Arkhamesque Dividers for The Unofficial Return to Innsmouth

Hey everyone, i just wanted to post a quick shoutout to BoardgameGeek user Troy (aka smallville247).
You might know him for the excellent custom “Arkhamesque” dividers he made and has for download on the BGG file section. He now has done such dividers for my fan-made Return to Innsmouth set as well:

Horizontal Dividers:

Vertical Dividers:

“Classic” Horizontal Dividers:

Pretty cool!

Unyielding Fate

(replaces Inexorable Fate from Circle Undone)

Goal of this replacement set: With this replacement set, i am doing things a bit different than with the other sets. Instead of doing somewhat different cards that offer variety from the standard set, this time around i want to take the original cards and fix what i think is worth improving upon with them.
This is because i actually quite like Inexorable Fate, but it is kept back by some shortcomings. The most important one is bad scaling with player counts. Fate of All Fools is a much stronger card in full parties than it is in one or two player games. At the same time, Terror in the Night is basically a non-entity in low player counts.
My other big problem with Inexorable Fate is that its set collection aspect clashes with the deck discard subtheme that a couple of cards in Circle Undone have. I adressed some of this already with my Anette’s Favored replacement set, but i think i can do some more towards that goal here.

Replaces Fate of All Fools. Number of these in the encounter set: 3

About this card: Fool’s Choice keeps much of how the original card plays out. The first one drawn can be a free card, simply being put into play with no immediate repercussions. Further ones make you choose between damage or doom. The difference is that at higher player counts, the option to take doom will lead to a reshuffle/discard of the cards, allowing for another “free” Fool’s Choice next. Managing when to take damage and when to take doom (hopefully) becomes more interesting, as both options have their merits. 2 damage is objectively the lesser punishment than 1 doom, but can not be sustained forever and since it doesn’t discard the first Fool’s Choice, the relative gap in value between the two is closed.

Replaces Terror in the Night. Number of these in the encounter set: 3

About this card: I never liked that Terror in the Night only gets attached to the agenda if the player fails a test. This made it very unlikely to fire the global horror effect, as any success on a Terror in the Night test would mean that it can’t be assembled before the encounter deck reshuffles. And that is before even considering that some card like Centuries of Secrets might just dump a copy of Terror into the discard pile and defuse it for the players. To make this card matter more in low player counts, i pulled the horror effect to the front of the card and tied it to the willpower test. The amount of horror scales with the number of Night Terrors to conserve the set collection aspect. Since the main effect is now frontloaded, the Forced effect for collecting all three is now milder. It discards all but 5 cards from the deck, setting up a wide variety of other encounter cards while shortening the time before the next reshuffle resets the Night Terrors back into the deck. So now the set collection of this card no longer clashes with the other TCU subtheme, but actually even sets it up. Note that Night Terrors is of course traited “Terror”, so it interacts with the Anette’s Favored replacement set to go full circle on this back and forth between the two subthemes.

Anette’s Favored

(replaces Anette’s Coven from Circle Undone)

Goal of this replacement set: I have some issues with the original set that i want to improve upon. While at it, i also want to use this set to counteract some of the player count scaling in Circle Undone that makes a couple cards very uninteresting if you play with only one or two investigators.
Goal 1: The witches simply weren’t particularly impactful or memorable. I think this is not acceptable for a set that represents one of the two major factions of the campaign. While i do not think they should be good fighters, i do think that they should do some more than just mill two encounter cards.
Goal 2: The witches were anti-synergistic with two cards from Circle Undone that attach to the agenda and fire when three of them are collected. These two cards (Daemonic Pipings from the Agents of Azathoth and Terror in the Night from Inexorable Fate) could be discarded by a Coven Initiate, helping the players because they wouldn’t need to be afraid of finding all three of them before the encounter deck reshuffles. Especially at low player counts that meant that those cards basically never assembled together for their full effect. The new set should help with that instead, so a two player party might run into the Piper outside of Before the Black Throne sometimes after all.

Special note: Unlike the other encounter replacement sets from the ARES series, i would recommend using this set only when playing with few players. It’s intended to help with a specific scaling issue that simply doesn’t exist at full parties.
I should also note that this set jacks up the difficulty a bit more than the other replacement sets, so be aware of that. Encounter recursion effects can be very powerful and a bit unpredictable, making them hard to balance. These cards have the potential to unearth some really nasty cards, from Rotten Remains to Realm of Torment. Daemonic Pipings and Shapes in the Mist even have Surge.
I don’t think that the average case for these two replacement witches is all that bad and one of the goals was increasing the threat coming from the coven. But be aware that there is a bigger amount of variance here that can come and bite you when you least want it to.

Replaces Coven Initiate. Number of these in the encounter set: 3

About this card: The Disciple leaves the base stats, the horror and the traits of the original Initiate intact. It even shares the triggered ability of discarding the top two cards. However, instead of an ability that triggers only when those were the last cards of the encounter deck (so … almost never), the replacement version triggers on discarding a Terror card among those two. Daemonic Pipings and Terror of the Night are of course Terror cards, but there are a couple others that can be picked up and thrown at the player. Of particular note is the Striking Fear set which consists entirely of Terror treacheries. Luckily, it is only paired with the Coven set during the first scenario.

Replaces Priestess of the Coven. Number of these in the encounter set: 1

About this card: The Ritualist continues the theme of caring about Terrors in the encounter discard pile. It trades in the physical strength of the original Priestess for a recursion ability that can pull Terror cards back that got discarded either from other encounter cards (like Centuries of Secrets) or simply by resolving. While her stats are nothing to really write home about, killing her in combat should be done by using a 3-damage attack, to minimize the danger of autofailing into a Retaliate that brings back a Frozen in Fear or something similarly gruesome. Her ability won’t outright draw more encounter cards (i felt like that was too much), but she can stack the encounter deck against you if you let her.

Gnawing Evils

(replaces Ancient Evils from the Core set, for use in Path to Carcosa)

Goal of this replacement set: In my opinion, Delusory Evils from Return to Carcosa is a deeply flawed replacement set that removes any semblance of relevance and threat from Ancient Evils. It may be an okay card when taken for itself, but as a replacement for one of the most iconic and most relevant encounter cards in the game it is just completely insufficent. Gnawing Evils is a replacement card that takes the formula from Return to Dunwich’s much better Resurgent Evils and gives it a Carcosa spin involving the Hidden mechanic. Just like Resurgent Evils, Gnawing Evils offers the player who drew it a choice to either just add the doom and be done with it or to give into a second choice that may very well backfire.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

About this card: Taking this version of Evils out of the deck and preventing the doom comes at a steep price. Once it is added to the players hand, there is no way for it to leave again and it will slowly but steadily eat away at the players health and/or sanity. This is a bargain that will look very lopsided at the start of the scenario, but become more and more attractive as the game goes on and the final stretch of the scenario comes into sight. Of course, by then players will already have collected some horror and damage, so it’s a bit of a push and pull between the two option, which should make for a nice situational choice for the player.
The two Carcosa scenarios using Ancient Evils are the Last King and Black Stars Rise. In Last King, every point of doom is worth a whole lot as it’s one third towards flipping the next party guest by itself. Players can flee from the scenario at any time, so Gnawing Evils can exchange a premature flip of a guest for a parallel limitation to how long they can stay in the manor. In Black Stars Rise, the deck is reshuffled many times and taking the Evils into the hand can stop this from happening. The price is appropriately steep though, as the BSR encounter deck is packed with treacheries that deal damage and/or horror, severely stacking with Gnawing Evil’s ping every turn and making the proper point to add them to your hand hard to calculate.
Long story short, i think this card offers a much more interesting choice than Delusory Evils and lets the card keep its signature impact on the game. It also has some implications with certain investigators like Carolyn that might be neat to see in action.

Naomi’s Enforcers

(replaces Naomi’s Crew from The Dunwich Legacy)

Goal of this replacement set: Naomi’s Crew is a very inoffensive set that just adds some medium sized enemies to the scenario, but doesn’t pose any major scenario-defining threats. The Enforcer replacement set isn’t meant to change that and it also stays very uncomplicated and straightforward.
A theme of caring about the investigator’s resources runs through the set because it felt appropriate for mobsters, but also to give them a little extra ‘kick’ in the Skids O’Toole related “All or Nothing” scenario that was recently posted by FFG.

Replaces Mobster. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Goon trades the Retaliate ability of his Mobster precursor for another point of combat. Nothing terribly special, but they also shouldn’t be. That spawn condition is driven by flavor for the most part, but it does have some implications for the game as they can spawn together with other enemies at one location in one turn.

Replaces O’Bannion Thug. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Mob Enforcers once again have very similar base stats to their original counterparts. Their ability will make them less likely to just be stranded somewhere, waiting to be eaten by abominations or just be forgotten. Having a Mob Enforcer somewhere on the board also makes Goons a good bit more intimidating.

Replaces Hunted Down. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: I made the two enemy cards a bit stronger than the originals, so i decided to turn this last card in the set a bit down. At worst it can lead to someone losing 5 resources, but there is possibility to mitigate it with a scaling test or – if you really want to keep those resources – with life. Players without many (or any) resources will not care about this card at all. But it’s certainly a card that can be a wrench in someone’s plan.

Churchyard Crows

(replaces Whippoorwills from The Dunwich Legacy)

Goal of this replacement set: The Whippoorwill being an unlucky sight and also a sign that someone is about to die is very well presented in the original cards: The creature itself lowers chances to pass tests, so it is indeed unlucky. And the treachery hits you hardest for some horror damage the closer you are to your death. It’s a very well done set that is hard to craft a replacement for. As an attempt, i decided to focus on the “unlucky” part and use the Crow, who also is a common bringer of bad luck in superstition. Crows that are seen sitting on the crosses above graves even have a similar connotation to Whippoorwills, basically saying “You are next.”
This is another set that can not really be mixed and matched with the original set because the treachery references the Crow by name and would be considerably weaker if there’s only one or two crows in the deck.

Replaces Whippoorwill. Number of these in the encounter set: 3

About this card: Like the Whippoorwill, the Churchyard Crow messes with your chances to pass any sort of tests. They do not follow you around, though. Instead they spawn on an empty location and hold your best numerical chaos token hostage until you come an liberate it. This of course makes them in some ways an even bigger pain than the Whippoorwill because they affect everyone everywhere, not just the ones sharing its location. In turn, they affect each test a little less than the original, but affect more tests in total. Mystics who care about drawing special tokens may even find this slightly beneficial.
A note on the lack of Hunter on this card, and the concern that it plays to differently from the original set: Two of the three scenarios that use this set also use the Dunwich set and in the replacement for Dunwich i put the Wary Townsfolk card, an Aloof Hunter that operates similar to what the old Whippoorwill did. Having two different cards like that around seems a bit redundant. As a result, i would suggest using those two replacement sets together if you can.

Replaces Eager for Death. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Since Churchyard Crows can use quite a lot of actions to actually take out, players might decide that a single crow or two isn’t worth the effort. Screaming Murder makes every Crow in play seal another token, increasing the effect each one of them has. Especially if there’s multiple crows on the board (you know… a “murder”), this card can aid in depleting the chaos bag to a point where players may need to reclaim their luck.

Otherworldly Abominations

(replaces Hideous Abominations from The Dunwich Legacy)

Goal of this replacement set: There are two issues i have with the base Abomination set and both revolve around the Conglomeration of Spheres. First, i think it punishes certain playstyles a lot more than others. For example if you have a Survivor as your enemy handler, evasion is really the only option because all they have for weapons is melee traited. The other thing i dislike is that those Conglomerations do not come with Victory points. For an enemy that can potentially take six actions to defeat, that would have seemed very appropriate. Also, it turns The House Always Wins into a lottery where you either get the opportunity to gain another VP or not because the first abomination drawn is random. The only two scenarios using this set are The House always Wins and Lost in Time and Space (and possibly in Where Doom Awaits if you killed Silas), so it’s not like that would have introduced too many XP into the campaign.
The attempt of fixing both issues lead to the Proto-Shoggoth, a creature that punishes all manners of attack evenly, but rewards Victory for doing so. The other creature, the Reaver is modeled fairly close to the Lurker it replaces, with some stats switched around and a Forced effect that is more likely to fire.
For using this set I suggest swapping out the whole thing, but making an Abomination set with three of the four enemies is certainly an interesting option as well. For Where Doom Awaits, I suggest using the original set since it calls out one of the enemies by name in the story text.

Replaces Conglomeration of Spheres. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Investigators will have to team up to defeat this monster in one turn while solo investigators would need to use one of their actions to evade if they want to kill it without being hit back. The fight value of three was chosen so that most investigators may still want to use a weapon when attacking Proto-Shoggoth, even if it’s just for a combat bonus. I chose to reduce the evasion of both enemies in this set, to open up another venue to finishing the scenario (maybe even saving Peter Clover!) for players who are not able to deal with these monsters yet (it’s the first or second scenario after all).

Replaces Servant of the Lurker. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Just like Servant of the Lurker, the Reaver is a tough enemy to fight, so claiming the Victory point becomes an ordeal. This is especially true under the time pressure of The House Always Wins which also can have players running around with their level zero starting deck, so the evasion of 1 was done as a failsafe that players can exploit if they need to get past it without being dragged into a fight with this enemy.

Dunwich Folk

(replaces Dunwich from The Dunwich Legacy)

Goal of this replacement set: The Dunwich set revolves around the inhospitality of the town of Dunwich and of the lands around it. With the replacement set, Dunwich Folk, i want to zoom in closer on the people themselves and represent them with their own card during the two scenarios they are used in: Blood on the Altar and Undimensioned and Unseen. The second card in this set then combines ideas from the two original cards into one, dealing horror and countering ally assets.
Both of the scenarios using this set have players move around a lot and revisiting previous locations and both of the cards in Dunwich Folks have effects that play off of that.

Replaces Unhallowed Country. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: A top to bottom design that started out as the desire to have the Dunwichers themselves show up in the game and be a bit of a pain as investigators will have to placate them while in their town. Nosy as they are, they follow players around who then will have to spend extra effort to get where they want. Of course this can get them killed if they actually follow the players to where some real horror is… say, one of the Broods of Yog-Sothoth. Or a creature from the Beast Thralls or Monstrous Thralls. Players will just have to deal with these guys being around because if they decide to straight up murder them, they will have to live with their guilt – a mechanic that is lifted from the Helpless Passenger in Essex County Express. Note that being discarded by a monster will not trigger this horror, because defeated and discarded are different things.

Replaces Sordid and Silent. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Sordid and Silent always felt like a bit of a do-nothing card to me. Great flavor, but little to no effect on the actual game. By triggering the effect on moving into a location, i aim to fix that on my own version, Shut Out and Excluded. The horror is only dealt to allies, as a nod to the original Unhallowed Country card.

Harbinger’s Thralls

(replaces Bishop’s Thralls from The Dunwich Legacy)

Goal of this replacement set: The Bishop’s Thralls set doesn’t have any glaring problems in need of fixing. The Thrall card itself is somewhat unexciting, but by and large that is fine. Light of Aforgomon is maybe a bit punishing to some characters, but its effect is still something that i would like to keep around in some form. As a result, this replacement set largely follows the same structure (and weirdness) of the base set: There’s three small and largely harmless enemy creatures, there’s a somewhat dangerous Hunter enemy. Oh, and there is a random treachery related to Aforgomon, who as the god of time apparently doesn’t appreciate you using your assets for soaking?
This replacement set puts a larger focus on the one Hunter enemy, with the smaller Thralls facilitating its arrival and possibly even its rebirth.
This set is designed to replace Bishop’s Thralls in both Extracurricular Activities and Where Doom Awaits, but works especially well in the former. Due to the close mechanical interaction between the Harbinger and the Vassals this set is not well suited to be used with the original set in a mix-and-match style. I suggest doing a full swap of the sets when you want to use these alternate cards.

Replaces Thrall. Number of these in the encounter set: 3

About this card: An unassuming enemy on its own, taking up any so far empty location on the board. Aside from just being some small enemy, the Thrall can act as a conduit to put Harbinger of Yog-Sothoth into play, should that enemy have been discarded either from play (for example by its own Forced effect after a successful attack) or from the encounter deck (for example by players digging for “Jazz” in Extracurricular Activity).

Replaces Wizard of Yog-Sothoth. Number of these in the encounter set: 1

About this card: While the Harbinger has reduced combat stats when compared to the card it replaces, it’s enough for it to get off one attack to cause a lot of damage and inflicting another treachery. Harbinger is then discarded, possibly causing it to reappear with full health and a new treachery at a Vassal’s location. If the players want to claim the victory point and get rid of this creature for good, they will either have to catch it without a treachery attached or kill it in one turn.

Replaces Light of Aforgomon. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Like the original card, Gaze stops players from using their assets efficiently for soak. It does however offer a way out of it for players who are punished by it more than others by having them sacrifice two of those assets. It will also not do anything as long as players kill off their assets before act or scene advance. As a final point, this replacement card affects only the person who drew it and not the whole group. While that makes it lower impact in total, this card does not run into situations where it’s just discarded right away either. The player will have to deal with this card in some way, something that often wasn’t the case with Light of Aforgomon.

Monstrous Thralls

(replaces Beast Thralls from The Dunwich Legacy)

Goal of this replacement set: There is nothing wrong with the original Beast Thralls, so this is not a replacement set that is meant to fix anything. Instead, it just attempts to provide more variety and add to the card pool to draw from when playing the two associated scenarios, Where Doom Awaits and Undimensioned and Unseen. Since each card stands on its own perfectly fine, i could see running one of each of the original cards with one of each of the replacements instead of swapping out the whole thing. The original set consists of a couple really high powered cards, in turn i enjoyed getting to create some nasty critters of my own here.

Replaces Avian Thrall. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Ursine Thrall is meant to follow a similar line of play as the Avian Thrall. It spawns right on the investigator who drew it and is difficult to defeat. Instead of having high fight to let it endure, this one has a damage prevention effect. Where Avian Thralls are easier to defeat with specific weapons, Ursine Thrall is easiest to kill when you can deliver big chunks of damage at the same time. Because of the large amount of actions that Ursine Thrall could eat up if it has to be defeated with regular two damage attacks (and being invulnerable to anything less than that) i made it easy to evade and even gave anyone trying to do so a head start by making it come into play exhausted.

Replaces Lupine Thrall. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: The aggressive counterpart to the sluggish Ursine Thrall, this monster pig uses the same Spawn conditions as the original Lupine Thrall and then starts hunting. Players are advised to come towards this enemy themselves because if they get caught by the Hunter movement, this will lead to a truly hurtful three damage attack. It has an ability to disengage and try for another ram attack when it is hurt, but i lowered its health to three, so there is a chance to take it out in one hit.

Replaces Altered Beast. Number of these in the encounter set: 2

About this card: Like with the original Altered Beast, it’s not enough to look at this card with the other cards from this set in mind. Instead, one has to consider which other enemies are also possible to be affected. Most importantly, that means the Broods of Yog-Sothoth in Undimensioned and Unseen, but also the lowly Thrall from the Bishop’s Thralls set in Where Doom Awaits. The extra damage is relevant on all these enemies, but the addition of the Elite trait was done specifically with the Broods in mind. Exploiting their non-Elite status with Waylay and similar cards is a thing, to the point where Return to U&U added two copies of a card that grant Elite to a Brood. In addition to being nasty on their own with the extra damage and horror, the Bestial Rage can be considered redundancy to that fix from Return to U&U.