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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Innovative take on a well-worn concept
  • Works as a standalone game, but also links in well with existing scenarios and campaigns
  • Challenging but far from impossible

Might Not Like

  • Steep learning curve for novices
  • Does need the Investigator expansion as well for the full experiences
  • Not all standalone scenarios fully compatible
Find out more about our blog & how to become a member of the blogging team by clicking here

Arkham Horror: The Scarlet Keys Campaign Expansion Review

SCARLET KEYS

Arkham Horror, with its many expansions, is a great example of a narrative LCG with rich storylines, thematic detail and unknowable gribbly horror. But up until now, it’s all been quite linear. Yes, you can pop standalone scenario packs into your game, and there’s replay value from trying different combinations of investigators and deck builds, but there’s a fundamental similarity to it all... however, The Scarlet Keys is something else entirely. It's a completely non-linear campaign, where you race against time around the globe choosing where to go (and which scenario to play) in order to unlock the secrets of Red Coterie.

THAT IS NOT DEAD…

This the closest I've ever come to experiencing an RPG in card form - no GM, and so much autonomy it's extraordinary. I am a dreadfully old (great old?)-school gamer and I was worried as to whether this would feel little more than a poor Choose Your Own Adventure with cards, but I was delighted by how much control you have over the experience. It’s a step-up not only from other Arkham Horror campaigns (and don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan – The Dunwich Legacy is particularly good) but other card-driven narratives like Themeborne’s excellent Escape series. After completing the first scenario, the players choose the next stop on the trail, in part determined by how successful you were, in part by your own whims.

WHICH CAN ETERNAL LIE…

It feels like a proper gripping narrative, torn from the pages of Lovecraft's journals, and you are invested in your characters and their investigations. You dot all over the world, with only the first and last scenarios (assuming you survive) being pre-determined. And key (ahem) to this is the map. It is a lovely, lovely thing, presented as a TOP SECRET dossier which unfolds to reveal all manner of missions and options. It’s so immersive and will have your entire group pouring over it, trying to decide where exactly should be the next step to unearthing hidden secrets.

AND WITH STRANGE AEONS…

The Scarlet Keys introduces a number of new mechanics, chief among them being the inclusion of Hidden cards: is it an enemy agent? A decoy? Or something... OTHER?), and the meaningful introduction of side missions that can be unlocked using other existing scenario packs, with the Guardians of the Abyss being a particularly good fit for this rollicking, swashbuckling, Dr Jones -style adventure, but even others such as the stone-cold classic Murder at the Excelsior Hotel work without too much bother.

EVEN DEATH MAY DIE…

A fantastically immersive experience, it’s worth mentioning that the Investigator expansion is, unlike other Campaigns, not essential. Of course the additional Investigators enhance it (extra actions from the Butler, and bonus allies from the Newspaper magnate, spring to mind) and the Upgrade mechanic it introduces (being able to tailor some of your resources from the outset) is great, but the Campaign stands on its own two feet. I’m not saying don’t buy the Investigator expansion, just that you don’t necessarily need to… yet.

The Scarlet Keys might just be the best campaign yet for Arkham Horror. Yes, the difficulty is high – but this the Cthulhu mythos, of course at least one of your characters will go crazy – but not impossibly so, and you feel each clue, each treasure and each success all the more keenly. Whether you’re a newcomer to the game, straight off the back of the core box, or a veteran of the mysteries of the mythos, this is must-buy.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Innovative take on a well-worn concept
  • Works as a standalone game, but also links in well with existing scenarios and campaigns
  • Challenging but far from impossible

Might not like

  • Steep learning curve for novices
  • Does need the Investigator expansion as well for the full experiences
  • Not all standalone scenarios fully compatible

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Find out more about our blog & how to become a member of the blogging team by clicking here

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