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Don't Go Into the Woods! (Session Report)

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Michael (Shiny), Norman (Me), Lily (Pizza), Rex (Zebra), and Joe (Wings) vs. Cthulhu. Kingsport with Dark Pharaoh and Lurker. Miskatonic. Hypnos. Plus, the Gate Deck was constructed with ONLY Expansion cards (including Yellow Sign and Black Goat).

Disclaimer: this game went LATE, so by the time I got home, I was too wiped to jot down my usual notes (opting instead to accidentally pass out on the couch). So this tale might be a bit more Swiss-cheesed than I’d like. Just pretend you’re listening to a Lovecraftian survivor through a glass window to a padded cell. “I don’t know…he keeps screaming about woods and money…”

Cthulhu played a little more sluggish than usual. I would say at least 50% of the Mythos cards were Woods Openings, which didn’t help his long Doom Track, but kept us hopping with plenty of surges, which, when combined with sleepy Kingsport, makes for a monster-clogged Terror-blanketed Arkham--which, I guess, was kinda the point of the Kingsport Expansion—and that makes fighters like Wings and Shiny happy. Mostly.

Wings and Shiny chose their Investigators based on their gun-firing pictures, but Joe and Michael do tend to let the bullets fly with guaranteed weapons in their possessions. Michael even started with the supremely useful Psychology Skill, although it wasn’t until late in the game that Shiny realized (after I explained it after a failed roll) that it was +1 to the number rolled on the dice, and not just +1 die to roll. (Her cards were hidden from me behind a wall of neighborhood decks, so I blame myself for inattention.)

Zebra is somewhat Cursed-prone, so I chuckled when I handed him Rex, but, like Zebra’s favorite Investigator Finn, Rex’s fixed possessions provides another $10-equivalent of random stuff, and Zebra is nothing if not a shopping hoarder. (Next game, I’m just giving him Bob, Monty, Dexter, and Pete to choose from.) Not only that, Rex started with a Press Pass, making him the best Clue-cruncher in any game (until he traded it to Joe after passing his Story).

An Encounter card tossed Michael off to the Dreamlands, and he didn’t come back.  (I don’t remember why.)  Eventually there was no way home, so Shiny got to take a coffee break in Lost in Time and Space. When she came back, she took advantage of a money-free drop into Kingsport to be the Rift Sentinel. (Our Kingsport encounters were relatively uneventful all game: no delays, no trips to the Head, no monsters. Were we challenging Cthulhu or Tsathoggua? Malaaaaaise.)

An Uptown Moon Beast from the Woods trapped Lily in the Magic Shoppe, but she drew an Encounter that allowed her to buy a random Unique Item at half-price. Pizza miraculously drew the freakin’ Healing Stone, and the immeasurable amount of time he spent deliberating a FOUR-DOLLAR HEALING STONE against being broke allows me to invite any of you, should you ever meet Pizza, to flick him one in the forehead. <_< Needless to say, he bought it, and Lily never had a Stamina/Sanity recovery issue all game. I was most impressed with a Healing Stone/perpetual Azure Flame combo while still being able to slide her way to her Maximums. (Of course, this just ticked off the Mighty Cthulhu, but we’ll get to that.)

Norman went to the Lodge—short trip with time to read for a Plague of Locusts Spell—and ended up with an offer to join, leaving him broke (but conscious!). I stuck around to visit some vault that gave me any Unique Item I wanted! With the Healing Stone spoken for, I put it to the group to go for either an Elder Sign or a weapon. (Mostly for Wings or Shiny: Norman’s not a fighter, and I had the other Azure Flame for tight spots.) The group went for the weapon—it was too early to worry about Elder Signs?—and we went with a Gladius of Carcosa to go with Joe’s one-handed gun, because it was the best weapon without Upkeep.

I think either Joe or Lily could have taken that Moon Beast, but devoured is a word that always gets me dirty looks, so Norman used Locusts to make it go away, since there were no Clues in the mostly-stable Uptown anyway. In some ways I was motivated by selfishness, since Lily and Norman shared the Keen Analysts Relationship, and I needed Lily to be unblocked to keep getting bonus Clues. Norman followed Lily around--often just ducking into her location, comparing notes for a Clue, and moving away—and since Norman had a Motorcycle, and Lily had a Military Motorcycle, we made the weirdest Lovecraftian hog-riding team ever.

Early on, there were only two Gates—Woods and Unnamable—and with a Strange Sightings and a double-doom tokened Plague of Insects (the unhelpful kind), the Uptown neighborhood and the Outskirts were swamped with monsters. Wings was making great Monster Cup draws, putting horrible things in the Uptown mess no one wanted to touch and in the Outskirts safely out of play, while placing flyers and Serpent People on the Unnamable, eventually leaving it unguarded. (I think she had to kill something that was still there, but I don’t remember what it was. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a big threat.) So it was Joe who went off to Another Dimension to get our first Seal, grabbing Norman’s Gladius before making the trip. While Joe was gone, with the Terror Track at 2 very early, it was amazingly fortunate for Wings to draw the Mythos that sent Private Security to blitz Uptown. (Wrong Woods card, Cthulhu!)

Rex scrounged for Clues very quickly, and passed his Story in no time. With his Curse gone, he read Dhol Chants for Erica Carlyle and a Retainer (one of Zebra’s favorite things). He and Lily also belonged to the Book Club (Relationship), so Lily was able to secure the services of Earl Sawyer, whose Sneak boost eventually became critical to Lily’s survival. (We’ll get to that.)

A Clue left by Hypnos attracted Pizza to the Bank, and I followed him. I got Blessed—I had to use Clues or else be Cursed—but Lily got a chance to return stolen money to the Bank for Sanity (which she didn’t need at all). So she just ran off with the $10 and the Wanted card. Not once did Pizza pay for her Speed, so Lily was stuck on Speed 1, but with a bike, it wasn’t that bad. (Pizza’s a cautious player; Speed 3 doesn’t usually bother him.) It also made it easy for me to follow him, and use extra movement for Tomes that only Zebra and I liked to read. It also allowed Zebra to take most of that money for acquisitions.

Shiny was happy to help in Kingsport, but she started getting antsy after finding a Golden Sword of Y’ha-Talla and not having any monsters to kill for her Story. The Unvisited Isle had just popped to The City of the Great Race with BOTH Fire Vampires emerging from it, so I was figuring Norman with the Azure Flame could make short work of them, and get an easy ride to a Gate Trophy for his Story. Lily was focused on getting down to the Woods for a trip to R’lyeh (and discard her Wanted status). This left Rex, loaded with money but no Clues (and Zebra itching to shop shop shop), to relieve her as Kingsport Sentinel…on one condition: that Michael take enough money to cover a decent trip to the Curiosity Shoppe. Michael’s Story prevented more than a $4 trade, but it was enough to score the OTHER Golden Sword. And we all loved Michael with crossed swords on his back, especially when he emptied his “Chicago typewriter” into the Priest of Dagon right before dicing up a Proto-Shoggoth. :wub:

Of course, the moment they swapped towns, Shiny drew “Unusual Phenomenon Spotted in Arkham!” auto-dropping the black moon Rift on the Isle as well as a Ghoul and a Gug. This meant Rex was stuck up in Kingsport with a job to do (and a bunch of useless money burning a hole in Zebra’s brain). But he was able to find Granny Orne, so he didn’t have to waste any of the few Clues he had. (Silver lining?)

On her way down to the Woods, almost through no fault of her own, Lily ran over a Serpent People (Sneak 4 due to Wanted, Earl Sawyer, Military Motorcycle), finishing it off with a Sledgehammer. It was around here that I noticed Pizza was making a concentrated effort to read his cards, finding all the ways he could jack up that Evade check. (Tragically, when he really could have used it, he completely forgot about the Serpent People trophy. Perhaps I need to add, “…and your tokens!” to, “Read your cards!”)

Joe had his monster trophies, and Michael was coming back to Arkham with the Elixir of Life—the only Unique Item amongst us that we felt we could part with—to give to Carl Sanford (passing his Story), but the Lodge was busy with a Gate to Yuggoth. Wings decided that she could brave that Gate, even with low Sanity and just a single Clue buffer. Shiny promised to be close by to trade when she returned, but that gave Michael a little time to street-sweep for trophies.

After claiming the Priest and Proto, Michael found himself tied up in the Fourth of July Parade, just after Norman had come out for Seal 2 (using his ability to remove slash monsters: see ya, Gug!). The Rift moved into the Parade, and sent a Vampire to harass him. I was planning to leave the Ghoul for Shiny, but now Norman couldn’t get off the Isle, and one Combat Check was more viable than two Evade Checks. Shiny then realized she had forgotten she had a Flare Gun, and a lone Byakhee was barnstorming the Parade. So Michael called down the Byakhee into a hail of bullets, then ran the Vampire through to pass his Story. (The Vampire Horror Check is when Shiny discovered how cool Psychology really was to someone like Michael or Mark.)

After Joe returned for Seal 3, Shiny, true to her word, got Michael to jump in and out of the Lodge to pass Joe the Elixir, but then a Lodge Membership invitation forced Joe out into the streets. (“Wait! I have the item! Get off me! What kinda game are you playing at, Sanford?! OOF!”) So Wings had to go back inside and wait another turn, finding herself a Foresee Spell—this will be sorta significant—before passing Joe’s Story.

All this unused filthy lucre all over the board was bugging Zebra. Michael grabbed money off Joe and headed back up to Kingsport to relieve Rex. However, just as he got there, the “Worlds Drifting Apart” Mythos halted all further Rift token activity, making a Kingsport Sentinel less important. Rex closed the Rift, grabbed some money from Michael, and headed back to shop before the Curiosity Shoppe closed from our out-of-control Terror Track. Shiny decided to hang around the Congregational Hospital to heal for a couple of turns: Norman had borrowed Mike’s Sanity (Practitioners of the Art Relationship) to cast the Plague of Locusts again (I think to remove the Dhole?), and for $2 in two turns, Michael could get both of his Stats to maximum rather than just his Sanity in one turn. Norman went to the Train Station for a Hypnos Clue, found a Rail Pass, and shot up Kingsport to trade it to Michael as a “thank-you for the Sanity”.

Lily had been stepping on Cthulhu’s tentacles a bit too much, but on his home turf—the Woods led to R’lyeh—Cthulhu would not abide. Unwilling to lose a Seal chance, Pizza refused to use Clues to avoid being Cursed in an Other World Encounter. And so it was that Lily returned to Arkham, facing a -3 Gate Check, as well as a Lloigor, a Dark Young, and the High Priest. Considering the amount of Woods activity we’d had, Pizza was really unwilling to leave until he could place a Seal. He went through THREE turns of solid rolled-6 Evasion before Wings got Lily uncursed at the Church, allowing her to finally close the portal to R’lyeh (Seal 4), sending the High Priest back to the Cup. “Now you can just sneak out,” we all said, but Pizza had a look… “Evacuate? In my moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!”

…Lily hit the kickstand down and dismounted the trusty bike that had helped her spin dangerous circles around the beasts for far, far too long. She called the Azure Flame back to her and watched her Crystal of the Elder Things glow fiercely as her mind remained clear, knowing it would do so again when she shriveled the other disgusting creature. She looked up at the towering behemoths still hunting her, her gaze hardening with resolve. “MY turn,” she hissed, and dropped into her ready stance…

The Azure Flame was enough for the Lloigor, but Pizza wanted more dice for the Dark Young, so he went with a Shriveling-Martial Arts combo instead. (Eight dice vs. four dice with sixes counting double…someone check the statistics on that.) This is where that Serpent People trophy would have been great, but it wasn’t necessary. Vengeance was sweet, as Lily used those carcasses to pass some Blessings around in the following turns.

Joe and Norman both chose to enter a Gate to Celeano on the same turn: Joe at the Witch House, Norman at the Science Building. Joe was already Blessed, so Lily chose Norman for the other Blessing. Since I could cast Find Gate, Wings and I agreed to swap exit locations, so I could block the more dangerous hotspot sooner. But just before I could manage that…

Somewhere in R’lyeh, some poor servitor had to report to the boss that all his Woods kicking was now getting bounced by a Seal, and those pesky primates were about to shut him down. “WHAT?! When?! How long has this been going on?! Well, BURST IT!! NOW!!” The Mythos “Moon Creature Hoax” Burst the Woods, and sent a parachuting Tcho-Tcho into the Sky, where he floated there for the rest of the game. (“Get me DOWN!!”) This Seal setback threatened to lengthen our already-too-long game, so Michael rode the rails back to Independence Square to pick up the slack.

Once Norman got back to the Witch House for Seal 4(5), I figured passing my Story was pointless, so I relieved Lily at the Church to Bless Michael and Lily. Eventually, Joe scored Seal 5(6) and Michael finished it up with Seal 6(7). Lily ended up finishing the game Lost in Time and Space, because Rex thought it would be fun to have a trade in the Black Cave.

One last cascade of grandeur: to make sure that Cthulhu didn’t rake us again, Wings sent Joe for 3 Clues (4 with the Press Pass) at the Historical Society. (Yeah, Cthulhu, a drawback to all your Woods stuff.) But then a Terror-6-boosted Maniac and a Crawling One appeared in Southside, trapping both Norman and Joe in their respective locations. An Encounter threatened something unfortunate—I just don’t remember what —and Wings had failed her roll. So Wings decided to (:o!) cast a Spell VOLUNTARILY! She needed a Clue to successfully cast Foresee, but she pulled it off! (And then failed her magical reroll. D’OH!)

But on her next turn, still trapped in the Historical Society, Wings decided to  (:o:o!) read a Tome VOLUNTARILY! She read the Naacal Key to open a back door out to Yuggoth (in case there was no other way to remove that Crawling One), and though Joe never got a chance to get back before the game ended, we are all very proud that Wings succeeded at the TWO things she despises in as many turns!  She’ll be playing Agnes and Daisy in no time!  (Not.)

Final Score: 19.  Mostly from the long Doom Track; we’d used most of our trophies for Blessings.  Shiny is a bit underwhelmed with Kingsport, and I think I agree: Kingsport alone with 5 players is monster-ific, but only for those in Arkham; the sleepy town appears even MORE comatose by comparison for anyone stuck up there.  I may have to put Kingsport into a wider rotation, or maybe save it for games when one of our cultists can’t attend.

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