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Krysmopompas

Dusting off the Cycle Ranking - rank your fave (again?)

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Well, I don't see it on the first page anymore...so howabout breaking some self-isolation melancholy with a new cycle ranking poll. Anyone know how to do polls here?

Thinking just for the stories, not player cards or that kind of stuff.

CYCLES

1.  Dream-Eaters. New but love the split scenario vibe and great flavour throughout.  Very well done.

2.  Path to Carcosa. Eerie mood, international intrigue. Allows for some nice use of Fine Clothes many times over.

3. Forgotten Age. Deadly and although a couple of scenarios are frustrating (as seen on these boards) I like the impossibility of this one on certain levels.

4. Dunwich. Solid, the Essex Express is still hilarious and boosted even more with Return To.... Maybe the age of it has softened its strengths but stories usually got better after this one.

5. Circle Undone. In retrospect I really don't like this one. Left a weird taste in my mouth, not sure why yet. Won't be going back to it anytime soon.

Not ranked: Zealot, for its introductory nature.

ONE-OFFS

definitely 1. Excelsior Hotel, 2. Guardians of the Abyss, then everything else lumped in a ball after those.

Apologies if this gets brought up too often, trying to pass the time in here...

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I pretty much agree.  I'm loathe to completely let go of Carcosa as my favorite, especially since I've only played three from Dream Eaters, but wow, it's fun.  I was most excited for TCU, but it was just too disjointed and difficult.

Excelsior is definitely tops.  I've only played Eternal Slumber of Guardians, once standalone and just last night in the middle of Carcosa.  As standalones go, it can be an XP bonanza for a full party (I'm playing 3-handed solo) but I had to bail before the second half...again.  I feel like I get too much of a beating in the first half to make it through the second (to be clear, I'm still only talking Eternal Slumber).

Edited by CSerpent

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1. Agree with Dream-Eaters; the atmosphere and locations are really fun and interesting, and I do love getting approximately 10xp/scenario.

2. Probably Dunwich, for nostalgia. It was releasing when my friend group first got into the game, and we replayed it like... a lot. I replayed it again last week, and it was still pretty interesting.

3. Forgotten Age, purely on aesthetics. Indiana Jones meets The Shadow Out of Time, but with punishingly brutal difficulty. I like the supply system too; it reminds me of Darkest Dungeon.

4. I actually really like The Circle Undone, but I haven't played it enough to get a feel for it. The Dreams in the Witch House is one of my favorite stories.

5. Carcosa. Just... I like to play Guardians. They do not have much sanity. It is a problem. Not being able to deal with the Specter enemies in any way, shape or form kinda ticked me off.

As for standalones, I haven't played much of them at all.

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I'm not yet sure about Dream-Eaters, I must say. I love the Dreamlands atmosphere, but I only played three scenarios so far, Gates, Kadath and Moon /Where the Gods Dwell still hasn't arrived yet). And out of those, they were all very flavourful, but Gates was really, really easy (at least with my team of Ashcan and Luke, who were both excellent at finding clues on the go, which helped a lot) and Moon just didn't make much of an impression, mechanically. It was a neat idea, but a mediocre scenario. The Search for Kadath was one of my favourites, though. Certainly up there with any in Carcosa.

So, as a whole cycle, I'm currently ranking them

1. Carcosa. Best overall impression, even if it has a real stinker of a scenario (Echoes of the Past), the campaign elements were best and some scenarios were absolutely top.

2. Forgotten Age and Dream Eaters are sort of on the same level, I think. There were things in Forgotten Age I absolutely hated, like Heart of the Elders and, to be honest, most of the supply system. But the story was also really good and it was the only campaign where I felt my choices made much of a difference in the end.

3. Dunwich. It's... fine? But it has two quite bad scenarios, the Miskatonic Museum and Undimensioned and Unseen, both of which were quite dull when my group played them. In U&U, especially, we had to get five broods and spent entire turns just waiting for more of them to spawn. And the story is weirdly disjointed and less creative than the others. Why are there Ythians? How do the cultists make those mutants? Did they even make the Experiment, or was that just something disconnected some Miskatonic Alchemy Professor worked on? How, exactly, did they pull of some kind of weird ritual that put the Professor into a trance while playing poker, and if they could do that, why aren't they ever doing it again? If, the Dunwich Horror story, there was really only the Wheatley family who were cultists, why is there suddenly dozens of cultists, and sorcerers and servants? It wasn't ideal.

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49 minutes ago, Eldan985 said:

How do the cultists make those mutants? Did they even make the Experiment, or was that just something disconnected some Miskatonic Alchemy Professor worked on? How, exactly, did they pull of some kind of weird ritual that put the Professor into a trance while playing poker, and if they could do that, why aren't they ever doing it again?

That's funny, those are some of the things I like most about the Dunwich story.  There's this substory going on that only comes to the surface in a few spots.  It's clear Bishop is doing something to create these thralls, and it's pretty far reaching, but it's never laid out.  It's almost sequel fodder.

It's similar with Lita.  You take a step back and look at the whole story and you really start to question who the bad guy is.

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I actually thought it was very clear with Lita. She outright says that she started a ritual in your house to attract and then trap the ghouls and kind of intends to burn it down with you inside if she has to. And that she's been going around denying the ghouls their food and stirring up the cult.

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Posted (edited)

CYCLES

Not ranked: Dream-Eaters--haven't played it yet! And Night of the Zealot--the tutorial character of the campaign means it will never measure up to the others.

1.  Path to Carcosa. I'm a sucker for the jauniste theme, and I love some of the scenario designs.

2.  Circle Undone. Another theme I adore, plus the two/three-stream plot structure of Forgotten Age without the clunky bits.

3.  Dunwich. Staunchly in "Lovecraft Country," with some interesting variety in scenario structure.

4.  Forgotten Age. I don't dislike this cycle, I just like the others better. On the whole, I think it's uneven, with some of the best and some of the worst moments in the game.

ONE-OFFS

1. Excelsior Hotel, 2. Guardians of the Abyss, 3. Carnivale, 4. Rougarou, 5. Labyrinths.

Edited by Carthoris

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4 hours ago, Eldan985 said:

How, exactly, did they pull of some kind of weird ritual that put the Professor into a trance while playing poker, and if they could do that, why aren't they ever doing it again?

The cultists didn't have anything to do with Morgan's trance. He just gets like that when he's had too much to drink.

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1 minute ago, rsdockery said:

The cultists didn't have anything to do with Morgan's trance. He just gets like that when he's had too much to drink.

The danger of not remembering that you have had a drink.

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I still have yet to play more than one scenario of Dream-Eaters (and it's not fully available yet, after all) so that is still excluded from my ranking. As is the Night of the Zealot, because it's not really a fair comparison.

1: Path to Carcosa. Still has so many great scenarios, an excellent theme, awesome writing, and a finely-balanced level of challenge and complexity. Return to the Path to Carcosa actually ends up being a less fun experience overall, though it does inject some novelty. Echoes of the Past is still a terrible scenario, though.

I honestly can't decide between TFA and TCU. TFA has the highest highs and is the campaign I want to replay more often, but it also has the lowest lows and the worst scenario in the entire game. TCU has fewer memorable moments, but some cool decision-making and overall is a more consistently solid experience.

However, if I had to choose, it would be:

2: The Forgotten Age. It's the one that sticks in my mind with the most positive moments - a real sense of catharsis, pickpocketing and then barbequeing Yig, Following Your Own Path. The huge generosity in exp is great too, for letting you really let loose with deckbuilding.

3: The Circle Undone. This ranks lower almost entirely because of the prologue - talk about a barrier for entry. We have our ways to circumvent it, but it wouldn't be fair to include house-rules into the mix when evaluating - and the initial decision of accepting or rejecting your fate is a pain, too, because taking The Tower and Ace of Rods is just a horrible experience. I also love all of the first 4 "proper" scenarios, but I find that the scenarios become a little less enjoyable once you get to For The Greater Good. TFA starts out frustrating and poorly designed, but builds to a great conclusion, whereas TCU starts out very strong but fails to stick the landing.

4: The Dunwich Legacy. Tried replaying this recently and it has not aged well at all. Undimensioned and Unseen and Essex County Express are the only scenarios that I still consider genuinely good - Lost in Time and Space still has that great feeling of being completely out there and otherworldly but the mechanical weirdness is far less unique when scenarios like The Secret Name and Shattered Aeons feel quite similar. And the rest of the scenarios either feel dull and unremarkable but overall "ok" (Extracurricular Activity and Where Doom Awaits) or have some kind of fundamental flaw that sucks the fun out of the game (Miskatonic Museum, The House Always Wins and above all Blood on the Altar). Add to that the annoyance of dealing with Beyond the Veil, whose novelty has entirely worn off and doesn't really work so well with a lot of more recent investigators, and extremely stingy experience points, and I couldn't get through the campaign before giving up in frustration.

 

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4 hours ago, Carthoris said:

4.  Forgotten Age. I don't dislike this cycle, I just like the others better.

That's my problem with ranking them; I enjoy all of them. The only one I shun more than others is Dunwich because we overplayed it in the past.

 

1 hour ago, Allonym said:

...or have some kind of fundamental flaw that sucks the fun out of the game (Miskatonic Museum, The House Always Wins and above all Blood on the Altar).

Blood on the Altar is one of my favorites, and here's why: my buddy was playing Ashcan Pete and Duke got sacrificed. He was basically 1/3rd of an investigator after that, which the five of us (turns out exceeding the player cap makes things much harder) thought was hilarious. In a similar vein, Essex Express is also one of my favorites, for similar reasons: everyone spent the first round setting up, then we drew every Ancient Evils in the deck and instantly lost. It is fondly remembered.

I guess my point is that, what makes a campaign a non-starter for one person is the thing another person loves about it.

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Posted (edited)

If it’s just playability and preferablility we are talking, I will rank from bottom to top and not include Night of the Zealot. 

5. Kind of a tie at the bottom here. We just replayed through Return To Dunwich and it left me feeling flat. It’s weird. When I first played it, we only had the core cards and the cards coming out in the expansion available to us and it was super fun. Of course, we were learning the game, there weren’t as many cards to buy then with meager XP and we had nothing to compare XP earnings to anyway. I think as Dunwich has aged, part of the problem is the XP issue which unfortunately Return To didn’t fix. Although to be honest, Dunwich isn’t that hard to beat on standard even with paltry XP. Another part of the issue is that there are so many new investigators and player cards now and similar scenarios in other cycles, that it isn’t as engaging as it once was. Aside from Essex County Express, a great standout scenario, which never gets old.  So I would have to put it at/near the bottom, which makes me sad, because it is classic Dunwich after all. I wonder if we were to house rule and just use the core and Dunwich cards, if it would help. 


5. Tied at the bottom, but for entirely different reasons, is Circle Undone. It’s hard to put a finger on why exactly, because the story is good, though sometimes choppy, there are some good moments and it has reasonable replay-ability. There are a few measurable reasons though. First, the prologue.  
Second and this is a big issue for me, is that the big decision of which way to go, is too absolute and too early. How can you accept or not accept your fate when you haven’t really done/learned anything yet? This decision is going to play a role throughout the whole campaign and you are stuck with it.  I hope the Return To version creates an option for completely changing your mind half way through. That would shake things up! It has some good scenarios though and one very challenging one, which almost does me in every time. But one of its biggest problems in my mind, is the ending. Before the Black Throne ranks at the bottom of all the finales for me. Weird clunky play mechanics...and um, where the heck did all those cultists come from and why, and getting sucked into a rift as a final scenario is getting old. 

3. The Forgotten Age. This one has some super highs and some less highs. It has the most challenging introductory scenario in the game, but you do get the feeling that if you can survive that, you can survive anything! It’s challenging and does a good job of creating a jungle expedition into which eldritch horror seeps. I know everyone hates the supply mechanic and I get it, but it is a woefully under funded expedition after all and we all know that going in, so thematically it makes sense. I think some of the penalties are too harsh and unfortunately since they are set in stone in the campaign, you know them forever after. I think it would be fun if the penalties and rewards in the supply mechanic could somehow be random instead of set, so you never know exactly what will happen based on your choices. 
TFA also holds the dubious double honor of the worst scenario and the worst weakness in the game so far, in my opinion, but we pretty much ignore that scenario and have house ruled out that weakness suite. So problem solved.

 
2 or 1 depending...We haven’t played through Dream Eaters yet, but it is showing great promise.
As a known quantity though, so far the winner for me is Carcosa. The ambience of the story is woven through the whole thing. It has Paris. It has Carcosa.  It’s creepy, but you are transfixed nonetheless. 
It also holds up well to lots of different investigator types. I played Luke our last time through and he was stand out fun in that campaign. I like the mechanic of conviction and doubt a lot. It ebbs and flows and feels much more natural than having to make an absolute decision really early like TCU. Added to which, my favorite two scenarios in the game so far (The Pallid Mask and Dim Carcosa) are in TPtC.  Although Dreamlands is looking to have a couple stand-outs as well).
Most importantly, as a lot has been released since, it is really withstanding the test of time. It hasn’t lost its luster, for me at least. 
 

As for Standalones. I like Excelsior a lot, but am I weird that I still like Guardians of the Abyss best? 

Edited by Mimi61

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Eldan985 said:

I actually thought it was very clear with Lita. She outright says that she started a ritual in your house to attract and then trap the ghouls and kind of intends to burn it down with you inside if she has to. And that she's been going around denying the ghouls their food and stirring up the cult.

But she is one heck of an Ally to have in your deck! Think of all the monster enemies we face in a day. 

Edited by Mimi61

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1. The Forgotten Age is still my favorite and I can't wait to play it as Monterey Jack. I secretly like killing the serpents and making my co-player anxious about rising Vengeance, he he he. We generally get pretty banged up, but usually live to reach retirement.

2. The Circle Undone. I really liked the prologue the first time we played it, but I agree that it is not really enjoyable when re-played. Even with that ... Witches and ghosts and a clandestine organization. Bring it on!

3. The Path to Carcosa. This was a hard decision. This campaign could have been ranked 1 or 2, as many have done. I suppose it is just the elements of the story/setting that I enjoy more with the first two.  

4. The Dunwich Legacy. This was my favorite for a long time. I still like it, but as has been said by others, it is starting to show its age, I guess, but aren't we all.

5. The Dream Eaters. What? Why is this ranked so low? Simply that it is only two half campaigns. I really like building my investigator over the long haul. I feel cheated that I only get 4 scenarios with each one in this cycle.

6. Night of the Zealot. It is a great introduction to the game, but as a campaign is even shorter than each half of Dream Eaters.

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On 3/27/2020 at 2:15 PM, Mimi61 said:

5. Tied at the bottom, but for entirely different reasons, is Circle Undone. It’s hard to put a finger on why exactly, because the story is good, though sometimes choppy, there are some good moments and it has reasonable replay-ability. There are a few measurable reasons though. First, the prologue.  
Second and this is a big issue for me, is that the big decision of which way to go, is too absolute and too early. How can you accept or not accept your fate when you haven’t really done/learned anything yet? This decision is going to play a role throughout the whole campaign and you are stuck with it.  I hope the Return To version creates an option for completely changing your mind half way through. That would shake things up! It has some good scenarios though and one very challenging one, which almost does me in every time. But one of its biggest problems in my mind, is the ending. Before the Black Throne ranks at the bottom of all the finales for me. Weird clunky play mechanics...and um, where the heck did all those cultists come from and why, and getting sucked into a rift as a final scenario is getting old. 

Agreed with this take, helping me understand why I don't like TCU much. And to top it off with getting sucked into a rift (again) makes it hard to enjoy the ending.

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1 hour ago, Krysmopompas said:

Agreed with this take, helping me understand why I don't like TCU much. And to top it off with getting sucked into a rift (again) makes it hard to enjoy the ending.

Amen brother! 

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"Sucked into Rift for last scenario" scores so far (you got me curious)

Zealot - not counting, didn't have time to go into a rift.

Dunwich - yes. 

Carcosa - yes

Forgotten Age - yes (at least it's a time one)

Circle Undone -  yes

Dream-Eaters - technically "A" is a rift of sorts, and not sure on "B" yet. But calling it a yes, even though it's enjoyable.

Total Campaigns ending in Rifts:  5/5 = 100%!

Even one of the two scenarios in Guardians of the Abyss ends up in a rift...

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True. It is a game rife with rifts.

Dream Eaters thankfully feels different at least, even if you count the Dreamlands as a different type of rift.... 

 

 

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Matt Newman did say that in the beginning at least, the idea was that an entire campaign should kind of cover the same story beats as one game of the 2nd edition board game. And those mostly end with either closing gates, fighting an old god, or both.

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