|Size of the Encounter Deck
My take on this encounter deck: Horror in High Gear is … different. The scenario takes the reins away from the players and limits their options in terms of movement by tying them to the car that is pacing on at a constant speed. If players are unable to discover all clues from the current location before they are automatically moved on, bad things happen to them: Mostly damage and horror, but also new enemies or what is basically a saving throw against dying right there as the card is in danger of just driving over a cliff. The player can either take this on the chin and tank it or stop the car, which will allow pursuing enemies to catch up. Stopping and starting the car also takes away an action each, so this should be reserved for emergencies.
I am mentioning all this because for this scenario looking at the encounter deck alone doesn’t really paint a full picture. The enemies are more like framework to force the players to keep on moving instead of things to fight. And the treacheries mostly deal more damage, horror or discard cards which all stacks up just perfectly with the effects of the locations. More than any other scenario, Horror in High Gear is a gauntlet that the players have to run through and hope to come out in one piece on the other side.
It’s a good thing then that this sort of scenario is the exception. It takes a lot of control away from the players and almost plays itself at times. As a singleton scenario that is fine, but it’s certainly not something intriguing and deep as the rest of Innsmouth Conspiracy.
Cancel these: Eyes in the Trees, Memory of Oblivion. Obligatory mention of Ancient Evils as well, of course. The scenario does offer enough time to get into the last location at the default one location per turn pace (and has a handful turns extra for detours or unintentional stops along the way), so Ancient Evils isn’t too bad here. Of course it does make bad situations only worse…
Eyes in the Trees and Memory of Oblivion both go after player cards in hand and both with the potential of stripping away a lot of cards at that. Cards that are likely needed to pick up the clues off of key locations.
What it does: The first of the three different enemy vehicles that pursue the players. The Hit Van spawns at the rearmost location, moving through its Hunter keyword at a pace of 1 location per round, just like the player cars do. If it catches up, it doesn’t get to immediately attack. This, combined with its high health of 5 and the Retaliate keyword, points players towards evading it instead of trying to defeat it.
My take: The least scary of the three vehicle enemies. For the most part, it becomes part of a wall of enemies that stack upon each other at the rearmost location. So it contributes to a critical mass of enemies that threatens to overwhelm players if they are not able to keep a step ahead, but are not all that impressive on their own. Evasion keeps the Hit Van in check easily enough.
Threat level: Low. Investigators with no agility might run into troubles here, but everyone else can just spend an action or two over the course of the scenario to leave it impotent.
Dealing with it: There are not a whole lot of enemies in this scenario, so if the group has someone with ways to defeat it in two actions, that’s certainly an option. But as mentioned, the lack of an immediate attack in the enemy phase following the Hunter movement makes this enemy quite easy to handle with evasion. It’s probably best to reserve the best attacks for the Motorcars, the Winged One or even the Terror from Devil Reef.
What it does: The Pursuing Motorcar shares some of its characteristics with the Hit Van. It also spawns at the rearmost location and it also uses Hunter to match the player’s default space. But while its low agility invites an evasion approach as well, that is actually a bit of a trap because this is where similarities end. If the Motorcar catches up with the player’s, it does indeed attack as one would expect. However it attacks all players in that vehicle instead of just the one. And at 2 damage per attack this can hurt a lot. Should it get to attack a player outside of a vehicle it even does 4 damage.
My take: The most likely enemy to deal significant damage or horror to the investigators. Attacking everyone in the car gives this enemy’s attacks a lot of punch, so evading it after that just sets players up to take another one of these hits down the road. At 4 stamina and 4 fight, it’s also not trivial to take down at all.
Threat level: High. Lots of damage on an elite sized body that’s hard to take down.
Dealing with it: Ideally you never have to engage this enemy in the first place, it’s main role is forcing players to keep their foot on the pedal and keep on plowing through the locations. Maybe even using the acceleration action to propel the car ahead one location at the cost of an extra encounter card. If you do have to engage it, try to take it out for good if you have the firepower on the board. If not… evade it, i guess. And don’t have it catch up again. It’s worth pointing out that this is a non-Elite high health enemy with low evasion, meaning it’s a valid target for Waylay. As a Humanoid, it can even be handcuffed. Both of those are true for the other two vehicles as well, but Motorcar is surely the best target for such silver bullets.
What it does: Unlike the other two enemies, the Hybrid Assassin doesn’t spawn behind the players, it spawns the default way engaged to the player who drew it. It only deals a single horror on attack, but at 3 health it does have at least some staying power. And while it only has a single point of evasion, it will catch up with the players easily: Each time it hunts without engaging someone for the first time, it hunts again.
My take: While the other two enemies are dangerous in their own way, this guy is mostly harassing the players and eating some of their actions away when they really would rather be investigating. So it can be a danger in its own if it takes away more than one action from a critical turn. Having 3 damage for one action available is obviously great here and players would do well to save up one for just this occasion.
Threat level: Low to Mid. A nuisance, but can situationally be more relevant than it looks like
Dealing with it: In the vast majority of cases, players will be able to either smash this guy in one action or have the time to use two actions on it and still be able to handle their location. In the rare cases where things align to make the Hybrid a bigger threat, the evasion can come in as a failsafe to only lose the one action to it for now. It will lead to having it engage again two or three turns later, but since it only deals a single horror that can be okay.
What it does: All enemies with the Hunter keyword get to resolve it immediately. This will make them catch up with the players and, should they reach them, engage. Note that this will not cause an immediate attack, though.
Should no enemy be moved by this treachery (because there are none or they are already engaged), cards from the encounter deck are discarded until a Vehicle enemy shows up. That vehicle is then spawned at the rearmost location.
My take: This can really put the pressure on the players as it causes those motorcars and hit vans (and kraken!) that have been stacking up in the rearmost location to catch up. This treachery is the reason why players should always try to keep an empty location between themselves and the enemies. If necessary, the driver should consider that taking the action on the car to jump ahead one location.
Threat level: Medium. This card is a power multiplier for all the vehicles in the scenario.
Dealing with it: Thankfully, the worst cases that could result from this card are fairly easy to prevent. Stay ahead of this treachery by keeping a buffer location between yourself and the enemies. This is where the option to drive an extra location at the cost of an encounter card comes in handy.
Should you end up with a handful of enemies in your threat area suddenly, everyone in the car should probably focus on evading them and just barrel into the next location – and hope that the fallout from not being able to grab clues this turn is not going to be too bad!
What it does: This treachery deals horror for failing a willpower test, but depending on whether the investigator is in a vehicle or not the exact details vary. If they are in a vehicle, the driver has to take the test instead and on failing the horror is dealt to everyone in the same car. If they are on foot, the treachery will only affect themselves but the difficulty of the test is increased from 3 to 5 and the horror dealt goes up from 2 to 3.
My take: There are next to no reasons to leave the vehicle, so this should usually force the driver to test against this treachery. Depending on their willpower, the horror from this card can potentially add up with the other horror sources quite fast. Between this, Macabre Momento from Shattered Memories and various location effects there’s certainly enough going around to drive someone insane without ever engaging an enemy.
Threat level: Medium. The ability to hit multiple investigators is what puts this one over the top when compared to other horror treacheries.
Dealing with it: Having a competent driver that can pass willpower tests is of course the best defense here. If this is not a given, then saving up a Guts or two to shore up defenses can be a good idea.
What it does: Every willpower/horror treachery needs its agility/damage counterpart, so Bumpy Ride mirrors “I Can’t See!” to prive exactly that. Agility is tested instead of willpower. Damage is dealt instead of horror. Otherwise, this works exactly the same, including the dependency on whether or not the investigator is in a car.
My take: Naturally what was said before goes for this one as well. It should be noted that the damage treachery in the Shattered Memories set doesn’t actually use agility, it uses intellect instead. So these two don’t stack up as neatly, but this is offset by agility being tested on the cliff locations and by enemies predominantly dealinging damage.
Threat level: Medium. Same deal as before, being able to hit two players at once can be bad.
Dealing with it: I would consider agility to be more important than willpower for the driver because of the cliff locations that you really don’t want to fail if you have to take the test.
What it does: After failing a willpower test, the investigator has to discard a card from their hand for each point they failed by unless they choose to discard an asset from play instead. If they failed while in a car, the other investigator will have resolve this effect as well.
My take: Unless you have a spare asset to feed into this treachery, it can be a royal pain. Having to choose between losing a critical asset you already invested resources and actions into or discarding up to four(!) cards from hand is often hard.
And that’s before you consider that it might even hit the whole car.
Threat level: High. Possibly the worst treachery in this encounter deck.
Dealing with it: Unless you have either a cheap sacrificial asset or managed to fail by only one point, this is usually going to get ugly. Passing the willpower test would be optimal of course, but at difficulty 4 that’s just not going to be possible all the time. Players should consider prioritizing a cheap asset if they have it in their hand because chances are high that they will need to take one or two of these on the chin during the scenario.