Scenario difficulty rankings #1: The eight easiest ones

Intro

We got some time to kill until Hemlock Vale releases, so let’s start a new article series! This was inspired by a recent conversation I overheard on Discord about how LotRLCG has these difficulty ratings for all of its scenarios and Arkham doesn’t. They were wondering if there was a source to get a rough estimate about how difficult Arkham scenarios are.
I thought that fits right in with what I am doing on Ancient Evils, so let’s give this a whirl. Now i won’t be attaching numerical difficulty values (there’s just a host of issues with that) but i will put them in order, starting with the easy ones and go up from there and discuss about each scenario why i think it’s particularly difficult (or not) and what its key challenges are.

Some disclaimers before we start!

Most of the general difficulty ranking doesn’t change between a base scenario and its Return To version. But where it does, i will make a seperate entry for that one.
I also want to note that this is not only a highly subjective list, but that it also is going to change a lot depending on whether you play solo, in a full group or with something inbetween.
This list is also from the perspective of someone who played every scenario at least half a dozen times. Some scenarios are challenging on the blind play but once you know its gimmick it becomes a lot easier. So those are scenarios that will trend towards the easy side from my point of view.
I will also generally assume that you play the scenario with investigators capable of meeting its challenges.
Finally, there’s just a big wishy-washy feely part to the ranking too. That’s the primary reason i don’t want to attach a number for the ranking, that would make it look way more scientific than it is. Instead i will try to make my perspective on all scenarios clear in the text.
There are also some scenarios where it’s not quite clear how to rank them. Do we care about all bonus goals? How many keys in In Too Deep? How many paths in Boundary? How many signs in Kadath? Do we need to save Clover? I’ll just go with my gut in those cases, don’t hold me to any sort of consistency there. Again, I’ll try to make clear in the comments for the scenario how I feel about the bonus goals and their effect on the difficulty. Some are just more mandatory than others.
I also want to make clear that being difficult or easy doesn’t necessarily mean that i like or dislike the scenario. There is certainly a correlation there, as too easy can become boring and too hard can become frustrating, but there are certainly great easy scenarios and great hard scenarios in the game.

This is going to be a long series with about 10 entries (there is 75 scenarios in total due to some scenarios taking a second spot with their Return and i will tackle 7 or 8 per article) so let’s get cracking already, with what i consider to be the easiest scenario in the ArkhamLCG:

#75: Echoes of the Past

Echoes is often trotted out as one of the more boring scenarios in the game. It’s not really bad and its mechanics are actually an interesting way to represent a race between the cultists and your group. But what it means in effect is that you basically don’t have a doom clock for most parts of the scenario. Aside from one treachery that can move doom directly to the agenda, a good fighter can just whack-a-mole any cultists that comes up and stop this scenario from applying any pressure. The Return To adds a new cultist that is actually a bit more challenging, but not enough to heave it up more than a couple slots on the list so i won’t be ranking that one seperately.

#74: Beyond the Gates of Sleep

This is my nominee for most boring in the game. There’s two halves to this scenario. The first half doesn’t even have an encounter deck, it just makes you move down a few locations. And the second half has you investigate a couple locations around a central one in what is maybe the most basic layout you can have for your board. Unless you somehow really struggle with those difficulty 2 tests to move past the two Guardians at the start, you will arrive in the second half with a massive doom clock to get the rest of the scenario done. At almost no time there is any threat to your investigators, even the one big enemy that hides in one of the woods can’t move into the central location. So you find some clues, kill a Zoog or two and that’s basically it. The whole scenario is carried by its narrative. And while it’s a good narrative, that just stops being important once you played the scenario a few times.

#73: The House Always Wins

This is another one that to me lost a lot of its impact after a couple plays. Fantastic introduction to the sort of story-telling card mechanics that the AHLCG does so well. But once you know where to go and what to expect, there’s not much to it in terms of challenge. Now of course there are the three Abominations that rampage through the place, but engaging with them is largely optional. And the rest of the encounter deck is just some mafia dorks and some of the tamest treacheries in the game. If there was a better payoff for rescuing Clover (or a bigger penalty for not doing so), this would rank higher on this list because then you’d actually want/need to tackle those big chunky enemies, but as is, this is usually rather unspectacular.

#72: The Gathering

Hey, it’s the tutorial! A very well crafted scenario that is certainly a challenge when you start – especially if you only have the investigators and cards from the Core Set! That being said, this list is from the perspective of revisiting the scenario with the experience of a couple dozens campaigns under the belt and most of The Gathering just isn’t that impactful anymore. It’s not a complete walk in the park, the big ghouls (and of course, the Ghoul Priest!) are something you can’t just sweep aside and we do have both Creeping Cold and Striking Fear in the encounter deck to care about. But you do have Lita as an incredibly powerful asset and you do get the option of just running out of the front door if things get too dicey with the Priest.
The Return To significantly upgrades this scenario, with more fat ghouls, more difficult locations and some terrifying treacheries. We will talk about the Return later, further up the list.

#71: Congress of the Keys

Yo, if a campaign finale shows up in the most easy scenarios, something’s wrong. Taken at face value, the scenario doesn’t even look that easy. Some chunky locations, an encounter deck with some dangerous stuff in it and a large final boss. But the thing is, unless you faceplanted half the campaign that came before it, you are so loaded up on story allies and assets that the scenario almost plays itself. Some of the keys and allies trivialize whole parts of the scenario and leave little that you actually have to care about yourself. Sadly this does include the final boss.
I feel like this finale fell victim to a bit of overengineering in the campaign mechanics. To be fair, if you have to face the final boss head on, it’s a rather good fight that offers a fun final spin on the Concealment mechanic that defines TSK. But it’s unlikely you will have to do that once you know what you are doing in the campaign.

#70: Heart of the Elders #2

The Forgotten Age is a campaign i adore, but splitting down a Mythos pack into two scenarios was not a great idea. It left us with two scenarios that are pretty much just literally half a scenario. While part1 does at least have a coherent thing going on that sets it apart (small area, Hunters, run!), HotE#2 is just a rehash of things we’ve already been doing all campaign and that we are about to do again (much, much better) two scenarios later. HotE#2 is kinda just there and there is little reason for it both in terms of gameplay and narrative. All the challenges in this scenario are things you already went through, making this one easy to handle.

#69: Into the Maelstrom

Welp, another campaign finale. And honestly, after going through Light in the Fog to get here, there’s nothing in Into the Maelstrom that can even come close. You have plenty of time to do your thing, even if you failed to pick up any of the special keys during the campaign and have to start at zero. If you *do* start with any of them, that just makes the doom clock even more lax.
The scenario wants you to be afraid of fish daddy and fish mommy waking up, but then all that actually does is giving you another win condition because you can now spend damage on them to advance your goals.

#68: Riddles and Rain

This scenario reminds me a lot of The Gathering and follows much of the same beats. Only one location at first, opens up its board over time, introduces its mechanics and finally leads to a boss fight. You are not getting a Lita here, so you have to find and defeat The Red-Gloved Man all by yourself. You do however at least get a location ability that does help with the high difficulty values that would become a bit of a TSK signature thing.
I like this one a lot and i’d say that while it’s not all that difficult it doesn’t need to be. It’s a campaign starter after all and meant to get you on your way and give you your first couple XP to start developing your deck. And it does a fine job of that.

Signing off

And that’s all i have for today. I’ll post the rest of this series over the next two to three months until you have a complete list of all campaign scenarios so far, ranked by difficulty. Until next time. Cheers o/

6 Replies to “Scenario difficulty rankings #1: The eight easiest ones”

  1. I agree, that “Into the Maelstrom” is far too easy for a campaign finale. Less sure about “Congress of the Keys”, though. I lost it two out of three attempts for that campaign. I won on the blind run with my most common Arkham group on hard, then lost with some new players on standard, but then again with my regular group on hard. Both times we doomed out after some “Ancient Evils” reshuffles one or two rounds before beating the Ancient One. The doom clock is quite tight here.

    You did mention in your article “The actual Keys of The Scarlet Keys”, though, that you could abuse “The Sable Glass” in this scenario, and we disagreed on that, because the concealed mini cards of the boss are not on your location, but arranged around it. So we didn’t do that.

    1. So are you saying that you think the concealed mini-cards of the boss can’t be exposed at all?

      Because exposing with a test, a point of damage or a clue only works on mini-cards at your location.

      Nah, the mini-cards of the boss are at your location. Just some inconsistent wording.

  2. Just like with the locations earlier in the scenario, they can be “exposed as if they are at the location”, but regardless are not at the location. I think, it is worded that way intentionally to prevent cheese like with the “Sable Glass”.

    1. I’m referring to the German rules from the “Without a Trace” scenario here.

      It’s a bit odd, that the paragraph is entitled “Locations in the Shadows”. I guess, that’s because in “Without a Trace” this can only ever adress locations, and they didn’t want to spoil the fact, that there could be other cards in the unlikely event, that someone gets to that scenario on their blind run.

      However, if you check the first bullet point, it says: Concealed mini cards, that are connected to a location,… It does not restrict to concealed locations. So our groups interpretation was, that this should apply here as well.

        1. It’s been a while, since we played this, and I think, we had a good reason to believe, it does not work that way. But maybe you are right, and we were wrong. You are definitely right, that it is a card effect, so based on my reasoning before, it should work.

          Maybe, they wanted to make something to prevent the cheese, but messed it up? I see no other reason for the inconsistent wording, otherwise. It would be most naturally to place the concealed cards on the location rather than around it in case of an enemy.

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