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 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.
We have endured much on our journey through The Forgotten Age: deadly jungles, crumbling ruins, time tearing itself apart, being ripped from our bodies and finally descending into the depths of the earth in our pursuit of the Nexus.
Upon reaching the bottom of the descent we hopefully have some torches on us to light the braziers around us and give us a beacon in the darkness. If we don’t then it’s fewer cards for us at the start of this scenario as we lose our way in the pitch black of this realm.
The setup sees our choices once more coming back to haunt us. If we have been siding with Ichtaca all this time then we add a few more cultists to the encounter deck mix, with Alejandro the serpent cult is on our case instead. The Vengeance we have built up will cause us problems: the lead investigator loses cards to the victory display, each one counting as a Vengeance, powering the encounter cards that rely on such things. That can’t be a good sign.
If I could turn back time
We step through the Nexus and see things we never thought possible. The beginning of this scenario sees a fairly straightforward Act and Agenda deck, but does have the slight wrinkle that if we have the Relic of Ages we really have to keep the investigator who has it safe. On top of that spawning enemies can cause locations to appear, which could be handy for avoiding the treacheries that are in the exploration deck.
The exploration deck starts out very tight, with 3 locations and 3 treacheries it becomes pretty likely you are going to hit the bad stuff early on, something to keep in mind when you send your investigator into the unknown.
The first thing to note about all the locations in the exploration deck is that they contain a fixed numbers of clues and we will find this is the case for all the locations in the game. Each location we go to without the explore action being involved is going to tear at our mind, the wrench of stepping between realities and times too much for our fragile brains. The larger our group the more our need to go out from the nexus to explore these Otherworld locations, heading out from the Nexus to see what we can find.
The Forced ability on the Nexus combines with the Forced ability on Act 1a to make for a bad time. Not only has a monster turned up but in robbing us of the ability to explore for that location we are going to have to take the horror to get there. The other locations have some wrinkles of their own.
Yuggoth has an interesting ability, potentially allowing us some extra cards in the twilight hour before doom pushes the agenda on. The other locations revolve around doom being placed on them meaning we may not have as long as we predict when it comes to the City of the Unseen but Shores is relatively easy to manage as it starts with such low shroud and few clues.
Our investigations complete we find ourselves at a Pocket in Time. We can only get there from the Nexus once it is in play and when we do enter it we proceed through to Act 2. This new place has windows to other times and places that we can step through. All these possibilities are shuffled into the exploration deck along with a random selection of Hex treacheries from the discard pile, 1 for each investigator.
Much like the Nexus above the Pocket punishes us for moving to locations more than once meaning we have to be wise about who we send through each portal. With a mighty 4 clues on one of these locations it means we have to proceed carefully if we don’t want to be defeated by moving around too much, being especially cautious if we have the Relic in play.
These locations all have their own quirks and I especially love the flavour on Atlantis literally succumbing to its doom. Plateau of Leng is pretty neat, hurting you if the Elder Thing symbol turns up as this is where they live. If the Yithian cultists are after you the Snake Cult of Valusia will aid you in your quest and similarly the Yithians will help you out in Pnakotus if the servants of Yig are out to get you.
The Agenda deck ticks on as we jump between times and realities. A simple countdown this scenario the Agenda just keeps throwing problems in the way: first the Formless Spawn and some added vengeance making our snake friends stronger if they are about, then bringing the spawn back into the encounter deck and finally just ending our time here. We do have a fairly generous 25 doom before the end here but with the encounter discard pile being shuffled back in a couple of times we could potentially see Ancient Evils 9 times.
If we have lost the Relic previously this part of the Act becomes much more arduous, requiring us to mine a 5 shroud location before we can proceed. Otherwise we can just pull it into play and set about stitching time back together. To do so we must visit many of these shattered locations, clearing them of clues then returning them to the relic via Act 4.
Appearing from the shadows we see Ichtaca or Alejandro in their true form, and we can try and parlay with either of them: seeking a way out of this predicament. Assuming for a moment we are unsuccessful in talking to either of them, and if we have too much Vengeance it is totally impossible with Ichtaca, we proceed on our own accord. If we obtained the version of the Relic from Depths of Yoth and did not lose the Relic anywhere in the interludes then we can go back to where it all began in the 9th secret scenario Turn back Time.
If we do manage to parlay either antagonist we are given another choice to lock away one of the locations of these two races: Valusia for the serpents and Ichtaca and Pnakotus for Alejandro and the Yithians. If we succeed then we carry on our lives with our new friends, the earth is saved but we are now stuck in this place beyond space and time.
If I could find a way
Secret Scenario! Didn’t see that one coming and I’ll admit I’ve never had it happen to me in a campaign. We head back to the Doom of Eztli determined to lock the Relic away once and for all. I’m not going to do a breakdown of this scenario at this time, as without experiencing it I can’t really comment. Love the idea of it though.
Skulls in this one are a straight -ve modifier that gets tougher as the scenario goes on and the Relic makes it’s appearance. The cultist and tablet make things more difficult with the enemies that are after us, which might be both Yithians and Snakes if we have walked a particularly fine line.
The tablet is especially harsh becoming an auto-fail for anyone who is poisoned, significantly more likely if Yig and his followers are pissed off with us. Finally the elder thing will constantly shuffle Hex treacheries back into the exploration deck, making our task harder. It is only a -2 though so most decks should be able to handle it at this late stage in the campaign.
The encounter deck for this scenario is an interesting one as the probability of cards turning up will be determined by your choices during the story. We get 4 sets that form the core of the deck; Shattered Aeons, Pnakotic Brotherhood, Temporal Flux and Ancient Evils. As we mentioned at the top we get either the cultists or the snakes added, both of which have 6 cards in them, keeping the probabilities steady. However if we have walked a fine line and sided with neither then we get both sets in, changing the probability of an individual card turning up. Something worth keeping in mind when managing the encounter deck.
Enough with the maths, let’s look at the encounter set for Shattered Aeons. The two monsters for this set are pretty big deals. Formless Spawn will enter play after the first Agenda is done, spawning at the Nexus. Now this thing hits very, very hard but it is easy to hit and to evade. In an added wrinkle it doesn’t move meaning it is only really going to cause us problems in the first half of the scenario, before we move base to The Pocket in Time. Even if you do manage to kill it, it gets brought back into play by the 2nd Agenda ticking over meaning you have to choose whether to get rid of it and move quickly or wait towards the end to take care of it if you want the xp.
The Temporal Devourer on the other hand doesn’t even get to spawn until we have some extra dimensional or shattered locations in play, meaning it is active in the latter half of the scenario. These guys are not as tough, but harder to handle and they move unlike our formless friend above. Although they don’t hit hard they are a pain, as clues will spawn on any extradimensional or shattered space they enter into. Also worth noting that the ‘farthest’ location isn’t going to be very far away in this scenario.
The rest of the encounter set very much sticks to the theme of time and reality coming apart at the seams. Between Worlds sucks us out of our location and leaves us hanging in the inbetween spaces, and it turns out those aren’t very friendly doing 1 damage and 1 horror if we are there at the end of the round. This card is connected to the Nexus which means we are probably going to have to deal with the Formless Spawn as this card brings us back to the start again and again.
Speaking of the Spawn, Creeping Darkness not only accelerates the Agenda it makes the Formless Spawn even tougher to take down. Shattered Ages can really slow things down, dropping clues all over the place and preventing the later acts progressing as we need to shove those realities back together. Always worth keeping a Deciphered Reality in your pocket for moments like that. I love Wracked by Time. The theme comes through in this card that hurts everyone at a shattered location, but with the added effect that cards removed by this damage go back in our decks. This can actually be used to recycle cards at the right moment, allowing you another swing with the Beat Cop.
The rest of the encounter deck is made up of familiar cards. Ancient Evils, making the progression of doom uncertain as always, time falls apart in Temporal Flux, the cultists get frisky with two potential sets and our friends the snakes may also make an appearance. The encounter deck is very Will heavy for this scenario so it is always a good idea to make sure most of the team can handle the occasional test for this stat.
A stitch in time
Time has run out and either we have managed to mend time, undone the whole thing or our minds have been shattered by the multiple realities we know can witness.
I have mixed feelings about the Forgotten Age. I really like the Explore mechanic, it was something I had wanted since the inception of the game, one we got a hint of with the Catacombs in The Pallid Mask and I really liked the implementation of it. I think the first half of forgotten age is really pretty good: jungles, mysterious relics, hints your companions are not who they claim to be and all the things that make up a good pulp adventure.
I don’t think it maintains that pace though and the latter half of the campaign feels like a stretched out narrative. This begins in Heart of the Elders where we have a cool idea, two part scenario, implemented pretty poorly leaving me feeling frustrated. This feeling of padding continues in City of Archives which I love as an idea, but just felt like it came totally out of left field. Depths of Yoth and Shattered Aeons bring the narrative back to it’s core, back to the Relic and the Nexus. These two scenarios are pretty good and I really like the feeling of descent in Yoth and the idea of pieceing reality back together in Shattered Aeons.
To me Forgotten Age has a lot of good ideas in it, but just stretched a little too thin. It could have easily been a core and 4 packs to tell a really tight narrative. Alejandro could have just been a bad man looking for power rather than being tied up with another faction entirely. This loads the narrative with too many factions for my taste and I would have liked to have seen them reduce the number of mystical players in the mix.
I loved the pulp feel of the start of Forgotten Age, enjoyed the ending but for me it is the weakest of the campaigns overall. I’ll admit I have a fondness for Dunwich as it was the first big campaign I played as the game evolved that might rose-tint my spectacles a bit. Forgotten Age just feels like a missed opportunity to have created a campaign that truly embraces the pulpier side of the Arkham Files universe.