Just like it’s bigger board game brother, Arkham Horror: The Card Game (AH:TCG) has players taking on the role of investigators, digging into mysterious cases with supernatural twists. One of the key differences between the two games is how they handle their investigators. AH:BG and its spin offs give you a single sheet with some stats, special abilities and a blurb on your character’s bio.
AH:TCG replaces these small sheets with an entire deck of cards. Each card in your deck represents something about your character. It could be an object they own, a person they know, or an experience they’ve had. This gives you more information on your character, and opens up more customization.
Investigator cards in AH:TCG are lumped into 5 classes: guardian, seeker, mystic, rogue, and survivor. Each character can only use cards from classes indicated on the back of their card. I’ve been playing The Fed, Roland , he has access to guardian and seeker classes. If I want him to be more combat oriented, I will give him more guardian cards. But if I want a better investigator I’ll put in more seeker cards. He is always oriented towards combat and investigation, but where he excels depends on how the deck is built.
Interesting characters have flaws, here they take the form of weakness cards. Every character has one that is unique to them. Maybe a bad habit, a debt, or even a curse. These cards say a lot about your character, and it’s not just fluff. Weaknesses have impact on gameplay. When drawn they immediately come into play, making life difficult for you and your allies. In addition to the unique weakness, each deck will also get a random generic weakness. This adds some texture to your version of that character.
After a campaign starts the only way to edit your deck is between scenarios. A starter deck consists only of level 0 cards. Upgrades can be levels 1 through 5, and are purchasable with experience points earned at the end of a scenario. Decks have a hard limit of 30 cards total. Each time you add something new to your character, something is lost as well. Events in the game can also add new cards to your deck. If a character you meet decides to join your cause, they become a card in your deck. Bonus cards do not count towards the 30 card total.
What I love about this system is how it turns the act of changing your deck into something meaningful in the narrative. During a scenario, we had trouble dealing with monsters, so afterwards I purchased an additional gun card for my deck. This makes sense from a gameplay perspective, I want to make my deck more efficient in combat. But it also makes sense from a narrative perspective. After dealing with lots of monsters, my investigator decided to seek out additional firepower.
AH:TCG’s characters feel more concrete than they did in the board game. Details of their past and personality become tangible in the form of cards, discovering them one a time as you draw through the deck. Weaknesses especially as they spring upon you when you least expect it. Characters feel more alive, changing and growing as you edit and upgrade the deck. These factors come together to make investigators closer to RPG characters, as opposed to the chess pieces they feel like in other Arkham games.
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