Beyond the Veil – The Pallid mask

This article will look at an individual scenario of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. These will be my impressions after playing through the scenario and will be focusing on the mechanics and how those reinforce the story elements. 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.

In addition this breakdown will cover some of the elements from previous scenarios especially A Phantom of Truth.

ahc15_art_labyrinth-of-bones.png

I’d been looking forward to this scenario from the moment it was announced. It looked like a dungeon crawl and I was excited to see how the designers were going to implement such a thing within the Arkham Horror LCG system. It gives me great joy every time I see a scenario that subverts my expectations for how things should be in this game and this one is no exception.

Going Deeper Underground

The setup for this scenario is much simpler than for A Phantom of Truth, being a story that links directly and immediately to the events that occurred in Paris. There are no dreams to pick through, no hard choices to make in the setup, one way or another you are going to end up in the catacombs!

 

The first thing to note here is that locations that are adjacent to each other are connected, an important factor due to the nature of the setup. No matter where we begin, we find ourselves with a couple of choices for next steps, but with only ‘Catacomb’ written on the unrevealed side of each location we have to make bold choices and take risks in order to make our way through. We can choose which way to go, how to pick our way through the catacombs but at each step we will need clues to do so. This has a similar feel to the way the Train in the Essex County Express played out, but with a much more dynamic and varied layout.

 

The focus of this scenario is tracking down The Man in the Pallid Mask through the dank tombs and mysterious locations you come across. The setup involves making sure that the object of your mission, The Tomb of Shadows which brings The Man in the Pallid Mask into play, is in the bottom half of these locations. You are going to be scrambling around in the dark for a while before you make any progress.

03247b
What secrets lie within?

The focus of this scenario is tracking down The Man in the Pallid Mask through the dank tombs and mysterious locations you come across. The setup involves making sure that the object of your mission, The Tomb of Shadows which brings The Man in the Pallid Mask into play, is in the bottom half of these locations. You are going to be scrambling around in the dark for a while before you make any progress.

 

The 1st Act will flip when we reach the Tomb of Shadows. The agenda deck is not so similarly restricted and it is only a few turns before you’ll be finding yourself pursued by the Specter of Death that is on the back of Agenda 1. The Specter is a fairly nasty foe and how you deal with it will very much determine your success or failure in the catacombs.

ahc15_cardart_specter-of-death.png
Interesting to note that the Forced ability on the Specter is basically Alert from the Forgotten age.

Once the Specter appears and you move onto Act 2, you do have some time until the act flips but that doesn’t mean you can really hang around. Splitting up seems like the obvious thing to do, but as we all know that never really results in things going to plan (on top of this being Arkham were nothing ever goes to plan).

Some of the locations you’ll encounter have a wonderful flavour to them. Candelit Tunnels allow you to peer into the gloom and see what is coming, Bone Filled Cavern loses you a hand slot as you scramble through this grisly room and the Narrow Shaft is rather difficult to navigate (one of my investigators died getting stuck here!). It is worth noting that there is an errata for Candlelit tunnels as it should allow you to look at the revealed side of Catacombs locations i.e. it allows you to look at the side that does not say catacombs on it.

 

Enough of us admiring the scenery, with got a foe to engage with! The Man in the Pallid Mask is the key to the scenario and you must deal with him, either by attacking him or by spending enough clues whilst in the Tomb of Shadows . Either way you are going to find the catacombs around you starting to shake as the entire structure starts coming down upon your head!

The choice you made in dealing with The Man in the Pallid Mask leads you either out of the catacombs back onto the streets of Paris or down into the depths, following his path. Each of the resolutions here leads you to the events of Black Stars Rise. It is worth noting that the play comes back to haunt us in the No Resolution outcome, as one of the players is forced to read the 2nd act of the King in Yellow. Who knows what that will mean with only 2 more scenarios to go!

Order in Chaos

03240.jpg

Before we proceed to the encounters deck as usual, let’s take a moment to look at the changes in the chaos bag from last scenario. At the end of A Phantom of Truth, you remove all Cultist, Tablet and Elder thing tokens and do one of the following:

  1. No Resolution, or you run out of time on the Doubt path, gives you 2 Elder Thing tokens.
  2. You find Nigel’s home but he is nowhere to be found and 2 Cultist tokens are added to the bag.
  3. You find Nigel alive, or is he? You add two tablet tokens to the bag.

How does this affect our time in the catacombs? Well option 1 sees us overrun by Ghouls and Geists as both the resolutions that lead to that see you waking up in a random location in the catacombs, surrounded by unknown horrors. Nice flavour.

Option 2, sees us dealing less damage if the attack is successful perhaps representing you being unsure of what you are attacking, showing the doubt creeping into your mind as you did not intrude on the meeting earlier in The Last King.

Option 3, where you did intrude on the meeting, sees us being more quickly attacked by the creatures that do inhabit the catacombs. Perhaps they have been warned by their masters as you interfered in earlier plans and they are finally deciding to do away with you!

It is also worth noting that the skull token is a great piece of design in this scenario, making things harder as you go further and further into the darkness. I really enjoy these subtle little touches and I continue to find the chaos bag an absolutely fascinating piece of design that the creators of the game delight in manipulating.

Strange Encounters

The encounter deck for this particular scenario is all that you might expect from a visit to the Parisian undercity: cold, dank and full of ghouls, spirits and monsters.

Of course the catacombs are not only full of Ghouls and Geists from their respective sets, there are also strange old men who look after the place or in this case go a bit mad and try and take you with them. The Catacombs Docent can be chatted to for a look at the revealed side of any catacombs location, an errata similar to the one on Candlelit Tunnels, but keeping them around too long might send you barmy. Alternatively they might turn out to be a horrible Corpse Dweller, as tentacles, eyes and who knows what else burst from within to consume you! You can decide where the Corpse Dwellers spawn, if you have a target, but they will hunt you down regardless.

 

Meanwhile the atmosphere of the Catacombs comes to haunt even the most hardy investigators. Eyes in the Walls will drive everyone slowly mad, The Pit Below is hard to investigate but if you must spend time there be careful not to tary too long. My favourite card in the entire set though is The Shadow Behind You. This is a wonderfully thematic piece of design, forcing you to spend actions as you keep looking behind you, sure that something is there. Choosing the right moment to get rid of this is really difficult but can be done with due care and attention.

 

The rest of the encounter deck is focused around providing targets for the Corpse Dwellers in the form of the Ghouls, and making your time in the catacombs a little bit trickier with cards like Spirit’s Torment and Obscuring Fog.The whole deck is geared towards slowing you down rather than speeding the Agenda up, making you feel like the catacombs are really out to get you!

There’s Too Much Panic in this Town

The Pallid Mask is a wonderful break from the norm, providing a different layout and puzzle every time you tackle this scenario. Other scenarios have given us replayability through the inclusion of multiple copies of each location, but this one will have a completely different map each time you play it. I’m really looking forward to them doing more of this kind of dynamic layout in the future.

I loved clambering my way through the darkness of the catacombs and it felt nicely claustrophobic and difficult to navigate. Not knowing which location you are going to encounter next is a great way to lend an extra sense of tension and trepidation as you race through this ‘dungeon’ to your goal. I for one am very much looking forward to my next visit to the catacombs of Paris.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s