Hello and welcome to part 5 of what is now definitively a 6 part series on deck building in Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game. We’ve gone through quite a few sets of deck building options and almost all the investigators currently in the game. Next, we’ll cover a group of investigators with just three current members but lots of potential. I’ve dubbed this option the choose-a-class deck building because when you’re using it you, well, choose a class. Let’s dive in!
Maybe it’s from my days as a Magic: The Gathering player, but from a game design perspective I can certainly appreciate a good symmetrical cycle. Much like the five colors in MTG, Arkham has five classes which can be paired up or divided in a way that each one gets equal representation. We’ve already covered the 5-2 split, a cycle that is so far symmetrical due to no combinations being repeated. It’s also incomplete, since we’re still missing two combinations but given that we’ve seen these investigators scattered through the campaigns, I’m sure those missing ones are on their way. A simple, complete, symmetrical cycle we’ve also covered is the Dunwich splash where each class is represented equally with the same set of off-class options. We’ve also seen an unsymmetrical cycle in the form of super traits, where the seeker/survivor splash has been repeated for both Marie and Finn.
Today we’re going to talk about another incomplete but so far symmetrical group of deck building options. This combination is a little more complex since it involves multiple classes for each investigator. For this option, at deck creation you get three options of secondary class and must choose one. You get access to all cards of your main class as well as up to 10 level 0-1 skills and events of a chosen secondary class. The options available for the secondary classes isn’t exactly random and here’s where we find the symmetry in this group. Consider the following order, which differs slightly from pack order: Guardian, Seeker, Survivor, Mystic and Rogue. Given that, each investigator in this cycle has access to the three subsequent classes on the list, looping back to the beginning after Rogue. This assumes that all currently released investigators belong to the same group and this could very well change with future releases.
Is there a different way to do this? Yes! In fact, before the third investigator of this cycle was released, there was a little speculation on what the combination could have been. Going once again back to the MTG colors, there is extensive theory on what these colors do and how they combine with each other relative to their position on a pentagon known as the color pie. The ways these colors link up in pairs or triplets are grouped up by their relative positions to each other. If this sounds confusing, I apologize, but the gist of it is, if we just change which secondary class each investigator doesn’t have access to, we get an entire new cycle of deckbuilding options. For the purposes of grouping the currently released investigators in their own cycle, below is a chart showing how all the options could be distributed in regards to the order I referenced above. In each cycle, the factions are represented equally and there are no identical combinations in the entire group.
We’ll talk more about these potential options later, but now let’s talk about the three investigators we already know.
Three’s a crowd
The first we’ll talk about is Mandy Thompson, first released in The Dream-Eaters campaign. Already we see something special about her in that she has to choose a deck size and larger decks give her move copies of her signature event. This doesn’t affect the number of off-class cards she can take, so these additional options mostly exist independent of her choose-a-class options, thematically representing how much research Ms. Thompson has done and knowledge she’s accumulated. The choose-a-class options are somewhat abstract in theme but in this case I think they represent Mandy’s fields of expertise and what she’s gone further into as a researcher. Her lack of guardian access is pretty appropriate given her personality and probable lack of guns at the library.
So what strategies can we usually see in each of these options? For Mandy, each one gives her something to focus on using her ability. The Mystic class gives her a small toolbox, allowing her to find encounter protection like Ward of Protection or Deny Existence. Another option is mobility with Open Gate or even shenanigans with Delve Too Deep, Enraptured and others. If you choose the Rogue class, you’ll have access to some very strong myriad cards in Three Aces and Easy Mark as well as some shenanigans with Quick Thinking. There’s also lots of resource generation with “Watch this!” and Faustian Bargain, then using it with Money Talks and Intel Report. As for her Survivor options, there’s a lot of cluing to be done. Piecing together Fortuitous Discovery combined with “Look what I found!”, Winging It and Sharp Vision give the researcher a huge investigating arsenal. There’s also some generally great cards in Resourceful, Flare and Lucky!. Overall, Mandy has very strong strategies in each option that play well with her front half.
Next up is Tony Morgan, also released in The Dream-Eaters box alongside Mandy. The bounty hunter doesn’t have anything too esoteric on his back side, but his options make a lot of sense for him. Lacking Mystic access wouldn’t be uncommon for a combat oriented character, while Guardian suits this nicely. Given his line of work, I can only assume he’s developed some other skills, giving him Seeker access and even some luck and a lot of grit, which can be seen as his Survivor splash. Mechanically, these options also work well with his high combat and low willpower as well as his penchant for engaging and attacking his bounty.
Similarly with Mandy, Mr. Morgan’s options are very strong but I think in his case, they depend more on what kind of role you want to play in your team. If you’re a dedicated killer, Guardian cards such as Vicious Blow and Daring will help out Tony’s already high combat. Steadfast and Take the Initiative also help out with other tests, especially since Tony is slightly lacking on the willpower. Prepared for the Worst can help you fill out your arsenal or you can even just start hitting with Monster Slayer, Counterpunch and One-Two Punch. If you’re playing solo or want more of a flex role, Seeker can help out Tony’s decent 3 intellect. Working a Hunch can be payed by Tony’s bounties or just go for a straight investigation with Deduction or Inquiring Mind. The latter can also help out with treacheries, similarly to Take the Initiative. Logical Reasoning is a strong pick for Tony due to both the icons and the effect, especially in campaigns where treacheries stick around. As for the Survivor Role, there’s plenty of great options as I mentioned for Mandy such as Lucky!. Tony’s lower intellect can also make more use of “Look what I found!” paired with Winging It. Shout out to botounami for this great Crystallizer deck using some double-icon Rogue and Survivor cards. All in all, Mr. Morgan has great range and the different playstyles opened up by his off-classes are unique and exciting.
Last but not least is the most recently released investigator, with her own novella, Gloria Goldberg. She is a Mystic with potential access to Guardian, Seeker and Rogue cards. I’ll admit this combination has been the most confusing to me but I interpret the writer’s flexibility as different facets of her fiction. Maybe she writes a tale of heroism as a Guardian or a tale of selfishness and personal victory as a Rogue. She might even write some non-fiction as a Seeker. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I’d like to think Gloria can pull it off. Mechanically, Guardian makes some sense given some of the mechanics involving the encounter deck. Seeker can compliment her high intelligence to help find clues more reliably. Rogue is the one that stumps me. There’s some cards there as we’ll see soon, but I’m surprised Survivor wasn’t a choice for her.
As for the options that are available to Gloria, there’s a little digging to be done. Most Mystics in Arkham have their owns strategy, usually revolving around willpower. Gloria more so than any, plays very differently because of her knack for manipulating the encounter deck. In Guardian, we have some cards that can play off of that, such as First Watch or “Let me handle this!”. Unfortunately, due to different keywords, On the Hunt does not work with Gloria’s ability. Otherwise, there’s some generically good options in Glory, Stand Together, Take the Initiative and others. In Seeker, there’s not much that works with her, outside of potentially setting up True Understanding. Otherwise strong options include Deduction and Eureka! that take advantage of Gloria’s stats or Knowledge is Power, Shortcut and others for some action compression. With a Rogue splash, there are a lot of good options as I mentioned for Mandy. Gloria can set up Under Surveillance pretty well and potentially use some resource generation to pay for mystic cards. Otherwise, the agility based strategies won’t work well for her. Overall, Gloria’s options add some cards to her arsenal, but are mostly additional support cards depending on what kind of story the writer needs to make for herself during the game.
That’s it! We’ve gone over all the existing options as well as listing all of possible ones. I find this deck building category particularly interesting because of the balance between flexibility in choosing a secondary class paired with the limitation of only being able to choose skills and events. If we make the assumption that the investigator cycles are divided up like in the chart I showed at the beginning of the article, that means the next ones up are the Guardian with Seeker/Mystic/Survivor access and the Survivor with Guardian/Rogue/Mystic access. These characters need to be defined not only by identifying with their off-classes but as well as not identifying with their excluded class. For a Guardian without Rogue access, my mind goes to a support character such as Carson Sinclair or maybe the martial artist, Lily Chen. When thinking of a Survivor without Seeker access, Daniela Reyes comes to mind as well as Hank Samson and Wilson Richards.
Could we potentially see more to this cycle? Yes, I think so. It’s something that will have to be done with caution, since the designers would need to consider the implications of each off-class choice paired with the main class and abilities. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say we’ll see at least one more set of 5 investigators that follow this rule, but which group is up for grabs. They could also very well shift from the chart I mentioned, so we could see anything! There’s definitely some behind-the-scenes movement happening with this mechanic and I think the next few campaigns will show us a lot, especially as deck building cycles close out.
That’s it for the choose-a-class deckbuilding! Well, at least for now. We’ve definitely not seen the last of this style of options. I’m very excited to see which new and returning investigators will feature these. If you have any ideas, send them my way and I’d be happy to talk about them in future articles! Otherwise, if you have any comments, questions or general thoughts, leave a comment below or find me on Facebook, Discord or Nightgaunt Mail. See you next time!