Goodbye to Dunwich

Hey everybody,
The Dunwich Legacy continues apace, after a very slow start. Last week, I played my way through the bulk of the campaign, I think, getting into Dunwich village itself and then rescuing some of the innocent bystanders from this whole affair. After putting Silas Bishop out of his misery, I’ve then been running around Dunwich countryside trying to chase down the spawn of Yog Sothoth. Undimensioned and Unseen is a really interesting scenario, I think I’ve mentioned this a while back on the blog when I was last playing the game. There are six locations in play, again all classic Dunwich Horror locations like Cold Spring Glen and the Whateley Ruins. There will be a pre-determined number of these spawn creatures roaming the countryside, and each location will allow you to manipulate the number of clues that can be put on them. This becomes important because you can’t attack them until you advance the act, which in turn will give the investigators the power to make attacks, which use willpower instead of fight, and you get +2 bonus for each clue on the spawn.

Arkham Horror LCG

So there’s a lot going on that might not be immediately clear to you – it really gives the feeling that you’re an investigator, trying to piece together the clues.

Arkham Horror LCG

The next scenario, Where Doom Awaits, sees us climb Sentinel Hill once more to finally remove the stain of Yog Sothoth from the world. Along the way, we are beset by cultists and the like, and the path isn’t exactly clear at first, due to a strange mist barring our progress. It’s quite a thematic scenario, once more – when we do get to the summit, we find Seth Bishop there trying to call down the cataclysm, and we need to stop him!

Arkham Horror LCG

Now, I do enjoy this campaign, as I have immense affection for the source material as well as the board game. However, part of me can’t help but feel like it’s just been a bit of a slog to actually play it. Part of this might be down to my choice of investigators, of course, as well – they have been interesting to play, but I don’t think I’ve been particularly attached to either of them. As I think I mentioned in my previous Dunwich blog, I’ve been feeling a bit annoyed with my deckbuilding for them, particularly in regards to the experience that I have built up, but seem to have no inclination to spend.

So, I’ve resigned from the campaign, poised as I was on the brink!

Tony and Mandy have been put away for a rest, after their ordeal, and soon I think I’ll be choosing my new investigators ready for the next campaign. I am about 90% sure I’ll be trying to make my way through the Innsmouth campaign, having resigned from that one when my poor investigator choice led to some un-fun games, but I have also been considering perhaps going to Carcosa or Circle Undone once again. There is so much to enjoy about the game, I feel spoiled for choice!

It has made me think a bit differently about this game, though. I’d put Arkham Horror LCG on my 10×10 list at the start of the year, mainly because I’d been really enjoying my time with the Dream-Eaters before Christmas, and I suppose the thought that a campaign would be 8 games, so it would make things quite easy in that regard! However, given the fact I had such a long gap between games at the start of this one, I think that has shown that my heart wasn’t really in it. I was just playing the game for the sake of it, really, and while it has been fun at times, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed it overall. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to playing it for the sake of playing, as evidenced by the four month gap between games two and three! There’s also the fact that the investigators were built with no specific campaign in mind, but rather just to have some decks ready to go for the next campaign, whatever that may have been. I have been thinking a lot about deckbuilding for this game lately, and I want to try to change up my approach to this for the next one. There’s a lot more to be said about this, however, so stand by for another post in the not-too-distant future!

At any rate, I’m ending my stint in Dunwich for the time being. I’ll have to have a think about which campaign will be coming next, and also which investigators will be along for the ride, and then take it from there. Of course, I’ll be rambling all about it here, when the time comes!

Getting back to Dunwich

Hey everybody,
Thankfully it hasn’t been quite so long since the last game this time, but I have made some more progress with my ongoing Dunwich Legacy play-through. It’s the third time I’m playing through this campaign, as I’ve said already, and I’m playing as Tony Morgan and Mandy Thompson, who I am not convinced are the best partners for this one! Though I suppose I played through the Carcosa campaign with Daisy and Ashcan Pete, so it’s not like I haven’t played with mis-matched pairs before now!

Arkham Horror LCG

After escaping from the Miskatonic Museum with the Necronomicon, I’m on the train to Dunwich. I had definitely forgotten just how much fun the Essex County Express is, though. In my mind, I think I was writing it off as being a bit of a road block to us getting to Dunwich, but in reality, I really enjoyed the mechanics of the scenario, as the end carriages of the train were sucked into the void and we had to make our tortured progress onwards towards the engine. At least Tony had much more to do this time, with there being more enemies for him to gun down. There are plenty of Cultists on the train, one of my favourite encounter sets for the game that sees them enter play with a doom token, and there are numerous other ways to play around with this mechanic. I am using the alternative encounter cards from the Return To box as well, Resurgent Evils and the like, which is nice to help this run through feel a bit different. It isn’t a proper Return To… campaign per se, although I have begun to think maybe I could start to sub in those cards as well, and get more of a flavour of how that goes.

Arkham Horror LCG

After playing the Essex County Express, I finally went through to use all of that experience and level up my decks, as I had a total of 13 xp from the campaign so far, and I suppose I am at the half-way point! In my head, they were using their time on the train to ready themselves for what will be facing them when they get to Dunwich!

Arkham Horror LCG

The next scenario, Blood on the Altar, has us racing around Dunwich itself as we try to find out why the townsfolk have been disappearing. It’s all very wonderful, as I do enjoy these sorts of quests where the old boardgame is recreated for us. I was able to rescue all but one of the townspeople, anyway, so have now got a bunch of assistance as we go forward into the campaign. Indeed, this scenario is then followed by another interlude, which has the flavour of a re-set about it – no matter how badly we’ve been doing up to this point, we have another opportunity to rescue the folks who we should have already got while still in Arkham in the earlier quests, and indeed, we have two ways to get the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, which I think becomes critical in the next scenario. It’s all very useful, though, and I have another 4 XP to add to the bank, so I can’t complain! I think I’ll need another pitstop to upgrade some more before I carry on, anyway.

However, deck-progression (as opposed to deck-building) in Arkham Horror LCG is definitely something that I feel I’m not good at, as I often get into these situations with a lot of XP and no idea what to do with it! I might write up some thoughts on that at some point. As it stands, I’ve just made some fairly basic swaps for stuff at a higher level, and I’ll see how I get on with them. Oddly, though, I’ve found myself wanting to deckbuild for some new investigators, so I can try out some different things! 

So, after having taken my time so far this year to get moving with this campaign, I am now well and truly in the thick of it, with just three more scenarios to go before I see if I can indeed save the world. Fingers crossed…

Dunwich, once more

Tuesday is always game day here at, even if I don’t always get to post each and every time. Today, I’m heading back to Dunwich, for the third playthrough of the Dunwich Legacy campaign. This has been a bit of a dicey one for me so far – I set up some decks while riding high after the Dream-Eaters campaign at Christmas, but it took me almost a month to decide what to play, before I settled on Dunwich again. But after playing the first two scenarios at the end of January, I haven’t actually touched the game until the end of last week, when I went in for The Miskatonic Museum.

Dunwich Legacy

Despite having played this campaign the most, it never fails to surprise me how little I remember of the details, which of course means the replay value of this game is, for me, outstanding. As a story-driven game, it’s crucial that you can ‘forge your own path’ and so on, as if there is nothing really to be gained from playing the same story over and over. Having these kinds of branching paths is great, as you can make different choices to lead to different outcomes. For example, in the Museum scenario, you need to find a copy of the Necronomicon – when you do, you have a choice, whether to destroy it or to keep it safe. I’m fairly sure that in previous games, I’ve chosen to destroy the book, but this time, I’m going to keep it safe. Well, we shall see how that turns out!!

Dunwich Legacy

The investigators that I’m playing are quite interesting, both from the Dream-Eaters (coincidentally!) with some interesting abilities. Tony Morgan, the bounty hunter, has the ‘bounty contracts’ effect that allows him to put bounties on enemies as they are revealed and, when that enemy is defeated, claim said bounty as a resource. Playing a scenario with only one enemy in the whole deck is a bit of a waste, however, though when that enemy did show up, he was in his element! Mandy Thompson, the researcher, is a clue-gathering powerhouse, and has the ability to dig deeper when searching her deck, meaning I built her with a lot of ‘search your deck’ cards, but so far I don’t really think that has come up in games. Still, she’s able to just hoover up the clues, and I like that!

Excitingly, I have 11xp to spend, as I haven’t yet upgraded the decks this campaign. I think I might do that at the weekend, then maybe play some more.

Also excitingly, I was playing with some of the ‘new’ cards from the Return To box. In case you don’t know, each of the Return To boxes had additional player cards, and additional encounters for each of the scenarios of the cycle it revisits, though they also included alternate encounter sets for some of the commonly used sets from the core, like Ancient Evils and Creeping Cold. In theory, I could play this scenario with just this campaign, and not have to resort to core set standards. So that was nice! I think I’m going to try, as much as possible, to use these variant encounter sets during this campaign, anyway.

I’m sort of disappointed in myself, really, that I have been taking so long to get round to the game. It is, after all, a really good game! I suppose there’s a possibility that I’ve played this scenario too often to be that invested in the overall game, as I do know where we’re going ultimately, but hopefully I can still enjoy the ride during each game! And, hopefully, it will be a lot sooner than once every three or four months that I’ll be playing!

The Dream-Eaters: final stage

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!!

The Dream-Eaters (4)

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.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

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.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

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.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

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.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

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?

The Dream-Eaters (4)

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!

The Dream-Eaters: stage three

In a bid to try to get the Dream-Eaters campaign finished before Christmas, today I breezed through both scenarios in stage three, which is probably not the best way to go but I was also on childcare duty, so didn’t have a great deal of spare time. I would have been back to this game sooner, but after getting a slew of Marvel Champions things for my birthday at the weekend, I have been once more obsessing with that game. I need more focus!!

The Dream-Eaters III

The Dark Side of the Moon is a bit like a dungeon-crawl scenario, where we start with a small board and by paying clues at a certain location, we can see just a few more locations further ahead. We are up on the moon, so of course we’re battling moon-beasts while exploring the caverns and suchlike up there. I’ve said it before, but it’s remarkable how the designers have been able to take Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest novella and turn it into this campaign. I’ve been really impressed so far with the Dream side of things, for sure.

The Dream-Eaters III

I enjoyed seeing more of the board on a stage-by-state basis, although there is a part of me that is fondly nostalgic for the more basic scenarios from earlier campaigns, where the map is just laid in front of you, and you get to explore it without trying to work out where the next pieces of the puzzle have to go. I can’t quite help but feel like this is a bit gimmicky now, though, and rather than just have everything out from the start, they’re trying to come up with new ways of staggering the laying-out of locations.

The Dream-Eaters III

At any rate, once we explore the caverns and stuff, we make it to The White Ship and sail away, another one of Lovecraft’s dream stories ticked off as being incorporated into the storyline. There is a mechanic in this one which uses doom tokens to represent the ‘alert’ level, which seems to be linked with drawing attention to ourselves. I was a bit unsure on this, as surely if we the investigators are on high-alert, we’re being super stealthy? But no, bad things can happen the more alert we are, it seems!

I did treat this one very much like a rush job, it has to be said, and evaded monsters rather than trying to fight them.

The Dream-Eaters III

In the waking world, we are now at the Point of No Return. We arrived in the Underworld of the Dreamlands last time, but rather than immediately set off after our friends, Randolph Carter thinks we have the opportunity here to discover what is making the barrier between the worlds weaken, so we’re off on a bit of a side-quest, it feels. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this scenario, but it did very much feel like a rehash of Search for Kadath earlier in the campaign, as each location has a story side, and it’s only by exploring these locations that we can advance the Act.

The Dream-Eaters III

Rather than there being four distinct other worlds to choose from, there are just two further stages – Vale of Pnath locations, and then the Sea of Pitch. Each area has four locations, and one of them will allow you to advance the act. It’s a bit samey, but I decided I wanted to think of it in terms of the internal rhyme or parallel between the dreaming and the waking worlds. Or something.

The Dream-Eaters III

Something that I liked about the setup for this scenario was how different encounter sets would get shuffled into the deck as things progress. The pack actually features two additional small encounter sets, which help to stagger the reveals. One of them features the Dhole, a classic mythos monster that we finally get in the card game! I think we’ve had this before, where a mythos pack would come with more than just a single encounter set, but it remains to be seen if they’re used in any of the final scenarios.

The Dream-Eaters III

As you can see above, the sun started to shine as my victory became apparent, although I’m not entirely sure if I can really say that I’m winning – in the next Interlude, the black cat has brought my investigators news of Nyarlathotep, which cannot be cause for celebration! I’m a bit bemused, though, because I had thought this cycle was going to be all about Atlach-Nacha, and indeed, we have encounter sets for his agents, plus there are spiders and webs everywhere, so I’m not really sure what’s going on! But I’ve got a hefty chunk of experience points to spend on the final deck upgrades, so hopefully I can get myself organised and find the time for the last two scenarios before the weekend.

Stay tuned!!

The Dream-Eaters: stage two

Well folks, I am just breezing through the campaign right now! After making a start on Monday with both parts, I’m back again today with the next stage!

Dream-Eaters stage 2

The Search for Kadath

Things are progressing well with the Dream-Eaters cycle, as I basically re-live HP Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. It’s remarkable, really, how this scenario sticks so true to the source material while also able to weave through additional threads from some of Lovecraft’s shorter dream pieces. We start where we left off, really, in the cat city of Ulthar, and the dreamers begin their quest to find answers by consulting a high priest. The act deck is hefty in this scenario, but this is because the game is pretty much staged in five different locations. Once the first act card has been advanced, we have a choice about where we need to go next, one of four locations. These are all classic mythos locations such as Ib, Celephaïs, etc. The object of our travels is to find ten signs of the gods, which will light our way to the next stage of our journey.

Dream-Eaters stage 2

Now, I must say that I really enjoyed this scenario, but it did get a bit repetitive towards the end. See, we have to search through all four of these Dreamlands locations to find these signs, and we only get a couple from each one, so you know that you need to get through each one. Each location also only has three cards to investigate, plus a unique enemy, and it all becomes a bit samey in the end.

Dream-Eaters stage 2

I think, if the locations has been a bit more different somehow, either through giving more signs or having more or less location cards, it might have mixed it up a bit. Of course, on the flipside you could say that it’s quite formulaic in the way that these dream sequences are following a rhythm or something. At any rate, my investigators made it through and ended up with a hefty chunk of victory points thanks to a lot of the locations giving out points! I had already taken some time beforehand to upgrade everybody’s decks, but this was quite amazing to end up with 13 more victory points!

There is a peculiar tally going on in the campaign log now as well – “evidence of Kadath”. I have eleven tally marks here, but I don’t yet know to what end I’m recording it all. It’ll be interesting, I think, to see where this whole thing ends up!

Dream-Eaters stage 2

A Thousand Shapes of Horror

In the waking world, however, things are a lot more Arkham-esque. Realising their dreaming friends are in trouble, the investigators attempt to find an entrance to the Dreamlands in the physical world, rather than through going to sleep, and with the help of Randolph Carter, they pursue a lead he once had via The Unnamable, a shunned house in the Merchant District for those fans of the original board game. The location was always a bit unstable, like you never really knew what you were going to find there, and that holds true here, now. We have to complete an objective on another scenario card to advance the act deck, so we’re exploring the house and spending clues to put other locations into play, etc. When the first card in the agenda deck advances, however, we end up with the Unnamable monster following us around on this journey around the house – it’s both Aloof and a Hunter, and cannot be defeated, so I was a bit perplexed at first as to how to handle it, but it seems the monster just follows us around and, unless we opt to engage us, it’ll just be there?

Dream-Eaters stage 2

Spending clues as we go allows us to take actions on the location cards, stuff like “the investigators found a cracked mirror” or “the investigators studied a desecrated portrait”. There’s a balance here, because we don’t really know what benefit these actions are going to be as we take them, but the whole thing begins to feel like a mystery that we need to solve, and I genuinely felt like this is one of the few scenarios in the game when you actually feel like an investigator! As it turns out, some of these actions will lower the fight value or evade value of the Unnamable monster, which comes in handy later in the scenario.

That scenario objective I mentioned turns up on another location card that gets put into play once we’ve investigated the upstairs of the house. When we investigate this new location, everything changes and we go down and down into the bowels of the earth, where the objective is to get to the bottom of the stairway. However, there are peculiarities involved that will hinder our progress, such as not being able to move from a location unless we discard a card, or unless the Unnamable (which has followed us) has a minimum amount of damage on him, etc. There are treachery cards within the encounter deck which will change the order of the locations as well, to make it feel like we’re really on the brink of madness, but it all adds up to not being a straightforward race for the exit.

Dream-Eaters stage 2

I have to say, I loved this scenario. Any time that we get to spend in Arkham is really exciting, I think, but when we’re actually exploring a board location like this, it feels extra special. It gave me strong Circle Undone vibes, mainly the exploration of the Witch House scenario, but also I was reminded of the penultimate scenario in that campaign, when we’re on the Unvisited Isle – it’s interesting to see the breadth of what those old board game locations actually involved, if you know what I mean?

We’re also once again firmly in Lovecraft territory, as this is almost a re-telling of The Statement of Randolph Carter, where he’s digging up graves with his pal for a laugh. I loved the fact that we re-used so many of the core set encounter sets as well, like the Rats and the Ghouls. Not many of those cards came up, it has to be said, but after the last scenario which didn’t use any of the core set encounters (I think it might be the first mythos pack where you only needed it and the corresponding deluxe expansion to play it), it was nice for those nostalgia beats.

I definitely think I should re-play the core set soon.

Dream-Eaters stage 2

At any rate, I only had 6 experience points from this one, so it seems like being in the dream state is much more profitable! However, the scenario ends with the waking investigators entering The Underworld, so I’m very interested to see where stage three takes us!

The Dream-Eaters: a preamble

It hasn’t been all that long since I finished the Edge of the Earth campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, and here I am, planning my next foray into cosmic horror! I think there’s definitely something about this time of year, and this game, that just makes me want to keep playing.

The Dream-Eaters is the fifth campaign for the game, and came out starting in the autumn of 2019. Initially, I had stopped buying the game after The Circle Undone, so didn’t pay a great deal of attention to this one at the time, but then hurried to pick it all up a year later. I think I struck lucky because I managed to get it all just before things went mental, as the pandemic saw people getting into this game and packs disappeared.

The campaign is unique for containing, essentially, two mini-campaigns instead of one eight-parter. The story is that a fantasy novelist has had a disturbing dream, which he has written and published, whereupon hundreds of other people realise they had the exact same dream. The intrepid investigators decide to check it out, and recreate the circumstances under which this author had his dreams, and split into teams – one to delve into the dream-land, the other to stay and observe in the waking world. Apparently you can play either of the four-part campaigns as stand-alone, but I have opted for the big one, which therefore requires four investigators – two on each team!

It proved to be quite a challenge, in the end, building four decks from my card collection. Initially it seemed quite straightforward, as there are five investigator classes, so one from each should do it, but due to the way that things work in terms of multi-classing, I was trying not to let for example, Carolyn Fern step on Agnes Baker’s toes, as they both have Mystic cards. I don’t have a Survivor hero, but both Minh Thi Phan and Agnes have a good amount of Survivor cards. After enjoying Patrice Hathaway I had wanted to try out another Survivor initially, but upon building three female investigators, I wanted to stick with that and so went for a Survivor-heavy Minh instead. She’s actually an investigator that I had never previously had any interest in playing, but I’m now really interested in playing her. In fact, building these decks has shown me there are still plenty of investigators that I am keen to try!

I’m not sure how I want to pair them off just yet. I’m thinking I might follow the photo there, and go with Minh and Jenny in the dream-land, with Carolyn and Agnes in the waking world. However, Agnes has a backstory that would lend itself nicely to the dream-land, plus Jenny is probably more suited to more real-world adventures. I’m not sure if the decks would work well in that configuration, though I’m never sure if my decks will work regardless, so it’s probably a matter of luck, anyway!!

I’m probably going to start the campaign this week, as I am currently off work for the week, and I would like to try to play the game in paired sessions, to get both sides of the storyline. I don’t know if it actually runs like that, though, so it’ll be interesting!

Edge of the Earth: The Heart of Madness

Hey everybody,
I’ve finally completed the Edge of the Earth campaign for Arkham Horror LCG! I think this one was started at the end of August, so it’s taken me three months or so to get here, but I have finally done it. The final scenario in the campaign is a bit like the first, in that it is a long game that offers players the chance of using a checkpoint to check the game halfway through. The difference here is that we actually have a choice whether we play the first part at all, or just rush for the conclusion.

I opted to play it this time, so spent some time studying the great portal before going through, thinking I would learn something that would be of great benefit to me in the next part. We’re near the end now, having explored the city of the Elder Things and made our way to its beating heart. This heart of the complex, however, looks like the Elder Things were actually running from something. Unfortunately, whether through lack of comprehension or something, I spent way too long on part one! During part one, we are seeking runes by exploring locations and paying clues etc, but while some locations allow us to find these runes, others allow us to activate them. There isn’t really any explanation about why we’d want to do this, although the act is advanced when an activated rune is placed on the central gate location – I didn’t realise we could enter this location (I thought I had read that we actually couldn’t), so was playing almost the whole thing wrong! As such, I kinda fluffed the ending so that it was closer to what I would have done, without being entirely in my favour.

Part two then begins in mostly the same way, with the same sprawling map that we have to explore. This time, we’re trying to damage the huge pylons that hold up the roof, hoping to trap the nameless horror in here. As the pylon locations are explored, you can trade the clues for damage, and each has hit points equal to the number of clues; you can also fight them, and their fight value is equal to the shroud value. This proved to be a much more effective strategy, and I had Patrice collapsing the cavern with her .18 Derringer until it ran dry, then using Wither and all sorts of craziness to bring down the roof. Trish was able to get one pillar down, but really Patrice became the star of the show at this point!

However, the last stage of the agenda is really interesting, because we’re no longer placing doom but instead spawning these massive Nameless Madness monsters, which cannot take damage. What’s worse, when we finally bring down the roof, everything is re-organised into a series of ramp locations, and an exit – the act and agenda are replaced with a single objective: Run! We need to test evade to move between locations though, so Patrice was almost left behind when Trish was running.

In the end, through a combination of luck and probably some mis-plays, I was able to escape!

Campaign Thoughts
I can’t say that this has been my all-time favourite campaign, but I think part of this might be down to the fact I had competing priorities, and it took me a while to play it. The extended downtime between parts one and two of the first scenario in particular did somewhat ruin things for me. It’s a very different way of playing, and while the campaign does have a variable length insofar as you can opt to skip certain parts, it is still quite linear as you move through. I believe that the next box, The Scarlet Keys, does things differently in that you have to play a minimum number of scenarios, but you choose which ones and in which order? That seems more like what I had been expecting from this – the box is almost like a hybrid, as it tries to shake up the traditional cycle order we’ve been used to, but it’s almost for the sake of it, as the story being told is still quite linear.

There is a significant chunk, therefore, that I haven’t played with from this box. It makes it great to come back to at some point, and I think after a suitable break that’s exactly what I will do. Knowing more about what is involved now, I think I’ll pick some suitable investigators and maybe try my hand making some different choices in an effort to change things up. Although ultimately I’m going to be playing that scenario where I’m punching pylons and then escaping up the ramp again.

While I haven’t even bought it yet, I suppose The Scarlet Keys will play much more like a board game / RPG style campaign, when you play the scenario, and keep a track of what happened, with the possibility of going up against stuff in a far more random manner? Who knows! 

The snow tokens in the chaos bag were a big nightmare for me, and I think in part I made some bad choices which added far too many in early on. Even though I only ended up with five of them in the bag, they still seemed to come out to see me an awful lot! Snow tokens give -1 to a skill test and force another token reveal, but they are not removed from the bag when revealed (like bless/curse tokens are), and two tokens revealed together is an auto-fail. I seemed to draw a lot during the latter part of the campaign, and I found them increasingly annoying when Trish would have entire turns of doing nothing due to the fact she would draw two of them consecutively. An extremely irritating aspect of the campaign, I have to say!

However, I did find the storyline interesting. It did seem contrived at first – we’re going back, even knowing what Professor Dyer uncovered there. But it was really interesting to see the Lovecraft storyline expanded upon and furthered, in terms of what the Elder Things were up to, etc.

My Team
The two investigators I took with me to the frozen continent were actually a really interesting team. Patrice has been a bit of a discovery for me, as she has a very interesting and engaging playstyle – you discard her entire hand at the end of the round, and draw back up to 5 cards. Playing in this manner means you’ll probably see your entire deck at least once per game, so you don’t need to worry too much about not getting the clutch cards. But the downside is, unless you can afford to play everything you’re drawing, it might not be all that great for you! In addition to discarding useful items due to low funds, you also run the risk of drawing things at the wrong time, so that can be an issue as well, but overall I think it’s a really fascinating investigator, and I would say she is up there as one of my favourites!

Trish is an investigator that I have wanted to use for a while, and did make some effort last year to use her alongside Agnes Baker in a campaign, but left her deck assembled and have now been able to enjoy her for a full campaign here! Survivors are a class that I have trouble with, but Rogues are a class that I am woefully inexperienced with overall, so the pairing aimed to help with that. I have to say that Trish has been very interesting, although unfortunately a lot of her abilities around evading then damaging or investigating didn’t seem to come off for me. There are some really cool Rogue cards that I wish I had seen more of, or at the right time, so I think my next team might well feature another Rogue character!

More Thoughts
I was playing with “old” investigators, of course, but in addition to the campaign box, we do have the investigator expansion as well, with the new guys and gals there. Now, I have already played with Lily Chen from this expansion when I went through The Forgotten Age, and I think it’s a very interesting investigator design. See, each of the five starts out with level 0 cards of their professed class, Lily being a Mystic, but they then level up through a completely different class, in Lily’s case through Guardian. It was only recently pointed out to me that this symbolises the investigators thinking they’re something they’re not, and how their experiences with the mythos changes them: Lily thinks she is reliant on her spiritual side, but ends up resorting to her martial training to get through the ordeal. Daniela Reyes is a Guardian character who levels up through Survivor, symbolising how she thinks she can take on the world, but her experiences leave her struggling to make it through in one piece, etc. It’s a really cool concept, and I definitely feel like playing more of these in the future.

Final Thoughts
I’m struggling to not say that I disliked the campaign, because deep down, I didn’t. I think it’s just so far removed from what I think of as Arkham Horror that it felt just too different. It was really difficult at times, as well, almost to the point of being not-fun. While that has happened in the past, it tends to be few and far between. This time, it almost felt like I was getting the box down just so I could endure a couple of beatings, and then put it back again – which probably explained why I took so long to play the whole thing. Taking three months to play a campaign is definitely a long way from playing Dunwich or Carcosa in the space of a week or less.

I suppose this is something that becomes almost inevitable, as we see games expanded so far, though. Edge of the Earth is the seventh campaign expansion for the game (if we don’t count the core set), so we’ve gone through a lot of design space in that time. I’ve already talked about how one of the scenarios felt like one from the Carcosa campaign, but it does seem a bit like one way to expand the game is to simply ramp up the difficulty, which in a game like this is never good: this might be the first expansion someone buys, after all. We already have a way to make it more difficult, by adjusting the chaos bag. We don’t need to be brow-beaten during the campaign as well!

However, the difficulty could also be seen as on-point for symbolising the harsh conditions on Antarctica, especially when we see members of the party just die in front of us, etc. Now, I have to say, I didn’t really play the Partner allies as much as I would have expected. I found it interesting when reading the designer’s commentary in the back of the book, where MJ says she hopes we grew to care about these people – I certainly didn’t get that attached! It’s curious, actually, because I barely used any allies in the decks, as well – I think Trish has two, though I only ever played one of them (I just didn’t draw the other). Without being a sociopath, I suppose they just weren’t high on my priority list, and while the ally who gives you a base investigation skill of 5 was occasionally useful, otherwise I just wasn’t really taking account of them, and so their deaths were not much of an inconvenience to me!

I said recently that I think I want to try to have a break from these sorts of campaigns for a while, because I was finding that my game time was almost forced into playing this game (or Lord of the Rings) to keep the campaign going. While I do want to have more flexibility of course, and enjoy a lot more of the games from my collection, I am drawn back to this game so much that I think I will probably try to play another campaign soon! I’ve already said that I fancy trying out another Rogue, although I also thought about playing a Mystic/Seeker combo as well, so I think I might well be building some more decks in the near future! Whether I try again with Innsmouth, or attempt the Dream-Eaters, who knows! I do think I need to try and play these campaigns that I haven’t yet explored before I go back again over the older ones, though. But then, a big part of me is kinda wanting to try out Dunwich again!

At any rate, I’m hoping that I can play a lot more games in the foreseeable future, and don’t be surprised if one of them is Arkham Horror LCG!

Edge of the Earth: round two

Following on from the first scenario (which comes in three parts), I’ve now taken my daring duo through the next two scenarios in the Edge of the Earth campaign. Patrice and Trish have finally levelled up some of their cards, so I’m pleased to say that things appear to be going well so far!

Scenario II: To the Forbidden Peaks, is basically a hike up the mountains. Coming upon a frozen corpse of an Elder Thing at the base of the mountains, we’ve decided to carry on with the climb as any normal, sane person would do. The scenario sets out the locations in a diagonal line, to simulate the progression up the mountainside. There are, of course, Elder Things in the encounter deck that might try to get us, and the agenda deck will bring out a boss-style enemy that happened to get us just when the summit was in sight!

The rules are quite clever, as we need to thoroughly investigate a location before we can move up, and so much of the encounter deck, including the boss, works off which level of the mountain we’re on. Despite there being a number of enemies in the encounter deck this time, I still found that Trish wasn’t able to do a great deal with the evade suite of shenanigans I’d built into her deck, so she became the primary clue-finder while Patrice basically lagged behind playing that bloody violin of hers. Not sure if I’ve really got the right duo for this task, but it does spin a pretty hilarious narrative of Patrice fiddling away while in the midst of snow and insanity.

In the middle of the scenario, a random member of the party is killed by an Elder Thing bursting from the snow, as well. That was something I wasn’t really expecting, so provided quite a shock factor to the game, I have to say! We also have a bunch of story assets along for the ride with us this time, the items we found when searching for a suitable camp site at the start, and we have to try to recover these from the mountainside as the expedition gets worse and worse.

It’s all very interesting, and I enjoyed how different it was to other scenarios within the wider game.

City of the Elder Things is an exploration scenario that again gives a strong reminiscence of the catacombs of Paris from the Carcosa campaign. The investigators are basically exploring locations that are linked orthogonally, but we have the added mix of clues here, represented by chaos tokens. While it isn’t exactly explicitly stated from the off, we’re basically trying to match pairs of these tokens, and we can usually then spend them for an action to gain a benefit. To advance the first act, we need to spend two pairs, but also many of the locations have effects that might be useful, so I decided to go for a few of these, one of which has added a 0 token to the chaos bag. Hopefully that’ll help to dilute the snowflake tokens, which are bloody annoying!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned the snowflakes before? They act as -1 tokens, and you have to reveal another token; revealing another snowflake will auto-fail, but the tokens aren’t removed after the test in the way the bless/curse tokens are. So they are a pain in the bum when you have a bag full of them! Very few game effects have so far allowed for their removal, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have Trish tooled up to investigate at something like +8 and then just auto-fail because of two snow tokens. It wouldn’t be so bad if they could then be removed, but no – you can waste an entire turn like this, and it just annoys me.

There’s another mini-interlude halfway through the agenda deck, which sees off another member of the party – after starting with nine companions, three of them have now either been killed or otherwise incapacitated by the weird miasma and so on, which as I said last time, just serves to add to the disaster movie feel of the whole thing!

Nevertheless, the scenario was interesting, and is followed by the final Interlude. Each of these has been an interesting story-bit where the investigator player goes round the camp and chats with the party, and possibly gleans some information from them as they go. There is also the “Scenario ???”, where we have the opportunity to explore a mirage and play a bonus scenario. I’ve only had the opportunity once before, I think, but each time I have tried to stick with the spirit of my party and ignore the mirage, so that’s now gone forever.

Mountains of Madness

The final scenario awaits, The Heart of the Madness, which looks again to be split into two parts. It’s interesting to me, seeing how this campaign has been structured. It has largely been a linear progression still, just with a couple of branching paths that you can ignore if you so wish. I believe The Scarlet Keys is much more all over the place, though, so it’ll be interesting to compare once that is in my hands! At any rate, there’s just one more to go now, so stay tuned and see if my adventuring party will be driven insane at the mountains of madness – or whether Patrice’s jolly violin-playing will allow us all to keep our heads and see it through to the end!

LCG campaigns

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog of late, you’ll have seen a massive increase in my playing The Lord of the Rings LCG of late, including finally getting round to playing the saga expansions. Very exciting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree! I’m also roughly halfway through playing the Edge of the Earth campaign for Arkham Horror LCG and, having got this far, earlier in the week I finally set about using all of the experience gained to upgrade my decks. Playing both of these games almost side by side has got me thinking a lot about the differences between the two, and I’ve found myself really disappointed with the older game.

I think it mainly comes down to the campaign experience, really. Lord of the Rings was never really designed to have that kind of campaign feel, after all – the monthly adventure packs were of course designed to have a cohesive narrative to them, which only increased during the life of the game. That’s all well and good in terms of the encounter deck, of course, but when it comes to our player decks, they’re pretty much what we want them to be, and some folks do play “progression style” and only use the cards released up to the pack they’re playing, which is pretty much how I think we all played back in the day! But there’s no real sense of progression in terms of your deck, in the same way that we get in Arkham.

In Lord of the Rings, you can play earlier quests with cards from later in the game’s life, and have a comparatively easy time of it all. The core set still has some phenomenal stuff that you won’t find surpassed from later on, but the reverse is also true, and later cards do really help to smooth things out that just weren’t possible early in the game’s history.

In Arkham Horror, however, the player cards are designed from the start to level-up and improve as you make progress through the campaign. I think I spent a couple of hours the other night going through my collection to buff Patrice and Trish, and I found it actually really exciting, finding the upgrades that I could get, or exchanging some cards for others. It’s an obvious point, really, but it’s just great to have that aspect of the game built-in.

Interestingly, it also means that the game is quite accessible, because you can have a deck with clear avenues for levelling-up as you can just buy the higher-tier versions of cards that you started with, but also it allows for people who want to make some narrative choices with their decks as they play, and get really granular as to what they swap out and in. We’ve seen this most clearly with the five Investigator decks that came out a while ago now, where those decks came with higher-tier versions of the basic cards that really telegraphed how to upgrade the deck. There is the possibility for upgrading by increments, and spending your XP over a wide variety of cards by just taking them up a single notch, or you can go heavily in and invest it in the top-tier versions of just a couple of cards. I’ve done it both ways, and find the options are always quite fascinating really.

For my current duo, I approached the task by looking at the level 2 and level 3 cards first, thinking I’d go for a middling split, so have been able to upgrade quite a few things throughout each deck. Of course, it’s also a great point to see what is and isn’t working well for you in the deck, and to try and make the most of things by ditching the “filler” cards for something more usable. Of course, some element of filler might be needed, due to the way the game works – you might want to keep certain cards, not for their actual effects, but rather for their icons. 

The task of levelling up a deck can sometimes feel quite daunting, and playing Edge of the Earth isn’t the first time I’ve left it a couple of games before spending my XP because of that. Sometimes it can be a case of too much choice, and you don’t know where to start. However, you’ll always have that trajectory of levelling up the existing cards to guide you. In contrast, when I’ve come to make some tweaks to my Lord of the Rings decks before now, it really is a daunting prospect because you are faced with the entirety of the card pool to try and figure something out! I actually organise my cards for Lord of the Rings by set release, as well (rather than by type, as with Arkham), so trying to find a certain effect or something can be quite arduous! There isn’t really the same option of having a stronger/better version of an existing card either, although sometimes you might see cards where they have a bigger effect than one that you already have, such as giving a character +3 attack instead of +1 attack, but you have access to everything from the start. So for example, in my Eowyn/Theodred/Merry deck I have had the Rohan pump cards in there from the very beginning.

Now, Lord of the Rings does have boons and burdens in campaign mode, which are cards that get added to the encounter deck, or to the player decks, and carry over between games once you have earned them. So while you don’t get the option to have better versions of cards in your deck, you do get the chance to add some fairly useful cards to your deck over time. Of course, this is balanced by having to also include horrible cards as time goes on, as well (although Gildor Inglorion does get added to the encounter deck, which is always nice to see him). So we have recurring cards throughout, which we very rarely see in Arkham (the only example that springs to my mind in this vein is The Harbinger from The Forgotten Age, which I think pops up twice after its initial appearance). 

Of course, ultimately they’re different games and therefore they work differently. Lord of the Rings works perfectly well playing it as it was originally released, just building a deck and working through each of the adventure packs in a cycle. Many people do prefer to build a deck to tackle a specific scenario, and while I don’t do that per se, I am aware that there are some scenarios that I would never attempt with an all-purpose deck. FFG have now started to add boons and burdens to the re-released stuff, such as the core set and Angmar Awakened boxes, to make them all into a campaign in the manner of the Saga expansions. I’m not sure they needed this, if truth be told, but I think there is that kind of shift for a lot of games to make a joined-up experience and try to get people more invested. I’m a little baffled by the fact that Marvel Champions does this, because it strikes me as being entirely on-theme for you to be able to battle the villains in a one-shot kind of way. I don’t have any experience of the Marvel campaign system though, so can’t comment more fully just yet!

It does make me wonder if anything would be lost by playing the Saga expansions, which introduced this concept, in non-campaign mode. I wonder if the boons that you earn make the scenarios playable, and not having them makes it nigh-on impossible to win.

I have definitely rambled on far longer than I thought I would about this, so I should probably try to draw this to a close now! I think I definitely prefer the Arkham system for its clearly delineated path for progression, both in terms of the encounters that you face and also the player decks and the whole levelling-up process. However, the campaign system can also get really clunky, and sometimes it can feel very difficult to keep track of exactly what is going on, especially as you go through a campaign and you need to recall what happened earlier on. Lord of the Rings as a game is just wonderful, if incredibly difficult, although I must say I have had a whole new appreciation for the game since I stepped away from true solo and embraced two-handed. The game tells a really beautiful story and, while it can often get a bit complex as well in terms of what exactly is going on, oftentimes the scenarios are designed really well, and really draw you in as a result. The only thing it falls down on, really, is how it attempts to implement the whole campaign thing, but aside from the Sagas, I haven’t really felt the absence of a campaign system before now. It’s funny how playing the Saga stuff has made me see all of this, really!

However, most of this is only an issue when you look at stuff from later in each game’s life. When you look at the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle for Lord of the Rings, it tells an overarching story (following Aragorn’s rescue of Gollum from Mordor) without any kind of complicated system of adding and/or removing cards as you go. The most complicated aspect is having to disassemble the encounter decks if you need to re-use some card sets across different scenarios (although personally I just bought five core sets, so have more than enough!) This model is broadly true for each cycle in Lord of the Rings, although the narrative of the game becomes more dense as we move through the various expansions, often leading to complicated set ups.

Arkham Horror, by contrast, sees us adding cards to our deck that we have “earned” right from the core set, with the infamous Lita Chandler, and the first cycle, The Dunwich Legacy, does play around with this as we rescue characters, and gain esoteric formulae etc. Later cycles do become quite complicated – I’m thinking of the Innsmouth Conspiracy, which flip-flops between the present and the past, so requires us to remove and add cards based on whether we’re going back in time. Sometimes you might only earn a card for a single scenario, which feels a bit redundant overall. However, it does intrigue me that it took six full cycles before the game realised that a monthly pack release schedule is not what this game is about, and it serves the game much better to produce a big box of the campaign that has all of this stuff that we can just mix and match across the various strands of play. While I’m currently not all that sure if the Edge of the Earth campaign is all that fun for me, I can nevertheless see that this is how Arkham should have been, right from the start.

It’s funny, though, that they’re now trying to retrofit Lord of the Rings expansions with a campaign mode as well, as they release these boxes in a similar manner. I suppose it’s a symptom of the rise in popularity of these sort of legacy-style games, where we as gamers need to have those links, and have story choices that matter. Unfortunately, we don’t get to make story choices in Lord of the Rings, we just play the scenario that is given to us. Many times in Arkham Horror, we can actually choose when to end a scenario by resigning without actually having completed our investigation. There are real decisions in campaigns like Path to Carcosa, which influence the path that we take through the eight scenarios. It is glorious, but it’s also a lot of book-keeping and can become very clunky in some campaigns.

In a perfect world, then, I think I would have the Arkham-style player deck progression, with the early, story-driven scenarios of Lord of the Rings, and try to just forget about campaigns and boons or burdens.

But that’s just me!