Prepared for the Worst
A Guide to Solo Deckbuilding in Arkham Horror: The Card Game
When you find yourself pitted against the horrors of the Mythos, you may have a companion at your side—or even a few other investigators who will stand with you against terrors from beyond our dimension. But what happens if you find yourself all alone? Today, we welcome two Arkham Horror: The Card Game community members to share their experience and offer some tips on how to build your deck the next time you’re starting a solo campaign!
Vase and Nate on Building a Solo Deck
The air hangs thin. Your mind paces back and forth as your hands begin to clam up and your sanity weakens with the continuous shuffling of cardboard growing ever more vigorous betwixt your fingers. Your eyes gaze blankly at a familiar image and your heart begins to pound violently as you anxiously ask yourself. “Do I have enough weapons in my deck? How many skill icons should I have?”
Sweat begins to drip from your brow as you question more and more but find no answer. Paralyzed, your resolve cracks, and suddenly, the room and all of reality begin to spin around you, fading into the darkness from which it was born. Out of the darkness, a voice calls out to you… “Hey, are you done building your deck yet?”
There are many factors that go into deciding what cards to include in your deck—what investigator you’re playing, what campaign or scenario you're playing, what difficulty you're playing, etc. One of the biggest factors, and the focus of today's article, is the number of investigators playing. Whether you've decided to trek out into the jungle with a full party of investigators or spend a quiet night alone doing research in your study, the key to success in Arkham Horror: The Card Game lies in how you construct your investigator deck. Depending on the number of players, how you go about this construction can vary drastically.
In this article, we wanted to go over some general guidelines to consider when building decks for solo play. If your only experience is in three- or four-player games, solo Arkham Horror: The Card Game can almost feel like a completely different game. Playing alone requires your deck to manage every aspect of the game with at least some proficiency, which can burden even the most seasoned veteran. Hopefully, we'll be able to steer you in the right direction so you can continue chasing down cultists with (misplaced) confidence.
Any scenario in Arkham Horror: The Card Game can be quite demanding on a single investigator, requiring they cover all aspects of progression in the game. More often than not, however, investigators are not inherently well suited to handle everything, and may be lacking in some regard. Carolyn Fern (The Circle Undone, 1) can struggle to defeat enemies, while Zoey Samaras (The Dunwich Legacy, 1) may have a tough time discovering clues. This makes good deck construction essential to success. Regardless of the investigator you choose or the campaign you are going to face, when building a solo deck, there are three major questions you should ask yourself to decide what cards to include.
The Three Questions
1.) How will I get clues?
As the only player in the game, it's up to you alone to discover the clues needed to advance each act, so it’s critical that you have a way to reliably obtain clues. Seeker investigators, such as Mandy Thompson (The Dream-Eaters, 2) or Daisy Walker (Core Set, 2), can easily push their high intellect even further with asset or skill cards. Other investigators, such as Preston Fairmont (The Circle Undone, 3) or Zoey Samaras, are not so blessed in this department, so cards like Intel Report (The Secret Name, 111), Scene of the Crime (Threads of Fate, 103), and Drawn to the Flame (Core Set, 64) are great ways of getting clues without having to reach into the murky depths of the chaos bag.
No matter what investigator you’re using, most locations in the game only have one clue per investigator. Knowing this, you should prioritize reliably getting one clue per location over potentially grabbing many clues in one go. Using Mandy as an example, you're better off including a card like Magnifying Glass (Core Set, 30) or Flashlight (Core Set, 87) over the Fingerprint Kit (The Circle Undone, 24) in a solo deck. Scooping up clues quickly will ensure you complete the scenario before you run into too many enemies.
2.) How will I manage enemies?
Progressing through a scenario, you'll no doubt run into enemies that mean to do you harm. Knowing this, it's wise to come prepared for the worst… (joke in the article yet). While Guardians tend to excel at defeating enemies outright with their might and a .45 Automatic (Core Set, 16), investigators like Rita Young (The Circle Undone, 5), and "Skids" O'Toole (Core Set, 3) are better equipped to leave their foes in the dust. Each style of enemy management comes with its own strengths and weaknesses worthy of its own article, but unlike gathering extra clues, dealing extra damage is always welcome. A card like Deduction (Core Set, 39) can have limited value in a solo game, but a Vicious Blow (Core Set, 25) will likely be your saving grace when one of O'Bannion's thugs comes looking to rough you up.
When dedicating cards to enemy management, it's generally a good idea to have at least some way to put down the game’s Elite enemies, as their defeat is likely necessary for victory. Sneak Attack (Core Set, 52), "I've got a plan!" (The Miskatonic Museum, 107), and Spectral Razor (Dark Side of the Moon, 201) are all great ways to ensure a good chunk of damage. How you go about dealing with your foes will ultimately depend on your choice of investigator and campaign. Just make sure you have the money to pay for all these things!
3.) How will I manage my resources?
No matter what investigator you’re building a deck for, you’ll likely need some way of generating additional resources to play your key cards. Certain investigators are better at accumulating resources (looking at you, Jenny and Preston), but thankfully there's always an Emergency Cache (Core Set, 88) hiding somewhere if you really need it. How much extra money you need depends on the “cost curve” of your deck, or the resource cost of all your cards. A deck packing Agency Backup (In the Clutches of Chaos, 274) and Shotguns (Core Set, 29) without a way to stockpile money will end up just committing those cards to skill tests. When deckbuilding, try to keep the resource count in your decks down as much as possible. It's unlikely the horrors of the Mythos will stand idly by while you attempt to collect resources.
While you may be the only player in the game that's not to say you’re without help. Allies such as Dario El-Amin (The Unspeakable Oath, 151), Dr. Milan Christopher (Core Set, 33), and David Renfield (Echoes of the Past, 112) can help fund your campaign as well as providing a healthy stat boost. Another way to handle resource management is by using cards that reduce the cost of other cards. Uncage the Soul (The Path to Carcosa, 33) doesn’t generate resources, but it does allow you to play a Spell or Ritual from your hand and reduce its cost by three, making a Shrivelling (Core Set, 60) or Sixth Sense (The Wages of Sin, 158) free to play. Ever Vigilant (The Path to Carcosa, 23) and the newly revealed On Your Own (Return to the Forgotten Age, 10) perform a similar function for Guardians and Survivors respectively. But there's another form of resource management to consider in solo play, and that is card draw.
Resources are only as useful as the cards you spend them on. You draw a card every upkeep phase, but that won't often be enough to keep a steady stream of cards flowing into your hand. Assets such as Rabbit's Foot (Core Set, 75), Lucky Cigarette Case (Core Set, 107), and Scroll of Prophecies (The Search for Kadath, 116) are great options for repeated card draw. Seekers are blessed with numerous draw events, such as Preposterous Sketches (Blood on the Altar, 186), No Stone Unturned (The Path to Carcosa, 26), and the powerful Cryptic Research (Core Set, 43), ensuring they never run out of cards. Cards that search your deck, like Prepared for the Worst (Blood on the Altar, 184), Calling in Favors (The Unspeakable Oath, 158), and Practice Makes Perfect (Dark Side of the Moon, 197), while not providing direct card advantage, do ensure that you find lynchpin cards for your strategy before the doom count runs out.
How you answer all of these questions depends on your investigator, campaign, and difficulty you're playing on, but there’s one underlying thread for all these answers and that is tempo. Doom accumulates at the same rate regardless of player count, so being able to complete objectives quickly is critical when playing on your own. Ultimately, building decks for solo play in Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a challenging, yet rewarding experience. Building decks for co-op games? Well, that's a subject for another day…
Innkeeper Vase Odin
Innkeeper Vase Odin of the YouTube channel, "The Twisted Tentacle Inn," has been playing games for almost four decades, and in the past couple of years has been specifically enjoying Dungeons & Dragons and Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Born in Panama City, Panama, the Innkeeper knows his way around a good machete. Vase moved to the U.S. in 1984, and lived in the bug-infested sauna they call "Florida" for over 30 years. His interests include nature hikes, playing guitar, horror movies, comic books, board games, and creating content for his YouTube channel. His favorite Lovecraftian story is "The Thing on the Doorstep.” Vase now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Lua and their two savage beasts, Thor and Loki.
Nate, Lost in time and space
Nate, Lost in time and space, of the YouTube channel of the same name, is the "Tech guy" and "Editor" for the “Great Old Ones Gaming” podcast and website. Nate got into the Cthulhu Mythos in the early 2000s with the second edition of Arkham Horror: The Board Game, and from there it spiraled out of control. From that point, Nate began playing Mythos-based roleplaying games such as Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green. When not creating content, Nate likes to GM roleplaying games, write music, and cook (as a hobby and professionally) Now, Nate lives in New England with his wife and the rats in the walls.