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rsdockery

In the Clutches of Chaos player card discussion

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My post is up. The ICC player cards are finally up on cardgamedb (based on my Team Covenant order, the official release should be tomorrow), so it's time to start discussing the implications of all that. Granted, most of these cards were previewed already, but among disparate sources, plus we've got some exciting new Permanents that I don't think anyone's seen yet. Thoughts?

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Well, this pack has some incredibly strong cards in it. To the extent that I am actually sort of worried for the design direction of the game. This cycle has seen some incredibly strong cards, some incredibly weak cards and costings all over the shop, and this pack has the biggest disparities of all...

Agency Backup

This card is a huge sack of soak with flexible, testless clue gathering and damage. It is also absurdly expensive. It's a super-powered Beat Cop, minus the Combat boost, but compensating with extra soak. The fact that it can take hits for other investigators invites obvious comparison to Brother Xavier as well as True Grit and Something Worth Fighting For. The difference is that those are all designed to take hits as their only purpose, and in the case of Brother Xavier actually gives you a reward for letting the card be defeated, whereas assigning damage or horror to Agency Backup is disadvantageous, as you also want to be able to deal it damage/horror to activate its effect. That said, it has such a huge pool of health and sanity that you can use it for both purposes - if you used it purely for clue gathering and damage it would take 7 turns before it ran out, so there's plenty of leeway for using it in both ways. Flexibility is a crucial factor in the utility of a card, and from a certain point of view Agency Backup offers flexibility in spades.

However, from another point of view, it is incredibly inflexible. Repeatable testless clues and damage is a great boon, but it comes at a huge cost. 7 resources is more than anyone can afford out of the gate, and even Leo Anderson wouldn't be able to play this turn 1 without using actions and/or cards to gain more resources first. If you've played with Brother Xavier, you'll know his cost makes him unwieldy and hard to use effectively - well, Agency Backup is that only moreso. And at 5 exp, it's a big ask for a card you often won't be able to afford to use - at least Xavier only costs 1 exp and gives you a stat boost. It even has bad icons - less than even a single Wild icon. I feel like 2x Combat 2x Intellect would have made more sense. The icons are more important for Guardians given the existence of Well Prepared - you can't even get a worthwhile stat boost out of it using the guardian boost talent. For almost any investigator, the tempo loss of buying a 7-cost asset is crippling. Leo de Luca might cost 6, but he gives you actions which, if nothing else, are freely fungible with resources. Agency Backup will let you get clues or deal damage once per round, but at the cost that you will be unable to play anything else in the foreseeable future - and Guardians are already resource-starved just paying for their weapons and basic boost assets.

Let's talk about combos. It plainly interacts well with Inspiring Presence, which allows you to get a second use out of either of its abilities and offset the horror/damage it takes. Any source of healing is great as it will extend its ability to soak damage/horror, and the fact that it can take damage/horror for other investigators makes this more efficient (e.g. both you and your mate take 1 damage at a location. You assign both of the damage to Agency Backup then use Emergency Aid to heal it - you wouldn't have been able to heal both the damage with that 1 card if you had taken it split between you). Just like with Beat Cop, damage healing that works on allies also gives you more uses of testless damage, and in addition, horror healing gives you more uses of testless clue gathering. This makes Kerosene a weirdly attractive option, as you can use the horror healing to continue getting clues. Sadly, Kerosene is a very inefficient card action-wise and is already quite expensive, and there's no tricks available like William Yorick using his ability to get it into play for 0 actions and healing Aquinnah (3) with it. First Aid (3) likewise works, and is likewise action-inefficient, but if you're really building around your Agency Backup it might be worth consideration. Obviously a friendly Carolyn Fern with Ancient Stones (Minds in Harmony) could have a field-day, it's a shame she can't take the Agency Backup herself. And finally, it's a prime candidate for Trusted.

So who actually wants it? Zoey Samaras has more resources than anyone else as a baseline, so if she's running an otherwise-inexpensive deck it could be a good choice. In particular, the clue gathering could let her contribute more broadly and extra testless damage is great on her, both because she likes melee weapons and Flamethrowers (both of which benefit a lot from the occasional extra point of damage here and there to round off edges) and because she already has direct damage from her Cross to stack on top. Leo Anderson could enjoy using the Agency Backup a lot since it would benefit from his inherent discount, and being able to play it as a Response (i.e. without provoking AoO) makes it a lot more flexible - dropping 8 points of soak and testless damage into play could be exactly what you need if you've been jumped by a big nasty. Additionally, his economy boost from Rogue access helps afford the card - but conversely, he already has loads of great allies to choose from. Agency Backup is at least non-unique, so it can go into the two Ally slots produced by Mitch Brown. Mark Harrigan finds it very hard to afford, since he already has economy problems with his high draw power and lack of native resource options, but much like Beat Cop, the self-damage effect of Agency Backup can be turned into card draw for him - particularly as it can be activated in different phases, allowing him to maximise his gains. Finally, Roland Banks ironically gets the least use out of Agency Backup. The horror soak is nice for him, but the same is true of Brother Xavier and he at least gives a much-needed Willpower boost, and Roland gets no special benefit from Agency Backup, already has a wide array of great allies to choose from, and does not have a strong enough economy to play him, unless leaning into Dr Milan Christopher and Crack the Case - and even then, there's better things to be doing. If Roland needs soak, he's best off with an Academic Army style of deck.

The biggest draw for me (yes, I'm biased) is as a combo with the new .45 Thompson (3). The Guardian Thompson gives you loads and loads of resources, and after one full magazine plus Act of Desperation you can easily have enough resources to spare for Agency Backup. I've found that the .45 Thompson (3) build works well on Zoey and works even better on Mark, both of whom benefit from Agency Backup, and the base 2-damage attacks means that a bit of extra testless damage can be vital to close the gap with bigger guns like the Lightning Gun or Flamethrower. When I finally get the chance to play a deck like that in a full-length campaign, I'll definitely be trying out Agency Backup once I have the core deck set up. The big problem is that this really is not remotely worth 5 exp. Lots of high-exp cards are relatively cheap in resources to compensate for the exp cost - this is 5 exp for the privilege of spending 7 resources and an action for exhaust-limited testless single-damage/single-clue. Bear in mind that 1x Something Worth Fighting For and 1x True Grit is a total of 10 "clicks" to play - 2 cards, 2 actions, 8 resources - and this is a total of 9 - 1 action, 1 card, 7 resources - and takes up your ally slot into the bargain. Compare to a 3 exp card like Lola Santiago to see why this seems massively overcosted. I'd have put Agency Backup at 3 exp and even then it would only see play in a handful of decks.

In terms of mechanical flavour, the card is relatively nondescript but still fun - basically a supercharged beat cop, with extra investigative power. Feels like a bit of a fail that Carolyn Fern can't take it and Roland Banks doesn't want it, but there we go. The art is nice, stylised and dynamic (see here for a bigger version) - it's recycled from the old Task Force card in the Call of Cthulhu CCG, a card that never made it to the LCG. The text box is already very full but a bit of flavour text would have been grand - I always liked the text from the G-Men from the Call of Cthulhu LCG: "The man looked like a Jersey bull in a tight gray suit. Then the rest of the herd climbed out of the car, and Norman realized how high the stakes really were."

Mk 1 Grenades

I really like this card. And yet I think most builds won't want them, since they are expensive in exp, not cheap in resources, and they only do 2 damage per attack. However, anyone who's played with Storm of Spirits can attest that multi-target damage can be very useful. Many times I have seen Dynamite Blast played on one's own location, taking an AoO to do so, as an excellent play; this does so without the risk (except the risk of failing the test and doing nothing). In emergency situations where there's multiple enemies engaged with other investigators, you'd accept the damage to them to wipe the board, and you could target an enemy engaged with you so that you at least won't hurt your friends on a failed attack. Like Storm of Spirits, Grenades + Double or Nothing can be a really solid play for Leo Anderson or Zoey Samaras. In addition, you can target a low-fight enemy at your location and then hit high-fight enemies with the splash damage.

Sadly, the exp cost is substantial and that is a problem for many guardians, because guardians generally have lots of things to spend their exp on. They're not a first-choice upgrade for anyone, and 8 exp for a playset of them is way too much. I think these would have been better as a 3-exp card. One point of consideration is that the card scales very strongly by player count, like all area attacks - you could make very efficient plays with this on 4-player, but you're unlikely to get many big multi-attacks on single player. Definitely a late-game card, but by late game 2 damage might fall off in utility. I can think of a number of early scenarios where I'd love to have these in my deck, but I definitely would not put down the 8 exp early for them. They'll be great for Egypt, though...

Looking at build-specific synergies, the grenades also get points for simply being a weapon that doesn't take up a slot; this is handy particularly for Roland Banks if he's leaning into his investigator role as Magnifying Glass/Fingerprint Kit/Hawk-Eye Folding Camera/Otherworldly Compass can put a lot of pressure on his hand slots, and even with a Bandolier he can find himself relying on just a pistol or Machete as a weapon. The Grenades are great with a Flamethrower; the body slot on the Flamethrower means that you can't use a bandolier and carry a backup in play, but the Grenades are slotless. If you are engaged with a horde of enemies you can use the Grenade to kill the puny enemies and soften up the big ones, and then a blast from the Flamethrower to deal all the leftover damage to kill any higher-health enemies. It's also useful for any guardian who relies on a big two-handed weapon like a Lightning Gun; one weakness of the Lightning Gun or Shotgun is that it can be a real waste to spend a precious point of ammo from your BFG to kill a 2-health enemy, and the Mk 1 Grenades cover you there, giving you something to kill the weaker enemies (even swarms of them) while you save your ammo for the big enemies. It synergises well with most guns, really, as a great backup weapon - if you have a .45 Automatic or something as your backup in case you don't draw or run out of ammo for your main gun, often the backup will languish unused in hand because you've gotten your main gun out and kept it topped up with ammo, but the Grenades are slotless so you can have them in play as well, and keep them ready ahead of time if you do run out of ammo and need to kill something, avoiding the AoO that you might take if you want to play a new gun to replace an existing, empty gun. And not to harp on about it, but a .45 Thompson build appreciates a slotless secondary weapon and can easily afford them.

They use Supplies rather than Ammo, so on the one hand you can't use Custom Ammunition (no holy hand grenades :() or Extra Ammunition, but you can reload with Emergency Cache (3), and Venturers still work.

One particularly weird interaction is Mk 1 Grenades + Marksmanship. The Grenades are Ranged so they are a valid target, however, they will only damage enemies in your location. You could therefore target an enemy in an adjacent location with Marksmanship + Grenades, preferably an enemy with low Combat to make the test easy or simply to avoid hurting another investigator in your own location due to attacking and missing an enemy engaged with them, and deal 2 damage to every enemy in your current location. Furthermore, the Grenades state that any additional damage is dealt to the targeted enemy, so the +1 damage from Marksmanship (and whatever else from Vicious Blow etc.) would still be dealt to the enemy in the next location along - target a Swarm of Rats or Whippoorwill maybe? I would like to see some kind of official clarification for this though, since it might fall under "additional" requiring there to be a baseline to begin with (I think it should work this way because both the interaction with "additional damage" and the way the damage is distributed are specific replacements to normal rules effects). Talk about an illogical interaction, going long with a grenade into the next room only to have it detonate in your current room...

As a slotless weapon, the Grenades can't be discarded to make an Act of Desperation attack - I suppose that there's no point throwing the grenades as a last-ditch attack, since they're already designed to be thrown and break, rather spectacularly.

Ultimately, they have a number of niche uses and several points in their favour, but they're heavily overpriced, just like Agency Backup. At 3 or even 2 exp these would be absolutely fine and balanced, maybe allowing William Yorick to use them, and given some of the other cards in this pack it makes me wonder how strong a grasp the designers have on relative card strengths and the exp economy.

With weapons the background art is more important than the art for the weapon itself. This has some strong implications of trench warfare, which is a decent theme but not specifically Arkham at all, but overall leaves me a bit cold. It feels more like they had a generic grenade art asset lying around rather than something commissioned specifically for Arkham - I'd rather see a crate of contraband grenades with US Army stamping being unloaded by gangsters, or something dynamic.

Dayana Esperence

This is also a very pricey card! You need both her and the card you intend to replicate in your hand, so she essentially costs an extra "click" on top of her 4 resources and action. It's hard to make this card work properly - you need the right hand setup, then you spend a lot of resources and an action, and then if she dies it's all lost. But if you do get it to work you can get some extra uses out of some very potent cards. I agree with @rsdockery that the main use for her is going to be cancel effects. 3 uses of Ward of Protection (2) is a huge amount of control over the game, and 3 uses of Deny Existence (5) provides unparalleled resilience. Something like Counterspell is a bit less handy because it won't always come up as often, but it'll let you pass multiple tests and avoid several nasty token effects over the course of a game. However, getting to the point where you can set that up without putting a major dent in the efficiency of your deck is going to be tough. She has 3 Health which is great for most mystics - mystics tend to have high sanity and means of mitigating or healing horror, but damage can be a problem particularly since many mystics still wade into combat with Shrivelling.

This card is probably the strongest "Uses: Secrets" card out there, at least in terms of what you get per Secret token - at the very least equal to Mr "Rook" if you set Dayana up properly, so she's a great target for Truth From Fiction. I think Diana Stanley likes this a lot, as she already loves canceling effects (shame she can't use it to replicate Dark Insight) - based on the wording of Dayana, you're still playing the attached card itself rather than Dayana replicating it herself, so there shouldn't be any reason Diana can't use her Investigator Ability to take the card attached to Dayana and place it under her investigator card once Dayana is out of charges or whatever (Diana using Dayana, it's like Leo Anderson with Leo De Luca or Lola Hayes with Lola Santiago all over again); Diana also has the economy to offset its cost and builds that ignore her willpower are relatively inexpensive in terms of exp so they can afford her more readily.

With her native Seeker access for Truth from Fiction, Marie Lambeau is another good choice, it's just unfortunate that Mystifying Song + Dayana Esperence is a nonbo (the Song is removed from the game after use and that clause will still trigger even if it's attached to Dayana). Jim Culver also has access to Truth from Fiction, though I think it's a bit less valuable on him since he has access to so many great allies already.

The three things holding this card back are opportunity cost - it's an ally and mystics already have lots of allies, and I don't see this being anywhere near as useful as Arcane Initiate who can get you lots of different spells proactively; clumsy setup - expensive, costs an extra card and requires you to have the right spell event in hand, and gives you no up-front benefit to offset that; and exp cost - mystics are already strapped for exp and this is really not good enough to prioritise.

It's a shame this card wasn't 1 or 2 exp instead, I don't think she would have been overpowered at 1 exp and then we could see some more interesting builds, like Sefina Rousseau copying Painted World or something (unlike Mystifying Song, the remove-from-game aspect of The Painted World is "instead of discarding" so it wouldn't trigger at all if attached to Dayana). Another fascinating card hobbled by being massively overcosted.

The art is pretty cool, it has a bit more of an unreal look to it and she has a wild, Bellatrix Lestrange look to her. The subtitle Deals with "Devils" is fitting for the witchcraft theme of the cycle and is lovely and pulpy. I like the card on flavour alone.

Deny Existence (5)

Having talked about all the previous cards being overcosted in exp, this one is very expensive too - but I think it's fine. It's not worth 5 exp insofar as it's not going to be your first choice for 10 exp - it doesn't compete with upgrading into a better attack or clue gathering spell - but it's very much a luxury card. Those who really want this are Diana Stanley, who doesn't have that much pressure on her exp if she's going for a low-willpower build, and Carolyn Fern, who likewise doesn't have that much to spend exp on once the core of her deck is set up. Deny Existence (0) is absurd for a level 0 card and this does all the same things - the benefit of reversing them is so dependent on the situation that listing them all would be impossible, but I'm certain that this card will result in countless great stories about games being turned around, Yog Sothoth's massive horror damage becoming a massive horror heal, resource loss becoming resource gain and letting you play a clutch card for the win, and so on. Just like Deny Existence (0), you can use it to counter weaknesses, and by reversing them you can turn Paranoia into a potentially huge resource gain, Amnesia into a potentially huge draw card, and Final Rhapsody into a massive heal (and To Fight The Black Wind into a little heal, giving you 1 resource and preventing otherwise unavoidable doom placement).

If you're playing a Mystic, chances are you're rocking Deny Existence (0); if you somehow find yourself with 5 exp (or 4/3 with an Arcane Research or two) and not much to spend them on, you'll be happy with Deny Existence (5). It can be tutored with Arcane Initiate, copied with Dayana Esperence and combo'd with Scrying to make sure you draw the best Encounter cards to cancel and reverse. It's pure, unadulterated fun in card form.

The art and flavour remain unchanged from the level 0 version, though the mechanical flavour is hard to understand (but also kind of awesome). Still wish it had a badass line of flavour text.

Another Day, Another Dollar

And here it is - the first of two cards in the pack that make me concerned for the balance of the game. First off, this card would be a viable choice at level 4 exceptional, potentially playable at level 5 exceptional, and should at the very least have been level 5 or level 3 exceptional. With the Taboo list we just recently realised that maybe permanent cards are a bit too good. You don't need to draw them, you don't need to play them, you don't need to worry about opportunity cost or deck space or attacks of opportunity or any of the other baseline considerations involved in any non-permanent card in the game. The only thing you need to worry about, except for the very occasional issues of limited class slots in deckbuilding requirements, is the exp cost itself. And for them to now bring out two permanents that give you strict benefits at a very affordable exp cost, is absurd. The exp costing in this pack is all over the place - bringing out these cards all in the same pack kind of implies that someone, somewhere thought that 2 additional starting resources at no opportunity cost whatsoever was less valuable than Mk 1 Grenades, or that an extra card in your starting hand is commensurate in power to Bait and Switch (3).

The card effect of Another Day, Another Dollar is as efficient as Emergency Cache (2 resources for 0 actions, as opposed to 3 resources for 1 action), and doesn't use up a card (so in click economy terms is actually as efficient as Emergency Cache (2) or (3)). It gives you those resources turn 1, the most important time in any scenario to have economy bonuses, and since it doesn't require any actions it won't interfere with setup and getting started in the same way as, say, Emergency Cache under Stick to the Plan. It's beneficial for money-hoarding rogues by letting them get their engines up and running or simply getting more resources to add to the pile. It's beneficial to throw-money-at-the-problem rogues by giving them more to throw. It's good for evasion rogues by helping them set up their boost cards and pay for their events. It's good for absolutely anyone who can take it. It's strictly beneficial no matter what your build, no matter what your investigator. There's no thought involved in how best to use it, or whether you want to replace one card in your deck with it, or whether you want to mulligan for it or keep it in opening hand, or whether it's worth playing before or after another card, or whether to use it now or later, or any of the other inherently interesting strategic and tactical elements to non-permanent cards. And in my view, that's really bad design.

Of course Higher Education, Streetwise and Scrapper needed to be hit by the Taboos - they provide you with an on-demand booster asset that is as efficient or better than ones that actually take up a slot in your deck and actually need to be played and paid for before they can be used. They provide you with incredible efficiency and flexibility regardless of how you play, with no opportunity cost aside from exp, and enable you to translate resource gain into victory without needing to go through the intermediate steps that other decks need to go though. But at least those cards are still in some way limited; you need to spend resources to activate them; the benefit they provide is an option for how you use your resources, while Another Day, Another Dollar is a pure benefit without any additional interaction needed. Additionally, you can double up on it; since it is neither Unique nor Exceptional, you can add two copies of Another Day, Another Dollar to your deck for even more early advantage and tempo. It's also worth understanding that 2 resources is frequently more than 2 resources if it allows you to snowball into more and more stacking resource generation; for instance, if you have Leo de Luca and Lone Wolf in your opening hand, ADAD will enable you to play both of them turn 1 without needing to spend an action gaining resources - gaining you essentially an additional resource (or an additional action) on top of the two that the card gives you itself. It also strictly counters the Indebted weakness. Obviously that's only a single case and Indebted is already a relatively gentle basic weakness, but it's still a major problem in terms of the underlying framework of the game; imagine if you could spend 3 exp to forever remove your basic weakness from your deck? It would remove and de-fang one of the iconic parts of how the game works and feels, and this is a step towards that.

It's a shame, because I can see a bit of potential behind it. How to fix it: it needs to come with a cost. Something like, trading in a starting card in hand for the resources, or you lose your Accessory slot, or it being essentially a loan (you get resources right now, but you then need to pay it off later or suffer), or it being an advance on your pay - you get, say, 3 extra resources to let you set up turn 1, but you then lose the next 3 resources you gain to the card.

If this was really expensive in terms of exp, I would dislike that it exists but accept it. But as it stands, this is just so good and detrimental to the health of the game that it is simply unacceptable. Coming soon to a taboo list near you, I really hope.

I like the art, though, it's lovely and rogue-ish, and the card title is great.

Small Favour

The inevitable third part of the "I have people for that" rogue cards together with Intel Report and Decoy. This card is pretty much the least useful of the three because Intel Report will always be easy to use effectively (find location, buy clues from it) and Decoy is a more flexible get-out-of-jail-free card (you can evade any non-Elite enemy, whereas this will only save your hide from a 1/2-health enemy, and Decoy works on up to 2 enemies at once). In that regard, it's very similar to how Improvised Weapon sucks, Winging It is good and Improvised Barrier is surprisingly excellent.

However, this is much better than Improvised Weapon, since you'll still find a lot of uses for it. It's situational for sure - you only want it if you can easily afford it, so Preston really wants it (despite his apparent distaste of Illicit cards - I guess he merely hates getting his hands dirty), Jenny should consider it, and other rogues might not want it at all when they have Coup de Grâce, but if you have it you'll find lots of uses for it. You can snipe Acolytes (and Lodge Neophytes, and Whippoorwills, and so on) from a long distance, take out ghouls and other 2-health enemies for yourself or your allies, and soften up bigger enemies for your allies or yourself. One important aspect, and another point against it compared to Decoy, is that it provokes attacks of opportunity to use, so it's harder to effectively utilise it as a way to rescue yourself.

The "non-Elite" clause is interesting, because that doesn't really appear on damage effects. Automatic evasion, certainly; automatic defeat, absolutely; but not "deal x damage" effects, since they are inherently weaker against boss enemies since they already tend to have lots of health. I suppose it prevents you sniping at The Man in the Pallid Mask, but other effects like Dynamite Blast still work fine on him. It's not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it is a weird restriction.

Just like with its sister cards Decoy and Intel Report, Small Favour features excellent art. In this case, the aftermath of a hit, perhaps made to look like a "mugging gone wrong". It's simple, it tells a story, and it has strong Rogue flavour reinforced by the title. I like it.

Ghastly Revelation

This is a surprisingly good card. It draws obvious comparisons to "I'll See You In The Bad Place!" (edit: apparently the FFG forum filter disapproves of their own card names...), but it is by far the better of the two. ISYIH! could be a really strong and efficient play if you use it to kill a half dozen tough enemies, or take out several Brood of Yog Sothoth, but for every situation where it is a super clutch card, there will be a dozen games where it will languish in your hand being a waste of a card or tempting you to cap yourself and gain a point of trauma to take out a single enemy, because you just haven't drawn enough enemies, or you (or, more likely, your guardian, since you're more likely to play it on Calvin Wright than an actual Guardian) have been able to keep the enemies under control with the rest of your deck; you could always toss it into a skill test, but then what if the super clutch situation occurs 2 turns later? Ghastly Revelation, on the other hand, is a card you can use proactively, because you simply have to find the highest shroud location (or at least one with a victory point on it), grab 3 clues, hand them all off to your seeker, and peace out; I wouldn't recommend doing so immediately, since by being part of the team you're contributing an investigator's worth of extra clues that need to be discovered and damage that needs to be dealt so you had better contribute to make up for it, but if you're playing Calvin or Carolyn or whoever, and you've run out of steam having thrown around a lot of events and so forth, you can bow out of the scenario and stop drawing encounter cards while giving the team a big tempo boost that could help secure the win. I think for the first couple of scenarios as Calvin you could aggressively use one-time events and boosts to make as much of a contribution as you can, then quickly get out of everyone's hair before you become a liability and then go make some tea or something.

Calvin Wright obviously loves this card, a nice way to get the mental trauma he needs while helping out the team and then you can replace it later on once you're ready to roll. Carolyn Fern can easily make good use of it, because she can often find it hard to contribute as effectively for the first couple of scenarios because she has a deck that needs setting up and lacks the EXP for it, and a point or two of mental trauma is not a problem for her given her healing (it can sometimes be strictly beneficial - if you draw elder sign and you have horror to heal, that's a free resource that you wouldn't get if you were perfectly healthy). Other seekers and possibly mystics could also make use of it - Daisy or Marie with Fearless - but it seems less good for them because they are better at contributing in general and gain no actual benefit from the trauma.

Double intellect icons are also better than double combat icons, as even dedicated clue gatherers can often only achieve a certain amount of static intellect (say, 8 or 9), and you can still struggle to guarantee successful investigations on high-shroud locations in such cases, whereas a dedicated monster hunter with a big gun can achieve massive amounts of Combat.

It's still a very niche card for only a handful of investigators, but it has a decent amount of potential, and feels like the right balance of power and cost was struck. Great card design for certain. I feel like a lot of this cycle has been an attempt to correct some design missteps with Calvin and so forth, between this, Five of Pentacles and Trial by Fire below.

The art is pretty good, not incredible and definitely a piece of "classic" Arkham-verse art that's seen use in a number of other games. No flavour text, which is sad, though mechanical flavour is very strong, a classic Cthulhu Mythos trope of reading the wrong thing in, say, a book of genealogy and never being the same again...

Studious

The second far too strong and poorly balanced card in the pack. Much of what was said about Another Day, Another Dollar applies - pure benefits in Permanent form are a big problem, probably should never been printed or at least have been far more expensive.

With that out of the way, some specifics about why it's so powerful. Again, the best time to get extra cards is right at the start of the game. By giving you an extra starting card, this should allow you to include that extra card in your mulligan, so in terms of trying to get a specific card in your opening hand it actually grants you essentially two extra cards. Obviously extra strong with Tarot, extra strong with any deck that relies on getting a specific card in opening hand (e.g. Minh Thi Phan decks wanting Analytical Mind and Grisly Totem (3), any Dr Milan Christopher deck, anyone who wants to make use of Hawk-Eye Folding Camera, Detective's Colt .45s, Ancient Stones, Pathfinder on Ursula, etc.), but no-one out there doesn't want this card.

A point that I want to add here because I was already getting into the weeds with ADAD is that economy cards are the type that have the most potential to unbalance the game because they make every other card in the game more efficient, and therefore more potent. You can print an ultra-powerful weapon like Flamethrower or whatever, but you also need to draw it and pay for it and put it into play. And Studious acts as a force multiplier for the entire rest of your deck. It's far too powerful even at a baseline level, but beyond that, it grows in power along with the rest of your deck - as a deck becomes more powerful, so too does card draw to get you those power cards.

Seekers have less need for exp than rogues (or guardians or mystics), because their level 0 cards are so powerful and many of their upgrades are situational or incremental improvements. So in that sense, Studious is even more broken than ADAD; with ADAD it's a legitimate question of whether it's worth taking straight away because a given Rogue deck might need a lot of exp cards to get where it's trying to go, but almost all Seeker decks are effective out of the gate so they can easily earmark 6 exp to make their opening hand and therefore the entirety of each game far stronger.

Give it the Higher Education treatment; 8 exp cost minimum for sure.

The art is so boring and prosaic, it tells a story but the story is "man bored of studying". I always like seeing flavour text from actual Mythos stories though!

Bait and Switch (3)

Yes, this definitely seems like a card as strong as Studious and Another Day, Another Dollar, sure. OK, I got it out of my system. It's an OK card. The original Bait and Switch is just too expensive and limited for what it offers; while this has some of the same issues (you need to actually succeed on the test and it doesn't help you out with doing so), it has much more flexibility, and flexibility is king. Anything that allows you to target normally invalid targets for Evasion tests is great - evade an enemy engaged with another player, evade an enemy at an adjacent location, evade an enemy engaged with another player at an adjacent location, move that enemy around, get a free move to a connecting location. It's obviously fantastic on Rita Young, as she can use her ability to move the Baited enemy and then herself, or deal one damage to it, and she can pull off lots of tricks with it, Evading an Acolyte or Whippoorwill to death from one location away or evading an enemy engaged with another player, moving it to another location and then moving after it to lock it down or beat it up.

For Wendy it is also great, though far less so; she doesn't have access to Rita's tricks, but still likes evading and has the agility (and the ability) to pull it off. Since it doesn't give you any help with the actual test (unless you commit it rather than playing it in the first place), it will not be useful for William Yorick and only have limited use for "Ashcan" Pete, and even Calvin Wright is unlikely to want it unless he's got 4 or 5 physical trauma as it will otherwise languish in hand until you are hurt enough to actually use it, making it often a dead draw.

It's not worth 3 exp, but Survivors often run out of things to spend exp on, especially single-class survivors like Rita and Calvin, so the exp cost is not as harsh as it could be unless you lean into the Exile cards. But, as the game progresses and more and more survivor exp cards are printed, this will change, so I still think it was overcosted. 2 exp feels right, though I understand wanting to keep it as a Survivor-only card.

Art is the same as the level 0 version, it's a very funny scene and I like it a lot. How the artist managed to make a Mi-Go look furious and embarrassed is beyond me, but either way it's great. And the mechanical flavour is very appealing. It's a card that inherently tells a story and that's a good thing.

Trial by Fire

I love this card and it's both strong and balanced, probably my favourite design in the pack. So basically everyone who can take this should strongly consider it unless they're going Dark Horse, though "Ashcan" Pete might not need it if he's concentrating on Duke. It's very expensive but it gives a big boost. Wendy able to punch like Mark for a turn when facing down the Ghoul Priest; Yorick able to evade if caught with two enemies and a machete; any survivor able to investigate like Daisy for a turn; Minh Thi Phan or Marie Lambeau able to handle an enemy all of a sudden; Finn able to shake off Voice of the Jungle (but not Frozen in Fear); any Dunwich investigator able to boost whatever they want (e.g. Jenny spending 3 resources on getting +2 to Combat for a round, then using her Twin .45s, Leo and Quick Thinking to make 6 attacks that round); you can even use it to boost an already decent score rather than shore up a weakness, so while it doesn't help Rita with her Evasion it will help her with her Combat, allowing her to use Ace in the Hole and beat the tar out of a horde of bad guys, and it's even worth +1 Combat to Yorick which isn't great but may end up being all you need. As I've said, flexibility is absolutely key, and this is absolute flexibility.

But obviously the true star with this card is ya boi Calvin Wright; since it boosts your base attribute, it stacks with his investigator ability. Calvin with 5 Damage plus Trial by Fire goes HAM with a combat or agility of 10 before other boosts, or can put a seeker to shame at 5 horror with an effective intellect of 10. It remains to be seen whether he is actually brought up to full viability by these boosts, but there's a lot more options for making him work than when he was first released (making him a bit like Roland in that regard).

The big limitation, aside from the hefty cost, is that it only works during your turn, and only for that turn. So you can't use it to defend against tests in the mythos phase. You are also not able to use it to help with "at the end of your turn" effects like Frozen in Fear, Dragged Under or Unhallowed Country, since Trial by Fire is a lasting effect and ceases to apply the moment the "end of your turn" timing point is reached (see rules reference, "Lasting Effects"). This makes it less great for someone like Finn, who really struggles with Frozen in Fear.

The art is awesome. I am a bit disappointed that my first-glance impression that the guy had shaved sides and a 'hawk was incorrect (it's just a shadow over his bald head), but it still looks awesome and very survivor-y, with a look of determination. The flavour text is cool as well. Top marks.

Anna Kaslow

I really don't care for this card. Either you build around it, filling your deck with all the tarot you can find, or you're wasting loads of exp on doubling down with gambling on the tarot theme. And even if you do go all-in on tarot, you're using lots of deck space and experience to get a handful of unpredictable static boosts. She has no soak and takes up your ally slot, so you're making yourself very vulnerable by playing her, and when you have to play her, and the tarot cards she gives you slots for, later on, you're taking a huge tempo hit. She's expensive and slow.

However, she could be fun, you know? Like I would play a "my fate is in the cards" type deck, it wouldn't be super powerful but it would probably be quite fun in a luck-based build sort of way. She is also a great counter to The Tower XVI - she can tutor out and play the weakness if it's in your deck, saving you 4 resources and an action, and also allow you to get rid of the Tower if it's in your hand without also needing to trash your existing tarot card. I still think it's not worth doing tarot at all if you pull The Tower as your basic weakness, but Anna Kaslow at least attenuates the risks.

The art is, I hate to be mean, but it's just awful. Her face looks smudged, kind of like that infamous botched restoration of a religious painting in Spain, and her black cloak on white shirt along with her slouched stance makes it look at first glance as though there's something catastrophically wrong with her chest. No flavour text and nondescript subtitle. I guess mechanically it's cool that they're actually doing stuff with the fact that Tarot is a slot rather than simply "limit one in play", aside from playing around The Tower, but it leaves me uninterested since there's still not enough to the mechanic. I think we might see more tarot cards, my guess is in the cycle after next, so she might be better once we do.

-----

I hate to have been so negative but this pack is really a problem. I hope the designers recognise that and fix it quickly. And if we're seeing Taboo rules to bring powerful cards into line with the rest, I'd love to also see them tweak a few underpowered cards to bring them up to par...

Edited by Allonym

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Mk1 Grenades - Jayne Cobb/5
"I sure wish we had some gre- Oh. We do!"
A 2-damage, 3-use, Dynamite Blast, that is safe for you though not your friends. The downside of course is that you have to pull from the Chaos Bag. The upside is . . . pretty much everything else.
Like Allonym, I noticed the synergy with Marksmanship immediately. Add in a Warning Shot or two to herd a pack of XP together, and Mr. Grenade is very much your friend.
It does have more downsides though, starting with that 3 xp cost. That is harsh. And of course you really need multiple enemies to make it worthwhile, so it will definitely be more useful in 3-4 investigator games.
Ultimately though, it is grenades. Just being able to have them is worth a defeat or two.

Agency Backup - Mulder/7
3 clues, 3 damage, and then soak 1 more of each. Soooooo sweet.
But yeah, where are those resources coming from? Even Leo will have trouble with that.
And at 5 xp each, that is a whole lot of other stuff you will not be doing, especially when they are sitting at their desks in your deck instead of on the table. As such, if you take it, you really need to stock up on the cards to support it, from Calling in Favors to Emergency Aid and everything else.
Is it worth building a deck around? Probably. But that is what it will have to be - the focal point of a deck.

Ghastly Revelation - Sam & Dean/5
For when you absolutely, positively, need to have those clues. No, seriously. You need them. Now.
As rsdockery says, I think the clue transfer is as if not more important than the clue discovery. Though of course anything that lets you push through 5 shroud location with an Obscuring Fog on it at the wrong time is nice, even if it leaves you a bit twitchy.
And besides, it is about time those Seekers took one for the team.

Studious - 6-Card Draw/5
An extra starting card. That 3 xp is not too happy for Seekers who like campaign upgrades, but an extra starting card.
You could drop a Magnifying Glass and still be able to use Higher Education on the first turn.
Yeah, totally worth it.

Small Favor - 10/5
Why? Because I predicted it! To go with the other Favor cards. Now to see what they come up with for Willpower.
Anyway, besides being happy that I got it right, this is more Rogues buying their way through a game. If only there was some way to pay for all these favors . . .
I would also note this puts more pressure on Rogues to set up recursion plays. They have all these good Events, they need a way to do them more than twice per game.

Another Day, Another Dollar - Money For Nothing/5
Oh look, a way to pay for all those Favors!
And all those other Rogue shenanigans.
Naturally an all money generating Rogue deck is needed just to see how many resources you can have with nothing to spend them on.

Dayana Esperance - Three-Fold Law of Return/5
Get 3 plays of a single event.
More with Truth From Fiction, and maybe more than twice with Calling in Favors. (Trade Dayana for Dayana!)
Costly to add to your deck and put on the table, but there are more than enough events to make it worthwhile.

Deny Existence (5) - Yes/5
Better titled "Deny Losing".
Ignoring something that kills you is one thing. Getting the reverse effect?
That 5 xp cost is going to put a crimp into upgrading Spell Assets, so it may have to wait until the last scenario of a campaign, when you will certainly need it.

Trial By Fire - 5-For-1/5
For three actions you are awesome.
Well, unless you can sneak some extra actions some way. As a Level 0 card there are plenty of Investigators who manage that.
For Survivors, as a 3 cost event, it seems to want On Your Own to reduce that cost, along with Drawing Thin to get some extra benefits on your Round of Awesome.

Bait-and-Switch (3) - 1/5 . . . or was that 5/1? Hah!
With extra switching.
There is some serious board manipulation showing up, moving enemies hither and yon for your convenience. This plays in rather well with things like Mk 1 Grenades. Now the Survivors can stack the enemies up for the Guardians to knock down.

Anna Kaslow - Major Arcana/5
A card to overcome The Tower.
And get some other Tarot-y goodness in the process.
The problem, as Allonym notes, is the cost. Unless you draw her in your opening hand, I'm not seeing much opportunity to really play her.
Of course as rsdockery suggests, you can go all in and draw to that inside tarot straight, and drop Kaslow and three tarots at the start of the game. For a Seeker with Studious, that is pretty powerful opening position. If you have a way to get back to 5 cards fast enough, you could sit on a pair of Death's and cruise through most games with your Higher Education.

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The Grenades and Trial by Fire are the best cards in the pack, I'll just get that out of the way.  Grenades are an AoE attack that doesn't take up a a hand slot.  More over, its guaranteed damage if you pass the check, and even better, you can target the lowest fight monster there to trigger it.  Trial by Fire is just Survivors being Survivors.  It will be your Will to Survive until you can actually purchase Will to Survive in your deck. 

The Agency Backup isn't too bad either, but its probably up against Lightning Gun when you are buying a 5 cost card.  I think its a strong card for Carolyn though, since she is a Guardian that can really use the big weapons and you usually rely on Beat Cops to deal with threats. 

Another Day, Another Dollar is alright.  Its an auto buy for Preston, but its questionable for the other rogues that can purchase better cards for the XP. 

Studious is pretty meh.  For that XP, I rather buy Feed the Mind if I'm looking for card draw. 

Ghastly Revelation I do think is good, but I think its being misinterpreted.  I do think Calvin Wright would slot this card, because its 2 Books.  I don't think Calvin Wright will ever want to play this card unless he has to, because Calvin Wright does not want Trauma.  Trauma ruins Calvin Wright, that's why his weakness hurts so much.  This card is good in Hard and Expert, for the same reason you would run "I'll see you in Purgatory".  Those card's do God's work without you having to pull tokens from the bag, which is full of tears in those high difficulties.  That said, I probably wouldn't run it in standard. 

 

 

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On 7/5/2019 at 2:19 AM, C2K said:

The Agency Backup isn't too bad either, but its probably up against Lightning Gun when you are buying a 5 cost card.  I think its a strong card for Carolyn though, since she is a Guardian that can really use the big weapons and you usually rely on Beat Cops to deal with threats. 

One minor problem with that plan, C2K - Carolyn is restricted to Guardian cards up to 3XP, so can't recruit the Agency Backup...

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On 7/4/2019 at 9:19 PM, C2K said:

Another Day, Another Dollar is alright.  Its an auto buy for Preston, but its questionable for the other rogues that can purchase better cards for the XP. 

Studious is pretty meh.  For that XP, I rather buy Feed the Mind if I'm looking for card draw. 

Agreed. Trading an xp for a resource seems like the weakest way to spend it. It is a very minor benefit towards actually winning the game and an always available option. Sure, it's nice that it's in the beginning. And sure, it helps Rogues get into their sometimes expensive setup. And sure, you're guaranteed to get it. But still. It's 2 resources. It's not crazy game breaking. Lockpicks help you win the game. Lola Santiago helps you win the game. Skeleton Key helps you win the game. Pocketwatch helps you win the game. Ace in the Hole helps you win the game. Sure Gamble helps you win the game. Charisma helps you win the game. And there's good utility in Pickpocketing, High Roller, Lucky Dice, etc. 

And Seekers have so many places to drop xp. So many. Studious has value later in the game once you've upgraded your deck with powerful cards that'll make a big impact. But it's in the last places I'd spend xp, not the first. If there's any Seeker cards which warrants an xp adjustment it's Pathfinder imo.

 

Edited by PJimo

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5 hours ago, dysartes said:

One minor problem with that plan, C2K - Carolyn is restricted to Guardian cards up to 3XP, so can't recruit the Agency Backup...

fair point.  its probably only truly viable out of Leo then, and you might need to buy some Hot Streak Lv2s and Calling in Favors to really have a chance to get it into play. 

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On 7/4/2019 at 4:17 PM, Allonym said:

It's good for absolutely anyone who can take it. It's strictly beneficial no matter what your build, no matter what your investigator. There's no thought involved in how best to use it, or whether you want to replace one card in your deck with it, or whether you want to mulligan for it or keep it in opening hand, or whether it's worth playing before or after another card, or whether to use it now or later, or any of the other inherently interesting strategic and tactical elements to non-permanent cards. And in my view, that's really bad design.

The opportunity cost is if it's beneficial enough to warrant spending 3xp. If it was 0xp you'd be right that it's strictly beneficial. But it's not. 3xp isn't something to consider lightly. 5xp cards are game-breaking. There's some very good 1xp cards. Every single Survivor card costs 3xp or less. Alter Fate can do away with any crippling card on the table: in front of you, in front of a teammate, as part of the Agenda, anywhere. A Will to Survive gives you a turn, regardless of how many actions you pile into it, without having to draw a token. 2xp gets Rogues 2 Tarots. Which, if drawn into the opening hand, can give them +1 Agility forever and on any test they choose without costing any other, regular slot. There is a trade-off. And that trade-off will force people to consider whether or not this card is worth it in their deck. And perhaps that answer changes depending on what other strategic or tactical decisions they've made with the rest of their deck and/or personal preferences. Obviously I'm not impressed with it. It would be a fringe card for me to buy with that xp. You think that it's wildly overpowered and worth double of the xp cost. I'd say that's a pretty decent design.

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Arcane Research is a much more no-thought, this-is-obvious-to-play card. It's incredibly helpful for Mystics to upgrade from their starting spells to the better versions. Rite of Seeking (2) is strictly better than Rite of Seeking. And Rite of Seeking (4) is nearly so with the additional resource being trivial. And Sanity is their strongest stat with a number of ways to heal it and soak it. The only question on a Mystic build is to whether to take 1 Arcane Research or live a little dangerously and select 2.

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13 minutes ago, PJimo said:

Arcane Research is a much more no-thought, this-is-obvious-to-play card. It's incredibly helpful for Mystics to upgrade from their starting spells to the better versions. Rite of Seeking (2) is strictly better than Rite of Seeking. And Rite of Seeking (4) is nearly so with the additional resource being trivial. And Sanity is their strongest stat with a number of ways to heal it and soak it. The only question on a Mystic build is to whether to take 1 Arcane Research or live a little dangerously and select 2.

I do agree with this, except in the case of Jim Culver, because his must-haves don't require doing the spell progression to get to the best version of the spell. 

Also, I found the Arcane Research strat also depends on the campaign, and its ridiculously hard to pull off in Forgotten Age because that cycle will slap you up in some way and really make Arcane Research terrible to have. 

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On 7/7/2019 at 5:11 PM, CaffeineAddict said:

Does the physical quality of the cards in this pack seem worse than previously, to anyone else? They feel thinner, and after a couple of hours of unboxing, mine are starting to develop a curve.

I can’t comment first hand, but a few people on Reddit were complaining of the same problem while others said their cards were fine (https://www.reddit.com/r/arkhamhorrorlcg/comments/c9sbpr/physical_quality_of_in_the_clutches_of_chaos_cards/). I suggest you contact FFG about it, as it sounds like they are either having quality control issues or there are counterfeit packs being produced.

 

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Studious compares somewhat unfavorably to Stick to the Plan. It is three experience for one card as opposed to six experience for three cards. Studious grants a more powerful mulligan, but this is more than outweighed by Stick to the Plan letting you choose exactly what to keep. Card draw is effortless for Seekers compared to Guardians which pushes things further in Plan's favor.

But Stick to the Plan is a superlatively powerful card -- it was my pick for the strongest non-level-zero card before the taboo list came out. There is plenty of space for a card to be worse than Plan but above the expected power curve.

We can also compare Studious to Cryptic Research. It is a four experience card that increases your hand size by two when played -- twice the effect of Studious, and it has some of the advantages that permanents do in that it is entirely unconditional. It costs no actions and no resources -- as soon as it appears in your hand you just get two extra cards, barring some very specific treacheries. It can also be used on other investigators.

Cryptic Research can draw weaknesses, but I don't consider that a very important factor. Drawing makes weaknesses show up faster whether or not that specific draw effect turned one up. And one should always plan around weaknesses and play with them in mind before actually drawing them.

So Studious is draw one, with the choice to mulligan, at the start of the game; and Cryptic Research is draw two as soon as it appears, with the slight advantage of thinning your deck by one additional card. Given seeker's other good draw and filtered draw options (Eureka! comes to mind) as well as Arkham's generous mulligan rules, we are quite likely to see Cryptic Research early and very likely to see it at some point -- it is still pretty darn good in the late game. Studious and Cryptic Research seem to me to be well balanced with one other.

I would be more concerned about Studious in any other colour, but seekers have always had seemingly absurd card draw options. Especially since the release of Mr "Rook", seekers have been able to pull whatever they need out of their decks and have had the ability to draw through the entire thing without ever needing to take the slow draw action. Having cards is a huge advantage, but it is not the same thing as winning.

 

I won't comment on ADAD as I don't have that much experience with rogues, except to say that it and Studious make a Lola player happy -- they are powerful, level three, non-neutral cards that Lola can get the full benefit from.

Edited by Spritz Tea

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I agree with Allonym that Agency Backup looks like it will be best in Mark.  Especially some brave soul attempting solo Mark since he likes testless clue gathering options and cards that take damage.  Yeah I agree this is blocking him from picking up the big weapons but also I'd argue I've made it pretty far into campaigns just using 0 XP, one handed weapons with many of the Guardians.  Though you will probably need to go the Upgraded .45, Act Of Desperation route to afford this beastly ally.  I don't know if I agree that it's over costed.  Repeatable testless clue gathering is pretty powerful.  With On The Hunt, Scene of The Crime and Evidence Mark would be looking pretty good as far as investigation goes.  Though that comes at the expense of probably lowering his ultimate damage ceiling if he isn't spending all his XP on combat tools.

 

Edited by phillos

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late to the party on this one so I will pass on most of my opinions, as similar things have already been stated by other community members.

I will add though that I played with a couple of these cards today for a few games.   

My wife was playing a seeker and eventually got up to 2x Studious.  She seemed pretty impressed,  she likes permanent cards in general,   and enjoyed having more options out of the gate.   She also pointed out that a selective mulligan of 7 cards is much stronger than a selective mulligan of 5 cards,  so you're nearly guaranteed to have a lot of what you want in your opening hand.   Synergies with Tarot cards also were very nice.

For my own deck,  I had an opportunity to give the Mk1 Grenades a try in Zoey.   I really liked them.  We were playing 2 player and did the scenario The Secret Name,   in which multiple enemies spawning at your location can be a common occurrence.   The grenades were great,   cheaper than a flamethrower, slotless, and very nearly as effective.   I got them up to a a pretty staggering ammo count after dumping a few extra on them with Venturer and then playing Contraband.  I used almost all of them.  They are also an undeniably fun card.   Every time I tossed a grenade and blew through a bunch of enemies it was amazing.   Really handy against aloof enemies.    Let me reiterate that slotless is very good on this card.   Sometimes you have a weak enemy (or several, the more the better!)  hanging around but you really dont want to use an ammo off of your shotgun or lightning gun to deal with them.   A grenade is a wonderful answer,   so in an indirect  way this card helps you keep your big guns stocked with ammo,   since the weaker enemies can be grenaded and the stronger ones hit with a shotgun/lightning gun.   Card performed beyond my expectations.

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