Best-Laid Plans: The actual Keys of The Scarlet Keys

I’ve been asked if i could put up a visual spoiler of the Keys from the Scarlet Keys up on my site, so … well, here it is. To put some more meat on this page, i also went and commented on how useful their Stable side is, how difficult it is to flip back to Stable and how difficult it is to actually acquire in the first place.

Stable: This key is super useful for rogues and other investigators with low willpower and/or agility that struggle with treachery tests. When i use this key, it’s usually to discard something like a Frozen in Fear or deflect a Rotting Remains. Super worth it.
Unstable: If you use this key the same way i do, the key basically allows you trading one encounter card for another. That seems like a fair trade to me in most cases. If this is in enemy hand, this key is a menace though.
Acquisition: All you need to do is finish Riddles and Rain without wiping out. Easy enough.

Stable: Useful, but not extraordinarily powerful when used fairly, but in some situations that come up in the campaign, this almost lets you skip certain challenges. Without going deeper into spoilers, the Sable Glass lets you trivialize much of the final scenario. Gets better with more players since that makes it more likely that mini-cards stack up in one location and the Sable Glass can help you get a handle on that.
Unstable: In low player counts, this is barely a cost but with more players this becomes a bit more annoying to set up as someone will usually mind having their highest cost card taken away. Still fine though, this isn’t a key that needs to be flipped back and forth a lot. If this ends up on a coterie member that can trigger it often, this key can become trouble.
Acquisition: Rather difficult to get, as you need to either need to do very well in On Thin Ice or defeat Thorne if you have not done that well… and they are maybe the most terrifying enemy in the whole campaign (at least on their own merits… Tzu San with her key is a special kind of BS). Note that if you do ally with Thorne, they will show up with the key in hand for the finale, so you do get to abuse the crap out of the Sable Glass then anyways.

Stable: Quite powerful. Both parts of the effect are great, moving enemies around and getting free attacks can both be useful and if you can profit from both at the same time, you get great value here.
Unstable: Flipping the card back scales very heavily with player count, while the Stable side doesn’t (or at least only very little). That makes this a tough sell to flip to Stable if you can avoid it. Another one you really don’t want to see on enemies.
Acquisition: Well, i didn’t manage to beat Shades of Suffering yet. Maybe some day.

Stable: Pretty great, as it doesn’t just give you -3 cost, but also an extra action. Fantastic key to have for your first setup turn, even if you never plan on flipping it back.
Unstable: That being said, it’s often reasonable to actually do use that Shift back to Stable. I consider this to be less restrictive than Sable Glass to stabilize… but worse in enemy hand because getting hit by it multiple times will just rip apart everyone’s hand.
Acquisition: You need to go against the Claret Knight and take the thing from him. Doing so requires some firepower but isn’t particularly hard (compared to what else the campaign has to offer). You can do so relatively early in the campaign too.

Stable: A free clue. Sure. Always useful, but rarely something to get excited about. You can use this key to expose a mini-card at your location as a free action, which seems more interesting to me than just a free Working a Hunch. One of the limited ways to expose a mini-card at a connecting location which is super useful in several circumstances.
Unstable: Can be set up to work well, but again the Unstable side scales with player count when the Stable side doesn’t. If you end up with assets that ran out of charges (or that have doom on it) this can even end up being useful, but most of the time it’s not worth flipping. ABSOLUTELY HORRIFYING on enemies that can trigger it repeatedly, most of all its natural owner, La Chica Roja.
Acquisition: Win the race for 3 targets against notCarmen notSantiago. Making it to the “secret” second part of the scenario is not required, so this key is reasonably easy to grab.

Stable: Highly dependent on what you have to add uses to. Putting another piece of ammo or a charge on a spell is usually not terribly exciting, but i could see this being solid if you have something like a Fingerprint Kit(4) or a level 5 spell to feed.
Unstable: Again, scales with player count, the other side doesn’t. Considering that the usefulness of the Stable side is already dodgy, this will almost never be worth shifting yourself. In enemy hands it’s super unfun, but at least it’s not The Weeping Lady.
Acquisition: No fighting necessary, just get on Tuwile Masai’s good side. To do so, you need to not betray the coterie (too much) and possibly follow the guy around from Nairobi to Bermuda. If it’s reasonably on your way, might as well pick it up but i’d argue this is the weakest of the keys.

Stable: Great emergency button to press and notably it’s not restricted to non-Elite which is huuuuuge in this campaign. Worst case, it exposes a mini-card without taking an action.
Unstable: A point of horror for everyone is a small price to pay if this alone keeps Amaranth and her pet zombie lion from attacking every other turn. Obviously this cost can still be problematic, but depending on the circumstances it can absolutely be worth it. On an enemy, this provides a rather strict clock that will force you to deal with it as soon as possible.
Acquisition: Again, just requires some travelling, you’ll get it from Dr. Irawan when you follow her from Rio to Manokwari. There are some time requirements to this one, which makes it a bit more awkward to get than the Bale Engine, but then again it’s also much more worth getting.

Stable: Amazing for wiping away trauma for the whole team on turn 1. Even if you never end up using it a second time, that alone is so very powerful.
Unstable: How strict exactly we are to interpret this ability is apparently still up for debate, but current provisional ruling has been that it only requires one enemy with damage on it to be able to shift back (a stricter read would be that EVERY enemy in play needs damage on it that can be healed). This is not a huge cost, in fact i found that i often would need to specifically set it up so that i don’t just kill things immediately if i want to flip this back. On an enemy, this makes quite the impression in its original scenario (Dead Heat) but is rather tame if it appear later on.
Acquisition: You gotta rip it out of Amaranth’s head. While very satisfying to do, this is not an easy task. But if you have the firepower, it’s very much worth doing.

Stable: Dealing 1 to multiple enemies is pretty much never worth doing, but 2 testless damage to one target, no questions asked? That is spectacularly useful for fighters and non-fighters alike. Again, this can be used to expose a mini-card without an action, but you will likely have better uses for it available.
Unstable: Worth the cost for shifting it. I consistently find this to be one of the most useful keys and getting more uses out of it is great. Of course you need some healing if you really want to go deep on this, but even if you just shift it back once or twice, you get to snipe two or three enemies with it.
Acquisition: Desidorio has this one and he is a bit extra about it. Not only do you need to finish Havana, you also need to spend some time durdling around in the area before you can grab it from his safehouse. Not difficult, just annoying and can be hard to fit into your travel schedule.

Stable: Card draw and card selection, that’s always useful. I like this particularly during the early setup where it gives more options, almost as if you get another mulligan to try and get your most important cards. But of course this effect is just consistently useful, no matter when you use it.
Unstable: Doom mechanics are scary, but when you have control over it, then you can get some great opportunities to bypass the drawback. Whenever you want to get rid of an asset anyways or when you are about to take out an enemy or discard a treachery at your location, you can also get a key shift out of it for near no cost. That being said, if an enemy has it, it quickly gets less pleasant…
Acquisition: Either betray Ece or just do Istanbul without her and the key is yours. Not too difficult, not too easy, perfectly reasonable.

(Disclaimer: I don’t own Fortune and Folly yet, so i didn’t have opportunity to play with this key myself. Also i can’t make proper scans of them, so these two images will have to do for now…)

Stable: Seems fine. Gives better chances at a single test, but doesn’t guarantee it and especially in Scarlet Keys the chaos bag is rough enough that i probably would rather have a solid skill bonus than just a redraw. Still, some investigators and player cards do care about specific tokens and those could get good mileage out of this ability at important points.
Unstable: On the other hand, the Wellspring is quite easy to flip back and this doesn’t even scale with number of investigators like so many others. You often run into tests that you either don’t care about or are going to fail either way. Worst case, you can just take an action to investigate and trigger the Shift on that. In an enemy’s hand, this can potentially be annoying and cost important tests. However, since it is limited to a test in the same round and many Coterie enemies trigger their keys in the enemy phase, this often will do nothing.
Acquisition: You get it in Fortune and Folly, the Scarlet Key related scenario that is released as a standalone. I don’t own it yet, i have not played it yet and i have not spoiled myself yet on any of the things happening in it. So no idea how easy this key is to get.

Best-Laid Plans

This page is part of my “Best-Laid Plans” series of campaign Deep Dives. For Scarlet Keys, i had to break it up into parts due to sheer volume. Find the rest of the Deep Dive and other articles about this campaign at my Scarlet Keys hub.

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