My Solo Expert Guide - Stella and a Package to the Nexus

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The Arkham Expert Guide: Solo Calvin, King in Red God Mode 143 104 35 1.0
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Lord Triloth · 746

A strange request

It had been a strange job, her mentor, the letter-writer, had given her.
By far not the strangest she had ever done, but still up there.
The anonymous writer had given her the task to bring a 'device of monumental importance', she would find if she participated in an expedition into the Mexican Jungle, and bring it into a place called 'the centre of the earth' or simply 'the nexus'.
To make things even stranger she received a call from her good friend Harlan Earlstone, who invited her to join the said expedition.

Gripped by a strange feeling she went up to her loft and found a mysterious pendant. It couldn't be an incident that she found this thing right know, so she decided to take that with her.

The idea

After reading NextLevelPlay's awesome Expert Guide with Solo Calvin through Carcosa, I felt inspired to do something similar with another campaign and another investigator.
I must admit I started with expert play not long ago, even though the decks I usually built were probably suitable for that difficulty level, and solo adds even another layer of difficulty on top of that.

I will explain the deck and upgrade path in detail and even discuss the scenarios and your prep for the specific challenges they offer. So be aware of spoiler!

Why Stella?

Enemy Management: Boosted evasion + .18 Derringer (later Chainsaw).
Clueing: Recurring Old Keyring and "Look what I found!" + Granny Orne and other succeed tricks.
Soak/Healing: Good soak through allies and Charisma and high starting Damage/Horror values. Occasional healing through her .
Card/Resource Engine: The almighty Drawing Thin + Rabbit's Foot and Grisly Totem(3)/Take Heart-combo.
Encounter Protection: 4 with Granny Orne(3) and an occasional commit on A Test of Will(0)

Slots

1st Hand: Old Keyring, later Chainsaw.
2nd Hand: .18 Derringer, later Chainsaw.
Accessory: Rabbit's Foot, later Relic Hunter and Grisly Totem(3).
Body: Leather Coat, later ever upgraded or removed.
Ally: Peter Sylvestre, later Granny Orne(3) and potential story allies, maybe later also Jessica Hyde.

Mulligan

Keep card draw like Rabbit's Foot and MVP's like Granny Orne(3).
Early clueing can also be nice and make sure that you have something to deal with a drawn enemy.
Neither Sun nor Snakes is normally also worth keeping.

Stella is generally quite a powerhouse in solo, because of her flexibility in evasion, encounter protection and action compression, but I think she has an edge on most investigators when you're talking about expert, because of her willingness to fail tests.
Survivors have allot of tech to profit from failing test and 'auto succeeding' with modified test difficulty and reactive boosts. Plus Stella with her outstanding signature can get high up on test and protect herself from the mythos, because it's in a way just a cancel for any test-based treachery, and some annoying test on the backsides of agendas and acts.
Her ability is also probably one of the best in the game, even though it means mostly 'draw a card' in early campaign. On the baseline it means that you get another spin on a test you failed, but on a failed Track Shoes or with Totem/Take Heart it can mean a 4-action-turn plus card draw.
Talking about TFA specifically, she, in my opinion, brings allot of stats and tech the jungle requires from you. Allot of actions, high evasion and decent encounter protection are definitely things it needs you to have, especially in expert.

Prologue

The prologue evolves mainly around supplies.
In solo you only have 10 points, so you take:

  • Binoculars, to snatch 2 extra exp in the first interlude
  • At least a Medicine, to get rid of poison as quickly as possible and for the 3rd scenario
  • Torches and the Pendant to give you better chances at the important scenarios
  • 1x or 2x Provisions, not necessarily needed, but good to have

Scenario 1 and Interlude

Untamed Wilds is quite rough start for a campaign in general. Your goal here is to get at least 4xp and, if possible, don't suffer any trauma, because there's a resign ability and it doesn't punish you for losing.

The starting exploration deck has 2 VP locations you should aim to get your clues from.
Your plan for Ichtaca is parley, but keep in mind that she spawns directly on you. You only need to succeed the test once, so wait until you have Will to Survive(0) in your hand and something that can boost your .
Then another ruins shouldn't be that hard.

Even though your probably will get poisoned anyway, it's great keep a signature card in your mulligan for the test on the back of the first agenda.

The Interlude will give you a single point of trauma, that should be mental, because TFA generally is more damage heavy, and 2xp. Ideally you should be at 6-9 xp at this point which is enough for 1x Drawing Thin and 1-2x Granny Orne(3), replacing Peter Sylvestre and Emergency Cache.

Scenario 2

This scenario is not a particularly hard one, and it isn't even that important to win, even though it can kill you if things go really side ways. In the worst case scenario you can blow up the whole thing, suffering 10 Vengeance.

The first part of this scenario is quite slow and doesn't require much of you, so you should be able to breeze through that. Try to get the exp on any location you can get.
The chamber is also not hard to counter with Old Keyring and a "Look what I found!".
At some point the Harbinger should show up, but she only needs to be evaded/attacked twice. For her you have Stunning Blow that you should get rid of her in a single action. If your playing return, try to get as much damage on her, as possible to make future scenarios easier.
The final part is just a rase to the exit. Four moves a turn (1x through Track Shoes, if you succeed or fail) should be making you move at a fast enough pace and make you ignore enemies well enough.

You should make it out with 2-4 exp, this should buy you a second Granny Orne(3) or a Jessica Hyde and a Charisma to get a bit more soak.

Scenario 3 and Interlude III

Thread of Fate is still probably one of the best scenarios in the game, due to its pure flexibility in different outcomes and ways to play it.
Up front it makes you choose between letting Ichtaca go or not. I find the Ichtaca path to generally be better, due to just a much more powerful reward, even though it's harder to achieve. You could give the relic to Alejandro as well, to get another sure VP location, but it also adds a nasty extra token. Same with going to the police or not, you want to go to them, to get more VP locations. Then, if you're playing return, try finding the root of the problem (nice pun, MJ). If you got an extra medicine in the prologue, you can use it here to get the two clues and a VP testlessly.

With all these choices you will have quite a big map, so Track Shoes will definitely help allot. Prioritize the Ichtaca Thread and the Relic one, as well as VP locations. Namely Curiositie Shoppe, Northside and Miskatonic University, as well as the Arkham Police Station and The Overgrown Estate.
The Harbinger of Valusia may pop up in the return version, so be ready for him, but he will probably receive the same treatment, as in Ruins of Etzli and give you more damage on him.
For the test on Bystanders you can always use Will to Survive(0) to guarantee succees and only a one-time cost, because they all only need to be parleyed once.
Remember that both Downtown and Easttown have resource abilities, if you should get into problems. Keep in mind not to finish an act before the agenda flips, because it's just an unnecessary tempo hit and resign if you come close to getting trauma.

If everything goes right you should end up with Relic of Ages, Ichtaca, Expedition Journal and maybe even more. All great cards. You should end up with up to 6 normal exp, which should be enough for at least a Charisma and maybe one or two Jessica Hyde, if not already in your deck, replacing Leather Coat(0). If things went particularly well Grisly Totem(3) and True Survivor are great options.
At resupply you should be taking more medicine (two would be good), provisions, a pocketknife, if you fail in Boundary, and 1-2 gasoline to keep your mulligan, even though it's not that important in Heart of the Elders, because you can choose a card in play to begin with.
Things went so well for me that I could even afford to heal a trauma, but poison should be healed for sure.

Scenario 4

Boundary Beyond can really be quite a ride, and I'm glad it's not a failing point in the campaign. You should be able to Mulligan normally and if you're lucky you even start with extra resources.
In return this scenario becomes less predicable, but easier. And that's also the version I played in my run.

Your goal here is to get 3 paths, to restore Ichtaca, but wait to explore until you have at least a Neither Rain nor Snow in hand, so that you don't suffer an additional weakness. I'd say you start in right starting location and then move to the Metropolitan Cathedral, because that's the easiest to do for you.
Keep in mind that the location can punish you, if they come in play. Most importantly Templo Mayor spawning the snake and Lake Xochimilco taking your actions.

In my run I managed to get all six paths and kill Padma Amrita, so things went really well for me, but be happy with 3 and restoring Ichtaca's faith. Your upgrades at this point should be Relic Hunter, Grisly Totem(3) and True Survivor. All great cards that make the deck more efficient.

Scenario 5

On to the baddest scenario in the game, after The Devourer Below. It's a boring, but not very hard double scenario that is more time-consuming then hard.

Not much tech to do here, just try to get as much exp as possible, and not too much trauma or Vengeance.
Harbinger of Valusia comes out in the second part. It's not really world-ending if you lose this scenario so prioritize putting damage on her, and maybe even killing her. I know she gives you more Vengeance, but she's also one of the reasons you shouldn't stack too much on it, so I think it's reasonable.

For the next scenario you should definitely get the upgrades from the last section.

Scenario 6

This is the big failing point of the campaign. One of the only scenarios that can actually end the whole campaign, but you're more than ready for it.
The mechanical part is that you become into a new body that lowers your stats to a 2222 and doubles all your skills. Luckily you already have three 3-icon skill cards that bring you to an eight which is already enough for most tests.
A big thing you lose is your extra action, but the scenario is quite long in itself and you'll be able to trigger all your fail-by tech on the Track Shoes test.
At this point you should also have both Grisly Totem(3), which can add another icon to a card before you double them, and True Survivor to recur all your skill cards.

I consider that you start with resisting captivity, because having a quite beefy enemy out of the deck at the start of the scenario is normally better then drawing cards at the beginning of the scenario and then dealing with the Yithian Observer later on.
The first agenda prohibits you from playing any item assets, which isn't that bad in itself, because this deck doesn't need much item assets, but I'd still choose the draw cards option on Offer of Power to make it pass quicker. While waiting for that to pass you can try to get the other VP-Chamber and advancing that agenda.
Try to get the The Custodian as quickly as possible and, after you advance the first act, I personally move clockwise to around the map, but it varies where the The Custodian spawns.
Use Chainsaw and evasion to handle enemies and try to get the clues with fail-by, Old Keyring and commiting.
At some point the second agenda should advance and remove the restrictions to your hand size. With card draw from Rabbit's Foot, Take Heart and The Custodian you should be able to keep enough icons in your hand to pass the tests for the tasks reliably, but you also have Will to Survive(0) to make it a sure thing.
Your movement should be good, through Track Shoes and the ability on Halls of Pnakotus.
With all your card draw it also shouldn't be that hard to get two ten cards at the end, to win this scenario.

My play through went very well I got a total of 13 exp, with all 6 tasks completed. I even managed to clear the Towers of Pnakotus. Now you should upgrade into Chainsaw for sure and then maybe into an additional Charisma and upgraded Will to Survive(3). I also took a Oops!(2), which you also should if you plan on killing Yig.

Scenario 7

Depths of Yoth is a great scenario in all manners. It's tense, quite enemy heavy, it can kill you, it has great thematic value and of course there's the big boss.
It's not particularly hard with this deck though. You can quickly rid yourself from most enemies with Chainsaw. Five action turns with Track Shoes and Expedition Journal should make you progress quite rapidly through the depths.

If you get lucky you will even be able to kill Yig. He has 12 health in solo and Chainsaw does 9 for sure. So, you'll need Live and Learn, putting another supply on your saw, Oops!(2) or a second copy in hand and token luck to be able to kill him. With the boost of the Saw your on a 5, a seven with Ichtaca and Granny Orne to help with failures. But you can also just pop Will to Survive(3) and fail a test with Drawing Thin and then use Live and Learn to kill him.

It shouldn't be much of a problem to get lower than depth 1, and more than 2 should also be possible. If things go really sideways you can also just tank the trauma. At the end you should end up with about 5 exp, to a maximum of 11. For the final scenario I'd choose to upgrade into Lucky!(3) for the relic test, if you haven't already got Will to Survive(3). All spear exp can flow into "Look what I found!"(2) and Unexpected Courage(2).

Scenario 8

This is what it all comes down to. The final scenario that decides everything.
If you've come to this point you've already managed to beat the of TFA in expert and solo, so you should be proud of yourself already.
This scenario can be quite random, because your going for the cultist-route and all the doom acceleration. Don't bother too much with unnecessary VP and clues, only get the amount you need. And don't fret too much taking horror from Nexus of N'kai to gain on pace.
Because the braziers should be lit, you should get an okay starting hand. With that the first act can be done in a turn or two, because of your journal. Getting too the A Pocket in Time can be is the most random part of the scenario in my opinion, because it's such a marginal chance to draw it and through not drawing it suffering allot of Horror.
Don't hesitate to use A Test of Will(0) and Neither Rain nor Snow as cancels on things like Shattered Ages and Wracked by Time.
Once you've found the A Pocket in Time, I would try to get a few locations cleared with recurrable +3 before getting good ol' Alejandro Vela out. He, btw, can be killed quite easily with Chainsaw + Live and Learn.
Then you only need to clear two location and pass a 3 test twice, which shouldn't be very hard. Be aware of flying polyps, two annoying return-to locations and a great effect on Valusia and pass the test with Will to Survive(3) and Lucky!(3).

I personally don't care about a ? on the win, when you restore Pnakotus, but mileage my vary here. Try that when you feel desperate and are swarmed by Cultists.

If you manage this you win!

Thematical implication

Like NextLevelPlay I will also try to thematically imply Stella into the events of this campaign.

Like hinted in the first paragraph, in my play through I choose that Stella is the letter-carrier she is, even though she sometimes receives letters from a mysterious person that gives her certain 'jobs'.
This time it was picking up the relic in the ruin and delivering it to a place called 'the Nexus of N'kai'. In her journey she notices that her real task would be to stop the destruction of time itself through the Yithians. She forges a weird bond with Ichtaca, while restoring her faith in humanity through a common enemy: the Yithians.
In Boundary Beyond Ichtaca glimpses the future in which the serpents slowly replace humanity with their kind and she tells it to Stella, who convinces her to also turn away from her father. Ichtaca also tells her that she was sent to the Etzli by Yig to eventually steal the relic, while finding that she couldn't because of a magical protection. She says, that it was also she that wrote her the letter to Stella to help her get the relic.
Filled with trust in each other the continue directly to the nexus. They confront Yig in the depths and seem to kill him or severly wound him.
They get caught by surprise by Alejandro, and are transported to Pnakotus. That's also where they find out why the Yithians can't use a relic from their own anymore. As all hope of return is lost Stella remembers the pendant she took with her at the start. It glooms with strange light, engulfs them and sends them back to their time. Finding Alejandro missing and their bodies intact Together the manage to activate the relic and close the rift in time that the Yithians caused. In the heat of the events Stella also meets an alternate version of herself that used the relic to place the pendant in her loft, and also the one to drive of altered Alejandro form their bodies to enable a safe return.
At the end, when everything collapsed around them they both stand in the dark empty tunnels beneath the earth, where Stella finds another letter form the mysterious writer ...

And that's were another great story ends.

Thanks allot for reading another product of my mad fantasies. In that sense, I hope you enjoyed doing so and I would be happy to read any feedback in the comments.

2 comments

Dec 09, 2020 ilksvorbern · 1

I CANNOT WAIT to try this. Thank you so much for this write up. Going to have a look at how I can tweak the XP requirements as I don't play with the taboo list currently.

Dec 09, 2020 Lord Triloth · 746

Thanks for the positive feedback. Means much to me.

That's somewhere I can help you. If you don't play Taboo I'd just replace Emergency Cache with a Drawing Thin. And maybe a second one replacing any other card.

You definitely need that card, especially in lower difficulties, to reliably fail tests.