Other encounter sets in this scenario: Ancient Evils, Ghouls, Nightgaunts, Striking Fear, Agents of Atlach-Nacha, Creatures of the Underworld, Whispers of Hypnos
|Size of the Encounter Deck||25|
My take on this encounter deck: This is a long scenario that sees the players traverse a wide map with lots of locations that are sequentially revealed as the acts advance. Their goal is finding a certain location in the Sea of Pitch before the doom clock runs out, but aside from Ancient Evils there is not a whole lot of pressure on this clock. What the deck does instead is throw a lot of different enemies at them to halt their progress and also batter them with damage and horror treacheries at the same time.
The enemies in the deck start out fairly tame, with Ghouls and Creatures of the Underworld adding mostly “normal” humanoid sized critters (and one Gug). As the acts advance and more of the map is revealed, the enemies get bigger and more dangerous, though. Nightgaunts and the Dhole are rather dangerous hunters and the final act also adds Grey Weavers to the mix. So the Guardians and other fighters certainly are going to have enough to do here.
In terms of treacheries, this is the first scenario since the core set that has both Grasping Hands and Rotting Remains in it. And this iconic pair is used as the foundation for many more treacheries that directly attack the player’s sanity and stamina. Coupled with the scenario being somewhat long and full of enemies, managing the incoming damage and horror becomes the central challenge to Point of No Return.
Personally, i like this scenario a whole lot and view it as sort of a “fixed” or “better” version of Search for Kadath. It offers the same sort of playing rather classic Arkham clue gathering and fighting on a changing map, but No Return gets the balance right between doing interesting things and being tedious to actually execute.
Cancel these: Ancient Evils, Dhole Tunnel. I never actually had much of an issue with the doom clock here, but especially if you have to start the scenario with 2 damage on the scenario card, it can become an issue. There are multiple reshuffles of the encounter deck, so the potential for variance to strike and bombard you with Evils is at least there. Reserving cancels for the second and third Dhole Tunnels can take most of the threat out of the Slithering Dhole, something that is worth doing.
That being said, having a cancel or two in your back pocket to stop a life threatening Grasping Hands or Rotting Remains is also a consideration. Long story short, there’s plenty of targets for cancel cards in this scenario, and maybe Ancient Evils isn’t even the worst thing to worry about.
What it does: The investigator has to take a willpower test. If they fail, they have to take a damage for each point they fail by, but can mitigate this damage by putting clues on their location or the nearest enemy instead.
My take: I don’t think this card is particularly bad. I would most certainly rather draw it instead of Grasping Hands which leaves me with less choice in the outcome. Due to the number of cards that deal damage to the players drawing them, the choice isn’t all that easy, though.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Not a terrifying card on its own, but it is part of a deck that has many more damage cards to stack up with it.
Dealing with it: On the one hand, preserving stamina is a very good idea in this long scenario. On the other hand, not losing actions from having to pick up clues again is also worthwhile. One nice thing about this card is how someone with a lot of clues that fails by two or three can put those clues onto one enemy where it can be recouped by a fighter fairly easily.
What it does: Lit by Death-Fire adds extra effects on top depending on how far into the scenario the players are. First, it only costs a resource. Then, it also discards a card. Finally, it also removes an action. The increase in effect is tied to the traits of the locations, roughly equivalent with the current act.
My take: Even at full strength this isn’t too bad. If i had a choice of always drawing an encounter card that costs me a card, a resource and an action to deal with, i’d gladly take it. Most encounter cards cost me much more in terms of game resources. That it does even less for two thirds of the game is a bonus.
Threat level: Low. Hits about what i would expect from an average encounter card at full strength, but dips severely below that for the first parts of the scenario.
Dealing with it: There is some counterplay that could be done based on which location to end the turn on, but that’s not really worth doing with only two of these in the deck. I think this is a card that you just draw and take as printed, then be thankful that it wasn’t anything worse.
What it does: If the investigator fails a difficult test against intellect or agility, the nearest enemy is readied, moves to their location and engages them. Should they have failed by three or more, the enemy also gets an immediate attack.
If no enemies are on the board, the card deals a damage and a horror instead, with no opportunity to take a test to avoid it.
My take: This card is deceptively powerful. Even the damage and horror when no enemies are around is significant in this scenario, but most importantly there are some really nasty enemies around that could be pulled to you from failing the test on this card. Lumbering Gug, Gug Sentinel, Slithering Dhole, Hunting Nightgaunt and Grey Weaver are all potentially a big problem and this card gives them some extra legs if they were evaded and thought to be no immediate threat.
Threat level: Medium. A card to watch out for, as it can be punishing in multiple ways.
Dealing with it: If you can keep the board free from enemies, this card becomes more predictable and possibly easier to handle. But of course, the damage and horror does stack up with all the other sources around, so that’s not a perfect solution either. Realistically, keeping all enemies dead is quite the task anyways, as there are a lot of enemy hit points going around between Nightgaunts, Weavers, the Dhole and the Gugs.
The primary goal then should be to not fail by three to suffer the extra attack. This might require pitching in an icon or two to at least prepare for the -4 in the bag. The tentacle can always ruin this, but that’s just what it does, no sense in worrying about things you can’t change.
Note that the Elder Thing token in this scenario has an effect that is very similar to this treachery. So if you can manage to keep enemies off the table, that would pay off there as well.
What it does: Slithering Dhole is a massive Hunter enemy that spawns at the nearest Dhole Tunnel. Its movement is not strictly bound to only locations with these tunnels, but it can move from one tunnel to another in just one go. Its combat and evade stats are relatively low for a massive Elite enemy like this, but it does have 5 stamina, so it can easily take up a turn’s worth of actions to defeat.
Defeating it awards a victory point, as long as it is still in the victory display at the end of the scenario – which is not bound to be the case at all. The reason for this is the Dhole Tunnel, a card that has three copies in the encounter deck and can return the Dhole to play from the victory display. If the Dhole is already in play when the tunnel is drawn, it gets an extra move and attack. If the Dhole is still somewhere in the encounter deck, the tunnel is merely added to a location 2 or more connections away from other tunnels.
Both of these cards are added to the encounter deck (together with the Nightgaunts) when advancing the act for the first time.
My take: This thing is a massive time sink, getting most of its threat out of being a pile of hit points that can come back from the victory display. As a massive enemy, it can attack multiple investigators at the same time when it hunts into a location, so the players will probably want to take it out. An untimely Dhole Tunnel can undo the effort spent on killing it quickly, though.
This is a really cool and memorable enemy and its interaction with the tunnels works just great on a large map like this.
Threat level: High. A priority enemy that can enter back into play from the victory display. Yikes!
Dealing with it: If the group has cancel cards available, saving one or two of them for the tunnels can allow the fighters to kill the Dhole and not worry about it coming back. This is about the best way of securing that victory point. Failing that, you will have to see if you can take out the Dhole in two actions. That would require at least one attack that deals three or more damage, however those attacks are usually a finite resource and this scenario comes with a couple more targets for them.
What it does: Pitch Spiders are swarmers that appear in Sea of Pitch locations. Individually weak, their swarming scales with the amount of damage on the scenario card. When attacking, each spider deals either a damage or a horror. The player is allowed to choose for each of the spiders in the swarm individually, so they can be dealt a mix of horror and damage.
These (and the Agents of Atlach-Nacha) are added to the deck when advancing the second act and setting up the Sea of Pitch locations.
My take: These punish you for doing badly before. Aside from possibly starting with one or two damage on the scenario card, there are more ways to “earn” those damage counters. Most importantly, these start to scale if the investigators are cutting it close near the end of the scenario when the agenda adds one counter every four turns.
Luckily, these only have 1 stamina each, so each attack can usually kill multiples which is a good way to keep them down. At this point, the investigators are just trying to find the correct Sea of Pitch location, so even just using the last bits of stamina and sanity to soak the attacks of any remaining spiders can be an option.
Threat level: Low to Mid. They are capped in how much they grow because the scenario will end at 5 damage counters. This keeps them from being too horrible as long as they don’t get to attack before you can attack them.
Dealing with it: When facing these, it’s the last sprint to the end of the scenario, so there’s no reason to hold back any damage sources still left. Using your remaining ammo, fight events, Ichor charges or whatever else at hand should make it no issue at all to kill these or bring their swarm low enough that you can soak their damage or horror.
What it does: Failing a willpower test, the investigator is dealt 1 damage and 1 horror. This willpower test scales with the amount of damage on the scenario card.
My take: More damage and horror. Obviously, this fits right in with the rest of the treacheries. At the point where this card is in the encounter deck, the agenda likely advanced at least once, so the willpower test’s difficulty is usually going to be around 3 or 4, but can potentially scale up to 6.
In most situations, i would still rather draw this than a Grasping Hands or Rotting Remains.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Like all the other damage/horror treacheries, this goes on top of a pile of other similar cards, which makes all of them more potent.
Dealing with it: These are added to the deck for the last couple of turns, cranking up the pressure on the stamina and sanity values that are likely already suffering. Hopefully, soaking it is still possible, as passing that willpower test can certainly be a problem for most investigators.