Back in 2021, I attempted the Innsmouth Conspiracy campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, using Zoey Samaras and Stella Clark, and it didn’t really go very well for me. Indeed, it often felt like a bit of a slog, I seem to recall, possibly due to the fact I didn’t have very good clue-gathering between the pairing of investigators. In the sixth scenario, both the investigators actually were eliminated and so I never got round to the final two scenarios in the campaign. However, after I had concluded my Dunwich Legacy campaign recently, I decided to build two new investigators and move along from there, using Zoey once again but paired this time with Finn Edwards.
I was intrigued quite a lot by Finn and his design, so was keen to see how he would work in the campaign. Once I had decided on Finn and Innsmouth, I had been looking at the old Innsmouth Horror board game for some inspiration, and discovered that both he and Zoey were investigators that came in that box, so went forth and built the decks. I have talked briefly about this in my recent Deck Progression blog, but I approached this campaign very differently to how I have previously. I tried to have some idea for where I wanted to take these decks over the course of the game, with a shortlist of cards that I wanted to add in once I had the experience necessary to pay for them. Doing so led me to come up with a sort of archetype for each investigator, so Zoey was the “holy warrior” who would have a focus on the blessed tokens that came in Innsmouth, and was building up to having the Holy Spear weapon in her deck. Even though that could have been bought quite early on, as a level 5 card, I wanted to wait for her to progress more through the game, and only included it towards the end.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that this campaign plays a bit with progression, and you can only spend the accumulated experience at designated points (normally after every other scenario). So my plans were foiled a bit there! I was still able to upgrade cards, of course, and I made a conscious effort to do so wherever possible, trying to spend as much of my experience as required to make the best decisions, but I think the fact that I couldn’t upgrade in smaller steps did kinda mess with my plans a bit.
Finn is an interesting investigator, as he is a Rogue who can only level up in his class to level 3, however he can have up to level 5 in Illicit cards, which can potentially be from any class. Now, there are actually very few Illicit cards outside of the Rogue class, so I suppose the point is moot, but it does prevent some very useful higher-level Rogue cards from being included in your deck. That caused me a bit of consternation at first, however the amount of experience earned throughout the campaign afforded me the opportunity to use quite a breadth of cards, instead. So rather than having a fairly narrow focus of card upgrades from 1 through 5, instead I was freely swapping in and out comparatively lower-level cards more often, and there wasn’t as much pressure, it seemed, to make the “right” choice for the deck. He became quite an experimental build, and I definitely enjoyed playing him as the campaign went on.
The Innsmouth Conspiracy is, unsurprisingly, set in Innsmouth, and seems to take place around the same time as Lovecraft’s story. The Feds haven’t been in to see what is going on, but instead we follow Elina Harper, a member of The Agency (callbacks to Call of Cthulhu LCG here!) who is having a look into the town. Turns out, the Esoteric Order of Dagon is trying to flood the eastern seaboard and claim the world for Father Dagon (and Mother Hydra, while they’re at it). It’s all a bit of a jumble though, because an amnesia plotline is used, with scenarios following two separate timelines at first, while we try to recover our memories. So the first scenario sees us waking up in a strange cave, and we need to try to escape before the caves flood. The second scenario takes place weeks earlier, and on it goes. I have to admit, even playing it very close together so as to try to better understand what is going on, it isn’t always clear what I’m trying to do. I think the design was perhaps trying to emulate the previous Dream-Eaters situation, by having two storylines taking place, but because the same investigators are doing both storylines here, we end up with odd situations like recovering some relics but then removing them from our decks because the next scenario takes place before the scenario where we recovered them, and allies come and go from our decks, causing chaos and headaches along the way.
The storyline also feels a lot like bad fanfiction, unfortunately. It tries to entwine itself so closely in with Lovecraft’s original tale, but it just feels so cringeworthy in places that it really didn’t hook me in. Ultimately, we’re helping the investigator Thomas Dawson to track down his agent Elina Harper, who went missing while checking out what is going on in the town. Along the way, we encounter many of the folks from Lovecraft’s Shadow over Innsmouth, but it all feels like a box-checking exercise for the most part. When the conspiracy begins to reveal itself, it feels a lot like the Dunwich Legacy campaign, where someone adjacent to a Lovecraft character is trying to repeat the events that already happened in a Lovecraft story.
Unfortunately, I think this is where campaigns like Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Edge of the Earth fall down, because they don’t have an original storyline. Carcosa, Forgotten Age, and Dream-Eaters are all quite good in comparison, even if the Dream-Eaters follows the Dream-Quest quite closely in parts. I suppose I’m being a bit harsh here, but I would have preferred something more different. I’m not sure what, exactly, but I think the efforts to tie this one to the source material have been a bit too clumsy to be enjoyable, if I’m being completely honest.
That said, the scenarios themselves are often quite interesting, mechanically speaking. There are some which call back to earlier outings, especially stuff like trying to find the person who kidnapped Elina Harper feeling a lot like the Midnight Masks from the core set. I really enjoyed that one, as it has a very “investigation” aspect when you’re trying to deduce who has kidnapped her, and where she’s being held. Devil Reef has a lot of negative press, but I really enjoyed this one, as we’re travelling around in a boat while trying to find keys, and we need to have certain things in a certain order before we can advance.
Keys in general have become a physical thing in this campaign. Previously, if a scenario had cause to require evidence or something similar to be placed on a card, it would usually use resource tokens, but now we have several coloured key tokens, each one having a certain effect in-game, though these effects are different depending on the scenario. We also have flood tokens, which can cause a location to be partially or fully flooded, which in turn has certain effects such as making enemies more dangerous, or just dealing out damage at the end of the turn if you’re somewhere that has been flooded. We also have the blessed/cursed mechanic, which I really like because it’s classic Arkham to have, although part of me is a bit sad at the fact that the mechanic doesn’t seem to be fully supported outside of this campaign.
Overall, then, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, this campaign. The storyline was perhaps one of the weaker elements of the game, and even paying no attention to the timeline while playing through what was going on, I don’t think it prevented me from enjoying the scenarios on their own merits, and what was being done during the course of playing cards etc. The in-between-games moments let it down, I suppose. The finale, going up against Dagon and Hydra, seemed to be quite weak as well, in comparison to other finale scenarios. We had the chance to keep both Ancient Ones asleep, as the objective is to drain all of the locations in play, which can only done within the lair of each Ancient One. Whether I was just lucky, or whether I had strong investigator builds, I don’t know, but it was quite simple to keep them both quiet while Finn went around draining locations and Zoey was fulfilling the willpower checks to remove doom tokens wherever they popped up. There is a lot of movement involved, across all scenarios, and I think being able to take extra turns and move is really key here. However, it never felt too impossible to complete.
So, that’s everything played except for Scarlet Keys, which I still haven’t yet picked up. I think, of the six campaigns, Innsmouth is somewhere in the lower end for me. Good scenarios with a mediocre overall storyline. Carcosa and Circle Undone are still my two favourites, and I am about to embark upon a Path to Carcosa campaign next, with Marie Lambeau and Silas Marsh!