Now that the official announcement for the upcoming Scarlet Keys investigator and campaign boxes are out on ffg.com, i want to take a moment to look at what stuff we’ve seen so far and share my own opinions and comments. This will be limited to player cards. While we’ve seen glimpses of some campaign stuff, it’s too early to really get into that too much. All in time, i suppose.
The Fantasy Flight Games website isn’t the only place where cards for The Scarlet Keys have been announced, several content creators also got to share something in advance. The info on the cards is taken from the following sources:
– The Scarlet Keys announcement (FFG)
– Mythos Busters podcast
– Miskatonic University Radio podcast
– Drawn To The Flame podcast
– PlayingBoardGames Youtube
– arkhamhorrorlcg subreddit
– Back of the box “leak” from Asmodee Store
There’s six investigators in the box, one for each class and a neutral one. Only one of them, Charlie Kane, is fully known. Two more, Amina Zidane and Carson Sinclair have been mostly revealed. From another one, Kymani Jones, we’ve only seen the front of their investigator card. The last two are known to be Darrell Simmons and Vincent Lee, but with no further info. Let’s take a closer look at what them.
“You have three additional ally slots.” Now there’s a sentence i can get excited about. I really like Charlie Kane. His deckbuilding opens up a ton of interesting things and his way of using allies to support him in tests is unique and quite engaging. Great concept. Bonnie Walsh is going to be a very key signature worth digging for, as she will boost a relevant stat from 1 to 4 on her own for one test while also readying another ally for further assistance. Meanwhile the weakness isn’t all that bad. Very much looking forward to trying him.
Carson is very focused on a very specific gameplay niche and as such will probably be hit or miss for most players. Personally, i don’t think i really would enjoy the Butler’s playstyle a whole lot, where you are supposed to lend your actions to other players because your own stats are just too bad to do your own things. While i do enjoy a support Guardian that throws around their Stand Togethers, Soothing Melodies and such, my first impression here is that i’d probably stay with Sister Mary for that. That being said, if this is the playstyle you like, you do get a free action for someone else here which is quite powerful. The signature is also really good, securing a test while serving up a card. The treachery is something that you should be easily able to outheal or outsoak and probably not too much of an issue. We don’t have his deckbuilding yet, so he might even get access to other neat support cards.
I am a bit sorry to say this, but just with Carson i am a bit lukewarm about Amina. That 3/3/3/3 statline is probably the worst an investigator can have, making her kinda not good enough at everything. And doom play just isn’t my thing, or more accurately it hasn’t been so far. So there’s little here that immediately makes me want to play Amina. Much more so than with Carson, the card access could easily salvage this, though. If she’s got some interesting deck building options that can leverage her ability to play out assets for cheap, i could easily be convinced. Or if there’s a great enabler in the player cards.
That’s more like it. While the only thing we’ve seen from Kymani here is the front of their investigator card, there’s plenty to like here already. 5 Agility is spectacular of course and 3 willpower for a rogue is quite a lot as well. Of course that leaves them with little intellect and combat, but thanks to the ability there are ways around that. This ability is quite potent. While it means you usually take 2 actions to discard an enemy, this can be beneficial if the enemy has high combat or enough life that you’d not be able to take them down in one go anyways. An interesting wrinkle is that Kymani doesn’t defeat enemies with that ability, but discards them. This means it will not put Vengeance enemies into the victory display. It won’t put victory enemies there either, but most of those are Elite anyways. I could see Kymani as a very nice investigator that leverages their high agility through cards like Lockpicks, Pilfer, Backstab, etc. I am eager to see more about this investigator.
The lion’s share of the previewed cards are from Guardian. Among other things, we get a first look at the new “Customizable” mechanic here.
So we don’t know all the specifics of this mechanic quite yet. What we do know is that we can include Hunter’s Armor into our level zero decks and along the way spend XP to tick checkboxes on the upgrade list to enhance it. The box comes with a set of “Upgrade Sheets” for this purpose, so you can track your choices along the campaign. What we don’t know are if there are limits to upgrading. Can we just tick everything, providing we have the XP? Are you limited to 2 checkmarks if you can only take Guardian up to level 2? Is the upgrade going to be shared among all copies of the Hunter’s Armor? Are there even multiple copies? Keeping in mind that we are operating on incomplete info here, my first thought is that 4 resources is quite steep and that i wouldn’t consider using this card without either the Durable or Hallowed upgrade. It also has direct competition from Edge of the Earth’s Protective Gear which offers similar protection at that price with a good ability.
I like this a lot more than the armor. Mostly because the different upgrades seem to be a bit more “daring” to me, more impactful and able to change the behavior of the card in more drastic ways. As an example, the Ancient Power could allow you to swing for 4 damage every couple turns and the Inscription of the Hunt can give you free movements with your attacks which is neat. The baseline is also reasonable. I just wish it was a one-handed weapon. Guardian has so very many two-handers by now and is really due a good one-hand weapon in the 0-2XP range. I am a huge fan of the self-replenishing charge mechanic, though. Already liked it a lot with the level 4 talents and with the tri-class assets in Edge, happy to see it extend to weapons and other assets now. Depending on how much we are allowed to invest into these, I could see someone going big with spending XP on buffing this axe, then supplying it with charges from Mystic and/or Seeker cards for spectacular results.
My first reaction was thinking this isn’t all that great, but after thinking about it a bit, this does have some things going for it. So the obvious comparison is something like Vicious Blow and that would leave you with realizing that this card takes until after the enemy phase before it deals its first damage while also asking you to spend a resource and not giving you icons during the test. However, it should be noted that Grievous Wound does have very good timing and you only need to play it after the test, when you already know that your attack connected. So you won’t ever run into the situations where you count on it, but get foiled by the tentacle token. It’s also worth pointing out that this is a level zero Guardian card with two combat icons, a trait it shares with only one other card, the much less universally playable “I’ll see you in hell!”. Finally, let’s just remember that Vicious Blow is one of the best cards in the level zero card pool and that the comparison was never fair to begin with 😉 So where does that leave us? I think the card is fine. Not great, there too many riders on how to use it to be valuable in a whole lot of decks, but perfectly okay to include if you want more combat icons that can also turn into testless damage in specific circumstances.
Eh, this one doesn’t really grip me, though. A skill that isn’t able to do much without other cards also committed to the test will either only add an icon or two or add icons to tests that are already secured by a big commitment. The moments where i would need this to double up on a Promise of Power or Inquiring Mind are fairly rare and not worth including a card specifically for. I’ll pass on this one.
This card however is awesome. Just like Uncage the Soul in Mystic, Motivational Speech offers 3 resources when playing a specific type of asset. Guardian is known for being the class where resources are tightest and this has proven to be a huge challenge when trying to fit expensive allies, weapons, upgrades and so on into blue decks. Motivational Speech is going to make playing Allies like Grete Wagner and Field Agent much more feasible without having to rely on out-of-class cards like Faustian Bargain or Crack the Case. This is a fantastic enabler card that opens up a bunch of options for decks. I’m super happy to see this and i am going to play the hell out of it.
Looking for something to use your Motivational Speech on? Look no further. Field Agent is an important card for the Guardian card pool, letting them lean into grabbing some clues much easier than previously. Alice Luxley never really got there, but Field Agent couples the intellect increase with an opportunity to grab testless clues. If you have Horror healing available (or if you are playing Carolyn) then you can turn that healing into more “free” clues, which has all sorts of potential. Guardians (and off-class Guardians) with 3+ intellect will also become able to investigate a good range of locations without having to expect to fail over and over. While Field Agent does step on the toes of Alice Luxley quite a bit, it should at least be pointed out that her fast speed clue discovery can combo with Alice’s damage ability which could be good in some campaigns like Dunwich or TCU where 1 health enemies are somewhat frequent. Combining two 4 cost allies in Guardian was very awkward before, but with Motivational Speech now being a thing, it’s not nearly as bad anymore.
We only have one card for Seeker, Rogue and Survivor each so far, but each one of them is quite worthwhile to talk about.
Dropping clues back on your location can be a bit of a daunting concept, but doing so can be worth it if the payoff is good. Digging through the top six cards of your deck and getting to draw the best two cards out of them is a huge effect and certainly worth having to pick up a clue again in many circumstances. The second and third clue are a much bigger ask, but having the option can’t possibly hurt. If nothing else, this means that Captivating Discovery can be used to enable big hand decks, allowing you to play assets freely for the first few turns to get your essentials (Milan, Dream-Enhancing Serum, Mag Glass, etc) online. Then, on turn 3 or 4 you can use Discovery to go from 3 cards in hand straight back to 8. Depending on your big hand payoffs, this can be quite good and actually save a ton of actions down the road.
But i do see this mostly as a tool to tutor up a specific card while also creating some card advantage along the way, kind of like a No Stone Unturned that doesn’t grind your tempo to a full stop.
“I’ll Take That”
I like this one a lot. I don’t expect to trigger this on the Humanoid clause too often, but since it also can be used on a successful investigation this is a great followup to playing Pilfer or using Lockpicks. I am not even terribly interested in its discount, it’s not like rogue is lacking (better) economy cards. But getting to play assets as a free action is absolutely something i want… i certainly don’t mind the discount either, of course. I suspect that this card will make it into many of my level zero decks for a while. I am less certain about how long it’s going to stay in there, 30 cards is more and more becoming a very cramped space and value cards like this are often prime material to leave the deck in favor of XP cards. Still, it’s a card that has its uses and who knows, some investigators (Wini? Kymani!) might even find that they can trigger a 2+ discount often enough that they want to keep the card in their deck until the end.
Mystic is the other class that had a bunch of cards spoiled alongside the investigator. There’s two customizable cards and two that are tailored towards use with Amina Zidane.
Woah, this is very unique. An asset that doesn’t go into your play area but instead moves on the board where you can order it to attack, evade, investigate for you or take on other characteristics that help the mystic. It’s reminiscent of Summoned Hound, but without the risk of it turning against you. On the flip side, this summon does very little for you while you didn’t spend XP on extra abilities. I find this really hard to evaluate without having had the opportunity to actually play it. There’s lots of potential here for sure.
If Servitor was already a wild concept to think about, here’s a card that turns a non-Elite enemy into your pawn, to be directed around and help the investigator. This seems to be quite a bit more involved, asking the mystic to spend actions on issuing their commands. The enemy also still stays hostile and will keep engaging and attack players at its location and once it dies, the Power Word is also discarded. Looking at the possible upgrades, there’s some ridiculous stuff possible here, but the card does make you jump through some hoops to get there first. Like with Servitor, i think this has to be seen on the table before speculating on whether the effort is worth it.
To be honest, i don’t see it. I am all for having Mystics not use their spell suite for once, but the Sickle just doesn’t do enough for me. +2 attack and +1 damage is great on a level zero asset, but not if it exhausts on attack and also adds a doom on every use. It does have an ability to remove doom from it, but that requires finishing off an enemy with with base will or +1 fight and no extra damage. Maybe it’s fine with Amina who can play this for 0 resources with a doom already on it when you have an opportunity to remove that doom immediately by punching a cultist or something. But then again, Amina has 3s in all skills, so you are attacking with 4 fight… I am not convinced on this one.
The investigative counterpart to Ceremonial Sickle. I like this one quite a bit more, if nothing else you can just use this as an overpriced Mag Glass that also allows using will for investigating and let’s you trade a doom for a saved action when it’s favorable to do so. Opportunities to discover the last clue from a location come around much more often than those where you can defeat enemies with one damage and low stats. Also, Mystics in general have better intellect than combat. Marie in particular might make good use of the Dowsing Rod. I also see this much more viable as a card to play with Amina’s doom discount than Sickle.
It’s … fine? Unlike the Improvised Events (Winging It, Improvised Weapon, Improvised Barrier), the Improvised Shield doesn’t come with a built-in way to discard them, so you’ll probably only want to consider this card if you do have another way to do it available. Throwing a copy into Wendy, Ashcan and Patrice is likely going to be a good idea to help them with their naturally low stamina. Other investigators that already use Cornered might also get in on this. There are some other ways of discarding the Shield (like Act of Desperation) but running them specifically for the Shield is not going to be worth it. In the end, this is just 3 points of soak for a resource. Leather Coat is available without any hoops, so you will want to make sure that you gain some value out of discarding in the first place, with playing the Shield often just being a neat bonus. Tbh, that hand slot also stings. I predict that I’ll mostly stick to Coat.
The release of The Scarlet Keys is still a couple months away. Plenty of time during which we’ll surely get spoon-fed more and more of what we can look forward to. I plan on throwing out a few more roundups like this, at least until i got encounter cards to talk about again.