Hi there and welcome to another installment of Mechanical Meanings! In this series, I take a look at different mechanics in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. In today’s article, I’ll be taking a look at one of my favorite mechanics in the game. The initial idea behind it is simple, but I think there’s plenty to talk about today as I take a look at Myriad.
Before we take a look at the Myriad mechanic and cards proper, it’s important to contextualize their design. If you’ve built a deck in Arkham Horror, you know that the limit for individual cards is two per deck with the maximum deck size generally being 30 cards. This strategy is not unique to Arkham Horror and is quite common in other games such as Marvel Champions or Hearthstone.
In both Arkham and Champions, there are built in economy systems. In the former, you start with 5 resources, gaining one very turn. In the latter, the cards themselves serve as resources and drawing back up to your hand size every turn means there will be enough resources for you to play out the cards you want This system also allows decks to include less economy cards than would otherwise be necessary. In most of decks I play, there are around 4 to 6 resource generating cards, which is low compared to the average of 20 lands (resource generating cards) you play with in a 60 card Magic: The Gathering deck, for example. Overall, this allows for more deck slots focused to your main strategy, lessening the blow of only being able to take two copies of certain cards.
One of the most commonly explored advantages to a two card limit is allowing for cards that are limited to one copy per deck. In Marvel, this is naturally present with unique cards only being allowed one copy in a deck. In Arkham, we see this limitation applied for very powerful cards with the Exceptional keyword, such as Ace in the Hole or explicitly written, like on Hallowed Mirror. Similarly, it allows for decks to only play one copy of cards and still be able to use those cards effectively and consistently.
In contrast to the system Arkham Horror and Marvel Champions use, some games allow for 3 or 4 copies of cards per deck, which are usually around 60 cards. This system is usually coupled with either heavy draw (e.g. Marvel Champions and Game of Thrones LCG) or ways to find the specific cards you need, also known in MTG terms as tutors. Often times though, in this style of game you might never see cards that you include in your deck. This might be why it’s mostly unused in the cooperative card game genre, as you’d expect to play more individual sessions of a competitive card game than a cooperative, campaign driven one.
All of the points listed above, while being interesting design decisions on their own, can shed some light on why the Myriad number is impactful. While it seems contradictory, some of the same reasons that make cards limited to one per deck possible also make three copies of a single deck pretty impactful. In Game of Thrones LCG, for example, decks are limited to three copies of a card and the minimum size is 60. Having 3 cards in a deck half the size can’t be understated. The chances of seeing a card in your opening hand go from 31% to 43% when you go from two to three copies. While this is powerful, there’s other reasons why these cards come in three.
One of my favorite designs of the Myriad cards is Three Aces, simply because it’s a very powerful card that hits the theme of requiring three copies perfectly. It also embodies the often seen gambling side of Rogue that makes you feel like you’re playing cards, even if you’re cheating a little bit. Empower Self is another card that really relies on the number three as there are copies for every non-Willpower stat. Similarly, Solemn Vow also takes advantage of the 4 player maximum, allowing the Guardian to swear a vow to each of their friends, leaving no one left out. While these cards rely the most on the actual number three, I think all of the Myriad cards have a connection to it. Next, I want to take a look at some of the mechanical reasons that would make you want more copies than usual of these cards.
The most common reason we’ve see so far for three copies of a card is because having more copies makes the cards more powerful. Playing one copy of Easy Mark can be strong, but playing all three copies at once gives you a real feeling of power. A Glimmer of Hope is particularly interesting because it works well enough before you draw the third copy. This is especially true for investigators like “Ashcan” Pete or Wendy Adams who can utilize the cards for their abilities. Similarly, the second copy of Fortuitous Discovery is good, but the third copy is a very powerful card.
Segment of Onyx takes this one step further and requires you to have all three pieces before it becomes the powerful Pendant of the Queen. Open Gate also requires at least two copies to perform its intended function. Mind’s Eye doesn’t require all copies to do powerful things, but each extra gives you a little more value for the one in play. This style of card requires high draw or ways to find the specific copies, but is also great fun when it comes together.
The last design I want to explore is that of the Research cards. These cards work in a different way than what we’ve seen for far and drawing even one copy is actively bad. Both Astounding Revelation and Surprising Find become one icon skill cards while in your hand. Conversely, you generally do want to include as many as possible in your deck to maximize the chances you’ll see these cards during your searches. While Research seems to be a unique mechanic to Seekers, I do hope we’ll see more of this type of Myriad card in the future where you are benefited for having extra copies in your deck.
There’s also other benefits to Myriad cards. The first one revolves around how they are purchased, since you only pay the XP cost of the first. This effectively makes each copy of Easy Mark cost 1/3 XP. The downside of this is that not adding every copy of a Myriad card can feel like you’re wasting experience points. With 30 card decks, all copies of just one card would be 10% of the whole deck. It can feel wasteful adding the third copy of Empower Self, for example, especially if it boosts a stat you aren’t using.
Focusing on who likes these cards, Patrice Hathaway gets a special shout here for being able to see a lot of her deck. She can also discard or commit the first copies of Glimmer of Hope and Fortuitous Discovery before drawing the more impactful later copies. Mandy Thompson is also a natural fit since she can both find most copies of the Myriad cards while also activating Research abilities along the way. Dexter Drake or other investigators with access to Lucky Cigarette Case can also assemble the pieces with ease. The upgraded version is especially good at this task, as is the upgraded Rabbit’s Foot.
The ability to add three copies of a single card is definitely fun and powerful, but could we ever see more? In Magic: The Gathering we occasionally see cards that allow you to include any number of them in your deck, usually rewarding you for getting out a high number of copies. We’ve also seen cards that allow you to include a specific number in your deck, as an homage to another piece of media. With that in mind, it’s worth asking the question, would there ever be an Arkham card that allows you to add more than three copies to your deck? What about unlimited copies?
Hot off the presses note: Since the original writing of this article, we’ve seen the insanely adorable Sled Dog be previewed by the folks over at Playing Board Games. While this card does not have Myriad, it does allow you to include four copies in your deck. This ties perfectly into the closing discussion of this article and shows us that the design space of multiple copies in your deck has a lot of room to grow.
More than three copies is indeed possible, I do think that seeing a card with unlimited copies is a stretch for this game. The regular limit of 2 copies per deck and the average deck size of 30 means that adding 10 copies of a single card would mean a good amount of dead draws. Making this theoretical unlimited card cycle (that is, draw a card when played) would almost certainly be too good. I’d love to see a card that can search out more copies of itself, rewarding you for having more copies in your deck and also potentially activating research effects on every search.
Another direction that could be taken for this style of card is a mechanic similar to Mandy’s Signature event, Occult Evidence. A theoretical card with no limit to how many you can take, but that increases your deck size after a certain number of copies. Could they ever fit that on a single card? Would it have to be its own mechanic? No matter what the answers are, I’m excited for the future of this style of mechanic.
That’s all I have for today on Myriad. I hope I passed along at least some of my excitement on this mechanic to you. If you have strong feelings on this mechanic or if there’s another one you’d like to read about, let me know! Otherwise, feel free to send any comments, thoughts or concerns my way through Facebook, Twitter, Discord, or Nightgaunt Mail. See you next time!
Special thanks to @Antimarkovnikov on Discord for directing me to the art featured in this article.