Hemlock Vale Spoiler Roundup #9

Intro

Two more weeks of Hemlock Vale spoilers down, we are getting close to the end now.

Sources

Hatchet and Token of Faith were previewed by Ancient Evils on their blog ;)

Vamp and Providential were previewed by arkhamhorrorlcg.ru on their YouTube.

Guided by Faith, Hold Up, Pelt Shipment and Persistence were previewed by Great Old Ones Gaming and Man from Leng on the Whisperer in Darkness Youtube

Guardian

This is maybe just a bit too safe? The extra clue is not guaranteed at all, so unless you are doing Favor of the Sun this is a bit of a tough sell. Even if you run this to add bless tokens while doing your regular investigation, you are basically paying 2 resources to add 2 blesses… that’s half the rate that Keep Faith offers. This isn’t unplayable and if you can make it discover 2 clues reliably it even becomes quite good. But this is going to go into only a very narrow range of decks.

Reading this the first time, i got fooled. I missed that it replaces the Fight action, so i thought this was “I’ll take that!” except for fighting instead of evading. However… it does replace the Fight action. So this isn’t the second coming of I’ll Take That, it’s actually the second coming of Unearth the Ancients. And that is not a good card.
I don’t like this one. Too limited in when it can be used and not enough of a payoff for playing it. Pretty much all you get is a rebate on your Item and the opportunity to play it while engaged. That’s not good enough to me, especially when it even costs a resource to play in the first place.

Rogue

Alright, so let’s go over these options. Removing a doom? That can be worth it. Have to use it on an enemy but especially if it’s aloof, that could just solve that problem. Discover a clue? Action for a clue is just the value of a standard investigate. Not really worth it. Evade an enemy and push it? That’s decent if you get something out of the forced move. Two damage? Honestly, that’s probably the best mode here.
So the options are just borderline valuable, so you do need to get your value out of some of the other aspects of the card. Luckily, there are a couple. First off, Parley. You know the drill by now, we’ve been banging that drum for a couple weeks now. Next up, Trick. Chuck makes this fast and gives you skill. Crafty can pay for it and give you skill. Speaking of skill, this replaces the regular difficulty with a 3. That can be good to grab a clue from a high shroud location or to evade something that is hard to evade. You also don’t need to be engaged with the enemy, so you can deal 2 damage to an aloof enemy with this. There is also value in there just being so many options to choose from (provided you have suitable skill values for them). Get enough incidental value out of these aspects and Vamp becomes quite good. It even has a wild icon on it as yet another suitable mode of use.

Survivor

I shared my take on these in the reveal article already. Tl;dr: Hatchet is too gimmicky for its own good, but if you want high skill values, this can get you there. Probably not a great card, but might have a niche. Token of Faith is very powerful and unique and i like it a whole lot. That it gets to project its protection from autofails to the whole team is a game changer and neutering curse tokens is also significant.

Okay, so this is better than Signum Crucis, the most obvious comparison point. Signum got taboo’d to cost zero XP because it wasn’t quite performing good enough. Is Providential good enough to warrant Signum’s original XP cost?
Not sure. It’s more universally usable and unlike Signum it does actually help you pass a test. I suppose this needs to cost 2XP because the ceiling for the card is just so high. When you can reliably throw 3+ tokens into the bag in addition to throwing an Unexpected Courage into the test it’s going to be worth the XP for sure. It also plays spectacularly well with Spirit of Humanity.
But it’s definitely a card you need to have a solid plan for. Paying 2XP for an Unexpected Courage is not what you want to do.

Yo, wtf. So apparently our Survivors get a … pelt shipment… during Hemlock Vale? I am sure this is going to make sense eventually! This is a weird card, but i kinda like it. If you don’t need your full hand size, this doesn’t cost you more than the draw it replaces, which is a fine cost for an extra XP (that you can only spend on a new card, not on an upgrade?) If you want to get cards from your hand into the discard (and that is something that survivors might want to!) then reducing your hand size can even help you to get those Winging Its where they belong.
I don’t think i’d want two of these in my deck because nuking my whole hand is a bit much, but i could easily see myself trying to make space for a singleton of these in my survivor decks.

It ain’t much, but it’s honest work. You get your Unexpected Courage out of your card, but split it across two tests. This is a very fair effect as a baseline. If you recur this, you will need to draw this from your deck every time. So you are pretty much just drawing Unexpected Courages worth of cards. Fine, but nothing that immediately excites us.
So how do we break the symmetry to make it worth paying an XP for it? Minh or Grisly Totem work. Or both, of course. Once we can treat it as two instances of two wilds, things get interesting. Patrice also comes to mind, having to give up a draw here and there is no significant cost to her. Anyone who can discard cards for effects, like Wendy or Pete or anyone with a Cornered can discard this for whatever and then still get some extra value out of it.
This is a rather innocent card that is not going to set the world ablaze, but this is just good value in many contexts.

Designing a fan-made Return to the Dreamlands #3: Changes. And Spiders.

Intro

First order of the day is going over some changes to the encounter cards from the previous two articles, as a result of your feedback. Some things were toned down, others were cleaned up and yet others were completely redesigned. Almost everything in these changes was at least prompted by a comment from one of you, some of it I was even able to just take wholesale.
And once we are done with that, we’ll take a look at another Unofficial Return To scenario as it sits in my design file right now, the one for Waking Nightmare. Arachnophobes, last chance to get out.

Tweaked/Reworked: Chilling Blood

Freezing Blood: Is now considerably easier to remove from the investigator that is affected. Changing it to an activation instead of a trigger means that you aren’t forced to sit through it for at least a turn and also that other investigators can help you with it.
Fogged Vision: Got a major rework. Now attaches to the investigator instead of the location, both for thematical reasons and to better fit into the “Threat area matters” thing that Thousand Shapes of Horror has going on. I also made it affect both investigations and fights, because now that it affects only 1 investigator it needs to be a bit more universal in its effect. It also fits thematically.

Tweaked: Ravenous Hordes

Ravenous Horde: Now allows choosing the asset that is snatched up. I cleaned up the wording on the trigger for the alternate condition and made it also go through the encounter discard pile like official cards usually do. No longer going straight for the highest cost asset does mean this one shifts its primary focus from being asset removal to swarm support. Which is in line with the theme of the set.
Nothing Left But Bones: Like on Freezing Blood, the discard condition is now activated instead of triggered, allowing you to get rid of it before its effect happens if you are really paranoid about it and allows other investigators to help you if passing an agility test is not something you can realistically do.
Surge of Rats: Unchanged.

Reworked: Looming Evils

Leaving all the victory display business behind, this design for Looming Evils goes to the meaning of the word “Looming” and runs with it. Unless you can discard it before the agenda advances, it will spill a doom over into the next agenda. If it gets to do its thing, it removes itself, which fixes the problem of drawing too many of them in big groups due to variance. It does nothing when on the final agenda and that’s a thing i am currently thinking about if i want to fix it or not. I probably should. That being said, Dark Side and No Return don’t actually have a final agenda. And Weaver has enough doom going on already… if you are on the final agenda of Weaver, i would prefer you dooming out to Atlach-Nacha instead of to Evils.
The discard activation is easier to achieve if your deck makes use of the Myriad theme of the Dream-Eaters card pool but even without that it’s a puzzle that can be solved, especially in bigger teams where Evils usually scales harder.

Tweaked: Marauders

Besieged by Pirates: The other card that had a victory display thing going on. Pretty simple change: It now counts doom in play to decide how much you have to pay. This should play fairly different in the two scenarios that it is used in, which is something i always like in an encounter set: Search for Kadath has few, but long agendas, letting Besieged scale up really far and cost a lot of resources. Meanwhile, Dark Side has short agendas, making the Surge more relevant while chipping away at the player’s resources.
This effect hits solo players more than groups, but on the other hand it’s easier for a solo player to have this do very little (by keeping your resource count low) than for a group. So i am fine with it for now.
Marauder: Unchanged.

Tweaked: Thousand Shapes

Scratching Claws: Small oversight that is corrected now: Added a Surge when it would do nothing. That Surge can dig in the encounter deck towards more cards that go into the threat area so the next Claws hopefully hits. Since there are three of these in the deck, adding the conditional surge here does actually do a good deal towards making the encounter deck feel even smaller, something that was a goal of the rework for the scenario.
Grave Crawlers: Unchanged.

Unchanged: Song of Hypnos

I voiced some concerns about memory issues with my design, but responses suggest that it shouldn’t be a problem. So i am keeping it as is.

Unchanged: Dreamscape

I don’t think a single person commented on this set :D I take this as it working just fine!

The Hospital on Elm Street

Alright, let’s talk Waking Nightmare. I really like this scenario and i don’t plan on touching it much beyond what the replacement sets do. So let’s talk about those first.

The scenario uses both Whispers of Hypnos and Merging Realities. Or, as we know them now in the Unofficial Return to Dream-Eaters, Song of Hypnos and Ravenous Hordes.
Song of Hypnos doesn’t change much about how the scenario actually plays, but Ravenous Hordes does put a good amount of punch behind the swarmers in this scenario. Those swarmers? Actually just Swarm of Spiders. This changes how the set works quite a bit from what we saw in URt Thousand Shapes, which i stuffed full of swarmers. With this dynamic in place, the Ravenous Horde treachery will frequently be another copy of Swarm of Spiders and also shuffle itself back. Spider of Leng can conjure up Swarms of Spiders and while it will do so without swarm cards attached, Ravenous Horde can take care of that as well. Surge of Rats doesn’t have swarming yet (it will only gain it through the agenda in Thousand Shapes), which turns it into a surging nuisance that is easy to defeat but of course always comes with another encounter card. In a way, you can look at Surge of Rats as another swarm card. Nothing Left But Bones is largely harmless, but if you are overrun by Swarm of Spiders, you can find it creeping up on you as well. I am a huge fan of encounter sets changing the way they play significantly in the various scenarios they are used in and Ravenous Hordes does exactly that.

The scenario itself has one weak spot that I aim to plug with the scenario specific additions. No, not the infestation bag, i like that one actually. What i want to fix is the usual strategy where you’ll want to purify the bottleneck on the stairs and thus stop the infestation from getting around. Once you manage that, the rest of the scenario is kinda boring because the infestation can’t really spread anymore. My solution to this problem spans 5 cards: two agendas and 3 enemies. The two agendas replace the final agenda of the original scenario:

For reference, here’s the original agenda on ArkhamDB: https://arkhamdb.com/card/06066

So rather simple: I split the agenda 3a in two, added an extra doom to extend the available time slightly. And introduce the new Web-Spinner enemy for the duration of the final 8 doom worth of game:

As a bit of foreshadowing for the Web-Spinners we all love and hate from the Weaver scenario, this version of them shows up early in scenario 1 now. They don’t directly add doom to the agenda like they do in Weaver, but act as a conduit from which the infestation can spread. This gives the encounter deck at least a bit of a chance of getting a breakout happening even if the players have the stairwell under their control. And it does so without being overwhelming for groups that were already struggling because it’s just an extra small enemy to kill and a +1 doom to allow for it (and then some). That extra doom on the final agenda is a concession to anyone in general who is afraid this change does make this scenario too difficult.

And that’s already it! I believe that Waking Nightmare is already one of the high points of the Dream-Eaters box, so I don’t want to shake it up too much. The Ravenous Hordes set does some heavy lifting here to make the whole thing feel significantly different until the final act when the Web-Spinner comes out to make sure there’s actually an endgame and not just a leisurely stroll for the final bits of victory points. And aside from that i am pretty happy with it so I’d rather dedicate more cards to something else.

Next Up

I said I would go to something in the A-side of Dream-Eaters next, but i changed my mind. Let’s finish talking about this side completely first. So in part 4, i want to cover my current plans for the Unofficial Return to the Point of No Return… small as they are. This is a scenario where i want to do more than i am currently but still need a good hook. Let’s talk about that next time once i’ve shown you what there is so far, though!
Also, to stay with having two topics per article, i think it’s worth talking about the ideas i have for increasing the inter-connectivity of the scenarios/the two campaign sides. And when we are talking about No Return anyways, that is a great time for it because it does have some of that in it. So I’ll throw that in as well.

Designing the fan-made Return to the Dreamlands #2: Of Victory and Rats

Intro

Continuing the dev diary of sorts for the Unofficial Return to Dream-Eaters, let’s do two things today. First, let’s talk about the “victory display subtheme”, something I mentioned a couple of time in part 1. It’s something that I originally put into the set, but that I am going to remove from it now for a number of reasons I’ll go into. I’ll use it as a showcase of something that didn’t work out in the end, but was worth exploring in the design stage.
Then, I’ll give a detailed look at one of the scenarios and the changes that I am doing to it. Instead of just starting at scenario 1, I actually want to talk about Thousand Shapes of Horror first. The reason being that I alluded to making deep changes to it in part 1 and I want to give the necessary context for what’s happening with the new Ravenous Hordes encounter set. It’s also a neat showcase for how you can make some really significant changes without straining the limited card budget too much.

A Display of Victory (or so i thought)

In the encounter sets that i showed off last week, i mentioned a wider victory display theme for two of the cards: Looming Evils and Besieged by Pirates. Here they are again:

For Looming Evils, the victory interaction actually makes a bit of sense because one of the goals with it is stopping it from reshuffling into the encounter deck too often. For Besieged, it’s rather shoehorned though and doesn’t really mean anything. So what lead me to put victory interactions on unrelated cards such as Besieged? To get a better look at the big picture, here’s more stuff from the design file that opens up this theme:

To be clear, these three cards are already decided to either leave the set completely or get massive reworks.
A Guarding Presence is a card that you’d earn for having the Black Cat on your side twice in a row. All Alone is the opposite, you’d get it if you had to go without the cat twice. This was meant to increase the meaning of the choice around who gets to side with the Black Cat in the interludes. The sealing mechanics made them too fiddly though, something that I got as feedback from several of the playtesters. At this point it’s unlikely that these two cards make it into the next version at all, even after a rework because both the fiddlyness of the sealing and the victory interaction is something I am no longer keen on.
Echoes of Kadath is my initial solution for the problem of Where The Gods Dwell not offering enough time to actually play the scenario. The lead investigator would get Echoes of Kadath into their play area at the start of Where the Gods Dwell with evidence on it scaled by the number of Evidence of Kadath you collected during the first three scenarios. Thus it was meant to play both the role of basically an extra agenda by stretching out the doom thresholds and the role of a payoff for the campaign that came before it. Adding more pieces of interactivity between the scenarios is a primary goal of the Unofficial Return To Dream-Eaters, after all. The problem with Echoes is two-fold: One, it’s hilariously broken. If you do even remotely well this pretty much gives you 10 pieces of doom removal. I ahd playtesters tell me that they finished Gods Dwell without even getting to the final agenda. So this just ended up being a massive overcorrection from me. I thought about fixing it by either only giving it 1 evidence per 2 Evidence of Kadath collected (which is very inelegant and reads terribly) or limiting it to removing 1 doom removed per trigger but either solution doesn’t feel great to me. The other problem with Echoes is that Where The Gods Dwell already has a location that scales with Evidence of Kadath collected. So i am not really introducing a new payoff here, i am doubling up on an existing one. Delivering payoff for something different (maybe even something from the other side of the campaign) would probably feel a lot more interesting.

So that’s basically what the victory display subtheme is. On the one side some player cards that offer triggers whenever stuff is added to the display. On the other side some treachery cards that also have triggers (Besieged) or move into the display to cause triggers (Evils). There were a handful other card like that in the scenario specific encounter cards, but by now they more or less disappeared already during development. This whole idea came into being because I noticed that Dream-Eaters has an unusual amount of Victory enemies in it. Both of the campaign bosses are made up from multiple Victory enemies. And especially Search for Kadath and Dark Side of the Moon have a bunch of Victory enemies on the map and in the encounter deck. So i thought this was worth exploring as something to build on.

And it was worth exploring. I don’t think it ended up in a spot where it’s worth bending the “rules” of what goes into a Return To box for, but I could see this being something to just put into a design file and stow it away for now. And then come back to it later with its own scenario or even as part of another custom campaign. Or bleed into a custom player card expansion with cards that care about the victory display. Or just a single investigator whose gimmick is caring about it. There’s certainly an untapped design space here that is worth exploring. The LotR LCG actually has a bunch of cards that do explore this, including a hero that gets bonuses for cards in the victory display. When I design cards that don’t pan out, i usually don’t delete them completely (unless they are actual trash which certainly happens too!) but put them into their own folder to return to at whatever later date. By the way, if you are reading this and you are doing your own custom content, thinking that this Victory display idea could be useful for whatever you are doing, go for it. I put this out as an idea to be used. I am unlikely to ever put together my own set from scratch, so by all means have at it!

What that means for me and the Unofficial Return to Dream-Eaters though… I will rip the last remains of this theme from the file. And then I will need to have another look at what i can do to introduce more interconnectivity between the scenarios and campaigns, maybe if i want to do something else with the Black Cat. I’ll save that topic for a later article, though! For now i think we can put this topic to rest, learn our lessons from a mostly failed experiment and move on to something that worked out much better. And that is the Thousand Shapes rework.

Thousand Shapes of Grey

When I first shared my take on the Thousand Shapes scenario in early 2021, i wasn’t exactly kind to it. The big problem I have with it is that it’s an unconnected grab-bag of mechanisms that don’t relate to each other. It’s a bit like someone opened up their design folder of unfinished ideas, took five random things from it and mashed them together. We got swarming rats, we got a few cards that scale by cards in the threat area, we have an invincible enemy that chases you, we got a ghoul-attracting graveyard and finally a novel stairs mechanic. If I squint really hard i can draw some connections, like swarming rats counting as multiple cards in your threat area… but in actual gameplay those connections fall apart quick because honestly… who ends their turn with rats in their threat area? Furthermore, the encounter deck was rather chunky, clocking in at 34 cards, which only serves to dilute each part more. In a campaign side that is largely about Atlach-Nacha’s machinations the scenario is also thematically disconnected. One of the more frequent requests i got for this scenario is to add some spiders. Well, sure. Let’s do that.

To improve Thousand Shapes of Horror, my approach is streamlining the scenario. I am going to axe a few things to make room for fleshing out the others. What i want to end up with is a scenario that puts an emphasis on the swarming keyword (and the rats) and that has suitable payoff for the threat area theme. And sure, the flight of stairs will pretty much be untouched as will The Unnamable.

And the first step to get there is removing every non-swarming enemy from the encounter deck. Both the Ghouls and the Creatures of the Underworld set are no longer used in Unofficial Return to Thousand Shapes. Instead, three copies of both of these cards enter the deck:

Scratching Claws is of course a direct replacement for Grasping Hands which was removed together with the Ghoul set. It’s been given a thematic spin towards rats and a mechanical spin towards “threat area matters” to tie it into the scenario. Grave Crawlers means we don’t go without spiders in this scenario. It uses the same thing as the ghouls from the base scenario where it spawns in the graveyard, but adds a small payoff to that mechanic by getting extra swarmers for stacking up. They do have the Ghoul trait which is a concession to there being a location in the stairs that searches for Ghouls. That last part is not perfect, but it works well enough that i am not worrying about it.

By removing 10 cards (Ghouls + Underworld) and adding only 6 cards back in (Crawlers + Claws), the size of the encounter deck is brought down to 30, which together with the new cards playing better into the existing themes does help with the presence of the things i chose to focus on.

For this scenario, the replacement sets also play a big role. For reference, here are the Chilling Blood and Ravenous Horde sets again as i showed them in part 1 of this series:

Since we have so few card slots to work with (6-7 per scenario on average, with the 6 treacheries i shared and the scenario setup card we are already at 7), it is important that i consider the replacement sets and how they are used in this scenario, then tailor them towards it… while still keeping them usable in other scenarios that use them. For Thousand Shapes this works out quite well. I smuggled another enemy into Ravenous Hordes, something that wasn’t in Merging Realitites which it replaces. This additional enemy partly makes up for the enemies i removed with Creatures of the Underworld. It also brings up the total number of Rats that interact with the text on the agenda in the encounter deck up to 5, almost doubling it. Surge of Rats also surges, which works towards making the encounter deck even tighter. Nothing Left but Bones and Freezing Blood are both treacheries that go into the threat area which together with the amount of swarmers that make it more likely that something sticks, should help cards in the original encounter deck such as Glowing Eyes or Deceptive Memories to matter. One of the many helpful responses i got to part 1 of the series pointed out that Fogging Vision should thematically be something that happens to an investigator, not a location and i am currently leaning towards making that change because it would help make Vision distinct from the original Obscuring Fog, it would make thematic sense and it would help play into Thousand Shapes mechanically. So let me just use this opportunity to shout out a thanks to the replies to the first article, there were some very helpful answers there and if this keeps up the fan-made Return To is going to profit from it immensely :)

I leave both the dealings with the Unnameable in the house and the flight down the stairs untouched with the changes to the scenario as I believe both of them work reasonably well. It’s all still a bit unconnected, but through tightening up the encounter deck the scenario should be able to have a good deal more personality and mechanical cohesion. Through some economical use of the replacement sets this doesn’t even take up a whole lot of our card budget despite this being actually a significant rework of most of the encounter deck.

I am quite happy with all of this and in playtesting it has led to lots more interaction of the cards with each other than in the base version. I pretty much consider this scenario done, it’s very unlikely that this is going to see large revisions until release.

Next up

In the next article I will take a look at Waking Nightmare, since it overlaps with Thousand Shapes in the Ravenous Horde set and i want to contrast how the set is used in these two scenarios. In the article after that I’ll move to something on the A side so we aren’t just looking at spiders all the time. Additionally, the next article will go over the changes to the cards from the previous article (and htis one?) that are the result of your feedback.

Designing a fan-made Return to the Dreamlands #1: Encounter replacements

Intro

A while ago i announced that I started working on a fan-made “Return To” expansion for the official Dream-Eaters campaign. That was originally scheduled to be out by now, but after releasing a first rough edition to a smaller circle of playtesters i got caught up in a mix of real-life distractions, other video and board games from Baldur’s Gate to Frosthaven and most recently of course Hemlock Vale spoiler season took up most of the time i put towards Arkham. All of which kept me from finding the time and motivation to address everything that the playtest uncovered and that i wasn’t satisfied with before that already. So this project rested for almost three months now which is not ideal! To get back on track with finishing the thing (or at least towards another major playtest version) in the new year, i figured i would make an article series documenting the process, for a couple of reasons:
– This is a great opportunity to talk about a range of design related topics, as it provides hands-on challenges and examples.
– It allows me to source opinions and ideas from the community.
– Having a dev diary to look back on sounds like it could potentially be a neat resource for other custom creators.
– Making it an article series helps me to actually stick to doing stuff for it from week to week and not get distracted (again).

Constraints of a Return To

While a fan-made thing could in theory do whatever it wants, part of the appeal and challenge is working under the same constraints that an official Return To would operate under. Most importantly, that means a very limited card budget that can go towards improving the campaign. I also want it to have the same feel as the official Returns, meaning that the card distribution among scenarios and sets is spread out.
To put some numbers on these constraints: The existing Return boxes contain 105-110 cards. 25 to 30 of those go towards upgraded/downgraded player cards, leaving a mere 80ish cards for encounters. Of those, about 25 go towards replacement encounter sets. That leaves about 55 for scenario specific cards or in other words: less than 7 cards on average per scenario. And one of those is going to be the scenario setup card. Yes, those are included in the total count. That leaves us 6 cards per scenario on average which can go towards new treacheries, enemies, locations, agendas and all that other good stuff!
With the numbers being what they are (and they are non-negotiable) that rules out fancy ideas like “Let’s add a new scenario to each side of Dream-Eaters” or similar. We want to improve the campaign with an Unofficial Return, but it will have to do so while still mostly using what is there.

Hey, if it was easy, it would already be done :D

The other constraint is a bit weaker, more malleable, but it should be said that this isn’t starting from zero anymore. I already did throw considerable effort at the design and I am not willing to completely demolish everything. There will certainly be aspects that are already locked in and i will try to make it clear which parts I am especially struggling with still. Everything is up for tweaking, of course. Numbers are never fixed at this stage, even if some concepts might be. As an example, this article today is going to dive into the replacement encounter sets. I am certainly open for ideas on how these replacements look… but the actual decision on what sets are going to be replaced has been made and is locked in.

Which encounter sets to replace?

So let’s just dive in then. As I said, the decision on which encounter sets get replaced has been made and pretty much fixed, but as I’ll show in a moment there’s little room for deviations anyways.

(click to zoom)

This is the distribution of the encounter sets across the eight scenarios of Dream-Eaters. When deciding on which sets to replace, i want to cover the following bases:
– roughly even distribution over the scenarios (about 2 replaced sets per scenario)
– roughly even distribution between the A and the B side of the campaign
– two or three encountersets from the Core, to provide some extra value to anyone who might want to use these replacements outside of the Unofficial Return to Dream-Eaters campaign.
– Every replacement set needs to be used at least two times. Usually i’d want to shoot for three, but due to the nature of the Dream-Eaters campaign actually being two mini-campaigns that doesn’t work out well.
– A total of five or six replacement sets. Anything more would eat too much of our total card budget.

Using those guidelines, here’s the replacement sets as I currently have them in the project:

Some notes :
Everything in yellow is replacements.
Gods Dwell uses only one of them, Kadath uses three. Every other scenario uses two. So that’s good. Distributions across A and B is fine and there’s two Core replacements. Adding up the card counts from the six sets that are replaced here gives a total of 24 cards from our budget which also works.
The two grey cells note that i am want to remove the Ghouls and the Underworld set from Thousand Shapes completely. We’ll get back to that at a later date when i will look at that scenario in detail, it’s not important for now.

Justifying the choices for replacements:
Ancient Evils and Chilling Cold are the only two sets from the Core that are used at least 3 times during Dream-Eaters and the only ones that are used on both sides of the campaign. They are also two high profile sets with good impact in many campaigns. They perfectly fit the bill.
Whispers of Hypnos is the only set from Dream-Eaters that is used in both campaigns which similarly makes it an easy pick. It can also stand to get a bit of a glow up, it’s not really very memorable.
I want to have one of the replacement sets care about swarming and since Merging Realities is the set that is shared across the two scenarios that care about swarms the most (Nightmare and Shapes), it’s the one that will have to make room for the new Ravenous Hordes set.
That settles it on the B side of the campaign, so the remaining replacements should come from the A side. Dreamlands and Corsairs are both chosen to make the “2 replacements per scenario” rule work out. I could see replacing Agents of Nyarlathothep instead of either of them, but i do like the Crawling Mist and it is referred to by name in two scenarios. While the rules do handle replacing cards that are called out by name, it’s something i’d prefer to avoid.

With that, let’s finally get down to individual card designs and take a look at the replacement sets how they are looking in my design file right now.

Ancient Evils -> Looming Evils

Ancient Evils is a very notorious card and I want to get it right. It definitely needs to keep its high impact status. One wish that was relayed to me several times after announcing the Unofficial Return to Dream-Eaters was that I fix the issue with Dark Side of the Moon where Ancient Evils in a reshuffling encounter deck causes too much variance. I would like to fix this with the replacement version, so i don’t have to address it in Dark Side itself.

Alright, starting with one of the problem children immediately.
I’m not really happy with this yet, it’s one of the cards i am struggling with. The idea for stopping the bad interaction with the encounter reshuffles is having it stick around in play for a while that keeps it out of circulation for at least a bit. There’s currently a minor “victory display matters” thing going on in the fan-made Return which is why i am using that particular trigger here to dump it into the discard pile eventually. The ability to put it in the victory display itself allows players to take it out of circulation completely and allows the card to possibly interact with other cards that care about the victory display.
It works, but it feels a bit clumsy to me. And honestly i am not sure if i actually do want the victory subtheme after all.
Status: I would be down to starting completely from scratch with this one. Maybe I put the doom on a Victory enemy in play? I think i need to make a decision about the victory display thing before i move on with this one.

Chilling Cold -> Freezing Blood

Again, I don’t want to make this significantly weaker. In general I believe that player assets are too safe, so I am looking to at least match Crypt Chill with its replacement here. The general vibe of the set should stay the same.

Freezing Blood: This has gone through a bunch of alterations already. It started as a treachery that would just simply take up a handslot. Since that just dunks too harshly on two-handed weapons, it was changed to its current effect that goes after one-handed and two-handed assets indiscriminately, but is less harsh. This set is used in Thousand Shapes, so Freezing Blood does count as a treachery in the players area for the cards that pay off of that in that scenario.
Status: Effect is done. The thing still in question is the test to discard it. I’ll probably tone it down further to difficulty 3.

Fogging Vision: This is rather close to the original Obscuring Fog. The ability cost to discard cards from your hand is meant to play into all the hand disruption that is baked into Gates of Sleep.
Status: It works, i like it. Not terribly sexy, but does the job and does it well.

Corsairs -> Marauders

The original set is used in Kadath and Dark Side and does a good job of linking the two scenarios thematically. The pirate theme definitely has to stay for the replacement for that reason. The treachery has a lot more punch than the enemy in the original set, i would like to swap that dynamic and make the Marauder the focus.

Marauder: The Marauder combines aspects from both original cards. Like Hunted by Corsairs, the Marauder waits for the players to advance the act, ready to strike when they do. As an enemy it is easier to interact with, but i gave this one some considerable resilience between Aloof and 3 health that should hopefully make it a non-trivial decision on whether to ignore it or defeat it. It also inherited the Spawn instruction from Corsair of Leng, i did however change it to City or Ruins instead of City or Surface because i believe this to work slightly better in Dark Side.
Status: Done. This guy plays very well.

Besieged by Pirates: This is another one that has been going through a lot of changes over time. Since the Marauder unites elements of both of the original cards in it, this treachery can be pretty much be whatever i want to. Since Marauder is pushed a bit, i decided to ease up on Besieged. This card is mostly the result of thematic design, trying to push the Pirate angle. And what do pirates do? They plunder. Lose some resources! Riveting stuff, i know :)
Status: Could still be almost anything. I think this works as it is, but i wouldn’t be opposed to better ideas.

Dreamlands -> Dreamscape

Used in Gates of Sleep and Search for Kadath, the Dreamlands set has the job of setting the stage, of giving an impression of how the Dream-Lands look and work. The original set has two treacheries in it that are both reasonably impactful and that are themed around stalling the player’s actions and impacting their clue effort.

Lost in Dream: Hooks into the discard theme of Gates of Sleep and the piracy theme from Kadath. Not terribly impactful due to how much choice it gives players in handling it, but suitably … alien. This is a weird card in some ways and that seems appropriate for this set.
Status: Note to self because i am seeing this only now: The textbox uses both “Lost in Dream” and “Lost in Dreams”. Fix it! Otherwise done.

Mesmerizing Images: A fairly straightforward spin on Dreamlands Eclipse from the original set. It also penalizes going after clues for a turn, but it does so for everyone, no matter if they get clues through investigations or other means. This is a souped up effect from the base card to compensate for Lost in Dream being less impactful than Prismatic Phenomenon.
Status: Done. It’s fine. Not something to get excited about, but it’s a solid card that does its job.

Merging Realities -> Ravenous Hordes

This one is a bit difficult to talk about without the full picture of what i am doing to Thousand Shapes. The important bit here is that i want to make swarming a more prominent thing in Waking Nightmare and Thousand Shapes and to that end i created an encounter set that interacts with it. Merging Realities is to me mostly notable for Threads of Realities which goes after assets and Night Terrors which removes cards from the game. I’ll want to make sure that Ravenous Hordes features those elements.
In terms of theme, i was faced with either making it about spiders or rats. I decided to lean into rats because that part in Thousand Shapes is interesting but very undercooked. Spiders already have plenty of presence.
This is the set that got the most attention from me so far because it has to do some heavy lifting for what i want to do with Thousand Shapes. Accordingly, it’s in a spot where i like it a lot right now and i do consider it done except for one detail.

Surge of Rats: A rather heavy-handed plant for Thousand Shapes. Counting as a Swarm of Rats lets it get bonuses from the agendas there and become swarming. In Waking Nightmare, they are just a surging nuisance but i do believe that rats do actually fit into the creepy hospital quite well thematically.
Status: Done.

Ravenous Horde: Like Threads of Reality, Ravenous Horde goes after the highest cost asset of the player and disables it. It does so through turning it into a swarm card though, so this is pretty hard removal. It also props up the number of swarmers through searching them up when none are around, adding to the spider and rat troubles in either scenario.
Status: Done.

Nothing Left But Bones: Like Night Terrors, it plucks cards from your deck permanently. This explores swarming a bit more, specifically the part where it actually uses your player cards.
Status: The effect that the swarms end up eating your cards is great and that part is absolutely done. The thing that is still up for debate here is the discard trigger for the treachery. Right now it’s timed to trigger the removal of cards at least once, potentially more if you fail the test. But that’s not set in stone.

Whispers of Hypnos -> Song of Hypnos

The neat thing about Whispers is that it’s used across both sides of the campaign. Less neat is how it’s not impactful at all. 90% of times you can just call agility and enjoy your free mythos phase. I would want this to leave a bit more of a mark, but without being overbearing.

By taking away the player choice of skill that is impacted, Song of Hypnos will at least not run into situations where you can completely ignore it. Instead, the card pushes the players to diversify their skill tests because repeatedly passing tests on the same skill is going to ramp up the difficulties over time.
I am happy with this effect as such, i do believe it fixes my issues with the original card and gives it some interesting play patterns. It does pose a bit of a memory issue in 3p and 4p though as you do need to remember through the round what tests your team already took. I do not believe this is a dealbreaker here, but it’s something to be conscious of to not do too often.
Status: Mostly done. I wouldn’t mind keeping it as it is now, but if there’s a good way to address the memory issue that’d be worth exploring.

Open Questions

And that’s what i got so far for the encounter cards that aren’t part of a scenario set. These questions are still in the front of my mind when looking at these:

Is introducing a “victory display matters” theme something that is worth doing? You only get a small part of it here, but there’s more in the scenario specific cards. During the initial design phase it sort of just happened to become a thing, but i have my doubts that it’s really appropriate to introduce a completely new theme with a Return To set. I should probably use the card space to further existing themes instead. In these encounter sets, the only two cards this impacts are Looming Evils and Besieged by Pirates and I don’t feel particularly attached to either.

Is the memory issue with Song of Hypnos actually an issue?

And what the hell do i do with the Evils replacement?

As you can see, there’s not actually all that much that is left open for these sets. The more contentious bits still require work come in the scenario specific stuff. But i did want to open with these because we are going to need them as context when talking about the scenarios in the following weeks.

Part of why I am doing this article series is crowdsourcing opinions, so by all means let me know what you think about any of this. I am aware that much of it requires more context, but I’ll take what i can get!

The Feast of Hemlock Vale: Hatchet and Token of Faith

Intro

We are only mere weeks away from the release of The Feast of Hemlock Vale Investigator Expansion. To help with the wait, various community members have been given the opportunity to preview cards of the upcoming expansion. Today it’s my turn to give you something to look forward to. We’ve not seen any red cards in a while, so please enjoy Hatchet and the upgraded Token of Faith!

Hatchet(1)

Survivors, man. Survivors always get the weirdest things. After Pitchfork which was revealed earlier this spoiler season, we now get another survivor weapon that attaches after use, ready to be picked up by anyone. The Pitchfork attached to locations, the hatchet sticks to an enemy.
And unlike with the Pitchfork, picking up the hatchet again doesn’t take an action, you get it back as a triggered ability. There are however terms and conditions that apply and that we’ll have to work around. Strap in, because this is where it gets weird: For Hatchet to do its thing, we need to not defeat the target with it. Because then it’d just get discarded along with the enemy. Instead we need to just wound the enemy (or fail to hit completely, i guess… i suppose that’s something that survivors do, right?) because then the thing gets attached to the enemy. And once the enemy is defeated afterwards, an investigator at its location can pick the hatchet back up.
Alright, that sounds weird but we do get something in return: A potentially huge bonus to our fight value. Basically, this thing has Defensive Stance built into its attacks. Wilson Richards attacks at skill 7 with this, that is pretty good for a 1XP card on a 3 fight investigator! Hank swings it at skill 8 or 9, which is pretty badass, too. I don’t believe any of the other three investigators from this expansion can take the hatchet, but if they pick it up after it was attached even the nerdy scientist lady would be able to use the Hatchet with skill 6. Respect! This means that a wide array of investigators that might end up picking up the axe would be able to actually use it.
This is a weapon that isn’t meant to take the actual kill (…more than once…) and no matter the outcome of your fight test, you’ll lose control of the hatchet for at least a moment. So you want to pair this with something else. And this i think is where the Tool trait will come in. This fits on your Toolbelt, ready to butter up big Elites so you need to spend less fuel on carving them up with your chainsaw which conveniently also hangs on the belt. It’s a big belt. Don’t ask. There’s a 25-pound sledgehammer on it as well. And a Dimensional Beam Machine. Look, Wilson Richards has his hobbies, alright? The point is, thanks to Toolbelt the hatchet doesn’t need to take up a handslot until you actually want to use it.
For Wilson it’s also a neat toy to discard with his signature, Ad Hoc, which can make it end up in play for free. That’s cute and in my mind the most obvious immediate home for Hatchet.
The other investigator i am immediately thinking of with this is William Yorrick who can return it to play after killing an enemy for cheap. He also gets to attack at skill 7 with the hatchet, which seems pretty good to me.
Ultimately, the circumstance that it discards after a kill and indeed can’t be used twice in direct succession will always make Hatchet a bit awkward to use straight. But there are some interesting angles and synergies to explore with it, primarily through its traits anbd through survivor recursion. And the chunky fight bonus from adding your fight and agility together is a payoff that can be worth jumping through a hoop for in many cases.

Token of Faith(3)

Actually, before looking at this upgraded version of an already existing card, let’s remind ourselves of the Innsmouth Conspiracy version because obviously we are going to need it as a reference.

A card that is somewhat underrated (including by me) that turns curses into blesses. It can trigger on any investigator at any location, making it fairly reliable to actually fire, especially in 3 or 4 player games you’d usually expect to draw a curse or two every turn as long as someone keeps throwing new ones into the chaos bag for fun and profit. Still, as an asset that takes up an accessory slot and doesn’t immediately benefit the test that was taken, it didn’t really make big waves despite certainly having some fans. There was also some lament over the traits lacking both Cursed and Blessed which would have unlocked it for some synergistic decks that would want to run the card as a generator for blesses but can’t take red cards.

Well, enter Token of Faith(3) which does address these points and hopes to find a larger audience that way:

So, what do we get here for 3 experience? First off, another icon. This is rather irrelevant because we are unlikely to ever want to discard our 3XP card for just a single icon… but more is always better so sure, I’ll take it. It’s after that that it gets more interesting.

The upgrade gets the Blessed trait. This opens it up for a couple of investigators with trait-based access to Blessed cards in their deckbuilding: Father Mateo, Parallel Zoey and of course Hemlock Vale’s own mystic, Kōhaku Narukami. Some fun things are possible once you are able to use the bless tokens generated by the charm in other ways, from sealing them on Rite to Sanctification to spending them for Parallel Zoey’s investigator ability to deal extra damage. Token of Faith cares about both blesses and curses, and Kōhaku does profit from both of those as well, making them a great pair. Level zero Token of Faith offered the same, but only to Parallel Wendy.

The triggered ability also gets a whole new part in addition to the curse -> bless conversion: Now, if the test failed the investigator gets another attempt at it. And since you just removed some curses and added some blesses, the retry even has a better chance at succeeding! That is a huge upgrade and actually somewhat unique among player cards right now in that it lets other classes in on Survivor gameplay. Even if you ignore the bless/curse thing, then just the ability to project the ability to retake tests to any investigator at any location is very significant. Usually only Survivors get to cheat at their tests themselves (although some costly upgrades like Lucky(3) have given limited one-shot effects like this before), now everyone gets to join in… as long as the test failed due to a curse or the tentacle. That is of course a very relevant restriction, but as a result this card does work wonders to not only take almost all the hurt out of curses for everyone, but it actually serves as really nice autofail protection too. We’ve all been there, only able to fail if we pull the tentacle to then draw exactly that in a critical moment. With a Token of Faith(3) anywhere on the team, everyone only autofails if they pull the tentacle twice in a row. That alone seems incredibly powerful to me. Of course all of that is on top of what the level zero already offered…

So that’s what we have here: An accessory that does ask for 3XP, but in return offers you a generator for bless synergies, a payoff for curse synergies, a ward against the curses negative effects and a global autofail protection. I was on the fence with the level 0, but this looks great and I’ll probably use it as a deck centerpiece when trying out Kōhaku in January.

Cheers o/

My thanks to Xander and the rest at FFG for including me in this. Getting an early look at these cards was fun!
I wish everyone a nice rest of the spoiler season. And happy holidays as well, of course :)
For more Hemlock Vale spoiler season coverage of everything still coming up, please check out the (almost) weekly spoiler roundups on this site and the Visual Spoiler for an overview of all the cards we know so far!

Hemlock Vale Spoiler Roundup #8

Intro

Another week, another round of Hemlock Vale spoilers. We got a whole rush of new cards there over the last couple days, so lets dive right in!

Sources

Ancestral Token and Fine Tuning were previewed by Until The End of Time on their YouTube

Drain Essence, Prismatic Spectacles and Fake Credentials were previewed by Optimal Play on their YouTube

Purified and The Key of Solomon were previewed by Bradley Galbraith on his YouTube.

Well-Dressed, Transmogrify and Kate Winthrop‘s back were previewed by PlayingBoardGames on their YouTube.

Guardian

That’s very solid and reliable. So far, Guardian has been pretty good at using blesses for all sorts of things, but supplying them has been more of a Survivor thing because the existing options (Book of Psalms, Blessed Blade, Rosary(2)) all had pretty big limiters on them. They’d either require actions specifically spent for them or needed timing points that may or may not actually happen. Ancestral Token fixes these issues. It doesn’t require extra actions to use (after playing it of course) and enemies are a lot more plentiful than willpower treacheries… most of the time. It’s level zero as well.
So this looks like a good way to fuel bless synergies, as long as you are able to defeat stuff. Someone like Mary might still be better off with the Rosary (after all, she wants the willpower too) but a Zoey, Tommy, etc will probably prefer the Ancestral Token.
The one exception i could see is Circle Undone, where willpower treacheries are plentiful so the Rosary is doubleplus good there.
In any case, this is sweet. 3 cost is a chunk, but you do get your value from it. Cool card, this will see plenty of play.

More ways for Guardian to throw Blesses in the bag. Purified fills the same niche for Guardian that Keep Faith does for Survivor. No action required, trades a card for a couple blesses. Purified doesn’t cost any resources, but instead requires passing a test. That seems like a big limitation, but since you can add it to any test, it really isn’t. It doesn’t even need to be your own test, so finding an opportunity for 3+ tokens is easy enough.
Obviously this isn’t good as a skill, it doesn’t help a test at all. So look at it as a weirdly templated event with Fast.
I am actually somewhat excited by the idea of doing Blessed Nathaniel. Getting a bunch of blesses from the Ancestral Token and from Purified just for doing what he does best sounds like a great way of fueling payoffs like Blessing of Isis, Nephtys, Radiant Smite or whatever Hemlock Vale brings.
Since the card is Innate, it can also go into Silas. While it won’t interact with his “commit, then pull back” shenanigans, it does work pretty well to supplement Signum Crucis as a bless generator.

Seeker

Oh, an engine card. Dangerous :D Allows double exhausting your tool or science asset for an extra use per round. Here’s the current list of assets this works on: <Click>. And this is the same list, but without the things that have uses: <Click>. Looking at those, the obvious candidates are Lockpicks, Microscope and Mariner’s Compass for clue grabbing, but also Dream-Enhancing Serum and Empirical Hypothesis for card draw or on Pocket Multi Tool to secure all your tests. Actually a bit concerning: Fine Tuning can go on Darrel’s Kodak Oo
Basically, this gives you a second copy of one of those assets without taking up another equipment slot. That’s pretty nice. Pretty narrow in its application, so you will know when you want it. But when you do, it’s priced right to see play.
Note that Wilson can play this, thanks to his access to up to 5 Upgrade or Improvised cards. I am not sure he wants it, but it’s a possibility if he uses his Tool access to for example do Lockpick fueled investigations.

We have already seen three Seeker assets in Hemlock Vale that give Investigate actions (Chemistry Set and Microscope are the two others) and in an unusual twist, two of them use the accessory slot. Investigating at +2 skill without any charges at all is certainly worth adding curses to the bag for, the potential to gain additional clues from those curses makes it even more interesting. I would need a good reason to move my investigation tool to the accessory slot though, that slot is a lot more valuable than the more common hand slot. I could see this making the cut in a curse heavy deck. This does have the ability to throw a decent amount into the bag each turn, after all it doesn’t exhaust on use and can even still be used when it’s exhausted from the extra clue trigger. I suppose being both a curse enabler and a payoff card at the same time (and a good one in both roles) makes it worth the 2XP that are asked for it, too. But that XP cost is what’s going to keep it from being used just as a reliable investigation tool in decks that aren’t doing anything special with the curses. Those are probably going to stick to Grim Memoir for their +2 investigates with extra payoff… which is fair enough of course.

Seekers are getting really good at enemy handling without defeating them. Persuasion shuffles something back into the deck, Existential Riddle makes it Aloof. And this negates Hunter while providing a way to Evade with intellect. Since it removes all forms of movement, it will also blank Evasive and Patrol, which can come up. Once it readies on the next turn, it does pose a bit more of a problem than before thanks to Massive, but a) you might not want to backtrack so a stranded enemy is an enemy dealt with and b) you get a clue for evading it again. If my understanding is correct, you actually get a clue on the initial evade on the card already – which gives it a similar base value to Breaking and Entering, a certified GoodCard™. Hell, since this only costs 1, there will be plenty of times this is even better than B&E.

Check out the rest of her kit in the first spoiler roundup, which you can find here: <Click>

Full Seeker access, can’t argue with that. The Science access is what we expected, but it doesn’t really do a whole lot. Most Science cards are already Seeker cards, so for the most part this is flavor – basically like the Illicit access on Finn, but without having the main class access gutted. Kate also gets access to Insight 0-1 which has some really good cards in it. That is pretty much already worth it for At the Crossroads, but it’s also a trait that is just consistently getting new cards every expansion so that’s only going to grow in value over time.

Yeah, i can definitely work with this. One thing to note is that her front side rewards her for playing Tools as well as Science cards, but her deckbuilding isn’t giving her access to out-of-class tools. Fair enough.

Rogue

Woah, we got some serious options when it comes to investigation tools in Rogue now. So how does this compare to Lockpicks and Thieves Kit? The most important surface difference to me is that while the existing options use agility to support or replace intellect, Fake Credentials doesn’t use agility at all. Depending on your rogue’s agility and intellect scores, that’s either good or bad. The other big thing with Fake Credentials is that it completely ignores the shroud value on the location. That can be a huge deal. The test doesn’t even scale with the stats of the enemy, just by how often its been used, starting with difficulty 1. While this doesn’t have uses, it’s similarly restricted in how often you can use it, but unlike with uses this only ticks up when you succeed.
The final important part of Fake Credentials is then of course the Parley ability. That is important for Allessandra, but it also means that this investigation tool can be used while engaged with an enemy without provoking an attack of opportunity. That is really good for Trish who can tack auto-evades onto these investigates. On the other hand, it limits the use to situations where you actually have an enemy around. That is of course a serious limitation and keeps the card from being used for your primary clue getter. You will want to use this in a flex investigator that primarily handles enemies but also wants to pick up some clues on the side.
It then has a bunch of similarities with Lockpicks and Thieves Kit as well. Three cost, Illicit Item. Handslot. Exhausts on use like Lockpicks. Doesn’t have uses per se, but the suspicion counters work similar.
This seems quite good to me and able to stand next to Lockpicks and Thieves Kit. That’s good company for sure and which one of the cards you want is going to depend on your investigator’s stats. Lockpicks beats it in consistency, but especially if you aren’t blessed with high agility and intellect, this can end up being situationally better. Pretty great card for level 0, i’d be happy to see an upgraded version too!
Fun interaction: Like Damning Testimony, Fake Creds can be used through Trigger Man for a fast trigger investigation that doesn’t use your own stats each turn. That’s been good for me in the two decks i used it in with Testimony but of course quite XP costly. Being able to do this with a level 0 card is something I’ll probably have to try.

Mystic

There’s a lot going on with this card. A 2 damage event for 2 resources is somewhat unspectacular, but there is of course some other things to consider here. You do get the healing portion of the card (except it’s technically not healing, i guess) where you move damage tokens from you to an enemy instead of dealing damage the usual way. While this can certainly be a huge upside, it’s at the same time a limitation because you do need to be already damaged to use this. This is a Parley instead of a Fight, which means that it bypasses a bunch of enemy keywords that impact Fight actions. You can use this past Aloof on any non-engaged enemies, you don’t have to fear Retaliate and you won’t be triggering the new Evasive keyword either. With a Parley focused investigator and support cards in the set, the Parley designator has other implications as well, of course.
This doesn’t have any skill bonus. Since it does cost a non-trivial amount of resources that means you will want to have 5 willpower to use it and/or make use of Fine Clothes or similar to get your skill value up to the task.
So… i think this is a good card to have in the card pool, but probably not one that most or even many mystics will want to run. It has some clear limitations that will dictate which investigators/decks want this card, but that’s actually a good thing. Not every card needs to be a braindead auto-include like Spectral Razor. This seems well balanced and while there will be times where it sits in your hand because you either can’t afford it or because you actually don’t have damage on you, the times where it’s good, it’s very very good.
There is one investigator that this is even perfect for: Parallel Agnes. She pays life to reduce the cost of her events and shuffle them back, so in one swoop she not only makes sure that she’ll always have damage tokens to move onto enemies, but she also takes care of the cost. At 5 base will, she also isn’t too bothered about the test. Seems like a very strong addition to her kit alongside Razor and Blood-Rite as her ways of dishing out lots of event based damage.
As a final note, since this moves damage tokens around which is a very specialized effect and one that Hank Samson is built on, chances are good that Hank is able to use this card. At 3 to 4 base willpower i don’t really see that happening in practice, though. It’s just too unreliable before he gets his 4 willpower resolute form, and even then it requires more support to get to comfortable skill values (or support from your usual Survivor cheatery). Probably more effort than its worth. He’s better off attacking enemies directly with pitchforks, hatchets, hammers and similar farming implements (does a chainsaw count as a farming implement?) I do take this as a hint at Hank’s deckbuilding rules though, maybe something like “cards that move damage 0-5” in addition to Survivor 0-5?

I find this sort of card very difficult to assess. The abilties are sure powerful enough, trading a token in for a heal or 2 resources is a good rate and doing it over and over again is sure to rack up lots of value over time. The opportunity cost of 4XP means that i want more than just value for it, so it’d need to fit closer to what i am trying to do with my deck specifically. The ability to heal your allies on demand is particularly interesting to me, not really something for mystic allies though. Great combo with guardian allies, though.
What i like about this card is that on the surface it looks like it does the same thing that Kouhaku does where it interacts with both blesses and curses at the same time… but then it actually doesn’t require both tokens to function. You can play this in a pure Bless or a pure Curse deck and then know exactly what you get from the card. Getting an alternative payoff for token hoarding is neat… i just wish it was actually accessible to a wider range of investigators.
I don’t know, i can’t really fit this card into anything yet. It sort of lives in the same range as last expansion’s Gray’s Anatomy for me where I can see that it’s powerful, but i probably won’t put it into a deck often unless i am specifically trying to build around it. Which is fair enough, and as both an Item and a Tome there are good ways to reliably tutor it up if you have access to either red or yellow cards.

Neutral

That cheeky flavor text. Well played.
This is great support for the Parley archetype of course. Between Fine Clothes and Well-Dressed we can really nuke some tests now. As the preview video points out, that also makes it a great tech card for certain scenarios. No matter if it’s Jazz, Ichtaca or one of the shades in Shades of Suffering… being dressed to impress can work wonders.
Aside from that, this is a pretty clear cut card: you’ll know when you want it and it will be great. Four wild icons is a big game and makes it predestined to serve up some nice oversuccesses as well.
It’s Practiced, so it can go into that shell. Not sure you want it just to crank up the numbers of available targets on Practice Makes Perfect, but honestly… if people put Plan of Action into their decks unironically just to pad out PMP, then they might as well put this in instead.

Next up!

The next scheduled card reveal is actually going to happen right here, on this site. You’ll notice a distinct lack of Survivor cards in this week’s offerings. So please join me next Monday for a double helping of Survivor cards to fix that! Until then :)

Investigator Expansion Review: The Core

Introduction

A while ago i made a series of Investigator Expansion Reviews, meant as a part of my Buying Guide, to evaluate the player cards in them from the point of view of a new player. The goal was determining which box is suitable to pickup right after the Core. So what i ended up with was a comprehensive list of mini-reviews for all player cards… except the ones from the Core itself. Let’s correct that. Today I will go over all the Core cards. While this is obviously not evaluating the cards as an additional pickup (after all, everyone starts with the Core), i will still try to see if the investigators in it are properly supported or if they need help. And if so, where to get it.
Many of the other rules from previous threads still apply: I will ignore the optional list of taboos, again because this is aimed primarily at new players who shouldn’t care about taboo yet. 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. In some cases i will differentiate between whether i look at the card in the context of just the Core or in a wider card pool.
This review assumes the Revised Core.

Alright, let’s goooo.

The Investigators

The Core introduced the standard deckbuilding rules of being allowed to take up to level 5 of their main class and up to level 2 of a side class. All five of these follow these rules. Roland is Guardian/Seeker, Daisy is Seeker/Mystic, Skids is Rogue/Guardian, Agnes is Mystic/Survivor and Wendy is Survivor/Rogue. So all five classes are used as a main and as a side class once. Later expansions introduce all 20 of these “5/2” combinations (with exception of Seeker/Rogue which we are still waiting for with baited breath because that’s one hell of a card pool… but i am getting ahead of myself!). These cardpools are quite big and flexible and, provided the investigator abilities aren’t too limiting, can be taken in various directions. Obviously this sort of flexibility is perfect for Core Set investigators.
One thing that is very important to note about this set of investigators is that it’s not weaker or “dumbed down” from what comes later. These are fully fledged investigators that might as well have been released in a modern box and nobody would bat an eye. Daisy and Agnes in particular rank among the more powerful within their class even. Only poor Skids is generally considered to be underpowered, everyone else is perfectly up to par (or better) with current releases. To give a quick rundown on every investigator and their place in the current game:
Roland Banks: In my mind, he’s somewhat of a reference to measure other investigators by. He’s not too strong, he’s not too weak. He has access to cards that can turn him into a nice hybrid character that can both fight and clue on the side. He never particularly excels at something, but he never disappoints either.
Daisy Walker: Incredible. Playing a fully powered Daisy deck with a full card pool feels like cheating because it’s just so nuts how much that bonus action gains you. Her side class goes a bit unused though, it feels a bit tacked on. Daisy is an exceptional clue getter, one of the best.
Skids O’Toole: His flat statline sadly doesn’t mesh well with either of his two card pools and his investigator ability to trade resources for actions is priced just a bit too conservatively to put him in a place that is comparable to most of his rogue and guardian colleagues. He’s not unplayable, but he is considered underpowered, both by Core and by full card pool standards.
Agnes Baker: Mystics are all about that willpower score (at least for the first couple years of releases… they are trying to shed those shackles currently) and Agnes sports a lofty 5 there. That immediately makes her very good with much of the mystic card pool. She also gets a very, very good investigator ability on top and a side class that can do a lot of funky things. Agnes is one of the best Mystics around and thanks to her ability, she especially makes for an excellent combat mage… as soon as you get something in addition to the Core.
Wendy Adams: Thanks to high willpower and high agility, plus the ability to retake tests on demand, Wendy is very resilient to whatever treacheries the encounter deck throws at her. If it has a test, she can probably deal with it. Of course she pays for it with a basically nonfunctional fight stat so she will use the tricks from the Survivor class to contribute to the clue effort and handle enemies through evasion. She makes excellent use of her side class. In fact she is the best user for many of the rogue cards that deal with “oversucceeding” while you still have a limited card pool.
I’ll look at the card pools in more detail now, let’s see how well these investigators are supported.

Guardian

.45 Auto: Okay. The epitome of just good enough. It’s expensive and limited by ammo but ultimately getting extra damage and a fight bonus for your attacks is important enough that you play this, even if it’s just due to a lack of better options.
Physical Training: Okay, but only barely. Paying 2 upfront for the privilege of paying more later is something that Guardians rarely can afford to do. This does its job and it’s not bad as such, but usually not what you want to be doing. Skids can use this to convert money into willpower. He won’t like doing it because he’d rather convert it to actions, but sometimes you are stuck with a Frozen in Fear, you need to get rid of it and your options on just the Core are limited.
Beat Cop: Staple. If your guardian is not playing Guard Dog, they are likely playing Beat Cop, at least until they get more options from later releases. But even on a full card pool, Beat Cop absolutely has a place as a reliable source of fight, soak and an incidental damage on his way out. Just a good package.

First Aid: Bad. This is very inefficient. Paying an action heal 1 point is rarely worth it and you certainly don’t want to spend 2 resources, another action and a card just on being allowed to do this bad trade… and then still also be limited by uses.
Machete: Staple. Possibly the best level 0 weapon in the full card pool. It gives you exactly what you want (+1 fight, +1 damage) without taking up uses like the .45 Auto. And it’s even cheaper than the pistol. It has a drawback in that it can only be used if you are engaged with what you are fighting alone. This means you have to engage enemies off of other players to hit them and the Machete becomes a dead card if you get swarmed. But in spite of these drawbacks, Machete is just very reliable because the situations where it is dead can be worked around.
Guard Dog: Staple. Testless damage is incredibly powerful as it bypasses a lot of defensive mechanics that enemies can have. It’s even better when it doesn’t even require you to take an action (aside from playing the dog). Guard Dog delivers 3 testless damage (or more if you can heal it) while also keeping your own health safe with 3 health soak. Guard Dog vs. Beat Cop is one of the first important decisions to make for Guardian decks and it’s one that stays relevant for quite some time. Often you will find that the correct answer is “Both. Both is good.”

Evidence!: Okay to Good. There’s a bunch of cards in ArkhamLCG that trade a card in your hand for a clue without taking an action. Usually these have some sort of restriction on it or extra costs. In this case, it costs a resource and requires you to kill something. Both are workable, but the trade “card for resource” is one that is not always desired in the first place. Especially a fighter might want to rather go with something more offensive, but it should be said that Roland is particularly someone that is interested in this effect because it stacks with his investigator ability.
Dodge: Okay to Good. Effectively trades a card for some health and/or sanity. This card has its fans, but personally I don’t think this is particularly worth it unless you know you have to tank something that hits particularly hard (like, say… a Ghoul Priest. Or Umordoth).
Dynamite Blast: Good. To get the obvious out of the way, 5 resources is a whole lot. But this card is a problem solver that does something few other cards can. It deals testless damage, it does so in connecting locations and it can hit multiple enemies. This thing can do many actions worth of damage and is truly spectacular when it meets its potential. Of course there will be situations where this sits in your hand, but the big kabooms when it works are worth it.

Vicious Blow: Staple. Incredible card that gives you burst damage. When enemies that have 3 health show up, committing this to an attack with your .45 or Machete will allow you to drop those enemies in one hit. That is incredibly useful. It will take a long time until you even consider not running this card in your fighters. For some, that day might never come.
Extra Ammunition(1): Excellent. Does exactly what it’s supposed to. Gets you an additional 3 attacks with your firearm for just 2 resources. That is less costly than playing a new weapon, so this is usually worth playing if you have firearms. Different guns will of course scale differently with this. Getting 3 shells for the shotgun is certainly a lot better than getting 3 bullets for the .45. But either is perfectly fine.
Police Badge(2): Good. You spend an action and 3 resources to either take 2 actions later yourself or to give those to someone else. In the meantime, you can enjoy some bonus willpower for treachery protection. This is pretty good but often a bit of a luxury thing. 3 resources is above the usual rate for a net extra action, so you’d need to get some value out of the fact that it banks those actions for later, that it can transfer the actions to someone else, out of the willpower or out of the fact that this is an item that can be recurred with some tricks. If any of those additional perks do it for you, that needs to be worth 2XP and the accessory slot and you have a deal. It’s a fine card, but i rarely end up playing it.

Beat Cop(2): Staple. If you are playing Beat Cop, you will want the upgrade. Getting extra health and extra damage pings out of the card is incredibly valuable and easily worth the 2XP. The ability to deal damage without being sacrificed lets Beat Cop(2) also be a thing to upgrade into if you decided on Guard Dog for your initial deck.
Shotgun(4): Okay to Good. The big gun of the Core Set and honestly it’s a bit of a weird one. It’s expensive and it only has two shots. That means that a set of Extra Ammunition is pretty much mandatory if you want to play this. It takes up both your handslots, so you won’t be able to use another weapon alongside it (until you get ways to acquire additional hand slots in Dunwich and other later expansions). You do get a massive +3 to your fight value, but pulling a particularly bad token will blunt your shot even if you end up hitting. Shotgun has high highs, but equally low lows and is a bit of a gamble.

First Aid(3): Okay to Good. A massive upgrade from the level 0, it more than doubles its effectiveness due to healing 2 points of damage/horror and getting an extra charge. It also gains the ability to heal allies which is when this card starts to really shine. If you use this to extend the life of your Guard Dog or Beat Cop, you don’t only get value from the damage/horror prevented, but also from the extra testless damage those allies can now dish out.
“I’ve Had Worse”(4): Okay to Good. This fills a similar niche to Dodge, in that you will consider this if you expect that you need to tank some really nasty hits. Negating 2 damage and 2 horror from the attack of a Ghoul-Priest and collecting 4 resources for it is a big game! But if you end up only using this to cancel a regular 1 damage, 1 horror attack you only get 2 resources for it. This is fine, but paying 4XP for it feels kinda bad and you will be hard pressed to keep this in your hand for a long time, sitting there useless until you finally get to the final boss… when you might not need the resources anymore and might as well have played Dodge. There’s a level 2 version of this in Circle Undone that offers a much better cost/effect ratio and is excellent, but the level 4 version is often hard to justify.

Most useful: Machete, Vicious Blow, Beat Cop
Least useful: First Aid(0), Physical Training, I’ve Had Worse(4)

Verdict: The Guardian class is mostly defined through being the fighters of the bunch, but also for being the selfless supporters and healers. The cards in the Core Set are mostly concerned about the fighty part of Guardian, with only First Aid being a (very mediocre) nod towards the supporty part. I really would’ve liked something like Stand Together here to show that Guardian is more than just guns. That being said, this card pool does have some real bangers in it, with First Aid(0) really being the only card that is just unplayable. The rest all has its place, at least for a while.
The Guardian of the box, Roland Banks, is a rather well-rounded character that can do a lot of different things. His investigator ability wants him to defeat enemies, so that’s his primary role and for that job he gets some solid weaponry here, two great allies, the ever important Vicious Blow and some events that help him stay alive. That leaves little room for complaints!
Skids can use most of these as well, but is of course limited by his fight 3 which needs some help to really properly use that Machete or .45 Auto. That is a Skids problem though, not one with the Guardian pool.

Seeker

Magnifying Glass: Staple. This is maybe the best value that you can get for just 1 resource. It doesn’t even cost an action. You just show up with this card in hand, slap it on the table and enjoy being more competent at seeking now. Hell, you might even want to throw down two of these.
Old Book of Lore: Alright, so this is where we need to talk about Daisy. Daisy is amazing, her ability to use a book ability for free each turn is incredible. But it warps the perception we get of every tome to the point where we pretty much need to look at it twice. Once for Daisy. And once for everyone else. Old Book of Lore is especially relevant for this distinction because it can pretty much be considered Daisy’s actual signature. Like… if you play Daisy, you play OBoL. Staple. Just always. No exceptions. Getting to plow through your deck every turn without an action is absolutely amazing and the backbone of why Daisy is so powerful. Old Book of Lore is still Good to Excellent for non-Daisy investigators though. Taking an action to draw a card is something that comes up from time to time and OBoL pretty much enhances this basic action to draw 1 out of 3 instead of just the top card. Most investigators would want this effect, but the hand slot is the limiting factor. As an example, if you are Roland you would probably want a Mag Glass and a Machete or pistol instead.
Research Librarian: Excellent. Searching your whole deck for a thing is very good. Research Librarian basically acts as extra copies of your Tome cards as long as you have a free ally slot and 2 extra resources for it (although it should be said that a certain event from Dream-Eaters makes sure you don’t have to pay the 2). These limitations keep it from being a staple, as your ally slot as a seeker is usually spoken for by someone we are going to talk about very soon.

Medical Text: Bad. This is just First Aid again, except even worse. While this doesn’t have limited uses, it can’t heal horror. And healing damage even requires a test which makes you deal extra damage instead if you fail. Absolutely horrible. Even with Daisy’s free action, this is just awful.
Dr. Milan Christopher: Staple. This is the reason the seeker ally slot is spoken for. Milan is a class-defining staple card, even more so than Beat Cop. He gives seekers that all important +1 intellect value while also fixing their resources. He costs 4 upfront, but will quickly pay for himself and then start to generate lots and lots of value. This card is fantastic and even in a full card pool has very little competition (although it has gotten some recently).
Hyperawareness: Okay. Actually decent. When compared to Guardians, Seekers tend to have a bit more in terms of spare resources (often thanks to Milan). This allows them to invest into important investigations with this. It also gives them a way to emergency evade something they can’t deal with otherwise. Drops off massively in value with a more opened up card pool.

Barricade: Bad. A very situational card that has a hard time ever mattering. There are some niche meme things that can be done with it on a full card pool, but in the Core this is near-worthless.
Mind over Matter: Excellent. Doesn’t look like much, but is actually very potent. While this can not be played in the Mythos phase, this is still a lifesaver that handles a lot of different challenges. Maybe the most important one during Night of the Zealot is that this allows Daisy to discard a Locked Door treachery that is blocking her from progressing.
Working a Hunch: Okay. Like Evidence earlier, this is one of those cards that trades for a clue. No condition this time, but it costs 2 resources which is rough. I don’t like playing it, but on a smaller card pool it does its job and it at least comes with good icons when you don’t want to spend the resources on it.

Disc of Itzamna: Okay. Seekers are bad at handling enemies, so this does fill a niche. It is very expensive though and needs to be played upfront. It does its job, but i am usually not happy about having to play it. Later sets give it some extra legs through its Relic trait and the possibility for easier recursion.
Deduction: Staple. Again, a card for a clue. But what sets Deduction apart is that it doesn’t cost you anything. It even brings an icon to your test, making your other clue more likely. It’s drawback of course is that the test could fail, but as a Seeker you have your ways to make that as unlikely as possible.
Magnifying Glass(1): Good. A very cheap upgrade. The cost is reduced by 1, all the way down to zero. Can’t really beat that cost. The ability to return the Mag Glass to your hand allows for freeing up a handslot when you draw something better, but is not terribly impactful. This is not an important upgrade by any means, but at 1XP this is just good convenience.

Cryptic Research(4): Excellent. The only drawback here is the 4XP cost. The effect is insanely good. Drawing 3 cards without even spending an action is a huge deal and being able to spread it around to your more clumsy teammates (like that guardian that has not been able to draw a weapon for four turns) can be even bigger. Once your card pool gets fuller you will find it harder and harder to pay 4XP for this card, but this is going to be great for a good while.
Encyclopedia(2): Okay. The important part here is that the +2 skill value persists through the whole phase. So you can spend 1 action to give +2 to all three of your teammates fight actions, for example. If all you are doing is spending an action to enhance one other action, this is not worth it, but if you can set up the more valuable scenario often enough, this can do some good things.

Seeking Answers(2): Okay. A card for a clue. Requires a test, doesn’t enhance this test, costs a resource. No huge requirements and can potentially grab a clue from a more difficult location. This is only slightly better than Working a Hunch or Evidence (if it even is better), so having to pay 2XP for it is very unattractive.
Old Book of Lore(3): Excellent. An great card to have in play, as it’s of course the OBoL, but better. It’s one cheaper (the difference between 3 cost and 2 cost is so much bigger in practice than one would think) and it offers another two discounts and two bonus actions through its secrets. That’s huge value on top of a card that was already great. The only thing that stops the upgrade from being a staple is that for the most part the level 0 is good enough already and i would rather put the 3XP towards other cards that are in more dire need of upgrading.

Most useful: Deduction, Christopher Milan, Magnifying Glass
Least useful: Barricade, Medical Texts, Seeking Answers

Verdict: The two things that Seekers do is draw cards and find clues. Both aspects of the class are very well represented in this card pool. We are introduced to 3 different versions of “card for clue” and a couple ways to increase the intellect score to make sure that investigating comes up with results. Old Book of Lore and Research Librarian show off the card draw/card selection aspect and Cryptic Research gives a suitably powerful capstone for that theme.
Daisy is interesting in that she is very closely tied to a specific group of assets, she really likes her tomes. She gets an extra action to use them, her signature gives her more hand slots for them. Encyclopedia and Old Book of Lore are both good cards for her, but since Medical Texts is kinda bad, they are also the only things for Daisy specifically here. Still, that’s enough since as a 5 intellect Seeker she doesn’t need that much help in the first place.
The Seeker cards up to level 2 (so everything except upgraded OBoL and Cryptic Research) can be used by Roland as well. How far to dip into your intellect is one of the more interesting deckbuilding decisions that you can do for Roland – either is viable, but he plays notably different as a primary fighter that just picks up clues when defeating enemies or as a hybrid character that dabbles in both.

Rogue

Pickpocketing: Good. This card’s value rises and falls with the value of evasion. The early lifecycle of the game didn’t really make evasion a competitive way of dealing with enemies (compared to fighting them) and that limits how useful Pickpocketing is. It is absolutely a relevant card in the more modern state of the game and Wendy is a particularly good user of it.
Switchblade: Bad. No fight bonus, no extra damage unless oversucceeding by 2. Skids has trouble getting that +2 even when fighting rats, nevermind a ghoul. Wendy has fight 1. I am not sure who is supposed to use this card in the Core. Even outside of the Core, this has near-zero application.
Burglary: Okay to Bad. As long as you are able to pass investigates, this can offer you resources for actions. This is fine, but having to play a card for an action and having to invest a resource beforehand stings. Skids will find little opportunity to pass investigates (and when he does, he probably wants the clue to advance the game) and Wendy might not want the resources. So this doesn’t really have a home.

Leo De Luca: Staple. Having an additional action is amazing, actually i’d go as far as saying that taking 4 action turns instead of 3 action turns is what drew me to the Rogue class in the beginning. Leo gives that fourth action, no conditions asked… as long as you pay him. In a fuller card pool his status as a staple isn’t quite as certain as it is for Dr. Milan, but he still sees plenty play.
Hard Knocks: Okay to Good. A somewhat necessary evil if you do want to make use of the cards that require oversuceeding for bonus effects. Although that is only hinted at in the Core, Rogues are able to get a lot of resources and a talent like Hard Knocks allows channeling that into stat bonuses. This has serious tension with Skids in particular though as he really wants to turn that money into actions instead.
.41 Derringer: Okay to Bad. Speaking of necessary evils, this at least gives you +2 fight which shores up one of Skids weaknesses. Oversuccess is still a crapshoot in the core, though. And at just 3 ammo you can’t really afford misfires.

Sneak Attack: Okay to Good. Turns evasion into damage. In the core, this is valuable for Skids and Wendy alike and also has its use in the wider card pool.
Elusive: Excellent to Staple. Not only are you ditching your enemies, not only are you getting a free move, but you are actually teleporting to any revealed location. That is very, very good.
Backstab: Good. Since it doesn’t offer a skill bonus, this can fail a bit too easily. And when it does you spent 3 resources and a card on nothing which hurts a lot. Wendy’s ability to redraw tokens gives her good chances of being able to use this. In the wider card pool, Backstab also gains importance – both because investigators with 5 agility become a thing and because enemies with 3 health become more frequent so Backstab hits an important damage threshold.

Leo De Luca(1): Good. Somewhat similar to the Mag Glass upgrade in that it is very cheap and only barely moves the needle. The reduction from 6 cost to 5 cost means you can play Leo first turn now without having to Emergency Cache or use a resource action beforehand and that is nice. Just dont be the guy that plays Leo into a Crypt Chill without another asset on the board. #lessonlearned
Cat Burglar(1): Good to Excellent. A very underappreciated ally in the modern card pool that offers a very competitive package of a stat boost, an evasive ability, a free move and decent soak and all for just 1XP. His only fault in the Core is competing with Leo De Luca.
Opportunist: Okay to Bad. This has a place in the wider card pool (specifically for Winifred), but for most applications the numbers are just bad on this one. You aren’t oversucceeding by 3 anytime soon with Skids or Wendy in the Core. And if you are, for example through a Lockpicks test, you probably didn’t need Opportunist in the first place.

Hot Streak(4): Good to Excellent. Hell yeah, finally some cards that let Rogue do something the other’s can’t. 7 resources is a lot and this card will set you up nicely. Playing this first turn is just beautiful. The full card pool has enough resource options that you will not want to pay 4XP for this later on, but in the early context of the game this is great.
Sure Gamble(3): Good to Excellent. And here’s a way to pass one of those oversuccess tests. A bit of a pity that it takes 3XP to do it in the Core, but we got there in the end. Sure Gamble gives rogues an ace in the hole to use on important tests. They are literally cheating at the card game and that is just something very special – and powerful.

Lockpicks(1): Staple. Allows Skids and Wendy to investigate at skill 7. That’s as good as Daisy with Milan and a Mag Glass. Sure, it’s only once per turn and if you are unlucky you will eventually run out of lockpicks… but that is still downright spectacular. And it’s just 1XP. Amazing.
.41 Derringer(2): Okay. The “if you succeed by 3” text might as well not exist until you get some of the more fighty investigators that can run this. But crucially, this upgrade lowers the threshold for an extra damage by 1, so this is roughly on par with the .45 Auto(0) from Guardian.

Most useful: Leo De Luca, Lockpicks, Elusive
Least useful: Switchblade, .41 Derringer(0), Opportunist

Verdict: Alright, Rogue. My favorite class in the game, but certainly not in the core. Rogues gain lots of resources and take bonus actions. They get strong effects that require oversucceeding tests. The resource angle isn’t particularly explored here. Maybe if Burglary was actually playable, but as is it’s just the level 4 Hot Streak that the core gives to rogues for their resource superiority. Bonus actions are present through their ambassador, Leo de Luca. Cat Burglar and Elusive give free moves. Switchblade and Sure Gamble are fast. So we got the action advantage represented in a respectable fashion. There’s a bunch of oversuccess cards here too. Sadly they are all kinda bad or at least they are so in the context of the Core but i suppose we count it as representation.
Skids O’Toole is a rogue that has middling stats in both intellect and combat. With little except the lockpicks to support his intellect and a Guardian subclass he is pushed towards a fighter role which he can not adequately fill. The rogue weapons are certainly not helping in that regard. His ability requires economy that doesn’t exist yet either.
Wendy won’t touch any of those weapons either, but she will gladly make use of several of the rogue cards here. In what is a bit of a wild twist, somewhere between Sneak Attack, Backstab and Close Call, she becomes a better enemy handler than Skids.
I find this rogue pool highly disappointing. At least the Revised Core now has Lockpicks, the original Core didn’t even have that :| The worst part is that Rogue is going to stay lacking for a good while if you follow the releases in chronological order because it takes all the way until Forgotten Age until there’s a green investigator that can actually oversucceed a test (after which it goes straight back to a 1/1/1/1 in TCU, lol). Long story short, get the Winifred starter deck. She’s the cheat code to enjoying green cards and she will unlock all those oversuccess cards in Core, Dunwich and beyond.

Mystic

Forbidden Knowledge: Okay to Good. Taking 4 horror for 4 resources is a steep cost, but if you are able to turn this drawback into something you want you can get great value out of Forbidden Knowledge. Agnes is of course one of the investigators that can use this incredibly well, triggering her damage ability on demand.
Holy Rosary: Staple. Willpower is love, willpower is life. Mystics are tied heavily into that skill and will often stack it as much as they can. Even in a full card pool, this is the best way of adding +1 will to your accessory slot. The 2 sanity soak it offers are also quite valuable.
Shrivelling: Staple. If you sometimes consider vanilla ice to be too spicy, i have the perfect card for you! The default fighting spell and the template for several others to follow in later expansions. Has a good bunch of charges for its cost, deals unconditional +damage and allows using your strongest attribute. Agnes even turns the drawback into an upside, allowing her to sometimes deal 3 damage in one attack. This allows wizards to cast “gun”.

Arcane Initiate: Staple. When most of your deck is made up from Spells, Initiate almost just straight up draws a card each turn. She even tanks a horror for you. And all that for the low cost of a measly resource. The doom she enters play with means that you will want to get rid of her before the agenda advances or you will want to wait playing her until the “Witching Hour”, when the agenda would’ve advanced anyways.
Scrying: Bad. Doesn’t really do a whole lot. Reordering the encounter deck can be okay in solo play, but solo play doesn’t afford you the actions to first play this card, then use it a couple of times without advancing the board state.
Arcane Studies: Okay. Like guardians, mystics usually don’t have many spare resources to spend on stuff like this. That being said, this does boost willpower.

Blinding Light: Bad. It’s like a much more limited version of Mind over Matter, allowing for an emergency evade with your best attribute. Unlike the surprisingly flexible seeker event, this one is rather costly and comes with a significant drawback. The kind of drawback you REALLY don’t want to see on an enemy control spell.
Drawn to the Flame: Staple. Remember all that talk about a card for a clue? This takes an action, but gives two clues for your card. No test. No conditions. No resources. It just works. Well, you might have to contest with whatever you draw from the top of the encounter deck, but honestly, mystics are pretty good at that.
Ward of Protection: Staple. If whatever you draw from the encounter deck (no matter if its during the mythos phase or from your Drawn to the Flame) is bad enough, you can just say No to it and it goes away. Costs a horror, but if it stops am Ancient Evils or a Grasping Hands, that’s easily worth it. Note that this only works on cards you draw yourself and not on enemy cards. Counterspells for those exist (and they are actually also called Ward of Protection…), but not in the Core.

Blinding Light(2): Okay. A significant upgrade. Reducing the cost and increasing the damage turns a rather rotten evasion card into something that actually deals decent damage on top of the evade. The possibility of losing an action to it is still a massive turnoff, though.
Fearless: Good. With all the horror we are taking from our own cards, having some heal available isn’t half bad. Fearless only provides a single icon in addition which makes it a bit questionable value for a full card, but this is at least playable.
Mind Wipe(1): Okay to Good. Has some fancy uses, although those are probably not going to come up often enough during the Core scenarios. Crucially, it doesn’t work to remove Retaliate from an Elite like the Ghoul-Priest. This is a tech card that you use because you have something specific in mind that you want to adress, a card that only gains value once you possess some intimate knowledge of campaign contents that you want to prepare for in advance.

Book of Shadows(3): Bad. Trading a hand for an arcane slot is usually not what you want to do, especially not in the Core where you barely have enough assets to even take up those slots. Most certainly you don’t want to spend 4 resources on it either. The book also has an ability to refill charges, but an action per charge is an outlandish ask. This is one of the few cards in the game that is just straight up unusable.
Grotesque Statue(4): Excellent. This offers greatly increased chances to pass four tests of your choice for 2 resources. That’s a very good rate and you can even do some fancy things with it being an Item asset to recur it once its spent. 4XP is a lot, but this is indeed very impactful.

Rite of Seeking: Excellent to Staple. Not quite the evergreen staple that Shrivelling is due to that drawback of potentially ending your turn. Even if you play around it by only using it on your last action, this does require some concessions to make it work without much risk. That +2 skill value is a godsend however and getting additional clues with each charge is very important. You might outgrow this card once you have alternatives, but that doesn’t take away from Rite of Seeking being quite good for just 2XP.
Scrying(3): Okay to Bad. This however…. So, Scrying 3 at least fixes Scrying’s biggest problem, that action cost on its activation. That does give it some legs in solo play. Outside of that, the impact is just not worth 3XP though. And that it gains an extra drawback is completely uncalled for.

Most useful: Shrivelling, Holy Rosary, Ward of Protection
Least useful: Scrying(both), Book of Shadows, Blinding Light(0)

Verdict: Spells and Willpower. For way too long, Mystics are all about those two. They can do everything and they can do it with just the one skill… but in exchange they need to find an appropriate asset first to do their thing. Both of these aspects shine through very clear in this set, with several spell cards that replace tests for willpower tests and cards that enhance willpower. Mystics do also deal in chaos bag manipulation, which is represented here by Grotesque Statue. They also have impactful effects that come with drawbacks attached, like Drawn to the Flame. Horror/Sanity is a resource that many of their spells draw from. The primary themes of Mystic are actually well presented here, if anything i would’ve liked another one or two spell assets.
Agnes is a very archetypical mystic, with 5 willpower for maximised capability of using those spells. Her survivor subclass and 3 agility actually give her another venue to explore as well. As does her investigator ability which is yet another way to handle enemies. The core mystic pool has lots of cards in it that can trigger this ability on demand, so she is firing on all cylinders immediately. It’s a bit of a pity then that she doesn’t get an upgraded Shrivelling in the Core set, that would’ve really cemented her capabilities. A similar thing goes for a level 0 Rite of Seeking that would’ve allowed her to be more flexible right from the start. She can still get some clues in the first scenario through Drawn to the Flame and Look What I Found, but an investigation spell would’ve just made sense here. If you want to fix this, there are two way: Either get the Dunwich Investigator expansion which will have exactly those cards (Shrivel 3 and 5, Rite of Seeking 0 and 4) or the Jaqueline Fine deck which has full spell suites for fighting, investigating and evading.
Daisy with her 3 willpower has trouble using many of these cards competently. Something like a Ward of Protection is of course always awesome, but if she wants to shrivel a ghoul in The Gathering, she probably is going to need to find a Rosary first to bring her to skill value 4. Of the five core investigators i found her to be the one that is using her subclass the least. Ultimately that’s fine of course, the Seeker cards are great after all.

Survivor

Leather Coat: Staple. Sets a standard for healing and damage prevention effects. If your healing card doesn’t beat 2 points for an action and zero resources, then it will have to have something else to make it competitive with this baseline. In context of the survivor class, item assets have a tendency of being able to return from the discard pile, which makes Leather Coat very valuable as a cheap way to keep yourself alive.
Scavenging: Excellent. And here’s one of the poster children for recursion enablers. As long as you can oversucceed investigate tests, you can replay your spent item assets. Agnes and Wendy aren’t really the best users of this card, but this is an important card and centerpiece of the Survivor class in the full card pool.
Baseball Bat: Okay. Getting a +2 to combat is great, but there are two problems with this asset. The first is that it uses two hand slots. That stings a lot as it means you won’t be able to have a backup weapon ready for when the bat eventually breaks. The other problem is that the two investigators that can use it in the core are Wendy who has 1 fight and Agnes who has 2 fight. Neither of them want this. And in a wider card pool you can usually do better.

Rabbit’s Foot: Good to Excellent. Making the best out of failed tests is one of the cornerstones of the Survivor lifestyle and this is one of the signature cards for that. When played early, this can draw quite a few cards over the course of a scenario and move the needle in the survivors favor even when they fail at stuff.
Stray Cat: Okay. Not a great use for the valuable ally slot, but Stray Cat can do some neat things for you. The most important thing about Stray Cat is that its ability doesn’t require a test which can be a great help to get a Nightgaunt off your tail.
Dig Deep: Okay. Survivors aren’t exactly rich, but Wendy with her rogue access certainly can be (once you get cards beyond the core). Willpower and Agility are the two skills most often tested by the encounter deck, making Dig Deep a reasonable way to defend against Grasping Hands and Rotting Remains alike. That being said, something like Lucky or just an extra Guts in your deck is probably going to be better for you.

Winner Winner Turkey Dinner: Okay. If you are surrounded by enemies, you can use this to distract them with a Thanksgiving meal. Very expensive and honestly you shouldn’t even let it come that far… but you might actually consider running this for its icons. A willpower and a wild icon is quite good on a level 0 card. Can evade an Elite, so this can even buy you a turn against heavy hitters like Umordoth.
Look What I Found: Staple. One of the best clue events in the game even with a full card pool. Picking up two clues because you are bad at seeking is such a classic survivor move.
Lucky!: Staple. Speaking of signature moves… If you failed, but not excessively so this allows you to cheat and pass after all. This is incredibly valuable. Most investigators need to commit their cards to the test before they draw their token, Survivors are (mostly) uniquely able to first draw the token, then modify their skill value afterwards.

Survival Instinct: Good. Trading a card for a free move is very solid and this gains even some bonus value when you are engaged to multiple enemies.
Aquinnah: Bad. She’s just too expensive and too limited. 5 resources is a lot and while it buys you 4 sanity soak, it also takes up the valuable ally slot. Her ability is potentially powerful but you need two enemies at your location to do anything.
Close Call: Good. Turns evasion into removal. That is simply a very solid effect that buys you some safety for a moment.

Lucky(2): Okay. Not exactly an exciting upgrade. Doesn’t improve the primary effect of the card in any way, it simply tacks a “Draw a card” onto the textbox in exchange for 2XP. It’s not awful, but we can do so much better.
Will To Survive(3): Good. Remove the uncertainty of the chaos bag from your tests for one turn. That is obviously very impactful, but 4 resources is also a lot to ask for it. The card has its fans, although i don’t really like it much myself. It’s kinda hard to set up the board situation where you get full value out of this that across your 3 actions that would warrant paying 4 resources and 3XP for it. But the potential is there.

Aquinnah(3): Okay. Fixes the most glaring problem of the level 1 version, she can now mirror damage back to the same enemy that attacked. That turns her into a bizarre version of Guard Dog that soaks horror instead of damage. Guard Dog is fantastic, Guard Dog doesn’t cost 3XP and 4 resources though. You can make this version of Aquinnah work, but she still asks for too much in exchange.
Eucatastrophe(3): Excellent. This thing is fantastic. Not only does it turn a botched test into a success, it also triggers your Elder Sign effect. Sadly this isn’t relevant for Wendy, but future Survivor investigators have some sweet effects that can be triggered with Eucatastrophe. Due to Wendy getting nothing extra from the Elder Sign trigger here, Euca isn’t all that relevant in the Core (honestly, Lucky(0) is better at that point) but this is a card to keep in mind for later.

Most useful: Lucky(0), Look What I Found, Leather Coat
Least useful: Aquinnah(0), Lucky(2), Stray Cat

Verdict: Survivors is the class that makes the best out of a bad situation. A test that fails can still have positive results for a survivor, even when it’s a different one than the one originally intended. Sometimes, like with Look What I Found, failing is even preferred. This class is also the one that is able to manipulate test results after drawing the token (manipulating it beforehand through the token bag is Mystic), with effects like Lucky and Eucatastrophe turning fails into passes. When taken to the extreme, Survivors don’t even take tests anymore, either as a blanket effect (Will to Survive) or through automatic success effects on cards. Once the cardpool is more open, Survivors become masters at using their discard like a second hand with lots of possibilities to recur cards over and over. Scavenging does point towards this here already.
Wendy is very resilient, between the Survivor tricks in the set and her own investigator ability she can pass tests easier than other investigators at the same skill value. She can do a good job of handling enemies through evasion temporarily – or more permanent through some events like Close Call or Backstab. Meanwhile, Lockpicks allows her to pick up a clue most turns. This flexibility makes her a great choice for solo players in particular.
Agnes can use most of the survivor cards as well. Leather Coat, Lucky and Look What I Found are particularly interesting for her.

Neutral

Knife: Okay to Bad. Look at it as a damage event. You can use it once to deal 2 damage to something. And that’s fine until you have better cards. Fine. Not great. Just fine. It does it’s job. Barely.
Flashlight: Staple. You’ll never really stop playing Flashlight, as it’s just a very efficient way of giving some clue capabilities to investigators that aren’t great at it otherwise. The trick is that reducing a 2 shroud location to 0 shroud means that you can only fail on the tentacle, no matter how bad your intellect is. Even without that interaction, three charges of +2 skill is super solid.
Emergency Cache: Staple. This is the gold standard that other resource cards have to measure against. Not really much to say about this one. You need resources to play your cards. Even a deck with a low curve will want some extra cash to set up its assets quickly in the first couple turns.

Staples. Alright, so these four skills are all staples and generally referred to as “The Core Skills”. That should tell you something about their importance already! They enhance a test and they do so without costing a card, an action or resource. That is just very good value. Your deck will want a certain amount of skills because you usually don’t have enough resources and actions to play everything anyways. As long as you have a solid base skill, playing the accompanying core skill card is pretty much never wrong. I usually don’t run these if my base skill value is low. Passing a test with skill 1 isn’t going to happen, but at skill 3 it still isn’t likely enough. The best value is probably going from skill 3 or 4 to skill 5 or 6 with these as it turns a test that was risky into a relatively sure thing.
Guts, Manual Dexterity: The willpower and the agility skill are the two exceptions to what i said above about not taking them when I am low in a skill. These are still worth considering because they are the two skills that the encounter deck tests you on regularly. Especially when facing treacheries with scaling effects like Rotting Remains a Guts can help you even you fail because it can be the difference between taking 3 horror and taking 1 horror. Some of it is also born out of necessity. Committing both a Guts and an Unexpected Courage into one test might just be the only chance for Skids to shake off a Frozen in Fear.

Unexpected Courage: Staple. A bit of a different beast than the other four Core Skills in that it doesn’t replace itself, but it can commit to any skill test. That sort of flexibility is valuable. I rate this one a notch below the other four because i just really want that card draw. But it’s hard to argue against Unexpected Courage because it’s just always relevant.
Bulletproof Vest(3): Good to Excellent. Are you sick of having Daisy die whenever an enemy sneezes her way? This will help. It costs a chunk of XP, but at 2 resources for 4 health it is very affordable in terms of resources and puts Daisy’s health reserves on the same level as Roland’s. This is a good pickup if you got some trauma during a campaign and feel the need to address that in a way that doesn’t set you back a bunch of actions.
Elder Sign Amulet(3): Good. This is a similar deal to the Bulletproof Vest, with the same sort of situations leading one to want it. Roland starts on 5 sanity and has a weakness that can deal mental trauma to him. An Elder Sign Amulet can give him the necessary buffer to not go insane. The amulet does take up the accessory slot though, and that is a much more important and valuable slot than the body slot taken up by the Vest. As a result, the Amulet sees a lot less play. On the other hand, this is not much of a concern in the Core Set. And sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do when trauma stacks up.

Emergency Cache(2): Okay. Let me just copy/paste my comment on Lucky(2) because it’s the exact same thing here: Not exactly an exciting upgrade. Doesn’t improve the primary effect of the card in any way, it simply tacks a “Draw a card” onto the textbox in exchange for 2XP. It’s not awful, but we can do so much better.
Charisma(3): Staple. Ally assets are among the most impactful things that we can play. Consider that an ally not only has some ability, but also soaks damage and horror for us and you might even consider Charisma as a viable alternative to Bulletproof Vest, Elder Sign Amulet or indeed both. The use of allies is mostly limited through two factors: They tend to cost a bunch of resources and they use up an ally slot. Charisma solves one half of that equation. And it does so on a Permanent card, meaning you have no variance with it, it’s always in play. Charisma is a very powerful enabler for lots of shenanigans or just straight up good value.
Relic Hunter(3): Staple. Doesn’t have quite the significance that Charisma has, but as the game releases more and more things that take up the accessory slot, it’s getting there. Accessories are usually high impact assets and being able to use multiple different ones (or two of the same in some cases!) can be very potent. Unlike Charisma, Relic Hunter usually doesn’t provide extra damage and horror soak except in some exceptions… accessories with soak do exist, the Holy Rosary in the Core for example. The good news with Relic Hunter in comparison to Charisma is that accessories are often fairly cheap, so wanting to fill additional accessory slots doesn’t strain the resource situation as much as it does for allies.

Verdict: This is all great? Emergency Cache(2) is a bit of a fringe card, but upgrading into it is honestly not unheard of, even in a bigger card pool. Knife is a card you grow out of quick. The rest of Neutral is all just staple cards to varying degrees.

Surge

That’s it for the Core Set player card overview.
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Scenario Difficulty Rankings #10 – Analysis

Intro

Over the last weeks, this article series put all campaign scenarios in the game into a ranking, ordered by difficulty. Along the way, i shared some observations about difficulty as they came up while looking at all of these. If you want to catch up, here’s the links to every previous installment in this series:
#1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8 | #9
Now it’s time to look at the data we’ve collected and try to make something out of it.

The full list

As a starting point, here’s the full list as determined over the last weeks:

(click to zoom)

Difficulty by Enjoyment

Let’s do some Excel stuff and see where it leads us. I want to take the results of my most recent scenario rankings and combine them with the difficulty rankings. As a reminder, this is what that ranking (by enjoyment) looked like:

And this is how the same table looks when i apply the colors from the difficulty rankings to it:

Huh. This all looks very colorful and christmassy, but i am not sure this actually tells us much! Maybe the lesson here is that difficulty and enjoyment aren’t necessarily linked, meaning that a scenario being difficult doesn’t make it better or worse than one that is easier. That seems like a reasonable conclusion to me, at least when it comes to my own tastes.

Looking at the graphic, there are a few minor things that can be pointed out:
The bottom three scenarios by enjoyment for me are all very difficult. This would point towards me preferring easier scenarios, but that doesn’t really check out when looking at the rest of the list. Tier 1 has three high difficulty scenarios in it as well and every other tier has at least another one, so the top 15 by difficulty are spread fairly evenly across my ranking. This does showcase that difficulty can be either satisfying or frustrating, though.
My tier 1 has only one green scenario in it and even that one isn’t in the most easy group of scenarios. This is a lot more relevant when we try to interpret this data somehow. Seems like I have no problem to rank easy scenarios as good (tier 2), but to feel like the scenario really stands out as amazing i do expect a good amount of challenge.
Related to this, there is a glut of scenarios from the easiest group of scenarios near the bottom of tier 3 and tier 4 by difficulty. This pretty much confirms my bias towards more challenging scenarios. Especially the three scenarios in the lower tier 4 (Echoes, HotE#2, Gates of Sleep) are both in lower tier 4 and in the easiest category because they are just plain boring.

So yeah. Not really much to gain here. Slight bias towards more difficult scenarios, but of course that doesn’t have to be the same for you. This particular comparison between the two rankings probably wasn’t worth the effort! Moving on!

Difficulty by campaign

Let’s do something more productive. Taking the difficulty list, sorting it by campaign and keeping the color for each scenario gives us this:

Now, of course doing it this way is not an exact science at all, as a color has 15 scenarios in it that can span quite a good amount of difficulty. Meanwhile two scenarios could be right next to each other on the list, but be right on the breakpoint between two colors and thus appear differently in this graphic. It is however a solid approximation that can act as a guideline to see where each campaign falls.

Core: Not really much to learn here, this is all very obvious and well-known. A nice introductory mini-campaign spoiled by an overtuned mess of a finale. Moving on.
Dunwich: This looks like a great difficulty curve to me. Starts out easy and ramps up all the way to the top. Well done, Dunwich!
Carcosa: A notable step up from Dunwich. Its biggest difficulty spike isn’t at the end, it’s on scenario 4 (Oath). The campaign starts out rather challenging, then mellows out after Oath to allow the players to take a breather, then goes into two final scenarios that aren’t terribly difficult, but not gimmes either. This is fine, but honestly Carcosa could stand to pick up some more steam in the middle parts. The Return To doesn’t “fix” this either.
Forgotten Age: Oh yeah, this looks about what i expected. Some green there in the middle with the forgettable Heart of the Elders scenarios, but otherwise TFA is going to make you sweat and it’s going to do so right from the start. This is not some new revelation, TFA is famous for this. But it’s nice to see it so clearly reflected in the spreadsheet here. Looking at this lineup and comparing it to how Dunwich and Carcosa look, you can immediately see why the initial reaction to TFA was as rough back then.
Circle Undone: A solid difficulty curve, like Dunwich it starts easy(…ish), then ramps up. It does ramp up much faster than Dunwich does, though! It reaches high difficulty around the midpoint, with only Greater Good being a somewhat easy(…ish) outlier. TCU probably could stand to ramp up a bit slower and smoother, the Secret Name/Wages of Sin double feature is maybe a bit more of a sudding spike than it should be.
Dream-Eaters: The easiest campaign except for Where The Gods Dwell and that is reflected in the graphics here as well. Notably, the B campaign is just a cakewalk with its easiest part being the finale. Not great! Ah well. To make up for it, the A campaign does have a nice ramp from green to red though!
Innsmouth: When the only easy scenario is the finale, something went wrong. Like with TFA, we start right in the thick of things and never really start coming back down. Instead, the difficulty keeps somewhat steadily to the upper middle of the rankings, providing a lasting challenge throughout, punctuated by the upwards peak from Light in the Fog. Just a shame about that finale though.
Edge of the Earth: I didn’t expect this to look so similar to Innsmouth. Again very steady difficulty. Instead of an upwards peak there’s a downwards one and it’s very close to the beginning. Honestly, this looks great. Considering how heavily i dislike Edge’s campaign structure i am surprised by how good it looks here.
Scarlet Keys: Another surprising one. What surprises me here is how green this part of the table looks. I consider TSK in total to be quite hard, so having so many scenarios here that are in the lower 40% is unexpected. Of course when it peaks, it peaks hard, so maybe that’s where the impression comes from. TSK also does a lot with its campaign structure, so not all of the perceived difficulty actually comes from the scenarios themselves. But yeah, all three of those peaks are easy to avoid if you aren’t up for them, so putting together a relatively mild TSK campaign should be no problem at all. Interesting, I didn’t really consider that before.

Signing off

Welp, that was a solid 2.5 months of scenario difficulty discussion. I am happy to end it here, but if there’s anything you would like to see in terms of follow-up discussion, let me know!