Irregular Evils #44: Updating the 2022 scenario rankings with TSK


In both 2021 and 2022 I went over all of the scenarios from released campaigns and ranked them. The way i did it was by first assigning every scenario one of five tiers, ranking them within their campaign and finally within their tier to get a complete list. This year i am not going to go through all of the process again, the only relevant new product since the last time almost one and a half years ago was Scarlet Keys and I don’t think that my thoughts about the other campaigns have changed significantly over the time either.

So as a reminder, here’s the criteria for the five tiers and the complete list from last year:

Scenario rankings 2022

Also, here’s the link to the final article for the 2022 rankings (with links to the others): Irregular Evils #40: Scenario rankings 2022, part IV

Also a reminder: Any scenario in the above list that has an official “Return To” available assumes the “Return To” version.

The Scarlet Keys

I intentionally waited a bit before trying to sort TSK into those rankings, because some of my thoughts about these scenarios evolved quite a bit over multiple replays of the campaign. But now that i feel reasonably confident about my take on them, let’s check out the individual scenarios and what i think of them:

Riddles and Rain: A solid tier 2, maybe even on the upper end of the tier. Like many first scenarios before it, Riddles and Rain manages to make a good introduction into the themes and mechanisms of the campaign. Curiously, it even manages to be a good intro into the game. If the rest of TSK wasn’t so completely hostile to new players, then R&R would’ve made an excellent alternative to The Gathering or Extracurricular Activities for introducing new people into the game.

Dancing Mad: Lower tier 2. It’s better than average for sure and i appreciate that it manages to feature both of the primary mechanisms of TSK and having both of them matter.

Dead Heat: Once again, middle to upper tier 2. This is the scenario that i changed my opinion on the most. I had an absolutely awful first impression of it, but it managed to make a better and better impression with each replay. Having a full on combat scenario around is pretty great once you can prepare for it and not get blindsided. This is a fantastic benchmark for your fighters, it requires evasion in addition to combat and also keeps your seekers busy. The only thing that keeps it out of the upper tiers for me is its dumb encounter deck. I hate the action tax BS that Scarlet Keys gets up to soooo very much. Let me play the game, burying me in Distorted Reasonings, Frozen in Fears and Compulsions is just miserable.

Dealings in the Dark: And what do you know, another middle to upper tier 2. Look, i know it’s looking like high praise for TSK here, but somehow the good scenarios all start with a ‘D’ and i am doing these alphabetically… it’s only going downhill from here. Dealings and Dead Heat are my two favorites from TSK. Dealings does a great job of being “Concealment: The Scenario” and there’s a lot of tight moments in this scenario. It could stand to be a little bit shorter, but the race with the cultists is unique and mechanically well done.

Dogs of War: Lower Tier 3. Just a middle of the road scenario, in any of its versions. I appreciate it as a reasonably easy scenario that can be done early so i will usually play it in my campaigns, but nothing about it particularly excites me.

On Thin Ice: Upper Tier 3. The bossfight is interesting in concept, but doesn’t really get to shine fully once you know what’s coming and that it’s always correct to put tokens on every Wilderness location (but one) before advancing. The first half of the scenario is somewhat generic, too. It’s slightly better than average but probably not enough to break into the next tier.

Sanguine Shadows: Solid Tier 3, saved by its final act from sliding to the lower end of the tier. The other scenario that is mainly about concealment. It’s … fine. Just very repetitive. I don’t mind that too much, but i am obviously also not excited by doing the same thing three to five times. The encounter deck is also very one-note, throwing horror and damage at you like crazy. The possibility of getting the extra act with the Watcher is pretty cool though, and is a suitable motivation to try and ace the repetitive part.

Shades of Suffering: Upper tier 5. Ugh, this one. This is a variant on Wages of Sin, my least favorite scenario due to randomness, difficulty and unfair nonsense. All three of those things are still present in Shades. The randomness is dialed in a bit and you do get the opportunity to face umbrella girl even if you bombed the ghost hunt and both of those things definitely help Shades to be better than Wages. Ultimately that’s the lowest bar i have available though and Shades still repeats most of what i despise about Wages. It also has that insufferable encounter deck that does the same action tax mobbing that Dead Heat does. Due to how scenarios work in Scarlet Keys, chances are i am not going to play Shades of Suffering ever again because i can just choose to skip town with Inspector Flint instead.

Without a Trace: Solid to upper tier 2. The “secret scenario” wins me over with finally making Hollowing matter, something i missed all campaign. It also has some really fancy unique enemies and a novel location mechanic. I am a sucker for novel location mechanics.

Congress of the Keys: Upper tier 5. Oof, this is bad. I am used to campaigns suddenly taking a dive for their last scenario (shoutout to Lost in Time and Space for still being the best finale, six and a half years after release of The Dunwich legacy), but Congress of the Keys is just an incoherent mess. Basically, i love all of the voting stuff and how it ties the campaign that went before it together… and everything that involves cards i sort of look down on. It starts with one of the most infuriating setups (two encounter decks, one of them used for like two turns… talk about wasting my time). It opens with a decent start in the coterie hideout, finding some clues, exposing RGM and fighting a coterie member or two. Fine, but that was literally done in Riddle and Rain already. Then it goes on with a taste of the location mechanics from Without a Trace, but watered down to the point where you don’t get to explore it much. Then some weird memory game that has nothing to do with anything. And a boss fight that offers a final spin on concealment. That boss is actually not bad, but a) it’s pretty much everything the scenario has going for it and b) it’s way too easy to cheese, it even gets completely neutered by one of the Keys you can earn in the campaign.
It’s not the worst finale we’ve seen (i find it hard to imagine that something dethrones Devourer Below there), but it’s not a whole lot ahead. I suppose it’s at least over quickly and so ridiculously easy if you got some keys and/or coterie support that you might as well just skip it because it’s just a foregone conclusion.

Taking stock

So, what do we have? Here’s the ranking within the campaign:

A couple standouts, but nothing that breaks into the highest tier. Some middle of the road scenarios that are perfectly servicable. And two scenarios that skip all the way past tier 4 into “actively offputting”.
I put Dead Heat before Dealings in the Dark here, but those two can pretty much switch places depending on when you ask me.

Full rankings 2023

Integrating these into the full list from 2022 leads to this updated full list:

Dead Heat and Dealings in the Dark go near the top of their tier, between Untamed Wilds and Greater Good.
Riddles and Rain joins The Gathering and Extracurricular Activities, but below those two.
Without a Trace isn’t far behind, i put it between Point of No Return and Secret Name for now.
Dancing Mad goes near the bottom of the tier 2, between Shattered Eons and Boundary Beyond.
In tier 3, On Thin Ice places over Union and Disillusion, but after Black Stars Rise.
Sanguine Shadows is another couple ranks down, between Dim Carcosa and Doom of Eztli.
Dogs of War isn’t actually that far behind, just two ranks down from Sanguine Shadows.
The final two scenarios are easy enough to slot in as there were only 3 of them before in that tier. Both Congress and Shades are better than Devourer Below. Undimensioned and Unseen is better than Shades, but worse than Congress. So there you have it.

That’s Numberwang!

The Scarlet Keys is quite controversial in the community as a whole, and just looking at my own rankings that is also reflected in my own opinions. There are some really nice scenarios in it, but when it missteps it does so hard. One of those scenarios isn’t mandatory and the other one is at least over quickly. So that doesn’t impact my opinion of the campaign too much and i’ll still be happy to replay it, at least as far as the scenarios themselves are concerned. I need to be in the mood for all the bookkeeping around the scenarios as well, of course.

In any case, that was the scenario rankings for ’23. Hopefully we will have more to talk about than just one campaign in a year’s time? Cheers o/

Irregular Evils #43: State of the Website and Going Forward

Alright, here’s the problem

It’s now been a full month since i posted some new content on this site. Considering that i used to have like 2 articles per week for a while and had it as my goal to settle on one per week, i feel like this is a good opportunity to take a step back and rethink some things. Now, the time that i am spending on designing and putting together the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth set certainly plays a part in why there’s not much happening here lately, but I’d be lying if I were to just claim that’s all there is to it.

See, i have this half-written page on the Dogs of War scenario prepared… and no actual desire to finish it right now. I opened it like seven or eight times over the last couple weeks, looked at it, went “Uuuugh.” and closed it. And i want to make clear that this is not a Scarlet Keys thing. I made it through full coverage for Edge of the Earth after all and that box was just mediocre through and through. Scarlet Keys is a lot better and more interesting than Edge.

So, what’s going on then

When i started Ancient Evils, it was as a way for me to dig into the innards of the game. To see how it works, what design choices were made and to learn from it. Simply out of interest. And that’s still the case, as far as my primary intention goes. The issue i find now is this: Most of what i am actually spending time on here is not working towards my intention. It’s just bookkeeping. Busywork. Listing stuff. Which is fine as long as i get something from it, but lately i didn’t really. And i am going to cut away some of what i find uninteresting from now on.


Let’s take the Scarlet Keys content as an example. I do like the card-by-card pages for the encounter sets (example). I frequently find myself noticing stuff while writing those up and they are easy to do and actually fun. So those stay. The other side of the coin are the scenario pages, though (example). When i expanded them from a card-by-card format to a more expansive format, i clearly overdid it and i need to reel that back. Waaaay back. Anything that is just chronicling how the scenario goes instead of analyzing it is too much. Those pages aren’t supposed to be walkthroughs either and especially for TSK i found that i have been writing a lot about the larger campaign context instead of the scenario itself as well. While that’s not bad content at all, it’s not really what i want from those pages. Maybe those pages even need to go completely and merge into the Deep Dive.

Speaking of the “Best-Laid Plans” Deep Dive, that one i like quite a bit and I’d want to keep it for sure. I could even see that one growing a bit if i let the scenario pages die. Oh, and don’t you worry, the XP overview is going nowhere. I am well aware that it’s one of the most opened pages on Ancient Evils.

But wait, there’s more

There’s one other thing that keeps me from updating my site currently: I find that the design and development of the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth is just much more interesting to me than just chronicling Scarlet Keys. Considering that people have been asking about a possible Return to Dream-Eaters and that i have some other ideas as well, that could mean that i will need to have an even more closer look at what one person can realistically do without burning out.

I also found some other side-projects like the Buying Guide, the reviews for every single player card and the two single-card deep dives way more interesting to do than what i set out to do originally on Ancient Evils. And i certainly have some more ideas on what to do in that direction as well.

So… uuuuh… bottom line? Tl;dr?

I guess all of the rambling above can be summed up by saying that i am going to realign some things on the site. I don’t know how exactly yet, but something has to be done because i have too much going on right now. I pretty much know that the next campaign box is not going to get such a time-intensive treatment as Edge and Keys have gotten. Speaking of Keys… i am not sure if i am going to finish it the same way i started it. I kinda want to because having incomplete things sucks… but i also kinda just don’t want to because i don’t feel like it. Will you ever see that Dogs of War page? I give that a solid 50/50. Chances are, i will move onto more parts for the Deep Dive next instead and see if i can’t put a cap on that whole Scarlet Keys business somewhat in the near future. I actually have a half-written article for that lying around as well… and it doesn’t even make we groan when i look at it. And as for next campaign, we’ll see. I’ll come up with something that still provides the info but without costing me sleepless hours and weekends on end. And then i can finally decide on what new and exciting stuff i can spend those hours and weekends on.

Cheers o/

Irregular Evils #42: Ranking my solo board game collection


Let’s do something different from the usual ArkhamLCG stuff today. First i’ll give you a little look at my game shelves to see what we are working with. I was recently reorganizing my board games because they didn’t fit their cabinet anymore so i had to move stuff around. So most of the big boxes moved on top of it:

Literally stacking board games to the roof

This led to me now having more room for games inside of the cabinet:

So much empty space. This will not last.

Oh, and then there’s also the FFG shelf, of course:

Again, the roof is the only limit.

While moving things around i realized that i do own quite a few solo-playable board games and started reflecting on how much i like them for that. So… here’s a ranking. It’s a total of 17 games that fit the bill, let’s just jump straight in with …

#17: Aventuria

The components are nice, at least. And it came in a fancy wooden box.

I grew up on pen&paper RPGs, most importantly Shadowrun and The Dark Eye. So when a card game was announced that was based on The Dark Eye, i was immediately in. Sadly this is one instance where i do regret going all-in on a Kickstarter as i don’t think the game ended up being all that great. Thematically a mess, very shallow card pools and overly reliant on chucking D20s around. While that last thing is meant to be a throwback to the pen&paper game, it just makes the game a wildly random affair. Also rolling dice for everything (EVERYTHING) gets old really, really fast. Out of the games on this list this is the only one that i would call a “bad game”.

#16: Zombicide Black Plague

The first game i painted, the quality of the paintjobs span from awful to almost tolerable

This was actually fun for a good while, between playing through various scenarios (six handed solo!) and painting all the stuff i definitely got my money’s worth here. It’s just that it’s ultimately not much more than throwing dice around and i don’t find that terribly interesting anymore these days.

#15: Elder Sign

This game has the tiniest tokens ever.

Good game. But it has a better app so it stays on the shelf. That’s really all there is to it. I do actually enjoy the dice rolling here because there’s enough ways to mitigate it and/or plan around failure. But i don’t really see a reason to put this on my table when i can play it much more conveniently on my phone or PC.

#14: Too Many Bones

Look, i know it says so on the box, but this is just way too many bones.

Sigh. I wish i would be able to get into this more. Obviously the game components are a delight to handle and it’s not like the game is bad. It’s just… weird. I can’t actually put my finger on anything it does wrong specifically but somehow TMB doesn’t work as well for me as i’d like. Part of it is how difficult it is to get back into the specifics of the game after not touching it for a month or four. So many edge cases to everything and for every character one has to almost relearn the game. Probably really great when one gets into it to the point where one makes it their main game and spends the sort of time on it that i spent on other games.

#13: Revive

There is no such thing as “overproduced”. Every inch of cardboard is essential to the experience. I swear 🙂

Revive is a great game that i do enjoy a whole lot … when played in a group. As a solo game it’s not really my thing. It’s an interesting optimization puzzle with lots of replayability but chasing a high score instead of defined win/loss conditions just doesn’t do it for me. If playing for a high score doesn’t bother you (or you actively enjoy it), then give Revive a try for sure. You will probably like it for all the meaningful and interconnected decisions you have to make.

#12: APEX Theropod

A beautiful game. As long as you like looking at giant lizards.

This is the first game on the list that i actively enjoy playing solo. Like, if i sat down to kill a few hours right now, everything from Apex and up are games i could see myself going for. Apex is a gorgeous looking deckbuilder with a very unique win condition and lots of replayability. Of course, you got to like dinosaurs. This is a game that was explicitly designed for being played solo and it shows. It also shows in the multiplayer rules that were tacked on but we aren’t talking about those 😉 Apex would be way higher on my list if Legendary Encounters wouldn’t steal most of its thunder.

#11: Death Angel

This game contains more horror in a tiny box than Arkham does in three full expansions

I think this is the game that packs the most drama in as little time as possible. A vicious and difficult game that doesn’t waste your time with any chaff at all. It does one thing and it does it well. The red die that comes with the game is notable for being the only inanimate object I have ever been angry with. I am not kidding, it almost went out of the window.

#10: Marvel Champions

After initial disappointment, my enjoyment for this game has gone up recently… so the stack keeps growing

The newest of the LCGs, but in my opinion also the weakest. That doesn’t make it a bad game, but it’s a step back from LotR and Arkham for sure. It’s more simplistic, has shallower deck building and almost no campaign elements. Of course its low complexity when compared to Arkham and LotR is actually a feature for many people… but i do play this a lot less than the other two for that reason. Great for just a quick game here and there between campaigns of bigger games. I play this two-handed solo.

#9: Terraforming Mars

It wasn’t cheap, but the Big Box is soooo worth it.

TfM ranks among my favorite board games to play in a group which is why i shelled out to get the fancy big box. Since i already owned it, i tried it solo… and what do you know, it’s actually not bad at all when played alone. Lots of replayability and an enjoyable puzzle with a clear goal make this a surprisingly nice game in solo as well.

#8: Mage Knight

Getting slight anxiety just from looking into the box

Mage Knight suffers for me from a similar issue as i have with Too Many Bones: If i didn’t play it for a while, it’s really hard to get back into. I will say though that it’s a really great game during those phases where the rules are fresh in your mind and you can concentrate on the actual game instead of just trying to remember arcane interactions and iconography. I enjoy this one a lot, but it’s just a big hassle to get it to the table because when i do i will want to commit to keeping it there for the next week or two and get a series of games in to make the most out of it.

#7: Shadowrun Crossfire

Wake up, Samurai.

The other callback to my pen&paper days, this is thankfully a lot better than Aventuria. Shadowrun Crossfire is based around a really neat system of having to build your deck(s) towards matching icons on enemies and obstacles with those your cards. It’s a system that makes me wonder why nobody copied it yet, it’s brilliant. I play this one four-handed. You gain experience over your repeated plays that you can cash in to buy special abilities for your characters. That gives it a sense of (slow but steady) progression that i do like. It’s also suitably difficult but with lots of ways to scale it to your liking.

#6: Dune Imperium

There’s still so much room in the box. Really looking forward to the expansion.

Dune made a huge impression on me when we played it in our group to the point where it almost rivaled my love for Terraforming Mars. While it doesn’t quite get there in group play, it does surpass TfM in solo for me thanks to a very well though out dummy player system that simulates two other players. It’s difficult, it’s scalable and allows you to play the game just like you would in the group. Most solo variants i experienced for games like this do feel considerably different to their regular version (like is the case with TfM and Revive, for example). Soloing Dune feels just (well, almost) like the group thing, and i feel like that’s a real achievement.

#5: Friday

Robinson is the most lovable idiot i have seen in a board game.

Ah, so much play in such a small box. So far i’ve only beat it three times, and that’s out of 30ish plays? Probably more? The game flows extremely well, doesn’t take much time and to be honest i just enjoy seeing Robinson evolve from “complete buffoon” to “almost competent” over the course of the game. This compares to Death Angel in that it packs a lot of drama into a small timeframe, but I’d say it’s fairer about it. Well, at least a bit. Being fairer than Death Angel is sort of a low bar.

#4: Legendary Encounters: Alien

I can fit almost everything from Alien, Predator and the two expansions into one box. It’s a clunker.

I will freely admit that the Alien license is doing some heavy lifting for me here. That being said, the game does pack some great twists and turns, is super replayable and can be finished in a reasonable timeframe as well. My most played game aside from the LCGs because it’s just so easy to setup and play through a round. I play this one two-handed and i do use a randomizer for what cards to use (unless i want to play through a specific movie because i am in the mood for it). I do also have LE: Predator, which i mostly view as an expansion for LE: Alien. Alien is a lot better than Predator mechanically (and thanks to having two expansions while Predator has zero), so that’s the one i will rank here.

#3: Lord of the Rings LCG

“wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant”

This is the game that started me on this solo gaming path, the one game that offered me what i was missing after our local Magic: The Gathering scene collapsed. Very deep deck construction, great scenario diversity, a super strong license that i enjoy and absolutely gorgeous artwork. Playing through the Saga boxes that follow the books was a particularly amazing experience. If this game had a campaign/progression element in it the way that Arkham has, you would read this article on an LotR fansite today instead of an Arkham one. This is another game that i play two-handed.

#2: Gloomhaven

It looks so tiny on this picture!

I played through (most of) the Gloomhaven box solo, trying all party sizes and settled on using three characters at the same time as my sweet spot. And it probably was the best boardgaming i’ve done. Great cardplay mechanics, decisions to immerse yourself into, a campaign to go along with, lots and lots of unlocks that shake up what you were doing so far. Truly, what an epic journey to look back on. Placing it on the ranking is a bit tricky, though. The thing is i am no longer playing it. I’ve gone through most of it, unlocked most of it and i consider it pretty much “Done” now. I still feel like i need to put it here on the list, near the top just to recognize how amazing this game is.

#1: Arkham Horror LCG

The chest of player cards. On the side: Vincent and Wini waiting for Scarlet Keys to arrive

Well, duh. Arkham LCG is the gift that keeps on giving. With the available card pool these days its deck building starts to rival that of LotR (not quite there, though). But what really puts Arkham over the top is the campaign play. Starting out with an okay level zero deck and then developing that over time is exactly what i am looking for in a solo game. Mechanically, i also think that making the jump over to using location cards to simulate a board to move around on was brilliant and a huge step up from LotR.
What else is there to say? I enjoy this game and the design behind it immensely, to the point that i threw a frankly insane part of my free time towards establishing a fansite that started out as a way to divine the designer’s intents behind their excellent campaigns and has grown ever since.

Final Words

I am quite happy with my collection. Leaning strongly towards games with some sort of progression, be it a campaign, deck building or engine building. The bottom five i don’t play regularly anymore, but at least Revive is a game that will see play in our group instead.
This post turned out to be some parts TopX ranking and some parts “Check out my stuff” in the end. Seems fine to me 🙂 There’s a few more games in the pictures that are not ranked here, of course. Stuff that is for group play only. Not a whole lot, someone else in our group does the heavy lifting on that front so i get to mooch off of their collection.
Hmmmm. Now i need only to find something to do with all that empty space in my shelves… Wait, what’s that? Someone at the door? A package for me?

Oh my.

Irregular Evils #41: Free time is overrated

Hey, it’s been 6 months since the last Irregular Evils post. This really lives up to its name, huh.

Anyways, i wanted to take a short moment to talk about something concerning the direction of this site. As you may or may not be aware of, Ancient Evils was created by me because i wanted to explore the design choices behind the encounter side of AHLCG. So that’s where the focus has been pretty much exclusively. Now, we just finished up with a rather interesting spoiler season for Scarlet Keys, where we got a steady drip feed of new cards presented all over the various content creators (that managed to ask to be included in time…). I have been following that with weekly recap posts, basically doing my own part to spreading the good word. Thing is, while doing so i sort of got a taste for talking more about player cards…

I also posted my version of an Arkham Buying Guide recently. To be honest, when i started that i wasn’t aware that reddit has a rather exhaustive one as well. I thought they had “only” (and i don’t mean that in a negative way at all) the short and concise one that is part of the community FAQ. Had i known about the big one, i probably wouldn’t have done my own. Oh well, i was trying to fill a niche but it turns out that we now have (at least) two Buying Guides that go into much detail and are written content (as opposed to YT videos or podcasts). Despite that, the Buying Guide has gotten positive feedback, which i am quite happy about.

So that leaves me with: 1) A desire to do more player card reviews. 2) A reason to expand on that Buying Guide. And 3) two or three more months before the Scarlet Keys Campaign box even hits shelves. To make a long story short, i will do a review of all cards in all released expansions because i apparently hate having free time. One article per expansion, going over all the cards, checking out the total card pools per class and i will be doing all of this as an extension of the Buying Guide. The questions i want to answer with each of the Expansion Reviews are things like “Can i make this work as my first buy after the Core”, “Is every investigator in this box properly playable with just this box + Core” and similar questions that you might ask yourself when trying to determine your first/next buy.

When new players ask about which box to buy first, the answers often are still based on the old release model. Accordingly, they are often not based on the player cards at all, but on the scenario content. “Get Carcosa, it’s awesome!” “I wouldn’t buy TFA, it’s very hard!” Now that player cards and campaign are decoupled, we can look at this better and tell players to maybe go for TFA player cards with Carcosa campaign or something. Finding out whether that makes sense is going to be a result of what i want to do with this new article series. I’ve already got the articles for Dunwich and for the Investigator Starter Packs ready to go and they are going up in the very near future (probably Sunday). These articles take a truckload of time to do, but i found that they were very interesting to write. Hopefully they are as interesting to read.

In any case, the reason i am doing a News post for this is that this is sort of big for me because it is indicative of a change in the direction this site is going. Expect more content from the player card side in the future, maybe some archetype discussion or talk about fancy decks i built. We’ll see. The majority of my focus is going to stay with the encounter side of course. I am going to do all the stuff for Scarlet Keys that i did for Edge of the Earth. But i will also see if i can’t squeeze some player card stuff in between on a semi-regular occasion from now on.

Before i am done here, i’d like to come back to the upcoming release of the Scarlet Keys Investigator Expansion real quick. The official previews are ending today. I expect the full list of cards to drop any day now (either official or leaked) and i will dig into that as well of course. Probably make a post or two going over the cards and giving some quick takes and initial reactions. I also am definitely going to finish the Customizables series.

So i don’t anticipate any lulls in content for next couple weeks, even though it’s probably going to be another 2 months or so until i can dive into the new campaign and get back to what this site was created for.

The only thing that i am a bit worried about right now is the navigation menu at the top of the site. That thing is getting seriously cluttered and adding new entries for the player card stuff is not going to help. I am not sure how, but i am going to have to do something about that. I already did some cleanup and moved some stuff around, but that will probably not last forever.

Alrighty, that’s all i got. Enjoy the previews, enjoy the content (not just mine, everyones) and have fun gaming. Cheers o/

Irregular Evils #40: Scenario rankings 2022, part IV

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

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

Scenario rankings 2022

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

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

Scenario rankings 2021

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

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

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

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

Bonus round

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

Scenario rankings by campaign

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

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

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

That’s Numberwang!

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

Irregular Evils #39: Scenario rankings 2022, part III

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

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

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

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

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

Irregular Evils #38: Scenario rankings 2022, part II

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

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

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

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

Irregular Evils #37: Scenario rankings 2022, part I

In early 2021, about a year ago, i did a three part post where i ranked all scenarios against each other in one big list. To get there, i used a certain methodology where i first put everything into tiers, then rank everything within their tier. I think that was a fun thought experiment, so i am making it a recurring thing. When i did that last list, Innsmouth was only released partially. Edge of the Earth didn’t exist yet and neither did the Return to Circle Undone. So there’s easily enough new content to put into context here.

If you missed the 2021 rankings or want to reread them, here’s the links:
Part I – ranking NotZ, Dunwich and Carcosa
Part II – ranking TFA, TCU and TDE
Part III – full ranking

So let’s get right into it. The first step is going over each campaign, ordering their scenarios by preference and then assigning one of five tiers to each scenario:

When doing this, i didn’t look at my old rankings, i tried to go at it with a fresh mind. Obviously that is not entirely possible, but i tried to.
As you can see, this already contains some spoilers for what’s coming up. In total, 60 scenarios are being ranked. About a third make up the middle tier. Another third makes up tier 2. Half of the final third is tier 1. The rest sits at the bottom. I only put 3 scenarios into the tier 5, to get there i would need to actively dread having to play it. Luckily, that happens very rarely.
So this is clearly weighed heavily towards the positive side, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, i really like this game and enjoy it immensely. Of course more scenarios would end up in the green than in the red.

One final important thing before i start: Whenever possible, i am talking about the Return to a campaign here, because that’s what i actually play. So for anything up to Circle Undone, i am looking at the Return scenarios, for everything from Dream-Eaters on it’s the base campaign.

Let’s kick things off with Night of the Zealot. This one is rather easy, as there are only three scenarios here. The Gathering and Midnight Masks are much beloved scenarios that immediately did a lot of things right. With the Return To, The Gathering became a fully grown scenario that doesn’t have to hide from what we get in current expansions. They have both been iterated on in later campaigns, especially Masks has been effectively made obsolete by Threads of Fate. This is why they don’t go into Tier 1, but they are both super solid still and i occasionally put Return To The Gathering into other campaigns as a standalone side scenario.
Devourer Below though… is one of the worst scenarios in the game. It’s utterly frustrating and the Return To actually puts more rage inducing nonsense on top of what’s already there. This scenario would maybe make sense as the finale of a full 8 part campaign where investigators enter with 40+XP and prepared to the max… but in the Core Set this is just irredeemable.

Moving on to the first expansion for the game, we have The Dunwich Legacy. Dunwich has some early game kinks that still needed to be ironed out, but the Return To actually did some heavy lifting here. What is left is a campaign that has something on every part of the spectrum. Lost in Time and Space is in my opinion still the best campaign finale. It’s ridiculously alien with the locations coming from the encounter deck and the board just being in constant flux. It’s also tough as nails, as a finale should be. On the other end there’s Undimensioned and Unseen, a scenario that is as tedious as it is random. Hope you brought a high willpower investigator or you might as well resign turn 1. And if you did, prepare to wait for randomly moving enemies making it finally into the right positions. Ugh. Making up for this misstep there’s Blood on the Altar, an excellent version of the classic “investigate these locations while enemies are about” Arkham gameplay that also has two brilliant twists in store. There’s Essex Express, which might just be the most memorable scenario in the game. As i like to say, everyone has an Essex story. Usually a gruesome one. Essex is also the blueprint for a couple other newer scenarios, none of which quite reached the original. Again, the Return improves it a lot. Extracurricular Activity is in my opinion an even better introduction into the game than Gathering, as it not only features a big map with lots of Arham-y stuff to do, but also a choice in how you want to end and repercussions from that choice. Choosing your destiny is an integral Arkham campaign feature in my opinion and never as well implemented again as it is here. Gathering is for teaching yourself how to play, but Extracurricular Activity is for teaching others and showcase what this game has in store. I always had a soft spot for Miskatonic Museum and its “One Enemy” gimmick. Sadly the base version is a bit broken and can fall flat, but the Return fixes it into something i quite enjoy. House Always Wins is very cool when you play it the first few times, but falls off massively on replays. Where Doom Awaits has some good beats in it, but i don’t find it very enjoyable. It’s a bit too boring and linear for my tastes, i expect more from the scenario that leads into the finale.

The Path to Carcosa is when the game hit its full potential for the first time and is still considered the favorite campaign of many players. While i don’t quite share that exact sentiment(Carcosa is only #3 for me), there is no denying that Carcosa has a lot of really good scenarios in it. One third of the scenarios i assigned to Tier 1 come from this campaign. The Pallid Mask was even my favorite scenario in ’21. Is it still? We’ll see. But that combination of a wide map, randomized locations to explore and a diverse encounter deck that challenges you in lots of ways is really Arkham at it’s best for me. Unspeakable Oath is one of the most thematically dense scenarios and an absolute nail biter. I like the setting a lot and playing this scenario is just exciting again and again. The Last King takes the crown when it comes to being flavorful and eccentric. This scenario is so wildly different from everything else, it has no right to work as well as it does. Also you can approach it in different ways, from sweet-talking the guests to just carving everyone up with a chainsaw. Mmmmh. Greatness.
Curtain Call is close behind and probably the best opener for a campaign. A lot is happening here and the players are dragged into the craziness that is Carcosa from the start. It’s also quite difficult, which i like. Phantom of Truth barely makes the Tier 2, but i think it still belongs there. Chasing the Organist around is a lot more fun than being chased by him, though. Basically, one version of the scenario belongs in the green, the other in the yellows. Black Stars Rise and Dim Carcosa, the two final scenarios of the campaign are … okay. I am not really all that impressed by Dim Carcosa, especially on replays i think it’s a bit too gimmicky. Black Stars gimmick does work very well, though. I just find it a bit too easy. Speaking of easy, Echoes of the Past is just boring. A long drawn out affair where you play whack-a-mole with cultists that are popping up around the building. The lack of a hard doom clock encourages players to play ultra safe and commit no risks, and as a result it draaaaags on foooooreeeeever.

<End of part I, to be continued soon>

Irregular Evils – #36: My thoughts on Edge of the Earth

Hey everyone. We had some time now to spend with the latest campaign release for Arkham and opinions have actually been a bit divisive. From what i gathered the community response is a lot more muted than for Innsmouth. It’s still mostly positive, mind you.
In any case, i figured i’d write down my own thoughts on the expansion. Some things that i liked, others that i liked less. Note that this largely leaves aside the story telling bit. That’s just something i don’t care too much about in the long run. It’s great for the first two plays, but i am someone that replays campaigns over and over and no story will be able to withstand that. Fwiw, i liked Edge well enough in that regard. But when i play now, i basically skip most of the pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages of story text. It is what it is.

Good: Persistance

The Edge campaign has a variety of effects that follow the player from one scenario to the next. You pick up Tekeli-li weaknesses that are added to your deck, leading to a delayed effect that might not come into play until a scenario or two later. The chaos bag fills up with Frost tokens over time and in reaction to certain events, haunting players for the rest of the campaign. Both Tekeli-li and Frost also offer ways to players to counteract them, with effects on locations and offered by partners to mitigate the consequences or straight up remove the offending cards and tokens. Both Ice and Death and Fatal Mirage have sprawling maps that are not meant to be explored fully in just one scenario, but over the course of multiple plays. As a result of all these things the scenarios feel tightly connected throughout the campaign and the challenge presented to the players posed by them is an interesting one.

Bad: Punishing loss

Something that i always liked in Arkham is that it allows players to fail forward. If i fail a scenario in Gloomhaven, i have to repeat it until i win to move on. In Arkham i take the loss, some consequence and move on. This leads to great stories along the way. However, this is a bit of an issue in the first half of Edge of the Earth, as failing scenarios in Ice and Death or Forbidden Peaks can leave you way too battered and broken afterwards. Winning Forbidden Peaks will give you around 12XP and up to 5 very powerful story assets. Losing it will lose you all of those and whatever partner assets you had with you. The swing is just too much, undoing what you achieved in Ice and Death (by trashing the assets you dug out) and sending you to the City of the Elder things with little more than 10XP in total. Unspeakable Oath at least had the decency of killing you off, Peaks will ask you to still drag yourself through the rest of the campaign without much of a chance to get anywhere.

Good: Partner assets

There’s a wide variety of partners in the expedition team, all with their own abilities and story bits. Replays vary quite a bit by who was killed randomly and who is still available. This means that one playthrough you might have to live without Claypool and really need to work on keeping those Frost tokens away while in another those might be less of an issue but you find physical trauma stacking up over time from story effects after losing Mala. This gives replayability and adds some extra teeth to the campaign because it will ask players to react to what happens instead of being able to just do their thing unimpeded. Fatal Mirage allows players some limited amount of protecting their favorite team mates by turning them resolute, which is at least something. The memorial cards you can get when a partner dies add yet another facet to this. I find all of these multiple layers around the partners very interesting to think about while playing.

Bad: Uninteresting enemies

Innsmouth had some of my favorite enemy designs with the Deep Ones being a standout. Their engagement effects coupled with their stats made it often non-obvious how to deal with them. There were also plenty of interesting story enemies with wild effects around. I am a bit sad then to see how much of a step back Edge of the Earth is. Tekeli-li cards are cool, but they completely overtook the enemy design here. The eidolons are rather boring statwise and only notable because they add weaknesses. The elder things aren’t much better, they actually play almost identical to the eidolons except in how they interact with the weaknesses. At least the penguins and shoggoths are cool, i suppose.

Not Bad, Not Good either: No stinker scenarios, but also no standouts

More than other campaigns, Edge of the Earth feeds a lot off of its campaign structure. The scenarios taken for themselves aren’t all that great, at least in my opinion. To be fair, there’s no real awful scenario here either… it’s just all on the upper end of average? The high point and only possible exception to this for me is City of the Elder Things. I have a thing for big sprawling maps and this is just that. The gimmick with the keys is also great. On the low end there’s Fatal Mirage which seems to drag on fooooreeeeveeeer. And then you might feel like doing it multiple times. I was over this scenario on my first playthrough, replaying the campaign for the Xth time makes Fatal Mirage just something you have to slog through. The rest of the scenarios is okay. Ice and Death 1 is good. 2 and 3 are mediocre on their own. As a whole unit they work well enough. Peaks is an iteration on Essex, something we’ve seen a few times now. It’s a good iteration but still feels a bit derivative to me. Heart of Madness looks like the sort of thing i should like with its huge map, but somehow it didn’t really grip me much. Can’t even put my finger on it. I think it’s just too disjointed from the rest of the campaign for a finale? It’s also kinda easy and the boss isn’t really a boss. It’s just not what i expect from a campaign finale, i probably would’ve liked this one a lot more if there was more coming afterwards.
In conclusion, my feelings for EotE are basically the opposite to Innsmouth. Innsmouth has an absolutely fantastic roster of scenarios, held together by a weak linear campaign structure with unconvincing flashbacks mechanics. Edge has a well orchestrated campaign and very cool and inventive framework, but the scenarios themselves are nothing to write home about.


I have no problems with replaying Edge multiple times more. It’s not like it’s bad. But it’s also a step back from Innsmouth. It’s also in various parts very similar to TFA, a comparison that Edge also loses. If i had to rank the available campaigns right now, it’d look something like this:
1. Return to TFA
2. Innsmouth
3. Return to Carcosa
4. Edge of the Earth
5. Return to Circle Undone
6. Return to Dunwich
7. Dream-Eaters
With a rather big gap between Carcosa and Edge. The top three are really in another league when compared to the bottom four in my book. Edge is on the wrong side of the divide, but at least it is the best of the rest. That’s something?

Top 10: My favorite encounter artwork

Introduction: Okay, one more Top 10 list to go before i go back to the usual encounter review shenanigans that this site is actually meant for 😉 To close out the triplet of lists where i just want to share some of my favorite cards, here’s the one for encounter artworks. Obviously this is as subjective as it gets. I know nothing about “art” or how “well done” something is. These are pieces on cards that stuck out to me for some reason or another and that i like looking at whenever i return to that particular campaign. As before, i am sure i missed a lot of contenders as well. There’s like 700 cards, and picking 10 out of them isn’t trivial.

#10: Malformed Skeleton. As far as i am aware this is the only skeleton enemy in the game right now. But they went all out on this one, an enormous thing with many heads, a snakelike body made of rib cages and limbs of all sorts sticking in all directions. This piece really has a whole lot going on and makes the enemy appear a whole lot more dangerous than it ends up being in the end.

#9: Grasping Hands. Probably my favorite from the Core Set, it’s just a very iconic scene. I grew up on lots and lots of horror movies and this is just so utterly familiar. Of course you can’t have a horde of zombies/ghouls break into your house without them clawing at you through the walls and floor boards.

#8: Daemonic Piping. The Circle Undone has a couple artworks that deviate from the usual fantastical, slightly comic-y style that Arkham monster art usually goes for and that instead dive head-first into more grotesque stuff. Daemonic Piping is the best of them, which makes sense considering how much more often we see it than the Piper itself or say, a Mindless Dancer.

#7: Somniphobia. Confession time: I should’ve put this one on the list for most unsettling treacheries. But i forgot about it because i don’t play Dream-Eaters that often. However, it does belong on this list as well. Something about the colors in this one just appeals to me. Dream-Eaters has another card, Night Terrors, that is themed and framed very similarly, but in my opinion that one doesn’t hold a candle to Somniphobia. Creepy, great colors, sticks in your mind.

#6: Beast of Aldebaran. Turns out that not every creature artwork needs to be dark greys and browns. I don’t have anything too substantial to say about the art on this one, except that it sticks out from most of the other art by how bright it is. It shows us the monster in all its snakey glory and while doing so it also shows us some of the spires of Carcosa, with the twin suns in the back ground. For a recurring enemy this sets some of the themes of the campaign whenever it appears, but of course especially during the final scenarios where we can easily imagine this thing sitting around the Abbey Tower or on top of the King’s Palace.

#5: Vengeful Serpent. Well, turns out that my favorite snakepeople artwork is also on my favorite snakepeople card. To be honest, it might very well be that my fondness for the card in general makes me appreciate this artwork more than it would’ve otherwise. But i do really like this one, shown in an action pose with swords drawn. It’s also that most of the other serpentfolk in TFA are just looking goofy. Pit Warden and Serpent of Tenochtitlan are pretty much the only ones i like from the base campaign, so getting a proper one here is good. I especially like the head and neck, which look much more snakelike here than the pretty much human ones seen on Harbinger of Brood of Yig.

#4: Constance Dumaine (monster version). The Last King is a scenario that is blessed with tons of great art, and of course the six main guests stick out among them because they actually get two pieces of art showing off their transformation from innocent bystander to monster. Constance Dumaine is the one of them i like the most by a long shot, something about the style she’s drawn in, the color and the lighting does it for me here. Her monster art is quite horrifying, with her bloody mess of an open rib cage she’s a lot more than we usually see in this game. Hands you your first real welcome to the sort of stuff that Carcosa pulls on the player: Things aren’t always what they appear at first, also this can get a bit ghastly at times. Her flavor text is very, very appropriate.

#3: Eager for Death. The use of the Whippoorwills as harbingers of death was probably the most eerie thing that H.P. Lovecraft did in the Dunwich Horror. It’s great then that FFG absolutely nailed that part when they made the Dunwich Legacy. I’ve talked at other parts of this site before about how much i appreciate that the flavor and gameplay of the Whippoorwill set works so well together, but of course the art plays a huge part as well. This scene with the woods being full of these birds is quite spooky and just well done with the different layers (foreground, middle, back) to the image. And the ones in the front seem to be particularly interested in us, the viewer. I hear that’s bad luck…

#2: The Rougarou. Werewolves in media have it rough. They look goofy on film and even in images, most depictions of them are laughable. And if we’re being fair there are also some questionable ones in the Curse of the Rougarou pack. Not so with this artwork, which rightly is used for the card of the monster itself. It doesn’t look goofy in the slightest, this is a vicious wolf creature that is about to tear you apart. It’s wild, it’s primal and a complete force of nature. No #TeamJacob nonsense here. One of the best werewolves i’ve seen.

#1: Crazed Guest. If you thought Last King wouldn’t be able to shock you anymore, check out Return to Last King. Crazed Guest has much of the same things going for her that Constance Dumain has, but with one addition: Just look at her. Look at the pure FUN this girl is having.
The art on Crazed Guest manages to walk that fine line between horror and camp that Arkham Horror thrives on when it’s at its best. On the one hand, we have a very graphic scene here of a dead body, the killer with his heart still in her hands, blood is everywhere.
But then, this is at the same time so over the top that it makes me laugh. The facial expression of the girl. The dutch angle. That one foot we see of the person fleeing off-panel. Never has someone worn the trait “Lunatic.” with such pride and joy. This girl cracks me up.

Final words: There’s something that surprised me here and that is the high number of enemy cards in this list. Compared to treacheries, enemy cards are just at a disadvantage when it comes to artwork because there is so little room for it and it’s in a very awkward and squished format. That being said, there are certainly cards where the treachery frame with its over intrusive “wings” on the side has stood in the way of the artwork. This is really apparent if you ever made some custom cards yourself and try to fit existing art into frames, but you can also see it on cards like Maddening Delusions, which takes a well-known and liked piece of art and completely butchers it.

That The Last King made the list twice isn’t really a surprise, that scenario is just a banger in all regards. What is surprising though is that both Constance Dumaine and Crazed Guest are from the same artist. Here’s Andreia Ugrai’s ArtStation, where you can also find a full artwork of monster Constance. None of the Crazed Guest sadly.

Aaaaand that’s it for my little Top 10 detour. Hope you liked it. I had fun doing these and reading the responses and discussions it spawned. Even learned some stuff. I had some more ideas for lists, but for now i am going to back to my usual stuff. Edge of the Earth arrived on my doorstep last week and i finished the first playthrough already. Instead of doing lists, which was just meant as a filler, i’ll be looking to use my Arkham time to get another play in. It’s a fun campaign and i want to head back in 😉 There’ll surely be more filler time later this year when i run out of official stuff again.