Dark Veiling

Set Size4
Number of unique Cards2
RoleDamage, Horror, Concealment
Threat LevelMid to High
# of scenarios5
Appears in: Riddles and Rain, Dealings in the Dark, On Thin Ice, Sanguine Shadows, Shades of Suffering

My take on this set: A set that interacts with concealed enemies, without providing any of its own. Instead it will come together with Crimson Conspiracy, Cleanup Crew or both. Both cards in here are reasonably impactful. They share their ability to tax the players actions or their stamina/sanity and both give the player the option to decide on what is more important to them right now: Staying alive or being able to act.
I think these are fine cards, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: Seeing Shadows stays in the players threat area until it is discarded through the use of two actions, very similar to many weaknesses. While active, the investigator affected by the card takes a horror whenever they fail a test at a location with a face-down mini card.

My take: In the scenarios that use this set, concealed enemies are usually going to be plentiful. And even when they aren’t, the locations with concealed enemies are usually the places to be to either advance the scenario or just to deal with those enemies. As a result, this is for the most part a straight copy of Atychiphobia.
For many investigators, this is not really feasible to keep on the board for long as the horror can start to stack up quick by itself … and there’s a good amount of other horror sources around in this campaign as well. If you are playing someone like Winifred or Mark who do really well at testing, you might be tempted to keep Seeing Shadows around, but that can easily backfire at some point too.

Threat level: Mid. Depending on the investigator this card can have some impact, but at least it comes with a built in ability to get rid of it.

Dealing with it: It’ll probably be rather obvious to you whether this needs dealing with or not, so you can assess whether to make use of that two action discard. Remember that in multiplayer any player can use those actions to help the one who drew this card out.
Seeing Shadows doesn’t have an effect while at a location without concealed cards, but that is unlikely to consistently be of much help. It might allow you to keep the card around for a turn or two longer, though.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: The player has to choose: Either each concealed enemy attacks that player… or each player loses an action. The card has Peril, so other players do not get a say in this decision. Should no concealed enemies be in play, Figures in the Dark surges.

My take: This card scales wildly in different directions, making it incredibly inconsistent in how impactful it is. The first option scales with the count of enemies in the shadows. If it’s only one, this will often just deal a damage or a horror which isn’t too much of a deal. But in some cases, there’s going to be several concealed enemies around, making the first option hurt quite a bit. The second option however scales with player count. Playing true solo, this takes one action away, which is expected and fine for an encounter card. But on the upper end, it costs three or four actions, for the equivalent of a full turn or more. That’s going to be a hard pill to swallow. Even just at two players, having to pay two actions isn’t great. Scarlet Keys taxes actions a lot and due to impacting everyone, this has a high chance of stacking up with something else that eats up actions… like Seeing Shadows, for example.
It should be noted that high player count also leads to a higher enemy count, so full parties will have both options scale higher than smaller groups.
With both of the options able to scale rather hard towards either being fine or awful, Figures in the Dark is often not going to offer much of a choice at all, with an obvious pick between the two.

Threat level: Mid to High. This card can occasionally be tame, but the high amount of scaling involved is to be respected. Low in Solo, where losing an action is always available as a reasonable option.

Dealing with it: In bigger groups, this card is a good argument for staying on top of your concealed enemies and working aggressively on rooting out whatever spawned in the shadows. The goal is being able to pick the first option without feeling terrible about it. Of course, this can also be achieved by having healing or soak in excess available (which is a good idea for Scarlet Keys anyways).

Crimson Conspiracy

Set Size5
Number of unique Cards2
RoleDoom, Concealment
Threat LevelHigh to Very High
# of scenarios3
Appears in: Riddles and Rain, Dancing Mad, On Thin Ice

My take on this set: This set appears to be the Scarlet Keys version of the cultist set, something we’ve seen in most other campaigns as well: Its primary card is a small enemy that carries a doom and needs to be defeated before it makes the agenda advance prematurely. Previous iterations on the concept gave players ways to deal with the enemy in other ways, be it through damaging them from afar or for example through some parley tests. Not so this one. Coterie Agent heavily profits from being impervious to harm while in the shadows and forces players to go after him the long way, possibly through one or both of his decoys.
That makes this encounter set quite dangerous and a huge hassle to deal with. It also stacks up very well with other sets that introduce concealed enemies which can lead to this just straight up being 5 cards that add a doom that are likely to impact the agenda thresholds.

Number in the encounter deck: 3

What it does: When Coterie Agent is revealed, they hide in the shadows together with two decoys. Their stats are mostly irrelevant, as they discard as soon as they are exposed. However, until they are, they add a doom to the board.

My take: These can be nasty. Ignoring doom usually isn’t something you can do so you will have to somehow engage with them. This can eat up quite a few actions as you have to travel around and then possibly run into a decoy or two.
Unlike previous versions of the “Cultist”, these can also not easily be bypassed with something like Small Favor because they are immune to player cards and damage while in the shadows. As the final little insult, these are discarded on being exposed and not defeated. That means that any cards you have that do things on defeating enemies will not trigger on getting rid of the Coterie Agent.

Threat level: High to Very High. Unless you get lucky, these will eat up most of your turn. Or if you are unlucky, even more. Also stacks up in a bad way with other concealed cards, making the Agent hard to root out as they might be able to hide behind decoys from other cards as well.

Dealing with it: There’s a high degree of luck involved with these, as you can either immediately flip the right one (so it only cost you one action) or you can run into two decoys and spend the better part of two turns to rooting these guys out. You do have some choice when placing the mini cards. One usually has to go on your current location and that’s the one you can immediately uncover. For the other two, consider not just the shroud on the location but also the connections between them. Ideally each of the three locations is connected to the other two so the worst case at least doesn’t make you backtrack an extra location. Other than that there’s not terribly much you can do to bypass what this card wants you to do, the Concealed ability makes it very resilient. Like all Concealed enemies, they are vulnerable to On The Hunt and Kicking the Hornet’s Nest, though.

Number in the encounter deck: 2

What it does: This adds a doom to a concealed enemy. If none is around, one is fetched up from the encounter deck or discard pile.

My take: As usual, our Cultist encounter set comes with a treachery that serves up these cultists. When there’s no other concealed enemies to interact with, this is fairly straightforward. Riddles and Rain does have the Red-Gloved Man as another potential target for doom, though. And Dancing Mad has the Coterie Assassin and Enforcer to interact with. That makes it actually a bit tamer in Dancing Mad, as those enemies from the Cleanup Crew are easier to uncover if you have to add doom to them. And you can pull them up instead of a Coterie Agent if no concealed enemy is in play, bypassing the doom thing completely. That being said, if there’s a lot of enemies in the shadows (like in Dancing Mad), then the added doom can become very difficult to remove.

Threat level: High. Mostly serves as another copy of the Coterie Agent, but with some variance in either direction depending on how big of a thing concealment is in that scenario.

Dealing with it: If you do have to pull an Agent with this, you will want to get one from the deck instead of the discard pile, just so you don’t have to draw it later. Of course, if you are able to get a different concealed enemy without doom on it, that can be very helpful, too.

The Gaze of Kane

The Many Faces of Charlie Kane

This is my contribution to the Many Faces of Charlie Kane event hosted by Veronica of Until the End of Time. For those unaware, that is an event where 10 different content creators each build and showcase a deck for one of the 10 different class combinations that Charlie Kane can take. The result is going to be a great resource for inspiration for this flexible and fun new investigator. I’ll be doing Seeker + Rogue, here’s the full roster:

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/908350705864167454/1032946332727517236/Many_Faces_of_Charlie_Kane.png

For more info on this event, please refer to this Google Doc, which Veronica will keep updated with links to the contributions by each of us. I’m actually quite excited to share with you what i come up with and i can’t wait to see what the others got as well. Spoiler: Charlie is shaping up to be a Top 3 investigator for me for sure.

Seeker + Rogue

This is a super interesting class combo and Charlie can actually do a lot of different things with it. Due to his ally focus, the first thing that jumps to mind is (ab)using the Miskatonic allies that enter play with some effect and then bouncing them all over the place with Calling in Favors and Hit and Run. They are also the two classes with some of the best raw efficiency in their cards, with lots of free actions and resources everywhere. But while i will be incorporating these things to a degree, my Charlie deck will have its eye on something else that is shared between the two classes: Curse tokens. Now you might be thinking that Trish can do that as well. Or that Dexter gets better payoff for those tokens through the cursed spell suite. But that’s where the access to Ally 0-5 comes in: Charlie can take Dayana Esperence. And Olive McBride. And Arcane Initiate. Gaze of Ouraxsh, one of the coolest cards in the collection, is a spell that Dayana can cast for you. And Olive can enhance it. And Initiate can find it. And with that we are zeroing in on a core for a deck. A deck that puts the curse synergy cards from three classes together for what is hopefully going to be something special.
This is … The Gaze Of Kane.
I will play this Charlie deck from level zero to finish through a campaign of Return to The Forgotten Age. RtTFA because a) it’s my favorite and b) i can splurge on upgrades and really test things. Other campaigns put me on XP constraints that i don’t want to deal with for this test run. The campaign will be played two-handed alongside a Kymani deck which i’ll intentionally keep somewhat generic (your basic evasion/oversuccess deck). This article is in form of a running commentary, meaning that i am writing bits as i move along the campaign. As a result, it might be a bit stream of consciousness at times or even contradict itself as i discover new things along the way and/or change my mind on stuff. We’ll see 🙂
Along the way i will provide 3 decklists: One at the start, one around the 19XP standalone mark and one at the end. I will also document two of the games as a play-by-play where you can follow exactly what actions were taken during the game, to showcase how the deck plays.

Level Zero

Now, building around a level 3 ally and a level 2 event and several other curse related cards that are also level 1 or 2 is all well and good, but what do we do about level zero before we can throw those into a deck? Well… it looks rough but we can make do. Check it out:

Allies(11+1):
2x Laboratory Assistant
2x Medical Student
Dr. Milan Christopher
Alice Luxley
Guard Dog
Peter Sylvestre
Tetsuo Mori
Research Librarian
Library Docent(1)
Bonnie Walsh
Ally events(4):
2x Friends In Low Places (naming Ally, of course)
2x Calling In Favors
Curse events(4):
2x Deep Knowledge
2x Stirring Up Trouble(1)
Money(7):
2x Emergency Cache
2x Faustian Bargain
2x Crack The Case
1x Lone Wolf
Tech(4):
1x Disguise
1x Crystallizer of Dreams
1x Occult Lexicon
1x Embezzled Treasure
Permanent(1):
In The Thick Of It
Yikes(2):
Arm Injury (random basic weakness)
Burden of Leadership

(This deck on ArkhamDB)

Alright, so this requires some explanation. First off, this level zero deck was built to be played alongside a Kymani and make it through Untamed Wilds without dying or being poisoned. It uses In The Thick Of It for a head start on the necessary XP to get going. While that does pose an issue with the initial trauma (especially in TFA), hiding behind allies should work well enough. As for what the deck wants to do: Play allies and soon. I run 11 allies here and also four cards that find more, so i can quickly fill up those four ally slots while having spare guys to throw at any Snake Bites that come from the encounter deck. The allies are mostly picked to help with investigating, so I can make it through that scenario as quick as possible. Others are simply too good to exclude (Peter Sylvestre, Guard Dog) or will become more valuable later (Tetsuo).
Disguise allows evading very well. In an emergency (like a Pit Viper or a Serpent of Yoth), exhausting two to three allies and Disguise gives a good chance of leaving the enemy behind and also keeping it down so you can finish up your clue grabbing.
Embezzled Treasure is a fun card that i want to try. Due to needing so much money to set up, this deck runs a lot of economy. Once that is no longer required, the Treasure can transfer the goodies to the next scenario.
The Occult Lexicon gives a way to turn resources into testless damage, something that someone like Charlie can use very well. I included a Library Docent that can bounce Occult Lexicon to your hand. Note that under the recent errata for the Lexicon you can play your Blood-Rites and once you have two or three in the discard, simply play Docent and return Lexicon. The Rites are set aside again and when you replay Lexicon you are fully armed again with one Rite in hand and two more in your by now probably rather slim deck. Good stuff.
So that’s the plan. Get in, grab some clues quickly, if things get dicey either blast the enemies with Blood Rites or evade with Disguise. (And Kymani plays backup for all of this). Sideplan: Don’t draw Arrows from the Trees. Consider teaming up with Ichtaca to disarm that treachery.

After Untamed Wilds

I played the scenario and it went great. I actually kept a detailed diary of all the actions, draws and plays in this scenario which you can find here. Lots of Snake Bites as expected but nobody got poisoned. Ichtaca was parleyed with easily. Bonnie Walsh is absurdly good. It’s fine to draw Voice of the Jungle if you have Peter Sylvestre on the board. Between investigating with skill 7+ and the two Stirring Up Trouble Charlie found two thirds of the clues with Kymani pilfering the rest. The Crystallizer is not needed and should be something else instead. The money was as expected very good and embezzling 10 resources is no problem either. 6XP were earned, so let’s get to the good part.
Spending the 6XP:
+ Dayana Esperence(3)
+ Gaze of Ouraxsh(2)
+ Ríastrad
– Crystallizer
– Guard Dog
– Dr. Milan
Getting the first copy of the Dayana/Gaze combo in was the obvious choice. For the final XP, i picked Ríastrad (runner up was Cheat The System). Ríastrad adds more tokens to the bag, it’s a powerful attack by itself and it’s also a spell for Dayana. So with Dayana i now have three options: Ouraxsh when the bag has a lot of curses, Ríastrad when the bag is empty. And Blood-Rites when i don’t have anything better. Seems fine. Dayana also exhausts for +3 will if i need it.
Cutting Milan feels weird, but i realized that under taboo rules, i can’t exhaust him for +2 intellect if i also want to get the resource afterwards. Now, he’s still fine of course, but Alice is just better and Field Agent is about to go into the deck soon anyways… and by “soon” i mean i will buy her in the interlude for the 2XP i get for carrying binoculars.

Another two scenarios later: The deck is “complete”

Skipping ahead: Two days later i got the next two scenarios down. Doom of Eztli went very well. Personal highlight was spending an action on Charlie to engage the Harbinger off of Kymani because his 10vs4 test was a lot safer than their 6vs4. Didn’t get to play Dayana+Gaze, but did play Gaze on its own to kill two Vengeful Serpents at once (the third was binned by Kymani earlier) which was neat. Got out with not a whole lot of XP (only 3), but did manage to embezzle 10 resources :> This made the start into Threads of Fate easier and it was desperately needed. In total I had to kill 5 Brotherhood Cultists, 2 Stolen Minds and 4 Brotherhood Acolytes… still ended up finishing 3 out of 4 act decks, but the last one was literally on the last action. 4XP, no embezzling this time. This is how the deck looks now, before going into Boundary Beyond (15XP total, 13 from the three scenarios, 2 from the first interlude):

Allies(10+3):
Field Agent(2)
Laboratory Assistant
Medical Student
Alice Luxley
Peter Sylvestre
Olive McBride
Research Librarian
Library Docent(1)
Dayana Esperence(3)
Miss Doyle(1)
Bonnie Walsh
Veda Whitsley
Ichtaca
Ally events(4):
2x Friends In Low Places (naming Ally, still no checkboxes ticked)
2x Calling In Favors
Curse events(4):
2x Deep Knowledge
2x Stirring Up Trouble(1)
Money(6):
2x Cheat The System(1)
2x Faustian Bargain
2x Crack The Case
Combat Spells(4):
2x Ríastrad(1)
2x Gaze of Ouraxsh(2)
Tech(2):
1x Occult Lexicon
1x Embezzled Treasure
Permanent(2):
In The Thick Of It
Adaptable(1)
Yikes(2):
Arm Injury (random basic weakness)
Burden of Leadership

(This deck on ArkhamDB)

Ah, now that is looking a lot more focused and a lot more like a deck than the pile i started with. Some might say that 13 allies is a bit much in a 35 card deck, but this huge toolbox means that i have no problems at all filling my 4 slots even when TFA throws its crap at me and i have to discard them to Snakebites or Final Mistakes. Sometime in the middle of Doom of Eztli i realized that i forgot to put Olive into the deck which was a major oversight. She makes Gaze show 9 tokens instead of 7, so obviously she has to be in there even if it’s a bit gimmicky. Adaptable to the rescue. Adaptable is also nice because it gives me a Rogue asset in play for Cheat the System making sure that i basically always can use it for 3 or more. The goal of the deck is finding Dayana, but i actually didn’t feel the need yet to put a second copy in because a) i can find her rather quick with all the card draw and ally search and b) the deck functions perfectly well without her. If you’d want to turn this deck into a 19XP standalone deck, i think that’s perfectly viable. The list above even has 4XP to spare, so feel free to include that second Dayana or a Charisma. In standalone you also have another deckslot to fill, as Embezzled Treasure won’t do anything for you there. Maybe Lola Santiago or Delilah O’Rourke can fill that role of being a place to throw leftover money at. Upgrading your Friends in Low Places to either look at 9 cards or be fast is also a strong option. Sadly you can’t do both because that would need level 3 rogue, but oh well. Now, i am no expert on solo play at all, but that list even looks like it could play well solo. It has clue capabilities, combat and can randomly boost any of its skills into the stratosphere if needed. One time, i exhausted a bunch of allies (granted, Ichtaca was one of them) to punch Agent Fletcher with 10vs2 😀 Hilarious deck. I am going to enjoy finishing this campaign.

Boundary Beyond

Ended up with 4 ways discovered. Total of 6 XP and 2 Vengeance, i am at 8 Yig’s Fury total now. Looks fine to me. Two cool things of note that happened in this scenario:
1) I realized how silly Bonnie is with Miss Doyle’s cats. I had Doyle, Augur and Bonnie in play. Exhaust Augur to investigate at base 5, exhaust Bonnie to crank that up to 8 and ready Augur. Afterwards, exhaust Augur again for investigate base 5, exhaust Doyle to take it up to 7. So for just two allies played you get great access to high skill value cluegrabbing on your 1 intellect investigator. Looking at the icons on the cats, they even have the right icons for when you want to do something else than their primary thing. So Augur has agility and fight pips, for example. And doesn’t take up one of the ally slots. Actually absurd in this context. Pretty sure that Doyle should just be in every Charlie deck ever.
2) Dayana made her debut and just in time for the finale. With four locations cleared i set her up with Gaze of Ouraxsh attached and threw some more curses in the bag by playing the curse events i still had in hand. The agenda advanced, Padma Amrita shows up. I let her hunt into my position and spread 3 horror from her attack over my allies. On Charlie’s turn, exhaust Dayana to play Gaze (reveal 2 curses and a tentacle for 4 damage), then evade her exhausting 3 allies, including Bonnie who readies Dayana. Exhaust Dayana again for another Gaze, revealing 3 curses and the tentacle for 5 damage. Easily enough to overcome her 6 points of health and finish the scenario. That was a rather cool finish that i was quite happy about.

Heart of the Elders 1+2

Pretty uneventful, as these scenarios usually are. Added Katja Eastbank to the deck, as another way to draw more cards. Also added two Charisma. I realized that City of Archives is coming up soon and that playing a deck with 13 or more allies in it is going to be pretty awful on just one ally slot, so Charisma should help with that to some extent. I was originally planning on skipping Charisma, but i suppose i do run enough allies to justify it. Embezzled Treasure left the deck as a consequence of now needing more money to play more allies. Another thing that came up: I put Olive McBride into the deck to help with Gaze reveals. However, she’s also useful in another capacity. When i have one or more of my neutral allies on the board, i often test something silly like “evade this guy with 11 vs 3” or “investigate with “9 against 2”. Olive makes it so i can beat the tentacle with this sort of test because i can usually count on beating two tokens at the same time. This can also help with keeping curses in the bag when you need them later or filtering them out when you have too many, depending on circumstances. Pretty good in this deck!
I had to go into HotE#2 with 3 Vengeance (and got a fourth and fifth down the road) which turned Broods of Yig into powerhouses. I drew one early on, but was able to knock it out with Ríastrad. At a later point i drew the other two of them back to back in the same Mythos phase, but luckily Charlie was already set up with Gaze on Dayana so he just nuked the crap out of both of them. He also wiped the Serpent of Yoth from the map a few turns later with another Gaze. At this point i feel quite confident in saying that the deck works as i wanted it to. It does require some setup, but you aren’t helpless or useless while doing the buildup, you scale your power with more and more allies and just keep doing useful things. Next up is City of Archives which i expect to be pretty rough.

City of Archives

Hot. Flaming. Garbage.
This was just pure pain and to be honest, not all that much fun. Both decks were really not well equipped to handle CoA’s special challenges. An oversuccess deck that commits cards for the privilege of testing 6vs4 and an ally deck which just has bad icons everywhere. Getting out of there with 4 of the things done was already an accomplishment i feel, but it still resulted in the process backfiring and both investigators picking up the absolutely dreadful Out of Body Experience weakness. Nobody got turned into a Yithian permanently, but to be fair if anyone had you wouldn’t know about it because i would’ve just have ignored it … The scenario even started out well enough with Kymani having both Crafty and Chuck(5) in their starting five and Charlie hitting the ground running with a Field Agent for some early clues. Doyle and Augur even showed up shortly thereafter, for a decent try at a clue once per turn. Mostly i was pulling 4vs3 though and it was just awful. When the final agenda was starting to become a concern, i suicided Kymani into a Yith enemy and got Charlie out of there with two Deep Knowledges. Ugh. I don’t want to talk about City of Archives anymore, let’s just move on.

Final decklist

(Well, not completely final. We are likely going to get another 5 or 6XP from Yoth, but those aren’t going to change anything significantly anymore.)

Allies (11+3):
2x Dayana Esperence(3)
2x Field Agent(2)
1x Beat Cop(2)
1x Medicine Student
1x Olive McBride
1x Miss Doyle(1)
1x Katja Eastbank(2)
1x Arcane Initiate(3)
1x Laboratory Assistant
1x Bonnie Walsh
1x Veda Whitsley
1x Ichtaca
Ally events(4):
2x Calling In Favors
2x Friends in Low Places (4XP, level 2: Prompt and Versatile, naming “Ally” and “Cursed”)
Combat spells(4):
2x Ríastrad(1)
2x Gaze of Ouraxsh(2)
Money(6):
2x Cheat the System(1)
2x Faustian Bargain
2x Crack the Case
Other Curse Events(4):
2x Stirring Up Trouble(1)
2x Deep Knowledge
Tech(1):
1x Occult Lexicon
Permanent(2):
2x Charisma(3)
In The Thick Of It
Adaptable(1)
Yikes(3):
Arm Injury
Burden of Leadership
Out of Body Experience

(This deck on ArkhamDB)

That’s 39XP (3 of which were paid for by In the Thick of It). Not all that outrageous for TFA, actually. And this deck could run Charon’s Obol fairly safely, so getting to this amount of upgrades in Carcosa, Innsmouth, etc would certainly be in the usual range.
Alright, so what do we have. I completely built the deck around two things now: Finding clues. And blasting enemies with curse spells. To that end, the second Dayana is now in the deck. I felt i no longer needed to rely on Lexicon, so both the Library Docent and the Research Librarian are out. We got double Charisma for 6 allies in play at a time which is just an enormous amount of power for Charlie. There’s 7 spells in the deck for Dayana to take (including the 3 Blood-Rites) and i even added a cheeky Initiate to dig for them. Speaking of digging, Friends in Low Places is now fast and it can find both Ally and Cursed traited cards. That covers 24(!!!) cards in the deck. Basically, i expect Friends in Low Places to be a better Cryptic Research now, drawing 3 or more cards and thus making sure you find what you need.
I am super happy with this list, it’s very tight and works very focused towards what its supposed to do.
This is a weird case where aside from the ally slots i am using just a single hand slot. The rest is all completely empty and that kinda bothers me. I wish i had a couple more deckslots available to throw something like the Eye of the Djinn, Eon Chart or even a Hyperphysical Shotcaster in there, but as is i wouldn’t know what to cut for it. I did consider Versatile’ing for Promise of Power to give me some extra slots for an accessory and another hand item. Using Tempt Fate could even make the deck size increase mean not too much. But the web of search and filtering i set up works so well that i am scared of shaking it up. I suspect that the Versatile would overall improve the deck though. Of course Eye of Djinn + Shotcaster + Versatile would be another 8-10XP.

Depths of Yoth

Absolutely insane. That’s the best way to describe this scenario. One of the best games of Arkham i ever had and guess what… i do have the play-by-play of it for you, commented between each turn while i was playing.
That game was meant as a showcase for Charlie, but it actually ended up being a very strong showcase for Kymani as well. But Charlie certainly got his moments and you can see how much he contributes even when he gets what is maybe the worst draw he can have. And then, how fast the deck springs into action from zero to full once the pieces fall into place – allowing Charlie to just drops some nukes on unsuspecting Elder Gods.
A couple of other Scarlet Keys cards also got their spotlight, including a fantastic Friends in Low Places for four cards that catapulted Charlie forwards just the way i hoped it would.
I don’t think i need to say more about that here, the play-by-play speaks for itself. Just a delight to play and i am so happy that this is the scenario i chose to write up in detail.

Shattered Aeons

Compared to Depths of Yoth the finale was almost anti-climactic. Usually this scenario gives me a lot of trouble because the location mechanics deal a lot of horror to investigators unable to find clues. This team was well able to handle things when split up, so that was much less of an issue. Alejandro fell to a Riastrad/Backstab combo and from then on it was just going through the motions. Dayana made an appearance again and i made a point of nuking enemies like Temporal Devourers with Gazes. The whole scenario ended in a campaign success… which isn’t actually all that common for me. I really like to play RtTFA, but i am at less than a 50% chance to win against Shattered Aeons. Yay \o/

On Veda And Ichtaca

The deck of course made great use of the campaign specific allies, Veda and Ichtaca. However, i don’t think that they were essential to the success of the deck at all and i feel like i should just address that real quick. The real star of the deck is Bonnie Walsh. Whenever Bonnie entered play she was just ridiculously good for the rest of the scenario. Easily worth to hard mulligan for. And with all the ally search in my deck i found her early in every single of the games even if she wasn’t in the starting five. To just put Bonnie into perspective quickly: If you have her and another ally, you are testing at base 6 even if the other ally doesn’t have a matching icon. If it has one, it’s skill 8 already. And it goes up from there easily with more matching icons and/or global skill bonuses. The other ally i want to point out as a Charlie allstar is Miss Doyle. Whatever cat you get will give you base 5 skill for its specialty (like Augur for investigation) and you can exhaust Doyle to bring that up to 7. Obviously Bonnie and Doyle are great together. My point here is: Yes, Veda is good. Amazing, even. No, she wasn’t even the best ally in the deck and this deck (or any Charlie deck, really) will perform outside of TFA just as well. If you are looking for something that will add the same sort of oomph to your Charlie as Veda does, consider dropping 5XP on the Black Cat. I didn’t really focus much on the icons my allies provide, but doing so is certainly another way to get more out of your Charlie deck.

On Curse Tokens

Going into the campaign i had some concerns about dumping a lot of curses into the chaos bag, especially when pairing up with a Kymani that focuses on oversuccess. Turns out i should not have been worried, as this proved to be not much of an issue at all. Both investigators ended up routinely testing at such high values that eating the occasional -2 ended up barely mattering. And for when it would, the green Covenant that i bought from Kymani’s initial 5XP took care of it. I could’ve included the yellow Covenant on Charlie as well, but never felt it to be really worth it. That is of course not to say that the curses were completely irrelevant. They did cost me a few tests and/or oversuccesses, but compared to the sort of benefit cards like Faustian Bargain, Gaze of Ouraxsh, Ríastrad or Stirring up Trouble give you, it’s easy to justify. What is more, this Charlie deck didn’t need the curses immediately from the start the way a Dexter with Eye of Chaos would. Instead i could just keep it to a Faustian or Deep Knowledge to get started and hold my curse events in hand until i was ready to go off with Gaze and Dayana.

Final Words

Alright, and that’s the campaign. I feel like this was a good showcase of the Charlie deck. What I anticipated to be a somewhat gimmicky thing turned out to actually be legitimately good and I am quite happy about that.
I hope this inspired you to check out what can be done with Charlie as his deck building does give him access to options that no other investigator has. In this case it was using the full Rogue/Seeker curse suit but also the Mystic allies for further profit. There are plenty of similar things available and i am sure that you will find plenty more ideas like that in the other submissions to the Many Faces of Charlie Kane event. Please remember to check out the Google Doc linked in the opening paragraph and check out what the other content creators cooked up as well!
My thanks to Veronica for setting this up, coordinating it and for including me. It was good fun!


Investigator Expansion Review: Innsmouth

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Introduction

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

The Investigators

The Innsmouth Conspiracy has one investigator per class. Three of them follow the 5/2 mainclass/subclass template introduced by the Core Set:
Sister Mary is Guardian/Mystic and showcases the support side of Guardian. She passively adds bless tokens to the chaos bag, improving everyone’s chance to pass tests and/or fueling bless synergies. While her stat line doesn’t make her a great fighter from the beginning, she can certainly be built into one with the tools from this expansion.
Trish Scarborough is the Rogue/Seeker and able to dance circles around enemies while picking their location clean from clues. She gets powerful bonuses to evasion and clueing while enemies are around, giving her a clear role that she’s able to fulfill in a very competent manner.
Dexter Drake is Mystic/Rogue and the solution for anyone who noticed that Mystic cards tend to be good but also very expensive. Not only does Dexter have access to many of the great resource cards that Rogue has, but he also has a ability to discard assets from play to put others into play, saving resources and actions in the process.
The other two investigators have deckbuilding around the two primary category of skills, Innate and Practiced:
Amanda Sharpe is a mainclass Seeker that also gets to play Practiced skills from other classes of up to level 3. She has a very low stat line by default, but gets to apply a skill per turn to all of her tests, virtually shifting around her capabilities from turn to turn. Due to Practiced skills being a diverse bunch of cards, Amanda herself can go into various directions with her deckbuilding, from classic clue seeker to an all-out fighter that puts some Guardians to shame.
Silas Marsh is the survivor of the group and he gets to play any Innate skill card up to level 2 in addition to the usual red cards. His stats are tilted towards the two physical ones, making him a great enemy handler that can meet foes with either evasion or combat, depending on the situation. His investigator ability lets him return a committed skill back to his hand after seeing the chaos token for the test. This can save skills from the tentacle, pull them back when not needed or be used for cards that do something on committing.

Guardian

Blessed Blade: Okay. There are ways to make this weapon do some neat things, but it’s for the most part just a very inconsistent weapon that needs work just to get on a level with Machete.
Blessing of Isis(3): Excellent. Investigators with a good Elder Sign effect can use this to trigger that effect very often, for sometimes spectacular effect.
Book of Psalms: Good. A solid source of bless tokens, but it’s a slow and somewhat clunky card that is usually not what you want in your handslots.

Enchanted Armor(2): Okay. Not really worth the effort. Can potentially take a couple of hits, but it’s unreliable unless you get up to shenanigans.
Holy Rosary(2): Excellent. With their generally high base willpower, guardians are well suited to use this. How useful it is varies with the campaign, but this is a great source of blesses in most of them.
Holy Spear(5): Excellent. The pinnacle weapon for the bless build, this is a nice and consistent source of 3 damage attacks.

Keen Eye: Bad. Very resource intensive, Guardian just doesn’t have the cash to make this card tick.
Nephthys(4): Good to Excellent. A great way to get even more mileage out of your blesses that goes in tandem with whatever you are using them for primarily.
Riot Whistle: Okay. Does a fine job for guardians in big multiplayer groups that expect to often pull enemies from their teammates. Also counters Aloof. It’s a very narrow card however and the accessory slot usually can do better.

Rite of Sanctification: Excellent. Turns blesses into economy that can even be shared with others. Very useful.
Sacred Covenant(2): Excellent to Staple. If anyone in your team is handling blesses (and you can’t take the Ancient Covenant) you will want this as it makes sure blesses don’t get wasted on tests that would’ve already passed without them.
Shield of Faith(2): Good to Excellent. This can save you a lot of damage and horror. Since it can cancel attacks of opportunity, it also makes you more flexible in how to take your turns.

Enchant Weapon(3): Staple. Adding an extra damage to your weapon is fantastic and so is the extra skill value from the willpower. A bit expensive, but utterly worth it.
Hallow(3): Bad. Too difficult to set up to be worth the price of entry. Also, I’d honestly rather keep the bless tokens in the bag to enhance my odds rather than spend them this way.
Hand of Fate: Okay. 3 resources is a lot for a Dodge, but I have played this before and it did its job.

Radiant Smite(1): Excellent. A fight event that can deal up to 4 damage in one blow is simply efficient. Even if you remove the blesses afterwards instead of returning them to the bag, this is worth it.
Righteous Hunt(1): Good. You gain a lot here for just a single resource. This is playable even when you don’t care about the bless tokens.

Most useful: Enchant Weapon, Holy Rosary(2), Sacred Covenant
Least useful: Keen Eye, Enchanted Armor, Hallow

Verdict: Guardian in Innsmouth is all about the Bless mechanic. It can add its own blesses to the bag, but with the exception of the upgraded Rosary and Righteous Hunt the blue cards that do so are all a bit jank in their own way. Guardian does have great ways of using the blesses once they are there, turning them into resources, attack shields or damage.
Aside from the Bless stuff, Guardian has only one card that is really worth special notice, but that one is one hell of a card: Enchant Weapon can go on any weapon, but is of course best on a melee weapon without charges so the Guardian can get its bonus over and over. This seriously increases the value that Guardian can get out one-handed weapons in particular and is a very noticeable power spike for their fighting capabilities.
The blue investigator for this box is Mary, who leans more towards the support side and is perfectly set up to make the most out of the cards that are fueled by blesses. Her access to level 2 Mystic gives her the ability to go further into the supporting direction with cancels and the like or to dip her toes into clue grabbing through Mystic spells that leverage her willpower. She is well supported with this box. The Mystic side of Innsmouth isn’t great for her, but the Guardian side makes up for it.
Overall this is a good haul of cards for Guardian, but most cards require a big commitment into blesses and aren’t universally good.

Seeker

Cryptic Grimoire: Rather difficult to translate as you will have to add the final couple curses before anyone gets opportunity to draw them from the bag again. The two upgrades are very different:
CG – Elder Herald(4): Good. This is the anchor for an archetype but requires quite a lot of devotion to the cause. Not only do you need to provide curse tokens and then also draw them yourself, but you also need to load up on Insight events to make use of the payoff. That payoff is pretty great, but it’s a lot of work to get there.
CG – Elder Guardian(4): Okay to Bad. The effect is obviously powerful, but getting there is even more work than with the Elder Herald. Providing the bag with the curses isn’t even the issue, it’s having to draw 5 of them before this even does something for the first time. Not worth the effort.

Ancestral Knowledge(3Ex): Staple. Seeker has excellent skills, so having to play 10 of them isn’t an issue at all. This equals to 5 cards drawn extra over the first turns and kickstarts your early investigations (Deduction…), card selection (Eureka…) or both (Perception). Well worth the 6XP.
Ariadne’s Twine(3): Excellent. A great engine card that can continuously fuel your Secret powered assets. Many of those are quite powerful, and Twine can make them last as long as you are willing to keep spending resources.
Blasphemous Covenant(2): Excellent. Disarms curses for you, turning them into something good. Of course you can still wipe out by drawing multiples, but if you loaded up the bag with curses this shifts the odds in your favor massively. This does return the curse to the bag afterwards, but even that can be an advantage in the right deck.

Cryptographic Cipher: Okay. As long as you crushing those intellect tests anyways, this can allow you to investigate without using an action. However, I find this to mostly be inferior to other investigation tools and would rather have something that helps me with the difficult locations, even if it’s “just” a Flashlight.
Eldritch Sophist: Good. Quite expensive, but the ability is very good. Can be a used as a placeholder until you get Ariadne’s Twine or on his own merits.
Guided by the Unseen(3): Excellent to Staple. Note that this card has an erratum, limiting it to once per test. This is a really good card. Since you only need to spend a secret after looking at the top of your (or their) deck, you can make sure that you don’t waste any secrets on commiting random cards. It’s also not limited to skills, so this can find your cards with good icons on them as well.

Hyperawareness(4): Good. It can do a fine job as an investigation tool that doesn’t take up an equipment slot that also provides the means for emergency evades. I enjoy this cycle of level 4 talents, but Hyperawareness isn’t really among the ones i play often.
Deep Knowledge: Excellent to Staple. Two curses are a small price to pay for a quick card injection. The ability to use it on other investigators is great on this one as well.
Gaze of Ouraxsh(2): Good to Excellent. You just need a single curse(or tentacle) among the 7 tokens to make this a perfectly reasonable card. It scales much higher of course and while you likely won’t be living the 8 damage dream, this (in the right deck) routinely deals 3 or 4 damage, obviously a great effect for just 2 resources.

Stirring Up Trouble(1): Excellent to Staple. Two “free” clues are great. Even if the curses come back to haunt you later, you make up enough tempo when playing this that you can let the consequences be an issue for future you. If you actively want to seed the bag with curses, this also lets you get a whole lot all at once.
The Stygian Eye(3): Good. Thanks to the triple willpower icons, this isn’t even wasted if you are currently not in the situation to profit off of it. You don’t need to have a completely full bag either, the effect is powerful enough that paying 2 or 3 for it isn’t unreasonable.
The Truth Beckons: Okay. The effect isn’t bad, but the card is just too narrow with too many conditionals.

Fey(1): Excellent. Triple willpower on a skill is worth it before even considering the recursion potential. Don’t plan on recurring this thing, you can just run it for encounter protection even if there aren’t any curse tokens anywhere.
Plan of Action: Bad to Okay. A rather bad card that can only make the cut if you are hungry for more Practiced cards. This is a very limited card, basically an Unexpected Courage you have to jump through hoops for.

Most useful: Ancestral Knowledge, Stirring Up Trouble, Deep Knowledge
Least useful: Plan of Action, The Truth Beckons, Cryptographic Cypher

Verdict: The Seeker cards have much more general appeal. They are on the Curse side of the Bless/Curse divide and, in typical Seeker fashion, gain excellent value out of throwing a couple of them into the bag. Both Stirring Up Trouble and Deep Knowledge are great cards, even if the curses are something you just live with afterwards and don’t exploit in any special way. But if you want to, then Gaze of Ouraxsh is right there and can be a great one-off to kill a pesky enemy. Or two.
With Sophist and Ariadne’s Twine, this set gives two key pieces for a Secrets archetype that keeps refilling one or two particularly strong assets with uses. Of course it also provides a good target for those secrets in Guided by the Unseen, a card that helps Seeker get more out of its already impressive arsenal of skills with clue gathering or card draw attached. Those same skills are further catered to with Ancestral Knowledge, a Permanent that effectively draws 5 free cards and frontloads those great skill cards so you can be sure to get a couple great first turns.
Their researchable asset for this cycle is the Cryptic Grimoire. It’s hard to translate and the upgrade you get for it is in one case powerful but requires even more specialization. And the other is just not all that good. The first one can be its own decktype if you devote yourself into it, but i wouldn’t call it good in the usual sense. It really goes into exactly that one deck and nowhere else.
Innsmouth’s Seeker, Amanda, is special among her Seeker peers in that she is very, very flexible. Her abilities wax and wane depending on the skill she uses for that turn and since she gets access to all Practiced skills, that can be anything from Seeker classics like Deduction to heavy fight cards like Vicious Blow. The list of available Practiced cards she can get in addition to the usual Seeker stuff isn’t terribly large with just Innsmouth+Core, which makes her stand on rather shaky ground on a starter collection like that. She can of course use any card for icons under her so if you take care to take cards with good icons she’ll be somewhat playable. But to be actually good and something special she really needs some additional cards from other expansions.
Conclusion: Good pool of cards, even without exploiting curse synergies. Amanda Sharpe’s deckbuilding isn’t able to be properly satisfied out of the box however, so if you want to play her the way she’s meant to be played you will need more cards from other sets.

Rogue

.25 Automatic(0): Okay. Having to exhaust an enemy first before attacking it is inefficient. This partially is made up by the weapon itself being Fast, but this still ranks rather low.
.25 Automatic(2): Good to Excellent. This removes the inefficiency from the level zero and if you manage to get two of them into play you are even attacking twice for just one action. You do still have to take all of those tests, of course. But if you are proficient with both evading and fighting, this is pretty great.
Lucky Penny(2Ex): Okay to Good. A way to mitigate a bag full of curses, but an inconsistent one. Turning blesses into curses for a card is not particularly good either. If any of your cards trigger on revealing either a bless or a curse, the Lucky Penny wreaks havoc on their consistency.

Dark Ritual: Bad. Outside of being tech for a single scenario I don’t see any use for this card at all. For any other use this gets completely dunked on by Favor of the Moon.
Eye of the Djinn(2Ex): Excellent to Staple. This is great even without the token interactions. Getting to test anything at a high base value is super helpful. While it won’t work against treacheries during the Mythos phase, it can be used to discard something like a Frozen in Fear or similar. Or be used as an investigation tool. There’s a lot of great uses for it and the token interactions make it even better.
False Covenant(2): Good. Neuters the first curse per turn which is fine, but unlike the Seeker Covenant, this doesn’t turn curses into something that can actively benefit you.

Geas(2Ex): Good to Excellent. Geas does come with a significant drawback, but the payoff is often worth it. It can also be used to fill the bag with curses real quick if that’s what you want.
Hard Knocks(4): Good to Excellent. Both are very relevant stats and Rogue is the class that makes best use of the skill talents. That being said, Rogue can also usually afford using one of the lower level Hard Knocks and save some XP along the way.
Lucky Dice(3Ex): Okay. Way too expensive in terms of XP, but can be a way to quickly dump a lot of curses into the bag. It’s also fine for its primary job of retaking tests, but become very unreliant for that very soon as the number of curses in the bag increases.

Obfuscation: Okay to Good. Nice for Trish in particular who has reasons for investigating while engaged, but not all that great in general. Rogues are generally pretty good at avoiding attacks of opportunity, so aside from Trish this is mostly a card for offclass rogues.
Priest of Two Faiths(1): Excellent. A good source of bless tokens and if you can make use of the curses as well, he’s even better.
Tristan Botley(2): Good. I’d only play him if I was willing to pay for him the regular way because the token based trigger never seems to work when you need it. With 2 flexible stat increases, he pulls his weight on the board for sure.

Breaking and Entering: Excellent. Leveraging your agility to find clues is very good and the free evade on top works great in many rogues. A super solid card that rarely disappoints.
Faustian Bargain: Staple. One of the best cards you could have in your starting hand and also fantastic later on. Five resources is a whole lot and the ability to spread them around is also very useful here. Two curses is a laughably small price to pay.
Riastrad(1): Excellent. Requires at least an okay fight stat to build on, but even just going from fight 3 to fight 6 and attacking for 4 damage is brutal. Another card that is well worth taking a few curses for.

Under Surveillance(1): Bad to Okay. Way too many things have to align for this to be worth it. That resource cost is also a massive drag.
Justify the Means(3): Good. The XP cost makes this less attractive, otherwise I’d play this a lot more. As a way to pass a crucial scenario test or get rid of a pesky treachery, this works well.
Skeptic(1): Bad. This is an awful way of trying to mitigate curses. It’s unreliable even with a full set of 10 curses in the bag. The whole issue with curses is how unpredictable they are, having a skill that is only good when you can predict them is just missing the point.

Most useful: Faustian Bargain, Eye of the Djinn, Riastrad
Least useful: Dark Ritual, Under Surveillance, Skeptic

Verdict: Very similar to Seeker in how it interacts with the Innsmouth token theme. Rogue also mostly deals in curses, adding them to the bag to fuel some powerful effects. Since this is not dependent on there already being some tokens in the bag beforehand, those cards are perfectly playable outside of curse synergies as well and Faustian Bargain is indeed maybe the best resource card that Rogue has at level zero (with only Lone Wolf being a contender for that honor). Riastrad is a powerful fight card that can act as a nice emergency button to press. And Justify The Means does at least bring something valuable to the table albeit at a rather unappealing XP cost. Aside from this, Rogue does dabble in blesses a bit as well. Priest of Two Faiths is a great way to initially throw a handful of blesses into the bag, ready to be then sealed for value on a Favor. Two Exceptionals, the Lucky Penny and the Eye of the Djinn have cross-synergies between both token types. As does Tristan Botley. Curiously the Eye is even useful without any tokens, making it one of the best green cards in the Innsmouth expansion.
Noteworthy cards outside of the token shenanigans are the upgraded .25 Auto which is a potent weapon for evade/fight hybrids like Skids or Wini and Breaking and Entering for combining investigation with evasion. In direct comparison, the Rogue additions here are about on par with what’s on display for Seeker.
Trish is the rogue of the set and she has some of the best deckbuilding possible, as her combination of Rogue and Seeker gives her access to the two classes with the most raw efficiency behind their cards. Trish’s deal is evading enemies and getting bonus clues while investigating with that enemy still in her location. Out of the cards here, Obfuscation and Breaking and Entering play into that and are thus both great for her. Since she can grab all of the cards from Seeker and Rogue that add curses, she can specialize in that as well and milk Gaze of Ouraxsh, Lucky Penny and Djinn’s Eye for all they are worth. Between Core and Innsmouth, Trish is already well supported.
All together a very good offering for Rogue.

Mystic

Armageddon(0): Good. Ah, another full suite of spell assets. Those are easy enough to evaluate since they have plenty precedent. Compared to a basic Shrivelling this costs 1 more but has 1 fewer charge. It does however not have a drawback at all and has the potential to combo with curses for extra damage or charges. Level zero decks don’t have enough curse support yet to make Armageddon work very well so you’ll likely just take this to be able to upgrade into the level 4 cheaper. Otherwise Shrivelling (or Azure Flame) are likely going to be better even with some mild curse support.
Armageddon(4): Excellent. Once you do have that steady curse support, Armageddon can deal huge chunks of damage and refill itself quite well. (Obviously the ratings for all these spells apply only to a curse context, without it they are pretty much unplayable.)
Abyssal Tome(2): Okay to Good. A very interesting weapon-like card that is of special interest to seekers as a repeatable way to attacking with their intellect. Has to ramp up in damage and handles doom, so those are of course massive considerations that make this card risky and unwieldy.

Eye of Chaos(0): Also costs one more than the standard alternatives, but with the same number of charges. This actually works fine at level zero. No drawback, might pick up an extra clue if you are lucky… those are worth an extra resource.
Eye of Chaos(4): Staple. In a proper curse deck this card is completely nuts and able to pick up clues left and right (quite literally). Getting three clues is easy and four happens often enough to matter. And should you not need them because there are none in range, you can always put some more charges down to keep going. This card is incredibly powerful and easily the best curse payoff in the set.
Blood Pact: Okay. Actually better than the level 3 version with Permanent from Dunwich, because this is a card that you actually want to be able to get rid of.

Shroud of Shadows(0): Good to Excellent. The closest comparison is Forgotten Age’s Mists of R’lyeh and like with Armageddon earlier we see an extra resource cost with one fewer charges here. The ability to move enemies is actually really neat and the occasional curse will make the user gain distance from whatever they evaded. Pretty nice.
Shroud of Shadows(4): Good to Excellent. The cumulative effect from multiple curse tokens isn’t as strong here as it is on the other two curse spell assets. Still, that just means that you can use those curses to refill the charges often and go all-in on evasion through willpower.
Curse of Aeons(3): Bad. One of the few actual coasters in this game, this does very little very infrequently.

Flute of the Outer Gods(4Ex): Bad. Can deal damage to an enemy or move it which sounds good enough. But for each charge you want you need to seal one curse and pay a resource. But first you need to buy the card for 8XP. Just all-around horribly overcosted.
Ikiaq(3): Excellent. If you ignore most of her text, she’s a 4-soak ally with two excellent stat boosts. That’s already very good by itself and she’d make it into decks just on that. She further allows sacrificing those stat boosts to cancel weaknesses, which is an (almost) unique effect. A very powerful card.
Paradoxical Covenant(2): Okay to Good. Among the Covenants this is both the weirdest one and the one that is the most difficult to use. The payoff is automatic successes on tap, which is nuts. But the way there is rough.

Sword Cane: Good to Excellent. Anything that lets mystics use their willpower for other stuff is worth a look and this is both cheap and doesn’t use charges. It does exhaust however, so if you want to use this as an evade card, you need a backup plan in case it fails.
Rite of Equilibrium(5): Okay. The ability to just toss 10 blesses and curses into the chaos bag on turn 1 is very appealing in a lot of contexts, but 5XP is also sort of an insane price for it considering that it gets a lot worse over time with tokens already in the bag limiting how much you can choose for X.
Tides of Fate: Okay to Bad. If you want to actively turn blesses into curses because you want to translate your Cryptic Grimoire or something, this might be playable. But beyond that it doesn’t do a whole lot that’s worth doing.

Ward of Radiance: Excellent. Even in a bless deck i would prefer running Ward of Protection because this sort of variance on an encounter cancel is a bit questionable. That being said, the odds are good if the bag has been prepared appropriately and this does its job without costing either a resource or sanity like Ward does.
Promise of Power: Staple. I don’t think i played a Mystic or off-class Mystic deck without Promise of Power since Innsmouth’s release. Four wild icons on a skill is completely crazy and 1 single curse is barely noticeable.

Most useful: Promise of Power, Sword Cane, Eye of Chaos(all)
Least useful: Curse of Aeons(3), Rite of Equilibrium(5), Flute of the Outer Gods(4Ex)

Verdict: As is often the case, the Mystic card pool is dominated by a set of spell assets for fighting, investigating and evading. Obviously with a curse theme this time. They are quite powerful within their intended synergy, but of course they are complete chaff without that. There’s some additional curse support in the class, among it the fantastic Promise of Power but also the atrocious Curse of Aeons. To make the spell suite take off, you’ll want to pair Mystic with Rogue and/or Seeker cards that seed the bag with more curses because Promise of Power obviously won’t get you there alone. Luckily, the Mystic for this set is Dexter Drake and he’s main class Mystic and subclass Rogue. So the set basically gives you the Cursed archetype on a silver platter, a really good deck that can tackle all sorts of hard content. Absolutely no complaints on that front. Dexter’s sleight of hand tricks with assets get a nod here with the Sword Cane which is quite decent for him (and for mystics in general). There’s also two doom assets that offer short term power and that he can easily get rid of once they become dangerous.
There’s some high concept cards here that are trying to be a bit too clever for their own good. Flute of the Outer Gods, Rite of Equilibrium, Tides of Fate and Paradoxical Covenant are all a bit too involved to work well enough. The Covenant can do some neat things if you devote yourself to it, but mostly those are all a bit too gimmicky and/or expensive.
Alltogether a good assortment of cards, but like Guardian it’s very heavily centered on the token shenanigans. Dexter’s awesome, though. And he pulls all of this together in a way that’s satisfying enough.

Survivor

Ancient Covenant(2): Staple. By stopping blesses from “rolling” into other tokens, it prevents wasting bless tokens from finding multiple on one test, basically doing a similar job as the blue Covenant. Meanwhile it also turns those blesses into what are basically straight up “+2” tokens. Imagine a chaos bag with up to 10 extra “+2” tokens in it and you can imagine how absolutely insane this is.
Dig Deep(4): Excellent. Let’s the survivor dunk on most things the encounter deck tries to throw at it, giving them as much willpower or agility as they need. Great card, just 4XP is sometimes too much to ask.
Jacob Morrison(3): Excellent. Gives you free “Lucky!”s with every bless token, to make sure you also pass those tests where you didn’t get a bless. Having him ready basically means that you are testing at +2, no matter what you draw from the bag.

Mariner’s Compass: Excellent to Staple. A part of the popular “Dark Horse” archetype (named after the Dunwich card), this is a repeatable way to get 2 clues per action, something that usually requires spending charges, secrets, supplies or whatever.
Spirit of Humanity(2): Excellent. Even without any token synergies, this is a decent source of healing as long as you don’t overdo it. With synergies this becomes really good, of course.
Token of Faith: Bad to Okay. Takes up an accessory slot for a rather mediocre way of mitigating curses. The saving grace is that it can trigger on anyone’s test, not just the survivor’s.

A Watchful Peace(3): Good. A bit of a problem card because when taken to the extreme it can allow you to basically play without an encounter deck. The “Good.” rating reflects its “fair” use without taking it to the abuse case. Scales in usefulness with the number of players.
Butterfly Effect(1): Okay. Allows responding to tokens to either throw another card in to pass or return a card because it’s not actually needed. While flexible, Survivor already has plenty other reactive cards (like Lucky) that do much of the same and aren’t dependent on pulling symbol tokens.
Harmony Restored(2): Okay to Good. So this requires both curses and blesses to do its thing, but will reward you with a powerful effect that tilts the chaos bag in your favor and hands out a good chunk of resources. When it works it’s amazing, but that can be tricky to set up. The two icons come in very handy for when it doesn’t work out.

Keep Faith: Excellent. One of the best cards to get some initial blesses into the bag or to top them off later. Recurring this can make it so that it keeps blesses in stock all on its own.
Shrine of the Moirai(3): Excellent. A powerful source of recursion that the whole party is able to use. The extra encounter cards are a suitable drawback for this sort of recursion capability which over time returns up to 6 cards for just one action and a resource.
Third Time’s a Charm(2): Okay. Allows fishing for specific tokens, which isn’t really a huge thing in Survivor though. Other than that i see little reason why i would use this instead of Lucky, Live and Learn or similar.

Beloved: Bad to Okay. If you are interested in a willpower/agility skill and are already running Unexpected Courages, this fits the bill. I wouldn’t use this for its textbox, though. If i play blesses as Survivor, i use the red Covenant and therefore have this effect already on tap as a reactive effect.
Predestined: Okay. As a source of blesses, this is fine. You’ll probably upgrade out of it rather soon, though.

Signum Crucis(2): Okay to Good. Depends a lot on your base skill values of course. But as long as you can get 2 or more blesses out of it, it’s okay. Personally I’d want 3 on a regular basis to pay the XP for it, otherwise i might as well stick with Predestined. Note that this is really good for Silas: Because the tokens get added right after committing the skill to the test, Silas can return the card to his hand with his investigator ability afterwards and do it again next turn. Amanda can also use it and her 2/2/2/2 statline is of course well suited to get a lot of blesses out of this card.
Unrelenting(1): Excellent. Getting card draw with your skills is always great. This will make your chaos bag worse while doing so but you do draw the cards no matter the test result. Also can go the other way and remove three bad tokens to help with passing, but that’s usually not what you run this for. Silas can do the same trick with this as with Signum Crucis, thus turning it into an endless stream of card draw.

Most useful: Spirit of Humanity(2), Unrelenting(1), Mariner’s Compass
Least useful: Beloved, Third Times A Charm(2), Token of Faith

Verdict: In Survivor we get the second half of the Bless support after Guardian did the first half. While Guardian was mostly about payoffs and only few ways of adding tokens (efficiently), Survivor gives a bunch of ways to throw Blesses around. Keep Faith is the gold standard, Spirit of Humanity is a great source for either kind of token (and good even outside of token contexts) while Signum Crucis and Predestined at least do a good job if you need even more blesses. Ancient Covenant and Jacob Morrison are maybe the two best bless payoffs in the set and allow Survivors to cheat their way past the chaos bag in new and exciting ways.
Aside from Bless stuff, there’s a couple cards that are a bit unconnected to the rest. Dig Deep is a fantastic piece of encounter protection if you can spare the XP for it. Shrine of the Moirai is a very powerful recursion card that the whole team can use. And Mariner’s Compass is a great investigation tool.
The Survivor for Innsmouth is Silas, a skill specialist that can take committed skills back to his hand in case they aren’t needed. Or to abuse skills that do something on committing over and over, like Unrelenting and Signum Crucis from this set. Silas is best as a fighter/evader and while he does have a set of signature assets that help him doing so, i would’ve hoped for some sort of Survivor weapon in here as well. So unless you already have Fireaxe, Meat Cleaver or similar in your collection, you might just be looking at Baseball Bat here. That being said, Silas doesn’t depend on weapons to fight and with some Survivor clue tech he makes a passable evasion/clue hybrid out of the box. His access to Innate skills 0-2 needs other sets to really do something as well. So i’d say that Silas can work out of Innsmouth + Core, but like Amanda it’s only in a very limited fashion without showcasing his true potential.
The Survivor card pool from Innsmouth is okay. Two or three cards that have significance beyond bless synergies, but otherwise a bit on the unimpressive side.

Neutral

Favor of the Moon/Favor of the Sun: Staple. These two cards supercharge any bless and curse token strategy by increasing it’s consistency by a lot. They are crucial for making cards like Blessed Blade, the curse spell suite or even Paradoxical Covenant work and any bless or curse deck will want its appropriate Favor. Note that these are unique, so you can’t have two of the same Favor in play to sandbag six blesses or tuck away six curses.

Purifying Corruption(4): Good. I am not terribly fond of that fast trigger ability, but having an asset in play that can just cancel three treacheries is very appealing and powerful enough that you can work around the horror and damage as well. Ultimately the 4XP are a major turnoff though. Still, that’s a lot of power bundled into one card.
Manipulate Destiny(2): Okay. When you play this you need to be okay with either outcome. The heal is particularly nice, but not really worth spending 2XP on.
Tempt Fate: Staple. If you have no token synergies at all, this replaces itself while making the chaos bag slightly worse. But as soon as you add any token synergies, Tempt Fate shoots up in value. Conveniently adds exactly enough tokens to fill up either Favor.

Final Verdict

Well, to get the obvious out of the way: If you aren’t into the whole idea of blesses and curses, this set is not going to be great for you. But if you are (or the idea at least doesn’t bother you) this set does offer a range of powerful cards for you. Especially the cards that add curses to the bag in exchange for power (Deep Knowledge, Faustian Bargain, Spirit of Humanity, etc) are balanced in a way that they are still very worth it even without specifically addressing those curses afterwards. There’s an okay amount of cards that don’t play into the token theme either and some of them are also quite good, like the Mariner’s Compass or Enchant Weapon. So while this set often gets a bit sidelined for being “the weird one with the insular token theme” i think that is usually a bit overstated and the cards do have a lot to offer to a collection in a more generic way than the broad public opinion seems to suggest.
If you are interested in the Cursed and Blessed archetypes, this box is of course unique in that it does give you two fully developed archetypes to play with right away. Usually these archetypes are a bit more loosely seeded across multiple expansions. This can be a boon for new players looking for a quick injection of power, similar to what the Investigator Starters have to offer. I would still prefer the Starters for being more diverse and generally powerful, though.
Of the investigators in the box, we have two that are lacking a bit with just Core+Innsmouth. Both Amanda and Silas, the two skill focused investigators, don’t actually have all that many skills to key off of at that point and can’t really showcase their potential all that well. The other three are well supported though. Mary dives deep into the Blessed archetype and works well as just a generic vehicle for supporting the team. Trish and Dexter are both very powerful on base of their investigator abilities and statline while also able to make good use of the Cursed cards (and both in very different ways to each other, which I appreciate a lot). Three out of five is not enough for me to recommend this set as a first buy for new players, especially since it compounds with the innate awkwardness of the token focus in the set. However, this is a good set to get as a later buy, when you are used to how the game usually works and can introduce the blesses and curses as a neat way to shake up the game.

Surge

That’s it for the Innsmouth player card overview.
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Investigator Expansion Review: Circle Undone

Introduction

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

The Investigators

The Circle Undone gives us 6 new investigators and for the most part they are a wild bunch that widen what the classes care about. Carolyn is a supporter character that focuses on the healing side of Guardian, specifically horror healing. She can only take up to level 3 Guardian cards but in exchange she can run any card that heals horror and also get’s to pack a large number of Seeker and Mystic cards up to level 1. She doesn’t have to choose between Mystic and Seeker, she can include both as long as it’s not more than 15 of them in total. A super flexible deck building despite being barred from level 4-5 of her main class. Joe, Preston and Diana all follow the level 5/2 main class/subclass template of the Core Set investigators with Joe being Seeker/Guardian, Preston the Rogue/Survivor and Diana the Mystic/Guardian. In spite of this comparatively simple deckbuilding, they are complex characters that bring a lot of new stuff to their classes. Joe is a fighter, which in Seeker is a bit of a novelty. Preston has an atrocious statline but makes up for it by earning 5 resources per turn and channeling those into whatever he wants. And Diana specialises in cancellation, neutralizing what the encounter deck tries to do to the team. She starts at only 1 willpower but can gain up to 5 more for doing her thing. The box has a second Mystic, Marie, who gets a free spell action as long as she has cards with doom on them. This is risky business of course. Her deckbuilding is very convoluted. Like Carolyn, she only gets up to level 3 of her main class, however this is softened by also gaining 0-5 in cards with the Spell trait. She gets a small splash of Survivor and/or Seeker and also access to level zero Occult cards. This mostly gives her the opportunity to run the Hallowed Mirror and Occult Lexicon from this set, both of which synergize well with her investigator ability. There’s of course more Occult stuff in the larger card pool. Finally there’s Rita, this set’s survivor. She specializes in the Trick trait which is at this point severely underdeveloped but gets better over time. She is a very evadey and mobile survivor, with the capability to lean into fighting on the side. Of the investigators in this box, she’s the only one that doesn’t add a particularly new facet to her class because she overlaps with Wendy a lot, both in playstyle and card pool. She’s reasonably good at using the Survivor weapons though (which Wendy really isn’t), so if you don’t have a survivor like that yet, she can fill a niche for you there.

Guardian

.45 Thompson(0): Good. Mighty expensive for a class that is notoriously poor. Its high ammo count make it a suitable firearm to invest into with Upgrade cards an the like.
.45 Thompson(3, Guardian): Good to Excellent. The upgrade improves exactly what was the weak point for Guardian (the resources) making it almost cost neutral over time.
Ace of Swords(1): Excellent to Staple. Even if you have to play them from your hand later on, paying 3 for a relevant stat boost in an uncontested slot is quite good.

Enchanted Blade(0): Staple. As long as you don’t need the arcane slot otherwise (and this is often the case for Guardians) this is a great weapon for level zero in particular that measures up to alternatives such as the .45 Auto or Machete.
Enchanted Blade(3): Excellent. Drawing cards and healing horror is all well and good, but the real advantage here is only having to spend a charge when you actually hit. Very solid all around.
Agency Backup(5): Good. That is one costly card, but you do of course get a lot of worth here. Still, the massive resource cost severely limits how many decks can even consider this one.

Alice Luxley: Okay to Good. As a source of intellect, she does the job but most investigators interested in intellect also have access to Seeker which just has better options than her. Her reaction ability is also often awkward with regards to inviting attacks of opportunity. Does a job, but I’m personally not a fan.
Hallowed Mirror: Staple. The best accessory that Guardian has at the time of writing. Although some contenders certainly exist by now, at a limited card pool this takes some time to even be rivaled. The efficiency of Soothing Melody is fantastic and the healing solves a lot of problems. Even with a full card pool, I find it hard to not immediately reach for the Mirror when building a Guardian deck.

Mk1 Grenades(4): Good. Area of effect is very rare in this game and this is one of the few sources for it. It is also notable for not using an equipment slot.
Something Worth Fighting For: Good. This is better than its counterpart, True Grit from Carcosa, due to sanity being usually more of an issue for Guardian than stamina.
I’ve Had Worse(2): Staple. This is an incredibly efficient card that can be used to cancel attacks or effectively counter treacheries while also getting paid.

Delay the Inevitable: Good. Looks pretty silly next to I’ve Had Worse(2), but of course this is a level zero card and it does a fine job. It’s sometimes a bit awkward to play, but not taking up an action saves it to the point where it’s a solid role player.
Interrogate: Okay to Bad. On the one hand, there’s not a whole lot of options if you want to investigate with your fight value. On the other hand, this is limited to the Humanoid trait and then also requires testing against 4 or 5 in most cases.
Telescopic Sight(3): Bad. Paying 3 resources and 3XP so that your weapon no longer works with enemies in your face is just not a thing you want to do.

Warning Shot: Okay. I wish this was Fast because spending an action, a card, an ammo and two resources for this effect is just too much.
Well-Maintained: Okay. This is a bit of a weird combo card that doesn’t have enough Upgrade cards worth combo-ing with. It’s good at its one job, but the job rarely needs to be done.
Steadfast: Excellent to Staple. Empowers the two most useful stats for Guardians and does so with up to 3 icons. That’s very valuable.

Most useful: Hallowed Mirror, I’ve Had Worse(2), Enchanted Blade(both)
Least useful: Telescopic Sight, Interrogate, Well-Maintained

Verdict: Pretty good. Some jank, but mostly this is solid with some cards standing out as staples, even. Guardian is in a bit of a weird spot in TCU due to the investigators. Carolyn can only take up to level 3 Guardian and no weapons over level zero at all. This is partially offset by having two investigators with Guardian as a subclass, but Joe and Diana can of course only take up to level 2 as well. As a result, the blue Thompson, the blue Enchanted Blade, Agency Backup and the grenades are all not playable by any of the characters in this box. Additionally, Telescopic Sight can technically be taken by Carolyn, but why would she. All of those make sense with Roland though, so it’s fine even with a TCU+Core approach. Carolyn gets two fantastic healing cards here and Alice Luxley as an ally that allows her to lean into her 4 base intellect. Diana gains I’ve Had Worse and Delay the Inevitable as two cancellation cards that are widely played in her decks. Joe is the best user for the Thompson, Blade and Ace in this box. He might also be interested in Alice. I suppose Warning Shot and Interrogate were also planted here for Joe, they just aren’t all that great.
Steadfast is the final card i’d like to mention here, it’s an important role player for encounter protection that is useful both against treacheries and against enemies, a role that it shares with only one other skill card, Take the Initiative from Forgotten Age.
Alltogether this is a promising start into the TCU player cards that adds both to the fighting side of Guardian and to the support/heal side.

Seeker

Grisly Totem(0): Good. Effectively +1 to a test per turn, as long as you commit something. That’s decent, but held back by its cost and taking up a valuable equipment slot.
Grisly Totem(3, Seeker): Excellent. Adding card draw makes the card a whole lot better. This is really good value and competitive with many other options.
Death-XIII(1): Excellent to Staple. Everything said about the Guardian tarot applies here as well. Intellect is a skill that is usually stacked as high as possible, so any additional source is welcome.

Scroll of Secrets(0): Okay to Bad. For 4 actions, this lets you draw 3 cards which just doesn’t cut it even with the additional options on this. Scroll has some applications to get rid of weaknesses, but just playing Scroll and rolling the dice on that is not worth doing.
Scroll of Secrets(3, Seeker): Okay. The ability to look at 3 cards and pick one make it a lot better at attempting to defuse your weakness. Still not all that efficient.
Esoteric Atlas(1): Okay. Equals to a net gain of 3 actions if you end up using all of the secrets. That is fine. Allows “skipping” over locations without having to engage enemies there or triggering possible location abilities, which is sometimes worth doing.

Fingerprint Kit: Good to Excellent. It’s a box containing 3 Deductions. That’s not bad, even if it’s expensive and requires an extra action to play. Basically comparable to clue spells in Mystics, but Seekers often have other things that do a similar job for fewer resources. Gets a lot better if you are able to refill the charges.
Hawk-Eye Folding Camera: Staple. If you care about willpower, you take the camera. If you don’t, you take Mag Glasses. While it’s not *quite* as simple in practice, it’s close enough.
Mr Rook: Staple. Three free tutors on a reasonable body. That’s ridiculous. That drawback isn’t even a drawback, it’s another ability that lets you basically draw an extra card. Mr. Rook is one of the best Seeker cards ever printed.

Studious: Excellent to Staple. It’s hard to imagine a deck that doesn’t want this. The only question is if they have the XP, but this doesn’t cost anything at all and is really good. this is more than just an extra card drawn. Especially if you are looking for certain cards in your start hand (like tarots or key deck pieces) then this has a huge effect on how well you can mulligan for it.
Occult Lexicon: Staple. A way for Seeker to deal testless damage while simultanously digging through the deck, this is one of the best ways to occupy one of your hand slots. This is one of those few cards where I require a good reason *not* to play it.

Connect the Dots: Good. Of course the resource cost is a bit of a bear, but this is a great effect that is worth setting up.
Crack the Case: Staple. One of the best resource cards in the game. Rewards you for doing your thing and it’s easy to get 4+ resources with it. That being said, it’s often worth triggering it for 2, since it’s free. Oh, and you can hand the resources over to someone else.
Ghastly Revelation: Okay to Bad. This card is more of a meme than anything. I will grant that finding 3 clues is good, but planning to die for them is a bit much.

Glimpse the Unthinkable(5): Good. The mother of all card draw, this brings you from zero to hero in 1 action. Especially good in big hand decks to immediately enable everything and to draw even higher than 8 cards. Obviously 5XP is a big ask for this though.
Knowledge is Power: Excellent. Oh boy, this card. There are so many overpowered interactions with this, it’s worth its own article. “Ignore all costs” is the phrase that turns this card from a neat flexible card into a powerhouse.
Curiosity: Good. It’s a nice card if you can fulfill the big hand criteria, but often feels a bit too inconsistent to rely on. Does good work on a small collection but gets crowded out with more options available.

Most useful: Mr. Rook, Crack the Case, Occult Lexicon
Least useful: Ghastly Revelation, Scroll of Secrets(both), Connect the Dots

Verdict: This pool of cards is nuts. Absolutely amazing. When cards like Death-XIII, Hawk-Eye or Fingerprint Kit not even make my list of “Most useful”, then you know you struck gold. Before i dive deeper into this, i need to get something else off my chest: So i know i said i was going to ignore the optional lists of taboos for this, but i can’t possibly move on from here without mentioning that if you are playing with taboo, the Scroll of Secrets jumps from almost unplayable to almost staple because the taboo changes include changing Scroll’s activation into a free trigger. Alright, with that out of the way, back to our regular scheduled card pool evaluation.
As mentioned, this is an incredibly powerful set of cards. Mr. Rook is a crazy card draw engine and while it takes a certain card from Dream-Eaters to make him completely stupid, he’s immensely powerful taken at face value already. Occult Lexicon gives Seekers an amount of enemy handling that they arguably shouldn’t have. Knowledge is Power is a card that doesn’t seem that amazing from what’s in this set, but becomes quite powerful as the number of spells and tomes with special activation costs increases. In any case, Daisy makes it immediately playable. Death, Totem, Fingerprint Kit, Hawk-Eye all join Alice Luxley on the list of intellect enhancers in this set, allowing to stack this stat across every non-arcane slot without even having to reach into the Core Set. Carolyn can take all of them. And so can Joe. So it’s fair to say that the clue seeking side is well taken care of. Speaking of Joe, his special hunch deck (a side deck that you can put 10 Insights into) with Core+TCU isn’t the best, I would call it … functional. Eh, really not great to be honest. Joe needs a bit more help from another expansion or two to take off. Luckily almost all events in Seeker are Insights (and a good few in Guardian as well), so it barely matters which expansion you get. You will get something for Joe in it.

Rogue

.45 Thompson(0): Excellent. The superior Rogue economy makes paying for this thing a lot more bearable than for Guardian. At the same time, Rogue has fewer options for good weapons than Guardian. As a result, this is much better here than when we looked at it earlier.
.45 Thompson(3, Rogue): Good. Rogue does get the weaker upgrade though. Playing into the “Oversuccess” archetype of Rogue, you can potentially hit two enemies in one action with this, but it’s awfully difficult in practice to line up and then execute. Might be more reasonable in full multiplayer where enemies are more plentiful than I am used to personally.
The Moon-XVIII(1): Good to Excellent. Sees much less play than the Guardian, Mystic and Seeker ones because while many rogues favor agility, it’s often not as vital for them as the respective attributes for the other classes. Still a very good card to have when you do care about agility.

Tennessee Sour Mash(0): Good. 3 resources for 2 uses is hella expensive, but having to go to ridiculous lengths to deal with your willpower weakness is part of the rogue lifestyle. This is another one of those cards that does a job barely good enough, but that is better than nothing.
Tennessee Sour Mash(3, Rogue): Good. An additional +1 willpower is good, and so is getting to dump this with a proper attack afterwards. If i am running Sour Mash, i will want to upgrade it usually because the level zero is just so depressingly mediocre.
Well Connected: Excellent. Not just a card that makes Preston happy, but one of the central payoffs of the Money Hoarder archetype in the wider card pool.

Another Day, Another Dollar(3): Excellent. Two resources doesn’t sound like much, but when you start with them, they open up your options with regards to setting up your assets in the first turns immensely.
Double, Double(4Ex): Excellent. The amount of value you get every turn for doubling your best event can’t be overstated. Even if you are “just” doubling your Hot Streaks through this, this is a ridiculous card. But of course for 8XP it better be.
Henry Wan: Bad. Oh my. Math just isn’t on his side. You’re lucky if you are earning back the resources you spent on him… and even if you did, it cost you a bunch of actions that could’ve gone towards just playing real cards. This is one of the very few actual coasters in this game.

Investments: Okay. Has a bit of a bad reputation because it doesn’t do a whole lot if you don’t draw it early, but if you do you are looking at a nice payout down the line. I actually like this one and played it a lot before later expansions powercrept it out of competition.
Money Talks: Okay to Good. A convoluted way to pass a willpower test, but it does work… as long as you are rich. The conditionals on this card often make it a hard sell, but it has a place.
You Owe Me One: Good. Aside from enabling fancy combos by giving the rogue cards out of their class, this is just good value. Guardians especially are often stranded with cards in their hand they don’t have the money for. Might as well play those for yourself if they make sense.

Intel Report: Staple. The Favor cycle in Circle Undone has three members, all in Rogue. And Intel Report is the best of them, allowing to pick up testless clues simply for paying money. Paying 4 for 2 clues on your location is not a bad deal for rich rogues. This is a staple rogue card even with the full pool of cards.
Decoy: Excellent. Evading enemies at range is quite special. It takes care of Hunters, saves teammates and allows exhausting enemies before running past them. And it’s an effect that is still quite rare. And getting it testless is the cherry on top. Very good card.
Small Favor: Good to Excellent. True to its name, Small Favor is the least often played of the three, but that’s not to say that it is bad. Just more situational as you will want this when you are facing small critters and/or cultists that you can now kill from up to 2 locations away, saving you the trouble of walking over there. Note that this is not a Fight action, so this does trigger attacks of opportunity. Still, this has value for wiping a small enemy in your face without a test, too.

Swift Reflexes: Okay. It has 2 agility pips, which saves it from the “Okay to Bad” rating. Paying 2 for the extra action isn’t remarkable in any way, it’s the going rate that is built into most cards that offer extra actions. Often those are even cheaper. It’s best to view this as a 2 agility skill card that can in an emergency do something neat.
Cunning: Okay to Good. If you are actually using your intellect on your Rogue and are also rich, then this is decent enough.

Most useful: Intel Report; Well Connected; Double, Double(4Ex)
Least useful: Henry Wan, Swift Reflexes, .45 Thompson(3, Rogue)

Verdict: The Circle Undone Rogue pool tries hard to do one thing: Make Preston work. His investigator ability provides the money for the Money Hoarder archetype all by itself, but so far the game didn’t have proper payoffs. This changed with TCU and as a result, this is an important set to add this facet to the Rogue class. TCU is when rogues started being able to exhaust Well Connected to get their skill levels to insane levels or where they smugly went and collected 4 clues from far away by sending a Intel Report through Double, Double for 12 resources. If it seems like I’m gushing, then it’s because this is exactly when i started really embracing the rogue class myself. Until then i didn’t really think much of them.
Aside from the money stuff, this set also gave Rogues their first really good fight based weapon that doesn’t cost 5XP with the 45 Thompson(0). In the modern card pool this is less important because the Winifred pack bypasses this issue and just gives Rogue a great set of pistols and the Beretta(4). But if you don’t have that pack yet, then you will probably appreciate the Thompson.
Preston is the only one able to take Rogue cards in this set. He’s unable to take Illicit cards, which leads to the awkward circumstance that both green versions of Sour Mash(3) and Thompson(3) can’t be used by any character in this box. They are both cards that Skids can use very well, so even in a Core+TCU situation you aren’t just picking up dead cards.
So did this box manage to make Preston playable? Kinda. You need to lean rather hard into survivor to supply your clue getting which is what Preston does best. Preston can of course make good use of the talents that convert money to skill boosts, but between Hard Knocks and Dig Deep the one stat that is not covered is Intellect. And that’s the one that we would have wanted the most. So i think he’s on shaky ground with a small base like that. However, once you add Dunwich, Preston pops off. Not only is Preston great for the Dark Horse playstyle that Dunwich adds to Survivor, but Dunwich also gives him Streetwise and therefore a way to funnel money into intellect.
In conclusion, this is a very important set of cards for the Rogue class in the big picture, but as a first set backed only by the Core it is not quite there. Fantastic second set, though.

Mystic

Enchanted Blade(0): Good. Using the fight skill in combat isn’t something that most mystics are interested in, but for the few that do, Enchanted Blade does offer a crucial +2 to their tests.
Enchanted Blade(3, Mystic): Good to Excellent. Those mystics will need all the help they can get and the upgraded blade allows attacking with +4 and for 3 damage twice. Pretty good and even after the charges are used up, having a +2 weapon around isn’t completely worthless.
Four of Cups(1): Staple. Mystics are married to their primary attribute even more than Guardians and Seekers. Every point counts.

Scroll of Secrets(0): Okay to Bad. See above.
Scroll of Secrets(3, Mystic): Bad. This upgrade barely adds more than an extra activation. Looking at the top of your deck with this is only relevant if you know what’s there.
Dayana Esperence(3): Excellent. All around great. Gives two additional uses of a spell and offers a chunk of damage soak while doing it. Even has good icons. There’s simply a lot to like here which makes up for being expensive to buy and to play.

Sixth Sense(0): Staple. Even if this didn’t have any textbox beyond “-> : Investigate”, this would be worth playing. Allowing mystics to use their willpower for clues without any sort of charges is a huge deal.
Sixth Sense(4): Staple. In addition to doing the willpower thing, this allows mystics to pick up 2 clues with one action often enough to make this upgrade fantastic. Once you start improving your odds with bag manipulation, this just takes off completely.
De Vermis Mysteriis(2): Good. It’s a powerful effect, but usually you will want to get rid of the card before it prematurely advances the agenda. The trick then is getting enough value out of it in the meantime.

Wither(0): Okay. Like Sixth Sense, this allows a mystic access to a basic action with willpower. Unlike investigation, an attack for 1 is usually not worth the action though. The extra ability does little to nothing. Still, if you got rats and cultists to kill, this could be worth throwing into your starting deck.
Wither(4): Bad to Okay. There’s really no excuse for this still not getting an extra damage. The ability can now deal a “temporary damage”, but it’s way too unreliable to throw 4XP at this when better options exist. That being said, with TCU+Core, better options might not exist…
Sign Magick: Okay. Any card that swaps around slots can be worth considering, but this is just a bit too expensive at 3 resources. Mystics need their money to play the spells that go into those slots, making Sign Magick hard to justify most of the time.

Deny Existence(0): Staple. Saying no to something the encounter deck tries to do to you is among the most powerful things you can do and Deny Existence is a very broad effect that can even help you against several weakness cards.
Deny Existence(5): Excellent. For when you really want to dunk on the encounter deck. This card is just insane, not only cancelling a harmful effect but also giving you the means to just take another copy of that effect on the chin. Due to how expensive it is, it’s really only a luxury upgrade for the final stretch of a campaign though.
Banish(1): Good to Excellent. A highly underrated card that can effectively take out non-Elites in one go. Even Hunters can be transported to the other side of the map. Or right on top of your enemy handler. Not a card that is talked about often, but personally I like it quite a bit.

Eldritch Inspiration: Okay to Bad. A narrow card that usually doesn’t do enough – and whenever it would be able to do something, it’s too unreliable. Mostly notable as a cheap cancel for Diana to play at the first opportunity just to raise her willpower.
Prophesy: Okay to Good. Get massively outpaced on a larger card pool, but this does a decent job of being multiple wild icons on a skill for a while.

Most useful: Sixth Sense(all), Deny Existence(all), Four of Cups
Least useful: Wither(all), Scroll of Secrets(all), Eldritch Inspiration

Verdict: A bit of a mediocre pool, saved by by Sixth Sense and Deny Existence. Both of those two marquee cards of the TCU Mystic pool are extremely good and are still considered among the best in a full collection. Dayana, De Vermis and Four of Cups are all very good cards that see a lot of play, but then the card quality goes down rapidly.
Consequently, building a Mystic deck from TCU+Core can be rough if you want to make a combat mage out of them. Your only fight spells at that point are Shrivel(0) and the Wither twins. Not ideal, at that point i’d be tempted to try and make Dayana work with Banish and Blinding Light instead… Building for a clue mage is better, at least you have the fantastic Sixth Sense then which together with Rite of Seeking and Drawn to the Flame does the job very well.
Three of the investigators in the box can use Mystic cards. Note that Carolyn can not only use Deny(0), but her “cards that heal horror” clause actually qualifies her for Deny(5) as well, should she want it. Aside from Deny, there’s not a whole lot for her in this Mystic pool. Diana is one of the few Mystics that can actually be seen wielding an Enchanted Blade, her basic 3 fight and subclass guardian access allow her to build in that direction. In terms of cancels, there’s Deny Existence which is a 100% staple for her because it can actually make her ignore her weakness. Brilliant. She can also run Eldritch Inspiration which doesn’t do much for her in terms of actual card effect, but it’s a nice and cheap way to ramp up her willpower. Dodge and Ward of Protection from the Core also fit well into Diana and from that core you can either build her into a fighter/cancel hybrid or into a spellcaster.
Marie gets only one card in this set that adds Doom to one of her cards, the De Vermis tome. This plus the Initiate from Core lets her function because she ultimately needs only 1 point of doom across her cards, but she’s an investigator that needs a bit more love from other expansions for sure. I think it’s best to view her as a bonus investigator that shows some cool things to build into with later purchases and not get too fixated on making her work on just TCU+Core.
Looking at it in its entirety, this Mystic pool isn’t the best and if you are a fan of that class specifically, then TCU isn’t a great first buy. Add Dunwich and you are soaring, though.

Survivor

Grisly Totem(0): Good. Exact same deal as for Seeker. The +1 to a test per turn is good, but the conditional and the accessory slot stop it from being more.
Grisly Totem(3, Survivor): Good. If you play this straight, it’s worse than the Seeker one because this only gives you card advantage on failing. There’s shenanigans with this to make it work, however it requires dipping into the larger card pool.
Five of Pentacles: Okay. There’s one investigator (Calvin from Forgotten Age) who treats this like a second signature, but for everyone else this is not very attractive.

Tennessee Sour Mash: Okay. Survivors have much less of a willpower issue than rogues, so this becomes very marginal. The resource costs also hurts survivors more.
Tennessee Sour Mash(3, Survivor): Good. Dropping the resource cost is important and the extra charge is something the rogues envy the survivors for. The evade thing is randomly useful, but not really a factor. Solid card when you need it and even a candidate for recursion.
Track Shoes: Excellent to Staple. Stat boost, potential for extra moves and for skipping enemies. Track Shoes is a very solid package that is often worth playing.

Drawing Thin: Staple. As long as you can find a skill test that you can fail without having to lose an action (like the one on Track Shoes…) this just lets you get triple the money or double the cards. Personally i don’t play this card anymore at all because i think it’s boring, but don’t let that discourage you from using this card to plug the holes that a smaller collection would leave in your deck. In any case, it’s undeniably a very good card.
Guiding Spirit(1): Good to Excellent. Very cheap source of a static intellect bonus and also a decent piece of horror soak as long as you have the XP to feed it. Note that you can play it alongside other horror soak like a second ally or Keepsake to protect it.
Meat Cleaver: Staple. A level zero weapon that can consistently dish out 2 damage is great, and if you manage to juggle the horror correctly this becomes a weapon that puts Machete to shame. Meat Cleaver Agnes is a fan favorite that can be done on just TCU+Core.

Act of Desperation: Excellent. Throw away a spent toy for a decent attack and some money. Also comes with good icons. Just an all around solid card that does lots of good things for you. If you have an investigator that can take both (except Wendy -.-), try using this with the Thompson for impressive results.
Bait and Switch(3): Bad to Okay. I suppose the effect is not complete chaff, but paying 3XP for a souped up evade that doesn’t even get bonuses? Nah.
Belly of the Beast: Okay. Paying a card for a clue is fine (that’s Deduction, after all) but finding an opportunity to play this can be a pain. I really wish this one had intellect icons.

Eucatastrophe(3): Excellent to Staple. Not only will this turn your fail into a pass(most of the time), but it will also trigger your Elder Sign. Depending on the investigator, that can be huge added value.
Fortune or Fate(2): Good. Delaying the agenda by one turn can be a huge effect, especially in full multiplayer giving everyone an extra turn can make the difference. Usually the scenarios are not coming down to the exact turn though, so sacrificing XP for this becomes a tough ask unless you are already in the last or second to last scenario and your deck is basically done.
Lure(2): Bad. Why this discards at the end of the round is a mystery to me. As printed, this isn’t even able to manipulate a Hunter’s movement most of the time. Usually i wouldn’t put a plain “Bad.” on a card with 2 matching icons but since it costs XP and the ability is just pure chaff, I’ll make an exception for this one.

Trial by Fire: Good to Excellent. Allows you to be competent at something for a turn, be it to fight an enemy in your face to death or to do your part on the clue end. Highly flexible, but a bit expensive. Of course that’s not an issue for Preston at all and plenty other investigators can also use this fairly well.
Able Bodied: Okay. The black sheep of the skill cycle from this box doesn’t synergize with the Survivor class all that well. That being said, having a card that can commit for either 2 fight or 2 agility and sometimes even get a 3rd icon isn’t unplayable. Just outclassed rather quick with a growing collection.

Most useful: Drawing Thin, Meat Cleaver, Track Shoes
Least useful: Lure, Able Bodied, Bait and Switch(3)

Verdict: A very solid group of cards that isn’t too focused on a single theme or archetype and instead strong in a more general sense. Meat Cleaver is a great weapon to have both for mainclass and offclass Survivors. I’ve absolutely used it in Rogue and Guardian decks before because it happened to be better for what i was doing than the blue and green options. Eucatastrophe is incredibly powerful at turning things around. And the Drawing Thin/Track Shoes combo is so strong that you might just get sick of it.
Well, and then there’s Rita. As a 5 agility investigator she has a clear job and she’s quite good at it. Additionally, she has a fight value that she can build upon and enough health to take a beating. She is however let down by an abysmal card access and the circumstance that she’s forever standing in Wendy’s shadow. She can use Survivor 0-5 and Trick 0-3. Here’s the list of Tricks in TCU+Core. Yep, it’s one non-Survivor card. And it’s Warning Shot in a card pool with zero firearms that Rita can take. Oof. Of course it does get better in the wider card pool. Looking at that list, you can however see the issue with the comparison to Wendy: It’s almost all red and green. At the time of writing (pre-Scarlet Keys) there are exactly 4 cards that Rita can take and Wendy can not: Pilfer(3), Sweeping Kick(1), Warning Shot and Persuasion. Meanwhile Wendy gets all of Rogue 0-2. For what it’s worth, Pilfer and Sweeping Kick are both absolutely amazing cards.
The thing that sets Rita apart is ultimately her 3 fight, because Wendy is really just as good at evading as Rita is. And you can certainly build into it. 5 sanity and Meat Cleaver is a bit of a tightrope to walk, but it works.
But if you ask me if i recommend TCU+Core for Survivor, i don’t think i can do so without all of the limitations above. Rita and Wendy just have too much overlap in role and card pool and i don’t think that Rita offers enough incentives to a player looking for new things in Survivor. Preston has to pick up the slack on that end and as mentioned above, that’s also not too great on TCU+Core alone. He gets two cool toys from the Survivor pool in Trial by Fire and Drawing Thin, but both don’t address the issues laid out earlier.
In conclusion: A good set of cards in general, with several cards that stick around for the long haul and even a couple staples. But on the investigator side, this isn’t something I’d recommend for a first buy.

Neutral

Ace of Rods(1): Bad. A card so marginal, the TCU campaign hands out one of these for free at the start and players usually treat it like a weakness because it just costs a draw and doesn’t do much.
Anna Kaslow(4): Okay. Too fragile to be counted on for shenanigans with multiple tarots. Can be treated as extra copies of a tarot that you REALLY want to get in your start hand, but of course at 4XP that’s a bit rough.
The Council’s Coffer(2): Meme. Requires a million actions. The payoff is nice, but this is not something to play because it’s good, this is a “because i can” thing.

Final verdict

Guardian’s most important takeaways are two fantastic healing cards that are still unchallenged in how efficient they are, I’ve had Worse(2) and Hallowed Mirror. The class also gains the Enchanted Blade which plays an important role as a level zero stepping stone into upgraded weapons. This is rarely the actual upgraded Blade, though.
Seeker is the clear winner of the box with just a ridiculous display of staples, near-staples and just plain good stuff. Among other things, the set has the cornerstone to their economy, intellect boosts for almost all equipment slots and the card draw/tutor engine that is Mr. Rook to tie it all together. Joe isn’t the guy to make the best use of all of this, but Daisy loves all of this.
Rogue gains tons of class-defining cards through the Preston-induced support for the Money Hoarder archetype. This support focuses on giving payoffs for having lots of money since Preston takes care of the rest himself. To play rich guy with other rogues, cards from other sets might be needed for it to be consistent enough. But there’s certainly some extra cash lying around here as well, thanks to Another Day, Another Dollar and Investments.
Mystic has their best investigation spell on offer, Sixth Sense, with unlimited uses it just allows straight up investigating with willpower. The other power card is Deny Existence, a powerful card that can cancel a harmful effect and doesn’t need to shy away from the comparison to Ward of Protection.
Finally, Survivor has a little bit of everything but of special note is Eucatastrophe, the mother of all Lucky-like cards. For 3XP, this card gives certainty about a test like few other cards. It can still fail (on a tentacle or when failing by not enough) but usually you can rely on it fairly hard. Exile turns up again, on the useful Guiding Spirit and the decent Fortune or Fate. The Meat Cleaver outpaces most other red weapons and Drawing Thin provides a powerful draw and resource engine. Like i said, a little bit of everything and it’s all rather good.
There’s only three neutral cards and the less said about them, the better. The Ace of Rods and the Coffers are simply not good. And Kaslow is frustrating in how fragile she is. Especially if you actually play the TCU campaign, she’s almost impossible to keep on the table for long because a very common encounter card easily snipes her. This fragility means you can’t properly invest into her and her extra tarot slots, making “The Tarot Deck” which she kinda promises a non-entity (… until the Return to TCU box fixes this somewhat).

So it’s a box full of wonderful cards, yet it’s one that i won’t recommend as a first buy. Except for the Guardian cards the analysis of the investigator supports consistently ran into issues of different magnitudes. As far as i can see, going for something like Dunwich first, then coming back to TCU is going to be a far superior experience as you’ll be hard pressed to build functioning decks for most of these investigators.
As an addition to an already functional card pool this set is great, though. Only the Mystic part is a bit weaker, but the other four classes are all showing up with both power and utility.

Surge

That’s it for the Circle Undone player card overview.
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Investigator Expansion Review: Dream-Eaters

Introduction

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

The Investigators

Three of the investigators in this box follow the 5/2 standard deckbuilding rules established in the Core Set: Tommy is Guardian/Survivor. Luke is Mystic/Seeker. And Patrice is Survivor/Mystic. They are accompanied by Mandy and Tony, both of which have deckbuilding rules similar to each other: In addition to their 0-5 main class, they get to choose a secondary class out of three. From that class, they only get 0-1 events and skills. So they do gain a weaker cardpool to build their decks from, however they make up for that with excellent stat distributions and remarkably powerful investigator abilities.
Tommy gets resources whenever assets of his get defeated, making him comparatively rich and rewarding him for leaning into a tank role where he uses allies and other assets to catch blows. He also notably has a cool signature rifle that is worth building around.
Mandy is a very strong seeker with 5 intellect that specializes in search effects. She can search deeper or find extra targets and she can also lend this ability to other investigators. As a unique twist, she gets to choose to either play 30, 40 or 50 cards and gets 1 to 3 signature events depending on her choice.
Tony Morgan is one of the best fighters in the game, possibly even the best. While limited to Rogue weaponry, his 5 fight allows him to use them to their fullest. His bounty mechanic gives him an innate economy advantage and free actions at the same time. Tony is notorious for being able to take a ludicrous number of actions in one turn.
Luke is the most mobile investigator in the game, his signature asset allows him to straight up teleport around at will. His investigator ability rewards him for using events instead of assets, a welcome break from the usual Mystic mold. Luke is most known for being a rules nightmare, as it turns out being kinda in multiple locations at the same time while playing an event is weird!
Patrice is very unique. She cycles through a new handful of cards every turn, allowing her to find key cards fast, but also forcing her to use them before they go away again. Her interactions with the discard pile are many and she can also make great use of her Mystic subclass to leverage her willpower. She has a decksize of 42 to partially counteract how fast she breezes through her deck.

Guardian

The Hungering Blade(1): Okay to Good. Pretty good if you can feed it a constant stream of enemies, but that’s not always a given. Fine for 1XP, but most often you’ll just pay 1 or 2XP more and get something better instead.
.35 Winchester: Bad. Blocking both hands for a weapon this inconsistent is a losing play.

Empty Vessel/Wish Eater(4): Good to Excellent. Requires a ramp up time to charge from killing several enemies, but the Wish Eater is very, very powerful.
Safeguard(2): Excellent. Allows your Guardian to save move actions and just follow their teammates around “for free”.

Solemn Vow: Okay to Good. Something for bigger groups with a dedicated tank or an investigator that otherwise benefits from collecting damage. Fills a niche and does it well.
Spiritual Resolve(5): Okay to Good. For when you really need to be able to take some punishment. 5XP is a lot, but this uses only the arcane slot, covers both damage and horror and recharges from extra copies. Worth the price of entry, but mostly a luxury upgrade.
Tetsuo Mori: Excellent. It’s morbid, but having this guy die for your cause and leave you a nice item is just efficient. Great card if you want to fish for a specific one-off card in your deck like Tommy’s signature rifle or a Wish Eater.

Fool me Once(1): Good. Encounter cancellation in Guardian, that’s a rare thing. There are some hoops to jump through but that can be worth it. Note that triggering the response is optional, so you can use this to take something out of the encounter deck permanently.
First Watch: Okay. Reassigning a Mythos phase’s worth of encounter cards is good if you have high agility and high willpower investigators in your group that can then defuse their card. Also makes sure that enemies land where they can be dealt with the best. Can be worth it in larger groups.
Heroic Rescue(2): Okay. Again a card for the dedicated tank guardian. Does a good job for its niche.

Daring: Staple. Any three icon card is worth considering and this is flexible enough to go for either attacks or evades. And then it also draws a card which is so very valuable for the card draw starved Guardian class. Worth the drawback which will only matter rarely.
Leadership(2): Good to Excellent. Save a teammates treachery test and gives bot yourself and them a handful resources.
Self-Sacrifice: Okay. Kinda sorta almost fine on paper, but looks very silly next to Leadership(2).

Most useful: Daring, Tetsuo Mori, Safeguard(2)
Least useful: Self-Sacrifice, .35 Winchester, Heroic Rescue(2)

Verdict: Fine, but nothing special. Looking over these cards from the perspective of someone who has everything, there’s fewer cards here that i play regularly than in other sets. Basically the three i mentioned above as Most Useful, and of those i basically replaced Safeguard(2) with its level zero version as well. That being said, Tetsuo and Daring are both really good. Guardian decks without Daring basically don’t exist unless i am doing something funky like a support Mary or something. But that is not to say that this pool of cards is bad as such, cards like Wish Eater, the Hungering Blade or Fool Me Once certainly do play an important part, just not on a regular basis.
This pool does provide Guardian with a solid base for doing a tanky build that is able to take damage and horror for other teammates. This of course extends to the investigator in this box. Tommy is simple and powerful and breaks the mold insofar as he doesn’t have to struggle with resources as much as other guardians. He can even get downright rich. The Core Set has some pretty great cards for him as well, like the Guard Dog or just Leather Coat. Tommy works perfectly fine on a base of just TDE+Core, as a resilient Guardian that can use some extra fail tech and soak options out of the Survivor pool.
In total this is a respectable offer, but propped up largely by a great investigator.

Seeker

Dream Diary: Excellent. Having a steady supply of Unexpected Courages at your disposal is great for passing all sorts of tests and of course super flexible. The bonus that makes the difference between the versions of the upgrade is not really all that important in the big picture. It can randomly matter, but they are all about equal in value (with maybe the enemy handling one a bit ahead)

Segment of Onyx/Pendant of the Queen(1): Staple. The amount of value you get out of this one for just 1XP is phenomenal. Any Seeker that has some card selection available has no issues assembling the Pendant. After using it up the Segments get shuffled back into a now partially depleted deck, making further assembly more and more easy. All three modes of the Pendant are fantastic: Teleporting or snatching clues saves tons of actions and evading without an action or test, even against Elites, is incredibly powerful.
Abigail Foreman(4): Excellent. More fuel for the tome deck, she copies the effect of tomes. Over the turns this quickly stacks up to massive value. Good enough to be played outside of Daisy, too.

Dream-Enhancing Serum: Excellent to Staple. Takes up a rather uncontested slot and offers a great card draw engine. Allows seekers to keep a huge number of cards in their hand and cycle through the rest of the deck over and over and replay their best cards ad nauseam.
Old Book of Lore(3): Excellent. Reducing the cost on OBoL by one and adding two more instances of action compression to it elevate an already great card even further. Once you start adding more secrets to it, it becomes even sillier.
Otherworld Codex(2): Good. Can’t be counted on to hit what you want it to, but becomes decent when you get into situations where multiple possible targets are in play and you don’t care which of those you discard.

Extensive Research(1): Okay to Good. I’d put the max amount of resources i am willing to pay for 2 testless clues in seeker at 4. So as long as i have 6+ cards in hand, this fulfills my criteria. Nothing earthshaking, but decent enough. Obviously great for “Big Hand” decks or just Dream-Enhancing Serum decks in general.
Practice Makes Perfect: Staple. Unless you are a survivor, this hits most of the best skills in your card pool. Not only lets you tutor for your Deductions, Vicious Blows, etc but also lets you double up on them. An incredibly important card for the Seeker class.
The Eye of Truth(5): Good. Expensive but impactful, this can not only save you from a treachery but also defuse any further ones you (or your teammates!) draw. But of a shame that removing Eye is mandatory on success, sometimes it’d be preferable to keep this in your deck.

Astounding Revelation: Excellent. Getting paid for searching your deck is great. Placing secrets on asset is also really good, especially when it’s the asset that let you search in the first place like OBoL(3) or Circle Undone’s Mr. Rook. A very important engine card.
Surprising Find(1): Good. Rewards you for searching with card draw and a bonus to your next test. It’s a decent card but outside of Mandy you’ll rarely be compelled to spend 3 of your deck slots on this.

Most useful: Practice Makes Perfect, Astounding Revelation, Pendant of the Queen
Least useful: Uuuh… Surprising Find? Maybe Extensive Research and … i don’t know, Eye of Truth?

Verdict: Insanity. Even the cards on the low end of this Seeker pool are good and it only goes up from there. There’s more tomes for Daisy plus a potent enabler in Abigail who can either make Daisy completely insane or enable tome shenanigans for other seekers. There’s Practice Makes Perfect, a card so good that most seekers and offclass seekers shape the skills they use around it. There’s Pendant of the Queen which lets players just teleport around or lock down bosses (indefinitely with just a bit of support). All of that held together with card draw, card search and Dream-Enhancing Serum, the card that lets seekers be the best at looping their deck over and over. And in the middle of it all? Mandy, the Queen of Search. The two Research cards are of course tailored to her. OBoL, either from the Core or the upgraded one from this set, give her consistent means of looking at her deck. Practice makes Perfect fits right in. As does Codex. From the Core, there is Research Librarian which just searches the whole deck for her for two tomes. So she does hit the ground running even with just TDE+Core, with plenty potential for growth.
Conclusion: Amazing from back to front.

Rogue

Crystallizer of Dreams: Staple. Getting more value out of every event you play stacks up fast. The Guardian can be an issue for some investigators when it comes out at an inopportune time, but is mostly an acceptable drawback for what the Crystallizer offers from level zero on.
Burglary(2): Okay to Good. A good card that is looking for a home. The ability to spend an action for up to 5 resources is really, really good. You do need an intellect capable of oversucceeding however. Tony and Skids are both at 3, so they would need to build on that and find a shroud 1 or 2 location for this become reliable enough.

Delilah O’Rourke(3): Staple. Two boosts to relevant stats on a 3 resouce ally with decent soak would be good enough to make her go into plenty decks, but that ability puts her further over the top. Translating money into damage is something that Rogue is very interested in. The most common reason to not play her is because one went for Forgotten Age’s Lola Santiago instead.
Garrote Wire(2): Excellent. Allows finishing off enemies, which is not only great for cultists and similar small fry, but also to deal the final point to enemies with 3 or 5 life. If this was a hand item it would probably be a staple.
Gregory Gry: Good to Excellent. As long as the rogue is very good at a specific thing (and most are), you can get a decent amount of resources out of Gregory before letting him soak some horror for you. Super solid and I include him in my initial decks often although i usually plan on upgrading him into something else later.

Haste(2): Good to Excellent. A source of free actions. Great for fighters in particular, but even just things like spending two actions on drawing three cards is reasonable.
Joey the Rat(3): Good to Excellent. There’s a bunch of somewhat gimmicky things that Joey can do in the wider card pool, but even just as a 2 cost ally with good soak that pays you back his cost by discarding some spent asset he’s perfectly reasonable. Also offers the opportunity to buy actions for a resource when you want to play something, a very good rate. Of course 3XP is a bit much if you don’t use him for shenanigans, but he’s certainly powerful.
Sawed-Off Shotgun(5): Okay. Doesn’t take up both handslot like the Guardian shotgun from the Core, but also doesn’t offer a skill bonus. And considering it works on oversucceeding that missing skill bonus is a huge deal. Tony can make this weapon work, but it’s a bit of a pain and not really worth the effort.

Let God Sort Them Out: Okay. Bonus XP are incredible and Rogue has plenty cards to spend them on. But this isn’t all that easy to trigger, so don’t count on it every scenario. You might just end up using this for its fight icon more often than you’d like.
Easy Mark: Staple. Almost solves Rogue resources on its own. Even without chaining them into each other, they are worth playing on their own as each of them is arguably better than Emergency Cache (a card is usually valued more than a resource). Once you do get a chain off, you are gaining a lot of value for little effort. This is very often the first XP i spend with Rogue.
Followed: Bad. Too many riders on this card to make it worth the effort.

Swift Reload(2): Excellent to Staple. The best way to reload your guns in Rogue. It’s expensive but it also doesn’t cost an action and you can be certain to get a full gun’s worth of bullets from it.
Daredevil(2): Good. Particular good at finding the third Ace for Three Aces, but has other applications as well. The 2XP sting a bit here if you are just playing it to add another icon to your tests.

Momentum(1): Good to Excellent. Sometimes a bit weird to use, but efficient. Can let you gain double value out of other skills, turning oversuccess on the first test into a near guarantee for the second one.
Three Aces(1): Good to Excellent. That’s one hell of a payoff for assembling the three skills and it isn’t even all that hard to do as long as you have at least a bit of card draw/selection in your deck. With Practice Makes Perfect and Daredevil(2) there’s even the two best support cards for this right in the box.

Most useful: Delilah O’Rourke, Easy Mark, Crystallizer of Dreams
Least useful: Followed, Sawed-Off Shotgun, Let God Sort Them Out

Verdict: This is a very good pool. Not as unhinged as the Seeker thing, but certainly better than Guardian. Crystallizer is one of the two accessories that are commonly accepted as the gold standard for Rogue accessory (the other being the Cigarette Case) and that all other accessories have to measure up to. Garrote Wire actually does a reasonable job at that and especially Tony can get a lot of mileage out of it, virtually upgrading his 2 damage attacks to 3 damage or just swatting aside small pests with only 1 health. There’s three good allies in this set, with Delilah being a standout for fighty rogues, Gregory being a great source of money for level zero decks and Joey as a specialized card that does a lot of neat things all at once for little investment. The skill package in this set is also remarkable, usually Rogue isn’t the class to get three good skills at once. If you have the Winifred Habbamock pack, these three cards will make Wini very, very happy. They are all Practiced and of course this means that Mandy can use them with Practice Makes Perfect to show how easy it is to have Three Aces. Haste and Burglary are both engine cards. While Haste sees immediate use in Tony and many other rogues, Burglary is less universally used. It does have the necessary power level to break out, though. Swift Reload is a great card, just not in the context of this set. There’s not a whole lot of firearms around for Rogue just yet, so unless you have Wini and her guns, you will mostly be reloading Tony’s Colts with this. Or some .45 in Skids, i guess. Let God Sort Them Out has its fan because of course it does. It gives XP. That will always have fans. Personally I find it lacking but don’t let that stop you. Easy Mark is in my opinion one of the most important economy cards in Rogue even with the full card pool. There is some competition of course, but the combination of being money when you need it and replacing itself when you are already rich is just very special.
Tony is great right out of the box. He doesn’t actually have a lot of available weapons with just TDE+Core, only the .41 Derringer(0 and 2) from the Core, Garrote Wire and the Sawed-Off. Well, and the Switchblade. But before i go for that I’d rather play Knife, actually. He comes with his own two guns though and that is enough to make him work well enough. His choice of Guardian, Seeker or Survivor events lets him assume different roles. Guardian of course mostly adds to his excellent fighting capabilities with more ammo events, fight skills and the like. Seeker lets him build on his 3 intellect and channel some of his wealth into clues and cards. Survivor lets him be even better at seeking actually thanks to hits like Look What i Found and Sharp Vision. So even at Core+TDE, there’s plenty of depth here and Tony is well supported.
Approved, excellent card pool!

Mystic

Summoned Hound(1): Okay to Good. Taking up the ally slot is the biggest issue here, but free investigate actions are of course something that is worth sacrificing for. Note that the weakness is only added to the deck when playing the card, not when putting it into play with other means and of course there are decks possible around exploiting that concept.
Healing Words: Bad. Four actions for 3 points of healing is a really bad rate.

Stargazing/The Stars Are Right(1): Okay. Just too weird and unreliable. It’s a really cool card and i enjoy playing it. But i don’t think it’s actually all that good.
Mind’s Eye(2): Good. At time of writing, this is still the only card that takes up two arcane slots. When things align, this allows Mystics what they always dream of: Do everything with willpower. Undoubtedly a powerful effect, but sacrificing both arcanes for it is a tough pill to swallow.

Empower Self: Okay. The issue with these is that you only have one of each, making it almost impossible to depend on them even if you wanted to do some cool Mystic with a weapon thing and use your fight value more or whatever. Paying 3 resources for each of them is also excessive. I have on occasion played a single one of these to build on an existing fight or intellect value, but I can’t say that it ever was better than just using Shrivelling or Rite of Seeking.

Scroll of Prophecies: Excellent. More or less the Mystic version of Seeker’s Old Book of Lore, allowing you to dig through your deck while drawing tons of cards. Limited by charges (unlike OBoL), but this is nonetheless a great card. I have actually put this into Daisy instead of OBoL before.
Shining Trapezohedron(4): Good. Playing out your typical Mystic spell suite is rather expensive and this can help with that a lot. If this wouldn’t take up an equipment slot usually reserved for something with +1 willpower, this would be played a lot more often.
Twila Katherine Price(3): Good to Excellent. Enables you to fire off your spell once per turn without charges going down. To be worth playing Twila over just another copy of a spell, she needs to enter play early, but she’ll usually be worth it. She costs 3XP, but since she can help you get more out of your 3-5XP upgraded spells, that is not a huge issue.

Spectral Razor: Staple. The best combat event the game has right now across all classes. Razor does everything: Give you high effective skill value, deals 3 damage, it even engages the enemy beforehand and thus bypasses Aloof or helps in multiplayer. The only drawback here is that it only deals the otherwise usual 2 damage against Elites, but that’s hardly a drawback on a level zero card. If my deck can take purple cards and has willpower, i likely have this in there.
Read the Signs: Staple. Read the Sign has more competition in its role of picking up two clues, so it’s not quite as high as Razor, but that’s effectively irrelevant because this is still one of the best ways for Mystic to pick up clues without putting out a spell asset.
Ethereal Form: Okay to Good. A straight up one-shot evade is useful, but the additional effects on this don’t really measure up. For one, you need to be engaged by multiple enemies in the first place for them to matter, but then you also are unable to damage the enemies after evading them which is actually a drawback.

Open Gate: Okay to Good. There’s people who swear by this for some campaigns, but personally I have never gotten these to do anything close to good enough to justify taking up three deck slots. In any case, these require knowledge of the scenarios and will change in how useful they are with what you are playing.
Word of Command: Okay. The most important resource you have in this game are actions and spending an action to set up another play is just too slow. Having to pay resources and XP for the card doesn’t help. That being said, it does its job of finding what you need and can even save you some XP by being a second copy of a 5XP card.

Most useful: Spectral Razor, Read the Signs, Scroll of Prophecies.
Least useful: Healing Words, Stargazing, Word of Command

Verdict: Less impressive than the others. Similar to the Guardian cards in that these are decent enough on a small collection, but most of these cards get outpaced in the bigger card pool. A lot of it is also just a bit too gimmicky and not generally useful. The Dream-Eaters Mystic pool is of course notable for giving us Spectral Razor and Read the Signs, two of the best events in the game. These two are absolutely fantastic and might just be the two Mystic cards i play the most, even more than classic class staples like Ward of Protection. Aside from those, Scroll of Prophecies and Twila stand out as particularly good. Trapezohedron and Mind’s Eye are also relevant in the larger pool for some uses.
Luke Robinson, the purple investigator from this set, is represented here by the spell events which he can cast into connected locations. TDE+Core offers enough such events to Luke to do his thing and not suffer too much from not having many options for spell assets. His seeker access pushes him firmly into the direction of being a clue hound, but between Blinding Light from the Core and Spectral Razor from this set he can at least defend himself somewhat.
All together this is comparable to Guardian, it’s an okay card pool with a few exceptional cards in it, but mostly unremarkable offerings otherwise. Luke is a little less well supported than Tommy, but is absolutely still playable even with TDE+Core without having to fear a negative experience just from limited card access.

Survivor

Miss Doyle and the Cat Army(1): Excellent to Staple. Cycling through the cats can give you a lot of automatic successes and sticking to one makes up for a low stat on your investigator. This is quite powerful. The only issue is that the first cat you get is random, the others are shuffled into the deck. If you are after a specific one, you might have to dig for it.
Nightmare Bauble(3): Good to Excellent. Cancelling the tentacle token is something very special and you don’t have many options for it. This can give you three charges to cancel the tentacle at will, as long as you can take having these weaknesses in your deck afterwards. Undeniably a powerful card, but a bit of an acquired taste because those weaknesses are quite bad.

Jessica Hyde(1): Staple. The slightly more balanced counterpart to Peter Sylvestre is good for all the reasons Peter is and a great way to make your survivor better at fighting.
Moonstone: Good to Excellent. A bit awkward to play, but discarding cards is usually no problem for Survivor (i mean, just look at Wendy’s and Patrice’s investigator abilities…). As an asset that bumps two good stats for cheap, this is worthwhile unless the accessory slot is already spoken for.
Scavenging(2): Excellent to Staple. One of the central cards of the whole Survivor recursion archetype. A very good upgrade of the Core Set card that saves up actions. Actually not that meaningful with just TDE+Core, but gains in value tremendously with a growing collection.

A Glimmer of Hope: Okay. If you can discard cards for value, these allow you to always have cards for that. That’s decent to fuel something like Wendy’s ability but usually not necessary and the three deck slots can go towards more impactful things.
Fortuitous Discovery: Good to Excellent. You need a decent intellect to use this, but if you have that, this is rock solid. The first copy you’ll usually not want to play and instead discard it somehow, but the second and third copy are great.

Nothing Left To Lose(3): Excellent. You’ll very rarely get to use this for full value, but just drawing like 2 cards and getting 2 bucks for a zero cost event is very strong. And it can do quite a bit more than that.
Scrounge for Supplies: Excellent. Has a similar issue as Word of Command in that it’s slow to just pick up a card for an action. However, this costs no resources and no XP and usually has a more diverse range of cards to choose from. It also has more synergy with what the class does, to the point where Word of Command is mediocre and this is almost a staple.

Brute Force(1): Excellent. Getting three fight icons is great and so is dealing 3 damage in one blow. However you are going to need an already high fight value because oversucceeding on a basic fight action is going to be hard otherwise. Or just throw more skills at the test, a +2 damage is even worth committing an additional Overpower.
Sharp Vision(1): Staple. Survivor is usually much better at intellect than they are at fight, making Sharp Vision more universally useful. In the right decks, this is basically a red Deduction. What makes the difference to Brute Force here is that succeeding, but not oversucceeding isn’t as much of an issue with Sharp Vision. A clue for an action is still fine, unlike a damage for an action.
Expeditious Retreat(1): Good to Excellent. Agility is many survivor’s best attribute and the bonus on this is actually relevant often enough. Evasion is also something that is usually done as a basic action anyways, so using this doesn’t come at much of an opportunity cost. There are of course several other evasion skills in Survivor (including Survival Instinct from the Core), so this slot is more contested than the ones of Brute Force and Sharp Vision.

Most useful: Jessica Hyde(1), Scavenging(2), Sharp Vision(1)
Least useful: Glimmer of Hope, Nightmare Bauble(3)? uuuh… Expeditious Retreat?

Verdict: Hold the presses, these are all useful. Glimmer of Hope is the only one that is only okay, but it still absolutely has a niche for feeding Wendy’s ability or similar. This is a great pool of Survivor cards obviously. Not as nutty as what Seeker has, but still heads and shoulders above what a class usually gets in a set. I am a huge fan of the three “basic action” skills in particular, those are all over my decks. Miss Doyle and Jessica are both great allies, albeit for very different decks. The rest is some useful trinkets, another good investigation event to go alongside Sharp Vision, a good econ card and some recursion for the pile.
In a bit of a twist ending, the red investigator of this expansion doesn’t gel with this set of cards very well. Her statline is pretty much the opposite from what you need to use those skill cards. She’s not interested in Jessica or Scavenging either. She has an easy time of getting the Fortuitous Discoveries into her discard, but with 2 intellect using them well is another topic. Even Nothing Left to Lose which has her on the artwork is not that great for her because she draws 5 cards every turn anyways. That leaves Doyle, Moonstone and Scrounge for her which she can do some things with. She’ll have to rely on her Mystic part for cards from this set then, and she does at least make good use of Razor and Read the Signs. Mind’s Eye is also an obvious support plant just for her. The Core Set doesn’t really offer Patrice much in terms of Survivor cards either, making her very shaky if one were to try and build her on just TDE+Core. This is made worse by having a deck size of 42 instead of 30, so she’ll have to lower her standards quite a bit to fill those last couple slots. She is a very fun investigator when she has the full cardpool behind her, but for a limited pool i sadly will have to call her barely functioning.

Neutral

The Black Cat(5): Excellent. As long as you are willing to pay the XP cost, this cat can do a lot of good for you, tanking a lot of damage and horror and/or lowering the impact of the two worst symbol tokens in the chaos bag (aside from the tentacle, of course).
Versatile(2): Excellent. While increasing the number of cards in your deck leads to a decrease in consistency, this effect is often overstated. On a small collection, this is quite bad of course but once you got enough to fill 40 or even more cards with just good cards, this allows you to do some really cool things. This is an amazing deckbuilding enabler.
Lucid Dreaming(2): Bad. Another tutor-style card that trades one of your actions for access to a specific card. Sadly this is more on the side of Word of Command instead of Scrounge for Supplies, costing resources and XP. It’s even more limited in its targets than Word of Command and as a result there are very few use cases for this card even in a full card pool.

Final Verdict

This is a really weird set when it comes to whether you should consider it as a first purchase. The presence of the Myriad and Bonded keywords lead to there being a large amount fewer unique cards in this box than usual. Regular sets like Carcosa have around 17 cards per class. For Dream-Eaters, the numbers are: 15 for Rogue, 13 for Guardian and Mystic, 12 for Survivor and finally only 11 for Seeker (Mystic has 15 if you count all the Empower Selfs as unique). That’s an average of 13, four fewer cards than usual (or 23% less).
So if your goal is getting a bigger number of cards to build your decks with, Dream-Eaters is definitely not the way to go. On the other hand, this box has undeniably a higher average card quality than the ones before it. There might be fewer cards by total count, but considering there are barely any bad cards in this box, you might just end up with more useful cards after all. I find this very hard to gauge in a direct comparison. The card pool is rather specialized in the most cases, so i think my suggestion here leans towards going for a more generally applicable set of cards.
Of the investigators, four out of five see good to great support in this box and can easily be played with just Dream-Eaters and the Core. Patrice won’t really work however. She’s just in general quite difficult to build for, so this doesn’t surprise me that much. She’s very rewarding to play once you got something good, but that requires more support than what’s on display here.
So ultimately, does this work as a first buy after the Core? Yes.
Do i recommend buying this first? No.
It’s chock full of staple cards that are incredibly valuable for many decks, but as a first step a broader array of cards is more immediately useful. If you are after instant power, the investigator starter decks are also comparable options that do a better job of giving you specific archetypes to build around. One or two investigator expansions in, Dream-Eaters becomes a priority pickup though. There’s so much good stuff in this box that you will not want to miss for long!

Surge

That’s it for the Dream-Eaters player card overview.
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Investigator Expansion Review: Forgotten Age

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Introduction

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

The Investigators

The five investigators of The Forgotten Age are all quite different from each other.
Leo is the only one here that follows the basic main class + sub class template from the Core. He is Guardian main with Rogue on the side. This allows him to easily sidestep one of the biggest weaknesses of the Guardian class, their lack of economy for their expensive assets. As an investigator focused on allies, he’s able to play a lot of them and even gets investigator abilities that further help with paying for them and finding them. He’s very good in a straightforward way.
Ursula fully embraces the playstyle of evading enemies and blitzing past them to finish the scenario. With bonus investigate actions after moving, she’s especially good in lower player counts where she can quickly move on from one location to the next. Her deck building gives her trait-based access to Relic cards which is relatively minor on just a Core+TFA base, but opens up some nice options for wider collections including a couple of the Rogue exceptional cards she can draw and tutor into easily.
Finn is another investigator focused on evading enemies and he’s very good at it. His deckbuilding is a bit convoluted: He can only take Rogue up to level 3, but Illicit cards up to 5. In addition he can pick up up to 5 level zero cards from Survivor or Seeker. His inability to take level 4 and 5 Rogue is a frequent annoyance, even more so when you see that there are no Illicit cards in Core+TFA that aren’t already covered by Rogue 0-3. Even when adding Dunwich and Carcosa, the only thing the Illicit trait adds is the Chicago Typewriter… a rogue card. Despite that, he isn’t bad. His stats are great, allowing him to be a Rogue clue seeker that is also able to evade and even defend himself in a pinch. The small Seeker/Survivor splash can be used to enhance his investigation capabilities quite well.
Father Mateo has a similar weirdness in his deckbuilding rules to Finn: He does have access to 0-5 Mystic like a proper main class member, but his trait based access to Blessed cards basically covers three cards in the pool up to TFA. However, he does get 5XP from the start to compensate which is really nice. His deck building also opens up a lot once you add the Innsmouth expansion to your collection which focuses on the Blessed trait in a big way. Mateo is notable for having an excellent Elder Sign ability that is worth building around with chaos bag manipulation.
Calvin is a bit of a gimmick character, with a zero in all his attributes which get raised for each point of damage or horror on him. He is very powerful in spite of this and his trait based access to Spirit cards gives him a lot of options from other classes than Survivor. With just Core+TFA, the list of Spirit cards is still rather small, but they are great cards that synergize very well with Calvin. Other expansions add a lot of cards to this, most notably the Nathaniel Cho starter deck which even has a Spirit subtheme going on.

Guardian

Flamethrower(5): Excellent to Staple. Arguably the weapon with the most raw power. A massive attack bonuses and up to 4 damage against single enemies allow this thing to wreak havoc. The only real drawback this has is taking up the body slot which means you can’t use a Bandolier for a sidearm at the same time.
Handcuffs: Good to Excellent. Defuses an enemy with a single test and most importantly without actually killing it. Limited to Humanoids, but that’s a very common trait that almost always has good targets.
Kerosene(1): Okay. Offers 2 points of heal for an action which is fine, but there are some hoops to jump through. On a positive note, this heals allies which isn’t common at all.

M1918 BAR(4): Good. The ability to dunk on enemies with up to 5 damage at a time is something very special. You can do some fun things with this toy in the wider card pool. In this expansion it’s sadly very overshadowed by the Flamethrower.
Survival Knife: Excellent. A workhorse of a card and one of the better sidearms to carry along a different main weapon.
Venturer: Good. At 4 resources he’s slightly too expensive for most decks, but he does fit in several contexts and does a unique job.

Well Prepared(2): Excellent. It’s rather easy to make this work in a way where you can usually exhaust it for 2 icons every turn. Often you don’t even need to build around it, story assets handed out by the campaigns usually do have very good icons to leech from.
Blood Eclipse(3): Good. Even if you are not using this to jumpstart Calvin, this is a pretty good attack spell that can deal up to 4 damage for just one resource.
Custom Ammunition(3): Okay. A bit too expensive for what it does and the restriction of the damage effect to Monsters stings. It does work against Elites which gives it a place, but this gets left behind in a larger card pool.

Marksmanship(1): Excellent. Even just using a regular old .45 Auto, this allows shooting into a connected location for 3 damage for just 2 resources. That is really good. The ability to bypass Aloof is also frequently relevant. The reliance on a Firearm is the only reason this is not a staple.
Reliable(1): Good. Notably this doesn’t need to go on a firearm, so you can put it on a melee weapon to get more uses out of the bonus. Actually, it doesn’t even need to go on a weapon but could enhance an investigation tool instead. Flexible and decently powerful for little cost.
Scene of the Crime: Excellent. One of the best ways for Guardian to collect clues and there are several cards in the wider card pool enabling that condition to be more consistent.

Second Wind: Good. The price is right on this one, offering 2 heal for an action and even replacing itself. There’s conditions, but those can usually be fulfilled.
Trusted: Okay. A bit of a niche card that is best when used with allies that use up their health as charges for an ability (like Beat Cop(2) does).

Intrepid: Bad. A convoluted card that gives you bonuses for tests beyond the one you are trying to pass. Would be borderline playable with a wild icon, but being limited to willpower tests is just too narrow.
Take the Initiative: Staple. Three wild icons is fantastic and this is particular great during the Mythos phase, neutralizing treacheries. Even in the wider card pool, there is only one card (Steadfast from Circle Undone) that competes with Take the Initiative for this critical encounter defense spot.

Most useful: Scene of the Crime, Take the Initiative, Survival Knife
Least useful: Intrepid, Trusted, Kerosene

Verdict: Amazing set of cards with several high points and only very few downs. Many of these cards have staying power throughout the whole card pool. Of special note is the addition of two capstone weapons for Guardian, both of them more generically useful than the Shotgun from the Core. Healing (and damaging yourself) appears here, partly as a nod towards Calvin. Only one new ally joins the roster for Leo to play with (plus another one in Rogue), but to be fair the two Guardian allies in the Core are excellent and you can easily make Leo shine with just Core+TFA. There are some ammo cards here joining Extra Ammunition from the Core. One of the weapons added here is very inefficient with these ammo cards, though (the BAR only starts shining with some of the Rogue ammo cards in other expansions). Add some other generically useful cards into the mix like Scene of the Crime or Well Prepared and you end up with a great selection of cards for this class. Intrepid is really the only one here that is forgettable.

Seeker

Dr. Horowitz: Good. Famously able to hold the Ornate Bow for you so you can keep your hands free. But there are plenty of other good uses for her, including a couple more in this very expansion.
Feed the Mind(3): Okay. It does allow you to draw a ridiculous amount of cards, but that horror clause can catch up with you. Still, anything that potentially lets you go from 0 to 8 cards in hand without a drawback is worth a look.
Otherworldly Compass(2): Okay. For the most part, this is a Flashlight without charges. The condition can randomly disable it, however. Usually not worth spending XP on, but does the job.

Pnakotic Manuscripts(5): Okay to Good. A very powerful effect held back by an expensive asset and of course the cost in XP. The action cost for the ability also stings, making this mostly a Daisy card.
Quick Study(2): Okay. Dropping a clue to get a chunky skill bonus can situationally be worth it, sure. Does that mean you want to include an asset and then play it just for that option? Has some niche playability in Roland and Rex.
Shrewd Analysis: Staple. Costs you nothing to include, it’s just an option to consider. Doesn’t get cheaper than that. The card can potentially save you a good amount of XP.

Tooth of Eztli: Excellent. A very nice piece of encounter protection that is playable by lots of investigators.
Expose Weakness(3): Bad. Paying 3XP for a card that allows you to make an extra test to hopefully get the effect that a good skill card would’ve provided. Yuck. I suppose this at least replaces itself, but that effect is just not something I am interested in. And certainly not for 3XP.
Persuasion: Okay. Shuffling an enemy pack into the deck with just an intellect test isn’t actually all that bad. It’s limited by trait, which makes it a bit unreliable. It’s a rather common trait, though.

Truth from Fiction: Okay. There’s not a whole lot of ways to generate extra Secrets, so this can become a necessary evil for some interaction that you want to build around. 2 resources and an action is a lot for this effect though. The double intellect icons are quite relevant to making this card playable.
Unearth the Ancients: Good. Not actually restricted to Relics, so you can totally use this to for example cheat Dr. Milan into play with a test instead of paying for him. Again, good icons help a lot here.

Vantage Point: Bad. Has some niche use for fetching a clue from a far away location, but the effect is usually not worth the card.
True Understanding: Okay to Good. Gives you a clue without an action, just like Deduction. Unlike Deduction you can not freely trigger this whenever and you also can’t do the test with your intellect (well, in most cases). In spite of these restrictions, this card is decent for high willpower/agility seekers.

Ancient Stone(1): Being a researchable card that already requires XP for the unidentified version, this will usually not be active before scenario 3. That’s a bit of a bummer right away when comparing it to researchables from other sets. That being said, going through the motions is worth it, especially the damage stone is very good. The horror stone isn’t bad either. There’s no upper limit for how high you can crank the test difficulty (and therefore the number of charges) and getting a number as high as possible here is a fun minigame. Realistically, you really only need a 5 or 6 to make these very worth it.

Most useful: Ancient Stone(all), Tooth of Eztli, Shrewd Analysis
Least useful: Vantage Point, Expose Weakness(3), Feed the Mind(3)

Verdict: Very hit or miss. There’s some good stuff in here, but mostly this set of Seeker cards doesn’t impress. Aside from the Relic theme, there’s not much in terms of archetye support in this, with the cards being fairly unconnected.
As for Ursula, the TFA card pool sadly lacks the great movement tools that Seeker has available and that synergize very well with her investigator ability. So while she’s certainly playable with just TFA+Core, she wants cards from other expansions to really take off and lean into her strengths.

Rogue

Borrowed Time(3Ex): Good to Excellent. Allows saving up actions for later turns. Can also be used in some contexts to launder temporary or limited actions into full ones for the next turn. Like most exceptionals, this is a high cost, high impact thing.
Colt Vest Pocket: Bad. This doesn’t really have any upside over a “proper” weapon. I suppose it’s a resource or two cheaper? Not worth it at all.
Decorated Skull: Okay. This is fine, but you’ll often want something else in your accessory slot. Especially true since this is in the same set as the Cigarette Case.

Fence: Okay to Good. The Illicit trait needs a bit more support to make Fence good. Notably (almost) all Rogue weapons are Illicit, so this allows holding back your weapons for when you need them.
High Roller(2): Excellent. Similar to Well Prepared, but this doesn’t have a condition in terms of other cards in play. Instead forces you to gamble. Even if you end up bricking a test or two and losing out, it will usually be worth it over time. Just don’t get to the point where you are so poor you can’t afford to trigger it anymore.
Lola Santiago(3): Staple. Simply amazing. For only 3 resources you don’t only get two relevant stat bonuses, but also an outlet that lets you convert your spare resources into testless, actionless clues. Lola is one of the main reasons that Rogues often make very good clue finders.

Lucky Cigarette Case: Staple. One of the best card draw engines in the game. This just hands you card after card after card as long as you keep doing things you are good at.
The Skeleton Key(2Ex): Okay to Good. I am not a fan of this one, but it has its followers. You do get to investigate easily, but with a high action tax required to set up the Key in multiple locations.
Treasure Hunter(1): Okay. Fine as a temporary ally, but you don’t want to keep this guy around for long.

You Handle This One: Excellent. Low willpower rogues need to somehow deal with all those treacheries that keep screwing them over. Passing the buck over to someone who is actually good at that does the trick in a very rogueish manner.
Coup de Grace: Okay to Good. Not bad if you expect to run into a lot of cultists, but that limitation to using it on your last action is a pain. This is however a level zero card with double fight icons and that’s rare enough to be valuable.
Eavesdrop: Okay to Bad. Too many conditionals to be worth it.

Payday: Excellent. Many rogues are able to routinely take more than three actions per turn, giving this more value than an Emergency Cache. You can’t use this to gain money for something to play on the same turn, but that’s something you can play around usually.
Slip Away: Good. Allows binding a Hunter for two turns, enough to leave it behind.

All In(5): Excellent. Drawing a bunch of cards just for doing what you do feels great. It even comes with 2 wild icons itself. It’s expensive, but feels like cheating. Fun fact: No investigator in this expansion can take this card.
Hatchet Man: Okay to Bad. Even in the sort of evasion/fight hybrid decks this seems to encourage, this often doesn’t feel great. It’s usually better to run a skill that simply gives you more evasion icons.

Most useful: Lucky Cigarette Case, Lola Santiago(3), High Roller(2)
Least useful: Hatchet Man, Eavesdrop, Colt Vest Pocket

Verdict: A very solid pool of cards and the few missteps in it are easily countered by the high points. In particular, it can’t be overstated how much Lola Santiago and the Lucky Cigarette Case do for Rogue. Both cards are fantastic and fill very important roles.
The cards contain minor nods to both Finn and Leo while also adding some fuel to typical rogue things like having money, having actions and having Exceptional cards.
Finn can me built to work with just Core+TFA thanks to being rather strong by himself. Lean hard into his own evasion ability with some more evasion cards in his deck, then add some Mag Glasses and you are ready to go.
Yep, this works.

Mystic

Arcane Research: Staple. Are you running spells that you want to upgrade? Then you can start with a trauma and get 7(ish)XP for it. Actually take two.
Mists of R’lyeh: Excellent to Staple. The gold standard for evasion spells. Cheap, a good amount of charges and the bonus move is also great.
Mists of R’lyeh(4): Okay. As the upgrade of an excellent card, it can’t be bad as such. But you don’t get anything more than an extra charge and a skill bonus here. It’s a +3 bonus and that’s good, but 4XP is a lot to ask just for that. Not really worth it.

Crystalline Elder Sign(3): Good. Obviously don’t seal the Elder Sign, but tucking away the +1 for a permanent +1 to everything is not bad at all. Of course you need to actually gain value out of the +1 to your non-Will stats, otherwise you might as well include the Holy Rosary and be done with it.
Olive McBride: Excellent. Whenever you are looking for a specific token in the bag, Olive will triple your chances. Even just as 3 sanity soak for 2 resources she’s good.
Protective Incantation(1)
: Okay. Between Chthonian Stone, Seventh Sign and Incantations, up to 4 tokens can be sealed away. At least temporarily, the resource cost is significant. Possibly the bigger problem is the arcane slot which means that going all in on Seal leaves the Mystic without space for combat/seeking spells.

Recall the Future(2): Excellent. Often, this is able to lower the potential negative modifier you have to account for, putting this on a similar level to a +1 to all skills effect. Has also some neat interactions with the wider card pool (curse tokens, for example…).
Seal of the Seventh Sign(5): Okay to Good. The effect of sealing away the tentacle is amazing. But this card comes not only come at a large price, but it also requires a bunch of work to be efficient. To let this stick around in play, you almost need to use it together with more sealing that takes away the bad tokens that would trigger the Forced on this.
Shards of the Void(3): Okay to Good. Shards is a bit too gimmicky for my tastes, but can be made to work and is really neat when it does its thing.

The Chthonian Stone: Good. 3 resources is a good chunk, but the Stone is a very solid baseline for the Seal mechanic. The tentacle can randomly ruin you here, but on average this sticks around a good while.
Counterspell(2): Good. Does not only make sure that you pass a test, but also cancels the negative effects of the token. Better than just another skill because it’s reactive, so you only play it when you actually need it.
Dark Prophecy: Okay to Bad. Has some uses fishing for certain tokens or just for making (almost) sure you don’t pull a tentacle on an important test. Ultimately it’s very niche and hard to make worth the card.

Premonition: Good. When you know the next token you’ll pull you can plan around it. It costs a card, but if this stops you from committing something because you already know you’ll pass, it immediately makes up for it.
Sacrifice(1): Good to Excellent. A very useful card that can refill your hand as long as you have something to throw into it. Something like an Arcane Initiate or an empty spell.

Defiance(2): Good. Immunity to all bad tokens (except for the tentacle) is great, especially when the effects are punishing as they often are. Turning those bad tokens into what often is a free pass will tilt chances in your favor in a big way.
Enraptured: Okay. The limitation to investigations makes this very niche. There’s not a huge amount of cards that add charges so this does have a place in some decks, but just barely.

Most useful: Olive McBride, Arcane Research, Mists of R’lyeh(0)
Least useful: Enraptured, Mists of R’lyeh(4), Protective Incantation

Verdict: A handful of staples and near-staples make a good impression. There is a big focus on sealing and token mitigation. This archetype suffers a bit from requiring full devotion to it to matter, but it is a valid way of building a mystic, mostly for full multiplayer groups where everyone can profit from having a neutered chaos bag. The whole seal theme works well with Mateo, who not only comes with his own one-off tentacle counter, but also with a very good Elder Sign ability. Sealing bad tokens and using cards like Olive can then be used to draw this Elder Sign more often to add some extra value to what the Seal mechanic already does by itself. Seal is a standalone mechanic that doesn’t require extra support (although it certainly can profit from some synergies), which means it works perfectly fine when just working off a collection that has only TFA+Core. I feel obligated to mention Jacqueline Fine here, whose investigator starter deck deals in chaos bag manipulation, something that synergizes very well with the Seal mechanic and can be a great combination to get for some cool Mystic builds.

Survivor

Cornered(2): Staple. Not just a way to get skill bonuses, but also a way to discard cards on demand. This is very valuable for Survivor, the class of recursion. Some cards (like the Improvised cycle from this set) are better in the discard than in the hand.
Old Hunting Rifle(3): Good to Excellent. High fight bonus, 3 damage per attack. That’s really good. There’s of course the risk of jamming, but that’s Survivor for you.
On Your Own(3): Good. Anchor for its own archetype. Not something that you will really get into just with Core+TFA, but as the collection grows the power to play events for cheap every turn becomes something to build your whole deck around.

Try and Try Again(1): Okay. Despite being together in the same set, this doesn’t work with Take Heart the way we’d want it to. Yes, it’s infuriating. Still, the card has some fair uses, saving and returning your important skill cards that would otherwise be discarded to untimely tentacles and the like.
Yaotl(1): Good. Can be played together with the Desperate skills from Carcosa, but also has value as just a way to get more cards into your discard for recursion shenanigans. Note that this card has been errata’d to say “once per phase” on its last ability instead of “once per turn”. This means that ability no longer scales with player count but can be used four times per round even in solo.
Against All Odds(2): Okay. This card is tailored towards a few specific investigators. Base skill value means what is printed on the investigator cards, so Calvin loves this thing. For most, this isn’t worth spending XP on though.

Alter Fate(3): Staple. This is for Survivor what Ward of Protection is for Mystic. It’s not quite as widely played because 3XP is sometimes too much, but it can’t be denied that this card is amazing at dealing with all sorts of treacheries.
Dumb Luck: Okay. This is fine, but 2 resources is a hard sell. Note that putting a card on top of the encounter deck means that the lead investigator is the one who is going to redraw it next Mythos.
Live and Learn: Good to Excellent. Good card, but note that this won’t help you when you fail something like a Rotten Remains because the consequences of the fail are resolved in full before repeating the test. If you profit from failing, this can be used in clever ways.

Impromptu Barrier: Okay. Unless you play in full multiplayer, the bonus for playing Barrier from the discard isn’t likely to matter too often. That limits Barrier quite a bit.
Improvised Weapon: Good. As long as you can get it into the discard without having to play it the regular way, this is surprisingly good for anyone with a solid fight value.
Winging It: Staple. Obviously best if you can discard it somehow, but actually tolerable to play from hand. Any Survivor with decent intellect can become a competent clue seeker and Winging It is a good part of it.

Perseverance: Good to Excellent. Calvin’s unique playstyle requires being on the edge to death at all times. Perseverance is your Get Out Of Jail card that will save you when you need it. Of course, this card can do the same job for other investigators as well. Good icons as well!
Last Chance: Okay. Well, speaking of good icons we got 5 wild icons here. Getting them is sort of hard, though. Being without cards is usually not really what you want so including this “just in case” is a difficult sell.

Stunning Blow: Good. Allows evading with the fight skill and is particularly valuable against Elites and enemies with Retaliate that need several attacks.
Take Heart: Staple. An incredibly powerful skill card that is easily triggered and one of the signatures of the Survivor class, fueling them with cards *and* the resources to play those.

Most useful: Take Heart, Cornered, Winging It
Least useful: Impromptu Barrier, Last Chance, Dumb Luck

Verdict: Another good haul! Even the bottom three do have some niche uses that are fine, even if it’s just until the collection gets bigger and these get replaced by better stuff. This set of Survivor cards has several essential cards in it. Cornered, Take Heart, Winging It, Live and Learn, Alter Fate and Perseverance make it into decks often no matter how big your collection is.
Perseverance and Against All Odds are clearly tailored towards Calvin and they are indeed great for him. Calvin doesn’t need much else in terms of special support, just some soak for horror and damage that can be used as buffer while he stays on death’s door and leverages his high skill values. With Core+TFA as your only pool, there are only a few options for this, but you can always fall back on Elder Sign Amulet and Bullet Proof Vest to make it work. As mentioned earlier, the amount of Spirit cards for Calvin is still rather small in Core+TFA, but Ward of Protection and Blood Eclipse are really nice for him. Sadly he can’t take “I’ve had it worse”… until you get the level 2 version in Circle Undone.
But to make a long story short, this is another good pool of cards and the investigator works on a small collection as well. Thumbs up.

Neutral

Backpack: Okay to Good. Can potentially grab multiple cards, but even just using it to dig for a specific card can be worth it. Two resources are a big ask sometimes, after all you do still need to play the assets you find afterwards.
Hemispheric Map(3): Okay. Not a bad card as such, but paying 3XP for it is a bit much and you’ll usually find something better within the class.
Ornate Bow(3): Excellent. Gives high agility characters a way to fight with that instead of the fight skill. At the same time it gives a nice skill bonus and an impressive +2 damage. This is not just a good weapon, it can even be a card to build your whole deck around.

Thermos: Okay to Good. 4 resources is a lot. But when trauma starts stacking up you have to do what you have to do. Effectively a 1XP card because you will usually not want this in your initial deck and opt into it later when needed instead.
Timeworn Brand(5): Staple. It does cost 5XP and 5 resources but for that you get an excellent weapon. There are no conditions to it, it consistently gives +2 skill and a damage. Usually this requires charges or ammo. Or being two-handed, but the Brand is even a one-handed weapon. All of this means that this weapon does outclass almost everything comparable even in Guardian and Rogue as long as you are able to throw your XP at it. Oh right, there’s another ability on the thing. Very good card.
Trench Coat: Okay. If you really need more agility, this does work. It’s rather expensive at 3 resources, though.

Final verdict

This is a really good box of cards. Lots of cards with staying power make Forgotten Age a goldmine for both new players and veterans.
There are several archetypes supported here, with a couple of nods towards others that need more support. Guardian has big guns and ammo refills. Seeker is heavily into the Relic trait and deals with Secrets on the side. Secrets isn’t a thing you can built into yet, but there are some early roots for that here. Rogue has several cards that deal with their action advantage. Fence is there as a card that can be built around, although the Illicit archetype probably needs a bit of input from other sets to become something really good. Similarly, High Roller points towards the Money Hoarding archetype. Mystic has the most well developed theme with almost all of the cards dealing either with Seals, with preventing token effects or with manipulating the chaos bag in other ways. Somehow one of the Secret support cards got lost and appeared in Mystic instead of Seeker. Survivor has several cards that anchor archetypes: Cornered, On Your Own and Yaotl. Cornered has the Improvised events to interact with in this set, the other two cards need a bit more from other expansions to impress.
Something that I honestly was surprised by while going over the cards is how well this box works with just the Core behind it. With possible exception of Ursula who doesn’t really spread her wings without Shortcut and/or Pathfinder available, the investigators all work very well right away. And even Ursula works at least well enough.
As a result I give this box a clear recommendation for new players as a possible alternative for those who don’t want to go in chronological order.

Surge

That’s it for the Forgotten Age player card overview.
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Investigator Expansion Review: Scarlet Keys

Please note: This post was written during weeks zero and one of the expansion’s release. Most of what’s on here is speculative, i didn’t actually play with these cards much yet. Or at all, really. So take this for what it is, a series of hot takes. I think this is still worth doing, because one of the main goals here is determining how suitable this set is for a new player, what archetypes are represented and how the investigators work within the context of the set. So it doesn’t matter if i am under- or overvaluing one card or another as long as the general impression with each class comes across.
Once a month or three have passed and both myself and the community have gotten a firmer grip on how these cards fit everywhere i will return to this page and give it a complete do-over. Until then, this is Scarlet Keys: Hot Take Edition

Introduction

This is an overview of the player cards in the Scarlet Keys 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

Please find a detailed overview of these characters here:
The Investigators of Scarlet Keys

Guardian

Hunter’s Armor(C): Excellent. If you are looking for a defensive card, there’s not a lot that can compete with this. It also potentially doubles as a card draw engine or damage source.
Obsidian Bracelet: Okay to Bad. Seems too narrow to be worth it. Paying a sizeable amount of resources and reserving your hand slot just to prepare for possibly drawing a treachery in the coming turns isn’t appealing even if the 3/3 soak is a lot.

Runic Axe(C): Excellent. As far as two-handers go, this can do a lot of damage. Like the armor, the axe can also draw cards and it can even become a weird clue seeking device.
Bolas: Good. Getting to evade with your fight skill can be valuable for all sorts of enemies that you don’t want to kill and against Hunters it keeps slowing them down to the point where you can easily bypass them

Custom Modifications(C): Good to Excellent. One problem i constantly run in with Guardian is the lack of good one-handed weapons on the upper end. Using Custom Mods, you can now take even something like a lowly .45 and make it into something worth taking into the final scenarios.
Breach the Door: Good. A one-shot Skeletal Key which is solid. Better in multiplayer when more clues are on one location.

Grievous Wound: Bad to Okay. The most convoluted Vicious Blow ever. Has some borderline playability for its icons but in anything but the shallowest card pools you’ll find something better for your 30 cards.
Motivational Speech: Staple. A great way to save money without costing an action. And you are even able to use it on other players, giving them an action that way.
One in the Chamber: Okay. A fun card to play with the Extended Magazine upgrade of Custom Modifications. Or with shotguns. Or to follow up on a failed kill shot. There’s some use cases with this card, but the timing restriction is rather limiting.

Fighting Lessons: Okay. Guardian just has way too many good skills for evading and/or fighting that outclass this one. That being said, the card is decent and if you do think you can get some value out of the remote commit, this can do a good job.
Helping Hand: Bad. A skill card that requires another skill card and then only copies the icons, not the additional effects. It’s going to be hard to gain more out of this than with just another actual skill that can be used on its own *or* with others.
Bestow Resolve(2): Excellent. This card does a lot. Commits to other locations. Allows to commit multiple skills to another investigator’s test at once. Turns those awkward cards with three non-matching icons into 3 wild icons. It doesn’t even exhaust, so you can use this to just nuke a test from orbit.

Field Agent(2): Excellent. She’s good even if you can’t heal her. I’ve certainly gladly paid 4 resources for 2 clues before, getting an ally with an intellect boost in the mean time is just fantastic. Of course, if you do have healing, she gets even better.
Guard Dog(2): Staple. What a massive upgrade on an already amazing card. More stamina equals more damage dealt and the ability to provoke enemies can do some neat stuff. Also triggers on being dealt horror, which the level 0 doesn’t. So that’s even more potential damage dealt.
Handcuffs(2): Excellent. Solid upgrade. A resource saved is nice and so is the ability to shut down cultists. The real price is the Fast keyword, as it not only saves an action, but it also means you no longer have to play Handcuffs in advance. You can just drop them from your hand when something engages you now.

Martyr’s Vambrace(3): Good. I am keen on playing this card alongside Rosary(2) and/or Tooth of Eztli, using Relic Hunter. That being said, i am not sure i like it too much on its own, just seems a bit too expensive in terms of XP. It certainly does its job well, though.
Girish Kadakia(4): Good to Excellent. An ally well worth the 4XP, Girish can tank a lot of damage for the team while throwing around skill bonuses at the same time. Good icons too that invite to use him with Well Prepared. Or in Charlie, of course.

Prepared for the Worst(2): Good. The original level 0 is a staple of course. The 2XP here don’t make the card better at it’s primary job (finding a weapon), so you’d only get this if you want to use it on other players. It’s a niche and sure, that’s valuable. Getting a free action is also not nothing, but i don’t think it’s worth doing the upgrade unless you really end up with XP to burn which usually isn’t the case in Guardian.
Ever Vigilant(4): Good. A similar situation here. I am sure that some groups can get a lot of mileage out of this upgrade due to allowing everyone to play assets without an action. But just for a +1 card i wouldn’t want to pay 3XP, so this is also a card where i’d want it for a certain job and not otherwise.

Most useful: Guard Dog(2), Motivational Speech, Field Agent
Least useful: Obsidian Bracelet, Helping Hand, Grievous Wound

Verdict: A very solid card pool with a healthy mix of greats, no-so-greats and everything in between. There’s a noticeable amount of cards that care about taking hits, often even for other investigators. Those play well with Carson of course, but they are also a nice backdrop for the arrival of the Guard Dog(2) that was voted into existence on a stream almost 2 years ago. Speaking of Carson, many of these cards affect any investigator at their owner’s location, thus building into his support role. So the butler certainly got some attention within this card pool. Yet, i am skeptical if it’s enough to make him do well on just Scarlet Keys and the Core Set. Especially since most of these do actually require a good amount of XP to get.
When looking at the level zero cards, i feel like it’s a sharp decline in card quality when compared to the leveled up cards. Motivational Speech, One in the Chamber and Bolas are highlights, but the others are all various shades of meh.
The Customizables are all worth building into, with a wide variety of options. I especially like that both Axe and Armor give reasonable card draw engines to Guardian and that Custom Mods gives one-handed firearms more ways to compete against the large arsenal of two-handed guns that dominate the higher XP ranges.
The final card i want to mention here is Bestow Resolve, a very interesting build-around card that i could imagine trying to specifically tailor a deck towards using.
All together a good set of cards, with a more questionable investigator headlining it.

Seeker

Alchemical Distillation(C): Good. I like this for seekers in a supportive role. The ability to use this on investigators that struggle with card draw or resources makes this useful from level zero on and the Empowered upgrade seems to me like it’s very worth it even for off-class seekers.
Dissection Tools: Okay to Good. Reserving your handslot for this is a tough ask for most investigators that frequently evade or fight. That being said, this is really easy to fill up (no limit like on the Hawk-Eye Cam) and there are no alternatives that do the same job, so this does have potential.

Empirical Hypothesis(C): Staple. This seems to be an insane card to me even at level 0 due to how easy it is to accumulate tokens on this. Just a few XP go a long way to make it almost trivial to fulfill each round. This is kinda a slotless Lucky Cigarette Case at level zero and scales up from there. Nuts.
Grim Memoir: Good. 4 cards for 3 resources and an action is decent, even if it trickles in over a couple turns. Potentially a lot better in Daisy, who now has a way to basic investigate with her bonus action. Especially level 0 decks will appreciate the +2 skill bonus a lot! I like this more than Fingerprint Kit(0).

The Raven Quill(C): Excellent. There’s so many weird uses to this one, something is bound to stick around as worth doing. Personally i am most excited about the prospect of no longer needing a handslot for my Occult Lexicon, but there’s a lot more possible with this.
Research Notes: Good. It’s an enabler for an archetype with little use outside of that archetype. Knowledge is Power apparently combos with this, but that’s more a sign of KiP being busted than Research Notes.

Bizarre Diagnosis: Okay to Good. I wish this was flexible enough to also allow horror healing. It’s just a bit too narrow for my tastes, but the icons are good and if this does something like bringing your Guard Dog(2) up to full again you will love it.
Captivating Discovery: Good to Excellent. Really good at finding what you need. I think this has some great use outside of the “Dropping Clues” archetype as well. I am lowballing this rating because i want to try it, but i think it might just become a staple.
Map the Area: Okay to Bad. Replacing the investigation kills this for me. I’m sure someone will find a use for this in something like a Barricade Minh deck, but for most decks this won’t be great.

Analysis: Okay. Can allow you to force a test through by dropping a clue or two, but in most cases i’d just be happy to play something with more icons instead.
Lab Coat(1): Good to Excellent. This is virtually +1 to a test every turn, with some extra utility against 13th Vision. If you managed to drop the difficulty to 1 or 0, this effect even beats the tentacle token. Only works on Seeker assets, but especially now that there’s a Fingerprint Kit(4) there’s good ways to use it. Only takes the body slot, too.
Orphic Theory(1): Good. This is a useful ability with a good amount of uses. Capable of dealing with a wide variety of problems.

Existential Riddle(1): Excellent. Fantastic piece of removal that is only held back by the requirement for cards in hand.
Guidance(1): Good. The skill bonus for the whole turn is just the sort of additional value that Guidance needed to become interesting. Seekers are still the ones least likely to be able to spare an action, but the card is significantly improved now.
Dr. Maleson(2): Excellent to Staple. The good doctor has always been playable already just for his soak, but now the ability is great, too. Choosing between either of two encounter cards will make the mythos phase a lot less stressful and dropping a clue is a small price to pay for that privilege. I could see a seeker using Maleson to just never draw an enemy unless there were three of them stacked .

Press Pass(2): Excellent. Four resources is a lot, enough that this is likely not worth playing without any clue dropping synergies. In a deck that does have those, it’s completely nuts though. The combo with Maleson(2) alone is amazing.
Surgical Kit(3): Excellent to Staple. I actually think this is playable even as your only source of healing. Using two actions to heal 3 damage, 1 horror and also draw a card? That’s a more than decent deal! In a deck with other healing, this takes off completely. Doesn’t even use an equipment slot and you can refill it comletely with Emergency Cache(3). It’s cheap. It has good icons. There’s simply a lot to like here.

Fingerprint Kit(4): Excellent to Staple. Clearly, this is a card with a lot of raw and obvious power. One of the few instances where a card gets more expensive to play when upgrading it from the default, but since this discovers 6 additional clues instead of 3, that might be worth it. With every use being worth (more than) a Deduction(2), gaining more supplies also becomes very worth doing.
Gray’s Anatomy(5): Excellent. A repeatable source of up to 3 damage per action is worth attention, even if there’s a test required and an actual primary damage source. The healing is also good, but needed far less often. Attacks of Opportunity are a concern, but even this set has Raven Quill already as a potential solution.

Most useful: Empirical Hypothesis(C), Existential Riddle(1), Fingerprint Kit(4)
Least useful: Map the Area, Bizarre Diagnosis, Analysis

Verdict: Very good set of cards. Even the three i mention as “Least useful” do have their niches to fill and i could see putting any of them into decks. A class pool without a misfire is a rare thing.
The seeker of the set, Vincent, can only take level 0-3 Seeker cards and that shines through on the card pool here, with only little of the card pool caring about healing and mostly just your regular clue tech. There’s even some Tool cards thrown in for good measure. The level 4 and 5 cards are a Tool and a “card that heals” (yes it counts, as per designer’s decree) so there are no cards in here that can’t be used by anyone in the box, which is a thing that happened in some other sets before and that i always thought was a bit awkward.
Many of the cards focus on an archetype that drops clues for value. There have been cards doing that before, but now they get a coherent umbrella and some cards that deliver additional payoff for leaning into this playstyle. The cards involved in this are pretty much all good, so that’s certainly going to be a valid way to play your seeker going forward.
Despite Vincent being here, healing isn’t a huge focus of the Seeker card pool. There are a few good cards here, but again the relevant cards for the investigator support require a decent pile of XP to even get. So if you are basing your Vincent on just Scarlet Keys and the Core, you will likely end up being after clues most of the time with some healing on the side. Unless you really plan on spending most of your time with Medical Texts(0)…
Again, the Customizables are really nice. I particularly like how Alchemical Distillation enables a very support heavy seeker, even aside from just healing.
Very nice set addition to the Seeker card pool here.

Rogue

Damning Testimony(C): Okay. This is fine for rogues with high intellect, but there’s only so many of them. And even then, investing a bunch of XP into a souped up Fingerprint Kit is not really something i think as worth doing. The remote investigation is solid, but the dependence on where enemies are currently makes it a bit awkward to use, too.
Disguise: Good. If evasion is something you plan on doing as your main job, this is nice. Paying the resources (and an extra action) upfront is a real cost, though. So for those that only evade occasionally, a more reactive card like Slip Away(2) probably beats using Disguise. As a source of four +2 skill bonuses to a skill that most rogues are good at already, Disguise can be a neat part of an oversuccess strategy.

Friends in Low Places(C): Excellent to Staple. This has a chance to become Rogue’s version of Prepared for the Worst. It’s much more flexible and can be used for card advantage as well. That to me sounds like it justifies the XP cost.
Embezzled Treasure: Good to Excellent. Translating an abundance of resources in the lategame (which rogues often have) into a smoother early game for the next scenario is fantastic. You can even pass those resources to someone else. The only question is if this can find a deckslot in 30, as it has a similar problem to cards like Delve Too Deep in that it’s not immediately useful.

Honed Instinct(C): Good. A couple extra actions never hurt anybody and as long as you can reliably oversucceed, these are easy enough to trigger. That being said, finding three deck slots for this is probably not going to be easy most of the time.
Thieves Kit: Staple. Using your agility to investigate is very useful for many rogues. This complements Pilfer very well. It also pays for itself over time … and then some. Fantastic card.

Hidden Pocket: Okay. There’s way too many conditionals on this one to be generally useful but as a way to get extra value out of a Toolbelt, Fine Clothes or similar it’s decent enough.
Hit and Run: Good. There’s a lack of really good targets for Hit and Run, at least outside of Seeker. It’s a card with lots of potential though and just like Calling in Favors i expect this to only gain in value over time.
I’ll Take That: Excellent. A way to play an item without an action is great and getting a discount on it is even better. The Illicit trait is probably not going to be too relevant but feel yourself invited to store all kinds of junk in your Hidden Pocket…

Kicking the Hornet’s Nest: Good to Excellent. As long as you are capable of handling enemies, this is a nice way to get some momentum through extra resources and a clue. Is also able to fish for victory points or for enemies that would otherwise spawn in inconvenient places later on. Unlike the somewhat similar On The Hunt, this can’t find Elites, which does limit the card significantly and stops it from doing some of the more creative things that On the Hunt does (like breaking Where The Gods Dwell)
Quick Getaway: Okay. Useful when a Hunter catches up to you, but can also be used on an attack of opportunity. Those 2 resources are a bit much, after all nobody is playing Swift Reflexes which seems like a much more open-ended way to gain an extra action. The Trick trait is what might get Quick Getaway a few spots in a deck or two.
Calculated Risk: Good. This is a real neat way to trigger a big oversuccess after taking a few extra actions. Even just as a skill with 3 icons, this is decent in spite of its restrictions.

Stylish Coat(1): Good to Excellent. As long as you can reliably trigger this, the extra income stacks up over time. Needs some upfront investment and the soak isn’t all that useful, so this isn’t something to play in most decks. But when you want it, it will be very good.
Chuck Fergus(2): Staple. Hot damn, an early version of Chuck. Chuck is one of the more influential cards of recent times and getting a stepping stone towards the level 5 is going to be very valuable. I might even just stick with the level 2 and spend the 3XP that would otherwise go towards the level 5 upgrade on getting a copy of Crafty.
Dirty Fighting(2): Excellent to Staple. This anchors an fight/evade archetype that was already hinted at with the upgraded .25 Automatics. That it even gives bonuses towards parley gives it even more interesting uses. The “evading an exhausted enemy” thing is clearly tailored specifically for Kymani, but sure… i’ll take it in them as well.

Breaking and Entering(2): Excellent to Staple. Yet another way for rogues to leverage their agility to find clues. We’ve seen this recursion clause on a handful of other upgrades before. It’s been great so far, i see no reason to think it’s any worse here.
Thieves’ Kit(3): Excellent. Sure, 3XP is a lot to spend on an investigation tool, but look at all this money this thing can create. Paying 3 to be able to investigate and also get back 6-12 resources? Sounds like a plan.
Trigger Man(3): Good. A way to use an asset once per turn without it taking an action. That’s pretty great and you even save the resources for the asset. A base skill value of 4 isn’t too hot, but might be even an improvement in some cases. Note that he doesn’t save equipment slots the way Elli or Abigail do. He eats up a lot of resources, but since you are getting actions for it, that’s probably fine. Is he better than Lola or Delilah though? Or if all i am after is another action, the Leo De Luca does still exist and he doesn’t require a resource per turn and can do anything. I think Trigger Man is reasonably strong, but he’s got some serious competition to muscle through to carve out his niche among Rogue allies. One such niche: He can feed you Liquid Courage and lets you test willpower at base 4. That seems… fine? But not “3XP and an ally slot” fine?

Underworld Market(2Ex): Good. It’s card draw in Rogue. That’s kinda cool. It’s also a way to ensure you draw a weapon early on with your fighting rogue… or an investigation tool with your clue rogue. Or both with your flex! This is one of the cards where the jury is still out on whether it’s worth 4XP, but it’s absolutely worth testing. What i like is that i can just throw all my assets into this side deck and have my actual deck be full of events and skills so every draw is more impactful… until the reshuffle at least.
Clean Sneak(4): Okay to Good [EDIT: Just Okay]. If you can use this to nuke a bunch of enemies or gain a couple clues, this is really nice. But to be 4XP worth of “nice” i would want there to be three enemies at my location. Two would be tolerable at least. I just don’t see that happen very often, but maybe in a full multiplayer group this happens more often than i think? [EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that you have to pick different options, so you can’t just go and pick up 3 clues or nuke a group. That makes it rather mediocre in my opinion, at least not worth the 4XP.]

Most useful: Thieves Kit(all), Friends in Low Places(C), Chuck Fergus(2)
Least useful: Quick Getaway, Hidden Pocket, Damning Testimony(C)

Verdict: Between the Thieves Kits and B&E(2), this set enables rogues to investigate reliably with their agility. That is of course great for turning Kymani into a clue seeker, but is useful for many other rogues as well.
Chuck Fergus, the popular engine card that holds together the Trick/Tactic archetype in Rogue, gets a level 2 version here alongside enough Trick and Tactic events to not feel out of place. You’ll still want the Winifred deck to make that archetype well-rounded, though.
Illicit as a trait gets some cross synergies here. While that doesn’t really help Finn and only serves to make Preston look at this card pool in despair, it does enable some neat things and especially Fence from Forgotten Age suddenly looks quite a lot better than before.
Kymani looks well supported to me, even with just Core + Scarlet Keys they can fill the role of a clue seeker that evades enemies (and occasionally even discards them) very well.
The Customizables i am less keen on. Damning Testimony requires too many prerequisites to be good. Honed Instinct is fine, but takes up too much deck space. The third customizable card, Friends in Low Places, is amazing. A flexible twist on Prepared for the Worst that can be turned into something that draws a full grip of other cards is exactly the sort of card that Rogue needed to glue their decks together the same way that Seeker gets to do it.
All together, this is rock solid. Not quite as powerful throughout as the Guardian and Seeker pools, but nothing to complain about at all. Ever since the Winifred deck, Rogue had access to one-handed guns on level (or better) with what Guardian has, now they also get the investigation tools to (not quite, but well enough) rival Seeker. This allows them to be built in a hyperflexible way, similar to how Mystic can do most things well if they put their mind (=deck) to it.

Mystic

Living Ink(C): Good to Excellent. Mystics like their skill boosts and now they have a way to cram +1 willpower into the body slot as well. That alone makes this card playable, but the card has a lot more up its sleeve and it can be used to make those 3s on Amina (or others, of course) more suitable to be built on. Everything that moves mystics away from just pumping willpower gets my approval.
Ceremonial Sickle: Bad. Did i say “Everything”? I misspoke, because this is clearly not it. Even in Amina i wouldn’t be happy to run this. This is simply not good enough, gaining a doom just to get your basic 2 damage attack at skill level 5. And to clear the doom that you might have put on there just to use it (or in Amina’s case, to play it) you attack for 1 damage at skill level 3. Oof.

Summoned Servitor(C): Good. Very costly on slots and even requires a sacrifice, but with the right upgrades you gain a Pathfinder that can also move out and kill cultists. Or do some other things, like getting you clues. Its base stat of 4 is a bit iffy to rely on, so bring some skills to enhance whatever you need it to do.
Dowsing Rod: Good. Unlike the Sickle, the Rod is actually reasonably capable of clearing its doom. Again, i find this suite of cards very unappealing for Amina specifically because of her stunted skill line. But i can imagine this working out with her anyways.

Power Word(C): Okay. I won’t call it Bad, because frankly i don’t fully understand what it tries to do or why you should do this instead of something less convoluted. Seems like a fine card to quasi-evade something without having to test for it as a baseline and i suppose there are other abilities on the upgrade sheet, too 😀 Sorry, this one has me stumped.
Onyx Pentacle: Bad. Yes, let me take this skill level of 3 and oversucceed by 2 real quick. No biggie.(That was sarcasm, btw) I must be missing something here because that just seems ridiculously bad and i somehow can’t imagine the designers putting one of the central cards for the class out like this unless they felt it was worth. But try as i might, i see few reasons to ever put this into a deck here. Well, i suppose it can evade into neighbouring locations. That’s not nothing?

Hallowed Chalice: Okay. As a repeatable source of healing, this is … inefficient. But at least it doesn’t run out? I am not too keen on this one, but at least removing the doom on this doesn’t require testing something, it just happens. So that’s good.
Eldritch Initiation: Okay to Good. Either you draw this early and use it to get two cards (that’s good) or you draw it late and need to somehow set it up to be at least okay. If by the late game you have some chaff in your hand, drawing two and discarding one with this isn’t awful at all. And of course it has the potential to go deeper if you use it with more arcane slots.
Explosive Ward: Okay. Doesn’t have an upper limit, so someone will somehow one-shot something like The Experiment or Yig with it. I think this card has some potential in some decks but it just really lags behind existing cards for non-extreme use cases.

String of Curses: Excellent to Staple. This is a fantastic card. Both of its halves are very useful in multiple ways. The thought of using this to nuke a Wizard of the Order and get some cash for it has me all hot and bothered, but even just wiping away an Acolyte or evading something big while finding a clue are great for a cheap little level zero card.
Binder’s Jar(1): Good to Excellent. Screw canceling attacks, the real use is taking annoying enemies out of the encounter deck. That Wizard of the Order you nuked? It’s not coming back, even if the deck reshuffles. And then you also get some arcane slots out of it. Super cool card.
Ghastly Possession(1): Good to Excellent. I don’t see myself ever using the first mode, but the second one is very nice. Removing doom is obviously good and replenishing charges works well on anything that has at least 4 base uses (otherwise you only get 1 use back which is underwhelming)

Astral Mirror(2): Excellent. This is already useful for the slot shenanigans, allowing your mystics and off-class mystics to carry an obscene amount of tomes, candles, athames or whatever around. But it also comes with a free play action for those assets on top. Sweet card.
Elle Rubash(2): Excellent to Staple. Masking doom from the agenda allows benefiting from any synergies you might have (like Marie does) without repercussions. That’s very powerful and you also get skill bonuses on top for those assets. Basically a prerequisite before one even starts thinking about the doom charm cycle.
Moonlight Ritual(2): Good to Excellent. There’s a lot to like about this upgrade. The level zero was already basically a staple for the decks that needed it to protect themselves from their own and the upgrade improves it on all fronts. I also like that this can be used on enemies and locations, not just player cards.

Ceremonial Sickle(4): Good to Excellent. “Remove all doom”. Those three words make all the difference because now you can imagine taking this, attacking a couple times with +4 skill, then finishing something off to clear it completely. I still wonder how this compares to Abyssal Tome, but with the upgrade it’s definitely something that can be built around.
Dowsing Rod(4): Good. No bonus clue, huh? Shame, that is something i do expect if i am to spend 4XP on something and also manage doom. I suppose it does the job, but I wouldn’t be happy about it and i would much rather play Sixth Sense or just a bunch of events.
Onyx Pentacle(4): Okay. Like with the other two, removing all doom is an important feature. But i still can only shake my head in disbelief about that oversuccess thing. That’s so weird. And so unnecessary.

Sin-Eater(3Ex): Excellent. The card that makes Amina tick. Not only eats doom, but also readies assets (which those doom charms desperately need). Non-Amina investigators have some ways to combo this card with something like Abyssal Tome or David Renfield, but for them it’s probably not worth the 6XP?
Uncage the Soul(3): Good. An expensive upgrade, but in the right deck i can see myself taking it. Getting to play Rituals with it as well is nice, but obviously very deck dependent. Reaching into your discard is super good, though. As is the added flexibility to discard something from play first, which basically allows using Uncage(3) as a slightly worse Recharge(4) for your spell assets.

Most useful: Elle Rubash(2), String of Curses, Living Ink(C)
Least useful: Onyx Pentacle(all), Ceremonial Sickle(0), Explosive Ward

Verdict: This pool of Mystic cards does something that i appreciate a lot, even though that means that it sacrifices a lot in terms of wider playability for these cards. For a large part, Mystic is dominated by cards that work with the investigator’s willpower, the most obvious examples being the different versions of the “spell assets” suites that we got by now. Scarlet Keys breaks with that by having cards that don’t focus willpower, a very good thing for entrenched players who want something fresh for their purple cards. Doing so however led to a set of cards here that are very closely designed with each other in mind and that’s a bit of an issue.
Taking the space of the spell asset suite are a full cycle of handheld doom charms. Using them requires putting doom tokens on them, which can be cleared off with a weaker secondary ability. Sadly their power level is very low and my impression here is that they are balanced under the assumption that you already have Elle Rubash and Sin-Eater in play which is iffy. It leaves you without a very functional deck if you don’t draw your Elle… or if you simply didn’t get to spend that required 10XP entry tax into the archetype. If Amina had some better stats on her than 3s across the board, she could use these charms in a way that would be better than just what mystics usually do. But as it is now, you have to go far out of your way with attribute boosts, upgrades to the charms and assorted doom synergy just to get where Mark is after playing a Machete. The charms don’t even give a particularly great payoff, you get 2 damage or 1 clue per action only even with the level 4 upgrades in play. It’s a whole lot of work just so you don’t have charges on your assets. I don’t want to trash these too hard in a speculative hot take article and maybe i am missing something, but that whole cycle of charms doesn’t seem worth it to me at all. And even if it is, it’s only in Amina?
Switching gears, the doom support cards aside from the doom charms are great. Both Elle and Sin-Eater can work very well in other contexts, and especially Marie is going to be happy to know that she now can keep her 1 doom she wants at all times on the board without it counting for the agenda. Ghastly Possession, String of Curses, the upgraded Moonlight Ritual – those are all great cards to have that will make plenty of decks.
There’s a couple of cards here that care about equipment slots, something we’ve also seen in Edge of the Earth. Having more freedom with your slots is a catalyst for interesting decks and it looks like this is even being grown into its own archetype over time with some payoff cards being dropped here and there. I’m into it.
Mystic gets the weirdest set of Customizables, with Servitor and Power Word both going for a thing where the player commandeers something else to go around and do stuff in their stead. I find these very hard to evaluate, i definitely need to play with these before i feel comfortable claiming whether these are just a convoluted way to do what you’ve always done or if they let you do enough new stuff to be worth the investment. The Living Ink is much more generally useful and allows to tweak the skill line of investigators to ones liking. I think this has a lot of potential, even at low XP cost this is something that can empower some lines of play in a cool fashion.
The mystic of the box, Amina, is well-supported here. In fact, i would go as far as saying she almost comes with her own pre-constructed deck built around the doom charms and the various doom removals. It’s a safe bet that this deck is something that was playtested to hell and back during development of the box, so that should work just fine if assembled in exactly that way. Other cards interesting for Amina include Living Ink, which can save her stat line from mediocrity and the other two customizables which could be used to let her do things without using those stats in the first place. Due to being so self-contained, i think Amina can work well with just Scarlet Keys and the Core.
To sum up my thoughts on Mystic, i do applaud the effort on giving us something fresh here instead of just the next iteration on Shrivelling and Co. I feel like the doom charm cycle is executed way too conservatively and just not worth the effort, but the rest of the cards holds up very well and provides some interesting options for other archetypes as well.

Survivor

Pocket Multi Tool(C): Excellent. A great piece of encounter protection with various other uses as well. Spring-Loaded is an incredibly powerful upgrade.
Idol of Xanatos: Okay to Bad. One of those cards that does a job and does it well, but that is often just going to be too costly. Thanks to their many recursion options, just cycling through teddy bears is often going to do the same without costing as many resources and ravaging your hand. I could see this in Patrice who doesn’t put as much value into sheer card numbers, but even Calvin probably has better things to save him. As just a way to get cards in the discard, it’s too expensive and takes up too valuable of an equipment slot.

Makeshift Trap(C): Good to Excellent. A bit dependent on the campaign that is played, but as a way to deal with Hunters or cultists on the cheap, this is pretty good. I also like the 6XP Fireball Trap you can build with this!
Improvised Shield: Okay. This doesn’t seem a great payoff for an Improvised card to me. Like with the Idol of Xanatos, there’s other options that are both better and more reliable.

Grizzled(C): Excellent to Staple. More amazing encounter protection in Survivor. A self-recurring skill that can commit for 3 or even more icons? Yes, please.
End of the Road: Okay. Survivor has a couple good discard outlets, including some investigators, so the drawback of sitting in your hand doesn’t have to be too bad. And at some point you can just cash this in for an extra action. That seems worth doing to me, but i suspect this is a card you’ll upgrade out of rather soon for more immediately impactful things.

Exploit Weakness: Okay to Bad. Quite limited in its application. Even with the support that archetype gets in Scarlet Keys, lowering the difficulty of attacks or evasions isn’t terribly common. There’s a few good targets for this (like the Conglomeration of Spheres) but not enough that are worth nuking with something like this. Doesn’t do much on its own, so unless we get a weapon equivalent to Old Keychain some time that gives a repeatable fight reduction on enemies, i don’t see this card be worth it except maybe in Darrell. (I’m aware of the Trap. No, i don’t think that’s a particularly good combo either)
Making Preparations: Okay. Coordinating this across a team is going to be awkward as usually people need different things. Even if you can pull it off, it’s just a +1 so it’d need to apply to a whole bunch of tests to be worth a card. Maybe that can be set up, but i am skeptical of this one.
Predator or Prey: Okay to Good. Awkward timing like all of the Dilemmas, but giving a free move to everyone has potential.

Shed a Light: Excellent to Staple. Rewards your setup of lowering shroud to zero by giving you two clues for 2 resources. A fine effect but i don’t think this beats Look What I Found. Of course it doesn’t have to, you can just play both. Pretty great for a level zero.
At a Crossroads(1): Excellent to Staple. This is my favorite of the Dilemmas. Drawing cards is always useful and so is taking actions, so this will only very, very rarely be awkward to draw. I expect to use that action to draw 3 a whole lot.
Lifeline(1): Okay. This is a card that either does nothing or is completely insane. Taking like 5 actions with this is possible with a bit of minor prep work and that’s just going to be nuts. But in the vast majority of decks this is just an extra action after a fail. Which is fine, i guess.

Nature of the Beast(1): Good. It’s a free clue from anywhere. That seems very worth taking an extra encounter card to me, especially since the choice out of three will make it likely that you’ll be able to shrug it off fairly well.
Gumption(1): Excellent to Staple. Finally, payback for how bad Unexpected Courage(2) is. This is a fantastic upgrade on UC, lowering tests is just a lot better than increasing skill by default. Also, this stacks with other difficulty lowering effects, which is still a rarity. Most of those effects are tied to cards that can’t be used at the same time, so Gumption enables some interesting new stuff.
Baseball Bat(2): Okay to Good. That’s cute. Returning to your hand is absolutely fine, considering its relatively low resource cost. And occasionally being able to deal three damage on a skull can be relevant too. It’s been worded to not completely combo with William’s ability, but i could see him getting good value out of this card anyways.

Katja Eastbank(2): Excellent. She’s intended to do Dilemma support, but i am actually more interested in redrawing up to 5 cards. And then just killing her off with damage or horror. That’s some potent card selection, even if it blocks the ally slot for a while.
Heed the Dream(2): Good to Excellent. Given enough time, this will shred everyone’s deck until there’s nothing left. Of course, games don’t go that long and having to remove a few cards is also no biggie unless you are emotionally attached or something. This is just outright great card draw for the whole team.
Salvage(2): Excellent to Staple. Both modes are great here and fit well within existing Survivor decks.

Old Keyring(3): Staple. That thing is insane. The regular Keyring is already nuts, but giving it an extra charge and the potential for extra clues is huge. What a ridiculous card.
Fickle Fortune(3): Good. Removing a doom from the agenda is super powerful and i gladly take some damage and horror on everyone for it. The first option looks a lot less appealing at first glance, but i suspect that it’s going to be the correct one a surprising amount of times.

Most useful: Old Keyring(3), Gumption, At A Crossroads(1)
Least useful: Making Preparations, Idol of Xanats, Improvised Shield

Verdict: There’s a lot of fancy stuff going on in this Survivor set and i like the overwhelming majority of it a lot. There’s really everything here: More cogs in the recursion engine, incredible encounter protection, beginnings of a new archetype and finally what is basically a new card type. Let’s go through them one by one.
Survivor recursion at this point is ridiculously powerful, but Salvage is good enough to stick out even among what we already have from other sets. With Improvised Shield and Baseball Bat(2), there’s two more items that can play into the strategy as well, although those might be a harder sell.
For encounter protection, Grizzled offers recurring stacks of wild icons. Fantastic. And so is the Pocket Multitool, which has “repeatable Lucky for treacheries” as just one of its modes.
Survivor has always been able to reduce difficulty (possibly to zero for a near-guarantee to pass) and that strategy gets a major shot in the arm in this expansion. Most relevant is getting more ways to stack these reductions so that you can now do things like play Winging It with Gumption and reduce a shroud 3 to zero. Really nice.
Dilemmas are a set of cards that trigger as soon as your draw them, sort of like a weakness would but (hopefully!) in a way that helps you. Several of these are nice and it will be interesting to see how they play in practice. With Katja Eastbank, the strategy even got its own ally to build around. Neat.
The Customizables are all three well done and i can see myself playing all of them in different configurations in different decks.
Darrell, the Survivor of the set, can be built into quite well even with just the Core and Scarlet Keys. As an investigator with 5 intellect it doesn’t take much for him to be a very good clue seeker, and he does get some fantastic cards here like Old Keyring(3) and Shed a Light (and of course Flashlight(3) in Neutral!). Throw in the usual Seeker and Survivor staples from the Core and you got yourself a very competent and immediately powerful investigator.
There are some questionable assets in this bunch and not all the Dilemmas appeal to me, but overall this is an excellent selection of cards that do a lot to deepen the Survivor card pool.

Neutral

Hyperphysical Shotcaster(C): Good. Gives everyone access to some basic capabilities, but without infringing on class identities too much. The only thing that really sticks out to me as special is giving rogues the ability to remove treacheries with their agility. It’s a flexible card and there’s value in that, but i don’t see myself playing this often over in-class options.
Refine: Good. Hey, it’s 3 resources, 2 actions and 1 card in exchange for 1XP. I have done much worse for an XP. Can unlock an upgrade on a customizable mid-game. While i don’t think that’s going to come up often, it might come up in a pinch with some of the upgrades that are situational but only have one checkbox.

Tool Belt: Okay. There’s likely a good use for this one, but i haven’t seen the killer application for it just yet. It is a cheap way to simulate additional hand slots though, and as such it certainly has value.
Flashlight(3): Excellent. The thought of putting 3XP towards something like a flashlight feels a bit weird, but the upgrade is a sizeable one. Like Gumption, this Flashlight stacks with other investigation (or evasion!) effects, which is great. So for an investigator focusing on that, having 4 charges of an Almost-Gumption sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
Soul Sanctification(3Ex): Good to Excellent. Obviously great in Vincent and Carolyn if it allows them to just use their healing at will. How good is it in regular decks, though? It can probably do some very nice things with Surgery Kit or Hallowed Mirror, but is that worth 6XP? It just might be, having a bunch of skill bonuses on tap is quite powerful.

Let’s talk about Charlie Kane: To make a long story short, i think that Charlie Kane can be built a deck for on Scarlet Keys and Core, but not necessarily a really good one. Charlie’s card access favors a large collection, as the 0-2 restriction really limits his options otherwise. The selection of allies is also a bit thin and there’s actually surprisingly few interesting allies in this set to use with Charlie, pretty much just the three in Guardian and maybe Maleson. That being said, Girish *is* amazing for Charlie. So you’d have to fill the deck with stuff from the Core, but aside from Leo De Luca and again a few Guardian cards it’s not looking too great. So i’d say he’s rather firmly on the side of investigators that need further support from other expansions to do their thing well.

Final Verdict

The Scarlet Keys Investigator Expansion delivers a fantastic set of cards that is both interesting and powerful. Every class has several new good entries into existing archetypes, some even have anchors for new ones. I’d go as far as saying that this is the best set of player cards we’ve gotten so far… with one important caveat: You need to already have a decent collection. Otherwise you won’t be able to use many of these cards in their intended way which will diminish how good this set is compared to something like Dunwich, Edge or Forgotten Age which are much better picks for getting early on.
The best showcase of this are of course the investigators themselves. Darrell, Amina and Kymani are playable fine even with just Keys + Core, but Carson, Charlie and Vincent are on more shaky footing. Add to that how Amina, Carson and Charlie are fairly “out there” in terms of mechanics and playstyle and you get a product that isn’t exactly friendly to new players. But then again, for an already entrenched player this sort of break from traditions is exactly what is needed to breathe fresh air into a game they have been playing for years.
The player cards in the classes follow the examples of the investigators in some ways, often focusing on aspects that are either new to the class or so far have been a bit underappreciated. Guardian tilts more towards support and tank instead of the usual fighting implements. There’s still some potent new entries to the arsenal, of course. Seeker turns “Dropping Clues” into an actual archetype instead of just something you can do with some cards for a short term benefit. Rogue gets an investigation focus and also deepens the interactions with the Illicit trait. Mystic goes all in on Doom synergy instead of doing the usual willpower thing. Survivor has “Difficulty Reduction” turned into an archetype and introduces Dilemma cards as a new weird thing they have. A lot of these themes do build on the framework of existing cards though, so again this is fantastic for deepening an already developed collection, but a bit too fragmented and “out there” for a fresh one.
I like the new Customizable cards a whole lot. While they do look a bit intimidating at first, my thinking is that they aren’t nearly as clunky or unwieldy as some people make them out to be. I expect them to play really well, actually. And i absolutely like the choices these offer to me as a player. It’s basically as if i got 5 or more different versions of a card in those card slots and i can see myself making great use of the decision space they give me. They seem super cool to me, huge fan. Can we make this an evergreen mechanic please? With one or two new customizables in each class per expansion from now on? Pretty please?
Bottom line: I am confident i will absolutely love this expansion. I think most other players who have been into the game for a while will as well. I would steer new or semi-new players towards a different set, though.

Surge

That’s it for the Scarlet Keys player card overview.
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Scarlet Keys: Customizables #4

Introduction

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

Living Ink

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

Makeshift Trap

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

Honed Instinct

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

Custom Modifications

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

Hot Takes: The Investigators of The Scarlet Keys

Introduction

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

Carson Sinclair: The Butler

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

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

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

Vincent Lee, the Doctor

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

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

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

Kymani Jones, the Security Consultant

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

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

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

Amina Zidane, the Operator

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

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

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

Darrell Simmons, the Photographer

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

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

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

Charlie Kane, the Politician

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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