This article will look at an individual scenario of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. These will be my impressions after playing through the scenario at least once and will be focusing on the mechanics and how those reinforce the story elements of a given scenario. These articles will contain extensive spoilers and assume a familiarity with the terms and mechanics of the game. Please do not read on if you have not played the scenario in the title yet.
Welcome to the bayou folks where there are strange goings ons in this first standalone expansion for the Arkham Horror LCG, The Curse of the Rougarou. Yeah you’ve had a bad time in Arkham, The Dunwich Legacy or along the Path to Carcosa but how about a nice break in a swamp? Spend some of your precious XP to take a walk on the wild side and who knows you might come out better for it or at least a bit hairier. I meant harder. Yes, harder.
Awooo, Werewolves of Arkham
Upon arrival in the bayou you realise that vacationing here was probably a magnificently bad idea. It is a swamp after all! However it is just a swamp, at least for now. Setup involves putting the Rougarou encounter set aside, meaning that for now all you have to do is deal with the usual goings on in a swamp, you know Crocodiles, mysterious women in huts and mud.
Yeah that’s why you are really here, to hunt down whatever is killing people in the Bayou, after a tip off from your journalist friend in Arkham points you towards a mystic calling herself Lady Espirit.Your first task is to find her hut in the bayou.
After you locate her in the swamp and get the information you need a piercing howl breaks out across the bayou and the monster itself makes its first appearance. Here is where things really step up a notch. Shuffling in the set aside Rougarou cards and putting the beast itself into play the lead investigator falls to their knees and takes on a new weakness, things are about to get hairier, I mean scarier. Yes, scarier.
Arkham Werewolf in New Orleans
Act 2 shows where this can go next. You know there is a monster out there but the lady in the shack has told you that it used to be a man. So do you just kill the killer or do you try and redeem him? The Act gives you the option to resolve this either way, but who knows what trials you will need to face before being able to redeem him.
Well the back of the Act does. The first time you try and figure out another way, engaging with The Rougarou as per the act card you get a glimpse of the 4 things you need. Clues, traps, calming solution and the beast to have taken a wound or two. This path is harder and not all good deeds go unpunished, but maybe it is the more moral way to go.
Traps and the devices to calm the beast are gained from investigating the Bayou, clues the same but they can also be gained from the Rougarou himself and of course you need to damage him a bit.
See the rougarou is a wily foe and the encounter deck that comes with him makes him move about, gain in strength etc. The really clever bit comes when the Rouagrou is hit. If you manage to damage him he runs away to lick his wounds, bleeding as he goes and this is represented by him dropping clues as he goes, which you can gather to try and cure him. This is a lovely piece of thematic design and a reminder that you have no idea what to expect from a given scenario. It is this freshness, this willingness to inject new ideas that keeps me coming back to Arkham again and again.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game is at its heart a game about your character and their choices in the face of unimaginable horrors, it is not about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ in the traditional sense of games. Rougarou came out just after the core set, which is a fine product and gave the game a great foundation to build on. Rougarou is a different beast, presenting an actual moral choice to be tangled with: do you kill the beast, knowing you may be able to redeem it, or do you just go in all guns blazing, blow the smoke away from your gun and walk off into the sunset.
It is therefore a little unfortunate that the outcomes of the scenario are a little more black and white mechanically speaking. If you kill the Rougarou then you gain an ally in the form of Lady Espirit and all weaknesses fall away from you. If you redeem it, curing the unfortunate man of this affliction you gain the weakness but also the ability to shape shift. I mean gaining the ability to become a werewolf is sort of cool, but the addition of a weakness, and one that causes horror no less, can be a real problem.
The Monstrous transformation is great for a fighter character, but since these folks tend to come with lower sanity, the weakness could be a real problem. Now there are ways round this and choices like Peter Sylvestre, who hugs you and tells you it’s ok to get a little ‘hairier’ every now and again. Smoking pipes, cuddly dolls all these things can help you feel better about getting a little ‘hairier’ from time to time.
As I’ve already said Arkham is not about winning and losing in the end, it’s about the journey of your characters. The side quests cost a certain amount of XP to take on, but the rewards in XP are usually more than you put in and you often come away ‘changed’, in this case literally.
Hungry like the Wolf
Rougarou was an excellent start to the standalone scenarios that FFG are putting out and the next one Carnevale really shows the challenge and invention they are willing to pour into these side quests.
The Arkham mechanics are a sandbox for innovative designers and the team at FFG continue to surprise, experiment, delight and horrify in equal measure and I look forward to what they are going to bring to my table in the future. (Spoilers: Path to Carcosa is Amazing!)
[If you like this article then please check out my others in this series here]