A Preview of For the Greater Good for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game
“During the winter of 1927-28 officials of the Federal government made a strange and secret investigation of certain conditions in the ancient Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth. The public first learned of it in February, when a vast series of raids and arrests occurred, followed by the deliberate burning and dynamiting – under suitable precautions – of an enormous number of crumbling, worm-eaten, and supposedly empty houses along the abandoned waterfront.” –H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth
Furtive cultists and alien monsters prowl the alleys and hillsides of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. They crave blood and power, they offer sacrifices to dark gods, and they bide their time until the stars are once again properly aligned and their evil machinations bring the world to ruin. All the while, they carefully conceal the terrifying secrets of their very existence from the unsuspecting masses.
How, then, can humanity fight back against a foe it scarcely knows exists?
The answer is that we rely upon the efforts of a few individuals who have uncovered fragments of the truth. These individuals may each see only a small fraction of the terrors that threaten our existence, but in the For the Greater Good deluxe expansion, many of them band together as members of the Agency faction. United, they wage a secret war against the hordes of vile cultists, monsters, and servitors.
In today’s preview, we take a look at these defenders of humanity and their reasons for keeping their efforts secret.
Humanity’s Secret Defenders
With its focus on the Agency faction, For the Greater Good lends a massive measure of new strength to one of the game’s largest subtypes, government.
Still, even though the government subtype is one of the game’s largest and has its origins all the way back in the Core Set, it has hitherto offered remarkably little in the way of synergy. Only two existing cards provide the game’s forty different government characters with any advantageous tricks or bonuses: Special Agent Clarkston (Aspirations of Ascension, 61) lowers their cost, and The Company (Seekers of Knowledge, 43) gives them Toughness.
Now, however, For the Greater Good gives the government subtype a much greater reach. For starters, Lt. Wilson Stewart (For the Greater Good, 16) can work with your government characters to reduce the costs of your Agency characters; he can exhaust to reduce the cost of an Agency character by an amount equal to the number of government characters you control. Meanwhile, the Military Attaché (For the Greater Good, 15) adds valuable Arcane icons to your government characters, shoring up one of the faction’s greatest weaknesses.
Altogether, the introduction of these two characters from For the Greater Good, combined with the efforts of Special Agent Clarkston and The Company, means that your government characters are going to be more cost-effective and tougher than ever. They’ll also be more capable of rushing toward early leads, investigating stories, and readying during the Arcane struggle in order to defend on your opponent’s turn.
And that means that the expansion’s other government characters arrive in a new context, one wherein the government subtype is more meaningful and more potent than ever.
Officer Gibson (For the Greater Good, 4) becomes a great early-game defender who only becomes more powerful as he gains Toughness and Arcane icons, even while helping Lt. Wilson Stewart lower the cost of other government characters. All the while, his immunity to your opponent’s triggered effects makes him a great target for attachments like Shotgun (Core Set, 14) and Snowmobile (For the Greater Good, 21).
Even if you can’t draw an early Military Attaché, you can still gain Arcane icons at a story by sending the new government character, Warrant Officer (For the Greater Good, 10). Armed with a wrench and a flashlight, this Warrant Officer grants both an Arcane icon and a Combat icon to each of your Agency characters at the same story. Because his response triggers when he’s committed, these icons last until the end of the phase, even if your Warrant Officer flees the story in terror.
The Terror struggle is much less of a concern for one of the expansion’s other government officials. The Heroic General Edward Irving (For the Greater Good, 18) not only boasts Willpower and Toughness, but he can ready himself any time he loses a Terror struggle. Here, in a nutshell, we see the embodiment of the Agency’s most heroic tendencies: as its members confront unfathomable threats that might drive lesser individuals insane, they don’t use their time to seek accolades, but just to battle through the first waves in order to find some means to drive back and defeat any subsequent waves.
The Untold Story
Why don’t we know more about the Agency’s efforts to confront the Ancient Ones and their minions? There are two possible explanations, neither of which precludes the other.
One possibility is that the government characters from For the Greater Good follow the examples set by General Edward Irving and Lt. Wilson Stewart. They keep their work secret because they understand how maddening it could be if the world at large were ever to learn that its very existence was constantly threatened by forces it couldn’t possibly understand.
But there is another possible theory for the Agency’s secrecy. Some speculate that the individuals responsible for extending the Agency’s global networks may, in fact, operate with far less noble intentions. After all, in a faction that has mastered the art of bureaucracy, it’s all too easy for some individuals to hold secrets that lie within larger secrets that are themselves nested within the layers of other secrets.
Alongside its brazen proficiency in the Combat struggle, the Agency has a long history of conspiracies, cover ups, and bureaucratic Red Tape (For the Greater Good, 27). Its members have specialized in eliminating incriminating evidence since the Core Set and Torch the Joint! (Core Set, 18), but a few careless slip-ups have tipped others to their involvement in deeper events. We’ve seen evidence of a greater Cover Up (Perilous Trials, 22), which leads directly toward speculation about the nature of the Agency’s conspiracies and those members involved.
The increase in the number and efficiency of government characters seems, also, to correlate with the introduction of four new conspiracies, all of which offer Agency players new and powerful means of conducting their business away from prying eyes.
Players with Agency decks that feature a lot of low-cost characters or make use of ample cost reduction may wish to explore the faction’s involvement in The Blackwood Initiative (For the Greater Good, 35). While it’s in play, The Blackwood Conspiracy plays resourcing and card advantage against each other, forcing unprepared players into truly difficult decisions as they grapple with how they wish to balance two of the game’s essential elements. Meanwhile, even though this potent conspiracy is Loyal and costs two resources, you can get it into play for just one resource via Cover Up, even before your opponent manages to resource his first card.
If you’d prefer to resource normally but want to control how your opponent commits to stories, you could instead play a copy of The Usual Suspects (For the Greater Good, 32). Playing to the Agency’s strengths, this conspiracy replaces the Terror struggle with a second Combat struggle, but you might not really want to win this conspiracy. First of all, it’s not necessarily the best target for your investigations. Instead of requiring five success tokens, The Usual Suspects requires eight, meaning it takes at least one additional turn to score. Second, its game text protects the characters you commit elsewhere from the disruptive and harmful effects of non-unique characters like Wheelman (Denizens of the Underworld, 19), Ya-te-veo (The Unspeakable Pages, 91), and even the terrifying Ravager from the Deep (Core Set, 46).
Additionally, its presence on the table may prevent your opponent from aggressively pursuing success tokens with characters like the Alternative Historian (Seekers of Knowledge, 15) and Faceless Abductor (The Order of the Silver Twilight, 7).
The Anderson Building (For the Greater Good, 34) presents an alternate means of controlling how your opponent commits to stories. So long as The Anderson Building is in play, any time a player succeeds at a story, he must trigger its effect as though he had won it. While this is a great way to draw a lot of cards through Chaos Unleashed (The Shifting Sands, 8), it’s also a powerful disincentive to the commitment of too many characters to The Ninth Plague (The Shifting Sands, 2) or Within the Ice (The Shifting Sands, 4).
Finally, there’s an elite sect of Agency operatives toiling behind the scenes to conduct The Great Work (For the Greater Good, 33). As long as this conspiracy remains in play, players cannot trigger effects from out of play, unless they have a character commit to it. This means your opponent can’t play events, sneak up on you with Black Dogs (Words of Power, 29), or confound you with the sudden appearance of his diabolical Dreamlands Fanatics (In the Dread of Night, 47). Even the mighty Descendant of Eibon (The Terror of the Tides, 75) is thwarted by this conspiracy, as are all effects your opponent might hope to trigger from the discard pile.
Now that they have put such powerful, far-reaching conspiracies into motion, the Agency’s government officials are certain to vie for the title of the most secretive faction within Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, especially when you consider the synergies its conspiracies have with such conspirators as Abbess Allegria Di Biase (Terror in Venice, 1) and Intelligence Agent (For the Greater Good, 7).
To What End?
The only question that remains is whether these conspirators are working in the shadows on behalf of humanity, or if they’re merely pawns for other, more sinister players. Could it be that all their efforts to defend human civilization are being secretly corrupted and perverted?
In our next preview of For the Greater Good, we’ll take a look at two Agency deck lists that may look outwardly similar, but ultimately reveal some profoundly ominous differences.
Until then, head to your local retailer, and pre-order your copy of For the Greater Good!