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Krysmopompas

Circle Undone Review

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Just went through it as a player, and while the story itself was fine and really fun for good chunks of it, I think this scenario's player cards showed the first sign of bloat in this game.

Adding the "Tarot" slot (which may or may not be expanded upon) is ultimately not needed, nor are the extra "Bonded" cards. The dual-class cards and single-class upgrades of same are interesting though, but adding Tarot and Bonded seem to be a harbinger of things to come. Starting to feel a groan coming on.

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I don't agree at all that Tarot or Bonded felt unnecessary (any more than anything new is or is not necessary).

The dual-class cards were a bit of a flash in the pan, since 2 of them are hot garbage, but 2 of them are great (not co-incidentally, the two new level 0 weapons), but I did appreciate the thought that went into the different versions of the upgrades, gave a nice idea of class identity (and Guardian .45 Thompson, Mystic Enchanted Blade and both versions of Grisly Totem are all excellent and fun cards you can build around).

But this cycle probably saw the biggest problem with regard to balance. Lots of dud cards, lots of massively overpriced cards, and then some hugely overpowered cards. I hope they can course correct with a new Taboo list and more thought going in to the cards in Dream-Eaters.

I loved the campaign, though. Pretty much a perfect expression of the Silver Twilight Lodge as I described in my pre-campaign post all those months ago. I'd do one for the Dreamlands but it's just not my specialist subject... 

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Tarot was... maybe not unnecessary but maybe, yeah, a bit bloated? Like, it felt too complicated for what it delivered in the end. There were only a handful of tarot cards and for that, a new slot felt kinda unnecessary. IF there were several per class, or they could be levelled up, maybe? But this feels like a thing that was highly specific to this cycle and probably won't be taken up again any time soon. 

Bonded, though? Awesome idea, lots of potential. I'm already a huge fan of the guardian of the crystallizer. And the mechanic is broad enough that it can stay an evergreen, like exile or alert. 

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2 hours ago, Eldan985 said:

Tarot was... maybe not unnecessary but maybe, yeah, a bit bloated? Like, it felt too complicated for what it delivered in the end. There were only a handful of tarot cards and for that, a new slot felt kinda unnecessary. IF there were several per class, or they could be levelled up, maybe? But this feels like a thing that was highly specific to this cycle and probably won't be taken up again any time soon. 

Bonded, though? Awesome idea, lots of potential. I'm already a huge fan of the guardian of the crystallizer. And the mechanic is broad enough that it can stay an evergreen, like exile or alert. 

I really wouldn't be surprised if there are cards introduced in a cycle that may not see much expansion in future cycles. Tarot seems extremely tied to TCU (the narrative revolves around a tarot reading). And they really are not that complex. It's a new slot that makes your investigator a bit better at the thing their faction already excels at.

Although maybe 'gimmicky,' I don't really see these types of added cards (specifically cyle-candy cards) as bloat precisely because they seem tied to a cycle.  It's a nice fun new thing to try if you pick up the cycle, but honestly not something that you need, and not complex enough to cause mechanical issues further into the game's life-cycle.

We'll see bonded cards for sure in the future not tied to a particular cycle as the design space for them is really very broad. And yes, it will get fiddly, but it will also offer variety. My biggest annoyance with bonded cards is that it creates another 'deck' and the more of those on the table the busier the playing space.

I may be wrong and they may add additional tarot cards, but I would not expect it until Return to TCU. You may see an odd one here or there (the Fool or Wheel of Fortune may fit well into the Dreamlands), but unlike 'bonded' or presumably 'myriad' cards, Tarot are not really introducing any new mechanics.

Edited by Soakman

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I don't mind the tarot slot.  I do have some concern about the principle in general of adding more slots to investigators,  but I dont think anything has gone south just yet.  

Bonded really I think seems like it something we should lay at the feet of the Dream Eaters cycle,   but yes,  you are correct that it did technically make its debut in the Circle Undone.     Regardless, I dont really have a problem with this mechanic either.    I'm unclear as  to what the OP finds objectionable about them.

It's actually the dual-class cards that I am least happy about,   which I suppose makes me the exact reverse of the OP.  I just dont think they fit well into the general organizational scheme of the game.  I'm willing to put up with it of course, but it's not the choice I would have made.   Just as a player, it makes organizing the cards in a logical fashion a bit hard to do. 

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oh,  my least favorite part of this cycle was the prologue.     It was kinda dull and honestly,  I just want to get into the campaign and play the deck that I want to play.   I'm just going to find some way to house-rule skipping the prologue for future circle undone campaigns.  I tend to forget about the prologue and make decks and get ready to play and then its like...  shoot... gotta do the prologue.  Lets find all these other random cards that may or may not be in somebodys deck, and take them out and play with them for 1 game and then put them back.   

I do think it adds something to the story...  once.   But the replay value of the prologue is pretty much 0 for me.   And it's a big hassle.  

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12 minutes ago, awp832 said:

oh,  my least favorite part of this cycle was the prologue.     It was kinda dull and honestly,  I just want to get into the campaign and play the deck that I want to play.   I'm just going to find some way to house-rule skipping the prologue for future circle undone campaigns.  I tend to forget about the prologue and make decks and get ready to play and then its like...  shoot... gotta do the prologue.  Lets find all these other random cards that may or may not be in somebodys deck, and take them out and play with them for 1 game and then put them back.   

I do think it adds something to the story...  once.   But the replay value of the prologue is pretty much 0 for me.   And it's a big hassle.  

That's unfortunate, and I can really see why that can be the case for some people, but I do really like the prologue. Though I would not want many scenarios to follow suit, there is something somewhat enjoyable about a scenario that is locked in when it comes to available cards and choices. It can really begin to feel like you have a goal to shoot for (namely do better than last time) and can have some measurable way to frame your success. 

Due to the variable nature of deck constructions, other scenarios can leave you wondering "hmm.. did I just play this poorly, or is my deck just worst than my last time through." This one, you always know that (excepting some variability due to encounter shuffles, difficulty, and token pulls), it hangs on your ability to manage your cards in hand, which are exactly the same cards you had available last time.

Edited by Soakman

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I mean tarot is just an extra slot.   I kinda wanted TFA to give us a foot slot so footwear wouldn't feel so weird mechanically.  Adding slots really don't add complexity to the game. 

I really like the prologue, and how it intersects with the story later on.  It really sets the mood.  I guess if you are playing the campaign over and over again it can get tiring, but I played TCU 3 times and it was fine IMO.  Each time I got to do something different in that prologue. I'll probably give TCU a rest now that return to carcosa is coming out and dream eaters is starting.  I'm sure by the time I come back the prologue will feel fresh again.  If not. I'm sure they'll do something interesting with it in the return to TCU box.

Edited by phillos

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1 hour ago, awp832 said:

oh,  my least favorite part of this cycle was the prologue.     It was kinda dull and honestly,  I just want to get into the campaign and play the deck that I want to play.   I'm just going to find some way to house-rule skipping the prologue for future circle undone campaigns.  I tend to forget about the prologue and make decks and get ready to play and then its like...  shoot... gotta do the prologue.  Lets find all these other random cards that may or may not be in somebodys deck, and take them out and play with them for 1 game and then put them back.   

I do think it adds something to the story...  once.   But the replay value of the prologue is pretty much 0 for me.   And it's a big hassle.  

I have to agree. I like the prologue, but after we did it for the third time, our group was sick of it. Plus it's a pain to set up. What's more, it initially seemed like it was going to have cool narrative effects throughout the campaign, but knowing what we do now...

 

It was disappointing that it only really came up in At Death's Doorstep and Union and Dissolution. Moreover, much like the huge disappointment of Supplies and Yig's Fury, the initial promise of unique playthrough circumstances and branching paths didn't materialise and instead there was basically an optimal result and bad results. Very much a missed opportunity.

However, we came up with a simple houserule for manufacturing the results of the Prologue to let us get started quicker:

 

For each of the prologue investigators, roll a D6. On a 1, that investigator was claimed by spectres. On a 2-3, that investigator was taken by the Watcher. On a 4-5, that investigator was pulled into the spectral realm. On a 6, that investigator disappeared into the mist. Then, take each die result and subtract it from 6. Add those results together; that is the total number of pieces of evidence left behind.

The lower your die result, the worse the outcome for that investigator (6 = possibly alive and could be an ally, 4-5 = dead/gone, 2-3 = the Watcher gets stronger in Union and Dissolution, 1 = you have to fight the tough unique enemy version in Union and Dissolution). However, the lower your die result, the more Evidence is left behind, making it easier to achieve an optimal result in At Death's Doorstep.

As an example, if you are playing 3-player and you choose Jerome, Gavriella and Valentino, you roll a die for each. You get a 6 for Jerome, a 4 for Gavriella and a 2 for Valentino. So you record that Jerome disappeared into the mist, that Gavriella was pulled into the Spectral Realm and that Valentino was taken by the Watcher. Then you subtract each result from 6 - resulting in 0 for Jerome, 2 for Gavriella and 4 for Valentino. So you add these together (0 + 2 + 4 = 6) and record that 6 pieces of evidence were left behind. Then you're ready to begin the campaign.

This method does make it impossible to achieve a "perfect" score in terms of clues - the maximum amount of pieces of evidence left behind is 5 per investigator, when a total of 6 per investigator is possible when playing the scenario. We decided on this to make it a bit tougher, as payment for taking a quick way out, as well as to make a lower die result "worse" which is intuitive to us as RPG players. If you prefer to make things easier, and perhaps more streamlined, you could have it so that the number you roll on the D6 is the number of pieces of evidence left behind, and then swap the results around (so a 6 is claimed by spectres, a 4-5 is taken by the Watcher, a 2-3 is pulled into the spectral realm, and a 1 is disappeared into the mist. This version is a bit more intuitive so I might suggest it next time we play the campaign.

Edited by Allonym

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I agree with Allonym that there was definitely not enough done to tie the disappearances in with the narrative. 

I did manage to have my 2nd playthrough have a wipe in the twilight estate which added more focus on the disappearances alternatively, but otherwise they're kind of a *shrug* to me in terms of relevancy to the overall story. Of course, I haven't seen many of the resolutions yet either.

Edited by Soakman

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