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Ersatz Nihilist

I have no idea what I'm doing

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Hey. I've been playing Arkham since it came out in a regular group for 4 people, and have played everything up to The Forgotten Age, which we were slow to start because I got a puppy and we had to turn the dining room into a playpen for a bit. We've finished everything and I've never had a character die or go insane during the game but I still have the suspicion that I have no idea what I'm doing and that I'm terrible at working out how to make a good deck.

Am I alone? Are you all investigating gurus casually tossing out the right cards at the right time, evading all the monsters and catching all 6 of those cultists in The Midnight Masks with enough time left over to get a coffee?

Things I mess up: -

- Not really my fault, but I'm a tentacle (or -5) magnet. I think this is just how life is, so I ought to be planning to mitigate the worst case scenarios. I've gravitated towards Survivior because of their cards which work off of losing in order to convert failures into alternative successes, or just having another go. But this falls apart with: -

- It's really hard to play and cards. The game seems to move at such a crazy (downhill, accelerating) rate that I never feel as though I've got a chance to play anything apart from the first turn where I "set up" - and even then I feel guilty about doing it.

- Deck building? What's that? Generally I'm alright at deck building in games. I work out some ratios, make sure I'm not choking myself but here I really struggle. Because I move through my deck so slowly even if I try and put a bit of everything I always end up drawing things at the wrong time. Or alternatively, I spend 10 turns drawing the same 5 cards twice. I'm honestly thinking about converting over to more singles in order to have a better "terroir" in my deck. But every fibre of my cardboard-nerd body screams "NO! BE CONSISTENT! TAKE TWO OF THEM".

... and it's all okay really. I love the misery if I'm honest - I was the same in the Arkham Horror board game, sitting there secretly hoping for some massive crisis that'd turn the table on it's head. And I do wonder, as we're playing on Normal and we've never not succeeded in the end, is this how it's supposed to be? It is an Arkham game after all.

I dunno. I'd prefer not to netdeck if I can avoid it. Any pro-tips will be gratefully received, but really I'm just broadcasting my incompetence to the internet. 

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I have no tips, but I can commiserate.  I have yet to get more than four of the cultists.  I'm REALLY confused at the amount of XP people talk about getting -- I'm pretty much always under five, usually less, but I also mostly play true solo.

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Well, I have got all 6 cultists in Midnight Masks one time, 4 player, and standard difficulty (and we were using cards through forgotten age).   But that was a bit of an outlier game,  4 cultists is good.  If you can get 4, you have nothing to be down about.

As for XP,  probably if it looks like people are getting more XP than you usually get, they're likely using cards like Delve too Deep or Charons Obol.  These can be extremely powerful cards.

If you're never succeeded to the end and also never died or gone insane,  you probably should take more risks.  Don't get me wrong, death/insanity are definitely things to avoid,  but you probably don't need to run a card like First Aid, for example, if you are regularly ending scenarios with 3-4 hp/sanity remaining.   

You definitely need to play cards.   Dont feel guilty about having a set-up turn, every now and again,  sometimes you need to get things down so you can be more effective later.  Survivors can often get by on a light set-up,  but that doesnt mean no set up.  At the same time, remember to play cards that are actually going to help you.  A first-turn Bulletproof Vest is probably not a good use of your resources.   You're doing fine on health and you could use those resource tokens to play other things.  You only need to play the Bulletproof Vest at all if you are worried about death.  Even if you truly 100% legitimately have nothing better to play at the time, you may as well hold it in your hand.  You might draw into something nice and wish you still had those 3 resources.  

In general I have a tough time with Survivors.  While survivors do have some great cards, I find they have a few great cards, but not enough great cards to really make a deck perform.   They lack multi-clue and multi-damage access, and they dont generally have the extra actions to make up for that lack as Rogues do.  Some characters like Wendy and Yorrick can get away with that by leaning heavily on their second class, but Calvin and Pete don't have that option. 

Of all the survivors (personal, contested opinion ahead, warning!) I feel that Wendy is quite good if she leans heavily on Rogue.   Yorrick is allright but you probably should just play a real guardian who does everything Yorrick can do only better.  Pete is in a very hard place.   Ironically, he is the one Survivor investigator who does have multi-damage/multi-clue access, but only in a limited fashion, and the fact that his card pool is so restricted to the mostly-lame red cards torpedos his viability.   Calvin I have not really played much with, but I would imagine he would suffer from his deckbuilding requirements as well.

While many of the level-0 survivor cards are ok, and you can make a decent starter survivor deck, they really start getting hurt when it comes to XP.  Their XP cards, for the most part, are trash.    That's very painful for the later stages in a campaign.  Long story short, try a class that's not a survivor, and I think you'll have an easier time.  

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I disagree with survivors performing worse when you start getting into the higher tiers of XP. It's true that once you pass 10-15 XP, survivors have upgraded most cards they will ever need, but at that point you should start looking into the exile cards. Stroke of Luck, in particular, is one of the best skill cards you can get. Combine it with Double or Nothing if you can and you can really pack a punch when you need to. Playing on hard difficulty, I've found that Ashcan Pete can easily keep up with a late campaign Jenny Barnes or Sefina deck, and it never feels like I'm dragging behind. I get the impression that exiled cards are often overlooked because people don't like spending unnecessary experience points, but they are definitely worth it once you've upgraded all the cards that you need (which, as I mentioned, happens early when playing survivors).

I also think survivors are more reliant on their investigator ability than most other classes. Their often perceived weaker card list is mitigated by tailoring their deck to accommodate their built in abilities. So when playing Wendy or Aschan, make sure you have plenty of card draws so you can keep using their 'discard a card' ability almost every round. Rabbit's Foot, Take Heart and neutral skill cards will go a long way in making this possible. William, on the other hand, needs to have a lot of assets that you can keep digging out every time you kill an enemy. Preferably, you want assets that will make it easier to keep on killing the next monsters that pops up and thus triggering his ability again. Baseball Bat, Beat Cop and Police Badge are all good candidates for this. Sprinkle in some cheap assets that you can dig up whenever you're low on resources and I've found he performs really well. He won't be able to take down elite bosses as fast as guardians, but being able to replay Leather Coat and/or Cherished Keepsake every time a monster spawns in the mythos phase means he can tank better than most investigators. I can see him having a hard time when playing solo, as you won't see enough monsters spawning, but in two player games and beyond I've always found there are more than enough enemiesto keep him settled.

Maybe I'm a  bit off topic, but I felt the need to jump in defense of my darling survivors.

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Survivors can be very versatile but that versatility isn't always the easiest to play unlike the straight forward classes. That is where a lot of the difficulty comes in. With that said, they are great in groups as they can adjust to the situation as needed and are probably best for single player for the same reasons. Wendy can be insanely good even at base level as long as she doesn't feel abandon and lone. ... but yeah, the high experience one trick pony classes can get very good at what they do while the survivors are still bouncing around but can still be good if playing support characters.

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I've played nearly exclusively Duo with a friend. We play on only hard because we're masochists or something. Every now and then I treat myself to some true-solo on Faux-standard (Standard Bag with Hard special tokens) but even then I usually lean towards hard again eventually.

- No, I dont throw out exactly the right card at exactly the right time.

-Not even my Wendy can dodge all the monsters and eventually they catch up to me!

-Never have I ever got all 6 cultists, i´'ve got 4 and 5 respectively but never 6.

 

1: Failure is part of the game, autofails happen and bad luck will rear it's ugly head. The important trick is to detect "all or nothing" plays and decide for yourself if the risk-reward is worth it. Example: In a 2 player game a turn is worth 6+ actions total, an enemy with doom on it subtracts these 6 actions. A circumstance may arise where a player has the option of killing such an enemy, but it will probably cost one player 5 actions and you've only got 1 shot before the doom triggers an advance and disappears. Do you risk 5 actions on one attack (that may autofail) for a chance to gain 6 actions, or do you use those 5 actions to net as many clues/scenario progress as possible? The answer here was, that because an autofail would have cost even more actions and failed to net any benefit at all, to ignore the doom and progress the scenario as much as possible instead. In this example we wound up beating the scenario with no time remaining, a close call but we'dd made the right call. 

Other ways to prevent the absolute worst from happening: If the encounter deck can discard assets never leave your most important stuff unprotected on the table. If the scenario has special mechanics that may instakill you, avoid them no matter what (being slow in County Express, being near the Rougarou, ETC). As a general rule, you can expect to routinely see a mechanic you desire if you have 5 cards with it in your deck. That means that a fighter should have 5+ weapons in his deck, if you rely on cards to gain clues then you should bring 5+ clue harvesting cards, if you absolutely need a particular kind of tank then you need 5+ cards that heal or tank.

 

2: You will nearly never play every card you draw for its card text or as an asset (unless you're Silas Marsh with mostly skill cards in his deck). Assets especially you just stop playing once you're past the halfway point of a scenario unless its an asset that will immediately help you beat tests and challenges you know are coming. Sometimes a particular playstyle might get half-a dozen or so cards at once into play, generally these are types of decks that need teamplay (someone to protect them until they have their core cards on the table, A-La mystics) or decks with great resource and/or card generation (Yorrick with low-cost assets/Some Rogue builds/Some seeker builds). 

Just remember that resources are precious, a 3-4 cost card is very very expensive and high cost cards tend to be mutually exclusive. A Leo De Luca for example pushes Backstabs and Sneak attacks out of your deck with his cost unless youre not using any other major assets (Weapons, Lockpicks, flashlight). Low cost cards similarly push out high-cost cards, it's harder to play your Rite of Seeking +- Shrivelling if you played a Flashlight earlier.

 

3: I've already mentioned deck building above. The 2-of 1-of question is actually better than you'dd think. The consistency of maxing out on cards isn't quite so pronounced in this game is it is in others because even when you take the maximum of each card that's still just 2 cards in a 30 card deck. It's perfectly fine to bring 1-offs to keep in your back pocket for unique interactions or circumstances. Cards like Survival instinct or Dynamite that may only prove useful once throughout an entire campaign. Also if you go through decks slowly then try out some more classic skill cards in a deck. I usually play with 6+ skill cards, the cards that replace themselves will help you see your essential assets sooner in a scenario.

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