The Waking World Is Only One Reality
Well folks, after setting up my decks for the Dream-Eaters campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, I’ve finally made it through stage one of the proceedings, with all four of my investigators having a trial in their respective realities.
I’ve decided to pair Agnes and Minh together, as they are perhaps the most “ethereal” of the quartet, with Jenny and Carolyn being a bit more grounded. It also made an element of narrative sense, to have someone like Carolyn (a psychiatrist) “on the outside” watching the others in the dream-land.
The first quest, Beyond the Gates of Sleep, sees the dreamers descend into the dream forest described in the writings of Virgil Grey, and has the curious mechanic of not bothering with an encounter deck for the first few act cards. I was initially completely thrown by this scenario, because I hadn’t read the set-up instructions properly! In order to progress the act deck, you need to travel from one location to another, but I hadn’t realised that the other location starts in play, so was slightly panicked! This has happened before for me, so I shouldn’t blame sloppy game design when it’s actually my poor reading comprehension.
Anyway, it is a very interesting way of staging the scenario, with each act card adding slightly more to the play area, to allow us to progress at a set rate. Of course, we can’t dawdle, because the agenda card is adding 3 doom each round we linger, so we really need to be progressing quickly. Fortunately, the investigator duo seems to be okay with handling this sort of thing for the moment, so I’m not too concerned about the comparatively low fight and evade on both of them. Agnes has some powerful spells that should allow for some mitigation here as well, though.
The main body of this scenario begins with the final act card, when the enchanted woods blossom out before us, and the encounter deck appears for a more regular game. There is an interesting mechanic here as well, as we are forced to decide either to stay on the enchanted path, meaning we need to spend an absolute age there trying to gather the 10 clues needed (the location allows you to give up your turn to place a clue there, but its shroud value is based on the number of unrevealed enchanted woods, so it’s going to be a tough one!) or else explore the woods, which we need to record ominously as “the dreamers strayed from the path”. Not sure what is now in store for me, but I strayed, and investigated five of the six locations – netting myself a total of 9 experience points! So it’s not all bad, I suppose!
Of course, it’s probably just as well that the scenario gives so much experience, because we’re only using the dreamer investigators for half the number of scenarios that we normally have in a campaign. I have read some criticism of this cycle in that we don’t get to play with the investigators for very long, but in all honesty I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing – I mean, I’m playing a campaign with twice the number of investigators I would normally use, so I think that’s giving me experience of the wider group.
The second scenario, or the first scenario in the Web of Dreams half of the campaign, is really good. The investigators who stayed awake are concerned about the strange behaviour of their sleeping companions, so take them to St Mary’s Hospital, and things start to get a bit creepy. Going off to investigate, we find the hospital seems to be overrun with massive spiders, and we need to find Randolph Carter, who is held somewhere in the basement rooms, before we can seal the rift that is allowing these spiders to get in.
There are distinct vibes of The Unspeakable Oath from the Carcosa campaign, as we’re trying to find a patient in a creepy medical institution. I really enjoyed it, especially the twists that were put on the scenario this time around. There is an Infestation mechanic which uses chaos tokens to potentially bring out more and more spider enemies, and you need to clear the infestation before you can complete the scenario. When we do, one of the investigators is able to claim the Randolph Carter ally card, and onwards we go! Jenny is joined by Randolph for the continuing adventure.
For all that I liked it, I must admit that I did rush through this one so didn’t probably get to investigate a lot of the scenario. I think I played quite responsively, ignoring almost all the other stuff going on, including when Carolyn drew her Chronophobia weakness card. She just kept taking direct horror, so long as she could complete the scenario! That said, we completed it in just a handful of rounds, and were able to get 6 experience points from this one.
There follows an Interlude which does feel ever so slightly janky – it starts off in Ulthar in the Dreamlands, where the dreamers meet with Virgil and a black cat takes a message to their companions in the waking world. It then splits into the waking world portion for the cat to deliver that message, so it does have that kind of split to it, which jarred me a little. Nevertheless, I have somehow managed to end up with adding a lot more chaos tokens to the bag now, so we shall see how things progress with the second stage!
So far, then, I have enjoyed the start of this campaign. I think I’ve allowed a lot of the opinion online to put me off from getting round to this one – when will I ever learn? Seems like people don’t like the split nature of the campaign mainly, and the aforementioned lack of time with your investigator deck. Personally, I don’t think that has ever really bothered me, as I can’t say I have grown attached to any investigator over the years I’ve been playing this game! True, sometimes you end up with a really good deck as you level up, but I don’t think I will bemoan the lack of time spent with my quartet.
For me, though, I think that so far it has felt very much like Arkham once again. I don’t want to try and bash the Edge of the Earth campaign, but I do prefer to play this game when I am in New England! Recently, I’ve been considering re-playing some of the earlier stuff for that Arkham theme, but now that I seem to be there in this campaign, I think I’m happy! I do love the game though, and I’m hoping to play more of it as time goes on, and discover more of what the game has to offer!
I read HP Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest during my Christmas 2020 mythos delvings, and playing this campaign now is giving me all sorts of nostalgia for that time. I think I might try to read some more of those stories this year, to stay on-theme!