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!