Dark Cult

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 3

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

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 1

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

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 3

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

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 1

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

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 2

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

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

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

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

Return to The Forgotten Age: Cult of Pnakotus

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 3

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

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 1

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

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

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

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

Number in the encounter deck: 2

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

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

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

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

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