The House Always Wins

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Rats, Striking Fear, Bad Luck, Hideous Abominations, Naomi’s Crew

Size of the Encounter Deck29
# Enemies10
# Willpower5
# Agility0
# Doom2
# Damage5
# Horror6
Striking Fear and the Hideous Abominations do not start out being in the deck, but are added midgame. The above numbers include those sets.

My take on this encounter deck: There’s a lot to like about The House Always Wins, but the encounter deck isn’t necessarily a big part of it. The deck adds some flavor through the Bad Luck and Naomi’s Crew sets, but the main appeal of the scenario comes from the agenda and act cards and how they change what is important from one moment to the next.
Fighting isn’t a large part of the scenario unless you feel like taking it up with the abominations. They are mostly something to run away from, though. The Rats don’t provide much of a challenge, so that leaves the O’Bannions as the prime baddies to fight. Especially the Pit Boss which starts on the board can be a tough nut to crack for fledgling investigators who are either on their first or second scenario here.
Going through the locations as they open up and grabbing their clues isn’t particularly hard, but most locations come with effects that either cost resources or prevent gaining them. Together with a couple treacheries that also attack player’s resources this means that players will find it hard to accumulate bigger sums. If you got big plays to do like expensive allies or tools, do so right away while you still can. Event focused investigators may find it difficult to have resources for their expensive cards when they need them later.
All things considered, this isn’t a difficult scenario. When played first in the campaign, it offers quite a generous amount of time to find your target and get out with them before the big abominations can catch up with you. When played second, it’s at least easy to finish the scenario. Rescuing Peter Clover is a bit notorious for how hard it is without cheesing it (using cards like I’m Out of Here) because it requires diving back into the lounge while at least two big monsters are rampaging there, then passing multiple willpower tests and finally getting out again. At least he helps with the escaping part once he’s under your control. Due to the number or required willpower tests to parley Clover scaling with player count, this is one of the rare cases where it’s actually a lot easier to do solo than in a group.
Oh, and one final note although that should really go without mentioning it: Don’t cheat. Ever.
Cancel these: Arousing Suspicions, Frozen in Fear. During the early turns, Arousing Suspicions can really mess with your plans to set up and get into positions before the agenda advances. Being able to remove that possibility is huge. Frozen in Fear is just its usual self, a huge hindrance to some investigators and stopping it from doing its thing is always appreciated.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Each Criminal enemy at the player’s location has a doom added to them. If none are around, the player loses 2 resources instead.

My take: This card is especially relevant early on as it can force an immediate advancement of the agenda, skipping the phase where the enemies are still aloof. If that happens, it can be quite annoying as it removes the setup grace period and will have players staring down the Pit Boss right away. During the later parts of the scenario, this will mostly miss and just cost 2 resources which isn’t much of a cost at all.

Threat level: High in the first three or four turns. Low afterwards.

Dealing with it: During the initial turns, there’s two of these cards in what is efficiently a 17 card deck, so it’s actually quite likely to draw it. Aside from avoiding having the Pit Boss move on top of you or outright canceling the card there isn’t much to do about it, though. If you are playing in a group, split up so the Pit Boss can only move on top of one of you to minimize the chance of having this card matter.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Something in the Drinks makes each player who “had a drink” lose 1 action. It then surges.

My take: Each player may spend two resources and an action at the bar to discover two clues and draw 2 cards. Doing so might have them lose another action down the line from this card. I think it’s absolutely worth it. Worst case you are paying 3 actions and two resources for 2 cards and 2 clues. Which is still quite fair.

Threat level: Low. While the effect can be quite bad when drawn, it is something that you opt into.

Dealing with it: Just know that it exists and factor it into your decision on whether to buy a drink or not.

Return to The House Always Wins

My take on the modified scenario: The changes to the scenario are minor and do not really have much of an effect on how the scenario plays. There is a new location variant here, which is nice but nothing dramatically impacting. Also, we add two pairs of cards to the encounter deck. One of them, Raise the Stakes, is actually interesting because it adds another two cards (in addition to Arousing Suspicions) that can mess up the first couple turns. The other one, Caught Cheating, does literally nothing, though.
In terms of replacement encounter sets, Striking Fear is replaced by Erratic Fear, a set i have little love for. This switch does remove Frozen in Fear from the deck, which can be a huge deal in the final dash from the exit. Idle Hands actually gives an extra action instead, something that can come in very handy indeed.
The removal of Rotting Remains means that players no longer have to fear losing their sanity, instead there are some extra damage sources from Erratic Fear that can be relevant.
Return to The House Always Wins doesn’t change my opinion about this scenario in the slightest, it’s not all that relevant to be honest. In the end, the most important thing here might actually be that there is a new payoff for rescuing Peter Clover, but that doesn’t change how the scenario itself plays.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Raise the Stakes makes the player choose one of three options. They either have to remember that they “cheated”, they need to lose 5 resources or put the card into their threat area. If the last is chosen, Raise the Stakes will give +1 fight and evade to Criminals or make them lose Aloof.

My take: The important part to remember here is that you can take the second option even if you don’t have 5 resources, just as long as you have at least 1 resource. Paying off the treachery this way is certainly the most painless way to get rid of it, but there are situation where putting it into your threat area is also fine. Increasing the Thugs fight value from 4 to 5 is the main deterrent here, but if they are both already gone or if you just don’t care about it (because your fighter can handle it or you have testless damage available), feel free to just pick option three.
Never pick the first one. It adds a Elder Thing token to your bag for the rest of the campaign and you definitely don’t want that. Unless someone else already cheated, in which case feel free to also do that, i guess. I would question that other player’s wisdom, though 🙂

Threat level: Low to Mid, especially during the first couple turns. Falls off dramatically in relevance once the abominations enter the scenario, though.

Dealing with it: I guess you could technically Alter Fate it, but with Striking Fear in the deck you will likely want to hold onto that card. Just pay the resources or deal with the slight increase in combat prowess of the syndicate guys.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Any player who “cheated” loses two resources and takes 1 damage. The card surges.

My take: Easy, just don’t cheat. Like… i mean it. Don’t. This card is the least of your worries if you do.

Threat level: Low. Another card you have to opt into for it to have an effect.

Dealing with it: Don’t cheat. Sorry, don’t really have much more to say about this card. Using the cheat option in this scenario is really bad and i wouldn’t pick it ever. I’d rather take the trauma for being defeated.


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4 Replies to “The House Always Wins”

  1. It seems like there was an enormous missed opportunity in the Return-to. Instead of a surge card to punish cheating, they could’ve made a surge card that punished NOT cheating. (Flavor it as the natural consequences of the house-always-winning, and/or the unease of being straight-laced in an illegal speakeasy/casino. Fits pretty easily with testless resource loss and/or horror.)

    1. Yeah, the whole “cheating” thing really doesn’t work, does it? It simply has too big of a downside. Sticking you with the Elder Thing for the whole campaign makes this a non-choice and strictly a “Got ya!” that feels bad for people on their first playthrough. Should’ve been a trauma or something like that. Something that does hurt, but still can be considered. Could’ve even tracked the number of times individual people cheated that way. It is what it is, in some ways they were still figuring things out during Dunwich.

      1. Hm, a hypothetical: If the game offered bonus experience for cheating, how much experience would it have to be to tempt you into taking the elder thing token?

        1. To first answer your question: 5XP? Even then i likely wouldn’t but that’s probably the balance point before you have people actively cheating just to get the XP 😀

          But to add on: I don’t think that is a good way of trying to counteract the problem with the cheating at all. It simply shouldn’t add the token and do something different instead. Or add the token for only a scenario for each time you cheated. Something like that. In some way you need to get scaling in there, right now it’s cheat never or cheat all the time because there is no difference between cheating once and cheating 20 times. And the punishment for cheating once is already so huge that doing it once is nonsense.

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