In The Arkham Horror Expansion Guide, I recommended Black Goat of the Woods as a solid choice for a new owner’s first expansion to Arkham Horror. With a few more plays under my belt since then, I’ve recognized there are some major flaws to how the cult encounters work; namely, the places where investigators get those encounters, which are supposed to be “fun” in the Arkham Horror sense of the term, aren’t available most of the time, because the locations in which they occur are frequently replaced by gates to Other Worlds.
Having been thinking about that lately — and my dereliction in still having not gotten around to trying The Lurker at the Threshold — I ran across the alternate Black Goat of the Woods herald, created by a fan of the game. It was designed to promote the use of the expansion’s new elements, as well as make the herald’s effects somewhat more manageable. I never got around to playing with the original Black Goat herald — I think I’ve played with a herald only once or twice; we have enough difficulty winning without throwing a herald in the mix most of the time — but I like the looks of what this variation adds.
For example, as the expansion is written, an investigator may only chance into a cult membership, depending on the encounter card they draw at the Unvisited Isle, the Woods or the Black Cave. With this new version of the herald, someone visiting one of those locations must buy a membership, either with stamina or monster trophies. Now those cult encounters will start flowing a bit more freely.
I wonder if perhaps cult encounters should replace normal encounters at any unstable location? Investigators still need to visit those places to collect clue tokens as they appear, and they won’t all be replaced by gates. The cult encounters themselves would probably need to be revised somewhat to be a little more forgiving, if that were the case. They’re almost entirely deleterious to the poor investigator suffering through them, from what I recall.