Peer Beyond the Veil
Download a New FAQ and Taboo List for Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Greetings, Arkham Horror: The Card Game players!
As promised, with The Innsmouth Conspiracy just released and a brand-new campaign of horrors on the horizon, we’ve updated the official FAQ (20 MB) and the Taboo Cards (66 MB) with a lot of clarifications and changes. Today, we’d like to peel back the curtain and shed some light on some of the new updates to the List of Taboos—not just what the changes are, but why each change was made. We won’t be covering every single update to today’s FAQ, as some of the errata and Q&A clarifications are pretty self-explanatory, but we’re hoping to provide some behind-the-scenes insight as to how we consider updates to the List of Taboos, along with certain rulings.
A Dimensional Twist
Before we talk about the List of Taboos, we’d like to address a change to the “As if…” ruling, largely designed to simplify the interactions with Luke Robinson (The Dream-eaters, 4). Luke’s ability is pretty straightforward on its face, but has the potential to cause a tremendous amount of edge cases when paired with specific situations. In order to clarify these interactions, we added the “As if…” ruling in the previous iteration of the FAQ, but that ruling proved difficult to follow.
We have now reversed that version of “As if…” and updated it to a new version that we believe greatly simplifies these interactions. Before, you would have to parse what counts as part of the event’s ability and what is not, which can be unintuitive when there are many rippling consequences from playing the event. (For example, if I play an attack event, what is considered to be part of the attack and what is not? If the location in question has a forced ability that triggers when cards are committed to a test, would it trigger?) With this new ruling, the game state is considered to be altered throughout the duration of the playing of the event, from start to finish, making the question much easier to answer. This should hopefully answer a lot of the unclear interactions regarding Luke’s ability, and also brings it in line with previous rulings we have made in the past regarding Rex Murphy (The Dunwich Legacy, 2) and In the Know (The Path to Carcosa, 27), which is a nice bonus.
Time for Taboos!
Now for the List of Taboos. There are a lot of updates to the List of Taboos this time around, as we’ve had some time for the metagame around The Dream-Eaters cycle to settle, and we just saw a huge influx of new cards from the Investigator Starter Decks. Now is the best time to evaluate the card pool and make tweaks here and there in order to promote proper game balance and a healthy deckbuilding environment.
First, I’d like to explain a bit of our thought process behind the List of Taboos. Generally speaking, we want to make changes that are intuitive and relatively easy to remember. Changes to deckbuilding restrictions (such as experience adjustments, or adding the exceptional keyword) are favorable, since you only ever need to think about them outside of gameplay. Once the card is in your deck, it functions as printed, and you don’t need to worry about accidentally playing the card the wrong way. A lot of times, if we can adjust the balance of a card simply by tweaking its experience cost, this is the best option.
In some ways, experience acts similar to a “restricted list” from many of our other games. It doesn’t change the way the card functions, nor does it disallow you from using the card—it simply limits the extent to which you can include lots of similarly powerful cards in your deck. For example, increasing the experience level of a powerful card doesn’t make it any less powerful, but it makes it that much harder for you to include two copies of that card along with two copies of a level five card that works really well with it. This can add up quickly! It also means that you’re unable to begin a campaign with certain staple cards and must first get by without them for the first scenario or two.
However, sometimes a simple experience adjustment is not enough, and we must tackle the text of the card itself with a Mutation. Again, our goal is to keep these changes as intuitive and easy to remember as possible. Changing the card’s resource cost or its number of uses is cumbersome and hard to remember. Adding a limit or a “remove from game” effect is much more favorable. Some mutations are a bit more complex, but if they feel thematically appropriate, that can make the new text easier to remember. We also want to ensure that any changes to the text still fit within the card’s text box without making the card too cluttered or impossible to read, since we offer these updated tabooed cards as a downloadable PDF.
As for our goals, we’re not looking to necessarily strike the perfect balance in terms of raw numbers. The primary purpose of the List of Taboos is to find ways to keep the card pool healthy and active, and to encourage shifts in the deckbuilding environment. Sometimes we’ll taboo a card simply because it’s too powerful, but more often we’ll look at changing a card if we see that it is dominating its slot or archetype and pushing out other similar options.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the changes to the List of Taboos in the new edition of the FAQ.
Machete (Core Set, 20) / Higher Education (Blood on the Altar, 187) / Streetwise (Blood on the Altar, 189) / Scrapper (Blood on the Altar, 193) (Chained at +1 experience, +3 experience, +3 experience, and +1 experience, respectively): These were all cards that were hit hard in the first edition of the List of Taboos, because they were edging out other options at their original experience cost. We went pretty far in raising their experience costs because we wanted to encourage players to think about using other cards to accomplish similar goals, and to that extent, mission accomplished! But now that the card pool has grown quite a bit since then and there are many other weapons and skill-boosting talents at similar experience levels, we thought it was time to scale these cards back down a little bit. We still believe they deserve a spot on the Chained list for some time to come, but they’re not as ubiquitous as they once were.
Pathfinder (The Miskatonic Museum, 108) (Chained at +2 experience): While not explosive on its own, Pathfinder has proved to be a difficult card to design around. At 1 XP and with no slots, it’s an auto-include in most Seeker or Off-Seeker investigators. While we considered keeping the experience cost the same and Mutating the card to be “Limit 1 per investigator,” we decided that making it more expensive would accomplish a similar goal, gently encouraging players to perhaps only add one to their deck—or none at all, depending on your investigator. This change will also help us to add more movement-related assets to the game in the future at the level 1-2 range without them being completely obliterated by Pathfinder in a direct comparison.
Flamethrower (Shattered Aeons, 305) (Chained at +1 experience): Flamethrower has numerous restrictions that keep it from being completely out of control, but it’s still an extremely powerful weapon and has the potential to edge out other level 5 cards in its slot. We’d like to make sure that high-level Guardians have several different viable weapon options available to them, and we think that this card is very much worth the extra XP.
Mr. "Rook" (The Wages of Sin, 153) (Chained at +4 experience): Mr. “Rook” is a very efficient combo-enabler that has proved to be ubiquitous in many decks. There are numerous mutations that could bring this card in line, but we’ve opted to start off by simply chaining the card at what we think is a fair experience level. Four experience is high, but at Rook’s power level, very much within reason. What this change does is make it harder to justify including one or two copies of Rook along with many other high-level cards, which lessens his combo potential. However, we’ll keep an eye on this card and see if perhaps we need to do a different tweak down the road, if he still proves to be an auto-include at 4 XP. We have one particular Mutation in mind that we think would do the trick if we wanted to keep him at 0 XP.
Knowledge Is Power (Union and Disillusion, 231) (Chained at +2 experience): This card is an explosive combo card. Like many other combo cards, it may not sound incredible on its own, but in conjunction with powerful, high-level Tome or Spell cards, it can really do some work, and at 0 cost and fast, it’s pretty much a no-brainer if your deck includes either Tome or Spell cards. At 2 XP, it’s still a powerful card in the right deck, but the additional XP cost might force you to decide between this card and other powerful cards, which makes for healthier deckbuilding.
Segment of Onyx (The Dream-eaters, 21) (Chained at +3 experience): Keep in mind this card is myriad, so you would get all three copies for a total of 4 XP. This card is nothing on its own, but the Pendant of the Queen that it turns into is exceptionally powerful, especially in decks that are able to recycle it over and over again. We considered changing the Pendant of the Queen so that it removed itself from the game after it left play—or discarded the three Segments instead of shuffling them into your deck—but ultimately we decided that the card worked better if it was just a higher XP card. It makes sense for such a powerful artifact, and it’s fun using lots of search effects to unite the three segments, so we didn’t want to cut that aspect of the card away. However, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this card over the course of the next campaign, and see how players react to this change—it may need to be Mutated in a later update!
The Necronomicon Petrus de Dacia Translation (Harvey Walters Investigator Starter Deck, 33) (Chained at +3 experience): The Great Seeker Nerf of 2020 continues. As Arkham players quickly found out, this card is extremely powerful. Like the Key of Ys before it, it is a bit more game-warping in its power than its level would suggest, and it deserves a higher experience cost. There are numerous changes to the text we could have made instead of simply adding +3 experience, but ultimately, this card’s text box is simply too crowded to add any additional costs (such as exhaustion), and as I mentioned before, adjustments to its number of secrets or the number of secrets paid as a cost would be unintuitive and difficult to remember. We saw that after we added exceptional to Key of Ys, there was (foreseeably) a large drop in the number of players using it, but players that were willing to spend the XP to earn it still found it incredibly valuable. We believe this change, along with the changes to Sleight of Hand and Knowledge is Power in this update, will put this card in a similar place.
Quick Thinking (Undimensioned and Unseen, 229) (Mutated card ability now reads, “max once per round”): This mutation is primarily meant to prevent Quick Thinking from being used over and over again by Amanda Sharpe to potentially gain an infinite number of actions, or with other cards that can recycle skills from the discard pile. The way this mutation is worded has a neat benefit, though—the maximum applies only to the action-gaining aspect of the effect. Therefore, you can now commit as many copies of this card to a single test as you like, while only potentially gaining one bonus action from its effect.
Sleight of Hand (The Path to Carcosa, 29) (Mutated card ability now reads, “Put a level 0–3 Item asset into play from your hand”): The original mutation on Sleight of Hand was meant to cut down on the number of decks abusing the efficiency of this card with the power of high level weapons, specifically the Shotgun and Lightning Gun (which led to the adorably-named “Sleightning Gun” deck archetype). For the most part, the old mutation totally accomplished that goal. However, we now have several powerful high-level one-handed items which Sleight of Hand still is hyper-efficient with (such as the new Petrus de Dacia Necronomicon), so we’re mutating it once again to prevent both kinds of abuse. This new version should still allow you to use Sleight of Hand with many of its intended targets, such as the Colt Vest Pocket and the Lupara, while preventing it from being used with extremely powerful level 4–5 cards.
All In (Shattered Aeons, 309) (Mutated card ability now has the text, “Remove All In from the game”): While we believe that All In is a fairly well-balanced card on its own, considering its high level, it has still become the centerpiece for a few “infinite recursion” decks that we don’t want to see dominating play. This simple change should prevent the card from being abused over and over again, while retaining its power level in an average game.
Scroll of Secrets —all three versions (Mutated abilities are now free triggered abilities): Scroll of Secrets is a card with a decent effect that is overburdened by a cumbersome action cost (unless you’re playing Daisy Walker). Since this card is already level 0 and therefore cannot be unchained, we’ve decided to do a bit of an experiment on our part, and instead change its ability to be a free trigger instead of an action. This change should open this card up to a lot more use, and its low cost makes it especially potent with Dexter Drake, the Parallel version of Daisy, and the recently revealed Gloria Goldberg. However, with its valuable hand slot and limited secrets, we think it is still a pretty well-balanced card. I’m looking forward to seeing this card used more with this change.
.35 Winchester (Dark Side of the Moon, 195) (Mutated card ability now reads: “…If a chaos token with a non-negative modifier is revealed during this attack, this attack deals +2 damage”): Okay, I’ll admit, this one is a bit less obvious. The main difference between this updated text and the original Winchester text is that it now works with bless tokens and card effects that replace a token’s modifier with a new modifier. We like this card’s design space, and we feel that it could be the centerpiece for some really interesting decks, but at its original power level, it’s a bit of what we call a “hard ask.” This updated version doesn’t really alter its power level much, but it does allow it to combo with many of the new cards in The Innsmouth Conspiracy, which should hopefully breathe some new life into it. This change also combos with Jim Culver’s ability to turn the modifier of skull tokens to a 0, so I’m really keen to see some “gunslingin’ Jim” decks!
Double or Nothing (The Dunwich Legacy, 26) This card has been particularly troublesome for some time. True to its name, this card is very difficult to balance, since it is a total liability at its worst and absolutely game-shattering at its best. This is one example where we’ve found that Chaining the card at nearly any experience level is undesirable. A high experience cost makes the card nigh-unplayable in any deck that isn’t a game-breaking combo deck, while still allowing game-breaking combo decks to exist. Adding a “remove from game” component, like we did to All In, would limit the potential for abuse, but still allow potentially game-ending combos that deal spectacular amounts of damage to a boss enemy or allow a player to draw through their entire deck in one action. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, and very in-theme for Rogues, but it’s difficult to craft any sort of tweak to this card that would put it in a healthy place. For these reasons, we believe Double or Nothing deserves its place as the game’s first Forbidden card. Remember, of course, that the List of Taboos is entirely optional, and if you want to continue playing with Double or Nothing at 0 XP, Jeremy and I won’t show up at your house to tear your copy up. (Editor’s Note: We can’t promise what will happen if you threw away your proof of purchase tokens.)
We’re sure there are many cards you expected might show up on this list and didn’t. (For example, some of you might be wondering how Mandy Thompson didn’t end up with any changes.) Keep in mind that a change to one card has consequences that can ripple throughout the entire card pool. For example, Mandy Thompson wasn’t directly changed in this update, but the change to Mr. “Rook” has the potential to dramatically scale back her power level on its own. Likewise, many cards that weren’t touched in this update, when re-evaluated in the light of these changes, may seem less or more appealing than they were before.
As always, we’ll continue to keep a close eye on the card pool and on the Arkham Horror LCG community as a whole, so keep building decks and discussing the cards in each new expansion—we’re definitely listening! Our intent is to not revisit the List of Taboos until The Innsmouth Conspiracy comes to a close, so now is the time to start a new campaign and see how these alterations affect the card pool.
Enjoy… and good luck!