Talents and Talismans
The Classes and Deck-building of Arkham Horror: The Card Game
"That Crawford Tillinghast should ever have studied science and philosophy was a mistake. These things should be left to the frigid and impersonal investigator, for they offer two equally tragic alternatives to the man of feeling and action."
–H.P. Lovecraft, From Beyond
Tragedy frequently awaits the investigators of Arkham Horror: The Card Game, no matter how feeling or frigid they may be. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise; their investigations typically lead them straight into matters of the foulest cults and elder gods. Murder, mystery, and madness are to be expected.
All the same, there's plenty of cause for these investigators to study science and philosophy—or to train at firearms, practice their sleight of hand, or give voice to the strange incantations they find in the thick, dusty tomes that so long lay hidden in the secret libraries of forgotten orders. We can consider each of these practices aligned with one or more of the different investigator classes in the Arkham LCG®, and each of the different classes leads to a different set of strengths.
Today, we review these classes and their impact upon the game's rules for deck-building.
Each of the game's investigators belongs to one of five classes, each of which is associated with a variety of player cards that grant it a distinct flavor and identity.
Guardians like Roland Banks (Core Set, 1) feel compelled to defend humanity, and thus go out of their way to combat the forces of the Mythos. They have a strong sense of duty and selflessness that drives them to protect others, and to hunt monsters down. However, because they do so much to protect others, Guardians often put themselves in danger, and don't particularly focus on evading enemies.
Although Arkham's police won't necessarily accept the darker truths about the events transpiring around them, the fact that they are sworn to protect and to serve means that many of their efforts are represented within the Guardian class, and you will find their efforts depicted through cards like Police Badge (Core Set, 27) and Beat Cop (Core Set, 28).
Agnes Baker (Core Set, 4) and other Mystic characters are frequently drawn to and influenced by the arcane forces of the Mythos. Some have even delved into forbidden knowledge, developing spellcasting abilities that allow them to manipulate the universe through magic.
These spells typically find their way into the game as Mystic cards, as do many arcane artifacts, and other supernatural relics—including those imbued with power through faith. Examples include the spells Shrivelling (Core Set, 60) and Scrying (Core Set, 61), arcane artifacts like the Grotesque Statue (Core Set, 71), and relics like the Holy Rosary (Core Set, 59).
Notably, the deeper these Mystics pursue their extraordinary powers, the more they risk corruption or madness. This means the class best suits those investigators willing to accept a high measure of risk to gain potentially great rewards. As an example, a Mystic who focuses on the magical properties of Blinding Light (Core Set, 66) may spend experience to rarify its powers, but while the higher level version (Core Set, 69) costs less to play and has the potential to deal more damage, it also poses a greater threat to your sanity.
Much like the ex-con Skids O'Toole (Core Set, 3), the game's Rogues are typically self-serving individuals who make sure, above all, that they're looking out for themselves. Wily and opportunistic, they are always eager to find new ways to exploit the situations in which they find themselves.
While Rogue characters are typically good at evading enemies and conflict, they often struggle when forced into conflict. Accordingly, most Rogues like to have an escape plan as a back-up for their escape plan, and only take the time to Backstab (Core Set, 51) an enemy if they can properly arm themselves first.
Rogue cards offer a wide range of benefits, but tend to focus on gaining resources, gaining actions, and evading dangers. Still, no matter whether your Rogue is riding a Hot Streak (Core Set, 57) toward a quick fortune, disguising his Burglary (Core Set, 45) as "investigation," or Pickpocketing (Core Set, 46) the different enemies he evades, your Rogue cards will typically evoke a distinctly "illicit" flavor.
Seekers like Daisy Walker (Core Set, 2) are primarily concerned—if not obsessed—with learning more about the world's mysteries and about the Mythos. They wish to research forgotten lore, map out uncharted areas, and study strange creatures.
Seekers believe in the idea of Mind over Matter (Core Set, 36), so you'll naturally find books and librarians featured prominently among the player cards for this class. After all, Seekers are likely to regard books and librarians as their guides along their journeys of discovery. And as you play, a Research Librarian (Core Set, 32) may guide you to volumes such as an out-of-print Encyclopedia (Core Set, 42) or an Old Book of Lore (Core Set, 32). These, in turn, better equip you for whatever challenges lie ahead.
Mechanically, Seeker cards tend to emphasize your investigator's Intellect ( ) and reward you with accelerated card draw and tools like the Magnifying Glass (Core Set, 30) that can help you discover clues that others have overlooked. However, you'll also find that Seekers tend to focus so much on matters of the mind that they often neglect the body, frequently leaving them frail and poor in combat.
Finally, Wendy Adams (Core Set, 5) and the Survivors of Arkham Horror: The Card Game aren't quite like the other investigators. They're not particularly inspired to protect humanity from the horrors they uncover, nor are they driven by their curiosity. They don't begin their investigations after years of dabbling in strange magics, and they aren't constantly looking for ways to exploit the events transpiring about them.
Instead, the characters that belong to the Survivor class are just everyday people who get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and their primary objective is simply to survive. Ill-prepared and ill-equipped, Survivors are the perpetual underdogs, and they rise to the occasion when their lives are threatened.
Accordingly, Survivor cards like Scavenging (Core Set, 73), Baseball Bat (Core Set, 74), and Dig Deep (Core Set, 77) emphasize your investigator's resourcefulness. Even so, she'll likely need a bit of luck and will be happy for cards like Rabbit's Foot (Core Set, 75) and Lucky! (Core Set, 80).
While the cards belonging to these five classes create meaningful differences between the game's investigators—and their strengths and weaknesses—some player cards are not affiliated with any class. These neutral cards are mostly skill cards and a variety of tools that any investigator might be happy to utilize—a Knife (Core Set, 86), a Flashlight (Core Set, 87), or a Bulletproof Vest (Core Set, 94). They won't typically improve upon the strengths of your class cards, but they may very well shore up some of your investigator's deficiencies.
Puzzling Together the Pieces
For all the flavor they grant the game's investigators, the different classes don't exist in a vacuum. They find their expression in the decks you build.
In the Arkham LCG, deckbuilding starts with your choice of investigator. You're stepping into a realm that touches on both the traditional roleplaying and card gaming experiences, and your choice of investigator is the nexus of it all. This is because you become that investigator in the game, and your deck becomes an extension of his or her talents, tools, personality, allies, and other resources.
Your deck is also an extension of your investigator's weaknesses. As one of the game's investigators, you must not only overcome the challenges presented by cultists, monsters, magic, and madness, you must also rise above the ghosts of your past, or your obsession with dark knowledge, or your fears of abandonment—or any of the other weaknesses that round out the game's characters.
Naturally, since we don't choose our weaknesses, you'll find your investigator's required weaknesses listed on the back of his or her card, along with all your other deckbuilding requirements. For example, if you were to play as Wendy Adams, you would be required to create a deck of exactly thirty cards. Since Wendy is a Survivor with some Roguish tendencies, her thirty-card deck can potentially include Survivor and neutral cards of any level—zero to five—as well as Rogue cards of levels zero, one, or two.
Of course, these level restrictions don't come into play as Wendy first begins investigating. At the beginning of a campaign, your investigator usually starts with zero experience, meaning you have no experience with which to access any leveled-up cards. Furthermore, you cannot include more than two copies of a given card by title, meaning that if you start with two copies of Lucky! in your deck and decide to spend two of your experience to purchase a level-two version of the card (Core Set, 84), you have to remove one of the level zero copies.
To this mix of thirty cards, Wendy's investigator card introduces several other Deckbuilding Requirements that do not count toward your deck size. First, you must add Wendy's Amulet (Core Set, 14), which you'll likely be happy to include. But you'll also have to add Wendy's unique weakness, Abandoned and Alone (Core Set, 15). This card comes with the Revelation ability, which means you must resolve it as soon as it's drawn; then it deals two direct horror and removes all the cards in your discard pile from the game. Wendy's past is not something she wishes to revisit. Finally, Wendy's investigator card forces you to add another basic weakness to your deck, chosen at random from the available options.
Mutations and Madness
As we have discussed in the game's announcement, on the website, and in our preview on campaign play, your investigations in the Arkham LCG are likely to lead you through multiple layers of mystery. At each step, after the resolution of a new adventure, you have the opportunity to make some adjustments to your deck.
You won't be able to change the cards listed in your investigator's Deckbuilding Requirements, nor will you be able to shake any of the new weaknesses you might accumulate along the way, but you will have the opportunity to purchase other tools and talents, spending the experience you have gained to do so.
You've already seen that, between adventures, you can spend your experience to purchase higher level cards and add them to your deck. However, it's worth noting that you can also purchase new level zero cards, but purchasing one of these still requires the expenditure of one experience. You may change your deck, and your personality may also change, but only as you grow through or are affected by your experiences. This means that by the end of an Arkham Horror: The Card Game campaign, your deck will serve as a physical manifestation of your investigator's scars, studies, and achievements.
How Will You Arm Yourself Against Madness?
Confronted by cultists and conspiracies in a world of supernatural, Lovecraftian horror, how will you prepare yourself for survival? Will you delve for answers amid dusty old tomes? Will you arm yourself with a pair of .45s? Will you dare invoke the arcane powers you've managed to uncover? Will you trust your luck?
Deckbuilding in Arkham Horror: The Card Game isn't just a process that prepares you for play. It's an experience that deepens throughout the course of your campaign and helps define your encounters with otherworldly horrors. Your decisions matter, so choose wisely!
The many terrors of Arkham Horror: The Card Game are nearly upon us. Head to your local retailer and pre-order your copy today!