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Chutney

What makes this game so good?

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I've been hearing so much about this game and how fantastic it is so I was incredibly excited when my wife and I had the opportunity to try it out with a friend.  We chose our characters and began the first scenario.

We played on standard difficulty and we just barely won!  But...we didn't enjoy the experience much at all.

I'm no stranger to these tough arkham games.  Eldritch Horror was my favorite board game of all time for a quite a few years and was only recently dethroned by Mansions of Madness 2nd edition.  Both of these games I immediately fell in love with after the first time playing them.

I searched the internet to see if people had similar experiences to mine with Arkham the card game but I couldn't find any.  Everyone was raving about it and claiming how it blows Eldritch and Mansions out of the water.

So my question is this and I mean this with the upmost sincerity:

What makes the card game so great?

I really want to figure out if there's something I'm missing.  And I'd rather not hear answers like, "It gets better the more money you spend".  I have to feel that the core is worth it before I'd be willing to commit more money to it.

 

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I think the answer you don’t want might be the one you get.

The single core set experience doesn’t really allow you to do much. Your deckbuilding options are too limited and the three opening scenarios are more like three tutorials. 

In addition to opening up deckbuilding, a second core also allows you to play with four people. I feel the two core secenario is worth $80 more so than the single core is worth $40.

The $80 two core game has more to offer than the $100 Mansions core if you want to look at it that way. (And yes , I own and love Mansions). I am not sure I would have been as enamored with Arkham if I had only played with the single core. I got a single from a game store while my second core was in transit in the mail, so I only played once or twice solo with a single core just to learn the rules before I taught it to my friends. I could immediately see the limitations. 

Edited by Elrodthealbino

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For those of us who love the game, it may help for you to specify a few things you didn't like.  Then we can determine if those are things that go away with more plays (e.g. you needed to look up a lot of things in the rules) or not (e.g. you absolutely cannot stand the chaos bag).

 

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well, not every game is right for every person.   I'm not going to try to convince you to love it,  but I can tell you some things that I enjoy about it.

1)  Deckbuilding.   And I'm very sorry to say that yes, this answer is "It gets better the more money you spend."   Sorry,  I know that's not what you want to hear.   But it's true.  Your deckbuilding options with 1 core are pretty much non-existant.   Customizing my own deck is a big part of the fun for me.   Both in terms of the base deck and in terms of spending your XP,  more cards means more options, and more options pretty much directly translates into more fun.  Some people REALLY like building decks and then piloting them and thinking about ... "hm... maybe it would be better if I replaced this card with THIS card...   Should I have 2 copies of this other card or just 1?    This one card is great but is it worth the resources?"   I am one of those people.   If you're not,  you probably won't enjoy the game quite as much.   This is a huge, huge part of it for me.   Customization and variability continuously ensures a different experience, with new options and new cards coming out all the time.   Sometimes a single card can breathe life into an Investigator or general strategy that wasn't working before,  and that's extremely exciting to get out there and try it and see if you can make something work.

2)  Campaign storyline.   Each of the campaigns genuinely has it's own storyline, and every campaign so far is excellent.  I am always legitimately interested to know what is going to happen next.   And once I already know,  I tend to replay the same campaign again and again, because there are often multiple resolutions you can achieve,  or just see if I can get through the campaign with different investigators.  Again, and I am sorry to have to say this once more ...  It gets better if the more money you spend.   Although I do think the Night of the Zealot campaign is very good,  the other campaigns are longer, and have more packed into them.     I'll add to this that you don't always have to "win".   If you get a hard scenario, it's nice to just say "ok, well.. that was the best we could do."  and move on to the next scenario, as a poor resolution doesn't usually end your campaign.   You can be partially successful.   Sort of refreshing from the "all or nothing" mentality of most other games.

3) Cooperative element.   A good co op game is hard to find sometimes.

4)  Community.   This game is pretty hot right now, and promises to continue to be popular.   I like talking with other players either online or in person about their views on particular cards and strategies,  it's nice to be a part of something.

5)  One of the advantages of cards is that the designers can change the rules, or win conditions slightly by scenario.   It lets the designers do some really neat things in some scenarios by altering the gameplay a bit.    Playing "The Essex County Express" is massively different from running through "City of Archives"  or "The Last King".  You never know just what you might be asked to do,  and you have to keep your deck ready for anything.


But you know, if you'd rather play Eldrich,  then go for it.   Eldrich just didn't really do it for me,  I didn't care for it.   Tried it many times,  it's just not my thing.    Maybe AH LCG is more my style and Eldrich is more yours.   Nothing wrong with that. Like ricedwlit said,  if you had some specific grievances, we can let you know if that gets more or less annoying,  but I think after you complete the Night of the Zealot campaign you should have an idea of if you're going to like it or not.   Personally I'm quite fond of the Midnight Masks scenario.

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32 minutes ago, ricedwlit said:

For those of us who love the game, it may help for you to specify a few things you didn't like.  Then we can determine if those are things that go away with more plays (e.g. you needed to look up a lot of things in the rules) or not (e.g. you absolutely cannot stand the chaos bag).

 

That's a smart idea.  I guess I can describe a few things and I'll compare them to my experiences with Eldritch and mansions

1. In the first scenario, two of the three act requirements were to "get x number of clues" but it didn't seem as immersive as the other games mentioned.  In Eldritch and Mansions, there was a story set up for each clue as well as text for what happened if you succeeded or failed that particular clue.  For example, "I found an ancient tome (clue) in the cellar that is surrounded by snakes and attempted to roll high enough agility to get it but I failed, had a snake's fangs sink into my arm and now I'm poisoned" compared to "I drew a -3 from the chaos bag and didn't get the clue".  Since 2 of the 3 acts was getting clues, this really seemed to be missing for me.

2. I didn't feel like there were a lot of decisions to be made but that could have been due to it being the first scenario.

3. We seemed to rush through the first two acts incredibly quickly and then get walled by the 3rd where we had to kill the boss.  We still beat him but the pacing certainly shifted.

4. I'm not sure how I felt about combat. In the first scenario, the hallway connects to three separate rooms but each one only connects to the hallway so it made evasion seem a little trivial.  I've also never been a fan of enemies doing automatic damage (like in eldritch and mansions you still roll to mitigate some of it) but that can't really be helped I suppose.  I had some allies to split it between but it still didn't sit right with me.

Those are some I can think of off the top of my head.  Again, I'm looking for honest thoughts here because I want to like this game.

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1.  I can see that,  but you have to understand,  part of the game mechanics in some scenarios involve getting a lot of clues.   Like...   20+    Getting a storyline for each clue would get tedious fast.   I think the story element should come in on the Act and Agenda cards.    You still have the storyline,  -I would argue you have a lot more storyline than in Eldrich...-   but that storyline isnt concentrated on getting clues,  it's on advancing the act (or agenda),   it's on progress.

2.  No?   You felt your 3 actions/turn were just automatic?  Always felt like you had the right plan?  I wish I had your confidence!    

3.  Some scenarios will be like that,  others wont be.  

4.  I'm not sure I follow.   How did it make evasion trivial?  Some enemies have the Hunter keyword, so they will come after you.   As far as automatic damage...   in almost every case you have an entire turn to deal with a monster.   If you fail to do so, you'll get damaged.   You have your chance to avoid damage (by evasion or defeating the monster), it's your 3 actions on your turn.

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1. The clues are an abstract requirement. They represent things like figuring out how to get out of your study, or how to use the melted ice on the doorway. As the game progresses, they add in a lot of things to advance acts other than just clues, but for the most part this aspect won’t change.

2. There are usually a fair amount of decisions to be made, but that depends on the scenario. Also, the campaigns usually have choices between scenarios.

3. That is how the first mission usually runs, for better or worse. A game with an optimised Guardian deck can one-round that boss before he has a chance to do anything. This comes down to lack of deckbuilding options.

4. Evasion is more like: (spend an action=monster loses a turn). You can often do everything you need to do on that turn and just leave him there if you don’t need to go back. The automatic damage is mitigated by the fact that you generally know exactly when it will get to attack so you have a lot of agency on your turn to try to prevent it.

Edited by Elrodthealbino

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First, as others have said -- yeah, it's largely about more and varied content, which you have to buy.  It's like a role-playing game -- you can play the same adventure over and over, but you'll get bored without either buying more content or someone putting in a lot of work to create more.

1. Don't compare clues to clues; compare EH clues to AH:LCG's acts, agendas, and most importantly, encounter cards. 

(I do have to say, your example seems to selectively ignore the flavor that's there.  Why isn't it "I rolled the die and found a tome" versus "The smell of rotten meat assaulted my nostrils as I approached the attic stairs.  The bloody carcass of a malformed beast swung from a meat hook chained to the ceiling. Blood drained slowly from the carcass, dripping into a small barrel.*  I lost a bit of sanity, but I drew a -3 from the chaos bag, grabbing the barrel"?)  *text directly from the location, with modified subject and verb tense.

But I'd also point out that the clues in the first scenario are fairly concrete, though it's not clear until you advance the act.  That's when it tells you that you remove the barrier with a container from the attic and ice from the cellar.

2. The first scenario is very small and meant to introduce the basic mechanics, so you're probably right.

3. For me, that's a feature.  I prefer scenarios where the acts are very different from each other.  It feels more story-like rather than just a clock.  Now, if you didn't get a lot of enemies coming at you in the first two acts, that might have affected the pace.

4. As others said, Evasion is plenty useful.  Dead ends often make it more useful, since you can leave non-Hunter enemies behind in rooms that you won't return to.  Damage is only automatic if you're engaged with an enemy -- so kill it first or evade it before its turn.

I'll say that I got bored with AH 2nd edition pretty quickly.  It's long and repetitive, unless I want to buy more expansions, which will make it longer.  I've only played EH once.  Mansion, I like, but I feel like a lot happens randomly.  Your turn's over, here's some damage.  Maybe it's handling some skill checks in the background, but I don't like the lack of control.

Edited by CSerpent

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If you didn't like the Core you won't like the game.  All the "magic" everyone is talking about is right there in the core.  Buying redundant core sets and expansions for more player cards will make your decks stronger and more consistent, but all that will do is lower the difficulty (which you can do by going down to easy as well).  It won't change what the game is fundamentally.  It's okay not to like AH:TCG.  I think it's the best game FFG is putting out currently, but not all games are for all people.  Some people prefer the MoM experience or even the Elder Sign experience to AH:TCG.  Those people mostly moved on from the game long ago.  That said I urge you to play the whole core set before forming your opinion.  Each scenario highlights some different aspect of the experience and is meant to be played repeatedly with different strategies since different outcomes can be reached.

For reference I own all of the AH board game expansions, elder sign and all of the MoM products released (which I have also painted).  AH:TCG has been my favorite way to experience the arkham files world.  I think it's hands down the best single player game on the market.

If your turn offs for the game are:

- learning to play or making too many play mistakes then I suggest watching a learn to play video for the game.  That might be better than trying to learn from the learn to play rules.  Youtube channels like Team Covenant put out learn to play and new player advice videos for alot of FFG's games.

- difficulty then I'd say go down to easy.  It's exactly the same game with less swingy statistics and lots of people play that way.  That or wait until you have more player cards and see just how much a difference it makes to construct good decks and not the pregen ones in the rulebook.

- randomness then more content will fix that problem since you'll be able to specialize the deck more and thus make it function more the way you want it to.

- cost then I can't help you there because LCGs are gonna be expensive.  You jut gotta accept that if you are gonna follow one.

- rules complexity then that goes away with practice.  I rarely ever reference a rulebook anymore.  Once you get the flow of the game and the rules then things do tend to work the way you assume they would.  Also there are new player FAQs on places like BGG if you wanna use that as a reference, which help you with common new player pitfalls.

- constructed decks then there are tools for that.  Some people have said they don't like constructed decks, but enjoy playing the game.  Luckily there are tons of decks posted and rated on places like ArkhamDB.  You can go there and find the type of deck you want to play and construct.  Usually the decks will be posted with some pilot instructions and guidelines on how to spend experience.

- not liking the core campaign then it's possible one of the cycles will remedy that since they are all better than the core in my opinion.  Though the majority of the experience is the same so if there is something fundamental you dislike about the experience just going through a different campaign won't help.  The core campaign is three scenarios.  The first is easy and meant to walk you through the game mechanics.  The second is meant to be wide open and show you how a sandbox-y investigation will play out in the game.  The third is super hard and is meant to show you what a campaign climax is like (this being Cthulhu themed expect mostly bad ends unless you really know what you are doing).

- components then I pretty much only play with the cards anymore.  There are tons of options out there to replace the cardboard pieces with more functionally designed tokens.  Also I use minis instead of the investigator cards to help them stand out on the table.  The single most helpful token I've bought for the game were arrow tokens to show routes between locations at a glance.  That way you don't have to stop and interpret the icons every time you move.  It greatly sped up the game.

- the chaos bag mechanic then I'd say that's rough since it's the meat of the game and everything revolves around it.  That said if it's the physical act that you dislike then there are apps out there for the chaos bag.  Some people prefer that option.  Also I and many others will put the chaos tokens in coin capsules to protect them from getting worn out and give them a more pleasing, tactile feel. 26mm coin capsules I believe are the preferred size, but I capsuled mine so long ago I forget exactly.

- game length then I'd suggest sticking to lower player counts.  I've found each player in the game adds about 40 minutes to an hour to the scenario length. Obviously that's a generalization since some scenarios are quicker than others, but I've found a two player game (my preferred player count) takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to complete.  I tend to do prep for next game after we play so that next time we can just get in and start playing rather than get bogged down with setting up decks.  Helps keep the momentum going.

- if it's theme or art I'd think we wouldn't have made it this far.

Edited by phillos

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I think most of the points I would make have already been covered, I would add...

1. Probably worth spending the xp you have from the first scenario and having a crack at the second one... the action ramps up and for me has much more the flavour of a ‘real’ AH:LCG game (a nod to awp832 on that one!!). Plus you get to see how the choices you make and resolutions you come to affect the rest of the campaign...

By spending the xp and completing the final 2 scenarios you should get a better idea if it is for you.

2. I too have played the majority of Fantasy Flight Arkham Files games, as well as their predecessor LCG/CCG and the ‘original’ Mythos CCG from Chaosium and this is by far my favourite of them all!!! 

 

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I agree you should try the whole campaign before forming an opinion.  Just playing the first scenario of the core set is like just playing the tutorial of a video game and not actually completing any levels.

Also OP looking at your other post that stuff you described with regards to clue gathering and theme will be better explored as you go through the scenarios.  Clue gathering is the life blood of AH:TCG since it's built around investigation, but it's not the only thing forcing forward momentum.  The scenarios do a good job of diversifying the mechanics.  Also things like failing a skill check and getting stung by a snake (thus becoming poisoned) does exactly happen in this game.  Quite a lot in The Forgotton Age cycle.  So I thought it was interesting that you brought that up as a thematic example.  The thematic story elements like that are all on the treachery cards, act and agenda decks.  Also the locations will often have tests.  Often times these things will instruct you to write down something in your journal, which will be a trigger for something later or will cause the story to branch.   Play more of the game to see how that is implemented.

With respect to conversation, strategy, evasion etc play the second scenario.  You'll notice a big difference.  The first scenario is a very linear walk on purpose. Second scenario and third scenario really highlight that sort of stuff.

Edited by phillos

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What I particularly like that is different from EH and MoM is:  a full campaign runs longer than you can typically play in a single sitting.  This means its something that you come back to.  I like the deck building, which is surprising since I haven't played a deck building game in years.  I like that my win-lose/good-bad ending ratio runs fairly even.

I will say the rules are a lot more complex than EH or MoM.  There are more fiddly bits and more exceptions.

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Is it wise to compare, EH, MoM and AHLCG all have different mechanisms of play. I enjoy all three for numerous reasons, yet don't really have a favourite among them. I love the world travel in EH, the 'in your face' horror of MoM and the tight decision making in AHLcg. If I'm in Campaign mood, the LCG is an immediate turn to as it really is the most personal of the three.

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The 2 main things.

1: Deckbuilding. You're creating your investigator. And each investigator has different building restrictions, different stats, and different abilities. And their decks will still be made differently, and be better at doing different things, than someone else's. You're not just picking up a card that says Dexter Drake and taking whatever it is he gives you. Relatedly you gain xp and have the ability to grow & stylize your deck as you go along. So it's yours.

2: Theme. The game has, at a deeper play level, more theme than either Eldritch or Mansions. It goes well beyond having a story narrative of your I reached for the clue and got bit on the arm. Each scenario is created individually. And so the rules and mechanics of that scenario can be created specifically for it, and never to be used again. Other games: you may have a variable Big Bad. And maybe you draw this event instead of the other. But the overall game doesn't change. Here, it does. Regularly. In one of the first scenarios you go to a mob-run gambling den. Where there's rats running around which you can kill. And a pit boss who follows around the person who's the most snoopiest. But for a while will generally leave you alone as long as you don't create trouble. And a casino that you can gamble for clues. All of these things are immensely more immersive than anything you see from any other FF Arkham game. You don't need some recording telling you what's going on: you can picture it in your mind yourself. It's completely woven into the entire fabric of each scenario.

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Also, regarding theme and story, which seems to be one of the biggest selling points for you, the story elements and decision points get better as the game has developed over time. 

If you are looking for theme, I think the Carcosa and The Circle Undone cycles are excellent. But some of the story (and this is not a bad thing) is emergent, meaning that you fill in the gaps. Fail trying to investigate 3 times at the should-be-easy-to-investigate kitchen? Perhaps Daisy is a bit vulnerable to the smell of the bin that nobody has emptied, well, maybe ever.

Part of the fun is imagining what is actually happening between actions or why certain reactions occur at certain times, or why a sorely needed ally shows up just in the nick of time, etc. 

Mansions pretty much holds your hand with the narrative, telling you a precise story and reacts inflexibly to every action you take. If there were not alternate layouts for scenarios, it would be a nearly identical experience every time you play it. Here, even though the objectives are the same, the way they unfold and the emergent narrative is able to be different. 

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On 4/1/2019 at 10:08 PM, Chutney said:

That's a smart idea.  I guess I can describe a few things and I'll compare them to my experiences with Eldritch and mansions

1. In the first scenario, two of the three act requirements were to "get x number of clues" but it didn't seem as immersive as the other games mentioned.  In Eldritch and Mansions, there was a story set up for each clue as well as text for what happened if you succeeded or failed that particular clue.  For example, "I found an ancient tome (clue) in the cellar that is surrounded by snakes and attempted to roll high enough agility to get it but I failed, had a snake's fangs sink into my arm and now I'm poisoned" compared to "I drew a -3 from the chaos bag and didn't get the clue".  Since 2 of the 3 acts was getting clues, this really seemed to be missing for me.

2. I didn't feel like there were a lot of decisions to be made but that could have been due to it being the first scenario.

3. We seemed to rush through the first two acts incredibly quickly and then get walled by the 3rd where we had to kill the boss.  We still beat him but the pacing certainly shifted.

4. I'm not sure how I felt about combat. In the first scenario, the hallway connects to three separate rooms but each one only connects to the hallway so it made evasion seem a little trivial.  I've also never been a fan of enemies doing automatic damage (like in eldritch and mansions you still roll to mitigate some of it) but that can't really be helped I suppose.  I had some allies to split it between but it still didn't sit right with me.

Those are some I can think of off the top of my head.  Again, I'm looking for honest thoughts here because I want to like this game.

1. You can just as fairly say that Eldritch and Mansions are simply rolling dice as the card game is about drawing tokens. Ultimately you're doing a, "I try to shoot the werewolf!" Now I roll dice. "I'm encountering shaman in the desert who try to tell me something!" I roll dice. "I try to get a clue from the streets of Baghdad!" I roll dice. Now there may be printed cards or printed script giving you flavor to the results. But ultimately those are just pre-defined flavor. And something which you're entirely capable of imaging for yourself in the card game. "A snake tries to bite me." I draw a token. "Crap. I failed. I'm poisoned." "I try to investigate at the library." I draw a token. "Huzzah. I succeeded." "I have Frozen in Fear put in front of me." At the end of my turn I try to get rid of it. "Huzzah. I succeeded. I broke my fear." Now, most of the pull are going to be fairly generic. Investigate a location with 3 shroud. Or attack a monster with 3 fight. Or pass a Will test that you don't really think that hard about the flavor. But they're certainly incorporate. And I'd argue theme is more deeply, and more meaningfully, incorporated into the game than the other ones you mentioned. Simply because of the ability to make every scenario unique, you can change the fundamental mechanics of what you're doing. So you're not only rolling a dice with some backstory of being visited by a ghost. You're grabbing a token to gamble. Or having the ability to parlay with someone. Or once you make friends with the janitors he can walk around with you with his master set of keys and let you into locked rooms. Or you can get to the theater stage by jumping off of the balcony and taking damage, but can't then move back up from the stage to the balcony. The incorporation of theme is incredibly strong and present especially if you take several minutes to consider on how the mechanics that are playing out are actually representing real and thematic actions. It's frankly almost impossible to play a scenario and pretend that the overall and arching theme of it is maybe more than 3 or 4 others, because everything is tied in so deeply. Whereas something like Eldritch is quintessentially similar as the actions are essentially the same. The encounter deck is the same. The map is the same. The basic actions are all the same. The monster bag is mostly the same. The gates are mostly the same. There's actually little identifiable variety that is woven in based on different setups.

2. Yes and no and really depends. Just as in all co-op games there's going to be obstacles that arise that have to be dealt with in some way. That's what keeps the game going. But how you choose to deal with those obstacles, which ones you choose to deal with, and really variably, how you choose to deal with them, is very free form. Someone who is focused on agility may evade them and run away. Someone with a big gun may stay there and shoot, or travel to where this is one to shoot. Or maybe everyone will ignore them altogether. You can have choice probabilities. You can go and try X with 45% chance of success and by choosing that option you save actions and can do more. Or, you can spend more actions and more cards and get up to an 80% probability. So much of what you're doing while you play is determined what you do when you choose which investigator to use and how you build their deck. Their is true fundamental variety and control that then plays out once you start drawing obstacles.

3. That's just the intro scenario. Nobody is entirely sure why they did it that way other than to perhaps give you an idea, early on, that definitions of succeeding in the game aren't what you might normally think of and that sometimes "failing" is ok.

4. If you evade an enemy that doesn't hunt in one of the side rooms, and don't need to go back, you've effectively neutralized them. That said imo evasion is mostly inferior to combat until the last full cycle. Others may disagree. And doing damage may be automatic, but the prevention of it is not. There's cards that simply neutralize it (Dodge!). And others that let you run away. And as you say allies that you can distribute it among (and you choose which allies to include) and there's items that can absorb hits so the significance and impact of damage can be incredibly variable and very much under your control. There's cards which can negate en enemy coming into play altogether. Testing to prevent other damage through encounter cards are almost exclusively performed through tests. Test will. If you fail, take horror. Test evade. If you fail, get poisoned. Etc. It's not like you're simply flipping cards and taking hits. Frankly, it's actually pretty rare to take hits from an enemy. Properly prepared a group can nearly always find ways to deal with them and avoid getting hit. Either by killing them in time or running away from them or evading. Sure, it happens sometimes. But truth be told, not actually that often. It's much more common to take damage through encounter cards and when someone does take enemy damage it's generally your tank who has the stats and equipment to deal with it. Again, the mitigation coming from preparing before the scenario starts, not just choosing Finn at the beginning of the game and then playing through what happens. The amount of control that you exert over things like damage is actually incredibly high when you consider the game in total.

Edited by PJimo

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