|Size of the Encounter Deck
My take on this encounter deck: This is a focused and quite coherent deck. It is dominated by doom acceleration (mostly through cultist related cards) and interaction with curse tokens. Lair of Dagon is the one scenario in Innsmouth where the bless/curse tokens aren’t restricted to the player cards and this scenario lays the curse tokens on thick indeed.
Like with many other cultist focused scenarios before this one, there aren’t any singular huge enemies around (well, unless you take too long…). This means your enemy handlers can focus on taking down the annoying small enemies instead of being tied down by bigger fish. Speaking of fish, there’s only two copies of a certain Deep One in here, and it’s not all that threatening. So the Deep Ones do take a back seat for this scenario as well.
There’s also some damage and horror coming from the encounter deck, but the main threat does indeed come from the doom clock which keeps ticking on while the investigators struggle to get their goals done because their tests keep failing.
Cancel these: Esoteric Ritual, Stone Barrier. Esoteric Ritual can cause a whole lot of devastation to your hand and/or board. So if you can cancel it, you at least don’t risk pulling curses, tentacles… or both. Stone Barrier’s impact depends a lot on the location it lands on, but it can become a huge issue as well, and not necessarily one you want to spend a key on through the act’s ability.
What it does: This scenario’s signature Deep One isn’t as fierce as most of those seen before. It does have the 3 health to survive most attacks, but at only 2 fight and evasion it doesn’t put up a whole lot of resistance. What’s left then is its engagement effect which adds 2 curse tokens to the chaos bag. It’s also a Hunter.
My take: This guy is rather weak, especially once you take into account that Lair of Dagon is the penultimate scenario. The curse tokens are added to the pile of all those you will get over the course of the scenario. So it does its job as a part of that critical mass, but pulling this card from the encounter deck should probably come as a relief most often.
Threat level: Low. Not much more than a filler enemy. I prefer drawing this guy over a cultist since it at least spawns right on you and doesn’t have you haul all over the locations to get rid of it.
Dealing with it: There is not much in terms of tough enemies to fight in this scenario, so your fighters are probably itching for something to put a bullet into when you draw this. Let them have it, at least you’ll not get any additional curses down the road. Truth be told, most of the cultists are more of a pain to defeat than this Deep One.
What it does: After failing a willpower test, the investigator has to add a curse token to the chaos bag for each point they fail by. If they are at a flooded location, the difficulty of the test increases from 3 to 5.
My take: Up to 5 curse tokens in one swoop can translate to a couple failed tests down the road. The treachery has no immediate impact on the board, so it will usually feel very mild. It is an important part of what makes this scenario tick, however. As such it shouldn’t be underestimated. We usually expect to spend 1 to 2 actions on dealing with an encounter card and this one can potentially take up more. And you have little to no influence on the timing.
Luckily the willpower test gives one route to minimize the impact of this card.
Threat level: Low to Mid. It does not pose an immediate danger, but will make future threats more difficult.
Dealing with it: There’s not much you can do about these. Because of the sheer number of curse cards they aren’t worth canceling and using actions to bait out the curses is a fool’s errand. One thing to notice is how bad these are when the bag already has 5+ curse tokens in it, as drawing one of them will lead to two more added unless the investigator tests at a serious amount above the difficulty. As a result, this card will make sure that the bag keeps topped up.
What it does: Depending on whether the players are on act 1, 2 or 3 the investigator has to pass 1, 2 or 3 tests. Agility, combat and intellect are tested (in that order). Each failed test will deal 1 damage to the investigator.
My take: A somewhat bizarre take on Grasping Hands, with the chance to deal up to 3 damage depending on how well the investigator tests. Having to test for each point of damage separately is a double-edged sword. One the one hand, this treachery does an excellent job of filtering out curses from the bag: Three chances to pull them, only 1 damage max per curse and the difficulties are low enough that passing the tests despite drawing a curse is certainly possible. On the other hand, testing three different stats makes it likely that you will have to pass something your investigator is really bad at. And pitching cards just for a single damage is not great, either. So you are unlikely to get out of this one completely unscathed.
Oh, and while this is somewhat unlikely to come up, you just know that some poor soul somewhere managed to awaken Dagon by drawing this at his location and failing all the tests…
Threat level: Mid. Being so difficult to interact with puts this a notch above Grasping Hands in my book.
Dealing with it: How bad this card is for you is going to scale hard with the number of curses in the bag. Since you are unlikely to throw cards at these tests for extra icons (unless you are really desperately trying to avoid further damage) you’ll often end up testing with your base skill value (+static modifiers). The difficulties are low enough that this can work out, but curses will pretty much always screw this sort of test over. Seeing how hard this card is to interact with, you should probably just plan to soak the damage coming from this.
What it does: If the investigator fails a willpower test, they have to either discard two cards from their hand or one asset they control. If they revealed a curse for the test, they have to do both.
My take: Even without the curse clause, this would be a significant card. The difficulty for the test is high enough that failing it can happen to anyone and with three copies of this in the encounter deck this can make for quite some pressure on the player’s cards. The one saving grace is giving the player the choice of protecting their assets by discarding some from their hand or vice versa – discarding some spent or cheap asset to protect important cards they are holding. If they do pull a curse during the test, this choice is taken away as well though and the treachery doubles up the punishment.
Threat level: High. This card can absolutely ravage a player’s board and leave them with nothing in their hand they could use to replace what they lost.
Dealing with it: This is a very worthwhile target for your cancels. The presence of this card means that you should be thoughtful about what you play to the board. You will want to have enough assets in play so that having to discard one is not going to hit your key cards that your deck revolves around. On the other hand, you will want to keep enough in your hand that losing two cards from there is not too punishing either. Just be warned that you can draw back to back copies of this and get your whole gameplan crippled anyway.
What it does: After adding a curse token to the bag, the investigator has to pass a willpower test. If they fail, they have to add one doom to every cultist enemy in play. Additionally, they have to take a horror if they failed. If a curse was revealed during the test, an additional point of horror is dealt.
My take: Even without the horror, this is a scary amount of doom that could be added from just a single card. This card makes a very convincing argument that any cultists popping up on the map have to die right there and then… well, maybe giving the Agents of Dagon a turn to become more vulnerable first. But they should certainly not be allowed to stick around because between Mysterious Chanting and this, that is just asking for trouble.
The horror stacks up well with the other sources attacking your sanity in this scenario and should not be underestimated either.
Well, and the card adds a curse. Certainly not the most important part of the card, but it is just another little jab at you on a card that already has a lot going on.
Threat level: Mid to High. This card does a whole lot and all of it relevant.
Dealing with it: The main effect of this treachery can be mitigated well by not letting any cultists stick around. But that still leaves you with a card that pushes more on the horror soak of the investigator, making sure it always has some sort of an effect instead of requiring the otherwise obligatory “Surge when there’s no cultist around”.
What it does: Stone Barrier attaches to the nearest location that doesn’t already have one. Should that location happen to be flooded, Surge will make the investigator draw an additional encounter card.
Investigators can’t leave locations with a ready Barrier, but at the cost of an action and a successful agility, combat or intellect test the Barrier can be exhausted.
My take: This is a huge action sink. Unlike Locked Doors (which is also in this encounter deck) it won’t discard, it will just ready every turn and block the way over and over. If the players need to do a lot of backtracking, this can be a huge pain, especially if this backtracking happens because the players are hunting down cultists. At least the test difficulties are low and with a choice of three stats most investigators should find something they can pass here. Obviously, this scenario serves up these repeatable tests as yet another thing that can be messed up with curses. But to be honest, you could pull those at way worse times.
Threat level: Mid. An action sink that will usually be fine, but can escalate if it spawns in the wrong place and the players are unable or unwilling to use a key on it.
Dealing with it: Do you still have Stone Barriers in your encounter deck? Then you might not want to end your turn on the Grand Entryway, because getting that one locked down is going to hurt you A LOT as you will need to pass it whenever you enter or return from a Tidal Tunnel.
Luckily the scenario offers you one failsafe to deal with these things: The act deck has a free ability on it that allows players to spend one of their keys to defeat an Obstacle treachery. The Stone Barrier and Locked Door are the two viable targets for this. Doing so will increase the negative modifier of the skull token by 1 for the rest of the scenario but it can be worth it on some locations. Well, at least for the Barrier – i don’t see myself using that ability on a Locked Door.