Beyond the Veil – The House Always Wins

Guest Article written by Iain McAllister

This is a series of articles looking at the individual scenarios of Arkham Horror, starting with the Dunwich Legacy expansion. These will be my impressions after playing through the scenario at least once and will be focusing on the mechanics and how those reinforce the story elements of a given scenario. These articles will contain extensive spoilers and assume a familiarity with the terms and mechanics of the game. Please do not read on if you have not played the scenario in the title yet.

Still here? Excellent let’s go.

The Setup

The Dunwich legacy kicks off with your old friend Professor Armitage asking you to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. Professor Warren Rice was last seen in the humanities department of Miskatonic University and Dr. Francis Morgan is a gambler last seen at the Clover Club speakeasy downtown.

As I covered in this previous article, you can start the Dunwich Legacy off by tackling either of the  scenarios first and which one you take on will affect how the other plays out.  Very nice touch right from the off.

In this case, let’s go gambling!

So it Begins

Turning up at ‘La Bella Luna‘ you are told from the off that Dr. Morgan is probably in the VIP areas of the club. As you set off you are immediately presented with some interesting information. Agenda 1 tells you that all enemies with the ‘Criminal’ keyword are Aloof meaning they won’t engage with you. The initial setup which includes the entrance to the club and three locations inside also spawns the Pit Boss, who is probably the most beautifully thematic enemy yet.

You see the Pit Boss hunts the person with the highest lore i.e. the player probably doing the most Investigating. Since he is aloof at Act 1 he won’t actually engage, unless you go looking for clues. So basically this guy follows you around looking suspiciously at you whilst you poke around the club and will jump on you the moment you actually find something. Beautifully designed with a minimum number of mechanics, that’s elegance.

Act 1 requires 4 clues per investigator to advance and frankly there are not a lot lying around to grab. This means you have to go and hob nob around the club at either the Lounge, Bar or Cardroom. Of course since this is a gambling establishment a lot of these involve taking a chance: do you have a ‘drink’ in the hope that nothing bad happens, do you place a bet and hope it comes off well, wasting an action if it doesn’t or cheat off the Act card hoping that a shortcut now will not come back to bite you. I absolutely love the theme of these locations, draining your resources away as any good gambling establishment should.

It’s worth mentioning the scenario card here as I am not sure whether this is deliberate or not. The variance in the modifiers you can get from the special tokens is less than on some others meaning it is a little easier to hedge your bets i.e. you can easily make sure you pass a test, barring the ever present tentacle, by putting at least 3 points over the difficulty you are aiming for. Alternatively you can pay off the failures with resources meaning there is a lovely choice of whether or not to go in heavy, or suck up the potential failure with your resources.

Looking at Agenda 1 again, we can see that it doesn’t take long for it tick over. When it does there might be mobsters everywhere and they all suddenly leap into action as Agenda 2 comes around and they all lose the Aloof keyword. When it does tick over there are a couple of possibilities. If you have been spending you time on Campus you leap to 2b, whereas if the Club is the first place you have ventured to then you just suddenly have a mob problem, proceeding to Agenda 2 as normal.

Once you have wandered round, socialized, got blind drunk or however you have chosen to get your information you find your way into the Darkened Hall at the back of the club. You might be able to get there before the Criminal enemies lose Aloof but you know they are about to jump you, especially since one  of them spawns in the Hall! Off the Hall lie 3 doors, maybe the good Doctor is behind one of them?

Searching through all the doors you find the VIP room, a back door to the Casino and an Art Gallery. Depending on what order you have done things in Act 2, you will move to one of 2 different acts. If you have been bumming around Campus then the Doctor is nowhere to be found but the Owner of the club looks like he could do with a hand. If the Casino is the first port of call then the Doctor is found in a bad way and you need to rouse him and get him the hell out of dodge.

As the doom ticks on and you hit Agenda 3, the horrible gribblies from beyond turn up and make their presence known. In another beautiful mechanic the gribblies are not only after you, they are after the gangsters as well so that if there are Criminals in the same location as an Abomination those creatures have themselves a tasty Mob sized snack, discarding all Criminals at the same location. Not only is this a lovely thematic mechanic, but it is something the players can use to get themselves out of some sticky situations.

During the the advancing of the Agendas, the front door to the club has disappeared and you need another way out. Thankfully behind one of the doors is an exit that you can escape through, hopefully with the Doctor or the owner of the club in tow!

Once the dust settles you look to your resolution only to find that anyone who cheated off the first act has made things harder in the long run. You add a new token to the chaos bag, something that is bound to hurt you down the line. Hopefully you found the Doctor or at least made a friend in the Owner, but it is equally likely that the place was destroyed by beings from Beyond Space and Time. The multiple possible outcomes once again make this a very replayable scenario and I was delighted when I found that the order I did the scenarios in made such a large difference, even more so than in Extracurricular Activity.

Strange Encounters

So let’s have a look at how the Encounter deck works in this particular scenario.

The encounter deck you start out with in this location consists of some scenario specific cards, a heavily randomized encounter set called Bad Luck as well as some Mobsters and the ever present Rats.

Cheating in Act 1, affects the Chaos Bag for subsequent adventures, but if you have been at the Saloon buying drinks to gather information it won’t be long before ‘Something in the Drinks‘ comes to ruin your day. The fact this card can be drawn up to 4 times in the scenario, as the discard gets shuffled back in, can really hurt you and it is absolutely possible to draw 2 in a turn, leaving you with 1 action as you stumble around.

The Bad Luck cards play on the theme of the casino forcing you to pull a token to decide your fate or reducing the probability of you succeeding on a test until you clear the effect.

The encounter deck starts out pretty small, but when the gribblies turn up it gets the Striking Fear set from the core and the Hideous Abominations that are intent on tearing the place apart. The Conglomeration of Spheres are an interesting monster, in that they have a lot of health but are really easy to hit, the downside being that it will literally consume any Melee weapon you hit it with. Sure you can punch it slowly, but shooting it is probably the best way to go. I have sacrificed a Fire Axe or two in a desperate moment.

The Encounter deck for this one isn’t quite as focused on one particular mechanic, milling in the case of Extra-Curricular activity, but that is fine. It actually works quite well that early on the encounters are all to do with Mobsters and chance and then once the gribblies turn up the deck gets diluted with more supernatural threats. Subtle, but neat.
The Team behind Arkham continue to demonstrate a real understanding of their own design space and a willingness to play within it. Will they keep up this incredible pace throughout the Dunwich cycle? I don’t know, but for now I am impressed and I can tell you at the very least that I enjoyed Miskatonic Museum, a Behind the Veil look at that is coming soon!

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