Written by Dalia
As the fan base for this game expands, the Investigator Starter Decks become more and more important. In the last few weeks, I have successfully convinced a friend to try the game, but without access to the starter decks, it has been hard to build decks without just suggesting he buy everything. But everything is a lot to sift through, so once again, I am going to evaluate the starter decks with respect to the core set. This time, Harvey Walters.
With 7 health, 8 sanity, 4 willpower, 5 intellect, 1 combat, and 2 agility, Harvey’s stats look very similar to other seekers, notably Daisy Walker in the core set. They both have 5 intellect and poor physical stats. His health and sanity are more balanced than hers, and Harvey has one point higher in willpower, and one lower in combat. However, his lack of access to mystic cards gives him little outlet for that high willpower. Both he and Daisy struggle with enemy management overall. Harvey is far from helpless when given access to the full card pool, but when limited to just the core set, he really struggles to do more than collect clues.
Harvey is interesting because he is built around a mechanic that has always been somewhat of a sub-type of seekers: card draw. In any card game, card draw is king. Being able to find and play your important assets early, or just having the options of events and skill cards in your hand, is extremely important in any card game with randomization elements. That said, combo-oriented decks and any kind of deck dependent on a specific card or two have always been somewhat niche in this game. You simply often don’t have the time for card draw when, at base, you have to spend an action to draw beyond the allotted one card a round during upkeep. Turning that single card draw into two cards doesn’t seem very powerful, since you still have to find a way to trigger the card draw initially.
Comparing abilities, Daisy’s extra Tome action is really powerful if built around—and at the very least it’s an additional filtered card draw with Old Book of Lore. Harvey gives a direct extra card draw, but at what cost? With the Old Book of Lore out, Daisy gets four actions, one of which must be spent to, effectively, draw a card. She also gets the flexibility of a variety of tomes, notably the Encyclopedia (2), and potentially Medical Texts if damage is a problem. Harvey gets three actions, and if he chooses to spend one of them to draw a card, he gets an additional card. So he effectively gets two actions, with the third exchanged for two cards. Harvey gets one more card than Daisy does, at the cost of an action. At base, this seems less than ideal. Actions are really valuable, and having to spend 1/3 of your time drawing cards only works if you can do something with those cards that makes up for the lost action, which isn’t really an option in just the core set.
Harvey’s signature card, Vault of Knowledge, somewhat fixes this problem. It turns a regular investigate action into a clue plus two cards, once a round. Instead of two actions plus two cards, you get two actions plus two cards plus a (presumably successful) investigate. That is extremely efficient, especially considering that Burning the Midnight Oil (turning an investigate action into a potential clue plus two resources), is an event, meaning it usually only triggers twice or so a game. An early Vault of Knowledge can easily trigger 6-8 times in a 4-player game. Knowing that, you can keep your hand size up pretty easily and (hopefully) always have the answer on hand when in a tight spot.
Unfortunately, Harvey’s signature weakness, Thrice-Damned Curiosity, is absolutely brutal in a deck built around building and maintaining a large hand size. Even with 7 health to start with, pure seekers do not have a lot of potential health soak, and getting hit for 3-4 damage every time you draw it can quickly kill you when half your deck is in your hand. For that reason, I prefer to play Harvey as a support character, who can get other players their combo pieces faster. It keeps his weakness from dealing too much damage, and since you’re not cycling your deck as fast as everyone around you, you also don’t see it as often. It is rare for an investigator to have so little synergy with using their ability for their own benefit, but Harvey really doesn’t want to have more than 8 cards in hand when he sees his weakness, and the faster you draw, the more likely you are to see it at an inopportune moment.
Harvey’s starting deck also doesn’t quite synergize properly. He starts with Celaeno Fragments, which ideally wants 15 cards in hand at all times, but his maximum hand size is 14 (8 to start, plus 2 from Vault of Knowledge, plus 2 from the Laboratory Assistant, plus 2 from double Arcane Enlightenment). In the core set, this is all he can do, but with access to Charisma (Dunwich cycle) or Dream-Enhancing Serum (Dream-Eaters cycle), he can trigger the full effect of Celaeno Fragments much more frequently. But again, Harvey doesn’t have a good outlet for his high willpower except against treacheries, so he’s often not using the willpower boost from the Fragments to much effect either. Additionally, what are you doing with those cards? If all your cards feed your card draw engine, but none of them do anything, or they only exist to be hand size or discard fodder, and you don’t need help with clues, but you can’t handle enemies, what are you doing with all those cards you draw? You spend time drawing cards and gaining resources to play cards like Feed the Mind that let you spend actions to draw more cards, but for what? Ultimately, the deck spends too much time messing around with cool hand size shenanigans and not enough time winning the game.
I think Harvey is a good investigator, but he’s currently built to be a bit of a pitfall. Everything in his deck is centered around having a huge hand, but he doesn’t do anything with that hand size except….do what he was already doing, drawing cards and gaining clues, a little less efficiently than Daisy. He just doesn’t have the same flexibility as she does, but once you put them in multiplayer, Harvey can become an irreplaceable asset to a combo-oriented (or just asset-oriented) team. Given access to the full card pool, Harvey and Daisy can be built very differently, especially since Daisy can actually leverage her high willpower to do cool Mystic things, but Harvey out of the box just falls a bit flat for me.
Everyone has a slightly different take on how best to play the game of Arkham Horror LCG. Yes, we are all in it to have fun, but how do you have the most fun? Is it through story immersion? Playing blind? Are you in it for the social aspect? Or are you solving the puzzle of how to beat the Big Bad? Solving the puzzle of how to break the game with an infinite combo? There are so many ways to enjoy this game, but I think we all agree that it’s less fun when your deck just doesn’t do what you wanted it to do. And Harvey can do a lot, but he doesn’t do what it says on the tin, and that’s a bit disappointing.
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