The 4 Investigator Roles

When you and your friends sit down to tackle a campaign, you might simply ask, “So, who’s playing whom?” But I’d wager you ask a few more questions when selecting investigators and building decks. “Who is going to take on big monsters? How are we going to get enough clues? Is anyone able to evade those damn snakes?” Many groups want to diversify their strengths so they can effectively tackle whatever threats the mythos may through at them, thus increasing their chances of earning xp and achieving desired resolutions.

This kind of mentality leans into the Game part of Arkham and away from the Narrative side of things. I don’t think this is uncalled for – this is a game, after all. Because this kind of discussion is so common, it may be useful to develop a common lexicon for the community to utilize. I therefore present: the 4 Investigator Roles.

The Fighter

Often referred to as the killer, hunter, or slayer, The Fighter is the investigator focused specifically on handling enemies. Generally, this involves equipping big guns go shoot bang dead, but there’s lots of ways to remove the threats enemies present.

What’s their Specialty?

Eliminating the threats posed by enemies.

How do they Win?

By efficiently removing foes, they can spend their remaining actions picking up clues or accomplishing objectives.

How do they earn XP?

Finding and killing all the enemies with Victory X.

Which Classes play this role best?

Guardian. Mystic is also well-equipped to fulfill this role, although they are slower to set up, deal 3+ damage less often, and lack the synergistic events that Guardians have that reward the killing of monsters. Rogue can feasibly do this as well, although it requires a lot of effort and doesn’t come easily to them.

Tell me more about their strategy.

Fighters have a few priorities. Being able to eliminate enemies early in the scenario is important for a team of investigators, and the Fighter should be most focused on that. This is a main reason why you’ll see Stick to the Plan with Prepared for the Worst in so many Guardian decks. Even if you don’t mulligan into a weapon, you can dig through the top 9 cards of your deck for one as your first action.

Defeating enemies efficiently is also incredibly important for Fighters. Weapons that deal 2 damage for an action are twice as good as weapons that don’t (wow, such math!), and bigger guns that can deal 3 damage are particularly valuable. In conjunction with things like Vicious Blow, Agnes’ ability, Marksmanship, Lantern, and Coup de Grace, you can find ways to defeat 3+ health enemies in as few actions and tests as possible. When building your Fighter deck, you will want to have contingency plans for enemies of various health levels, which may involve saving those testless 1-damage abilities for specific situations.

As a dedicated Fighter, you’ll be fighting a lot, which means ammo and charges must be managed well. You deck should probably have a 2-damage weapon that doesn’t require ammo that you can use on the smaller enemies. Examples of these are the Machete, Baseball Bat, Fire Axe, Switchblade[2], and Timeworn Brand. It’s worth noting that the Machete is the easiest 0xp weapon to consistently deal 2 damage without worrying about ammo. You can also include things like Extra Ammunition, Custom Ammunition, and Recharge to extend the life of your limited-use assets.

One way to remove the threat of a non-hunter enemy from a game is to evade them. If a non-hunter enemy is exhausted, players can finish their business at that location and leave before the enemy readies. If no investigator returns to that location, the enemy has been dealt with in an action-efficient way. This is very situational – you can’t be at a hub location that you’ll need to return to, you’ll need to finish discovering clues there before the enemy readies, etc. But investigators like Skids, Silas, and Finn can choose to either attack or evade an enemy based on the circumstances and potentially save ammo and other resources for more troublesome foes.

Can I get some examples of decks?

The Cluever

The name comes from investigators that run around the map vacuuming – or “Hoovering” – up clues. Cluevers often pick up extra clues without spending additional actions. Ideally, if you’re able to discover lots of clues quickly, you can avoid the worst the scenario throws at you.

What’s their Specialty?

Consistently and quickly picking up clues.

How do they Win?

Advancing the act deck before the scenario can beat them down by getting clues and accomplishing objectives as fast as possible.

How do they earn XP?

Clearing all of the Victory locations.

Which Classes play this role best?

Seeker. Rogue is probably next-best in this category, particularly Finn. Survivors lean more towards clues than enemies generally speaking.

Tell me about their strategy.

A Cluever’s overarching goal should be to finish the scenario objectives as quickly as possible. Doing this essentially limits the number of things the scenario can throw at you. The primary way of doing this is picking up clues, and you should have no limit to the number of clue-getting tricks you have in your deck.

Ideally, you are able to begin picking up clues during the very first round of the game. This suggests that you are less reliant on assets as other roles. The quintessential first turn for a dedicated Cluever like Rex or Ursula would be to slam down a pair of assets – maybe a Magnifying Glass, Fieldwork, or Lucky Cigarette Case – and investigate once or twice. Then it’s off to the races! You’ll want to try to maximize the number of clues you pick up each turn.

If you’ve built your deck around grabbing clues, there’s a good chance you’ll be pretty bad against enemies or other dangers. Ideally you’ll be within a 1-location radius from someone who can protect you from any baddies that pop up on you. This can be easy to forget with some of the movement-granting cards like Shortcut or Pathfinder zooming you across the map.

Although there’s dozens of cards that help with clues, they are each best utilized in specific situations. For example, Deduction[2] can pick you up two additional clues, but you must succeed by two or more. This is a powerful effect that you don’t want to waste, so you’ll want to save it for a location with a low shroud that has several clues (usually 2i or 3i). Low shroud locations with many clues are ideal targets for Rite of Seeking (don’t waste charges) and Lola Santiago (don’t waste money). Conversely, while Working a Hunch can be used to just pick up any old clue on the map, it’s most ideal to get a clue on a location where you’re likely to fail (high shroud) or has some other adverse effect for investigating. Other cards that pick up clues testlessly, like Scene of the Crime, Drawn to the Flame, and Gravedigger’s Shovel should be used on these locations as well.

Can I get some examples of decks?

  • This beginner’s Rex should pick up clues about twice as well as anyone else, and continue to excel once upgraded (a commentary on how Rex is a bit overpowered).
  • My Green Seeker Finn is my argument as to why Finn is the 3rd strongest investigator in the game (after Rex and Ursula).
  • I don’t know if Wendy can be full-on Cluever, but this Newspaper[2] + Lockpicks Wendy build has lots of options for getting clues. I’d probably drop the Fight or Flights for Double or Nothings as a way to get an extra clue in an action.

The Hybrid

Intuitively, the Hybrid combines the abilities of the Fighter and the Cluever, while not being as strong at either. This role is often referred to as a “Flex” because you can oscillate between tasks depending on what the team needs. While the Cluever is able to pick up clues exceedingly well, they are generally unable to handle enemies efficiently and usually require “babysitting” from a Fighter. The Hybrid’s strength is being able to go off on their own, killing the occasional enemy they draw and picking up clues when they’re not fending off monsters. They sacrifice raw power for flexibility and self-sufficiency.

What’s their Specialty?

Doing whatever the group needs to accomplish; adaptability and autonomy.

How do they Win?

Balanced management of threats, working towards the Act deck when the board is under control.

How do they earn XP?

Player cards, such as Delve Too Deep and Charon’s Obol.

Which Classes play this role best?

Rogue and Survivor. Both of these classes favor investigating, but generally they can handle an enemy or two pretty well. Their enemy management can run out of steam, and their damage output is lower than a Fighter Guardian.

Mystics are also good Hybrids, and are stronger at enemy management than Rogues or Survivors. Their main investigating tools are few in number – primarily Drawn to the Flame and Rite of Seeking – but those 4 cards can bring in 16 clues in 10 actions if everything goes to plan.

Tell me about their strategy.

Playing Hybrids with a bad plan can be pretty disastrous. Unlike the Fighter and the Cluever, whose main goals include speed and efficiency, the Hybrid is all about control and mitigating risk. You want to think of the worst thing the game can throw at you right now and find the tools in your deck that can remove that risk. Generally, this means mulliganing for an enemy management tool – which is a fancy name for a gun, usually. For someone like Skids or Finn, who have a built-in enemy management tool of a 4 agility, this could be a copy of “You Handle This One” because you know the deck has Crypt Chill and you don’t want to lose that Leo de Luca you just played.

Once you’re no longer worried about the encounter deck, you’ll spend your efforts advancing towards your objectives and picking up clues. If you draw an enemy or a treachery that lands in your threat area, you remove it. You need to maximize your survivability because chances are slim that someone else will do it for you every time. Playing a Hybrid can be methodical in its own right.

In exchange for the heavy burden of both trying to win and trying not to lose, you are incredibly dynamic. You can run off on your own and get the clues off of that one odd location. You can make a last-ditch effort to finish that objective before everyone needs to resign. You can pull an enemy off the Cluever and get the last clue they left behind so they can move ahead to the 3i clue location and go to town on it.

Hybrids are ideal for “True Solo,” or playing as a single investigator, due to their lack of reliance on other team members. Hybrids cannot handle as many monsters as a Fighter, but you don’t need to when you will see statistically fewer enemies; you are only drawing one encounter card each round. You don’t have as many investigation tools as a Cluever, but most of the locations in True Solo have just a single clue.

Can I get some examples of decks?

The Support

The Support is all about making everyone else better and the scenario less terrible. I don’t think this role is fully developed yet; it’s very hard with the current card pool to build a dedicated Support investigator. However, several player cards and investigators have a strong Support bent, and I expect to see more of this role in the future.

What’s their Specialty?

Mitigating the encounter deck and improving other investigators.

How do they Win?

Making other investigators more effective and efficient; Preventing the team from losing.

How do they earn XP?

Helping other investigators with Victory enemies and locations.

Which Classes play this role best?

While other roles tend to operate similarly across the different classes, I think each class tends to have its own signature ways of supporting others.

Guardian and Seeker. Guardians have classic tools like Stand Together, Teamwork, and Leadership, and are great at protecting allies with Dodge, I’ll Handle This One, and Heroic Rescue. Guardians are also fantastic at healing with First Aid, Emergency Aid, and Kerosene (and Carolyn’s abilities). Seekers can cause allies to draw cards with Cryptic Research, give an action with Guidance, pass out auto-success with Pnakotic Manuscripts, and share free moves from Shortcuts. Daisy also reads entries from Encyclopedias to boost stats, and Minh makes every card a better commit.

Support Mystics improve team performance with Sealing effects to improve the Chaos Bag, and are also really resilient against the encounter deck. Ward of Protection[2] is one of the best support cards in the game.

Survivors can also be the Support, although they are a little more subtle in approach. They often require minimal setup and can tackle all the problems early in the scenario while their teammates dig for essential tools.
Because they can benefit from losing tests, Survivors are very consistent. They are naturally skill-heavy because of their bad economy, so they have lots to commit to others’ tests. And with the abilities to recur cards and soak with Leather Coat/Cherished Keepsake, they are pretty hardy. All of these add up to a Support gator based on playstyle and decision-making rather than specific card effects. I’ve seen this method called “Scouting” before, which I enjoy.

Tell me about their strategy.

This section is a bit of a hypothetical exercise – again, I don’t believe a full Support exists with the current card pool – so bear with me!

In theory, a full Support spends all of its cards and abilities to help others do things. This could be simple: you bring Perceptions solely to commit to other’s investigations because your Intellect is garbage. Classically this can be cumbersome because of positioning, so usually you don’t include cards that you yourself can’t use. Minh is probably the best commit Support investigator.

There’s other ways to help your buddies pass tests. A powerful example is Pnakotic Manuscripts, essentially giving your team 3 auto-succeeds once it’s on the table. Premonition, Counterspell, and Time Warp are situationally good events that help others succeed on key tests.

One way to improve the group is to help everyone find their best cards. Guardians can do this a little with Stand Together – truly a fantastic support card – but Seekers are really the kings here. Old Book of Lore, Eureka, Cryptic Research, and No Stone Unturned all help your friends dig through their decks. This strategy works well with Mystic teammates, who require spells to convert their high Willpower into proactive skills, and Rogues, whose powerful Exceptional cards hide in their depths of their decks.

There’s also something to be said for simply keeping everyone alive. Seekers have Logical Reasoning and Rogues have Liquid Courage, but primarily Guardians are the ones who best keep their teammates breathing. First Aid, Emergency Aid, and Kerosene are perfect examples of Guardians helping others between monster hunts. True Grit and Brother Xavier can take damage/horror on behalf of others; Dodge and Heroic Rescue might prevent them from taking damage altogether. These kinds of cards are good with Rogues on your team, who classically have low Willpower and get beat up by the encounter deck a lot, and anyone with 6 or less total Sanity/Health.

An idea that’s been flirted with is the sharing of funds to get expensive cards online. We’ve seen this concept with Teamwork and Charles Ross. There could be balance issues here if overpowered cards with this effect are printed, but I would love to see a few more cards in this vein.

Mystics are the proprietors of the chaos bag, and thus they can improve the bag for everyone with Sealing assets. This was a focus of The Forgotten Age cycle, with Cthonian Stone, Protective Incantation, and Seal of the 7th Sign all printed with the intent to pull negative tokens out of the bag. Seal is an interesting mechanic because you can build an entire deck around it, or simply include a Cthonian Stone to pull out that one bad token your group doesn’t want. In my experience, if you can remove all the tokens of the worst modifier, your team can play significantly more efficiently. Take a standard chaos bag for Midnight Masks, for example. Sure, you could Seal a tablet with Protective Incatation because dropping clues is bad, but you can also remove the -4. Now the worst modifier is a -3, so no one ever has to spend extra cards or resources on pumping to 4-up. I think Seal is slightly underpowered but situationally very good.

Lastly, stopping the encounter deck from hurting your allies is a good Support ability. Ward of Protection[2] is the poster child for this approach, but “Let Me Handle This” and Alter Fate are alternative methods.

Aside from Sealing, there’s not really a cohesive collection of cards that form a Support deck. We would need something, maybe a central engine piece, that ties these kinds of effects together. A Seeker asset that draws you a card when you draw a card for someone else would be an example of this. Carolyn and Diana have built-in support engine abilities; it will be very interesting to see how they develop as The Circle Undone cycle develops.

Can I get some examples of decks?

Using Your Role

“If you play ‘Delve Too Deep’ right now, I swear to God…”

Understanding your role can help make you more effective, and therefore make your team more likely to succeed. You’ll focus both your deckbuilding and your gameplay decisions towards what you do best.

That said, not every deck has to restrict itself to a single role. There’s nothing wrong with your murder-ALL-the-things Guardian including Scene of the Crime and Evidence to pick up 2-3 clues each scenario. Just because Daisy’s intellect is 5 doesn’t mean she can’t take out an enemy with “I’ve Got a Plan”. These abilities grant flexibility, which can open up options for you and your party.

When deckbuilding, it’s important to keep your role in mind because attempting to do too much can make your deck worse. Example: An easy trap to fall in with Carolyn is to include both Machete and Shriveling. She has a 4 intellect, so investigating is her strong suit. Her willpower is a 3 – decent, but needs boosting if she wants Mystic spells to land. Her combat is only a 2, but she has access to great weapons. If you include both Shriveling and Machete, you are spreading her across two weak stats instead of focusing on one. The end result – she can’t hit anything, and she has a lot of cards in her deck that take away from her inherent strengths of investigating and support.

Knowing your role can inform game decisions as well. No Spoilers Example: Last night, I played Carnevale for the first time with my friends. I was Mark – the dedicated Fighter – alongside Wendy and Sefina. Our group had to parley an NPC and then travel to a far-away point on the map, and we decided it was either going to be Mark (with Sophie help and Elusive) or Sefina (with Cat Burglar and evasion). The map was littered with enemies. While we calculated that Mark could probably do it a few actions faster than Sef, we ultimately decided that Sefina should do the parley because Mark could clear the path for her if more enemies showed up. Mark was ultimately the Fighter, and sticking to his role of fighting was less risky for us. Plus, Sefina would be left with subpar actions if she wasn’t the one working towards the objective. Our plan went perfectly! Until a treachery killed off the NPC and summoned a terrible monster. But it was going good until then.

Understanding roles really helped me get better at Arkham as a player. Hopefully it can also aid you and your playgroup against the onslaught of the Mythos!

One thought on “The 4 Investigator Roles

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