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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s it for the Forgotten Age player card overview.
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