|Size of the Encounter Deck
My take on this encounter deck: Despite Ancient Evils being a part of this relatively small encounter deck, doom progress isn’t the primary driving force for once. Instead, the scenario has us deal with alarm level and the cards that interact with it. To support this, more than half of the encounter deck is scenario specific cards, with only three other sets thrown in to fill up the deck with somewhat generic cards.
The scenario specific cards are without exception quite threatening. The enemies do pack quite the punch and of course the scenario also features the large Moon Lizard to pile on top of what’s already going on.
At the same time, the treacheries (and locations) test willpower and agility at every corner, and failing at them will just feed into the alarm level and thus into more difficult tests down the line. As a result, investigators with a particular weakness in either agility ( like Leo) or willpower (like Finn) or both (like Joe) can find themselves completely unable to deal with many of the key challenges of the scenario if the rest of the team isn’t able to compensate somehow. As a result, i personally think this is the most challenging scenario from the Dream-Eaters cycle, to the point where knowing that i have to face it does influence which investigators i even consider using to tackle the dream side of the campaign.
Counter these: Lunar Patrol, Close Watch. For once, it’s not necessarily Ancient Evils that needs to be canceled most. Keeping a low alarm level will save many actions on the way and will lessen the difficulty of many cards in this scenario. Of course, some investigators with high agility or spare assets to discard may be well equipped to handle either of those treacheries already, but if some are weak to these cards it’s worth keeping some protection up.
What it does: At 5 strength and 5 health, the Moon-Beast is a powerful enemy to face in a fight. The Retaliate keyword makes attacking it even more of a risk. It only has an agility of 1, so it’s easy enough to evade and move past. However, not killing the Moon-Beast will lead to an increase of everyone’s alarm level. A victory point provides further incentive to attack the beast.
My take: Remember that evading an enemy will turn off the Retaliate keyword. This is one of the few enemies where doing so is very likely going to be worth taking the extra action to remove the threat of being counterattacked. Early in the scenario, i would try to take this creature down, the increase in alarm level is too punishing otherwise. Once on the second half of the scenario, just evading the thing and moving on becomes more attractive. I wouldn’t give the victory point too much of a consideration in how to deal with Moon-Beast. The campaign is fairly generous with XP and this is the last scenario before the finale anyways.
Threat level: High. These either will need a lot of actions to take down or will increase the difficulty of many other cards in the scenario.
Dealing with it: If possible, take it down to avoid carrying the alarm level penalty around for the rest of the scenario. But do consider how many actions it would require to actually do so. The initial evasion, 5 health, possible failed attacks… all this can easily add up to spending the equivalent of two turns just to deal with one enemy. Evaluating if it’s worth it or not is one of the more difficult decisions to make in this scenario and not necessarily obvious. Of note, the Moon-Beast is not an elite enemy, so cards like Waylay or Close Call can put in good work here.
What it does: Cats from Saturn have mediocre stats on their own, but spawn with a number of swarm cards equal to the investigator’s alarm level. They do have Hunter, but will lose one swarm card whenever they move. Evading them will also cause them to lose a swarm card.
My take: If you let the alarm level pile up, the Cats of Saturn can become a major pain to deal with. At two life per creature, every swarm card will usually require an action, unlike for example Swarm of Spiders, where an attack action can often kill two or more of them. This is a very memorable card, i like it.
Threat level: Mid to High. There are several ways to deal with the card, but the strong scaling on the card can mean that it sticks around for a long time to harass the players.
Dealing with it: As one of the major payoff cards for the alarm level mechanic, keeping that alarm level low would be the first step in dealing with the Cats. If that fails and three or more swarm cards get attached to them, then usually evading is the better call than attacking as the evasion will take a swarm card away and having the Cats follow you around will wear them down as well. Also, just so it doesn’t get unmentioned: As with all swarming cards, having a specialized answer like Dynamite Blast or Storm of Spirits would be ideal of course.
What it does: With a three in all stats, the Byakhee is not overly difficult to defeat, but it will require two actions most of the time. It has Alert and Hunter, but will ignore any investigator with low alarm levels. If it attacks, it deals a horror and three damage.
My take: Three damage is a whole lot to get hit for, so avoiding that should be a priority. An alarm level of three can easily be reached very soon even by investigators with high will and evasion, so dealing with the Byakhee in a permanent way is usually going to be the play.
Threat level: Mid to High. The combat stats aren’t anything too special, but the high damage in combination with Hunter means that dealing with the creature is a priority and leaves little room for errors.
Dealing with it: Being proactive goes a long way towards avoiding being dealt damage here. Instead of letting the Byakhee come to you, consider moving into its location and killing it in one turn. Staying below the alarm threshold is likely not going to be sustainable forever, so try to find the right moment to engage. While you are still at alarm 2 or less, the thing doesn’t fight back, giving another reason to be proactive about killing it.
What it does: On failing an agility check, the player has to either sacrifice their asset with the highest cost or raise their alarm level. At a difficulty of four, the test is difficult enough that all but a few investigators should expect to either fail it or having to invest some cards.
My take: There’s three of these in the deck which makes them a key component of making this scenario particularly hostile towards low agility investigators. But even someone like Rita can not expect to just pass this test without commiting some cards or other resources to it. Unless the player just happens to be lucky enough that the treachery would hit an empty weapon or something similarly disposable, raising the alarm level is usually going to be the option to pick here.
Threat level: Low to Mid. A good way to think about this card is like it would just plainly have the text “Raise your alarm level by one.” and then thinking of the rest of the text as ways to mitigate the effect. So the actual threat of the card scales purely by how much the player cares about the alarm level.
Dealing with it: In spite of the player choice offered, this card is very straight forward in practice. Unless the player is trying hard to stay below an alarm level of three, it’s unlikely to be worth investing icons from cards into the agility test. If raising the alarm level or sacrificing the asset is the correct call, should usually be fairly obvious too.
What it does: Forced into Hiding makes the investigator test their willpower against a difficulty equal to the alarm level. Failing this test will cost the player one to three actions, depending on how hard they failed.
My take: This card scales hard with the escalating alarm level. Not only does the test get more difficult, but the consequences also grow more severe. Losing actions is always a pretty big deal, but even more so in this scenario which has a handful of Hunter enemies capable of hitting for three or more damage and some severe time constraints. That being said, we expect most encounter cards to require about two actions to deal with them and Forced into Hiding meets this rule of thumb.
Threat level: Mid. This card abruptly jumps from barely worth caring about to being a potential threat once players gain their third point of alarm.
Dealing with it: Preparing for willpower tests from the encounter deck is one of the basic considerations that go into deck building, so hopefully this part is covered. Luckily, Forced into Hiding allows partial mitigation of the effects, so even low will investigators can soften the blow somewhat by throwing a Guts or similar into the test.
What it does: Lunar Patrol attaches to a location and will raise the alarm level whenever an investigator moves on from there. To discard it, the player will have to spend an action and pass an agility check.
My take: Lunar Patrol is, after Close Watch, the second reason why at least a passable agility is required to get the alarm level somewhat under control. As long as the investigators do not split up, anyone can clear this treachery, so the impact of the card will at least be limited. It should be very rare for Lunar Patrol to trigger its alarm ability twice.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Except on investigators that are naturally weak to agility tests, this should only eat up an action or two to clear. Investigators like Leo Anderson will just have to take the alarm level increase, if no other player is around to bail them out.
Dealing with it: Estimate how many actions you would expect it to take to clear the treachery and then decide if it’s worth doing so over accepting the alarm level. The action (and test) can be used by any player at the location, but it’s likely not going to be worth it for someone to go out of his way spending move actions just to get there.