In early 2021, about a year ago, i did a three part post where i ranked all scenarios against each other in one big list. To get there, i used a certain methodology where i first put everything into tiers, then rank everything within their tier. I think that was a fun thought experiment, so i am making it a recurring thing. When i did that last list, Innsmouth was only released partially. Edge of the Earth didn’t exist yet and neither did the Return to Circle Undone. So there’s easily enough new content to put into context here.
If you missed the 2021 rankings or want to reread them, here’s the links:
Part I – ranking NotZ, Dunwich and Carcosa
Part II – ranking TFA, TCU and TDE
Part III – full ranking
So let’s get right into it. The first step is going over each campaign, ordering their scenarios by preference and then assigning one of five tiers to each scenario:
When doing this, i didn’t look at my old rankings, i tried to go at it with a fresh mind. Obviously that is not entirely possible, but i tried to.
As you can see, this already contains some spoilers for what’s coming up. In total, 60 scenarios are being ranked. About a third make up the middle tier. Another third makes up tier 2. Half of the final third is tier 1. The rest sits at the bottom. I only put 3 scenarios into the tier 5, to get there i would need to actively dread having to play it. Luckily, that happens very rarely.
So this is clearly weighed heavily towards the positive side, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, i really like this game and enjoy it immensely. Of course more scenarios would end up in the green than in the red.
One final important thing before i start: Whenever possible, i am talking about the Return to a campaign here, because that’s what i actually play. So for anything up to Circle Undone, i am looking at the Return scenarios, for everything from Dream-Eaters on it’s the base campaign.
Let’s kick things off with Night of the Zealot. This one is rather easy, as there are only three scenarios here. The Gathering and Midnight Masks are much beloved scenarios that immediately did a lot of things right. With the Return To, The Gathering became a fully grown scenario that doesn’t have to hide from what we get in current expansions. They have both been iterated on in later campaigns, especially Masks has been effectively made obsolete by Threads of Fate. This is why they don’t go into Tier 1, but they are both super solid still and i occasionally put Return To The Gathering into other campaigns as a standalone side scenario.
Devourer Below though… is one of the worst scenarios in the game. It’s utterly frustrating and the Return To actually puts more rage inducing nonsense on top of what’s already there. This scenario would maybe make sense as the finale of a full 8 part campaign where investigators enter with 40+XP and prepared to the max… but in the Core Set this is just irredeemable.
Moving on to the first expansion for the game, we have The Dunwich Legacy. Dunwich has some early game kinks that still needed to be ironed out, but the Return To actually did some heavy lifting here. What is left is a campaign that has something on every part of the spectrum. Lost in Time and Space is in my opinion still the best campaign finale. It’s ridiculously alien with the locations coming from the encounter deck and the board just being in constant flux. It’s also tough as nails, as a finale should be. On the other end there’s Undimensioned and Unseen, a scenario that is as tedious as it is random. Hope you brought a high willpower investigator or you might as well resign turn 1. And if you did, prepare to wait for randomly moving enemies making it finally into the right positions. Ugh. Making up for this misstep there’s Blood on the Altar, an excellent version of the classic “investigate these locations while enemies are about” Arkham gameplay that also has two brilliant twists in store. There’s Essex Express, which might just be the most memorable scenario in the game. As i like to say, everyone has an Essex story. Usually a gruesome one. Essex is also the blueprint for a couple other newer scenarios, none of which quite reached the original. Again, the Return improves it a lot. Extracurricular Activity is in my opinion an even better introduction into the game than Gathering, as it not only features a big map with lots of Arham-y stuff to do, but also a choice in how you want to end and repercussions from that choice. Choosing your destiny is an integral Arkham campaign feature in my opinion and never as well implemented again as it is here. Gathering is for teaching yourself how to play, but Extracurricular Activity is for teaching others and showcase what this game has in store. I always had a soft spot for Miskatonic Museum and its “One Enemy” gimmick. Sadly the base version is a bit broken and can fall flat, but the Return fixes it into something i quite enjoy. House Always Wins is very cool when you play it the first few times, but falls off massively on replays. Where Doom Awaits has some good beats in it, but i don’t find it very enjoyable. It’s a bit too boring and linear for my tastes, i expect more from the scenario that leads into the finale.
The Path to Carcosa is when the game hit its full potential for the first time and is still considered the favorite campaign of many players. While i don’t quite share that exact sentiment(Carcosa is only #3 for me), there is no denying that Carcosa has a lot of really good scenarios in it. One third of the scenarios i assigned to Tier 1 come from this campaign. The Pallid Mask was even my favorite scenario in ’21. Is it still? We’ll see. But that combination of a wide map, randomized locations to explore and a diverse encounter deck that challenges you in lots of ways is really Arkham at it’s best for me. Unspeakable Oath is one of the most thematically dense scenarios and an absolute nail biter. I like the setting a lot and playing this scenario is just exciting again and again. The Last King takes the crown when it comes to being flavorful and eccentric. This scenario is so wildly different from everything else, it has no right to work as well as it does. Also you can approach it in different ways, from sweet-talking the guests to just carving everyone up with a chainsaw. Mmmmh. Greatness.
Curtain Call is close behind and probably the best opener for a campaign. A lot is happening here and the players are dragged into the craziness that is Carcosa from the start. It’s also quite difficult, which i like. Phantom of Truth barely makes the Tier 2, but i think it still belongs there. Chasing the Organist around is a lot more fun than being chased by him, though. Basically, one version of the scenario belongs in the green, the other in the yellows. Black Stars Rise and Dim Carcosa, the two final scenarios of the campaign are … okay. I am not really all that impressed by Dim Carcosa, especially on replays i think it’s a bit too gimmicky. Black Stars gimmick does work very well, though. I just find it a bit too easy. Speaking of easy, Echoes of the Past is just boring. A long drawn out affair where you play whack-a-mole with cultists that are popping up around the building. The lack of a hard doom clock encourages players to play ultra safe and commit no risks, and as a result it draaaaags on foooooreeeeever.
<End of part I, to be continued soon>