The Heart of Madness, part II: Stirring in the Deep

Encounter sets in this scenario: The Heart of Madness, Stirring in the Deep, Ancient Evils, Chilling Cold, Striking Fear(parts of), Agents of the Unknown, Miasma, Nameless Horrors, Penguins
Available experience: 2 (Unsealed Phantasms) + 10 (Resolution) = 12XP

Size of the Encounter Deck37
# Enemies6
# Willpower15
# Agility3
# Doom5
# Damage3
# Horror5
# Tekeli-li10

Synopsis: Whatever nameless horror has been sealed away in the installation of the Elder Things, it’s starting to seep through and break free. The investigators have to make sure this doesn’t happen by destroying the City of the Elder Things and everything below it. Specifically, five pillars hold up the structure and destroying those will lead to everything collapsing. Of course, once that is done, the team also has to flee the place in time…

My take on this scenario: The second part of Heart of Madness concludes the Edge of the Earth campaign. We usually go into these campaign finales with a certain expectation of what expects us and i have to say, this one isn’t really one to meet all these expectations. This isn’t always bad, in the end Heart of Madness #2 is a fine scenario, but like part 1, it’s also not that impressive either.
The Ancient One here is certainly creative and different. Spread across 15 cards, it takes over the map and gradually smothers the players in its presence. That’s a cool mechanic, but it also kinda doesn’t make for a very satisfying resolution… after all you aren’t actually able to defeat it in any way.
Like the Innsmouth finale, this scenario also suffers from being a bit too easy. Now, it should be said that taken by itself, the difficulty here is good. There’s some challenging enemies and treacheries, there’s lots of ground to cover and destroying the pylons does take some effort. However, if you go into this scenario with a few of the seals from Heart of Madness #1, this difficulty shatters dramatically. Those seals are incredibly powerful and if you have three or more of them (or just the right one, really) destroying the pylons becomes almost trivial and in turn the whole balancing for the time pressure is off. Especially the seal that lets players deal extra damage with each source of damage to a pylon is kinda nuts.

Scenario specific encounter sets: As in part 1, Primeval Terror and Roots of the Earth take the part of being the Grasping Hands/Rotting Remains ersatz. Because of this, Rotting Remains actually stays in the box despite the rest of the Striking Fear set being used here. The scenario specific set, Stirring in the Deep, only adds a pair of enemies to the deck. The Unsealed Phantom guards the Mist-Pylon locations and investigators will need to get past it if they want to try and damage those pillars.

Act/Agenda: There are basically two parts to the scenario. In the first, the investigators have to destroy the five pylons. Once that is done, they have to get out in the second part. For the first part, there’s one act card and two agenda cards. The act states the terms for advancing (destroying all Myst-Pylons) and provides an ability to use clues for damaging the pylons. The first agenda has a threshold of only 3, basically offering a short setup period before the scenario goes into full swing. Once it advances, the Nameless Madness enters play and all investigators have to resolve all of the Tekeli-li in their decks (and then return them to their decks!). The second agenda card doesn’t have any doom threshold, instead a copy of Nameless Madness enters play whenever a doom would be put into play. If fifteen copies of Nameless Madness are in play, the agenda advances.
The second part begins if either the act card or the second agenda card advances and consists of only one card that is both act and agenda. It states the goal (“Run!”) for the last bit of the campaign. Interestingly, it doesn’t have a fail condition. Instead the scenario relies on The Nameless Madness being able to eventually overwhelm the players.

The Nameless Madness: This is the final boss of the campaign… sort of. The Nameless Madness consists of fifteen (!!!) copies of the same card, which come into play over time until they cover the map. This replaces the usual doom counter for the first part of the scenario. The Nameless Madness can not be defeated or even damaged, but players can exhaust multiples by oversucceeding on evasion or fight tests. The difficulty for these tests does scale with player count, making this enemy a whole lot more dangerous in big groups. At 3 and 4 players, the Alert and Retaliate keywords even become a major issue to care about here. It would pay off very well if you have someone like Winifred for this scenario who can evade a lot of Nameless Ones at once or Tony Morgan who can turn his firepower into a similarly good tool to keep these in check.
For the second part of the scenario, these gain Hunter and will thus start to stack up on each other. This can make it very difficult or even impossible for investigators to escape as they would need to evade too many of them and still be able to move (which is further complicated by the mechanics of the Titanic Ramp) or would have to take a lot of attacks of opportunity.

Enemies: Like in Heart of Madness #1, there aren’t a whole lot of enemies around, but the ones that are in the deck are quite relevant. The penguins make a return here and together with the ever expanding mass of Nameless Madnesses, a lot of locations quickly become hard to navigate. The Unsealed Phantasm are sturdy and need to be defeated (or at least exhausted) to get to the pylons they guard. At least they have Victory, so you only need to defeat them once. There’s two copies of the Phantasm in the deck. Finally, Primordial Evil is another resilient enemy that can take a couple of hits and is able to dish out a good amount of pain itself. Consider evading it, since that is easy to do and you will likely be in motion throughout the scenario anyways.

Tekeli-li: The final scenario of the campaign once more uses the seemingly omnipresent Nameless Horrors and its signature card, Blasphemous Visions. That alone is enough to make Tekeli-li worth caring about. Also be aware of the effect on the back of the first agenda: Once the first three doom are done, that agenda advances and all Tekeli-li from the player decks are resolved in random order, then shuffled back into the player decks. This can be immensely painful. If possible, consider purging Tekeli-li from your deck with William Dyer’s option during the third interlude (following City of Elder Things).

Seal locations and Mist-Pylons: Any inactive seals that the players got during Heart of Madness #1 are transferred into Heart of Madness #2 and the locations to turn those seals active are still around. Do note however that the locations where the seals are first picked up are replaced by the Myst-Pylons now, so any seal that wasn’t picked up in HoM#1 isn’t available during HoM#2 at all. Obviously that means that these locations are without a function (aside from providing clues) if you skipped HoM#1.
The Mist-Pylons are what the players are seeking to destroy in this scenario. The difficulty to attack them is determined by their shroud, while the clue value is their amount of hit points. At all of the pylons, one of the seals can be used if it is activated and will give an impactful bonus towards “defeating” these locations.

Other notable locations: The rest of the location grid is the same as in Heart of Madness #1. Please see that article for details.

The escape: For the final bit of the scenario (of the campaign, actually), the players have to flee the compound using the Titanic Ramp. The ramp consists of four locations in random order that the players have to pass through. To get from one location to the next, they need to either pass agility tests or spend clues. By itself, this isn’t terribly difficult, but you do have to ward off the growing number of Nameless Madnesses at the same time. Some of the encounter cards can also really throw a wrench into the works here, most importantly the penguin and Frozen in Fear.

Suggested partner assets: Both Cookie and Eliyah can help a lot with exhausting the Nameless Madnesses, especially when they are resolute and are able to do so as a free action. Other than that, just use whoever fits your deck/investigator the best.

Reward and Failure: The reward for completing this scenario is winning the campaign! Congrats! You gain a bunch of XP and some complimentary trauma, both of which are just for flavor, of course.
The penalty for failing is… well, failing the campaign. All investigators go insane and it was all for nothing. Oh no! Not optimal, try to avoid this!

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