Fate of the Vale

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Final Day, Agents of the Colour, Horrors in the Rock, Refractions, Transfiguration
Available experience:2 (Crystal Parasites) + 5 (Main Emissary, requires a willpower(100) test) + 3 (the other three parts of the Emissary) + 5 (resolution R1) = 14XP on v1 of the scenario

Size of the Encounter Deck28
# Enemies6
# Willpower8
# Agility4
# Intellect2
# Fight2
# Damage4
# Horror12
# Doom

My take on this encounter deck: So, technically speaking this scenario has no encounter deck. It does however have its Abyss and during the mythos phase it behaves just like the encounter card would, serving up one card per player, skipping all the non-encounter stuff that is in the Abyss. So that’s what the numbers above are referencing, those are the part of the abyss that is used for encounter cards during mythos. And what can i say, i kind of expected a bigger number than 28 there for the full thing, it certainly appears like more when you handle that large brick. Sure, it gets beefed up with player cards, residents, locations and whatever else is at hand, but still.
Looking at the numbers, we can immediately point at one reason why the finale is quite difficult: That is a truckload of horror on these cards and that doesn’t even account for enemy attacks, extra attacks from tokens, the Emissary or Resident cards. We also go back to willpower as the dominant skill to use for tests … and those willpower tests are usually linked to horror. This alone is going to get some investigators, with rogues being particularly vulnerable. You do get a free heal early on in the scenario that wipes your trauma and any damage and horror you got until that point, but there is enough in the encounter deck to still catch up to you after that happens.
There’s only six enemies in all of that, but they are gross ones: Crystal Parasite, Miasmatic Shadow and Crystal Mimic, with two copies each. Notably, Parasites and Shadows have Victory so Crystal Mimics are the only ones that go back into the deck after defeat (which is relevant for one of the versions of Fate of the Vale). By this point, you need to be able to kill Miasmatic Shadows. They are far too dangerous to let them stay alive as discard is everywhere and they simply can not be avoided. Since it’s always night in this scenario, Shadows also gain their Elusive, making them even more awful to deal with. Depending on the specific variant of the scenario you might also have to deal with several of the residents once/if you return to the village in the final act so don’t let that low number of only six enemies in the deck fool you… there is plenty to do for your fighters here.

My take on the scenario as a whole: I love it. It’s dangerous, it’s unique, it’s outrageous. This is what a campaign finale should look like, utterly memorable and with several payoffs depending on things you did during the scenarios that came before. Is it completely fair? Oh no. Not at all. Doesn’t matter though, it’s a fantastic experience and just achievable enough to be motivating. Now obviously it’s going to be different from person to person where you draw your line between motivating and frustrating difficulty. And i certainly have read enough complaints online about it, in particular about not scaling all that well down to two players or even solo play. I feel like it’s nowhere on a level with something like Where the Gods Dwell however. Just to put my own experiences forward as a reference, at time of writing this page i have played the campaign four times, at two players on Standard. Of those four plays two were wins. Two were losses. One of the losses, my first play, would almost have been a win had i just had two more turns. One of the wins was a win despite playing a meme-y teamup of Finn and Skids. So winning here is absolutely possible… just don’t expect it to be easy.
It’s regrettable that missing the opportunity to regain a True Self and have it go back to the top of the Abyss sets you back far enough that it’s almost a game over. That is a bit unfair and can be frustrating to experience. But still, I am taking a memorable experience over the forgettable finales of the last few campaigns any time of the day. Even when they aren’t perfect.

Variants: There are four different versions for the final bout of the scenario (and the campaign!), which are available depending on your choices in the interludes and scenarios up to here.
Version 1 stays in the alien realm for the last act. The players will need to deplete all of the Abyss deck. Version 1 ends with either Rosa Marquez sacrificing herself for the investigators or the other way round. This version is only available if you followed either Rosa’s story or Gideon’s.
Version 2 is available if you either made William and River have a truce or if you reunited the Peters family. You will return to the Hemlock Vale at night, searching the village for the residents that are cooped up in their homes and evacuate them.
If you put fireworks all over The Vale, you get access to version 3 where you can torch the place. This seems to be the most difficult variant, allowing you little time to move around The Vale to collect and place kindling at the appropriate spots.
You always have the option to just flee. This will also move you to the village at night and you will need to prepare everything that you need to get out of there.
During all of these variants the Cosmic Emissary will be around, in its “Shattered” form where it can be attacked and defeated. But where they will also be much more active in haunting the players.

Before the scenario enters its final act with different versions depending on how your campaign went, the Cosmic Emissary provides a consistent background threat. You are forced to fight or evade it every turn despite being unable to damage or exhaust it, otherwise you get smacked by varying amounts of damage and/or horror.
Notably, this doesn’t scale with player count, so one investigator spending this action will also make sure that the others at their location are safe from being attacked by the Emissary that turn. Compare this to the location effects which will require every investigator to do a thing or they have to discard immediately when they end their turn.
The Emissary also provides the constant presence of a Colour enemy, powering up the Otherworldy Visions treachery.
Thankfully, the Emissary cannot make attacks of opportunity, limiting its damage output to “just” its regular attack with Massive and even that only if nobody attacked or evaded that part of the enemy. To make up for it, there are a couple of effects around that trigger an extra attack, so it’s worth keeping in mind which part of the combined enemy is currently nearest to you. On that note, each player can freely choose any of the four locations to start at, so picking a location with an enemy that you can easily evade or fight makes sense. The stats per enemy vary, with two of them only having a 2 in either fight or evade (however with the added threat of retaliation or alert).

This thing replaces your investigator card at the beginning of the scenario, triggering violent flashbacks to the many times that TFA’s City of Archives screwed you over. What salvages Shattered Self is that it does give you the tools to get your real self back. You can potentially win any test and the doubling of icons can give you the necessary reach to oversuceed towards your investigator cards. In theory.
In practice you will have to struggle hard not to fall prey to the many discard effects in this scenariobecause those will cause a downward spiral real fast with you unable to pass anything… which will just knock more cards out of your hands. Keeping your hand size up is absolutely vital here. You do not want to get into a situation where you have to use your three actions to draw a card, only to then have to discard one of them to the effect of your location and another one to this turn’s treachery.
The silver lining is that once you found the first of the true investigator cards in the abyss, you can flip the Shattered Self into a coupon that grabs any card you pass by in the abyss, provided you can pay some clues. This is incredibly helpful for getting any other investigator cards for your team (or any of the locations, later on).

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: High to Very High

What a ghastly card. Elusive and Hunter on a 5 health enemy? That is so incredibly difficult to defeat. It also has high values for fight and evade which makes it even more difficult. Well… hopefully it has high values there. The alternative is that you are running out of cards in your hand which is just as dangerous in this scenario.
It even triggers a (random!) discard on attack and just for fun also counts as a Colour enemy to power up Otherworldly Visions. Absolutely dreadful. Whenever one of these shows up, the scenario instantly gets a lot more difficult because it will eat a lot of your actions, soak, cards or whatever else you need to throw at it to have it go.
And when it goes, it goes back to the abyss instead of the victory display, too? Yikes.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat Level: Mid

I don’t particularly care about the “on top of the abyss” part, but losing up to four cards from my hand? Absolutely not. Thankfully you always have the option of taking an attack from the Emissary instead and that is what i would assume as the default mode here.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat Level: Low to Mid.

This one works similar to Sublimation, but the alternate option to eating an attack by the Emissary is much more reasonable here. Losing an asset is not great and will often hit one of your allies, but i’d rather do that than lose three or more of my cards in hand in most cases. Sometimes you can even get lucky and lose something that you don’t need anymore, but since it goes for your highest cost assets you can’t just throw a Mag Glass at this one.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat Level: High

This one however allows you to feed it a Mag Glass, Mask or similar low cost thing to satisfy it. I still do think that this is a lot more dangerous though. Two horror is not what you want to take in Fate of the Vale, there is just too much of it going around. But since you have to pick one thing even if you pass the test and have to pick both if you fail, that will be very hard to avoid. Intellect is also not necessarily a skill that many investigators can test well and certainly not at difficulty 4. This card has some really awful worst case scenarios that simply can not happen at all with the other two scenario specific treacheries.

3 Replies to “Fate of the Vale”

  1. I still remember how you described Lost in Time and Space once (can’t remember where, sorry): A scenario that makes you ask “Wait, they can do that?” It sounds like Fate of the Vale is a similar case, which is good; even if it serves as a sword dividing the community between those who love it and those who hate it, at least it excites more interest than the vigorous bowl of meh that was Congress of the Keys.

    Regarding your observation about the difficulty, though, I had an idea; what do you think of the idea of adding inverse-Ultimatums, official optional rules you can use to make a scenario easier? That way the designers can make scenarios that the less difficulty-motivated players (like marshmallow me) are able to enjoy without making them too easy for the more motivated players like you.

    1. Yes, I definitely feel similar about Fate of the Vale as i felt about Lost in Time and Space back then. I am getting the same “oh wow, this is really different and alien!” kind of vibes that i want to see if we cross dimensional barriers with our investigators.

      House rules for difficulty are around and anyone is free to come up with what they like. One thing that i would suggest for this scenario in particular:
      If you aren’t playing 4 players, take one of the Shattered Selfs you don’t use, flip it and put that “pay clues to grab a card you see in the abyss” coupon in play for your lead investigator (if you are playing 4p, use a proxy). This will give you an out to unfavorable sequencing by the encounter deck that would flush a True Self back to the top of the abyss. I think that case is the only thing that can wreck you unfairly, the rest of the scenario is perfectly within limits of what a finale should bring.

      1. Thinking back, that was honestly one of the main disappointments of Dim Carcosa; it wasn’t really that weird, especially after Search for Kadath introduced Veiled. Yes, you had infinite sanity, but TBH there wasn’t really enough extra incoming horror to make that matter, and the punishments for being without sanity were too harsh to justify making use of it. Honestly, the most horrifying thing about it was setup, having to place all those clue tokens.

        The main reason I had for suggesting inverse-Ultimatums was so that, unlike house rules, they would have the official approval of FFG, allowing players to play the scenario legitimately without having to bash their head against a wall until the stars align and they succeed. House rules are good, don’t get me wrong, and your suggestion does sound interesting, I just thought that having something more official would be more beneficial.

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