Beyond the Veil – The Secret Name
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.
After the events of the core the Investigators are now embroiled in the machinations of the Coven and its enemy The Silver Twilight Lodge. Depending on the results of Scenario 2: At Death’s Doorstep, the investigators will be with or against the Lodge, or totally clueless as to what it is up to.
If the investigators are members, we begin in the lodge itself talking to its president, Carl Sanford. Immediately we are faced with a choice: tell the lodge of the coven, or deny any connection to them. If we tell them what we know, we get a cultist token in the chaos bag for our troubles. If we hide the connection, we deceive the lodge but to what end we don’t know at the moment. There is a nice touch here where if you deceive the lodge, any mystics in the party get some extra info.
The scenario kicks off properly, as we head to The Witch House, the former home of chief witch Keziah Mason. The investigators’ motivations for going there will be different depending on their relationship with the lodge, but the location we end up in is the same. We break into the abandoned house through a boarded up window.
The beautifully illustrated Agenda gives us a short initial timer, and a hint at what is to come: Non-weakness enemies get +1 health. Our objective from The Act is to find Walter Gilman’s Room. Well we know where it is as players, but it’s locked and requires a bunch of clues to bust it open, alongside the clues we need to complete the objective once we get in there. As we investigate we find all the rooms to be haunted, no surprise considering we are in a literal haunted house.
Our objective achieved, we find a mysterious book that we read aloud from because we have apparently never read a horror story before. The door slams shut, the room changes, and we find ourselves in the room of Keziah Mason. We have only one way out, investigating the room to trigger a card from the unknown places deck we put into place during setup. These places exist beyond space and time, in different dimensions, or somewhere else on earth. Each has its own flavour but my own personal favourite is Moldy Hall where you can request help from your past self, with possible consequences.
Your information gathered, you find the site where Keziah practiced her rituals at and decide to perform one of your own. Again, read a story or watch a film investigators! As we read the name Nahab aloud from the book, the apparition appears. She is not terribly formidable, but gets stronger depending on the stage the Agenda is at. She can never be fully defeated, just suppressed by the Forced ability on Act 3A.
The investigator’s job is to complete the ritual, investigating the site to figure out how, then binding Nahab to that place, or banishing her from it depending on how you read it. When there is no Doom on her we advance, hurtling back through time and space to the wooden floors of The Witch House.
The Agenda has of course been marching on through all of this. The first time it advances we meet Brown Jenkins, if we have not done so already through the encounter deck. A strange creature who benefits from extra health because of the act deck and buffs himself and all creature enemies when he is ready. Aren’t their rats in that encounter deck?
The first Agenda causes reality to shift as Strange Geometry enters the encounter deck. Agenda 2 means non-weakness enemies get even more health, boosting Jenkins and his rat friends once more. As it advances Nahab makes an appearance, and of course her familiar Jenkins tags along. He just won’t die! Agenda 3 also brings Nahab back into play, and along with 4 boosts the health of Jenkins and friends to even greater heights!
As the scenario comes to an end we have either failed utterly, or come closer to understanding the secrets of The Witch House and what happened here.
The scenario card here has been massively affected by our choices thus far. Accepting or rejecting our fate in the first scenario adds Tablets or Elder Things to the bag. Our friendship with the lodge has added a cultist if we have walked that path.
Skulls flat out make things harder, even more so in the latter part of the scenario. The Cultist makes us move through the encounter deck, maybe skipping over some things that might hurt us but also triggering some of the encounter cards more quickly. The knowledge we have gained from working with the lodge helping and hurting us in different ways.
Accepting our fate makes things a little easier than if we reject it. However tying ourselves to the fate of the town brings Nahab closer to you. Rejecting our fate means, everything is out to get us. The Fates do not like to be messed with.
It’s worth us looking at the only enemies in the The Secret Name encounter set: Brown Jenkins and Nahab.
Brown Jenkin will either turn up through the normal course of play, or be summoned from the deck by the progress of the Act deck. He is a sneaky fellow, being aloof, but will also follow investigators around, being a hunter. Although not very tough, he gets affected by the Act deck boost and while ready gets the extra fight from his own ability. Jenkin’s ties into Rats of course and also the Meddlesome Familiar card which will spawn him. As he isn’t worth any experience, he won’t go the victory display and will come back over and over again.
Jenkins, alongside the Agenda deck also powers up the Swarm of Rats that are in the deck making them a much larger threat than they have ever been before. It’s a really nice idea to bring back a creature from the core and look at them in a different light.
Nahab is the big bad of the piece, and like Jenkins doesn’t start out that threatening, but grows in strength the longer you spend in The Witch House. Her Forced ability will accelerate the progression of the Act dec, boosting her own strength and that of her familiar. Much like Meddlesome Familar, the Ghostly Presence encounter card will summon Nahab, on top of accelerating the act deck. Both the main enemies cannot be put down permanently.
The rest of The Secret Name encounter deck leans very heavily on will tests. Extradimensional Visions ties into some of the other cards: Hunted ability on Gilman’s room, the cultists token if we fail, and some of the encounter cards we will cover. This does mean this card’s threat is lessened if we have rejected the Lodge.
Pulled by the Stars lives up to its name by forcing us to move or take horror. A Will 3 test is pretty average, but can be circumvented by having Nahab exhausted at your location.
Disquieting Dreams is a tough Will check and when it does turn up it will accelerate the milling of the encounter deck, giving more power to Extradimensional Visions.
Strange Geometry leans into the strange nature of this place, popping up a dimensional pocket to investigate our way out of. Depending on who ends up here, you may just want to take the hit.
The rest of the encounter deck are all things we’ve encountered before. The hexes, Wracked & Bedeviled are much harder to shift with only one witch about. Diabolic Voices also gains the potential for being a real pain as it is much more likely that there is a copy of it in the discard pile. Centuries of Secrets also can power up Extradimensional Visions, and Evil Past can occur more frequently. The Realm of Death set adds extra power to the Haunted locations as before, and the Inexorable Fate set lives up to its name.
Rats in the Walls
I love this scenario. It takes a creature from the core, Rats, that had become an annoyance more than anything else, and gives them a new lease of life. THe recurring threat of Jenkins and Nahab give a real feeling of you staving of the inevitable, while each step of the Act deck makes them more threatening.
Taking the core and twisting it is a superb trick, and this scenario has a real sense of pace that gives it a wonderful feeling of the walls closing in around you. Definitely one of my favourties.