The “Return To” boxes expand the original Arkham LCG campaigns by adding more cards, more mechanics, more challenges to the existing scenarios. This series of articles takes a look at each of them, one by one. Immediately following this Introduction is a spoiler-free verdict on the viability of the product, answering the question “Should i get this box?” without spoiling anything about the campaign relevant contents of the box.
Anyone not phased by spoilers can continue reading as i will go into detail about the player cards, the encounter replacement sets, the campaign wide changes and of course the changes to each scenario. You should have played the base campaign before… but considering this is Night of the Zealot, chances are you did so. I close the article with a more detailed verdict, mirroring the spoiler free one, but with more details.
Return to Night of the Zealot doesn’t change anything too substantial about the mini-campaign. It adds some replayability, but doesn’t change the quality of the scenarios themselves.
The player cards are nice, there are a few gems in there. Also, the actual box with the dividers serve as card storage very well. The box is the main argument to get this product.
It’s the weakest of the Return To boxes and i would suggest only buying it if you already have everything else and are looking to round out your collection.
Newer players are better served expanding their collection with a deluxe box instead of this Return box. Veteran players will probably have little interest in replaying Night of the Zealot a lot. This leaves this product with a somewhat small target audience based almost completely on the physical storage box and the player cards.
This is where spoilers start. The Return To doesn’t change anything about the story or the campaign structure, so if you played the campaign, i wouldn’t say that these give away anything meant to surprise you. You will see these cards when setting up the scenario anyways. But still, if you want to go in totally blind, tag out now. Final warning.
The big storage box is filled relatively sparsely with just a small leaflet explaining how to use the cards and of course with the cards themselves. Included are 20 player cards and 47 encounter cards. The encounter cards break down to two encounter set replacements (13 cards) and 34 cards spread over the 3 scenarios of the campaign.
The majority of the box is taken up by an insert that can be recycled once you want to use all of the space to store all of your campaign cards. To help with this, the final piece of content in the Return to Night of the Zealot is a set of dividers to help organize your encounter cards by set/scenario.
The box itself is sturdy, looks good and using it as a storage solution for your scenario cards works well. Of course, you will probably want to use the other Return To boxes as well once you start…
It should be noted that these boxes are designed to fit full 8 part campaigns and all their encounter sets, so the box is a lot bigger than it needs to be specifically for Night of the Zealot. That means you either got a lot of free space that you will need to fill with some custom insert or… i don’t know, deck boxes or sleeves or something.
There’s 10 new pairs of player cards, two per investigator class. All of them are up- or downgrades from previously existing cards. The selection of cards is actually quite decent. While not every of those cards is a hit, there is some useful stuff in there: Link to the player cards on ArkhamDB
Every class gets the level 2 upgrade for their core set talent. These aren’t used very often, but especially Physical Training and Arcane Studies certainly have their place. Guardians gain Dynamite Blast(2), which was a fine card but sadly also was outclassed by the level 3 version in the Nathaniel Cho investigator deck recently. Both the Seeker’s Barricade(3) and the Mystic’s Mind Wipe(3) are marginal niche cards at best. But then again, Hot Streak(2) and Rabbit’s Foot(3) are both excellent and are included in decks often.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but i feel like there’s enough to like in these. Two of them are downright staple cards. A few of the cards got outclassed by more recent releases, but i don’t think it’s fair to retroactively hold that as a point against this product.
Campaign wide changes
Unlike more recent “Return To” products, the changes from Return to Night of the Zealot do not extend past their individual scenarios. There is no additional scenario text or changes to scenario outcomes. Since Night of the Zealot is barely a full campaign itself, that is not too surprising… but it is a bit of a strike against the box when compared to more recent Return To sets.
Replacement Encounter Sets
Two of the encounter sets of Night of the Zealot are being replaced with variants here. I do go into detail on the individual cards on their own page elsewhere on this site, so i will leave it with a short summary and a link to those pages. Please refer to those for more a in-depth look.
Ghouls of Umôrdhoth: These are replacing the core Ghouls with versions that have a slight mechanical twist towards forcing players to discard cards from their hand. The replacement for Grasping Hands tilts the encounter deck further towards willpower instead of agility and takes some pressure off for low stamina investigators.
The Devourer’s Cult: This is a significant difficulty increase from the core Dark Cult. Both the Acolyte and the Wizard of the Order got replacements that are more difficult to kill and also have additional abilities. The replacement for Mysterious Chanting doesn’t add doom, which is appreciated, but it does further increase the stats of the cultists, making it more difficult to remove the doom that comes from them.
Both of these sets are thematically and mechanically firmly tied into the Night of the Zealot campaign, making them awkward to use outside of it. So if you were hoping to use these to for example replace the Dark Cult in Essex Express or the Ghouls in Thousand Shapes of Horror, that is going to be a bit janky. The replacement sets in the Return to Dunwich work much better for that task.
Return to The Gathering
The changes to The Gathering are maybe the selling point of Return to The Night of the Zealot. They elevate what used to be a short but tense tutorial into a full length scenario that can take some time to go through and that doesn’t hold back on challenges.
The house is expanded by a couple rooms and the cellar and attic both gain variants that randomly can replace the ones from the base set. Two more big ghouls complement the existing ones and give investigators plenty to fight before the Ghoul-Priest even enters play.
The result is a formidable, if a bit basic scenario, that doesn’t deviate from the core scenario in how it plays out but adds a bit of everything to prolong it. Personally, i have used Return to The Gathering a couple of times as a side scenario early in other campaigns and as a quick testing ground for level 0 decks.
Return to Midnight Masks
This scenario is mostly untouched – which is fair, after all it’s widely considered to be excellent. Some new locations can randomly replace the existing ones. More importantly, there are new unique enemies for the cultist deck included. These two sets of cards do severely increase the replayability of Return to Midnight Masks, but don’t really change much about its quality. Which, as noted is fair enough. Midnight Masks is pretty great.
Return to The Devourer Below
Like Midnight Masks, The Devourer Below isn’t shaken up much by scenario specific additions. There is now a minor discard theme woven through the encounter deck, but not in a manner that is likely to do much. The notorious difficulty of the scenario is untouched, in fact the scenario got harder because one addition addresses the “trick” of spawning Umôrdoth without advancing the acts. A new pair of rather nasty treacheries doesn’t help either. Like the other two scenarios, Return to The Devourer Below comes with some extra locations to randomly swap with the core ones for replayability.
Of the Return To boxes, this is the one that can most easily be skipped. Few people are replaying this campaign very often and the changes to the scenarios don’t go very far beyond adding some replayability through random location draws and a little twist here and there. The Gathering is the exception here, seeing a considerable upgrade that could be nice if you plan on revisiting it.
The selection of player cards is good. I wouldn’t say they are a reason to get the box in itself, but if you are also factoring the storage box into the price, then that might get you there. It did for me, but i am also a bit of a completionist… i suppose if you’d have to skip something else for it due to budget restraints, you should get whatever else before you get Return to The Night of the Zealot. In the end, NotZ is the smallest campaign and therefore least in need of a dedicated storage box. It could just stay in the core set box…
Final verdict: Weakest of the Returns. Get only if you already got everything else. Any deluxe box, any other Return To and even most mythos packs are going to offer you more for your money.
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