|Size of the Encounter Deck||40|
My take on this encounter deck: Twenty-Three. That’s the number of willpower testing encounter cards in this pile of cards. There are some encounter decks that do not even have that number of cards in total. The Secret Name is a massive onslaught on the willpower of the investigators (and their players) and anyone not prepared for this is better going to use a big table, as they are going to need that space for their threat area.
This scenario has a lot of damage and horror effects that peck away at the investigator’s stamina and sanity, making it all about endurance in a notoriously longwinded trip through the witch house. Meanwhile Fate of All Fools, Terror in the Night and Evil Past are at their most potent here, throwing their damage and horror on top of the pile.
But of course one of the most memorable things about The Secret Name is its enemies. A witch, her familiar and three rats. And that’s it. But thanks to buffing effects from the agenda and the familar, these creatures are actually able to occupy player’s time. And thanks to some encounter cards and effects on locations, they don’t stay dead long after defeat. With the exception of Nahab, these enemies aren’t really dangerous, but they do stall the players considerably, allowing all those treacheries to do their work.
Cancel these: Ghostly Presence, Realm of Torment. Timing is a huge factor in how bad Ghostly Presence is. If Nahab is off the board, then Ghostly Presence merely searches for her, which may not even be worth canceling. But if the card would cause several attacks and/or doom, this is a card that is obviously worth stopping. As for Realm of Torment, there are some locations here without Haunted effect that players unable to get rid of it can stay at and be safe, but it is still a huge impediment when it hits a low willpower investigator.
What it does: The witch’s familiar actually starts out in the encounter deck right away, ready to terrorize the players. Brown Jenkins is an aloof hunter enemy that forces each player to discard their hand at the end of the enemy phase and then draw as many cards. Also, it increases the fight of each readied Creature enemy by 2. Its statline looks pretty weak at 1/1/4, however it does profit from its own fight boost, being a Creature itself. It also gains +1 to +4 health from the agenda. As a result, the thing is actually difficult to defeat, considering you have to engage it first due to its Aloof keyword. Thanks to an ability on the agenda, killing it awards one or two clues from the token bank.
My take: You always know that your Secret Name run is #blessed when you draw this guy from the encounter deck in the first Mythos phase. Brown Jenkin is one of the most memorable enemies in the whole game thanks to how omnipresent and annoying it is. Not terribly difficult to take out at first, you might even want to do so for some extra clues. Once the agenda advanced once or twice, this becomes more and more of a pain to actually do and one can consider to let it stick around. The fight bonus to creatures puts the Swarm of Rats at fight 3, which isn’t too bad and some investigators can certainly handle Brown Jenkin dumping their hand repeatedly. Some might even profit from it.
Threat level: Mid. It’s not really dangerous as such, just highly annoying.
Dealing with it: Having access to some testless damage from cards like Blood-Rite can swat this enemy a few times for easy clues early on. Later on, it’s likely preferrable to have some investigator stay on a different location as the others and keep Jenkin on them. The bonus fight to Rats probably doesn’t matter too much, at least not enough that repeatedly working through a 4-5 stamina enemy with aloof is worth it.
What it does: Meddlesome Familiar searches the encounter deck and discard pile for Brown Jenkin and puts it into play. If Jenkin is not available because he’s already around, a Swarm of Rats is searched instead. Afterwards, Meddlesome Familiar deals 1 damage to the investigator.
My take: Basically this is Swarm of Rats 4 to 6 in this encounter deck. Its main job is making sure that Jenkin is never too far away, but if players decide to keep it in play, then Rats are the replacement. Those are actually not to be underestimated, with the health and fight boost from Jenkin and the agenda, they are decent enemies that can easily take a turn away. That one testless damage is also surprisingly relevant, there are enough other damage sources in this scenario to stack up with.
Also… holy crap, that artwork. It’s a nightmare.
Threat level: Mid. As long as a competent fighter is able to whack the rats, this is largely fine.
Dealing with it: Kill all the rats. There are few enemies in this scenario, so one well equipped investigator on rat duty can hopefully keep the board free from vermin and make sure that the others can do their thing in peace.
What it does: Not strictly starting out in the encounter deck, but added to the board early on and then discarded, ready to be drawn again or pulled from the deck by Ghostly Presence. Nahab, the witch herself, collects a doom in each enemy phase. This doom is not removed from her when the agenda advances.
Like her familiar, her statline looks weak at first, but she also profits from the extra 1 to 4 stamina provided by the agenda. She doesn’t get Jenkin’s fight bonus, but instead just gets a +1 to +4 fight from the agenda as well.
Nahab is a Hunter with Retaliate. That Retaliate becomes more and more relevant as her fight value increases, of course.
Killing her rewards one or two clues from the token bank.
My take: She’s a somewhat fragile Hunter that deals two horror. Also, she collects doom each turn. Two good reasons to defeat her as soon as possible, unlike Jenkin there isn’t really a good way to get around that. If you really need a third reason, you will want to have her gone when Ghostly Presence comes from the encounter deck…
Threat level: High. High horror with Retaliate, a doom ability and progressively increasing stats make for a fine boss enemy.
Dealing with it: For a boss enemy, she can not take all that much punishment, at least before the final fight where she regenerates for having doom on her. But until then, just murder her over and over for the clue bounty on her head. Doing so efficiently is important so she’s not able to tip the agenda over prematurely or attack players with her high horror. If you have any burst damage cards available (Spectral Razor, Vicious Blow, etc), i would suggest saving those to dispatch Nahab as soon as she appears. Note that she only gets one extra stamina for each player in the game, so ganging up on her is more effective than usual although that will leave you vulnerable to Ghostly Presence.
What it does: If Nahab is in play, she first hunts, then attacks everyone at her location. During the final showdown with her, she also gains another doom, prolonging the fight. If Nahab is not in play, she is spawned from the deck or discard pile.
My take: Nahab’s version of Meddlesome Familiar is a much more dangerous card. Especially if it’s drawn during the final fight, as Nahab will likely get multiple bonus attacks and also a doom which will act as an “extra life” for her or even advance the agenda. Drawn during the early parts of the game, it’s less dramatic but Nahab is still an enemy to respect even then.
Threat level: High. Has some bad worst case scenarios depending on the timing of when this is drawn.
Dealing with it: This is a card to hold a cancel for. If such a card is not available, then dealing with Nahab is of course being the next priority.
What it does: Strange Geometry is a location that enters play from the encounter deck. It is not connected to any other location and when it enters play, the investigator who drew it will have to move there. At the end of the investigation phase, Strange Geometry is discarded and the investigator at the location is dealt 1 damage and 1 horror while being moved to the location with the most clues on it. To avoid this fate, the player can discover the clue on this shroud 4 location and then move to any revealed location.
My take: This treachery-like location can have fairly bad effects for the investigators left behind if the one transported away is the one who would otherwise be needed to distract Jenkin, to fight Nahab or just to dispatch some giant rats. Anyone able to grab the clue will just lose an action and might even gain something from the free move to anywhere. How much this card matters is very dependent on the investigator. If you’re unable to pass an intellect(4) test or cheat a clue some other way, something that is true for quite a few investigators, this steals a full turn and deals damage and horror on top. Quite nasty.
Threat level: Mid. Low for some, High for others. This is a very conditional card that can range from helpful for some to debilitating for others.
Dealing with it: This is a card i would’ve liked to bank a cancel for, but as a location it is very hard to cancel in the first place. So what is left is considering the options: Discovering the clue if you can. Employ some other sort of movement (Astral Travel, Elusive, Gatebox). Or just accept your fate and use your three actions for something productive. That last option is often the best way to meet this card, as spending 3 actions to finally pass the investigate test can be just as harmful as (or worse than) taking the damage and horror while using the 3 actions to play cards.
What it does: Pulled by the Stars is added to a players threat area where it stays until they spend an action and pass a willpower test. With an exhausted Witch present that willpower test is no longer necessary. While affected by this card, the investigator takes 2 horror at the end of every turn during which they didn’t move.
My take: There’s a decent amount of pressure on player’s sanities, especially from Nahab and Ghostly Presence. So getting rid of this card should certainly happen eventually, even if it isn’t necessarily a priority right away. The only witch in the scenario is Nahab, so making use of that clause about exhausted witches at your location isn’t exactly easy.
One thing of note is that even if you expect to being able to move every turn, this can still come to bite you when you draw Strange Geometry and get stuck that way. If that happened to me, i would probably try to spend my three actions at that location to try and pass the willpower test on Pulled by the Stars instead of trying to get out of Geometry.
Threat level: Low to Mid. A repeatable source of horror, but can be mitigated by taking move actions which can help taking the sting out of the card.
Dealing with it: As with all of the Hexes of this kind, any investigator can activate these, even when they are in the threat area of other players. So even if someone like Skids or Wini gets Pulled by the Stars, their teammate with high Will can help them snap out of it. Of course, that would need to happen before the rogue draws Strange Geometry…
What it does: The investigator has to pass a willpower test. If they don’t, they have to discard an asset they control. The difficulty of the willpower test scales with the number of cards in the encounter discard pile, from 2 to 5.
My take: This is fine, as far as asset discard goes. The discard is non-random, so it can be counteracted by having something cheap (or spent) to sacrifice. The willpower test also offers a way out and it starts reasonably low difficulty enough that passing it is feasible. This sort of treachery usually hurts the most in the first few setup turns and that is conveniently also when its difficulty is lowest, so that’s also something going for it. With an encounter deck of 40 cards, it will scale to a maximum of +3 difficulty in the late game. That’s certainly difficult enough to put even Mystics to a challenge, but at that point losing an asset should be something that can be planned around.
Threat level: Mid. It’s a mild asset discard treachery, but still … discarding assets always comes at a cost.
Dealing with it: As is the case with every non-random discard, having something to intentionally sacrifice for the effect can soften the blow by providing an acceptable worst case should you not be able to pass the test.
What it does: After drawing this treachery, the investigator has to pass a difficult willpower test, otherwise they have to put this treachery in their threat area where it stays. While affected, the player has to discard the top card of the encounter deck each turn. When the encounter deck runs out of cards, Disquieting Dreams is discarded and the player has to reveal the top 10 cards of their own deck. Weaknesses revealed this way are drawn, all other cards go into the discard pile.
My take: This is fine. Discarding the top card of the encounter deck introduces some extra variance to the encounter draws and it does accelerate the deck towards the consequences of cards like Evil Past. But not a whole lot past that. By the same token, discarding cards from your own deck isn’t doing anything by itself either and drawing the weaknesses might feel bad in the moment, but in the end it’s still card draw. Worst case, this card makes you draw your weakness(es) one extra time over the course of the game.
Threat level: Very Low to Low. This does marginally increase the threat of some other cards, but isn’t much to worry about by itself.
Dealing with it: Unless you are really concerned about your weaknesses, this shouldn’t disquiet you all too much. Alter Fate can get rid of it, but chances are that there are much better targets for that around.
Return to The Secret Name
My take on the modified scenario: As with the previous two scenarios, the changes to the scenario stem mostly from the exchange of certain encounter sets for new ones. In fact, the only encounter sets that are sticking around are the Rats (and of course the scenario specific cards). The other four sets all get replaced. This leads to a massive shakeup of this scenario. I want to illustrate this by showing the new number breakdown for the encounter deck:
|Size of the Encounter Deck||40|
Comparing these numbers to the original ones at the top of the page, we can see that the balance of willpower vs agility shifted from 23:0 to 15:8, making it a much less one-note affair. The potential doom from Fate of All Fools also got axed, which is a relief in this often tight scenario. In terms of damage and horror, the numbers aren’t able to tell the whole picture very well. On the one hand, Diabolic Voices and Fate of All Fools no longer go after the player’s stamina… but on the other hand Unavoidable Demise can easily bring down anyone already on the ropes from “Trespasser!” or Meddlesome Familiar.
Other than that, there’s a couple new locations in the extradimensional deck, but i don’t necessarily think they change much about the scenario – they are mostly just adding variety. No new scenario specific are added to the deck, but as i established above, that wasn’t necessary anyways. I like this new version of The Secret Name, it gives it some more dimensions (pun absolutely intended) and stops it from just being “Willpower: The Scenario”.
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