The Watcher

Set Size3
Number of unique Cards2
RoleRecurring Enemy
Threat LevelHigh
# of scenarios3
Appears in: At Death’s Doorstep, The Wages of Sin, Union and Disillusion

My take on this set: Besides Agents of Azathoth, this is the other encounter set from Circle Undone that houses a special enemy that is never added to the encounter deck. Unlike the Piper, the Watcher comes in as a story enemy when certain agendas advance. The story treats this enemy like a driving force that players should work towards defeating, with the final showdown during Union and Disillusion as the payoff. Personally, i never really felt as much about this enemy as the flavor text expected us to. Appearing in only two scenarios (one of which keeps tempting me to resign first turn…) before the showdown didn’t help build this anticipation, but the enemy itself isn’t really anything too special? In the end, he’s just a Ravenous Ghoul that refuses to die for more than two turns at a time… sorry Watcher, the much more impressive and scary Piper of Azathoth stole your show.

Number in the encounter deck: 1

What it does: The Spectral Watcher is not actually shuffled into any encounter decks, it appears on certain story beats in the three scenarios it takes part in. It’s an invincible Hunter enemy that instead of dying will exhaust for two turns. It has five health, enough to occupy a Guardian for a turn. Evading it is possible, of course. But the Alert keyword discourages that somewhat.

My take: This enemy is more of a roadblock than a dangerous threat on its own. The high health and regeneration after two turns makes it soak up a generous amount of actions over time. But it doesn’t do more damage than any standard ghoul and its 3 combat and evade don’t ask anything too much from players either. Other enemies with the “Ancient One” trait have commanded a lot more respect from me for sure. And so has the Piper of Azathoth from the same cycle, for that matter.
That being said, it is still a formidable enemy. Its high health makes it likely to stack up with other encounter cards that player may now no longer have the actions to deal with because they had to take care of the Watcher again. That he doesn’t ever take up an encounter card and just appears as part of the scenario rules doesn’t help either.

Threat level: High. A huge time sink that helps other encounter cards to do their worst.

Dealing with it: Five health is a lot, enough that it may even be worth putting one player on evasion duty to keep the Watcher down. If a three damage attack is available, exhausting the Watcher with two attacks is usually going to be worth it, though.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The Watcher is healed and readied, then gets an extra enemy phase just for him. For the duration of that movement and engagement, the Watcher is considered to be preying on the player that drew Watcher’s Grasp.

My take: The Prey instruction doesn’t really do all that much in practice, most notably it is missing the word “only”. If it were “Prey – You Only”, the Watcher would even disengage other players to come for you, now it’s just a tiebreaker in case it’s not already engaged and doesn’t have a closer target.
This can be a very annoying effect, undoing much of what the players did to keep the Watcher out of their hair. If they didn’t manage to kill it in one turn, the healing undoes any progress there. But more importantly, the readying does bypass the two turns of quiet that defeating the Watcher usually earns you.
Note that the extra attack in the Mythos phase will exhaust the Watcher as usual during attacks, so it will still be exhausted when entering the enemy phase later that turn, skipping the attack there.

Threat level: Medium. The Watcher’s attack isn’t very threatening, but it comes on top of possibly undoing some of the player’s work in leaving the Watcher behind.

Dealing with it: The existence of this card makes evading the Watcher a bit more attractive over defeating it, as drawing this card right after spending cards, resources, charges and/or ammo on defeating the Watcher is just infuriating. Perpetually evading him doesn’t come with such high investment up front. It does expose the evading investigator to an attack when Watcher’s Grasp is drawn, but that should be largely fine.

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