Scarlet Keys: Customizables #4

Introduction

And here’s the final four Customizable cards from The Scarlet Keys with some thoughts on what can be done with the upgrades.

Living Ink

This is a card that i think is actually already decent at level zero. Three turns of willpower+1 (or something else, of course) for an action and a card sound perfectly fine to me. But it gets better quick with just a bit of investment.
Subtle Depiction + Imbued Ink(3XP, level 2): Makes the tattoo last for 5 turns, with the option to stretch it further by skipping the occasional turn. With two of these in the deck, this can already be enough to last the whole scenario. Makes it take up the arcane slot, which is probably an issue but can in some cases be beneficial if you don’t need them or actually want two tattoos in play at the same time. Pretty good for those that actually might want to boost something else than their willpower like Norman/Daisy (intellect) or Sefina (agility).
Subtle Depiction + Eldritch Ink (3XP, level 2): This is the boring, but safe option, which gives three turns with +1 to two of your skills in exchange for the body slot. I expect this to be a common thing for Amina who can really use the skill bonuses. She might upgrade it with Vibrancy to 6XP later on and/or add an additional skill.
Macabre Depiction + Vibrancy (6XP, level 3): Mainclass mystics can get themselves a nice +2 to willpower from their otherwise relatively uncontested body slot as long as they are ready to accept -1 to the others. Many mystics will be fine with that. And as long as they can reveal a symbol token per turn, they can keep it up.
Subtle Depiction + Imbued Ink + Vibrancy (6XP, level 3): So, this is probably overdoing it a bit, but… you can put two Living Ink in your arcane slots and get +4 to your chosen skill (…and -2 to the others) for 5+ turns. Doing so will take up your arcanes.
Eldritch Ink + Eldritch Ink + Macabre Depiction+ Subtle Depiction(9XP, level 5): This is the high end version that doesn’t use Imbued Ink. The card stays in the Body slot and the two Depiction upgrades have to do the work towards keeping the card in play (Also, having a second copy helps!). Getting that to work seems entirely reasonable and your payoff is a straight +1 to three attributes. Pretty good if you use all of them!
Eldritch Ink + Eldritch Ink + Imbued Ink + Vibrancy (10XP, level 5): If you really want to, you can get +2 to three of your skills and -1 to the last one. Or play both of them for +4/-2. Probably not really worth going in that deep, though. If i were to throw 10XP at this card while using Imbued Ink, it would more be like:
Macabre Depiction + Eldritch Ink + Imbued Ink + Vibrancy (10XP, level 5): As before, but you get the bonus to only two of your skills… which would usually be enough? Cutting that second Arcane Ink makes room for Macabre Representation. With 5 charges and the ability to refill them on a symbol token, they just might not run out at all.

Makeshift Trap

At its level zero, this is a bit too awkward to use, but just a few XP already make a big difference here. With a bit more investment, this does some cool things that aren’t really possible otherwise.
Net + Improved Timer(4XP, level 2): Dropping this at your feet and setting it for 3 turns can hold up Hunters that are on your tail. It’s limited to non-Elite but it still sounds like a thing that would be very helpful in Forgotten Age or Innsmouth.
Remote Configuration + Poisonous(4XP, level 2): A very solid way of dealing with cultists that doesn’t require you to move into their location. Will kill the enemy before it gets to contribute doom to the agenda.
Simple + Net (5XP, level 3): Making the Trap gain fast allows dropping it while engaged without an attack of opportunity. Doing so would be useful for the -1 to fight and evade. After evading, the enemy would be caught in the Net for two turns, allowing a quick getaway. Basically, this turns into an interesting variant on Slip Away.
Improved Timer + Tripwire + Explosive Device(6XP, level 3): So 6XP buy you two copies of a Dynamite Blast that you can leave somewhere to go off as soon as an enemy enters the location. That actually sounds very useful!
Improved Timer + Tripwire + Explosive Device + Net (9XP, level 3): Improving on the Fire Trap from before, the Net means you can set the timer to 3 turns instead of 1 turn and see if you can’t catch more than just one enemy to blow up.

Honed Instinct

This one has an upgrade that seems just mandatory to me, this card is clearly designed around being used with Impulse Control.
Impulse Control + Killer Instinct (4XP, level 2): Once you take Impulse Control, there’s one more of the conditions you can add before you leave the level 2 range. Killer Instinct seems to me like the best one, since getting an immediate action when engaged by a Hunter can prevent an attack and just in general, getting an extra action at the start of combat seems great. Dexter can play assets as a fast trigger and might be more interested in Muscle Memory for that reason.
Impulse Control + Sharpened Talent(5XP, level 3): Spending another 2XP on Sharpened Talent results in 3 enhanced skill tests. That seems really useful, especially if you plan on taking Killer Instinct and/or Gut Reaction as well, as those two are most likely to lead into an action requiring a test.
Impulse Control + Force of Habit(8XP, level 4): If your rogue doesn’t draw a lot of cards and doesn’t expect to see their played cards anways, then removing them for an extra action is very impactful. That’s a very respectable 6 bonus actions. The final 2XP can go towards triggers that allow playing these more consistent.
Impulse Control + Force of Habit + Sharpened Talent(10XP, level 5): You can get all three of the big upgrades for Honed Instinct which will give you an impressive six actions with +2 skill for each of them. But it won’t allow for further triggers, so this is likely only viable if you can trigger an oversuccess by 3 somewhat reliably. That might be too big of an ask unless you are Winifred or Tony. But i suspect that at least Wini doesn’t want Force of Habit because she can actually expect to redraw her deck?

Custom Modifications

At level zero, this is a bit expensive, but that ability is actually quite powerful already. Getting a do-over on your first shot each round sounds great to me. Looking at the upgrade sheet, Extended stock seems pretty mandatory to me again (unless you plan on modding a Lightning Gun, i guess). +2 skill and a redraw on your first token will make it hard to miss.
Since the upgrades are rather expensive by themselves there’s not a whole lot of combinations available to offclass Guardians. If they use this card, it will probably be with a single upgrade like Stock, Magazine or Bullets.
Extended Stock + Leather Grip (5XP, level 3): Allows your guardian to flex on his fellow survivors and their cute little Jury-Rigs with something that is more expensive, but also a lot more potent. Jury-Rig has been great for me, so this combination has me excited despite the costs!
Extended Stock + Quicksilver Bullets (6XP, level 3): One asks for oversuccess, the other gives a skill bonus? Seems like a no-brainer to use the Quicksilvers only with the Stock.
Extended Stock + Extended Magazine (6XP, level 3): Aww, why does it specify “event”, i would’ve loved to use this with Tommy’s ability to put tokens on Becky. Actually, that *is* probably why. Still, the Extended Mags seem great for extending the lifespan of your weapon, something you obviously want to do when you throw upgrades on there.
Extended Stock + Extended Magazine + Counterbalance (8XP, level 4): I’m rather skeptical about Counterbalance being worth it except for really gimmicky Voltron decks. But if you do Counterbalance, then the Extended Mags also seem like a must-have. When you are going as far as stacking many upgrades on one gun, you want it to last as far as possible (Becky is the exception, Tommy can keep her restocked by default).
Extended Stock + Quicksilver Bullets + Extended Magazine + Notched Sight (10XP, level 5): If i had to spend 10XP on this card, that’s what i’d do. I’d actually stick to 9XP and drop the Sight. With +2 skill and a redraw on the chaos token, i feel like i won’t be missing a lot of shots. But sure, might as well add it. You can do Leather Grip instead of the Magazine, but if we are throwing this much XP at the upgrade, we aren’t going to complain about a resource and an action, right? Seems much more useful to make sure we can use the gun more often.

Hot Takes: The Investigators of The Scarlet Keys

Introduction

Here’s an overview over the six new playable characters that we are getting with the Scarlet Keys Investigator Expansion. I am writing this on the final week before release. We have the full spoiler of cards (albeit in Spanish), but i don’t actually have played any of them. So keep this in mind going forwards, i didn’t call this one “Hot Takes” for nothing.
What i want to do here is take an extended look at everyone and brainstorm some first ideas on where to take these investigators on my first play with them. Afterwards i want to collect my thoughts on these investigators and how the Scarlet Keys box presents itself to new players and veterans.

Carson Sinclair: The Butler

Carson follows similar deckbuilding as Tony, Mandy and Gloria: Picking either Seeker, Mystic or Survivor, he gets to play all cards from Guardian and up to 10 level 0-1 events or skills from the chosen side class. This deckbuilding is quite a bit worse than the standard 5/2 split, something that Tony, Mandy and Gloria got compensated for with absolutely fantastic statlines (actually among the best in their classes) and powerful investigator abilities. Looking at Carson, we see a rather dreadful 2/2/2/2 statline instead and also the 6/6 stamina/sanity split that already was a pain to work with on Lola. Looks like we are going to have to face an uphill battle for this one. Supposed to turn it all around is his investigator ability and to be fair, it’s a great one. There’s a couple of investigators whose abilities basically translate to an action, but always with some conditions attached like on Tony or Ursula. Carson does get a full free action and in fact, it’s even better than that. He gives this ability to anyone at his location, which affords a good amount of flexibility. Also, this action can be used in a way to weave turns into each other, breaking up the usual sequencing of turns.
The question then becomes whether this action makes up for otherwise being severely hampered to contribute to anything requiring a test. And the answer is a clear “Eeeeh, kinda? I think? Maybe?” As long as you are able to minimize the impact of your statline by playing cards that work without tests, you can contribute and still get that powerful extra action for your team. This does of course limit your deckbuilding even further, but it’s certainly doable.
His signature skill is pretty good and he does get two of them, so that’s something to appreciate. His weakness is fine. Similar to Ursula’s Call of the Unknown in how it works, but with only 1 horror instead of 2 as a penalty. Thank god, 2 horror on there with 6 sanity would’ve been an issue. But like this is perfectly okay.

My initial rating: He’s likely fine but I’m not a fan. I can see how he can work out, but my biggest issue isn’t even about the power of him. It’s that he doesn’t really bring anything to the table in terms of deck building that wasn’t already there. I wish his investigator ability would be something that rewards him for playing support cards, like getting an extra resource/card when playing such a card on someone else. Anything that interacts with his deck, that gives him something he can do better than anyone else. Or some novel deckbuilding with 0-4 skills or something. Because as is, he’s just very limited in what you can do with him. And what you can do with his deck can be done with other investigators already, so there’s just nothing new for me to get excited about.
I do however think that from a pure power level he is fine. On the lower end, though.

Ideas: There’s two parts to this. One, what to do with his own deck and his own three actions. Two, who to pair him with because that’s whats going to determine the worth of his investigator ability. For his own actions, i see him best as a clue hound, using testless events to collect clues while throwing out some extra card, money and/or healing for the team. Each of the three classes has something like that to offer for clues and Guardian has some as well. Another idea that i didn’t come up myself, but read about on the Mythos Busters Discord: Carson can use Blessing of Isis on someone else to trigger both their and his own Elder Sign ability at the same time. While that alone probably doesn’t make him better at blessing than Mary or even Tommy, it’s at least something that only he can do. As for who to pair him with, anyone will work really and in the end it’s just about total party composition. Amanda Sharpe however sticks out in how well she can use additional actions to make her skills last longer. There’s also Skids whose ability to buy an extra action is limited to once per turn (instead of once per rounds like most investigators) so he can double up on the action he got from Carson. Finally, Luke’s ability to reach into other locations with events is also limit once per turn, so Carson could double that up… but since he can’t follow into the Dream-Gate, I’m not sure how useful that is in practice.

Vincent Lee, the Doctor

Not exactly a typical member of the Seeker class, Vincent has more than just clues on his mind. He’s a healer and also one of the few Seekers that are decent at fighting. He’s actually the most fighty of the six investigators in the box. He can only take Seeker up to level 3, however he can take any card that heals damage and also up to 15 cards from Guardian or Survivor up to level 1 in any combination. Despite being barred from Seeker 4 and 5 this is a very flexible way of deckbuilding, as fans of Carolyn Fern can attest to.
His investigator ability hands out free Unexpected Courages when healing, with the only limitation being that each player can only hold one at a time. That makes his ability stack not as well as Carolyn’s does, but it’s still a very nice effect and useful for anyone.
His other signature is the Bonesaw, a reasonable weapon in his hands that can also do some emergency amputations when needed. Funky. And fun.
His weakness, the Wounded Bystander, is quite unique. If he dies, Vincent suffers trauma. But if he doesn’t there are actually a good amount of opportunities to gain value out of this weakness. I suspect the play is often going to be to not heal him to full and instead keep him around

My initial rating: I really like how flexible he is. He’s support. He’s a fighter. And as a seeker with 4 intellect he’s going to grab his fair share of clues as well. Hell, he can work as the main clue seeker and just do some light healing on the side. I’m looking forward to playing him, this sort of flexibility appeals to me.

Ideas: The idea of using the Gateway to Paradise version of the Archive of Conduits with Vincent is sort of stuck in my head as something i want to do. Add a Surgical Kit and you’ll be drowning in value. Of course that’s only two cards, so the rest of the deck can still go in whatever direction. I am currently eyeing a fighting direction, using Derringer, Meat Cleaver and Survival Knife as the weapons?

Kymani Jones, the Security Consultant

Kymani is a bit of a weird one for me. They are a rogue with 5 agility and a decent ability to turn that evasion into a way to defeat enemies. But their deckbuilding once again doesn’t do it for me. At least not yet. In addition to the usual Rogue 0-5, Kymani can play all Tool traited cards up to level 4. This is potentially great, i like traitbased deck rules a lot because they lead to new combinations of cards that weren’t possible before. But Tool simply isn’t a trait that has many options that actually excite me for Kymani specifically. The list of tools pre-Scarlet Keys mostly consists of investigation tools and a couple survivor weapons, but with 2 intellect and 2 fight, Kymani’s not really set up well to use them. The Riot Whistle is really the only thing that looks like it might be a thing for them, but playing the Whistle over one of the rogue accessories is going to need some serious convincing… Scarlet Keys does include a couple tools that are more interesting, like the Dissection Tools (a agility/fight spin on the Hawk-Eye Folding Camera that gets counters for defeating enemies) or Fingerprint Kit(4) which is powerful enough that it might just be worth working more for it. Still, it’s rather limited and as a 5 agility rogue with almost Rogue-only deckbuilding Kymani does have some considerable overlap with Winifred (but with wildly different investigator abilities of course). The designers acknowledged this shallow card pool and gave them an extra 5XP to start out, just like was done for Mateo in TFA. I quite like this and i do actually think that this bonus does a good deal towards opening up some lines of play that other investigators might not have or only after a few scenarios in.
Their signature asset is the Grappling Hook, an asset that lets them take three different actions. Unless you are engaged to multiple enemies (or there are no enemies around at all), there should be a way to use evade, move and investigate in some order that makes sense.
Agent Fletcher, Kymani’s weakness, is not a huge issue at all. Evading him works still well enough and for the most part i expect to just throw a Backstab at the guy as soon as he shows up.

My initial rating: Sure, seems fine. I am not completely blown away because of the limited pool of cards they can take. But their ability to discard enemies through evasion puts a spotlight on a couple cards that i didn’t give the time of day before, like for example Stealth. It also gives them a solid niche despite superficial similarities to Wini in terms of skills and card access. In any case, an investigator that cares about a specific trait is only ever going to raise in value as more expansions release and feed into this trait (unless that trait is Illicit, apparently…) Tool is a very common one and even if the number of relevant cards is still quite low, this can potentially change very fast.

Ideas: The 5XP handout is tempting to use on some expensive Exceptional card early on. Getting a Charon’s Obol and saving up the rest will pretty much make sure that you can go for something like a Double, Double or Borrowed Time after the first scenario. Or maybe just blow it all on a Customizable. The rogue ones all don’t scream at me to invest into them massively, but Kymani can take the Pocket Multi Tool and check up to eight boxes on it. With their bonus XP and an In the Thick of It, they can do so at character creation already.

Amina Zidane, the Operator

Amina breaks the mold because she’s for once a mystic that doesn’t care (exclusively) about Willpower. Instead she has an even spread of skills, which is both a blessing and a curse: She can be built towards using any of them, but she isn’t really great at any of them by default. So whatever we are trying to do with her, we’re going to have to work for it a bit. In terms of deckbuilding she, like Kymani, gets to take level 0-4 of a trait in addition to her main class. That trait is Charm. Like with Tool, this is a trait that is spread across classes but not with very many options. They are also mostly tied to the accessory slot, with only few charms sitting in the arcane or hand slots instead. That being said, there’s certainly some very good cards among the list of Charms and they are diverse enough that this card access can be taken in different directions.
Her investigator ability allows her to play assets for cheap, but with a doom cost instead. This is a rather massive boost for her economy, 3 resources per turn without an action cost is immense. But you do have to do something about the doom of course. This can mean getting rid of the assets before the agenda catches up, removing the doom with some player card or masking it with one of the new cards from Scarlet Keys, Elle Rubash.
Her signature cards continue this doom theme. One of them allows using an asset without any costs, but adding a doom. The other gives a sizeable skill bonus to any test on an asset with doom on it. Drawing these in the right order and when you need them is probably going to be a bit of a crap-shoot and i am mildly concerned about there not being any icons on these two cards. We’ll see how this works out, but put me in the skeptical camp for now. Her weakness makes one of the doom tokens she’s been playing around with permanent by moving it to the agenda. I feel like this is not as bad as it sounds? If you are playing Amina, you probably count on advancing the agenda a turn or two early sometimes and try to make up for it in other ways.

My initial rating: Innately very powerful, as long as you are able to overcome the 3/3/3/3 line of skills. Aside from this very surface level take, I don’t have a very strong opinion on her yet. She’s the one where i am least able to relate her to existing options to gauge her.

Ideas: For Amina, i have my eyes on one specific card, the Living Ink. That could be the crucial piece to get Amina’s skills to a level where she can work well with a variety of assets. The other card that can help with the skill issue would be the Dream Diary which – for some reason – actually is a Charm and thus in Amina’s wheelhouse.
Another card that might be interesting if the Charm access is worth building into is The Hierophant. Since Amina doesn’t need to use her arcane slots as much as other mystics, she could put her various accessories in there.
Regarding the doom issue, i think i am most interested in trying to use it with temporary assets, with just a few doom staying on the board to be hidden behind Elle Rubash. That set of handheld Charm items look mostly uninteresting to me personally.

Darrell Simmons, the Photographer

Finally something normal and open-ended. Darrell is our long awaited Survivor/Seeker, following the 5/2 mainclass/subclass split introduced by the Core Set investigators. That is a rather impressive pool of cards for cluevers especially, and Darrell stakes down his claim further with a stellar intellect of 5.
His investigator ability allows him to lower the difficulty of tests, a very open-ended and powerful effect. It is however limited by the amount of evidence tokens he has available and there’s not many cards that provide these.
One of those cards is his signature of course. It allows getting more evidence, but will in many cases require discovering clues with an enemy around. That means either evading the enemy himself (not unreasonable with 3 agility and full survivor access), finding clues through Fast means (like Working a Hunch) or just hiding behind someone else. Well, or taking attacks of opportunity, i guess :> In any case, the Kodak alone will need some help doing its thing consistently, but since you start out with it in play that seems absolutely fine.
His weakness looks like a nightmare to me. Removing 4 evidence is going to be awful, considering that you usually had to work for them. And taking a bunch of horror isn’t ideal either, so just spending all evidence asap isn’t going to be great either. At least Darrell has 8 sanity, so maybe just spending the evidence is going to be the play after all. Of course that means that Ruined Film will deplete your Hawk-Eyes, so … ugh.

My initial rating: Stellar. Darrell is powerful in a very obvious sense, any investigator with 5 intellect and Seeker access can only be great. Thanks to his investigator ability he can even do a good job at evading and a respectable job at fighting, so you can lean him into any direction… as long as investigation is at least a part of it to keep the evidence train going.

Ideas: Eh, just the usual ones for now i suppose. If the Seeker spot is taken by the fighter of the set, it only makes sense to have the survivor roleplay as the seeker. The obvious thing to go for with Survivor/Seeker is Scavenging… the level zero got a good user last expansion with Bob, now it’s Scavenging(2)’s turn to shine. The main thing to figure out with Darrell is going to be where to get the evidence from, to add to what the Kodak gives and hopefully get a buffer to protect from Ruined Film. The existing card pool only has Hawk-Eye as a card that uses evidences and that can be used by Darrell. But Scarlet Keys does offer a couple new toys, most importantly Empirical Hypothesis which does a good job of creating tokens even at level 0.

Charlie Kane, the Politician

Now this is a wild one. Joining Lola Hayes in the lonely ranks of the neutral investigators, Charlie Kane works quite a bit different than we are used to. The first thing anyone notices is the 1/1/1/1 stat line and the 6/6 stamina/sanity split. But Charlie does indeed have built in ways to mitigate either of these weak spots as he starts with 4 ally slots from the beginning and can exhaust allies for skill bonuses. So as long as he has enough people around to manipulate motivate like the politician that he is, he can become competent at anything. At the same time, he can hide behind those allies to preserve his own skin. Wow, this is so on brand, i need to be careful to not turn this fully into a social commentary.
His deckbuilding lets him access level 0-2 of two classes of his choice. Also all Ally cards and all Neutrals. So in comparison with Lola his card access is quite a bit more shallow, but he doesn’t have any limitations one what to play when, so he ends up being able to use card combos that Lola can’t. Also, Ally 0-5 is actually pretty great. Allies are among the most powerful assets in the game and getting a blanket permission on any of them is just going to climb in value more and more.
His signature is fantastic for him. Not only does Bonnie let him do any test at +2 skill, but she also readies another ally for even further bonuses. Or to use an exhaust ability on an ally again this turn.
His weakness doesn’t seem particularly bad to me. In the upkeep phase, readying happens before drawing a card, so you’ll be able to choose for each of your allies then. It can be more of an issue if you happen to draw this during your turn, though.

My initial rating: Highly intriguing and i think he’s genuinely very good. Being able to keep 3 more allies on the board is a huge deal, and gaining enough power out of that to make up for his unimpressive numbers seems not difficult at all. There’s also a lot of different ways to build him, with all those combinations of subclasses offering their own interesting possibilities.

Ideas: There are two things that come to my mind first with Charlie, and i am going to call those two directions Quality and Quantity. Quality means getting allies out with good icons and preferably additional static skill boosts to use for your tests. Quantity means getting lots of them out fast, so things that are cheap and with as many ally slots as possible.
Let’s check out the quality approach first. The look at the currently available level zero allies makes one thing very clear: Good icons cost XP. Only once we get in the 3XP+ range we are getting 2 matching icons. So especially at the beginning we are going to need allies like Beat Cop, Milan, etc to get our skill to 4 or more so we can start using it properly. That being said, there are some truly stellar allies here like Delilah and Lola, Gene Beauregard and/or The Black Cat but it’s going to cost some XP to get that train rolling.
The quantity thing is going to be much easier to start out with. Using cheap allies like Stray Cat, Mysterious Raven, Lab Assistant, etc you just try to flood the board, if possible expanding your ally slots further with Charisma or even Rod of Animalism. Then, when you have to take a test, you just exhaust three of them for a smooth +3 to +6 and know you have three more more further tests.
Obviously you can also go testless or with Survivor tech and pick allies for their abilities. To throw out something i have been mulling over: A Survivor/Guardian Charlie that builds around Bless tokens could use Nephthys, Nkosi, Olive McBride and Jacob Morrison all at the same time. Sadly he can’t use Blessing of Isis to farm his Elder Sign … Wait … Hey, what’s that… Bah god it’s Carson Sinclair with a steel chair Blessing of Isis, triggering both his and Charlie’s Elder Sign over and over! What a turnaround. The Mythos stands no chance.

Final thoughts

It’s very apparent to me that this is an Expert level product. Darrell and Kymani are the most grounded out of the set, but the other four are all … special… both in terms of their playstyle and regarding their card pool. These are definitely not investigators that i would want to try and build decks for with just a Core and the Scarlet Keys box. While that box does make efforts to cater to all of these characters, it’s going to be a real struggle and i am kinda getting second hand anxiety on behalf of the fresh players that decide to go for the hottest new box after the Core and end up trying to wrap their heads around Carson, Charlie and Amina 🙂

From the point of view of a veteran player with several expansion under their belt or even a full collection, this is an intriguing set of characters though. Shaking up assumptions about their classes, these do shine a new light on many of the cards in our collections and that’s something i absolutely love. You aren’t just getting value from the new cards themselves, but also from new uses of what you already had before.

I do have one personal complaint with this set of investigators though. It’s not necessarily something that is going to be relevant for everyone, but for me building the decks is a huge part of the game. I thus value investigators very highly that have several different way to be built, i used the term “open-ended” a couple times for that. Only three out of the six here are appealing to me in that way: Vincent has many roles he can fill and his deckbuilding is just as broad as Carolyn’s is with lots of interesting options. All of the 5/2 investigators are great in this regard too, Darrell is of course no exception. And Charlie who can just choose any 2 subclasses is fun to think about as well. That however leaves Kymani who has very narrow deckbuilding and a statline that pushes them into a very specific corner… and “Evasion Rogue” isn’t exactly a corner that is fresh and new. They do come with a neat twist on it, of course. But they don’t really get me to look at the card pool in all new ways. Carson is similarly limited, but he does at least have the class choice going for him which is able to give him some variation. Still, nothing new opens up through him that wasn’t already doable by Mary/Tommy/Roland. And Amina has a fresh theme going for her with the doom stuff, but (and i appreciate that this is probably a personal hang-up) she’s kinda comes with a deck built for her. There’s a very obvious suite of cards meant for her (and maybe Marie) with little use outside of her. Reminds me a bit of Marvel Champions where you pick your character and then get half your deck prebuilt for you, add another couple staples and then maybe pick three more deck slots. Just doesn’t appeal to me. I will absolutely play all of these investigators, no question about it. But will i return to the last three often? Probably not.
Of course, that is ultimately fine. In fact, i am sure there are plenty people that find this a point in favor of Amina (or Carson, or Kymani). And even if i find that one of them doesn’t work for me at all, with six investigators in the box there’s wiggle room so i am not worried.

Even though i have ended on a complaint here, i don’t want to appear like i am unsatisfied with this set of investigators. This looks to be a fantastic box for players already deep in the game and does a great job of deepening several archetypes and concepts. Can’t wait to dive in.

Scarlet Keys: Customizables #3

Introduction

Here’s the third installment of this article series looking at the Customizable cards in more detail. Another batch of four cards coming up.

Empirical Hypothesis

This one is a bit special in that its best abilities are already printed on the level 0 card. For that reason, small investments into the upgrades will not necessarily make the card more powerful, only more versatile. Which of course can still be worth it. How valuable the criteria are does change a bit depending on your investigator, but just generally speaking i would rank them Independent Variable > Trial and Error > Field Research > Pessimistic Outlook.
Peer Review + up to 2 criteria (4XP, level 2): “Teamwork makes the dream work.” I don’t think this is particularly helpful for triggering a criterion per turn. I don’t expect there to be a problem at all with doing that on your own. So this would be to enable others to draw cards from here. That’s fine but i think the Alchemical Distillation does a better job at being a party support card than this.
Research Grant + up to 2 criteria (4XP, level 2): “Spared no expense”. If you are drawing a lot of cards, then you can run into a situation where you don’t have enough resources to play all of those cards. Personally, i would solve this by running more skills, but you could use Research Grant to generate more income instead. That’d leave you with a card that can both provide you with cards or the means to play them, whichever is needed right now. That does sound useful enough to give it a shot.
Irrefutable Proof + up to 1 criterion (4XP, level 2): “Look what i found!” I don’t like this one. Drawing three cards is almost always going to be worth more than discovering one clue. My biggest issue here is that you have to work the card 3 turns before you even get one thing out of it. Six turns before you are even ahead on actions. Seems very inefficient to me.
Alternative Hypothesis + up to 2 criteria (6XP, level 3): “All over the place” Alternative Hypothesis on its own is going to be hard to trigger (need to both overfail and oversucceed in one turn), so i would always want to pair this up with more criteria. I could see this being reliably able to get 2 evidence per turn which would be a really good source of card draw.
Alternative Hypothesis + Peer Review + up to 2 criteria (8XP, level 4): “Phantom of the Ophrah.” You get a card! And you get a card! Everyone gets a card! This is the way to make Peer Review shine, but this is also where the amount of XP spent starts to pile up. With every player at the location being able to help out, churning through the criteria with Alternative Hypothesis becomes much more viable. One could even add another 2XP for the final two criteria or add the Research Grant option to provide economy for the team.
Alternative Hypothesis + Irrefutable Proof + up to 3 criteria (10XP, level 5): “Working hard or hardly working?” This is pretty much the only way i could see Irrefutable Proof working out. Getting one clue every three turns isn’t good enough, so you need Alternative Hypothesis to get more than 1 evidence per turn. One could use Peer Review and only 1 additional criterion here instead of 3 additional criteria. Not sure which one would be better. Altogether i don’t think this is particularly worth 10XP either way.

Grizzled

In an unexpected turn of events, the least customizable Customizable so far is a Survivor card. We’ve only got 5 different upgrades on this one, with the first two being just more traits and the last one being not all that synergistic with the two before it. The card isn’t bad at all though, so let’s see what we can do with it!
Specialist + Specialist (3XP, level 2): “The special Specialist” For when you want to use your Grizzled for both treacheries and enemies. Naming two different treachery traits and two enemy traits will give this card a very broad way of being useful. Alternatively you could use this to hope and make it apply to enemies with multiple traits as often as possible. For example, naming “Deep One”, “Humanoid”, “Elite” and “Monster” for Innsmouth is going to make Grizzled count for 5 or 7 icons against pretty much every enemy.
Nemesis + Specialist (4XP, level 2): “A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent” Nemesis is pretty great when you want to kill big Elite enemies and rather unimpressive otherwise. So i think that you definitely want Elite to be one of the named traits when using Nemesis. Note that the Nemesis effect doesn’t scale up when you have multiple named traits on the affected enemy, so you could still go and name two treachery types with the other two traits for flexibility.
Mythos-Hardened(4XP, level 2): “This one does not spark joy.” Since you are aiming to remove Grizzled from the game, it’s probably not worth throwing more traits on it. Just name two treachery traits and pluck whatever you are aiming for from the encounter deck. Using this on the resident variants of Rotting Remains and Grasping Hands is always going to be worth it, but chances are you are using this option with something very specific in mind anyways.
Always Prepared + Specialist + Specialist(8XP, level 4): “Been there, done that.” This is really good and is likely going to end up my preferred use of the card. Recurring Grizzled so you can commit it for three, five or even more icons over and over seems incredibly powerful to me. Adding more traits is the obvious course of action here, adding more recursion triggers while also making it more potent in the process. Alternatively, one could put Nemesis on here, however that would require dropping one of the Specialists. That does remove one of the recursion triggers (and sort of reserves one of the remaining ones for “Elite” which isn’t a very frequent one) but does give the option of using Grizzled to dunk on big enemies. I am not convinced that is worth doing, but it does deserve testing.
Notable traits to name: For enemies: Humanoid, Monster, Elite. For treacheries: Terror, Hazard, Obstacle, Omen. Check out this article on the Miskatonic Malcontents blog for a very, very detailed analysis per campaign.

Friends in Low Places

There’s quite a few different ways to take this card, even different roles for it to fill.
Helpful + Versatile (3XP, level 2): “I know a guy who knows a guy.” This turns the rogue into another investigator’s friend in low places. Since you still need to choose a trait you will want to use the Versatile upgrade and pick rather common traits to be able to help out multiple investigators.
Prompt + Swift(5XP, level 3): “But where did the lighter fluid come from?” This allows bringing out a card from your deck and playing it without spending an action at all. Conjure up a weapon midfight without taking an attack of opportunity or just simply appreciate all the value you are getting for pulling cards out of thin air at fast speed. Remember you can keep more cards in addition to the one you are playing as long as the traits match. Getting great effects without spending actions is some of the most fun you can have as a rogue.
Clever + Experienced(5XP, level 3): “I’ve got a plan.” Look at the top 9, grab what you are looking for, rearrange the rest to plan for the future. Combine this with a shuffle effect a few turns later once you know there’s nothing you immediately want on top of the deck anymore. Clever is a deceptively powerful upgrade and Experienced is what really makes it work.
Versatile + Bolstering + Prompt(6XP, level 3): “The Winifred”. Naming Innate and Practiced lets you hit the vast majority of skills in your deck. Bolstering makes them stronger and Prompt allows pulling them just in time for an important test. You can go even deeper on this and add Experienced to really pull your Wini deck together. If you want to use this with only level 2 rogue access, dropping Bolstering can be an option as long as you have enough skills in your deck to hit with this.
Notable traits to name: Obviously, this is going to be very deck dependent, but just to throw out some pairs of traits to use with the Versatile upgrade in various rogue decks:
Innate+Practiced covers almost all skills. Tactic+Trick fuels Chuck Fergus. Ally+Weapon finds your most important assets for fighters, Ally+Tool does the same for clue hounds.

Hyperphysical Shotcaster

As a neutral customizable, it doesn’t get more flexible. This thing gives every class access to all of the basic actions (Fight/Investigate/Evade) and more… and with using their best attribute.
This thing kinda breaks my format for looking at these upgrades because a) there’s not a whole lot of cross-synergy between the modes, you just pick what you want to be able to use it for and b) it’s neutral, so the level range doesn’t mean much here: Everyone can take up to level 5 neutrals anyways. So let’s just go in 2XP steps instead:
At 2XP: One mode, no extras. I see this as particularly useful for the Realitycollapser form, as a way for Rogues or other weak-willed investigators to nuke Frozen in Fears and the like. The evasion granted by Translocator is also really nice and i could see using that on its own too.
At 4XP: Due to the uses limit i don’t think that picking too many different Forms is going to be terribly helpful. I could imagine picking one of the first three (evade vs fight vs investigate), then maybe a secondary mode (treachery discard vs asset play).
At 6XP: One Form, but with either more uses or with +2 Skill. More uses seems particularly useful for the first three uses. Meanwhile you’ll probably not use the treachery/asset modes more than 4 times, so taking the +2 skill sounds better there. For the Matterweaver it even seems mandatory to get the skill bonus so you can get the best discounts out of it. Alternatively, 3 modes and nothing else… but that sounds horrible?
At 8XP: Two modes, plus either more uses or +2 tests. Having more than one mode points towards wanting more uses… but i find it hard to imagine spending 8XP on an asset that doesn’t even give a skill bonus. Again, could be 4 modes instead. Again, not a fan.
At 10XP: Either adds another mode to the previous variant. Or goes the focused route, with just one mode but that mode has 6 uses and +2 skill. I see the version with only one mode as the dominant of the two here. Oh, technically you could also spend 10XP on a tool with more modes than uses and no skill bonuses D:

Investigator Expansion Review: Edge of the Earth

https://derbk.com/ancientevils/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/image-6.png

Introduction

This is an overview of the player cards in the Edge of the Earth Investigator expansion. I will be looking at the investigators first, then go over the rest grouped by class. For most cards I will try to keep it short and to the point to not stretch this article more than necessary.
For every group of cards I will nominate the three most useful and the three least useful cards. This isn’t necessarily about raw power, but more about how good they are at fueling a lot of your decks.
Finally, I will give my opinion on how well this selection of player cards stands on its own, answering if it’s worthwhile to get as a first expansion next to the core set and if this expansion + Core is enough to support the investigators contained in this expansion.
These articles do ignore the optional list of taboos. This is because they are mostly aimed at new players trying to figure out which investigator expansion to get next and taboo isn’t a thing that I want to weigh them down with. It’d also make things unnecessary complicated.
The ranking I use for cards is Bad < Okay < Good < Excellent < Staple with each of those spanning quite a range. I use something like “Okay to Good” or “Good to Okay” when I want to specify whether it’s on the upper or lower range of that rank. Please don’t take these rankings too seriously and more as a guide line, cards need to be evaluated in context and compressing these contexts down into just one word is really unprecise. I still find it useful for this overview as a shortcut to put the cards into relation quickly.
Edge of the Earth consists of multiclass cards for a large part. That makes it more difficult for me to give an overview of what cards are added to each class because those multiclass cards are of course added to several classes at once. I will mention each of those cards twice (or three times, in a couple cases) just so that they stay on the radar. I might even be going into what the cards adds to that specific class in case I find that it’s different enough to be worth mentioning. The ranking might also change between classes. Otherwise the second and third mention will just refer to the first instance. This is a bit awkward at times and I apologize for it. But I felt it was important to have all the cards of a class with each other even if those cards already appeared earlier so I can properly evaluate what the set of cards adds to each class.

The Investigators

All five of these investigators share the same deckbuilding rules. They start in one class, but are only allowed to take level zero cards of that class. Instead, they gain access to level 1-5 of a different class, making them appear to change classes over the course of the campaign. Additionally, they can pick up to 5 level zero cards of the class they move into, to lay a bit of a groundwork from the start. Obviously, they can take Neutral cards as well.
This is a very interesting setup for an investigator and changes how to approach the deck and its evolution significantly. There’s an argument to be made that the class they proudly show on their front isn’t their actual class, it’s their side class. Since we would usually assume that the ability to take highlevel cards is the whole point of a main class. How much this argument holds, depends a big deal on the investigator. Bob and Norman can stay a lot better in Seeker and Survivor than Daniela and Lily can stay in Guardian and Mystic.
The classes these investigators move into are: Survivor for Daniela, Mystic for Norman, Seeker for Monterey, Guardian for Lily and finally Rogue for Bob.
All five of them are powerful and well capable of handling things.
Daniela is a tank who punishes enemies for attacking her. She does a great job and is an excellent user for the Survivor weapons. There’s often some handwringing in the community about her not being able to take certain Guardian cards that would be perfect for her, but to be clear she doesn’t need those to be good. Not at all.
Norman can play the top of his deck which is roughly equivalent to drawing extra cards all the time. A Seeker with 5 intellect is incapable of being incompetent and his Mystic access is often used to build on that further instead of just doing the willpower thing.
Monterey is rewarded for staying mobile by being fed a constant stream of cards and resources. This of course just stacks with all the resources and cards that his two classes, Rogue and Seeker, give him. The result is an investigator who is rich without having to work for it much.
Lily has a wild set of signature assets she can choose from (and get more as she gains XP) that give her bonuses to stats and powerful special moves. This makes her very flexible. Out of the five, I would say that she is the one that most closely identifies with her secondary class (Guardian) and treats her first class as more of a splash. But she can be built either way, of course.
Bob Jenkins is an investigator built around the Item trait which appears on many assets. He gets free actions to play them and with his signature he can even play them under the control of other players at his location. Coupled with resource generation from Rogue and a wide array of relevant assets to pass around he’s very potent. Even in Solo. He makes a great clue finder.

Guardian

Butterfly Swords(2): Good. A repeatable way to deal 3 damage per action is great. Of course this requires two tests and it is on a two-handed weapon and it also exhausts, so there’s some drawbacks to it. But for a level 2 weapon, this is very respectable. Note that you can split up the attacks between multiple targets, in case that is useful (which is rarely the case).
Butterfly Swords(5): Okay. This is not enough of an upgrade to be worth throwing another 3XP at the Butterfly Swords. There’s an extra +1 fight and the timing for the exhaust is better but that’s just not good enough for a level 5 weapon.
Combat Training(3): Excellent. There’s a cycle of upgraded Composure assets in this set and they are (almost…) all great. Two stat bonuses! Soak! The option to spend money on more stats! And it’s fast! And it’s free! And it has great icons! Wow. The only thing stopping it from being a staple is that it’s a 3XP card you have to discard when you have to put a horror on it. But yeah, these are great.

Geared Up: Okay. There’s another cycle in this set consisting of 5 Permanent cards that alter your deckbuilding. Geared Up can lead to some silly turn ones that save a bunch of resources and actions, but you have to gear your deck towards it heavily. Note that this has been errata’d to combo with Backpack and Shoffner’s Catalogue and this rating assumes that errata to be in place. (Bad as printed)
Get Behind Me: Good. Strictly a multiplayer card of course, but this card does its specific job very well.
Dodge(2): Okay. The capability to deal a damage isn’t worth 2XP. Dropping the cost from 1 to 0 over the level zero card is neat, but also not worth the upgrade. I’d stick with Dodge(0) from the Core Set.

Fang of Tyr’thrha(4): Excellent. Four damage? Anywhere? And you can teleport if you want? That’s amazing. A great card only kept in check by how expensive it is.
Gang Up(1): Excellent. Probably the best of the Synergy cards because it just requires two classes in play to be good enough. Since your investigator card does count, that requirement is trivial.
On The Hunt(3): Excellent. Guardians appreciate a turn without drawing an annoying treachery, the free resources and this also does allow you to fish for a victory point if you want to.

Sweeping Kick(1): Excellent to Staple. Very efficient attack card that either kills something or takes it out. Only not a staple because Toe to Toe exists.
Toe to Toe: Staple. A testless two damage for zero resources is great and well worth taking a bit of damage and/or horror for. Relevant traits as well. There are several investigators that synergize with this card further, including Daniela.
Defensive Stance(1): Excellent. Any skill card able to count for 4 (or more!) icons is worth considering and this cycle of Practiced cards do the trick well. This is a card that is well worth the single XP it asks for.

Brand of C’thuga(1): Good. Allows you to attack for 2 damage three times, putting it on a level with Enchanted Blade. Mostly notable as a nice sidearm for two-handed weapons because it doesn’t need a handslot. That drawback terrifies me enough to stick with Bandolier myself, but most other people seem to like this card well enough.
Brand of C’thuga(4): Okay to Good. Now gets to attack for 3 damage three times or split up the charges in another convenient way. Triggering the drawback now basically means you end the turn. Not sure if a sidearm needs a 4XP upgrade, but the value is there.
Bruiser(3): Excellent. As long as you can swing the initial payment of 3 resources, this is good econ for the rest of the scenario. And once you played your weapons, this becomes a stat booster.

Cyclopean Hammer(5): Excellent to Staple. An incredibly powerful weapon that offers repeatable 3 damage without a drawback. It actually has additional abilities on top. Outclasses pretty much every other two-handed weapon.
Medical Student: Excellent. Doesn’t look like much, but undoing up to 2 damage/horror and then preventing another up to 2 of them is great. Healing is often difficult to justify because it takes up too many actions, but this is very efficient.
Michael Leigh(5): Good to Excellent. Getting free Vicious Blows on tap for investigating is powerful, no question. And so is a double stat boost on a 3/3 body. However, he is expensive. More importantly, he’s very limited in terms of which investigators want him. Both Roland and Joe (the two Seeker-Guardians) usually work the other way round: fight first, then get investigation out of it. This guy needs a good shell to fit into and he’d immediately shoot up in value.

Nkosi Mabati(3): Good. Not good enough without special synergies. But if you are into blesses, curses or skulls he’s does some nice things.
Old Shotgun(2): Okay to Bad. There’s ways to make it work, but that’s more a gimmicky “because I can” thing and not because it’s good.
Prophetic(3): Good. Guardian can use this to heavily invest into Spirit cards. Not bad as such, but also not a common thing to specifically go for.

Protective Gear(2): Okay to Good. Requires some insider knowledge to know if taking precautions against Hazards are worthwhile, but if they are, this is a solid card even if a bit too costly for comfort.
Quickdraw Holster(4): Okay to Bad. “Clunky” is the word I would describe most interactions with this card. Like, you can’t play a one-handed weapon to put into the holster when you already have a two-handed one in your hand. Further severely hindered by how expensive it is both in resources and XP.
Sleuth(3): Okay to Good. Charms and Tomes aren’t a huge Guardian thing (so far) but Tactics are. Not sure they require specific econ built around though. Probably best to leave this one to the seekers.

Sledgehammer(0): Okay. Able to deal 1.5 damage per action with a +2 bonus and only requiring one test. This is fine and makes combat skills slightly more effective, but is also a bit too clunky.
Sledgehammer(4): Good. Smashing for 6 with 3 actions is still only 2 damage per action (the usual rate), but only requiring a single test (that also gets a massive bonus) is good. Of course this is even more clunky and you probably want extra actions somehow so you can move + attack in the same turn.
Snipe(1): Bad. You spend an extra action and get very little out of it. If it was at least an automatic success, it would at least be okay and almost playable, but this is just bad.

On The Trail(1): Okay to Bad. There’s just not a whole lot of value here.
On The Trail(3): Okay. Much better, as you can actually get a net plus out of this one. 3XP is a lot to ask however, considering the conditions that need to be satisfied for this card to do it’s full effect.

Most useful cards: Gang Up, Toe to Toe, Medical Student
Least useful cards: Snipe, On the Trail(1), Dodge(2)

Verdict: This pool of cards covers a lot of different bases, but things that stand out in particular are a couple of strong fight events and a smattering of two-handed weapons. Weirdly, there’s not a single one-handed weapon here which is even stranger when we see Quickdraw Holster being in there.
Of the three triple-class talents, only Bruiser is firmly in the Guardian wheelhouse. The other two also feature a relevant trait(Tactic and Spirit, respectively) but those aren’t usually built around in Guardian unless you are Nathaniel or you want to specifically do so because of the triple-class talent.
The Guardian pool has some nods towards Daniela specifically, but most of it is of course available to Lily. Lily can’t use firearms, but the fight events and melee weapons are all perfectly acceptable for her to base the deck on.
The support side of Guardian only got some few cards here (such as Medical Student), making this card pool appear very combat focused. This does make sense in the context of Daniela and Lily, but it does feel just a little one-dimensional.
Between the Core and Edge of the Earth, Lily is well supported to start out as an okay Mystic and transition into a strong fighter. That’s good.
Also good: 4 out of the 5 level zero cards make sense in Daniela (Student, Sledge, Get Behind Me, Toe to Toe). And hey, maybe someone even makes Geared Up Daniela a thing and uses all 5.
On the whole, this is not an exceptional pool of cards in terms of usefulness for the larger collection, but it’s also not a bad one. Seems fine! Any complaints are made up by how consistent the card pool is, with everything fitting well with each other, including the investigators from the box. I especially do like the fight events. Add the ones from Nathaniel’s deck to the mix and you can play fighting guardians that never have to touch a weapon.

Seeker

Archive of Conduits: Good. As long as you draw this early enough, this is painless enough to research. You do get only one for your deck, though. That is already the biggest strike against it as the upgrades to Archive are plentiful and cover a wide range of roles. I like the healing one in particular but they all are at least decent.

Forced Learning: Excellent. Once your card pool is deep enough that running 45 cards still means that you are only running good cards, the card selection you gain here is great. Not something to run if you depend on one of two copies of a specific card because in that case it makes your mulligans more unlikely to find that card.
Hiking Boots(1): Excellent. They are cheap and they offer a skill bonus without taking up a (normal) equipment slot. Getting a free move here and there is the cherry on top.
Jeremiah Kirby: Excellent to Staple. The only reason why this isn’t just straight up a staple is the existence of Christopher Milan. Kirby is fantastic and you don’t need to twist your deck for him either. Your chances are pretty much always better than 50/50 (not quite true because of skills, but mostly) and netting 2 or 3 cards with your intellect ally is already great. Add recursion and it gets silly. And if you do end up twisting your deck for him, he draws 4 or 5 cards reliably which is just exceptionally good.

Medical Texts(2): Okay to Good. Repeatable without charges and fulfills the basic requirement of 2 heal per action as long as you have good intellect, which is almost every Seeker.
Prophesiae Profana(5): Good to Excellent. A lot to unpack on this one, but between the skill boosts, the weird teleport and immunity to attacks of opportunity everyone should find something to like here… as long as they are willing to pay for it in XP and resources.
Scientific Theory(3)
: Excellent. See Combat Training(Guardian).

Join the Caravan(1): Good. A fast teleport is good, but conditional on the scenario to be much better than just a free move. Paying 2 for it is actually already good value and depending on how much distance you can cover with it, paying 3 is even reasonable.
Unearth the Ancients(2): Excellent. Compared to the level zero from Forgotten Age, this one no longer replaces the Investigate action. Therefore everything on this card is in addition to what you were going to do anyways. This is really good value, saving resources and up to two actions while potentially even drawing up to 2 cards as well.

Written in the Stars: Okay. A bit of a Norman plant that is hard to justify putting in your deck when you don’t know what you’ll reveal.
Survey the Area(1): Excellent. See Defensive Stance(Guardian).

Medical Student: Staple. See above(Guardian). Fits very well into the Seeker “Miskatonic Allies” thing.
Michael Leigh(5): Good to Excellent. See above(Guardian).
Sleuth(3): Good. If you care about Tomes, this gives you the resources to play them. Best if those tomes also have skill tests attached to them to get further value out of Sleuth, which is a bit rarer.

Antiquary(3): Good. Seeker mostly cares about Relic here. Basically in a similar space like Sleuth, with plenty of targets for which to pay the costs, but only few to enhance the tests.
Crafty(3): Excellent. Almost every Seeker event is an Insight and Tool is a very prominent trait for every class. Crafty is a great way both to pay for those cards and even help with investigations through some of the tools.
Gene Beauregard(3): Excellent. She’s expensive, but with two relevant skill boosts and a killer ability, she’s allowed to be. Can be used to push enemies away or to manipulate clues to where they are easier to pick up (or to make little piles out of clues to pick up all at once).

Divination(1): Okay to Bad. Allows picking up two clues, but only twice. That’s a rather bad rate that’s not worth investing into.
Divination(4): Okay. Better now, since it allows you to snatch 3 clues in one go and while Mystic has a few 5XP spells that do that (and are better), that’s still a bit of a novelty in Seeker. Since it allows using your intellect, you can throw your Deductions into this to pick locations clean. Can also be used to grab 2 clues three times, but that’s not worth 4XP.
Pocket Telescope: Okay. Very scenario dependent. Can sometimes spare you a move into a location, but it’s best in scenarios with randomly distributed locations that all have the same back.

Eon Chart(1): Good to Excellent. It’s a net gain of 2 extra actions for 2 resources. Limitations apply, but even just using it for movement is fine.
Eon Chart(4): Excellent. And that’s five actions for 2 resources. One of the better targets if you can put more secrets on something.
Protecting the Anirniq(2): Okay to Good. Solid piece of card draw that can sometimes recur an ally if that seems more valuable to you than three cards.

Ice Pick(1): Good. Has steep competition by the Magnifying Glass of course, but if you do think you need the fighting side of Ice Pick, then that’s something to consider.
Ice Pick(3): Good to Excellent. Really takes off with recursion, which makes this more of a Survivor card than for Seeker, but a Deduction/Vicious Blow split card is good even as a one-shot.
On the Trail(1): Bad. See above(Guardian). Seeker is even less interested in moving towards enemies and they do have both better clue tech and move tech available.

Professor Webb(0): Okay to Bad. Replacing your investigations isn’t what you want to do, making him too expensive for too little value.
Professor Webb(2): Okay to Good. Much better, now that his ability goes on top of the investigation. One of the ways in Seeker to get more uses out of your Ice Pick(3).
On The Trail(3): Okay to Bad. See above(Guardian). Again, this is worse in Seeker than in Guardian due to better options being plentiful.

Most useful cards: Gene Beauregard(3), Jeremiah Kirby, Forced Learning
Least useful cards: Divination(1), On the Trail(all), Written in the Stars

Verdict: There’s a lot of real strong cards in the Seeker pool. The allies look especially strong thanks to Kirby, Beauregard and the Medical Student.
I noticed that the multiclass cards here do allow Seeker access to some effects that are usually not part of its identity. This wasn’t really the case for the Guardian cards while the enemy handling on Gene and the recursion on Webb do open some lines of play for Seeker they didn’t have before.
The actual Seeker from this box, Monterey, is very open ended in his deck building and as such can certainly find some nice cards to build around here. I would’ve liked to see a better investigation tool than Divination here but I suppose that you can still put something efficient together on the base of Ice Pick and Eon Chart even if you are just building on a base of Core+Edge. Eon Chart and Hiking Boots let Monterey lean well into his ability even without the staple movement tools from the wider card pool.
Norman doesn’t get a whole lot here, though. Written in the Stars is custom tailored towards him. Forced Learning and Kirby are fine of course, but Pocket Telescope and Prof. Webb don’t strike me as huge assets for Norman. Therefore he’s going to have to mostly stick to Core cards for his first phase if this is your first purchase following the Core.

Rogue

Underworld Support: Excellent. Reducing your decksize by 5 has a lot of advantages that stack up: Upgrading your cards, finding Exceptionals and mulligans all improve. You need a solid card pool though that has alternatives to your usual staples. How much the limitation to running singletons hits you depends a lot on your personal style. I for example have always built with lots of singletons for on-the-fly options and card draw to hold it together, so this card is just fantastic for me and almost a Staple.
The Red Clock(2Ex): Good to Excellent. Generically useful bonuses over three turns, then a cashout and it starts over. It’s not difficult at all to make this useful. Can be used with charge manipulation to accelerate, decelerate or even stay on the same effect every turn for fun results.
The Red Clock(5Ex): Good. Yep, that’s 10XP. But this is an accessory that with a bit of synergy from elsewhere can just straight up give you 2 extra actions per turn. Without shenanigans, i’d stick with the 4XP version.

Moxie(3): Excellent. See Combat Training(Guardian). Noteworthy as a great source of willpower for Rogue, a rarity.
The Black Fan(3): Excellent. A capstone card for the “Money Hoarder” archetype and a damn good one at that.
21 or Bust: Okay to Bad. Since you already need at least 2 resources to start gambling and need to hit 20 or 21 to be better than Emergency Cache, this is more fun than good and outclassed by pretty much every other green resource event.

Black Market(2): Excellent. In solo, this kind of sort of draws 5 cards for 1 resource. In multiplayer, it does even more. This is an incredible piece of card draw, even if that draw is only temporary.
Cheat The System(1): Good. Is mildly playable at a trivial Synergy of 2, but since it costs XP, I’d want to get 3+ out of it so it beats Emergency Cache.
Counterespionage(1): Staple. Encounter cancellation in Rogue is a dream come true. Paying 4 to cancel something nasty and draw a card is a huge swing in favor of the good guys and the other modes do offer some flexibility.

Money Talks(2): Good. Another payoff for being a money hoarder. This is very flexible and can also effectively cancel an encounter card while drawing a card for yourself. Does need the setup though and might just fail you when you need it in the first handful turns.
Scout Ahead: Good to Excellent. Simple and to the point, this can be used to save yourself 2 actions, which is very respectable for a level zero card that is also so cheap. Good icons are a bonus.

Untimely Transaction(1): Okay. This is a bit too far on the gimmicky side, but can set up some interesting plays.
Savant(1): Excellent. Depends on the investigator of course, but for many rogues this translates to +3 or +4 to Willpower for a test. That includes Bob Jenkins.

Bruiser(3): Excellent. See above(Guardian)
Old Shotgun(2): Okay to Bad. See above(Guardian)
Quickdraw Holster(4): Okay to Bad. See above(Guardian)

Antiquary(3): Okay. All three of those traits do have some roots in Rogue. Favor is a weird one here, they are mostly cheap events without tests. A good amount of the Exceptionals are Relics and Rituals and you might find a use there, although them being exceptional means this is also rather unlikely.
Crafty(3): Excellent. Trick synergy is a major archetype in the wider Rogue pool and this can go straight in that deck. Like in Seeker, there are also some tools in Rogue that allow Crafty to help with investigations.
Gene Beauregard(3): Excellent. See above(Seeker).

Eon Chart(1): Good to Excellent. See above(Seeker)
Eon Chart(4): Excellent. See above(Seeker)
Pocket Telescope: Okay. See above(Seeker)

Blur(1): Good. 2 resources for a net of up to 2 bonus actions and a mild bonus to evade. Better for Mystics, but works in Rogue just fine.
Blur(4): Good. An extra charge translates into an extra action and there’s a better bonus to the evade test. Not a great upgrade, 3XP can do better.
Unscrupulous Loan(3): Excellent. An instant enabler for the money hoarders and/or a way to make setting up in the first turns super smooth.

Precious Memento(4): Good. I’m not completely sure why there are two different versions of this one (unless you have german cards -.-), it’s just very confusing. This squeezes a lot of soak into the accessory slot if you are into that. Really good at its job, but usually that slot is reserved for things that are a bit more proactive.
Snipe: Bad. See above(Guardian). Rogues have more actions, but they still don’t want to throw them away like that.

Ethereal Slip: Okay to Bad. It’s difficult to run into situation where this works, but it can in theory disable an enemy completely (if it doesn’t have Hunter) or give a headstart against it (if it does).
Ethereal Slip(2): Okay. The upgrade makes it cheaper and easier to set up. I do actually appreciate the extra icon for once here, though. On a situational card like this that helps.
Hit Me: Okay. A weird hybrid of Lucky! and Sure Gamble, ultimately worse than either. Can make an at least reasonable Lucky! impression in Rogue if you really want one. Since it can be used on tests you are passing, it could also be used to trigger an oversuccess, albeit at risk of drawing a skull or tentacle.

Most useful: Black Market(2), Counterespionage(1), Savant(1)
Least useful: Snipe, Ethereal Slip(all), Hit me

Verdict: There are two things standing out to me immediately in Edge’s offering for Rogue. For one that is an unusual amount of encounter card protection, ranging from willpower sources to an outright counterspell. This gives the tools to patch up a weakness that the whole class has been carrying around since the inception of the game. The other thing is the support for the “Money Hoarder” archetype, which is apparently supposed to be a Bob Jenkins thing? Not sure how much I agree with that interpretation of how Bob works best, but the cards are very welcome and find plenty of use in other investigators.
Also, the multiclass cards bleed some more investigation capabilities into Rogue, something that they can make good use of.
The 6 cards that Monterey can take out of these include Ethereal Slip(0) and Scout Ahead, both of which play into his movement shtick. Pocket Telescope isn’t great for him in my opinion, but I can see how it somewhat synergizes. He can also play the two gamble cards 21 or Bust and Hit Me… not that I think that he’d want to. The final card is Underworld Support of course which can work with any investigator, including Monty. 3.5 out of 6… i’ll allow it.
Mostly this is Bob’s playground though. He gets a couple items here, but except for Eon Chart which gives him even more free actions nothing that makes me immediately scramble to put it into his deck. Between Core and Edge, he certainly has enough money to play his stuff and of course the Core also provides a handful of good items for him.
Bob being more of a clue seeker than a fighter(although his 3 fight certainly can be built upon) is maybe the reason why there’s no weapons in this Rogue pool. Well, unless you count the Old Shotgun I suppose. There’s also the Quickdraw Holster again, confirming that there’s not a single one-handed gun for it in this expansion.
There’s certainly some chaff in this Rogue pool, but the overall impression is saved by some cards that invite building around them (Black Fan, Red Clock, Crafty), the encounter protection stuff and a couple that are simply very good (Black Market, Eon Chart, Gene).

Mystic

Astronomical Atlas(3): Excellent to Staple. Obviously fantastic for Norman, but since it basically just draws a card every turn (with extra steps, but none of them take an action) it’s great for other mystics as well.
Close the Circle(1): Good. Sort of like a mystic Eon Chart, this is quite good if you can get 3+ charges on it. Allows evading, fighting and investigating with your will, something that mystics love as well.
Down the Rabbit Hole: Excellent. This requires some planning with your deck as you will need to know how your leveled deck is supposed to look at deck creation already. If you do plan that far, then Down the Rabbit Hole can potentially save you a lot of XP. Stacks with Arcane Research from The Forgotten Age for even more savings. A bit annoying: this card is highly non-synergistic with the deckbuilding rules of the characters in this box. Note that many cards and their upgrades are spread across multiple ArkhamLCG products, so this is likely a card you won’t be able to make good use of on a small or even medium sized collection.

Dragon Pole: Good. Gives a consistent melee weapon to Mystic, something the class was lacking so far. Sadly doesn’t come with an upgraded version. Ao this is mostly interesting for early Lily decks, but doesn’t open up a proper replacement for fighting with spells in other mystics.
Grounded(3): Good. The most limited of the composures, but at least it’s the only one that can take both a point of horror and damage without discarding.
Healing Words(3): Good. This does its job well enough.

True Magick(5): Good to Excellent. Like many level 5 cards, it’s held back by its costs, but the flexibility of throwing out a spell of your choice each turn without running empty and without having to put down more spells is enticing and reasonably powerful.
Foresight(1): Okay to Bad. Norman can use this as economy, but other investigators would need to combo this with something and the payoff is just not there for that.
Meditative Trance: Good. Heals two points without excessive setup. With excessive setup, it can go a lot higher.

Parallel Fates(2): Okay. In low player counts, this stacks the encounter deck for several turns which can be good.
Winds of Power(1): Okay. Note that playing it through the trigger still requires paying 2 resources.
Occult Theory(1): Excellent. See Defensive Stance(Guardian)

Brand of C’thuga(1): Okay. While this is a good sidearm for Guardian, this use case doesn’t exist for Mystic who can already use all sorts of spells instead. The conversion to strength is also mostly irrelevant. For Mystic, this is mostly just a bad Shrivelling. I like the reduced resource cost a lot, though.
Brand of C’thuga(4): Okay. Same here.
Cyclopean Hammer(5): Excellent to Staple. The hammer on the other hand is even better in Mystic than in Guardian, due to a lack of other high level twohanders.

Divination(1): Okay. If you want to investigate with intellect as a Mystic without Seeker access, this does the job.
Divination(4): Good. If you are in the very specific market that Divination supplies, you might as well get the one with more charges.
Nkosi Mabati(3): Good. See above(Guardian). In Mystic, he has some fierce competition from Olive McBride from The Forgotten Age.

Blur(1): Excellent. A cheap and efficient way to turn a Mystic into an evadey character.
Blur(4): Good to Excellent. An expensive way to do mostly the same, but a smidge better.
Enchanted Bow(2):
Good. A bit gimmicky, but that ability to shoot into connected locations is sweet. Note that it doesn’t use a charge on your location, so this sort of behaves like a melee weapon. Held back by the slot requirements and the lack of an upgraded version.

Earthly Serenity(1): Good. 4 healing for 2 actions is our going rate and the added flexibility puts this into the better than average category.
Earthly Serenity(4): Good to Excellent. More charges, but the most important part is the lowered difficulty, meaning it gets easier to get as much healing as possible out of your action.
Talisman of Protection: Okay. Mystics will probably not want to sacrifice an arcane slot for this but you can play this on your teammates, too.

Prophetic(3): Staple. Oh boy, spells. That’s like half our cards in this class we do tests with. And they are notoriously expensive.
Sleuth(3): Okay to Good. Not a card that is going to be of interest for most mystics, but Charm and Tome are certainly traits you could build around if you wanted to.
Antiquary(3): Good. Ritual as a trait is picking up traction in the wider card pool recently. Meanwhile, Relics is also something that Mystic might be dabbling in.

Ethereal Slip(0): Okay to Bad. See above(Rogue)
Ethereal Slip(2): Okay. See above(Rogue)
Protecting the Anirniq: Okay to Good. See above(Seeker). Sacrifice from The Forgotten Age beats this card in most instances, so if you have that, this drops to just Okay for Mystic specifically.

Most useful: Astronomical Atlas(3), Prophetic(3), Cyclopean Hammer(5)
Least useful: Foresight, Brand of C’thuga(all), Ethereal Slip(all)

Verdict: There’s not much here in terms of supporting a specific archetype like it was done for money hoarding in Rogue. The exception are a couple cards that clearly exist specifically with Norman in mind, with a focus of dealing with the top of the deck. Thankfully at least one of them, the Astronomical Atlas, is of large interest to other investigators as well.
A big chunk of the cards is taken up by the obligatory Mystic spell suite including upgrades which has been done in multiclass this time, one spell for each teamup with one of the four others. These are interesting in how they differ in appeal depending on which of the two classes looks at them.
A couple of nice build around cards are also present. All of True Magick, Enchanted Bow and Prophetic can be elevated to the centerpiece of a deck. Sleuth and Antiquary can as well, but that’s going to be a bit more difficult.
Due to the multiclass cards bleeding some class specific effects into others, Mystics now have two decent weapons that do stuff they weren’t able to do before. Enchanted Bow allows sniping into other locations. And Cyclopean Hammer is just a monster of a card.
As mentioned, Norman has some specific support here and that’s certainly enough to make him work. Lily can take 5 of the Mystic cards. Dragon Pole is clearly engineered with her in mind. Meditative Trance even has her on the artwork, but it works for her just like for any other mystic. Down the Rabbit Hole is just completely unplayable for her. Talisman of Protection and Ethereal Slip are both cards that exist. I suppose if any Mystic uses Talisman for themselves, then Lily would be it.
This cardpool has a relatively high base power, with many cards being Excellent or at least at the upper end of Good. I would’ve liked to see a bit more of an extended focus on a Mystic archetype, instead of just nodding towards some (Arcane Slots Matter, Charge Manipulation, Token Manipulation) with a card or two and then choosing to not elaborate further.
But in total this looks like a rock-solid addition to a card pool, no matter the size.

Survivor

Bandages: Good to Excellent. Above the curve as 3 healing for an action and since it’s an item it also has lots of recursion potential.
Bangle of Jinxes(1): Good. This basically gives you Unexpected Courages on tap.
Fire Extinguisher(3): Good to Excellent. Solid weapon by itself and comes with a nice panic button that can even nuke multiple enemies.

Plucky(3): Excellent. See Combat Training(Guardian)
Schoffner’s Catalogue: Staple. A more limited Emergency Cache as a baseline, put over the top by Item synergies, recursion and the ability to give money to other players.
Short Supply: Staple. The best of the five permanent talents, at least insofar as it’s really easy to get value out of this and the drawback is almost non-existent.

Blood Will Have Blood(2): Okay. This can draw a bunch of cards for cheap, so this can hold your deck together if you anticipate tanking enemy attacks regularly.
Burn After Reading(1): Good to Excellent. Allows you to funnel XP into clues which can be okay for some survivors. The doom removal costs at least 3XP, so it’s only something for the final couple scenarios.
Fend Off(3): Good. The timing restriction and the resource cost hamper this a bit, but it’s solid removal. Very expensive, especially for Survivor standards

Jury-Rig: Excellent to Staple. Three charges go a long way and this has a good amount of targets, most importantly weapons and investigation tools. A very low opportunity cost way to nail three tests which is absolutely great.
Dauntless Spirit(1): Excellent. See Defensive Stance(Guardian)
Strength in Numbers: Excellent. Even at just Synergy 2 this offers three wild icons and it only goes up from there.

Bruiser(3): Good to Excellent. See above(Guardian). Survivor weapons are usually cheap, so this isn’t needed as much to pay for them. Still great for the skill bonuses, though.
Prophetic(3): Good. There’s Fortunes and Spirit cards in Survivor, but not common enough to make this a consideration for most Survivor decks.
Crafty(3): Good. Same deal, there’s Tools and Tricks, but usually not as a deck focus.

Sledgehammer(0): Okay. See above(Guardian)
Sledgehammer(4): Good. See above(Guardian)
Protective Gear(2): Okay to Good. See above(Guardian)

Ice Pick(1): Staple. Without the Mag Glass to keep it down, this becomes the staple investigation tool in Survivor. The fighting part is more relevant here as well.
Ice Pick(3): Staple. Survivor recursion can make this card absolutely absurd and the centerpiece of your deck.
Unscrupulous Loan(3): Excellent. Compared to Rogue, this is on the one hand more potent because you don’t have as many alternatives for money, but on the other hand it’s also more dangerous because you have a harder time of paying back the loan before the game ends.

Professor Webb(0): Okay to Bad. Survivor has so many options to recur items, even Scavenging from the Core is better. I suppose you don’t need to oversucceed with Webb, but that’s scraping the barrel.
Professor Webb(2): Okay to Good. The improved version could be played alongside the other Survivor options without feeling bad about it if you want to go really deep on the theme.
Enchanted Bow(2): Good. See above(Mystic)

Precious Memento(4): Good. Survivor is more interested in defensive cards like this than Rogue is and for someone who wants to go hard on defense (like Daniela might), this is really good.
Talisman of Protection: Good to Excellent. Another card that makes more sense in Survivor. Defense is more of a thing here, but more importantly the arcane slot is less of an issue for them than for Mystic. Also another Item for the recursion engines.

Earthly Serenity(1): Good. See above(Mystic). Requires decent willpower to be efficient of course.
Earthly Serenity(4): Good to Excellent. See above(Mystic). Same here.
Hit Me: Bad. Already a borderline card for Rogue, but Survivor can just play actual Lucky instead of a worse Lucky variant.

Most useful: Ice Pick(all), Short Supply, Schoffner’s Catalogue
Least useful: Hit Me, Professor Webb(0), Blood Will Have Blood

Verdict: There’s barely a bad card in sight in this set of Survivor cards. Only Hit Me is best used as a coaster, the rest is all a boon to the card pool. Sledgehammer, Fire Extinguisher and Enchanted Bow offer new toys for fighty Survivors, while Ice Pick is just a fantastic card for fighters and clue finders alike. The recursion archetype is the clear winner here, with Short Supply supercharging the deck and making it sing from turn 1. Meanwhile, plenty of items are there as interesting recursion targets for Scavenging and Bob is an investigator that can actually use it to good effect (Sadly not the level 2 version from Dream-Eaters, but the next investigator expansion will have that one covered). The items are of course not just interesting for recursion, they are good on their own merit as well.
Like all classes, Survivor gains some interesting resource generators through the three triple-class talents. But they also gain even more thanks to Unscrupulous Loan and Schoffner’s Catalogue.
Staying on the topic of Bob, he can take eight level zero cards here. He’s probably not interested in the Sledgehammer and definitely not interested in Hit Me, but the rest are all great or at least solid for him: Bandages, Jury-Rig, Webb, Schoffner’s, Short Supply, Talisman of Protection. Add Scavenging, Leather Coat, some rogue money and you’ve got a deck. Probably needs some intellect boosts from somewhere to really take off, but that can be figured out even on a small collection.
For Daniela, the Survivor pool is flush with defensive cards that allow her to take enemy attacks all day long: Between Bandages, Plucky, Protective Gear, Talisman and Memento she can shrug off anything. Meanwhile she can profit from Fend Off, Blood Will Have Blood and Bangle of Jinxes while swinging a hammer around. So I would call her very well supported, she’s probably the one that works best with just Core+Edge out of the five here.
Very strong card pool for survivors, two thumbs up from me.

Neutral

Heavy Furs: Good. Gives you Wendy’s investigator ability on an item. That’s certainly useful.
Rod of Animalism(1): Bad. Charisma exists and while Charisma costs 3XP, it also doesn’t cost a draw, resources or action, it’s is as consistent as it can be and it doesn’t take up the accessory slot. I don’t think Rod is all that great outside of meme uses.
Call for Backup(2): Okay to Good. Obviously heavily depends on your classes, but this can be worth playing. 2XP is a lot for a low impact card like this, though.

Sled Dog: Excellent. To make a long story short, this gives you a weapon, a movement tool and soak all in a tidy bundle. To make a long story way longer than reasonable, it’s the best card in the game and I wrote 5000 words about it.
In the Thick of It: Staple. Incredible card that goes into pretty much every deck. Do you like having XP? Well, there you go. You can now start with Charisma in play. Or one of the triple-class talents. Or with whatever else makes your deck tick. Most of the time, it’s hard to justify *not* running this card.

Final Verdict

This box has Sled Dogs in it. Instant 12/10, buy this box before you even buy the Core.
Edge of the Earth is a fantastic expansion in terms of adding player cards to your collection. The sheer amount of cards this adds to each class skyrockets your options more than any other expansion with the possible exception of the 5 investigator starters taken as a whole.
This box doesn’t favor any of the classes in a disproportionate way either, the powerful cards are spread fairly evenly. This is of course in large part a result of all the multiclass cards.
There are a few things noticeable here. To start off, the focus on the leveled cards that the deckbuilding of these investigators suggests is also reflected in the card pool. Any class can take ~30 (non-neutral) cards in this set. Of those, only 5-6 are level zero with the exception of Survivor which has 8 due to its lower XP curve. For comparison, Carcosa has ~17 cards per class, with 8-9 of them being level zero (including in Survivor). Or in other words, instead of half the cards being unleveled, it’s only 15-20% in Edge. That by itself isn’t good or bad, but it might be something to consider when comparing Edge to other expansions. It gives you a lot of options to level up your decks, but fewer to build your initial one.
Looking at those numbers, you can also see the impact that the multiclass cards have on how usable these cards are with 30 instead of 17 per class. It’s not quite twice as many cards per class, but roughly a 75% increase. This is a very good thing for new collections as it will give them immediately just more cards to play with, doing a good job of making the card pool deeper. Or at least appear deeper.
When looking over the classes one by one, it was apparent that the designers took care to include cards for each of the investigators in the set. How much support there is for each of them certainly fluctuates a bit, but they are all supported enough that playing them on Core+Edge won’t lead to disappointment.
I can therefore recommend this set as a first buy after Core and due to the multiclass cards adding so many deck building options i’ll go further and call it one of the best options you have.
In terms of wider archetypes, the Synergy stuff is interesting and reasonably powerful. It’s a rather insular thing, only appearing in this expansion, but what is there is enough to matter. It also gives Lola Hayes from Carcosa a really nice thing to lean into that makes her unique deckbuilding shine.
There’s also a noticeable amount of healing in here and it’s better than usual. I very much approve of this. Healing has a bad reputation due to being inefficient in terms of actions when compared to using assets for soaking. The cards from Edge close this gap somewhat and make this a valid approach to meeting the Mythos.
A huge asset for deck building purposes is the cycle of permanents that have to be included at deck creation. These significantly change how you look at building a deck and open up new fun options to explore… with the possible exception of Short Supply which is just rather generically strong and builds upon things that your deck was probably doing anyways. Still, all five are great to have in your pool and to build around. If you own Dream-Eaters, you can use In the Thick of It and Versatile to put these into any investigator you want, increasing your options dramatically.
Then there is the cycle of triple-colored talent cards, each of them offering replenishing resources to either pay for cards of certain traits or enhance tests on actions with those traits. These are great as something to build a trait-based deck around and all of them are priced competitively enough to be good. Thanks to In the Thick of It, you can even start with one of them in your deck, getting your trait synergies online from the first scenario on. Very cool cards and make traits on a lot of cards matter just a little bit more than before.
The final cycle of cards worth highlighting are the level 1 skills that key off of your lowest or second lowest stat. These are good at fixing up your weak points and especially Savant in Rogue fills a very important role for doing something about their rotten willpower scores. It’s quite unfortunate that these are Practiced traited, yet don’t work with either of the two cards that care about the Practiced trait (Practice makes Perfect from Dream-Eaters, Amanda from Innsmouth). I feel like that’s a bit of confusion that could’ve been easily be avoided by making these Innate instead, tweaking the flavor here and there. Oh well.
But to bring all of this discussion to a close, this expansion is well worth buying. It’s one of the best ones around no matter how deep you are already into the game.

Surge

That’s it for the Edge of the Earth player card overview.
Find more articles at the Article Hub.

Investigator Expansion Review: Carcosa

https://derbk.com/ancientevils/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-34.png

Introduction

This is an overview of the player cards in the Path to Carcosa Investigator expansion. I will be looking at the investigators first, then go over the rest grouped by class. For most cards I will try to keep it short and to the point to not stretch this article more than necessary.
For every group of cards I will nominate the three most useful and the three least useful cards. This isn’t necessarily about raw power, but more about how good they are at fueling a lot of your decks.
Finally, I will give my opinion on how well this selection of player cards stands on its own, answering if it’s worthwhile to get as a first expansion next to the core set and if this expansion + Core is enough to support the investigators contained in this expansion.
These articles do ignore the optional list of taboos. This is because they are mostly aimed at new players trying to figure out which investigator expansion to get next and taboo isn’t a thing that I want to weigh them down with. It’d also make things unnecessary complicated.
The ranking I use for cards is Bad < Okay < Good < Excellent < Staple with each of those spanning quite a range. I use something like “Okay to Good” or “Good to Okay” when I want to specify whether it’s on the upper or lower range of that rank. Please don’t take these rankings too seriously and more as a guide line, cards need to be evaluated in context and compressing these contexts down into just one word is really unprecise. I still find it useful for this overview as a shortcut to put the cards into relation quickly.

The Investigators

The Path to Carcosa comes with six investigators, adding the neutral Lola to the usual lineup of one per class. Lola is the only one of these that is a bit of a puzzle, the other five are quite powerful.
Mark is both a great fighter thanks to his fight stat of 5 and a good generalist thanks to his signature asset which can boost the rest of his stats to a similarly competent level. His deckbuilding is Guardian cards plus all level zero cards with the Tactics trait. That trait access isn’t particularly relevant just with Carcosa + Core, but gets significantly fleshed out over time.
Minh has deckbuilding similar to the core set investigators, with Seeker as her main class and Survivor as the side class. She has a powerful investigator ability that is a boon both to herself and her team. She leans towards will and intellect in the same way that Daisy does, but she is less fragile.
Sefina is main class Rogue, side class Mystic. Her event focused playstyle is quite different from the rest of the cast so far and a real treat. She combines the resource intensive cards from Mystic with the resource generating cards from Rogue in an efficient way.
Akachi uses Mystic cards, level zero Occult traited cards and anything from 0-4 with charges on it. Almost all that does in a Core+Carcosa environment is add Archaic Glyphs to her Mystic pool which she’s kinda bad at using with her 2 intellect. Nonetheless, she is powerful right out of the gate with extra uses for all her spells and the 5 willpower to do so efficiently. With a fuller card pool, her deck building opens up considerably and she gets quite a few neat toys with the Occult trait or with charges on them. She becomes an excellent combat mage in particular, able to leverage her access to extra charges and translate them into damage.
William follows the main class plus side class template, he’s Survivor with Guardian on the side. He’s a good fighter that is also able to tank a lot of abuse thanks to his ability to recycle assets. He’s fun to play, efficient and gives the first real taste of the Survivor recursion archetype.
Lola Hayes has incredibly open and potent deck building which however is balanced out by her statline, low sanity and stamina, restrictions on what to play when and a pair of crippling weaknesses. She’s a puzzle to figure out, but without a deeper card pool, she sort of lacks a payoff for doing so yet.

Guardian

.32 Colt: Okay to Bad. Tolerable for investigators with high fight (like Mark) but only for those and only in the start deck. If you want something with many uses, just take a melee weapon.
.45 Automatic(2): Good… enough. This is sort of a necessary evil that you take because there’s nothing better. The upgrade doesn’t really add much, but that +1 skill value is so important that it at least beats sticking with the level zero gun.
Armor of Ardennes(5): Bad. Horribly overcosted in all regards.

Combat Training(1): Okay. The composure cycle is fine, but especially in the Carcosa campaign these won’t stick around long enough to rely on it unless you load up on other soak to use as a buffer.
First Aid(3): Okay. 3XP is a lot, but this healing card does at least offer a good ratio of healing per action.
Stick to the Plan(3Ex): Staple. Insanely powerful, makes you start with an extra three cards “in hand”, even ones of your choice. Tactic covers a lot of events and Supply is there so you can throw Emergency Cache on there as well. Even with only Core+Carcosa you can put Emergency Cache, Ever Vigilant and Dynamite Blast on here for great effect.

Trench Knife: Bad. No extra damage and a very narrow ability? Hard pass.
True Grit: Okay. Fine effect, but slightly overcosted. Ultimately there’s too many other options that can do the soaking for you while also doing other things.
Eat Lead(2): Okay to Bad. Can secure a clutch attack, but a proper skill card will usually do a similar job without depleting your weapon. Has some niche uses for fishing after specific tokens.

I’ll See You In Hell: Bad. This is little more than a gimmick.
Let Me Handle This: Good to Excellent. A way for guardians to protect their teammates through their firepower or their good willpower.
Ambush: Bad. This is difficult to use straight and the payoff isn’t really worth combo-ing this with Let Me Handle This or On The Hunt.

Ever Vigilant: Staple. One of the best cards you can have in your starting hand (or under Stick to the Plan), saving you both resources and actions.
Heroic Rescue: Okay. Does its job well enough. Particularly good for interrupting attacks of opportunity, allowing a pinned teammate to do their turn before you despite an enemy in their face.
Mano a Mano(1): Bad. A point of damage isn’t really worth a card and the limitations on timing make this very undesirable.

On the Hunt: Excellent. If you are actively looking for murder, this ensures that the Mythos phase goes your way. Also allows digging for enemies with Victory points on them.
Inspiring Presence: Okay. As long as you have allies that get more uses out of being healed (like Beat Cop(2)), this is fine but usually Guardian has more impactful skill cards to run instead.

Most useful Guardian cards: Stick to the Plan, Ever Vigilant and *ugh* .45 Auto(2)
Least useful Guardian cards: See You In Hell, Armor of Ardennes, Trench Knife

Verdict: A very mixed bag that mostly fails to deliver. There’s some real gems in there, but most cards here are either already mediocre immediately or quickly get outpaced when the card pool grows. The one card that sadly doesn’t get outpaced is .45 Auto(2), even with a full card pool there’s barely a good gun for off-class Guardian available so that thing keeps creeping into decks.
Mark is a very flexible and generically powerful character, so he doesn’t need any particular support. He works perfectly fine even on just a pool of Core + Carcosa. This won’t allow him to really dip into his unique deckbuilding rules, but the novelty of 5 fight together with a cool investigator ability makes him special enough without that.

Seeker

Arcane Insight(4): Okay to Bad. This stacks with activated abilities on investigation tools which makes it good at its job. However, the price in resources and XP is just too high.
Charles Ross: Okay. This is such a weird card for Seeker which isn’t particularly known for being rich. He’s priced right, though. And his ability does gain in relevance over time as Item synergies do become a thing eventually.
Fieldwork: Excellent. A repeatable source of +2 skill is great and the condition works well with typical Seeker gameplay.

In the Know(1): Okay. Without a way to generate more secrets, the potential value gained from not having to go to a place is eaten up by having to play and pay for this.
Scientific Theory: Okay. Seekers have it a bit easier to keep their composure in play than guardians thanks to staying out of harms way. Still not something to rely on, though.
Anatomical Diagrams: Bad. An Unexpected Courage does (close to) the same thing, except it’s not limited to specific tests and doesn’t cost resources.

Eidetic Memory(3): Okay to Good. Most Seeker events are Insight traited, so this certainly has enough targets. The trick is finding enough targets that matter enough that you want to pay 3XP to get extra copies of them or finding enough value in the flexibility of this card.
Forewarned(1): Good. Counterspells are very valuable and picking up a clue is often much less painful than dealing than whatever the Mythos has in store.
Guidance: Bad. Giving your action to someone else isn’t terribly useful, especially as a seeker who is responsible for advancing the gameplan through clues for the agenda.

Logical Reasoning: Staple. Like Forewarned, this is an important tool to deal with some of the crap the Mythos throws at you. What makes this card stand out that it can not only deal with some particularly frustrating treacheries but also heal horror.
No Stone Unturned(0): Okay to Bad. This digs for what you need, but at the price of an action and 2 resources I would expect to dig deeper than 6 cards.
No Stone Unturned(5): Good. That’s more like it. Removing the action cost and getting to search the whole deck basically turns this into a whole different card. An expensive one to buy of course, but even with a full card pool it’s the only full tutor, no conditions attached, that is available.

Shortcut(2): Excellent. Due to costing XP and actually gaining a resource cost, this is not the staple that the level zero version from Dunwich is. It is still very good and depending on the player count it might even be better for you.
Eureka: Staple. There’s a cycle of four skill cards in this set that only adds a single icon but gives a reward for passing. These are often used on tests you were already going to pass because you aren’t really after the skill icon (unless you are Minh!), but after the reward. Eureka gives you card selection that you don’t have to pay anything for. It’s glue for your deck.

Archaic Glyphs: Okay. Among the researchable assets that have been released over time, this (together with the one from Harvey’s deck) ranks among the ones I played the least. Evading with your Intellect is fine but not something I want to jump through hoops for and pay 3XP. Guiding Stones is pretty good though, with a high ceiling. If you can stack up enough bonuses, you can pick locations clean in one go with this, however doing so on a small collection is going to be a challenge.

Most useful Seeker cards: Eureka, Logical Reasoning, Fieldwork
Least useful Seeker cards: Guidance, Anatomical Diagram, No Stone Unturned(0)

Verdict: Another set of cards that doesn’t impress too much. Except for Eureka and Logical Reasoning, nothing stands out as really important. And it doesn’t look particularly tailored towards Minh either. Sorry, but I would describe the Seeker part here as “Meh.”

Rogue

.41 Derringer(2): Good to Excellent. So if you follow the expansions chronologically, these are the released investigators that can use this: Skids, Jenny, Sefina, Wendy, Lola. At this point, this lives in basically the same space as the .45 Auto(2): We’ll use it because we have to. Only once the investigator pool starts to expand and include the likes of Winifred and Tony, this card suddenly becomes really good because that oversuccess ability is actually quite potent if you have more than 3 fight (or are Winifred).
Charon’s Obol(1Ex): Excellent to Staple. Risk and reward, taken to the extreme. The one instance where I will look down on you for cheating 🙂 You take the Obol, you take the consequences.
Dario El-Amin: Okay. On an early card pool, this guy is quite difficult to get (and keep) active and his own cost doesn’t help. Needs four activations of his ability to even pay back himself. He can have his uses if you are rich already, but don’t plan on Dario taking you there.

Knuckleduster: Bad. See the list of available rogues above and draw your own conclusions. Even in the wider cardpool, this doesn’t cut it.
Lockpicks(1): Staple. Great card that allows Rogue to routinely investigate using their agility. Doesn’t really enable them to be the main clue finder, but with it they can pitch in and fulfill their job as flexible investigators that can help everywhere.
Lupara(3): Excellent. Delivers a whallop of damage without having to play the asset in advance. Also a card that you can apply some tricks to in order to get more mileage out of it.

Moxie(1): Good. Shares the vulnerabilities of the other composures of course, but the fact that this boosts willpower is just a godsend for Rogue.
Pickpocketing(2): Excellent. Not only does the upgrade gain the oversucceed clause over the level zero version from the Core, but it also becomes Fast. A great source of card draw for evasive rogues.
Stealth: Bad. The special way this only disengages instead of exhausting the enemy means that it’s inefficient at dealing with Hunter enemies. It does however exhaust itself, limiting its use further.

Suggestion(4): Okay. This is quite good as an evasion tool that also has an ability to cancel attacks. There’s two things holding it back: The XP cost. The fact that most rogues are naturally good at evading and weak in willpower. Pretty great for Sefina though.
Cheap Shot: Good. Best looked at as a one-shot evade that allows using fight icons on the test… and then also does a damage for good measure. A useful card.
Cheat Death(5): Okay to Bad. For when you took Obol and have regrets. Sadly this also eats up most of the Obol XP, so … eh. There are some ways to use this to get a lot of value, discarding a bunch of enemies and treacheries all at once. It sort of needs to cost 5XP for that reason, but it’s a big ask.

Daring Maneuver: Okay to Bad. Helps you with oversucceeding, but doesn’t help you with passing in the first place. I’d argue that it’s often better to commit this for its icon instead of playing it.
Narrow Escape: Okay. Can help with evading enemies but is rarely going to be worth the card. Acceptable for its icons.
Sleight of Hand: Excellent. A card that has a lot of cool and reasonably powerful uses. Even some degenerate ones. Use with Lupara from this expansion for a start, i’ll let you figure out the rest.

Sneak Attack(2): Good. A solid upgrade to a Core Set card. No longer requires the enemy to be exhausted, but can be used on an enemy engaged with another investigator as well. Or one you just Stealth-ed, I suppose.
Watch This: Staple. Just as Eureka makes sure you got cards to play, this gives resources to play cards. As long as you find tests to reliably pass (no investigate tests though, those are for nerds), you can use this for free cash outs… as long as you have some money to gamble.

Most useful Rogue cards: Lockpicks, Charon’s Obol, Watch This
Least useful Rogue cards: Stealth, Knuckleduster, Narrow Escape

Verdict: Finally some good cards, I already felt a bit bad for trashing this expansion so much. The Rogue pool gets some nice additions here that have staying power even with a full card pool and the “Oversuccess” archetype is fleshed out considerably. Again, as with Guardian and Seeker, this card pool doesn’t seem geared much towards the investigator in this box, with only Suggestion being a clear nod towards Sefina. She is reasonably capable when focusing on her Mystic access, though.
There’s some coasters in there, but all things considered this is a useful expansion of the Rogue card pool. Approved.

Mystic

Alchemical Transmutation: Okay. Can be used for resources in a pinch, but you’d need to be confident that you gain 2 or 3 resources from each activation otherwise you would’ve been better of with an Emergency Cache.
Arcane Initiate(3): Okay. I think this is a rather unnecessary upgrade, the level zero Core staple does its job just fine and the doom can be worked around without spending 3XP.
Book of Shadows(1): Bad. An ability that isn’t worth it in the first place is bad enough, but having to play an expensive asset to gain access to that ability is even worse. Not even Daisy likes this.

David Renfield: Excellent to Staple. Usually a level zero ally with a static stat boost on it costs 4. David only costs 2 and even generates resources. As a tradeoff you need to juggle doom on him which mostly means killing him off at the right time.
Grounded(1): Bad. Arguably the worst of the composures. Only gives a bonus to spells which would be much more relevant if that wouldn’t just be a more limited willpower bonus.
Scrying(3): Okay. The card will get its five minutes in the sun with the release of Gloria, but until then it’s just not all that impressive. Allows assigning specific encounter cards to specific players which helps with dealing with those encounters. That’s certainly nice but hard to quantify.

Spirit Athame(1): Okay. Allows spellcasters to help with their main trade using their hand slots. The +2 bonus is sizeable. Can also kill a rat or a cultist in a pinch, which does come up.
St. Hubert’s Key: Excellent. Offers the same willpower bonus and sanity buffer as Holy Rosary and then also adds an intellect boost for 2 extra resources. This is a good deal, especially for a level zero card this is a lot to squeeze into just one equipment slot. 4 resources is a lot however and Mystics are already required to pay a lot for their spell assets.
Astral Travel: Okay. An painfully expensive card that also has potential drawbacks attached, but it does offer you something relatively unique (until Seeker starts teleporting around as well… cheaper and without any drawback).

Quantum Flux: Okay. Reshuffling your discard pile can help you with specific weaknesses (Sefina’s in particular) and has some other uses as well.
Recharge(2): Okay to Bad. Risking a loss of your asset is sort of cruel here. Even when you have that happen with something that’s already emptied out, you do lose your card and action for the Recharge itself. Rarely worth it but can be made playable through token manipulation.
Storm of Spirits: Good. Hitting every enemy at your location isn’t a very common effect even at a full card pool, which gives this card some legs.

Time Warp(2): Good. This does a lot of wacky stuff that bends what the rules as written are capable of handling, offering a complete do-over when stuff hits the fan.
Uncage the Soul: Staple. Key resource piece for all Mystics that heavily buy into spells. Which is most of them. A set of good icons is the cherry on top making sure this is useful at all stages of the game.
Ward of Protection(2): Staple. One of the most played Mystic cards period. The upgrade from the level zero allows canceling a card drawn by anyone anywhere which is fantastic. I pretty much can’t think of a deck where this wouldn’t be worth running.

Seal of the Elder Sign(5): Okay to Good. If this would just autosucceed a test, it wouldn’t be worth the 5XP (except maybe in high difficulties), however this triggers the Elder Sign effect of an investigator on demand. How good this is therefore depends on what your investigator gets for his Elder Sign effect.
Torrent of Power: Okay to Bad. This can be used to punch through important tests, especially if you can feed it with cheap charges like from Alchemical Transmutation. In general, you don’t want to sacrifice your charges this way and once the card pool opens up, you get better skills to get a bunch of icons.

Most useful Mystic cards: Ward of Protection(2), Uncage the Soul, St Hubert’s Key
Least useful Mystic cards: Book of Shadows, Grounded, Astral Travel

Verdict: A middle of the road offering overall, but punctuated by a couple really great cards that elevate this card selection significantly. Uncage, Ward(2) and St. Hubert’s Key are all-stars and many people also swear on David Renfield (although he is more of an acquired taste, i’d say). Most of the rest is at least useful in some niche situations, but with several super solid cards like the Athame or Time Warp throughout. Only Book of Shadows and Grounded would come nowhere close to a deck of mine.
Some of the cards replenish charges, which seems tangentially related to Akachi at first, but she is sort of the one who needs these cards the least. She already gets an extra charge on everything and has a signature that can be used to replay assets and refill them that way. That being said, Akachi needs little specific support, she is very good at using the typical spell asset suite that the Mystic card pool has spread across it. On a card pool of only Carcosa + Core she’d be left without a combat spell (aside from Shrivel(0)) and that’s a bit of an issue but there’s more to do for mystics than just fight.
All things considered this is a decent haul for Mystic, but for Akachi specifically you will probably find that you want more spell assets that use charges for her to take off.

Survivor

Cherished Keepsake: Staple. The counterpart to the Leather Coat. Great card that William can recur over and over and that has lots of interactions with the wider card pool beyond that, so it stays relevant forever.
Gravedigger’s Shovel: Okay. Weapons without a damage bonus don’t impress me. Neither does a clue for two actions and two resources. This is sort of both stapled together which makes it almost fine, but not really. Can be a solid card to bring at level 0 due to its +2 fight but you’ll want to upgrade out of it fast.
Lantern: Good. Lowering shroud is a lot better than raising skill and allows this to interact favorably with the likes of Lucky and Look What I Found. The damage action isn’t what you run this for, but there will be times you are glad it’s there.

Madame Labranche: Excellent. Both of her abilities can be reliably triggered in the right deck. Mostly used to fuel decks built around the Dunwich staple Dark Horse but quite decent otherwise too.
Newspaper(2): Okay to Good. If you can manage to become “clueless” several times, for example by paying to advance several acts, this can translate to multiple bonus clues. That being said, other investigation tools are usually better unless you play solo.
Plucky(1): Okay to Good. That willpower is part of this composure makes it a smidge better than most others. That William can recur it in a pinch doesn’t hurt either.

A Close Encounter(2): Excellent. This card gets a lot of value when the card pool gets deeper, but just the ability to recur a key ally and even reach into the discard of a teammate makes this immediately interesting even without any shenanigans.
A Test of Will(1): Staple. Survivor’s version of Ward of Protection costs them an XP instead of a horror. While worse than Ward, a unconditional counterspell is still an amazing tool to have.
Devil’s Luck(1): Okay. Also sort of a counterspell for an XP, but a lot more limited than Test of Will.

Fight or Flight: Okay to Bad. Gets some niche uses later on, but is mostly just not that great.
Hiding Spot: Good to Excellent. An interesting alternative to evasion, usable at any location and for the whole team. Great icons, too.
Infighting(3): Bad. Hey look, it’s Dodge for 3XP but doesn’t work against Elites. Not worth the XP at all.

Snare Trap(2): Bad. I suppose the idea is to drop this and hold up a Hunter following you, but this is just too clunky and expensive to use.
True Survivor(3): Excellent. The majority of skills are either Innate or Practiced, depending on if they are representing something the investigator is just born with or if they trained that skill. Survivors being what they are heavily lean towards Innate, meaning this card has a host of great targets before even looking at side classes the Survivor might have. There’s a couple investigators that really love this card.
Waylay: Excellent. One of Survivor’s more understated themes is the ability to get rid of enemies without having to formally defeat them. Waylay is expensive in terms of resources, but can be huge shortcut when dealing with a particularly tough enemy.

Not Without A Fight: Okay. Two icons while engaged with any enemy is fine but goes up in value in multiplayer if you are the main fighter (a job William can do). Note that this can also commit to a treachery you draw while being engaged. It doesn’t have to be a test related to dealing with that enemy.
Resourceful: Staple. The best of the four skills from the “reward for passing” cycle in this set, this can give you a multitude of options to draw from as the game goes on. Note that it’s not restricted by level of the card to get back. You can use this to get back True Survivor (which can get back Resourceful…). Another card that shoots up in value as the pool gets larger thanks to the recursion theme getting more and more fleshed out.

Most useful Survivor cards: Resourceful, Cherished Keepsake, Test of Will(1)
Least useful Survivor cards: Snare Trap, Infighting, Fight or Flight

Verdict: And just like that, Survivor is the big winner of the Carcosa Investigator Expansion. This is a great selection of cards with many staples, near-staples and just completely solid cards that you will still play when you are nine more expansions deep into the game. There’s two coasters in there, but the rest is all at least nice to have.
To support William as a fighter, I would’ve wished for a nicer weapon here than that shoddy shovel. If you are just on a Carcosa+Core card pool, you pretty much have to look at the Guardian splash for weapons because the Core only has the Baseball Bat for Survivor as well. That means the .45 Auto and Machete become your go to which to be fair certainly work just fine. Note that William can also use the neutral Knife in a special way, throwing it at enemies for the final 2 damage and immediately replaying it through his investigator ability. Between Cherished Keepsake and Leather Coat that he can replay over and over, he’s also very tanky. So yeah, he’s adequately supported. Still would’ve liked the shovel to be better 🙂

Neutral

Key of Ys(5): Bad… for the health of the game. This card is completely stupid. In a game breaking way. It’s a 3 resource card that gives +3 to all skills which is just absurd in a game where every single point matters. Feel free to play this once for the novelty, then never touch it because it’s so unbalanced that it takes every little ounce of fun out of the game.
Calling in Favors: Excellent. Searches for your key allies as long as you have another to bounce to your hand. Becomes really good once you can reuse enters-play effects with this. Has gone up in value constantly over the years, with a fuller collection it’s a near-Staple with lots of interactions.
Emergency Cache(3): Excellent. Another card that has gone up in value over time, thanks to its ability to reload assets that use supplies. In Carcosa+Core, the best target for it is actually Flashlight, but it gets a lot better with more expansions in the mix.

The Desperate Skills: Okay. Good for Say Your Prayers. There are some decks that focus on these, but they never really made it into just regular decks “just in case”. Say Your Prayers gets a special shoutout for giving rogues and other low willpower investigators a fighting chance against Rotting Remains.

Final verdict

The Carcosa player card box is a bit uneven in how much it offers to each class. Survivor clearly got the best haul, with Rogue following not too far behind. Mystics also can’t complain (much). Meanwhile, the pool for Guardian and Seeker is rather dry except for a few standout cards.
One thing I am missing here a little bit is a stronger move towards certain archetypes that get you on the right track for your first decks. Carcosa does a good job of this for the Rogue part, fleshing out the Oversuccess deck very well and in Survivor, laying a strong foundation for all the recursion shenanigans the class gets up to. The other three classes show some minor nods towards certain ideas, but nothing that can be built into a deck just yet.
The investigators make up for this uneven picture in part. Minh might have problems to shine on just a Carcosa+Core card pool and Sefina doesn’t really get to be a proper rogue yet, but they are both playable. Mark, William and Akachi are supported well enough to be strong on that small base albeit missing the tools to cover all the roles they can do with a wider collection.
That leaves Lola. To be honest with you, I personally didn’t find much of a use for her before Edge of the Earth introduced synergy cards that get stronger the more different classes you have among your assets… something that Lola’s unique multiclass access makes easy to fulfill. Until then, I found that everything I wanted to do with Lola would work better in another investigator. Since she’s the sixth investigator in this box, basically a “free bonus” if you want to look at it like that, I would not hold that against the expansion. Indeed, I think the puzzle behind making her work is an interesting one and just because I struggled doesn’t mean that you can’t make her work. Other people certainly have.
Buying this as your first player pool expansion after the Core is doable, but not what i’d recommend. However, it’d be a good pick as a second buy because this is a really nice set of investigators and the cards are punctuated by some staple cards that are great to have. Having another investigator box or two at hand also allows you to make better use of the trait-based deck building that Akachi and Mark have and might hand you more spell assets to make Akachi the premiere combat mage she is destined to be. Alternatively, using Investigator Starters of Jacqueline, Harvey and/or Nathaniel to patch the holes in Carcosa’s pool would make for a strong foundation to build on if you want to get the Carcosa investigators but skip buying another full box of player cards for now.

Surge

That’s it for the Carcosa player card overview.
Find more articles at the Article Hub.

Investigator Expansion Review: Dunwich

https://derbk.com/ancientevils/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/image-35.png

Introduction

This is an overview of the player cards in the Dunwich Legacy Investigator expansion. I will be looking at the investigators first, then go over the rest grouped by class. For most cards I will try to keep it short and to the point to not stretch this article more than necessary.
For every group of cards I will nominate the three most useful and the three least useful cards. This isn’t necessarily about raw power, but more about how good they are at fueling a lot of your decks.
Finally, I will give my opinion on how well this selection of player cards stands on its own, answering if it’s worthwhile to get as a first expansion next to the core set and if this expansion + Core is enough to support the investigators contained in this expansion.
These articles do ignore the optional list of taboos. This is because they are mostly aimed at new players trying to figure out which investigator expansion to get next and taboo isn’t a thing that I want to weigh them down with. It’d also make things unnecessary complicated.
The ranking I use for cards is Bad < Okay < Good < Excellent < Staple with each of those spanning quite a range. I use something like “Okay to Good” or “Good to Okay” when I want to specify whether it’s on the upper or lower range of that rank. Please don’t take these rankings too seriously and more as a guideline, cards need to be evaluated in context and compressing these contexts down into just one word is really unprecise. I still find it useful for this overview as a shortcut to put the cards into relation quickly.

The Investigators

All five investigators follow the same deckbuilding rules: level 0-5 of their main class, level 0-5 neutral and up to 5 level 0 cards of any other class. This is simple and surprisingly deep. Even with a full card pool, this deckbuilding can often stand up to investigators that get access to a proper subclass or trait-based access because it does offer some unique combinations that would require the use of Versatile in other investigators.
Zoey, Rex and Ashcan are fan favorites and quite powerful. Rex is even considered to be too powerful, with his investigator ability giving him unparalleled efficiency at finding clues. Jenny’s ability to collect money can fuel some early forays into Rogue playstyle, overcoming some of Skids’ shortcoming. Jim lags a bit behind with a statline that isn’t really working well with the Mystic cardpool at the time. There’s some very solid things that can be done with him with a full pool of player cards, but he never really reaches the same tier as most other investigators.
All together a very solid set of investigators, both for new and veteran players. Personally I do especially enjoy how many different things you can do with Zoey these days.

Guardian

Bandolier: Excellent. Enables carrying a sidearm with your two-handed gun which is super useful.
Blackjack: Bad. Deals no extra damage and the ability is ultra-narrow. Contender for worst card in the game.
Brother Xavier(1): Good. Powerful, but expensive. Flat stat boost, lots of tank and a damage ability is a fantastic package, but 5 resources is a lot.

Keen Eye(3): Okay to Bad. Worst of the five permanent talents. Very expensive, but has some narrow applications.
Lightning Gun(5): Okay. Powerful, but held back by ammo and cost. It’s just hard to invest that many XP and resources into something that only holds 3 shot by default. It has its uses, though.
Springfield(4): Bad. Very underpowered. Can’t be used against anything engaging you which is really not what you want as a guardian.

I’ve had worse(4): Good. A powerful effect that is very difficult to use in full so it would justify the investment of 4XP. It is therefore outclassed by a level 2 version that is released in TCU.
If it bleeds: Bad. Nice effect, but the restriction to Monster enemies kills this card’s playability.
Emergency Aid: Good. One of the few ways to heal allies and at 2 points of heal per action it’s competitive.

Monster Slayer(5): Bad. Would be tolerable but still narrow at lower XP cost, but 5XP is just an outlandish ask for this.
Prepared for the Worst: Staple. This is one of the core Guardian cards, ensuring that they have a weapon in their hands early. When combined with Carcosa’s Stick to the Plan, the stock of this card goes up dramatically.
Stand Together(3): Excellent. Insane value for a single card. Highly recommended (as long as you have other players with you). Has a level 0 version in the Nathaniel deck that is even more of a staple card.

Taunt: Okay. Good in full multiplayer groups, only niche uses otherwise.
Taunt(2): Okay to Bad. As the upgrade to a card that is already narrow, this is going to make your deck even fewer times.
Teamwork: Okay. Niche card that can enable some combo stuff in multiplayer, but I wouldn’t call it a generically powerful card. It’s definitely (ab)usable in many ways though.

Leadership: Okay to Good. Another multiplayer centric card. It’s very solid for its purpose.
Vicious Blow(2): Staple. One of the best skill cards that Guardian has … and Guardian has some really good skill cards in general.

Most useful Guardian cards: Vicious Blow(2), Prepared for the Worst, Bandolier(0)
Least useful Guardian cards: Monster Slayer(5), If it Bleeds, Blackjack

Verdict: Overall reasonable selection with some staples in Vicious Blow and Prepared for the Worst. Stand Together is an absolute all-star if you want your teammates to like you. I’ve had worse, Xavier and Emergency Aid can help you tank while Lightning Gun offers an alternative big gun to the Core Set’s shotgun.

Seeker

Art Student: Okay. If you can pick up a clue and use her horror soak, you got some good value, but you can do a lot better with your ally slot usually.
Dr. Maleson: Good. Comes with a wordy ability, but is actually mostly notable for having 2 horror and damage soak each while only costing a single resource. He’s basically Seeker’s Leather Coat!
Higher Education(3): Excellent. And incredibly powerful card. Notable in that it fueled one of the most broken decks at the time when combined with Rex and Milan Christopher.

Laboratory Assistant: Staple. Super solid at face value and goes up in stock when combined with Calling in Favors from TCU or the “Big Hand” archetype (enabled through Harvey’s deck). Probably the best filler allies that you can just play for its effect, then sacrifice to something.
Pathfinder(1): Staple. Possibly the best movement card in the game. Immensely powerful, basically gives you an extra action per turn.
I’ve got a Plan: Excellent. Only held back by its situational condition and the resource cost, this gives seekers a very powerful way to get rid of enemies without having to rely on a fighter to bail them out. Has some competition in fuller card pools that keep it from being everywhere, but this has staying power for quite a while.

Deciphered Reality(5): Bad. A clumsy card, expensive and conditional. Has a fantastic best case scenario that is worth working towards, but doing so requires intimate knowledge of the scenarios ahead. For 5XP, this is not a good deal.
Expose Weakness(1): Bad. Not worth using this over something like I’ve got a Plan or just depending on a bodyguard.
Preposterous Sketches: Okay to Good. Mildly playable, but 2 resources is a lot for this.

Seeking Answers: Bad. The effect isn’t really worth a card unless you can now skip that other location entirely. Outside of 1-player games, that’s rarely going to be the case.
Shortcut: Staple. A free move has tons of applications and is just good value in general.
Deduction(2): Staple. Even if you don’t expect running into locations with more than 2 clues, the upgrade is worth it for the extra skill icon on one of Seeker’s best skill cards.

Inquiring Mind: Excellent. It is conditional so it sometimes can’t be used, but having a skill that gives 3 wild icons is immensely helpful in lots of situations nonetheless.
Strange Solution: Excellent. A rather easy to fulfill condition and the two cards you get partially refund the actions you spent on it. The available upgrades are very out of whack in terms of power sadly, with Acidic Ichor just being way more powerful than the others. It’s basically a Lightning Gun that doesn’t take up hand slots. The other two are very limited in their application and outclassed by other cards.

Most useful Seeker cards: Pathfinder(1), I’ve Got a Plan, Deduction(2)
Least useful Seeker cards: Seeking Answers, Expose Weakness, any Strange Solution not named Acidic Ichor

Verdict: Dunwich elevates seekers to a level that they never really came down from. This box has so many powerful toys for this class that it can be considered to be absolutely essential. The Rex/Milan/Higher Education feedback loop (Milan feeds resources into Higher Ed to make sure that Rex oversucceeds and picks up two clues, triggering Milan to get resources to feed into Higher Ed and so on and so on) is the first real powerful deck in the game’s lifespan. But aside from that, cards like Shortcut and Pathfinder made Seeker the best at moving around the map right from the start. Acidic Ichor and I’ve got a Plan made them one-shot enemies that would require several attacks with a regular Guardian gun. This is all topped off with a pair of great skill cards and a couple super solid allies. Seekers are clearly the big winners of Dunwich and Dunwich is also clearly the best box for Seeker. The amount of power on display here is insane.

Rogue

Adaptable(1): Excellent. An incredibly flexible card but you can really only use it well once you know the scenarios enough that you are comfortable swapping cards in and out of your cards to tune it towards what’s coming up.
Chicago Typewriter(4): Good. When compared to the Lightning Gun, this doesn’t enable fighting for low fight characters, but it does cost 1XP and 1 resource less while having one more ammo. That makes all the difference. Jenny and Skids aren’t really the best with this gun, though.
Hired Muscle(1): Okay. Can turn excess money into a fight value and some damage soak. Not really worth it, that money can be spent on less fleeting effects.

The Rat: Okay. Too expensive. There are some interesting uses for Joey with a wider card pool but nothing you can really capitalize on with just Core + Dunwich. He does offer a way to basically get extra actions, but at that point just play Leo De Luca.
Liquid Courage: Okay. A necessary evil. Healing horror is important for many rogues due to their low sanity coupled with a low will. This does the job, but is costly. There’s a level 1 upgrade in Winifred’s deck that is a lot better than this.
Lone Wolf: Staple. Even in multiplayer, you can trigger this semi-reliably by going last with everyone else moving out of your location first. Obviously insane in single player.

Lucky Dice(2Ex): Okay. Allows forcing important tests to go your way by paying but quickly gets real expensive. I’m not a fan, but i’ve seen this card do good things.
Streetwise(3): Excellent. Second best of the talents behind Higher Ed. Not only is it efficient at translating money to stats, but Rogue is the money class in the first place.
Switchblade(2): Okay. To make use of this, you really need a high base fight score so you can reliably oversuceed by two. Neither Jenny nor Skids really qualify. There is one investigator, Tony Morgan, who uses this card beautifully, but he is kind of the only one.

Gold Pocket Watch(4Ex): Good. Gets crazier the more players you have, as repeating the investigator phase means that *everyone* gets to take another turn.
I’m Outta Here: Good. Has a surprising number of good uses and good icons for when you don’t need it.
Ace in the Hole(3Ex): Excellent. Allows you to basically take a second turn, but unlike the Pocket Watch it doesn’t take any actions or resources itself and it doesn’t remove itself from the game. That leaves it open for shenanigans.

Contraband: Okay. Very expensive, but has its uses. Not really in the Core+Dunwich pool yet, though. It is one of the few ways you have to put more supplies an Acidic Ichor, though.
Think on your Feet: Bad. Not really an effect that is worth a card.
Double or Nothing: Excellent. There is some uses for this card that are hilariously broken. Played fairly, it is still a good card that lets you double-dip on a bunch of other effects as long as you can still pass the test.

Opportunist(2): Bad. None of the characters able to take this in Core + Dunwich (with possible exception of Wendy) is able to really use this and the one wild icon isn’t really worth the effort in the first place.
Quick Thinking: Excellent. With a wider card pool, this becomes almost a staple as the extra action is a great payoff, but again… Skids and Jenny aren’t all that set up to make use of it. Rex likes this, though. And you can make it work with Streetwise, at least.

Most useful Rogue cards: Adaptable(1), Streetwise(3), Lone Wolf
Least useful Rogue cards: Opportunist(2), Think on Your Feet, Double or Nothing

Verdict: This card pool painfully showcases the issues that Rogue had during the inception of the game. A lot of these cards are built around oversucceeding tests and that’s all well and good, but then the two investigators that are bundled with it are Skids and Jenny, who both are basically a bunch of 3s through the bank. That’s not to say that these cards are all that bad, just that they really don’t fit anywhere yet unless you are leaning super hard on the talent assets. Cards like Quick Thinking, Switchblade and Contraband do become good or excellent cards eventually, but with just Core+Dunwich they are just something you might run in an off-class rogue here and there. On the more positive side of things, the “money talks” archetype got some solid support here with Lone Wolf, Streetwise, Lucky Dice and of course Jenny herself. The exceptional cards are appropriately powerful even in a full pool. And Adaptable is just an amazing card that stands on its own.

Mystic

Alyssa Graham: Okay. Has some uses with later investigators, but at this point she’s mostly notable as an ally with +1 intellect.
Blood Pact(3): Good. Adding doom means sacrificing turns from the doom clock, which is very risky business. It can of course be used to crush tests during the final turn before the agenda would advance anyways, but it’s a bit limited.
Clarity of Mind: Bad. Spending an action on a point of healing is bad in itself, having to pay 3 resource, a card and yet another action on the privilege to be allowed to do so is horrible.

Jewel of Aureolus(3): Good. Due to the reliance on willpower, Mystics will rarely be willing to ditch their Holy Rosary for this. It is quite a reasonable card aside from that, though.
Rite of Seeking(0): Staple. The revised Core includes copies of Rite of Seeking(2), the old Core didn’t even have those. Dunwich is the first box then that gives mystics the ability to use their willpower for clue seeking. This is tremendously important for this class. Rite gets somewhat outshone by other cards with less harsh drawbacks, but it can’t really be overstated how huge this card was for the Mystic identity.
Rite of Seeking(4): Excellent. As long as you can get the full 3 clues from activating this, you are getting fantastic value out of your actions with this card.

Ritual Candles: Good to Excellent. Sacrificing a hand slot to dampen the negative effects of the bad tokens is surprisingly potent and can help a lot with making your bag draws more predictable. You can even hold two candles at once and start seeing the chaos bag become a lot more mellow.
Shrivelling(3): Staple. Being able to progress from the level 0 Shrivelling to an upgraded version is super important. Even though it’s just a +2 skill value that you are getting for your 3XP here, that skill bonus is crucial in staying on top of the Mythos.
Shrivelling(5): Good. Another bonus damage and another +1 skill over Shrivelling(3) make this quite powerful, but that drawback has some kick now. 5XP is also kind of a lot. This is Mystic’s Lightning Gun for the set.

Song of the Dead(2): Bad. Meant to tap into Jim’s affinity for skulls, this isn’t even all that reliable in a Jim deck without considerable setup. Since reliability is a big thing to look for in a weapon, Song of the Dead isn’t really played outside of some gimmick decks that do it because they can.
Bind Monster(2): Okay. This is actually decent at tying down a Hunter enemy for a few turns. Expensive as hell, though.
Delve Too Deep: Staple. 10/10, would Ancient Evils again. There’s a group of players that swears by this card and plays it as often as possible. Others don’t find the risk worth it. Me, I just don’t see how i can fit a card that doesn’t immediately help me into my already tight 30 cards. Considering just how much play this sees, i can’t deny it its staple rating even if i personally don’t play it much.

Hypnotic Gaze: Okay to Bad. Another overcosted Mystic spell. The effect is fine, but that price is definitely not right.
Moonlight Ritual: Good, but not yet. This is an important card that enables a lot of shenanigans down the line. In this set, there isn’t really a lot yet to combo with it.
Ward of Protection(5): Good. Quite expensive in terms of XP, but the effect is super powerful and stops everything, even enemies and stuff like Surge that regular Ward would still have to let through. Once you have Carcosa’s Ward(2) you will probably not look at this upgrade again.

Defiance: Bad. Without the means of token manipulation, this doesn’t do much. With those means, that very manipulation already does Defiance’s job. Hard pass.
Fearless: Excellent. Healing up to two horror while also nailing a test is great value.

Most useful Mystic cards: Shrivelling(all), Rite of Seeking(all), Fearless(2)
Least useful Mystic cards: Defiance, Song of the Dead, Clarity of Mind

Verdict: This is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, there are some stone-cold staples in Shrivelling, Rite of Seeking and Fearless here. On the other hand, the rest all kinda stinks or is mediocre. Well, and there’s Delve Too Deep of course, for those that are into it.
If you are just looking for a way to get your Mystic card pool up to snuff, the Jacqueline Fine deck is a much better option. You also get a set of universally useful spells for fighting and seeking there (and evading for good measure) that can perfectly replace Shrivel and Rite. Ritual Candles, Hypnotic Gaze and Defiance are even in there as reprints… not that anyone was asking for more copies of Defiance!

Survivor

Aquinnah(3): Good. A sizeable upgrade on her almost unplayable level 1 version from the Core, she is now able to use her ability to hurt the same enemy that attacked you.
Dark Horse: Staple. Possibly the card that spawns the most decks on ArkhamDB? Dark Horse is its own archetype and a powerful one to boot that can be played in a huge variety of investigators among all classes.
Fire Axe: Staple. Survivor is the only class that doesn’t get a Lightning Gun in Dunwich, but they do arguably get something even better in what might just be the best level zero weapon as long as you are willing to embrace that Dark Horse playstyle.

Fire Extinguisher(1): Bad. It’s either a bad weapon or an evade that costs two actions, some resources and permanent XP. Oof.
Newspaper: Okay. Sort of outclassed by now and only good for solo players in the first place.
Scrapper: Excellent. One part skill booster, one part Dark Horse enabler.

Peter Sylvestre(0): Staple. Simply fantastic, eats a free horror every turn while also giving a stat boost.
Peter Sylvestre(2): Staple. Wow, it’s like Peter(0), but twice as good. One of the cornerstones of the Survivor class. This sort of value would be 5XP in any other class and they’d be happy about it.
Try and Try Again(3): Bad. Really too expensive for what it does. Just include more skills. Has some niche uses with a bigger card pool, but at that point you probably also have the Grisly Totem already which does the same thing but better.

Chance Encounter: Okay. There’s just not a whole lot you can do with this yet. Aside from triggering Red-Gloved Man, I suppose. Massively overshadowed by its level 2 upgrade from Carcosa.
Bait and Switch: Bad. I’m sure someone somewhere used this for something worthwhile, but i’ve not heard about it.
Flare: Excellent. Maybe the best Exile card. Both options on this are good, but usually this will be used to cheat allies into play.

Lure(1): Bad. It just doesn’t do anything…
Oops: Bad. The restrictions to have two enemies at your location and then also having to fail an attack is just too much.

Rise to the Occasion: Good. Only becomes really good with later investigators, but anything with 3 wild icons deserves attention.
Stroke of Luck(2): Okay. Near guarantees a test which is certainly powerful. Can be worth it near the end of a campaign to spend spare XP for sure, but probably isn’t the first thing you want to put into your deck.
Survival Instinct(2): Good. A sizeable upgrade on the level zero that not only gives an extra icon, but also evades every enemy at your place instead of just disengaging. Only worth it in multiplayer (or campaigns with lots of enemies) but then it’s not bad at all.

Most useful Survivor cards: Peter(all), Dark Horse, Fire Axe
Least useful Survivor cards: Oops, Lure, Fire Extinguisher(1)

Verdict: If you have even a fleeting interest in the Survivor class, you can not possibly pass on Peter Sylvestre, Fire Axe and Dark Horse. Those cards are just as integral to the class as Lucky, Scavenging or Leather Coat.
Aside from those, there are some neat toys here in Flare and Scrapper, with a couple nice skills to boot. There’s some stinkers in there as well, but the rest shine bright enough that even Oops can’t tarnish what Survivor has going on here.

Neutral

Charisma(3): Staple. Actually such a staple that the designers throw a set of them into the Revised Core.
Relic Hunter(3): Staple… later on. Not quite as impactful as Charisma for now, but gets there with a full card pool.
Fine Clothes: Excellent. Parley isn’t everywhere, but it happens often enough that a dedicated card to make it easier is actually very useful. Savvy players will use it with Adaptable when appropriate.

Kukri: Bad. Not quite as bad as Blackjack(0), but too close for comfort.
Painkillers and Smoking Pipe: Excellent. These two assets don’t look like much, but are super helpful at keeping investigators with very lopsided stamina/sanity values alive (like Daisy with her 5/9 or Roland with his 9/5). They are two of those cards that consistently surprise you with how they solve a problem in the least painful way.

The Red-Gloved Man(5): Okay. Subject to a bunch of wacky combos to make him re-enter play a couple of times, but nothing I would really classify as “Good”.
Emergency Cache(2): Okay to Good. 2XP just to tack a card draw onto one card usually doesn’t cut it. But if you want to do it, then ECache is a reasonable place to do it. Having to play a card just to pick up some resources often feels like losing too much momentum and getting that extra card on top can make up for some of it. Goes up in value when used with the Carcosa card Stick to the Plan.
Moment of Respite(3): Okay. For whatever that is worth, I do like this better than Elder Sign Amulet as an anti-trauma panic button. You’ll usually not plan on putting this into your deck, but when you are at scenario 6 with Roland and are at 3 to 4 mental trauma, you just might be happy that this card exists.

Final verdict

Alright, to answer the question about whether Dunwich is worth getting on its own in combo with the Core first: Yes. Absolutely. Makes sense as well, after all that’s how the box was released. For a while there was nothing but Core + Dunwich, so of course they have been designed to work without anything else alongside them. I will now go into more detail on why I think this is the way to go:

Dunwich was the first expansion to the game and as such focused on expanding the core card pool of the classes while also planting some seeds for deck archetypes. For some classes, this was more successful than for others.
To start with the obvious, Dunwich is what put Seeker on the map as the class that towers above the others, getting capabilities in all directions here from clues over fights to movement. Some of the Seeker cards in Dunwich are still considered the best at what they do, even with a full pool.
Survivor also made out very well with several cards that define the class to this day.
Mystic and Guardian both get several staple cards that do a fine job of giving them more depth. This was very necessary for Mystic in particular who had to get by just on Shrivel(0) in the Core.
Rogues are limping a bit behind the rest still. They were somewhat incoherent in the Core and this changed only partially with Dunwich. This isn’t really the fault of the cards they get themselves, but that the two investigators that the class got to here aren’t great at making use of them.
The neutral cards are great, nothing really much to say there.
All together this isn’t a box to skip. It has lots of very important cards in it. You’ll want it eventually anyways, so you might as well start with it. While the Mystic cards sort of get obsolete as soon as Jacqueline Fine enters the pictures, the other classes all have a good amount that hold up perfectly even when you have everything.
As for the investigators, they provide players on just Dunwich + Core with a nice mix.
Zoey gives Guardian another strong fighter and most importantly one with built in economy. The resources Zoey generates are alone enough to allow her being a centerpiece to a “big money guardian” while Roland is notoriously poor. Zoey’s high will and flexible deck building also allow her to dip into spells for seeking, giving her great flexibility.
Rex is just busted. I don’t know if the Rex > Milan > Higher Ed loop was an intentional design plant or not, but boy does it smash scenarios to pieces. It’s no coincidence that all three of those cards got significant (optional!) taboos down the road. He can do non-degenerate things as well, of course. So please don’t let that discourage you from playing Rex, I actually quite like him.
Jenny generates money and unlike Skids who wants to set it aside for his ability, she is keen on spending it. That gives a nice entry into the Rogue lifestyle and allows her to make up for her stats. Early Jenny depends a bit more on Talents than I like, but it’s certainly a way to play that is viable.
Jim is a bit of an odd one to me, as I can’t really figure him out even with a full set of cards available. The issue I have with him in Core+Dunwich specifically is that there are cards that look like they are for Jim because they deal with revealed tokens… but there’s no actual manipulation there that would be needed to build into his ability. The only token manipulation in this set is Lucky Dice which he can’t take. So you can certainly build something here with him, but I suspect that Agnes will just straight up be better at anything Jim can do here. Not to beat a dead horse, but the Jacqueline Fine deck is built around token manipulation. Once you get that, you can mix her cards with Jim’s and do some more interesting stuff.
Pete and his dog Duke are great and well supported. Actually, one of the defining traits that sets Pete apart from other investigators is that he barely even needs any support. He is one of the investigators that is strongest right out of the gate thanks to starting with Duke in play who already acts as an investigation tool and weapon. His ceiling isn’t as high as for other investigators, but being this independent has tangible value. He also plays very well with the Dark Horse archetype, so whatever he needs in cards, he can find right in this box.

Surge

That’s it for the Dunwich player card overview.
Find more articles at the Article Hub.


Investigator Expansion Review: Investigator Starter Decks

Introduction

This is an overview of the player cards in the Investigator Starter Decks. I will be looking at each deck by itself, starting with the investigator, then the rest of the cards. For most cards I will try to keep it short and to the point to not stretch this article more than necessary.
For every group of cards I will nominate the three most useful and the three least useful cards. This isn’t necessarily about raw power, but more about how good they are at fueling a lot of your decks.
I will give my opinion on how well each selection of player cards stands on its own, answering if it’s worthwhile to get as a first buy after the core set and how well the investigator deck + Core is capable of supporting the investigator contained for that deck.
These articles do ignore the optional list of taboos. This is because they are mostly aimed at new players trying to figure out which investigator expansion to get next and taboo isn’t a thing that I want to weigh them down with. It’d also make things unnecessary complicated.
The ranking I use for cards is Bad < Okay < Good < Excellent < Staple with each of those spanning quite a range. I use something like “Okay to Good” or “Good to Okay” when I want to specify whether it’s on the upper or lower range of that rank. Please don’t take these rankings too seriously and more as a guideline, cards need to be evaluated in context and compressing these contexts down into just one word is really unprecise. I still find it useful for this overview as a shortcut to put the cards into relation quickly.

Guardian: Nathaniel Cho

Nathaniel Cho

Nate does one thing and he does it to perfection. He’s a singleminded fighter. He’s got only little capabilities to go and find clues or evade things, but that’s perfectly fine because being a fighter is a role that pretty much every group of investigators has to fill. It makes him notoriously difficult to build and pilot as a solo investigator, though.
Like all investigators from the Starter packs, his deck building is limited to neutral cards and those of his class only.
His unique shtick is using events to fight instead of playing weapon assets that give him better fight actions. He enhances one event per phase with an extra damage, which allows him to knock most non-Elite enemies out with one card. This playstyle means that he needs a constant stream of new cards and his card pool enables this well.
His biggest strike against him is really how one-dimensional he is. Lacking the flexibility and wider card access that other investigators have, there’s only so many different directions to take his deck even with a full card pool.

Boxing Gloves(0): Good. Basically Nathaniels second signature, they are a key part of keeping the train of fight events going. Spirit is a very common trait among events, giving this asset some niche use out of Nate as well.
Boxing Gloves(3): Excellent. A very significant upgrade and an early priority for Nathaniel. These keep his deck together and his actual signature, Randall Cho, basically exists to fetch these for Nate.
Flesh Ward: Good. Surprisingly potent if you can swing the resource cost. Getting a total of 5 flexible soak in just one asset is pretty good despite the limitation of one per exhaust.

Grete Wagner(0): Good. Quite expensive, but a solid alternative to Beat Cop for guardians that want the fight boost but also want to help with clues.
Grete Wagner(3): Good. Double stat boost, an extra stamina and the ability to reach into connecting locations with her ability are great. You get a lot of value here for 3XP.
Relentless: Bad. Dealing excess damage is something to avoid in general and a few resources don’t make it more attractive at all. Having to spend an action and a card on this is just not worth it.

Physical Training(0): Core Set reprint. Okay card, but not really something you need additional copies of.
Physical Training(4): Good. This gives statboosts without taking up equipment slots and due to its replenishing resources you can run it without having to feed it your own constantly. Expensive in terms of XP, but since it boosts the exact two stats that most guardians are looking for, this has a place.
Safeguard: Good to Excellent. Allows your guardian to piggyback on another investigator’s move actions, following as a bodyguard or just saving up their own actions.

Get Over Here(0): Okay. Can pull an enemy off another investigator and immediately attack. That’s efficient but outside of Nathaniel the attack will only do one damage.
Get Over Here(2): Good. Another significant upgrade. Not only do you get to reach up to locations away which can save a lot of actions, but also playing the card itself is Fast now. That makes it very playable outside of Nate’s deck, too.
Clean Them Out: Okay to Bad. If you foresee being able to kill something with it, this becomes solid as you will just get 2 resources for your card on top. For Nate, this is usually not a problem, but if you can just deal 1 point of damage with it, it falls off rapidly.

Counterpunch(0): Okay. A fast attack is fine, but outside of Nate you only deal a damage, which isn’t worth the card.
Counterpunch(2): Good to Excellent. Yet another great upgrade, this adds a damage and some fight value. Most crucially, it deals its damage before the attacker and can thus cancel the enemies attack by killing it first. This is a fantastic tool to handle small Hunter enemies, for Nathaniel it even handles enemies with 3 stamina. All without spending an action as well.
Dodge: Core Set reprint. Fine card that combines well with the aforementioned Counterpunch.

Dynamite Blast(3): Good to Excellent. Very nice upgrade to the level zero Core Set card. Shaves of a resource cost and makes it fast. Not only that, it can be played in any player action window, including during another player’s turn or during the enemy phase. It also gets a host of icons for when you don’t need to blow stuff up.
Evidence(1): Okay. Another upgrade to a Core card, this gets the potential to pick up two clues. If you foresee yourself defeating a lot of big baddies, this isn’t too bad.
Galvanize(1): Okay. 2 resources is about the standard price for an extra action, this is limited to fight actions though. So you’d only really consider this if you get good value out of readying an asset. For this deck, that mostly means Boxing Gloves or Grete Wagner.

Glory: Staple. Card draw is rare in Guardian and this is a little efficient card that doesn’t cost an action and just rewards you for what you were going to do anyways. Easy to underestimate, but this really ties a deck together.
Lesson Learned: Okay to Good. Getting two testless clues without an action is really nice, but this does require some setup.
Mano a Mano(2): Okay to Good. Fantastic for Nate as he can just use this to throw 3 damage at whatever had the audacity of engaging him during Mythos. But even at 2 damage, this has some niche applications for guardians that don’t fight very well and get value out of this being testless.

Monster Slayer: Okay. Fine as filler in Nathaniel’s level zero deck, but pretty rough otherwise.
One-Two Punch(0): Okay to Good. It does require two tests, but this is an event that can deal 3 damage in one action (4 damage for Nate). That’s an important threshold to cross.
One-Two Punch(5): Excellent. Deals at least 2 damage and promises 5 in total (6 with Nate). That’s outstanding. Check out those icons as well, although you probably don’t want to pitch this card but play it.

Stand Together: Staple. If you play multiplayer, you probably want to run this instead of Emergency Cache. Or in addition to EC, if you are hungry for resources.
Taunt(3): Okay. You can potentially get a lot of value out of this one, but 3XP is a lot to ask for this card. Only really worth it in 3-4 players as you otherwise usually won’t have too many enemies on your board at the same time.

Overpower(2): Staple. Between Glory and Overpower(2), the Nathaniel deck solves Guardian’s problem with card draw in a very non-intrusive manner. Like Glory, this hands you cards just for doing your thing.
Vicious Blow: Core Set reprint. But it’s actually one you won’t mind having a couple extras of.

Most useful cards from this deck: Glory, Overpower(2), Stand Together
Least useful cards from this deck: Monster Slayer, Relentless, Taunt(3)

Verdict: This is a very good pack that rounds out several rough edges in the Guardian card pool while giving you a preconstructed deck that is actually competently built and a good introduction to this character. I find that the three staples from this deck are absolutely essential to decks that I am building even with a full set of cards and many of the events are playable in other contexts than Nate as well.
Fighting with events as an archetype is very different from what Roland has to offer in the Core, too. So this opens up a new aspect of Guardian.
There are also very few stinkers in this deck. Of the three cards I singled out above, even Monster Slayer and Taunt(3) do have some uses.
All of this makes the Nathaniel Cho deck a great deck to buy. Recommended 100%.

Seeker: Harvey Walters

Harvey Walters

Harvey Walters is a fairly stereotypical seeker, with his stats slanted massively towards the mental skills. He is surprisingly tough for a seeker at 7 stamina, though.
His specialty is drawing cards, with his investigator ability just straight up rewarding card draw with more card draw. Fittingly then, the Harvey deck focuses on the “Big Hand” archetype, which asks you to keep your hand full with cards and rewards you for doing so. There are even several cards that can increase your hand limit until you can hold half your deck in your hands.
He is a bit notorious for having a rather brutal personal weakness that deals damage scaling with the cards in his hand. And if you keep most of your deck in your hand and also draw a lot, you are going to see this weakness a couple times per game. So this warrants consideration by either carefully playing around it or including some cards that can soak the damage for you.
Harvey is of course not the only one who can do such a Big Hand deck and as a result, most of his card pool is interesting for other seekers as well. The reverse is also true: Just because Harvey draws extra cards doesn’t mean he has to hoard them. So he can be played with cards from the wider Seeker pool, too.

Arcane Enlightenment: Okay to Good. Shifting around equipment slots is a powerful tool, especially when you only have to sacrifice one of the (outside of Mystic) often unused arcane slots. Also notable for having double will icons on a level zero card. That’s valuable.
Celaeno Fragments: Okay to Bad. Even Big Hand decks will not have 10 cards in hand at all times, meaning that this card never leaves the shadow of the Core Set staple Magnifying Glass.
Disc of Itzamna: Good. As long as you are willing to give up your accessory slot for this, you gain some protection from enemies. This is okay here, but becomes a lot better in a wider card pool thanks to Relic synergies and recursion options.

Encyclopedia(0): Good. A level zero version of what was in the Core as level 2. Limiting it by uses isn’t a big deal and this is just straight up better than Encyclopedia(2). As a support card this can be quite good as long as you can use your action to buff up multiple other actions, likely on another player.
Esoteric Atlas(2): Okay. This is a card that you only include for specific purposes because it has some neat campaign specific uses. As a general card, this doesn’t impress too much.
Farsight(4): Good. Can be a cornerstone for a deck. Obviously not good outside of that deck because you need to devote most of your deck to it, but the payoff is decent.

Feed the Mind: Okay. Failing the test feels super bad because you only have 3 charges. Succeeding by only 1 doesn’t earn you anything over just regular draw actions. Succeeding by 2 barely makes up for the cost of the card. This is only okay if you can near-guarantee that you ace all three tests.
Higher Education: Excellent. Compared to other talents, this doesn’t cost anything, but has a condition to be used. That is not a terribly hard condition (especially for Harvey) and the two stats that are being boosted here are exactly what you are looking for.
Laboratory Assistant: Dunwich reprint. Excellent card with lots of staying power. Not sure you need extra copies, though.

Library Docent(1): Good. Playing around with tomes is one of Seeker’s first archetypes (just look at Daisy). And this innocent looking card is a great tool for that deck and allows some dirty tricks.
Miskatonic Archaeology Funding(4): Excellent, almost a Staple. Speaking of enablers for Seeker archetypes, this is one of the foundations for the Miskatonic allies deck which uses cheap allies with comes-into-play effects and chains through them. Great card even outside of that decktype, since most Seeker allies are Miskatonic traited.
The Necronomicon(5): Excellent. At its most basic, it’s a Draw 6 for 3 resources. That’s already insane, but there is plenty more flexibility to it than that. Gets absurd once you start recurring it. Even Library Docent is enough to take this to the next level but you can get really stupid with the wider card pool.

Whitton Greene(0): Excellent. Competition for Milan Christopher if you are doing a Tome or Relic thing with your deck. Actually a lot more interesting for Daisy than for Harvey.
Whitton Green(2): Excellent. Great upgrade for Whitton which adds another stat boost and lets her dig deeper for your assets.
I’ve got a Plan(2): Excellent. Deals up to 4 damage in one swoop for only two resources. It’s conditional on having clues, which can be an issue right after advancing the act but this is still a powerhouse.

Burning the Midnight Oil: Staple. A lot better than Nathaniel’s Clean Them Out because using a basic investigate action is actually something that seekers will have to do anyways. So this is just some extra money that doesn’t cost an extra action and the only reason that you might not run this is that you are already getting enough cash off of your Milan and Crack the Case.
Cryptic Writings(0): Okay. This is saved from being unplayable by its icons which still give it a good use when you didn’t draw it on your turn (Remember that upkeep is not on your turn). Good when it works, but Burning the Midnight Oil is the same payoff but more reliable.
Cryptic Writings(2): Good. Worst case, it’s an Emergency Cache with good icons. That’s a perfectly fine card to fall back on.

Extensive Research: Okay to Bad. The price I’d want to pay for 2 testless clues is 3-4 resources to feel comfortable with it. So that’d require a full hand of 8 cards, not including Research itself. Pretty big ask.
Glimpse the Unthinkable(1): Good. Digs deep into your deck and gives you a good chance to find what you are looking for… but also a good chance at finding your weaknesses. Still, for a 1XP card that costs 0 resources this lets you look at a lot of cards when you need it.
Mind over Matter(2): Good. Upgrades the Core Set card to add your intellect instead of replacing the original stat and also draws a card to replace itself. The level zero is sometimes a necessary evil, especially in someone like Harvey. The upgrade is actually a decent card.

Occult Invocation: Okay. Another Seeker damage spell. This is fine, but outclassed by I’ve Got A Plan.
Preposterous Sketches: Dunwich reprint. 2 resources is just too much most of the time. Has it’s uses, but it’s not a card one needs extra copies of.
Seeking Answers(2): Core Set reprint. Occasionally useful, but again not something you need extras of.

Deduction: Core Set reprint. One of the pillars the whole class is resting on. Extra copies are welcome.
Perception(2): Staple. Drawing cards for doing what you are doing anyways is great. Three icons are great. Everything about this card is great.

Forbidden Tome: Bad to Okay. Not all that difficult to translate if you are in the market for this type of card. The payoff is questionable, though. To be worth their abilities, 12 cards in hand are practically required because spending 2 actions on these is mediocre at best. Their saving grace is that they don’t use charges at all, so unlike many other tomes and researchable assets they can be used every turn.

Most useful cards from this deck: Miskatonic Archeology Funding, Whitton Green, Perception(2)
Least useful cards from this deck: Extensive Research, Feed the Mind, Forbidden Tome.

Verdict: There’s some great stuff here, but it’s less coherent than the deck from Nathaniel. The big hand archetype has some payoff cards included, but mostly it works off the back of Harvey’s own powerful innate card draw. His preconstructed deck is certainly playable enough. I do however question some of the upgrades that are clearly more suitable for seekers that go into different archetypes.
This sort of thing isn’t necessarily a disadvantage for when we buy the deck to enhance your card pool, though. Some cards like Whitton and the Library Docent can go straight into Daisy’s toolbox (together with the tomes, of course). We get a small glimpse at the Miskatonic allies deck which needs only Dunwich in addition to take off. There’s only one card here that i’d classify as a staple card, but on the other hand there’s also no real coaster here either.
My one issue with this pack is that Harvey sort of overlaps with Daisy a lot, at least with a shallow card pool. So while I think that Harvey is certainly a suitable buy to get your first taste at Seeker power, I would argue that the Dunwich Investigator box might be better for that. It has also (very!) powerful Seeker enablers, but Rex is quite a bit more interesting to build decks for than Harvey.

Rogue: Winifred Habbamock

Winifred Habbamock

Winifred embodies the high risk -> high reward playstyle like no other rogue. Her whole deal is taking lots of tests and crushing them. This makes her excellent at using anything in the Rogue card pool that gets bonuses for oversucceeding, something that is seeded in the Core already (Switchblade, .41 Derringer, etc). Following the main releases it would take quite a while until a rogue comes along that can actually properly use them. So the Winifred deck allows taking a shortcut there and unlocks a lot of potential in the existing card pool right away.
Her ability makes the player care about skill icons on their cards, as you will want to be able to have two cards to pitch for most things you do. As a result, she draws lots of cards and flies through her deck.
While Nathaniel and Harvey are easy to grasp (they just take the core tenant of their class and hyperfocus on it), Winifred plays significantly different from what came before her. She can fill a flexible role that can both fight and seek, offering a lot of freedom when building her deck.

Beretta M1918(4): Excellent. A very nice weapon that has enough of a fight bonus that even low fight investigators can use it in a competent way. A huge enabler turning non-Tony rogues into primary fighters.
Chuck Fergus(5): Excellent. One of the most important cards from this pack aside from Wini herself, he’s the cornerstone of his own Trick/Tactic archetype.
Leather Jacket: Okay. Does a job, but it’s not too great.

Liquid Courage(1): Excellent. A typical thing that rogues have to deal with is low sanity coupled with low willpower. Liquid Courage(1) solves the sanity issue. Expecting to fail the willpower test, you get up to 8 horror heal out of this card.
Lockpicks: Okay to Good. A level zero version of what’s in the Core set at level 1. Basically a placeholder for the level zero deck, you should probably spend the 2XP to upgrade both rather soon.
Lonnie Ritter: Staple. Fantastic soak and a fight boost alone are game changers for rogue. That ability pushes her even further forward, as long as you have something worthwhile to use it on.

Lucky Cigarette Case(0): Forgotten Age reprint. One of the best card draw engines in the game, this accessory is one of the cornerstones of the Rogue class.
Lucky Cigarette Case(3): Staple. An amazing upgrade to a card that is already fantastic at level zero.
Sharpshooter(3): Okay to Good. It’s difficult to get enough out of this asset to be worth the effort, but as a slotless card that helps with fighting it does have its merits.

Mauser C96(0): Good to Excellent. A solid handgun that compares favorably to Guardian’s .45 Auto.
Mauser C96(2): Good to Excellent. Unlike the .45, the Mauser gets some real nice value out of its upgrade.
Streetwise: Good to Excellent. Channeling money into stats is especially interesting for rogues, so having this available in addition to Hard Knocks from the Core is welcome.

Switchblade: Core Set reprint. Tolerable in Wini’s deck, but not something you need extra copies of.
Backstab(3): Good. The upgrade adds a recursion clause that can allow investigators to reliably fight with their agility as long as they can consistently oversucceed their tests. It’s costly to do too often, but having that option can save you a lot of headaches.
Sneak By: Good. As long as you expect to take evasion actions, you can count on this being a smooth 2 resources without needing to spend an action on it. Good icons, too.

Cheap Shot(0): Carcosa reprint. A solid card, but again something you don’t need extras of because you’ll be unlikely to play it in multiple decks at the same time.
Cheap Shot(2): Okay to Good. A solid card for the Chuck Fergus deck that recurs Trick events.
Copy Cat(3): Okay. A cool and unique card that is of course dependent on what’s in other players decks. 3XP is often hard to justify, though. For Wini this is extra interesting because it automatically triggers her investigator ability for committing two cards.

Daring Maneuver(0): Carcosa reprint. A narrow card with only niche uses.
Daring Maneuver(2): Okay. The card draw makes this card a lot more bearable, but it’s still very niche and often hard to justify.
Daredevil: Good. Particularly great for Wini because it immediately satisfies her investigator ability.

Pilfer(0): Excellent. Picking up three clues in one go is powerful and doing it with your agility instead of intellect is just what rogues want.
Pilfer(3): Excellent. Gains the same recursion clause as some others in this deck, allowing a rogue to do more than just dabble in clue seeking as long as they can pay for it.
Manual Dexterity(2): Staple. With Wini’s deck, the agility focus of Rogue becomes even more prominent than before. Manual Dexterity allows leaning into it while replenishing your hand.

Slip Away(0): Forgotten Age reprint. Fine card, nothing special.
Slip Away(2): Excellent. Adding the recursion clause on oversuccess turns this Trick into something special. This can be used to seriously lock down enemies.

Nimble: Good to Excellent. Getting up to three free moves from a skill is rather powerful.
Opportunist: Core reprint. A bad card that becomes actually tolerable in a Winifred context. Still could’ve done without extra copies.

Most useful cards from this deck: Lucky Cigarette Case(all), Pilfer(all), Chuck Fergus(5)
Least useful cards from this deck: Switchblade, Opportunist, Daring Maneuver(all)

Verdict: So let me preface this with the disclaimer that Winifred is one of my favorite investigators in all of the game. I just enjoy the highly dynamic playstyle.
That being said, Wini is indeed an important investigator for the Rogue class. If you follow the regular release order, it takes a while until you get to someone who can actually properly use a bunch of the Rogue cards. Until Finn in Forgotten Age, Rogue was basically notable for being moneybags and their high-impact Exceptional cards. Only after that, the “oversuccess” really takes off, fully blooming with Tony in Dream-Eaters. The Winifred deck allows new players to sidestep all that historic baggage and unlock the potential of their cards right away.
This deck hands players all the tools they need for the Trick recursion archetype, with several events that get this treatment and Chuck Fergus as a capstone. This is a good archetype that gets supplemented by plenty of other cards in the wider card pool as both Trick and Tactic are rather common traits. It also contains weaponry to turn rogues into proper fighters, with the Mauser and Beretta being competitive with Guardian options.
Manual Dexterity and LCC(3) are brilliant staple cards that see lots of play. There is little chaff in this deck, what is there is basically all reprints.
While the cards themselves are rather good in this set, the preconstructed deck is the weakest of the five. It just doesn’t have enough skill cards. While her ability works with any card, this still means that she is very short of her actual potential.
But yeah… fantastic investigator, powerful cards, great enablers. Full recommendation.

Mystic: Jacqueline Fine

Jacqueline Fine

Jacqueline Fine is a card-carrying member of the circle of mystics that use their willpower to do whatever they need through specialized spell assets. Her special shtick is chaos token manipulation, an archetype that is also represented in a couple of cards here that are of interest for other mystics as well.
For starting collections, this pack is most notable for having complete sets of basic spell assets for fighting, seeking and evading. The Core only has a level zero fight spell and even adding Dunwich will leave you without a set of evasion spells. So getting everything in one swoop here is super convenient and allows flexibility in deck building right away.
Jacqueline’s meddling with the chaos tokens through her investigator ability is very potent and can give new players a safety net for dealing with the swingy nature of the token pulls.

Arcane Studies(4): Excellent. Statboosts without taking up equipment slots are good and the replenishing resources make it very appealing for chronically broke mystics. This can also relieve you from having to use a Rosary or similar in your accessory slot, freeing up the slot for something more impactful. In a way, this almost comes with a Relic Hunter built in.
Crystal Pendulum: Good. Holy Rosary is a Core Set staple that provides mystics with important willpower for their spells and this is a good alternative. It’s sort of annoying to resolve the ability though and Rosary’s extra sanity soak is more generally useful.
Familiar Spirit: Okay. Moving equipment slots around is useful, but the ally slot is generally a lot more valuable than an arcane slot.

Azure Flame(0): Staple. Mirrors Shrivelling from the Core Set in many ways and is an equivalent alternative.
Azure Flame(3): Staple. A very necessary upgrade to stay competitive with the Mythos for the long run.
Azure Flame(5): Good. Not as essential as the level 0 and 3, but does offer considerable power. The increased drawback and the high XP cost mean that his an upgrade that is often skipped.

Clairvoyance(0): Staple. While Azure Flame and Shrivelling are on the same level, this compares favoribly to its counterpart, Rite of Seeking from Dunwich, due to the much milder drawback.
Clairvoyance(3): Staple. An important upgrade to an important card.
Clairvoyance(5): Excellent. Picking up 3 clues is amazing, but might not be always applicable in low player counts. That drawback can also be a pain.

Ineffable Truth(0): Okay to Good. Fighting and seeking are core competencies you need to have in this game. Evasion is more optional, therfore the dedicated evasion spell is as well. The wider card pool also has some better options if you do want to evade with spells. That being said, this does the job just fine.
Ineffable Truth(3): Good. Getting that skill bonus is great.
Ineffable Truth(5): Good. Turns this card into both an evasion spell and a proper damage spell at the same time. That is sort of good in some situations involving high health enemies that need multiple turns to be defeated.

Grotesque Statue(2): Good. A nice general purpose token manipulation card that, among other things, gives you immunity from the tentacle token for three tests. Works great with item recursion in the wider card pool.
Ritual Candles: Dunwich reprint. A neat card that helps making tests more predictable by dialing down the impact of the bad tokens.
Scrying Mirror: Okay. A bit expensive for what it does, but can be worth it if it ends up saving you a committed card or two. Plays well with a couple cards from Jacqueline’s deck in particular, like Crystal Pendulum and Prescient.

Robes of Endless Night(0): Okay. Tolerable if you need more damage soak for a fragile investigator, but the resource cost is pretty hefty despite making up for it over time.
Robes of Endless Night(2): Good. This is much better, crucially reducing the cost by 1 and also giving an extra ability that comes in handy. It’s still a bit clunky and takes a while to pay off.
Astral Travel: Carcosa reprint. Not a terribly great card. Expensive and clunky.

Dark Prophecy: Forgotten Age reprint. Has it’s uses if you want to fish for specific tokens, but that’s more of a niche thing.
Eldritch Inspiration(1): Okay to Bad. This effect is rarely worth the card.
Parallel Fates: Bad. Even if you are a token manipulator, this is way too unreliable to do what you want.

Hypnotic Gaze(0): Dunwich reprint. Overcosted for what it does.
Hypnotic Gaze(2): Okay. Like with the robes, going from 3 cost down to 2 makes all the difference here. This is solid, but often not what you are looking for.
Recharge(4): Good to Excellent. This is a potent way to get more mileage out of your expensive spells. Runs the risk of only adding a single charge, but that can be mitigated with token manipulation or by filling the bag with bless and curse tokens from the Innsmouth expansion.

Voice of Ra: Excellent. Great piece of economy, better than Emergency Cache in the majority of cases, but with the inherent risk of whiffing. Combines well with a bunch of cards and that Spell trait comes in more often than one would think.
Defiance: Dunwich reprint. Unless you happen to have a Scrying Mirror in play, this is a rather awful card.

Guts(2): Staple. You do everything with your willpower. This gives you +3 to most of your tests and draws you up to two cards without any costs. Windmill slam this into your deck.
Prescient: Okay. Has usually decent odds even without token manipulation. That’s not quite enough to include it into most Mystic decks, but just a bit of manipulation tilts the odds drastically in your favor and can make this worth it.

Most useful cards from this deck: Azure Flame(all), Clairvoyance(all), Guts(2)
Least useful cards from this deck: Parallel Fates, Defiance, Astral Travel

Verdict: Jacqueline is very powerful and playing her can feel like cheating at times. She takes a lot of the unpredictability out of the chaos bag and lets you pass tests that you usually would have no business passing. She’s a perfect introduction to the “Willpower matters” archetype that is rooted deep in the Mystic card pool. Her token manipulation feels clever and satisfying to execute.
Her preconstructed deck is well done, but a bit light on economy considering the high cost of many of her assets. Getting some Emergency Caches in there should be the first thing you do, but otherwise this is a suitable deck that covers both of Jacqueline’s main themes.
For a new player, getting a full suite of spell assets including all of the upgrades in one go is a huge boon. Following the release order, this only gets pieced together bit by bit over the course of Core, Dunwich, Carcosa and Forgotten Age… with one piece even hiding in a Return To product.
The Jacqueline deck is further rounded out with some cards like Guts, Robes and Recharge that are valuable to have even for bigger collections.
The one criticism I have is that “Willpower matters” is vastly overrepresented in the bigger Mystic card pool, with most of the mystics being tilted heavily towards it. That’s not really a fault of Jacqueline, but of the larger card pool. Still, it can feel like retreading known ground with her for an experienced player that has seen what later expansions have in store. For newer players this is of course no concern at all.
This is another good deck, recommended especially for new players for the shortcut to the spell suite.

Survivor: Stella Clark

Stella Clark

Stella embodies the Survivor concept of “Failing Forward”, where you make the best out of any test result, no matter if it failed or passed. Stella takes this a step further to where she actively wants to fail at least one test per turn to fuel her investigator ability and to get value out of that fail.
Like Jacqueline, her playstyle gives a safety net against the frickle nature of the chaos bag. She doesn’t look the part at first glance, but Stella is actually one of the (if not THE) best generalists in the game. She can excel at anything if she puts her mind to it and this deck reflects this to some degree. With an 8 in both her stamina and her sanity she is also incredibly resilient to damage and horror.
Her deck is notable for giving survivors some actual good weapons to fight with instead of having to cower behind a baseball bat.

.18 Derringer(0): Excellent. A little bit expensive for just having 2 ammo, but this does a good job of making your survivor able to defend themselves from level zero on. That +2 skill level is exceptional on a level 0 weapon, giving this weapon enough punch on a lot of investigators.
.18 Derringer(2): Staple. An extra ammo, one less resource, a neat little ability. This weapon is fantastic and arguably better than what Guardian and Rogue get as level 2 handguns.
Chainsaw(4): Good to Excellent. If you want to go all in on fighting as a survivor, accept no substitutes. It takes both hands and is expensive to buy and play, but it hits for 3 in one attack which is super valuable.

Cherished Keepsake(1): Excellent. 4 soak is A LOT on a zero cost asset. As long as you don’t put the final point on it, you also never have to exile it, if that bothers you.
Deja Vu(5): Okay. An enabler for the Exile mechanic which has some token representation in this deck, but is mostly a thing in wider collections only. Is rarely considered to be worth building around.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Bad. Not really what you want to spend your hand slots on. Stella in particular doesn’t need this thanks to her beefy 8 sanity (and a pair of teddy bears available if she needs them).

Granny Orne(0): Okay. As an ally with a static skill boost she has her uses, but that ability is a bit too tricksy for its own good. It does enable some cards like Look What I Found, but isn’t useful enough in a consistent manner.
Granny Orne(3): Excellent. A significant upgrade that not only adds another relevant skill but also allows her ability to turn close fails into close passes. That’s almost equivalent to another +1 skill by itself but of course limited to once per exhaust.
Leather Coat(1): Excellent. Anything said about the Cherished Keepsake also applies to the coat.

Mysterious Raven: Okay. Not much of a Stella card. The Raven is fine if you are able to recur it and gather testless clues that way, but is also a drain on your sanity at the same time.
Old Keyring: Staple. Beats the Core Set staple Flashlight for many survivors. Reducing a shroud value to where you can guarantee to either pass or get in Look What I Found range is one of the basic tricks of the Survivor clue hound.
Quick Learner(4): Excellent. A ridiculously good card for Stella who wants to fail her first action anyways. Powerful enough to be a consideration for some other survivors as well, but not very commonly played there.

Rabbit’s Foot: Core Set reprint. Not as much of a staple as Lucky Cigarette Case, but certainly a staple for Stella.
Look What I Found(0): Core Set reprint. This however is an actual staple for the whole class.
Look What I Found(2): Excellent. More of a luxury upgrade, but widening the range where you can guarantee to be able to play it is worthwhile and so is the ability to reach into connected locations.

Scrapper: Good. Functionally identical to the Rogue card Hard Knocks, this is another talent for the pile. They all have their place as slotless stat boosts as long as you care about both stats and have the money to spare.
A Test Of Will(0): Okay. I don’t like this much for Stella, but canceling encounter cards is powerful and a good effect to have available in your card pool even when it comes with a literal test of will(power).
A Test Of Will(2): Okay to Good. With the upgrade, the cancel is guaranteed. But being set back 2XP for failing that test is a major downer.

Grit Your Teeth: Bad. Almost tolerable in Stella, but the +1 bonus for a turn is not a great payoff here.
Dumb Luck: Forgotten Age reprint. This is fine, but 2 resources is a hard sell. Note that putting a card on top of the encounter deck means that the lead investigator is the one who is going to redraw it next Mythos.
Dumb Luck(2): Good. The ability to put something under the deck turns this into actually solid removal.

Live and Learn: Forgotten Age reprint. Good card, but note that this won’t help you when you fail something like a Rotten Remains because the consequences of the fail are resolved in full before repeating the test. If you profit from failing, this can be used in clever ways, though.
Lucky(3): Excellent. This turbocharges the Survivor staple from the Core Set in several ways, reducing the cost to zero, widening the range, adding card draw and making it usable on other investigators. Great value upgrade.
Oops: Forgotten Age reprint. This is just a deeply flawed card and no amount of fail synergy is going to save it.

Will to Survive: Bad. The level 3 version from the Core Set is a powerful card that sets up a whole turn. This is both more expensive and only applies to a single test, limiting to the point where it’s really not great outside of recursion combos.
Take Heart: Forgotten Age reprint. An incredibly powerful skill card that is easily triggered and is one of the signatures of the Survivor class.
Unexpected Courage(2): Okay. It’s still Unexpected Courage, so it can’t be awful. But that upgrade adds very little to this card because just randomly throwing it into tests to see what happens isn’t really how you use UC. A bit of a disappointment to be honest, especially considering how amazing the upgrades for the other Core skills (Guts, Overpower, etc) are.

Most useful cards from this deck: .18 Derringer, Old Keyring, Take Heart (Chainsaw if you don’t accept a reprint here)
Least useful cards from this deck: Oops, Grit Your Teeth, Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Verdict: Many new players struggle the most with the Survivor class, as their identity and purpose doesn’t really shine through very well in the Core Set. Wendy herself is great, but the red cards from the Core are a very mixed bag and not tailored towards Wendy at all.
Stella then offers a coherent vision for the class and packages it in a very efficient way that showcases what the class is capable of. Similar to Jacqueline, this deck takes the sting out of the randomness of the chaos bag, but in a very different way. Jacqueline makes sure that the things that happen favor her. Stella simply doesn’t care too much, she even gains momentum from failing.
Her preconstructed deck is solid and dips its toes into a lot of different things. This does have the side effect of muddling the waters a bit, her deck appears to be a bit over the place and just persists on sheer strength of the individual cards (and Stella herself) instead of consistent deck building. It’s playable out of the box but specializing it a bit would make a world of difference, even if it’s just cutting some of the chaff and putting in some extra skills and a set of level zero Lucky which for some reason have been omitted here.
Unlike with the other four decks, this one doesn’t really offer a huge deal of super important cards to a collection and is more carried by the stellar(sorry) investigator. The exile cards in particular feel tacked on as a way to shoehorn Deja Vu into this product. The weapons are great, though.
This is still a pack worth getting, but as far as early collection expansion goes, Dunwich Legacy does offer very similar value to Survivor with Ashcan Pete as a great investigator and the Dark Horse decktype plus several strong staples (Peter Sylvestre, Fire Axe) in addition. So if you currently got Dunwich+Core, then a different investigator pack might offer more to your fledgling collection than this does.

Surge

That’s it for the Investigator Starter Deck Overview.
Find more articles at the Article Hub.

The Scarlet Keys Spoiler Roundup #12

Week 12

We made it! The last week of the pre-announced spoiler season is over. Full list reveal when? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here’s a closer look at the final haul.

Sources

Embezzled Treasure was previewed by Obscure Studies on their blog
Surgical Kit was previewed by PlayingBoardGames on their Youtube
Martyr’s Vambrace was previewed by Drawn To The Flame on their Twitch
Disguise was previewed on the r/arkhamhorrorlcg subreddit
Pay your Dues was previewed by Optimal Play on their Youtube
Gray’s Anatomy was previewed by Tengu Un Plan on their Twitch

Guardian

Martyr’s Vambrace

This is a tight bundle of nice effects. Let’s go over them one by one because there’s a lot to unpack here. First off, it’s soak in an accessory slot. That’s actually not all that common and usually restricted to sanity soak. So that’s a niche already. Then there’s good icons. Notable, but not the first thing to look out for. Next up is the first ability, which gives skill bonuses while resolving revelation abilities of treacheries. This is reminiscent of Tooth of Etzli, with the difference that on the one hand Vambrace also applies itself to intellect and fight tests, but on the other hand Tooth of Eztli applies to treacheries in play as well which isn’t true for Vambraces. The second ability is more or less “Let Me Handle This!” on tap, but limited to investigators at your location.
All of this you get for only 2 resources. That’s a lot of stuff crammed into a single equipment slot for cheap, which is attractive for sure. Is it worth 3XP? That is the more difficult question. For a guardian that plans on being on another members coattails through Safeguard permanently, it just might. The repeatable nature of second ability is the main draw here i think. But if you aren’t planning on staying together all the time, you might end up being better off just running a pair of actual “Let Me Handle This” cards and save the 3XP for something that advances your plan.
A super solid card that bundles lots of effects into a cheap package, so this is absolutely going to find a deck or two to shine in. I like playing Tooth of Eztli quite a bit and i would play a 3XP upgrade of it that costs 1 less and has soak attached. Not quite the same as this card, but as a frame of reference that works for me well enough. A deck that i like to make variants of is a Zoey with Holy Rosary(2) that keeps a healthy amount of blesses in the bag. It would require Relic Hunter, but combining Rosary(2) with Vambrace looks like it could be really good. Similarly, combining Vambrace with Tooth of Eztli would be promising as well. Hell, just combine all three in Zoey. :>

Seeker

Surgical Kit

Like with the Vambrace, there’s a lot to like here. It’s reasonably cheap at 2 resources. It doesn’t take a hand slot. The double heal action isn’t limited by uses, you can use it indefinitely. That’s all nice, but i think i am most interested in that reaction ability. I don’t think it suddenly makes any unplayable healing cards playable, however using it to pile more value on top of already good healing cards sounds like a great idea. It’s limited by supplies, but by the time the Kit is empty, you drew four cards and healed 4 horror with it. Not too shabby for 2 resources and you do still have the Kit left afterwards for the heal double action. Or you can use an Emergency Cache(3) and refill the Kit and go again.
The double action isn’t super great by itself, but it can heal allies and basically gives the classic “Double Action: Discard this.” to the weaknesses from Edge of the Earth and to Vincent’s personal weakness. Mostly you will want to play this with other healing cards in your deck, so you will hopefully have healing available that is more efficient than this. 2 points per action is sort of the gold standard that i expect. But sure, it’s an extra on top of the reaction ability so this just sounded a lot more negative than it really is.
All of this leaves the question if anyone aside from Vincent takes this card. You could include it as your only healing card and then do a double action to heal 3 damage, 1 horror and draw a card. Up to four times. That does sound appealing enough that it might just be worth 3XP when your campaign has taken a turn towards a lot of physical trauma. Beats Thermos, right? Not sure how much of a bar that really is, but it’s something.
Since this isn’t unique or limited to 1 per investigator, you can even have two of these in play simultaneously. Now that’s some value on your healing cards.
On a final note, i am not a fan of the circumstance that the reaction ability doesn’t trigger on healing an ally. It’s not a huge deal, but it just looks wrong to me when one ability does work with allies and the other doesn’t.

Gray’s Anatomy

Level 5 Tome assets have a bit of a tradition now and here’s the latest entry. It’s a powerful ability that gives you repeatable heal or damage boosts on a stick, but no actual source of damage or healing. So you will have to use this in tandem with something else.
Getting 3 points of healing for an action is obviously above the curve and this is one of the best ways to just erase any trauma that might have accumulated on you (and your teammates!). Just think what this does with Painkillers/Smoking Pipe! It can also heal allies, but the boost is not going to be required there all that often.
The damage ability is spicy, since it can enhance any source of damage, not just attacks. Using this for +3 damage, then exhausting a Beat Cop for 4 damage sounds like it’s certainly worth. As the guys on Tengu un Plan noted, it’s also a great way to get tokens on your Soul Sanctification. Note that using this ability will still trigger attacks of opportunity, though! And for what it’s worth, you do have to pass the test for it to do something. And you have to pass it well for it to do something worth doing!
Two important rule clarifications were made by the lead designer, Maxine Newman:

https://derbk.com/ancientevils/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/grays2.png

So you can’t just use this three times, stack up the effect on a final enemy then let the Guardian hit it for 10+ damage. Also, the designers decreed that this card can be taken by Carolyn and Vincent despite not strictly being a card that heals.
Seems like a cool card. Not quite as blatantly powerful as Necronomicon or Prophesiae Profana, but can certainly be worked to have an impact worth the 5XP investment.
I sort of want to see Joe with this thing in one hand and a gun in the other now, reading up in the book to check where to shoot, then firing 5 damage bullets. Hot stuff.

Rogue

Embezzled Treasure

Rogue cards in this set are wild and i am loving it. Embezzled Treasure allows trading your current surplus of resources for an advantage in the future. This is a very good trade, because resources matter the most during the setup portion of the game in the beginning when players scramble to put their assets into play and get ready to meet the mythos. Often, rogues will find themselves in the situation that after that initial rush, the resources start stacking up faster than they need to spend them. Being able to turn those resources into a bonus for the following scenario significantly takes pressure away from that next game.
The rogue is able to give this bonus to other investigators as well, which is even better. Mystics and guardians are especially money hungry in the beginning and will appreciate this help with getting their weapons and spells online. To fully load up the Embezzled Treasure, 5 turn of exhausting the card are required, but it’s not like this card is only useful when fully loaded. Even just one or two resources often make a huge difference and every rogue player should be able to swing that. Should you manage to stack the full amount of resources on this card, you can even split up the bonuses among two investigators to kickstart both of them.
I think this is a very powerful card and i will absolutely try to make room for a copy in my rogue decks for it. Deckspace is of course the only real strike against it, some decks are so tight on room that they might struggle fitting the card in.
This thing isn’t even unique or limited to 1 per investigator. So if you wanted to (and are particularly rich) you could even try and play two of these. That sounds to me like a much bigger ask and probably not the way to go but i’m sure that some players will try to make that dream work.
Oh, and this card is Illicit traited. While that does mean it interacts with what appears to be a larger Illicit theme in this expansion, it also means that Mr. Moneybags himself, Preston, can’t take it. Because that would’ve been too easy.

This is neat. For a level zero card, this does a whole lot. Slip Away is a card i play often and i also really like Slip Away(2) for the occasional recursion. This gives you four Slip Aways on tap in exchange for having to play it in advance for an extra action. That’s quite good and a real boon for evasion focused rogues … and Rita! Yep, it’s a Trick despite being an asset which means that a) Rita can take it and b) Crafty can pay for it and help with evading even more.
Note that Chuck Fergus is limited to events, so he won’t interact with this Trick. I suppose the way to go is take Disguise in your level zero deck and then maybe upgrade into Slip Away(2) later on if you are playing the Chuckster?
Good card that fits well between what’s already available. Very playable without completely outclassing anything already available, just how it should be.

Weakness

Pay Your Dues

And here’s the Rogue weakness. This one can be rough, as clearing it will cost 3 actions (one for the event, 2 to make up the cost) or a good chunk of your money. Keeping it in hand for a few turns is an option, but the damage will slowly eat away at you. It also clogs up your hand, which can be relevant.
The closest comparison from what we already have in our weakness pool is Internal Injury from Dunwich. That one goes in your threat area and ticks you for a damage each turn just the same. It’s only 2 actions to clear, but also doesn’t have an option to pay for it to go away.
Pay Your Dues is by and large worse than Internal Injury for sure. At least there are situations where you can let this sit for a bit if you are still healthy and/or have soak available.
The investigators who most easily can shrug this off are probably the ones with tons of actions, but even for a Tony 3 actions are not nothing.

Irregular Evils #41: Free time is overrated

Hey, it’s been 6 months since the last Irregular Evils post. This really lives up to its name, huh.

Anyways, i wanted to take a short moment to talk about something concerning the direction of this site. As you may or may not be aware of, Ancient Evils was created by me because i wanted to explore the design choices behind the encounter side of AHLCG. So that’s where the focus has been pretty much exclusively. Now, we just finished up with a rather interesting spoiler season for Scarlet Keys, where we got a steady drip feed of new cards presented all over the various content creators (that managed to ask to be included in time…). I have been following that with weekly recap posts, basically doing my own part to spreading the good word. Thing is, while doing so i sort of got a taste for talking more about player cards…

I also posted my version of an Arkham Buying Guide recently. To be honest, when i started that i wasn’t aware that reddit has a rather exhaustive one as well. I thought they had “only” (and i don’t mean that in a negative way at all) the short and concise one that is part of the community FAQ. Had i known about the big one, i probably wouldn’t have done my own. Oh well, i was trying to fill a niche but it turns out that we now have (at least) two Buying Guides that go into much detail and are written content (as opposed to YT videos or podcasts). Despite that, the Buying Guide has gotten positive feedback, which i am quite happy about.

So that leaves me with: 1) A desire to do more player card reviews. 2) A reason to expand on that Buying Guide. And 3) two or three more months before the Scarlet Keys Campaign box even hits shelves. To make a long story short, i will do a review of all cards in all released expansions because i apparently hate having free time. One article per expansion, going over all the cards, checking out the total card pools per class and i will be doing all of this as an extension of the Buying Guide. The questions i want to answer with each of the Expansion Reviews are things like “Can i make this work as my first buy after the Core”, “Is every investigator in this box properly playable with just this box + Core” and similar questions that you might ask yourself when trying to determine your first/next buy.

When new players ask about which box to buy first, the answers often are still based on the old release model. Accordingly, they are often not based on the player cards at all, but on the scenario content. “Get Carcosa, it’s awesome!” “I wouldn’t buy TFA, it’s very hard!” Now that player cards and campaign are decoupled, we can look at this better and tell players to maybe go for TFA player cards with Carcosa campaign or something. Finding out whether that makes sense is going to be a result of what i want to do with this new article series. I’ve already got the articles for Dunwich and for the Investigator Starter Packs ready to go and they are going up in the very near future (probably Sunday). These articles take a truckload of time to do, but i found that they were very interesting to write. Hopefully they are as interesting to read.

In any case, the reason i am doing a News post for this is that this is sort of big for me because it is indicative of a change in the direction this site is going. Expect more content from the player card side in the future, maybe some archetype discussion or talk about fancy decks i built. We’ll see. The majority of my focus is going to stay with the encounter side of course. I am going to do all the stuff for Scarlet Keys that i did for Edge of the Earth. But i will also see if i can’t squeeze some player card stuff in between on a semi-regular occasion from now on.

Before i am done here, i’d like to come back to the upcoming release of the Scarlet Keys Investigator Expansion real quick. The official previews are ending today. I expect the full list of cards to drop any day now (either official or leaked) and i will dig into that as well of course. Probably make a post or two going over the cards and giving some quick takes and initial reactions. I also am definitely going to finish the Customizables series.

So i don’t anticipate any lulls in content for next couple weeks, even though it’s probably going to be another 2 months or so until i can dive into the new campaign and get back to what this site was created for.

The only thing that i am a bit worried about right now is the navigation menu at the top of the site. That thing is getting seriously cluttered and adding new entries for the player card stuff is not going to help. I am not sure how, but i am going to have to do something about that. I already did some cleanup and moved some stuff around, but that will probably not last forever.

Alrighty, that’s all i got. Enjoy the previews, enjoy the content (not just mine, everyones) and have fun gaming. Cheers o/