|Size of the Encounter Deck||25(+6)|
My take on this encounter deck: A very slim deck at first with only 22 cards, two of which surge to make it an effective 20 cards. It is no wonder then that Ancient Evils seems to pop up here a lot more than usual. This is a nasty encounter deck that has only few enemies at first, but both the snakes and the Eztli Guardians are not to be underestimated. Especially for level zero investigators a Boa can be a huge threat and evading a Pit Viper can be difficult enough that killing it becomes attractive.
The treacheries aren’t much more friendly, in fact it’s a parade of some of TFA’s greatest hits that are raining down on the investigators right away: Ancient Evils, Arrows from the Trees, Snake Bite and Lost in the Wilds are the standouts to be ready for. Arrows and Snake Bite make it particularly hard to keep any allies on the board. Low on Supplies is really the only card in the deck that doesn’t lead to painful groans by the player drawing it.
It’s easy to catch poison in this scenario. If not by a serpent, then by the advancing agenda. Avoiding poison can easily lead to having to slay a Pit Viper, collecting the first points of Vengeance, something that can lead to further grief once the Agents of Yig enter the deck and can sick the Serpent from Yoth on the investigators.
One more thing worth mentioning is how the final act modifies the Guardians of Time set. Depending on how you dealt with Ichtaca, the Guardian and Arrows are either turned into free draws or they get bonus effects.
All things considered, this first scenario doesn’t pull any punches. There’s barely a weak draw from the encounter deck and the players have their hands full dealing with the fallout while still having to spend actions on exploring and collecting clues. Speaking of exploring, the exploration deck has five treacheries in it in addition to the five locations, making the first turns especially harrowing as players will likely find themselves having to deal with more than just the cards from the Mythos phase.
More than any other campaign opener, being sucessful here is a matter of being prepared with your deck building and investigator choice. In a way, i think it’s good that the TFA campaign establishes its breaks from previous campaigns right away.
Cancel these: Ancient Evils, Lost in the Wilds. The faster you get out of the jungle, the better. And both of these cards stop you from doing exactly that: progressing and keeping up the pace with the agenda. Snake Bite is another good candidate, if there’s no ally around to feed into it.
Return to Untamed Wilds
My take on the modified scenario: There is exactly one card in the Return To box that is attributed to Return to Untamed Wilds and it is a card with setup instructions. Despite that, there are some relevant modifications happening here that all serve to make Return to Untamed Wilds quite a bit more forgiving and easier than its base version. The big one is of course the change to the exploration mechanics, a change that ripples through almost all of the Forgotten Age. With no treacheries in the exploration deck at first, the players get much more time to setup and explore the first few locations in (relative!) safety. The camp ability to use a map to filter through the exploration deck further helps in avoiding those extra dangers. Very powerful, do not leave home without your map (and torches!).
The replacement sets also have some influence here. Doomed Expedition is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Resentful Wilds offers another easy source of Vengeance. On the other hand, Lost in the Wilds is gone (good riddance!) and replaced by the more easily handled Best-Laid Plans.
I was fine with the original Untamed Wilds, but i feel like the Return To brought its difficulty exactly where i like it for a first scenario. Challenging, introduces main concepts of the campaign, but with options to mitigate the dangers. Great improvement!
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