Horrors in the Rock

Set Size6 (+6 locations)
Number of unique Cards3 (+6 locations)
RoleEnemy, Agility, Damage
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios4
Appears in: Written in Rock, Silent Heath, Lost Sister, Fate of the Vale

Like the Rainforest set from the Forgotten Age, this set comes with a set of locations that is used several times throughout the campaign. What we are interested on this page however is the treacheries and the enemy that are part of Horrors in the Rock. While they appear to be six cards, only four of those do enter the encounter deck. Crystal Parasite basically works like its bonded to Chroma Blight and is only taken from the set-aside cards if instructed by that treachery. It also happens to be one of my favorite enemies from all of the Arkham LCG now.

Threat level: High to Very High. Often it can be dealt with reasonably well, but when things go wrong with this one, they tend to go very wrong.

Crystal Parasite is a very interesting enemy that does a couple cool things. With its six health, it is a huge roadblock that can easily take away a full turn to deal with it. But you are warned about its arrival quite some time in advance.
This warning period is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the turn you draw Chroma Blight you are basically getting a free pass to do what you want with nothing that you need to care about at that moment. So you don’t lose momentum at that point at all. However, when the treachery finally pops and the Parasite is put into play, it will be in addition to whatever other encounter card(s) you drew that turn. This is actually a trick that the Feast of Hemlock Vale campaign is very fond of and pulls off a couple times: Putting you in high pressure situations by spawning multiple enemies on you, by stacking treacheries on top of each other or in other ways forcing you to deal with multiple problems at the same time.
And when you take an enemy that by itself might just take a full turn to defeat and stack it with other things you can see how that can escalate.
Taking a closer look at Chroma Blight first, we can see that we get an opportunity here to manipulate when the Parasite shows up. You could avoid drawing extra cards and it would take the thing six turns to arrive… by that time you might already have finished the scenario! On the other hand, you can use additional card draw to influence its timing or simply to get it out faster because you want that point of Victory on the bug. For timing, i see two basic options here: You can either spawn it intentionally during the investigator phase, which would mean that you possibly don’t have all your actions left but could make it available for your teammates. Or you could time it so the sixth counter goes on the Chroma Blight during upkeep (thankfully after the enemy phase!) so you can meet it with all your actions on the following turn. That does however mean that you go into Mythos with an enemy in your threat area, so that might introduce all sorts of complications ranging from a second enemy to Frozen in Fear.
As for the enemy itself, what sticks out to me first is that we have a high health enemy here without the Elite tag. This means we can use a couple of player cards here to cheat, from Waylay over Existential Riddle to Power Word(Confess). Not all these options do allow us to collect the Victory, but at least they solve the problem which can be good enough or at least buy some time. Not that the Parasite is put into play, it doesn’t spawn at your location. That means that Disc of Itzamna would not be able to trigger and neither does Ambush. In my own campaign, i enjoyed putting the “Can not attack” and “Pay out resources equal to health” cards on it with Rod of Carnamagos(2).
Its base statline allows evasive characters to handle this for a turn easily enough, which can be valuable to buy time if you have another enemy staring down on you.
If you fight it head on, the textbox comes into play. There is a difference between meeting it at Day and at Night. During the finale you will always get the Night version. Written in Rock and Silent Heath you will usually play during the Day. And Lost Sister finally has Day/Night effects depend on the location, giving another wrinkle to when and where you want to have it appear.
Its Day form lets it heal when it attacks which is relevant in combination with either the Hunter or the Retaliation keywords. Since it only has 2 fight you can usually expect to hit it, but an autofail can set you back two attacks here as you not only don’t hit but it will also heal from the previous attack.
The Night form gets stronger as damage stacks up on it, increasing its fight to 4, then 6. And its damage to 2, then 3. Again, Retaliate is particularly relevant here because as the fight value increases so does your chance to fail … while the potential hit you take from the retaliation attack also climbs up.
So… how do we beat this thing in a fight? Well, first off if you can just attack it three times without failing, you are good. Sometimes it’s just that easy, especially at Day when the fight value stays low. If the threat of Retaliate is too much, you could consider evading it first. Especially at Day that can pay off, because failing to defeat it otherwise can just heal it to full between a Retaliate trigger and the following enemy phase. Evasion would shut that possibility down but of course cost another action unless you have tech (Stunning Blow, Sweeping Kick, be Finn…). The ability to defeat it in two actions instead of three also mitigates a lot of the inherent risks of the enemy. Nathaniel has an easy time here because most of the things he does deal three damage. But also if you have something like a Lupara or a Chainsaw… just let loose, you will not find a more deserving target for your three damage charges.
There is a lot of moving parts to this enemy and i like how much of it is actually in player hands. Once the six card countdown starts you can check out your options and prepare for this enemy and lay out how to deal with it. It’s not trivial at all, but the Victory point makes it satisfying to try instead of just going for the evade and run. This is one of my favorite enemies in the game now, alongside Vengeful Serpent from the Return to Forgotten Age (actually, those two enemies have quite some overlap in what they do). Just a fantastic design all around. I also appreciate how different this thing plays depending on the scenario. It has special interactions with the Day/Night mechanics of Lost Sister. And as an Insect enemy, it also does some special things in Silent Heath. Oh right, i should probably mention that. Insect enemies in Silent Heath count for certain abilities while they are in the victory display. They can even return from there. This can absolutely be a factor in how to deal with the Parasite, possibly stalling the Chroma Blight and/or evading the enemy so that you only have to kill the Parasite near the end of the scenario to cash in on the Victory.

Threat level: Low

Another thing that Feast of Hemlock Vale is fond of is limiting the use of your soak. There’s treacheries that force you to put horror and damage onto your assets. And there’s a couple cards like Calcification that bypass it, dealing direct damage.
It triggers a direct damage on your first move every turn and that will of course stack up fast if you let it. Notably, it triggers on moving, not on taking a Move action, so it will indeed deal its damage when the minecart in Written in Rock moves you around.
Luckily, Calcification is pretty easy to get rid of. It costs an action and a damage, which is in line with what we’d expect from a treachery. As a treachery in your threat area, other investigators are allowed to trigger the discard ability for you, so if they can more easily pay the damage to do so, that’s an option. Instead of paying a damage for the discard, you can also go for an agility test. It’s an option if you are reasonably certain to pass or if you have a spare Manual Dexterity that you want to use, but in most cases i found paying the damage to be sure not to waste any more actions than necessary to be preferable. But sure, if you are Winifred or Rita, feel free to de-calcify yourself and all your teammates through the agility test.
Calcification by itself is not enough to worry too much about direct damage, but since there are other such effects in the campaign, do consider putting some healing into your deck. I am aware that healing has a bad reputation as being inefficient, but after the heavy damage/horror focus of Innsmouth, Edge, Keys and now also Vale… it’s time to put those outdated views to rest.

4 Replies to “Horrors in the Rock”

  1. The Alessandra player in our group was spelling a String of Curses with Eldritch Tongue. This turned out very efficient against the Christal Parasite.

Leave a Reply