This list was a long time coming. I announced this list at the end of December, but for some reason I took a 2 month break. I guess it happens. If you were waiting on this list, then I apologize. But I hope I can make it up to you right now. Hopefully I can pick up the pace again.
In this week’s list “Top 10 Worst Ways To Stop Existing in Arkham” we will take a look at the most frustrating ways a game can end. The most rage-inducing events that can happen to player that can lead to defeat, death and insanity. With horrors galore in our favorite game, death and insanity are always only a mere Mythos phase away. That tension is what makes Arkham Horror: The Card Game so exciting. That one turn where you really make a difference is nothing but pure glory. But drawing an auto-fail on a specific test is nothing but excruciating. So, in honor of those who have (permanently) fallen in Arkham Horror, this list is written. The entries in this list are all stories I have gathered through Reddit, Discord and other media. People have shared their worst times in Arkham and I am here to tell the stories to you. One might stay this is the first community-created list. The only thing I did was order them. Hopefully you will find these stories just as painful as wonderful! Let us take a look at how some of our fellow investigators have suffered defeat in The Top Ten Ways To Stop Exisiting In Arkham.
Number 10: Doomed in Harvey Walters
We have already concluded that Doomed might just be the worst Random Basic Weakness there is. Okay, maybe not we, but I certainly did. Drawing this as your Random Basic Weakness is certain death. It might take a while, but Doomed will usually kill you at some point, it might even be in the penultimate scenario. Sure, we all know that one person who had Doomed twice and both times didn’t die to it. To which I say: lies. Now, Doomed is bad on it’s own. But Harvey Walters is the investigator with the most accelerated draw in the class with the most accelerated draw. If you play it right, you might actually get killed in the first or second scenario with Harvey. Drawing 3 cards every round is just not a plan when Doomed is there.
For what it’s worth: Amanda and Mandy would also be pretty bad. But I feel like Harvey already has a headache, let’s leave it that.
Number 9: Taking Too Much Trauma in Calvin Wright
Calvin Wright is a puzzle. A great one at that. Playing him is a constant juggle between your health and sanity values. Sure, you want some trauma on Calvin. You probably want to to draw his Signature Weakness, Voice of the Messenger, every now and then. Maybe die a couple of times so that your starting values are a bit higher than just 0. But one player in particular had a very bad day when he was playing Calvin. The scenario started out with Calvin having 4 mental trauma. It is important to point out that this was the very last scenario of the campaign. After a tough uphill battle and a very impressive balancing act of Calvins health and sanity, the group of players managed to beat the Ancient One and close out the campaign. While reading the resolutions every investigator earned 2 mental trauma. This happened just before winning the campaign. Calvin, bless his poor soul, died to having 6 mental trauma right before winning the campaign. Oof, that is cruel.
Number 8: Forgetting Charon’s Obol
(Lowkey shoutout to my favorite card: Charon’s Obol)
While not really being the game’s fault, this story is so hilarious and unforgettable that I had to include it on this list. The original poster had such a great story, that I will just copy his story here:
“The important thing to note about this scenario is that there is one location, the Library, with Victory 5 on it, however every round if it has less than 1/investigator clues on it, you refill it to that number of clues. Completing the scenario requires all investigators be at a different location on the other side of the map. Note that this isn’t a resign action, so “I’m Outta Here” isn’t going to work. The investigators involved are Sister Mary, Tony Morgan, Harvey Walters, and Stella Clark. Tony, however, is the main focus of this story. He’s using Guardian as his off class, which after picking up Adaptable, lets him swap in exactly the cards needed to get that 5 XP (since I don’t have the set up to just run to the other side of the map). (In hindsight (i.e. right now), I realize that I could have side stepped all of this with Elusive… oops). So it came to be that after playing through the scenario, picking up all of the rest of the XP, playing both of my Delves, and getting all of the other investigators to safety but leaving Tony on a location connected to the Library (and spending copious actions to draw all of the cards I need), that the moment to enact my plan (which is strictly worse than just buying Elusive for 2 XP) had arrived. The round after my setup beings and Tony plays First Watch. I’m looking for any enemy to give to Tony, and as luck would have it, I find one (this was the only element up to chance here). I give Tony the enemy, and deal the rest of the encounters to the relevant Investigators. Now the investigation phase begins, and I have 3 actions to get 4 clues and meet the scenario’s objective. I have Tony lead and take an attack of opportunity to play Intel Report, paying 6 resources to pick up 2 clues from the adjacent Library. The second action is the same as the first, using my second Intel Report to clear off the Library. Then comes the final action, and what all of my careful setup has lead up to, Tony plays “I’ll See You In Hell!”, biting the bullet and killing the engaged enemy but going down himself and taking a physical trauma. This results in Tony dropping his clues on the location he was on, the one adjacent to the library. Tony’s elimination also means that all surviving investigators are at the required location, and thus the scenario can proceed to its resolution, with all of the clues off the Library and thus awarding the party a hard earned 5 Victory. Thus all was right in the world, and I moved on to ArkhamDB to spend my XP. Mary can upgrade her Rite of Seeking, pick up Charisma, get some other nice stuff she wants to have. Tony is especially nice since he gets +2 XP from Charon’s Obol… …. …”
(Credit to u/Renard-Chase)
Number 7: Retaliate into Enemy Phase
Nothing worse than a big enemy with retaliate. Having a designated combatter (or even evade tank) is always a good call in your games. Some enemies can be brutal to deal with, not even only for their damage or horror values. What is worse that some of these monsters then have the accompanying keyword retaliate on them. One of our community members had a very nasty encounter with the Specter of Death, but any enemy with retaliate would suffice.
This specific player tried to finish of the Specter of Death, with 6 health remaining, by shooting 3 well placed shots in its… uh.. fog? Anyway. With Physical Training on the board and plenty of resources, nothing could go wrong. This player aimed to beat all the tokens in the bag, of which the lowest was 4. So first shot hits. Second shot hits. Third shot fails. Autofail rears it’s ugly head again. Not only does the Specter of Death retaliate for 2 damage and horror, but all the other investigators already took their turns. So at the start of the enemy phase the player takes 2 additional damage and horror, defeating the player. Hannibal Smith doesn’t love this.
Number 6: Rotting Remains Fails
While very rare and improbable, it is not impossible: this player made a brand new Zoey deck to explore the game with after buying Dunwich and the Core. The deck wasn’t the problem, it was a good deck. The player survived, accurately tallied, 2 rounds. The first round a Rotting Remains was drawn with an auto-fail. That is 3 horror for our poor Zoey, which is already half of her sanity. The player however, also had an enemy to deal with that her partner drew. So after killing off the Ghoul, the new mythos phase shows up. The player draws a second Rotting Remains and a second auto-fail is drawn. Making Zoey go insane, and probably the player too at this point.
Another anecdote that got sent to me that I wish to entertain you with: “Play Roland You’re brave, play hard. Prepare a deck Setup the Gathering, your adventure is just about to begin. Ok, mulligan. Nice, pretty good stuff there, you can investigate, play emergency cache, play a gun. Upkeep Mythos Phase 1 Draw Rotting Remains, Draw Cultist, Draw Autofail, Die.”
(Credits to Cuherdir)
Number 5: Timeworn Brandishing
Ah, one of our favorite Weapons That Make Muder Look Cool is back! With a powerful one-time use effect, this weapon can deal out some pretty harsh damage, such as in our following ancedote:
“So. Timeworn Brand. You know it, you love it. Maybe you don’t love it, I don’t know. But one member of our party picked it up. First mission with it, he uses the Once Per Game to try to kill an Elite(I don’t remember which) engaged with our clue-gatherer. You guessed it, he drew the auto-fail and defeated our seeker. Because 4 damage hurts.
It’s ok though, he got to try to redeem himself. Later in the campaign, I’m engaged with an Elite monster and hit it enough to get it down to 4 health. So he activates it, then before he pulls the chaos token says the magic phrase: “It’s fine, I only fail on tentacles”. You know it, he pulled the auto-fail and I die.
But wait, the campaign continues. Later in the campaign, he’s engaged with an enemy, so when he uses the once per game, he can’t kill one of us! So he activates it and, you know it, pulls the auto-fail. Oh wait, the enemy has retaliate and he is defeated by that damage/horror.
So yes, the Timeworn Brand killed 3 investigators in a single campaign.”
(Credit to u/hascow)
Number 4: Failing Crumbling Precipice
I don’t think this one needs any explaining, but a reddit user had a nice anecdote that I still wish to share with you:
“Once upon a time, in Depths of Yoth, Ursula Downs started at the Crumbling Precipice in Depth 1. She failed the willpower 4 test, drew a tentacle on the agility 3 test (the one token that would fail), and was unable to pull the clutch +1 on the combat 2 test. Killed on turn one. Luckily it was standalone, so it didn’t really matter.“
(Credit to u/Zinjanthr0pus)
Number 3: Bad Sequence of Encounter Cards
This specific player was playing Black Stars Rise, the 7th scenario in The Path to Carcosa. For reference, this is the scenario with 2 Agenda decks and you have to figure out which agenda you need to advance and which one to ignore. This of course can be lead to a puzzling situation that can quickly get out of hand. This player posted his story with just the following image. They were playing with 3 players and they were about halfway through the game with both agendas advanced enough and now halfway filled with doom. This was their upcoming Mythos Phase:
Number 2: Forgetting Your Hiking Boots
Disclaimer: This problem was fixed in the Return to Dunwich-box.
Where Doom Awaits is infamous for this location. A lot of investigators don’t always require a high Intellect to investigate. Rogues might discover clues by spending resources, Survivors might want to fail forward and Mystics flat out replace Intellect with Willpower. This scenario removed all that. You needed to do a basic investigate-action to place a location into play. Not only did you need to do this once or twice, no, it had to be done thrice! If your deck wasn’t prepared for a Intellect 3-test, let alone three, you were forced to Resign here. Players might think that resigning wouldn’t end the campaign, because this is rarely the case. But Where Doom Awaits had a nice surprise up its sleeve. Resigning here meant defeat. Long story short: if you had no Intellect in your party or deck, you just couldn’t get up the hill and your story would end here.
Number 1: Essex County Express
The most infamous scenario out there, every player has their own story of why Essex County Express is a scenario that can easily knock you out real fast or at least abruptly end. By now I’m assuming every player is knowledged enough to know why this scenario is here. But a quick explanation: In Essex you start at the rear end of a train and you need to get to the Engine Car of the train. This might take around 6-7 rounds, usually. The problem is that enemies can spawn that bring Doom into play, which makes the Agenda advance. Once the agenda advances, the rear cars of the train will be sucked in to a vortex of misery and death, defeating everybody it touches. If you’re not fast (or lucky) enough, this might happen very fast and you might get sucked into the vortex in the first couple of rounds. I will end with this anecdote:
“Losing on Turn 2 in Essex, due to bad pulls in Encounter Phase and both investigator drew their Personal Weakness in Upkeep Phase; Smite the Wicked hurts. Drawing a Dark Memory which we also played might not have been smart.”
(Credits to user who wished to remain anonymous)
Did you not like the position of Essex County Express? Are you sad that I didn’t include Shrivelling yourself into insanity? Probably yes, that’s cool. Let me know which you inclusion I missed and why? Which way to die/go insane do you really hate? Which ways are here that shoudn’t be here?
Hopefully we will all be back for next week’s list!
PS: This is list is based on the current releases and will not be updated to include future ways to die/get defeated/go insane. The most recent release is “A Light In The Fog” and “Parallel Agnes Baker”.