Clues, Challenge, and Chaos
Preview the Gameplay of Arkham Horror: The Card Game
"Carter lived in Boston, but it was from the wild, haunted hills behind hoary and witch-accursed Arkham that all his forbears had come. And it was amid those ancient, cryptically brooding hills that he had ultimately vanished."
–H.P. Lovecraft, Through the Gates of the Silver Key
It is 1925, and the sleepy New England town of Arkham has been struck by a rash of disappearances. People have gone missing, only for their bodies to turn up in the woods mutilated and half-eaten. It's the work of wild animals, say the police. But you are not convinced. There are signs that darker and far more dangerous forces may be at work. And in Arkham Horror: The Card Game, it's up to you and as many as three other investigators to delve into the matter and uncover the truth…
As we revealed in the game's announcement, Arkham LCG® explores the spaces between the barriers of the traditional card game and roleplay experiences—to the point where these experiences almost merge. You and your friends each become investigators, your decks represent your strengths and resources, and you must even add cards that represent your unique weaknesses. These weakness cards then present personal challenges you must overcome, even as you're confronted by sinister cultists, foul rituals, and otherworldly monsters. The result is a horrifying mash-up of card gaming and roleplaying that compels you ever deeper into mystery and madness.
But before you find yourself neck deep in eldritch secrets, you might be struck by the sudden certainty that the strangers you see in the shadows are actually planning your unwilling involvement in occult rituals. And you might find yourself wondering how you can possibly make a difference in matters far beyond your comprehension…
The first step, it turns out, is to learn more. In Arkham LCG, while the cultists, monsters, and other forces that you're investigating are working in the shadows to advance their agendas, you and your fellow investigators are racing to gather and piece together clues that might point you in the right direction.
Your goal is to successfully gather enough clues to progress through the act deck before the occult forces arrayed against you can advance their agenda deck.
Typically, you discover clues by investigating locations. Whenever you travel to an unrevealed location, such as the Study (Core Set, 111), you reveal it and discover how many (if any) clues it contains, as well as its shroud value. Denoted in the dark circle at the center left of the location, the Study's shroud value of two establishes the difficulty of your attempts to investigate it. This is an important detail to note because every skill check you attempt is made against one of your investigator's four skills: willpower ( ), intellect ( ), combat ( ), or agility ( ). To succeed, you need a skill value equal to or higher than the difficulty.
As an example, then, Roland Banks (Core Set, 1) might attempt to investigate the Study. He has an intellect of three, which is greater than the Study's shroud value of two; however, he cannot declare success just yet. There's another element at play in each of your skill checks—the chaos of the unknown.
Whenever your investigator performs a skill test, you draw one chaos token blindly out of a bag of assorted tokens called the chaos bag. The drawn token then modifies your investigator's skill value. Some may boost your check, but most apply penalties, ranging everywhere from -1 to -8 to automatic failure. Some chaos tokens bear symbols that mean nothing on their own, but are given scenario-specific results, indicated by your scenario card.
For example, when you play the first scenario in the Core Set, The Gathering, the skull token ( ) is worth -X where X equals the number of Ghoul enemies at your location. Meanwhile the cultist token ( ) is worth -1, but it also penalizes you further if you fail. "If you fail, take 1 horror."
So in our example, as Roland Banks attempts to investigate the Study, he'll be aware that forces beyond his control may thwart his efforts, and he may even wish to boost his intellect before he tests it.
Rising to the Challenge
There are a number of different ways that Roland and other investigators may boost their skills and increase their chance of success.
First of all, you can use assets to boost your skills. Even among these, however, you'll find a good deal of variety. For example, a Charm like the Holy Rosary (Core Set, 59) may provide a static—albeit limited—boost to one of your investigator's skills while a Talent like Hyperawareness (Core Set, 34) may not provide you any immediate boost but grants you the ability to spend your resources and temporarily increase one or more of your skills immediately before a check.
You may note, here, that the Holy Rosary occupies your investigator's accessory slot, while the Hyperawareness Talent doesn't compete for any of your investigator's available slots. And the values of these slots should be among your considerations as you assemble your deck, especially since you only have one body, two hands, and one accessory slot. You also have one ally slot and the ability to comprehend as many as two challenging pieces of arcane knowledge.
In the end, when you're looking at your deck, you'll have to decide for yourself whether you'd prefer the action-efficient reliability of an item like the Magnifying Glass (Core Set, 30) or if you'd prefer to use that slot for a more versatile—although less action-efficient—Tome like the Encyclopedia (Core Set, 42).
Of course, there are also skill cards like Perception (Core Set, 90) and Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 93) that you can use to increase your skills during a check. These cards are committed to the test before you draw your chaos token and then add their icons to your skill values. Perception adds two to your intellect, and if you succeed at the check, it allows you to draw a card. Unexpected Courage doesn't grant a card draw, but its two question mark icons ( ) can be applied toward any type of check.
Finally, you can boost your skill by discarding any card from your hand to add its icons to your skill value. If you're playing as Wendy Adams (Core Set, 5) and have Leo De Luca (Core Set, 48) as an ally, you probably won't want to send him away in favor of a Stray Cat (Core Set, 76). But that Stray Cat is still valuable for the agility icon it might later apply toward your attempt to evade an enemy.
Never as Easy as It Looks
Back to our example, Roland Banks finds himself trapped in his Study, looking for a way out. He decides to investigate, but because of the eerie nature of the events that have trapped him—and because he hears strange scrapings and rattlings beneath his floor—he decides to boost his intellect using the intellect icon on the copy of Barricade (Core Set, 38) that he discards from his hand. He does this all in order to secure a greater chance of success before he draws his chaos token.
He reaches into the bag and…
At this point, it's worth noting that the chaos bag is an important part of the game not only because it introduces a measure of randomness and the accompanying measure of suspense, but because it's profoundly scaleable. The Core Set contains more chaos tokens than you'll need for any of your scenarios, and this is deliberate. Your bag of chaos tokens changes based upon your campaign and the difficulty level at which you play through your campaign. Moreover, you may even be able to change it, adding or removing tokens as indicated by campaign and card effects.
The chaos bag has tremendous flexibility. And this is especially true when you consider that each scenario can define the effects of its different tokens and that each investigator also introduces his or her own unique effect for the elder sign token ( )…
Roland pulls out a minus-two token. Modified upward by one discarded intellect icon and downward by the chaos token, Roland's modified intellect value is now two, which equals the shroud value of the Study. He successfully investigates, and he discovers a clue.
However, the scratching noises beneath his feet are also growing louder, and they're starting to sound more and more like long claws on the bottoms of his floorboards. In something of a panic, Roland realizes he's still trapped in his Study, and he'll need to find at least one more clue before he can free himself…
What Horrifying Truths Will You Uncover?
Will Roland Banks find his way out of the Study that locked itself shut against him? Will he be ripped apart by the ghouls trying to crawl up through his floors? Will you rush to his aid? What horrifying truths will you uncover over the course of your investigations in Arkham Horror: The Card Game?
Arkham LCG is scheduled for release later this year. In the meantime, be sure to keep investigating our website for more previews and other Arkham LCG news, including a closer look at some of the monsters, magic, and madness that await you!