Scenario Difficulty Rankings #7

Intro

You know the drill by now. Scenarios ranked by difficulty, a couple of them per article, with at least 3 more articles to go.
Also, some words on a difficulty-related subject. Go go go.

On difficulty: Action Taxing

It is said that nothing is as certain as death and taxes, and that holds true in ArkhamLCG as well. Death is always something that is in the cards for our investigators, and taxes is just one further facet that pushes them towards death. Action taxes, to be precise.
An earlier installment of this series already had a few words about urgency, the concept where a timer is anchored in the game to apply pressure on the players and forces them to make compromises with their decision making instead of always having the freedom to make perfectly safe choices. Action taxing goes hand in hand with urgency and is the way that the encounter deck further enforces the pressure on the players. If urgency means speeding up the clock, then taxing means slowing down the players.
On a surface level that can mean treacheries like Frozen in Fear, Best-Laid Plans or Compulsion which are very literal about their effect, taking away actions from the players directly. But there’s actually another large group of cards that mostly fall in this area: Enemies. This is a bit counter-intuitive. Usually we would expect the lovecraftian monsters and horrors to be primarily concerned with killing us (by depleting our health and/or sanity), but AHLCG has this weird dynamic where it’s actually treacheries that gnaw on those resources the fastest and in bigger chunks. Meanwhile, many enemies do carry the threat of dealing damage/horror, but will usually not actually get around to it because players will need to handle them in some way before the enemy phase. In other words, most enemies can have their impact measured in actions spent to defeat (or evade or otherwise handle) them. This is obviously not true for all enemies, but it is for most of them.
When looking at Taxing and Urgency, one could easily come to the conclusion that they both are pretty much doing the same thing, trying to run out the doom clock before the players can achieve their goals. But that isn’t quite right. While speeding up the doom clock doesn’t have an immediate impact (its payoff is only felt once the agenda flips), action taxing will immediately have effects. It can stack up with other things on the board in a nasty fashion and often without a lot of counterplay. After all, your options are just severely limited if Compulsion made it so you only have 1 action this turn.
For that reason, action taxing can be one of the most punishing thing the encounter deck can do to you and as we get closer to the top of the list, it will become a prominent thing to look out for. Speaking of the list, let’s actually do try and get closer to the top, shall we?

#30: Ice and Death, part 3

Oh boy, this one is rough. It’s a very short scenario either way, as the players find themselves confronted with an onslaught of Eidolons. The Seeping Nightmares are particularly dangerous and are almost guaranteed to stack up with other enemies. Despite the size of the Ice and Death map, there’s also little room for dodging Hunters, which in term will happily get a first strike in.
This would be even higher on the list if it wasn’t so easy to just straight up skip. Note that once you committed to playing the scenario the Resign option does actually cost a non-trivial amount of clues to use.

#29: Dark Side of the Moon

Some very chunky enemies, a nasty alert mechanic and a tight doom clock come together to make Dark Side of the Moon a rather challenging affair. Investigators with low agility will struggle especially as many of the alert mechanics are tied to the stat. Stacking up alert and later being unable to evade a big stack of Cats from Saturn can easily spell your end. As can getting bogged down in the many mechanics leading you to just plain run out of time.

#28: Heart of Madness, part 1

Nothing really spoils your day like drawing Rampaging Shoggoth in your first Mythos phase. But even aside from such extreme possibilities, the scenario has plenty to offer that can just smack you down. There is a random element to the placement of the mission objectives, but chances are that you will need to be able to have some extra movement around or get bogged down in extra actions you simply need to take to get where you need to be.

#27: Return to Before the Black Throne

Before the Black Throne is one of the harder finales in the game, with a combination of merciless doom mechanics and a good deal of randomness. This entry on the list is for the Return version, which tones down the scenario significantly by giving players more venues of interacting with the challenges. Especially the Nightgaunt player assets that allow traversing Cosmos locations are an incredible help in mitigating the randomness from running into dead ends. We will of course see the original Before the Black Throne again, higher on the list.

#26: Fatal Mirage

Lots of Edge of the Earth in today’s group of scenarios. Fatal Mirage is a distant relative of the other scenarios that do the “achieve as much as you think you can in the time you got, then resign” line of scenarios. What makes Mirage stand out is that opportunities to resign don’t come particularly often. When you do get the opportunity, it’s very hard to estimate if you can pull off another branch of Mirage’s huge map or not as it will usually take several rounds to get one done and doom mechanics and action taxes are plentiful. There’s also big honking monsters about while players get exposed to Tekeli-li. If you are bringing partner allies into this scenario and care about their survival, you better be sure that you don’t take any unnecessary risks.

#25: Return to Boundary Beyond

Another Return To version of a notoriously difficult scenario. We are of course going to talk about Boundary Beyond again further up in the list and about all the horrors it has in store for us. The big difference between the original version and the Return To is how the exploration mechanic got tones down considerably. You will no longer start any treacheries in the explore deck and you will also no longer gain any. What that means is that your explores are actually going to hit and you don’t stumble around in the early turns, trying to line up the specific conditions of a location multiple time as you try to get the damned thing to become the Ancient version. The big exception is Timeline Destabilization which indeed does still get shuffled into the explore deck if you fail it. Of course the scenario is still plenty challenging, the showdown with Padmé Amidala at the Templo Mayor is as suspenseful as ever.

#24: Vanishing of Elina Harper

Innsmouth Troublemaker. I could end this here and just let those two words stand for what’s going on in this scenario. Vanishing first looks to be a more clue focused scenario in the spirit of Midnight Masks, but once Troublemakers, the Winged Ones and Nightgaunts are in play, potentially aided by the Innsmouth Mob your fighters will have more to do than they had in Pit of Despair. And that’s saying something.
Vanishing stands out to me as a scenario that is challenging on every level. Fighting, investigating, even moving – it all gets put to some sort of test.

#23: Clutches of Chaos

As has been a trend for the last couple scenarios in the list, movement plays a big role in Clutches of Chaos. The map has a decent size, but more importantly it involves a lot of backtracking between locations as the investigators work to close the randomly appearing breaches. A lot of damage is going around here, threatening to knock out an investigator despite the lack of particularly dangerous enemies in the encounter deck. There is however a real possibility for the Piper of Azathoth to make an appearance and that guy is of course as scary as it gets. What makes me put Clutches this high is a number of high impact treacheries in the deck that can really put the hurt on the investigators as they accelerate the breaches, deal chunks of damage/horror or even recur treacheries from the discard pile.

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