Written in Rock

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Horrors in the Rock, Refractions, Chilling Cold, Ghouls
Residents involved: River (Day 1), Simeon (Day 1/2), Leah (Day 3)
Available experience: 3 (locations) + 2 (Crystal Parasites) + 2 (saving Simeon/Leah or killing the Beast) + 1 (helping River, only day 1) = 8 XP (7 XP on days 2 and 3 and during the night)

Size of the Encounter Deck31
# Enemies12
# Willpower4
# Agility10
# Intellect
# Fight2
# Damage10
# Horror8
# Doom
(the enemy number includes the set-aside Crystal Parasite)

My take on this encounter deck: That’s a lot of agility testing and all of it threatens some damage if you don’t pass it. If you play Written in Rock on day 1, you can even add Swarm as another “test agility for damage” treachery to the pile. Much of this damage is aimed at defeating the villager that you meet in the mines, but will generally just put a huge strain on your soak and health. The fact that there is also a large number of enemies around only reinforces this. Looking at the numbers, horror seems to be almost on the same level, but that isn’t the case in practice. Almost all of it comes from the Refractions set and as long as you can avoid triggering Captivating Gleam you should be good on that end. There is very little forced discard in this scenario, so that is generally not much of a problem to stay ahead of.
The biggest threat does come from the enemies for once, keeping your investigators busy while the mine cart rumbles ahead on its path. Reminiscent of Innsmouth’s Horror in High Gear, you need to find the time to nonetheless pick up enough clues to use the scenario’s special rules and prepare the track ahead.
Overall, this is an encounter deck i like quite a bit. Ghouls are criminally underused and it’s always neat when you get to use them (and the OG Grasping Hands). Enemies have a tendency to not do too much beyond just being a bit of an action soak, but the ones specific to this scenario do sidestep that issue and bring a good amount of impact with them.

My take on the scenario as a whole: I don’t really enjoy the gimmick of the scenario a whole lot, but that’s a very subjective take. There isn’t really much wrong with the scenario itself and the conceit of having to find your way through the mines and escape before time runs out, also can you rescue the villager, can you pick up the story asset or can you possibly both? That’s a good risk/reward decision to make.
I do also like the fighty nature of the scenario, i feel like this one strikes a nice balance between the usual clue grabbing and having to fend off enemies.
Well, but then there is the whole gimmick with the slide puzzle and just personally, I think it overstays its welcome just a bit. It’s neat to do a first time, maybe a second. But at least for me, it loses a lot of its luster on replays. This would be perfectly fine (most scenarios go down a bit on replays) if it weren’t for that huge slog of a setup that you have to go through before finally getting to play.
So, taking a step back, this is actually a fine scenario. It’s also well integrated into the campaign with repercussions for multiple villagers, which is great. But at least for me, meta reasons do spoil the fun more than I’d like. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Variants/Scaling: This scenario is one of the more important ones for the narrative, because it decides the fate of Simeon and Leah Atwood and is thus a prerequisite for the “fireworks” variant of the finale. If you don’t enter this scenario on days 1 or 2 and rescue Simeon, he will be crossed out and that version will be no longer available. If you don’t go for the mines on day 3 either, Leah will share that fate. Leah will only be crossed out if you never entered the mines. So if you went on day 1 or 2, but failed to rescue Simeon, then Leah will *not* get lost in the mines. So at least you aren’t losing two villagers for one failed scenario. Similarly, going at night will sacrifice Simeon, but not Leah.
No matter if you meet Simeon or Leah, the scenario plays out the same with them waiting to get picked up by you on the top row of the map.
All three residents involved in this scenario (River, Leah, Simeon) give stat bonuses while you control them (in the same order: willpower, fight, agility), so they don’t fundamentally change anything either.
If you go day 1, you get an opportunity to earn another XP and a point of relationship with River, however that will require you to take her with you through the mines and also keep 2 clues per investigator unspent. Failure to do so will not earn the XP and even cost you relationship.
The scenario at night gets a new wrinkle through the appearance of the Subterranean Beast, a big Elite that hurries after the mine cart in pursuit of the investigators. This makes up for the lack of a resident to rescue and the relative ease with which you can go after the Prismatic Shard. Since it has Victory, it also makes up for the 2XP that you’d otherwise be able to gain for getting the villager to safety. I like this and it gives the scenario at least some appeal to be played at night, even if it’s just to see a different variant of the scenario. If you don’t care about Simeon surviving, but about Leah, you can use this night trip to make sure she doesn’t get crossed out on the final evening while also earning a decent amount of XP and the story asset that bypasses the need for playing Twisted Hollows and Longest Night to unlock version 1 of the finale.
There is no explicit scaling by day number in this scenario, but it’s worth pointing out that Downpour(day 2) can be particularly bad in this scenario because you want to hold onto your clues. And Swarm (day 1) stacks up neatly with all the other agility/damage cards, something you might want to avoid if you are weak in agility.

The Subterranean Beast only appears during the night, to make up for not having to care about rescuing Simeon or Leah from the mines. It reminds me a lot of the Conductor from the Return to Essex Express, in that it’s a massive enemy that follows you around and is a bit of a pain to kill. Thankfully, it doesn’t hit as hard and also doesn’t reappear after being defeated.
When resolving the Hunter ability on the Beast, remember that Hunter triggers an additional time in this scenario unless it already caught up with you. This makes evasion a somewhat unsatisfying answer because chances are that the Beast is going to be able to get you again rather sooner than later. The clue ability to “super-evade” is much more potent. It does present a drain on your clues that could otherwise be spent to move the tracks around, but with Simeon and Leah no longer around, you can focus on just grabbing the Prismatic Shard and getting out.
If you manage to kill it, it’s also worth a chunk of victory points which is appreciated. It does have a very healthy amount of stamina however and at 3 per investigator, it does scale rather aggressively. There’s a bunch more enemies with high health in this scenario, so if you spend your spike damage on bursting this thing down, you could find yourself short when trying to handle a Crystal Parasite or Frenzied Miner later.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Mid to High.

A 3/3/3 that hits for a damage and horror is the line where the more notable enemies start. Both attacking and evading does require some solid stats of your own to succeed and at 3 health it won’t go down in just any attack either. We have seen these stats a couple of times before of course, in fact the Ravenous Ghoul is right there with it in the encounter deck.
The real juice is in its ability however and that can mess up things pretty badly for you. At the very least it will lead to a cost you have to pay in clues or resources to fix the track ahead and might very well even cause you to spend a switch to stop moving if you can’t immediately make sure the way ahead is safe.
As just an enemy it’s not a particularly dangerous enemy, but there’s already a lot of enemies crawling around and the ability makes it always relevant.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Mid to High

This guy is a problem. It doesn’t take long into the scenario before you are probably going to be on the right side of the map and have X scale rather high. For some godforsaken reason he has 4 health which combined with 3, 4 or even 5 fight and evade makes him a threat that would often warrant an Elite tag. Except he isn’t, there’s 3 of them in the deck and he can come down at any point.
Evading him isn’t all that attractive in spite of his high health as he will likely catch up to you thanks to the double Hunter movement. He does hit every investigator and (more importantly) Resident at the location which will threaten Simoen, Leah or River directly.
During the day this is likely the most dangerous card in the encounter deck and you should be happy to see it early when it’s still sitting at relatively small values of X and don’t have a Resident asset to protect yet. During the night, the Miners are a bit less of a problem because you won’t be picking up a villager, so evasion becomes a more reasonable option.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: Low

It’s an action to clear and any investigator can take it. Getting rid of the Cave-In shouldn’t be a particularly big problem unless you are already swamped by enemies. But even then, it will likely just cause you to spend a switch so you can take care of the Cave-In the next turn.
The text on the card looks pretty scare with the 2 damage to everyone, including the residents. But it’s just so unlikely to come up. This is a very mild card.

# in the encounter deck: 3

Threat level: Low to Mid?

So, this is a weird one. On the surface, this looks pretty gnarly, threatening an early demise through running off the tracks or deling a bunch of horror/damage to players and residents. Or at least requiring you to spend two switches if you want to stop those extra moves. The agility test is also hard enough that it might as well have been a testless card that simply gets added to the threat area.
The weird part however is that in my games this worked out in my favor like 3 times out of 4. Since you can build the track ahead of your cart, you will run into situations where Wild Ride asks you to move 2 additional times and you gladly do it because that just saved you two whole turns of playing the scenario and put you ahead of any Hunter enemies on the board.
So yeah… strange card. When it’s bad for you, it’s very very bad. But it seems to work out to be fine surprisingly often.

Leave a Reply