The cycle has reached its climax, your investigators have made their way to Carcosa itself. Can they solve the mystery of the Man in the Pallid Mask? Can they stop Hastur from escaping and inflicting untold horror on the world? Can they even escape with their minds intact?
Dim Carcosa is the 6th and final pack in the Path to Carcosa cycle, which began with the deluxe expansion of the same name at the end of last year. After a comparatively ‘normal’ campaign in the Dunwich Horror, this second full cycle for Arkham Horror the Card Game has really pushed the boundaries of what is possible or even comprehensible in this game. Many questions still remain unanswered. Will we finally get answers? And can Dim Carcosa deliver the climax this cycle deserves? Let’s find out.
Dim Carcosa – What’s in the box?
Arkham Horror LCG players will be familiar with the format by now – each pack comes with 60 new cards, giving you enough to play the new scenario, and a selection of new player cards to add to your decks. This particular scenario calls for cards from the Core Box and the Path to Carcosa Deluxe.
As always with a Mythos pack, the card-stock is good, you have a nice leaflet containing the instructions you need plus – as this is the end of the cycle – some extra notes from the designer. The packaging is rubbish, but that hardly matters when the game content is good.
You Don’t Do Have to be Mad to Work Here
One of the first things you do in Dim Carcosa, certainly long before you get to actually take any actions with your investigator, is to take horror equal to half your sanity. This is a world of madness, and staying sane simply isn’t an option. Fortunately, Dim Carcosa changes the standard rules about defeat, meaning your investigator isn’t eliminated the moment that they take Horror equal to their sanity.
Like many scenarios, there are multiple versions of several of the locations. Unusually, you’ll find yourself using 2 or 3 of them in the same game.
Broadly speaking, Dim Carcosa sees the scenario laid out like a large cross shape, with your starting location dependent upon how Black Stars Rise concluded. For lots of the locations there are multiple versions, and you need to clear the clues off of them in order to flip them over – once flipped, you will get some additional narrative about what’s going on, and a special effect to trigger, which might offer you respite, or help advance your overall goal. You can work through successive iterations for their bonuses until you hit the one that stays in play.
At some point, the King in Yellow is going to arrive, and he plays a major part in making sure that Dim Carcosa is hard. There are some really nasty enemies wandering the realm of Carcosa, and even if you can deal with the minions, he-who-must-not-be-named is going to make life extra difficult.
The Story so Far
Dim Carcosa is where a lot of the decisions your investigators have made so far in the campaign start to have their consequences revealed. Obviously, by the final session in a campaign, you’re always going to be carrying a fair-sized legacy of XP and trauma, but a lot of the narrative decisions you’ve had to make will only now start to be revealed.
Behind the Mask!
[Warning this section contains narrative spoilers for the Dim Carcosa Scenario]
One of the big themes of the Path to Carcosa campaign was Doubt and Conviction: how you choose to respond to the various outlandish claims and events you encountered: do you believe what your eyes, ears, and colleagues are telling you? Or do you remain sceptical? This conviction tally has already made a big impact on your night time chase around Paris in Phantom of Truth. In Dim Carcosa, this reaches the final crescendo, as those who have followed the conviction path find that they are themselves the Man in the Pallid Mask!?! Whilst those who doubt simply come face-to-face with Hastur (a name they are presumably ok about saying). Either way, you have to duke it out with a big boss: there are 3 different versions of him to fight depending on your conviction and doubt totals.
Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law
Dim Carcosa also brings us new “hidden” cards – treacheries which go into the hand of the player who drew them, and which cannot be shown to other investigators.
In many respects, these are a lot like the other cards of this type which we’ve seen earlier in the campaign, but this time there is a notable twist.
If at the end of the scenario one or more investigators is possessed they (and only they, as per the rules) read an additional epilogue – in the epilogue, the cycle repeats itself once again, only this time it is the possessed investigator who is staging the play, confident that this will be the best performance yet of the King in Yellow!
I like a lot of the things they’ve been doing in Arkham Horror this cycle, and I think they’ve definitely raised a lot of interesting, thought-provoking questions: questions about reality, madness, and truth. The fact that you can end the campaign as the villain in the very game you just finished playing as the ‘hero’ was a particularly dark, yet amusing twist.
On the big questions, Dim Carcosa doesn’t really have any answers for you – the Truth is simply whatever you believe it to be. Initially, I was quite disappointed with this, but after a fair bit of reflection, I’ve decided that this was the only way they could really have done this without stripping the campaign of any replay value it had.
[End of Spoilers for Dim Carcosa]
Well-equipped? Time to bring out the Big Guns!
In only two cycles, Fantasy Flight have already established something of a tradition that the final pack of the campaign delivers some truly spectacular player-cards, and Dim Carcosa is no exception.
For the Guardians, there is some very heavy protection in Armor of Ardennes – very expensive but offering a level of damage prevention previously unseen in the game. Going onto the offensive, “Eat Lead!” allows you to spend additional ammo on a key fight test to draw additional chaos tokens and chose which one to resolve – it’s a useful ability for a key test, especially if you’ve boosted your skill to the point where only the tentacle can stop you from succeeding. Plus, you get to shout “Eat Lead!” at the monster as you play the card, which can only ever be a good thing!
Not to be out-done, the Rogues have their own wow-factor cards. Cheat Death is another big investment at 5XP, but it can literally be the difference between life and death, allowing you to heal damage, and horror, and run away from any enemies you are engaged with when you would otherwise be killed. It’s a particularly useful tool to have if you plan on taking the other bonkers rogue card from this pack, Charon’s Obal. Charon was the Ferryman who took people across the Styx to Hades, and the obal was his toll – Dim Carcosa turns it into a permanent asset which gives your investigator 2 extra XP every scenario! Sounds impressive? Well, the downside is that, if you would be defeated (i.e. knocked out of the scenario with a single trauma) you are instead killed! Rogues like their XP and like to gamble, so this seems like a perfect card. There is also a third rogue offering in Dim Carcosa, the Lupara – a serviceable weapon which works great with sleight of hand, but nowhere near the other 2 on the excitement scale.
Whilst the Guardians use their weapons and the Rogues trust to luck, the seekers continue to rely on intellect and precision. Their 5XP card is an upgraded version of No Stone Unturned, which allows any investigator at their location to fetch any card and add it to their hand. This is a lot of effort to put into finding a single card (especially as you need to find this card for it work), and it feels like it’s probably too expensive to justify, but for the right deck, the power is huge. Alternatively, Seekers can take the more accessible Eidetic Memory to clone any Insight event already in a discard pile. There are just under 30 “Insight” cards in the game so far, mostly in Seeker, with a few Mystics, suggesting that this might be a good Daisy card. It can even copy No Stone Unturned, making that 5Xp a bit easier to swallow!
Not flashy, but potentially very powerful
It’s fairly well-established by now that Survivors don’t get level 4 or 5 cards, but Dim Carcosa still has something to offer them. Infighting offers an interesting alternative to Dodge, and can cancel multiple attacks, although with a restriction on non-elite enemies, and only in the enemy phase. The levelled-up Newspaper is a great card for solo, allowing clueless survivors to double their clue-gathering efficiency for 2XP and a single resource.
Mystics have a reputation to uphold in Arkham Horror as the crazy faction, and their Dim Carcosa offering does not disappoint, in Time-Warp, they have an “undo” card, allowing them to take the game back to its previous state before an action. The card has already generated countless discussions around how it interacts with various other effects and abilities, but it’s definitely a good option to have. If that’s not really your taste, how about a card that completely negates one of the hardest random elements of the game? That’s right, for 5XP, Seal of the Elder Sign allows you to not bothering drawing a chaos token for one test, and just assume you’d drawn an Elder Sign instead. The card is removed from the game after use, so it’s a one-time only offer, but if it gets you a guaranteed win, it could be worth it (not to be used by Necronomicon-wielding Daisy)
Last, but by no means least, comes the Key of Ys. Key of Ys is the neutral player card for Dim Carcosa, and aside from causing great confusion of how it should be pronounced (I reckon “iss”) it has sparked many debates about whether it breaks the game. I don’t think it does, but for 5Xp and 3-cost, you’d hope for a powerful ability. The key gives you +1 to all your stats, and can hold up to 3 horror, before it gets destroyed. However, any time you would put horror on your investigator, you must put one here instead, meaning it can’t be relied on to stick around for long, unless you have a bigger strategy for dealing with horror. Add in the fact that when the key goes you discard the top of your deck, and you’ve got plenty of interesting drawbacks to weigh against the powerful abilities offered.
Dim Carcosa – Final Thoughts
Dim Carcosa is a fitting end to the Path to Carcosa cycle: we have reached the fabled city itself, and madness is all around. The narrative notes can sometimes get buried beneath the complexity of the mechanical structure, but this is definitely a scenario where you will get more from each subsequent play-though.
The unique mechanics in Dim Carcosa – being able to take Horror beyond your sanity, and flipping over locations are both interesting and fairly smoothly integrated, although there is definitely a level of complexity to Dim Carcosa that we didn’t see at the start of the Dunwich cycle.
Overall, I think I’d give this one 8/10. The player-cards are great, but the scenario itself takes some figuring out.
The following two tabs change content below.
I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.