Uncovering the Truth
Campaigns and Your Adventures in Arkham Horror: The Card Game
"What I heard in my youth about the shunned house was merely that people died there in alarmingly great numbers. That, I was told, was why the original owners had moved out some twenty years after building the place. It was plainly unhealthy, perhaps because of the dampness and fungous growth in the cellar…"
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Shunned House
In Arkham Horror: The Card Game, you are an investigator. You risk your health and sanity to solve mysteries, often exposing yourself to otherworldly terrors beyond the scope of human comprehension. You're likely to see things so powerful, so fiendish, and so maddening that it might be easier to chalk them up to the activities of rabid animals than to force yourself to embrace the truth. After all, the truth can be terrifying—profoundly terrifying. You may find the ground figuratively opening beneath your feet, as the reality you thought you understood is shown to be but a small part of the universe, and you may even find yourself dragged deeper into this frightful abyss…
Each game, each scenario, allows you to adventure into mystery and the occult. But your investigations in the Arkham LCG® don't necessarily end at the completion of your adventure. As likely as not, they'll reveal new layers of a larger mystery that slip and slide away from you as you attempt to grasp them. You won't be done yet. You'll need to reach after these elusive bits of knowledge, setting out upon new adventures… While you can enjoy Arkham LCG as a series of isolated adventures, the core (and recommended) experience of this game is campaign play.
Peeling Back the Layers
What does it mean that each of your Arkham LCG adventures is designed as part of a larger campaign? It means that the mysteries you begin to investigate gain weight and momentum over time. You don't just turn over one rock and discover all the secrets of Arkham's exclusive societies. You need to dig deeper. You may learn something in one adventure that sets you up for further investigation in the subsequent scenario. But more than that, you might learn pieces of information that actually change the way your next adventures play out. For example, you might learn about a ghoulish cult, begin exploring that cult, and identify several of its members. And that knowledge? It might aid you as you and your fellow investigators move to confront the cult.
Arkham LCG campaigns are not only responsive to your successes and failures; they are responsive to the degrees by which you succeeded or failed at various tasks. They may adapt to decisions you make outside of gameplay. For example, we've already seen a fair deal of the challenges you and your fellow investigators may face when your Study (Core Set, 111) shifts before your eyes, the door disappears, and you must search for another way to get free. At the end of this first adventure, The Gathering, you may have to choose whether or not you burn your house to the ground. This decision is made outside of all card play and skill checks; it's purely a matter of your preference. But if you burn your house to the ground, it will no longer be a part of the city of Arkham when you move to the campaign's second scenario, The Midnight Masks.
All told, there are many different ways your adventures may end, and however your adventures actually do conclude, you'll record your results in the campaign log. For example, The Gathering can end in any of four possible outcomes. The second Core Set scenario, The Midnight Masks, leads only to two different main outcomes—but you'll be asked to track a number of other details that will impact your progress through the third Core Set scenario. Notably, the unique and powerful cultists you defeat in The Midnight Masks will no longer pose you a threat, but you'll have to be ready to deal with all those who get away.
Scars, Trauma, and Experience
Your investigations don't just change Arkham; they also change you. You might gain greater insight into the nature of the mythos. You may develop phobias. You may be crippled. You may be devoured.
As we've already noted in the game's announcement and on its website, Arkham LCG allows you to "level up" your deck over the course of a campaign. When you consult the campaign log after an adventure to learn what's going to happen as the result of your investigations, you'll also learn how much experience you and your fellow investigators earn for your efforts. You can then use this experience to access cards at levels greater than zero, swapping them into your deck for other cards.
The cards you swap into your deck may offer obvious improvements over lower level versions, such as the level one version of Magnifying Glass (Core Set, 40) offers over the level zero version (Core Set, 30). Or they may introduce unique deck-building opportunities that don't otherwise exist. For example, there's no obvious level zero counterpart to Extra Ammunition (Core Set, 26) and the extra shots it might let you fire from your new Shotgun (Core Set, 29). The closest you're likely to come is to play with a .45 Automatic (Core Set, 16) and… another .45 Automatic. When you can't add Extra Ammunition, you've simply got to play the next copy of the Firearm.
However, even as you're gaining insight about the universe, you're exposing yourself to powers that might very well break your body or shatter your mind. Arkham LCG allows you to track these events in the form of "trauma," reflecting the permanent damage you suffer to your health or psyche. You suffer a point of trauma, for instance, if your investigator is defeated in a scenario, but not entirely eliminated from the campaign. If you were defeated by physical damage, you would suffer a point of physical trauma. If you suffered a measure of horror equal to your sanity, you would receive one mental trauma.
In either case, the trauma would then count as a point of damage or horror that you suffer before your next investigation even gets underway. And if you ever suffer physical trauma equal to your investigator's printed health or mental trauma equal to your investigator's printed sanity, you are removed from the campaign—either having been killed or driven permanently insane.
Of course, it wouldn't be Arkham if you could only suffer trauma over the course of a lengthy investigation. You may encounter various cards, such as Cover Up (Core Set, 7), that can give you trauma, even if your investigations are otherwise thoroughly successful… although they likely won't be.
Finally, even if your investigator's signature weakness doesn't threaten to "reward" you with trauma, it's likely going to impact your progress through the campaign. If Skids O'Toole (Core Set, 3) doesn't pay off his Hospital Debts (Core Set, 11), he'll lose two of the experience points he would have otherwise earned. If Daisy Walker (Core Set, 2) doesn't spend the three actions she needs to read through The Necronomicon (Core Set, 9)—and suffer the horror for doing so—she will be literally unable to put it down, thereby giving up one of her two valuable hand slots and dooming herself to failure anytime she draws the elder sign token ( ), rather than gaining valuable card draws.
A Rare Alignment of the Planets and Stars
The fact that Arkham Horror: The Card Game embraces the campaign as its primary mode of play has caused some to wonder how replayable its adventures may be. But the truth is that if you play for any reason beyond simply arriving once to a given scenario's outcome, the game's campaign play only enriches its replayability, rather than detracting from it.
Each result is not simply a matter of "defeated scenario" or "failed to defeat scenario." It is a combination of progress toward your overarching campaign goals, a measure of your investigator's personal advancement, a tally of your scars, and a foot down one of the roads you find at a fork along your path. Campaign play ends up making your later forays through the game's scenarios more meaningful than they would be without it because it allows you to play the adventures differently, making different decisions and following different paths with each instance.
All of this, however, presumes that you're able to press your investigations and progress through the adventure at hand before it's too late. Because there are always occult forces at work, trying to advance the agendas you're working to uncover, you'll find that the Arkham LCG feels very much like a desperate race against the clock. As twilight comes and the moon rises, as the air grows cool and you see the silhouettes of bats tracing through the skies, you'll have little time to think about the larger campaign. You'll be fully taxed just to move from location to location, hunting for clues, before the city is doomed. Yes, the choices you make will impact your larger campaign later down the road, but that's only if you can deal with the Ravenous Ghoul (Core Set, 161) leaping at you from the darkness of your cellar…
There Are Whole Worlds Our Five Senses Cannot Perceive
The physical world with which we interact via our five senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell is only a small portion of the universe. Science has taught us that there exist whole spectrums of light that reveal things our eyes cannot see and entire frequencies of sound we cannot hear. In fact, we have recently learned that the majority of the universe is formed of a type of matter we don't at all understand.
In Arkham Horror: The Card Game, we gain an avenue of exploration into some of these things—the worlds of possibility that lie beyond our standard means of comprehension. And there are consequences for our exploration… What do you expect to find? Download the Night of the Zealot Campaign Log (pdf, 909 KB) from the game's support section, and share your thoughts with the other members of our community forums.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game is coming soon. Be sure to head to your local retailer to pre-order your copy today. Then keep your eyes to our site for more information about the game's classes and rules for deck-building, its appearance at Arkham Nights 2016, and other news!