The Dunwich Horror is one of HP Lovecraft’s classic stories – a vast monster, someone trying to steal a copy of the Necronomicon, and a group of intrepid University Professors trying to save this sleepy New England town from destruction.
It’s also the inspiration for The Dunwich Legacy, the first deluxe expansion for Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror the Card Game: if you’re not familiar with the game, then you should check out our review here, and if you’re at all unsure what a Living Card Game is, we’ve got a handy explanation for that too!
Inside Dunwich Legacy you’ll find new Investigators, new player-cards, and 2 new quests to launch you into your first full-length campaign. Is it any good, and can your sanity hope to survive? Let’s find out.
Dunwich Legacy: What’s in the box?
Before we get inside, I want to pause a minute on the box itself for Dunwich Legacy. Having played Fantasy Flight’s Living Card Games for many years, I’ve gotten used to the sturdy deluxe expansion boxes that can be used for storage for many years. Arkham Horror, however, seems to be following Game of Thrones second edition with the new flimsier boxes that are essentially disposable – given that the 6 Mythos packs with follow come in plastic blisters, it really won’t be long before you need to source a new storage solution for your Arkham Horror cards.
Unlike the Core Set for Arkham Horror, Dunwich Legacy is 100% cards – most of them are full-sized, but you also get the 5 mini-cards to represent your investigators as they move around the locations.
The card-stock is good as ever, and there is plenty more in the way of nice art, including my personal favourite the Laboratory Assistant. As Dunwich Legacy provides us with 2 completely new scenarios, along with some encounter cards that will only see the light of day once we reach a later point in the cycle, it doesn’t leave all that much space for new player cards – 4 per sphere in fact. That said, Dunwich Legacy really packs a good punch with the cards it does have – let’s take a look at some of them now:
New faces, New tricks
There are five new investigators in the Dunwich Legacy, one for each of the five classes in the game. Whereas the investigators in the core set also had a secondary class, and could take any number of low-level cards from this off-class, the Dunwich investigators can take each take up to 5 level-zero cards from any class. Whilst this prevents some of the most powerful combos that were open to the core-set characters, the board utility of the Dunwich Legacy investigators is really good.
For me, the stand-out Investigator in Dunwich Legacy was “Ashcan” Pete, the Drifter – or to be more accurate, his signature asset and man’s best friend, Duke. Pete is a survivor, the class who rely on just getting by, and his base stats aren’t particularly impressive, but Duke allows him to attack or investigate at least once per round with a starting skill of 4, which is enough to give you a good chance in most situations.
Aside from Pete & Duke, Dunwich Legacy can also put you in the shoes of a knife-wielding chef who believes that she is following a divine command to strike down monsters, a Jazz Trumpeter who can summon the dead, a brilliant but cursed Newspaper reporter, and a rich young Socialite with a broad skill-set, and the money to plug any gaps in her natural talents.
Unlike the core set investigators, the new characters from Dunwich Legacy don’t come with suggested deck-lists. However, as you still need the Core game to play this expansion, players should be familiar enough with deck-building by now to create their own, and the card-pool is still small enough to go from the ground up.
So what new toys do I get? Only a few, but good ones!
There are 2 copies each of 21 new player-cards in Dunwich Legacy: 2 per class, and 1 neutral. As is always the case early in the life of a Living Card Game, this can make deck-building feel like a fairly constricted process, something which is only made worse by the fact that you can only put level zero cards in your starting deck.
That said, the fact that you only need 30 cards to build an Arkham Horror deck relieves the pressure considerably, and there are some really great cards in Dunwich Legacy.
Survivors get 2 great cards in Peter Sylvester and Fire Axe – the first boosts your Agility, and can soak up a point of Horror for you each round, with an upgraded version who adds to your Willpower as well. Fire Axe allows you to spend money to boost stats, and deals extra damage when you have no money, which is ideal for your cash-strapped survivors.
The Guardian cards aren’t particularly exciting – there is no weapon likely to replace your core set equipment – but Taunt will allow Zoey or Roland to take the heat off of their companions when the monsters start to overwhelm you, and Teamwork opens up a whole world of possibilities for allowing one investigator to shore up the weaknesses of another.
The Mystics in Arkham Horror tend to be high-willpower characters, who often struggle when they need to rely on other skills – they already had Shrivelling from the core set which allowed them to attack enemies with their Willpower, and Dunwich Legacy adds card to enable them to Investigate and Evade with their Willpower too.
Rogue continues to get some of the most fun, thematic cards in the game, acquiring Double-or-Nothing, an event to double the difficulty of a check for double the reward, Hired Muscle – a combat-based ally who has to be paid each turn to stick around, and Liquid Courage – a hip-flask that might help you heal some horror (or cause you to drunkenly lose a card).
Seekers have a bit of help with card draw with the Laboratory Assistant, and can manipulate the discovery of clues with Seeking Answers, but the stand-out here is clearly the Strange Solution, probably my favourite card in Arkham Horror so far…
It’s definitely strange – but what is the solution?
Strange Solution will cost you an action and a resource to get into play. It will then ask you to pass an Intelligence test of 4, to discard it and draw 2 cards. Given that you can draw 1 card or take 1 resource for an action, that’s a poor return of 2 for 3.
When you discard the strange solution though, you do one other thing – you record in your campaign log that “you have identified the solution.”
I have no idea what effect this will have, or when! Lots of times when setting up scenarios, or when advancing the act or the agenda, Arkham Horror will ask players to check the Campaign Log, and different effects will trigger, based on whether or not certain things have been done by the investigators previously. Strangely though, there is nothing anywhere else in the Dunwich Legacy box which refers to the Strange Solution. When will this be paid off? It might be later on in the Dunwich Legacy campaign, or it might be 2 or even 3 years down the road.
I’ve said before that I think Arkham Horror is the strongest of all the Living Card Games from a narrative perspective, and this is a great example of how it walks that line between a card-game and an RPG. Obviously, if you’re a power-gamer, you can just ignore the Strange Solution until a scenario is released where you’ll get a benefit from having identified it, then go back and swap it in to a deck. Narratively though, I think it’s fairly clear that your Seekers should be taking this, and identifying it as soon as they can, just because that’s what a Seeker would do – I love that this card was included, and hope it’s a sign of things to come.
That’s Good for us – what about the campaign?
Whilst it does a great job of rounding out a small card pool, Dunwich Legacy is also the jumping-off point for a campaign, the first full-length campaign Arkham Horror has seen.
Specifically, Dunwich Horror begins with Professor Armitage, hero of The Dunwich Horror, summoning the investigators, and asking for their help in finding the two professors who aided him previously, and have now gone missing. Right from the very start then, players have a choice to make – go to the Campus and search for Professor Rice, or to the Speakeasy to find Professor Morgan.
The order in which you chose to complete these scenarios will have a knock-on impact for the rest of the campaign, as you find different buildings locked or open depending on when you arrive somewhere, as well as different people hanging around or long-since left.
Extracurricular Activities does a great job of conveying the atmosphere of a University Campus at night, and has multiple different options available for how you resolve the scenario – success in a variety of ways, or simply giving up and getting out alive. It’s hard to say too much without spoiling the narrative of the scenario, but it’s a really varied scenario, and it changes significantly depending on whether you play it first or second.
The House Always Wins feels like the stronger of the two scenarios, with some really interesting twists on the way Investigators get clues – you’ll have to visit the bar and the gambling tables, and take a chance on whether you want to risk “Having a drink” or “Cheating.”
Whilst there are definitely things that you can achieve in the opening scenarios of the Dunwich Legacy campaign, and ways that you can suffer set-backs, these are only the opening stages, and however well or badly you do, your investigators will have many miles and many challenges left in front of them. We’ll look at the first of those next time out in The Miskatonic Museum.
The Dunwich Legacy: Overall thoughts
Going straight from the Core Set to a deluxe expansion is a new approach for Fantasy Flight with a Living Card Game, and if The Dunwich Legacy is any indication, it was a good choice. Doubling the number of investigators and making a small yet significant expansion to the card pool instantly expands the core-set gameplay by a really significant amount, and the new scenarios retain the basic experience, whilst showing the designers’ determination to really push things in interesting new directions.
A really strong continuation for the game, and a good promise of more to come: 8/10
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits in my new life as a dad.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Dice Masters and Destiny) when I can make it out of the house.Competitively. When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.