Encounter sets in this scenario: Ice and Death, The Crash, Creatures in the Ice, Deadly Weather, Hazards of Antarctica, Silence and Mystery, Ancient Evils
Available experience: 8 (shelter value) + 1 (Terror in the Stars) = 9XP
|Size of the Encounter Deck||33|
Synopsis: The investigators and the team of explorers crashland somewhere on the shelf ice and needs to find a suitable shelter. The scenario is played on a rather large map of 13 locations. Each location has a shelter value, with higher values being better. Except for the first four, each location also requires a number of clues for players to reveal them. This means that players will continuously have to grab clues from the places available to them in order to unlock more, trekking their way across the map this way. While it’s in theory possible to uncover the whole map (there’s just barely enough clues available for that), this task is likely going to take the full three Ice and Death scenarios instead.
While the players are free to end the scenario at any location they cleared of clues, there’s really four goals here:
1 – Find a location with the desired shelter value and clear all clues from it.
2 – Uncover as much of the map as possible because this progress will transfer to part II and III
3 – Recover as many expedition assets as possible. These can be found on some of the locations and usually require some sort of extra test. Not all of them require the location to be free of clues.
4 – Minimize your exposure to the effects that persist through the campaign. Those are the Tekili-li weaknesses which stick around in your deck until drawn and the Frost tokens which stay in the bag until removed by some other effect.
Opposing the players in these goal are the harsh weather conditions (represented by treacheries that stay on a location for a turn or longer) and of course some Mythos creatures that are breaking out of the ice soon after the crash.
My take on this scenario: Scenarios in the Edge of the Earth are tightly connected with each other and doing well in this first one will make the rest a lot easier. Of course, the opposite is also true, as failing to secure a good shelter will leave you with fewer team members, resources and XP while missing some of the expedition assets is going to make later scenarios more difficult (and also cost you some XP down the road).
So it’s important to hit the ground running, this is not a campaign for decks that only kick into gear after considerable upgrades. You’ll want to be quick and efficient with clue discovery to make your way across the map towards the more valuable locations. Fights are fewer than usual, but the enemies that you meet are quite dangerous for a first scenario. There’s even a boss enemy that pops up near two thirds of the scenario that can be exceptionally difficult to kill with level zero decks. Previously i thought of Curtain Call as the most difficult first scenario of a campaign, but i think that Ice and Death has it beat. Not only does it have a more broad set of challenges, but it also has way more consequences for failing.
Playing these first three scenarios for the first time might be the most tense experience i had in this game yet. I very much like the sense of permanence to many of the things happening in this scenario (and really, this campaign). We had things like Vengeance or Conviction/Doubt before, but Edge does have a lot of persisting effects, both large and small. From just a Tekeli-li weakness or two making it to the next scenario over the chaos bag slowly filling up with Frost tokens to having a map that you uncover over the course of three scenarios, this campaign (and especially Ice and Death within it) takes this concept to a new high.
Scenario specific encounter sets: The Ice and Death set is used in all three parts. It consists of three copies of Skittering Nonsense, a smaller Eidolon enemy and two copies each of two treacheries. Both of those treacheries are quite impactful. Apeirophobia can force additional Frost tokens into the bag if the investigator doesn’t have clues to drop and is unwilling/unable to take the horror. Zero Visibility makes traversing the map a lot harder, as there are plenty of treacheries around that attach to locations. Low agility investigators that have this for several turns can lose a lot of actions to it. For part I, the Skittering Nonsense are set aside in the beginning, they will only enter the game once the agenda advances for the first time.
Act/Agenda: There’s only a single act card, doing nothing more than stating the goal of finding a shelter and providing the resign action for when you are ready to finish up. The agenda deck gives a total of 18 doom worth of time, divided across three cards. There aren’t any enemies or Tekeli-li related cards in the deck for the first couple turns, but as soon as the agenda advances the first time, they are shuffled in. Notably, the encounter discard is not shuffled back in – so drawing an Ancient Evils in the first three turns at least isn’t as awful as it is in Untamed Wilds. At the same time, one Skittering Nonsense is put into play engaged to the lead investigator. Since its a fairly minor enemy and you had plenty of time to prepare, this shouldn’t be an issue. Once the agenda advances a second time, the Terror of the Stars is spawned, an elite enemy with Massive and Hunter, lots of damage/horror and a huge pile of stamina. Once the final agenda runs out, the players are forced to resign at whatever highest shelter location they have available.
Terror of the Stars: This huge beast is by far the biggest threat in this scenario. It comes out for the last couple turns of the scenario, appearing at the highest shelter location that is currently revealed. If the players want to use that location for their shelter, they will have to either kill the Terror, lure it away or keep it evaded while they investigate any still required clues. We really haven’t seen anything quite like this is a scenario 1 of a campaign since the Core Set’s Ghoul Priest. And there’s no Lita Chantler in this one to bail us out…
The Eidolons: These are the only enemies in the scenario aside from the Terror. One Nonsense is guaranteed to spawn on agenda 1 advancing, the other cards come from the encounter deck past that point. They all share that they are Hunters (or quasi-Hunters), that they only deal a single point of damage and horror on attack and that they cause players to pick up Tekeli-li weaknesses. These weaknesses considerably add to the potential attack strength of these creatures. It’s worth noting that with the exception of Skittering Nonsense these are also not trivial to defeat. Unlike many other first scenarios, which feature something like rats, cultists or similar, these do all put up a fight. Having a way to deal three damage with an attack makes life a lot easier against the Manifestations, of which there are three in the deck.
Agility testing treacheries: Agility plays a bigger role than usual in the Edge of the Earth. Ice and Death gives the first taste of this by featuring these three treacheries that deal damage, tax actions or do both. The difficulties on these tests aren’t too bad, but low agility investigators like Leo or Preston would certainly have to think about how to mitigate these.
Location based treacheries: There’s a total of 5 different cards (2 copies each) in the encounter deck that attach to the location of the investigator and affect everyone there. The three hazards from Deadly Weather discard at the end of the round, but Polar Mirage and Through the Ice can potentially stay for several rounds. As a result, these cards do have some amount of scaling by player count built in as they can affect more than just the player who drew the card. Most importantly though, they interact with Zero Visibility from the Ice and Death specific cards: The location treacheries make moving forwards through them cost more actions for investigators with Zero Visibility. At the same time, Zero Visibility makes it more costly to escape those hazards.
Horror and Damage: While there’s (comparatively) not a lot of fighting, the encounter deck is able to inflict some serious hurt anyways. Ice and Death uses both Ice Shaft and Dark Aurora, two cards that can deal significant amounts of damage or horror. While they aren’t that horrible at first, they can get very nasty if the number of Frost tokens creeps up. Luckily, in Ice and Death I there are only few ways to actually get these tokens (Apeirophobia, several location effects) so this shouldn’t escalate too hard. Together with some other damage/horror cards like Polar Vortex and Through the Ice it’s enough to put players low enough that the Terror can become life-threatening when it shows up.
Ancient Evils: Yep, it’s back. Get used to it, it’s all over the campaign. In Ice and Death, Ancient Evils makes it so you can’t fully rely on being able to count the turns until the scenario is over. Once you are close to the end of the scenario you will have to be aware of how many Evils are in the discard pile. If you still have some to go in the deck, you could have the agenda run out fast than you expected. Running out of doom isn’t actually all that punishing for Ice and Death I, but Evils will be a bigger issue for parts II and III.
Notable shelter locations: When determining which shelter you may want to try and get, there’s three basic approaches:
– Crystalline Caverns: This is the only shelter 8 location, so you get the maximum in terms of XP and resources and you also don’t risk losing any of your team members. On the other hand, this is a rather difficult location to clear at shroud 5 and 3i clues. Also, taking this will automatically skip Ice and Death II, which can be a disadvantage if you plan on uncovering the whole map for the expedition supplies.
– Barrier Camp or Lake’s Camp: At shelter 7, you will risk only 1 of your team members in the upcoming Ice and Death II. If you want to play that scenario, this is the highest shelter you can take.
– Frigid Cave: Shelter 6, so it’s still decent. The big advantage this one has over the better shelters is that it’s less costly to reveal (2i clues instead of 4i). It is also the highest shelter that you can take if you want to play Fatal Mirage as early as possible(EDIT: without intentionally killing off partners through lethal damage/horror).
– Snow Graves or Icebreaker Landing: Shelter 5 is the bare minimum that you should accept. Anything less than that and you will actually go with a penalty to resources into Ice and Death II and III while also putting an unnecessary amount of team members at risk and forgoing valuable XP. Like Frigid Cave, these locations are cheap to reveal. In comparison to the Cave, they are a bit easier to clear off their clues as well due to lower shroud.
Each of these 6 locations has a supply item to recover on it, so you should make it your goal to reveal all of them over the course of the three Ice and Death scenarios.
Other notable locations: This scenario asks the group to pick up a whole lot of clues. Luckily, there are some locations that offer a good number of them at low shroud. Two of the starting locations, Frozen Shores and Treacherous Path are both easy to clear. One down from the Shores are the Broad Snowdrifts, where you can grab clues at shroud 1 (don’t fall for the trap of the ability on the card, you really don’t want to add a Frost token there). Going to the upper left, the Icy Wastes and the Icebreaker Landing both have another handful of clues at 2 shroud. These locations together offer 8i clues. 4i of those clues are spent on revealing those locations, leaving you with enough to also reveal one of the big camps or the Crystalline Cavern.
As far as dangerous locations go, there are two that stand out. Precarious Ice Sheet and Rocky Crags both have abilities that you’ll want to avoid being exposed to as much as possible. Crags is just dangerous to be at because it gives more than a third of the encounter deck surge.
Ice Sheet lets each of the Hazard treacheries add a Frost to the chaos bag, which will potentially haunt you for the rest of the campaign. There’s 13 Hazards traited cards in the deck which is almost half. Don’t risk it. EDIT: I misread the Ice Sheet. The ability to add a Frost instead of resolving the Hazard is optional. I am leaving this mistake here and not edit it out completely to draw attention to that distinction. It’s an easy thing to miss.
Suggested partner assets: If your investigator is particularly vulnerable to either Dark Aurora (for example Tony) or Ice Shaft (for example Daisy), then you can bring Mala or William to keep them healthy until they get a shot at buying some better cards to fix their weaknesses.
If you don’t expect to be able to defeat the Terror of the Stars, then Eliyah offers help with keeping the thing evaded for a few turns.
Roald’s ability to blank attached treacheries has a lot of targets here, most importantly Polar Mirage. Note that blanking the text box will keep the treachery still attached, though. So Roald will not be able to help with Zero Visibility.
You could bring Claypool or Danforth, but both Frost and Tekeli-li shouldn’t be a huge thing yet so it’s probably not worth it, except maybe on higher difficulties which start with more Frost and/or with someone like Winifred who fears Frost tokens more than others.
Reward and Failure: With a potential 9XP, Ice and Death I does offer a nice bunch of XP to immediately upgrade your deck with. This XP is basically shared between I and II though, so be aware that the more you get in I, the fewer will be available in II.
A huge part of the reward also comes from revealing the locations to make II and III easier, as well as from uncovering the supply assets which will help a lot starting with Forbidden Peaks.
Failing this scenario then, by being defeated prematurely or by not managing to secure suitable shelter before the doom clock runs out, has dire consequences. A portion of the team will go missing and you will receive fewer XP. You’ll have a chance to undo some of those consequences by acing part II, but that can be very luck dependent and can not be relied on. Having a bad part I will lead to a more difficult part II which will in turn lead to a more difficult part III. Depending on how much you botched part I, this can snowball out of control to the point where the rest of the campaign becomes A LOT harder.