Striking Fear

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleWillpower, Horror, Stalling
Threat LevelHigh, based almost exclusively on one card
# of scenarios15
VariantsErratic Fear, Neurotic Fear
Appears in: The Gathering, The Devourer Below, The House Always Wins, Essex County Express, Undimensioned and Unseen, Where Doom Awaits, Curtain Call, Dim Carcosa, The City of Archives, The Witching Hour, In the Clutches of Chaos, Waking Nightmare, Point of No Return, Lair of Dagon, Heart of Madness #2

My take on this set: Frozen in Fear is clearly the most important card here, actually one of the standouts of the whole Core box. The other two cards shouldn’t be completely written off, though. Rotting Remains goes up in relevance once paired with other cards that deal horror and Dissonant Voices occasionally throws a wrench into coordinated efforts, making everyone have to adjust plans. With 5 out of 7 cards sporting Willpower tests, this is one of the sets that are often added to a scenario to cover this important part of the encounter deck’s role in the game.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: A very simple and iconic treachery, dealing horror to an investigator if they fail a Willpower check. There are three of them in the encounter set, making them a constant presence in scenarios including it.

My take: Pretty simple, but that’s not a bad thing. The Willpower check of 3 is within reach of anyone and the scaling damage mechanic means it’s not a binary pass/fail. Most of the time,Rotting Remains is a card that you are somewhat glad to see coming off the top. For low sanity investigators like Roland some concern should be kept in mind that three of them are in the deck, so drawing multiples can become a problem.

Threat level: Low to Mid. It’s not direct horror, so the effect can be mitigated with soak on assets. The Willpower check is neither difficult nor easy, but it should be noted that low sanity often comes bundled with low Willpower. So anyone who would be hit harder by the card is often also the one who has a tougher time dealing with the test. Still, even partial success will lower the impact, so even someone like Skids isn’t always going to take the full 3 horror.

Dealing with it: The card comes with a Willpower check, so that’s the first line of defense against the effect. Other than that, allies and other assets can soak some of the horror if it becomes a problem.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Another fairly simple effect, but one that has interesting implications depending on the game state. It hinders a player from playing cards, then discards itself at the end of the round.

My take: This is another card that i am often glad to see coming from the encounter deck because it doesn’t actually cost me anything in terms of resources, cards or actions. When drawn at an inconvenient time, it can mess up some plans but these situations are rarely hard to deal with. Many investigators simply shrug this off as they keep on moving and investigating.

Threat level: Low. Conditionally it can become a bit annoying, but it doesn’t take anything away from the player except for some options.

Dealing with it: Just hang back for a turn or take actions using whatever assets you already have in play. The card discards itself at the end of the turn, so this will merely push back what you had planned by a turn.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Frozen in Fear latches onto a player and consumes up to an action per turn when moving, fighting or evading. To stop this card from costing actions every turn, the player is allowed one Willpower test at the end of each turn.

My take: This card is just terrifying for some investigators. A Guardian who draws this and can’t get rid of it will find himself taking multiple two-action-turns after another which just feels miserable. In my opinion, this is one of the most impactful encounter cards from the Core set and needs some special consideration for most Guardians, some Rogues and for example Joe Diamond who all do a lot of moving and fighting and have low Willpower.

Threat level: High to Very High. While there are some investigators who naturally have high Will that can shrug this off, there are a lot of investigators who are seriously impacted by this effect. The test happens at the end of turn, so the effect usually will last at least for a turn. Similar to Dissonant Voices, this can simply force a player to do something else than what they had planned to avoid the effect, but move and fight are exactly the actions that often can not be postponed.

Dealing with it: Since the Willpower test is a trigger instead of an action to take, nobody else can clear this treachery for the one who drew it. So, outside of cards like Logical Reasoning (which seems tailor-made to deal with Frozen in Fear), the player will have to deal with it themselves. This is where cards like Guts and Unexpected Courage can help to get a burst of Willpower for otherwise vulnerable investigators.

Return to The Dunwich Legacy: Erratic Fear

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleIntellect, Willpower, Clues, Damage, Horror
Threat LevelLow

My take on this set: This complete batch of cards seems like a huge miss to me. Intended to replace Striking Fear, it trades of the Willpower checks with Intellect checks, watering down the purpose of the set. 4 out of the 7 cards can be completely defused by spending two health, the other 3 are only relevant to about a third of investigators. One of the cards is even borderline beneficial. Sorry, but i think this one is a dud.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: Replacing Rotting Remains, Need for Knowledge changes the Willpower check with an Intellect check. The difficulty scales with the number of clues and has a higher upper ceiling than the static 3 from the core card. Horror dealt by Need for Knowledge can be mitigated by putting clues back to the location.

My take: This card is a miss for me on several levels. Most importantly, i think that Willpower checks are not only an important part of the encounter deck, but also a very important part of the identity for this specific fear themed encounter set. Replacing it with an intellect check feels like a weird choice to me. Then there is the problem that this card is tailor made to hit the primary clue getter of the group while everyone else is mostly shrugging this off even more than Rotting Remains. I dislike the design of this card.

Threat level: Low. Often times it just whiffs as it hits someone with only one or two clues. When it does hit the Seeker of the group, it will also be the one who should have little trouble passing the intellect test.

Dealing with it: This card is not much to be concerned about. There are three of them in the deck, so if you’d want to play around it you could make everyone pick up at least one clue so it doesn’t gain Surge.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Violent Commands doesn’t directly replace one of the cards from Striking Fear, its mechanics are unrelated. While under effect of the Violent Commands, the player needs to take a Willpower test every turn and is dealt one horror on failing it. To get rid of the card the player has to spend an action and deal 2 damage to any investigator. Players are allowed to hurt themselves.

My take: On the surface it looks like this card has a lot going on, but in practice this usually only becomes “Lose one action and two health” as most investigators can just choose to get rid of it immediately. The damage isn’t direct so it can be soaked. High Willpower investigators like Mystics have the option of letting this sit in their threat area for the rest of the game, dealing with the occasional horror instead.

Threat level: Low. Losing two health and an action is about on par with most baseline encounter cards but there are several ways to mitigate it already built into the card. If taking the Willpower tests is a reasonable option for the investigator, it can become very low impact. Note that the damage can be dealt to anyone at your location, so it should be easy to set up a situation where the two damage hit someone that can deal with it. Even the action to activate the card can be used by anyone at the location, so you could even make that part of the effect hit whoever can spare the action most.

Dealing with it: Try not to fall into the trap of keeping this card around for too long if you can not pass the Will test consistently. Other than that, the card is fairly harmless.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Idle Hands presents another unique effect that doesn’t directly replace one of the cards from Striking Fear. At the end of each turn, it deals 1 horror to the player without allowing for a saving throw. To get rid of it, the player who drew the card (and only they) can choose to take 2 damage to discard the treachery. If they do, they get a bonus action this turn.

My take: I am very confused by this card. Most of the time when i drew it, i felt like it was actually an upside because trading 2 health for an action isn’t really all that unreasonable. Even when it’s not an upside, it’s just 2 damage.

Threat level: Very Low. Even without granting the additional action, this would be a weaker version of Violent Command.

Dealing with it: Just clear it immediately to cash in on the extra action and to never deal with the horror trigger.

Return to The Path to Carcosa: Neurotic Fear

Set Size7
Number of unique Cards3
RoleWillpower, Horror, Stalling
Threat LevelMedium

My take on this set: Return to Path to Carcosa offers up another replacement set for Striking Fear and this one hits the mark a lot better than the one from Return to Dunwich. It lacks a standout threat like the Core set has, but between Painful Reflection and Melancholy there is enough raw power here to let these cards have a lasting impression. Personally, i am using these cards outside of Path to Carcosa, too. I replaced one of card from Striking Fear with one of each from Neurotic Fear for variety to create a hybrid set with 2 Rotting Remains and 1 of each of the other cards. They all play off each other well because they share their respective roles.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: This set’s Rotting Remains variant keeps the Willpower check and instead varies the outcomes for failure. For each point that was missing from passing the test, the Voice of Tru’nembra will either deal a horror, eat up 2 resources or apply a penalty to the next skill check. The player can not choose the same option twice. Like so many cards in the Carcosa campaign, this one also gets the Peril keyword, stopping other players from commiting cards to help with the test.

My take: A much better replacement for Rotting Remains than Need for Knowledge, this one keeps the basic effect intact and only varies the punishment for failing. I think due to the player choice involved this card is a bit weaker than Rotting Remains in practice.

Threat level: Low. All things considered, the card isn’t really weaker or stronger than Rotten Remains, it’s just slightly different. When drawn early, the loss of 2 resources is probably the most worrying effect of the three.

Dealing with it: The player choice involved should buffer some of the impact of the card if not completely failed. Other than that, the usual ways to improve Willpower tests apply.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Painful Reflection is the replacement for Dissonant Voices, but instead of stopping events and assets, this one attacks only events. The player is not hindered from playing their events, however with every event they risk pulling a bad token and getting their event cancelled. If that happens, they have take 1 horror as an injury added to the insult. Then, and only then, is the Painful Reflection discarded.

My take: Nasty. I like this card so much. What a sadistic way to attack a specific set of player cards. This is one of the few encounter cards that feel much worse than they actually are, a feat that is in my opinion very appropriate for the Arkham LCG and specifically for Carcosa.

Threat level: Medium to High. Painful Reflection has some serious implications for investigators trying to plan out their turn. Even something simple like not knowing if you get to collect the resources from an Emergency Cache can throw off whole turns. Painful Reflections will stick around until it finally triggers at which point it will cost at least a card, the resources spent to play it and one point of sanity.

Dealing with it: Once it’s in the threat area, it will trigger eventually which makes this a must counter for Mystics. Otherwise they’d risk having this trigger on a crucial Ward or Deny Existence down the line. As long as this card is in the threat area, playing big expensive events should be avoided, while trying to bait out that bad token with cheap events.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Melancholy replaces Frozen in Fear and works in a very similar way. Like the iconic core card, it sits in the threat area, bogging the player down until they manage to pass a willpower test. Instead of costing an action per turn, it increases the cost for all cards played by one, taking a different approach at slowing down the player.

My take: It’s very hard to appropriately replace a card like Frozen in Fear, but Melancholy almost manages to do it. It acts like a bit of a cross-breed between Frozen in Fear and Dissonant Voices in that it hinders the playing of cards, but sticks around. It has a sizeable impact on the investigator that is stuck with it, but not to the same level that Frozen in Fear does.

Threat level: Mid to High. Drawn early or by an investigator that heavily relies on events, this can cost a serious amount of resources if stays for long. All things considered, it is easier to mitigate by playing around it than Frozen in Fear, though. A high Will investigator can even treat this as a weaker Dissonant Voices.

Dealing with it: The same ways that work for Frozen in Fear apply here as well. Depending on how confident the player is about passing their Will test, playing more cards from the hand can often just be delayed by a turn.

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