|Call of Cthulhu LCG | Published 07 May 2010|
Behind everything crouched the brooding, festering horror of the ancient town [of Arkham], and of the mouldy, unhallowed garret gable where he wrote and studied and wrestled with figures and formulae when he was not tossing on the meagre iron bed. His ears were growing sensitive to a preternatural and intolerable degree, and he had long ago stopped the cheap mantel clock whose ticking had come to seem like a thunder of artillery. At night the subtle stirring of the black city outside, the sinister scurrying of rats in the wormy partitions, and the creaking of hidden timbers in the centuried house, were enough to give him a sense of strident pandemonium.
- H.P. Lovecraft, Dreams in the Witch-House
In this second part of previews for Secrets of Arkham, the upcoming deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, we're going to take a closer look at another three cards. Like last week we'll investigate a Story Card, the comeback of a classic, and a brand new card before they are unleashed upon your game.
The story card that shares its name with the expansion brings an extra layer of danger to what is the most destructive edition of a story deck so far. How does it work, rules wise? The order in which things happen as a story is won is as follows: Immediately after a player has won a story card that player takes the story card, chooses whether or not to execute its effect, and then places it in his game area, faceup, to indicate that he has won the story. This occurs before resolution of the next story card begins. After a story card has been won, and its effect executed or declined, it is replaced by a new story card from the story deck.
If you choose to resolve The Secrets of Arkham, this means that -barring some other card effects- there are two other story cards in play. You may choose the order in which those two effects resolve. Sometimes this creates a meaningful interaction but at other times the effects may neutralize each other. Like They Come At Night (SoA, F52) the hard choices may come after you choose to resolve the effect, and with the great number of combinations possible, how to resolve it is the most unpredictable and skill intensive part of the card effect. And what if one side of the effect would really help you, but the other could really hurt you? Prepare to make some difficult choices.
Arkham is a dangerous place and the story deck reflects it by having particularly game-changing effects. Secrets of Arkham gives you an extra chance at resolving these effects and sometimes even have these effects triggered twice during a game, for double the advantage.
Leave No Man Behind
Flashing back to the development of the core set I can say that some cards just didn't make it. Squeezing in over two blocks worth of cards was a process of lots of testing and many discussions. The Core Set had two (often conflicting) goals. At one side it's made as an entry point to bring new players up to speed and at the other side it had to be internally balanced to function as a stand-alone Core Game. Some cards just didn't make sense outside of their sub-themes (like the Day/Night mechanic.) Having too many themes put a lot of pressure on the available card slots at the cost of flexibility in deck building. Other cards where cut because they simply didn't have enough answers within the confines of a Core Set only game.
Secrets of Arkham allows us to re-evaluate these cards and an opportunity to bring them back to the current game. Our game has plenty of context and themes across the asylum packs released so far. Some older cards now fit in just fine. I'll talk about what is probably Lovecraft's' most famous invention next week, that was in the running for a spot for quite some time but was cut from the core at the very last moment. This week is about the return of a sorcerer seasoned cultists where clamoring to make a return.
He's often described as being Cthulhu's own mini-me, a low-resource Ancient One and the saviour of the Cthulhu Faction. His name? Carl Stanford, Deathless Fanatic (SoA, F28) – A man with an ambitious agenda.
What sets him apart from the usual suspects is the Invulnerability keyword, making him impervious for wounds. This keyword is usually only reserved for Ancient One characters. His only direct competitor is Forgotten Shoggoth (Mountains of Madness, F12) which comes out a turn later. In addition, the terror icon frustrates attempts to drive Carl insane. His arcane enhances the chance of being able to oppose after going on a story. Being as tenacious as he is, this could buy you plenty of time to bring out the big guns. The ability to sacrifice the more expendable members of his congregation (you know: everybody else...) to get a temporary boost is just icing. And who knows what Nyarlathothep is up to in the future. The Mask thing could become significant one day too.
Is invulnerability that relevant in the current state of the game? Well, there are more things going on beneath the city of Arkham, and it doesn't even take any supernatural happenings to make it a place of death and decay.
Ratting on your friends
Should you be bothered to look up the top ten animals that historically caused the most human casualties, somewhere between the usual suspects of vicious predators, there are those that spread disease. The lowly mosquito tops most of these lists, but it's not inconceivable you'll find the rat in there as well. Not satisfied with just spreading the bubonic plague, the Arkham version feeds on the refuge of illicit laboratories where fringe scientists conduct unspeakable experiments. This could get bad, right? Better stay out of the sewers, then.
The problem is that you may not have a choice if you want to uncover the secrets of Arkham. Things get worse when something hides in the sewers with a taste for fat rodents forcing the plague carriers to abandon their putrid habitat.
Diseased Sewer Rats (SoA,F44) functions like a more deadly version of cards like Hard Case (Core Set F69.) The skill-level dependant limitation is easy to circumvent by the Syndicate. Clover Club Torch Singer (Core Set F66) is just the ticket, expanding the range of possible plague victims exponentially. Being a neutral card, the Syndicate isn’t the only one to benefit from this infectious varmint. The low cost allows for easy (re)animation in most cases.
Insane characters that end up in the gutter are doubly unlucky. Without access to toughness and with a skill score of zero they’re an easy prey for the sewer dwellers. No matter where your loyaly lies, every faction can use a good wounding effect that leaves a character on the table. Always make sure you have some way to boost the skill level of your team, or use cards like Dutch Courage (Core Set, F73) to disinfect the wounds. High enough skill has an added bonus of making the rats backfire on themselves. With no tasty degenerate low-life to feed on, the forced response is likely to cause the rats to harm themselves, a danger that is similar to what often happens with Emerging Deep One (The Spawn of the Sleeper, F8.) Either just accept to lose some characters or prepare to deal with the Sewer Rats. I have a feeling you may encounter them a lot.
Next week it’s time to demand a refill and hit the books when we continue our research of the Secrets of Arkham. Stay sharp!
Special thanks to Marius Hartland, who provided this week's Call of Cthulhu spotlight.
Based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his literary circle, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game takes two players deep into the Cthulhu Mythos where investigators clash with the Ancient Ones and Elder Gods for the fate of the world. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Asylum Pack expansions to the core game.
@ Prodigee: •Richard Finchington III, Exotic Collector (Ancient Horrors F7) might do the trick, although he needs a little skill boost or some toughness to be able to handle the rats.
I can't wait to see a card that might deal with the Creature subtype !!
Ahh, Carl Stanford an excellent addition to the game!
One of the highest ranking Sorcerers in the Masters of the Silver Twilight
an organization who's primary goal is to raise the corpse-city of R' lyeh from
the ocean and to bring Cthulhu from his tomb, so that he may raven and slay all humanity.
One bad dude!