No Spoilers for The Forgotten Age in this article!
So you pick up your copy of The Forgotten Age deluxe box, excited to dig into the theme and the adventure. But what’s this? The INTERNET seems to have some complaints about this campaign. Hmmm… it is strange that folks would say negative things about something on the Internet, but you decide to look past this commentary and gather the gaming group.
Still, with all this commotion, it would be nice to get a little guidance. You want your expedition to go at least a wee bit smoothly…
Play One Difficulty Level Lower
Spoilers in this section: Night of the Zealot (The Gathering)
The Forgotten Age tends to stack negative effects more so than previous cycles. Several encounter decks like to hit you with combos as well: something like a treachery that prevents you from evading combined with a hard-to-kill enemy, thus preventing any escape lest ye have big guns.
More than previous scenarios, The Forgotten Age presents challenges that can be played around or preempted. Hazards are introduced when the Act advances, treacheries will attack your assets, and enemies will punish you for more than damage when they attack.
This is not the first time we’ve seen these mechanics. Remember in The Gathering when you slammed down a .45 Auto turn 1 without any other assets, only to lose it to a Crypt Chill? Or when the Ghoul Priest ambushed you and you fled while your partner got mauled? When you went back to play that scenario, you played a Flashlight to protect that expensive asset, and you were ready when you cashed in those clues to advance Act 2a. Playing around those events makes The Gathering much easier. TFA does this, but more frequently and in conjunction with harder mechanics.
All this to say: your first playthrough (or “blind play”) of The Forgotten Age will be punishing. So make it easier on yourself and play on an lower difficulty setting at first. And don’t scoff if this means you’ll be on Easy – that’s a bit of a misnomer, as Easy isn’t all that easy at all.
If you read any of the preview articles from FFG, you’ll know The Forgotten Age encourages you to use evasion as a solution to enemies throughout the campaign. The designers do this in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s simply easier to evade them. Sometimes their combat increases each time you attack them, so you want to wait until you can defeat them in one blow. Occasionally they are defeated if you successfully evade them several times. But the primary method of rewarding evasion is through Vengeance.
Vengeance enemies are added to the Victory Display upon defeat. However, Vengeance points affect the investigators negatively. Exactly how is scenario-dependent; a simple example is in the first scenario: Skull tokens are -X, where X is the total Vengeance (not a spoiler – it’s on the scenario card). Generally speaking, you want to avoid Vengeance, and evading enemies with Vengeance is a good way to deal with them.
Given that evasion is helpful, you should think about including cards that help you evade in your deck. If your agility is at least 3, Manual Dexterities (and possibly Trench Coats or Peter Sylvestre) will go a long way. If not, you’ll need to find ways to “cheat” your evade attempts. Mists of R’lyeh, Handcuffs, Mind over Matter, and Stray Cat are fantastic includes. Blinding Light, Slip Away, Anatomical Diagrams, Fight or Flight, Bait and Switch, and Stunning Blow can be situationally useful as well. I’ve even found Bind Monster to be decent. And don’t forget about Snare Trap, Close Call, Suggestion, Acidic Ichor: Freezing Variant, or Archaic Glyphs: Prophecy Foretold when upgrading. I still think Dumb Luck, Impromptu Barrier, Stealth, Hiding Spot, Survival Instinct, and Cheap Shot are bad, but if you want to give them a shot then this is the campaign to do it!
Have the Right Attitude
If you’ve ever taken a wilderness survival class, they’ll tell you that the number one priority – even above fire or water – is to have a positive mental attitude. In the face of adversity, it’s important to go in with appropriate expectations.
The first scenario in particular, The Untamed Wilds, is very difficult. It will knock you around if you haven’t prepared well for the adventure (thematically appropriate for an expedition, no doubt). Don’t be too discouraged if you prematurely resign from Wilds with 0xp. Know that you will have opportunities to bounce back if you do well in the second and third scenarios.
Trauma is another hot-button mechanic that gets the community riled up. Trauma will be given out in other methods in TFA besides investigator defeat. I theorize that the community generally feels negatively about trauma because of this association: traditionally, you only have gotten trauma from being defeated. This gives it a very negative connotation. In practice, however, it’s not really a problem until it adds up. Even with 2 or 3 points of trauma, your character will probably not play too differently.
To survive the wilds, you’ll have to be tough. Specifically, The Forgotten Age dishes out damage and horror like Oprah gives out bees.
First of all, you’ll see an average-to-above-average number of willpower treacheries. The stats tallied up on the Strange Solution blog tell us that most encounter decks are 20-25% willpower-testing treacheries, and TFA is no exception. This equates to an average of 2-3 willpower treacheries drawn per investigator in an average scenario – which is a lot of averages. Some scenarios you may draw six or more, and sometimes you’ll draw none. But I think all these averages ultimately add up to a pair of Guts in your deck.
Where you’ll see a change is in agility-testing treacheries. In Night of the Zealot, we saw about half as many agility treacheries (13%) as willpower – ultimately suggesting you’ll draw 1-2 of them each scenario. However, in Dunwich and Carcosa, agility fell off the map. Only 4% of Dunwich encounter cards were agility treacheries, and that rose to 5% in Carcosa. These numbers, combined with a lack of evasion-favoring enemies, led to the perception that agility is totally optional and unincentivized. Unsurprisingly, TFA brings these numbers up to Zealot levels: 14% of all encounter cards in TFA are agility treacheries. Given the aforementioned reasons to evade enemies, I think a pair of Manual Dexterities are a fantastic include in your TFA deck.
If you’re not avoiding all these terrible treacheries, if you’re having trouble managing enemies, or if you’re otherwise having a really bad day, you’re undoubtedly going to take damage and horror. I strongly recommend you include “soaks” – cards that you can assign your non-direct damage and horror onto. All allies are good candidates for this, as are Rosaries, Trench Coats, True Grits, Leather Coats, and Cherished Keepsakes. Oh, and don’t forget about Bulletproof Vest and Elder Sign Amulet! If you’ve wondered how Leo Anderson survives TFA, it’s because he has a ton of mooks to take the fall when he fails all of his agility treacheries.
Finally, healing cards have a place in TFA. Regardless of how many henchmen you have or how well you have defended against treacheries, you’re bound to take some damage and horror eventually. On top of that, the trauma you take can shorten your lifespan. Healing cards are an incredible answer to this, particularly if you’ve taken some trauma; because you’ll always have something to heal, those healing cards will never be dead draws. I personally still feel that First Aid and Clarity of Mind are too slow, but Thermos, Fearless, Fearless, First Aid, Clarity, and Moment of Respite are all really valuable includes. Even Painkillers and Smoking Pipe can help in the right situation (or if you can offload damage/horror onto soaks). I particularly like the healing cards that cost xp, as you can efficiently add them to your deck in response to taking lots of trauma. And don’t forget your rogue can Adaptable-in Thermos!
Community members have complained about supplies a lot because the benefits they give aren’t very intuitive. Chalk helps me not get lost, therefore avoiding an enemy? I got scared at night because I didn’t have a blanket? Also, many of the benefits they give are simply avoiding adverse effects, which is a little bit of a feel-bad mechanic. I personally don’t have a problem with them, but I see why others didn’t like them at first.
Supplies have a lot of specific effects with varying levels of advantages depending on your investigator and deck. For example, let’s say you could bring along a Scarecrow, which scares off the boogeymen in the night, so you feel safer. If you don’t have the Scarecrow, you take a mental trauma. So when you’re embarking on your adventure as Roland, you’ll likely take the Scarecrow because his sanity is so low. Daisy (or better yet, Carolyn) would almost certainly be better served by taking something else because her sanity is so high. Also, if the mental trauma gets too high, she can always pick up Fearless.
This creates a strategic mini-game as well, enhancing replay value. If two of the toughest scenarios for Skids are also made easier by bringing along Egg Salad, maybe Skids would take along Egg Salad over something more obviously helpful, like, say, a Big Knife. So on your first Skids playthrough you bring along the Big Knife; then, your second run is your Egg Salad run. Was the Egg Salad worth it? What do your friends think? See how this is a strategy game? It’s strategy. An Egg Salad strategy.
I’ve got a handful of spoiler-y tips for supplies below. Nothing explicit, but advice on which supplies to prioritize. If you’d like to go in blind or choose supplies completely thematically, stop reading here and we’ll see you back here next week!
- In terms of overall value and usefulness, the best supplies (in my opinion) are the Map, Binoculars, and Chalk, followed by Torches and the Rope, in that order.
- If your investigator is resource-hungry or wants a lot of money to set up, take Provisions.
- Your group should have one Medicine for every two investigators, rounded up.
- Some people believe heavily in the Blanket, but I don’t think you need it if you took the #Resist section of this article to heart.
- It doesn’t really matter, but I try to give the Map and the Torches to investigators with low willpower and a good ability to handle enemies (either by fighting or evading them).
Well, that’s about all I can say! I hope you enjoy your forays into the wilderness. Although “enjoy” might not be the right word… Endure? Survive? Regardless, your adventure will certainly be one to remember.