Innsmouth Conspiracy – Review

I bought Innsmouth Conpsiracy with my own money. This review will assume a basic understanding of how Arkham Horror: The Card Game works. Card images are copyright FFG and are obtained from ArkhamDB.

The forbidden books are open to me once more. After a couple of years of travels away from the world of Akrham Horror: The Card Game, I have returned to the hallowed library to bring you more insights into this fantastic game. 

This time round we are visiting the town of Innsmouth, in the core box of the Innsmouth Conspiracy. For those who have been following the game, you’ll know that Innsmouth was the last set to come out under the old model: core set + 6 mythos packs. This is just a look at what you get in the core, what it brings to the game, and some brief impressions of the scenarios therein. Spoilers will be mostly avoided but I’ll mark the section that chats about the scenarios if you want to avoid it all together. 

Five Go Fishing

As with other cores we get a bunch of new investigators, five in this case. I’m playing through the campaign without spoilers using Sister Mary. You can see my deck here.

Sister Mary Investigator card front
She’s going to bless that monster to death

Sister Mary: The Nun

I would describe Sister Mary as the core investigator for this cycle. The new mechanic in Innsmouth is Blessed and Cursed tokens and Sister Mary has an innate ability to manipulate these new tokens. Blessed and Cursed are a common mechanic across the rest of the Arkham Files series of games. These new tokens are added to the chaos bag in a variety of ways and Sister Mary chucks a couple of the Blessed type in at the start of the game and then adds another one every round! 

Why is that good? Well pull a Blessed token and you get +2 to your test result and pull another token. Cursed does the same but gives you -2. Once a Blessed or Cursed token is pulled from the bag it goes back to the token pool, meaning you want ways to constantly manipulate the density of these tokens in the bag. Sister Mary’s innate ability does this as does her unique card ‘Guardian Angel’ allowing her to absorb damage and chuck a load of blessed tokens in the bag for good measure. 

Amanda Sharpe Investigator card front
All that reading will pay off

Amanda Sharpe: The Student

They do love the Seekers at Fantasy Flight Games. Here we have another very powerful character, maybe slightly hurt by her low statline. Built in extra card draw is fantastic, remember that card draw gives you advantage and momentum. A repeatable card to commit to tests as well is extremely powerful. Her statline could make her potentially good at anything and she can take any practiced cards from any faction. I like decks that do this, they can always be a bit of surprise. 

Trish Scarborough: The Spy

I am honestly not sure what to make of Trish. A clue focused rogue is an interesting change to that faction and her stat line makes her good at evading and getting clues. Her theming is top notch, just not totally sure about the practicalities of running rings around monsters while trying to get clues from their location. Going to give it a shot at some point! 

Dexter Drake: The Magician

Do you want to engage in some nonsense? Have I got the investigator for you. Just when you thought you have run out of charges on Shrivelling you can ping another one into play, and it’s a bit cheaper! Recharging arcane assets in a Mystic deck has always been an issue and Dexter makes short work of it with his ability to manipulate his setup ‘Just Like That’. That is a fast action as well, making him able to pull a trick out of his hat to deal with the current situation. Wonderful.

Silas Marsh: The Sailor

Silas Marsh was originally released back with the novel The Deep Gate. As these books are generally hard to find, the rest of the community has had to wait till now to get their hands on this interesting Survivor. 

In a similar mechanism to Amanda, his ability focuses around returning a committed skill card to his hand after a test has completed. COnsidering some of the skill cards in Survivor I can see a lot of fun to be had with this. Definitely setup as a brawler type with a strong combat stat line, and a very decent weapon as part of his deck. 

Treasure in the Deep

Let’s look at some of the new player cards you get in this core. I’m going to pick out just one from each faction.

Rite of Sanctification

Every Sister Mary deck is going to run this. Even played first turn this is going to give your Sister Mary deck a whopping 4 resource discount from the two Blessed tokens she puts in the bag at the start of the game. Guardian is one of those classes always looking to pay for big card and this is a great way to do it at the cost of some goodness being sucked from the Chaos bag. You can always bless the bag again though. 

Deep Knowledge

Card draw is an advantage and this one lets everyone get to their essential cards faster. A lovely theme here where dark knowledge sets you up for a fall. It does make me wonder if Cursed had been introduced as a mechanic earlier in the game, could it have been used to balance out the more powerful seeker cards a bit more effectively. 

Faustian Bargain

I’m just loving the theming of these cards. A companion to Deep Knowledge above, this could see you getting setup quickly, but taking the hit later. Unless of course you engage in a Dark Ritual or two. 

Promise of Power

That is a LOT of icons. Hard to choose between this and the wonderfully thematic Sword Cane. Nah, it’s this. I’ve always love a good Devil’s Bargain. 

Beloved

Survivor cards for Innsmouth are a bit weird. They feel like they are waiting for an investigator to use them with as Sister Mary doesn’t have access. Beloved is the best themed and most powerful as Silas could commit it and the get it back while getting an auto-success. I guess the Blessed tokens on the Survivor cards are more representing the seat-of-the-pants nature of the faction and their innate good luck. 

SPOILERS! 

This is your spoiler warning! Awooga, Awooga, abandon the article if you do not want to know what happens at all in the scenarios in the Innsmouth Conpsiracy. I’m not going to delve into the mechanics of the scenarios, I’ll be looking at those in a future Beyond the Veil article, but I will be touching on the basic story.

Innsmouth resonates throughout Arkham lore and this expansion has been an inevitability since the inception of the game. 

In the core scenarios we see an interesting setup with the game starting in medias res. In the first part, The Pit of Despair, you must puzzle your way out of a rapidly flooding cave system to find yourself on the shores of Innsmouth itself trying to recall how you came to be there. Flooding is a new mechanic brought in for this campaign, and unsurprisingly it just makes getting around and investigating that bit harder. 

The second scenario, The Vanishing of Elina Harper, you flashback to how you got there. How you ended up in that cursed cave system. This may be one of my favourite scenarios so far as you effectively play Cluedo (Clue for my American readers) against a very tight timer as you work out who kidnapped a friend and where they were taken. 

I’ll be looking at both of these scenarios in future Beyond the Veil articles. For now I’ll let you know that I enjoyed them but that I have one concern and a criticism I think you should know going in. 

First my concern. At the start of the game the Chaos bag has a very dense bad token percentage, having two of each of Skull, Cultist, Tablet and Elder Thing. During Pit of Despair, you can get to remove some of these for the rest of the campaign. Doing so will make the rest of the campaign naturally easier and rewards more clue efficient investigator setups by giving them even more advantage later in the game. This is sometimes referred to as a win spiral in game design. I worry that less efficient setups will be punished long term but can’t judge that properly until I get to the end. 

My criticism is about the fiction leading into and in between scenarios. I like both of these scenarios to play, but the amount of fiction to get there is enormous. There has been a trend since the Forgotten Age expansion of more and more fiction in between scenarios. This is written like a novel but in group play, someone is going to have to read this out loud. The lead designer, MJ Newman, I know has an interest in novel writing, but I don’t want their desires to come between me and the game. I would really like the whole design team to rethink how they do the fiction in between scenarios, it’s getting a bit much. Can we reign it in a bit please MJ?

Hidden Depths

Much as I have enjoyed my journey to Innsmouth so far it is not a core set I would recommend as a jumping on point for the game. 2 tough scenarios coupled with investigators that feel like they need a deep card pool to utilise effectively will make for an satisfying new player experience.

For more seasoned players, this offers a lot of interest. Ignoring the ponderous writing, the scenarios are great and offer some interesting challenges. The Cursed/Blessed mechanic gives you some new options for bag manipulation and deck building. All the new investigators have their own quirks and could lead to some fascinating play styles. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the campaign and it’s shaping up to be one of my favourites.

If you would like to chat to me about Arkham Horror or anything else, then you are welcome to join the Giant Brain Discord.

Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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