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 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.
.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.
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.
.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s it for the Circle Undone player card overview.
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