City of the Elder Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Reply to “City of the Elder Things”

  1. “Except for version 2, where this bonus merely removes a Tekeli-li from each player deck, these are quite influential. ”
    “remove a Tekeli-li per player (v2)”

    Version 2 actually lets each player remove EACH Tekeli-li from their deck, not just one-per. Version 3 still has a vastly better reward compared to the other two (like, so good that from a metagame perspective it might be worth deliberately killing Partners to engineer especially if your plane-crash death isn’t from Group 3), but version 2’s does at least have a chance of being meaningful by getting decks clear (especially if you skip Fatal Mirage (and/or potentially Heart-of-Madness-1 although that’s a bit sketchier)).

    I’d consider version 1’s bonus-key-reward to be the weakest. It’s very plausible to not have any trauma anyway, and if you really wanted to heal it you may have Mala or Eliyah around to do so in an interlude. Trauma can also be naturally mitigated by choosing a Partner based on their health/sanity, especially at lower player counts where there will be many spare Partners and so in the last couple scenarios you can use the extras for soak while still keeping them alive.

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