Well folks, I made it! After deciding it would be a good idea to try to finish up the campaign before Christmas, I was able to finish both final stages last night, and bring the campaign to a close almost as quickly as when I was playing stuff like Dunwich and Carcosa a couple of years ago. Lately, it seems, I have been playing Arkham Horror LCG campaigns much more spaced-out, so it was good to get that level of focus on this and see it through, so to speak! I realise, of course, that this makes it sound like a chore that I had to get through, but that isn’t really the case at all.
While these sorts of blogs normally come with a spoiler warning, beware that this one in particular does talk about some of the twists and turns!!
Where the Gods Dwell is the finale to the dream quest, and saw Minh and Agnes arrive at the Plateau of Leng. Our first task was to investigate the Monastery of Leng, and see if we could defeat The High Priest Not To Be Described, before moving on to the Onyx Castle where all will be revealed! This scenario once again had that element of staging the locations, so we are first out on the Plateau but then move into the Castle, whereupon the map changes.
Throughout the campaign, we have had some Hidden cards involved, usually treachery cards that go into our hand and take up valuable space, preventing us from acting entirely freely unless we are able to discard these cards. Where the Gods Dwell takes this much further, and we have one per investigator plus one copies of Nyarlathotep shuffled into the encounter deck, each card unique, and each with the Hidden keyword. We cannot speak his name, else we are driven insane, but also we cannot take any action against him unless we have gained another Hidden card, one of four copies of Whispering Chaos. These cards allow us to trigger the action on one of the location cards in place, which is a skill test of some sort that, if passed, will allow us to add the copy of Nyarlathotep from our hand to the victory display. It is quite convoluted, which I suppose is entirely on theme (I especially liked one such action where you had to take an evade test, using your investigate attribute, further adding to the chaos of the ancient one!) With only having three copies of the ancient one in the deck, it became a bit complicated to ensure the investigator with Nyarlathotep also gets the Whispering Chaos card to allow them to defeat him.
By doing so, I was able to claim victory – there is a fifth Act card where all the copies of Nyarlathotep merge into one mega-boss that needs to be banished forever, but fortunately I had made earlier story choices that meant I could finish the game sooner. My investigators suffered two mental trauma, and then had a choice to make – wake up, or go after the other investigators in the second campaign. I decided on the latter, which brings us to the final pack in the waking world.
Weaver of the Cosmos is, unsurprisingly, a showdown with Atlach-Nacha. The spiders in the hospital, the ichor seeping through into the waking world, it’s all down to this ancient one, and he is determined to finish weaving his great web between the waking world and the Dreamlands, which would result in utter chaos. We’re basically trying to cross his huge web, whereupon Randolph Carter turns on us and traps us in the spider’s lair. Didn’t see that one coming! We then have a showdown with the ancient one, which is a little bit goofy as you “assemble” the ancient one out of a central double-sided enemy card and four “leg” enemies.
Clark Ashton Smith’s The Seven Geases, which introduces Atlach-Nacha to the mythos, is a bit of a spoof/satire, and a part of me wondered if the scenario is trying to reflect that, as I certainly found it a bit silly at times. See, we have the four “leg” enemies arranged around the “body” card, then there are eight Web location cards arranged in a circle around this fabulous construct. At the start of the mythos phase, you draw a chaos token and, if it is a negative modifier, Atlach-Nacha rotates a number of locations clockwise, meaning it looks faintly ridiculous as time goes on. Furthermore, you can spend a clue to deal 3 damage to a leg enemy, which has a health of 3 hit points per investigator. So a total of eight clues are required to defeat the legs, but with locations only having 2 shroud, for the most part, this was very straightforward. The only difficulty is trying to keep up with the rotating legs, but that’s hardly insurmountable.
Once they’ve all gone, Atlach-Nacha himself then becomes the final boss, but with only 4 hit points per investigator, and a fight value of 4, I didn’t find this too troublesome either. I suppose Jenny being fairly tooled-up helped, but even Carolyn being weapons-averse was able to soften it up.
With Atlach-Nacha gone, the investigators are trapped in this nightmare realm forever, but there is the Epilogue. I was quite surprised at how slick this finale worked, if I’m honest, as there were so many branching paths that could have happened during the course of both campaigns, it was quite impressive that the designers were able to dovetail things quite well. In the end, both groups of investigators were united in the Dreamlands, and I won – but everybody is trapped there, and I did feel a bit let-down that there isn’t closure for my dreaming investigators, who are presumably now in a permanent coma situation in the hospital? This hasn’t been addressed, leading to a bit of an uneasy feeling – but I guess that’s probably the point?
Overall, I did enjoy this campaign. I think it started well, but as time went on, it did seem to get a bit ploddy, somehow. Like, I enjoyed the Arkham locations in the waking world, and the Dreamlands did feel like a magical place etc, but as we got towards the end it felt like I just had to get through. I noticed this especially in stage three, where I was almost rushing it and ignoring a lot of the stuff that was going on around me as I was aiming for the finish line. It became a lot more mechanical, rather than providing the escapism I usually enjoy from the game.
There weren’t too many “gotcha” moments as we went through, though, and I actually found myself chuckling quietly as earlier campaign decisions came to fruition in unexpected ways. For instance, the evidence of Kadath tally that I had become a little wary of actually helped me, as it meant I was able to get into the Onyx Castle straightaway. I was a bit surprised that Randolph Carter turned on both groups of investigators, turning out to be an aspect of Nyarlathotep in each campaign, but it wasn’t a big turn-off for me.
Playing two interwoven mini-campaigns was an interesting experience, for sure, and despite the mixed reviews it seems to have online, I am glad to have done it this way. The fact that we have an interlude after each stage means that they are connected, and it is quite good to see how the stories weave in and out of each other, though it wasn’t immediately apparent to me how much the choices in one impact on the other. Occasionally, there are moments where we’re told a certain choice will make things more difficult for the other side, but I don’t think making those choices was noticeable (unless I just expect the game to be this difficult!)
I think I might well try this again, playing just one side to see how it all works. Having four investigators on the go did prove to be a bit of a faff in the end. I think I was perhaps underwhelmed with how each was really performing, certainly the waking investigators didn’t really seem to have a lot to do. While I admit that’s down to my investigator picks for each side, I think I did feel a bit disappointed with Carolyn in particular, and this seemed to bleed into the rest of them so that, by the mid-point of the campaign, I gave up spending the experience on upgrading cards, and so probably have about 15 experience for each side of the campaign that was unspent by the end. Whether this is related to the point many folks online mention around not having enough time with the investigators, I don’t know, but I certainly didn’t feel as enthused about upgrading my decks as I normally am!
The way I enjoyed the Arkham scenarios at the beginning did get me thinking, though, just how much I miss the town within this game. It strikes me that the links back to New England are becoming increasingly tenuous as new campaigns come out, with Edge of the Earth not having any gameplay in the setting at all. I miss it, and I think the high watermark for this is probably The Circle Undone, which primarily feels like an Arkham setting. I have no idea what to expect after The Scarlet Keys takes us across the whole globe, but I do find myself wondering if we could have something that allows us to play Arkham Horror actually in Arkham.
At any rate, with the completion of this campaign, I have now played all of the Arkham Horror campaigns that I own! I suppose there is a bit of a question mark over Innsmouth, as I kinda mis-played that one and so “lost” when both my investigators went insane, so I will likely play that again soon. I still haven’t picked up The Scarlet Keys, mostly because I’ve been investing heavily in Marvel Champions, but I think I’ll get that in the new year when I’ve made it through Innsmouth and have nothing else new to play. Early reviews seem to indicate it’s a very good addition, so that’s encouraging at least!