Written by Dalia
Now that we’ve gotten the guardian and the seeker out of the way, it’s time to delve into our flex characters from the Investigator Starter Decks. And where better to start than the rogue class, known for being able to do a bit of everything while still dealing with or avoiding enemies? Introducing, Winifred Habbamock, the Aviatrix.
Where some rogues might get through life by throwing money at their problems and not taking tests, Winifred throws caution to the wind and turns skill tests into cards, as long as she keeps passing. With 8 health, 7 sanity, 1 willpower, 3 intellect, 3 combat, and 5 agility, Winnifred feels like a typical rogue. Compared to the core set rogue, “Skids” O’Toole, she has one more sanity, one more agility, and one less willpower. The lower willpower is actually a benefit sometimes, because if you’re already not going to pass willpower tests, you might as well not put a valuable skill point into them. Plus, the extra agility really shines with some of the new cards in Winifred’s deck, like Pilfer, or cards from the core, like Backstab.
Winifred and Skids play very differently. Skids is money-and-action-oriented, able to do more stuff with his turn. He spends two resources to gain an action, limit once per round. Winifred is card-oriented, gaining benefits not just from passing skill tests by committing cards, but from the sheer act of committing cards itself. Winifred’s ability is that, when she commits two cards to the same skill test, she gets to draw a card. This effectively means that committing two cards is always as good, or better, than committing just one, and really allows her to lean into the rogue succeed-by-two mechanic. It also allows her to cycle her deck very quickly, finding key pieces fast and making sure she always has the right cards in hand, at least in theory. Notably, the limit on Winifred’s ability is once per test, not once per round, meaning she is better than Harvey at cycling her deck, but lacks the team support that Harvey can provide. It is also important to note the timing window: you draw the card after committing cards, but before revealing your chaos token, and you cannot commit the just drawn card to your test.
I have to admit, Skids has always let me down. I’ve seen him played well, but I always feel like someone else could do the job better. At only 3 combat and 3 intellect, Roland can both fight more efficiently and get clues more efficiently with his testless reaction. I will note that parallel Skids tends to have more money than original Skids, and he no longer has the sink of trying to pay for his extra actions. He has definitely gotten better as the card pool expanded, but I still don’t think he is particularly strong, especially when compared to Winifred, but it’s worth noting his Guardian access gives him some combos for people who have more than just the core set.
Winifred’s signature card is of course a skill card—Anything You Can Do, Better, has a whopping six wild icons on it. It is also a rogue card, meaning it can be pulled out with a card like Daredevil. Some people like to save it for a willpower test, to shore up Winifred’s weakness, but some people like to just throw it in and cycle it. When I first showed Winifred to a friend, he cackled maniacally and said, “I have to play her!” The very idea of having six wild icons on a single card is mind-boggling to those of us who are used to Unexpected Courage being a staple card. If you get off to a slow start, you might only get to use Anything You Can Do, Better once or twice in a game, but that’s still worth it. Other investigators have assets that can trigger many times a game, but they are dependent on getting the right cards early. Throw a Guardian a poor starting hand, and the party may get bogged down in enemies by turn 3. Winifred has the raw draw power to push past a bad starting hand, and, built properly, the cards to succeed where others may fail.
Winifred’s signature weakness is Arrogance, which must be committed to each skill test, and subtracts one from her total skill value. And, she has to fail a test with it to get rid of it, or it goes back into her hand. It is extremely thematic, if a bit weak—normally, failing a skill test is just a matter of an action, or the right encounter draw. It is a bit annoying if you are in a position where you can’t afford to fail an action, or just don’t have the action to spare, but overall, it’s not that bad. Likely, it will get drawn off Winifred’s ability, rather than during upkeep, but it won’t affect the current skill test; rather, the next one (and any future tests until Winifred fails). Considering Winifred usually overcommits anyway, the number of times Arrogance will turn a success into a failure is pretty few. And even if it fails, Arrogance goes away, so it is not the worst weakness to have.
Winifred is clearly built around skill cards, but her level 0 starter deck contains 14 assets, 10 events, and only 8 skills, and two of those skills are Arrogance and Anything You Can Do, Better. There are only two new skill cards in her upgrade path, as well, making her a prime candidate for customization. Obviously, more skill cards are better in her deck, but also throwing in a Lucky Cigarette Case (3) is helpful for refunding some of the initial cost of committing cards. Opportunist is also a great pick because, assuming you succeed by enough, you get it back in addition to drawing a card, making your card balance neutral. If you can commit two Opportunists with a third card, you get a card plus both copies of Opportunist back, coming out even, and with a Lucky Cigarette Case, you can net one additional card! Unfortunately, Opportunist is the extent of the Rogue skill cards in the core set (there are the four neutral cantrips, Guts, Overpower, Perception, Manual Dexterity, plus Unexpected Courage, so there are actually a lot more skill cards than I’m making it sound like), so Winifred really needs a more extensive collection to shine to her fullest potential. But even still, Winifred has a very powerful stat line coupled with a very powerful ability. Her starter deck feels like a set of cards meant to shore up the Rogue card pool more than a coherent deck that synergizes with her ability. Still, she is not anti-synergistic, and she is still powerful enough to be a true flex character with her starting deck.