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 began with a trip to a party, events taking place before we even pick up our Investigator decks. Now we set off properly on our mission, thrust into a world of fate, witches, and mysterious goings on (are there any others in Arkham).
The Witching Hour sees us encountering the fortune teller Anna Kaslow, reading our future in her deck of cards. We have a choice to make straight off the bat that will resonate down throughout the campaign; do we accept or reject our fate. Whatever we choose the outcome is the same as we awaken lost in the Arkham Woods with none of our fellow investigators in sight.
During the setup here it is worth noting there is a FAQ instruction to change how you assign the woods and also to increase the number you put out from 4 to 5. With the original setup it was possible to not have enough clues to flip the first Act card. Poor show Fantasy Flight Games.
The Act card, Lost in the Woods, spells out our predicament. The locations in front of each investigator are not connected to those in front of other investigators, nor can we enter locations in front of other investigators. This can be a bit of a problem for investigators who aren’t great at being on their own, especially this early in the campaign. What do those woods look like, and can we see the trees?
Let’s face it we are in the Witch-Haunted Woods and nothing is looking good. To my mind they split up into 3 types here. The first lot are straight up cards with penalties for discovering clues at the location or just for being there when a monster spawns; Overgrown Barn, Cairn Stones, Child’s Tree House, and Hermit’s House. The second lot have restrictions on when you can investigate, but a fast action on them that lets you help out other investigators in the early setup phase of the game; Lonely Tree and Abandoned Mine. The last one is a category of one card which is straight up ok to be at, and other investigators can help you with the test there despite the separation; Tainted Well. All these locations are victory points so you might want to clear them of clues as much as you can.
BACK ACT 1/ FRONT ACT 2
Once we’ve gathered enough clues we see if we can’t find our way back to each other. The Arkham Woods locations from the last scenario of the original Night of the Zealot campaign come back into play here, a familiar place to be and rooting this scenario right back into the origins of the game. We have some pesky Goat Spawn annoying us, but if we are lucky we will start disengaged from them as we move into Act 2.
Unfortunately we still haven’t met up with our fellow investigators, our locations still not connected from the Act card instructions. However, we now need less clues to advance, but they all have to come from one investigator. This is where things can get a little tricky, as you try and figure out who among you is best to carry this off. Some of the Witch-Haunted wood locations can be handy here, like Overgrown Barn that allows you to attract monsters to your location, leaving your clue gatherer to get on with the job.
As we fight our way through the dense Arkham woods, we finally see the path and can now team up and get on with working out what on earth is going on. This third act just sees us gathering clues as fast as we can, eventually bringing us to the Witches’ circle that is on the back of the card (still love when they do this).
Act 4 tells us we have come across a ritual and we have a choice about how we handle this. Anette Mason stands in the middle of the circle and she is one tough cookie, spawning Witches, fighting hard, and having a fair amount of health. We can of course try and get all the clues of the location instead of taking her on, and our choices will affect the outcome of the scenario.
While all this is going on, the Agenda Deck is of course ticking away. Agenda 1 doesn’t do anything, but on flipping spawns a witch on the investigator who has the most developed board state. Agenda 2 is where things get really nasty, forcing more doom to appear as Witch enemies make their way to the Witches’ Circle for the ritual. An excellent bit of flavour that sets the clock into a rapid countdown. If that clock times out then it’s more weaknesses for you, or a mental trauma but the former seems much more likely.
When the scenario shakes out, there a variety of different outcomes depending on when you were defeated or how you dealt with the tirual. Effectively our victory choices allow us to approach the conclusion with more of a conciliatory tone or straight out violence. If failure comes during act 1 or 2 then this is the worst outcome, giving us nothing in the way of mementos, that will come in very useful later on.
At the start of this scenario we either accepted our fate, adding two tablet tokens to the bag, or rejected our fate, adding two elder thing tokens to the bag. Let’s see if that is reflected in the scenario card, keeping in mind that the initial bag has only skulls in it.
Skulls fire cards off the encounter deck if we fail, and we will come back to this when we look at that deck as many of the cards in it can go and look for cards in the discard pile, much like the back of Act 1 has already.
Accepting our fate sees us with a much lower modifier on the token, but extra encounter cards if we do fail, maybe a reflection of the fact that although we have resigned ourselves to our fate, we are still going to be beset by troubles. Rejecting our fates see us much more likely to fail a test on the tablet, and if we fail the witches are going to be much more of an enemy, readying and healing those enemy types at your location. This almost forces us into attacking them when the Circle is revealed as we go into Act 4.
The encounter deck for this scenario has a combination of old friends and new enemies. The actually set from the scenario only consists of one card, Anette Mason.
Although not as intimidating as some other monsters in the game, she has a good set of stats making it relatively hard to fight and evade her, especially considering that getting the investigators setup might have been a problem due to the isolated nature of the first part of the scenario. Her ability to spawn witches is particularly nasty in combination with Agenda 2.
Talking of Witches. The next set is Anette’s Coven, which is surprisingly enough Witches all the way down. Coven Initiate is a pretty weedy monster but their ability can really rack up the amount of Hex Treachery cards going around. The Priestess of the Coven is a little beefier, hitting pretty hard, but also gets bonuses based on the witches in the discard pile. Not only that but she readies and attacks when that deck runs out of cards. Remember the skulls from the scenario card? They accelerate the possibility of this happening, making things just that little bit more treacherous.
Witches would be nothing without a curse/hex or two and those come from the City of Sins and Witchcraft sets. Centuries of Secrets is a pretty brutal Will test, hitting us and our allies for damage if we discard a Curse card during the resolution. Keep in mind this is direct damage, so your investigator has to take it and can’t put it on any cards. Evil Past makes that encounter deck running out just a little bit nastier again, but is relatively easy to get rid of once it does trigger.
The Witchcraft set gives us more of the same with 3 new treacheries. Bedeviled shuts down our ability to use actions on cards, while Wracked reduces our skills in the first test of a turn. Both of these can be discarded with a Will test, or if we are clever about it we can get rid of them without having to test if an exhausted witch is at the same location. The times I have played this scenario, that fact has been very handy. Lastly in this set we have Diabolic Voices, a card that starts off easy to beat and handle, but gets progressively more difficult as the scenario goes on. It can be tanked to a degree, but you don’t want it hitting you at a vital moment.
During the setup we put aside the Agents of Azathoth and Agents of Shub-Niggurath sets. The latter of these can be found in the core, and might be encountered during the Night of the Zealot campaign. I have never done Beyond the Veil for the core, so let’s take a look at both these sets before wrapping this up.
Agents of Azathoth comes from the Circle Undone box, I wonder who the Ancient Evil might be at the end? This is a simple set that contains 3 copies of Demonic Piping, a card that will eventually summon the Piper of Azathoth. Easy to evade, hard to fight with a beefy amount of health, the Piper hits Sanity hard, appropriate considering the art (which I totally love). One of the piping cards gets shuffled into the deck when you hit Act 2, the others ending up in the discard pile. The faster that deck gets depleted, the more likely it is the Piper is going to come calling.
The Agents of Shub-Niggurath have the Goat Spawn that appear during Act 2. They aren’t terribly hard to deal with, but they do have the wrinkle of causing horror when they are killed. If you are playing with 4 players you also get the joy of being joined by a Relentless Dark Young, a monster that really needs some concentrated fire to bring it down.
The rest of the encounter deck is all things we have seen before Ancient Evils and Striking Fear. All in all an interesting set, with plenty to fight in it and an emphasis on discarding cards from the encounter deck and then fishing for those cards.
The Clock strikes Thirteen
I really like this scenario. The sense of isolation at the start, gives way to relief when you can finally get the gang back together and get to the bottom of what is going on. The use of the locations from the core set gives a real feeling of nostalgia, and makes it seem like we are coming home after our adventures around the world in The Forgotten Age. Next we revisit the scene of the crime, the location in the Prologue, in At Death’s Doorstep.