“Resurgent Evils” is a series of articles on this site that looks at the “Return To” boxes which expand the original Arkham LCG campaigns by adding more cards, more mechanics, more challenges to the existing scenarios. Usually, this series of articles is meant to be a sort of review for the product, but this one is a bit different. Unlike the previous entries in the series, this one covers a fan-made product, not one from Fantasy Flight Games. And what’s more, it’s something I designed myself… and I’m certainly not going to review my own thing.
So this will act as more of a Design Notes/Release article sort of deal. The intention is giving an overview of what’s in the box and also sharing some behind-the-scenes and design thoughts behind the changes. I’ll be losely sticking to the format of my previous Resurgent Evils posts, meaning i will start with spoiler-free surface level summaries and get more detailed and spoilery as the article goes on. So you can decide where you draw the line for yourself if you want to stay unspoiled.
Since this doubles as a release article, i should probably also show you where to get the set in the first place.
The digital version is meant to be used with the mod for Tabletop Simulator, you can find it in the TTS Workshop: <Click Here!> or as a direct download: <Click Here!>
The Print and Play version includes a version with bleed, one without and the graphical assets for the dividers and the box: <Find everything you need for that here!>
The Unofficial Return to The Innsmouth Conspiracy does not significantly alter the scenarios the way that for example Return to Forgotten Age does. Instead it focuses on deepening what is already there and lets the replacement encounter sets do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to how the campaign plays. I consider the scenarios in the Innsmouth campaign to already be excellent, so i didn’t feel much need to tinker with them extensively beyond some variance and plugging a few holes where especially Luke could unhinge some of the scenario mechanisms. One significant new campaign feature however is the inclusion of a “Deep One trait matters” theme. This picks up a major thread from HPL’s original Shadows over Innsmouth story and introduces the possibility for the player investigators to become Deep Ones themselves, with ups and downs associated with the change.
The player cards are of course revisiting bless and curse. Due to the unique opportunity of making some bless and curse cards, the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth includes an extra player card per class when compared to previous Returns, for a total of 3 per class, 1 neutral and 1 weakness.
I would compare the Unofficial Return to Innsmouth to the (Official) Return to Circle Undone: A bit more of a focus on the player cards than usual. And the replacement encounter sets do play a big part in how the scenarios play differently, sometimes more than the actual scenario specific changes.
The set is available as a digital plugin for TTS and as a print and play. Thanks to Hauke, the print and play even includes the instructions and graphical assets to create your own authentic Return to Innsmouth card box and dividers for all the encounter sets.
This is where spoilers start. The following paragraphs ramp up in how “spoilery” they are, starting with just descriptions of what’s in the box, going over the player cards and then moving into the changed mechanics and campaign contents. Finally, i will give you a summary of what changes per scenario. So feel free to tag out whenever you think that you don’t want to see anything else. It should be noted though that these things are kinda spoiled while setting up the scenarios themselves. So going into a Return To scenario “blind” is not really going to happen either way.
As a fan project that is completely free to download and is not monetized in any way, it obviously can’t provide you with already assembled products… so how great the box is going to be will depend on your own arts and crafts abilities.
As for cards, there is a total of 106 cards, with 33 of them being player cards and the other 73 being encounter cards. 25 of those encounter cards go towards new encounter replacement sets, the other 48 are specific to one of the scenarios.
All the assets for a set of dividers is included to help you organize your old and new campaign cards within the box.
The rules insert comes in the form of a PDF, with the usual info on how to use replacement sets, additions to the campaign log and achievements. There are also some new rules in there related to Deep One investigators and also a clarification on how replacement sets interact with setup instructions that call out certain cards by name. And as with the official Return sets, this one offers a set of achievements that you can try and beat to demonstrate your mastery of this campaign!
Each class gets three pairs of new cards. There’s also one neutral card and a (rather harsh) weakness for the basic pool. One card in each class continues something that the original Innsmouth player cards did for the first time: Shifting a card from one class into another with the upgrade while integrating it into either bless or curse mechanics. Like with the Holy Rosary that did this first, all of those class shifted upgrades are level 2.
Guardian gains Tides of Fate(2) from Mystic, which makes combos involving turning curses into blesses and then sealing them more accessible. At the same time, the upgraded Tides provides horror healing as an additional benefit. Book of Psalms(2) is now a Seeker card that fuels both bless and curse synergies at the same time. As a tome with secrets, it also feeds directly into multiple existing Seeker mechanics. Rogue gains Plan of Action(2) from Seeker, a powerful skill that starts at two wild icons and only ramps up from there, including a mode that adds blesses to the bag if you oversucceed your test. Mystic now has Keep Faith(2), which does add one fewer bless to the bag than the original Survivor card, but does remove a curse and potentially shuffles itself back into the deck. Finally, Survivor gains Priest of Two Faiths(2), which flips the token mechanics from the Rogue original on its head: The Survivor version adds curses on entering play, but pays out a bless per turn from then on.
The other two cards in each class are more traditional upgrades of existing cards from the original Innsmouth cycle. Guardian gains Blessed Blade(2), which allows sealing a bless token on it if it didn’t generate one for the bag that turn. That token can then be called on during an attack, making the upgraded Blade more consistent at dealing with enemies and an intermediate upgrade between its level zero and the level five Holy Spear. Meanwhile, Hand of Fate gets a massive level 4 upgrade that not only allows it to “Dodge” an enemy in a connecting location, but also exhausts that enemy for two turns.
Seekers get a new upgrade for the Cryptic Grimoire, turning curses into both extra actions and economy… provided you can build around it properly. There’s also a level 3 upgrade for the Cryptographic Cipher, which upgrades both abilities on the card subtly while also giving it an extra use. Since the Cipher’s second ability can now be used without exhausting, players can potentially spend all four uses within the three actions of their turn.
Rogues gain a level 3 version of Under Surveillance. Like many of the trap cards, this does require some setup to get full value out of, but the level 3 version can now trigger multiple times, so it does raise the ceiling on how much value you can get from it. Tristan Botley now has a level 5 upgrade that gives +1 to every skill. More importantly though, this highlevel Tristan can be played from the discard for free as well when three blurse tokens are pulled, allowing for a huge amount of stamina and sanity soak if you are able to do this reliably.
For Mystics, the level 3 Sword Cane leans fully into its strength as a quick response asset, as it can be returned to your hand for a sizeable bonus to your skill value when using it to evade or fight. Level 5 Abyssal Tome raises the ceiling for doom on it slightly, but more importantly it can come into play with up to two doom already on it, bypassing the ramping up over several turns involved in the original Tome.
Survivors show up with Butterfly Effect(3) which removes all limits from the original card. After playing the card, any investigator at their location is allowed to commit or retreat any amount of cards from a test. Token of Faith(5) is an incredibly powerful curse/bless engine. With it, the survivor can double dip on any curse effects, gaining bless tokens not only when curses are drawn, but also when they are added to the bag.
The first of the final two player cards is Manipulate Destiny(3) which keeps drawing tokens until both a curse/tentacle and a bless/Eldersign are revealed, then scales its effects off of all those tokens. This card has a particularly high ceiling when combined with sealing, but can have huge effect even without shenanigans. The other one is the weakness. Accursed, when drawn, will add another random basic weakness to the deck. This can happen once per game and while it does give XP in exchange every time, these weaknesses can stack up over the course of a campaign especially for investigators that draw many cards and cycle their decks.
The new player cards are intended to provide new hooks for decks, introducing payoffs for tokens the class didn’t care about before and some key pieces to build around.
Campaign wide changes
The original Innsmouth campaign is a fairly linear affair, with few decisions by the players really affecting much of what happens. This is not really changed by the Unofficial Return in a very significant way, mostly because the existing structure is quite rigid.
There is however one new thing that is seeded through all of the campaign now and that is the idea that the extended stay in Innsmouth can have an influence on the investigators. This doesn’t mean that the investigators suddenly sprout gills and fins from one hour to the next (at least not at first…) but that they feel the Call of the Sea and might just succumb to the same temptations of power and wealth that Innsmouth fell for. Mechanically, this is represented by investigators gaining the Deep One trait, either temporarily from a treachery or possibly even permanently through a player card that is added to their deck. Whether an investigator is a Deep One can have implications for locations, treacheries, enemies, resolutions, even the epilogue. It is in no way required, though. And it is something that is kept track of per investigator, not per group. Being a Deep One has both positive and negative implications throughout the campaign, which does make it an actual tradeoff that you as a player are supposed to be tempted by to go for. Probably not for the whole team, but your group would certainly profit from having one or two Deep One investigators in it.
There are also a few “bugfixes” to the campaign, mostly to stop Luke Robinson from making a mockery of the campaign mechanics.
Replacement Encounter Sets
There are six replacement encounter sets in the box, including one from the Core set and variants on the Tidal Tunnels.
Barricaded Doors: Replaces Locked Doors. There is plenty of agility testing in the campaign and Locked Doors felt excessive and/or redundant. Barricaded Doors is easier to clear, but will usually at least waste an action and deal some damage. Barricaded Doors could potentially also be used in other campaigns that feature Locked Doors (that’s literally all of them as of now).
Innsmouth Haze: Replaces Fog over Innsmouth. The main attraction here is the Immaterial One, which replaces the Winged One. Winged One has an interesting mechanic of scaling its agility value with the shroud of its location, but then never does anything with that. Immaterial One expands on this and is rather impactful as a result as it can only be permanently defeated while exhausted.
Occultation: Replaces Syzygy. Syzygy is one of the more prominent encounter sets from the final stretch of scenarios. Occultation has two high impact treacheries that inject some additional spice into Lair of Dagon and Maelstrom in particular. Like in Syzygy, one of them acts as this campaign’s signature version of Ancient Evils while the other one has a major impact on the Flood mechanic.
Rolling Tides: Replaces Rising Tides. This is a major set for the campaign and is used a lot. This set can move flood marker around, make players give up their assets for fear of drowning or make them walk into floods as they hear the call of the sea.
Stalkers of Cthulhu: Replaces Agents of Cthulhu. This set anchors the Deep One theme in the first few scenarios by giving another treachery that gives that trait to investigators and also an enemy that specifically goes after Deep One investigators.
Return to Flooded Caverns: Combines with Flooded Caverns. The usual replacement set rules don’t apply for this set. Instead of swapping out the sets wholesale, the default way of using this set is using one Tidal Pool, Underground River and Underwater Cavern from the original set and one each from the replacement. So you end up with six unique Tidal Tunnels in your locations, increasing the variance in the many scenarios that use them.
These encounter sets were chosen to provide an even amount of replacement sets used per scenario, with at least two each. As mentioned before, they do a lot of the work towards making the Deep One subtheme tick and especially Occultation and Rolling Tides are major influences on how the flooding behaves.
Return to Pit of Despair
There are two new treacheries involved in Pit of Despair. One, Lost in the Caves, is fairly harmless but can occasionally be inconvenient, as it forces a movement, if possible into an unrevealed location. The other one, Troubling Memories, is potentially scarier. Its effects scale with the number of memories recovered, so near the end of the scenario this treachery can become very ugly. In terms of replacement sets, Pit uses Stalkers of Cthulhu for a first taste of the Deep One trait and Rolling Tides to make the flooding even more serious than it is in the base game. The intention behind the changes is keeping the scenario mostly the same in feel, but mellowing the first couple of turns a bit in exchange for some additional pressure near the end. A replacement agenda fixes an issue that could stop the Amalgam from entering the game completely if Luke does Luke things.
Return to Vanishing of Elina Harper
This is probably the scenario that got the most flashy change with the Unofficial Return To. The Leads deck now contains three additional cards at start. Those are neither Suspect enemies nor locations, but story assets that represent inhabitants of Innsmouth that players can acquire and use to help for the rest of the investigation. While these assets do initially water down the deck, their long term effects make up for that. The original Vanishing had the problem that pulling locations from the Leads was way superior to pulling Suspects, due to the latter not giving any XP. This is correted now, as Suspects will grant XP during the resolution. Also, one of the new story assets in the Leads deck specifically helps with gaining clues off of Suspects. When pulling cards out of the Leads deck, new encounter cards are only shuffled into it when a Suspect or location was put into play. So there’s no additional punishment for finding encounter cards or one of the three story assets. Addionally, there’s a new treachery added to the encounter deck, Growing Suspicion, that interacts with Suspect enemies.
Innsmouth Haze and Barricaded Doors are used in this scenario, so players should be somewhat afraid (or at least aware) of the possibility that the Immaterial One shows up. That thing can be a real showstopper when revealed early and/or unprepared.
Return to In Too Deep
This scenario would be almost unchanged… if it weren’t for the encounter replacements. In Too Deep uses Occultation, Rolling Tides and Stalkers of Cthulhu, all of which are quite impactful here. The combination of Occultation and Tides can cause a lot of floodings ahead of time, with a wide range of consequences. While Pit of Despair had Stalkers of Cthulhu and Vanishing had The Locals, this scenario has both of those encounter sets and thus both treacheries that can grant the Deep One trait are in play. This has implications for several of the other cards from the replacement sets. This is also the first scenario that can permanently give a player the Deep One trait through a permanent story asset if certain conditions are met.
Return to Devil Reef
Devil Reef is a scenario I personally like a lot, but it is somewhat infamous for being very hard to do in solo. The Return tries to help in that regard with a new version of the Fishing Vessel that grants a bonus move while only one passenger is aboard. Also, there’s a new Devil Reef location that connects to all other Ocean traited locations, granting several new ways of moving around the islands through its connections and through its ability. It’s also both a Cave and an Ocean, so it does serve as a way to hide your boat from the kraken.
Rolling Tide is the only replacement set (aside from the Tidal Tunnels) used here, making this scenario the one that sticks closest to the original one.
There is another new location to this scenario, and it’s actually shuffled into the encounter deck. When drawn, the Shrine to Hydra tempts a player into accepting the Deep One permanent in exchange for riches and progress. If none of the investigators in your group ended up as Deep Ones during In Too Deep, then this Shrine to Hydra offers the final attempt by the Old Ones to get you in on the deal with them.
Return to Horror in High Gear
The Return to Horror in High Gear was guided by one idea primarily: Making Malfunction matter. Usually, when playing this scenario, players could mostly ignore Malfunction and just keep on rolling. Now there is a new treachery in the deck, Wrecked!, which will flip any running vehicle with an attached Malfunction to its “Stopped” side. So better care about that Malfunction before it comes to bite you when its the most inconvenient. Two new locations can appear in the Roads deck. Mud Tracks has to be cleared completely from clues before the players can move on. Straight Section has no clues and can be moved through at no cost at all, but any enemies that enter it, gain a free activation of their Hunter keyword. Ideally, players should use the straight section to use the extra movement on their car as well to stay ahead… if it isn’t blocked by a Malfunction.
Innsmouth Haze is used in this scenario, but it’s not a huge influence when compared to the rest of the changes.
Return to Light in the Fog
One of my favorite scenarios overall, this would have needed no touching up at all. But of course it does get some significant things that build on existing mechanics anyways. First off, the combination of Rolling Tide and Occultation really does a number on the flooding in the new version of this scenario and depending on your encounter draws you might have to work extra hard in the Pump Room to keep the relevant locations usable. A pair of new treacheries builds on the two interesting mechanics from this scenario: Born to Breed shuffles back all Deep One Hatchlings from the encounter discard, making those pesky critters even more annoying than before. Deep One Grappler is an enemy that only starts appearing during the final phase of the scenario when the flood level repeatedly increases. It builds on the effect on the agenda that pulls players to deeper levels: Grapplers pull players down a level the same way whenever they engage a player, however they can only move into fully flooded locations when not already engaged.
Return to Lair of Dagon
Occultation and Barricaded Doors are the two replacement sets used here, both with decent impact on the scenario. The main change to the scenario however comes with the introduction of two alternate Doorway to the Depths locations that provide some variety to the part where the players are running around the Tidal Tunnels again. The investigators still need to acquire the green key and a number of clues to proceed, but depending on the version of the Doorway you get, you have to either explore, investigate or fight to get that key.
Once Dagon himself is in play, an encounter card called Stirring in his Sleep is added to the encounter deck which can hasten his awakening. This isn’t terribly impactful just yet, but that extra point of doom can make the difference. It mostly acts as a thematic preview of what’s coming in Into the Maelstrom, though.
Return to Into the Maelstrom
The primary concern that many people have with Innsmouth’s finale is how easy it is. While that’s not all that possible to solve while still keeping the scenario itself intact (with all its frills like the alternate acts and the flashback), the Return does tighten up the doom clock considerably. And it does awaken Dagon ahead of Hydra, so you are very unlikely now to just finish the scenario before having an Old One stomping around the caverns. The Occultation set is very impactful here, both as a source of a quasi-Ancient Evils, but also through fully flooding locations again with King Tide. Two copies of Stirring in their Sleep do each add a doom to a sleeping Old One, working towards having to deal with Hydra and Dagon. Once the two big fishgods awake, Presence of the Father and Presence of the Mother are added to the encounter deck, cards that enhance the Brood of Dagon and Hydra while those are near their respective lairs.
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