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.
The Circle Undone brings us back from the jungles of South America to the home comforts of Arkham, Masschussetes. There’s no place like home.
Before you get all excited and break out the new investigators we need to tackle the prologue scenario. Players will take on the roles of a bodyguard, secretary, philanthropist and housekeeper attending a party at the Twilight Estate when things go very wrong indeed. Most interestingly of all you won’t have a deck of resources to rely on, just a single hand of cards.
As a mysterious fog rolls in across the estate you will do your best to find out what is going on whilst keeping your character alive for as long as possible. There is no surviving this scenario, it makes it very clear from the start that no one will get out of here alive. You are going to be defeated, it’s just a matter of how.
Each of our characters starts off in a different part of the estate, gathering their meager resources to go up against unknown horrors. Faced with encounter cards right from the off this scenario doesn’t hold back and you are going to have to use your hands as efficiently as possible to come out of it well.
The Agenda, with its beautiful tarot art by Lenka Simeckova, will slowly chip away at your health, picking up the pace of the degradation as time marches on. The reverse tells us multiple ways our cast will meet their ends.
The Act card merely reinforces the fact that we aren’t going to make it out alice and our job is to get all the clues we possibly can before succumbing to the inevitable.
The way out of the mansion is blocked, the Entry Hall unable to be entered during the scenario. The guests panic, but the four of you are driven to find the truth, battling your way through the house. Each of the locations is used to showcase the new Haunted mechanic: punishing you for failing Investigate actions on these locations. This is a great new edition to the game and I hope that the designers continue to play with this kind of idea.
Overall this is a pretty straightforward scenario: avoid the gribblies, grab as many clues as you can, and survive as long as you can.
The chaos bag goes through its normal setup for this scenario, but interestingly only starts with skulls in it from a bad token point of view.
For the prologue the skulls hit us for a large -3 and trigger all the haunted effects if we are fighting or running away. That might not seem too bad, but the encounter deck can really build up those problems.
One of the nice things about this scenario is that we get some exposure to the encounter cards for this campaign before our investigators have to handle them for real. It’s interesting to note that, much like Forgotten Age, this scenario mostly uses cards from the Circle Undone core. This pushes the encounter deck more into the unknown which I really like. The designers will mess with some of the core set cards later in this cycle.
The Inexorable Fate set brings us Fate of all Fools one of which starts in play with Gabriella. The first of these does nothing but subsequent copies will either increase doom or damage the first person who drew one, Gabriella in this case. The decision about what to do will often come down to who got the first one.
Terror in the Night similarly builds and has the added problem of potentially coming round repeatedly when the encounter deck cycles or goes through one of its frequent reshuffles. In this particular scenario we start with 1 in play.
In the Realm of Death set both Shapes in the Mist and Realm of Torment focus on the Haunted keyword, forcing them to be triggered immediately/ beginning of the turn.
The Spectral Predators set gives us the first monsters of the campaign as well as doubling down on the Haunted mechanic. Whispers in the Dark piles another Haunted effect on top of the ones already present on every location. Horrible if anything from the Realm of Death set hits.
Shadow Hounds aren’t too tough to deal with and you really don’t want their Forced ability to come into play. The Nether Mist starts in play with Jerome in the Office, and has some great flavour. Effectively you can ignore it if you are confident of your investigative skills. If you do falter then you, get to shout ‘They’re coming out of the walls’ as the mist comes for you. Win win?
The Trapped Spirits set sees us potentially taking 3 damage from the card and it costs a lot to boost the test with cards. Next we come to one of my favourites from this deck, the Wraith. You can never get rid of them with their Forced ability seeing them retreat into the walls of the house when you beat down on them. They do a hefty amount of mental damage as well, so once they do retreat you might want to be careful failing Investigate checks.
The last new set in this deck deals with the Spectral Watcher. Much like the Wraith this monster just keeps on coming. Although he doesn’t hit too hard he is a constant drain on your resources, making him a particular pain in this scenario when you have so few. Watcher’s Grasp turbo charges the Watcher, making it come after the investigator who draws it.
Begin at the beginning
I love this scenario. It comes totally out of left field and feels like a really fresh way to start a campaign. I do think it doesn’t shake out quite as well on subsequent playthroughs and I do wonder how many groups might skip over it when playing through the campaign after the first time through. Either way this is a great start to a new campaign!