A Triumphant Return to Arkham Horror

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love Arkham Horror: The Card Game. I think it’s a brilliant game in a lot of ways–the use of narrative, the deck building, the progression, the scenario design… it’s all great! However, like so many things in 2021, I haven’t had a chance to enjoy it… until last Sunday, that is.

A friend and I sat down and cracked open “Return to the Dunwich Legacy.” I’ve played through “The Dunwich Legacy” with my wife before, but I haven’t used the “Return to…” box yet, so this is going to be a new experience that I’m really looking forward to! (If you’re new to Arkham, “The Dunwich Legacy” is a campaign–a collection of eight scenarios played in order to form a story–and the “Return to…” box adds a bunch of extra cards that alter scenarios for added replay value.)

For my Investigator, I chose Joe Diamond, a Seeker who is pretty good at both fighting monsters and finding clues. He also has a neat mechanic called a Hunch deck, which is a collection of event cards that you can play cheap. It’s very cool! My pal picked Nathaniel Cho, a Guardian who is extremely good in a fight. (Again, for new players: there are five classes in the game, and every Investigator–that is, playable character–belongs to one. Seekers are generally good at finding clues, which you often need to advance, while Guardians usually excel at combat, which is very frequent.)

At the start of “The Dunwich Legacy,” you have to choose between two scenarios: “Extracurricular Activities,” which takes place at a university, and “The House Always Wins,” which is set in a speakeasy. We opted for the latter.

What’s interesting about this scenario is that it’s not very heavy on investigation or combat, at least not at first. Instead, your finding clues by gambling, buying a few drinks at the bar, and so on; it’s a lot more about resource management than having good stats. One of my favorite aspects of the scenario is that early on, you can cheat–you can literally claim any result you want on a test, making it easy to gather the clues you need… but you have to record in your campaign log that you cheated, which can lead to problems further down the line.

I managed to accrue a lot of resources with Joe while Nathaniel gambled, and we ended up getting all the clues we needed without cheating. All the while, the board was slowly filling up with enemies… but they remain peaceful for the first section of the scenario, not becoming violent until the Agenda deck advances. That happened just about the time we’d gathered our clues and started poking around in the back of the speakeasy.

There was one scary moment when Nathaniel had three thugs on him at once, right when the Agenda advanced and they became a real threat. Luckily, my friend had already had time to kit Nathaniel out with a Survival Knife and some other gear, and they made short work of most of the thugs; on my turn, I moved Joe over to help out and we finished them all off before it became an issue.

The goal of the scenario is to find a missing professor; we located him and Nathaniel managed to convince him to come with us (which is lucky, because it took succeeding at a rather tough Social check, which Joe is terrible at). After that, we were able to make a speedy escape while behind us a bunch of gangsters were getting eaten by horrid abominations (because that’s just the kind of game this is).

It was a really fun session! “The House Always Wins” is a great scenario to come back in on; it’s not terribly difficult, it’s unique enough to remind how great the scenario design is, and offers a great mix of stuff for your Investigators to do.

Playing with the “Return to…” box was fun, too! It actually adds a pretty helpful location card that was vital in getting us our clues on time, but it also added several new encounter cards that gave us a rough time. It did a great job of making the scenario difficult without necessarily making it harder, which I appreciate.

I also really like the two characters we played. Joe is so versatile; he’s exactly the kind of character I like, and the Hunch deck is an added bonus. Meanwhile, I know my friend dug Nathaniel and his awesome combat prowess.

I can’t wait to play more!

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