Introduction: There are a lot of encounter cards in Arkham LCG, a game that constantly rides the borders between horror, fantasy and camp and all of them have artwork, of course. While the art rarely goes into full horror and usually sticks to the fantastical, there is certainly some around that unsettling in some way. Maybe they are a bit disgusting, maybe they hit a bit too close to home… in any case, here are 10 cards from my point of view that hit a nerve.
#10: Outbreak. Look, i am not afraid of spiders. I actually kinda like spiders and i think there’s some real great spider artwork in this game specifically. However, this bloated thing… yuck. None of the elegance, instead it’s just an ugly pustule on legs. Hans, get the Flammenwerfer.
#9: Ravenous Ghoul. Ah, a classic. I remember that this guy stood out to me in the Core Set because its artwork is just that more visceral than the others. Smeared with blood on hands and face, there is also no doubt how it got this soaked in blood. Or what it wants to do to you. It looks extra fierce when you put it next to the somewhat goofy looking Ghoul Minion.
#8: Descent into Madness. Eyes are weird. At least from this close. We are just not meant to get this close to an eye. And while there’s not actually a whole lot happening in this image, it gets its point across perfectly. A very realistically drawn eyeball with the veins in it, wide open so we see the red under the lids and all the little details. A great case of the image being enhanced by the flavor text, too. I can’t make out anything specific in the shadows reflected in the eye, but that actually works in the artworks favor.
#7: Abduction. Due to Arkham creature design rarely crossing from fantasy into full horror, there is little artwork of enemies that is actually scary. Now, while this is a treachery, it still does show an enemy that somewhat gets the job done for me. The coloration reminds me of Ravenous Ghoul and while i don’t think it is supposed to be a ghoul, i have to wonder… what is it actually? It’s not like we see this thing on any of the enemy cards in Carnivale. All we know is that it eats whatever they can fish out of the canal. Again, good flavor text and it also only vaguely alludes to these things as “they“.
#6: Blood on Your Hands. Just the fact that this scene is presented to us from our own view makes it very real. Most other treacheries show something happening to someone else, making us spectators. This however is first person perspective. Combine this with a really gruesome display of blood and you can’t help but feel a bit uneasy looking at it.
#5: Corrupted Orderly. When we look at the Corrupted Orderly, we also have to consider the Suspicious Orderly, so this is a double feature. While i did claim earlier that i am not bothered by spiders, i can tell you for sure that i am deeply troubled by the idea of someone having spider legs coming out of their mouth. Full artwork here:  and . Can i also just talk about how the legs break out of a face mask and how we are all running around with face masks these days? Try not to think too hard about it when you are out shopping the next time…
#4: Visions in Your Mind. A somewhat generic scary artwork, but it’s very well executed. I am not 100% sure what is going on here, to be honest. Presumably this woman is looking into a mirror and seeing herself decay or something? It’s of course (as the title of the card alludes to) all in her mind, but if this is indeed a look into a mirror… does this mean this is another card from first person? Something to think about during your next Return to Carcosa campaign!
#3: Fine Dining and Tough Crowd. So, i’ll cheat here and put these two cards together on one spot. But really, these two firmly belong to each other, both having a very similar style to them. They give a lot of flavor to The Last King and introduce the players into a lot of the Carcosa theme in an expertly fashion. Tough Crowd shows its horror elements a bit more overtly than Fine Dining, but both are the sort of artwork that don’t seem to bad at first glance but get worse the longer you look at them.
#2: Meddlesome Familiar. So, pardon my french, but fuck this guy. More so than the actual Brown Jenkins card, this treachery cements the incredible annoyance that the witch’s familiar brings with it. The artwork is truly disgusting, biting ankles is really awful and relatable and the game effect is also on point. A very exhausting card to draw and the artwork is just right for such a memorable card.
#1: Radical Treatment. Carcosa certainly featured a lot in this list, but this one from the Return to Carcosa takes the cake. This appears in Unspeakable Oath, a scenario that already walks on heavy terrain with the asylum and human enemies that are apparently tortured by cultists or other inmates or whatever. It’s all pretty dark and there are some other artworks in this scenario that could’ve made this list, but they pale next to Radical Treatment. Well, this is a picture of a lobotomy in process. Executed on someone who is fully conscious and obviously in panic. Too real. Oof. Sadly not supernatural at all, which just makes this more horrendous than any tentacled enemy could ever be.
Final words: As alluded to along the way, Arkham is rarely scary when it comes to creatures of the Mythos. It mostly starts crossing lines only when it becomes too relatable for us, when there’s things that we could imagine the impact of. I don’t know about you, but i can’t really seriously be afraid of something like the Mindless Dancer or Hunting Horror, despite them having excellent artwork. However, make me think about something biting my achilles tendon or sticking stuff in my eye and you’ll see me squirm. Obviously, this is a personal feeling and i can easily imagine someone shying away from artworks like Maggot Swarm, Night Terrors or some of the more grotesque enemies like Piper of Azathoth or Royal Emissary.
Feel free to write in your own picks! And see you for the next Top 10 list. I plan on doing a couple more over the Christmas and New Year holidays 🙂