horror, Stalling
Threat LevelMedium
# of scenarios2
Variants
Appears in: Curtain Call, The Pallid Mask

My take on this set: A very interesting set that focuses on Intellect instead of the usual Agility or Willpower. Poltergeist is a cool twist on enemies that is most vulnerable to traditionally combat weak enemies while preying on the fighters. There are a lot more weapon relics around today than at Carcosa’s printing, but the poltergeist can still blindside a lot of players. I appreciate this small set a lot for how different it is.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Poltergeist is an enemy that poses a very unique threat. Its combat stats are on the low side, with average fight and only two life. However, the only way to damage it is by using spells and relics. Or encounter cards, which mostly refers to its own parley ability. Investigators can put one damage on the poltergeist by passing an Intellect check. If none of those options are available to the player, things are complicated by the poltergeist’s agility value of 4, making evasion difficult as well. At two horror per attack it can not be ignored for long either.

My take: Poltergeist is a surprisingly upsetting creature in some situations. It is hard to deal with for many investigators, putting Mystics and Seekers at the forefront for removing it from the board. Cool enemy, i’m glad stuff like this exists to keep players on their toes.

Threat level: Medium. Poltergeist deals enough horror to matter in the turns where it can not be removed early. If no Relic or Spell is around, the Seeker will find himself in the unusual role of having to kill an enemy, something that keeps him from doing his actual job and thus costing important actions.

Dealing with it: In a weird twist, the ways to deal with the poltergeist are actually printed right on the card. One interesting non-obvious piece of tech however is Fine Clothes. Since the option to investigate the poltergeist counts as Parley, Fine Clothes will drop the difficulty of the intellect to 1, allowing anyone to handle it with ease..

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Spirit’s Torment attaches to the player’s location and asks for a clue and an action to defuse it. Otherwise, any time an investigator leaves that location, he will have to lose an action or take a horror.

My take: For investigators that can expect to be able to pick that clue right up, this treachery can be discarded by using two actions. So this baseline can be used to decide if it’s better to use that action or to just take the horror or action loss. Losing two actions is a significant cost to pay, so this card usually has an impact.

Threat level: Medium. Dealing with this treachery will usually require two actions, but has the potential to take more since there is a test involved in picking the clue back up. If the players will not need to return to that location, just taking the horror can become an option that makes drawing this encounter card a lot less troublesome.

Dealing with it: Thanks to the built in action to discard the treachery, the worst case is not too terrible. Like with Poltergeist, it is interesting that the clue getter of the group does have slightly less trouble with this card.

Ghouls

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleEnemies, Agility, Damage
Threat LevelLow
# of scenarios5
VariantsGhouls of Umôrdhoth
Appears in: The Gathering, The Devourer Below, The Pallid Mask, Thousand Shapes of Horror, Point of No Return

My take on this set: Arkham LCG’s combat tutorial. The Ghoul set introduces the most basic enemies to the game with clean and simple 2/2/2 and 3/3/3 stats. Alongside those, we get one of the very few cards from the early life cycle of the game that tests agility, and that card is a reason to have some respect for this encounter set even when playing more advanced scenarios.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Grasping Hands deals damage to the investigator, based on how badly he does at an Agility test. With three of them in the encounter deck, these can stack up quick to become dangerous if one person draws multiples.

My take: I think this card is a good deal more threatening than its Willpower testing counterpart Rotting Remains. Willpower tests are much more common than agility tests, so players are usually more prepared for them. For low agility investigators, the damage from these can become significant fast once it starts to stack up with combat damage or additional copies of Grasping Hands.

Threat level: Low to Mid. Like all cards that deal non-direct damage or horror, the card for itself isn’t all that threatening because its effects can be soaked and there is no immediate break in momentum. It can become a serious issue at the tail end of a mission though if players are already battered up by whatever else was going on.

Dealing with it: For low agility investigators: First line of defense is staying above four life. Second line of defense is preparing for the agility test, for example by keeping some icons in hand. As an example, this is one of the few opportunities to actually make use of that icon on the .45 Automatic. Third line of defense is making your allies take the hit for you.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Ghoul Minions are weak enemies that usually go down in one hit from a weapon. Even most non-fighters can be expected to be able to take these down with fisticuffs if they need to.

My take: There’s three of them in the deck and usually you will be happy to see them because they tend to be one of the least threatening cards in the encounter deck. Defeating them only takes a single action in most cases and the low fight value means that missing them is little concern if you are even remotely prepared for a fight.

Threat level: Very Low. They are just not all that tough and can be dispatched or evaded easily.

Dealing with it: Pretty much any weapon will do. An investigator with high base fight value might even consider punching the Ghouls to save their ammo for later. Evading them is always an option as well, of course.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: The Ravenous Ghoul is the baseline for an enemy that starts to pose an actual threat to the investigators. At three life, it usually requires an extra action to defeat. At three fight and evasion, low-skilled investigators can no longer expect to pass a test without investing in it.

My take: This card teaches how much of a difference an additional point in a stat can do. The increase from a 2/2/2 stat line to a 3/3/3 is huge, a valuable lesson to learn.

Threat level: Low. While an increase of strength over the Ghoul Minion, the Ravenous Ghoul is still a low impact enemy when looking at the greater picture. Its stats mean that a Seeker or similar character might need help from his teammates to deal with it, but even if the Ravenous Ghoul gets to attack once, he doesn’t hit hard enough to pose a serious threat.

Dealing with it: There’s only one of them in the deck, so no planning ahead is necessary. The standard ways to dealing with enemies apply.

Return to The Night of the Zealot: Ghouls of Umôrdhoth

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleEnemies, Willpower, Discard(Hand), Damage
Threat LevelLow

My take on this set: The replacement set for the Ghouls changes very little about the actual enemies. The change to the damage treachery is much more extensive, it has been reworked to be the primary piece of a discard theme that was added to all cards in the set. Due to a lack of further discard support in the Return to Night of the Zealot, this theme largely doesn’t come together though. Even Return to Devourer Below which threatens to immediately kill a player should they be left without a card after drawing a certain treachery, only gains little extra from the discard mini-theme. This hurts the impact of these cards, most importantly Chill from Beyond is not even half the card that Grasping Hands is.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Chill from Below replaces the Agility test on Grasping Hands with a Willpower test. Instead of dealing damage, it attacks the cards in hand and only deals damage once there are no cards left to discard.

My take: I heavily dislike this card. I dislike that the agility test gets scrapped and replaced by a Willpower test because there are too few agility tests around in the first place. I dislike that the damage part gets weakened by discarding cards first, removing every bit of threat that came from Grasping Hands. What is left is a card that is in the encounter deck three times and just doesn’t do a whole lot.

Threat level: Low. Low to Mid during Return to Devourer Below. Willpower tests are something that players are usually prepared for and 3 is not a particularly difficult number to beat. It might cost a card in hand or two at times, but that’s not a particularly dangerous effect from an encounter card.

Dealing with it: This card is usually not worth special attention. If protecting specific cards in hand is a concern for a player, keeping a couple other cards to feed into a Chill from Below is a good idea to lower the chances to hit something relevant. During Return to Devourer Below, Chill from Below feeds into the discard theme that can lead to an instant kill on Umôrdhoth’s Hunger. That interaction gives the card a bit more relevance there.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Grave-Eaters replace the Ghoul Minions in The Return to Night of the Zealot. They keep the iconic stat line and damage. They gain a new ability that discards cards from a player’s hand when they attack.

My take: Technically, they are an upgrade on the Ghoul Minion, but in practice this is not really all that relevant. After all, it’s rare that a Ghoul actually lives through the investigator phase.

Threat level: Very Low. The extra ability doesn’t increase the strength of this enemy in a way that matters much.

Dealing with it: No changes from the unmodified version.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: The Acolyte of Umôrdhoth replaces the Ravenous Ghoul. It loses one point of evasion, but instead gains an extra ability that stops investigators from evading if they have no cards in hand.

My take: A slight downgrade of the Ravenous Ghoul. The ability only matters if no cards are left in hand, a rare occasion … unless you got hit by Chill from Below and/or Grave-Eaters a couple of times, i guess. I have to say, if this is the payoff for the discard theme running through this replacement set, that’s one hell of a weak payoff. Totally not worth to ruin a perfectly fine 3/3/3 stat line for that.

Threat level: Low. The difference to the Ravenous Ghoul is minor. Worst case the special ability of the Acolyte of Umôrdhoth translates to having to draw a card, taking one Attack of Opportunity.

Dealing with it: The standard ways to dealing with enemies apply.

Dark Cult

Set Size6
Number of unique Cards3
RoleEnemies, Doom
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios12
VariantsThe Devourer’s Cult, Cult of Pnakotus
Appears in: Midnight Masks, The Devourer Below, Essex County Express, Echoes of the Past, Black Stars Rise, Threads of Fate, Boundary Beyond, Shattered Aeons, For the Greater Good, Before the Black Throne, Where the Gods Dwell, Lair of Dagon

My take on this set: One of the most used sets from the Core box. It speaks volumes that this whole set never lost any of its threat level and is still having a sizeable impact in current day releases. It’s also a flavor home run. If there weren’t the occasional problems with Wizard of the Order spawning in weird places, this set would be perfect.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Acolytes are enemies with fairly low stats, going down after being dealt even one damage. More important than their combat stats is their ability to enter play in an empty location and with a doom placed on them. This means they have to be actively sought out to be dealt with before they will cause the agenda to advance a turn earlier.

My take: The lowly Acolyte seems like an innocent little enemy at first, but does actually have enough punch to be a fairly big deal. Ignoring them usually equates them to a Ancient Evils, which is one of the most respected cards for good reasons. Thankfully, dispatching Acolytes is fairly easy, but that means spending actions to get to them and attacking. Depending on if you have to go out of your way to do so, this might just cost a turn or more in practice.

Threat level: Low to Mid. Adding a Doom to the board is a pretty big deal because it has potential to cost every player a full turn. However there are a good amount of ways to remove Acolytes before they get to contribute to advancing the agenda. They can be drawn at very inconvenient times where they only offer a turn to be dealt with, but on the other hand they can also be drawn during the “Witching Hour”, the turn before the agenda would advance anyways.

Dealing with it: Much of the impact of Acolytes comes from the location they spawn at. Looking at the board, it should usually be obvious if it’s worth seeking them out to discard them. Usually it is, but there are cases like an Acolyte appearing two wagons back in the Essex County Express or at a ‘locked’ location in Where the Gods Dwell that make going after them either not worth it or simply impossible.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: One of the more impactful cards of the core set, this Cultist accumulates Doom over turns so he simply can not be ignored like it’s sometimes the case with Acolytes. At two health, one hit from most weapons is enough to take this enemy down, but the fight value of 4 means that it’s reasonable to expect not getting it done with the first attempt. Like the Acolytes, he doesn’t spawn engaged but in an empty location instead. So dealing with him usually involves spending actions to move to him.

My take: Wizard of the Order on a location that can not easily be reached is about the worst thing that can happen. As soon as this guy hits the table he should be declared the highest priority, otherwise he has the potential to cost everyone multiple turns. This is especially true on scenarios that have low threshold agendas.

Threat level: Very High. Anything that can cost multiple turns is almost in a league of its own. Get rid of him as soon as possible, it is very unlikely that there’s anything more pressing happening on the board.

Dealing with it: Pray that you still have an empty location somewhere reachable. And then kill him. He goes down fairly easy but the fight value and two health mean that its at least a job for a proper fighter with a weapon.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Two more Doom are added to a Cultist in play. If there is none, a Cultist appears from the encounter deck or discard pile. Players can choose from any of the available ones and it doesn’t have to be a Cultist from this encounter set. Many scenarios that are using the Dark Cult also use other Cultist enemies, either from other sets or from the scenario specific cards.

My take: Adding two doom to the board sounds scary, but in practice it often isn’t all that bad because most Cultists are fairly easy to get rid of. If the two doom are added to a Cultist that can not easily be reached, there was already a problem that now only got worse. If there is no Cultist already in play, this card can often be almost beneficial as it allows searching for Wizard of the Order to get him out of the way, some enemies with Victory points to secure the experience or certain scenario relevant enemies like the key carriers in For The Greater Good. If nothing else, adding an Acolyte to the board is usually not that big of a deal.

Threat level: Low to Mid. A card that adds two doom can not really get a Low rating in good conscience. But often, this card’s effect can be mitigated thanks to the player choice involved or even turned into a positive effect.

Dealing with it: If Doom is added to a Cultist that is out of reach, this card only increases the priority for a problem that was already there before. So deal with that, if you can. Otherwise, just kill whatever got the Doom added. It’ll cost some actions but so would any enemy drawn off the top. When the second half of the card is active, give a moment of thought towards what enemy to pull from the encounter deck, as there is usually some value to gain here.

Return to The Night of the Zealot: The Devourer’s Cult

Set Size6
Number of unique Cards3
RoleEnemies, Doom
Threat LevelVery High

My take on this set: This replacement set is notable because it is the only one (so far) that can not reasonably be used outside of the two scenarios it was tailored to. The Devourer’s Cult is a serious increase in power over the base set, with every card being much more threatening than its vanilla counterpart. As a result, it’s likely that the Doom generated here leads to an early advance of the agenda, putting this set on par with Ancient Evils.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Unlike the standard Acolytes who can be chosen to spawn at any empty location, the Disciples appear at the empty spot that is farthest away. During Agenda 1, this is offset by a clause that allows to defuse the doom acceleration by moving a clue to their location instead. Once past Agenda 1, they will both steal a clue and place a doom, though.

My take: Regular Acolytes can already pose a real threat, these advanced versions are more difficult in almost any way, needing more actions to seek out and at least another one to retrieve the clue. If these two things can not be done by the same investigator, this only compounds the problem. Personally i feel like these guys do a bit too much for being in the encounter deck three times and replacing such a basic enemy as the Acolyte.

Threat level: Mid to High. The Disciple of the Devourer is a serious step up from the Acolyte.

Dealing with it: The same notions as for the Acolyte still apply, it’s just more likely for a Disciple to spawn in a place that is a bit out of the way.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: Mirroring the transition from Acolyte to Disciple, this updated version of the Wizard of the Order spawns in the farthest empty location instead of one of the players choice. It has higher stats, the three health mean that it will likely require two hits instead of one to be dealt with. It no longer has Retaliate, but if it gets to attack it deals two horror now. Additionally, the Corpse-Taker will move towards the central location of the scenario and if it is allowed to get there, it will add its accumulated Doom directly to the agenda.

My take: I am not really convinced that Wizard of the Order needed an upgrade, but here it is. At least this one can not sit forever in a location that is hard to reach and instead can be intercepted on its way towards the central location. As usual, the jump from two health to three health is a very significant one, especially on a creature that has a decent fight stat to go along with it.

Threat level: High. Corpse-Taker is just as much of a priority as Wizard of the Order is, but there are two things that keep him from being as much of a menace. One, it will move along a predictable path and can be caught there. Two, it is restricted to two specific scenarios, so you will never see this spawning in the Engine Car of the Essex Express or on a location in For the Greater Good that you don’t have a key for…

Dealing with it: Again, the same as for the core card applies. It should be your first priority while its one the board. It’s easier to reach, but more difficult to fight. Still, nothing that a dedicated fighter should fail to handle.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: This alternate version of Mysterious Chanting only adds one doom to a Cultist instead of two, however it also enhances that enemy with two health and one of two keywords, either Aloof or Retaliate. Like the other two cards from this set, it removes the player choice of who to affect and instead will attach to the Cultist that is farthest away. The Mask still allows searching for any Cultist from the deck and discard pile if none is around, however it will then attach to that enemy and provide the extra health and keyword ability.

My take: Another significant upgrade on the core card. On non-uniques, the two health and Aloof translate into two extra actions required to defeat the enemy. On uniques, the two health and Retaliate make fighting the enemy a lot more risky. Thankfully, most of Umôrdhoth cultists have alternate ways to add them to the Victory display so the effect of the mask can be circumvented for them. Still, this can take the option of fighting the unique Cultist off the table. Mask of Umôrdhoth’s search effect has a lot less player utility to it – while it can be used to bait out the Corpse-Taker, enhancing it with another two life and Aloof is a tough choice to make.

Threat level: Medium to High. Turning the search effect into something to advance your own goals is a lot more difficult with this one. Even a Disciple needs a significant number of actions to be dispatched once it has three life and Aloof. Among the Cult of Umôrdhoth are many unique enemies like Billy Cooper or the Masked Hunter that get very threatening if powered up by this.

Dealing with it: The lack of choice of which enemy to enhance with the Mask takes most of the agency in mitigating the card out of the players hand. If not canceled, this will lead to a powered up enemy harboring at least one Doom, which means dealing with the aftermath is usually going to be the fighter’s job. The notable exception is Mask attaching to a unique enemy with a Parley action that allows to bypass the increased combat stats.

Return to The Forgotten Age: Cult of Pnakotus

Set Size6
Number of unique Cards3
RoleEnemies, Doom
Threat LevelMid to High

My take on this set: This set consists of a mean upgrade to the already very dangerous Wizard of the Order and a few cards that can have their effect wildly swing around from “barely noticable” to “crippling”. The Acolytes from the set are reliant on other cultists on the field to do their thing and are themselves easier to take out than standard Acolytes. A bit of a weird combination. The doom treachery can either do a whole lot of nothing or it can singlehandedly advance the agenda several turns early. I am not a particularly big fan of encounter cards that are this unpredictable. What this set does is make sure that players have a vast interest in killing every cultist they see as soon as they see it. This is a welcome change from the otherwise evasion heavy Forgotten Age.
One thing that i find strange is that this is a replacement for an encounter set that most campaigns will only use twice and some will only use once. Threads of Fate will always use it, Boundary Beyond will only use it if the players aligned themselves with Ichtaca and Shattered Eons will only use it if the players either aligned with Ichtaca or forge their own path.

(Note: These pictures are cropped from the early leaks. My own cards are german, so i opted to re-use those pictures instead of making my own. Once ArkhamDB has these enemies listed, i will update the pictures to what we are used to)

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Brotherhood Acolytes work quite differently from their fellow cultists from the Core set. Instead of carrying doom themselves, these Acolyte appear wherever there are already Cultists around and then place doom on all of those other enemies. They are also Aloof and if they attack, they deal horror instead of damage.

My take: The Acolyte for itself is a step back from the base version in my opinion. If no other cultists are on the board, players get to decide on where to spawn the Brotherhood Acolyte. This includes right on top of the group’s enemy handler. This is partially compensated by the inclusion of Aloof, but i feel like it does make dealing with these cultists a lot easier in total. However, there’s also their ability to add doom to other cultists at their location. In theory that could be used to enhance other enemies that key off of having doom on them stronger. However, all through the Forgotten Age there are only two cards around that can do so: The Stolen Mind from this set. And the Brotherhood Cultist from the Pnakotic Brotherhood set. Is that really enough to matter? I have my doubts, although i will admit that putting more doom on the Brotherhood Cultist is scary.

Threat level: Low to Mid. While there are some scenarios in which this Acolyte can add doom to an enemy that gets extra stats from it, it will mostly be weaker than the core version.

Dealing with it: As long as you can manage to keep the board free from cultists, the Acolyte won’t be an issue. It does become more problematic if it gets to add doom to someone else, but this just means you still only have to kill that other cultist. Something you probably did want to do anyways. Where a core Acolyte would have added another doom onto itself and lead to two creatures with doom on them, this new one leads to concentrating the doom on one card, therefore making it somewhat easier to wipe it of the board.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: Stolen Mind is this set’s version of the Wizard of the Order and just like its core version it does add one doom to itself at the end of every Mythos phase. The differences then come in the stats and this is where things get scary. Stolen Mind has a strong four health, which is certainly relevant and will often allow it to live for another turn. It starts out with only one fight, but gets +1 for each doom on it. Like the cultists from the base set, it spawns at any empty location.

My take: This can get ugly really fast. During the first investigator phase it will usually be 2/4/3, requiring two attacks and of course moving to it first. This will not be possible in one turn every time, potentially making it a 3/4/3 on the next turn. Add an Acolyte that adds another doom to it and you are firmly in Elite enemy territory. As time passes that Retaliate will become more and more of a problem as well. This enemy terrifies me.

Threat level: Very High. Carries doom, takes a full turn to deal with right out of the gate and can escalate into something much worse very easily.

Dealing with it: The Wizard was already a priority, this guy is one even more so. Thankfully, it needs a turn or three to grow its fight stat, killing it off before that happens is something that you just need to do. If it truely grows beyond reach, it will at least become vulnerable again once the agenda advances and the doom is removed from it.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Once again, the treachery in the cultist set adds doom to cultists on the board or, if it is unable to do so, will search for a cultist to spawn from the encounter deck and discard. This time, the doom scales by how much the player who drew the card fails an investigate test, though. The base difficulty is four, setting the potential for how many doom tokens could be added. Added tokens need to be spread across multiple cultists evenly, if possible.

My take: Draw a tentacle or the TFA-trademark (-5) token, then add four doom to the board? Sounds scary, but i suspect this card will rarely live up to its potential and mostly only shift some priorities around. This card is super scary though, because it has just such a wide span of how impacting it becomes. Not only does the scaling test mean that anywhere between zero and four doom can be added. It also matters a lot if this doom sticks to an Acolyte, a Stolen Mind or a Brotherhood Cultist. Or, if things go really wrong, to a combination of those because it just so happened that you had multiple cultists in play when botching the test on this card. This can easily lead to the threat of having the agenda advance two turns early unless you manage to fight your way through a 5/3/5 Brotherhood Cultist or something. Other times, it will just put a doom or two on an Acolyte which you then proceed to kill.

Threat level: High to Very High. A very situational card, but with a frankly insane ceiling for its effect.

Dealing with it: Being proactive pays off here. Kill Cultists wherever they pop up, basically act as if you were playing Echoes of Truth. During Threads and Boundary Beyond that shouldn’t be too hard, but especially in Shattered Eons this can mean going through the Formless Spawn… at least now only Stolen Mind can lead to spawning in such annoying to reach regions, largely the use of this replacement set in Shattered Eons should make the placement of the cultists a lot more controllable for the players.
Once the deed is done and doom is added to the board, dealing with it means killing of the cultists that are carrying the doom. So nothing too special there, but depending on the number of doom counters, the priority for this task can skyrocket. It’s hard to imagine a more important target than an Acolyte with four doom on it, unless you were already about to advance the agenda.

Striking Fear

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleWillpower, Horror, Stalling
Threat LevelHigh, based almost exclusively on one card
# of scenarios15
VariantsErratic Fear, Neurotic Fear
Appears in: The Gathering, The Devourer Below, The House Always Wins, Essex County Express, Undimensioned and Unseen, Where Doom Awaits, Curtain Call, Dim Carcosa, The City of Archives, The Witching Hour, In the Clutches of Chaos, Waking Nightmare, Point of No Return, Lair of Dagon, Heart of Madness #2

My take on this set: Frozen in Fear is clearly the most important card here, actually one of the standouts of the whole Core box. The other two cards shouldn’t be completely written off, though. Rotting Remains goes up in relevance once paired with other cards that deal horror and Dissonant Voices occasionally throws a wrench into coordinated efforts, making everyone have to adjust plans. With 5 out of 7 cards sporting Willpower tests, this is one of the sets that are often added to a scenario to cover this important part of the encounter deck’s role in the game.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: A very simple and iconic treachery, dealing horror to an investigator if they fail a Willpower check. There are three of them in the encounter set, making them a constant presence in scenarios including it.

My take: Pretty simple, but that’s not a bad thing. The Willpower check of 3 is within reach of anyone and the scaling damage mechanic means it’s not a binary pass/fail. Most of the time,Rotting Remains is a card that you are somewhat glad to see coming off the top. For low sanity investigators like Roland some concern should be kept in mind that three of them are in the deck, so drawing multiples can become a problem.

Threat level: Low to Mid. It’s not direct horror, so the effect can be mitigated with soak on assets. The Willpower check is neither difficult nor easy, but it should be noted that low sanity often comes bundled with low Willpower. So anyone who would be hit harder by the card is often also the one who has a tougher time dealing with the test. Still, even partial success will lower the impact, so even someone like Skids isn’t always going to take the full 3 horror.

Dealing with it: The card comes with a Willpower check, so that’s the first line of defense against the effect. Other than that, allies and other assets can soak some of the horror if it becomes a problem.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Another fairly simple effect, but one that has interesting implications depending on the game state. It hinders a player from playing cards, then discards itself at the end of the round.

My take: This is another card that i am often glad to see coming from the encounter deck because it doesn’t actually cost me anything in terms of resources, cards or actions. When drawn at an inconvenient time, it can mess up some plans but these situations are rarely hard to deal with. Many investigators simply shrug this off as they keep on moving and investigating.

Threat level: Low. Conditionally it can become a bit annoying, but it doesn’t take anything away from the player except for some options.

Dealing with it: Just hang back for a turn or take actions using whatever assets you already have in play. The card discards itself at the end of the turn, so this will merely push back what you had planned by a turn.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Frozen in Fear latches onto a player and consumes up to an action per turn when moving, fighting or evading. To stop this card from costing actions every turn, the player is allowed one Willpower test at the end of each turn.

My take: This card is just terrifying for some investigators. A Guardian who draws this and can’t get rid of it will find himself taking multiple two-action-turns after another which just feels miserable. In my opinion, this is one of the most impactful encounter cards from the Core set and needs some special consideration for most Guardians, some Rogues and for example Joe Diamond who all do a lot of moving and fighting and have low Willpower.

Threat level: High to Very High. While there are some investigators who naturally have high Will that can shrug this off, there are a lot of investigators who are seriously impacted by this effect. The test happens at the end of turn, so the effect usually will last at least for a turn. Similar to Dissonant Voices, this can simply force a player to do something else than what they had planned to avoid the effect, but move and fight are exactly the actions that often can not be postponed.

Dealing with it: Since the Willpower test is a trigger instead of an action to take, nobody else can clear this treachery for the one who drew it. So, outside of cards like Logical Reasoning (which seems tailor-made to deal with Frozen in Fear), the player will have to deal with it themselves. This is where cards like Guts and Unexpected Courage can help to get a burst of Willpower for otherwise vulnerable investigators.

Return to The Dunwich Legacy: Erratic Fear

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleIntellect, Willpower, Clues, Damage, Horror
Threat LevelLow

My take on this set: This complete batch of cards seems like a huge miss to me. Intended to replace Striking Fear, it trades of the Willpower checks with Intellect checks, watering down the purpose of the set. 4 out of the 7 cards can be completely defused by spending two health, the other 3 are only relevant to about a third of investigators. One of the cards is even borderline beneficial. Sorry, but i think this one is a dud.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Replacing Rotting Remains, Need for Knowledge changes the Willpower check with an Intellect check. The difficulty scales with the number of clues and has a higher upper ceiling than the static 3 from the core card. Horror dealt by Need for Knowledge can be mitigated by putting clues back to the location.

My take: This card is a miss for me on several levels. Most importantly, i think that Willpower checks are not only an important part of the encounter deck, but also a very important part of the identity for this specific fear themed encounter set. Replacing it with an intellect check feels like a weird choice to me. Then there is the problem that this card is tailor made to hit the primary clue getter of the group while everyone else is mostly shrugging this off even more than Rotting Remains. I dislike the design of this card.

Threat level: Low. Often times it just whiffs as it hits someone with only one or two clues. When it does hit the Seeker of the group, it will also be the one who should have little trouble passing the intellect test.

Dealing with it: This card is not much to be concerned about. There are three of them in the deck, so if you’d want to play around it you could make everyone pick up at least one clue so it doesn’t gain Surge.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Violent Commands doesn’t directly replace one of the cards from Striking Fear, its mechanics are unrelated. While under effect of the Violent Commands, the player needs to take a Willpower test every turn and is dealt one horror on failing it. To get rid of the card the player has to spend an action and deal 2 damage to any investigator. Players are allowed to hurt themselves.

My take: On the surface it looks like this card has a lot going on, but in practice this usually only becomes “Lose one action and two health” as most investigators can just choose to get rid of it immediately. The damage isn’t direct so it can be soaked. High Willpower investigators like Mystics have the option of letting this sit in their threat area for the rest of the game, dealing with the occasional horror instead.

Threat level: Low. Losing two health and an action is about on par with most baseline encounter cards but there are several ways to mitigate it already built into the card. If taking the Willpower tests is a reasonable option for the investigator, it can become very low impact. Note that the damage can be dealt to anyone at your location, so it should be easy to set up a situation where the two damage hit someone that can deal with it. Even the action to activate the card can be used by anyone at the location, so you could even make that part of the effect hit whoever can spare the action most.

Dealing with it: Try not to fall into the trap of keeping this card around for too long if you can not pass the Will test consistently. Other than that, the card is fairly harmless.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Idle Hands presents another unique effect that doesn’t directly replace one of the cards from Striking Fear. At the end of each turn, it deals 1 horror to the player without allowing for a saving throw. To get rid of it, the player who drew the card (and only they) can choose to take 2 damage to discard the treachery. If they do, they get a bonus action this turn.

My take: I am very confused by this card. Most of the time when i drew it, i felt like it was actually an upside because trading 2 health for an action isn’t really all that unreasonable. Even when it’s not an upside, it’s just 2 damage.

Threat level: Very Low. Even without granting the additional action, this would be a weaker version of Violent Command.

Dealing with it: Just clear it immediately to cash in on the extra action and to never deal with the horror trigger.

Return to The Path to Carcosa: Neurotic Fear

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleWillpower, Horror, Stalling
Threat LevelMedium

My take on this set: Return to Path to Carcosa offers up another replacement set for Striking Fear and this one hits the mark a lot better than the one from Return to Dunwich. It lacks a standout threat like the Core set has, but between Painful Reflection and Melancholy there is enough raw power here to let these cards have a lasting impression. Personally, i am using these cards outside of Path to Carcosa, too. I replaced one of card from Striking Fear with one of each from Neurotic Fear for variety to create a hybrid set with 2 Rotting Remains and 1 of each of the other cards. They all play off each other well because they share their respective roles.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: This set’s Rotting Remains variant keeps the Willpower check and instead varies the outcomes for failure. For each point that was missing from passing the test, the Voice of Tru’nembra will either deal a horror, eat up 2 resources or apply a penalty to the next skill check. The player can not choose the same option twice. Like so many cards in the Carcosa campaign, this one also gets the Peril keyword, stopping other players from commiting cards to help with the test.

My take: A much better replacement for Rotting Remains than Need for Knowledge, this one keeps the basic effect intact and only varies the punishment for failing. I think due to the player choice involved this card is a bit weaker than Rotting Remains in practice.

Threat level: Low. All things considered, the card isn’t really weaker or stronger than Rotten Remains, it’s just slightly different. When drawn early, the loss of 2 resources is probably the most worrying effect of the three.

Dealing with it: The player choice involved should buffer some of the impact of the card if not completely failed. Other than that, the usual ways to improve Willpower tests apply.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Painful Reflection is the replacement for Dissonant Voices, but instead of stopping events and assets, this one attacks only events. The player is not hindered from playing their events, however with every event they risk pulling a bad token and getting their event cancelled. If that happens, they have take 1 horror as an injury added to the insult. Then, and only then, is the Painful Reflection discarded.

My take: Nasty. I like this card so much. What a sadistic way to attack a specific set of player cards. This is one of the few encounter cards that feel much worse than they actually are, a feat that is in my opinion very appropriate for the Arkham LCG and specifically for Carcosa.

Threat level: Medium to High. Painful Reflection has some serious implications for investigators trying to plan out their turn. Even something simple like not knowing if you get to collect the resources from an Emergency Cache can throw off whole turns. Painful Reflections will stick around until it finally triggers at which point it will cost at least a card, the resources spent to play it and one point of sanity.

Dealing with it: Once it’s in the threat area, it will trigger eventually which makes this a must counter for Mystics. Otherwise they’d risk having this trigger on a crucial Ward or Deny Existence down the line. As long as this card is in the threat area, playing big expensive events should be avoided, while trying to bait out that bad token with cheap events.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Melancholy replaces Frozen in Fear and works in a very similar way. Like the iconic core card, it sits in the threat area, bogging the player down until they manage to pass a willpower test. Instead of costing an action per turn, it increases the cost for all cards played by one, taking a different approach at slowing down the player.

My take: It’s very hard to appropriately replace a card like Frozen in Fear, but Melancholy almost manages to do it. It acts like a bit of a cross-breed between Frozen in Fear and Dissonant Voices in that it hinders the playing of cards, but sticks around. It has a sizeable impact on the investigator that is stuck with it, but not to the same level that Frozen in Fear does.

Threat level: Mid to High. Drawn early or by an investigator that heavily relies on events, this can cost a serious amount of resources if stays for long. All things considered, it is easier to mitigate by playing around it than Frozen in Fear, though. A high Will investigator can even treat this as a weaker Dissonant Voices.

Dealing with it: The same ways that work for Frozen in Fear apply here as well. Depending on how confident the player is about passing their Will test, playing more cards from the hand can often just be delayed by a turn.

The Beyond

Set Size6
Number of unique Cards3
RoleDiscard(Hand), Discard(Deck) , Horror
Threat LevelMedium to High, depending on the relevance of deck discard
# of scenarios4
VariantsBeyond the Threshold
Appears in: Extracurricular Activities, Miskatonic Museum, Essex County Express, Lost in Time and Space

My take on this set: This set is part of the deck discard engine that runs throughout the Dunwich Legacy. As a result, it’s dependent on the interaction with the rest of the encounter deck and has to be evaluated on a case by case base. Generally speaking, if it’s the only set that deals in discarding from the deck, then those parts of the card effects can almost be ignored. Once paired with the Sorcery set, its stock goes up drastically, though. Terror from Beyond is a swingy card, but an experienced player should be able to keep its impact minimal. Push into the Beyond is a card to always respect.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Arcane Barrier comes with a somewhat difficult Willpower test. Failing these tests will either waste actions or discard cards from the player deck. Instead of just doing its effect once, it attaches to the location and can hit multiple times, potentially causing a lot of cards to be discarded.

Discarding cards in itself doesn’t do a whole lot to the board state, the horror penalty for eventually reshuffling the deck isn’t all that threatening either. It can become a problem once other cards care about the cards in your discard or of course if the encounter deck also uses The Dunwich Legacy’s public enemy number one: Beyond the Veil from the Sorcery encounter set.

My take: This is a very swingy card and its power is almost completely dependent on the presence of Beyond the Veil. There are some investigators who are bothered by this card a bit more than others, for example Mandy Thompson really doesn’t appreciate having one of her Segments of Onyx being dumped in the discard. Also, it can be an annoyance if it attaches to a very central location that players plan on crossing multiple times. Those are all situations that require burning an action or three on passing the Willpower test. But many times, the actual impact of the card itself is fairly low.

Threat level: Low. Medium when the Sorcery set is also used. It has no immediate board impact, allowing investigators to catch up to whatever else is happening. Negative repercussions, if any, are pushed back to a later point when either the deck runs out or some other encounter card triggers off of the discard piles contents.

Dealing with it: A Willpower test of 4 is a notable test even for Mystics. Still, if Beyond the Veil (or similar circumstances) is in play, then it is worth to burn a card or two from the hand to make sure this card is dealt with permanently.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: One of the early Peril cards in the game’s life cycle, Terror from Beyond puts the player that draws it into a position that can potentially cost everyone else a lot of cards. Having to decide on either asset, event or skill, every player will have to discard all cards of that type. Obviously this can lead to a whole lot of cards being discarded and this encounter card scales particularly well with 3 or 4 players.

My take: I really like the tension this card creates as everyone clutches their hand of cards and starts praying that it won’t get too bad. Look, just don’t say “Asset” in the first couple turns, okay? I’ve seen this card devastate player hands as we were discarding our Leo de Lucas and .45 Thompsons with a tear in our eye. Of course, there rarely is a good choice here. My suggestion would be deciding between Event and Skill by what of the two hurts yourself the least. Unless its already late game, in which case events and skills may just be more valuable than assets.

Threat level: Medium to High. The ceiling for this card is very high, but can usually be mitigated a lot if the player makes their choice carefully.

Dealing with it: Not much you can do except thinking hard about what is likely still relevant. Early in the game, people will have assets in their hand that they still need to get into play. The characters being played are relevant, too. If someone is playing Diana Stanley, calling “Event” should be off the table, for example.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: This card does a whole lot and attacks from three angles at the same time. First, it wipes one of your assets of the board. Then, it discards three cards from the top of the deck, adding to the deck discard already present from the Arcane Barrier. Finally, it can conditionally deal horror to the player.

My take: Unlike Arcane Barrier which wildly fluctuates in powerlevel depending on the context, Pushed into the Beyond is always relevant because it costs you an asset. While the asset goes back into the deck to (probably) be drawn again, it still wastes the draw, the action and all of the resources that were spent on it. Getting hit for 2 horror is a sizeable chunk considering its tacked on to an already strong main effect. I found i would often pick the card to reshuffle based on which ones are still left in the deck, trying to minimize the chance of discarding a copy of the card.

Threat level: High. This is one of the cards to actively play around on the first turns to avoid losing something valuable to it. It’s relevant at all stages of the game and even contributes to the deck discard theme that is running through the Dunwich campaign.

Dealing with it: Play around this card while setting up by making sure you can feed one of your permanents into this card if it comes to it. Don’t be the guy that spends the first turn generating a resource, playing Leo de Luca and no other asset to accompany him.

Return to The Dunwich Legacy: Beyond the Threshold

Set Size6
Number of unique Cards3
RoleDiscard(Deck), Discard(Hand), Stalling, Horror
Threat LevelLow to Medium, depending on the relevance of deck discard

My take on this set: All things considered, i think Beyond the Threshold is a bit easier on the players than The Beyond, which it is intended to replace. The exception is Infinite Doorways which can conditionally turn out to be ridiculously punishing. This set of cards is interesting and synergize well with the original cards from The Beyond. I usually swap out a Barrier and a Terror for a Doorway and Welcome now when constructing an encounter deck that has The Beyond. I keep both of the Pushed into Beyonds because the two instances of asset hate are something that i’d want to keep around.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Replacing Arcane Barrier, Infinite Doorways attaches to the location in a similar manner and also deals with discarding cards from the deck. Instead of discarding a chunk of 5 cards with each trigger, Infinite Doorways only discards one. However, weaknesses discarded by this will go into play. And if something is discarded that the player already has in hand it also attacks those hand cards, making the player choose to either take a horror or discard the card in hand as well. Unlike Arcane Barrier, this doesn’t offer any kind of saving throw to avoid the effect or discard the attachment.

My take: This card can really screw you over if it attaches to a very central location like for example the Museum Halls in The Miscatonic Museum. If everyone only has to cross this card once, it’s perfectly fine but repeated triggers quickly add up. Not being able to defuse it with a Willpower check is quite annoying and personally i really wish it had such a clause…

Threat level: Medium to High. It’s much less dependent on context from other encounter cards thanks to the secondary effects attached. If it attaches to a particularly inconvenient location, it can warp the game around it as players will have to minimize it’s impact.

Dealing with it: There’s not a whole lot to be done about this card specifically. If it gets drawn on a bad spot, it can be very much worth a cancel effect or an Alter Fate.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The Peril card that replaces Terror from Beyond. It works similar in that the player has to choose something without input from the others and then the effect is applied to everyone. Where Terror from Beyond made everyone discard, this one blocks two chosen types of actions instead.

My take: I feel like this card is a lot tamer than Terror from Beyond. While the effect is certainly impactful, it doesn’t have the high ceiling that TfB has and it is also a lot easier to predict for the player that drew it. As an interesting twist, while often the order in which the encounter cards are revealed during the Mythos phase is irrelevant, this becomes a lot more predictable if its drawn last.

Threat level: Low. It’s rare that pressure on the board is high enough that there aren’t two types of actions to chose that don’t completely screw everyone over. After all, this card doesn’t actually cost actions, it only limits them in what they can do.

Dealing with it: Usually, the board state should make the correct picks fairly obvious. If no enemies are around, fight and evade are easy to pass on. Even with enemies around, evasion can often be called. And if the board is really calling for some enemy management, then stopping everyone from moving and investigating for one turn isn’t the end of the world.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Replacing Pushed into the Beyond, Haunting Recollections removes the asset hate completely. It’s primarily a card that deals horror, based on how many cards in hand and discard pile are matching. Thankfully, it’s capped at 3 horror dealt. Should no horror be dealt, 3 cards are instead discarded from the deck.

My take: This card also seems weaker to me than the card it replaces. 3 horror without a check to defend against it is certainly harsh, but the whole package of effects from Pushed into the Beyond just has a bigger overall impact. Something to note here is that PitB is particularly strong in the early game while this card gets stronger as the game goes on.

Threat level: Low. There is some danger presented by a card that can just deal 3 horror, but by the time the discard pile is full enough for this to happen, investigators should be able to buffer this hit with some soak from an ally or just by having enough sanity left. If drawn early, this only discards 3 cards from the deck, which is about as much as a breather as it gets in the Arkham LCG.

Dealing with it: Keep in mind that there are two cards in the deck that can potentially deal 3 horror and be prepared for that, either by keeping a sanity buffer or by having allies or assets around that can soak the damage. If you are particularly worried about this card ending you near the end of the game, consider getting rid of cards in your hand that are also already in your discard, for example by pitching them to a test for their icons.

The Essex County Express

Other encounter sets in this scenario: The Beyond, Striking Fear, Ancient Evils, Dark Cult

Size of the Encounter Deck35
# Enemies8
# Willpower10
# Agility0
# Doom9
# Damage3
# Horror8

My take on this encounter deck: This deck is very light on enemies and more than half of the ones that are present aren’t actually all that dangerous in terms of combat stats. Instead, Essex County Express turns the scenario into a race against the doom clock, with one in four cards adding doom counters to the board. To pile onto this theme, a good amount of cards are designed to stall movement. Willpower checks are a big part of the deck as well while agility tests are completely absent. Something of note is the surprisingly high amount of asset hate in this deck – between Rails, Claws and Pushed some concern should be spent when trying to keep expensive allies in play.
Cancel these: Ancient Evils, Frozen in Fear. Ancient Evils being a priority should require little explanation. This scenario is a race against time and few cards cost more time than Evils. Frozen in Fear can ruin a player’s day if they aren’t able to pass the Willpower test. Someone vulnerable like Joe or Finn will deeply appreciate having this card prevented.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The Emergent Monstrosity is a large roadblock. It has enough life that it will likely require three strikes to go down. A decent fight value means that there is a reasonable chance to miss your attacks, consuming further actions. It will spawn ahead of the player exhausted, so unless the players can use this turn to advance two wagons, they will be forced to deal with the Monstrosity. The massive amount of damage means it can not be ignored or tanked for a long period either. You can evade it, but then you will miss out on the Victory 1 in a campaign that is notorious for being stingy with experience.

My take: The big decision here is whether you can afford to kill it or if you need to evade. This will usually be dictated by how well you are currently doing. Especially drawn early this enemy can be a large threat and will have the fighter of the group scramble to somehow get rid of it. Making use of its clause to come into play exhausted to completely bypass it is rarely possible. It’s more useful as a way to get the first hits in without immediately being hit back.

Threat level: High. This is the strongest enemy in the encounter deck for this scenario and requires a good deal of effort to get rid off without losing too much momentum.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: A medium sized threat intended to slow down the player. While engaged, you cannot move, so you need to deal with it right away. It’s easy to evade, but can try to catch up later on with the Hunter keyword. The health value of three means it will usually go down in two attacks.

My take: Not terribly challenging, this is a fairly standard monster. I like the design here, how it gives a choice between evading or killing it and how that interacts with the rest of the scenario. The Hunter keyword gets a lot of power in a scenario that is focused on stopping the players from moving.

Threat level: Low. Every investigator is able to deal with this creature in some way and it’s easy enough to dispatch.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Appearing in a wagon you already crossed, the Helpless Passenger asks the players to get back and come to their rescue. This equals to using a whole 3 actions (move, parley, move) to deal with it. Should a Passenger leave play, usually due to the agenda advancing, it will deal 1 horror to each investigator. This card has Surge, so this always comes in addition to another encounter card on top.

My take: I have a confession to make. As far as i am concerned, this card might as well read “Each investigator takes 1 horror. Surge.” I am not going to spend a whole turn on saving these guys. Surge usually means i have other pressing matters to attend to and need to advance the race to the engine car.

Threat level: Medium. Obviously this is going to depend a lot on how much horror the investigators already have on them. Unless someone already had a run-in with an Emergent Monstrosity go bad, it shouldn’t be unbearable, though. The Surge keyword means that you will never be happy to see this coming off the top of the deck.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: If you fail the Willpower check, it stops you dead in your tracks. Not being able to move at all is a huge downside in this scenario, god forbid you get hit by two of these in succession. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it also deals damage and comes with a clause that is designed to kill your allies. Or to kill the Helpless Passenger you spent a turn on saving.

My take: This is a nasty one. Luckily the Willpower check isn’t unreasonably high, but if it hits you are screwed in at least two ways. This is one of the cards i would always pitch some icons from the hand for to make sure it misses.

Threat level: Mid to High. The only thing keeping this from getting a straight up High here is the somewhat restrained Willpower check. If you are playing an investigator like Skids or Preston with low Willpower, make sure to be an extra step ahead of the agenda so you don’t fold to these.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Not quite as rough as Claws of Steam, this will still always cost an action. Potentially it can also cause you to lose an asset, but at least that part is conditional and can be mitigated by having disposable assets in play. Broken Rails can become more impactful if it manages to hit multiple investigators, something that is very possible in the cramped confines of the Essex County Express.

My take: It’s fine. I usually expect a treachery card to cost me about 2 actions and this is in line with that expectation. Investigators will often be in the same place during the Mythos phase, so that clause about hitting multiple players is very relevant. If you do have a Helpless Passenger around, note that they can be discarded to protect a more important asset.

Threat level: Low to Medium. In three or four player games this could potentially cost a lot of actions and assets. Since there are three of them in the deck, the possibility to draw multiples in the same turn becomes threatening at high player counts as well. Outside of those cases, this is in line what you would usually expect from a treachery.

Return to the Essex County Express

My take on the modified scenario: The “Return to” box does not add any scenario specific encounter cards to the encounter deck. It does however make the investigators deal with the Conductor, who adds a whole new mechanical layer to the scenario. It also removes the Striking Fear, The Beyond and Ancient Evils and replaces them with their counterparts Erratic Fear, Beyond the Threshold and Resurgent Evils. These card swaps actually make the encounter deck lose a good deal of its power, as all of these are a bit weaker than the original ones. Notably, the lack of asset hate in Beyond the Threshold makes that particular set have little actual role to play in this scenario as deck discard is mostly irrelevant. The swap to Resurgent Evils is a good one however as the unmodified Essex County Express is notorious for being able to create unwinnable game states in the early turns of games with 3 to 4 investigators when everyone draws doom acceleration.

What it does: The Conductor follows the player through the train relentlessly, respawning in the leftmost wagon whenever the agenda advances. It will go down with two hits of most weapons and has fight and evade values that are perfectly reasonable. But players will need to deal with it multiple times throughout the scenario.

My take: I like what it adds to the scenario. The encounter deck is very light on enemies and this gives fighters something to do other than failing investigate checks. It’s not outrageously strong, but provides enough of a punch that it needs to be dealt with.

Threat level: Medium to High. The threat comes less from the actual enemy itself, as a draw from the encounter deck it would be weaker than the Emergent Monstrosity. However, it doesn’t cost encounter draws, so it’s on top of everything else going on and thus becomes a very credible threat.

Surge

Continue reading here:

Ancient Evils

Set Size3
Number of unique Cards1
RoleDoom
Threat LevelVery High
# of scenarios24
VariantsResurgent Evils, Delusory Evils, Impending Evils
Appears in: The Gathering, The Devourer Below, Extracurricular Activities, Essex County Express, Blood on the Altar, Where Doom Awaits, The Last King, Black Stars Rise, Untamed Wilds, Shattered Aeons, The Witching Hour, For the Greater Good, Union and Disillusion, Before the Black Throne, Dark Side of the Moon, Point of No Return, Weaver of the Cosmos, Horror in High Gear, Into the Maelstrom, Ice and Death 1+2+3, Heart of Madness 1+2

What it does: Ancient Evils is one of the most iconic – and feared – encounter cards from the Core Set. It’s deceptively impactful. Its effect is pretty straight-forward: one doom is added to the current agenda, effectively robbing every investigator of one turn. While having no immediate effect on the board state, this does mean that the scenario will be over more quickly.

Additionally, Ancient Evils can immediately cause the agenda to advance. This means it will always be relevant and can not just be a blank if drawn the turn before the agenda would’ve advanced anyways.

My take: I like that this card exists. A big piece of Arkham LCG’s story telling deals with uncertainty and unreliability. Things simply don’t go as planned. It is fitting then that a card exists to apply this to the doom threshold, especially as players are actually gaming this mechanic with concepts like the “Witching Hour”, the turn where you can use effects that apply doom freely because the agenda is going to advance anyways. An untimely Ancient Evils can throw a wrench in any such plans. I am less of a fan when it comes to scenarios where these are frequently reshuffled. Bad draws happen and once you see the fifth Ancient Evil you can just get to a point where winning is impossible.

Threat level: Very high. Usually an encounter card will take somewhere between 1 and 3 investigator actions to deal with. Ancient Evils will remove a full turn from each investigator, so it even scales a lot with number of investigators and can not be offset by gaining extra actions.

Dealing with it: The presence of the Ancient Evils in the encounter set means that there is some unreliability to the doom clock represented by the agenda cards. For example, instead of having 15 turns to finish a scenario, it suddenly becomes 12-15. This isn’t much of a problem in itself, after all the developers of the scenario very likely factored this into their balancing. Where it becomes more threatening however are scenarios that frequently reshuffle the encounter discard back into the encounter deck, introducing a much higher variance in the number of Ancient Evil cards seen over the course of a scenario.

Aside from manipulating the encounter deck itself, the only thing that can be done is neutralizing them with a card like Ward of Protection or Test of Will. The presence of this card in the encounter deck means that investigators need to be proactive in achieving the scenario goals and moving towards the resolution without wasting time.

Return to The Dunwich Legacy: Resurgent Evils

Set Size3
Number of unique Cards1
RoleDoom
Threat LevelHigh

What it does: Resurgent Evils is a replacement for Ancient Evils that comes with the Return to Dunwich box. Instead of straight up adding a doom to the current agenda, it offers a cruel choice to the player who drew it: Either do the standard Ancient Evils effect or draw the two next encounter cards instead. Offering this choice is balanced by the addition of the Peril keyword. Peril severely limits the chance of being able to neutralize this card.

My take: A suitable replacement for Ancient Evils for those who feel that the original card is too punishing or too random. I recommend using these in scenarios with lots of encounter deck reshuffles or with high player count. Just be aware that it is possible to draw another Resurgent Evils off the revelation effect of the first.

Return to The Path to Carcosa: Delusory Evils

Set Size3
Number of unique Cards1
RoleDoom, Hidden
Threat LevelLow to Medium

What it does: This is the replacement Evil from the Return to Carcosa box. Like Resurgent Evils before it, the player who draws the card has to decide if they take it as a straight doom advance or if they go for an alternative effect. In this case, the card uses the Hidden mechanic to stay in hand until the player does especially well on a test. That test then automatically fails instead. Like all hidden cards it has Peril, so again there are precious few ways of just dealing with the card without consequences.

My take: I think this is a very weak card, especially when i compare it to what it replaces. Instead of affecting everyone at the table, it now affects only one person. Instead of costing three actions (or more) per investigator, it only thwarts a single test. On the surface, this means that the card has a much lower impact than the other two Evils. Granted, a test that is succeeded by 3 or more is often one that was important enough to ditch skill icons to and invest. But it might as well be an investigation check on a low shroud location which incidentally is also a good way to get rid of the card. I would not consider swapping this card in outside of the Return to Carcosa campaign itself because the power differential between this card and what it replaces is just too large.

Return to Circle Undone: Impending Evils

What it does: Impending Evils deals 1 damage and 1 horror to the player that drew it, unless they choose to attach Impending Evils to the agenda deck. If they do, the card gains surge.
Once all 3 copies are attached, they are discarded and the current agenda immediately advances, no matter how much doom is on it currently.

My take: That “advance the agenda” effect looks scary at first glance, but it will never happen accidentally since the player can always choose to take a damage and horror instead. Attaching the card makes it surge into another encounter card, which to me means that i will usually want to take the damage and horror unless i am pretty beat up already.
So how threatening would an encounter card be that simply deals 1 damage and 1 horror and has Peril? I’d argue it’d be about on par with Rotting Remains or Grasping Hands. Compared to that fictional card, all the extra bells and whistles on Impending Evils are strictly in favor of the player since they are free to ignore it at their leisure. So, in conclusion we have a card here that is less threatening than Rotting Remains.
That being said, this is certainly not a softball like Delusory Evils is, this card does have some teeth in the context of the TCU campaign. Especially Before the Black Throne already hammers the players with horror and damage from one side and doom effects from the other. Choosing the correct mode for Impending Evils could end up being trickier than the card suggests at first. The card also fits very well into Union and Disillusion where it can trigger both Psychopomp’s Song and Death Approaches, keeping that little circle of hurt the encounter deck is built around going.
I would not use this replacement outside of the TCU campaign, though. The relevance of the damage/horror is dependent on the scenarios adding more pressure on top of it, something that many other campaigns don’t necessarily do. Eh, i suppose Shattered Aeons and Horror in High Gear could be good fits for using Impending Evils.

Threat level: Medium. Not as bad as it looks at first glance, but contextually relevant.

Dealing with it: Whenever possible, i would try to take the damage and horror, since there is no guarantee that surging the card would not just pull up something worse. That special effect to advance the agenda immediately should never come into play at all, as far as i am concerned that is just flavor text that makes the card look cool.