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.

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?

Announcing Arkham Horror: The Card Game

WithArkham Horror: The Card Game box cover. Investigators fight mythos monsters under a looming full moon.Fantasy Flight Games made an official announcement: they are publishing a cooperative Lovecraft-themed game called Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

There’s currently a handful of information wrapped up in marketing copy, but the nut of the game seems to be players choose one of five characters and build a deck around them, drawing from cards suited to a character’s classes. Roland Banks, for instance, can use Guardian cards of all levels, and Seeker cards up to level 2. Each character has some cards that are automatically included, both good things and bad things; to continue the example, Roland always has his .38 firearm and a strong dose of paranoia.

A sample layout of Arkham Horror: The Card Game shows two investigators' tableaus and the locations they will explore.

A sample layout of Arkham Horror: The Card Game shows two investigators’ tableaus and the locations they will explore.

Characters work together to defeat a series of scenarios, it seems, much like in Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, but with a persistent, legacy-style campaign structure. The campaign log sheet shows characters track the traumas, assets and weaknesses earned in each scenario. Furthermore, as characters advance through scenarios, they level up and gain access to new cards. It’s an interesting concept that brings in the character advancement portion of a role-playing game with the deck evolution aspect of something like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

When I first saw the news yesterday, I was immediately psyched, and not just because it was confirmation of rumors that started back in May. A cooperative card game with the Cthulhu mythos theme was exactly what I’ve been wanting. As much as I enjoyed playing Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, my least favorite part of it was the head to head competition. I’ve enjoyed cooperative games since I first found them with the 2005 revision of Arkham Horror and later Pandemic, and I especially like the theme of investigators struggling against the unknown forces of a universe far vaster and more inexplicable than they could have imagined.

This game will attract a different crowd of players to some extent. It’s not head to head competition, so people who enjoy that play style will continue looking elsewhere. The emphasis here seems to be on developing a narrative over the course of a campaign. This feels like an “experience game,” as my friend Rod likes to say, where years later, you’re still chuckling over the time the deputy of Arkham and his buddy Earl pulled up outside the general store, realized how many monsters were prowling around and immediately roared off again in the patrol wagon. I really hope this new card game follows suit, letting stories like that emerge from game play.

It’s been a delight to see how quickly the discussion for Arkham Horror gets moving over the last day. There’s a Boardgamegeek listing — and I am tickled to see people already trying to surmise an expansion release schedule — a subreddit, a Facebook group, a section on the Living Card Games community on Google+, and so on. It was a matter of two hours and change before someone said, “Hey, let’s make a podcast!” And I, of course, have been trying to visualize how to capture a four player game on camera for Decked!

With the impending end of the Sentinels of the Multiverse line, I was already missing having an ongoing game line to follow and get excited about. With luck, the Arkham LCG will be exactly what I’m looking for.

On the Skids in Eldritch Horror

A painted miniature of a male in a peacoat and cap, standing on a game board designed to resemble an archaic map of the world.
Last week, I carved out time to play the new Eldritch Horror expansion, Signs of Carcosa, with Alex, Rachel and Tom. Tom kindly hosted, meaning we got to enjoy his game table, previously seen here and now fully mounted on wonderfully sturdy legs. We also swapped out the cardboard standees for painted miniatures. Above is the figure I used for Skids O’Toole.

Seeing as he is the star of this new expansion, we played against Hastur. With two mysteries to win and a starting doom of 11, he seemed like he was meant to be a relatively short game, one way or another. The first mystery we solved fairly readily, and were well on our way to completing the second when we fell into that magical zone of the game taking away the one last thing we needed to win, over and over again.

I don’t know how Eldritch Horror manages it, but that game is really, really good at targeting just the right resource to make the players scramble and come up with a new strategy for getting their ducks lined up. In the end, it came down to the wire between solving the second mystery and doom advancing to zero. We shuffled some assets around to satisfy the mystery’s requirements and held our breath all the way through the mythos phase, waiting for that one last thing to snatch victory from our grasp again. Amazingly, the investigators managed to hold back the darkness a little while longer.

Decked! #29: School for Sorcerers vs Cops & Robbers

School for Sorcerers

Total Cards: (40)

Character: (25)
1x Nigel St. James (The Shifting Sands)
1x Son of Yeb (Core Set)
1x Whitton Greene (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Wizard of Yog-Sothoth (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Blood Magician (Conspiracies of Chaos)
2x Guardian of Dawn (Terror in Venice)
2x Archaeology Interns (Into Tartarus)
1x Unscrupulous Acquisitionist (The Gleaming Spiral)
2x Key-seeker (Curse of the Jade Emperor)
1x Magnus Stiles (Shadow of the Monolith)
1x Wilbur Whateley (The Key and the Gate)
1x Carl Stanford (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Arcane Initiate (Core Set)
1x Richard Pike (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x The Red-Gloved Man (Whispers in the Dark)
1x Andrew-Chapman (The Key and the Gate)
1x Cub Reporter (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Matthew Alexander (Seekers of Knowledge)
2x Alternative Historian (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Cultist of the Key (The Wailer Below)
1x The Day Dreamer (Twilight Horror)

Support: (8)
1x Guardian Pillar (Search for the Silver Key)
1x The Rays of Dawn (Twilight Horror)
1x Medico Della Peste (Terror in Venice)
2x Elder Binding (Aspirations of Ascension)
1x Rabbit’s Foot (The Spawn of the Sleeper)
2x Cryptic Writings (Search for the Silver Key)

Event: (5)
1x Calling the Williwaw (The Key and the Gate)
1x All are One (The Spoken Covenant)
1x Fist of Yog-Sothoth (That Which Consumes)
2x Feint (Secrets of Arkham)

Conspiracy: (2)
1x Unending Festivities (Terror in Venice)
1x Combing the Archives (Lost Rites)


Cops & Robbers

Total Cards: (40)

Character: (29)
1x Dreamlands Wanderer (Twilight Horror)
1x The Day Dreamer (Twilight Horror)
1x Aliki Zoni Uperetria (Seekers of Knowledge)
3x Carnevale Sentinel (Terror in Venice)
2x Henry Knoll (Denizens of the Underworld)
2x Clover Club Torch Singer (Core Set)
1x Hired Mystic (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Restless Caporione (Terror in Venice)
1x Clover Club Pit Boss (Denizens of the Underworld)
1x Bag Man (Core Set)
1x King Kuranes (Search for the Silver Key)
1x Triggerman (Core Set)
4x Professor Hermann Mulder (Core Set)
2x Agency Bodyguard (Journey to Unknown Kadath)
2x Mr. Grey (Conspiracies of Chaos)
1x Blackwood File Clerk (Core Set)
1x Educated Officer (Perilous Trials)
1x Church Operative (Terror in Venice)
1x Abbess Allegria Di Biase (Terror in Venice)
1x Jacques Artois (Never Night)

Support: (7)
1x The Setting Sun (Twilight Horror)
1x Arkham Asylum (Core Set)
1x The Gold Pocket Watch (Terror in Venice)
1x O’Bannion’s Ledger (Words of Power)
1x The White Ship (Journey to Unknown Kadath)
2x Cryptic Writings (Search for the Silver Key)

Event: (3)
2x Feint (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Bloodbath (The Cacophony)

Conspiracy: (1)
1x Death Comes for All (Terror in Venice)

This week, we wrap up Black Moon Games‘ Call of Cthulhu draft with Rod’s Agency and Syndicate deck Cops & Robbers and Tyler’s college of sorcerers from Miskatonic University, the Order of the Silver Twilight and Yog-Sothoth. Check out the side bar of this post for both their deck lists.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Black Moon Games, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Decked! #28: Cops & Robbers vs. Crimson Serpents

Cops & Robbers

Total Cards: (40)

Character: (29)
1x Dreamlands Wanderer (Twilight Horror)
1x The Day Dreamer (Twilight Horror)
1x Aliki Zoni Uperetria (Seekers of Knowledge)
3x Carnevale Sentinel (Terror in Venice)
2x Henry Knoll (Denizens of the Underworld)
2x Clover Club Torch Singer (Core Set)
1x Hired Mystic (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Restless Caporione (Terror in Venice)
1x Clover Club Pit Boss (Denizens of the Underworld)
1x Bag Man (Core Set)
1x King Kuranes (Search for the Silver Key)
1x Triggerman (Core Set)
4x Professor Hermann Mulder (Core Set)
2x Agency Bodyguard (Journey to Unknown Kadath)
2x Mr. Grey (Conspiracies of Chaos)
1x Blackwood File Clerk (Core Set)
1x Educated Officer (Perilous Trials)
1x Church Operative (Terror in Venice)
1x Abbess Allegria Di Biase (Terror in Venice)
1x Jacques Artois (Never Night)

Support: (7)
1x The Setting Sun (Twilight Horror)
1x Arkham Asylum (Core Set)
1x The Gold Pocket Watch (Terror in Venice)
1x O’Bannion’s Ledger (Words of Power)
1x The White Ship (Journey to Unknown Kadath)
2x Cryptic Writings (Search for the Silver Key)

Event: (3)
2x Feint (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Bloodbath (The Cacophony)

Conspiracy: (1)
1x Death Comes for All (Terror in Venice)


Crimson Serpents

Total Cards: (40)

Character: (19)
1x Brood of Yig (Whispers in the Dark)
2x Keeper of the Golden Path (Core Set)
2x Naaginn (Touched by the Abyss)
1x Padma Amrita (The Unspeakable Pages)
1x Poleman (Terror in Venice)
1x Ferocious Dark Young (Whispers in the Dark)
1x Harvesting Mi-Go (The Twilight Beckons)
1x Mi-Go Surgeon (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Priestess of Bubastis (Core Set)
1x Savio Corvi (Terror in Venice)
2x High Wizard of the Order (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
1x Initiate of Huang Hun (Curse of the Jade Emperor)
1x Lodge Librarian (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
1x The Claret Knight (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Dreamlands Wanderer (Twilight Horror)
1x Seeker of Mysteries (Secrets of Arkham)

Support: (12)
1x San Giorgio in Alga (Terror in Venice)
1x Shrine to Yig (Murmurs of Evil)
1x Book of Iod (Ebla Restored)
1x Dhole Tunnel (Twilight Horror)
1x Ritual of Inferno (That Which Consumes)
1x Cryptic Writings (Search for the Silver Key)
1x The Enchanted Wood (In Memory of Day)
1x Gentleman’s Club (Core Set)
1x Guardian Pillar (Search for the Silver Key)
2x The Setting Sun (Twilight Horror)
1x Terrors in the Dark (Secrets of Arkham)

Event: (6)
2x Disguised Threat (The Cacophony)
3x Midnight Rendezvous (In the Dread of Night)
1x Burrowing Beneath (Core Set)

Conspiracy: (3)
1x Into The Woods (Lost Rites)
1x Mass Hysteria (Terror in Venice)
1x Unending Festivities (Terror in Venice)

Black Moon Games‘ Call of Cthulhu draft continues with a match-up between Rod’s Agency and Syndicate alliance dubbed Cops & Robbers and Ray’s Cthulhu / Shub-Niggurath / Silver Twilight deck — the drafting of which has been detailed exhaustively — christened Crimson Serpents. Check out the side bar of this post for both their deck lists.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Black Moon Games, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Decked! #27: Crazy Wizards vs. School for Sorcerers

Crazy Wizards

Total Cards: (40)

Character: (25)
1x Elise Warren (Written and Bound)
1x N’yog-Sothep (Seekers of Knowledge)
2x Victoria Glasser (Core Set)
3x Bringer of Fire (Ancient Horrors)
1x Wandering Inmate (The Horror Beneath the Surface)
1x Painter of Delusion (Shadow of the Monolith)
2x Demented Phrenologist (The Twilight Beckons)
1x Old Man of the Woods (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
2x Performance Artist (Core Set)
1x Arcane Initiate (Core Set)
1x Hand of Aforgomon (The Key and the Gate)
1x Salvatore Neri (Terror in Venice)
1x Yog-Sothoth (Core Set)
1x Aliki Zoni Uperetria (Seekers of Knowledge)
2x High Wizard of the Order (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
2x Lodge Barkeep (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
1x Clifton Rosenberg (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
1x Lodge Librarian (The Order of the Silver Twilight)

Support: (5)
1x The Tattered Cloak (The Key and the Gate)
2x Arkham Asylum (Core Set)
2x Cryptic Writings (Search for the Silver Key)

Event: (10)
1x Apeirophobia (Never Night)
2x Fist of Yog-Sothoth (That Which Consumes)
1x Calling the Williwaw (The Key and the Gate)
1x All are One (The Spoken Covenant)
2x Feint (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Outmaneuvered (Denizens of the Underworld)
1x Polar Fog (At the Mountains of Madness)
1x Unbound! (The Order of the Silver Twilight)


School for Sorcerers

Total Cards: (40)

Character: (25)
1x Nigel St. James (The Shifting Sands)
1x Son of Yeb (Core Set)
1x Whitton Greene (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Wizard of Yog-Sothoth (Secrets of Arkham)
1x Blood Magician (Conspiracies of Chaos)
2x Guardian of Dawn (Terror in Venice)
2x Archaeology Interns (Into Tartarus)
1x Unscrupulous Acquisitionist (The Gleaming Spiral)
2x Key-seeker (Curse of the Jade Emperor)
1x Magnus Stiles (Shadow of the Monolith)
1x Wilbur Whateley (The Key and the Gate)
1x Carl Stanford (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Arcane Initiate (Core Set)
1x Richard Pike (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x The Red-Gloved Man (Whispers in the Dark)
1x Andrew-Chapman (The Key and the Gate)
1x Cub Reporter (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Matthew Alexander (Seekers of Knowledge)
2x Alternative Historian (Seekers of Knowledge)
1x Cultist of the Key (The Wailer Below)
1x The Day Dreamer (Twilight Horror)

Support: (8)
1x Guardian Pillar (Search for the Silver Key)
1x The Rays of Dawn (Twilight Horror)
1x Medico Della Peste (Terror in Venice)
2x Elder Binding (Aspirations of Ascension)
1x Rabbit’s Foot (The Spawn of the Sleeper)
2x Cryptic Writings (Search for the Silver Key)

Event: (5)
1x Calling the Williwaw (The Key and the Gate)
1x All are One (The Spoken Covenant)
1x Fist of Yog-Sothoth (That Which Consumes)
2x Feint (Secrets of Arkham)

Conspiracy: (2)
1x Unending Festivities (Terror in Venice)
1x Combing the Archives (Lost Rites)

In the first round of Black Moon Games‘ Call of Cthulhu draft, Toby fields Crazy Wizards against Tyler’s School for Sorcerers. It’s Hastur, Silver Twilight and Yog-Sothoth against Miskatonic University and Silver Twilight.

Check out the deck lists for both decks. Toby sorted their cards after getting home, so the Crazy Wizards  list is an approximation. Some possible other cards included were Nathan Wick and Erasmus Manor.

I said this during the commentary, but Blood Magician did amazing work in this draft for me. First it gave the edge in many icon struggles, and then it attracted other players’ ire, using up their resources taking out Blood Magician instead of focusing on other areas.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Black Moon Games, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Decked! #26: Call of Cthulhu January 2016 Draft Deckbuilding

Returning to the Call of Cthulhu draft held at Black Moon Games, Ray goes over the cards he’s pulled and his strategy for the upcoming matches against fellow players.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube to catch the whole series of games from Black Moon Games, and more live-on-tape card game fun.