|Size of the Encounter Deck||35|
My take on this encounter deck: At 35 cards with another 8-10 cards set aside, this looks like a huge pile of cards at first, but 6 of those cards have Surge, bringing the initial numbers effectively down to a much more conventional 29 cards. About a third of them has willpower tests on them, something we gotten used to in Circle Undone by now.
There are two major themes running through this deck, one being the Marked for Death/Eager for Death spiral of horror and damage leading into each other. And the other is another big focus on the Haunted mechanic. Both of these themes do neatly stack on top of each other due to most of the haunted location triggers dealing more damage or horror.
As a result, damage and horror mitigation are key to surviving long enough here. Mostly thanks to the reprint of two treacheries from the Dunwich cycle and also doubling up on them with a card that switches damage for horror (or vice versa). As soon as someone starts gaining some damage tokens, they become more susceptible to get horror from Eager for Death. Which in turn makes them more vulnerable to Marked for Death. Which in turn makes the next Eager for Death hit harder… this vicious cycle is accelerated by Psychopomp’s Song and the appropriately named Death Approaches. Solo players will struggle with this more than groups, as the latter at least can spread those cards around to break up or at least delay this escalating bunch of treacheries. Aside from those central treacheries there is of course a good amount of other damage and horror treacheries around, from the Inexorable Fate set and ultimately also from the Haunted cards. Finally, a smattering of Hunter enemies is also out for the player’s blood. Since this can be a somewhat long scenario with short paths between locations, these enemies are pretty much constantly in your face. And that includes the Watcher who joins the party midway through the scenario.
The deck includes six cards that can trigger Haunted outside of investigation tests, with a seventh card added when the Watcher appears. Mostly those haunted triggers just lead to more damage and/or horror, with only few exceptions.
While the encounter deck is trying to kill them, the players will have to pass the so-called “circle tests” at a couple of locations. Basically, two to three skills are added together and tested at the same time. Clues can be used to drop the difficulty of the tests. How easy or hard this becomes will depend a lot on the investigators used. A LOT. God help you if you fail a test that you invested a bunch of clues into if you are depending on them as well. You only get one freebie from the Puzzle Box (if you got it during Greater Good) and if you are someone like Preston or someone with high fight/agility facing a will/intellect test, you are going to need it.
Oh, and somewhere inbetween all of this, the gang is split up again and possibly has to face a dangerous elite enemy on their own.
Oh, and the Coven or the Lodge shows up at the end. Not for very long, shuffling in those cards for a turn or three is unlikely to matter, but if things are close, then some doom from some random Neophyte can ruin your day.
Yeah, there’s a lot going on here. While i like this in principle, this is one of the scenarios that keeps frustrating me more and more each time i play it. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly, but i think the wild differences depending on which investigator you brought and which locations you randomly drew plays a big role.
Cancel these: Ancient Evils. There’s a bunch of stuff worth canceling here, removing a piece of the damage/horror engine can be key in getting ahead of it early. That being said, this scenario can come close to the doom threshold, so Ancient Evils should probably be the priority. This is especially true when you allied with the coven, as that will put another couple doom generating cards in the deck that can make this particularly close near the end.
What it does, Threat Level, Dealing with it: This is a straight reprint from the Dunwich Legacy deluxe box. See here for details.
My take: Whippoorwills are making their comeback here and it is oddly fitting. The scenario revolves around the circle tests that add multiple skill values together. In turn, these little birdies will give -2, -3 or even -4 to those tests as long as they are at those locations. For that reason, they become a higher priority than they’ve been in Dunwich. While you were often able to just take the -1 during something like Extracurricular Activities and not bother with the Whips, you will pretty much need to kill these guys off here.
What it does, Threat Level, Dealing with it: The other card from the Whippoorwills set from Dunwich, it makes sense for it to also appear alongside the creature itself. See here for details.
My take: This mostly works the same here as it did in Dunwich. Adding more sources of horror, especially Death Approaches, does give it some extra spice.
What it does: This card is a mirrored version of Eager for Death. Instead of willpower, agility is tested. Instead of getting more difficult with damage, it’s horror that adds to the test. And instead of taking horror when failing, it’s damage now.
My take: A rare agility test among the sea of willpower treacheries. Getting dealt additional damage is a big deal in this scenario due to the sheer number of Hunters around and also several other treachery cards and haunted location effects going after the investigators health pools.
Threat level: Low to Mid. Part of a larger assault on the investigators stamina.
Dealing with it: As with Eager for Death, there is a bit of a two staged approach to mitigating this card. Either see that you can put that damage on an asset of yours. Or try to use those same assets to soak the horror you are getting to keep the difficulty of this test low. Eager for Death and Marked for Death do feed into each other. Failing to soak the effect of one will increase the difficulty of the other. Try not to get caught in that feedback loop.
What it does, Threat Level, Dealing with it: Yet another 1:1 reprint from the Dunwich Legacy cycle, this time from the Blood on the Altar mythos pack.
My take: Blood on the Altar introduced this hellish little card that has the audacity of dealing 2 testless damage while surging. While that damage is delayed a bit, it usually would find its way to resolve eventually and only the player choice behind who should get the card kept it down. Now the card is back for another go and it is actually quite a bit more terrifying here. As mentioned when discussing Marked for Death, there is quite a bit of damage coming from the encounter deck here. Most importantly, both Psychopomp’s Song and Death Approaches do work to accelerate the feedback loop between Eager for Death and Marked for Death, allowing them to push their damage past soaking assets. Anyone without such assets or at least the high stats to pass the tests on those two cards will find themselves in dire straits soon if they have one or two of either Psychopomp’s Song or Death Approaches resolve on them.
What it does: Another mirrored version of a reprint, Death Approaches is the horror version of Psychopomp’s Song. It surges and is added to the player’s threat area. The next time that player takes horror, they will have to take an additional 2 horror and discard this treachery.
My take: See my comment on Psychopomp’s Song above. Eager for Death, Marked for Death, Psychopomp’s Song and Death Approaches do form a deadly machine together that comes for the player’s sanity and stamina very hard.
Threat level: Mid to High. Like with the Song, the only thing keeping this card from being completely busted is the player choice behind it, allowing you to spread these cards around so that everyone gets a piece. Solo players are kinda screwed, though…
Dealing with it: Deciding who gets to add this card to their threat area can be a tough decision. The goal should be to distribute them among the players so that everyone can use their assets (especially the allies who can tank both horror and damage) towards keeping these cards in check.
What it does: The Spectral Raven is a Hunter enemy that goes after the investigators with the lowest intellect. It does have low combat values and health by default, but whenever it engages a player it gets a boost to fight and evade unless that player resolves all of the haunted effects on their location. This will raise both fight and evade to 4, which is significant not only because it makes it harder to pass tests targeting the bird, but also because it has Alert and Retaliate which become a lot more relevant when that boost is active.
My take: It looks so innocent, but it’s actually a lot meaner than the first glance suggests. One important thing to point out here is that this enemy does deal both damage and horror, something that only The Watcher also does (and the Mist, but that’s a bit of a special case). This is relevant because that means that it can set up either Death Approaches or Psychopomp’s Song or both. All the other Hunter enemies (Whips, Hounds, Wraiths) would only trigger one of them.
At 4/2/4 they are also quite resilient and require an actual fighter to take out. Unless you are willing to take Haunted effects, which are a bit hit or miss in this scenario. There is a few that are relatively safe (like increasing circle test difficulty for the round) but most just deal more damage, more horror, add doom or search for Whippoorwills! No thanks.
Threat level: Medium. In a scenario that sees you hunted by murderous ghosts and spirit hounds, this birdy might just be the most dangerous (non-Elite) thing lurking about.
Dealing with it: I dropped dynamite on this thing before and i regret nothing. But of course there are other less extreme ways of dealing testless damage available that can do the trick. If you want to spend those on the Ravens or rather save them for Whippoorwills or even the Watcher, will be up to you though. There’s likely no correct answer to that, it will entirely depend on how your game is going so far. Of course, this is scenario number 6… so hopefully your fighter should be able to deal with these the regular way as well. Things mostly only get awkward when your non-fighters draw these.
What it does: Watcher’s Gaze virtually adds another card to the The Watcher set. No matter who drew the card, everyone has to take a difficult willpower test. Everyone who fails has to resolve all Haunted abilities on a location, either on their own or on the Watcher’s location.
Watcher’s Gaze doesn’t start out in the encounter deck, it is only added together with Watcher’s Grasp once the big guy appears.
My take: As mentioned before, this scenario does come with some haunted effects that can be a bit of a pain. There are only a few that are okay and drawing Gaze while the Watcher is at such a location can be great. Usually, that won’t be the case though.
The willpower test is hard. At difficulty 5, anyone is in danger of failing it even if they are Mystics and/or they came prepared for TCU’s constant willpower shenanigans. As a result, this card usually will hit everyone at the table, maybe with an exception or two. The most common consequence will be more damage or horror, but at least each investigator might have a little bit of choice between the effects of two locations here. Once more this is a card that seems tailor made to set off the ticking time bombs that are Psychopomp’s Song and Death Approaches.
Threat level: Medium. The player choice to pick the location from which the haunted abilities are triggered keeps this card reasonable. Most of its power comes from hitting every investigator.
Dealing with it: Trying to pass that willpower test by throwing in a bunch of symbols is not likely to be worth it. Choosing the easier to handle consequence from the haunted effects is usually going to be the thing to do here and then just taking it on the chin. At least there’s only one of these and it is added to the encounter deck fairly late.
Return to Union and Disillusion
My take on the modified scenario: Once more, the changes to this scenario are mostly carried out by replacing a big chunk of the encounter deck. Four sets are being swapped out, among them Ancient Evils to relieve some of the time pressure. The other three introduce agility tests and flatten the impact of Haunted a bit, just like we’ve seen in previous RtTCU scenarios.
Two copies of a new treachery are also added to the deck, and it’s a rough one that adds more circle tests to the scenario and makes all of them more difficult. Whenever it pops up, it’s a noticable spike in difficulty, so save your Alter Fates for these.
Union and Disillusion is one of the scenarios that gets significant amounts of new setup/resolution texts. While these do not change how the gameplay itself works out, it does offer some good story beats. Erynn’s storyline can come to a close here, should the investigators have decided to ally with the lounge and with Erynn. There is also the option for a premature “win” with the coven now, similar to how there is one with the lodge in the base scenario.
In total, these changes do not change the scenario all that much, but they do change it for the better.
What it does: Brazier Enchantment is put into play next the the agenda deck. While in play, all circle tests on locations are made more difficult. To discard it, a player has to do a circle test using their two lowest skills. Should they fail the test, all Haunted abilities at their location have to be resolved
My take: Awful, just awful. Alter Fate this thing on sight. Increasing the difficulty of the tests basically translates to having to spend another clue to succeed. The test on the card itself is also quite difficult, even Jenny and Lola (the two investigators with the highest base skill here) would test 6 against 6 and would require spending clues or risk triggering Haunted effects.
If you have to get rid of this card the hard way (by passing the test), then you have to weigh having to spend multiple clues on this circle test against having to spend an extra clue on each following one. If it’s late in the scenario, you might be better off just letting the treachery stick around.
Threat level: Mid. Effectively drains clues from you that you’d need for the location circle tests. Can be a bigger issue if drawn early.
Dealing with it: As mentioned, Alter Fate does wonders here. It’s a card that you probably run when playing TCU and there’s only few other good targets for it in this scenario. Otherwise, see who in your group is best set up to pass the test on the card, find a location where the Haunted effect is bearable and invest some clues into passing on the first try.
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