Guardian
Asset. Hand x2

Item. Weapon. Melee.

Cost: 4.
Test Icons:

Customizable. Uses (4 charges). Replenish 1 of these charges at the start of each round.

: Fight. You get +1 for this attack. Before this attack, you may spend any number of charges to imbue the axe with that many different inscriptions -

- Accuracy - You get an additional +2 for this attack.

- Power - This attack deals +1 damage.

Pixoloid Studios
The Scarlet Keys Investigator Expansion #22.
Runic Axe

Customizations

Heirloom. This asset gets -1 cost and gains the Relic trait.

Inscription of Glory. Add this inscription: "- Glory - If this attack defeats an enemy, choose one: draw 1 card, heal 1 damage, or heal 1 horror."

Inscription of the Elders. Add this inscription: "- Elders - If this attack succeeds by an amount equal to or greater than your location's shroud, discover 1 clue at your location."

Inscription of the Hunt. Add this inscription: "- Hunt - Immediately move to a connecting location or engage an enemy at your location."

Inscription of Fury. Add this inscription: "- Fury - If this attack is successful, in addition to its standard damage, deal 1 damage to each other enemy engaged with you."

□□□ Ancient Power. You may imbue the same inscription up to three times.

□□□ Saga. Replenish 2 of Runic Axe's charges at the start of each round, instead of only 1.

□□□□ Scriptweaver. For every charge spent, you may imbue the axe with up to two different inscriptions.

Reviews

Having played with the Runic Axe now I must say do not underestimate the Inscription of the Hunt. I bought it just because my initial plan of Glory, Elders, Ancient Power and Scriptweaver totalled to 9 and I didn't think I'd need the Heirloom discount but it massively overperformed. Free engages on Aloof enemies is obviously nice and getting to move into a location of enemies and still getting to make 3 attacks was great but what surprised me was how often I just wanted to move whilst engaged with an enemy, Walking the enemy to locations with clues on them let the Inscription of Elders proc more often and just let me continue moving towards the current objective whilst enemies tried to bog us down.

Convery · 6
I had a similar experience, adding Hunt caused the value to skyrocket. You can squeeze so many bonus actions while still reliably dealing damage. — Pseudo Nymh · 4

Runic Axe is a really weird card. The first thing you have to figure out is who it's intended for. At level 0, that's just anyone who needs to kill things. It's a +1/+1 weapon that has limited but regenerating charges, and which lets you spend them optionally, so you don't need to overkill odd health enemies. That's a machete but with charges, or a .45 that regenerates bullets. The other drawback is it takes a second hand slot, so that's not ideal. But hey, it's competitive with the best level 0 weapons, so yay. Totally normal, reasonable weapon for fighter types, or flexes who don't need their hands.

When you level it up, it gets weirder. Either you leave it as a 2 damage weapon and you never get combat upgrades, or you want to do 3+ damage and take Ancient Power. Ancient Power, however, just pushes the limitation slightly upstream. Now you can do 4 damage attack with it, but only once, and then again once next turn (assuming you take Saga), and then you have a dead round before you can do it again. Meanwhile, no other swing you take can spend any charges. The practical implication of this is that your 10 xp pair of weapons only give you 2 bonus damage every round, and you paid 3 xp to compress that damage into a single action (and having the option to frontload 4 damage in one action, if you're full of charges) instead of two actions. If you take Scriptweaver, you get crazy accuracy in addition to your damage, but that's it. If you don't, you'll find yourself never having the charges to do anything but +damage.

If you're interesting in frontloading damage, or in getting a lot of bonus damage on one card you'd be better off with a Flamethrower. That grants 3 bonus damage per attack for 4 attacks, and the Axe won't catch up in total damage for 4 rounds. If you just want sustainable damage, Cyclopean Hammer offers a moderate hit bonus and a change of 3 damage (1/round) as well as the chance to "solve" an enemy by just bonking it to a location you don't care about. So the fully upgraded combat Axe is for someone who wants to be really good at combat like one swing every other round, will spend 10 xp for it, and doesn't need their hands. I don't know who that is. Crazy accuracy and 4 damage is equivalent to like 2 swings from a decent level 0 weapon with some discards to make sure you hit. That's not a lot of bang for your 10 xp.

So let's not build the Axe as a pure combat tool. Let's see what else we can do with it. Fury is a really neat, repeatable AOE damage effect apparently designed to counter swarms in Dream Eaters, so that's one thing we could do. Glory is a way to make yourself more sustainable. If you're Mark Harrigan, you can even take the heal, use Sophie on something, and get both the +2 to a test and the extra card. Carolyn Fern could use the horror option, but she's not allowed to use xp weapons so forget that. Glory is probably a situational, niche imbue. Elders lets you get a clue if you beat an enemy by the shroud, so you could be like Roland-lite. The issue you then run into is that even with Scriptweaver, you can only pick 2 of: try to get clues, do 2 damage to efficiently eliminate the enemy, get a bonus to have a reasonable chance at succeeding by shroud. If the only enemy you need to deal with is Swarm of Rats, you could just go Elders/Accuracy a couple of times and beat multiple clues out of them, but that's another niche use, not your Plan A.

So where does that leave us? Hunt. Hunt is really good. Fighters' typical gameplan is do incredible amounts of damage in order to defeat monsters before they inflict damage to the investigators, and they typically pay through the nose for it, in terms of xp, resources, support cards, and often ammo. Atomizing monsters is often the sole thing they're good at. As such, any action spent NOT atomizing monsters is the worst feeling in the game for them, especially moving to the next monster, or engaging that aloof enemy, or the one eating the Seeker who will otherwise die if you draw the auto-fail. Axe users with Hunt don't care about that. They can pull enemies to a connecting location, or move to an enemy at a connecting location, or engage an aloof enemy, and then do their murdering. It solves a couple different problems that otherwise would require a combination of things like Fang of Tyr'thrha, Telescopic Sight, Safeguard, and for some fighters, Shortcut. Free movement, free engages come at hefty premiums. The Runic Axe solves that for you. It also solves the problem of concealed enemies fairly handily, since they all spawn in a tight radius, would be impractical to expose with ammo, and you can spend your second imbue on Accuracy for those high shroud locations.

I dunno, there might be a better use for the Axe, but it seems fairly narrowly tailored for Scarlet Keys, and for fighters who want to be equally good at movement instead of just outrageously good at fighting, so also campaigns that incentivize movement pretty hard (but still fighting, because the axe is no faster than walking yourself, it just lets you combine the move and attack actions).

jaunt · 15
It's also horror or damage heal, for TIC/Carcosa. — MrGoldbee · 1314
Carolyn can get Axe to 10xp if she bus "Glory", I think — Jota · 6
No, because even though it would fall within her deckbuilding options as a card that heals horror, it's excluded by her additional restrictions. ("No Weapon cards level 1-5.") Same reason she can't take level 1-3 guardian weapons that don't heal. — Thatwasademo · 44
After playing a little more with Mark, I have to say Glory can be pretty okay. Fury is also really good action compression for flipping concealed enemies if it works how I think it does, which I have no confidence whatsoever in. — jaunt · 15
Ignore the Fury comment. My brain had a poerr outage. — jaunt · 15

This card is doing some good work with Lily Chen. No longer are we stuck with Dragon Pole or Cyclopean Hammer. Lily and Zoey are prime candidates for HUNT and FURY. To start, I recommend getting SCRIPTWEAVER as soon as possible. HUNT and HEIRLOOM next. If you want a lvl5 axe, finish it off with SAGA and GLORY. The cool thing is you have upgrade path options as well; ELDERS for Roland Banks, FURY for Zoey Samaras etc.

I think, "Ancient Power" plus "Scriptweaver" plus "Inscription of Glory" might be a sick combo for Akachi. She normally wouldn't want to fight with combat, but this lets her once per turn fight with a skill of 6 to 10, dealing 2 to 4 damage and using any buff you don't need on the current enemy to heal or draw cards. The downside being of course, that she can use it at most maybe any other turn for one attack, and it's quite expensive for a sidearm XP wise, which likely requires an additional fight spell. It's also not that synergetic with her ability (will enter the game with 5 charges, but then replenish only up to a max of 4), and she likes using her hands for a Sword Cane or Grotesque Statue. — Susumu · 271
On the plus site, this can absolutely replace a "Sword Cane" in a level 0 deck, unless you want to avoid vengeance. In particular for Rats and similar "scenario 1 critters", it looks totally servicable without any ticks on the custom-sheet. It is quite expensive compared to Sword Cane, though. In particular, once she wants to rather replay than first-play her spells with "Uncage the Soul". — Susumu · 271
To be honest, I have to see this in practice, but I'm sceptical, that it is a great card for guardians. I think, "Ancient Power" might be kind of mandatory, for a 10 XP across 2 copies twohanded Guardianweapon, because without it, it is restricted to dealing just 2 damage, which is a hard sell in that context. "Scriptweaver" is probably also too good to pass on, it gives essentially each charge double value. So you can go either for the bland build of maxing with "Saga" or a fun build with up to 3 Inscriptions. (Or 2 with the discounted Poltergeist Slayer.) At which point, it might get tricky to get enough charges for the turns, where you have to fight multiple enemies or bosses. So I guess, you need either another weapon plus Bandolier, or a "Brand of Cthugha" as side weapon or something. — Susumu · 271
What happens with Scriptweaver + Ancient Power? Is that 7xp for 2 weapons that can hit at +7 fist and +3 damage for 1 charge use? — 1337duck · 1
With just the standard inscriptions and Scriptweaver+Ancient Power, for each charge you spend you can invoke both inscriptions, and you can invoke both inscriptions 3 times, so +7 fist and +3 damage would take 3 charges. — Xenas · 6
Ah. I misread the card! The original card says "you may spend any number of charges to imbue the axe with that many *different* inscriptions", while Ancient Power says "You may imbue the *same* inscription up to three times." I misread the original card as "you may only chose one to imbue", and then read Ancient Power as "your chosen inscription may be imbued up to 3 times". So of course, *that* interpretation + Scriptweaver would be busted AF. — 1337duck · 1
^I mean "imbuing an inscription imbues it up to 3 time" - hence 1 charge for 3x imbue. — 1337duck · 1
This is a very nice option for Guardians but requires a backup weapon/spells or events. My go to is Scriptweaver and Ancient Power with Inscriptions for Hunt, Glory and Elders. If you are engaged, or an enemy is around, you can go to a connecting location (or even further), kill it and pick up up to 3 clues. Usually costs all charges but for one action without an AoO thats some nice action compression. Not as strong as the Hammer or the Flamethrower but much more flashy and versatile. — Raketensegler · 1
I feel like it's not a huge problem to have a backup spell like Brand of Cthugha with it. Flamethrower ends up wanting shitloads of support cards, and Hammer gets a godlike accuracy but will struggle a bit with burst without a backup Brand itself. — Lailah · 1
The list of backup spells "like Brand of Cthugha" is just Brand of Cthugha. Available to guardians, doesn't necessarily replace fists with heads, and takes an arcane but no hands is a list of one. Another splurge option is Mk. 1 Grenades. — jaunt · 15

After playing with and upgrading this card, I've really grown to hate it. Not because it's a bad card (it's great, honestly) but because it's so flexible that it will stifle competitive design for other Guardian weapons, especially the low level ones.

Think of it this way: for level 1, its "competition" is The Hungering Blade, which is already...not great. But let's think about future designs, and review what they have to compete with.

With 1 XP invested, Runic Axe is a 4cost 2-handed weapon with 4 charges, recharging one charge per round (and can still attack for +1 Fight with zero charges, giving it a flexibility edge over anything that needs charges or ammo). In addition, Runic Axe will have either

Spend 1 Charge: Get +2 Fight on attack Spend 1 Charge: Deal +1 damage on attack Is a Relic and only costs 3 instead of 4 (nice for Guardians who often struggle to scrounge cash)

OR

Spend 1 Charge: Get +2 Fight on attack Spend 1 Charge: Deal +1 damage on attack Spend 1 Charge: If this attack defeats an enemy, either heal 1 horror, heal 1 damage, or draw 1 card

OR

Spend 1 Charge: Get +2 Fight on attack Spend 1 Charge: Deal +1 damage on attack Spend 1 Charge: If this attack succeeds by the location's shroud or greater, discover 1 clue at location

OR

Spend 1 Charge: Get +2 Fight on attack Spend 1 Charge: Deal +1 damage on attack Spend 1 Charge: Get a free move (that doesn't trigger AoO) or a free engage

OR

Spend 1 Charge: Get +2 Fight on attack Spend 1 Charge: Deal +1 damage on attack Spend 1 Charge: If this attack is successful, deal 1 damage to each other enemy engaged with you

Any future 1 XP Guardian weapon has to compete with that, and compete with the fact that you get 2 copies of it for 1 XP, and compete with the growth over time, and compete with the not-so-unlikely chance that you'll Refine it to make it stronger without even getting charged XP. That basically boils down to forcing "good" future 1 XP Guardian weapons to be one-handed, and even then, they'll feel extremely lackluster unless they come with either guaranteed bonus damage and some kind of reactive ability (for things with ammo), or conditional bonus damage that you can reliably build your deck around, unlike Hungering Blade and some kind of reactive ability (for things you don't have to reload). Whatever the bonus or condition is probably needs to be good in multiples, too, to make spending 2 XP on a pair of copies not feel worse than spending 1 XP on 2 copies of Axe.

Tl;dr: Runic Axe is great, impactful, and incredibly flexible. Everything that makes it a worthwhile inclusion as a card also forces power creep into future 1 or 2 XP Guardian weapons to be worth including in any deck. It's also hard to nerf, and the weakest thing about it is that it takes 2 hands.

I think the fact runic axe recharges and can't be sped up easily by guardians is a decent enough draw back, at the low xp costs if you don't build a deck with some supportive damage boosters/events it can really struggle if you get a few enemies in a row. that enough of a difference between it and say hungering blade. — Zerogrim · 262
It's also unique, so no double bandolier. — MrGoldbee · 1314
It's a +1/+1 weapon with 1 charge a turn until you get 3 or 4 xp into it, or a +3/+0 weapon, or +1/+0 weapon with heal/card draw/clue. And you have to pick when you spend the xp. This thing at low levels is a worse machete. — jaunt · 15
@jaunt but a better .45 — Nenananas · 222

A little bit of interaction gotchas of □□□ Ancient Power and □□□□ Scriptweaver to note. Scriptweaver says different and Ancient Power says same. They are not against each other and can take effect at the same time. For example if you have both customs :

  • You cannot spend 1 charge and choose the damage twice to get +2 damage since Scriptweaver prevents it, even though Ancient Power allows it.
  • You can spend 2 charges to get (+1 damage and +2 ) + (+1 damage and +2 ) since Ancient Power allows it.

Also you may think □ Inscription of the Hunt can "walk in and fight" similar to Duke's move-and-Investigate but it is different. You need to perform Fight to something at your location, only then you get to decide between moving or engaging using the charge. (EDIT: See comments)

5argon · 3181
you spend the charge before the attack, hunt triggers before the fight does. — Zerogrim · 262
But can you declare an illegal fight that, after spending a charge and moving, becomes legal? — jaunt · 15
If you compare it with weapons and events who allow you to target enemies at connecting locations like the tabooed Springfield, the enchanted bow and marksmanship, it seems to be legal to initiate the action if the effect create a legal scenario. — Tharzax · 1
It's also comparable to abilities like fin — NarkasisBroon · 10
Abilities like fence. Fence makes a card you are playing fast, but that means you declare an illegal intent to play a non fast card during a player window, and then react to that illegal declaration to trigger fence, and make it legal. — NarkasisBroon · 10
It's similar as Spectral Razor. I think it is legal target if we can attack after we resolve the effect of the Hunt. — elkeinkrad · 401
Alright, I had asked the community Discord and it seems like you actually would be able to walk-and-Fight by initiating Fight to nothing. (Also otherwise it doesn't really feel like "hunting") I thought it was only meant to be combined with Fury to drag to more targets. Striking out that part of the review now. — 5argon · 3181