Arkham Horror LCG: Mr. Pawterson

Arkham LCG card titled "Cherished Keepsake," with a picture of a teddy bear sitting on a child-sized bed.

In this age of previews, spoilers and advance information, I really enjoy the moments of delight when I discover something for the first time on my own, and immediately start making connections.

Case in point, my Arkham Horror: The Card Game group recently took up the “Night of the Zealot” campaign, in which I’m playing as Yorick the gravedigger. Just hours before our side trip to Louisiana yesterday, the Echoes of the Past pack appeared in the local game store. I try to stay ignorant of what’s in these expansions, so I got to be surprised and delighted by Cherished Keepsake, which is a nifty little 0-cost asset that can absorb 2 points of horror. Since Yorick plays cards out of his discard pile, 0-cost things like the Keepsake and Leather Coat are helpful ways to shake off horror and damage.

Yorick still ended last night’s “Curse of the Rougarou” with 4 damage and 4 sanity on him, but he’d’ve gone down well before then without having Mr. Pawterson[1] around to console him. And it was a discovery I got to make all on my own, right off the bat with a fresh pack of cards.


[1] First Beary Manitou in Northern Crown and now Mr. Pawterson. Named bears are becoming a motif in my tabletop pursuits.

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Arkham Horror LCG: Carnevale of Horrors

Our first tangle with “Carnevale of Horrors” for the Arkham Horror card game. The yellow trash can in the lower left was our way of remembering which of the masked revelers were secretly monsters. Little did we realize the encounter deck had a card to prevent such tactics.

Send in the Clones

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Regrettably, this is no tie-in to the derided Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Up the Long Ladder.” Rather, the first weekly one-shot of Sentinels of the Multiverse post Vengeance release features the team villain mode, in which Baron Blades brings some allies, Proletariat and Fright Train, to help take down America’s Youngest Legacy, the Southwest Sentinels and Setback.

All three hero decks in this one-shot feature HP recovery, often as a rider on dealing some damage or some other useful feature, which is often helpful, especially for the Sentinels, since they’re a team of lower HP heroes.

The advice going into this one was to focus on hitting Fright Train first. Proletariat injures himself depending on the number of clones in play, so he did more to remove himself from the game than anyone else, though the Idealist lent some psychic damage to speed things along. Destroying Genetically Fused Physique with Setback’s “Whoops! Sorry!” means Blade starts injuring himself as well, and no one’s doing very large instances of damage, so Superhuman Durability seemed like a decent candidate to sacrifice.

Arkham Horror LCG: The Devourer Below

Wendy finds herself confronted by two Deep Ones, by way of Monsterpocalypse figures.

For the third and final scenario of the Night of the Zealot introductory campaign for Arkham Horror: The Card Game, we found ourselves short one plucky librarian, owing to the whims of the weather. So Ray, Tom and I decided we’d call this a practice run and see what happened before playing “for real” when Carlo could join us.

In short and without getting spoilery, we got housed. We had one decent shot at achieving anything resembling a victory, but the path to that pyrrhic, ethically ambiguous victory was clogged with extraneous monsters and there was no way to clear it.

The general consensus seems to be the introductory scenarios are highly variable. Some people report walking through them without breaking a sweat. Others, like I and my friends, get walloped every time and seemingly without any ability to fight back. I imagine we’re just not playing very efficiently and that people who are more used to this style of cooperative card game — Arkham reportedly shares as much DNA with Lord of the Rings: The Card Game as it does with Netrunner, if not more — are more used to the deck design and play style that gets stuff done in spite of the endless series of obstacles the game throws up.

Umordhorth, the Devourer Below, as rendered in a Monsterpocalypse figure, is unimpressed by investigators who futilely scrabble to throw tasty morsels in its maw.

Also, Tom wanted me to talk more about what he did during the game, so I guess I’ll mention that Skids got trapped in the woods and spent the remainder of the game, which was four or more turns, completely unable to get out of that location or contribute to the nonsense happening just one space over.

Furthermore, during setup for the game Tom couldn’t find his tokens — they were hidden under a Terry Pratchett novel — so after tearing his basement apart, we mocked up a chaos deck with a stack of playing cards.

Arkham Horror LCG: The Midnight Masks

Player markers for Skids, Wendy, Agnes and Daisy cluster on the starting location for a scenario of Arkham Horror: The Card Game, with clue tokens scattered before them.

Playing with old school Arkham Horror standees and fancy tokens from Stonemaier Games, courtesy Carlo.

Picking up after playing through The Gathering, Ray joined to make the group a quartet. Ray played Wendy, while Carlo, Tom and I kept Daisy, Skids and Agnes, respectively.

This was not an easy scenario. Three players handled The Gathering really well — way better than my two player attempts previously — but we struggled to get any traction with Midnight Masks. Every other encounter card took away the resource we had to accumulate to advance to victory. Carlo thought it was just a rough draw, but I’m inclined to think it’s a deliberately tough scenario, with the intent that the players do the best they can and get out. Possibly it’s to teach players that knowing when to resign is important in campaign play like this. It’s certainly in keeping with the themes of Lovecraftian stories and role-playing. Most anecdotes about doing well in a Call of Cthulhu scenario — for relative values of well — end with “and then the survivors ran.”

Second time out with Agnes, I found her even more perplexing. She’s not a strong investigator, but that’s what I found myself doing. In retrospect, I should have looked more closely at her spells, as they’re more about dealing with enemies and interfering with the encounter deck.

Next time we play, I’ll keep that in mind as discover whether what we uncovered during “The Midnight Masks” will be enough to help us through the final chapter of this Arkham Horror mini-campaign.

Prime Wardens Are Go

A collage of the achievement screens for unlocking the five Prime Warden variants in Sentinels of the Multiverse.Thanks to the industrious players over on the Sentinels of the Multiverse video game forum, the unlock conditions for the Prime Warden identities were all figured out over the last couple weeks. After an extended hiatus from the digital version of Sentinels — Steam had me down as last playing in September — I decided to see how many of the Prime Wardens I could unlock over the weekend. I have a certain affection for this team, because they were the first set of promo cards that I got directly on my own, as part of preordering Wrath of the Cosmos. I’ve never known how to use them because I don’t get to play in reality as often as I might like, but I feel an attachment to the team as the promo cards that I didn’t proxy.

Argent Adept was, weirdly, the trickiest for me to unlock. I had a couple false starts as I bounced among devices and had to ensure multiple times that I had met both halves of the unlock. As the Adept is well-suited to making this happen on his own, the second half came down to remembering whether I had indeed played all the instruments. Captain Cosmic’s Dynamic Siphons are always helpful to the Adept using powers off-turn.

Captain Cosmic and Tempest unlocked in the same session in Dok’Thorath. Prime Warden Argent Adept and America’s Greatest Legacy put their powers towards helping Cosmic dig through his deck for Energy Bracers, and have the cards to pay for redirecting damage from Abject Refugees. The Visionary came along to sift the environment for the refugees themselves and ablate the less ignorable cards.

By the time Captain Cosmic’s variant was unlocked, we were well into the game and Tempest had inadvertently set up most of what he needed for his own unlock. Adept and Legacy assisted in fishing out the remainder of his unlock setup and the game ended with Tempest administering the coup de grace on Argent Adept’s turn.

Fanatic versus Apostate went quietly. Argent Adept and America’s Greatest Legacy led the team again, to help Fanatic dig for cards, since the Redeemer variant doesn’t start with a damaging ability. Dark Visionary minded the top of Apostate’s deck, getting the demons in play that Fanatic needed to clean up for her unlock condition.

For Haka, I played cautiously, because I don’t relish deliberately incapacitating heroes. Once Savage Mana was out, I made sure all of Ambuscade’s devices were stashed there before eliminating the other heroes. Captain Cosmic and the Wraith’s big finishing moves took out two heroes in one turn, and then Haka was able to polish off the rest, before restoring himself to full health and then closing out the game with his own big finisher to clean Ambuscade’s 1 HP clock.

Arkham Horror LCG: The Gathering

Wendy and Roland's marker cards cluster around the Attic location, teeming with clue tokens.

Wendy and her friend Roland explore the attic of the nightmarish Escher monstrosity her home has become.

At the risk of excess melodrama, the Arkham Horror card game has been a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Fall’s traditionally a busy time of year for me, with both Carnage in the offing and my professional commitments. Once it was pretty clear that the game would be available November 10th, I wanted to make a point to get the first game in as soon as possible. Usually, I get a game and it takes two or more months to get some people together to play it, especially in November as we’re all wiped from Carnage and the holidays are ramping up. So I was pretty happy that my friend Tom was free last night and interested enough to give the game a try. Three and a half hours from purchase to play is probably a new record for me.

The first session is always a learning experience. Fantasy Flight’s new model of a short rulebook and a longer, encyclopedia-style volume of rules concepts worked pretty well. The short Learn to Play rulebook basically walks you through setting up and playing the introductory scenario. I noticed what seemed to be some discrepancies in card names and numbers when assembling the encounter deck, so I think that may have affected this particular session, since not every ghoul made it into the encounter deck.

Like Netrunner, Arkham has an action economy. Each investigator can do three things on their turn, selected from a list of choices, including things like draw a card, gain a resource, investigate a location and so on. Figuring out the efficiencies of the game — when and how is it best to gain resources, for instance — is going to be one of the first steps to being a better player.

In this first session, Tom and I took the approach of pushing through the investigators’ act cards as quickly as we could, reasoning that the advancement of the agenda would only make ours lives more difficult. In retrospect and without divulging spoilers, that may not have been the best choice, as it meant we didn’t spend time exploring every location or drawing useful cards from our decks.

On first blush, I like the way the game plays. It has an elegance that comes from how both Netrunner and Eldritch Horror mapped mechanics to their respective themes. It’s very role-playing game-like, with unexpected developments built into a scenario and not necessarily loss conditions, but “worst result” situations.

I’m a little concerned that there’s not a lot of meaningful replay value in an individual scenario, unless one enjoys taking every possible character configuration — now Wendy armed for combat, and then Roland as a hyper-investigator, and how about Daisy with guns! — through the story line, which reminds me an awful lot of grinding characters through certain entries in the Final Fantasy console franchise, or playing against progressively higher difficulty settings. The flip side of that is Fantasy Flight has a steady stream of expansion products planned that I may never have time or inclination to go back to the core box scenarios, unless I’m teaching the game to newcomers.

Netrunner certainly taught me that one new product every month will challenge my ability to squeeze in both modifying decks to take advantage of new investigator cards and carving out times with friends to play through the new scenarios. Deckbuilding in Arkham is less onerous than Netrunner, happily, as it’s a single 30 card deck and players don’t develop a new list for league night every week.

And I’m curious to see how deckbuilding works out over the course of a campaign. If people play the scenarios as they’re released, rather than waiting until the full cycle’s worth of cards are available, how many of them are going to utilize the rules for paying to swap cards in and out?

Harbinger of Melancholy

The victory screen against Spite, Agent of Gloom, showing a tombstone, cracked vertically.

This week’s one-shot against the variant Spite villain, Agent of Gloom, felt like a slog in the making. I took advice from the forums and used Wraith’s Infrared Eyepiece and Dark Visionary’s Turmoil to put victims on the bottom of Spite’s deck, and then used Super Scientific Tachyon’s Experiment power to put those victims into play. Within two turns, Spite had flipped to his Broken Vessel side, with a single drug up, which reduced the first instance of damage done to him on a turn by -2.

After the first few turns of Spite dealing damage, it became excitement by repetition. Spite’s damage was reduced by Stun Bolts and Twist the Ether, or blocked entirely with Hypersonic Assault and Throat Jab. Sky-Scraper dealt irreducible damage with Catch a Ride or Compulsion Canister — and then recycled Compulsion Canister. And the environment of Omnitron IV was a non-issue thanks to Visionary spamming Mass Levitation, along with Wraith’s Mega-Computer.

If you want to see this one played out, see LewdDolphin21’s playthrough on YouTube.

Ghosts of Gift-Mas Past

Victory screen of Sentinels of the Multiverse: Gloomweaver defeated by Argent Adept, America's Greatest Legacy and Guise.

Going into this one-shot, the accounts were it was a long slog due to no high damage dealers on the team, so I opted against recording it. As it happened, the game went on for so long that I paused it overnight and came back to finish during lunch the next day.

Too much of the early game was spent playing defensively. I had the Adept using Counterpoint Bulwark repeatedly to make everyone resistant to zombies, or having Legacy double-tap Next Evolution to ward off the most common forms of villain damage, cycling among melee, toxic and infernal.

Guise was doing most of the damage, largely the plinky sort. Somewhere I got off track from defending effectively and things spiraled downward for Guise after that. Once the team was down to the Adept and Legacy, I spent a lot of time turtling by letting the Adept take the hits and heal back up with Inspiring Supertonic, or getting Backfist Strikes back from the trash.

My big takeaway from this game is having experimented with bouncing power uses between America’s Greatest Legacy and the Adept effectively. Send a power use over to Legacy with the Supertonic and have him send it right back with Gung Ho for a free hit point. Also, have Legacy use Gung Ho on himself when he’s low on health, too!

This was probably the first game I used Cedistic Dissonant repeatedly. With Instrumental Conjurations to burn, it hurt a lot less to give up an instrument, especially when the reward is removing any destructible card from play, such as Anubis or any number of environmental annoyances pouring out from the god’s tomb.