A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Lose
A Preview of The Path to Carcosa for Arkham Horror: The Card Game
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
–H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature
How do you weave a tale of cosmic horror from a collection of printed cards?
This question lives very near the heart of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. It pervades the strange events you investigate within the game. It lives, also, near the corrupted soul of The Path to Carcosa. And it is answered in many ways.
The Spells Your Cards May Weave
Arkham Horror: The Card Game draws you into a world of cosmic horror by—first of all—forging memorable tales. The narrative prologues to your adventures set the stage for your emotional experience with a scenario as well as how you approach gameplay. These stories invest the adventure's events with a certain weight, and they lead into the text you encounter on the top cards of the agenda and act decks.
These decks further deepen the game's exploration of madness and horror by pressuring you throughout your investigations. Each tick of the clock finds another doom placed upon the agenda deck, slowly ticking toward its next terrifying reveal. Against this timer, you race to advance the act deck, by meeting its requirements—even though you can never be quite certain its advancement will be wholly for the good. Pulling back one layer of a mystery, after all, may only find you thrust into battle with the malign forces that had sought to conceal their activities.
Throughout all of this, there's also the fact that you're only a single investigator—and all too human—in the midst of events that may originate with powers and in different realities that you cannot possibly comprehend. Your own deck (and the personality and resources it represents) may betray you. You start with at least two weaknesses in your deck… and may add more.
In Arkham LCG®, you play the role of a flawed human being in a world cracked open to reveal the horrifying truths of other worlds, you have an extremely limited measure of time to peel back the layers of mystery and get to the root of it before a hidden doom encompasses the world, you're constantly wading into deeper troubles with each new location you explore, and the world is constantly erupting into chaos around you.
That's pretty much the sum of things—at least in the Core Set and The Dunwich Legacy. But what about in The Path to Carcosa?
A Subtler Form of Madness
The Arkham Files universe often intersects with the Lovecraftian Mythos at those points where infinitesimally limited humans encounter the first signs of a maddeningly immense universe that houses creatures far older and far more powerful than we mortals.
We may begin our investigations with disappearances that hint at nefarious activities, trace those activities back to a wicked cult, and then discover that the cult has summoned forth some extradimensional entity with a malevolent and gibbous, many-tentacled form. The events will certainly test our health, but they also test our sanity as we recoil in horror from the scene before us.
But there are other forms of cosmic horror, and we find one of them given shape in The King in Yellow, a collection of macabre short stories by Robert W. Chambers. The first four stories center around the forbidden play, The King in Yellow, which causes madness and despair to bloom in the minds of all who read it.
While there's certainly an element of the supernatural at play in these stories, the terror is far more internalized and cerebral than in the tales of alien visitations, human sacrifices, and physical transformations you may find elsewhere in the Mythos. And since The King in Yellow figures prominently in The Path to Carcosa expansion for Arkham Horror: The Card Game, you'll find its cards exploring new forms of madness and terror as well.
Hidden and Convicted
In many ways, The Path to Carcosa begins its foray into your investigator's darkest subconscious through the introduction of the new "hidden" keyword, which thrusts new Terrors upon you—and you alone.
Because each of the new hidden cards from The Path to Carcosa are paired with the peril keyword, you must keep their abilities secret from all the other investigators at the table. In fact, the Revelation text on each of these new hidden encounter cards tells you to add it "secretly" to your hand. The more astute among your fellow investigators might notice, anyway, that you're holding a card with an encounter card back, but they won't know which Terror has seized you or how it's impacting your play—because each of these cards does, in fact, hit you hard and alter the way you'll play the game.
Like Whispers in Your Head (Doubt) (The Path to Carcosa, 84), each of these hidden cards—which you cannot play or discard, except by meeting the card's requirements—forces a line of game text upon you while it's in your hand. Like a muttering voice inside your skull, it sits with you and directs your action, invisible to even your closest companions. And, as you might expect, when the investigators can no longer understand or trust each other's actions, you'll find paranoia creeping into your game.
But it's not just paranoia that you'll encounter in The Path to Carcosa. You'll also sow the first seeds of the Doubt or Conviction that will haunt you throughout The Path to Carcosa campaign. At various points, a story resolution or interlude may instruct you to "Mark one Doubt" or "Mark one Conviction" in the campaign log. Then, later in the campaign, other scenarios may change depending upon your level of doubt or conviction.
The best part? You won't necessarily know which is good—doubt or conviction—or if either can potentially lead toward a positive outcome. After all, doubt can be crippling—if it's doubt in your abilities. But it can be a valuable survival instinct if it's a skeptical doubt about the reality of your surroundings. Conversely, your conviction will likely hasten you along your path—but it won't help you determine if the path down which you're headed is actually the right one.
Accordingly, if H.P. Lovecraft was right when he wrote that the "strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown," The Path to Carcosa promises to push us more fully into a fearful mindset—as we respond to a world with more secrets and fewer certainties.
Your Thoughts Will Betray You
By forcing you to act in the present—under intense pressure—while you face uncertainty in the future and at every turn, Arkham Horror: The Card Game bristles with tension. It's not a customizable card game where simply winning is good enough; the Arkham LCG® campaign allows for resolutions of varying degrees of success or failure, and it forces you to make decisions that may or may not have darker repercussions down the road.
You're mortal. You're fallible. And you're not just playing against the enemy; you need to control your own mind. Every investigator has his or her weaknesses, and there's no telling when you may suddenly find yourself Drawing the Sign (The Path to Carcosa, 41).
By playing upon each of these pressures in new ways—even while it adds new ways to whisper in your mind and play upon your Doubts or Convictions—The Path to Carcosa promises to intensify and reshape your experiences with the game's cosmic horrors.
How will you retain your sanity in the face of these new forms of madness? Keep your eyes open for our previews of the expansion's new investigators and player cards. In the meantime, head to your local retailer today to pre-order your copy of The Path to Carcosa (AHC11)!
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