Tool’s Gold – A Wilson Richards Primer

Intro

Hemlock Vale brings five new investigators with it. Fellow content creator Valentin1331 (known for his extensive library of deck guides on arkhamdb) sent out the call to cover all of these new investigators with entry-level decks and analysis. I picked Wilson Richards as my guy to cover, the others are:

We are of course all following our own formats for this, but the end result should be a comprehensive overview of all the investigators and their basic deckbuilding options. I will follow a similar format to what i did with my Winifred Primer, hopefully coming to a solid baseline deck with options and upgrades laid out.

Disclaimer: Unlike with my Winifred Primer where i talked about a deck i have played through half a dozen campaigns already, today’s deck is 100% theorycraft. I do not play cards before i hold them in my hands physically, so this is technically untested. So take that for what it is. I will however try to add enough commentary to everything so that you can understand where i am coming from with my choices and takes here.

EDIT: Updated deck here!

Hi, BK from the future here. Let me interrupt this article to provide a link to an update to this article where i discuss the deck *after* i actually played it and what i would do differently.

Return To Tool’s Gold – A Wilson Richards Primer

My suggestion is to finish this article first, then head over to the one above.
Alright, back to you, past BK.

Tool to the Flame

Let’s start by going over the investigator himself to see what we are working with.

A statline of 3/3/3/3 is a scary thing as it has in the past been fairly miserable on the characters that were stuck with it. However, Wilson’s +1 to tests with Tool assets does put this into perspective. We are going to stick to using tools, so we can basically treat him as a 3/4/4/3 for the most part. This puts him in a similar range to Joe Diamond who also has 4s in both active stats, but without being quite as vulnerable to the encounter deck as Joe is. The other useful reference is Ashcan, who is a 4/4/4/3, but like Wilson he only gets that statline as long as he uses his “tool”.

A flat statline like this means that we are not going to want to build Wilson into a primary fighter or primary seeker, those jobs are best done by more specialised investigators. To get the most out of Wilson, we’ll want to use as many of his statpoints as possible, so we are flexing again, supporting both the clue effort and the monster handling wherever we are needed the most. The list shown in this article will lean slightly towards fighting, for a roughly 60/40 split between the two roles in the end.

Helping us further with our asset based playstyle is a 1 resource discount on the first tool each round. Nothing too major, but especially in Guardian that is appreciated. We’ll probably not be able to make use of that every turn, but it does help with setup for sure. A small thing to keep in mind is maybe that this ability rewards us for playing our tools over the course of several turns instead of in one go.

Wilson gets to play all Tools from all classes, which is of course desperately necessary considering that Guardian isn’t exactly known for its great tool options. We get some real nice things through this traitbased access and we’ll go over that in a bit. To pay for this access, Wilson gets Guardian 5 clipped off the top end, so he can only take Guardian 0-4. In practice, this prohibits only one relevant card: Michael Leigh, who would otherwise have been excellent in the sort of deck that both investigates and fights. Aside from that, Guardian 5 is a bunch of weapons, Agency Backup and Spiritual Resolve. Nothing we’d be really looking to play anyways. He also gains limited access to the Improvised and Upgrade traits, 5 cards in total with level 0-1. This is a small group of extra cards that he gets, but there are some really nice things in them. Again, we’ll go over this in detail later.

Overall, this is a decent deckbuilding pool. Allows us to build towards our investigator ability. And three different traits to care about means that future expansions to the game will likely yield some cool nuggets for Wilson even if only by coincidence.

His signature, Ad Hoc, can provide an outlet for extra copies of assets you already have in play or play into some combo stuff. Since it’s a single card hidden somewhere in your deck with an investigator that doesn’t really have any great access to card selection, i would advise to not build around this card too much. It’s absolutely something that can be explored deeper, but at least for this baseline first look at Wilson i will just take this signature as something that can show up and get you some value out of dead cards in your hand as opposed to a key part of any strategy. That being said, this is certainly a good card, turning cards into extra actions is very valuable and you will always be happy to find this.

His weakness is relatively basic. Shuts off his abilities until you discard it, discarding it simply takes two actions. Again, i am pushed to draw parallels to Ashcan Pete whose Wracked by Nightmares works in much the same way. Notably, this will reduce your basic skill values with all assets, not just tools. So having a backup weapon or something is not going to help you here. On the other hand, if you have a tool that doesn’t require a skill value to use (Old Keyring, Surgical Kit…) you can still use those. Hasty Repairs can be an issue if you draw it while engaged with an enemy that you are now unable to handle. Note that Ad Hoc and Pushed to the Limit both trigger abilities on assets, so despite being events they are zeroed out by Hasty Repairs as well! We might want to consider having some more traditional event-based backup for this case in our deck to hold onto as a “panic button”.

Tool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions

Even if we consider our +1 skill value when using tools, we will want to get more skill bonuses out of that tool. For that reason, those that just give the flat ability to test something (like Chemistry Set or Thieves Kit), are a good deal less desirable to us than those that do (like Fingerprint Kit or Microscope). For weapons, we will also want to turn to tools. Sure, we could go with Shotgun… but without the proper support that just seems worse than Chainsaw unless we really throw our all behind it. The number of tool weapons is still fairly limited. And what’s more, most of them that are worth talking about are two-handed. This circumstance is going to make the use of options that give us more handslots pretty much mandatory.

Since there are only six tool weapons, let’s go over them real quick:
Sledgehammer: That -1 fight on the level 0 is horrendous for us. I would want to avoid this one, unless you are trying to build cute Ad Hoc combos.
Chainsaw: I’m a huge fan of this one. Puts your skill value to 6 and attacks for 3 damage per go. Fuel is limited, but that’s solvable too. The big drawback then is that Chainsaw (and the Fuel) cost a bunch of XP. But we’ll keep our eyes on this one as the weapon to build towards.
Fire Extinguisher: Worse than the shovel at level 1, but super solid at level 3. Notably one-handed which is huge.
Gravedigger’s Shovel: For what it’s worth, the level zero puts your skill value at 6 and that’s not nothing. Attacking for 1 point of damage is a hard sell though.
Hatchet: Skill value 7 and 2 damage. Requires some hoops to jump through to be worth it and doesn’t work as a primary weapon. Pretty nice with Ad Hoc.
Pitchfork: Skill value 5 and 3 damage. For each attack after the first you need to spend an extra action to “reload” though. I think this works very well for a level 0 card and there are solid interactions with both Ad Hoc and Pushed to the Limit.

Ah screw it, let’s do the rest of them as well.

The “No” pile:
Quickdraw Holster: I don’t believe that triggering the second ability makes the fight on the firearm count as a “test on a tool card”, but even if it would count, the holster is pretty bad.
Chemistry Set: No skill bonus, i think we can do better.
Pocket Telescope: Same thing here.
Cryptographic Cypher: Makes the test more difficult. That’s worse than no skill bonus. Hard pass.
Lantern: I like Lantern, but it simply got outclassed by Old Keyring.
Mariner’s Compass: While we are poor, we can’t quite live the Dark Horse life.
Pocket Multitool: Since it’s a reaction ability, we don’t get anything special out of this one.
Thieves Kit: As much as i’d love to have my tool pay back for itself, the lack of a skill bonus on the level 0 (and the uncertainty of an oversuccess for the level 3) make me steer away from this one.

The “Maybe” pile:
Riot Whistle: If i do Tool Belt so i can ignore it’s slot… maybe?
Dissection Tools: Possibly decent way to boost up our fight value?
Hawk-Eye Cam: Same thing, different stat. Probably just beat by basic Mag Glass though.
Mag Glass: Doesn’t provide an investigate ability itself, but would boost it on another card.
Ice Pick: The alternative to Mag Glass that looks attractive because we are interesting in both fighting and investigating. Not feeling the L3 upgrade for Wilson, but level one is a definitive maybe.
Surgical Kit: Honestly, two actions to heal 3 damage, 1 horror and draw a card is quite good. And you can do it four times. It’s a bit off our main track, but i wouldn’t want to discard this one just yet. We might even consider the fun combo with Painkillers :D
Lockpicks: Investigate at 7? Decent! Too likely to break at level zero, but i could see going for the level 1.
Flashlight: Outshone (heh) by Old Keyring. Still a decent card of course.

The “Yes” pile:
Fingerprint Kit: Skill bonus and big action efficiency. I am actually eyeing the upgraded one to use it in a similar capacity as i use Pilfer in Winifred.
Microscope: I like this one quite a bit, especially if we end up fighting a lot and just want to pick up clues every other turn. Three clues for two actions is decent when you consider that it’s only 1 test to go through. Let’s you make efficient use of your Perceptions and Courages.
Matchbox: The combo with Old Keyring is significant.
Old Keyring: How can we not? Regular Keyring is good. We don’t have the means to completely break the upgraded one, but the combo with Matchbox does already put in a lot of work.
Cleaning Kit: The uses on this can be spent to fuel our Chainsaw or Fingerprint Kit. That seems worth it to me as long as we can spare the accessory slot for it. The upgrade even throws in skill bonuses which feeds exactly into what we are doing here.

A Tool For You

To further enhance our tool-based shenanigans, there’s some other cards that specifically help us do exactly that. Now for whatever godforsaken reason, Wilson can not run Crafty, which is an outrage. But what we get instead is:

Hand-Eye Coordination: Trades a card for an action which is fine. Goes on the Maybe pile, but i’m not exactly keen on playing it.
Tinker: Tinker gives us a valuable handslot for little cost. I definitely prefer drawing the Tool Belt over this, but one copy of Tinker is better than the second Tool Belt in the deck so i will probably end up playing one of these.
Finetuning: Allows us to use an asset that exhausts twice per turn. That can be great with Ad Hoc or just general good value. Fingerprint Kit and Lockpicks are the two most relevant targets.
Pushed to the Limit: Plays very well with Ad Hoc and gives more uses out of key tools. Seems awesome!
Tool Belt: I already mentioned it plenty of times. Allows to switch your tool loadout once per round which helps a lot with all these handslot items. There are certainly ways to make Wilson work without going for this thing, but for this deck I’ll just going to assume that we want one. Keeps our options open and lets us test stuff for our maiden flight with Wilson in the new campaign. Since Tool Belt is a level zero, we can always upgrade it into a Bandolier(2) during the campaign and switch gears.

Tool Intentions

Okay, one final thing before we put together a level zero deck. But i want at least to check out what the limited 5 card access to those two minor traits gets us from out of Guardian (in addition to cards previously mentioned):

“I’ll Take That”: Oh, an unexpected economy card rears its head! Oversuccess isn’t really what we are doing reliably, so i am sceptical that we can really use this one well. I could see it become good once we stacked up on skill bonuses but at that point we are already set up.
Hidden Pocket: We can put a Hidden Pocket on our Tool Belt. Aside from Lockpicks there’s not much we’d play in terms of Illicit though.
Impromptu Barrier: At 3 skill value, the -1 difficulty doesn’t move the needle enough to be worth it.
Improvised Weapon: Same.
Winging It: Same.
Improvised Shield: Simply a bad card.
Jury-Rig: Now we are talking! This card is awesome and exactly what we have been looking for to make our Fingerprint Kit or weapon more reliable.
Makeshift Trap: Not particularly good at low levels and we can’t get more than two checkboxes on it.
The Raven Quill: Tome or Spell you say? We don’t do that here.

So basically it’s Jury-Rig, Fine-Tuning and Pushed to the Limit as relevant additions from here. I mean… fair enough, we only have 5 slots anyways. There’s probably a way to make I’ll Take That work as well, but for this deck i will go with something less risky where i can be reasonably sure that it’s going to work.

The deck on ArkhamDB

Zero XP: https://arkhamdb.com/deck/view/3527568
10 XP: https://arkhamdb.com/deck/view/3547380
20 XP: https://arkhamdb.com/deck/view/3547398
30 XP: https://arkhamdb.com/deck/view/3547413
40 XP: https://arkhamdb.com/deck/view/3547434

Level Zero

Alright, so I’m not going to sugarcoat it… the level zero is going to be a bit sketchy in some parts. Luckily we upgrade quite well, but at level zero our toolbox isn’t really filled with all that exceptional stuff yet and we’ll need to cobble some stuff together to do our part. But of course, that’s what Wilson does, right? Cobble something together and improvise as best as we can from random stuff that’s lying around :)

What we basically need to do is find a tool and a booster and combine the two things to get access to solid actions. Kind of like a Mystic that needs to find their spell assets and then back up their willpower to become capable at using that spell. One the one side we have some weapons, on the other some investigation tools. We’ll tie all of it together with some more general tool/handslot support and ways to get our skill levels up to snuff. Let’s go over this card by card!

Pitchfork: Attacks with skill 5 for 3 damage. Solid way to get most things out of your way when they show up, even if it requires a “reload” action afterwards so you can do it again.
Sledgehammer: Attacks with skill 6 for 3 damage, but the first attack already takes the double action and you are less flexible in how to spend them. Generally, i like Pitchfork better, but this is a solid option to have available anyways and it does work well with Ad Hoc and Pushed to the Limit. I don’t think the one action ability on the hammer is terribly great for us as it will just let us test at 3. If you have an Overpower to burn it might come in handy from time to time though. This is more or less only in the deck as Pitchfork #3 or as fodder for Ad Hoc and Pushed to the Limit.
Gravedigger’s Shovel: Attacks with skill 6 for 1 damage. Can clean up some trash enemies and be cashed in for a clue. I’m usually not happy about this one, but we gotta do what we gotta do to fill up our deck. It’s also notably the only one-handed option in our toolkit for now. Having Ad Hoc and Pushed to the Limit around makes me feel a lot better about Shovel in this deck than anywhere else.
Options: As we’ve seen earlier, that’s literally all level zero tool weapons. I considered Enchanted Blade as it allows attacking for 2 damage at skill level 5 which might very well be better than the shovel… but it always feels like such a flavor sin to me to use in most guardians. And the shovel does have some nice play patterns and when in doubt we can always throw it into Ad Hoc later on to grab a clue.
Other weapon options at level 0 don’t get you over 4 skill and i am not a fan of that. So no Machetes or similar stuff here.

Microscope: If you get it early enough, you can get a lot of value out of this one. Picking up three clues for two actions is solid since it compresses three clues into just one test. This lets you use your Perceptions/Courages/Jury-Rig very efficiently.
Old Keyring: Cheap and simply solid. Let’s you pick up stray clues that your seeker left or that your Microscope/FPK leaves. You don’t want to invest into OKR tests, you just want your guaranteed clues.
Options: I considered the Mag Glass, but our dependence on two-handed weapons leaves us little room to use Mag Glass alongside another clue tool. And Mag Glass alone just tests at 4 to possibly pick up one clue, OKR does that role a lot better. Fingerprint Kit also exists, but i am shying away from anything that is costing a lot, so i’ll be sticking with Microscope and Keyring for now. If Microscope ends up being not as good as i hope (or if you don’t want to take the risk) i could see swapping them out for FPKs (or run one of each) but be aware that this will be awkward to pay for if you want both your FPK and a weapon in the first two turns.

Toolbelt: The two-handed weapon business means we need to sort out our hand slots to enable using them alongside an investigation tool. Tool Belt does that really well and gives us the flexibility that we need.
Tinker: I would really like to run a Bandolier alongside the Toolbelt… but since they both use the body slot and that is the one slot we can’t get extra of yet. Running two tool belts will strand us with a dead card that just provides a willpower icon – not ideal with an investigator with limited card draw. Tinker is a bit limited, but it does at least stack with Tool Belt. You’ll want to put Tinker on one of your tools that don’t have charges: Microscope, Pitchfork or Sledge. Or Shovel, i suppose.
Options: Tool Belt could be Bandolier instead. I feel like with the twohanded options, the tool belt is a bit better but it’s close enough. Tool Belt also allows us a bit of cheese later on that Bandolier doesn’t offer.

Matchbox: Our booster for the investigation side. Can combine with Keyring, but you can probably get better value (for now) by dropping the shroud for your critical Microscope or Fingerprint Kit tests. Since these don’t take a slot and are near free for us, we play two and can even use both on the same test. Will be much more important later when we pick up the upgraded Keyring.
Wolf Mask: Speaking of things not taking up a slot and being near free, playing one Mask is a no-brainer here and Wolf Mask will give you a very solid boost for your fighting.
Tetsuo Mori: I strongly considered Grete Wagner or Beat Cop here, to further shore up our combat stat (and in Grete’s case also help with the investigative side). Tetsuo Mori is the safe pick though as he is cheap to play (compared to the alternatives) and gives you some more access to your various item assets.
Jury-Rig: Can also boost either the investigation or the fight side. Getting three instances of +2 to your tests is pretty rad and will let you pretend to have 5 skill for a while.
Options: This is our booster package where we find the cards that get our statline in shape (aside from the skills, of course). I am using a lot of deckslots on these because we obviously have a bit to compensate.
As mentioned, Grete and Beat Cop are alternatives to playing Tetsuo. I’ll also mention Medical Student here who can do a similar job of tanking for you for even less of a cost, but the extra item asset you get to pluck from your deck is worth going for Tetsuo instead.

Emergency Cache: We need money. This is money.
Options: Just Stand Together. Usually I’d play Stand Together instead of ECache in my guardians, but i really need every single resource here. That being said, our best way of figuring out our resource situation is going to keep a low curve and using our investigator ability to the fullest.

Cleaning Kit: So, at level zero we can’t actually use these supplies for all that much, this is pretty much only in the deck so we have it for later when the chainsaws and upgraded fingerprint kits show up. You can use this to refill your Matchbox, though! And if you do take the option of running FPK(0), then Cleaning Kit can give those some much needed longevity.

Pushed to the Limit: A very flexible card. The reshuffle isn’t terribly relevant since we have not all that much draw so we might not even go through the deck once. But just having an event that can either act as a fight or an investigate event is really solid and the interaction with the 3 damage weapons is nice.

Toe to Toe: This is my concession to the weakness, allowing you to dish out some damage while your stats are zero’d out.
Options: I am not positive that this is particularly necessary per se, but in terms of being ready for anything this does some good work. It’s also a rock solid card by itself so it’ can’t be terrible’s unlikely to be something you regret. Note that you can put Vicious Blow on a Toe to Toe because while you do automatically succeed, you still technically initiate a test. This is a combo that I come back to quite often and that has saved my bacon plenty of times now in various decks.

Overpower and Vicious Blow: Our fighty skills. Pretty obvious and standard.
Perception: Again, fairly obvious. Between Overpower and Perception we also get some nominal amount of card draw into the deck. It’s not much, but it’s what we have. Every bit counts.
Unexpected Courage: Honestly i don’t run Courage much anymore these days because it doesn’t draw a card. But if we are running a deck that might consider using any of its four skills, then it’s hard to pass up on.
Options: The new skill from Hemlock Vale, Strong-Armed, doesn’t work with Toe to Toe so i am sticking with Vicious Blow. If you don’t plan on using a fight event to supplement your fighting, then Strong-Armed is possibly just straight up better than Vicious Blow for you.
We get a little bit of card draw here, so i will use this spot to tell you that Glory is a card to consider. I couldn’t fit it in, but maybe you can. You could also be super greedy and play either Guts or Daring in stead of Courage. I think that is pushing it though.

How to play the deck

So, this level zero deck has all the necessary tools (heh) to get the job done, but it lacks consistency. Due to an almost complete lack of card draw, your mulligan is going to be super important for your early turns because if both attempts at a start hand go wrong, you are pretty much hoping to draw from the top of your deck unassisted. Things that you want to keep when looking at the first hand are: Either Tool Belt or Tinker and also a weapon. Everything else can fall into play afterwards. Without Tool Belt or Tinker, you might get into a situation where you are locking yourself into a fighter role with the weapon taking up both hands and no room to play the crucial investigation tool that allows you to pick up clues. That is why Shovel even made it into the deck twice, it can bridge the gap in that situation for you and let you clue while at least able to defend yourself. Then, when you finally find your missing piece (either a proper weapon or the extra slot) you can cash in the shovel for a clue and set up your hand slots properly. Alternatively, if you get an early shovel and Ad Hoc, you can put those together and make it your plan to throw Pitchforks and Sledges at anything scary. Especially if the rest of your team is able to fight enemies as well, this approach can make a lot of sense as it allows you to focus more on the clue side while contributing to particularly dicey situations (multiple enemies drawn during mythos, big Elite shows up) with some chunky hits.
One thing that i didn’t mention at all so far is Wilson’s Elder Sign effect. It’s not something to plan around, after all we aren’t forcing the issue in any way or manipulating our token draws so it might not turn up at all over the course of a scenario. When it does, it will allow you to swap a tool from your hand with one in play and that will usually be most useful to gain more ammo/supplies for your tools with limited uses. Cleaning Kit(3) is particularly nice to return to your hand later on.
One thing that is a bit unusual is that many of our attacks or investigates are actually double actions. Pitchfork, Sledge and Microscope are all using two of your actions to do a stronger version of the regular action. Use this to your advantage by using your skills and boosts on these more valuable tests to get more out of those skills and boosts. But in the long run we are going to shed this behavior from our weapons at least.
Aside from that, your plan is fairly straight forward. Get a clue tool, get a damage tool. Get support for both. And you just play a relatively fair game of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. No extravagant nonsense, no fancy rules loopholes or creative interpretations of designer intent. Just good old intellect vs shroud and fight vs fight. We’ll improve on this over time by adding more action compression and higher stat values, but that should easily be good enough to get you through a scenario or two and gain the necessary experience for the first round of upgrades.

Scenario 1&2: The deck at 10XP

-1 Shovel, -1 Toe to Toe, -1 Sledgehammer, -1 Keyring(0)
+1 Chainsaw(4), +1 Backpack(2), +1 Keyring(3), +1 Ever Vigilant(1)

In the interest of keeping this list somewhat balanced between seeking and fighting and only slowly tilting over to one side, i put the first points here into one of the great weapons and one of the great investigation tools.
And then add a Backpack(2) to help us actually find these upgrades. We won’t be able to play a second one because it clashes with Tool Belt (or Bandolier) on the body slot, but the one copy of Backpack(2) is going to be good and something to keep in our hand during mulligan for sure. With the Chainsaw we are now testing at 6 (with insurance) and through the Cleaning Kit we also have a refill in our deck to make it last a bit longer.
Since i upgraded a weapon, i also want to give some love to the investigation side. So we get the first copy of the incredible Old Keyring(3). While we can’t abuse the crap out of it like actual survivors can, we do have the Matchboxes and are thus decently likely to get our six clues out of this thing. No recursion or looping means we are likely just going to do it once (unless we get lucky on the Pushed to the Limit reshuffle) but that’s easily good enough. Note that Cleaning Kit can’t extend the lifespan of the Keyring. It can be used for more matches, but that seems like a shame when the supplies could be used for chainsaw instead…
The final XP in this bout goes to Ever Vigilant(1). Our resource situation is highly dependent on spreading out our assets to make the most out of our investigator ability. EV allows us to bypass this requirement and with a Backpack now in the deck, it becomes something that can help us set up a lot faster without completely depleting our resource pool.
Options: If your deck starts with In the Thick of It (which is of course perfectly viable) then you can start working towards this 10XP breakpoint from the start and possibly even already reach it after the first scenario. From the 3XP, i would buy Backpack and Ever Vigilant while ditching a Shovel and a Toe to Toe. The OKR(3) is another option, but i don’t think it’s quite as pressing for the first scenario to have.

Scenario 3&4: The deck at 20XP

-1 Toe to Toe, -1 Shovel
+1 Fire Extinguisher(3), +1 Stick to the Plan(3Ex), +1 Sweeping Kick

The next 10XP go mostly towards one high XP investment that is just super helpful. Stick to the Plan helps us with our lack of consistency a lot by bringing down the deck size while giving us access to economy. We also upgrade the last Shovel into the super solid Fire Extinguisher. Extinguisher is not as exciting and flashy as Chainsaw, but it does make for a particularly great option to put Ad Hoc on.
Sweeping Kick is a neat little upgrade for Toe to Toe that allows us to use our panic button against high health enemies as well. Since it fits on SttP, we have a very reliable backup plan now that will pretty much always be useful in some way.
Options: Stick to the Plan is going to take an Emergency Cache and an Ever Vigilant to make sure we can set up our board without any trouble. This is going to be huge for how comfortable we can be in the first turns. For the third card on SttP we use Sweeping Kick which now replaces our Toe to Toes as the panic button that we can hold back juuuust in case we need it. Another option is Pushed to the Limit. However, it’s not really a card you need early on, so that’s likely not the way to go. Sadly Ad Hoc is not a Tactic :( On second thought, that’s probably intentional.

Scenario 5&6: The deck at 30XP

-1 Cleaning Kit, -1 Old Keyring, -1 ECache(0)
+1 Cleaning Kit(3), +1 Fingerprint Kit(4), +1 ECache(3)

With the Chainsaw now in our deck, i want an Emergency Cache(3) in the deck to have another way of refueling the thing. I considered a second Cleaning Kit , but i do still want the option of taking the money instead. Remember, you can just stash the empty saw in your tool belt after it runs out, so you can refill it later whenever that ECache(3) shows up. For your Stick to the Plan use the level 0 ECache however! The reason is that i expect that I will want to play my first Cache for money pretty much all the time, so i don’t want to waste ECache(3) there.
The Cleaning Kit gets its upgrade now, for another supply on it and to turn it into a battery for skill boosts at the same time. If you really want to go to town with the Chainsaw, remember that you can use the ECache(3) on the Cleaning Kit and that way get skill bonuses on top of all those supplies as well! Hot stuff.
With such power potential stored in our accessory slot now, i want the seeker side to be able to make use of that as well. And Fingerprint Kit does exactly that. When backed by Cleaning Kit(3), you investigate at skill 8 which gives you a very solid chance at just grabbing 3 clues for an action every turn until your Cleaning Kit runs dry.
Options: I suppose you could cut a Microscope here instead of the Old Keyring. I opted to keep the double Microscope here because it’s a card that i really want to see early-ish so i can start building evidence on it straight away. But either cut is perfectly fine.

Scenario 7&8: The deck at 40XP

-2 Overpower, -1 Pitchfork, -1 Emergency Cache
+2 Overpower(2), +1 Chainsaw, +1 Emergency Cache(2)

And that’s the final bit, where we get our last upgrades. I would have really liked to get the Overpower upgrades in earlier, but couldn’t quite fit them in. If you know that you are taking a more fighty role, consider frontloading the Overpowers at the cost of the upgrades to Keyring or Fingerprint Kit as the added card draw will do some good for your consistency for sure. The same goes for the ECache(2) which when put on Stick to the Plan will give us an extra card during the early turns which is actually quite significant.

Options, Notable omissions and upgrades beyond 40XP

The deck has one glaring weakness that i am not fully comfortable with, considering the trend the recent campaigns have been showing with regards to damage and horror from the encounter deck. We have no healing or prevention in the deck at all right now (aside from that one Tetsuo) and that could very well be a problem.
Possible solutions to this problem would be Surgical Kit (which is a tool and offers rather potent healing on tap while also drawing some cards) and Hallowed Mirror (which would require a Relic Hunter to run it alongside Cleaning Kit). I could see either of these two cards working out similarly well but either option does require yet another 3XP.

We are also only running a single ally, so maybe the more prudent option over the 3XP healing card would be to just fit in two copies of Medical Student… somehow. Not that deck slots are all that easy to come by either, though.

Speaking of the ally slot, I never actually spent any XP on it because i really wanted to focus on the tool-based gameplay for this deck. If you have more XP (or simply want to prioritize differently) there are some great options available as Guardian has really good allies. They have a tendency to strain the resource budget a bit though. That being said, either Grete Wagner(3) or Girish Kadakia(4) would be great additions to the team and would help bolster our fight and investigate tests even more.

Closing thoughts

And that’s the first look at Wilson Richards. I believe he’s not going to run in the top tiers of investigators, but he’s capable enough and comes with enough of his own style and niche to be interesting. We are starting out a bit sketchy, but what i like here is how well the upgrades we are getting for our XP do improve him significantly. Not bad for a 3/3/3/3. Not bad at all. I will be using this deck myself in the first play of the Hemlock Vale campaign (alongside Kouhaku) and i expect great things! Have fun tooling around with this guy.

EDIT: Suddenly, Taboo update for Hemlock Vale

Ha, so literally a few hours after this article went up FFG posted the new taboo list update. Doesn’t really change anything fundamental about this deck, but i figure i should mention that OKR(3) is now 4XP instead of 3XP when following taboo. Fair enough!

Top 10: Most game-changing cards from The Feast of Hemlock Vale

Introduction

For the previous two expansions (Edge of the Earth, Scarlet Keys) i each made a post about what 10 cards (or groups of cards) i think will end up the most influential from the set. The idea is that i make a post like this early on for each set. And each time also revisit my predictions for the previous set and check how much on target i was. Or if i just ended up calling Quickdraw Holster an important card again! So while the full investigator expansion review is geared at looking at the merit of the cards for themselves, often with just that expansion and the Core Set, this article here wants to call out cards for being notable even when you own binders upon binders of cards already.
Quick reminder: “Most game-changing” doesn’t necessarily mean “most powerful”, but of course a certain level of power is expected for a card to make a splash in the full card pool unless it does something truly unique.

A look back at Scarlet Keys

Sadly i missed doing this article early enough for TSK, so i was already working off of rather well-developed opinions about the cards (both by myself and by the hive-mind). So while i am not expecting any monumental missteps here, let’s go over what i had to say half a year ago:

At A Crossroads: I would rank this even higher today, i really put this into every red deck. My reason for putting it at #10 at the time was that its just card draw, but it ended up making every Survivor deck play soooo much smoother that i feel like it actually presented a change in how the class plays.
Girish Kadakia: Those 4XP ended up mattering a lot to me. While i certainly wouldn’t want to talk ill about Girish’s raw power, i do not end up playing him a whole lot in practice. So he didn’t end up moving the needle much for me, but i do still think he’s a good shout for potential.
Elle Rubash/Sin-Eater: Great enablers, let’s table this discussion until we get something worth doing the doom thing for? I called these out as very powerful cards waiting for a good payoff and i think that’s exactly where we stand with them today.
Dirty Fighting: Spawned its own sub-archetype and ended up even more important than i thought. Dirty Fighting is a fantastic card… and when i look at what’s in Hemlock Vale, FFG is not even done supporting this archetype either.
Summoned Servitor/Power Word: Well, obviously i wasn’t able to predict that Power Word would get absolutely massacred by a taboo that makes it both awfully unfun to play and turns it back into a “Willpower matters” card. What a shame, this card got absolutely trashed. At least Servitor still gets to fill the role of a stat line agnostic card that you can throw your XP into. It’s not terribly great, though. I view it mostly as something to do for off-class mystics and even then the ally slot can be hard to accept. So yeah, this one is a miss but i don’t really feel like i got it wrong anyways. I blame this one on the meddling of higher powers.
Friends in Low Places: Similar to At A Crossroads in terms of consistency that it adds to a deck, but not quite as universal. While FiLP tuned to “Trick” or “Item” is pretty much playable in any rogue deck, the trait restriction does matter and so do the extra resource costs and XP you have to chuck into it. I’d have it switch places with Crossroads on the list.
Shed A Light/Gumption/Old Keyring: The “difficulty zero” archetype is a monster and pieces of it make it into decks all the time. I probably should have called out OKR(3) as the headliner here because it’s best on its own without the rest of the archetype standing behind it. Again, the look forward at Hemlock Vale shows that FFG isn’t quite done with this either which i find very scary.
Custom Modifications: Custom Mods is a solid card, but not a very widely played one. I like it on the list of game-changers, but in hindsight i would put it near the bottom because it’s a rather narrow card.
Grim Memoir: Yeah, i full stand behind this one. Actually, i think it should be #1 instead of #2. It’s hard for an asset to nestle itself alongside Mag Glass in level 0 seeker, but Memoir got there.
Thieves Kit: As a tool that allows rogues to use their agility for investigations reliably, Thieves Kit met (and exceeded) expectations. I’d move it down on the list but it definitely belongs on there.

Notable omissions are:
Runic Axe. While i did recognize it as powerful from the start, i didn’t have it clocked as quite THAT insane. When a weapon gets trotted out repeatedly as the reason why a 2/2/2/2 investigator is actually good at combat you know that the weapon might just be too good.
Disguise. This little card ended up doing a lot of good for my decks. As long as an investigator has at least a base 3 agility, Disguise offers them a great way to disable enemies. I think this one is still massively underrated by the wider Arkham community.
“I’ll Take That”: In oversuccess decks, this ended up being a free action and a massive discount on an asset. A staple card for me now, there is little as satisfying as using it to put a cigarette case into play for free and then immediately use it in the same player window to draw. Chef’s Kiss.
Hallowed Chalice: Doesn’t belong on the top 10 game-changers, but i want to call it out here as the card that i might have underestimated most from TSK. I sort of put it into the same wastebasket as the doom charms when it actually ended up being a very nice one-off in many decks that can take care of trauma for the whole team and massively take the pressure off of many treachery and scenario effects. I have reached for this card many times now and it paid itself off nicely every time.

The Feast of Hemlock Vale

Alright, enough about the past, eyes ahead to the future. Unlike with Scarlet Keys, i am doing this as actual predictions, before the set even released. So this will be a lot more interesting when we return to it in a year or whenever we get the expansion after Hemlock Vale!

#10: Ancestral Token. With the Innsmouth player cards, Guardian got a bunch of solid bless payoff cards, from Rite of Sanctification over Blessing of Isis to Nephtys and Holy Spear. What it didn’t get however was good bless enablers. As Veronica pointed out in her reveal video for this card, Guardian has mostly action intensive bless producers like Blessed Blade or Book of Psalms, so good Guardian bless decks were usually limited to either Mary, Parallel Zoey or investigators with Survivor access for things like Spirit of Humanity or even just Keep Faith. Ancestral Token changes this and gives Guardian a bless token generator worth its salt. This is going to open up bless strategies to so many investigators, so you can now do things like Blessing of Isis Nathaniel or Rite of Sanctification Leo which are directions i find genuinely exciting to explore.

#9: Survival Technique. Another engine card, both with immediate applications and with lots of future potential. Currently you can do some neat but ultimately pretty fair things with it like recurring Breach the Door, but the potential for this card to interact with future sets is massive. This is just another venue for Survivors to break the game just a little bit more with each release. By the way, this card has been email-ruled recently to apply its +2 skill bonus to investigate tests because apparently investigating against shroud makes it a test on a location? Fair enough. I believe it is unclear still if this only applies to basic investigates or to all of them, so we will see where that ends up.

#8: Snitch. Due to Alessandra’s presence in the set, Parley is getting a lot of support in this expansion, with many cards actually being parleys and others that pay off for using them. It remains to be seen if all of that noise is actually worth anything outside of Alessandra specifically. I certainly hope so, considering the space that is devoted to it in this box. If Parley ends up being a thing in other investigators, then Snitch is going to play a massive role in this because it offers quite the reward for having some parley. This is one where i am very interested in how we will look at it in a year’s time. I have already heard calls that Snitch is overpowered, others that it’s too limited and just contained to one investigator. I wonder how this one will shake out. And if we get more parley support in the next set or if this is a one-off deal.

#7: Bewitching. Speaking of Rogue archetypes. This one is a much safer shout than Snitch because Trick is already a well supported deck with several enablers devoted to it. Between Bewitching and Friends in Low Places, that deck will now be very consistent. But even if you don’t go all in on the archetype, just playing three one-off Trick cards with various effects in any random rogue can give you a lot of value as the class now has its own Stick to the Plan with all the bells and whistles. You even get the effectively reduced deck size, something that Seeker didn’t get with their take on this type of card (Ancestral Knowledge). Hot stuff, and i am not just referring to the artwork.

#6: The Myconid Strains. Didn’t Acidic Ichor just a while back get taboo’d from 3 to 2 damage because it was too good at killing stuff? How is Seeker getting a repeatable “defeat this non-Elite” again in light of this? These things have me worried. If the set holds a card (or set of cards) that ends up on a list of questionable balance choices with Cyclops Hammer and Drawing Thin, i believe it’s going to be these ones. It just seems trivially easy to me to engineer a deck that can cancel a treachery every turn or kill an enemy each turn. There’s also the whole thing with the treachery strain being kaputt if you are standing on a shroud 0 location… which again, not that difficult to engineer.

#5: Blessed Blade: Wow, talk about a glowup compared to the level 0. The ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan. Like in those stories, it lost a bit of its identity, of what made it interesting and special in the interest of being more popular… but i find it hard to complain too much about that when this weapon does fill a slot that was wide open for way too long: Guardian does finally have a one-handed weapon that is better than the neutral Timeworn Brand! Yay! It moves into direct competition with the range of high-XP two-handed weapons in Guardian and by association makes classic off-hand items and weapons (like Survival Knife or a variety of investigation assets) more desirable. It is also a remarkable bless generator on top and it alone together with Ancestral Token can fuel a lot of synergies.

#4: Matchbox. This is just soooo good in so many ways. Even if you don’t go full Keyring/Scavenging cheese with it, the effect you get here for so little investment is incredible. You even can use this on other investigator’s turn to help them, and for a card with this wide of an application that is just massive. I expect to play these in a lot of different decks because there is just so little opportunity cost to them.

#3: Call the Beyond. Ooooh, charges were the last type of common use token that was sort of hard to come by, so this is relevant! Supplies and ammo are easy (and in fact gain another enabler this set as well through Cleaning Kit), and secrets have been reasonably accessible as well. Charges however required either the unreliable and XP intensive Recharge or the Winds of Power that can end up costing just too much for only two charges. Call the Beyond makes away with all the fuss and for 2XP you gain something that is not just reliable, but also very flexible. Charges, Secrets, no matter what type of asset, you got it. You even get a free asset activation out of it so Call does end up being action neutral. This is a really good card that does move the needle with regards to how often Mystics get to use their spell assets while also having applications in other contexts. Just to name one thing, Daisy can use this to refill the Grim Memoir she’s been using every turn for a bonus clue. Be still my beating heart.

#2: Long Shot/Strong-Armed. Getting not one, but two new Vicious Blow variants in one box strikes me as exceptional. Adding these to the player pool means that many investigators now are much more capable of blurring the lines between 2 damage and 3 damage attacks. And a couple of already very capable investigators now even have access to all three Vicious Blows. Some investigators that weren’t able to run Vicious Blow at all before now gain access to one of them here, most notably Silas whose Innate access actually gives both of these into his pool! That is a huge jump in how much he can do.
Since they are skills, they are also a lot more universal in use than just a new big weapon. A big weapon can just end up being replaced by a different weapon down the line, while having more skills just add on top of each other.

#1: The masks. Well, duh. These are one of the biggest talking points of the expansion for a reason. I already said my piece (and then some) about these in its own article. But to sum it up, the cycle of masks offer significant stat boosts at a rather low cost. What really sets these apart is the opportunity cost, as they don’t cost much in terms of resources and no otherwise occupied equipment slot. Some of them also gain more charges without really having to do anything special for it (Sparrow, Wolf, to some extent Cat). The final thing that makes them so universally useful is that their stat boosts are simply going to be useful for pretty much everyone using them. These aren’t overpowered or dangerous in any way, but they do raise the floor on many investigators that are otherwise struggling with the basic challenges of the game. As noted in the linked article, i expect to run one of these in most investigators just as a value piece and can definitely see running two if i want to depend on the mask to buff an investigator’s stat line, like for example with Wolf Mask in Skids.

Some runner-ups

There’s actually a decent amount of cards in this expansion that i considered for this list. In order of appearance in the card list, i feel like it’s worth mentioning these cards: Cleaning Kit, which gives Guardian something other than Mirror for their accessory slot. Microscope which gives a new spin on an investigation tool specifically for flex investigators that spend most of their time with enemy handling before they cash in the accumulated evidence for clues. Gabriel Carillo, who attempts to muscle his way into an ally slot that Christopher Milan and Jeremiah Kirby hold in a tight grip… and might actually succeed at it. Prismatic Spectacles which offers repeatable investigations with a high modifier and without taking a hand slot. British Bull Dog which gives rogues their agility combat spell gun. Rod of Carnamagos which does something really unique and strikes me as quite powerful once upgraded. Hunting Jacket which provides soak and resources and interacts favorably with various survivor staples from Dark Horse to Scavenging. Finally, Token of Faith which is a powerful engine card for decks interested in both curse and bless synergies while providing a safety blanket to the whole team.
So there is no shortage on cards worth keeping an eye on in the coming year before we return to this article. Should be interesting to see where we stand then. Is Parley still a thing or did it go the way of doomplay where it’s just one investigator that does it? Did Ancestral Token end up being this article’s Quickdraw Holster? How severe were the errata and taboo changes to rein in Myconid? We’ll see :)

Investigator Expansion Review: The Feast of Hemlock Vale

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Introduction

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

The Investigators

This is quite the diverse bunch of characters, with no common theme or mechanics to tie them together. This is of course not a problem, just pointing out that it’s not like in Dunwich or Edge of the Earth where everyone has the same deckbuilding.
Wilson Richards is a traitbased investigator, focusing on the Tool trait. He has a flat statline, but is supposed to make up for it by being able to play tools cheaper and being able to use them better. That makes him a flexible character that can fill multiple roles at once without excelling at something in particular. His deck building prohibits level 5 guardian, but gives him access to all tool cards and a more limited access to the Upgrade and Improvised traits.
Kate Winthrop also focuses on a trait, in her case Science (and some Tool and Insight on the side). She is able to leverage discovered clues into skill bonuses and can use this to spike her stats rather dramatically. That means that (for a Seeker) she is also capable of doing more than just picking up clues.
Alessandra Zorzi is the Parley specialist and gets access to all cards that mention parley on them. She’s another flexible character that can use her events (and some assets) to achieve a lot of different things.
Kouhaku Narukami utilizes both blesses and curses. Not only does he get access to both of those traits, but he can also trade in tokens for extra actions. Once more, this is an investigator that can fill any role.
Last but not least, Hank Samson is a tanky Survivor that can take damage and horror in stead of players and allies at his location. After passing a health/sanity threshold he becomes resolute in one of two ways, adjusting his statline but from then on is no longer able to heal. His card access includes much of the Spirit and Innate traits. Hank is for the most part a fighter, but of course any survivor can do some clue stuff on the side if they desire.

All of these are reasonable capable at first glance. We’ll have to check how well they are supported within the set as we go over the cards one by one, though.

Guardian

Ancestral Token: Excellent. This is pretty much a game changer for bless oriented guardians as it will allow them to generate a lot of tokens without asking any further investment from them beyond what you pay for the card itself.
Cleaning Kit: Okay. There’s not a lot what you get in terms of ammo at level zero, so this does at least fill a niche. But 3 cost for 3 ammo is costed a bit too conservatively for my tastes considering it also takes an equipment slot.
Katana: Okay. This is way too inconsistent. I would put this below the Winchester in how easy it is to trigger. Two-handed , too. What saves this card from the absolute pits is its second action. Having a free action to fight does some interesting things. If nothing else it’s at least a build around card.

Ofuda: Okay. Pretty great at its job. But that job is rather niche, making this a fine tech card for specific scenarios/campaigns, but nothing you’ll usually want to just play.
Wolf Mask: Staple. All the masks are fantastic and imo Wolf Mask is the best one. Its trigger gives you charges exactly when you need them and both stats that are raised here are useful for you.
Absolution: Okay. This is more random than I’d like. There is a niche for X-costed events that just let you dump resources into a big effect, but i don’t think it’s in Guardian?

Guided by Faith: Okay. Has some potential if your deck can guarantee the bless reveal for an extra clue, but paying 2 resources for a clue and 2 blesses is not quite impressing me enough.
Hold Up: Bad to Okay. If this wouldn’t replace the damage dealt by the attack, we’d be talking, but as it is it’s the most awkward resource card ever. Now, beggars can’t be choosers and Guardian has little in terms of resource events that would compete, but this really feels like scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Task Force: Good. An extra action for 2 resources is the usual rate and one i frequently don’t deem worth spending a card on. Task Force sweetens the deal by converting one of those actions gained into a guaranteed clue and by allowing to throw these actions at other players. That makes it reasonably useful as long as someone has a good asset to trigger.

Tinker: Good. As a way to get an extra handslot, this doesn’t suck. You are binding that handslot to a specific item which makes it less flexible than something like a Bandolier, but you are also not taking up the Backpack slot like Bandolier does and aren’t spending an action on this setup.
Purified: Okay. Very nice in the right deck, but super narrow. As long as you (or a teammate!) can reasonably often expect to oversucceed by 4 or 5 on demand, this is great, but it doesn’t help getting there, likely requiring additional investment.
Hand-Eye Coordination(1): Okay to Good. An extra action for a resource. That’s fine. While it’s limited to a weapon or tool action, the fact that you can play this even when you don’t have any actions left (for example, after autofailing an important attack on your third action) this potentially has a place.

Strong-Armed(1): Staple. Vicious Blow is good. It’s even better when it comes with autofail-protection. That this can’t be used to enhance fight events is a flavor tragedy, that it can’t be used with firearms is a balance tragedy. But it’s a very good card where it can be used.
Second Wind(2): Okay to Good. This is solid healing. 2XP is a bit of a steep price for it, but if you are starting with damage trauma on you, you could do a lot worse to adress that issue.
Cleaning Kit(3): Excellent. The upgrade is pretty spicy. Not only will this fuel anything from Shotgun to Fingerprint Kit(4), but it will also give free skill bonuses on top of that. You can even use Emergency Cache(3) to put more supplies on this to then filter them through to the assets.

Blessed Blade(4): Staple. One-handed, no ammo, +2 fight, +1 damage. Guardian finally got its faction-specific Timeworn Brand. It’s cheaper on XP and on cost. And it also produces 2 blesses per turn. Fantastic card, even if you don’t do anything with blesses otherwise.
Eyes of Valusia/Blade of Yoth(4): Good to Excellent. The blade is quite the good weapon (and thankfully one-handed too) once you have a few counters on it. In a multiplayer situation the value of the parley side goes up a lot too. This is a great card for a support investigator.

Flurry of Blows(5): Okay. 2 resources and a card to gain 2 actions is a good rate for sure. But 5XP can buy you a lot. I think the final nail in the coffin here is that it ends your turn, limiting it in that way really wasn’t necessary. This is fine on a value level, but personally i will stick to One-Two-Punch(5) if i want a big damage nuke like this to put on Stick to the Plan.
Miracle Wish(5): Okay. There are some very attractive best case scenarios to this one, but there is a bunch of limitations that keep it in check. The worst one is that triggering Ascension doesn’t actually cancel the other revealed tokens, so if your Elder Sign only gives you +1 and you failed by more than 2, then this doesn’t turn the test into a pass. That’s a bit rough considering the XP cost and setup and that you will most likely only get 2 charges out of this.

Most useful: Wolf Mask, Strong-Armed, Blessed Blade
Least useful: Hold Up, Absolution, Katana

I feel like Guardian got the weakest set of cards in Hemlock Vale, but there are definitely some standouts here as well. Strong-Armed and Blessed Blade are both going to be staples for a long time, Ancestral Token changes the whole way the class gets to look at the Bless archetype(s) and Cleaning Kit is enticing as well. But then there is a sea of rather safe events that are just “okay”, but don’t really move the needle much. The Double events are particularly unimpressive here, compared to some of the ones in the other classes.

All together, this is fine. Nothing special, but not a crash landing either.

As for Wilson Richards and his viability on just the Core and this expansion, he’s going to be on shaky ground if he isn’t supported with cards from other sets. At least if you also want him to be able to fight. This set has a lot of investigation tools for him to use and that is probably the direction to take him on a limited card pool. Pitchfork is good, but only goes so far. For him to become a proper fighter/flex, you will likely want to have access to things like Chainsaw from the Stella deck and/or Fire Extinguisher(3) from the Edge of the Earth expansion. So… he is supported and can certainly be played, but i don’t think he quite lives to his potential on a limited card base and is a bit sketchy compared to the others.

Seeker

Chemistry Set: Okay. Nothing too special on its own, but if you are getting value out of its Science or Tool traits, then this starts to look better. Pretty solid for a level zero card, but since it doesn’t give a bonus itself, you’ll likely not hold onto it for too long.
Dr. Charles West III: Bad. I don’t see the appeal. Alice Luxley already appears underpowered and West makes the trigger to get the damage worse while also not having the +1 intellect. You get an extra tool slot instead but trading your ally slot for a hand slot is usually also not what you want to be doing.
Microscope: Good. I really like this one, probably more than i should. You will be limited in how often you get to use it because you’ll always want to use it with 2 evidence. But every time you do, you get a free Pilfer. That is fantastic in theory, even if you only get it twice. But in practice, this is hard to set up if you didn’t draw the card early enough because it just takes so long to charge.

Mouse Mask: Staple. Not as easy to recharge as some of the other masks, but does give bonuses to what are arguably the two best stats.
Control Variable: Good. A card for a clue. Pretty standard seeker fare and in the right deck it’s super easy to trigger. One of the better ones of its kind.
Testing Sprint: Okay. Pretty cracked in Luke who can investigate everything at once or in Amanda who can add a Deduction into every one of those tests. For general use, i am less enthusiastic. It’s pretty easy to investigate three connections at once with it, but at that point you are only doing “Card for a Clue” again. So you do want four locations at least for this to be worth it and that requires a bit of setup and possibly intentionally leaving clues behind. Not a fan of the gameplay that this expects from you.

Thorough Inquiry: Good. Turning one card into five is good, even if there are some strings attached. Two and a half card per action is a perfectly fine rate. The value is the same to playing two Deep Knowledges back to back, except without the curses. Playing two card drawers back to back costs a lot of tempo however and you will usually want to opt for more flexible cards. The icons on this one are pretty sick, though!
“Throw the Book At Them!”: Bad to Okay. Can be used as an emergency evade, but having to test against fight is super awkward for Seekers.
Transmogrify: Excellent. A much better emergency evade, testing intellect, discovering a clue in the process and nailing down the enemy at that location. There’s some potential drawbacks to giving the enemy Massive, but overall that is a very potent package.

Well-Funded: Okay. Needs three assets of the right type before it beats Unexpected Courage. I’m not a fan of this one.
Gabriel Carillo(1): Staple. He’s on a level with Milan. Do you want resources or cards from your intellect ally? Either is a valuable resource and you can now easily get either from this slot. I think Carillo beats Jeremiah Kirby in the “Intellect ally with card draw” department.
Steady Handed(1): Good. It’s an enabler for the Science cards that ask you to succeed by an exact amount. Also has some applications for oversuccess in Rex and Trish. Rather narrow card, but good at what it does.

Fine Tuning(1): Good. Another specialized enabler, allowing to double use tools and science assets. There are some neat targets for it like Lockpicks, Mariner’s Compass and Darrell’s Kodak, but nothing that really wows me quite yet. That of course, is just a matter of time.
Esoteric Method(1): Okay to Bad. Practiced skill in Seeker with 4 wild icons? At that point the textbox almost doesn’t matter. Well, in this case it does matter however, because this does spam the bag full of curses which isn’t really what you want. Even in curse decks you want to gain curses in more productive ways. Just the baseline skill is ridiculous enough that you might consider this despite its heavy drawbacks, but that’ll be the exception.
Prismatic Spectacles(2): Excellent. Moving the investigation tool from the hand to the accessory slot makes it a lot easier to hold some tomes or other fancy stuff alongside it. You also get a +2 bonus, don’t use charges and don’t exhaust either. That seems solid even before the chance of getting extra clues out of it, but with that also on top we are looking at something that is actually really good and competitive with other accessory options.

Confound(3): Excellent. A souped up version of Breaking and Entering that gains 2 clues and also super-evades the enemy. Seems pretty great and even better if the Parley does something for you.
Microscope(4): Good. That’s a rather steep XP cost. As much as i like the level 0 one, this might just be a step too far in most cases. You do get the ability to spend an extra evidence on use, so you can pick up 4 clues with one test and a double action. Granted, that is pretty hot. Notably, this also doesn’t exhaust on adding an evidence anymore, so in multiplayer games you can really farm those counters. In bigger groups than what i am used to this is probably a much more significant upgrade than i am giving it credit for.

Ravenous Myconid(4): Excellent… actually this one might possibly be cracked. Rather easy to research and the three strains are all quite powerful. Since Uncanny Growth counts as an Investigate, it does even find a clue. So the Seeker won’t even lose much tempo while charging up the Myconid. And the amount of growth counters per play of the card is unlimited, so you can charge the Myconid up in one go. Considering the impact of the abilities on either strain, that seems scarily powerful as it gives Seekers a way to deal with treacheries and enemies without really losing much tempo.

Most useful: Prismatic Spectacles, Gabriel Carillo, Mouse Mask
Least useful: Charles West, Throw the Book, Well Funded

This looks quite good. A smattering of powerful investigation tools that manage to set themselves apart from the already existing ones. A new ally that can muscle its way past Kirby and Milan in some decks. An impactful Researched card. There is just a lot to like here.

Kate is well supported, finding a good range of Science assets in this expansion to use as batteries for her investigator ability. She’ll hit the ground running even on a limited card pool of even just the Core + Hemlock Vale and can be a powerful seeker for any team.

Thumbs up for Seeker.

Rogue

Bianca “Die Katz”: Okay to Bad. Offers a similar amount of resources to what Gregory Gry offers, but requires multiple actions to get them and then also threatens to turn into an enemy. I don’t see this one be worth it, not even if you have Parley synergy.
Blackmail File: Okay to bad. Bizarro evasion using your willpower against their health. Willpower is often not a rogue’s strongest suite, so that limits who wants this from the get go. Unlike Disguise from Scarlet Keys which turned out to be a super star, I don’t really see this one getting anywhere too productive.

British Bull Dog: Staple. It’s a rogue Shrivelling! Sits comfortably with Mauser and .25 Auto, having a collective laugh about Guardian firearms. I don’t care about the parley text, this thing would be great even if it wasn’t there. Allowing you to use agility instead of fight is really great because not only because rogues usually have a higher stat value there, but also because more of their cards have agility icons as opposed to fight icons. And if you have fight icons… Bulldog actually can use those too. Sweet card.
Fake Credentials: Okay. Ignoring shroud values is nice, setting up easy tests enables some shenanigans and gaining clues is always welcome. Not as universally useful as Lockpicks or Thieves Kit, however.
Fox Mask: Excellent. Not quite as good as the other masks due to a very awkward way of recharging. But still, a 1 cost asset that gives a couple of Courages on tap is excellent and the two stats raised here are exactly what we want to see on a rogue mask.

Scrimshaw Charm: Okay to Good. I believe we can do better when it comes to getting value for our curses. Even in dedicated curse decks, we want to get paid out more than just a buck per curse we put in the bag. It’s also an accessory, a famously contested slot in Rogue. That being said, this gains A LOT of resources if it gets to do its thing.
Bank Job: Excellent. Obviously, this has steep competition from other resource generators, but i think this has enough of a baseline value to carve a niche. The impact of having just one card be able to set up both you and a teammate is not to be underestimated.
False Surrender: Good. A free action for a card that also allows keeping a weapon in your hand until you actually need it. Two relevant traits as well.

Grift: Good. You could gain six resources from this, but you also might not. It’s a bit too much variance for my tastes, but in an agility oversuccess deck it will probably work out just fine. Those are also the decks where you value a random difficulty 0 test to throw your Watch This and similar cards against.
I’ll Pay You Back: Okay to Bad. It doesn’t really do a whole lot and if your goal is letting your rogue pay for other peoples stuff there are alternatives that i like better.
Stir the Pot: Okay. Makes a decent impression of Storm of Spirits in rogue. Testing intellect limits it to just a couple investigators that can really use it well (or have to combo it with Fine Clothes which isn’t really standard issue on rogues either). But to be fair, those are the types of rogues that actually do tend to have a couple enemies around.

Vamp: Okay. In a dedicated Parley deck, this can fill up your number of Parley events, but taken for itself this is very low impact for a card. Flexibility is nice, but some of these options are also sort of redundant and your statline will lock you out of two of them most of the time.
Diabolical Luck: Excellent. Reverse Promise of Power! Flipping a -2 token into a +2 is a huge gain and will help you oversucceed even when drawing curses. The responsive nature of this card is a huge plus.
Lightfooted: Good. Boring, but practical. I almost can’t believe that it took so long for rogue to gain this effect. Really nice as a panic button if you intentionally kept an enemy around (for parley or Trish shenanigans) and now face the consequences of your actions after drawing another enemy or two.

British Bull Dog(2): Staple. And here’s Shrivelling(2) in green! All the value of the base version and an extra skill boost. You love to see it. I still don’t care about the parley clause, but that Aloof ignore comes in handy quite a lot.
Snitch(2): Excellent. It’s a one-cost testless Pilfer. That’s amazing and worth running some more parley for than you’d otherwise would.
Bewitching(3, Ex): Excellent to Staple. Well hot damn, it’s Trick to the Plan. As with the guardian original we all have been playing way more than is healthy, Bewitching is all kinds of awesome. Trick is a very versatile keyword by now, arguably more than Tactic. This is limited by the need to engage something, so it doesn’t quite help as much with setting up as Stick to the Plan does with Ever Vigilant and Prepared for the Worst. Then again, just dropping decksize down by 3 is notable. Mmmmh, 22 card highlander decks are so hot. Ahem, that got weird, moving on.

Dirty Deeds(3): Good to Excellent. I appreciate the low resource cost, means this can be done dirt cheap. The sequence of “1: search an asset”, then “2: play it” and “3: activate it” is a very natural one that you’d likely want to do anyways, so Double actually doesn’t come at much of a cost here. You are pretty much just paying the two actions to play and activate your thing and get an Illicit tutor for a card and a resource on top. That strikes me as rather good. There is some tension between having Illicits in your deck for this and having them in your Underground Market, but this definitely has a place.
Vamp(3): Good. Pretty much made to be used with Fine Clothes, so your stats don’t matter and you get all four payoffs. That being said, there is a good amount of redundancy here. Removing a doom from an enemy doesn’t matter if you end up killing it afterwards with 2 damage. Evasion also only matters if the enemy survives 2 damage. When at a location with many enemies, this starts to look better, but i still mostly view Vamp more as a Snitch enabler than as something worth playing on its own merits.

Fake Credentials(4): Excellent. You get a lot for your 4XP here. Not only do you not add suspicion as long as you oversucceed, but you also get to pick it back up if you fail. Since it starts at 0 and only add a token if you don’t succeed by 2, you can keep ignoring all shroud as long as you keep beating an intellect(2) test. That seems almost trivially easy to engineer. Oh, and it goes into connecting locations as well. Oh, and it doesn’t exhaust either. At now 2 cost, it’s also cheaper to play than the other rogue investigation tools. This thing is nuts if you are on the intellect side of rogue instead of the agility side. Sprinkle some Snitch on top and you are golden.
Stir the Pot(5): Okay to Bad. And we go from a card that gets as much as possible tuned to one that gets as little as possible. This upgrade is comically bad. Instead of dealing a static 2 damage, this can conditionally deal more (or less!) if you have a particularly hard hitting enemy around. There are some high moments for this to do good things, but the times where this outperforms Storm of Spirits(3) or even just level 0 Dynamite Blast are going to be rare. And you are supposed to pay 5XP for a conditional damage upgrade here? Not even a skill bonus to the test, no cost reduction, no fast? Hilariously, Stir the Pot(5) doesn’t even get an extra commit icon. I suppose you no longer need to oversucceed to get the free move after you dealt your damage… you decide for yourself if that’s worth the cost to you, to me it’s a hard pass. I like my Dynamite Blast effects, but i’ll stick to the level 0 with this one.

Most useful: British Bull Dog(both), Snitch, Bewitching
Least useful: Blackmail File, I’ll Pay You Back, Stir The Pot(5)

A bit of a mixed bag here, with high highs and low lows. So very appropriate for Rogue, in a way. There’s some game changers in this pool, most of all the final piece to let rogues really do everything with their agility and basically play the Mystic game. In an unexpected twist, Rita is eating really good here as well, as there are several more pieces towards a Trick archetype that we’ve been seeing more and more of ever since the Wini starter deck.

Alessandra and by extension the Parley archetype is extremely well supported, some might even say too well :D Everything is Parley now and Alessandra gets a lot of options to pick and choose from even on a small card pool. As a clue getter/enemy handler flex she will work very well even without having to buy into many other expansions.

Mystic

Cat Mask: Excellent to Staple. Even when you don’t do any doom related activities yourself, the typical scenario will give you one or two complete recharges on this. More if cultists get involved. A lot more, actually. This is extremely good value as long as you care about one of the two stats, which most Mystics do.
Speak to the Dead: Okay. Has potential with Favor of the Moon or with Kouhaku’s signature to get you back a lot of events. Even just with Olive you get a pretty good hit rate without having to throw many offerings into each try. A bit clunky and action intensive though.
Wicked Athame: Good. The ability to recharge your spells with this looks fairly enticing. Mystics run into a common problem with 3 health enemies and having to use 2 charges from their Shrivelling for it. With Athame, they can finish those off now and even get their charge back. That seems like a very solid line of play that comes up often.

Rod of Carnamagos: Excellent. Has the potential to miss, but since its a fast trigger that’s not too bad. The opportunity cost of just dropping this in play is fairly small when considering that you can just get something out of it every turn without perpetually having to invest more. What really makes this interesting is that it targets enemies that aren’t at your location. Except for Scarlet Rot, these are all not helpful against Cultist type enemies, but you do get something out of these attachments in most cases. If you play the Rod early enough, it is sure to pay off over time, even if the return per turn isn’t that impressive taken by itself.

Antediluvian Hymn: Bad. Peeking at some cards is not worth 2 actions to me. You get to put some things under the deck, but i find it hard to imagine this doing something that a Ward of Protection wouldn’t have done without taking an action at all. Solo players might appreciate stacking the encounter deck a bit more, but from what i gather, spending 2 actions is even more of an ask for them so i don’t see it making the cut there either.
Drain Essence: Excellent. Healing yourself for 2 while dealing 2 to an enemy is a great swing. And you can even bypass Aloof, Retaliate and Elusive with it because it doesn’t count as an attack. Finally, a worthy combat spell to run alongside Razor.
Accursed: Okay to Bad. Can be a way to dump some curses into the bag for fun and profit, but there’s probably better opportunities for that. Protects an important test from the consequences of your reckless cursing and that can be a reason to play this one.

Mesmeric Influence(1): Good. Practiced and with good icons, that makes it immediately playable. The ability to ignore a bunch of keywords on locations and enemies is broad enough to find some sort of use in most scenarios. It will have to compete with Guts(2) and Fearless(2) though.
Olive McBride(2): Excellent. It can’t be overstated how good looking at an extra symbol token is in this context. Level 0 Olive is already very good, this just pushes her over the edge for all sorts of chaos bag related strategies, from blurse tokens to elder sign farming.
Rod of Carnamagos(2): Excellent. For 2XP, you lose the random reveal and can choose the Rot to put on an enemy. That alone is actually huge because you can now snipe cultists with Scarlet Rot or nail down hunters with Virescent Rot. But you also gain the opportunity to put multiple rots into play if you got multiple curses. Fantastic upgrade to an already good card. Oh right, and weirdly the upgrade drops the “limit 1 per investigator” and there’s actually two of the upgraded Rods in the box. Note that you have to upgrade the level 0 one first, you can’t have a level 0 and a level 2 in the deck at the same time.

Read the Signs(2) and Spectral Razor(2): Excellent. Like Olive McBride, these are upgrades to staple cards with level 0 versions that we’d already be happy to pay an XP for. So how bad can a level 2 upgrade for them really be, considering the baseline. What you get here is a set of better icons and the possibility of getting them back to your hand. The effect of the spell itself stays the same. And you know what, that seems perfectly reasonable. Considering mystic XP cheatery, you will often not even end up paying 2XP for these, so that ends up a solid investment. Even if you don’t particularly force the issue, having your Razor come back to your hand 1 out of 2 times you play it is going to feel good. It should also be noted that these return to your hand even if you fail – and most often you will fail because of symbols. So notably, these are now autofail protected which seems great. Now, you can of course force the issue. Playing bless or curse skews the chaos bag heavily towards symbols and with just a bit of chaos bag manipulation you can gain very consistent recursion going on.
Ethereal Form(2): Good. Sorry mate, you are simply a full tier below your peers. It is what it is. That being said, as Cheap Shot(2) and Breaking and Entering(2) taught us, evasion events gain a lot from being repeatable. So if you are in the market for that, Ethereal Form can certainly beat out asset based options like Mists of R’lyeh or Sword Cane.

Call the Beyond(2): Excellent. Now this walks all over Recharge, doesn’t it. Flexibility to refill either charges or secrets is very appreciated. Since it also activates the thing immediately it doesn’t even cost a net action. You do add 3 curses and that is not nothing, but that just seems very worth it.
Ethereal Weaving(3): Okay. Has a good ceiling if you can assemble the parts, but that assembly might be a problem. Not only do you need three different events in addition to this one in your hand, you must also be in a situation where you actually want to play those. Sure, you get discounts and skill bonuses and that’s all very worth it, but setting up the perfect situation for this is going to be hard and i am afraid that this will lead to the temptation of playing events at suboptimal times just to fulfill this card’s expectations.
The Key of Solomon(4): Good. If you are wondering how to get the funds to play Spectral Razor every turn, here is one of the options. The healing side is also quite nice and can singlehandedly keep the team alive. There’s nothing proactive going on here (no damage or clues), so this is pure support. But similar to Rod of Carnamagos you just drop this once and then can just reap it once per turn every turn. Do you have room for both? Which one is better, considering that you can two Rods for the price of one Key? I think i am leaning Rod here, but i could certainly see Key become a thing.

Seal of the Elders(5): Good. Keeper of the Key gives you 4 clues over time, Servant gives you 4×2 damage over time. Either of these is easily worth a 5XP event, but of course you need to assemble the necessary triggers, first to put the Summon into play and then after that more to trigger them. I am honestly not all that sure on what to think of these. The numbers check out but i am a bit hesitant about the timings working out so that for example you can get that damage out when you need it.

Most useful: Cat Mask, Rod of Carnamagos(all), Drain Essence
Least useful: Ethereal Weaving, Antediluvian Hymn, Accursed

Oh, there is some really good stuff in here, and much of it well off the beaten path as well. As a fan of event based play, i am very happy to see Hemlock Vale give several great options to Mystics that want to leave their Shrivellings and Clairvoyances behind. Rod of Carnamagos is one spicy card. And Mystic gets the blurse enablers here that it was missing in Innsmouth. This is a really great haul for Mystic.

Kouhaku with his immense deckbuilding pool to draw from will find no difficulty in putting together a good deck from just what’s in this box. Obviously, Innsmouth blessed and cursed cards will add to his potential, but even on just Hemlock plus Core you are quite comfortable.

Survivor

Matchbox: Staple. Even when you are not doing broken things with upgraded Keyrings, this is just a super solid card that comes at almost no opportunity cost. Slotless, one cost and helps with 3 full turns of investigations. Fantastic.
Pelt Shipment: Good to Excellent. Oh, the things we do for XP. You can of course just keep it in your discard and recur it near the end of the scenario… but honestly i think most survivors play in a way that you can just keep this in your hand. Hell, it might even be helpful in getting your Winging Its in the discard after drawing them.
Pitchfork: Good. For a level zero weapon, the Pitchfork just does a whole lot of work. Dealing 3 damage in one go is super good and even if you have to “reload” the weapon after each use you are getting a solid rate out of this one. Great card to bridge the time until you get your chainsaws.

Sparrow Mask: Staple. Easy to activate and gives a very significant boost to encounter defense. Becomes even stronger if your investigator uses one of these stats offensively (Agnes, Rita…).
Elaborate Distraction: Good. Eh, i am not really all that on board with this one, but that’s likely colored a lot by me only playing two-player. The potential to exhaust everything across multiple locations is pretty great and i am sure that there are groups that will use this to great effect.
Pushed to the Limit: Okay. Super flexible when you have a decent amount of targets. Simply a solid card that allows you to get more uses out of your key assets, but 2 resources is a notable cost.

Stall for Time: Okay. As an alternative to evasion, this is iffy because it doesn’t disengage. But if you gain something from any of its special properties (testing will, being a parley, allowing you to drag an enemy around) this starts to look pretty interesting.
Wrong Place, Right Time: Okay to Good. This is a super powerful effect. The Double is awkward of course because you are spending most of your turn just healing (kind of). The card draw helps with making that more bearable, but i do think you want some sort of extra payoff for having your things die. Be Tommy, be Hank, move stuff onto Tetsuo, something like that. Otherwise it’s just a bit too clunky.
Long Shot: Staple. Basically a Vicious Blow in Red. Doesn’t give a skill bonus, but can be added to tests that are going on in connecting locations. Notably, it’s also its own damage source, so it works different mechanically. But that’s details, “skill deals damage” means “skill is good”.

Hatchet(1): Good. This is very awkward to use because you need to not kill something or its gone. It does give a large skill bonus for many investigators though and that gives it a solid niche. Quite potent in campaigns that feature a lot of big monsters.
Persistence(1): Okay. This is never bad, but won’t really excel either. I am slightly worried about it reshuffling too often and replacing too many of my draws with a rather unimpressive skill. Once you have ways to get more than face value out of it (Minh, Grisly Totem) it starts to look better.
Devil(2): Okay. There’s some fun ways to play around with the exploding goat, but the timing on it is just going to be super difficult to get right consistently. That being said, i am quite interested in seeing this in action in a William deck.

Fire Axe(2): Good. It gains fast. That’s it. It’s basically a bonus action and there’s nothing wrong with that, but is going to be fairly low on the totem pole when it comes to upgrade order. To be clear, Fire Axe is better than just “Good”, but the upgrade doesn’t impress me too much here and i think i can get by on the level zero basically until the end of the campaign.
Hunting Jacket(2): Good. This has a lot of uses for a lot of different things. It fairly efficient just at face value, offering solid amounts of soak while also paying for itself and then some. But once you factor in synergies with Dark Horse, Patrice and a bunch of other survivor cards, the jacket starts to generate a lot of value.
Mariner’s Compass(2): Good to Excellent. I still wouldn’t call this a priority upgrade, but this offers a lot more than the Fireaxe one. A cost reduction is fine, but this actually does improve the card mechanically, with the “ready on fail” bit.

Survival Technique(2): Excellent. As encounter defense, this works a bit too inconsistently, but as a secondary mode that encounter defense is quite nice. The real strength lies in all the various card combos this enables, from traps over Hiding Place to Breach the Door.
Keep Faith(2): Okay to Good. Again, a rather unimpressive upgrade. A fast card that costs 0 resources is particularly nice in places like Patrice or if you want to couple it with frequent recursion, so i think this will find a place or two.
Providential(2): Okay. Pretty high ceiling, someone that can live with stacking damage and horror on them could potentially gain a lot of tokens here for very little effort. It also plays quite nicely with Spirit of Humanity. That being said, this seems a bit redundant for Spirit of Humanity decks and too inconsistent for others. Is this really worth it if you only add 2 tokens to the bag? For that you already need to have both 2 damage and 2 horror on you. I think we can do better than this.

Token of Faith(3): Excellent. Global autofail protection alone makes this worth it. Taking the risk out of curses while also being a passive bless generator pushes it over the edge. This card does a lot of powerful things.
Dark Horse(5): Good to Excellent. On the one hand, Dark Horse isn’t really the type of card that you need in play from turn one. Even dedicated Dark Horse decks will usually spend a turn or three on setting up their board before they go into resource starvation mode. On the other hand. this upgrade removes the variance of never drawing Dark Horse or only drawing it after you already drained your resources with Fire Axe or Compass. This is clearly not a bad upgrade, but probably rather low priority?

Most useful: Sparrow Mask, Hunting Jacket, Longshot
Least useful: Stall for Time, Hatchet, Wrong Place Wrong Time

Where rogue had very high highs and very low lows, Survivor is kind of flat this time around. Many of the red upgrades are just very minor, lacking the sort of wow effect that Survivor often has in other sets. That being said, there’s also no real downfalls here either. This is the only class where i actually had to look around a bit to fill the three nominations for “Least useful” because nothing really stuck out and i could see all three cards i put there making a deck. Now there are some standouts here, i am particularly interested in the Hunting Jacket. But overall, this just seems a bit too safe.

Hank is the primary fighter of the set, having to pick up that role from Wilson in a limited card pool that doesn’t have enough weapon tools. Now, Hank can certainly fill this role very well. And while i wouldn’t see him as a primary candidate for Dark Horse strategies in the wider cardpool, i see no reason why he wouldn’t be able to go to town with a Fireaxe if you are playing with just the Core and Hemlock. So that should work just fine! His traitbased access would however gain a lot from other sets, so like with Wilson you’d be playing a somewhat limited version of him when you don’t have at least some of that.

Neutral

Eldritch Tongue: Good to Excellent. Getting more uses out of your events is great. Especially if you aren’t stacked with card draw, this makes for a very nice card advantage engine.
Bide Your Time: Okay. Not generally a useful tradeoff, but there can be some situations where this does things. Amanda can set up some huge Deduction turns with this. And in certain campaigns you can use this the turn before a big monster shows up to then proceed and fight it with 5 actions in your pocket.
Well-Dressed: Good to Excellent. I mostly see this as scenario tech (convincing Ichtaca during Untamed Wilds just got a lot easier…). But of course in a Parley deck, having a 4 wild skill around is pretty great and an auto-include.

Dawn Star(1): Good to Excellent. Most of the time, this is a Lucky that deals a damage. Occasionally you might deal 2 with it. And that seems very much worth an XP! Lucky is a good card to have and in curse contexts, it now is available out of Survivor.
Occult Reliquary(3): Staple. This goes straight next to Relic Hunter and Charisma to the forefront of the binder. Extra permanent slots are great!

Broken Diadem/Twilight Diadem(5): Okay to Good. Kouhaku can trigger this relatively easy with his signature, everyone else basically has to throw a whole Favor worth of triggers into charging this up. Seems like a whole lot of effort to me. That being said, farming your Elder Sign is a great effect so the effort can be made worth it if you set your mind to it. Notably, this shares the mask slot with all those great stat boosting masks, which actually is a bit of an opportunity cost as well.

Final verdict

This looks overall quite good to me. The investigators of the set are well supported and the overall powerlevel of the cards seems appropriate. And at least under the provision that the Rod of Carnamagos rules get cleared up/fixed, we are also not dealing with a Cyclopean Hammer situation here where one card overpowers everything else in its niche. So well done on that part!

If i have one thing to critizise, it’s that there are a bunch of themes in this set that almost all don’t really interact with each other much. We have Blessed/Cursed which is centered around one investigator and not terribly relevant for the others. The same is almost true for Parley, but the neutral cards do give some support for non-Alessandra investigators to get something out of that ability word. We then have a cycle of 10 Double cards where i am unsure if they really needed to be a cycle. After all, being a double doesn’t do anything special, there is no reason to run multiple doubles to combo with each other – if anything, the fact that you have 3 actions discourages playing multiple doubles because usually you’ll only be able to play one per turn. So having a whopping 10 of these here and not having them overlap with any of the other themes (where’s the Double Blessed card? Double Parley?) seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to me. Survivor as usual does its own thing, and this time around that’s returning to Dark Horse, an archetype that was already quite good. We also return to that archetype with a smattering of upgrades that do very little to change how the deck plays. Again, Hunting Jacket is nice, though! The Science and Tool things are then the final two archetypes that are spread out a bit across the classes, but again don’t overlap much with the rest. It all seems a bit insular. It’s not a problem in the big picture of course, in the end the cards will all end up in the big collection anyways.

So would i suggest this expansion as a first buy for someone new to the game? Probably not. While you do get functioning investigators here and an array of cards that you can make work, a good chunk of it is a bit too specialised for new players looking to start a collection. Things like the Trick support in Rogue isn’t really able to shine without more cards from elsewhere (although to be fair, the Wini deck is all you need for that). So i would still rather point newbies towards Dunwich (which lays solid foundations for most things), Edge of the Earth (which has the most value to deckbuilding due to the double-class cards) and the investigator starters (which have the most bang for your buck, with concentrated support for specific archetypes). But Hemlock Vale is certainly not on the level of Scarlet Keys either which mostly was geared towards players with full collections, you don’t need much to make this set’s cards work very well.

Final verdict: A well-rounded set that offers cards for both new and entrenched players. Well worth owning no matter where you deep you are into the rabbit hole with your collection, but not a priority either.