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. On that note, the article assumes you played the campaign before. Using the Return boxes on your first playthrough of a campaign is not recommended.
Like Return to Dunwich, the Return to Carcosa does not change anything significant about the campaign except increasing the difficulty in some places and adding some replayability through new locations. Unlike Dunwich, it doesn’t do any important bugfixing in its stead, though. Except for some neat replacement encounter sets this box doesn’t really offer anything that can not easily be skipped in favor of other Arkham content that adds more to your collection.
The same goes for the player cards, really. There are a couple that are neat and nice to have, but no outright staples and also a few very situational or just plain irrelevant cards.
Of course, if you are interested in the storage box, this one comes with everything you’d expect. But the actual contents in the cards … is mediocre.
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.
All Return to sets come in a sturdy box suited for storing all the cards for its campaign and of course the Return to Carcosa is no exception. Included in the box are 23 player cards and 81 encounter cards. 26 of those encounter cards go towards new encounter replacement sets, the rest are specific to one of the eight scenarios.
The insert for the box is not all that functional and mostly exists so the cards don’t move around too much during shipping and transport. Feel free to toss it.
A set of dividers is included to help you organize your old and new campaign cards within the box. These dividers are both good looking and functional.
The box itself works very well for its purpose, there is plenty of room in there to store all of the campaign cards, no matter if sleeved or not. There is also enough room (and dividers) to hold the cards from the core set that are used for Path to Carcosa.
Each class gets two new pairs of cards, all of them down- or upgrades from player cards that were released over the course of the base Carcosa campaign. To be honest, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, i am not terribly impressed with these.
Guardians gain the upgraded .32 Colt, which is a fine card but narrow in its application. Similarly, the downgraded “Eat Lead!” is not a bad card, just one that rarely fits into a deck.
The level 4 Logical Reasoning is a powerful addition to the Seeker pool, but also mighty expensive and will not often see play. The Markings of Isis, a new upgrade for the Archaic Glyphs, are neat. There are some fancy things that you can do with that card. But again, a sort of narrow card.
For Rogues, Stealth(3) is a significant upgrade over the base version. Meanwhile, a lower XP Suggestion has its place in a few decks.
Mystics gain an upgraded Alchemical Transmutation, which is not a great card to begin with and the upgrade doesn’t improve it much. Storm of Spirits(3) is really good, though.
Survivors gain two interesting upgrades. Both the upgraded Lantern and Gravedigger’s Shovel trade a more powerful discard effect for having to be removed when used. These see play.
The highlights are Markings of Isis and Storm of Spirits, followed by Suggestion and the two survivor upgrades. 5 out of 10 is fine, i suppose. The Colt and Stealth aren’t terrible, either. But i do think this is the weakest selection of player cards in any of the Return to boxes.
Rounding out the player cards are three new weaknesses, each one with a single copy. These are weaknesses using the Hidden keyword, costing the player XP at the end of the scenario if they didn’t manage to fulfill some very specific condition. Again, i am not much of a fan of these. While i do like the idea of Hidden weaknesses, the conditions are so specific that they are either no issue at all or just a complete mess to achieve. Like overkilling enemies as a Seeker or evading unengaged enemies as a Guardian. XP penalties are also about the most unfun thing that a weakness can hand out. To be honest, i keep these three at the back of my card box with my Doomed and Offer You Cannot Refuse cards… your mileage may vary.
Campaign wide changes
The Return to The Path to Carcosa applies its changes to the individual scenarios and these changes don’t really extend too far past those.
It is worth mentioning that there is an effort to make the Onyx Clasp a bit more relevant. There are also some changes to how Doubt and Conviction are applied during the setup of some scenarios. But nothing too groundbreaking.
The overall difficulty has been increased by a good amount. The Path to Carcosa has always been a fairly challenging campaign and the Return To doubles down on a few scenarios that were already troubling before. On the one hand, this makes it excellent for replays of the scenario. On the other hand, new players without a solid card pool should probably stick to the base campaign.
Replacement Encounter Sets
There are five replacement encounter sets in the box which can be used throughout the campaign, filling in for one of the sets from the base Carcosa or Core. The individual cards are discussed elsewhere on the site, so i will only give a short summary here and link to the appropriate encounter set page.
Delusory Evils: Look how they massacred my boy 🙁 I have few good things to say about this replacement for Ancient Evils. Delusory Evils is a weak effect, costing a mere action somewhere down the line, with only slightly being interesting due to not being very plannable. It may have been fine in another context, but a card like that should never replace one of the most impactful treacheries in the game.
Decaying Reality: This is much better. I would say that the replacement set is about on equal footing with the original Decay And Filth. The old and new set also mix very well.
Hastur’s Envoys: This is a very impactful replacement set. The Sign of Hastur is a menace of a card that on its own does put some notable extra difficulty into the scenarios it is in. The other card, a Byakhee, is fine but sadly doesn’t have Victory on it like the card it replaces. A bit of a bummer to what is otherwise a great encounter set.
Maddening Delusions: Popular opinion on this replacement set is divided. Personally, i like it a lot more than the original Delusions set because it plays so much better. No fussing around with extra actions or having to carry the Hidden card around forever. At the same time, it does add extra damage and horror to scenarios where it really matters.
Neurotic Fear: This is my favorite replacement set from this box and conveniently it is also the one that can be used outside of the Carcosa campaign. Replacing Striking Fear, this one offers a couple of similarly high impact cards, but without the downright demoralizing card that is Frozen in Fear. I have mixed and matched or outright replaced Striking Fear with Neurotic Fear in other campaigns before, it often works quite well. A much better offering than Erratic Fear from Return to Dunwich.
These encounter sets do shake up the campaign quite a bit and are what i like best about the product. Except for Neurotic Fear, these sadly do not have much of an application outside of the Carcosa campaign, but within it they are very good. Well, with notable exception of Delusory Evils, which i usually pretend doesn’t exist. If you are looking for an Ancient Evils replacement, check out Resurgent Evils from Return to Dunwich.
Return to Curtain Call
This scenario gains a good amount of variety from additional locations and even a set of new act 2 cards to randomly draw from. It also turns the Royal Emissary into a bigger threat, making it stronger with each time it respawns. So it can no longer be held up indefinitely by a strong fighter. A new unique enemy, the Comtesse, is added to the encounter deck. She’s a great design, but sadly just one card in a stack of 33 that often won’t matter much. All around, these are good additions to an already good scenario.
Return to The Last King
The dinner party gets bigger, as there are now several new people added to the Sickening Reality deck. Dianne Devine gets a better role and is no longer trivial to avoid. A pair of party guests might just go crazy and start killing. And a new treachery can accelerate the transformations of the guests at any time. Excellent changes, but be warned that this scenario just became a whole lot more difficult.
Return to Echoes of the Past
This one always was a bit prone to just not working as it should and the additions don’t really change that too much. A set of new locations that adds an extra floor to the building is neat, but not that relevant. The new Keeper of the Oath enemies that come out whenever the players advance the scene are much more interesting, but they aren’t enough to save the scenario. The additions improve the scenario but not by a lot. Not by enough.
Return to The Unspeakable Oath
Unspeakable Oath is a difficult and tense scenario in the base version and the Return version actually piles on the hurt. This scenario sees some changes to its setup, as the selection of scenes used is no longer tied to having the clasp or not. Both scenarios (Daniel alive, Daniel missing) are also changed to be even more of a challenge. Together with some significant encounter set swaps all of this makes for a scenario that can be very difficult. It is undeniably a lot better now, though. So it’s totally worth it.
Return to A Phantom of Truth
Phantom of Truth stays almost unchanged. There’s some extra variety from new locations and a new low impact treachery added to the deck, but that’s basically it. It’s a fine scenario, so maybe it didn’t need much of a shake-up but oh well.
Return to The Pallid Mask
Like Phantom, this scenario is also not touched a whole lot. A new enemy is added to the deck and some variety is added to the locations. Otherwise, the scenario only fixes the bad interaction of the Man in the Pallid Mask with some other cards, clarifying that he can not be moved out of his location and that he can not be host to a Corpse Dweller. Fair enough.
Return to Black Stars Rise
And again the scenario stays largely the same. A pair of unique treacheries is added that adds some extra damage/horror. The obligatory extra locations are there. Everything else is as it is in the base version. Very underwhelming.
Return to Dim Carcosa
The changes to this scenario mostly apply to the final confrontation with Hastur. Each of the final forms has some new locations associated with it, so for once the locations do serve a bigger purpose than variance (not that there’s anything wrong with variance!). Two copies of an enemy that can drive investigators insane are added to the deck as well. While not wildly difficult, they are an interesting addition.
I think this box fails at what is arguably its most important job: Shaking up the campaign and making it feel different or fresher for those that replayed the base Carcosa a couple of times already. It does offer some variance for the scenarios but while i do value variance quite a lot, it’s not really all that i expect from these boxes. The updated Last King and Unspeakable Oath are excellent. But the latter half of the campaign is almost completely unchanged from the base, which is just a pity. Thankfully the original Path to Carcosa is already one of the best campaigns around.
So that’s where the value of this box mostly comes from: From how good the base campaign is. It’s one you’d already want to replay several times due to its quality, so even the little variance that comes from this box is enough to make it almost worth it. Almost.
Final verdict: If you are fine replaying base Carcosa already or if you are just looking for the storage box, this is worth getting. But it’s probably the worst of the Return To boxes in terms of content and you should probably skip it as long as you are still missing other, more interesting AHLCG products.
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