Other encounter sets in this scenario: Agents of Yog-Sothoth, Chilling Cold, Locked Doors, Striking Fear
|Size of the Encounter Deck||34|
|# Discard (Hand and/or Deck)||10|
My take on this encounter deck: Exactly half of the cards in this encounter deck are scenario specific and it uses not a single one of the encounter sets from The Forgotten Age. Those two things already say a lot about The City of Archives, about how much of a departure from the rest of the campaign it is.
Considering the weirdness of the scenario, the encounter deck is actually fairly streamlined. There’s less enemies than usual and often with conditions attached for them to become hostile but most of the enemies are actually somewhat dangerous while the investigators are not able to rely on their own abilities and stats.
Willpower is frequently tested and since the Yithian host bodies only have a printed willpower of 2, players without icons to pitch for these tests will be at an immediate disadvantage as they see card knocked out of play, out of their hand or directly out of their deck. Many of the card effects deal with discarding cards from the hand, trying to stop investigators from reaching the point where they all have ten cards in hand so they can finish up the scenario.
I have several issues with this scenario in general, but the encounter deck is actually pretty neat. The four sets from the Core sets fit very well and having half of the deck being cards that never appear in any other scenario gives it all a very unique and fresh feel. It helps that especially the treacheries Lost Humanity and Captive Mind come with well designed mechanics that were not used anywhere else yet. Thumbs up.
Cancel these: Frozen in Fear, Captive Mind. Every investigator only has two willpower, so unless they hold plenty of icons to commit or have assets with willpower bonuses in play, these cards can become huge issues. Being Frozen in Fear over several turns is one of the worst things that can happen to a player with low willpower and slow them down to the point where they lost whole turns by the point they finally got rid of the treachery. Captive Mind has the potential to just dump someones whole hand of cards, something that would be very dangerous in other scenarios but becomes even more so in City of Archives where having a healthy amount of cards in hand is important to pass any sort of test and ultimately even to win the scenario.
What it does: With a 2 in all of its stats, the Scholar from Yith is on even footing with the investigators in their Yith bodies. Scholars have a Parley ability that allows players to evade them using intellect. When a Yith Scholar attacks, it only deals a single point of horror, but in addition the player will have to discard two random cards.
My take: These are generally very easy to deal with, as long as investigators still have a card or two to help with the test. Usually a 2/2/2 stat line would be cause to write the card off as low-impact, but since players have the same numbers, this is less clear cut. At least until players are able to get some items into play, defeating the Scholar will usually eat at least a card or two.
Threat level: Low. These do showcase the limitations of the Yithian bodies the investigators trapped in. Ultimately, they are fairly easy to defeat, though.
Dealing with it: If you are able to defeat one of these in one attack, that should probably be the plan as taking tests in this scenario means discarding more cards for icons. Evading and leaving them behind is a fine option otherwise as well, of course.
What it does: Scientists of Yith are much more difficult to fight than the Scholars are as they not only have more fight and health, but they also deal two damage per attack. Their weakness is an agility of 1, making it easy to evade them. Scientists start out as Aloof, but once the players either activated the device or dissected the organ they gain Hunter and lose Aloof. This enemy can only spawn in the Laboratory.
My take: These are tough, but at least they have a low agility score that can be exploited. During act 1, their spawn restriction leads to them being discarded on reveal, as they can only enter play if the Laboratory has already been put into play.
Threat level: Mid. Killing these often needs investment, but they can be evaded fairly easily.
Dealing with it: Evading it repeatedly could lead to a high number of extra actions taken, but is often preferrable to discarding enough cards to punch past its four fight two times. Since it only has three health, there are a number of ways to kill it in one strike and that can be a very attractive option. Spectral Razor is a fantastic card in this scenario to deal with Scientists becaue it not only deals the three damage but also helps with the test. Even something like Dynamite Blast can easily be set up to deal with this card and something else at the same time.
What it does: Keeper of the Great Library has fight and agility values of 3 which forces players to commit multiple cards if they want to reliably pass the associated tests and don’t have the proper assets in play. A high health value of four makes them even tougher. Not only do Keepers not share the vulnerability to evasion that Scientists have, they even have Alert to punish failed evasion attempts. Like the Scientist, Keepers start out Aloof and only trade that keyword for Hunter once one of two scenario conditions are met. As their name suggests, they can only spawn in the Great Library.
My take: These are dangerous, maybe even more so than the Yithian Observers. Killing these requires some effort and evading isn’t really a great option either due to Alert and Hunter. Like the Scientist, these are simply discarded during Act 1.
Threat level: High. Defeating these costs precious cards and four health means that there are way fewer ways around that than there are for the Scientist.
Dealing with it: Any test against their fight or evade stat will require at least two commited icons for a +4 bonus, testing 6 against 3. With the chaos bag in TFA being what it is, that still leaves a certain chance to fail, in which case the number of cards that are used can ramp up fairly quickly. As a result, do not engage these before you can put down some assets that help with fighting. Something like a Machete or a .45 can help a lot in conserving cards in hand.
What it does: Yithian Presence goes into the threat area of an investigator. While it’s there, the investigator is unable to investigate or trigger actions on encounter cards while a Yithian is in their location. To discard this card, the player can discard two cards from their hand and take an action – but of course this is only possible while there is no Yithian around.
My take: I generally find this card fairly harmless. It doesn’t forbid attacking or evading, so a fighter can just deal with whatever Yith is on their location. And anyone else can either wait for the fighter to solve the problem for them or use that discard action whenever it is convenient for them.
Threat level: Low. While players might want to get rid of the card eventually, there is rarely any time pressure behind it.
Dealing with it: If your gameplan is slaughtering any Yithian that comes along, this card doesn’t even need dealing with. Otherwise, just using that action at a convenient time takes care of it. It costs two cards, but at least you get to choose which ones.
What it does: While in a player’s threat area, Cruel Interrogations stops them from taking any draw actions. To discard the card, the player can spend an action and pass a willpower test at difficulty 2. Should the investigators already have interviewed a subject, this card gains Surge and the player will also take a horror on drawing it.
My take: On the one hand, the ongoing effect of the card isn’t all that bad and passing that one test is fine. So i would rate it similar to Yithian Presence in that regard. On the other hand, interviewing the subject is one of the first things i do in this scenario, as its right there in one of the cells at the start. So i end up with three cards in the deck that have surge, deal a horror, take away an action at some point and take away one of my options until then. That’s pretty rough. I do think it’s worth not having to go back to the cells later on, but i am not completely confident in that conclusion.
Threat level: Low if you didn’t interview the subject. High otherwise.
Dealing with it: At full strength, this is a significantly strong card considering it also surges right into the next one. There’s three of these in the deck and the discard pile gets reshuffled two times, so you’ll have to decide if an early interview of the subject is worth it to you. You save a lot of actions that way, but you also gain a surpremely annoying encounter card.
What it does: After a test of willpower against difficulty 5, the investigator removes a card from the top of their deck for each point they failed by. Should their card total drop below ten cards this way, they are driven insane.
My take: There are some decks that rely on redrawing the same cards or on certain combinations of cards. Those decks can get hurt by removing cards from their deck a lot, most other decks will just shrug that off as a minor thing. To drop below ten cards, one would need to completely fail several of these cards or play a whole lot of assets or Exile cards. That seems very unlikely, even with multiple reshuffles of the encounter discard into the deck.
Threat level: Low. Most investigators will not be terribly impressed by this effect.
Dealing with it: Lost Humanity on its own is very unlikely to drive you insane. The bigger threat comes from looping your deck too often, collecting too much horror on the way. Once you got hit by this card once or twice and had to remove a good chunk of cards, consider not playing all your assets just to keep a bit of a buffer to your deck. Also, after being hit by this once, i would try and keep two or three willpower icons in hand so i am prepared for an eventual repeat draw.
What it does: The player has to take a test against Willpower and then discard all cards in excess of their modified skill value.
My take: A very interesting way to test a skill, something that i would like to see on more treacheries in the future. This card can rip a hand of cards apart – especially near the end when players try to go for the scenario end condition it can cost several turns.
Threat level: Mid. There are ways to mitigate this effect, but the ceiling for this effect is pretty bad.
Dealing with it: Committing your willpower icons to this test is very much worth it, as every willpower icon will help you keep two cards in hand… with the usual exception of the auto-fail, of course. Usually, you’ll want to shoot for a modified skill value of 4, your hand size limit while on the last agenda. A single Guts can already get you to an unmodified value of 6, but more is better in this case. Don’t be stingy with your icons here, if you draw a -5 or worse, you’ll wish you had thrown them in.
Return to The City of Archives
My take on the modified scenario: Return to Forgotten Age adds another wing of locations to the board, making it the biggest map in a scenario, using 13 locations (at least until the In Too Deep mythos pack from the Innsmouth cycle releases , which features 15 locations). The number of tasks that can be completed goes up from 6 to 8, however the number of required tasks stays the same. This makes the scenario a bit easier as players can choose which ones to complete and which ones to skip. They could decide to completely ignore one of the wings, for example never going into the Library and never have the Keeper of the Library hunt them. Or they could choose to not interview the subject, thus forever stopping Cruel Interrogations from gaining Surge.
The new wing comes with its own spin on the “Aloof to Hunter” enemy, and it’s a reasonably challenging one. I think it’s a bit easier to kill than the Keeper, but it’s close enough to be an actual decision.
I like Return to City of Archives. I heavily dislike the original scenario, but the added decisions in what tasks to complete and which ones to ignore gives the Return that extra player agency that makes it interesting to me.
What it does: At 5 health, the Captive Subject is the toughest of the three enemies that start out as Aloof and turn into Hunters conditionally. Despite its big health pool and the Retaliate keyword, the 2 fight and 4 evade make it considerably easier to defeat permanently than to avoid it over and over. As with the other two similar enemies, this one spawns only in a specific location that is not on the board for all of act 1. Notably, this enemy is not a Yithian.
My take: As long as you are able to deal three damage in one hit once, the Captive Subject is much easier to take down than the Keeper. But even if you’d need to attack three times, it’s still close. Two fight is just a whole lot less than three. Retaliate hurts, but as long as neither the tentacle nor the trademark TFA -5 show up, you should be fine. Higher difficulties will have bigger problems here, of course. If your chaos bag is filled with terror and sadness like it is on Expert, then the balance swings much more in favor of the Keeper again.
Threat level: High. Like the Keeper, this enemy requires preparation and/or investment to defeat.
Dealing with it: Having a way to do three damage at once means that this enemy can be defeated in two attacks instead of two, giving one less opportunity to draw a bad token and be hit by a retaliation attack. These only become active threats once one of their two conditions are met, so consider not triggering them until you are ready.
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