Best-Laid Plans: The Circle Undone

Spoilers

This page doesn’t hold back anything. There are detailed spoilers for the full The Circle Undone campaign ahead. I highly suggest that you stop reading now if you have not played this campaign once or twice before. Don’t ruin that blind run experience for yourself. Come back once you at least gave it a try and formed your own opinion on the two warring factions of the campaign. Don’t get influenced beforehand, you can always come back later and tell us then why the witches are clearly the superior choice over the lodge.

Introduction

In the Circle Undone, players are caught between the machinations of the Silver Twilight Lodge and the plans of Anette Mason’s coven of witches. Not only that, they are also caught between the world of the living and the spectral world of ghosts, frequently passing back and forth between the two. There is a lot of talk about destiny throughout, but that shouldn’t stop us from examining if we can’t bend that predestined path in our favor here and there.

This article is meant to look at the challenges that are specifically tied to this campaign and its scenarios and at the choices the players have to make meeting these challenges. Like on previous articles of this series, i will also try to give some suggestions for investigators particularly suited for Circle Undone and for cards that work well here.
This article is not going to look at each encounter set and each scenario in detail, this site already has pages for those. Please refer to those for more zoomed in views on the single cards that make up the encounter sets and encounter decks.

Return To: At the time of writing this article, the Return to The Circle Undone was not released yet, so it didn’t include any notes about the changed content from that box. I have now edited this page to include some RtTCU notes. You will find them in annotations such as this one throughout the following article.

The prologue and the four missing persons

The campaign starts with a gimmick right away. Before the first scenario starts, a prologue has to be played. For this, each player takes control of a unique scenario specific investigator instead of the one that they will use for the rest of the campaign. They also have to get by with a very limited amount of cards instead of their full decks. The prologue can not be won, instead the goal is holding out as long as possible and uncovering clues in a manor that suddenly found itself host to an invasion of some spectral threat.

There’s four prologue investigators, each one aligned with a class: Gavriella (Guardian), Jerome (Seeker), Valentino (Rogue) and Penny (Survivor). A mystic is not around.

When the scenario is done, each of those four persons has met one of five fates:
Crossed out: This happens when you play with fewer than four players. Any prologue investigators that did not see play are crossed out in the log and are ignored for the rest of the campaign.
Taken by the Watcher: If the investigator dies from an attack of the unique Watcher enemy, this is their fate.
Disappeared into the mist: To get this resolution, the investigator needs to survive until there are at least 7 doom on the agenda, then die to its Forced effect.
Claimed by specters: This happens if the investigator falls to an enemy other than the Watcher.
Pulled into the spectral realm: This is what happens when the investigator dies to any other cause, like for example being defeated by a treachery.

The payoff for this happens during Union and Disillusion, where the players will either find the investigator unharmed and can possibly add them as a story asset (-> disappeared into the mist), find them as twisted enemy versions that they have to fight (-> claimed by specters) or don’t find them at all because the Watcher fed on them and grew stronger (-> taken by the Watcher). If the investigator was pulled into the spectral realm, no trace of them will be found in Union and Disillusion. Players should strive for the “Disappeared into the mist” resolution for as many investigators as possible while discovering clues. If they feel they won’t make it, falling to a treachery isn’t too bad either.

The discovered clues lower the amount of clues that the player investigators will have to discover during At Death’s Doorstep. Should they not manage to grab the required clues during that scenario, the players will be unable to add the story asset for one or more missing persons that disappeared into the mist.

Due to the relatively low impact of these happenings on the campaign as a whole, many players choose to skip the prologue on repeated replays of The Circle Undone, for example replacing it with random rolls to determine the outcomes for the missing persons.

Return To: With the RtTCU, the random outcomes for the prologue have gotten an official rule set employing the tarot card set from the box. This is very useful if you want to skip the prologue on your Xth playthrough but don’t want to homebrew your own solutions.

Accepting or rejecting your destiny

Once the prologue is done, the players need to make one more decision as a group before they can finally start on their first scenario with their proper decks and investigators. During the setup of Witching Hour, they receive a grim tarot reading by Anna Kaslow. The players can choose to either accept their fate or reject it.

Depending on their choice, the chaos bag gains two additional tokens: Accepting the fate results in two tablets. Reject it and you will have to add two Elder Things instead, which are much worse for your tests. However, if you do accept it, the lead investigator has to add two cards to their deck: The Ace of Rods and The Tower. The Tower is a nasty weakness that is difficult/expensive to get rid of and can not be mulliganed. The Ace of Rods is technically a player card, but it is so weak that it can almost count as another weakness due to diluting the deck.

So that’s the choice. Either add two bad tarot cards to the lead investigator’s deck or take the worse tokens. The more players you have, the more attractive the first option looks, after all the two bad cards only affect one player while the bad tokens are for everyone. So with 3 or 4 players you will usually want to accept your fate. But even at 1 or 2 players, accepting the tarot cards is worth thinking about, the difference between tablets and Elder Things is often quite severe. This is especially true on Hard and Expert difficulties.

Return To: Instead of taking the two tarot cards, players that choose to accept their fate may now opt to accept a predefined tarot reading instead, which will modify each scenario a bit in the player’s favor. This is generally going to be preferable to the original “reward”.

Willpower and persistent treacheries

There is a whole lot of willpower testing in the Circle Undone campaign. It’s not subtle at all either, a third to half of the encounter cards used in the scenarios do have willpower tests on them in some capacity. The extreme peak is The Secret Name which has more of than 20 of these.

Another notable thing about treacheries in Circle Undone is that many of them stay in play instead of just having a revelation effect. They either stick to a player’s threat area, to the agenda, next to the agenda or whatever other weird spots could possibly hold attached cards. If they are not discarded at the end of turn they often ask for some action from the player to discard them. As one would expect, willpower is the most frequently relevant skill here.

As a result of these two circumstances, low willpower investigators may often find that they get stuck with multiple treacheries that start stacking upon each other. Luckily, other investigators can often test these persisting treacheries in the threat area for them – a rule that was never as important as it is in this campaign.

Return To: The relevance of Willpower is mitigated a bit by the replacement encounter sets from the Return. There are now some very relevant cards around that test agility instead of willpower, so more investigators get to play to their strength in the campaign. That being said, Willpower is still the most relevant stat by a long shot and investigators like Finn will still find themselves at an inherent disadvantage.

Haunted

A major new mechanic is the introduction of “haunted” locations. On a haunted location, something happens whenever a player fails an investigation test. The triggered effects cover a wide range, from your usual damage/horror pings over discarding cards to fetching up enemies. Haunted is tied to the idea of spectral locations (although not all relevant locations actually have the Spectral trait) and is used to note the influence of the spirit world on a place. The scenarios with Haunted locations in them are Death’s Doorstep, Secret Name, Wages of Sin and Union and Disillusion. There is also a single haunted location in Before the Black Throne. So this mechanic is active for roughly half of the campaign.

There are a couple of investigators and players that are more affected by Haunted than others. Anyone playing on Hard or Expert will of course be much more likely to fail their tests, overpowering the difficulty with sheer intellect becomes a much harder task there than it does on Easy or Standard. Solo players are also at a disadvantage, as they usually need to be a jack-of-all-trades and can rarely afford to invest fully into seeking clues. Finally, the whole Survivor “fail forward” archetype can get a bit awkward. If you are relying on cards like “Look What I Found!” to discover your clues, you will need to be able to get hit by haunted effects over and over again.

These haunted locations are not only relevant to seeker type investigators, though. There are two encounter sets that provide additional chances to trigger them outside of investigations. Those are Realm of Death (which has two treacheries that just resolve haunted effects no matter what) and Spectral Predators (which has an enemy that resolves haunted effects when attacking). Additionally, both the Spectral Predators and Trapped Spirits set have cards that add more haunted effects to locations they attach to.

As a result of all of this, clue gathering in the Circle Undone becomes more risky to do for those investigators that are only somewhat okay at it as they have more to lose than just an action or a bad token effect on failing. To counteract this risk, a specialized clue gatherer is recommended that can use very high modified intellect values to overpower those tests. Alternatively, cards that can acquire clues without a test can be used to bypass the haunted mechanic. Examples are Drawn to the Flame, Grete Wagner and Working a Hunch. As a specialized tool, the card Read the Signs allows ignoring location effects while investigating, which includes Haunted.

Encounter Deck Decay

There are a few encounter cards that deal with discarding cards from the top of the encounter deck, with having the encounter deck run out or with having certain cards in your discard pile. This subtheme is nowhere near as important as the player deck decay is during Dunwich Legacy, mostly because it lacks a big payoff treachery. However, it is still a notable mechanic that can be worth keeping an eye on during the game.

The first encounter set that players are likely to encounter featuring this theme is Anette’s Coven. There’s two witches in that set. One discards two cards from the encounter deck and has an extra trigger that happens if this would empty the deck. While very unlikely to actually happen, this does introduce the theme. The other witch gets bonus stats based on the number of other witches in the discard pile, so she can feed off of any other encounter deck decay happening.

Much more important than the witches is City of Sins, though. This set has two cards. One of them, Centuries of Secrets, is one of the more impactful from the whole campaign. After discarding up to 5 cards from the deck, it can deal damage to investigators and their allies if a Curse card was discarded. The other one, Evil Past, sticks to a player’s threat area and deals horror whenever the encounter deck runs out. While much, much less threatening than Dunwich’s Beyond the Veil, Evils Past is the closest that Circle Undone has for a capstone to this mechanic.

Naturally, this subtheme is much more pronounced in full groups than it is with low player counts. A group of four investigators would often go through the whole encounter deck three times even without any particular theme helping out while solo players or investigator pairs might not even make it through the deck once. As a result, the power of the cards associated with the mechanic fluctuate a lot with player count, especially if they (like Evils Past) depend on the encounter deck running out to do anything at all.

“Collect Three” Treacheries

Another group of encounter cards shares a theme of scaling with the number of previously drawn encounter cards with the same name. Some of them even only take effect when all three of them are drawn and set aside together. Like the deck decay theme, this one also scales heavily with player counts. After all, it’s much easier to draw all three of a certain cards if two to four times more encounter cards are drawn each turn.

Perhaps the most important and flashy one of these cards is Daemonic Pipings from the Agents of Azathoth set. When drawn, they do nothing but set themselves aside and surge. Once all three are drawn this way, they will however discard and summon the Piper of Azathoth, a very dangerous boss enemy.

The other important cards are both treacheries from the Inexorable Fate set and Diabolic Voices from the Witchcraft set.

There is a bit of a mechanical tension between the deck decay from some of the cards and the collection aspect of others. For example, you might easily have to discard a Daemonic Pipings or Terror in the Night to a Centuries of Secrets which will in turn weaken all remaining copies of those cards until the encounter deck reshuffles. While this does serve a purpose in full groups so you don’t necessarily have to face the Piper on each go through the encounter deck, this can make it very unlikely for a set of Pipings or Terrors to come together for solo or duo players.

Something to note here is that the treacheries aren’t actually set aside out of play, they are put into the play area next to the agenda deck. This is relevant because that makes them valid targets for the player card Alter Fate. Having this card is very valuable throughout the whole campaign, as it’s not only able to disrupt these set collections, but it can also serve as a silver bullet against persistent treacheries in any player’s threat area.

The Watcher

The Spectral Watcher is a unique threat that never enters the encounter deck, but is put into play during certain scenarios using the The Watcher encounter set. It is first encountered during the prologue scenario and makes further appearances in At Death’s Doorstep, The Wages of Sin and finally in Union and Disillusion.

The Watcher can not be killed, however defeating it will keep it exhausted for two turns, so there is some good value to that. Its stats aren’t too impressive considering its status as not only as an Elite, but also as an Ancient One. The most important number is its five health which the investigators might be forced to deplete one or two times to buy time to run away from it.

Two copies of a supporting treachery are also included in the Watcher encounter set, allowing the Watcher to heal and execute a move and attack during the mythos phase.

When the Watcher appears, it’s not as the primary driving force of the scenario but more as an additional hindrance that delays the investigators while they try to reach their real goal. This is a bit surprising considering that the scenario texts treat this enemy as a much more influential threat. In the text, the Watcher is set it up as the primary villain behind the disappearances at the lodge, but it never really lives up to that potential. No matter the outcome of Union and Disillusion, it is completely absent for the final two scenarios as well.

Ultimately, the Watcher isn’t a terribly huge problem to deal with. While it does ask some actions from the investigators to deal with it blocking the way, it’s never as threatening as promised. The Piper of Azathoth usually commands much more respect and that thing isn’t even guaranteed to enter play.

Parley

The Silver Twilight Lodge, represented by an encounter set of the same name, consists of cultists with a unique gimmick. Instead of just killing them, the players are encouraged to instead parley them to remove the doom tokens on them. The scenario rules reinforce this by either making the lodge cultists outright invulnerable (At Death’s Doorstep) or by spilling doom from defeated cultists to the agenda (For the Greater Good).

Players who want to align themselves with the lodge will need to care about this a lot more than those who help the coven. The intellect and willpower tests to parley with the cultists aren’t difficult, but if you do plan on allying with the lodge it might still be a good idea to include Fine Clothes in your deck to trivialize them.

Centuries of Secrets

The treachery Centuries of Secrets from the City of Sins encounter set deserves a special mention because it is not only one of the most commonly used cards from the cycle, but also one that can be a huge deal for certain investigator deck strategies.

It was already mentioned earlier as part of the encounter deck decay package, but that’s not actually what is most notable about it. What makes Centuries remarkable is its ability to deal one direct damage to all of a player’s ally assets. For some decks, this can mean completely wiping out all of their support allies, from enablers like Arcane Initiate and Olive McBride over high-powered value cards like Peter Sylvestre and Granny Orne to almost all of the seeker allies.
Guardians and Rogues can be relatively relaxed about this treachery, as the only relevant ally of theirs that outright dies to Centuries is Gregory Gry.

The existence of this card can discourage going for decks that heavily depend on such an ally. Tragically, it also severely limits the viability of the already only borderline playable Anna Kaslow in the campaign that would be thematically best suited for a tarot focused deck.

City of Sins is used in 5 out of the 8 scenarios and does include 3 copies of Centuries of Secrets, so it is all but impossible to ignore this card, even for solo players. The card relies on the result of a willpower test, but the difficulty is high enough that even mystics can easily fail it and even just failing it by one could potentially have it hit for full effect. So simply having a high willpower is only going to be an unreliable protection. Truth be told, if you are worried about Centuries of Secrets being able to stop your deck from doing it’s thing, then you (or someone in your group) should better hold back a cancel or two to stop it.

Return To: City of Sins is one of the encounter sets that is being replaced in the Return, so Centuries of Secrets is also no longer around. However, Unhallowed Land from the City of the Damned set closely mirrors it: Instead of will, agility is tested. And instead of damage, it deals horror to investigators and their allies. This can still take out a good amount of allies, but especially Seekers will find that their followers are less fragile now.
Anna Kaslow is still as heavily penalized as before, though…

The Coven and the Lodge

As is custom for Arkham LCG campaigns, The Circle Undone can be played through choosing different routes. The main choice here is whether to align with the Silver Twilight Lodge or with Anette’s coven of witches. Actual interactions with the coven are very few, mostly you will face the lodge and be asked to either further their cause or not. Not doing so will mean that you ally with the coven by default. Groups aligned with the lodge can further choose to lie about their involvement with them or to join the “Inner Circle” of the lodge as fulltime members.

The first and the most important big branch in the investigator’s involvement with these two primary factions comes from the resolution of At Death’s Doorstep, particularly in how the players dealt with Josef Meiger. If they killed Meiger, the players are declared enemies of the lodge and will stay so for the rest of the campaign. If they rescued him, the players are offered the full range of choices: Ally with the lodge in earnest, pretend to do so or decline. If neither is true (the scenario ended without Josef being killed, but also without him escaping), the number of rescued lodge cultists is compared to the number of killed cultists instead. Depending on which number is higher, the consequences are the same as above: Either they did kill more and are declared enemies or they rescued more and can choose. If the players end up being allied to the lodge afterwards, they have to add a cultist token to the chaos bag, no matter if they are deceiving the lodge or not.

The next decision point follows right after during the setup of The Secret Name. The players can either tell the lodge about the involvement of the coven or keep it hidden. Doing so will add yet another cultist token to the chaos bag, but have no immediate other consequence. It is required for players that want to join the Inner Circle, though.

The first big payoff for these decisions comes during the setup of For The Greater Good, which will go quite differently depending on whether the group became members of the lodge or not. For enemies of the lodge the scenario uses the core Dark Cult set which can be defeated without repercussions. Lodge members however will face cultists from the Silver Twilight Lodge encounter set and are encouraged to parley their way through the scenario.

Winning the scenario by opening the puzzle box in time while allied with the lodge leads to a special interlude where the investigators are offered the chance to join the lodge’s inner circle at the cost of all the mementos they collected so far. Note that the induction into the inner circle also requires that the players rescued Meiger and that they told the lodge about the coven. If one of those is not true, the players are still able to sacrifice all of their mementos at this point, but without gaining a single thing back for it. At this point the players could still be secretly be deceiving the lodge, though.

The business with the lodge comes to a close at the resolution of Union and Disillusion. It is possible to “win” the campaign for the lodge here. The final two scenarios are then skipped and the Silver Twilight Lodge is declared the winner. To get there, the players need to be part of the Inner Circle as described above, they need to not be deceiving the lodge and they have to finish the scenario successfully by completing the lodge’s ritual.

Union and Disillusion is also where investigators that deceived the lodge get their payoff. The scenario uses a different act 3 card if the investigators were inducted into the inner circle while deceiving the lodge, as long as they decide to side with the coven now. This isn’t terribly different from just siding with the witches in the first place. The cultist tokens are removed from the bag, Meiger doesn’t have a chance to spawn here and the Twilight Lodge encounter set is not shuffled into the deck for act 4. All together a meager reward for carrying two cultist tokens through four scenarios and giving up all of your mementos.

The final consequence of the struggle between lodge and coven comes into play for In the Clutches of Chaos, the penultimate scenario. Following the resolution of Union and Disillusion, either Anette Mason or Carl Sanford achieved their goal and now need to be stopped from abusing their newfound power. That means whoever it was that the investigators allied themselves with so far, is now going to be the enemy.

Before the Black Throne plays out the same no matter what your allegiances were. But if you make it through the full campaign, the epilogue does have some varying text passages depending on your actions, of course.

Return To: The coven gains some story importance in the Return. For one, there is now the option of winning the game for the coven after scenario 6, just like there is for the lodge. But more importantly, there is now a completely new story line featuring one of the Witches, Erynn, who possibly joins the players to stop Anette from going too far. The Erynn story beats happen during Witching Hour, Wages of Sin and Union and Disillusion.

The mementos

The campaign log has a space to record various items that can be earned during the campaign. These so-called mementos are as follows:

Mesmerizing Flute: Is earned for finishing The Witching Hour, no matter what resolution was earned. Even a defeat will still award the flute as long as you reach at least act 3, but successful resolutions will award further mementos.
Ritual Components: Finishing The Witching Hour by defeating Anette hands out this item.
Scrap of Torn Shadow: Finish The Witching Hour by clearing all clues from the Witch’s Circle to earn this.
Gilman’s Journal: The Journal is awarded for finishing The Secret Name if you made it to act 2 or further.
Keziah’s Formulae: Reaching act 3 in The Secret Name will earn the Formulae.
Worn Crucifix: To get the Crucifix, the players need to finish The Secret Name successfully.
Wisp of Spectral Mist: Banish at least one Heretic during Wages of Sin to earn this.
Corn Husk Doll: Banish all Heretics to earn this.

These mementos come into play at these points:

The Wages of Sin gives a story asset to the players that helps with defeating the heretics. However, to earn this Spectral Web, the group must have collected at least 3 of the possible 5 items.
Before the Black Throne has the players start with a number of special resources that can be spent during the scenario to help with some location effects. One of those is awarded for having at least 3 of the mementos, a second one if you have 6 of the 7 possible ones.
Before the Black Throne also inflicts some effect on the investigators whenever the agenda advances. The first two effects are negative ones and deflected by possessing the Journal or the Crucifix respectively. The third agenda will remove one doom from Azathoth if the players earned the Corn Husk Doll.
Before the Black Throne will end differently depending on what mementos were earned. You will win the campaign regardless, but there are different shades of how much you have to sacrifice for it.

Return To: Two new mementos, the Strange Incantation and the Bloody Tree Carvings, are earned for doing Erynn’s objectives in Witching Hour and Wages of Sin. Having both of them unlocks a new resolution at the end of Before the Black Throne.

Splitting up the team

One thing that The Circle Undone is infamous for is two instances where the group is split up and the investigators have to stand on their own for a couple of turns. Both of those times, the investigators are potentially stranded with an enemy at a location that they are unable to leave. For that reason, players should be aware that their investigators need to be able to survive on their own. This is of course particularly relevant for highly specialized characters that focus on clue discovery that rely on other players to protect them.

The first time this happens is right in the first scenario. During The Witching Hour, players start in their own set of locations that are not connected with other player’s. There are only four enemies in the encounter deck and they are fairly weak, so that’s not too bad. However, after advancing from act 1, each player is moved to a random set aside location and a Goat Spawn appears at each of their locations. Until one of the players manages to discover and spend 1 clue per player, nobody is able to leave their location.

The second time is during Union and Disillusion, again after advancing from act 1. The group is once more split up with every player being moved to a random set aside location. Depending on what happened with the missing persons, the players might have to face a powerful elite enemy version of them. The missing persons are randomly assigned to the players, so unless you managed to have all of them make it through the prologue long enough, you might run into the situation that your seeker has to face a huge threat on their own.

To prepare for these opportunities you should make sure that you have some way of dealing with these enemies. Goat Spawns have 3 stamina, so a simple Blood Rite or Disc of Itzamna(0) won’t be enough to take it out. For a seeker that might mean “I’ve got a plan!” for the first scenario and/or Acidic Ichor later on. Similarly, a clue-focused rogue or mystic might need to have a way to evade the enemy for a turn or two while gathering the clues to advance the act and allow to meet up with the rest of the group.

Experience

There’s a decent amount of experience up for grabs in this campaign, about on the same level as in Path to Carcosa. While it’s rarely easy to get most of it, players will still end up with enough points to spend for upgrades to their decks. It’s of course a step back from Forgotten Age, though.

Still, it allows for a wide variety of viable decks. A good chunk of experience is available right in the first two scenarios, so you should also find that you can acquire your deck centerpieces very early and then consistently improve your decks throughout the campaign.

Available XP per scenario/interlude:
The Witching Hour: 5 (locations) + 2 (Anette/Circle) +2 (Piper of Azathoth) + 1 (Dark Young) +1 (resolution) = 11XP
At Death’s Doorstep: 4 (locations) + 2 (defeating Josef Meiger) + 1 (Nether Mist) = 7XP
Interlude 2: 2XP (rescuing Josef Meiger)
The Secret Name: 4 (locations) + 2 (resolution) = 6XP
The Wages of Sin: 2 (locations) + 4 (Unfinished Business) = 6XP
For the Greater Good: 4 (locations) + 1 (Nathan Wick) + 2 (Summoned Beast) = 7XP
Union and Disillusion: 7 (locations) + 1 (Nether Mist) = 8XP
In the Clutches of Chaos: 1 (locations) + 2 (Lodge Enforcer/Witness of Chaos) + 2 (Piper of Azathoth) + 2 (Anette/Carl) = 7XP
Before the Black Throne: 2 (Piper of Azathoth) + 5 (all resolutions) + 5 (resolution, signing the Black Book) = 12XP

As usual, some comments on these numbers:
The Dark Young in Witching Hour is only present for full groups. Also note that the number of XP locations in Witching Hour is increased by 1 through errata. If the scenario is played as originally published, there are only 4 locations with XP on them.
Gaining the 2XP from the second interlude means skipping 2XP from Death’s Doorstep.
The number of Unvisited Isle locations in Union and Disillusion scales with the number of players, so the amount of available XP does as well. The full seven locations are only used in full 4 player groups, subtract one location for each missing player.

Going by these numbers, you could in theory enter Before The Black Throne with 52 points of experience. This is nearly the same number as for Carcosa, but the distribution of the points works out much more in the players favor in Circle Undone. The bulk of the XP is readily available without having to dig through the encounter deck or having to hope that you draw the right locations at setup. The one notable exception is the Piper who you will likely not meet during The Witching Hour. That’s probably a good thing, though…

Return To: Since the vast majority of changes from the Return box come from replaced encounter sets, the XP distribution isn’t actually changed. One thing to note though, following Erynn’s quest will require skipping some XP. During Witching Hour, you will need to neither defeat Anette nor clear the the Circle, so you are missing out on 2XP there. And during Wages of Sin, you will not add the Unfinished Business cards to your victory display, skipping 4XP. So by getting Erynn’s help, you basically pay for it with 6XP. A hefty price.

Investigator Choices

The Circle Undone has some challenges that ask very specific things from investigators. Being prepared for those certainly pays off. The two most important things to consider are the high reliance on willpower tests for the encounter cards and being able to survive for a couple turns on your own. Anyone tasked with gathering clues will also have to consider how they interact with the Haunted mechanic.

As i did for the other campaigns, i will suggest two investigators per class:
Roland Banks is one of the few investigators that can ignore the Haunted keyword while still helping out with clue seeking despite not being a specialized seeker. His ability can get a lot of mileage here.
Zoey Samaras high willpower pays off very well here. Giving her a Holy Rosary (2) can make her run circles around the encounter deck while keeping the chaos bag topped off with blesses at all times.
Minh Thi Phan has a great statline for this campaign and she also has access to Alter Fate in her card pool.
Daisy Walker is one of the best seekers in general, but what makes her stand out for TCU is what she can do with an Otherworld Codex.
Preston Fairmont works surprisingly well as a seeker in this campaign. Turns out that you don’t need to worry about being punished for failed tests if you don’t do tests and just buy what you need. Willpower is of course an issue, but that’s true for most rogues. Might as well go all-in. He’s also got the Silver Twilight trait, so that’s cool. He is never going to pass a circle test in Union and Disillusion, however.
Sefina Rousseau is the usual exception to all kinds of rules when it comes to rogues. She doesn’t fear the encounter deck all that much and can use her excellent card pool to be tailored towards almost any role.
Diana Stanley is not only the most flavorful investigator to run through Circle Undone, she also has a great kit for it. She has (potentially) the highest willpower of any investigator and she’s the only mystic that is able to upgrade her Holy Rosary to the guardian version.
Gloria Goldberg gets the other mystic shoutout here, but the other mystics would work nearly as well. Willpower is kind of their classes identity, after all. Gloria however excels with some exceptional abilities towards neutering the encounter deck. Among other things, she’s able to put parts of the “collect three” treacheries beneath her, in turn neutering all other copies as well.
Patrice Hathaway can profit from how susceptible TCU is to certain silver bullet cards because she can run a fair amount of them and due to how fast she cycles through her deck, she can see those cards often.
Ashcan Pete is about as self-sufficient as investigators get. Haunted on high shroud locations can be a bit of a problem for him, but aside from that he can do pretty much anything.

Again, i want to stress that these are only suggestions. Of course, this campaign can be run by any other investigator as well, the above ones were just the ones that stood out to me as particularly powerful here. But power is of course not the only metric to go by, so don’t let yourself be stopped if you want to take Finn or Joe for a spin here. They might build up some treacheries in their threat area over time, but there’s ways around that as well. Stella as a clue getter will fail her way from one Haunted effect into the next, but she might just be able to tank it. Do what seems fun to you.

Notable Player Cards

Just like how some investigators are particularly well-suited for Circle Undone, every class has some cards that shine brighter in that campaign than usual. Actually, i personally think that the player card pool has some extremely powerful cards for Circle Undone. More than for any other of the campaigns. These are the sort of cards that i often refer to as silver bullets. Here’s some suggestions, limiting myself to two per class:

Holy Rosary(2): The upgraded Rosary feeds off of passing willpower treacheries and no other campaign has so many of those. Throw in a “Let Me Handle That” or two and your chaos bag will look a lot better for it.
Grete Wagner: If you want your guardian to help out with clues, Grete can enable them to do so without having to deal with Haunted. The upgrade is very much worth it, too.
Otherworld Codex: This card solves a lot of problems, even if it’s not always the problem you had in mind when activating it. The inconsistency from the random reveal keeps it from shining in other campaigns, but this one has so many targets for it that it is hard not to hit something juicy every time. From treacheries to Mindless Dancers, Codex got you. Eventually. While obviously best in Daisy, it is good enough outside of Daisy decks as well in Circle Undone.
Logical Reasoning: There are a lot of targets for this card in the campaign. Actually, Circle Undone is one of the two campaigns where i would even consider upgrading to the level 4 version.
Tennessee Sour Mash: I am generally not a huge fan of this card, but at least there’s plenty of opportunities to use it here. The upgrade even looks tempting.
Skeleton Key: While it does come with a bit of an action tax, this does almost shut off Haunted at key locations.
Arcane Studies: Of the talents, this is the one that boosts the two most important stats for TCU, will and intellect. Depending on how much you plan on leaning on those two, you could go with either of the versions of the card to secure the tests.
Read the Signs: Bypasses Haunted, but to be fair so do any of the events that directly discover clues as well.
Alter Fate: The mother of all silver bullets. Works against persistent treacheries of all kinds, including the ones that are put next to the agenda. Usually a great card, but it’s absolutely brilliant in this campaign.
Mariner’s Compass: Due to Haunted looming over the “fail forward” archetype, this is likely the way to go if you want to claim clues as a survivor.

Surge

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5 Replies to “Best-Laid Plans: The Circle Undone”

  1. “One thing to note though, following Erynn’s quest will require skipping some XP. During Witching Hour, you will need to neither defeat Anette nor clear the the Circle, so you are missing out on 2XP there.”

    Resolution 5 (the RtTCU one with Erynn) gives *3* bonus xp instead of the 1 bonus xp given in the other resolutions. This exactly makes up for the ‘missed’ Annette/Circle xp.

    1. FWIW, I think the missed Unfinished Business xp was unintentional — and even if it *was* intended, is a bad design that doesn’t really make sense. Like with a certain location in The House Always Wins that I know you feel similarly about, I’d recommend just house-ruling that Heretics under that Act count for their Unfinished Business victory too (in any resolution).

  2. “[Preston] is never going to pass a circle test in Union and Disillusion, however.”

    You say that, but I mayyyyyy have used Money Talks + double-trigger Well Connected (3) (you can ready it during the same window you use it, to double-boost on a test) to crush the Circle-20 test :P. (Ironically, Diana’s stats were significantly over 20 even without commits, thanks to Crystalline Elder Sign, The Black Book, cards under her, and a couple Allies. But just being rich works too.). In desperation, one could theoretically use Streetwise (if run) to take down an important circle test or two at the expense of long-term viability.

  3. Newest member! I’ve been lurking here for over a year and finally decided to register. The amount of time and effort you have put into this is greatly appreciated! This is the best (IMHO) Arkham Horror resource on the internet.

    I am currently almost through my third playthrough of this campaign (RtTCU; my first was vanilla TCU), and I have a couple of “honorable mentions” for player cards that I’ve found invaluable for this campaign:

    Telescopic Sight (3; Guardian): With the number of aloof enemies, hunters, and enemies that can do irritating things when killed, this upgrade is worth its weight in gold. Shutting down an acolyte at a connecting location just went from three actions down to one. With the taboo update removing its only downside, this upgrade makes everything so much easier.

    Handcuffs (0-2; Guardian): Whether siding with the lodge, coven, or neither one, I’ve always found this item invaluable and worth the cost of upgrading to its level 2 version. Rather than defeating and reshuffling that Wizard of the Order or Keeper of Secrets, I just cuff them and leave them doomless and leaning against a desiccated tree for the remainder of the scenario to think about the consequences of their actions.

    Makeshift Trap (customizable; Survivor): With a few choice upgrades, this card pulls the sting out of being hunted, and can soften up and stall groups of hunters together for a nearby Guardian finish off with an upgraded Dynamite (or scoped rifle).

    Grizzled (customizable; Survivor): Pick Humanoid and Spectral traits (optionally followed by Cultist/Monster) and upgrade with Always Prepared. It’s expensive, but with the number of Humanoid/Spectral traited encounter draws, this recurred from discard pile almost every turn for a free +3/+5 bonus on some important test. This is also helpful for supplementing the efforts of your main cluever, as this bonus applies when investigating Spectral-traited locations and provides some extra margin to avoid failing and triggering a Haunted effect.

    1. Happy new year, happy to have you around 🙂
      Good suggestions, Telescopic Sight is a fun shout here in particular. Always great when a card that sees little play elsewhere can do some great things.

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