One Man and His Dog – “Ashcan” Pete

Welcome, to the first in my Investigators Revisited Series, where I’ll be taking a look at the investigators of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror Files Games. You can read more about the series at the link above, but I’m going to go ahead and dive in to our first investigator.

 

Ashcans Pete Washburne, better known as “Ashcan,” is a drifter. A loner, a hobo, a man who keeps moving, with only one constant companion – Duke his dog.

The earliest versions of Ashcan focused on his ability to make use of things that others had thrown away, the scrapper/scrounger who is always able to find something you need. Later versions have increasingly leant towards Duke as the centre-piece of what Pete likes to do.

 

Pete is generally represented with his health being equal or slightly higher than his sanity (he has bad dreams, so there’s only so much more the mind can take), but broadly he remains a balanced character, not too heavily tipped one way or the other. His actual skills vary quite a bit from game to game, although there’s a definite recurring theme with his Influence being low, whilst his body is fairly tough.

Game-by-Game

Arkham Horror the Card Game

LCG-Pete-and-Duke The Living Card Game is probably where Duke shines the brightest, leading to various comments about whether Pete takes up Duke’s ally slot, or whether Pete is Duke’s signature weakness.

Duke allows Pete to fight at an impressive base skill of 4 (set the dog on them) and to investigate, also starting at 4 skill, with an optional free move thrown in for good measure. (Sniffing out clues).

The fact that Pete can discard a card to ready Duke, and therefore use him twice in a round (potentially more if you draw the Elder Sign) makes for a really strong combination overall, able to do both of the games core actions (fight monsters, find clues) strongly. Without Duke, Pete’s Combat and Intelligence scores are both fairly low, at 2, but that does leave space for a Willpower of 4, which makes him pretty resilient to treacheries.

Your-House
If you’ve played Night of the Zealot, you know why Pete has to be the first investigator, and what you have to choose…

Overall, I’d say that the Card Game is definitely the place where Ashcan/Duke are the most powerful, and offer the biggest incentive to play. I’ve taken them all through one campaign in the past, and have been enjoying running them through a second as I prepared this article.

LCG-Nightmares The back of Pete’s investigator card talks about his nightmares, and how they drive him to seek out the people he has seen, to save them from the horrors that he has witnessed. This is fairly consistent with other stories, but it only gets limited development in the LCG, mostly in the title of his signature weakness.

 

Mansions of Madness (2nd edition)

Mansions2-Pete-and-Duke In Mansions of Madness, Pete is reduced to “starts with Duke.” In this case, Duke being a unique “item” (allies aren’t really a thing in Mansions). Duke’s power definitely isn’t a flashy one, and I’d largely overlooked it in the past, but actually it has the power to be fairly useful, giving you an extra trade action at the start of your turn, a trade that can be conducted with someone in an adjacent space. In a recent game, where I’d made a point of playing Pete in preparation for this article, Duke was actually the difference between Pete winning and losing the scenario, as he went insane whilst fighting the end boss, and now had a sudden need for evidence, currently in the possession of the person in the next space.

Pete-Miniature Stat-wise, Mansions Ashcan is a fairly solid all-rounder, with 4s in Strength, Agility, Observation and Will. His Lore isn’t great (not much time for studying whilst you’re riding the rails) and, as you might expect for someone who is essentially a tramp, his influence is very low.

Pete certainly isn’t a mega-popular character when we play Mansions – he generally only gets picked when someone says “ooh, I’ll be the one with the dog” but he’s a very solid option when he does get onto the team.

 

Eldritch Horror

Eldritch-PeteAshcan’s stats in Eldritch Horror are much what you might expect: a very low 1 for influence, and steady 3s for everything else. His Health and Sanity are fairly balanced, with a 7/5 split in favour of health.

This version of Pete has 2 abilities, one of which focuses on acquiring discarded Item or Trinket assets with a value less than his observation skill – this can be very nice if he successfully improves that stat, but quickly loses its power if the skill becomes impaired.

Ashcan-MissionAnother aspect of Pete’s character that is often referred to in backstory, but isn’t always that prominent in gameplay, is his habit of riding the rails, never staying long in one place. Eldritch specifically gives him additional movement power along railway lines, making him one of the game’s more mobile characters, so long as he takes that train. This is further reinforced by his Personal Mission, introduced by the recent Masks of Nyarlathotep expansion, which forces him to resolve encounters in a set of locations scattered randomly around the world – doing this brings rewards, but leaving the voices unanswered will only fuel his nightmares.

Eldritch-DukeEldritch Horror’s take on Duke isn’t the most thematic, but it is highly useful, allowing a re-roll once per round. Given that most investigators spend many actions over the course of a game taking Focus tokens to allow them to do just that, a repeatable re-roll is always well-worth having. As if that weren’t enough, Duke also allows Pete to recover sanity more quickly, making that horror limit of 5 remarkably solid. Sadly, as an ally, Duke is vulnerable to a lot of Mythos cards, and there’s a strong chance that Pete will eventually find himself with no dog for company.

 

Elder Sign

Elder-Sign-Pete-and-Duke

Elder Sign is probably the game that gives us least information about the Investigators, at least from a narrative standpoint. Here, Pete’s ability to scavenge for things is to the fore, with the ability to gain clues or different types of items from scenario rewards. He is also still very much “the one with the dog” – Duke’s ability in Elder Sign is somewhat sad: you can discard him to avoid the penalty for failing an adventure. Hopefully this is the noble hound sacrificing himself to save his master, rather than Pete using his dog as a meat-shield.

Elder Sign Ashcan has 6 health and 4 Sanity: again, fairly balanced with a slight lean towards the physical.

 

Arkham Horror

Arkham-Horror-PeteAlthough Arkham Horror is the original Arkham Files game, it’s also the one I’ve played least, so I don’t necessarily feel all-that-qualified to offer opinions on it. In this first iteration of Ashcan, his ‘scrapper’ nature was to the fore, allowing him to draw cards from the bottom of the deck instead of the top. Given that cards leaving an investigator’s possession go the bottom of their respective decks, rather than into a discard pile, this allows him to draw items with a good level of foreknowledge, as well as being able to recycle a powerful card.

Arkham-Horror-DukeDuke is also present in Arkham Horror, where he gives Pete +1 Maximum Sanity or, he can be discarded to immediately restore Pete’s sanity to full (although “full” will now be the printed total, as you no longer have the boos).

Character stats in Arkham work a bit differently to the later games, being in a constant state of flux, with an investigator’s Focus being the factor which influences how much they can be altered. Pete has a very high sneak value, with his other stats being fairly rounded, but a very low focus of 1, making it difficult for him to react to changing circumstances.

 

From Games to Fiction

GhoulsAshcan Pete has yet to receive his own novella, but we do still have some information about him from FFG’s tie-in fiction. He first appeared in Ghouls of the Miskatonic, a work that is now (I believe) officially pre-canonical, but definitely still worth a read (and available fairly cheaply on Kindle).

Even in a few short pages, I felt like these old novels did a better job of conveying Pete’s character than many of the various game implementations. In Ghouls, he wakes up, dry mouth tasting of whisky and vomit, noting that “A drunken stupor was preferable to the horrific nightmares that had plagued him over the last few weeks.” This take on Pete places the source of his nightmares very firmly in the Great War – although it’s very strongly implied that he may have observed the misuse of Eldritch magic there, alongside the solely human carnage. Either way, it was “horrific, mind-wrenching stuff that had left him unable to sleep or hold down a job when he got back to the States.”

He returns in the third novel of the same trilogy, Dweller in the Deep, when Finn Edwards, one of the main characters is hitching a ride on a transcontinental train and “an angry-looking black mongrel” and “a sprightly fella” jump into their slow-moving wagon. In this instance, Pete is depicted as a man “affecting hobo mannerisms” but not nearly as drunk as he makes out. He is clearly headed to Arkham, but his motivations are unclear, simply a “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Ashcan-Book-Page Moving to the more recent/official era, Ashcan also got his own short story in the Investigators of Arkham Horror book released in early 2017. Unlike many of the stories, it focused not so much on the investigator himself, as an unknown character who happened to meet with him. Pete starts sharing his life story and, with no mention of the War, describes how he came from the Arkham area originally, but was driven to travel the world by his nightmares, finding that if he could help people, the dreams would fall silent for a while.

 

Closing Thoughts

yesthisisdogOverall, I think Ashcan feels like a fairly consistently represented character across the different game-lines. He’s generally solid, rather than flashy, and the only game in which I’d say he really stands out is Arkham Horror the card game. For anyone who is wanting to try him in the LCG, you could do a lot worse than start with “Hello, Yes this is Dog” a deck I found on Arkham DB and have been having good fun with recently.

I think the biggest disappointment with Ashcan is that, even having played him 21 times across the various titles (he’s in my top 10 for most-played investigators), I don’t really feel like I know him that well, he struggles to become more than “Man with Dog.” Hopefully, this is an area which will be a bit better with next month’s* investigator, Jenny Barnes

(* Time limits are not binding, nor, necessarily, probable).

 

Advertisements

Arkham Horror: Investigators Revisited

Investigators-Book-PhotoWith the arrival early in 2018 of Omens of the Pharaoh for Elder Sign, and Masks of Nyarlathotep for Eldritch Horror, there’s a definite sense of the end of an era for Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Files games.

There are 55 investigators all-told, all of them now playable in Eldritch Horror, and all-but-one in Elder Sign. Arkham Horror, the original board game has a more modest 48, there are 32 in Mansions of Madness (2nd Edition), and a mere 21 for Arkham Horror the card game (25 including promos).

Now that we’re reaching the point where most investigators are available in at least 3 games, I thought it would be good to take a look at the folk, see what we know about them, how they’ve been characterised across the various different games, and how that works out mechanically.

If we include officially announced upcoming releases and promos there are currently (I’ll try to keep this up-to-date, won’t manage it though…):

  • 9 Investigators appearing in all 5 games
  • 33 investigators available in 4 out of 5
  • 12 Investigators available in 3 of the titles
  • And poor old Daniella Reyes in just 1.

 

My aim is to start with the folk who are in all 5 games. I’ll begin with “Ashcan” Pete, Jenny Barnes, and Carolyn Fern, as they are the only 3 I actually own all 5 versions of, but if I can get 1 of these articles out every month or two, hopefully that will give me enough time to pick up some of the missing ones.

I’ll try to keep this post updated with the ones I’ve written so far, for the moment, there’s just the one

Investigators Revisited

“Ashcan” Pete

Gaming Mad

Some thoughts on the portrayal of madness in the Arkham Horror Files games

Arkham Horror (both the Board & the Card Game), Elder Sign, Eldritch Horror, and Mansions of Madness – aside from all being games in Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Files series, they are all games in which characters need to worry not just about their health but about their sanity.

All ArkhamsThe premise is quite simple, and the mechanical benefits are many – the monsters and horrors that these investigators are going to face will tax their minds just as much as their bodies. How can you very quickly and easily ensure that the little old lady or the quiet, bookish secretary can offer as much to the party as the big, tough fighter? By making every character’s stats a trade-off between Physical Health (where the Athlete or the Soldier score very highly) and Mental Health (the domain of the Parapsychologist, and the Dreamer).

Arkham Files games tend to be highly atmospheric, full of narrative immersion. You can reduce everything to pure numbers, and strive to burst through everything with maximum efficiency, but a lot of the enjoyment in the games is clearly designed around the idea of playing the game in character: How would this individual react to what goes on around them? – in my opinion, that’s where the immersive, thematic, and enjoyable experience is to be had.

I’m a big fan of these games, and 4 of the 5 are amongst my most-played titles (I only recently picked up Arkham Horror the Board Game). That said, there is definitely something about them with at least the potential to be… Problematic? Somehow not ok?

Today I want to spend a bit of time thinking about the portrayal of madness in board games: what does it add? what are the dangers? and generally is it being done right?

I had wanted to include some thoughts from the designers of the games, but – perhaps tellingly – Mental Health is the sort of topic that’s considered too sensitive for individual employees to speak for the company. Instead, here are a selection of my own musings on the topic.

 

The Unspeakable Oath

Warning: the following section contains narrative spoilers for Arkham LCG’s Path to Carcosa Cycle

King in YellowI think that I was most struck by this whole question of madness, of where we draw the lines between reality and games, whilst playing through the Arkham Horror Card Game. The recently concluded Path to Carcosa cycle takes inspiration from Robert Chambers’ The King in Yellow, and it taps in very deeply to themes of questionable states of reality, unreliable narrators and the constant sense that things may very well not be as they seem.

This really comes to a head in the 4th scenario, which sees your investigators visiting the notorious Arkham Asylum. Not a Joker or a Scarecrow in sight, this place is a prison for the mad, a cold, damp, miserable place full of cold isolation and with brutality just as likely and just as dangerous as the esoteric, experimental “treatments” that inmates might find themselves subject to.

StraitjacketAs you play through the Unspeakable Oath, there is a strange blurring of reality – increasingly you have to ask, are you really here to interview a patient? or simply residents of the asylum harbouring weird delusions about fantastical cults and alien beings? –Without warning, you suddenly find yourself wearing a strait-jacket! And why do you need to start a fire or a riot in order to be able to escape this place by jumping the fence, rather than just going back out of the front door?

The harsh reality really kicks in at the end of the scenario. Up until now, however badly you did, there had been little that could interrupt the ongoing flow of a campaign. Although there were certainly ways to make your life difficult, only once had we seen a way to bring a campaign to a premature end [warning: link contains spoilers for the Dunwich Legacy]. Failure to escape in the Unspeakable Oath, however, sees your investigator immediately driven mad, and confined for the duration to the care of Asylum doctors. The campaign might continue without you, but that individual has lost their mind, and will be playing no further part. All the events of the previous scenarios are now seen as the violent delusions of the criminally insane.

I think it was the shock of that resolution which first started me down the path towards this article.

 

Closer to Home

The Arkham games are set in the 1920s and 1930s, which can hardly be regarded as a golden age for mental health provision. Asylums were as much a convenient dumping-ground for the more inconvenient elements of society as they were places of healing. Things have changed. I’d imagine that most people reading this are like me, and have never set foot in an asylum, as they simply aren’t that common any more.

Even in this day and age though, treating mental health conditions is an inexact science and both the conditions themselves and the ways they are dealt with can be shocking. I remember being amazed during my student days when a friend (who was training to be a doctor) mentioned that electro-shock therapy is still used! She likened it to giving a TV a good whack when the signal was conking out – it won’t fix the long-term problem, but sometimes it will keep things working long enough to get it put right properly. It’s a controversial method, but it’s definitely still out there.

RecruitingAs I can’t presume to speak to anyone else’s state of mind, I’ve been thinking about my own. Whilst I’ve never needed to spend time in any secure mental institutions, I have been under the care of doctors and assorted medical professionals for many years. I take a fairly large amount of daily medication to keep my mental health in a place where I can function day-by-day, with only intermittent periods of despair, and only occasional accusations of being a high-functioning sociopath.

Even as a fairly “normal” person (if you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you don’t consider a board game obsession and “normality” to be mutually incompatible) I’m all-too-aware that Mental Health is not something that we can just assume or dismiss.

Speaking to friends who have worked in Psychiatry, there was a feeling that we still don’t have enough positive portrayals of mental illness in society or culture, so even if it’s on a subliminal level, there is an issue with how these conditions are portrayed.

 

When I get down to it, I think the question I’m really asking is – is it ok to play games that see characters driven mad?

 

Mad.

Right there, there’s something to note. Doctors (at least in the UK) wouldn’t use terms like “madness” or “driven mad” in a clinical context. They are too vague, too loaded, and ultimately don’t mean anything precisely enough to be medically useful.

Another thing I wanted to note quickly is that, obviously, the Arkham titles aren’t the only games that can end in the demise of characters or others. I think, thought, that there’s a qualitative difference.

A historical game, whether it be something abstract like a Commands and Colors title, or something gut-punchingly real like This War of Mine, is steeped in death, but it’s also educational. That’s clearly not a claim we can make for the Arkham Horror line.

In fact, almost the opposite is true: Yes, Mobsters and Flappers, Jazz and Prohibition all provide a thematically rich and quasi-historical background for the Arkham series. However, whilst your character might take physical damage from depression-era historical concepts, true horror comes from encountering those who have interbred with sea creatures, fantastical beings that have no right to exist, and holes in the fabric of reality itself. The very nature of these games is that they run counter to the world as we know it.

 

Looking at the Face of Madness

Elder SignLet’s take that idea and look a bit more closely. What exactly is happening in these games that gets depicted as / causes horror and insanity?

In some games, like Elder Sign, Sanity is just another pool of hit points, a number which will dwindle, causing death if it reaches zero. As this is already a monster article, I won’t talk any more about it here.

Other games attempt to flesh out the concept of sanity, to make it a more developed aspect of your personality, such that the assaults it suffers will do other things to you, have lasting consequences which apply in different ways.

Normally, I’m all in favour of games adding to the theme, making something more than just a set of numbers to represent a mechanic. That said, I think that there’s a danger. Obviously, you can’t represent years of treatment, months of therapy or a long-term course of exercise and medication in a 2-hour board game – Horror has to fit on a small card, and so do the ways of removing it (probably the Psychiatrist using one of her actions to treat you, or a reading from a King James Bible). Is it possible that adding a little detail becomes worse than having none at all?

Let’s zoom in on each of the games that do attempt to flesh out their madness mechanics, and see how it looks in practice.

 

Mansions of Madness

1: Horror

In Mansions of Madness (2Ed) some things will cause you to take Horror. The “standard” Horror card, much like the “standard” Damage card simply says “no additional effect, flip face down.”

Others will have different instant impacts. Perhaps the most impactful of these, are the persistent ones which generally read “keep face up…”

KleptomaniaOne such card is Kleptomania: whenever you end your turn in a space with another investigator, take 1 item at random from another investigator in your space” (I once had an investigator with Kleptomania and a Broken Arm – he stole other people’s stuff, then immediately dropped it…) – it’s a massive over-simplification of kleptomania but, particularly in that ridiculous combination with the broken arm, it generally amuses me more than it annoys. The question found myself asking as I started writing this article is – would I feel the same if I actually knew someone with Kleptomania? Perhaps part of the equation here is the fact it is very unlikely that I would – Kleptomania just isn’t a commonly-diagnosed condition (there’s even a certain amount of controversy around its validity as a diagnosis).

Righteous HorrorSomething I really like about the Horror cards in Mansions of Madness is the fact that sometimes – just now and then, the outcome is positive – you steel yourself in the face of terror, and become Focused or Righteous. It won’t come up in every game, but just often enough to save you from despair. To show that the human spirit is capable of real feats in the face of terror, just as much as it is of despair.

2: Insanity

BenignInsanityAside from the horror cards, your investigator can be driven insane. Mansions of Madness is currently the only Arkham Files game which doesn’t end for an insane investigator – instead they play on, but with a new “Insane” card. Some of these do a reasonable job of depicting obsessive behaviour – you can’t do the same action twice, you need to acquire objects/do something else even if it’s not contributing to the overall investigation. I certainly don’t have any problem with those.

DarkInsanityBut what about the card that says you have Seen Too Much and can only win if the investigation is completed and you die?

Or the card which not-that-subtly implies that your character wins only if they stab a fellow investigator to death?

Should I be more upset by that than I am?because if you stop to think about it, it’s downright disturbing?

Arkham Horror the Card Game

DescentIntoMadnessAnother game which attempts to pad the Horrors and Madness out into something beyond simple numbers is Arkham Horror the Card Game.

Arkham has moments where the idea of madness is handled brilliantly, and other instances where things feel a bit more problematic. Overall, things tend to be relatively abstract, simply due to the way the game’s mechanics work.

Rather than delving too much in the Card Game here, I wrote a separate article on the topic for the Mythos Busters, which you can find here.

 

Eldritch Horror

1: Conditions

EldritchMadness In Eldritch Horror, your sanity is once again just another pool of hit points to manage, but there are still wider implications. Amongst the many Condition cards that investigators may acquire, there are many Madness cards: Hallucinations, Amnesia, Paranoia, Terror, Hunger and Despair. The way that conditions work in Eldritch, each of the 6 types has a shared front, with different effects on the back. Broadly speaking, these will tax your investigator’s resources: losing health, sanity, clues, assets etc, or even gaining further negative conditions.

There were a few I wanted to look at a bit more closely – the first is the version of paranoia which causes each other investigator on your space to lose 2 health, and discards an ally. In essence, what we have here, is the idea of violence causing someone to become physically and dangerously violent to people around them. Obviously there are instances when poor mental health can lead to violence, which is part of the reason we still have secure psychiatric units, and this felt like an obvious point where the game and reality came uncomfortably close.

EldritchDespairSpeaking of uncomfortable, we had a bit of a shock during our first run-in with the “Despair” condition. The art features a man holding a gun to his own head, which is a fairly grim starting point, and the version encountered in our game was probably the darkest of them all – with narrative text describing in macabre fashion how you attempt to perform a lobotomy on yourself and/or gouge your own eyes out. Mechanically this is a penalised Willpower check, where failure leads to permanently impairing your Lore and Observation. I was introducing a new player to Eldritch Horror when her investigator got this card (thankfully she had played Arkham Horror and Mansions 2ed before, so wasn’t wandering in completely unprepared), and was genuinely quite concerned about scaring her off (both from Eldritch, and from coming to our house for gaming more generally) as Calvin repeatedly attacked his own eyes with whichever implement was closest to hand. As I’ll be mentioning in a bit more detail in my LCG article, I think that self-harm is a particularly problematic subject for games, because it’s something that’s so prevalent and so poorly understood in the real world.

2: Defeat

Also, when your investigator is defeated, you need to note whether their end came as a result of a failure in mind or body. You can then encounter that survivor (not necessarily dead, even if they are ‘broken’) or their legacy. Although defeated investigators are a fairly common feature of our games, it’s not all-that-often that we have the chance to encounter them later, so I had to go back through these to look at how they were set out.

fry tinfoil hat
Yes, an actual tin-foil hat

Some of these are fairly tongue-in-cheek, like Agatha Crane who you will find wearing a tin-foil hat and muttering about a government conspiracy. Others are more typical of what you might expect from madness in this setting – Kate Winthrop is obsessive and distracted, Agnes Baker doesn’t know her own name, and Ursula Downs is a Laudanum addict.

Some though are especially dark and grisly. Marie Lambeau bled out after painting the walls with her own blood, Monterey Jack has scratched an arcane symbol into his own flesh with his nails, and Amanda Sharpe simply walked into the sea and drowned herself.

Overall, the spectrum of effects presented is probably about right – the things which are particularly shocking are a level of extremity that we might hope to avoid in daily life, but are probably understandable from those who have gazed into the abyss.

 

Closing Thoughts

I hope that in this slightly meandering discussion I’ve managed to raise some questions for people to consider, even if I haven’t really ‘answered’ anything.

I’m certainly not arguing for censorship of these games – anyone who plays a game called Mansions of Madness or Eldritch Horror, and is shocked by the fact that they depict madness, probably needs to learn to read better.

DriverIndeed, as I said at the outset, the fact that characters can go mad is definitely part of the appeal in these games. Something really simply can add a lot of fun flavour – take the Driver in Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu:

  • Normal characters – 1 space per move
  • Sane driver 1 or 2 spaces per move [he has a car],
  • Insane driver, 2 spaces per move [he has a car and doesn’t know when to brake!]).

This sort of thing appeals to my gallows sense of humour, but is my enjoyment of these mechanics somehow wrong? Some kind of weird schadenfreude in wanting to see madness come crashing down upon these investigators, rather than me? I don’t think so, but it’s a troubling thought to give me pause for a moment.

Rational In Elder Sign, 5 expansions in, there are lots and lots of adventure cards spread amongst the various decks, but one simple quote always makes this one my favourite. “I struggled to keep calm, but given the evidence presented by these artefacts, madness was the only rational response.”

Perhaps that’s it – even with what are pretty minor mental health problems in the grand scheme of things, one of the most wearing things I have to fight day-by-day is the assumption that everyone else is “normal,” and that I’m not. That depression and anxiety are in some way a dysfunctional reaction to the world.

Maybe people are right – and I can certainly see why folk would want to attain to what is generally regarded as “good” mental health. But perhaps there’s part of me that wants to say “No! – the world is a crazy, terrifying, and often dismal place, and some level of dread, misery or concern about it just makes sense.”

Perhaps we won’t see eye-to-eye on the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. But maybe, when an abomination made mostly of eyes and tentacles comes bashing through the wall, or the sky is ripped open, and fell beasts swoop down out of the glare of twin suns to tear at our flesh. Well, maybe then, we can all agree that sometimes it’s just better to be mad.

Preview – The Forgotten Age

Forgotten AgeI’ve not done a particularly good job of actually getting reviews done for Arkham stuff lately. I ended up reviewing most of the Dunwich cycle for Games Quest, then Carcosa got a bit messy with lots of stock issues (somehow FFG aren’t printing enough), meaning I ended up getting a lot of stuff late, out of order, or just in a mad rush altogether.

I’ll try to do a Carcosa round-up in a few weeks when the dust has settled on multiple play-throughs, but for today, I thought I’d take a look at an upcoming expansion, something I don’t need to worry about having cards in hand / time to do all the play-throughs for.

The next deluxe expansion for Arkham LCG is The Forgotten Age, a box which takes us adventuring into the jungles of South America. So far we only know a few bits and pieces, but let’s look at those:

Ginny_Weasley_Quidditch_Seeker
New Seeker character?

Ursula Downs, the Explorer, is our new Seeker

Leo Anderson, the Expedition Leader, is our new Keeper. Sorry, Guardian

Finn Edwards, the Bootlegger, is most definitely not a Snitch.

Ok, enough Quidditch jokes…

 

finn-edwardsOf the 3 characters initially revealed, Finn is probably the one I was most interested in. He appeared, alongside Kate Winthrop and a few others in one of the old Arkham Files Novels (officially no longer canon, but still a good read nonetheless) he is – for me at least – the quintessential rogue, and there would have been something wrong if we didn’t eventually see him in this class.

Gameplay wise, it looks like Finn will be very interesting to play – he takes a lot of Rogue characteristics – evasion, action advantage, difficulty with treacheries, likes money – and turns them all up to 11. The biggest talking point is his rather terrifying 1 Willpower!! – if you thought Skids had difficulty with Rotting Remains or Frozen in Fear, then Finn takes that to a whole new level.

Handle ThisAt least in multiplayer, there are a lot more options for dealing with treacheries now: Mystics running level 2 Ward of Protection, and Guardians running Let Me Handle This are already possibilities, but Finn arrives in a box with the highly entertaining You Handle This One – a card which lets him palm off Treacheries onto others.

Willpower aside, Finn looks really strong – high intellect and agility means he can investigate really powerfully with Lockpicks, as well as picking up extra clues with his Elder Sign effect. Combat-wise, he gets an extra action each turn to use on evading, meaning he can deal with most enemies, either by using Sneak Attack without having to worry about the action needed to evade first, or simply running away. If he does need to fight, 3 really isn’t too shabby.

Lastly, his signature card hints at some fun interactions with illicit cards (and hopefully that more illicit cards are coming). Really looking forward to this one. Not looking forward to my wife’s reaction the first time I play You Handle This One.

Expedition

Leo Anderson Leo Anderson is a bit trickier to analyse. For one thing, he seems to have a lot of interaction with Allies, particularly non-uniques, based on his signature asset, an ally who gives him space for 2 additional non-unique allies. Without knowing his deck-building restrictions, it’s hard to know which allies he’ll have access to – Guard Dog and Beat Cop have their merits (especially if he can play them at reduced cost as a fast action), but they’re not especially exciting to build a deck around. If he can access the non-unique seeker allies, or some of the other powerful cards out there, he suddenly gets a lot more interesting. His 3 intellect is nice, and overall his stats feel really solid – agility is probably the least-used skill when you aren’t evading (at least until now), and as a 4-combat guardian, I can’t imagine he’ll be evading that often.

Exploration

UrsulaUrsula Downs was the first investigator announced for this box, but I only had the idea to write this article after the Finn & Leo preview dropped, so had to go back and dig out her information. She has 4 intellect and 1 combat, which is a fairly clear indication that she’s not planning on fighting anything any time soon – fortunately she has 4 agility, so can evade the enemies she won’t be able to fight, and a decent 3 willpower for handling treacheries.

Again, this is a character where I really want to see the deck-construction rules. She gets a free investigation per round, provided she moves, so will want to be tooling up with Shortcuts and Pathfinders (Norman is the only Seeker so far who wouldn’t be able to take Pathfinder, so hopefully Ursula will be fine).

jake-williamsLike Leo, Ursula has a unique ally as her signature asset, and Jake Williams ties into all the themes we’ve seen so far – free(ish) card-draw for revealing new locations, and being able to move or investigate whilst engaged with enemies, without worrying about attacks of opportunity. Generally I prefer lower-cost signature assets (Jake costs 3), but he still looks like he could be well worth playing – again, we’ll need to see those deck construction rules to know how much Ursula will need Charisma to go with him.

As an aside, I do find Jake an odd choice thematically. From what little of Ursula’s back-story I know, he certainly is someone who tends to appear, but it feels a little awkward to present a character who is so explicitly referenced as a woman struggling to be accepted in a “man’s world” then give her a male unique ally to protect her…

 

Encounters

We know that there are 2 scenarios in the Forgotten Age, and that they involve some kind of jungle-adventure, but otherwise the detail is still pretty light.

Exploring
Confused? Hopefully it’ll make more sense once we have the scenarios in hand…

One thing we do know will be included in the box is the new “Explore” ability, which sees you revealing cards from a separate “Exploration Deck.” I’m a little bit wary of this, as it puts me in mind of periods in Lord of the Rings LCG where we had lots of different decks, which often felt quite needless, leading to unnecessarily complicated board states: in my experience excess complexity leads to mistakes, and eliminates any benefit that the mechanic should bring. I’m remaining cautiously optimistic for now, as location and sense of place has been one of the ways in which Arkham has been constantly head-and-shoulders above LotR, both in terms of mechanic and theme, but time will tell how it really pans out.

Obviously there are going to be other things in the new box, besides the explore mechanic. We have seen enemies with the “Alert” keyword, as well as a spoiled location which refers to “checking supplies” (turns out a compass is a useful thing in the jungle), but we don’t have any concrete information on what these things might do/mean. There are also rumours floating around about other mechanics and things that we might see in this box (I heard a frightening whisper of negative XP!), but I don’t think it’s worth speculating too much until we have some confirmation.

 

Next?

MateoI’d imagine we still have at least one preview left before the expansion lands – I’d been hoping for one that confirmed Father Mateo as our new Survivor and Diana Stanley as our new Mystic, followed by an article about the scenarios themselves.

Since then we’ve been given a big Spoiler on our Survivor, not Mateo but Arkham Files’ Man of the Moment, Calvin Wright!

calvin-wright

Calvin breaks the mould somewhat with his very even 0-0-0-0 stat-line and, unlike his 3 companions, is someone I’m not convinced it’s even worth trying to speculate about until I’ve had a chance to try him out. There are definitely some cool avenues to explore, but only time will tell whether they work. For now, my only reaction is that I love the fact that they’re still experimenting and pushing the boundaries.

Still no word on the Mystic. Could it be Diana? Could it be Mateo? We’ll have to see…

 

I enjoy following the narrative of Arkham campaigns, but am generally much more interested in playing new characters than I am in having the new scenarios to run them through. I’ll certainly be looking forward to trying the new scenarios, but I’m the thing I really want to see is the backs of those investigator cards, just so that I can get a sense of their deck-building requirements.

Marchin Already

It’s the end of the first quarter already, 2018 seems to be flying by. There was a lot going on in March, but gaming still loomed large, with a lot of sessions notched up.

Getting Meta

Aside from gaming itself, I also managed a bit of a dig through my published/to-publish/half-written article pile. Probably the only constant with this blog, is that anything I’ve already done happened longer ago than I think it did, and anything I’m going to do will take longer than I expect it to. I largely blame Ned for this, possibly because “blogging time” quickly turns into “entertaining/feeding/cleaning the baby time,” and mostly because he woke me up at 3.40 this morning (not actually this morning, but the morning I first drafted this), and I desire revenge.

Hopefully this dig-through will mean a few things that had previously stalled half-way to completion getting a revival. More probably, it will just mean a short-lived burst of enthusiasm before things get back to normal.

10 of 10

DragonwartsMy H-Index for 2018 is currently 6, with 5 games already having made it to 10 sessions, and several others not far behind. I’d imagine that this will be tied up by the beginning of summer. There are still some old favourites around the top of the charts, but Hogwarts Battle was brand-new (in the UK) in January, and Dragonfire has only really come into its own this year, so it’s pleasing to see that things haven’t just stagnated.

10of10-2018-MarShifting to the Hardcore challenge, the picture is still optimistic, although I’m further short of the mark. Arkham LCG, Pandemic Legacy and Zombicide were already done-and-dusted by the start of Feb as far as 10 of 10 is concerned, meaning a fairly large amount of play that’s not counting (15 sessions in Feb, 16 in March).

Focusing in on the remaining 7 titles, Legendary was the first big jumper. Legendary is often a game that gets played in bursts, as we’ll run up against a seemingly-impossible set-up, and try various different combinations until we can beat the scheme/mastermind – 5 sessions early in the month for this one, saw it jump from 2 to 7.

Omens-Pharaoh-Dice-Game-BoxNot surprisingly, the other game recovering from a slow start was Elder Sign, with the arrival of the Omens of the Pharaoh expansion. Our first run at this was almost comically brutal, as the ancient one awoke before we had found a single Elder Sign, or even made it out of Cairo, then failed, failed, and failed again to roll the skulls needed to take on the ancient (triple skull is a nasty thing to try aiming for). Overall, this felt like an expansion with plenty of flavour though, and a lot to offer. 9 sessions in March made it the 4th of the 10 to make it to 10 sessions.

Aeon’s End got another couple of sessions, ticking along slowly and steadily. Massive Darkness took more of the sudden-burst approach, with 3 sessions in one weekend: it was the first time we’d dived into a lot of the expansion content, but it was good fun. I’ve also been making good progress on painting the Core Box content, which should give future sessions a bit more colour.

Gloomhaven and Mansions of Madness are the ones struggling so far. At the moment, it feels like I should have gone for Eldritch Horror as one of my 10 (I ruled it out for being too long) or Dragonfire, but it’s still fairly early days. 63 out of 100 down – roughly 1/3 left to go.

 

Madness for the Ages

Arkham LCG CollectionSomething I forgot to mention in February’s round-up, was Arkham Horror LCG hitting 100 plays since its release in late 2016. It was last year’s most-played game by sessions, and looks set for a similar position this year, with Pandemic Legacy destined to fall by the wayside, and Zombicide just too long to match it session-for-session.

With the waning of Lord of the Rings, it’s great to have a co-op LCG that’s consistently hitting the table and whilst there may be an element of cynicism to how brutally Fantasy Flight are milking the cash cow, I’m just glad of the wealth of content we’re getting right now. The second full cycle is nearing its end, and we have a re-working of the Core Set campaign due shortly, a third deluxe expected not long after, and 2 more promo-investigators coming with tie-in novellas later in the year.

March was also the month when Elder Sign reached 50 sessions, it looks like all-things Lovecraft are here to stay.

 

New

New titles were also in plentiful supply, mostly in the form of review games.

Fog of Love has been making a lot of waves recently, but didn’t really click that well for us – too many of the mechanics felt like they were pulling in opposite directions from what the theme was asking.

StuffedStuffed Fables was a fun idea: playing as a group of “stuffies” (i.e. stuffed toys) trying to protect the child they belong to from some kind of Nightmare Lord. It’s immaculately produced, with gorgeous miniatures, and a glossy story book that also acts as the game-board, but in a lot of ways it didn’t quite click. The walls of text are too big for very young children, and I’m not convinced that there would be a real window of opportunity between old enough to sit through it, and young enough to not be turned off by the theme. Mechanically, the game-play underneath the narrative is very light, with little challenge, and the language of the book, heavily laden with Americanisms, and saccharine sidebars felt quite jarring.

Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time is a nice-looking but hyper-random co-op where you try to rescue treasures from a time-travelling super-villain. Maximum Apocalypse is a “Rogue-Like” survival game: pick your way across a map of randomly assembled tiles, whilst trying to avoid the zombies, aliens, or robots which come out to attack you. Most promising of the March crop, it really needs more play time.

New Ancients

ArkhamBoardOne game that most definitely isn’t new, but was a first-play for me, was Arkham Horror the Board Game. This was one that I’d historically passed by, based on the assumption that Eldritch Horror (not to mention the LCG and Mansions of Madness) replaced it, but was recently persuaded to pick it up and give it a try.

I had a solo game of this, and got resoundingly defeated, primarily due to my utter inability to deal with monsters (although failing to shut gates was a big deal). There are definitely some respects where it feels less refined than Eldritch (a skill reduced to zero in Arkham is an auto-fail, whereas in Eldritch you always get to roll one dice), and the flavour text for things like other world encounters felt a bit limited for a game that’s 2 hours minimum. Still, it had a lot to offer – the sliding skills and using “focus” to adjust them felt particularly fascinating, and I’ll be interested to see how this works once I’ve got a bit more experience with the game.

Ashcans
(almost) all things Ashcan

This session also gave “Ashcan” Pete and his trusty sidekick Duke the distinction of being the first investigator I’ve played in all 5 of the Arkham files series. There’s probably a future article brewing in there somewhere…

Unexpected

Given the number of games I already have, the number of review games I get, and the fact that I get store credit for working shows, it’s a pretty rare occurrence for me to go out and buy a new board game using real money.

When I do, it’s generally a carefully considered process, something done after many hours of research – typically either a Kickstarter or something that’s going to be otherwise unavailable at retail.

City of KingsMarch saw me shell out for my first new game of the year. This was particularly unexpected, as 3 days earlier, I couldn’t have told you anything about it besides “Fantasy Co-op.” The game in Question was City of Kings.

The chronology starts off in a familiar enough fashion. Asmodee put up the following week’s new release sheet, I have a scan through, and look up things that catch my interest on BGG. This game looked particularly interesting, and promised that ever-elusive “RPG in a Box.” I’m now definitely after this one.

Then the editor updates the review sheet – no sign of the game. I send a quick email and discover that there’s no stock available (along with a “I thought you might be after this one” comment). I had a bit more of a look online – definitely seems interesting.

Meanwhile, my wife keeps pointing out that it’s less than a week to my birthday, and I still haven’t come up with a suggestion of what I want. Ideas are starting to converge.

I start looking around elsewhere, but discover that the game is basically out of stock everywhere (even though it isn’t released until the following day). There are vague mentions online of a re-print kickstarter.

During my lunchbreak at work, I start watching a Rahdo Run-Through. It looks good.

One of the websites I was searching earlier in the day message me to say that they have a spare copy available (a cancelled order, presumably). I grab it before it goes.

CityofKicksTypically, no sooner have I bought it than the creator confirms a re-print kickstarter launching in April. A Kickstarter that will be filled with bells and whistles, and all the shiny extras that aren’t in the retail edition.

By the time the dust had settled, I was pretty happy with how things had panned out. The game arrived, on my birthday, and it looks every bit as good in the flesh (in the cardboard?) as it did online. The KS will have pledge tiers to bling up the retail edition to something like the deluxe, and delivery on the re-print is still far enough away that if it doesn’t play as well in reality as I’d hoped, I should be able to sell it on for enough to cover my costs.

 

Themes

Lovecraft and Fantasy were the dominating themes for March, with Comics in 3rd, and Zombies a surprising way down. Fantasy itself was still depressingly dominated by “Generic” (Massive Darkness, One-Deck Dungeon), although “Children’s” (in the form of Stuffed Fables) accounted for a good of the by-hours section. Lost Realms was probably the most significant recognisable setting, with Gravehold just behind.

Mechanically, it was still mostly solving the mystery and stopping the plot which occupied us, although plain and simple “Win” was also a notable feature.

 

Money

GloomhavenFloor
it would probably help if this weren’t so big that it needs to live on the floor in a room Ned’s not allowed in…

Financially, things look broadly familiar: Kickstarter as a whole is looking better (see the separate first-quarter KS review coming soon), but the same old suspects are standing out in bright red on the Shortfall tab – Gloomhaven is the big beast, and has been static for too long. Apocrypha will probably work off a chunk of the remaining deficit when the expansions arrive, and Shadows of Brimstone is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.

Of course, City of Kings now has a big deficit to work off, but I won’t start looking too closely at that until around May.

 

Final thoughts

March was a pretty good month: lots of games played, and with a good mixture of boxes ticked and just having fun. For April, I have a few things to crack on with (Gloomhaven, City of Kings), plus some new stuff I’m looking forward to (Dungeon Alliance is out-of-stock, but I’ve managed to pick up Rising Sun and Firefly Adventures to keep me busy). I’ll try to keep things up-to-date with general content, and then I’ll be back again at the beginning of next month.

 

Dunwich Revisited

DunwichLegacyWith the arrival a few weeks ago of Lost in Time and Space, the Dunwich Legacy Cycle – the first full adventure cycle for Arkham Horror the Card Game – is complete. Today I want to take a bit of a reflective look at the campaign, what we’ve seen, and what we can expect for the future.

It’s worth saying now that this article will include a fair number of spoilers for the Dunwich Legacy Campaign so, if you haven’t played it yet, you might want to avoid reading this until later.

I’ve been doing a lot of reviews for Games Quest on the Arkham LCG line, and it would be remiss of me not to mention them as a place for some pack-by-pack breakdowns – you can find them at the following links:

Professors To recap, this is an 8-scenario adventure, which starts with the disappearance of Professors Rice and Morgan, the 2 men who assisted Professor Armitage in destroying the Dunwich Horror in Lovecraft’s story of the same name. Players will have visited a Nightclub and a University in search of the men, broken into a Museum to search for a copy of the Necronimicon, caught a train to Dunwich that was almost sucked through a rift in reality, tried to prevent grisly human sacrifice in Dunwich, and scoured the countryside for giant invisible monsters. In the final denouement, they will have scaled Sentinel Hill (despite mysterious forces opposing them), and stepped through a portal into the beyond, hopefully saving the world in time to return home.

Familiar Encounters

BeyondTheVeil
THIS card kept reappearing…

Aside from a new wave of encounter cards in each pack, the Dunwich Legacy campaign made extensive use of cards introduced in the Dunwich Deluxe, as well as some encounter cards from the Core Set. Overall, it tended to be the more abstract cards that got recycled – obscuring shrouds on locations, Doom spread by mysterious rites, and strange hexes and curses to discard you assets and your decks.

This all created a very noticeable contrast with a game like Lord of the Rings where you could expect to see a particular pack of enemies showing up again and again throughout the course of the campaign – I was particularly surprised by how little we saw of the Mobsters from scenario 1b (The House Always Win) who show up at most once more all campaign (and possibly not at all, depending on the notes in your campaign log).

The Consequences of Your Actions

MidnightCultists Fantasy Flight have made the point repeatedly that Arkham Horror is supposed to be played in Campaign Mode as the default option, with Standalone being the variant- we’d already seen a little bit of how this could work in practice from the Core Box’s Night of the Zealot campaign, as players can chose to burn down a location in the first scenario, thereby removing it from the second, and having the undefeated cultists from the second scenario reappearing in the third. Dunwich however, offered the chance to see this fully developed.

Overall, I was pleased with just how much use they made of this – the fact that you can only rescue 1 professor in the first two scenarios ensures that whatever approach you take, you will have some negative consequences to deal with: even once you’ve read all set-ups and outcomes for the whole campaign, there is no “perfect” path to take.

Necronomicons
Sadly, the campaign always specifies which Necronomicon gets stolen…

The interactions with the Necronomicon were also particularly intriguing – what will you do when faced with the chance to gain such a powerful card (the static intellect boost is handy for lots of investigators, and the resource acceleration is incredibly powerful), at the cost of a nasty token added to the campaign bag? I also liked the fact that even once you had decided to take it, it could still be lost in later scenarios, giving you the chance of acquiring the bad token, and the forces of evil getting the book. All of this interacted nicely, and gave a good sense of legacy, like your decisions really mattered.

Dunwich Legacy felt like it did a good job of ensuring that narrative continuity didn’t lead to a game that was unplayable – here the best example was probably in Undimensioned and Unseen, where the number of invisible abominations to be dealt with was actually increased if you were more successful in the previous scenario. Some people have raised thematic concerns about this, but I think it seemed reasonable if you assume that the more sacrifices the monsters have feasted upon, the less need they have to go rampaging around the countryside seeking food – they probably just stayed in for an after-dinner nap. Whatever the logic, it offered a welcome chance to right the ship for those parties that were doing particularly badly.

Drinks I also loved the fact that the designers were more than willing to mess with players’ expectations – the best example here was in Essex County Express where players could help themselves to some free resources, provided they remembered that they “had stolen a passenger’s luggage.” After the nasty side-effects of having a drink in the speakeasy, this was an option shunned by lots of players- only to discover that there was no nasty side-effect at all!

AcidicIchorProbably the biggest disappointment with the ongoing aspect of the game came from the Strange Solution – there had been much speculation about what the pay-off would be, and when it came it was quite underwhelming – just some options for upgraded player-cards. In reality, the option to access powerful effects in Seeker – powerful healing and an explosive fight ability – shouldn’t be underestimated, and the cost of having to upgrade from a specific card AND having to perform a test on that card in a scenario is a really interesting one, it just feels disappointing that we didn’t get something more entertaining that was tied to scenario events more specifically.

Where we go

FacultyOffices Aside from doing a great job of the campaign aspect of things, Dunwich Legacy also continued to do interesting things with our sense of space: in the course of the 8 scenarios we visited a nightclub, a university that had different buildings open or closed depending on what time you got there, a museum that could only be broken into in the middle of the night, and a train where you could only move from carriage to carriage in a straight line.

GatheringLocations The designers have made heavy use during this campaign of location sets with identical unrevealed sides and assorted different revealed sides. Whilst this quite quickly stops feeling particularly “new,” I still think it’s a great way of doing things – when I play The Gathering now, I know exactly what locations are going to be where, and what effects will trigger and when (In case you’re wondering why I’m still playing The Gathering, it’s where I go to watch Daisy die as my latest attempt at a solo deck fails miserably). Having these other locations, where you don’t know until you first enter them what you’ll find, and where you can’t plan out of every detail of the game ensures that these scenarios are still playable once you’ve done them a few times.

It’s also worth reiterating how well Arkham does “place” generally – if I compare it to the Lord of the Rings LCG, a game I’ve enjoyed playing for many years, the difference is night and day. In Arkham my investigator is always somewhere, your investigators is always somewhere – if those aren’t the same place, then we can’t help each other, and the monster at my location is going to attack me, even if you make a better target. It’s little touches like this which make the game so much more engaging than if decisions about movement become abstracted.

Who we fight

AvianThrallThe core box for Arkham LCG established the basic nature of enemies – a fight value, a number of hit points, an evade value, its attack values, and possibly some ability text. Dunwich Legacy hasn’t strayed too far from that, but it has certainly stretched our expectations of what a monster can do. Things like the Conglomeration of Spheres or the Avian Thrall care about what weapon you use to fight them with, and make you think twice about relying too heavily on that Machete (and let’s face it, which Guardian doesn’t love the Machete?)

Whippoorwill The designers also did a great job of capturing the feeling of the Whipporwhills, the flocks of sinister birds which are so often looming harbingers in Lovecraft’s tales- they won’t attack you, and you’ll have to waste actions taking them out, but if you try to ignore them they will follow you around, nagging away at you, and undermining your ability to carry out normal activities.

Of course, the biggest change to “normal” combat we encountered was in Undimensioned and Unseen, with the Brood of Yog-Sothoth, who could only be attacked using the in-scenario card Esoteric Formula

Brood I’m still in 2 minds about the Esoteric Formula – obviously it makes sense that something as large as a Brood of Yog-Sothoth should take more than just knife-work to bring down, and I liked the idea that clues could be used to aid you in the fight.

My problem with this scenario was the fact that everyone had to use Willpower to fight it – generally speaking in this game, different investigators have different strengths: most of the time, there are ways around things – fight with strength, use spells to fight with willpower, evade using agility, or simply focus on clue-gathering, whilst your teammates take care of combat. The fact that this scenario didn’t have an alternative win condition, and didn’t have a way for investigators to substitute a different skill made it feel a bit annoying.

Yog-Sothoth The last scenario, of course, was Lost in Time and Space, and if you were particularly unlucky, you might have found yourself facing Yog-Sothoth itself. Whilst this was more-or-less inevitable, given how the scenarios up-to-now had gone, I was glad that this didn’t just turn into a boss fight: even in the slightly pulpier world of Arkham Horror files, a chef with a Machete and an ex-con with a tommy gun are not supposed to be able to just knock over an ancient one. If anything, I was surprised at how plausible it might to fight him, with careful use of boosts, weapons etc, but I was glad to see that he could not be evaded, and was going to do a massive 5 Horror each time he attacked. Ultimately, it’s entirely fitting for an Arkham Campaign that the way you “win” is by finding your way back home and sealing the gate long before you ever catch sight of Yog-Sothoth.

 

What’s on the Cards for us?

ShrivellingsAs well as having dramatically expanded the range of what was available for the players to confront, the Dunwich Legacy campaign has also given us a load more player cards, particularly cards at the higher experience levels. I wrote an article for Mythos Busters back in the autumn of last year, lamenting how few opportunities there were to really level up into the powerful options, and how a secondary class might as well be a primary one, given how few cards were out of scope.

Since then, things have improved massively, and probably at the time they needed to, when we actually have the XP to spend: XP is a bit harder to come by in Dunwich Legacy than it was in Night of the Zealot, but you’ll still chalk up a fair amount over the course of the campaign, and there’s plenty of choice on what to do.

ExceptionalThe introduction of permanent cards like Charisma, or the skill-boosting talents allow you to really focus the direction of your deck, but even without them, there are plenty of choices to make between powerful bomb effects like a Pocket Watch or Lightning Gun, and basic efficiency upgrades like simply taking the better version of a card.

I’ve never been the world’s greatest deck-builder, and the more the card pool expands, the more I’m sure I’ll find myself floundering with the best route to take. That said, the fact that we’ve reached the end of a full cycle and my wife is still choosing her own deck upgrades (in 6 years she has never built her own LotR deck) is another great testament to how well this game has been put together.

Carcosa

That’s about all I wanted to say on the Dunwich Legacy. A good mysterious cultists and forces which should not be tampered with story to get us started, with a few 1920s mobsters thrown in for good measure. From the little we know about the next cycle, Path to Carcosa, it looks like we could have a very different feel, something more psychological, where the danger is in your own mind, just as much as in the cultist’s knife.

Monsters of the Mansions: Part II – The Investigators

I’m aware that this blog has a habit of getting a bit number-crunch heavy at times, lots of theory, and not a lot of board game.

As part of an ongoing attempt to stem this tide of text, I try periodically to introduce some more visual content, looking at my efforts with the Paintbrush.

Today I’m going to return to Mansions of Madness- I did a painted low-down of the base game back in the autumn, and today I want to look at some of the expansions.

Mansions-Investigators-All

Suppressed Memories and Recurring Nightmares were 2 boxes that provided the tiles and figures of Mansions of Madness 1st edition for 2nd edition players – they disappointed some 2nd-edition fans with their lack of scenario/card content, but they way that they extend the range of Investigators and Monsters at your disposal made them a must-have for me.

Mansions-Investigators-Kate
Sadly, I can’t really get the pens in focus – that’s how detailed they are!

Between the 2 boxes, there were no fewer than 16 new Investigators made available. Some of them were really nice figures to paint, and I was really pleased with some of the details, like the creases on Kate Winthrop’s lab-coat, and the pens in her pocket.

Mansions-Investigators-Monterey-DexterThe Guys

Generally speaking, the male investigators in Mansions of Madness tend to be less interesting to paint – Darrell the Photographer, and Bob the Salesman particularly fade into the background, although figures like Dexter the Magician and Monterey the Archaeologist have a bit more of the unusual going for them.

Mansions-Investigators-Joe-MichaelThere are also a few rather more dynamic male investigators appearing in these boxes – Michael the Gangster and Joe the PI both come out all guns blazing – Joe feels a little bit over the top to me, but I like Michael’s scope, and he’s a fun investigator for scenarios that have a heavy focus on monster-bashing.

Mansions-Investigators-Vincent-Harvey

Relying more on mind than body, the next 2 male investigators are Vincent the Doctor, and Harvey the Professor – a lot more brown in the palette for these men (there’s no way I was going to paint Tweed pattern on something that size). I also liked Vincent’s Saw – definitely the approach to medicine you expect your Arkham Investigator to take.

Mansions-Investigators-AshcanOf course, no Arkham Investigators set would be complete without everyone’s favourite Arkham LCG Investigator, Duke, who comes to Mansions in the company of his faithful sidekick, Ashcan Pete.

Because Duke is so small, it’s quite difficult to get any meaningful detail onto his miniature (aside from the red scarf around his neck, but being the only dog in the set, he still stands out from the others quite well.

 

 

The Gals

Mansions-Investigators-JennyJenny Barnes is a character who takes quite a bit of flak from various members of our play-group, and you have to admit that her outfit looks better suited to society balls than creepy old houses. However, she’s a character with quite an interesting backstory, and very good utility in most of the different games, so I still wanted to do a good job on this one – the colour-scheme for her dress and hat vary across the different Arkham Files games, but on personal preference I went for the blue rather than the purple end of the spectrum.

Mansions-Investigators-GloriaGloria, the author was another fun one to paint- the shades of green weren’t that remarkable, but anyone who carries a typewriter like a handbag has done more than enough to catch my attention.

Sadly, this miniature arrived slightly damaged (leaning forward at quite a funny angle) and, although I’ve been able to correct it a bit with a hair-dryer and pot of cold water, there’s still a noticeable lean.

Mansions-Investigators-Amanda-Carolyn Amanda and Carolyn, the student and the Psychiatrist respectively, both have fairly blank outfits, but with a lot of utility in Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror, I still wanted the figures to look good – they certainly aren’t the stand-outs of the bunch (Amanda’s glasses are way too dark/thick-framed), but I think they’re passable.

Mansions-Investigators-Mary-MatteoSister Mary, like Father Matteo from the 2nd Edition core box, appears in clerical robes, and I decided to follow FFG’s illustrations with a brown colour-scheme, rather than black and white, which leaves them looking a bit less similar to one another.

 

Mansions-Investigators-MandyLast, but by no means least comes Mandy, the Researcher – this was a really difficult figure to paint, combining my two pet peeves from this range of figures – glasses and excessively detailed shoes. Overall though, I was quite pleased with the end result, particularly when viewed from a table-top gaming distance: the dark wash bringing out the detail lines in the jacket really well.

 

That’s about it for today – I want to aim more towards little and often with these pieces, but hopefully I’ll be back soon with some more Monsters