Beyond the Veil – Heart of the Elders
This article will look at an individual scenario of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. These will be my impressions after playing through the scenario and will be focusing on the mechanics and how those reinforce the story elements of a given scenario. These articles will contain extensive spoilers and assume a familiarity with the terms and mechanics of the game. Please do not read on if you have not played the scenario in the title yet.
Whilst it has been nice to be back in civilization during Threads of Fate and Boundary Beyond, the story now sees us hurtling back into the jungle. We seek the Nexus out, heading towards the caverns seen in our visions as we were hurtled across time in the previous scenario.
Arriving at the entrance to the cavern we make a choice as to who to consult, Ichtaca, Alejandro or the Expedition Journal picked up in Threads of Fate. We begin the game with one of these in play. This pack brings something we haven’t seen before: a 2 part scenario with different maps for each part. I’m going to break down each part seperately in this article with a full run down
Act 1: 6 sides to every problem
The first part of this scenario sees the investigators outside the Mouth of K’n-yan surrounding which are 6 mysterious pillars. Checking our campaign log and check how many paths are known to us from the Boundary Beyond; how many locations we got into the victory display. For each one we put a resource on the Mouth representing us interpreting one of these pillars correctly. This part of the scenarios will see us scrambling through an exploration deck as we try to figure out the others.
The task put before us seems pretty simple, get a bunch of clues to figure out the patterns on the pillars. The moment we do though sees a big honking Winged Serpent turn up from the back of Act 1 (still love that they pull this trick from time to time).
Act 2 points us towards the real thrust of this scenario, putting pillar tokens on the Mouth of K’n-yan by investigating the surrounding locales. Once we have 6 we can advance. Simple, right?
Well, no. You see our Agenda deck is really, really short. 10 turns short: 5 doom threshold on Agenda 1, same on Agenda 2. If we fail to get all 6 pillars before the time runs out? Well nothing really, we are just forced to resign. We get to increase the number of paths known to us, the number of tokens that start on the Mouth of K’n-yan, gain no experience from the scenario and have to play it again. When we replay it we begin at Act 2, as we now know exactly what we have to do. Going through this as many times as necessary until all 6 paths are known allows us to head inside the cave system in part 2.
The clues we need reside in the exploration deck as has been the case for all the jungle based scenarios in this campaign. Most of these locations we have come across in the core set scenarios. Two new ones do make an appearance in this encounter set, keeping in mind that locations in the exploration deck are part of the encounter cards.
Time-Wracked Woods is a particularly interesting location as it means we can take out some vengeance enemies with impunity and then chuck them in the discard pile later (we only count vengeance at the end of the scenario and only if it is in the victory display). The Stone Altar is a pretty straight forward location which you’ll probably only want one investigator to enter due to it’s Forced ability. Both of these locations have a victory point on them, making them good ones to empty if you can.
The encounter set for this part reflects that of the first scenario of this campaign Untamed Wilds whilst adding in its own twists. It’s a great idea to hark back to earlier parts of the campaign and we have already seen them revisit earlier scenarios in Threads of Fate.
In the Pillars of Judgement set we deal with strange plants, tiny bugs and of course big honking snakes. Apex Stranglewood is quite a tough cookie, despite being relatively easy to hit and evade, and also has both Alert and Retaliate. We don’t want to do anything else whilst dealing with it either as if we give it an Attack of Opportunity it wraps us up in its vines unless we have a handy pocket knife. Ants is a lovely piece of flavour forcing us to discard cards from hand or play area as they get absolutely everywhere! Finally the Basilisk appears, tougher to hit or evade than the Stranglewood but not as healthy. We can suppress them if we time our pillar token collection well.
Finally it is worth taking a closer look at the Winged Serpent that is part of the Pillars set. Appearing when Act 1 flips it spawns at the Mouth and cannot be defeated! Thankfully it only does a point of physical or mental damage and like the Basilisk can be suppressed by timing pillar token collection correctly. Pulling the snake around the map, often called kiting, is one way to go but tougher characters can also just take the damage or pass it around the group.
The Heart of the Elders set, which appears in the second scenario as well, is very much traps focused containing two hazards and the locations we mentioned previously. Poisonous Spores makes the jungle even more hazardous, hitting us for 2 horror at the locations they exist if we are poisoned or giving us poison if we are not. It does disappear at the end of the round, so can be worked around if we are careful. Pitfall sees us jumping across or sticking into the exploration deck, hopefully for someone else to deal with. Nice thematic choice on that one.
As we transition to the second act it is worth noting a couple of things. We note down all the cards with Vengeance in the victory display under The jungle watches and don’t record their vengeance. We finally get some experience but we may not spend it yet. Can’t go picking up weapons, allies or do some training in the jungle after all!
Act 2: Down, Down, Down, Down
The way forward now open we head inside the cave. Turning over the Mouth of K’Nyan as our starting point, we see if anyone bothered to bring a map. If they did we might be able to pick our way past some of the traps inside this cavernous system, but otherwise we just have to head in. Exploration is the name of the game once more as we gaze upon a vast underground realm.
We set aside all the monsters we have already killed in the first scenario that ended up in the victory display, meaning we don’t have to deal with them but the vengeance is going to catch up with us at the end of this scenario.
The scale of this underworld realm is rather subtly represented by the Explore restriction on the Agenda. We can’t attempt to get further in before we have fully explored the possibilities of the location we are currently in. The other shoe on this Agenda is that doom on locations in play is not removed when we advance, sounds like something is going to be messing with us. On the Act side of things: get clues, lots of clues. Find the Nexus before the denizens of this cave find you!
The locations themselves back up this theme. Vast Passages takes longer to explore if we don’t have binoculars and Dark Hollow gains clues if we don’t have a map (and remember we can’t explore from a location with clues on it). The rest of the locations just make things more difficult as more monsters appear, doom gets placed on them or our previous efforts in snake killing come back to haunt us.
The Agenda is actually fairly generous in this part of the scenario with the second agenda in particular having a huge doom threshold (keeping in mind that doom isn’t removed from locations). Our old friend the Harbinger turns up to pursue us through the caverns, still carrying the wounds from previous encounters. If we have really been punching Yig in the nose the Harbringer pops up at the lead investigator’s location.
Meanwhile the act sees us seeking out the Descent into Yoth location after we have done our initial clue gathering. Once each investigator is there we can wrap this whole thing up and finally get to the Nexus, can’t we? Well it turns out that Alejandro is not the man we thought he was as he hands us over to some very odd looking entities and we pass out. His betrayal is our ‘last human memory’. Ominous. All will be revealed in Scenario 6: City of Archives.
Interestingly we only have 1 scenario card for these 2 parts. The ever present skulls are a small speed bump in the first scenario but as we head into the cave they become a lot more of a problem.
Cultists make the second part of the scenario massively harder. Following Ichtaca around really does come with some downsides! Tablets see us struggling with our poison condition a token we can only get from putting our faith in Alejandro. Is the scenario trying to tell us something before it is revealed in the denouement? Finally the elder thing is a straight up nasty -3 with a horror hit. This token comes from us trusting neither party, our paranoia weighing heavily on our mind as we are surrounded by new and wondrous places.
Strange Encounters 2: Even strangerer
Bar the ever present threat of poison and the Heart of the Elders set the encounter deck for part 2 is completely different to part 1. We have the return of a lot of traps from the Temple in scenario 2 of the campaign: Forgotten Ruins, Deadly Taps. Denizens wise we have plenty of snakes to contend with, naturally, all of which we have encountered in the core.
The K’Nyan encounter set is mostly for the exploration deck but there is one hazard that is present in the exploration and encounter deck. No Turning Back represents the unstable nature of this underground realm, hitting us with rockfalls we have to dig through if we have the right tools or our bare hands.
Out of all the encounter sets in this Forgotten Ruins is probably the worst. Ill Omens will put doom on locations, Deep Dark slows down clue gathering significantly and Ancestral Fear will see Doom on locations or Vengeance increase alongside its ability to Surge. All nasty effects considering the Explore restriction of the Agenda.
We’re going deeper underground
Phew, that was a long breakdown. I had considered splitting this into two, but each part is so inextricably linked that this seemed like a better way to go about it. It’s an interesting idea to try and do a 2 part scenario. However much as I love Arkham Horror: The Card Game, this scenario really is a low point for the campaign and not a great one in terms of the game in general.
If you have had a bad time in Boundary Beyond you might have to get most of the pillar tokens from this scenario. With a great honking snake running around, not to mention the other problems thrown at you by the scenario, you might be repeating it several times and frankly that isn’t very fun. Once you do manage to get inside the theme of wandering around a vast underground cave system is pretty well carried out and does give that feeling of being truly lost and overwhelmed.
I really think this scenario could have done with a good edit. It feels like an overly long film where someone has indulged the director too much. A bit of judicious cutting here and there and this could have been one tight scenario but as it stands it is probably the weakest part of this campaign.
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