Other encounter sets in this scenario: Poison, Temporal Flux
(1) If the players favored Ichtaca: Pnakotic Brotherhood, Dark Cult
(2) If the players favored Alejandro: Yig’s Venom, Guardians of Time
(3) If neither: Pnakotic Brotherhood, Guardians of Time
|Size of the Encounter Deck
My take on this encounter deck: The thing that stands out most from the numbers above is the huge amount of doom related cards in the deck if the players decided to favor Ichtaca over Alejandro. This is especially relevant as this is the scenario that makes or breaks the Ichtaca path, anything less than three discovered paths will close that way off. Aligning with Alejandro or neither of the two adds Guardians of Time to the deck instead, a set that plays very well in this scenario. The Eztli Guardians can cover a wide range of locations here and stack up well with a bunch of damage treacheries from the encounter deck.
The scenario is mostly driven by its location mechanics, though. Because of that, the significant difference between the deck composition depending on the earlier campaign choices do not matter quite as much as they would have in other scenarios. There are also six scenario dependant treacheries added to the deck which take center stage over what came from the other encounter sets.
Cancel these: Timeline Destabilisation. While there are some rough treacheries coming in from various sets, the two scenario-specific ones really take the cake. One is basically Ancient Evils, so cancel it if you can – it does have Peril though, so that’s not something to plan for. Timeline Destabilisation however just needs to go into the encounter discard whenever it shows up. The alternative is finding it again and again as it gets shuffled back into the exploration deck. Standouts from the other sets include Lost in Time/Merging Timelines from Temporal Flux/Temporal Hunters and Serpent’s Call/Wrath of Yig from Yig’s Venom/Venomous Hate.
What it does: Serpent of Technochtitlán is a beefy Serpent enemy that exists as a one-of in the encounter deck. It has solid combat stats and high stamina, making it tough to take out. If a player suffers damage from one of its attacks, they are poisoned.
While not at an Ancient location with clues, the Serpent uses the Hunter keyword to move towards players until it either engages someone or lands at one such location. While at an Ancient location with clues, the enemy will start guarding that location. To do so, it loses Hunter and gains Retaliate and Alert instead. Those abilities increase the chance for it to land a successful attack and applying poison by a lot.
Killing the snake does award a victory point, but will also add a point of vengeance.
My take: This is a really interesting enemy that asks a lot of the players. It’s added to the deck right away, so it can turn up as sort of a mini-boss at any point during the scenario. If the plan is to defeat it for the victory point and to not be harrassed by it for the rest of the game, then the players will need to take down the five health in one turn if they also do not want to get poisoned. Alternatively, evading it first to pin it and then beat it up is the less risky option, especially if the Serpent currently has Retaliate active.
There is one important non-obvious interaction concerning this beast that is worth keeping in mind: Unless the players favored Alejandro until this point, this is the only Serpent in the encounter deck. This is relevant because one of the two Templo Mayor locations will put the next serpent from the encounter deck into play, thus making it likely that the Serpent of Technochtitlán is added to the final confrontation with Padma Amrita. Having two big enemies stack up like that can be a serous problem. On the other hand, should the players have met the snake previously, that Templo Mayor will just trigger an encounter deck reshuffle because the only serpent is either somewhere on the board or in the victory display.
Threat level: High. This is a major threat that warrants special consideration by the players.
Dealing with it: To get the best way of disabling this enemy right out of the way: This is a Humanoid and a non-Elite, which opens up Handcuffs as a convenient way to put it down. If you don’t have that card or one of the other special player cards that reshuffle or defeat non-Elites, there basically three ways to deal with the Serpent of Technochtitlán: Either evade it and run from it. Or kill it. Or park it on an Ancient location. The first option is not a great one. The web of locations doesn’t leave a lot of room to run from a Hunter and this can massively backfire once the Harbinger is also added to the map. This can really only be a short-term solution to buy time for one of the other options. Fighting it, players will want to ensure that they do not get poisoned, so either take it out in one turn (which will usually require at least one three damage action) or pin it down with evasion. If possible, try to take it out at a location that doesn’t put it into guarding stance so you don’t have to worry about being counterattacked on a failed test. For the last option, let it wander into an Ancient location with clues that you do not plan on clearing. Obviously that should not be the Templo Mayor. This will mean that you can not get all six paths anymore, but for most groups that should be perfectly fine.
What it does: Hand of the Brotherhood is a weak cultist enemy whose strength lies not in combat, but in its abilities. Spawning at an empty location, it stays there and prevents the use of any location abilities in its place and the ones surrounding it. Discovering the last clue from any Ancient location on the board will add a doom token to Hand of the Brotherhood. All of those abilities are only applied while the cultist is ready.
My take: This is a set of abilities that makes Hand of the Brotherhood a card that can not be ignored. Killing it is easy enough, but as is so often the case that will take precious actions away for moving towards it and hitting it. It’s a fine card, but not a particularly remarkable one. If you are playing an investigator (or a team of investigators) that are specialised in evading enemies and not in killing them, these can end up a bit more painful. But at least in my opinion, anyone tackling the Forgotten Age should be able to kill at least a few enemies. There’s cultists all over the place.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Not difficult to handle, but something you can not ignore for long.
Dealing with it: Just kill it. This is not an enemy to get tricksy about. When spawning it, you have a choice of putting it right next to you so you can kill it with fewer actions or putting it on the other side of the map where it doesn’t shut off the locations you are currently trying to flip. In the vast majority of cases the first option should be preferrable.
What it does: Window into Another Time forces a player (and only that player, no outside help allowed) to make a choice: Either add a doom to the agenda, possibly advancing the agenda. Or shuffle a revealed Ancient location back into the exploration deck, undoing all the progress that was done in that place.
My take: Let’s walk through what the first option of this card can undo. To fully uncover an Ancient location, the players did: Fulfill the condition on the Present-Day location, spend an action to explore, find the Ancient location in the exploration deck instead of a treachery, often suffer from some sort of “enters play” ability, discover clues and move on. Undoing all of this is not an option. Note that even if you didn’t do that last part yet and the clues are still on the location, those just drop down to the Present-Day location. And then, after exploring again, the Ancient location will drop another chunk of clues on top. That is a lot of actions and a lot of tests. Don’t fall for that, just accept the doom token.
Threat level: Very High.
Dealing with it: Unless you are really sure you know what you are doing, just take the doom. There is only one situation i could imagine where i could see shuffling back a location: In case you only just explored a location and didn’t grab any of the clues yet, you could shuffle that one back into the encounter deck, move the clues to the Present-Day location and then move on to a different Present-Day location and continue exploring there. Basically sacrificing the location you were at to avoid taking the doom. This will stop you from getting all six paths, but that is rarely going to be the goal anyways. Still, 99% of cases this card is simply Ancient Evils with more text on it. Regrettably, Peril is part of that text.
What it does: If the player fails a willpower test, they are dealt a damage and a horror. Also, Timeline Destabilization is shuffled into the exploration deck if that happens. The willpower test’s difficulty scales with the number of Ancient locations in play.
My take: This is a very nasty card. I am always happy to draw these early when i can still easily pass the willpower test because they are just so bad later on. Not only does the damage and horror represent a bit of pressure on the player, but being shuffled into the exploration deck over and over translates to failed explorations down the line which can really hinder progress a lot. The difficulty of the willpower tests escalates pretty fast, to the point where even investigators with a 5 in that stat will fail this test unless they invest into it further. There’s three of them in the deck as well, so unless you have some way of passing the test, canceling the treachery or otherwise stopping them from stacking up in the exploration deck, these will make finding the last couple of Ancient locations a lot harder.
Threat level: High.
Dealing with it: One way or another, you will want to make sure that this card ends up in the encounter discard pile instead of the exploration deck. If that means committing a couple cards or spending precious cancels, so be it. Having two or more of these in the exploration deck can cost the scenario on its own as players end up drawing these, failing their exploration and may just end up getting damage and horror again only to have to shuffle the card back into the exploration deck.
Return to Boundary Beyond
My take on the modified scenario: No new scenario specific encounter cards are added to the deck, but the scenario is changed in many ways nonetheless. The new exploration setup makes finding the Ancient locations a lot less risky as there are no treacheries in the deck (aside from Timeline Destabilisation down the line). Three of the encounter sets used are being replaced with new ones. Dark Cult becomes Cult of Pnakotus, a change that gives some more teeth to the cultists. When playing route (1), be aware of the interaction between Brotherhood Cultist and Brotherhood Acolyte. I highly suggest having one player on cultist duty, zipping around the place smacking these guys whenever they show up. Yig’s Venom is removed for Venomous Hate, so players will have to deal with the Vengeful Serpents and the Serpent Guardian. That gives some more teeth to route (2), which was held back a bit by the less impactful Yig’s Venom before. Finally, Temporal Hunters replaces Temporal Flux for all routes, a change that is about even but does introduce the highly unpredicatable Merging Timelines card to the proceedings.
All things considered, the scenario becomes a bit easier thanks to the exploration changes, but it’s still one of the more challenging ones. Getting the first three paths should be in the cards for everyone, but everything more will require some luck and preparation.
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