The Circle Undone

Hey everybody,
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and I’m back to the mythos today as I’m talking about the cycle that I’m currently playing for Arkham Horror LCG!

Arkham Horror LCG The Circle Undone

So I’ve skipped over an entire cycle here, forgetting about The Forgotten Age for now and going straight to The Circle Undone! I’ve wanted to try out Diana Stanley as an investigator for some time, so even though it doesn’t feel like all that long since I played a Mystic, I wanted to see what the whole thing was about with cancelling effects and so on. Other than that, I had no real clue as to what I was letting myself in for, but to date, this has by far been one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences out there!

The deluxe expansion is where we’re at today, and things are a bit crazy off the bat. There is a prologue before we get to the main two scenarios of the game, Disappearance at the Twilight Estate. We’re at a party, and strange things are going on. There are four “prologue investigators” included in the box, who each have a hand (not a deck) constructed from the available pool of investigator cards. The object of this prologue is simply to survive – indeed, the booklet does actually start off by telling us “there is no positive resolution for this scenario”, ending with “good luck – you’ll need it”!

The prologue, I believe, has a bearing on what happens further down the line in the cycle, though I’ve read a lot of people don’t like this prologue scenario, because it forces you into playing “investigators” and so on that you don’t necessarily want to. It’s fine with me though, as it adds another layer of the narrative to things – although I wasn’t best pleased when I discovered that I needed to use cards that had already been earmarked for my investigator decks!

I played as Jerome Davids and Valentino Rivas in the prologue, and it ended up with them both being pulled into the spectral realm. Creepy mist is hanging about – it’s all beautiful!

The Circle Undone

The first scenario proper is The Witching Hour, and begins with the investigators having their fortunes told on the breezy streets of Arkham. The tarot reading is a big part of this expansion, as Tarot cards are a new slot in the game that add a variety of effects, which can be quite interesting – though again, a few people I’ve seen discussing this expansion online seem to object to the addition! Anyway, the first scenario is all about witches, as a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky and we are transplanted into Arkham woods. This is an interesting scenario in that the investigators are at first separated, and can only investigate their own location – set-up instructs you to pass the locations around the table and place them in front of you, which does nothing for me playing solo, but I imagine for a 4-player game it would be quite atmospheric!

The object of this scenario is a bit like ‘defeat the big baddie’, but once again we have that pervasive sense of how futile victory can be.

The Circle Undone

The second scenario, At Death’s Doorstep, sees us returning to the Meiger estate, investigating some disappearances that have been occurring in the French Hill area of Arkham. I played this one a little while after the prologue, which is just as well I think, because it does feel very similar at first. Depending on who got pulled into the mist in the prologue, clues are placed at certain locations and those locations can flip over onto their spectral side as before. It’s all very weird, with the mist coming into the house, but we learn that the Silver Twilight has attempted to recreate the events of the earlier scenario in order to investigate what exactly happened. Creepy stuff!

This scenario is slightly weird also, because it includes an Interlude in the middle of the game. Following the conclusion of the scenario, there is a further Interlude, which serves to put the story firmly on its trajectory for the subsequent cycle. More so than Dunwich or Carcosa, I felt very much like this one was trying too hard to straightjacket us into the right way, if that makes sense. It’s not getting in the way of things, I don’t think, but it is noticeably there, and as such does seem to impact a little on the flow of things. The second Interlude feels a little bit overly mechanical like this, in that it is a single story chopped up into 9 pieces, and we skip over any of those that didn’t have an impact, which feels ever so slightly odd. I don’t know, it sounds like I’m purposefully trying to be difficult about this box, and I’m really not! It’s probably one of my favourites for the theme so far, as I’ve said! New England witchcraft, what’s not to like?!

So I’m at the end of the box, now, and have managed to gather 7VPs for my investigators from the scenarios, along with becoming an enemy of the Lodge – something I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but there we go! I have accepted my fate, escaped the spectral realm, and I’m on Valentino’s trail. In addition, the booklet has been instructing me to note down “mementos discovered” – I have no idea why, but I feel it might be interesting later on. For now, then, I’ve recovered a mesmerizing flute, and some ritual components. Hm.

It really has been fun, despite my small grievances I’ve mentioned – I think it’s one of those that appeals to me because I enjoy the regular-cultist trope over fantastical monsters, and it is really intriguing to think how these two elements – witches, and the Silver Twilight – might come together. It’s making me want to get back into reading some of the more spooky Lovecraft stories – Dreams in the Witch House and so on! It’s a really nice pace for the game, and I think the fact I didn’t enjoy the second scenario as much is probably more to do with wanting to have more witchcraft-y scenarios like the first one!

So there we have it – I’m firmly on the path now, though have been finding it difficult to get games in since Christmas has been and gone. Definitely been in more of a hobby mood of late, as shown with the army update blogs, but hopefully I’ll be able to get some more card games in soon. I still have a lot of Lord of the Rings to catch up on, as well!

Happy Solstice

Hey everybody,
Christmas is approaching, for those of you with the inclination, but the recent announcements over lockdowns in the UK has seemingly put a damper on things. This is as much as I’ll talk about with politics, of course, as I try to make this blog more of a haven from such things, but I think I’ll probably be posting a lot over the coming days as I try to take my mind off things – and, hopefully, yours, too!

It was my birthday on Friday, and I had a decent haul of Arkham Horror LCG stuff, which was great! I mean, a couple of those bits I’d kept back from recent purchases, such as the Dexter Drake novella and Guardians of the Abyss. I think the birthday haul is pretty indicative of what is on my radar right now, though – between the card game and Necromunda! I haven’t had a proper chance to do more than flick through House of Artifice, but I’m looking forward to digesting that over the coming days! I do want to get another game of Necromunda in at some point, even if it is by myself, because I’m really hooked right now!

I have started to play Lord of the Rings again, though, thinking that I’d start off with Passage Through Mirkwood, the introductory scenario. And it absolutely brutalised me! I had a very bad series of draws from the encounter deck, and playing two-handed was obviously increasing the cards seen over the course of the game, but jeez!

There are a couple of things that I want to mention here, of course. First of all, playing two-handed is actually a real joy. I had the odd moment of “where am I up to?” of course, but those tended to be in the late game where a lot was going on, already. I think perhaps playing two investigators in Arkham Horror has prepared me well for this one, and I think in part that, in comparison, Lord of the Rings is definitely a much simpler game. It surprised me because there is a much more linear plan for the game: you do the same thing round after round, and the variety of it all comes from the different cards being revealed from the encounter deck. Having played a lot of Arkham Horror lately, which has got that element of a board game from having investigators moving around different locations, and the RPG feel of leveling-up cards etc, it gives for a much more complex game. While there are those elements in common, such as effectively playing against the encounter deck and such, it really surprised me that I had that feeling!

Of course, the decks that I was playing were not really built for this way of playing – each one was effectively a solo deck, so they could have dealt with the majority of the game by themselves. As such, I think I could tweak the decks back to dual-sphere and have each one cover the other better.

Interestingly, I went back to basics on this one as well, and read through the instruction manual, as well as watching the tutorial stuff again, and tried to get it right. Back when I first started playing this game, in 2011, I had incorporated a couple of house rules I suppose, to make it more manageable for actual solo play, and I just kept playing it that way. The ‘Basic Game’ as explained in the rulebook does suggest not revealing shadow cards while you get into it, and I’ve played that way pretty much ever since! I was also playing the game whereby if I had optionally engaged an enemy, I would attack it first rather than allowing for all enemies to attack me first, regardless of who engaged who. In my mind, it made sense that I would be able to do this, because otherwise it’s the equivalent of going up to someone for a fight, and letting them hit you first? Of course, there are player cards that allow you to dodge attacks and the like, but it always struck me as really odd that I couldn’t natively attack first when it was my choice to engage with that enemy!

Anyhow, playing the game correct, I thought, would be a lot of work, but as it happened the first game was over in 5 rounds, as I was just unable to overcome the threats in the staging area, due to bad draws from both the encounter and player decks! Any allies that I had were dying to enemy attacks as I threw them under the bus to just try to deal damage to the enemies engaged with me, but as time went on, I had to throw my heroes at them as defenders, meaning I was in a holding pattern of doom until round 5, when four of my six heroes were killed off. It was shocking!

I did later that same day play again, after briefly considering trying out the official Easy Mode of removing some of the encounter cards, but in the end went for a straightforward shuffle-up-and-reset, and I managed to prevail. The game was a lot longer than I’d expected, though I think that was in part because of the two-handed thing, but also simply because I was trying to defeat Ungoliant’s Spawn, which was the fourth card from the bottom of the deck. Still playing without shadow cards, I wasn’t drawing as many encounter cards as perhaps I could have been!

It’s interesting though, to me, that playing without shadow cards can be such a dual-edged sword; on the one hand, you’re potentially buffing enemies when they can already be a bit unwieldy, but almost in return you get to cycle through the encounter deck quicker, and can potentially avoid having so many locations or so many enemies coming into play. I suppose this is something to think about when we’re talking about implementing house rules or whatever – the game has been tested to play in a certain way, and is as balanced as possible based on its own rules. Adding to these, or changing things, can tip that balance and sometimes lead to a less-than-optimum experience. Certainly something I need to bear in mind when I’m complaining about “how tough is this game?!”

Lord of the Rings LCG

I’m still going to be playing through one of these cycles over the Christmas period – at least one, maybe more! – so look forward to hearing more of my musings as I properly get back into what I have always been calling my favourite game!

I picked up the latest White Dwarf this morning and, as I have the day off (yay!) I had a fairly leisurely breakfast while flicking through its pages. There’s a lot of Age of Sigmar stuff in there, which I kinda glossed over because I’m not big into Spiderfang Grots, but I was reading Robin Cruddace’s column on the new 40k rules, and it was quite interesting to see why they changed some of the rules from 8th to 9th edition.

I’ve talked briefly about this recently, but in some ways I think 9th edition coming out in the middle of a global pandemic, when there are so many restrictions in place that the GW stores themselves can’t even run demos of the game or have people in there for any longer than absolutely necessary, does seem to be a bit of a swing and a miss. Any sort of excitement around the new edition has been, for me, tempered by the fact that I couldn’t immediately play it, and the few games that I have managed to play since it arrived were a weird sort of hodge-podge of rules, in part because I was playing an 8th edition codex in a new game. Granted, it wasn’t massively different, though for something like Necrons, trying to play with the army when Reanimation Protocols had changed, but we didn’t have the rest of the rules yet, was such a weird experience. Now, I know plenty of other folks will have been through the pain barrier between editions where they’re using a book from an edition or two ago, but it’s difficult to get my head around!

It’s curious, although perhaps not totally unexpected, to see how I’ve almost gone off 40k in recent weeks. I think the lack of any outlet to play has a lot to do with this, as I’ve got no real motivation to paint anything up while there’s no end in sight to these lockdowns! I’ve moved into solo-able games so much that 40k has almost been left behind, but I do think it’s about time I used some of the down-time to get some projects finished, so that I can play with fully painted models when this is all over! I’m sure there’ll be more on this to come in the next couple of weeks – if only from the now-inevitable Hobby Resolutions blog! Now is not the time for a retrospective on that one, of course, but it’s definitely been a mixed bag in 2020, with some successes as well as some that have fallen by the wayside. Stay tuned for that blog, coming up sometime next week, no doubt!

Post 999!

Hey everybody!
It’s my 999th post on this blog! What an incredible milestone! I honestly didn’t give things much thought back when I started this endeavour back in 2014, but I suppose as time has gone on, I suppose it’s been quite exciting to see the blog growing – even if it is with my inane babble! As we gear up for post number 1000, which is already written and scheduled to go live tomorrow, I thought I’d have a bit of a catch-up blog with you all, and dip into some of the stuff that has been going on in recent weeks!

Curtain Call

Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Arkham Horror LCG, and enjoying myself immensely. Back when I first played the game upon release, I definitely knew that I enjoyed the game, but always seemed to struggle to get round to actually playing it. It wasn’t until last year, almost three years after the initial release, that I got round to actually trying out a full campaign.

Now, however, I’m firmly entrenched in the whole thing, having really revitalized my enjoyment of the game and throwing myself in whole-heartedly! I’ve made my way through two full campaigns now, and I’m poised to start on a third over the festive season, tackling The Circle Undone with Diana Stanley and Joe Diamond. Having sleeved the cards for this cycle, it’s been exciting to see that this one focuses more on the classic trope of regular cultists trying to bring about the end of the world, rather than fantastical creatures and the like. I’ve been recording my games here on the blog, and I’ve set up a page specifically to collect these posts together. I’m sure I’ll be trying out some campaigns multiple times, too, but I want to try out all the game has to offer me, and make up for lost time!

Interestingly, all of this Arkham Horror LCG has got me thinking about trying my other great card-game love, Lord of the Rings LCG. It’s been a long time since I have last played this game, I think I tried my hand in one of the early scenarios in the summer-time, but playing this game has really dropped off my radar in recent years. It’s interesting, of course, because I still really love it, and I still call it my all-time favourite card game. I suppose part of the reason for me having stepped back a bit from it resides in the fact there is just so much of it now. The game wound up a few months ago, after the last cycle took an absolute age to actually see all six packs released – in total, we have nine full cycles, eight deluxe Saga expansions, and about a dozen standalone scenarios. It’s quite mind-boggling, really, and the player cards have become quite the beast to wrangle!

Earlier this week, as it happens, I spent a sleepless night looking through my collection once more, and reliving some past memories as well as tinkering a little with my favourite Rohan deck. The whole thing was brought about because I wanted to re-sleeve some of the cards, requiring the transparent sleeves for Arkham Horror as it happens, but it really took me on that journey down memory lane, to the time when I would excitedly play each pack in the Mirkwood cycle as it was released – spending yet another sleepless night back in, what, 2011, playing The Dead Marshes. Ah, memories!

I’ve currently got four decks built up and ready for the game – the Rohan deck, a Dwarf deck, an Elf deck, and more of a generic/mix that uses a number of Dúnedain and Outlands cards. Going over these (and re-sleeving them), and sorting out a lot of the later packs from Harad, Rhovanion and Mordor, has got me thinking how I’ve never really ventured very far into this game, always returning to Mirkwood and the Dwarrowdelf, without really exploring any of the cycles from Ringmaker onwards, really! Looking back, I got as far as The Dunland Trap from that cycle (the game’s fourth, just fyi!) while playing what I would call regularly, back in 2015, and have pretty much given up, since! Sporadic plays of a scenario from Angmar and Harad notwithstanding, I’ve pretty much let the bulk of this game pass me by, whilst still compulsively collecting it!

Well, hopefully that will change soon!

Lord of the Rings LCG

I’ve got my eye on playing some of the newer quests, potentially with that Dúnedain deck, or else with the re-tuned Rohan deck, over the festive period (although probably more like the new year weekend). I’ve even been considering building up an entirely new deck, using the newer player cards to build around the Dale theme. I’ve got my eye on trying maybe The Lost Realm, or else Vengeance of Mordor as that has struck me as a very intriguing cycle. I’ve heard so many good things about the Ered Mithrin cycle, though, so that is also a strong contender. Of course, I playtested on the Angmar Awakened cycle, but I think I came into the game after the playtesting for the deluxe expansion had finished. I have lots of bad memories of never being able to escape from the dungeons, but it’ll be nice to actually play the game in its finished form, with artwork and not the badly-formatted black-and-white printouts that were sleeved on top of other cards!

So that’ll be something good to look forward to!

What else has been going on?

Well, I’m quite excited to say that I’ve pretty much finished my first major terrain piece! I mean, I’ve painted up some ammo crates before, but I’m quite excited for this one! The Sector Mechanicus stuff is really nice, and I have rather a lot of it after all, but I think after the game of Necromunda the other week has got me thinking more about terrain and whatnot, so I think it’ll be nice to have some done. I’ve been working on a Galvanic Magnavent lately, building it up to reflect the back of the box rather than the “standard” build from the front (I’m pretty sure I did that with another piece, too…) so I think when I have these big pieces painted up they’ll look really good out on the table!

Let’s talk about Necromunda though, as it’s something I’m hoping to try out again over the festive break (first Lord of the Rings, more Arkham Horror, and now this?! Where will I find the time…) I’ve been reading up the rules for scenery from the Book of Peril, and I’m quite excited by just how interactive the battlefield can get! So it should be really interesting to see how all of that works (although it might not be something that I get to straight away, as there are a lot of moving parts in this game, after all!)

It’s not all about the scenery though, as I’ve also been building up some more Van Saar folks as the excitement around House of Artifice increases! My current leader comes in at a whopping 310 credits – I know Van Saar are expensive, but that’s a third of the starting gang, so I needed to slim them down a bit. This chap, above, is a much more respectable 245, which means I can actually fit in another body, between trimming down the leader and champion options. I think that game I linked to earlier definitely showed just how much the advantage of numbers can go in your favour – and expensive gangers are of no use to anybody if they’re Prone and Pinned!

Finally…

We need to talk about this. I don’t think I’ve properly recovered yet, of course! But 10 new Star Wars series’ is just phenomenal! The Mandalorian is showing that Star Wars can absolutely have a future on the small screen, and I am so excited to see what they’re going to do with it all. I probably need to confine my thoughts on this to a separate piece, but suffice it to say, I’m really happy with what’s going on there right now!

So, folks, that’s almost a thousand posts finished! Come back tomorrow to celebrate my birthday with Post 1000 itself – I think it’ll be a good one!

Searching for Carcosa… and finding it!

Hey everybody,
It’s been a whirlwind of a ride, but I’ve made it through to the end of the Path to Carcosa campaign! What a glorious campaign it was, too. I’m going to talk about the final two packs first – with spoilers, no doubt – and then give you all some of my thoughts on the whole thing. But let’s start with Black Stars Rise.

This one has got to be the most complicated setup that I have seen from any of the scenarios to date! It’s unique in that it doesn’t have an Act deck, but instead uses parallel Agenda decks. When we place doom during the mythos phase, we get to choose on which Agenda it is placed – however, doom in play does count towards both Agendas, so it is possible (and indeed happened to me!) for both of them to advance at the same time! The crux of the matter is that we’re trying to prevent the cultists of Hastur from enacting the ritual to bring him back into reality. We’ve come to Mont Saint-Michel to prevent this ritual, and I do feel like the designers are messing with me when it looked quite clearly like there was a good and a bad Agenda, but these obviously proved to both be terrible events! Why did I think one might be better?!

I really enjoyed how this scenario seems to be holding out on us. There is just so much that we don’t know, or at least that I don’t know – we’re almost just hoping for the best each time. And the fact that the setup is so randomised, subsequent play-throughs of this scenario will still be the same, I don’t think it’s likely I’ll have any benefit of experience that is sometimes seen when you play through a scenario again.

The way becomes clear when we investigate the Abbey Church, and a whole other suite of location cards opens up – that was quite a revelation, really! Investigating through the church, however, leads us on to the path we have been pursuing since we woke up in the theatre – for me, I plunged into the water in pursuit of Lost Carcosa!

Campaign Log
Well, I opened the path below, and have gained an extra point of conviction. In addition, I’ve gained 2 experience points, so immediately spent that to upgrade Ashcan Pete’s Lantern, and swapped out the Archaic Glyphs from Daisy’s deck in favour of an Otherworldly Compass. I know it’s late in the game to be doing this, but I’m mindful of my experience in Dunwich, and want to be sure that I’m maximising that experience!

The finale of the piece, Dim Carcosa follows a similar theme to the Dunwich Legacy, where we jump through the gate and into the Other World. while some people may find it a bit repetitive, I personally like it as a call-back to the board game, and having those adventures in other realms adds to the cosmic horror that I’m here for.

This one is again a little different, as each location is double-sided with a Story card (similar to the VIPs back in The Last King), and so they all start out in play and complete with all of their clues. The stories on the back of these cards are revealed by gathering the clues from them at the right point – they don’t auto-flip as soon as they have been investigated. This is because a lot of them will allow you to deal direct damage to the Unspeakable One himself, Hastur!

There are three different variants of this particular Great Old One, and the variant you face very much depends on the way the campaign has been going up to this point. For me, I had much more conviction than doubt – and so I found myself going up against the toughest of all three! This is a wonderful mechanic, as it represents the fact that you’ve not kept that healthy scepticism – you haven’t stayed rooted in the real world. Consequently, you’re so convinced that what you’re experiencing is real, you bring into being a much more powerful Elder God. It’s really well done, and shows how the choices you make throughout the campaign really have an effect.

Something that I really enjoyed about this one, too, is how the Act/Agenda cards incorporate call-backs to the earlier scenarios, such as the party and the asylum, before requiring you to take an attribute test to see if you remember these things happening before. It’s really representative of the truly shattered state of your psyche at this point, and I got a real thrill from seeing these when they came up!

And speaking of shattered psyches, I thought this was quite funny in that, during setup, each investigator takes a sanity hit equal to half of their total sanity, and taking madness throughout the game doesn’t eliminate you – you’re basically beyond the edge of reason at this point, after all! However, there are a lot of cards in the encounter deck that get nastier if you have no sanity left. It’s really thematic for being in this particular Other World, and I really enjoyed it.

Did I win? Well, I think so! Daisy managed to do a lot of damage to Hastur through investigating locations and turning over those cards to deal 1 or 2 points of damage per investigator to him. I had a couple of very lucky draws from Ashcan Pete that allowed him to do 4 points of damage per hit, though in his toughest incarnation, a -1, 0 or +1 Chaos token counts as an auto-fail, so I had to really over-commit to make sure I pulled out the -2 or worse, which would allow me to actually get the damage on him! For the win, I then threw my Lantern at him to deal the final 2 points of damage. Felt really weird, but I guess that tattered yellow robe is really flammable!

Campaign Log
Well folks, the investigators prevented Hastur from escaping his prison, although it was at the cost of 2 physical trauma each. I had 0 victory points on the board, but did gain an additional 5 points for all of my experiences. Most importantly, however, the investigators won the campaign!

I still don’t know why the end of a campaign gives experience points, although I suppose it can be used if you want to try out a standalone scenario. I’ve seen some theories that it’s future-proofing against adding special scenarios to the end of campaigns, but who knows.


Anyway, it’s time to give my thoughts on The Path to Carcosa as a campaign. Unless it’s not immediately obvious from having read through this series of blogs over the last few days – I really enjoyed this one! I think the fact that it was completely new to me really helped here, because at several points during The Dunwich Legacy campaign, I did have that sense of having been here before, etc, and while it didn’t ruin things for me, it still felt a little like re-treading old ground. But I think that could also have been due to knowing I had lots of new stuff waiting for me to get to, so I wanted to get through it!

I first read The King in Yellow – well, I read the first four stories of that book – back in 2016. Some of the story beats I may have missed, for sure, but I was blown away by how close A Phantom of Truth came to the source material, and really enjoyed that aspect of the game. In the main, though, I think this campaign tries to be its own thing – it takes as the starting point the idea of the macabre play, which has been developed so much within the confines of the Cthulhu mythos, and really runs with it, incorporating along the way stuff from In the Court of the Dragon, and I think the onyx clasp comes from The Yellow Sign, but we don’t have such a reliance on the source material as in the last campaign. Which I think is a definite plus, because it blows the possibilities right open.

I’ve read a review of this campaign that describes it as a full flowering of the campaign possibilities of this game, having shown how the principle works during the Dunwich Legacy. I think that’s pretty on the nose, although I have no idea how future campaigns play (we’re currently in the middle of the sixth full cycle, remember!) Seeing how the story unfolds from scenario to scenario, and the changes that are made along the way, it was really informative of what could be done. Even down to the stuff with changing tokens added to the Chaos bag between scenarios, there was so much going on! I was very impressed each time.

The new Story cards in particular were very impressive, and add that extra point of narrative to what is already a very story-driven game. I don’t think I ever really felt like the game was forcing me to play a specific way, or trying to lead me to a specific conclusion. The doubt/conviction mechanic, something that I’ve read quite negative opinions for, does seem to lead to very different set-ups as we go. Playing one scenario often depends on how you did in the last one, and less on whether a specific thing happened. I think it helps that the narrative often has the scenarios spaced out with days or weeks between them, but here it felt so much more like a choose your own adventure, rather than being guided through a pre-set game as was the case to some degree with Dunwich.

I’ve talked about this before, but throughout the campaign, I was really not sure about any of the choices I was making, from the start I felt really torn over whether there was a “right” or “wrong” choice to make. It was difficult at times, and I had that sense of paranoia, maybe I’m doing things wrong, you know? I think it was during or after the third scenario where I decided to just go for it, and see how things went. I think I tried to play it in character, and go with that feel of believing the events around me, with the sense of trying to investigate the mythos, as opposed to trying to stay cynical and doubtful of things.

It’s a mark of the design of this campaign, though, that these choices are taking me down such divergent paths that I know I could play this again and have a really different experience. That said, I feel so exhausted by the whole experience that I’m not sure I’ll be playing it again anytime soon…!

Searching for Carcosa… in Paris

Hey everybody,
I’m trying to find the Path to Carcosa with furious abandon, and my search has now crossed the Atlantic and taken me to Paris! Following on from a pair of scenarios that explore classic locations from the Arkham Horror board game, we’re in uncharted territory next, as we move closer to the theme of The King in Yellow for the next scenario, A Phantom of Truth!

I said last time that Echoes of the Past was possibly my favourite scenario to date, but we have a strong contender here for that title, because of the sheer theme that comes through from chasing the Organist across Paris. Very strongly linked to In the Court of the Dragon from RW Chambers’ stories, it also has the interesting theme whereby doom in play subtracts from doom on the agenda. I haven’t come across that before, but of course I’m getting to see hundreds of different ways in which the designers have been playing with the now-traditional make-up of the game.

We also see the doubt and conviction theme come strongly to the fore, with game choices hinging on how much of each we have logged. However, I have to commend the designers again for the introductory blurb in the rules insert, which follows a dream sequence that determines our setup. It’s quite fun, in its way, and somehow fits perfectly with the source material. The amount of work that goes into these sorts of games must be phenomenal, though, when you think that each and every choice needs to have a logical path and conclusion!

Campaign Log
Not a lot to say about this one, really! I found Nigel’s home, and managed to chase down The Stranger once again. With 5 experience points in the bank, though, I’m plunging straight into the next scenario…

Up next is The Pallid Mask, where we find ourselves in the Catacombs of Paris. This one had a lot of hype from players on the Facebook group, but when it came down to it, I don’t think I was as impressed as perhaps I could have been! The game again plays slightly differently, as we start our search for The Man in the Pallid Mask but we aren’t sure where he’s going to end up. Locations here are linked orthogonally, and when you reveal a location from a specially-constructed deck, it tells you where to place the next location(s) in the sequence. So what starts with a fairly basic setup (above) will end up with a much more developed Catacomb!

I said that it wasn’t as good as I’d been led to believe, but I still enjoyed it, of course! There is a definite sense of stumbling around in the dark here, and I thought it was very well-done in how everything links together. I had a similar feeling to The Unspeakable Oath, where we need to explore specific locations to advance the story along, and I ended up needing to retrace my steps or, in this case, I had already fortuitously explored certain areas that allowed me to continue on quickly!

The feeling of whether this is all in your head definitely comes out in the middle two scenarios from the cycle, almost as if we’ve been imagining the malevolent Organist causing problems for us (as in the story), or maybe the Man in the Pallid Mask is just a figment of our imagination. Doubt and conviction are almost key here, and it seems interesting to me where my earlier choices were giving me doubt, I now find myself with more conviction than ever – almost like I’ve convinced myself that this is all real. Is this just a fever dream? I hope I don’t get to the final pack in the cycle, only for it to have all been a dream…

Campaign Log
So, this one was interesting. I opened a secret passageway, but more importantly, I know the site of the gate! Two more notches against chasing The Stranger, so I’ve got five points there now. What’s this for? No idea. I suppose there’s going to be some final showdown coming… Daisy managed to translate the glyphs that she picked up a while ago, so that’s handy, and we have 5 more experience points.

It’s time to upgrade those decks once again!

Daisy has now gained a Permanent card in the shape of Studious, which increases her opening hand size by 1. She’s also got her own Grisly Totem, as I think it was quite useful for Pete earlier. Speaking of everybody’s favourite drifter, he’s upgraded his Rabbit’s Foot (a sentence I never thought I’d see myself typing), and has switched out a couple of cards that had previously been a bit dead for two copies of Moonstone, an attribute buff card that can only be played by discarding it – you could say it’s a card that was made for Pete’s deck, as he needs to discard to ready Duke.

Okay, let’s not beat about the proverbial bush any more – come back tomorrow for game day, where the campaign draws to a close, and I’ll share some of my thoughts on the overall experience!

Searching for Carcosa… in Arkham

Hey everybody,
Hot on the heels of starting the Path to Carcosa campaign, I’m already on to the next scenarios, starting with what is now quite possibly my favourite that I’ve played so far! I know I enjoyed Undimensioned and Unseen, but I think for the flavour and the feel, Echoes of the Past has really got me…

See, we’re exploring the Historical Society, a classic location from the Arkham Horror board game, and we’re going up against regular, humanoid cultists – what could be more Lovecraftian than that?!

Please be aware, I’m going to be talking about some spoilers here for the story…

Following that really weird cast party, we’re trying to find clues as to what is going on with The Kjng in Yellow. Sebastian’s information has taken us to the Historical Society, as there should be some clues to glean. Set up is therefore of a three-floor building, with each floor having two rooms opening off a central hallway.

A really interesting idea, I thought, was having the Agenda not gain doom tokens each round, but rather in-game effects that can move doom from the Cultist enemies in play. Cultists can steal clues from locations, and certain effects will turn the clues into doom – representing the fact that we’re not the only ones hunting the archives!

The main objective is to find the Hidden Library location, where we will learn that only the stage hand survives from the production of the play during its last tour in Arkham, and he is now in the asylum. Guess where we’re going in the next scenario, then!

It’s really well-done, and I particularly liked the fact that the encounter deck uses cards from The Midnight Masks, from the original core set campaign! For some reason, it made me very nostalgic for those first plays with the game, and I sensed a dual meaning to the scenario’s title. Very nicely done, that!

All in all, I think Echoes of the Past is one of those modest and understated scenarios that won’t be finding its way into top ten lists for many players, but I just thought the execution was so graceful and nicely done that it really is up there for me! The fact it takes place in a location from the board game is just perfect, really!

Campaign Log
The investigators have discovered that a stage hand from the original Arkham production of The King in Yellow, Daniel Chesterfield, was committed to Arkham Asylum shortly after the run. Daisy has also taken the onyx clasp, which has given us one point of conviction to help out balance out the doubt from the first scenario of the campaign.

At this point, I’ve also got 7 experience points to spend, so it’s time to upgrade some cards! Pete has upgraded some cards, and has added the Five of Pentacles and Brute Force to his deck. I do like those tarot cards! Likewise for Daisy, I’ve got the Death XIII tarot card in her deck, and a copy of Encyclopaedia, as well as upgrading a few of her cards, as well.

Onwards!

Scenario four in the campaign, The Unspeakable Oath, takes us to another classic location from the Arkham Horror board game: Arkham asylum! As before, please note that I’m gonna be discussing story spoilers here…

This one was absolutely gruelling. We start off going to the asylum, but we’re kinda locked in, and need to try to find the stage hand from the last time The King in Yellow was produced in Arkham, ten years ago. For the first few rounds, this is managed as per the standard method, investigate, gather clues, and advance the Act deck. However, once we find Daniel, things go a bit weird, and we need to do some crazy stuff in an attempt to escape!

We are required to fulfil four actions to advance the Act deck, while the Agenda is ticking away and we’re adding potentially murderous monsters into the encounter deck. The way the scenario ramps up is quite masterful, and added to this, the actions required to advance the Act deck need specific locations to be explored – all of which are far-flung from each other – it’s really quite phenomenal.

Something for which this scenario has been praised for, and rightly so, is the dual nature of the proceedings. Are we really here to interview a patient? If so, why are we having to make our escape? It really feels like we’ve actually been committed here, and the scenarios up to this point have caused a mania that has required treatment. As this scenario progresses, we’re told that the doctors and staff are almost like gaolers – but is that just all in our mind?

I was really impressed with the way the scenario almost induces panic in this way, too. There’s something a bit disturbing about being in the asylum, of course, and the scenario definitely plays on that with having us investigate ‘prisoner confinement’ cells accessed from the basement, for example. We don’t need the formless monsters of the deep hunting us in order to get across that kind of revulsion and fear!

It’s a very difficult scenario, for sure, and I’m not entirely sure that I played it 100% correctly. There is just so much going on! I might actually come back to it soon as a stand-alone thing, just in case, but as has been a theme for the campaign so far, I’m not sure I’ve got the right investigators for this job! I’m still not completely convinced that I’m playing the Survivor class effectively, but even so, I suppose they’ve made it this far!

Campaign Log
The investigators have escaped the asylum – what a sigh of relief! I think it was quite thematic that Daisy made it out of the asylum while in a straightjacket, a treachery card that forces the discard of any body assets and hand assets. The resolution text tells how the investigators used a straightjacket to soften the barbed wire that tops the wall around the building. It was a fun thematic point, anyway!

There is another Interlude that follows this scenario, which deals with the aftermath of escaping the asylum with Daniel in tow. We find ourselves in Ma’s Boarding House – another classic location! – and in his more lucid moments, Daniel tells us more about Hastur and the King in Yellow. He warns us to prevent those who wish to awaken Hastur and open the path to Carcosa. We heed Daniel’s warning, which gives us +2 conviction and a grand total of 7 experience points in total.

Time to upgrade the decks again!

Daisy has upgraded both her Scroll of Secrets and Old Book of Lore, and has swapped in some Archaic Glyphs. Now, I hadn’t realised that Duke is not an ally in Ashcan Pete’s deck, so I have now gotten myself a copy of Jessica Hyde to aid with the combat attribute, and has gained the Scrapper permanent card. As permanents don’t take up a deck slot, I’ve also used some experience to buy a Grisly Totem, which might be of some use!

So I’ve got a few more toys to try out – as we head off to Paris next!

The Path to Carcosa

Hey everybody,
So it’s not too long since the Dunwich Legacy campaign has ended, but already I’m on my way with a new campaign – working my way through things in publication order, it’s the turn of The Path to Carcosa to begin!

I’m really excited about this, as it’s like the first time playing once again – having previously played The Dunwich Legacy, while I did enjoy it the second time around, there was that element of having been here before. With The Path to Carcosa, however, it’s all new and I don’t really know what to expect. Obviously, we’ve got the element of artists and madness that usually accompanies any mention of Hastur, but who knows where I’m headed!

As always with these things, there is going to be an element of spoilers for the game, so be warned!

Let’s dive in.

Curtain Call

Curtain Call is the first scenario in the box, where the investigators attend a performance of The King in Yellow and everything goes a bit… crazy… Much like my experience with The House Always Wins, there was an incredible atmosphere to the game, as my guys were exploring the deserted theatre in an attempt to find out what happened between the acts. This one was a little bit bonkers though, as it feels so different from the Dunwich Legacy scenarios. Right from the start, it just felt a little bit like anything could happen. As things went along, I really felt like my choices were going to matter, and I was getting a bit worried about whether I was making the right decision!

Campaign Log
Despite the things that I witnessed in the theatre, I chose not to go to the police, which gave me one doubt. Something that I think is interesting on this campaign is this introduction of doubt and conviction, which has ramifications further down the line. Also, the Stranger is on to you – Ashcan Pete has become haunted by the Man in the Pallid Mask!

The Last King is a much more straightforward scenario, in that it is very reminiscent of The Midnight Masks from the core set. The task is quite simple, claim the clues from five Bystander cards that are discovered at each location, after which we’re said to have interviewed each one. However, things are all a bit, well, weird. The guests are all liable to go a bit crazy, or is it just the effects of an ongoing madness that makes you think they’re going mad?

The way this scenario works is just phenomenal, and the overall effect of playing the two together on a game night really gives a fantastic effect for the story being told.

Campaign Log
I interviewed all five of the VIPs at the party, however both Constance Dumaine and Jordan Perry succumbed to the madness and were slain.

As with The Dunwich Legacy, there is an Interlude that follows the two scenarios, which serves to set the investigators on the right path for the first mythos pack of the subsequent cycle, regardless of the outcome of the two scenarios. Here, I fled the dinner party, and attempted to barricade the door of the manor house.

What can I say about the Path to Carcosa so far?! It’s an excellent start to the proceedings, as we get the real sense of something wrong taking place in Arkham. We’re just on the brink of it, and it’s that tension that I’m really enjoying.

I’m playing Ashcan Pete and Daisy Walker, a Survivor and a Seeker deck, respectively. Previously, I’ve played Daisy during the Night of the Zealot campaign, but it was very early in the game’s life and I didn’t have a great deal of luck, I suppose because the card pool wasn’t all that great at the time either. Now, however, with both more experience behind me and an enlarged card pool, I can begin to properly get to grips with her as an investigator.

Pete, however, I’m not so sure about. This is the first Survivor deck that I have played, and I’ve not properly got to grips with what the class is trying to do. It seems like there is a great deal of making the best of a bad situation, although I feel in the main that this might be the sort of support class, maybe?

It’s going to be a much more interesting campaign, I think, than the Dunwich Legacy campaign, both due to the unknown aspect as well as having potentially some difficult plays coming from the investigators that I have chosen!

Stay tuned as I attempt to uncover the madness surrounding The King in Yellow!

The Dunwich Legacy concludes!

Hey everybody,
My campaign has drawn to a close, and the Dunwich Legacy is over. I thought I’d take some time today on game day to talk about the last two scenarios in the campaign, and also share some reflections before I move on to my next campaign with the Arkham Horror LCG!

Where Doom Awaits involves climbing to the top of Sentinel Hill in an effort to stop the ritual that Seth Bishop is trying to enact. The scenario manages to stage the ascent by tying location discovery to the Act deck, meaning that you can’t simply charge up the hill to see what’s going on. The encounter deck has also got a lot of nasty surprises in it, including this horrible little beastie that nearly saw Roland Banks off for good!

This scenario definitely felt like it was a straightforward one, I think the fact that the Agenda deck needs 12 doom before the first card is flipped helps somewhat to keep the pace slow, although there are a lot of cards in the encounter deck that will flip the various locations, removing the clues from them and causing all manner of chaos. Fortunately, by this time in the campaign, I’ve got a lot of cards that allow me to discover extra clues on my way, which makes clearing out locations fairly easy.

Campaign Log
The investigators entered the gate, as we saw off the evil Seth before he could do any further damage. We also gained 6VP though in all honesty, at this point in the campaign, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it, so left it in the bank (along with the 3VP from the last game).

Onwards, we go!

To be fair, it felt right not to upgrade the decks between scenario VII and VIII, given that the last one ended with us being sucked through the gate to the other world! Lost in Time and Space is perhaps the most straightforward setup of any game, having just one location in play, with most of the locations in the encounter deck. Interesting twist, I’m sure you’ll agree! The Act deck allows you, as an action, to discard the top 3 cards from the encounter deck, and put into play one of the locations revealed.

The game can be quite difficult without taking those actions, although I must say that I felt the starting turns quite relaxed, as I took the time to try and get my resources together – much like I imagine the investigators would be steeling themselves against the mind-bending chaos of being lost in another dimension.

There are still horrible monsters to contend with, but this scenario definitely felt like it was the kind of exploration thing that it should be, as we attempt to find our way out of the rift and back into real space. There are two locations that will lead to The Edge of the Universe, from whence you can begin to find your way home, and if you don’t manage to get to them for a while, it can feel like your sanity is being tested with treachery cards like Collapsing Reality that force you to take horror or damage. I found myself having to take extra notice of the locations I was investigating, to ensure that I wasn’t letting one that would lead home to be discarded.

The scenario has some great interplay with the locations, and it really feels different from the others of the campaign – indeed, each scenario of this campaign has felt different in some way or form, which is wonderful – it’s not simply about killing enough monsters, or investigating enough locations – in the case of Lost in Time and Space, it’s more about simply surviving, and victory is actually gained through lasting out long enough to resign from the game.

Campaign Log
So how did things finish up? Well, the investigators closed the tear in reality, which is always a good thing, though it did come at the cost of both physical and mental trauma (two points, each). We did, however, get a bonus of 5VP, and more importantly, the investigators won the campaign!

Some stats for you now. Over the course of the campaign, we earned 35 experience points, which was spent on eight upgrades for Akachi, and nine upgrades for Roland. That’s surprising, really, when you think that only a couple of those cards were upgraded from 0-cost to 4-cost. I think the investigators ended the campaign with 14 experience still in the bank, but I’ll get to this in a bit.

Some thoughts
I love this campaign! Coloured for sure by my love of the original source tale, of course, the campaign basically forms a sequel where the impact of dispatching the spawn of Yog Sothoth is examined in each of the academics who went up Sentinel Hill on that fateful day. There is an interesting designers’ note in the back of the campaign notes that talks about this inspiration, and is nice to see where the idea came from.

There are some great stories to be told from playing through the campaign, as well – I mean, my own start with the campaign couldn’t have been less auspicious, as I ended up destroying the Clover Club and gaining the ire of the O’Bannions! As the campaign went on, it was great to see some call backs to the events of the very first scenarios, as well, with the outcome of Extracurricular Activity being felt in Lost in Time and Space – that was a very nice touch!

When I played through this one last time, first of all I only talked about the start of the campaign on my blog and didn’t get to the other scenarios, but I ended up with a very different tale unfolding – I feel like it went much better for me, as far as my memory serves. I certainly didn’t blow up the Clover Club, that’s for sure! Even though I have played it before, I didn’t really remember the story beats, which made for a much more exciting game. I could remember things like the hidden chamber in Blood on the Altar when I got to that point, and the ascent up Sentinel Hill was somewhat familiar, but in the main I don’t remember what I was supposed to do (or how I played it last time), so I couldn’t game the game, as it were. I think it helps that there are so many different paths that you can take – most scenarios have at least two resolutions, with some having as many as four, informing the subsequent games so that each replay will indeed feel different.

However, in terms of the deckbuilding, there did come a point where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my investigators, and so felt a little bit paralyzed by choice. I suppose not knowing what I might be facing made it so that I didn’t really have a plan, so I didn’t know where I wanted to go with it all. As such, I ended up with almost half of the total earned experience not being used. Part of this is definitely also down to not being too familiar with the card pool, but it felt a bit odd giving out 6VP at the penultimate scenario, although I suppose some groups may have fared much worse than me, and might well have needed it to stand a chance!

Something that I thought quite interesting, I barely saw any of the Story asset cards during the entire campaign. Maybe I’m just rubbish at shuffling, but Akachi Onyele had custody of the Necronomicon, as well as having Henry Armitage and Zebulon Whateley in her deck – and none of these cards saw the light of day at all. In the very last scenario, Roland drew Professor Warren Rice to help with his investigation attribute, but that was the single benefit of the whole campaign! I don’t really know what point I’m trying to make with this one, however, because these cards are important more in terms of how the story unfolds – the fact that the Necronomicon can get you resources and improve your investigation is almost arbitrary. But I suppose it would have been nice to have seen them further down the line, as if there were a rule that allowed you to start with the card in play (much like a Permanent card).

All that said, however, the campaign was just wonderful, and I am really pleased to say that I enjoyed it a great deal. Some rules still elude me to some extent, but in the main I thought the gameplay felt very fluid by the time I was mid-campaign, so it definitely helps to play a lot of the game to understand the basic rule interactions so that you can then concentrate on the story aspect. This is definitely one of those games where the story comes through so well that it can sometimes knock you over!

Fantastic stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree! Now, though – it’s time to start a new campaign, with new investigators. I’m heading to Lost Carcosa, and I need to assemble my team… much like with using Akachi for this one, I think I want to use a class that I don’t have any experience with, so I’m probably going to have a Survivor, but I’m not sure about the second one. Maybe a Rogue, maybe a Seeker. Stay tuned, though, as I plan to write up blogs for my plays with all of the Arkham Horror LCG – it’s really become a firm favourite!

Down in Dunwich

Hey everybody,
I am loving the Dunwich Legacy campaign at the moment, and today I want to talk about a couple of scenarios from the centre of the scenario: Blood on the Altar, and Undimensioned & Unseen. Both of these scenarios take place firmly in Dunwich village, and I can remember vividly the feeling of being back in the Dunwich Horror expansion for Arkham Horror, back when I played them for the first time in summer 2019!

Blood on the Altar

Blood on the Altar sees the investigators trying to find those kidnapped folks from the earlier scenarios, exploring the environs of Dunwich in an effort to find the Hidden Chamber where they are thought to be held. This is represented by the Chamber card and the Key to said chamber being shuffled into some random cards from the encounter deck, and being placed beneath the locations: once those locations have been fully explored, you can flip the card underneath.

In possibly my fastest game to date, my first discovery was the key, and my second was the chamber itself! When revealed, the abomination Silas Bishop is spawned there, but with Roland Banks pretty tooled up for the job, he was able to dispatch him in fairly short order. Destroying Silas Bishop, I was able to rescue all of those kidnapped folks, after all!

Campaign Log
The investigators put Silas Bishop out of his misery. We also gained 4VP in total.

In the same manner as the deluxe box, there is then an interlude, where the rescued chaps then have a bit of screen time, as we all regroup and come up with a plan to deal with the supernatural terrors plaguing the Dunwich landscape.

Dr Henry Armitage survived the Dunwich Legacy
Professor Warren Rice survived the Dunwich Legacy
Dr Francis Morgan survived the Dunwich Legacy
Zebulon Whateley survived the Dunwich Legacy
Earl Sawyer survived the Dunwich Legacy

Each of these fine folks helps with the attributes of the investigators. Roland has gained the help of Professor Rice, Dr Morgan and Earl Sawyer, while Akachi has the help of Dr Armitage and Zebulon Whateley, as well as Armitage’s Powder of Ibn-Ghazi.

After a quick pit-stop to swap out some more cards, both of our intrepid heroes have run down their experience by trading for some (hopefully!) useful cards in their decks!

Undimensioned & Unseen 1

Undimensioned and Unseen is a great adventure, and quite possibly my favourite from the campaign so far. Basically, the game begins with a number of “Brood of Yog-Sothoth” enemies in play based on the number of folks who were rescued in the last scenario – in my case, five folks were rescued, so we start with the minimum of two. The encounter deck has got some more enemies, but it has quite a few attachments to make these Brood enemies tougher in different ways.

Furthermore, you can only defeat them with scenario-specific Esoteric Formula cards, which come into play when the Act deck has advanced by spending clues at a specific location – the ruins of the Whateley farm. Akachi was beginning the game with the Powder in play, though, which has a number of uses based on the number of rescued folks, too. This Powder allows you to exhaust a Brood enemy at your location, avoiding its attack for the turn.

The Brood monsters are fought with Willpower, not Strength, and the Esoteric Formula allows for a bonus to that attribute if you can place a clue on the monster. You do this through exploring the locations, but the Agenda deck will force the Brood to move to a random location each turn. It’s just incredible, the way the scenario plays out!

However, I had Akachi on my side – with base 5 Willpower, it wasn’t a huge task for her to overcome the combat check of 6+ to defeat these enemies, once the Formula was discovered.

Undimensioned & Unseen 2

I must say, though, that it was exhausting! Akachi managed to single-handedly defeat three of these things, two of them had attachments that increased their health to 4, meaning that she couldn’t dispatch them in a single turn – it was quite the nail-biter! Meanwhile, Roland was just chundering around like a spare wheel – he did some work when more regular enemies came out of the encounter deck, for sure, but on the whole, this scenario was all about Akachi. What a hero!

Campaign Log
No Brood escaped into the wild, a fact that I’m quite pleased with, and we each gained 3VP for the experience.

I’m having an absolute blast playing through this campaign once again, in case it wasn’t completely obvious! As I near the end of the campaign, though, I do find myself thinking about moving on to the next one in release order, Path to Carcosa, which is widely agreed to be the best campaign to date. I wonder, could it beat my beloved Dunwich? Time will tell – until then, though, I need to make my way to the next scenario, Where Doom Awaits!

The Essex County Express

Hey everybody,
I’m on scenario four of the Dunwich Legacy campaign!

The Essex County Express

This one was a lot of fun. It’s quite different from any of the previous scenarios in the game up to this point – the premise is that the investigators are on the train from Arkham to Dunwich, when a rift opens in the sky, and the train cars begin to get sucked into the beyond! The investigators must move to the front of the train to attempt to get the engine moving forward again. It’s not so easy as moving from location to location with each action, however, as each train car must be fully investigated before moving on to the next one.

The Essex County Express

As I said, it was a lot of fun, this one. When it was first released, I was a bit baffled: a Lovecraftian adventure centred around a train? However, the storyline of the rift in the sky, and the mechanics of moving forward from one side to another, while battling the emerging monstrosities, somehow works really well! Additionally, there are passengers that you must deal with, and you can either choose to rescue them or leave them to their fate, causing you to lose sanity if they are sucked into the rift! See, when the agenda deck advances, the leftmost train car is removed from the game, as it is sucked into the beyond!

I mean, there are more enjoyable scenarios in this campaign, from my memory of playing last year, but this was definitely a good one, regardless!

Campaign Log
Not a lot to say on this one, really. Got 3VP, and did a couple of upgrades to Akachi’s deck after picking up some more mythos packs for my collection. I took a break for the Dream-Eaters cycle, as I hadn’t been playing the game so it had fallen a bit out of favour. Well, it’s time to catch up now, for sure!