Death Itself: An Arkham Horror LCG Challenge Standalone Scenario
Written by Gladwin J. Singh
“There a painless death awaits him who can no longer bear the sorrows of this life. If death is welcome let him seek it there.”
― Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow
One of the few scenario with the most insane amount of replay-ability has got to be ‘The Pallid Mask‘ from the Carcosa expansion. If you would like to know more about the Carcosa expansion, including the 6 mythos packs, you can find it here. The key feature of this scenario that makes for the insane replay-ability is the fact that you will never know which location you are encountering. That is because there is no fixed location in this game. Every time you discover a new location, you will be asked to reveal new locations adjacent to each other, determined by the card itself. To make things harder than it already is, you cannot enter new locations without spending clues.
Think of this scenario as an Arkham Horror LCG dungeon crawler style scenario. You are investigators trying to unravel the mysteries of Carcosa and your findings lead you to the infamous Paris Catacombs. Due to the uncertainty of each location, every game of The Pallid Mask is bound to be different as the locations are always changing. As the website says:
“The Pallid Mask utilizes the game’s locations in a novel way, bringing them into play only as you travel through them, and arranging them in a constantly shifting and unpredictable fashion. Each new step through these labyrinths could be your last.” (FFG)
So just when we thought that this scenario could not get any better, game designer MJ Newman created the ‘Death Itself‘ challenge, using ‘The Pallid Mask’ scenario. Although I am only writing about this now, this challenge was actually created back in 2018.
Just like the scenario, almost everything is the same except for the tokens used and the immediate spawn of the Specter of Death. If you have not played this scenario before, the Specter of Death only comes into play midway through the game. In the ‘Death Itself’ challenge, you awake in the catacombs, with an exhausted Specter of Death. Unlike the scenario, the Specter of Death cannot be removed from the game. If it is defeated, it simply recovers all hit points and does not ready until the next upkeep phase. Simply put it, even ‘Death may NOT die‘ in this scenario.
This challenge is played as a standalone and it must be played on ‘hard’ difficulty. As it is a standalone challenge, you will get to build your investigator deck with experienced cards as well.
The Pallid Mask scenario is all about getting as many clues as you can to reveal locations. Thus, an investigator with a decent intellect value is much needed. On top of that, with the Specter of Death always on the move, ‘killing’ it will only slow an investigator’s progress and the goal is to be as far away from it. Thus, one needs an investigator with a good evade value to escape Death and the monsters that lurk beneath the catacombs. The first thought that came into my mind was Trish Scarborough. One of the things I like about Trish is her reaction triggered ability which allows her to gain an additional clue or evade an enemy if she is in a location with an enemy. Her ability is a plus point for this challenge. With a very low strength value, it is very likely that Trish will only be evading and gaining clues.
As Trish is a stranger in the catacombs, so too, am I a stranger in the catacombs of deck-building. This was the deck I built specifically for this challenge. As much as I wanted to include ‘Elusive‘ in her deck, I was already using it for my Dexter Drake deck, in preparation for The Innsmouth Conspiracy. Generally, Trish’s deck is built mainly for evading and gaining clues ASAP. Her only firepower is the .25 Automatic.
Clearly this challenge involves a lot of evasion and certain cards may be of high advantage. Plus, the Specter of Death does not have a high HP, so certain weapons may be too overpowering as well. Thus, the restricted cards are: Streetwise, Key of Ys, Cat Burglar, and Shotgun. Also, The Man in the Pallid Mask cannot be discarded from the game by the ‘Spawn’ effect of the Corpse Dweller.
A challenge indeed. I mean, on top of having Death creeping behind me, I’m also playing on ‘Hard’ difficulty.
There certainly was an adrenaline rush in playing because of the chasing Specter and not knowing what locations are being revealed. Every move was precious. Throughout my entire play, my focus was to be at least two locations away from the Specter. I say two because I was worried about drawing enemies and having to delay my movements just to evade it. I also needed the tempo and time to gather my assets. Clearly the odds were way against me, but that’s the challenge.
Fun is not the best word to describe this challenge. Rather, I’d say it was exciting and I think, having the Specter behind my back created the necessary tension at the very start of the game, which I guess really simulates how one might feel down in the dark tunnels. You know how you always have that feeling of something watching or following you from behind whenever you’re in dark and narrow places. Yea…that’s what I mean.
Needless to say, I lost miserably in the first round, having not prepared enough evasion cards. In the second round, I was one ‘act’ away from winning, but a number of bad draws resulted in multiple enemies spawning in my location and adjacent, leaving me with no room for escape, as I had already used up most of my evasion cards.
They say third time’s the charm, but I don’t think it applies to Arkham Horror: LCG. It took more than 3 attempts to succeed in escaping the catacombs. On some games, I would die within the first three rounds because of a bad treachery card drawn. In one particular game, I drew Eyes in the Walls TWICE, and with Trish’s low willpower, she was no match for it. However, when I finally won (by escaping), I was one health and two horror away from being defeated. One bad token draw would have ended everything.
If you own the Carcosa cycle, I implore you to give this challenge a try. Although it’s been two years since the challenge was created, I believe that the community is growing a lot more recently and I think every Arkham player should at least know about the existence of this challenge. Honestly, I had to do my research on the entire Carcosa cycle and it was only through this research (mostly on Facebook) that I discovered the challenge. I’m probably going to play this a few more times. Also, ONE win is never enough.
If interested, here is the link to the challenge.