The Circle Undone – looking for doom!

Hey everybody,
I’ve faced the doom of the world, and to some extent, I’ve survived! Let’s take a look into the final scenarios of The Circle Undone campaign.

Now, last time I sided with the Lodge, and I “won” when Carl Sandford managed to bind the spirit of Keziah Mason into his little black book. Oh dear! The campaign was over for me, and the Silver Twilight would begin their true work. Oh dear, oh dear! So I shuffled up and replayed the scenario and decided to side with the witches, whereupon the revenant spirit of Keziah Mason possessed Anette Mason, and turned her evil. Oh dear! At any rate, Valentino is alive, but the remaining three characters from the prologue are now dead – this campaign is going really well, wouldn’t you say?!

 

So I am now In the Clutches of Chaos. Scenario seven brings us back full circle (there’s a pun there, somewhere) to the fortune-teller Anna Kaslow, and the streets of Arkham. The clouds above are not natural. Phantasmal shapes shift and churn within the mist above. The scenario is really pregnant with foreboding, and then it begins. The set-up here is so familiar to me as a fan of Arkham Horror the board game, as we have many of the locations from the original board – but it gets better! The unique thing with this scenario is the breaches and incursions special rule – breaches (represented by resource tokens) are opening across the city, and if a fourth token would ever be placed on a location, instead an incursion takes place, and a doom token is placed on it instead.

Doom isn’t added to the agenda as normal, but instead we have (investigators) +1 breach tokens placed in random locations. In addition, almost all locations have no clue tokens added to them when they’re revealed – instead, by clearing breaches we have the opportunity to add clues to a random location. It’s all very random, and it feels incredibly like the board game, where we’re trying to close gates before we reach the gate limit. It was really nice!

 

The scenario concludes when the possessed Anette Mason is defeated – which I managed to do quite cinematically, with Joe Diamond softening her up before Diana Stanley finished her off with the Twilight dagger. Wonderful! In the fourth Interlude of the cycle, we come to realise that everything we’ve been doing has almost been a distraction from the massive breach that has been in the sky this entire time, engulfing the stars. Oh dear, oh dear!

At this point, we’re pretty much resigned to our fate, and when a group of nightgaunts come down from the sky, we mount up and fly into the void, in a desperate gambit to try and push back the chaos!

 

Before the Black Throne is almost a spoiler in itself, isn’t it – clearly we’re going to go up against Azathoth in some description. In every other Lovecraft game we’ve got, Azathoth is always the end – it wakes up and destroys the world. How would that be implemented in the card game?

As is now the pattern for this game, the cycle ends with a trip into an Other World – this time, we’re into the Cosmos, the Void. The implementation is quite nice, though, using the top cards from the investigator decks to provide “empty space” that we have to cross, replacing them with Cosmos cards where possible. It’s not a straightforward trip from A to B, however, and we don’t have a map – we need to try to find the way, which isn’t as straightforward as all that. These Cosmos cards can only be placed in specific locations relative to where we currently are – it sounds very regimented, but it’s actually a really great way to implement that flailing in the unknown.

 

Of course, there are anchor points in the void, and we’re trying to get from one to another at each turn of the Act deck. It’s also really nice how all of the investigators need to make it to the same point before the Act can advance, or else they will be killed.

Azathoth is present right from the beginning, and cannot be influenced by player cards in any way. We cannot fight him, but we can be attacked, by it, and many treachery cards can cause that. It looms over the whole scenario, and it feels almost insurmountable right from the start as a result.

Something that I found really interesting about the finale here is that it isn’t over when the Agenda runs out. I was all for making a suicidal attempt, and both of my investigators were only 1 or 2 points of damage away from death anyway, but no! Things carry on, and any doom that would be placed on the Agenda is instead placed on Azathoth (who has been collecting doom throughout, I hasten to add!)

To finally advance to victory, we need to find the Black Throne, and remove all of the clue tokens on there. Its shroud value is potentially huge, as it is linked to how much doom Azathoth has collected, but in no small part thanks to the Seeker shenanigans of Joe Diamond, I was able to actually clear all of the clues and – with a lot of luck – win!

I mean, I call it victory – Joe is now insane, and has joined the immortal Pipers of Azathoth forever. But, for now, Azathoth slumbers…

 


What an absolutely fantastic cycle The Circle Undone is!

From the almost inauspicious beginnings when we’re at the Meiger Estate and we’re not sure what’s going on, through the strange investigations into both the witch coven of Anette Mason and the Silver Twilight Lodge themselves, this cycle has got so many twists and turns, it feels like an absolute labyrinth. The designers stated that they crafted a tale that pitted the all-male Lodge against the all-female coven, resulting along the way with the theme of good vs evil (though which side is which is, of course, a matter of perspective). Given the nature of this conflict, the choice of Azathoth being the Ancient One at the end was almost inevitable, as that particular god has no motive beyond wholesale destruction.

It all works together really quite well, but that is not to say that the cycle is without its flaws. I’ve said previously that the storyline feels very much like it is pulling us along, and regardless of what happens during each game, there is a sense, at times, that there is stuff in-between games that will place us on the right track, regardless. This wasn’t quite so obvious in either Dunwich or, particularly, Carcosa, and it did distract me at times, I can’t deny.

But that’s not to say that The Circle Undone is a bad campaign. Quite the opposite, in fact. The atmosphere of gothic horror is palpable, and the theme really drips off in great clots. I love that this cycle explores the witchcraft side of Lovecraft’s writings, albeit tying in with the cosmic horror represented by the blind idiot god at the end. There can sometimes be a weird feeling when you manage to shoot a Great Old One, but here we have no chance to actually fight Azathoth, and that’s something I really love! Instead, we’ve just got to try and survive so that the story can end a different way.

I also adored the way we get to explore Arkham as a town here. Sure, we’ve had glimpses in the earlier cycles, when we’ve been at the Historical Society or the Miskatonic Museum, but this cycle really strives to bring us back to the town as a place that, if we’ve played the board game, we’ll be intimately familiar with. We get to run around the different locations much like we do in the board game, and it feels absolutely delightful! I really haven’t had so much joy from the game as when I’m getting to play with stuff like this, so I heartily commend the designers for that.

Overall, it’s not without its flaws, but I think the final impression of The Circle Undone as a campaign is that it is one of the best out there. I am definitely playing this one again at some point, and I imagine the games will feel quite different in choosing different paths from the start.

The Circle Undone – looking for witches

Hey everybody,

It’s time to continue my journey into witchcraft and the spooky goings-on around Arkham, as I make a proper start on The Circle Undone campaign, just when FFG have announced the Return To box will be coming out this summer! Very exciting stuff there – including a full Tarot deck to add even more craziness. I’m very much looking forward to having that when it is released, I must say. For now, though, let’s start on The Secret Name

Okay, so things are getting really interesting here! The setup for this scenario is something else, and covers two full pages of text as the possibilities are laid before you. I said last time that this campaign felt a little like it was trying to lead us more by the nose, and that feels true here still, although not necessarily in a bad way. It definitely feels like there is a lot of story that the designers are trying to get through, and maybe splitting it up into eight separate scenarios was never going to be enough…

From the mouth of no less a person than Carl Sandford, head of the Order of the Silver Twilight, we learn of the presence of a coven of witches in Arkham, and the Order is looking into the strange happenings going on in the town. The event at Josef Meiger’s estate was intended to study the strange mist going round, and see if there is anything they can learn from it. Pursuit of this knowledge leads us to Keziah Mason at the Witch House, which of course long-term Arkham fans will know only too well! 

The story of this pack is truly wonderful, even with all of its nuts and bolts sometimes getting in the way. We start off with the prosaic halls of the Witch House, and when able to we burst through Walter Gilman’s Room into a realm of horror and witchcraft that, I don’t mind telling you, was just truly fantastic! I mean, we’ve had story elements like this before, when exploring Mont St Michel during the Carcosa storyline, but somehow here it’s done much better. The locations spin out into other worlds, or other times, and it all feels like some fantastical type of fever-dream, very fitting for what is precisely going on here.

The pack is perhaps infamous for the delightful little critter Brown Jenkin, a super-rat who just keeps coming back time and again! Keziah’s familiar, he is nothing to the horrors of Nahab, a sort of super-witch-ghost who can never be killed, merely exhausted… The enemies are quite annoying, for sure, but even that has some really great elements where it all just feels so, I don’t know, real. The scenario culminates in a ritual where we try to banish this unwelcome spirit, returning to the ruined house from the otherworlds. Cracking stuff!

The Wages of Sin

Comparatively speaking, The Wages of Sin is a much more laid back scenario. We’re off to the graveyard at the dead of night, because of course we are! The locations are double-sided again, with the real world face up to start with, then the spectral world on the reverse. We also have two encounter decks here, a real world deck and a spectral deck, to be drawn from depending on which type of location we’re at.

To start with, we’re just gathering clues to track down the coven, and everything proceeds much as normal. Then the agenda advances, and all hell breaks loose when a number of Heretic cards are put into play. The objective is to banish these guys, but there are so many caveats on them that doing so can prove to be tricky, to say the least! Added in here, we have what has already become my most-hated encounter set in the game so far, The Spectral Watcher.

Each of the Heretics is a story card, so there is some text on the reverse, much as we have seen with cards in the Carcosa cycle. Each has different ways of banishing it, detailed on the back of the card – when the Heretic is defeated, the card is flipped over, and oftentimes you’ll discover what you then need to do to actually banish that Heretic forever, before then having to flip it back to deal with again! However, the clues that we’ve been gathering over the course of the cycle so far can provide us with Spectral Web asset cards, which function much like the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi in the Dunwich Legacy cycle, giving us that fighting chance to deal with these Heretics.

This is the first time that I have ever Resigned from a scenario out of sheer hopelessness. I did misunderstand the text on one of the Heretics, so I probably didn’t need to, but I definitely felt like this game beat me down on this one! Pretty much every Arkham Horror LCG scenario is tough, but this one – considering, like I said at the beginning, it’s a more laid-back scenario than The Secret Name – really is difficult to deal with, all the same! Luckily, the fail-forward mechanic employed by the game means that it never really matters whether you complete the scenario properly, or if you win or lose. Something will happen to put you back on the right path for the next pack, even if you resign at the earliest opportunity and made no attempt to fulfil the objective. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt keep saying it, but I really love the feel of this cycle! Covens of witches with veiled agendas, snooping around graveyards and dealing with the tormented spirits of long-dead heretics, it’s all just fantastic! Lovecraft was of course all about the spooky and the weird, not necessarily all cosmic horror, and I think it’s really nice to get this aspect of his work discovered in the game. Silver Twilight has always been a bit hit with me, going back to the original Call of Cthulhu days, as well. So that’s a big plus for me! 

All in all, I’m really enjoying myself, although I haven’t spent a single point of experience yet, so I need to get moving forward with updating my decks before moving on to the next scenario.

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!