Rotting Remains

It's been years now since Lita Chantler and pals first confronted the Ghoul Priest all the way back in The Gathering, and the Striking Fear encounter set has been terrorizing us ever since. Are there any other cards that feel more like frenemies than these guys? They're familiar, adversarial, and you can always rely on them to show up for you at some point when you'd rather they didn't. But you can't stay mad at them for too long - after all, they're such a staple of the Arkham experience that the game just wouldn't be the same without them. It's like, "Oh Rotting Remains, you gave me yet another mental trauma - you rascal!"

With that said, it's this set's very ubiquitousness that merits its members a legitimate analysis. After all, these cards aren't restricted to a specific scenario, so you will run into them over and over again. As such, it's probably worth asking yourself what you need to include in your deck to deal with them specifically. What's worse is that they tend to appear in encounter decks alongside scenario-specific treacheries that amplify their nastiness.

The two general considerations in choosing what cards to include in your deck to deal with these are: (1) What investigator am I playing as? and (2) What difficulty am I playing on?

Of the three, Dissonant Voices is probably the most straightforward to analyze. Regardless of the game state, most of the time you're just going to eat this card. You should generally be playing your assets instead of holding onto them, so hopefully this card hits you after your board is already set up. The loss of playing events hurts a little more, but should hopefully not affect your turn too drastically. After all, you always have other things you can be doing, such as drawing a card, punching an enemy, or investigating your location. And the card disappears at the end of the round anyway - with no check! So grit your teeth and deal with it.

The other two cards in the set - Frozen in Fear and Rotting Remains - are significantly more troublesome. Even though neither possesses an unconditional penalty (you can escape unscathed if you pass a skill check), the punishment for failing is harsh, and can often be deadly. In addition, the nastiness of both of these cards scales upwards with the difficulty you are playing on. As to which card is worse? In my opinion, it's a toss up.

Frozen in Fear will almost always cause you to lose at least one action. It's uncommon to have a turn where you don't perform one of the listed actions (move, fight, or evade), though this will depend somewhat on your role on the team. In general this card is less of an upset to Seeker investigators, who will often be content to stay put and perform investigations, and who have access to other movement options such as Shortcut or Pathfinder. Guardians - who will usually be taking fight actions more than the other factions - are probably hit the hardest by this card.

Of course the worst part of Frozen in Fear is that you have to pass a will check to get rid of it. Here's where the number of players becomes an additional factor: On solo mode, each lost action is a much larger percentage of the total actions available to you; never mind the fact that it can be tougher to pass that accursed check without any teammates to help you out by committing cards. Failing this test more than once in solo mode is going to be game over a lot of the time.

As for Rotting Remains, this card scales in a particularly nasty way with the difficulty level. Not only is it harder to pass the check at the tougher levels, but the higher variance will on average lead to worse results for a failed check, even if you're boosting to the corresponding sweet spot. For example, if you are playing on Easy and boost yourself to +1, you'll only take 1 horror for drawing the worst negative token (in this case a -2, ignoring special tokens). On the other hand, if you are playing on Expert and boost yourself to +4 (as you should), you'll take the full 3 horror for drawing the -8 token.

As for how to deal with these cards, you have three basic options:

And this is where your choice of investigator comes into play:

  • Out of all the factions, Mystics have the easiest time dealing with these cards. Ward of Protection cancels out both the ill effects of the treachery, and spares you a draw from the chaos bag. Scrying can assign the treacheries to the best-equipped investigator. In the event they do perform the skill test, their naturally higher Willpower grants them the highest chances of passing. And if they do end up taking horror from Rotting Remains, they tend to have higher-than-average sanity to soak it. Agnes Baker can even weaponize this particular card if she gets hit.

  • Seekers are in a similar situation. They have Forewarned and the excellent Dr. William T. Maleson to help them manage the encounter deck. That aside, their Willpower is above average and their sanity totals are the highest of any faction, so performing the skill test will rarely be the end of the world for them. And of course Higher Education exists, so there's that. Heck, Daisy and Norman are half Mystic, so they have all of the above options available to them as well. The one oddball is Joe Diamond who would really prefer to avoid these cards altogether with Forewarned and even On the Hunt. Also of particular note is Logical Reasoning which functions as both a prophylactic and a panacea for this entire encounter set.

  • Rogues and Survivors are a real mixed bag and have to be considered on a case by case basis. Sefina Rousseau can basically use the Mystic analysis above, and William Yorick's infinite supply of teddy bears will keep him safe from any Rotting Remains (although it begs the question why a digger of graves would be disturbed by this imagery in the first place). But then you have your Skids and your Finns for whom an unfortunately-timed Rotting Remains is really going to hurt. As such, "You handle this one!" is worth a strong consideration for just such an occasion.

  • Finally Guardians are the ones who really don't want to draw these cards. With their fair-to-middling Willpower, they are going to fail that check fairly often and the punishment is the most painful for them to boot. A Rotting Remains gone wrong is GG for Mark Harrigan or Roland Banks a large percentage of the time, especially when combined with a special token that also inflicts horror. A failure on a Frozen in Fear test is also a serious problem, as you'll often be swallowing all your teammates cards on subsequent checks, since Guardians tend to not pack lots of cards with icons. If I'm running multiple Guardians in a group, I tend to choose Leadership over Unexpected Courage specifically to deal with the Striking Fear set when it comes up. Anyway, On the Hunt is probably the most efficient way of dealing with these cards as it allows you to (temporarily) avoid them altogether. Carolyn Fern is of course the exception, since she doesn't like fighting and can deal with the horror better than almost any other investigator in the game.

A quick note about Roland Banks specifically: these treacheries are so bad for him a higher difficulties that I always opt for Dr. William T. Maleson over say, Art Student as a secondary Ally when moving up from Standard to Hard. Keep your fingers crossed that you draw an enemy to punch so you Roland can get his clue back!

In summary, the Striking Fear set embodies everything we love and hate about the encounter deck. I'm sure it will continue to make our lives miserable for years to come, so we might as well be prepared for it.

bricklebrite · 40
I'd say Gaurdians have pretty great Willpower. They're the second highest average of any faction (two 4s, four 3s). I think Rogues honestly have the worst time dealing with Rotting Remains since their Willpower is the lowest on average and their sanity is the second lowest on average. — StyxTBeuford · 438
"You handle this one!"

It's no coincidence Finn Edwards shows up in the artwork of this card, as he exemplifies the type of rogue that wants (and needs) this card.

Rogue have notoriously bad , presenting only a single 4 investigator and a single 3 investigator. They also have the only two 1 invesigators in the game, beaten out only by Calvin Wright, who still outshines them with a built in booster.

Rogues are then desperate for ways to withstand the horrors of the encounter deck, and the selection of in-class cards at their disposal to achieve this is... pitiful. Dario El-Amin, Moxie and Tennessee Sour Mash (and it's upgrade) represent the only boosting cards in their arsenal (as of Dream-Eaters), and the first two examples are far too unreliable (the third is an auto-include for some investigators). The only other cards that technically aids in dealing with the encounter deck is Cheat Death, a 5xp sink that won't see much time in any deck as a result.

It's so bad for rogues that THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE A CARD WITH TWO ICONS ON IT, with the not that relevant, technical exceptions of The Gold Pocket Watch and All In. Really, in order to inure a rogue against getting screwed over by the encounter deck, you need to rely on neutral or out-of-class cards that, fortunately, is an option for every rogue character. Still, those are precious card slots getting occupied before any other card can be considered, especially when you're only allowed up to 5 out-of class cards, as Jenny Barnes and Finn Edwards are restricted to.

Thus, I say with confidence that "You handle this one!" is a must-have for all the rogues with 2 or less, and a serious consideration for any 2 or less investigator that can take it. Of course it's efficacy will vary depending on the scenario and campaign, but remains the most tested attribute from revelation effects, and horror remains the most common punishment from treachery cards. And it goes without saying that you don't play this in a one-handed solo campaign, for obvious reasons.

Now, I've ignored its glaring downside until now, namely that someone's footing the bill for your brief respite from the encounter deck, and you may not feel comfortable saddling some poor sod around the table with your problems, especially if the're your friend.

Thing is, in many a case, your fellow investigators will be grateful for you sending treacheries their way, guardians and mystics who've run encounter-hate cards specifically. A guardian will generally be appreciative of the time-saver of having an enemy spawn on them, rather than have to use actions to move/engage an enemy someone else drew. Likewise, a mystic running Ward of Protection will be hoping to be the one to draw Ancient Evils to prevent an entire round's worth of turns being skipped. Having "You handle this one!" can enable their encounter-hate more effectively.

But even without that archetype, having a 4+ investigator in your team is enough to justify taking "You handle this one!", doubly so if said investigator has a high sanity threshold (which is correlated with high ). It is a co-operative game, after all; your well-being directly benefits the group, and no-one wants to see one player struggle turn after turn to discard a Frozen in Fear.

A final word; until more rouge encounter-insurance cards get released, investigators like "Skids" O'Toole and Finn Edwards are going to have to justify not taking "You handle this one!" every campaign. Doesn't matter if it and Tennessee Sour Mash are or aren't good; the fact of the matter is, the're just aren't any other options (or so I claim, I would really like to be proven wrong on this one).

Lucaxiom · 48
If you’re building your deck with lots of money well connected and money talks also work — Django · 2027
You're forgetting Diana who also has 1 Willpower, though that's admittedly kind of dubious. Funny enough "You handle this one" onto Diana is actually a really strong play. The one thing I think you slightly neglected is that there are alternatives to YHTO in dealing with treacheries for the four investigators in question (Finn, Skids, Tony, Preston), and these alternatives are particularly important since playing any of them solo means YHTO is useless. Skids and Tony can take Steadfast, Take the Initiative, and Delay the Inevitable, which actually go a long way to mitigating the worst treacheries. Tony can also go Seeker and take Logical Reasoning and Inquiring Mind, or Survivor and take Perseverance and later Test of Will and Devil's Luck (which Preston can also do). Survivor Tony, Preston, and Finn can also embrace the failure a little bit with Take Heart, using it on any Will test as a means of gaining back some lost momentum, and Finn in particular really like Peter Sylvestre for the agility boost and horror soak. Finn can also take Logical Reasoning. Finally, all of them can take Sour Mash and Smoking Pipe, the former I like much more on the 2 Will guys than the 1 Will guys. So in every case there are solid alternatives to YHTO that makes it more than feasible to run these boys solo, but in any case I agree that for multiplayer YHTO is a heavy consideration and one of the best mitigation cards they have. I especially like it for Preston who's incredibly limited in doing anything during the Mythos phase. — StyxTBeuford · 438
Yeah, I agree it's a good card, but I wouldn't go so far as essential. I'm playing Finn in a Return to Carcosa campaign right now without any encounter mitigation whatsoever, and I honestly haven't felt the lack. I tend to think this card ultimately suffers from the problem a lot of "defensive" cards do, which is that the best defence against the encounter deck is to finish the scenario. It's one thing if you're a mystic/Carolyn etc who can mitigate more or less everything, but with the best will in the world (ha) my experience with Rogues are best served not worrying about their limited mitigation options entirely and focusing on compensating for their weakness to the encounter deck with action economy and cluevering speed. So, yeah, I disagree that you need to justify not taking this card as one of the relevant investigators. I honestly think people overestimate how much of an issue low will is :) — bee123 · 16
Eh, a badly timed Rotting Remains will always be an issue. But for Finn at least something like Frozen in Fear isn't that much of a killer, as he has access to extra actions just by being Finn. — StyxTBeuford · 438
You can't finish the scenario if you are dead and variance is a thing in this game so having defense against the Mythos is always a good idea (Solo and Multiplayer). If you draw for example 2 horror treacheries like Rotting Remains at the start of the scenario and you or your team don't have any mitigation (heal, cancel or skillboost) then you won't have a good time no matter the tempo of your deck/team, I can assure you that lol — Alogon · 237
Dr. Elli Horowitz

Tutors (i.e. cards that search your deck for a card and draws it) are only as strong as the selection of cards they can draw for you, which for the case for Dr. Horowitz, means she's as good as the relic cards in your deck. This observation, combined with the fact that the good doctor is a lvl 0 card, makes her a bit fiddly at the start of a campaign, where she'd feasibly be included unless you're willing to pay one exp for her later on.

There are, as of Dream-Eaters, six lvl 0 Relic cards, and only one relic, Tooth of Eztli. Of these relics, four occupy the accessory slot, which means extra relics in your deck will not be playable unless the first relic you play leaves your play area for some reason or other. This, coupled with the fact that the available relics don't synergies all that well, leaves Dr. Elli Horowitz rather lacklustre at best...

...Right until the likes of Key of Ys, Timeworn Brand, and Pnakotic Manuscripts start populating your deck, then you'll be praying she ends up in your starting hand. The more expensive the relic's resource cost, xp cost, and number of slots they occupy, the more value Elli will provide by completely ignoring the resource and slot costs, and speeding up the process of getting out your big hitter cards.

This doesn't make her any less fiddly though; once you're committing to including her in your deck, your selection of upgrades shrinks a fair bit. You'll likely be investing into at least one Relic Hunter and one Charisma, the former as insurance in case you draw two or more of your relics before Elli, and the latter because you'll likely want to include other allies in your deck, especially early on in a campaign where her usefulness is lacking. And of course a significant portion of your earned exp will be spent on relics, of which thankfully you get some leeway on where you want to take your deck, either in a combat-focused direction, or a more clue gathering angle, or a whole range of unorthodox functionality.

In conclusion, Dr. Elli Horowitz is the type of card you build an entire deck (and upgrade path) around; you certainly don't use her for her early-campaign power and then replace her once you get some exp. No half-measures; either she is the focus of your deck, or she isn't in your deck at all.

As for which investigators she'll likely be collaborating with often; naturally Ursula Downs has the relic synergy to make full use of Dr. Horowitz, and Mandy Thompson will get extra value from her tutoring effect. But special mention goes to Jim Culver, as the blog Rite Of Seeking made an excellent case for their pairing in their Big Relic Jim article (source:)

To summaries what said over there, Jim is the only investigator that can take Dr. Elli Horowitz and whose signature card is a relic (that doesn't start the game in your play area already), and to whom Enchanted Blade works nicely if it didn't occupy an arcane slot.

Lucaxiom · 48
The biggest problem with Elli is you can't Calling in Favors her or otherwise replace her without also discarding the exact card you searched for and grabbed with her. This includes something like Segment of Onyx, so she might find one or even two pieces for you in Mandy, but then you have to find some non-Rook way of getting the third piece (or maybe you already had the first or second piece). So if you're taking Elli in Mandy, you need to take Charisma. I think the real benefit of Elli is that she can take Ornate Bow and let you use it without taking two hand slots, so you can sort of use her like Daisy's Tote Bag or Joe's Colts as a means of carrying 4 hand slots worth of stuff. This I think makes her best used with an Ornate Bow Ursula build. Even there, your chances of whiffing are quite high. — StyxTBeuford · 438

Cancelling nasty treacheries is extremely powerful, especially for free, and especially especially when the only consequence is you having to a bit more of something you're probably specifically built around doing. Hell, if you're running Milan Money or similar incentives to investigate, you might even "break even" in terms of the action cost of putting down the clue.

It strikes me as particularly good for Joe Diamond in the main deck, as his big weakness is treacheries.

Jigurd · 5
Smoking Pipe

First, a quick rant; Fantasy Flight Games, why u no make it direct damage? This card (and it's counterpart Painkillers) are incredibly cool thematically; the concept of self-destructive habits is one that breaths even more life into our pseudo role-play of the investigators we build decks for. It legitimately saddens me when I consider that Rita's athletic career might be compromised by the as of yet not understood effects of smoking on the lungs. It brings me great satisfaction when I outfit Roland with a Trench Coat and a Smoking Pipe and complete the gritty noir-detective look.

Then the Painkillers-Peter Sylvestre combo became a staple and the horrific tragedy of it all disappears like so much lovecraftian-lite confetti. Muh immersion. MUH IMMERSION!

To be clear, I am not being serious; I know full well that a card game like this, with a million moving pieces, is not going to keep a straight face in the face of all the possible combinations. I've already accepted that this isn't always going to hold up as a grim horror experience, especially when I held off an eldritch god with two Attack Dogs for six rounds, that one time. Still, would have been nice.

Anyway, the review. You consider Smoking Pipe when you're playing a 9 health, 5 sanity investigator. That's it.

Okay, okay, I'll elaborate a bit: Smoking Pipe and Painkillers have one very obvious drawback; being defeated from damage or from horror holds little distinction. While you can assign damage to non-critical systems through these cards, they require that you've got a big difference in your remaining health and remaining sanity in order to have a noticeable effect in your survivability.

You might think that's the reason I'm recommending 9 health, 5 sanity investigators take this card, but that's only half the story. The other half is that the statement "being defeated from damage or from horror holds little distinction" does not hold for these investigators because mental trauma hits much harder and physical trauma hits far slighter. Starting with 8 health or 9 makes little difference; starting with 4 sanity or 5 does, and should be avoided at any cost.

So, other that the aforementioned Rita Young and Roland Banks, you should consider Painkillers when you play:

Lucaxiom · 48
I'm going to also advocate for this card in Diana. Diana is a Mystic who loves Arcane Research, but taking it means she's down to 5 starting Sanity. You can throw in a lot of cancels of course to help with that, but playing Diana is risky and has a tendency to throw horror on you. Smoking Pipe helps with this. Also, it is a good way to kill Arcane Initiate or David Renfield. — StyxTBeuford · 438