|Size of the Encounter Deck||30|
My take on this encounter deck: The first scenario of the Innsmouth Conspiracy has a lot going on at the same time, throwing the players into the deep end right away. The goal is collecting keys and bringing them to certain locations, not only to find the actual exit that allows resigning from the scenario but also to remove pesky tokens from the stuffed chaos bag that would otherwise stick around for the rest of the campaign.
Time is not on the players side, as there are at least three mechanics working towards limiting how long the players have to get out:
One, there is a doom clock just as usual. It offers 19 turns before the final agenda advances, a very reasonable amount if taken for itself. There is also nothing in the encounter deck that would accelerate the rate at which doom tokens are acquired.
Two, the new flood mechanic is heavily tied to the advancement of the agendas here, causing all locations to become fully flooded by the end, with the Rising Tide encounter set further providing some extra opportunities for locations to become flooded ahead of time. As this goes on, players will find that they are more and more impacted by a drowning effect on the agenda that threatens to deal 5 damage to them if they don’t find at least a partially flooded location once per turn.
Three, this scenario has a staggering amount of damage and horror effects wearing down on the stamina and sanity of the investigators. Token effects, engagement abilities from enemies, triggers on locations and revelation effects on most of the treacheries deal some sort of horror or damage and a lot of it is testless. Especially on hard or expert this can become a problem real fast, as the token effects will trigger there even if the test in which the token was pulled did not fail! This is a major difference between Standard and Expert play, much more so than usual.
The number of enemies in the encounter deck is comparatively high, especially considering that there is also a recurring Elite Deep One appearing from time to time. Aside from the Deep One Bull in the Creatures of the Deep encounter set, the enemies here are all somewhat easy to defeat, but the engagement effects of the Deep Ones make sure that these creatures are still not something to just dismiss. Only the Rats set provides a bit of a breather here, as the Swarm of Rats is easy to defeat and not subject to any special interactions with the rest of the scenario. As mentioned, the number of enemies is further propped up by a unique Deep One, the Amalgam. This enemy isn’t terribly hard to defeat but it will recur from its own set aside zone, popping in and out of play similar to the Hunting Horror from the Miskatonic Museum.
Willpower and Agility are evenly tested, and there is even some strength and intellect tests on some of the treacheries. The punishments for failing these tests is big enough that doing well feels like a big relief, it’s certainly worth having resilience to the encounter deck baked into your investigator here. If not, patching up such weaknesses in deck building is encouraged.
All things considered, this is a surprisingly tense and difficult scenario for a campaign opener. I would rate its difficulty on a level with Untamed Wilds, but still slightly behind Curtain Call. The placement of the locations provides some variance to the difficulty, for two reasons. The locations will dictate which keys you get in which order and how far you have to go for them, thus possibly leading to some backtracking. Also, the position of the two locations that can not be fully flooded can be important. Having both next to each other can lead to a large part of the map being fully flooded and highly dangerous for players to be in during the final turns.
As a final note, i absolutely appreciate the huge difference between the Standard and Expert side of the scenario card. Expert feels very different because handling your damage/horror is much more important than usual, but of course it’s also much more stressful due to constantly having to commit calculated risks. It offers almost two very distinct ways of playing the scenario. I find this much more interesting than just throwing an extra -2 on each token. I would very much like to see mechanical differences like that in the future, it would certainly make me want to play Hard more often.
Cancel these: You could stop the Amalgam from being a factor by throwing your cancel cards at Blindsense and From the Depths, but i don’t think that is really worth it. My suggestion would be to hold your cards for those treacheries that threaten to deal a lot of damage or horror to players that already have a stack of it and can’t afford more.
What it does: The investigator has to take an agility test against a difficulty of 3. Failing it will engage the Amalgam with that investigator, no matter if it’s in play or in the depths, and cause an immediate attack.
My take: The immediate attack translates to one damage and one horror dealt. Engaging means that the Amalgam can snatch one of the keys held by that investigator. Those are fine effects, the damage and horror do stack up well with all the other sources for them. Potentially it could even lead to a second attack right away if the player decides not to give up one of their keys to prevent it.
I almost feel like the agility test ruins the primary purpose of this card, which is pulling the Amalgam back into play from its special set aside area. The test is somewhat easy to pass and doing so will prevent anything from happening at all. Every copy of these that is pulled by an investigator with passable agility can stop the Amalgam from having another appearance, which i find a bit easy to do considering that it is a central recurring enemy.
Threat level: Low to Mid. The agility test offers a way of mitigating this cards effects straight up, the threat level from this card is mostly carried by the immediate attack.
Dealing with it: The Amalgam itself isn’t a terribly difficult enemy as such, so even if the agility test can not reasonably be passed, this isn’t a card to be too worried by. Just make sure that the Amalgam isn’t able to return to the depths with one of your keys attached, which becomes a lot easier if you can deal 3 damage in one attack.
What it does: If the Amalgam is currently out of play, it enters the board engaged with the investigator who drew this card. If it already was in play, it instead moves to its special depths area, taking any keys placed on the Amalgam with it. If moving from play to the depths, From the Depths will also surge.
My take: There is no saving throw on this card, so unlike with Blindsense, there is no stopping the Amalgam from entering play here (unless you outright cancel the card’s revelation effect, of course). That makes it the more important card in my opinion, even if there is no immediate attack happening it will still possibly snatch up a key.
The second half of the card is a lot more interesting as it will see the Amalgam retreat while surging into the next encounter card. While removing the enemy from the board could be a good thing, it can also mean that it holds a key hostage until the players manage to draw the Amalgam out of its hiding spot again.
Threat level: Mid. The Amalgam is more of an annoyance than a real threat, but the possibility of having the creature escape with one of the keys can be a real issue considering the time restraints on the players.
Dealing with it: The existence of this card means that players will want to get rid of the Amalgam as soon as possible whenever it holds one of the keys. Or at least snatch the key back up with the “evade by two” trigger on the Amalgam.
There’s three of these cards in the encounter deck, making it the primary way for the Amalgam to engage players. By taking the keys from the creature but keeping it alive, players can cause From the Depths to remove the creature instead of spawning it, minimizing how often they have to meet the Amalgam. However, this will cause Surge on this card and this may very well be worse than having another encounter with the Deep One.