Over the last weeks, this article series put all campaign scenarios in the game into a ranking, ordered by difficulty. Along the way, i shared some observations about difficulty as they came up while looking at all of these. If you want to catch up, here’s the links to every previous installment in this series:
#1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8 | #9
Now it’s time to look at the data we’ve collected and try to make something out of it.
The full list
As a starting point, here’s the full list as determined over the last weeks:
(click to zoom)
Difficulty by Enjoyment
Let’s do some Excel stuff and see where it leads us. I want to take the results of my most recent scenario rankings and combine them with the difficulty rankings. As a reminder, this is what that ranking (by enjoyment) looked like:
And this is how the same table looks when i apply the colors from the difficulty rankings to it:
Huh. This all looks very colorful and christmassy, but i am not sure this actually tells us much! Maybe the lesson here is that difficulty and enjoyment aren’t necessarily linked, meaning that a scenario being difficult doesn’t make it better or worse than one that is easier. That seems like a reasonable conclusion to me, at least when it comes to my own tastes.
Looking at the graphic, there are a few minor things that can be pointed out:
The bottom three scenarios by enjoyment for me are all very difficult. This would point towards me preferring easier scenarios, but that doesn’t really check out when looking at the rest of the list. Tier 1 has three high difficulty scenarios in it as well and every other tier has at least another one, so the top 15 by difficulty are spread fairly evenly across my ranking. This does showcase that difficulty can be either satisfying or frustrating, though.
My tier 1 has only one green scenario in it and even that one isn’t in the most easy group of scenarios. This is a lot more relevant when we try to interpret this data somehow. Seems like I have no problem to rank easy scenarios as good (tier 2), but to feel like the scenario really stands out as amazing i do expect a good amount of challenge.
Related to this, there is a glut of scenarios from the easiest group of scenarios near the bottom of tier 3 and tier 4 by difficulty. This pretty much confirms my bias towards more challenging scenarios. Especially the three scenarios in the lower tier 4 (Echoes, HotE#2, Gates of Sleep) are both in lower tier 4 and in the easiest category because they are just plain boring.
So yeah. Not really much to gain here. Slight bias towards more difficult scenarios, but of course that doesn’t have to be the same for you. This particular comparison between the two rankings probably wasn’t worth the effort! Moving on!
Difficulty by campaign
Let’s do something more productive. Taking the difficulty list, sorting it by campaign and keeping the color for each scenario gives us this:
Now, of course doing it this way is not an exact science at all, as a color has 15 scenarios in it that can span quite a good amount of difficulty. Meanwhile two scenarios could be right next to each other on the list, but be right on the breakpoint between two colors and thus appear differently in this graphic. It is however a solid approximation that can act as a guideline to see where each campaign falls.
Core: Not really much to learn here, this is all very obvious and well-known. A nice introductory mini-campaign spoiled by an overtuned mess of a finale. Moving on.
Dunwich: This looks like a great difficulty curve to me. Starts out easy and ramps up all the way to the top. Well done, Dunwich!
Carcosa: A notable step up from Dunwich. Its biggest difficulty spike isn’t at the end, it’s on scenario 4 (Oath). The campaign starts out rather challenging, then mellows out after Oath to allow the players to take a breather, then goes into two final scenarios that aren’t terribly difficult, but not gimmes either. This is fine, but honestly Carcosa could stand to pick up some more steam in the middle parts. The Return To doesn’t “fix” this either.
Forgotten Age: Oh yeah, this looks about what i expected. Some green there in the middle with the forgettable Heart of the Elders scenarios, but otherwise TFA is going to make you sweat and it’s going to do so right from the start. This is not some new revelation, TFA is famous for this. But it’s nice to see it so clearly reflected in the spreadsheet here. Looking at this lineup and comparing it to how Dunwich and Carcosa look, you can immediately see why the initial reaction to TFA was as rough back then.
Circle Undone: A solid difficulty curve, like Dunwich it starts easy(…ish), then ramps up. It does ramp up much faster than Dunwich does, though! It reaches high difficulty around the midpoint, with only Greater Good being a somewhat easy(…ish) outlier. TCU probably could stand to ramp up a bit slower and smoother, the Secret Name/Wages of Sin double feature is maybe a bit more of a sudding spike than it should be.
Dream-Eaters: The easiest campaign except for Where The Gods Dwell and that is reflected in the graphics here as well. Notably, the B campaign is just a cakewalk with its easiest part being the finale. Not great! Ah well. To make up for it, the A campaign does have a nice ramp from green to red though!
Innsmouth: When the only easy scenario is the finale, something went wrong. Like with TFA, we start right in the thick of things and never really start coming back down. Instead, the difficulty keeps somewhat steadily to the upper middle of the rankings, providing a lasting challenge throughout, punctuated by the upwards peak from Light in the Fog. Just a shame about that finale though.
Edge of the Earth: I didn’t expect this to look so similar to Innsmouth. Again very steady difficulty. Instead of an upwards peak there’s a downwards one and it’s very close to the beginning. Honestly, this looks great. Considering how heavily i dislike Edge’s campaign structure i am surprised by how good it looks here.
Scarlet Keys: Another surprising one. What surprises me here is how green this part of the table looks. I consider TSK in total to be quite hard, so having so many scenarios here that are in the lower 40% is unexpected. Of course when it peaks, it peaks hard, so maybe that’s where the impression comes from. TSK also does a lot with its campaign structure, so not all of the perceived difficulty actually comes from the scenarios themselves. But yeah, all three of those peaks are easy to avoid if you aren’t up for them, so putting together a relatively mild TSK campaign should be no problem at all. Interesting, I didn’t really consider that before.
Welp, that was a solid 2.5 months of scenario difficulty discussion. I am happy to end it here, but if there’s anything you would like to see in terms of follow-up discussion, let me know!