Let Your Arrow Fly True
Stepping Beyond the Core Set in Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Your investigations into strange goings-on in Arkham are only the beginning...
If you've played even a bit of Arkham Horror: The Card Game, you know that the forces of the Mythos arrayed against you are relentless. With every new campaign, there are new terrors that await and new dark secrets to uncover. It can seem like a lot, but even if all you've played is the Core Set, there's an easy path forward for you. Today, we turn to our guest writers Frank Brinkley and Peter Hopkins to illuminate that path!
Frank and Peter on Moving Beyond the Core Set
For many players, their first taste of Arkham Horror: The Card Game comes with The Night of the Zealot, the Core Set campaign, and it leaves them itching for more. They long to uncover secret arcane histories, explore forgotten lands, or delve into mysteries better left unexplored. But working out where to go next, let alone who to play or what deck to bring, can sometimes be a daunting prospect. But fear not, Frank and Peter are here to help! Today, we outline how to take the leap from the Core Set to your first deluxe expansion and beyond, as well as discussing deckbuilding in limited formats. Whether you’re a newer player looking for guidance or an experienced player in search of a deckbuilding challenge, we hope there’s something here for you.
Where does one even begin? Fortunately, every campaign in the game begins with a deluxe expansion! Each deluxe expansion (such as The Dunwich Legacy, The Path to Carcosa, The Forgotten Age, and more) ushers in a new campaign of the same name. In the box itself, you’ll find two or three initial scenarios, with the following six Mythos Packs fleshing out the campaign until you have a story told in around eight parts. All of the cycles are designed to be accessible for newer players and each has its own flavor and style. If in doubt, just pick the one with the theme that most catches your eye.
In addition to new scenarios to test your wits, each cycle brings a host of new player cards to expand your deckbuilding options. Mythos Packs offer additional player cards for each faction, and the deluxe expansions even come with new investigators. By jumping from the Core Set to just a single deluxe, your choice of investigators at least doubles! And that’s not all: every investigator uses the cardpool in different ways. For a closer look at how your choice of investigator affects deckbuilding, you can check out our previous article here.
The Old Witch and the Fanged, Furry Horror
Frank and Peter have decided they want to shake things up and face the chilling past of Arkham in The Circle Undone deluxe expansion. They know that the key challenges of this fateful campaign are going to be investigating haunted woods and corrupted graveyards, as well as tackling the hexes slung at them by witches. Can they withstand the fate in store for them?
We set out to build two new decks with investigators from The Circle Undone, our chosen deluxe expansion, only using cards from that box and the Core Set. In part, this is to illustrate how a newer player can approach combining the player cards of a deluxe expansion with their Core Set collection, but it’s also to demonstrate the challenges of deckbuilding with a restricted cardpool. We often think of deckbuilding as choosing from everything available, but how do decks shape up when cards are limited?
We have also allowed ourselves access to a single Mythos Pack. A couple of extra player cards aren’t going to let us create entirely new deck archetypes, but even a single card can go a long way to giving a deck some emphasis or flavor—that little bit of special sauce, the tilt that casts new light on how a deck might operate. For the newer players, this can also work as an example of what happens when you add a Mythos Pack to your collection. Perhaps there’s a particular card you’re after for your favourite investigator or a certain scenario you’re excited to try, or perhaps you just love the look of the art on the pack.
In this instance, we are going for In the Clutches of Chaos.
The allure of new investigators is strong, so Frank and Peter discuss investigator pairings. Carolyn and Joe invert Guardian and Seeker roles neatly, which could be entertaining, while Carolyn and Rita is also an enticing duo, as the psychologist can shore up the athlete’s low sanity. In the end, though, it’s theme that wins out. What better way to explore The Circle Undone than as consummate Silver Twilight Lodge insiders Diana Stanley and Preston Fairmont?
The Reformed Cultist
Diana gained entry to the Lodge only to realize it harbored disturbing secrets. Now she has resolved to take it down from the inside...
Frank: Diana Stanley (The Circle Undone, 4) is incredibly alluring because of how she takes what Agnes Baker taught us about playing a Mystic in the Core Set and flips those lessons on their head. Agnes’s five willpower is replaced with Diana’s one! That means that conventional spellcasting might be a pipedream for Diana—an end-game goal rather than an opening gambit. I opt for two copies of Holy Rosary (Core Set, 59) to shore up Diana’s low starting Willpower before turning to cancellation, as this will be a means for taking Diana from trembling initiate to mighty mage. In go two copies of Ward of Protection (Core Set, 65) and The Circle Undone’s excellent Deny Existence (The Circle Undone, 32). This forms the spine of Diana’s deck: a way to boost willpower and shut down the threats of the Mythos.
Diana isn’t simply a Mystic: with access to Guardian cards level 0-2, she can lean into taking on the Mythos by more direct means. Her cancellations are enhanced with two copies of Dodge (Core Set, 23) and Delay the Inevitable (The Circle Undone, 21). The latter gives some flexibility over how Diana can protect the party, as well as allowing her to set up, to a certain degree, until she really needs to cancel damage or horror.
As we can’t rely on Diana being a spell-slinger from the outset (though she will in time become a formidable one), the Guardian pool is also useful for rounding out combat options. Two copies of Machete (Core Set, 20) and .45 Automatic (Core Set, 16) provide the standard damage output, and Beat Cop (Core Set, 18) takes her reasonable Combat score of three to a decent four. Just when it feels like Diana is becoming an out-and-out damage dealer, turning to skills yields further fruits: Vicious Blow (Core Set, 25) adds even more damage to fight tests, while Steadfast (The Circle Undone, 22) boosts both Combat and Willpower, perfect for what I’m building Diana to focus on.
But no Mystic deck is complete without some Spells and access to the dark arts: in goes Drawn to the Flame (Core Set, 64)—someone should name a podcast after this card!—and Shrivelling (Core Set, 60). Once her willpower is at a reasonable level, this spell takes the place of one of her weapons and means willpower boosts, such as from Holy Rosary or Steadfast, are yet further ways for Diana to tackle the monsters of the Mythos.
Finally, In the Clutches of Chaos has some enticing upgrades that can make Diana a force to be reckoned with. Dayana Esperance (In the Clutches of Chaos, 279) offers a way of taking the fight back to witches with a witch Ally of my own, while Deny Existence (In the Clutches of Chaos, 280) takes everything good about the level 0 version of the card and turns it up to eleven. Cancelling horror or damage, or preventing the loss of cards, resources or actions and then getting that many back… what’s not to love? These two cards in combination are also an incredible duo, as Dayana lets Diana deny existence time and again. Diana will take the lead with tackling enemies and, as scenarios go on, grow in power as she cancels anything that threatens her or Preston.
To see a full list of Frank’s deck, check out ArkhamDB here:
Meanwhile, Peter’s settling in and getting acquainted with everyone’s favourite millionaire…
Peter: Preston Fairmont (The Circle Undone, 3), like Diana, is another oddball Investigator, in the best way. He takes the Rogue rulebook—maybe even the entire investigator rulebook—and tosses it out the window, pausing only to ensure he doesn’t dirty his suit in the process. If you want to solve most problems by flashing cash (and the rest by hiring muscle), Preston is a great place to start.
The first thing that jumps out from his Investigator card is that he has one of the lowest stat-lines of any investigator in the game. Looking at the rest of his cards, you can quickly see what his specialty is: drawing on his Family Inheritance (The Circle Undone, 11) to ensure he always has vast amounts of resources.
Rather than just accumulating stacks of cash to pay for expensive assets, I’m going to use two of the cards from The Circle Undone, Well Connected (The Circle Undone, 28) and Money Talks (The Circle Undone, 29), to directly leverage Preston’s wealth for success. Both of these cards can boost any of your stats, making Preston incredibly flexible and able to boost his paltry stats of one up to a heady five or six. I will also take Cunning (The Circle Undone, 30) as it should be a cinch to hit the resource requirement on the card, and three icons will give even Preston a decent shot at succeeding on Intellect or Agility tests.
Money isn’t everything, but Preston’s unique economy is worth emphasizing, as it lies at the core of how he plays. In addition to the four resources from his Family Inheritance, he still gains his regular resource during upkeep, giving him five resources every single turn to play with. Leo de Luca (Core Set, 48) and Lodge "Debts" (The Circle Undone, 12) are the only cards I can’t play with the money generated across a single turn, meaning I just don’t have the same resource curve concerns of other investigators! Spending all my resources on these cards does eat into my stockpile for boosting up my stats, but Leo in particular is worth it for the extra action.
The main problem I may run into is that I stumble while I wait for my support cards to come along. Luckily, Preston also has access to the Survivor faction and their "success from failure" style of cards. Lucky! (Core Set, 80) provides a flexible way of passing tests (or reduces my margin of failure) and "Look what I found!" (Core Set, 79) is great because it can be combined with Flashlight (Core Set, 87) or saved for a two shroud location to almost guarantee finding double clues! Then, I will round out my deck with cards that let me spend resources to make up for my low stats, including Hard Knocks (Core Set, 49), which I can’t think of a single reason not to include, and Stray Cat (Core Set, 76), which will evade an enemy freely, regardless of my Agility.
For my Mythos Pack additions, In the Clutches of Chaos offers not one but two excellent cards. The first is Small Favor (In the Clutches of Chaos, 277), which allows me to trade money (of which I should have plenty!) for flexible damage. Preston loves getting others to do his dirty work! The second is the Survivor card Trial by Fire (In the Clutches of Chaos, 281). This, again, turns money directly into success and is a fantastic play on a turn where Diana and I have a single focus and time is running out!
With this deck, I’ve got a flexible Rogue who can turn his hand to a little of everything, as long as I can balance my turns between setting up my board and storing money to make the most of my connections. Luckily, I have Diana to help keep me safe and reliably deal with enemies. Right, Frank?
To see a full list of Peter’s deck, check out ArkhamDB here:
The Fateful Step
With their decks prepared, Frank and Peter are ready for their next Arkham Horror: The Card Game campaign. Mr Fairmont and Ms Stanley meet up in French Hill. There have been some disappearances at a house nearby and they recognise the address as that of a Silver Twilight Lodge associate. Surely the Lodge isn’t mixed up in any funny business…?
We loved building investigator decks in this format. After all, limitations breed creativity, and we had to really focus on the strengths of the investigators before us to narrow down what choices we’d make. For newer players, this illustrates how a couple of simple steps can be all you need to take the plunge into a new, longer campaign. Deckbuilding is all part of the fun of Arkham Horror: The Card Game, whether you’re challenging yourself with fewer cards or making the most of a fledgling collection. Thank you for reading and we hope this inspires you either to venture further into the game or to shake up your deckbuilding with new challenges and restrictions!
Frank and Peter are both fans of fantasy, sci-fi and weird fiction, which led them to the rich world of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. They are the hosts of the Drawn to the Flame podcast, which they started in early 2017.
To jump into the Mythos, you can pick up your copy of Arkham Horror: The Card Game(AHC01) at your local retailer or on the Fantasy Flight Games website here!