The Circle Undone – looking for witches

Hey everybody,

It’s time to continue my journey into witchcraft and the spooky goings-on around Arkham, as I make a proper start on The Circle Undone campaign, just when FFG have announced the Return To box will be coming out this summer! Very exciting stuff there – including a full Tarot deck to add even more craziness. I’m very much looking forward to having that when it is released, I must say. For now, though, let’s start on The Secret Name

Okay, so things are getting really interesting here! The setup for this scenario is something else, and covers two full pages of text as the possibilities are laid before you. I said last time that this campaign felt a little like it was trying to lead us more by the nose, and that feels true here still, although not necessarily in a bad way. It definitely feels like there is a lot of story that the designers are trying to get through, and maybe splitting it up into eight separate scenarios was never going to be enough…

From the mouth of no less a person than Carl Sandford, head of the Order of the Silver Twilight, we learn of the presence of a coven of witches in Arkham, and the Order is looking into the strange happenings going on in the town. The event at Josef Meiger’s estate was intended to study the strange mist going round, and see if there is anything they can learn from it. Pursuit of this knowledge leads us to Keziah Mason at the Witch House, which of course long-term Arkham fans will know only too well! 

The story of this pack is truly wonderful, even with all of its nuts and bolts sometimes getting in the way. We start off with the prosaic halls of the Witch House, and when able to we burst through Walter Gilman’s Room into a realm of horror and witchcraft that, I don’t mind telling you, was just truly fantastic! I mean, we’ve had story elements like this before, when exploring Mont St Michel during the Carcosa storyline, but somehow here it’s done much better. The locations spin out into other worlds, or other times, and it all feels like some fantastical type of fever-dream, very fitting for what is precisely going on here.

The pack is perhaps infamous for the delightful little critter Brown Jenkin, a super-rat who just keeps coming back time and again! Keziah’s familiar, he is nothing to the horrors of Nahab, a sort of super-witch-ghost who can never be killed, merely exhausted… The enemies are quite annoying, for sure, but even that has some really great elements where it all just feels so, I don’t know, real. The scenario culminates in a ritual where we try to banish this unwelcome spirit, returning to the ruined house from the otherworlds. Cracking stuff!

The Wages of Sin

Comparatively speaking, The Wages of Sin is a much more laid back scenario. We’re off to the graveyard at the dead of night, because of course we are! The locations are double-sided again, with the real world face up to start with, then the spectral world on the reverse. We also have two encounter decks here, a real world deck and a spectral deck, to be drawn from depending on which type of location we’re at.

To start with, we’re just gathering clues to track down the coven, and everything proceeds much as normal. Then the agenda advances, and all hell breaks loose when a number of Heretic cards are put into play. The objective is to banish these guys, but there are so many caveats on them that doing so can prove to be tricky, to say the least! Added in here, we have what has already become my most-hated encounter set in the game so far, The Spectral Watcher.

Each of the Heretics is a story card, so there is some text on the reverse, much as we have seen with cards in the Carcosa cycle. Each has different ways of banishing it, detailed on the back of the card – when the Heretic is defeated, the card is flipped over, and oftentimes you’ll discover what you then need to do to actually banish that Heretic forever, before then having to flip it back to deal with again! However, the clues that we’ve been gathering over the course of the cycle so far can provide us with Spectral Web asset cards, which function much like the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi in the Dunwich Legacy cycle, giving us that fighting chance to deal with these Heretics.

This is the first time that I have ever Resigned from a scenario out of sheer hopelessness. I did misunderstand the text on one of the Heretics, so I probably didn’t need to, but I definitely felt like this game beat me down on this one! Pretty much every Arkham Horror LCG scenario is tough, but this one – considering, like I said at the beginning, it’s a more laid-back scenario than The Secret Name – really is difficult to deal with, all the same! Luckily, the fail-forward mechanic employed by the game means that it never really matters whether you complete the scenario properly, or if you win or lose. Something will happen to put you back on the right path for the next pack, even if you resign at the earliest opportunity and made no attempt to fulfil the objective. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt keep saying it, but I really love the feel of this cycle! Covens of witches with veiled agendas, snooping around graveyards and dealing with the tormented spirits of long-dead heretics, it’s all just fantastic! Lovecraft was of course all about the spooky and the weird, not necessarily all cosmic horror, and I think it’s really nice to get this aspect of his work discovered in the game. Silver Twilight has always been a bit hit with me, going back to the original Call of Cthulhu days, as well. So that’s a big plus for me! 

All in all, I’m really enjoying myself, although I haven’t spent a single point of experience yet, so I need to get moving forward with updating my decks before moving on to the next scenario.