At level 0
This card is great right from the bat at level 0. It's basically 1 action for 1 card in your deck and 1 resource. You will have the opportunity to play both copies almost every game as most scenario has at least 2 agendas and 2 acts ! And if it is not the case, Rogues tend to oversucceed anyway... To trigger this "play condition", you can play Winifred, Lockpicks or events thats add to of your skills together like Breaking and Entering, Slip Away, etc.
Honed Instinct is nice to :
- add more action to your ridiculous 5-8 actions turn in some Rogues (and maybe play Pay Day if you played it during your turn by oversucceeding).
- react to a bad "advance the Agenda" (or "advance the Act", like in TCU...) by evading the monster you now have to generate engaged with you !
- simply do more to win the scenario more quickly.
The main drawback of this card is that you don't want to have it in your opening hand (at least if you can't oversucceed on your turn 1) but you don't want to draw it too late either. So it might end up as a dead draw for sometimes. For this reason I think the more card draw you have in your deck, the better Honed Instinct is (like most cards, yes I know...).
It changes a bit when you unlock new ways to use this card obviously.
What upgrade(s) to take ?
- As a general rule, you should have at least 1 "play condition" for this card that you can hope to do almost every turn, or at least half of your turns. If you can easily oversucceed by 3, don't take any upgrade that adds new play condition. If you can't, find 1 that corresponds to your deck and/or campaign. You shouldn't take more than 1 of those "play condition" upgrades except if you have too much xp.
1 □ Reflex Response. Add the following play condition: "- You take damage or horror."
- Good if you are a Rogue with 1 or if you play a heavy damage and/or horror campaign (Carcosa, Innsmouth, TSK maybe considering all the healing ?) but not TFA as it gives you damage if you fail tests which you will usually less fail as a Rogue.
- You could make it very reliable with cards like Smoking Pipe, Painkillers, Forbidden Knowledge, etc.
2 □ Situational Awareness. Add the following play condition: "- A location enters play or is revealed."
- Overall not so great, there are scenarios with very few locations or where you don't really control when a location enters play or is revealed. If you know the scenario by heart it's nice but otherwise I think the other play conditions are easier.
- Might be good in EoTE though with that many locations !
3 □ Killer Instinct. Add the following play condition: "- An enemy engages you."
- The best one for a fighter/evader ! Just evade the enemy and deal with it when it reengages you or let a Hunter enemy catch up with you just to kill him (in 1 action though) before he attacks you.
- Also good when you draw an enemy card in the Mythos phase, which is quite frequent.
- Tony Morgan will love that.
4 □ Gut Reaction. Add the following play condition: "- A treachery enters your threat area."
- Situational... Might be okay in Carcosa (if I remember correctly) and mainly in TFA.
- Might also be useful if your weakness is an enemy (or can be solved in only 1 action) ! (Trish's Shadow Agents, Tony's Quarry, Kymani's Agent Fletcher)
5 □ Muscle Memory. Add the following play condition: "- You play an asset."
- Very good if you have an asset heavy deck. Just play something and use it immediately !
- This is the most reliable of the play conditions (with 1. Reflex Response + Smoking Pipe but it needs more cards).
6 □□ Sharpened Talent. During the action granted by Honed Instinct, you get +2 to each of your skills.
- Nice if you have a specific plan with your extra action (a fighter waiting for an enemy to appear, a cluever that reveals a location and immediately investigate).
- You become less flexible because it forces you to wait for an opportunity to make a test with your action but you're better at it and you generally do not take extra action just to draw a card so I guess it's pretty good !
7 □□□ Impulse Control. You may include up to three copies of Honed Instinct in your deck. Honed Instinct gets -1 cost.
- The basic card is good so this is gooder ! And free-er ! For 1xp per card :o
- A solid "play condition" is mandatory here, so most of the time this upgrade will actually be 4xp.
8 □□□□□ Force of Habit. When you play Honed Instinct, you may take 2 actions instead of 1 (one at a time). Then, remove it from the game.
- Unless you can easily cycle your deck completely twice in a game (very possible in Rogues but you need to work for it), this upgrade gives you twice as many actions. That changes a lot of things ! Now you can fight twice the enemy engaged with you (to manage those 3-health enemies), you can play a weapon then kill that cultist in time, you can take almost a turn when the agenda/act advances, giving you a lot of tempo in those sometimes critical moments, you can engage and evade an enemy on your friend, etc.
"I wanted to play Ursula... :/" : 2. Situational Awareness + 6. Sharpened Talent => 3xp Twice per game, enter a new location and Investigate with a +2. It's not really worth 3xp but hey, you should have played that Ursula deck !
"Everything is a Lupara !" : 5. Muscle Memory + 6. Sharpened Talent (+ 8. Force of Habit) => 3/8xp Play any gun/weapon, play Honed Instinct, fight twice with a +2 , hopefully kill the enemy ^^' It could be nice with the Colt Vest Pocket (0) or (2) to empty all 5 ammo in 1 turn. Also nice with Tony Morgan or Dirty Fighting (you would need a Fast weapon to not take an AoO though). Note, that it is viable with inly 3xp but the 8xp is more like a Lupara, that's all :)
"How many actions do you want ? Yes." : 7. Impulse Control + 8. Force of Habit (+ 1/2/3/4/5 ?) => 8/9xp For roughly 3xp per card you can get 6 extra actions over the course of every scenario by just doing what you would already be doing (because you bought the correct play condition for your deck/campaign). This is obviously only relevant if you have good enough Skills or boosts to your skills to pass that many tests every turn but still ! (For this reason, I feel like Preston would fall a bit short on gas (or money !) with 5 actions, same for Jenny (without the 8/8/8/8 build ^^) or investigators that relies on assets that exhaust (Lockpicks, Mauser C96, etc.)
I like this card. I think it's better for a fighter or flex than for a cluever as you might have guessed with the examples I gave. That's because, bursts of actions are generally more useful when there is an emergency like an enemy or two to kill ! But you can easily do the same thing with Investigate actions, it's just a bit too overpriced in xp for that in my opinion.
Bonus idea : Put Honed Instinct in a Sefina deck with 3. Killer Instinct + 7. Impulse Control (4xp, level 2) to play up to 6 copies of Honed Instinct per deck-cycle and nuke enemies with your spells when they approch you !