Beyond the Veil – Wages of Sin
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.
You escaped the Witch House, the sound of skittering and gnawing still ringing in your ears. Keziah Mason is left behind for a moment, but our investigations into the witches continue with a trip to the Arkham graveyard. Nothing bad has ever happened on the full moon in a graveyard, has it?
The setup for this one is fairly involved so make sure to take your time picking your way through it. By the end you should have 5 sets of cards
- The Watcher encounter set
- Spectral web assets, which we get depending on how well we’ve done gathering mementos up to this point.
- 4 Heretics out of the possible 6
- An encounter deck made up of all the cards with Spectral trait
- An encounter deck made up of all the remaining encounter cards
This setup tells us we are going to be stepping between the real and the spiritual world , dealing with all sorts of ghosts and other things that go bump in the night. There is a lot of replayability baked into this scenario, with many possible location combinations and of course the change in Heretics each time around.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, the art on the Agenda cards this campaign have been absolutely superb. I would happily have posters of them on my study walls. We kick off the scenario firmly rooted in the real, picking our way round the Arkham graveyard looking for information about the coven. For now we have no need to go beyond the Haunted Fields and the Abandoned Chapel, the other locations having no clues to point us in the correct direction.
As we complete the Act, all hell breaks lose and The Heretics make an appearance, nasty ghosts whose banishment has become our primary goal. Our aim becomes to banish as many of these rogue spirits as we can before scarpering for the safety of town. Well this is Arkham, so relative safety I guess. Unfortunately we find them annoyingly aloof when in the real world and we will have to step through the veil that separates the world of the living and the world of the dead before we will be able to take them on. We do have some help here in the form of the Spectral Web assets that are added to our play areas if we have enough mementos recovered from previous scenarios. These aren’t terribly useful to the fighters amongst the group, but can be used by the more intellectually minded to take the Heretics down.
Luckily the new Act allows us to take a fast action to do this, so we can take them on one at a time without the threat of the spectral coming after us. Of course the Agenda is ticking away and after 8 rounds is going to turn all the locations Spectral regardless. When the Agenda does force the issue, it brings with it our friend the Watcher, one of those enemies that just keeps on coming, a feature that will be a theme of this particular scenario.
How will we go about taking down these heretics? The clues that lie scattered about prove useful as fodder for the Spectral Webs, but also allow us to check out the reverse side of each card. What we find there are instructions on how to banish each Heretic once and for all. If we just beat them into submission, then we get to look at this as well but without checking each one out first (you can read them all at this link but I couldn’t find images for the back of the cards).
How you handle this will depend very much on your group. 4 out of the 6 heretics will end up in your threat area with a ‘ritual’ of sorts required to banish them. They become Unfinished Business. You might want to make sure that each Heretic ends up on the best character to deal with that ritual. The other 2 will attack back regardless if you Parley or not, so you might just want to roll the dice (I’ve done poorly at this scenario when I played it, so don’t come to me for tactical advice).
As the scenario wraps we have either run away, or succumbed to the machinations of the spirits that roam this cursed place. Interestingly the outcome is almost the same in each case, giving us a memento if we didn’t make a full sweep (very unlikely) and some experience for what we did achieve. The only difference is that we survived the watcher’s embrace if we succumbed. I am sure that won’t come back to haunt us.
As with previous scenarios the main difference in our bag is going to be the choice we made early on. If we embrace our fate we see Tablets in the bag, reject it then it’s Elder Things. Now we have an additional wrinkle in that if we have helped the Lodge out we will have some Cultist tokens in the bag representing our relationship with this most mysterious of organisations.
The skulls just mess with us, making the scenario harder as the story proceeds. If we have a relationship with the lodge then that’s an extra -3 in the bag on top of angering the Heretics and making them tougher to fight and evade. It’s not even an “on fail” effect, it just happens! Nasty. If we’ve embraced our fate, then the inevitable happens as we deal with the heretics and we get hit with their Forced effect more often. Rejection of our fate, haunts our path as the haunted locations make their presence known.
A lot of the cards in the encounter deck are familiar friends by now, but this scenario does split things up into a Spectral and Real World encounter deck. Let’s look at each of those separately, with a particular eye on the cards that this scenario introduces. Keep in mind that you keep each deck separate and that they have their own discard piles. Before we get to those though, lets take a look at the star of the show, the Heretics.
The heretics are a relatively nasty takedown, especially as we are only 3 scenarios into the campaign and haven’t maybe had the time to gear up as much as we would like. A significant health pool, relatively tough fight and an average evade make them an enemy to contend with. On top of that if you don’t Parley them first, you may end up fighting them twice in order to banish them, though this does only occur on 2 out of the 6 possible Heretics. Thankfully they don’t hunt, so we can gear up to go and get them, but with limited time you need to pick your targets wisely.
The Wages of Sin set gives us 4 new cards to our real world encounter deck. Ominous Portents, gives us a glimpse of what may be coming in the Spectral encounter deck, though the secondary effect could be relatively easily tanked or overcome by the right character. Grave-Light doubles down on the foreshadowing by setting up a straight up hit to the face when it appears in the Spectral deck.
Punishment is a new Hex type card, forcing us to consider our actions as we lay into the ghosts of this scenario. It has a medium difficulty check attached, but can also be gotten rid of in the presence of an exhausted Witch as with previous cards Wracked and Bedeviled, both of which are in this deck.
Finally we have a new enemy in the Vengeful Witch. Likely we won’t be in the location she spawns in, due to the clues we need initially not being in either of those locations. She is Alert and a Hunter, but is certainly not that difficult to take down. Her Forced effect could be pretty devastating if you are forced to take her down with multiple investigators in the same location. Of course the Vengeful Witch just gives more fuel to the Priestess of the Coven, but also means it is easier to shake those annoying Hexes.
There isn’t much else worth mentioning in the rest of the encounter deck for the real world, it’s all cards we have seen before and none of them are particularly nasty in this setup.
The Spectral World
On the spiritual side of things we have a slightly smaller encounter deck, meaning each item in it is more likely to occur, something worth considering as you step through the veil.
Burdens of the Past either surges or smacks us with the Unfinished Business cards we have in our threat area, the reverse of each Heretic card has this title and some can end up in that area. Bane of the Living could be a real issue depending on your group make up and the character that draws it. If you are combat light it’s going to be a pest whichever choice you make.
We have another new monster in the third and last card that the Wages of Sin set adds. Malevolent Spirit, takes some queues from The Watcher, in that you can never really defeat it. It’s relatively harmless in the real world, but as soon as we encounter it at a spectral location it gets a good bit scarier. It is a relatively easy fight check and most fighters should have no issue in keeping it suppressed with a good hit or two.
Realm of Torment and Shapes in the Mist come back to make sure those Haunted effects aren’t forgotten about.The rest of the set is all familiar and includes a personal favourite Wraith. Just lots of good spooky themed cards in there that reinforce the feeling of the place being haunted.
Who you gonna call?
Wages of Sin is a fast, brutal scenario that will leave you reeling the first time through. That said I really like it and think it’s a great scenario with a compact map that lends to a feeling of claustrophobia and creepiness. Onwards to find what we can do For The Greater Good.