All I Want for Christmas 2018

The player card pool for Arkham is in a great place. With the end of The Forgotten Age, we’ve had 3 full cycles of great card design. Dunwich had many staples, although I question the design of a handful of them (mostly the permanent talents). Carcosa has a lot of duds but a few standouts. Forgotten Age was amazing, with lots of subtly powerful cards and a few archetypal linchpins.

But you can always ask for more, right? Here are a handful of general design requests I’d love to see from LCG team in 2019.

XP Skill Cards

Skill cards as a whole are a bit of an unsung hero. They are only good for one test, and if you fail that test you lose the benefit (*cough Take Heart cough*). BUT, they are free to commit, don’t cost actions, and give you a benefit for passing the test in addition to the icons. They’re not bad!

We’ve had some 5xp skills in the past – Seal of the Elder Sign and All In. I think these cards are certainly powerful, but I’m going to purchase Shriveling[5] over Seal of the Elder Man about 100% of the time. All In is fantastic, except that you’re competing with a plethora of juicy rogue XP options.

I’d really like to see some powerful XP skills that I’m actually excited to include in my deck. Particularly in the 2-3xp range. Deduction[2] and Vicious Blow[2] are really powerful cards, and even then they are some of the last cards I’ll upgrade. But I would be ecstatic to open a mythos pack and find each faction with a new 3xp skill that excites players and inspires builds.

Maybe we need to think of skills like events, but within a different framework. For example, Alter Fate is a really cool Survivor event that removes an in-play treachery. What if it was a skill card, where you can remove the treachery when you pass the associated test? That seems pretty decent to me. Or if Prepared for the Worst was upgraded to a Skill, and doubled the icons? You could investigate with a +2 Intellect, pick up that clue, and search the Top 9 for a weapon. I think there’s a lot of room to explore in Skill design.

Mystic Setup Tools

Mystics are host to a truckload of powerful assets and can really be titanic forces once their “rig” is fully set up. I believe they have been denied basic economy – card draw and resource gain – to prevent them from outshining other classes with their raw power.

However, they have a lot of weaknesses as a class, and I believe they need some help to catch up to the others. Generally, their Willpower is high at the expense of their other stats, so raw tests are definitely a challenge; Locked Doors can be a real deal-breaker, as can Investigating the Man in the Pallid Mask. Their cards are all based on Willpower, which is inherently strong as you only need to buff one statistic. But, this also makes them very card-reliant. You need to find the cards that substitute Willpower for the typical stat, and you can’t do much until those cards show up. There’s also a ton of key purple cards that are assets, which are cumbersome and slow when you have too many of them (and you often do, as all the best Mystic cards are assets). Finally, the power of their spells is usually comparable to cards in other factions, but spells often have the downside of revealing a special token for a negative effect.

A solution for overcoming all of these downsides is to supply Mystics with one or two strong setup tools that find the other cards they need or get those cards on the table. Ever Vigilant would be an amazing purple card, and I hope we see something similar. Or other non-asset search effects that scour your deck for something and put it into play right away. I’ll add that most of the effects I’m imagining are event-like, which means they could in fact be converted to Skills!

Support Cards

With Carolyn Fern revealed to be in The Circle Undone, I’m pretty certain we’ll see more support cards in the near future. Arkham is a great solo game, but I love playing with friends and using support abilities that make our team stronger than the sum of its parts.

Thus far, I’ve felt as though the support cards we’ve gotten aren’t particularly powerful. They don’t generally synergize with other investigators’ abilities. They usually just give helpful effects, like Eureka or Stand Together. Leadership is close to the kind of support card I’m looking for, as it doesn’t do much for you but definitely helps an ally, and you’re more likely to slot it if you’re alongside a Mystic. But its power level is a little low to be worth the slot.

Let’s get an asset that you can exhaust to pick up a clue when someone else discovers a clue at your location. Or an item that boosts other’s Combat. Or an event that searches someone else’s deck for a Spell and adds it to their hand. We could have an event that fights an enemy, but does damage equal to the number of investigators at your location. Or maybe one that moves each other investigator at your location to a revealed location of their choice.

Okay, I acknowledge that some of these ideas are trash. But the concept is sound: support cards that are powerful enough to slot, even if they don’t give you a benefit (aside from commitment icons, which would have to be substantial for this kind of card to work).

Less General Exile Effects

Exile (the effect Survivor XP cards can have that removes them from the deck permanently) as a mechanic has largely been lackluster. Personally, I will only consider Stroke of Luck or A Test of Will after I’ve bought all the other things I’d like to have. This means I’m only using these otherwise powerful effects in the last few scenarios of a campaign.

My theory as to why I’m not more interested in Exile cards? Their effects are too generic. Flare is a one-time attack (or one-time search). A Test of Will is a one-time Treachery cancel. These are useful but not essential, and therefore I’ll buy virtually everything else I need for my deck before getting a generally helpful Exile card.

Hopefully we’ll see more exile effects that cater to specific builds, or are otherwise build-around cards. I would love a single-wild skill that lets you spend resources to gain additional wild icons, as this would let you turn on Dark Horse without Fire Axe. Or maybe a skill to evade an enemy that replays a weapon asset from your discard pile to get back the Baseball Bat or Hunting Rifle. Maybe an event that gets played after you’re attacked, to synergize with Calvin or Aquinnah. I’m just spitballing at this point, but there’s definitely ways to make Exile cards that specifically benefit one particular type of deck. Basically, a good Exile card should make you say, “Oooo, this would be perfect for an XYZ deck.”

Powerful Solo Boosts

One complaint I have about Arkham Horror is its relatively poor scaling. It’s designed as a 2-3 player game, where 4 players is a cluttered but epic experience and 1 player is a skin-of-your-teeth survival horror tale. Of these modes, I think solo has some glaring issues. Is it still fun? Definitely. Is it more difficult than the other modes at the same difficulty? Absolutely.

I think this difficulty stems from two things: you must generalize your deck, and you don’t have as many actions. Generalizing to handle the threats of the mythos means that you can’t dedicate your deck to slaughter one kind of test; you must be able to get clues (even as Zoey), subvert enemies (even as Daisy), and survive treacheries (even as Finn). Your deck quickly becomes strained in multiple directions, and so you must become a Jack of all Trades – and Master of None. Also, you don’t have the same number of actions to complete your mission. Yes, the actions spent on investigating and the actions lost to Ancient Evils scale with the number of players. But what about the actions spent moving around the map, clearing treacheries, or completing objectives? The worst offender in this department is probably Unspeakable Oath, where you have a lot of specific actions you need to take to complete the scenario and a very short doom clock to do it in.

One solution to all this stuff that makes Solo harder is to create player cards that are particularly strong in solo play. Lone Wolf is a good example of this, where it will probably make you half the money in 3-player as it would in solo. Can we get an economy or draw card that costs 1i (one resource for each investigator)? Or maybe an asset that exhausts to give you an action the first time you investigate if there’s no one else at your location? I think movement boosts are really important in solo (making Elusive incredibly useful), and seeing movement cards in Guardian and Survivor would be nice (maybe an Exile teleport effect, eh?). Or what if Astral Travel got a 1xp upgrade that made it free to play, and therefore not garbage?

What do you think? Which of my requests are garbage or game-breaking? What kinds of player cards do you want to see in 2019?

One thought on “All I Want for Christmas 2018

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