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Elder Sign--Game Reviews and Ruminations of a Solo Player

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#1 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 10:12 AM


Hello All! 


I picked up Elder Sign a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t think a day has passed where I haven’t played it at least once. Since my friends aren’t into games so much, I’ve been forced to play most of the games solo; I decided to do so using just one investigator, to see how only one fares against an Ancient One and its minions. 


After two rough games, where I got accustomed to the rules and how the mechanics work, I decided to log results because I’m a bit of a statistics nut, and I wanted to judge the strengths and weaknesses of each investigator. Here’s how the games went. I ran every investigator against an Ancient One, determined randomly. You’ll see as the games continued, I began to keep more detailed notes.


1)Jenny Barnes defeated Yog-Sothoth.


2)Professor Harvey Walters defeated Nyarlathotep.


3)Sister Mary defeated Cthulhu. 


So, after three games, the investigators were 3-0, and at least two of the wins came easily. I thought back on the games, and wondered if I was doing something wrong. I hadn’t, but with one exception. There’s many little details to remember playing the game, and I wasn’t 100% positive I was always advancing the clock when I should. To remedy this, I began jotting down each adventure card the investigator tackled--through simple math this would make it easy to tell if I were advancing the clock as needed. 


4)Amanda Sharpe lost to Shub-Niggurath.


The first investigator loss. The game lasted only 15 turns. Horrible Visions hit the board, kicking out two doom tokens at midnight, and the cards quickly filled with monsters. Still, Amanda had a good chance. Seeing things weren’t going her way, she accumulated trophies (monsters) for a final showdown. In the battle, it came down to the last roll. What could be more exciting than this? But, the roll didn’t go her way, and she was devoured by the Black Goat of the Woods. 


Stats: Amanda successfully completed 5 of 13 adventures, for a 38% success rate.


5)Darrel Simmons lost to Hastur.


Another close contest that went to a showdown. Simmons was successful in 8 of his first 9 adventures, then hit a snag, completing less than 50% of his remaining missions. In the fight, it lasted to two midnights, then Simmons was devoured.


Stats: The game lasted 27 turns, Simmons successfully completing 13 of 21 adventures, a 62% success rate.


6)Joe Diamond lost to Azathoth.


In a game that was eerily similar to the previous duel, the P.I. was successful in 12 of his first 14 adventures, building up a large lead in Elder Signs to Doom tokens. Then, Diamond began to fail his missions, and the mythos cards began to fill the doom track. After failing a Terrible Discovery and Don’t Fall Asleep, Azathoth awoke, and the black abyss of everlasting darkness engulfed humanity.  


Stats: Another game that lasted exactly 27 turns; Joe successfully completed 14 of 21 adventures, for a 67% success rate.


So, three more games brings us to an even score of 3-3. By diligently tracking time, I noticed how often I had overlooked advancing the clock (hint, hint, everyone). About three times each game I had honestly forgot to advance the clock, but by taking notes it was simple math to determine where the clock should be. Doom tokens spring forth quickly, and where a game can be going swimmingly for an Investigator, it can quickly turn the other way if one gets poor dice rolls and runs out of Common, Unique Items, and clue tokens. The games continued...



7)Kate Winthrop defeated Yig.


On paper, it would seem this would be an easy contest. Monsters do not appear after set-up for Kate, and the diminutive scientist doesn’t have to be concerned with terror effects. Yig, on the surface, doesn’t look like much. Heck, I’d never even heard of this critter in the tales of Lovecraft. What threat could this pretender pose? Yig’s weaknesses are also his strengths. His doom track filled quickly, and he awoke. In the end, Kate was fighting for her life to keep the forces of darkness at bay. She banished this AO at 3pm. At midnight, it would have been her. 


Stats: In a contest that lasted 32 turns, Kate completed 15 of 27 adventures, 56%. 


8)Bob Jenkins defeated Ithaqua.


This contest was the most exciting game I’ve had thus far. And with it, there’s a pattern that seems to develop. The Investigator completes many early adventures successfully, runs out of Common, Uniques, or Clue tokens, hits a snag, the AO catches up, and the final few turns can be very tense. Here, Jenkins built up a substantial lead, hit one small bump, and found himself needing to build-up his SAN and STAM for free in First Aid. Doing this, the Doom track began to fill. In the end, it came to the last pitch of the dice. Needing to win the game now, Jenkins challenged R’lyeh for three Elder Signs. Having used his red die and all of his clue tokens, he needed to roll two lore (scrolls) on his last two green dice to win. If he failed, he would lose his mind. Remarkably, the dice were with him, and the two green dice flashed scrolls, banishing Ithaqua back to his black hole, or wherever he resides. 


Stats: Stats can be misleading. Jenkins was successful on 18 of 23 adventures (78% but was extremely lucky to win) in this great game that lasted 30 turns. 


9)Gloria Goldberg defeated Yog-Sothoth.


In the shortest win for an investigator, Gloria dispatched Yog-Sothoth in 23 turns; her special ability winning the day. A highlight in this game was Gloria successfully completing Public Lavatory with two monsters in the room--a Maniac and a Byakhee. She had the help of Ruby Standish.


Stats: Gloria was successful in 11 of 16 adventures--69%. 



The investigators now lead 6-3. It’s easy right? Keep reading... 



10)Monterey Jack lost to Nyarlathotep.


Jack’s successes and failures were consistent throughout the game at 50%. He was successful, then failed, successful, failed, rinse and repeat. In the end, this wasn’t enough to keep him from losing his mind. Nyarlathotep’s tough monsters gave him fits. 


Stats: 7 of 14 successes for a rate for 50%. The game lasted a brief 21 turns. Lots of time in the museum recouping STAM and SAN. 


11)Ashcan Pete lost to Cthulhu. 


What can I say about good ol’ Ashcan Pete? This guy is, by far, the weakest of the characters. What a dreadful performance he had. He didn’t complete a single adventure, acquired free First Aid, then lost more adventures. Thankfully, he lost his mind before Cthulhu could devour his soul. 


Stats: Ashcan was 0 for 5 on his adventures (0%) in a game that took 8 turns and only 15 minutes of real time to complete. I felt sorry for Duke, who was sacrificed on turn 4. (No, Cthulhu isn’t this good--Ashcan IS this bad). A truly sad game. 



12)Mandy Thompson lost to Shub-Niggurath. 


Now we come to Shub’s second contest. Knowing what she was up against, Mandy came out with gusto, acquiring 5 Elder Signs fairly early in the game. Then Shub locked the board. Monsters everywhere, Horrible Visions on the board, kicking out doom tokens and more monsters. Mandy tried as hard as she could, but after an epic 56 turns had to face one-on-one battle with this horror. She had only one trophy, and was doomed at the second strike of midnight.


Stats: 6 of 31 successes (19%). All 6 successes were in the first 17 turns of a 56 turn game. Many monsters killed, many turns in First Aid. 


Twelve games in and we’re even once again, at 6-6. The investigators would get the last evil laugh, or so it would seem...


13)Michael McGlen defeated Hastur.


Michael McGlen had the luck of the Irish on his side (I couldn’t resist). This bad boy gangster started with two Common Items and kept winning, acquiring more Common, Unique Items, rolling to victories and never looked back. Some of his rolls were truly incredible.


Stats: Mike was 20 for 20 (100%) in his adventures and acquired 13 Elder Signs to Hastur’s 7 Doom Tokens. This contest lasted 26 turns. 


14)Vincent Lee defeated Azathoth.


The doctor started putting bad medicine on Azathoth from the outset. On the first turn he won Public Lavatory with a Hound of Tindalos and Byakyee in the room, with just the green dice!! In 31 turns, Doc had 14 Elder Signs, winning the day. Azathoth had 7 Doom Tokens. 


Stats: Doc was 15 of 22 (68%) on his adventures. 


15)Carolyn Fern defeated Yig.


A doctor of a different stripe, Carolyn did well throughout the game, but it doesn’t take much to awaken Yig. Carolyn seemed stuck on 9 Elder Signs for most of the game (it takes 10 to defeat Yig), and the AO began to catch up. Needing only two more DT to awaken, Carolyn finally snagged the last ES, winning another one for the side of humanity. 


Stats: It took a mere 21 turns for this fast duel to play-out. Carolyn was 14 of 18 (78%). 


16)Dexter Drake defeated Ithaqua. 


This matchup presents a problem for the mage, Dexter Drake. After all, spells are Drake’s bread and butter, and each time he casts a spell or uses a Unique item, off comes a point of STAM due to Ithaqua’s ability. Well, don’t talk to Drake about matchup problems, baby. Undaunted, he won the game using very few spells, claiming 13 of 20 adventures (65%) and winning comfortably by the count of 11 ES to 4 DT. 


So, the final score was 10-6 in favor of the investigators. Before I cover the championship, I’ll address a few points for the solo gamer. 


This game is way too easy??? That wasn’t my experience. The investigators were lucky to win a couple of games--Bob Jenkins over Ithaqua and, to a lesser extent, Kate’s win over Yig. THis make it a well-balanced game. For the group gamers, I can...see...somewhat how the game would be easier--multiple characters who can “assist,” and the Mythos cards are less likely to kick out DT given contingencies---with more characters, the more likely there is to have an investigator with the necessary Unique, Common, or Clue Tokens, preventing some of those mythos card’s DT from appearing. 


But by how much does a group help? There are 32 mythos cards. 9 have you directly add a doom token. 14 have you put out a DT given a contingency. That’s 23 of 32 mythos cards have you add a DT to the doom track. 


If you’re finding the game too easy, my first recommendation is to diligently keep track of time. Until I started recording each turn, I thought I wasn’t missing advancing the clock. When I started tracking turns, writing them down, I caught myself forgetting about the clock. By recording the turns, it’s near impossible to forget advancing the clock, midnight comes, and more than likely, out come DT.


Cards, as well add DT. Mythos Card+Horrible Visions=Big Trouble. I’ve had 3 DT hit the table at once with this combo on the board. Draw an adventure card (it’s Horrible Visions) advance the clock to Midnight, bang 2 doom tokens hit with HV. Now, turn over the mythos card--add a doom token to the doom track. There’s 3 DT in the blink of an eye.   


If you still find the game too easy in group play, my second recommendation would be don’t replace an investigator when one dies (I was a bit surprised to see the rules allow this). If you’re guy dies, you’re out of the game, Gertrude, go watch TV. Such is the price for character death. 


Third recommendation, just play with one to three investigators. The biggest rule change should be “You don’t get to cycle through 16 investigators if your guy dies.” 


Fourth recommendation, use Ashcan Pete, either solo or with 2-3 players. This guy is weak. I mean WEAK. Use Ashcan Pete vs. Shub-Niggurath, then tell me how easy the game is. 


I’ve rambled on too long. I’ll cover the championship in a response to this post. It will be Kate Winthrop versus Shub-Niggurath, a matchup advantage for Kate. But will it be enough to defeat big, bad, Shub? Place your bets early and often. 

#2 Master Fwiffo

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 12:15 PM

 Good analysis!

So far I've found the most balanced and fun solo-ing comes from controlling 2 characters and having the clock advance 6 hours each turn (I also use 6 hours for the occasions when I have to advance the clock to defeat a monster).  It's never easy, and they can sneak really up on you.  The hardest part for me to keep track of is the At Midnight effects of certain Exhibits - I lost to Cthulhu a game or two ago entirely because I didn't notice the one that adds two Doom Tokens was out.  That sucked.

#3 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 02:22 PM


Concluding the post I began above, I now bring to you the Championship Bout in my first run through of Elder Sign.

In this corner, standing 5'4" tall, and weighing-in at 110 pounds, from Arkham, Massachusetts, the scientist with a mind of stone, Kate Winthrop...Kate Winthrop.

 And in this corner, standing at...um...and weighing-in at...uh-huh...from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand  Young, the mighty deity of darkness herself, Shub-Niggurath!!! ...Shub-Niggurath.

Okay, so it's no accident I chose Kate Winthrop from amongst the undefeated investigators to represent humanity in this epic showdown. If we look at Shub's doom track we count ten tracks, seven of which spawn monsters. Not only does she spawn an abundance of creatures, her creatures are tougher than normal, requiring an extra Terror roll to be dispatched. This makes Shub one bad lady--adventure cards quickly become clogged with monsters and our lone investigator is left scrambling, plugging one leak after another with a finger. After ten fingers, it's lights out. Who better, then, to tackle this terror of the cosmos than one whose ability doesn't allow monsters to spawn on her turn in the first place? Yes, we'll take away that which makes Shub so terrible. Why, now there's no conceivable reason to believe that Kate won't win, humanity survive, and live for untold eons. Right? Right? Well, folks, that's why we roll the dice...

The stars were not in alignment for Kate early on. The first adventure card tossed on the table was Public Lavatory, with two creatures to be placed on its surface. Since Kate's turn, technically, hadn't begun, a cultist and a ghoul entered the room and hid themselves. Next, came the Mythos card. Yes, a doom token to start things off, as well. The game hasn't begun and Kate's down 1-0, with the added misfortune of having to deal with the unexpected, early arrival of two monsters. 

Turns 1-5: Kate evens the score on her first turn, succeeding in A Secret Gathering and claiming an Elder Sign. Next, she pops off the cultist and the ghoul, then Public Lavatory itself, taking a 3-1 lead. With the only monsters that can show in the game having been dealt with, it's now smooth sailing...or so it should seem. 

Turns 6-12: The Curator of the museum appeared out of the shadows, and his creepy smile unsettled Kate. She failed her next few missions, and at Midnight this odd, scary little man had an adverse affect on Kate's wellness. Finally, getting past him and the exhibit on Unnatural History, Kate had righted the ship. But just before another Midnight chime, she began to have Horrible Visions. Shub-Niggurath knew of her meddling, and intruded on her thoughts, claiming the 3rd and 4th Doom tokens.

Turns 13-20: Kate isn't known as the scientist with a mind of stone for nothing. Shoving Shub's Horrible Visions out of her mind, she went on an odyssey to Yuggoth and quickly recaptured the lead, but with each chime of Midnight, Shub's dark agenda became clearer and clearer. With a 7-6 lead, Kate entered the darkest time of her life, the homestretch which would foil the Ancient One's attempt at world destruction, or shatter her and everyone else with it. 

Turns 21-30: With Other World journeys at her disposal, Elder Signs were there for the taking, but just when victory seemed so near, they turned out to be very far away, for the tools for Kate's success became locked, and despite giving it all she had, the tasks were near impossible to overcome, short-handed as she was. When Transported by Magic was dealt unto her, and the clock struck Midnight once again, the objects which seemed, at first, to give her victory, were now quickly causing her defeat. Shub captured the lead at 9-8.

Turns 31-36: "We Need to Find Help! We Need to Find Help" Didn't Kate realize she was alone? There was no one to hear her cries, or to help her. Why didn't she say, "I Need to Find Help?" Perhaps this was the first sign the logic and reason-bound scientist was succumbing to madness. With but one more token needed, Shub would enter and destroy the world, and Kate's rational brain couldn't cope with the unimaginable horror this black day would bring. Just before the stroke of Midnight, she sat down, mumbling the plea, "We Need to Find Help" over and over till madness claimed her.

Well, there you have it. The winner and undisputed champion (for now) is Shub-Niggurath. A sad day for Mankind. 

Stats: Even without monsters filling the cards, adventures were difficult to complete. Kate won 8 of 21 adventures (38%) in this game that lasted 36 turns, claiming 8 of 12 Elder Signs. Maybe Sister Mary, Jenny Barnes, or another go with Amanda Sharpe will put Shub in her place? What about Michael McGlen, who had such a convincing victory earlier? I have my ideas on how to defeat Shub now, and I don't think it rests so much with a great investigator as it does with a strategy to utilize. Time will tell. Until next time...happy rolling!



#4 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 02:23 PM



#5 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 02:25 PM

 Apologies for the frequent posts, but the last report came out blank for some reason, and I've been tampering with it to get it corrected. Finally figured it out. Hope you enjoy it. 

#6 peterstepon



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Posted 15 October 2011 - 12:54 AM

I posted an earlier post about how I could not win a single adventure, then I realized that you played Ashcan Pete too and could not win a single adventure.  That was the exact same experience I had with him!  Nice to see some consistency in our gaming experiences. 

#7 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 04:11 AM

peterstepon said:

I posted an earlier post about how I could not win a single adventure, then I realized that you played Ashcan Pete too and could not win a single adventure.  That was the exact same experience I had with him!  Nice to see some consistency in our gaming experiences. 


There's two things I want to accomplish before I relegate Elder Sign to intermittent play: defeat Shub-Niggurath with a lone investigator, and win with Ashcan Pete. 

Well, I've accomplished the latter. With Ashcan, more so than any other investigator, that initial draw of six adventure cards, and which one to tackle first is extremely important. Since he doesn't start with any Clues, Spells, Common and Unique items, he has to win that first adventure on his own, with just the green dice. Selection of that first adventure, and its success or failure, will start positive or negative momentum, and carry-on throughout the game. As I mentioned above, my first game with him only lasted 8 turns, 3 of those turns were getting Free First Aid, the other 5 were losing adventures, then **POOF** the game was quickly over.

In my last game, I chose the easiest card on the board, won it, and converted his winnings solely to a Unique Item, and an occasional Common Item. My first Unique Item (for Turn 2) was Sword of Glory--yes--the red and yellow dice in hand. This cycle repeated itself--win the adventure card, convert his winnings to Unique, and sometimes Common Items, and with red and/or yellow dice in hand, keep winning. 

Ashcan actually steamrolled Yog-Sothoth (this AO, I believe may be the weakest. It's now 0-3 and has only filled half the doom track in its games), winning 15 of 17 adventures, and winning in 21 turns, tying my shortest investigator win yet.

So, in summary, Ashcan's success really depends on the first two or three adventures. Win the first, get the red/yellow dice in hand (I'm not a big fan of spell use) and use them to keep rolling to victory. If he fails the first couple of adventures, the good news is you won't have to suffer with him long--the game will be over.  


#8 Avi_dreader


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Posted 18 October 2011 - 09:02 AM

P.H. Craftlove said:

peterstepon said:

So, in summary, Ashcan's success really depends on the first two or three adventures. Win the first, get the red/yellow dice in hand (I'm not a big fan of spell use) and use them to keep rolling to victory. If he fails the first couple of adventures, the good news is you won't have to suffer with him long--the game will be over.  

Orrr...  You could spend the first 1-3 turns with him trying to get a piece of starting equipment from the entrance (especially if you're soloing).

#9 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 04:10 PM

Avi_dreader said:




Orrr...  You could spend the first 1-3 turns with him trying to get a piece of starting equipment from the entrance (especially if you're soloing).



This is true. But there's a 50% fail rate, and the clue token isn't what I'm after, leaving Ashcan a 2 in 6 chance of getting what he wants. If he fails, now he's down SAN or STAM, down time, and really behind the eight ball. 

#10 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 04:25 PM

 A few more bouts has seen a new challenger step to the fore to contend with the undefeated Shub-Niggurath...

Michael McGlen continued his amazing run. This time he successfully completed 15 of 16 adventures, humbling Azathoth in a mere 19 turns, winning 14 Elder Signs to Azi's 6 (12 needed) doom tokens. Combined with his game against Hastur, McGlen is 35 of 36 in his adventures. 

Jenny Barnes finished a close second, waxing Nyarlathotep in 18 turns, winning 14 of 15 adventures, tallying a final score of 11 Elder Signs to 3 Doom Tokens.

Over the course of two games, McGlen has been near perfect and now gets a shot at the yawning black void of Shubby's infinite gullet.  

Finishing in 3rd place was Sister Mary, who defeated Hastur, in a 43 turn slug fest, 13 ES to Hastur's 8 of 11 Doom Tokens. Mary was 19 of 31 in the adventures--61%.

The other winners from the first round will have to wait and see if McGlen fails before they get their chance. Hmm...I may send them against Daoloth in a preliminary bout to see how things go...

For the curious, here's the records of the Ancient Ones:

Shub-Niggurath 3-0

Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur  1-2

Ithaqua, Yig 0-2

Yog-Sothoth 0-3



#11 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 21 October 2011 - 04:44 AM

 There’s three things I can count on in my future...death, taxes, and when I sit down to face Shub-Niggurath, Public Lavatory and Horrific Visions hitting the board early in the game, vexing my semi well-made plans. Such was the case in the second showdown of epic investigator versus that which is called the Black Goat of the Woods (amongst other things). 


Michael McGlen, the gangster, the anti-hero of Arkham, the Elric of Melnibone, if you will, of the Elder Sign world, was coming off two easy victories, wherein he converted an astounding 35 of 36 adventures, and now sat poised to take on the undefeated and untied Ancient One, the aforementioned Shubby. 


With a Tommy Gun in his hands, a knife in his pocket, and guile in his heart, he stepped into the Arkham Museum of Antiquities, ready to do battle for the third time. True to form, he began by converting a string of adventures, riding his two beginning Common Items to a wave of successes. The minions and lackeys of Shub had never seen an investigator have such success against their master. Heretofore, no one had converted even 40% of the trials to be faced in the museum’s darkened rooms, but here was McGlen reeling off 8 successes in his first 10 attempts.  


The gangster with a heart of ice built-up a healthy lead of 5 Elder Signs to Shub’s 1 Doom Token. But Shub had combatted these weak flesh things before. Sure, they could build-up leads in the early going, but when the going got tough they’d cry, whimper, fudge dice rolls, and attempt glossy interpretations of the rules to thwart her evil plans. Shub was used to such deceitful tricks from these human things, but she would overcome them all, as she had done many times before. She spawned horrors and sent them forth to clog McGlen’s progress. And clog they did.


Each room in the closed, fog-shrouded museum brought one horror after another: a Cultist with a curved dagger, a frothing-at-the-mouth Maniac, a Vampire, weird flying things with mandibles and clicking parts. McGlen fought them all, tooth and nail, and brought them down like no other. Sensing or seeing (or whatever she does) her fiends fall to McGlen’s steel-fisted blows, Shub awoke, and vowed to annihilate this latest fool who dared to interfere with her plan of world destruction. ...


...Okay, heading into the one-on-one confrontation, McGlen had accumulated 15 trophies. The mistake I’d made in the past was using these trophies to buy Unique and Common items to boost my chances in the adventures, or to boost Sanity and Stamina. Against Shub, a different approach was needed. I saved all (or mostly all) of the trophies and steered the game into a battle. What helped immensely was the appropriately named “Lights Out” adventure card. With a penalty of two STAM and a Doom Token, I could fail this adventure repeatedly and hasten the end. With McGlen’s robust STAM, two losses each turn weren’t a concern, especially since I had the card that restored STAM by simply discarding it. 


The bigger question was would 15 trophies be enough to defeat Shub? Or would she, once again, laugh in the face of these flesh things that dared to defy her? Things began well enough. Before midnight had struck twice, three Doom Tokens had been removed from the Doom Track, but then Shubby exerted her tremendous will. The next three Midnights brought no further depletion of her Track and McGlen’s trophies had whittled down to 10. 


Trophies would, eventually, equal Doom Tokens at 6. Demoralized, shaken, and staring death in the face for the first time, McGlen needed to focus (I took a lunch break). Finding his second wind after a cold ham sandwich, McGlen’s brass knuckles began to find the ...mark, maw, and infiniteness of Shub’s torso. In the blocks surrounding the museum, the residents of Arkham heard...something---a scream, a chortle, something that couldn’t have come from man or beast, something alien, awful and strange.  


McGlen wiped the sweat from his brow with a C note, crumpled it, and lit it on the burning remnants of one of the antiques, an unfortunate casualty in the duel with the alien deity. Holding the flaming hundred dollar bill to his face, he lit a cigar dangling from his lips and took two deep drags. There were multiple fires in the museum now. He would have to leave before firemen came to combat the blaze. He felt bad for the museum, many valuable items had been destroyed. As he walked away from the building, he considered reimbursing the museum for the damages. Maybe. Maybe not.  


Well, it finally happened. Shub has been defeated. It wasn’t easy, but my plan was to accumulate trophies and win the day in the final duel. McGlen had far better success than any other investigator in the individual adventures, successfully completing 12 of 21 of them. Previously, the best result was a woeful 38% success rate in the adventures (this is, of course, due to the cards being bogged down by monsters). The game lasted 24 turns and the final duel took a long, long, long time. McGlen had 3 trophies left when he finally brought down Shub. 


Rating the starting items, I’d give the nod to Unique and Common Items over Clue Tokens (barely) and all three the edge of spells. Maybe it’s me. I’m not really a fan of the spells (the putting a die on them part--the Voice of Ra is great, though). 


With the investigators, the Professor is better suited to bring down Shub than the rest due to his Special Ability (I was conscious of this in the duel and noted the Profess. would have knocked two Doom Tokens off the track faster than McGlen). But his starting item of a Spell puts him a half-step behind McGlen, IMO. This small deficit is easy enough to overcome by completing a couple of adventures and rolling to success from there (pardon the pun).


My next challenge now rests with Daoloth. It looks tough. I think I’ll go after it with two investigators just to see how working with more than one would go. I think I’ll try Jenny Barnes and the PI--Joe Diamond, who’s modeled after Dashiell Hammet’s Sam Spade. I prefer Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe as far as “hard-boiled” American PI’s go, but like spells, it’s a me thing.  

#12 P.H. Craftlove

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 04:35 AM

 Gloria Goldberg sat in Velma’s Diner, staring into the dark black pool of her coffee cup. The visions that had plagued her since her childhood were becoming intense, violent, and a few minutes ago had become, for the first time, physical. Had she finally gone mad? The doctors had told her to find an outlet for her overactive imagination---that was her problem, her only problem, an overactive imagination. There were no strange, alien creatures sleeping, waiting for the right time to awaken and annihilate the world. Such thoughts were merely the product of a fantastic imagination. 

Since that diagnosis, writing had become her outlet. But as novels poured from her pen, gaining her fame and fortune, the dread visions had persisted as she got older. There was something out there, waiting. Her sensitivity as a writer, someone who put the thoughts, feelings and emotions of her characters on a page, attuned her to these otherworldly horrors, to that something that waited on the fringe of Mankind’s awareness. 

She lifted the cup to her lips. Her hand shook. The coffee swished around the rim, then the cup fell to the floor, smashing to pieces; hot coffee spilled over the floor. 

“Don’t worry about it, hun; I’ll get it,” said the waitress behind the counter.

As Gloria apologized, she tossed some change on the counter and turned to leave the diner. Embarrassed, she could no longer stay; she had to go home now. That meant a long walk home. Alone.

As she pushed open the diner door, a chill breeze buffeted her face...and there he stood. His weather beaten features suggested he’d led a tough, troubled life accustomed to hardship and misfortune. He was tall, burly and wore a rumpled wide-brimmed hat pulled down over his shadowy face. At his feet was a dog. It looked as though it had led a life as rough as its master. It held Gloria in its stern gaze.

The man had a backwoods accent when he spoke. “We need to talk...me and you.”



Thus began the partnership of Gloria Goldberg and Ashcan Pete, as together, they tackled the challenge of the awakening Daoloth. The first thing noticed about Daoloth is its doom track. 11 tracks, 7 of which spawn monsters. This makes this horror second only to Shub-Niggurath as far as spewing monsters is concerned. It kicks them out fairly quickly, and will clog the adventure cards in short order unless the investigators get lucky with placid mythos cards, or roll to successes, claiming further Items or Clue Tokens, keeping the adventure cards clear. 


The next thing noticed is Daoloth’s Special Ability. As its kicking out these monsters, if there comes a time when a monster must be added to the bottom of an adventure card, an Otherworld Adventure Card must be sacrificed or an investigator is devoured. It’s possible that an investigator can be devoured before the first turn of the game. Throw down six adventure cards, none of which have monster tasks, turn over that first mythos card, which can say, “A monster appears” and with no Otherworld cards on the board, an investigator is devoured. Wow, talk about bad beginnings.


Topmost in the mind of the investigators is, then, to get an Otherworld card on the board, or at least be sure any monster tasks on adventure cards remain open. How did this all play out in the game? Let’s take a look...


It’s ladies first, so Gloria began, but began slowly, failing “Don’t Fall Asleep” on Turn 1. But Ashcan had the right roll, winning the First Elder Sign on Turn 2, beating DFA. Ashcan kept up his improbable winning streak on Turn 4, claiming the second Elder Sign, defeating “A Terrible Discovery.” 


By turn 6, however, Daoloth’s minions and flunkies were beginning to exert their crazed influences over the museum. Cultists, a Vampire, and a Witch began to roam the museum’s hallways, channeled-in from somewhere by their alien master. 


Gloria finally got rolling, and began to knock off adventures, while Ashcan remained consistent throughout, winning roughly half of his adventures. After turn 23, when Gloria won “Haunted by a Shadowy Figure” the duo held a lead of 8 Elder Signs to Daoloth’s 6 Doom Tokens.


Then, turn 24 happened. It started out well-enough. Ashcan won “Something Has Broken Free” with a cultist in the room using only the green dice. But after the turn came the lingering Mythos card’s effect, spitting out not one, but two doom tokens. Then came the draw of another Mythos card, which spit out another Doom Token. In the span of a few seconds, Daoloth’s Doom Track had grown from 6 to 9. Add in the monsters these tokens brought forth and the adventure cards became near impossible to defeat. 


It ended soon thereafter, on turn 28, with Daoloth having claimed its necessary 11 Doom tokens, while Gloria and Ashcan had claimed 11 of 13 Elder Signs.


This brings us to the combat between Daoloth and Gloria/Ashcan. On first glance, Daoloth’s 5 investigation looks easy to defeat. And it is. Especially in the early going. Especially if you have a Unique or Common Item to use, or Clue Tokens that allow re-rolls. So off flew the Doom tokens in the early rounds of combat. Ashcan had a huge turn 4 in this combat phase. With the green dice and a red die he knocked off not one, not two, but three doom tokens in one turn. This turned the tide of battle in favor of the heroes. 


But just when it seemed victory was apparent, a green die was locked, then another. One lone doom token remained tantalizingly on the track, the only thing standing between victory or the world’s destruction. A few more failed rolls and the investigators began to sweat, but then...victory!!


Combating Daoloth with only the green dice may be a dicey (haha) proposition. I’m sure the designers did the math on this and calculated the probabilities. It seems that if the investigators go into the showdown using only the green dice it will come down to a doom token or two left, and the investigators having to roll those 5 investigations on two dice, with four turns to do it. Very ingenious and it makes for suspenseful moments in the last stages of the game. 


If, on the other hand, the investigator(s) have a red or yellow die to use or a clue token, defeating Daoloth is (almost) a guarantee. So, when combatting this horror go into that end game with at least a Unique, Common Item, Spell or Clue token---something, anything---that will get you two or more victories in one of the early rounds. If not, and you only have the green dice, you may fall one or two doom tokens short in the end.


Even though I’m recounting my experiences here, and putting forth my thoughts, if anyone would like to comment, feel free. This isn’t intended to be a lone thread. Until next time...good rolling. 


The stats:

Gloria was 6 of 10 on her adventures for 60%

Ashcan was 7 of 12 on his adventures for 58%

The game lasted 28 turns. 


#13 P.H. Craftlove

P.H. Craftlove


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Posted 11 November 2011 - 09:21 AM

 Recently, I’ve been playing Elder Sign with two investigators (instead of one) in some hopeful, vainglorious attempt to determine if there is an inherent advantage playing with one, or two, or more. But before I get to that question, I’ll eat up some space describing an interesting game I had with Dexter Drake, the magician, and the exquisite Mandy Thompson, researcher, against the lurking horror of Daoloth. 


I’m playing most of my games now with Daoloth as the AO. It offers an intriguing middle ground between fighting Shub-Niggurath, which is akin to beating one’s head against a wall (angle toward the combat, and have at least twelve trophies in your pool, more is better) and the other AOs, who can be overcome rather easily, unless the dice are ridiculously bad or if the player--like me--has lapses in concentration and tackles an adventure without looking closely at the penalties and loses due to Sanity or Stamina loss.


The appeal of Daoloth is its Special Ability. It can, potentially, devour an investigator before the first adventure in the museum takes place. When I plopped down the first six cards in the game with Dexter and Mandy, only one card had a monster task, and no card had an Otherworld Adventure as a reward. Next, the first Mythos card was revealed. “Be Prepared...for Living Nightmares.” Its lingering effect is that a monster appears at the next stroke of midnight. The stars were right for an early Daoloth devouring. Making a mental note of this, I was hopeful of winning some adventures early and drawing cards with monster tasks, or some cards with OW adventures as a reward. 


Things started well on Turn 1 with Mandy winning her adventure, unlocking the red die in “We Need to Find Help,” but the next adventure card revealed provided no monster task or reward of an OW adventure. Dexter botched “Koi Pond” on Turn 2 despite having the red die and two spells at his disposal. Mandy won again on Turn 3, but again the new adventure card didn’t solve their dilemma. After turn 4, the clock struck midnight and it was time to resolve the lingering effect. No problem, I thought. I still had one card with a monster task. I picked up “Be Prepared...for Living Nightmares,” looked at it a little closer and ...foul! What’s this? I’m supposed to do what? My bad eyesight and the small print on the mythos cards led me to believe the card read “add a monster” but instead it read “add 2 monsters.” I’d mistakenly read the 2 as a lower case “a.” 


Through Mythos trickery and deception, I had to lose an investigator. A House Rule of mine is to never replace an investigator if they should lose their SAN, STAM, or in this case, become devoured. So, Mandy was on her own. Yes, I sac’d Dexter. 0 for 2 on adventures made the decision rather easy. 


In hopes of getting an OW card on the board, I noticed with glee that one of the new cards flopped on the table after another Mandy success on Turn 5 had an OW card as a reward. It looked easy enough for her to complete, given the combo of a Common and Unique item she had, giving her the red and yellow dice. That was the theory, anyway. Inexplicably, she failed the adventure, “The Storage Closet.” How could it be? With eight dice in hand, there should’ve been nothing to it for Mandy.  


I hadn’t really paid much attention to the penalty, thinking it would be easy cakes for Mandy to succeed. After suffering the disappointment of poor dice rolls, I glanced at the left-sided, red part of the card. 


And did a double take. 


I had to add a Doom Token, which on Daoloth’s Doom Track adds a monster. There were no spaces on the cards to add a monster. One had to be added to the bottom of a card. I knew what this meant. The lovely Mandy...no, no, I barely got to know you. In merely 7 turns the dynamic duo had become the dead duds. I couldn’t believe it. I would’ve accused someone of cheating, if there had been anyone else at the table.  


Such is the surprise and appeal of playing Daoloth, an AO I use nearly exclusively these days. 


Well, it looks like I’ve rambled on and my time is up. Shux, I didn’t get to my topic, either. Next time, I will attempt to answer the question: Is it better to play with one, two, or more investigators. Is it easier, harder, or is there any difference at all...?


Until then...good gaming!

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