Beyond the Veil – Union and Disillusion
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 at the Silver Twilight Lodge, you have made a choice as to side with the Lodge or Coven in their efforts around the town of Arkham. Whatever faction you are siding with, you are headed to the Unvisited Isle to finally put pay to its name. But seriously folks. The Lodge and the Coven are up to no good and you are here to help/hinder them in their nefarious plans.
Immediately upon arrival at the isle investigators are presented with a choice: side with the lodge or the coven. Interestingly this is not tied to the choices you made during ‘For the Greater Good’ so you can narratively stab one of the factions in the back.
We find ourselves also affected by the events in ‘Disappearance at the Twilight Estate’ the prologue scenario to all these events. Our narrative backstabbing, if we have gone that route, becomes a mechanical back stabbing giving us 4 different possible conclusions to this scenario. That’s a good amount of replayability baked into the scenario from the off.
It’s clear during setup that we will be lighting or extinguishing braziers across the island to either help or hinder the ritual. Also that our efforts in the graveyard during ‘The Wages of Sin’ have come back to haunt us. We start with doom on the Agenda equal to the number of heretics we let loose into Arkham.
Finally we are instructed about a new type of action on these cards called circle. These will be used to extinguish or light the braziers across the island. Some of these will use two skills, allowing you to use cards that affect either skill to boost checks.
The beautifully illustrated Agenda gives us a straightforward countdown. The Unvisited Isle Act is also similarly straight forward. We need 3 x Investigators in clues and these should easily be obtainable from the Forbidden Shore and the Univisited Isle locations we have in play. Of course before we make our way into the centre of the island we must pass the circle test on the Forbidden Shore. As has been the case throughout this campaign, the Haunted keyword brings a frisson of danger to our investigations.
Our first Act down, we venture further into the island only to become lost in the woods! I love this mechanic as we are so used to filling in the weakness of one investigator with the strengths of another. This puts pay to that, and makes it an urgent matter to bring this isolation to an end. Alone in the woods, we encounter the fates of those we inhabited in the prologue. We also find ourselves affected by the events of ‘At Death’s Doorstep’, the interlude within putting us ‘on the trail’ of one or more of the missing people from the prologue. Those we have got scent of we find alive and well, and an ally to help us escape the woods.
Those that were ‘taken by spectres’ come back as enemies, intent on revisiting the harm caused to them upon us! There is a possibility that neither of these will happen, but it is much more likely that you’ll either get a friend or an enemy. The enemies versions are of medium difficulty, doing a couple of damage each and being relatively difficult to dispatch in one hit.
Act 2 has us stuck at our location until clues are found. 4 shroud is the maximum and it will probably fall to the seekers and secondary clue gatherers to do the job. The ‘haunted’ keyword discourages others from just having a go. This can be a tricky part of this scenario as the squishier clue gatherers find themselves having to contend with tricky to kill geists. The quicker you can get back together the better!
The ritual is all about The Spectral Watcher. We are going to be binding it if we are with the Lodge or setting it free if we are with the Coven. The Watcher appears at the start of Act 3, along with its encounter cards, but fear not! The investigators have found each other in the woods and The Geist Trap is revealed. Not that we can get there without lighting, or extinguishing all the braziers on the Island.
There are 4 possible Act 3 cards, depending on our loyalties and hidden Agendas. All of these will lead to a fight with the Spectral Watcher.
Version 1 sees us fighting the Coven, we add their encounter cards to the deck, Anette Mason possibly making an appearance and a desperate fight to contain the Spectral Watcher. If we are successful we move to The Binding Rite for act 4.
Version 2 sees little change in the encounter deck, just removing the cultist tokens from the bag. Throughout the campaign these have been added to the chaos bag to represent our infiltration of the Silver Twilight Lodge, a pretense that is now gone as we turn against them. To my mind version 2 sees us betraying the Lodge after getting to the very highest echelon of their organisation, a betrayal they find so shocking you wrong foot them.
Versions 3 & 4 see us fighting the lodge openly, and their cards are added into the mix as we bring our scenario to a conclusion. 2-4 see us moving to The Broken Rite for act 4.
If the Binding Rite is successful we are once more asked if we truly believe in the vision of the Silver Twilight Lodge. If we are ‘In’ then the campaign is over. The lodge has what it needs and you will be part of their terrible plans for the future.
Other paths out of this situation see either Annete Mason possessed by The Spectral Watcher, or Carl Sanford having the Secrets of the Universe. The situation looks grim but we may have some new allies to help us in with our struggles in the form of the survivors of the prologue.
Let’s not forget about our Act deck. It ticks along quite the thing giving us 19 turns to complete the game, perhaps less depending on how we did during ‘At Death’s Doorstep’. Act 1 flipping seems inevitable and powers up the watcher with the souls it took during the prologue. Act 2 is just the end, causing physical trauma as we fail in our attempts.
Skulls provide a straight modifier, giving us an extra problem with circle tests. If we are carrying the Black Book from earlier in the campaign these are more likely to turn up. Cultists are -3, our exposure to the lodge not helping us here and affecting out physical or mental health.
Tablets which we have from accepting our fate, sees spectres coming after you, trying to stop what you will inevitably do.
Rejecting it makes our task harder, and see the ritual resisting us as we try to bend fate to our will.
The enemies in the Union and Disillusion set number just two, seeing the return of the Whippoorwill alongside some Raven buddies.
Whippoorwills are just a pain when it comes to circle tests. Spectral raven is similarly annoying, hunting us and triggering haunted abilities/getting harder to kill until we deal with it.
Watcher’s Gaze is a great thematic card, as the being casts its eye upon us like that of Sauron. Marked for Death does what it says on the tin, damaging us if we can’t avoid the entities in the fog. Death approaches ties into it, giving us horror that makes it more difficult. Psychopomp’s song and Eager for Death similarly match up for horror.
The rest of the encounter deck sees some returning favourites. The Watcher returns of course along with cards that heal him and cause him to hunt us down. We also see ourselves against the Lodge or Coven encounter set towards the end of the scenario. Inexorable Fate set see the return of Fate of all Fools and Terror in the night, accelerating doom/damage and horror. Spectral predators set makes sense due to the theme of the scenario. Realm of Death and Chilling Fog add to the atmosphere of fog, mist and things moving around within them. Ancient Evils rounds off our set, making the end point of the scenario a little uncertain.
This scenario caused some controversy when it came out. The abrupt end it could bring to the end of the campaign took everyone by surprise. Previous campaigns had only been able to come to an end in the penultimate or final scenario. I personally love it. You’ve sided with evil and they’ve won! Good job, here is your robe and how to chant. It could maybe have done with some sort of ‘Beyond the point of no return’ warning like you get in some computer games. It is a bit of culture shock to realise the last two scenario packs might not be played this run through. Of course you can just replay the scenario or make a different choice in retrospect.
There is a certain brazenness to following the Silver Twilight Lodge thread to it’s horrible conclusion which I really admire. You know they are up to no good, and you choose to side with them anyway. However if you didn’t bring the world to an end, then we move on to find ourselves in ‘The Clutches of Chaos’.