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Drawing the Sign – The Path to Carcosa

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-BoxThe King in Yellow is being staged in Arkham, a mysterious play that inevitably leaves a trail of death and madness in its wake. Take on the role of new investigators, armed with new tools in Path to Carcosa, the newest release for Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror, the Living Card Game.

Path to Carcosa is the Second Deluxe expansion for Arkham Horror the Card Game, meaning it can be played with only the contents of this box and the Core Set. Equally, it has lots to offer veterans who have completed the Dunwich campaign which began in The Dunwich Legacy. Check out the links above for more information on the game and its earlier releases, or read on for more on Carcosa!

Path to Carcosa: What’s in the box?

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-ContentsPath to Carcosa comes chock full of new cards – there are 6 new investigators, along with their signature assets and weaknesses, a pile of new player cards, and all the encounter sets you need for the 2 scenarios that come in the game, The Last King, and Curtain Call.

As ever, the card-stock is good, and the art is nice, as you’d expect from a Fantasy Flight game. The real question is how it all plays.

Investigators

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Lola Where the Core Set and The Dunwich Legacy each had 5 investigators, Path to Carcosa has 6! There is a new investigator for each class, as before, but this time, players get the bonus of Lola Hayes, the Actress. Lola is the first class-neutral investigator, who can take low-to-mid-level cards from all the classes in the game. She has a “role” – essentially a chosen class, which she can change once per round, and can only play or trigger cards that match her chosen role.

Lola is another great example of the Arkham designers being prepared to really push the boundaries of what we can do in the game. Lola is definitely the hardest investigator so far to play well, and I found building a deck for her a real challenge: at first I was all excited about various crazy combos that she opened up, but found that most of them wouldn’t work, as she couldn’t change role quickly enough to trigger these diverse cards.

I think it’s definitely worth reading articles or listening to podcasts on how to get the best out of Lola – her 3/3/3/3 stat-line is a fairly good starting point, and she can take static bonuses from multiple classes, which makes but she becomes truly powerful once you add-in boosts to any or all of those stats from diverse sources.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-InvestigatorsFor those who want a simpler Arkham Horror experience, Path to Carcosa still has plenty to offer in the remaining investigators, all of them interesting, but far more accessible. Mark Harrigan, the Soldier is a great monster-killer, who interacts with damage in a really interesting way. Akachi Onyele, the Shaman is a character with great efficiency – all of her spells can be used an extra time, and her Elder Sign effect allows her to get even more use out of them. William Yorrick: Gravedigger/Shakespeare aficionado is the king of recursion, a solid fighter, and good all-rounder

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Minh-Thi-King Minh Thi Phan, the Secretary is a great support character, who gains benefits when committing cards to skill-tests. She also has a personal link to the Path to Carcosa narrative, with her signature weakness being a copy of The King in Yellow – a literal “must-read” text that stops her from using her power.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-SefinaThe final investigator is a new character for FFG’s Arkham games. Sefina Rousseau, the artist. A Rogue with access to some Mystic cards, Sefina has a slightly unusual deck construction, and a lot of strange powers that interact with events.

I’ve enjoyed playing with/alongside all of the new investigators. Lola is certainly the most difficult to play well, but the others are all perfectly accessible even if this is your first Arkham product after the core, whilst still offering plenty that’s new for veterans and completionists like me.

New Tools for new challenges!

Aside from new investigators and the opening of a new campaign, an Arkham Deluxe box is generally a good place to find a whole selection of new player cards, and Path to Carcosa is no exception.

Guardians get the .32 Colt, a weapon, which Mark really likes, as well as cards like True Grit or Let Me Handle This which are more flexible for others who have access to Guardian cards, and build up the theme of protecting fellow-investigators.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Solution-GlyphsSeekers get perhaps the most unusual card in Path to Carcosa (after Lola), in the Archaic Glyphs. Much like Dunwich’s “Strange Solution,” this is a card that does nothing, asks a lot of you, and tantalises you with the possibility of future reward. After the way that the Strange Solution resolved [contains spoilers] I think most people will be waiting to see what the pay-off is this time. Still, it’s nice that they’re continuing to throw us these curve-balls.

The remainder of the Seeker cards are less unusual, but still powerful. Fieldwork offers you a skill bonus if you keep moving and are mostly at locations with clues (both of which are things Seekers like to do anyway), whilst In The Know offers the reverse option: to camp out and investigate other locations remotely – it’s a more costly card both in resources and XP, but can be a great way of dealing with locations that are too perilous to enter. Lastly, No Stone Unturned is a great way to fetch a key card that your investigator needs to survive (a lot of Seekers will need some very specific things to handle combat), and whilst 6 cards may not sound like a lot, given the 30ish-card decks that we have in Arkham, you actually have a pretty good chance of success.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Spirit-AthameMystics get a lot of flexibility from Path to Carcosa, with a movement spell, some resource acceleration, cost reduction, and even their own weapon. Whilst these cards retain a good Mystic flavour, they definitely help sure up some areas of weakness for the class as a whole. With cards like the Spirit Athame, it’s worth remembering that some investigators can take low-level Mystic cards even if it isn’t their primary class. Ideal for a Daisy struggling to fend off some Rats.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Lockpicks There are a few interesting options for Rogues in Path to Carcosa, but none quite as appealing as Lockpicks. For 3 resources and 1 XP, this allows them to add their agility to investigation attempts – for a class that has historically struggled to investigate and tends to be agile, this is a great addition. Worst-case scenario, it can only be used 3 times, but if you succeed well, it can keep going and going.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Survivor-Cards Last but not least are the Survivors. As already noted above, William Yorrick, the new Survivor investigator, is king of recursion, and this only increases with Resourceful, a skill card that covers 3 different skills, and allows you to return a different Survivor card from your discard pile to your hand. A great combo with Lucky! or Look What I found.

With the gravedigger comes the Gravedigger’s Shovel, which provides a bit of assistance with combat, but is probably better discarded to discover a clue, regardless of shroud or locked doors. The mirror card is Lantern, which provides an ongoing shroud reduction to investigate, or can be discarded to deal a single point of damage. Both good targets for Resourceful.

The Scenarios

As much fun as the new investigators and assets are (and there’s a lot of fun stuff here), Path to Carcosa is perhaps most significant as the starting point for a new campaign. So far, we’ve seen the Night of the Zealot mini-campaign in the core set, and the Dunwich Legacy campaign which started in the deluxe of the same name, and continued through the 6 Mythos packs which followed it.

Curtain Call

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-TheatreThe first scenario in Path to Carcosa, is Curtain Call: it sees your investigator attending a production of the play which seems to be at the centre of so many strange goings on, sleeping through the performance, and then awakening to find the theatre in a strange state of disarray. You must investigate the Theatre to discover what’s going on.

It can be a bit of a slog to get all the clues you need in this scenario, although you have more options than Dunwich’s The House Always wins. It also contains a decent amount of combat, and sets up some big themes that look set to dominate the upcoming cycle.

The Last King

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Party-Goers The second scenario takes you to a party, but once again, things are not as they seem, and your investigators will struggle to discern what is reality and what is not.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-Sickening-RealityThis scenario involves lots of interaction with bystanders, along with new card-types that impact the game in interesting ways (allowing them to increase the amount of narrative detail that can be sprinkled into the scenario). In a similar way to the Core Set’s Midnight Masks, the list of persons of interest will be too long for you to speak to everyone on most games, forcing you into choices that will make each campaign feel different.

Making Your Mind Up, Keeping Things Quiet

Without wanting to spoil the narrative that drives these scenarios, there is still a lot going on in the Path to Carcosa scenarios. There are new effects which ask you to record “Doubt” and “Conviction,” most of them stemming from decisions you make during the campaign. FFG have spoiled one or two cards from later in the cycle that will interact with these keywords, but for now it looks like a lot of things are still up in the air, and that players will have to make decisions knowing that either option will have its cost.

Path-to-Carcosa-Card-Game-HiddenPath to Carcosa also introduces a new mechanic with “Hidden” cards. These are Treachery cards which go into the hand of the player who draws it, and which subjects them to some kind of restriction. Interestingly, you are not allowed to reveal to your fellow-players which hidden card you have (although they will be able to see that you have something).

I liked both of the Path to Carcosa scenarios, both in terms of the effects within the game, and the story decisions which you have to make between and after scenarios. They definitely feel different in tone from the opening to Dunwich Legacy, but not necessarily any more complicated, so I don’t think that there’s any need for new Arkham players to avoid Path to Carcosa as their first expansion purchase.

Path to Carcosa: Final Thoughts

ahc12_boxDunwich Legacy was a solid expansion for Arkham Horror, but Path to Carcosa feels like the developers have really hit their stride. The new investigators are all really interesting to play, and range from fairly straightforward to the truly outlandish. By this point, the card-pool is getting big enough that you really need reasons to put cards in decks, rather than picking a small handful to leave out, and there are plenty here that justify inclusion in lots of decks.

The scenarios are both engaging, and they set up the start of a campaign that I’m looking forward to diving into in more depth.

Overall I’d give this 9/10, another great expansion, with lots to offer.

5 (100%) 1 vote
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James Phillips

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.

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