New Madness is upon us, as we face the invisible terrors of The Miskatonic Museum, the latest release for Arkham Horror the card game. Is it any good? And will our sanity be enough to see us through? Let’s find out.
The Story so far…
The Miskatonic Museum is the 1st Mythos Pack in the Dunwich Legacy Cycle for Arkham Horror the Card Game, so you’ll need both the Core Box and the Dunwich Deluxe Expansion to be able to play it. Arkham Horror is a Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games, and if you’re not familiar with the LCG model, I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the introduction we provided into this world last year.
Miskatonic Museum sits in the first full-length campaign for Arkham Horror, the Dunwich Legacy. Dunwich Legacy is an 8-part adventure, which began with 2 scenarios in the Deluxe expansion of the same name, and since then has been taking players through a further 6 adventures, each released in a monthly Mythos Pack, of which Miskatonic Museum is the first.
The Dunwich Legacy began with the players being summoned by Professor Armitage, the Hero of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, and sent to the University and a Speakeasy to investigate the disappearance of Professors Rice and Morgan, also taken from Lovecraft’s tale. Depending on how the earlier scenarios played out, the players may have rescued one of the professors, whilst the other one was captured. With dark powers clearly at work in Arkham, Professor Armitage has a new mission for the investigators: A copy of the Dread Necronomicon currently sits in Arkham’s Miskatonic Musuem, but Armitage fears it might not be safe – it’s up to you and your fellow investigators to get to it before anyone else does.
The Miskatonic Museum – what’s in the box?
Although the “Mythos Pack” is new terminology, Fantasy Flight have got the monthly releases for their Living Card Games down to a fine art, and Miskatonic Museum doesn’t stray too far from the path. It comes in a clear plastic case, containing 60 cards (a mixture of player cards and those needed for the scenario) along with a scenario insert which tells you how to set up, gives instructions for playing the scenario in stand-alone fashion, and fills out the narrative.
The component quality is exactly the same as you get in any other Living Card Game product: the card-stock is good, the art is nice, and the text is clean.
So what are we doing?
When your investigators arrive at the Miskatonic Museum, they will find it locked, and your first decision will need to be what to do – do you try to attract the attention of the Security Guard? Or do you break in? – it’s a decision which will have an impact on the rest of the scenario, and not necessarily in the way you would expect.
Without giving too much away, this scenario requires your investigators to work their way through a randomised selection of Exhibit Halls within the Museum until you find the Restricted Hall, which houses the Necronomicon. Each of the other halls through which you might wander will present its own challenge, but you’ll need to stay there long enough to get the clues which will allow you to find your way to the next hall, and the one after that.
Some people have commented that they find this scenario to be quite easy, but I think it strikes a good balance from a push-your-luck perspective: you can rush to find the Restricted Hall and end the scenario, or you can let the turns tick by, and try to explore all the locations for extra victory points – even at this early stage in the Dunwich Legacy campaign, it seems clear that XP is harder to come by than it was in the core set, so taking these sorts of risks will definitely have an appeal for some.
(Warning this section contains spoilers for The Miskatonic Museum scenario).
In a lot of respects, the tone of Miskatonic Museum is very different to the scenarios that have come before. From the Ghouls of The Gathering to the Mobsters of The House Always Wins, combat – or at least avoiding combat – has been a big aspect of most games of Arkham Horror that you play.
In the Miskatonic Museum however, there is just the one enemy, albeit a big, nasty one – The Hunting Horror is a strange beast that flits through the shadows between our reality and another. Chances are that you’ll take it down more than once in this scenario, but it will still keep coming back.
Typically in Arkham Horror, a good way to deal with enemies too big to kill quickly is to evade them – perform an Agility test which, if successful, exhausts that enemy, preventing it from moving or attacking this round. Miskatonic Museum thwarts that strategy by having the Hunting Horror draw a random token at the start of the enemy phase – if it gets one of the right symbols, it will suddenly ready, allowing it to feast upon the flesh of those investigators who thought that they were safe for a round. Again, I really liked this twist, as it forces players to keep being innovative in how they deal with enemies, and it ensures that Miskatonic Museum retains a good level of challenge.
Without the normal swarm of enemies to target you, Miskatonic Museum relies on other tricks to hurt your investigators, constricting their actions, piling on the horror as you creep around the eerily silent halls, and picking up the trick from Extracurricular Activities in the Dunwich Legacy box which looks to discard your whole deck.
The most important thing for this scenario is to ensure that you can investigate, as there as some fairly high shroud locations, but having some options for a few big-hitting rounds of combat is also a must, because you need to be able to take down the Hunting Horror.
Assuming you succeed in your mission, Miskatonic Museum ends with a decision for the investigators to make: do you burn the Necronomicon, ensuring that it remains beyond the reach of those dark powers who would want to misuse it? Or do you take it for yourselves, seeking to harness that power and use it against the darkness?
The Necronomicon is a really powerful card, so the temptation to take it is strong – that said, the game will make you pay a price for doing so (a price that you won’t know until your decision is made), so it’s not something to be taken lightly. Personally, this was a decision we made on a narrative basis: Daisy the Librarian took it, Jim the Jazz musician knew better than to meddle in these things.
New Challenges: New Tools?
Players will be relieved to know that they won’t be facing the perils of the Miskatonic Museum unaided. The pack comes with 13 new cards that players can add to their decks, and there are plenty of interesting ones.
Once again, Survivor is the class that gets some of the most interesting offerings, with the arrival of the new “Exile” key word – powerful cards that allow you to trigger a one-time effect, which immediately removes the card from your deck, meaning you’ll need to re-spend the XP to get it back for next time.
Both the exile cards are level 1, so costing a single XP each time, but they provide powerful effects: you can swing a Fire Extinguisher repeatedly as a weapon, or you can fire it in an enemies face to get +3 agility and evade all enemies at your location. A Flare can also be used for a one-off fight, or you can use it summon help, grabbing an ally from any player’s deck.
Mystics will find Miskatonic Museum has plenty to offer them too, with Song of the Dead, the game’s second attack spell, and Delve Too Deep, an event that reveals extra encounter cards in exchange for a Victory point – the perfect remedy for those who find the scenario too easy.
Although the 1XP and 3 Resources to play it seem a bit steep, it’s hard to overstate the utility of the new seeker card “Pathfinder” – with each investigator getting 3 actions per turn, and plenty of those actions being a move, the ability to move for free each turn is basically a 33% increase in what you can do – well worth adding to your deck.
The cards for the Rogue class in Miskatonic Museum are all about utility – Adaptable allows you to swap in-and-out level zero cards before each game, which is going to be particularly useful when doing a second or later play-through of a campaign, as you tweak your deck to fit the next challenge, whilst Contraband can top-up the supplies on a card, which is particularly handy for a gun-toting rogue who is running short on ammo.
Last, but not necessarily least are the Guardians. Emergency Aid provides some straight-up, no-risk healing and, although Guardians may not be most in need of this, being able to heal others expands on their existing role of taking care of combat. The Miskatonic Museum also allows them to call upon the services of Brother Xavier, an expensive ally, but one who can protect you and others from Horror and Damage for a while, before dealing a counter-blow to an enemy once he is finally defeated.
The Miskatonic Museum: Final Thoughts
Given the nature of a Living Card Game, it rarely makes sense to skip Mythos packs – the whole cycle really needs to be taken together. That said, I found Miskatonic Museum a really strong start: the scenario itself is just the right blend of familiar and innovative, and it really does a good job of capturing that flavour of exploring a creepy, deserted museum at night.
The fact that Miskatonic Museum reaches its climax with a copy of the Necronomicon was another highlight for me, and this expansion gave some difficult choices to make throughout.
The player cards of Miskatonic Museum are really interesting, with some solid gap-pluggers for existing archetypes, as well as some innovative cards that push things in slightly new directions: the Guardian who really guards as well as fighting, the ever-adaptable Rogue, and the Survivor who summons everything they have for one last-ditch effort.
Before Miskatonic Museum came out, I was probably planning on getting the whole cycle, and now that I have the cards in hand, I’m more convinced than ever that this was the right decision: 8/10
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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.