Encounter sets in this scenario: Crimson Conspiracy, Dark Veiling, Outsiders, Shadow of a Doubt, Strange Happenings, Chilling Cold, Locked Doors, Midnight Masks Treacheries
Available experience: 3 (locations) + 1 (Apocalyptic Presage) + 1 (Red-Gloved Man) = 5XP
Involved Coterie Members and Keys: Red-Gloved Man, The Eye of Ravens
Time spent: 1 (distrust Li Flint) + 1 (agenda 2b) + 1 (resolution, any) + 1 (fail, R4) = 1-4 Time
Nearest other scenarios: Marrakesh, Istanbul (1 time), Alexandria, Anchorage, Havana (2 time)
|Size of the Encounter Deck||34|
Synopsis: The investigators begin their journey in London, on the heels of the Red-Gloved Man. After finding some initial clues, the Red-Gloved Man has to be sniffed out from his decoys, introducing the concealment mechanic to the players. Once this tutorial portion is done, the Outsider and Crimson Conspiracy sets are added to the encounter deck, providing more concealed enemies and also introducing the hollowing mechanic shared by the “Outsiders”. The investigators then have to enter the Tower of London, which requires a large amount of clues from the surrounding locations until they can meet the Red-Gloved Man and wrest the first key from him.
My take on this scenario: This is a fine first scenario that does a lot of heavy lifting towards introducing both the setting and the mechanics of this campaign. Starting in just a single location with the task of finding the clues actually reminds me of how The Gathering started all the way back in the Core Set, but of course once this scenario opens up it starts to get quite a bit more involved.
Concealment features heavily, with most of the scenario being built around chasing the Red-Gloved Man and having to pick him out between his decoys. Coterie Agents join him in the shadows for even more distraction. Several of the encounter sets interact with concealment further, making it the standout thing about this scenario for sure.
We are also getting our first glimpse at the Outsiders here. Not much, just a couple enemies that knock some cards out of our hand as “hollows”. This isn’t explained further, which i think is likely intentional to create some mystery around this hollowing thing – after all, our investigators are also left in the dark about what’s up with the weird disappearances, so why should we as players get told the full story right away? The only payoff for this mechanic in Riddles and Rain is the treachery Substance Dissimilation, but that one can be a wrecking ball as it will remove all copies of hollowed cards from anywhere. In my first play of Riddles and Rain, this made a triplet of Sled Dogs disappear from my play area, for a very remarkable first impression!
This scenario is surprisingly difficult. It starts out rather mellow with locations that have one or two shroud, but soon you are trying to investigate high shrouds and face high difficulties for your tests in general. There’s also a lot of clue-getting to be done as both acts and the Tower location ask for a high clue threshold to pass. This inherently has some tension with the concealment mechanic which will often ask you to replace your investigating with exposing.
I like this one. It somehow manages to be a challenging scenario and a tutorial at the same time. There’s also a good amount of flexibility in how to approach those challenges and a variety of outcomes in the resolutions. A promising start into The Scarlet Keys.
Scenario specific encounter sets: The Riddles and Rain set doesn’t add to the encounter deck, it has only the acts, agendas, the token reference, the set aside enemy card for the Red-Gloved Man and The Eye of Ravens key.
Chaos Tokens: The tokens for Riddles and Rain are still relatively tame compared to what’s ahead in the campaign. Skulls are -1, going to -3 if the investigator has two clues. Tablets are also -1, but another token will be drawn if a concealed card is at the location. The Elder Thing is -3 and will require you to either spend a clue or add a doom to an enemy in the shadows on a fail. Of these, the Elder Thing is easily the worst one, punishing those that chose to not cooperate with Li Flint during the introductory story choices.
The Hard/Expert version of the scenario doesn’t change anything mechanically about these tokens, it simply adds another -1 to each of them.
During Riddles and Rain, no Cultist tokens are yet able to be in the bag.
Act/Agenda: The agenda deck consists of 4 cards. The first two have fairly low doom thresholds at 2 and 4 and are for the introductory part. Since doom persists from one agenda to the next, they basically give 2 turns to fulfill the clue requirement for act1 and then another 2 turns to find and engage the concealed Red-Gloved Man. Failing either of these will move the scenario on as if the act was met, but inflict a penalty of 1 horror (agenda 1) or 1 time (agenda 2). The final two agendas give a total of 16 turns (again, minus up to 4 turns from the doom transferred from agenda 1 and 2) to enter the Tower of London, find the Red-Gloved Man and either defeat or parlay him. The encounter deck is only reshuffled once, on advancing agenda 2 when Outsiders and Crimson Conspiracy are shuffled in.
The act deck also has 4 cards. The first sets the goal of 2i clues to progress. The second one again only sets the goal: Engage the Red-Gloved Man. The third act also just states the objective: Spend 3i clues at the Tower of London. Finally, the last act has the objective (defeat or parlay the Red-Gloved Man) and also provides that required parlay ability.
The Red-Gloved Man: Starting the campaign with a strong enemy right away, this guy gives a 5 difficulty to anything related to him. Attacking, evading, parlaying. Interacting with him requires some investment by the investigators. Attacking in particular can be risky thanks to his Retaliate coupled with the high fight value. At least his health is relatively low, so if the investigators have access to some testless damage (Small Favor, Occult Lexicon, …) he can be brought down easier. Stocking up on clues to use for skill bonuses at the Tower Prison can also be a great strategy to handle him. The Red-Gloved Man doesn’t use a Key during Riddles and Rain.
Other Enemies: There’s basically two groups of enemies here. The first is the Coterie Agents which add doom to the board and enter play concealed but don’t put up a fight once exposed. The other is the Outsiders, consisting of the rather standard sized Paracausal Entity which shouldn’t pose much of an issue and the Apocalyptic Presage which is a sizeable mini-boss. The Outsiders use the hollow mechanic, but aside from the two copies of Substance Dissimulation there’s nothing specifically interacting with it.
All things considered, Riddles and Rain doesn’t ask a lot from fighters and instead focuses more on the investigators abilities to pick up and deliver clues fast and efficiently.
Locations: As the group progresses through the act/agenda decks, the locations come into play in a fixed order. First it’s only the Rainy London Streets which has a lot of clues and refills them, too. Its shroud starts out low, but increases over time. Next up are three surrounding locations Kensington Gardens, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey which offer the bulk of the clues required for reaching the Tower later on. Two of these locations have Victory 1. Only the Big Ben has a challenging shroud, the others are easy to pick clean. The Tower Bridge and the Tower of London come into play with agenda/act 3. Tower Bridge has again low shroud and can provide the last couple clues required to get into the Tower. Alternatively, a rather difficult test can open up the Traitor’s Gate location, which after yet another difficult test allows entering the Tower of London without spending the required clues. That’s usually only going to be worth it in higher player counts though because unlike the clue requirement, this alternate route doesn’t scale with number of investigators. Finally, the last act takes place in the Tower Prison which has a lot of clues, moderately challenging shroud and a victory point. To help with the objective, it allows trading left-over clues for skill bonuses.
Reward and Failure: Finishing the scenario by either defeating or parlaying the Red-Gloved Man will give the group control of The Eye of Ravens, their first Key. It’s a rather potent tool that can help secure clutch tests, like protecting a low willpower rogue from a nasty treachery or get off an emergency evasion. Flipping it back requires drawing an extra encounter card, but that can easily be worth it in many situations.
Failing the scenario, either by defeat/resign of all investigators or by the final agenda running out, will put this Key into the hands of the Red-Gloved Man who will be able to use it against the investigators down the road.
If the group failed especially bad (all defeat/resign or final agenda flips before they even reach act 4) then they also lose 1 time.
No matter how the scenario went, the investigators will not have seen the last of the Red-Gloved Man, meaning he can randomly show up in following scenarios as an enemy. Yes, even if you parlayed with him. Like his version in this scenario, his enemy version is a serious challenge with high numbers all around. On repeat meetings you won’t be able to use clues to bring down his stats, so take this as a clue towards the requirements of this campaign.