To Carcosa and Back - Solo Expert TPTC [Curtain Call]

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sgtmook 596

Warning: Massive spoilers for The Path to Carcosa campaign follows

This commentary assumes that the player is familiar with all story elements of the campaign. This series of decks use 2 core sets, The Dunwich Legacy cycle, and The Path to Carcosa cycle.

This series of decks is designed for playing The Path to Carcosa campaign solo on Expert difficulty. This deck focuses on the first scenario, Curtain Call.

==================== [Introduction] ====================

It is my opinion that Curtain Call is the most difficult scenario in The Path to Carcosa, only the Doubt version of Dim Carcosa even comes close. With that in mind, let's first examine what makes this scenario difficult:

1, Very strong and persistent enemies:

Perhaps the centerpiece of this entire scenario is the Royal Emissary, a 4 4 health enemy with retaliate is difficult to deal with even by well equipped Guardians. Roland Banks, with Beat Cop and Machete only has a 9 out of 17 chance of hitting (6 out of 17 if he has 3 or more horror). The retaliate makes sure you can't just keep trying until you luck out.

The investigators overspecialized in combat will also find themselves troubled by Poltergeist, which are difficult to evade, nigh impossible to defeat by Guardians, and will end a Guardian very quickly through horror.

2, Attrition by horror:

Along with the Poltergeist, there are several encounter cards that attack a player's sanity. As well, even the most combat heavy investigators will be tempted to leave the Royal Emissary for several turns before trying to defeat it, but every turn the Royal Emissary stays alive, it is almost guaranteed to deal 1 horror to the investigator. Then, in the 3rd act of the scenario, any , , or at a location already with horror will deal 1 horror.

3, The catch-22 of specialization:

Which finally brings us to the biggest deckbuilding challenge of this scenario. If an investigator specializes towards investigation and passing the scenario as fast as possible, they are all but doomed by the Royal Emissary. Even a Fanatic is a major obstacle to dedicated seekers, who blocks the path and denies access to a clue. If an investigator is specialized towards combat, the attrition of horror and repeated encounters with the Royal Emissary will eventually wear them down.

===================== [Our Strategy] ====================

There are 2 ways to approach the above challenge.

The first is to finish the scenario so fast that the Royal Emissary does not become an issue. This approach affords you at most 12 rounds and 36 actions, during which you must gather 3 clues and investigate The Man in the Pallid Mask twice. While that is feasible with a dedicated seeker, such as Rex Murphy or Daisy Walker, it is vulnerable to an unlucky enemy draw. Even a Swarm of Rats coming out of Trap Room will take significant resources to overcome. As well, at the end of the scenario, you are unlikely to walk away with much XP.

The second, used by this deck, is to gear towards easily surviving the scenario's encounters and repeatedly defeating the Royal Emissary, then slowly build up the advantage required to advance the scenario's acts. The way we do this is to ensure we always have 2 Fight or Flight available when we we encounter the Royal Emissary, and enough horror on us so that any combat or Backstab checks we make against it are almost guaranteed success. To avoid the horror it deals every enemy phase, we will aim to defeat it on the turn it spawns, every time it spawns.

====================== [The Deck] =====================

First, let us put in the cards central to our strategy above:

2x Fight or Flight

2x Backstab

Of course, to make sure we always have these cards available when the Royal Emissary spawns, we will have to take advantage of Wendy's Amulet and drawing through our deck. This way, whenever we play these cards, they go to the bottom of our deck, which is never more than a few draws away since we already drew through the rest of the cards.

The draw-out plan has one restriction, and that is any tools we'd like to have available in the long game must be events. To that end, we will add several events that help us advance the acts once we can reliably deal with the Royal Emissary:

2x Lucky! are useful for investigations as they let us investigate at a virtual 7 . It also helps in beating Rotting Remains and Frozen in Fear checks.

1x "Look what I found!" guarantees clues in 1 and 2 shroud locations, but only 1 copy since Lucky! should work well enough to pick up clues in most cases and are far more versatile.

We will then add some events that make our lives easier in general:

2x Emergency Cache: While this deck typically won't run out of resources in the late game thanks to Lone Wolf, Emergency Cache helps us set up in the early game. Plus, for those rare occasions where you do run out of resources, you'll be glad you have access to these.

1x Waylay has 3 targets, the Agent of the King becomes trivial with Fight or Flight plus Waylay, and the 2 Poltergeists become manageable.

1x Elusive is a way to let us spend resources to save actions most of the time, but also gets us out of engagement with enemies if we don't have evasion or combat available.

So with these events, we can stabilize in the late game once we draw through the rest of our deck. But we still have a problem: the cost of playing so many events is very high. To combat that, we add two of Rogue's most powerful incremental advantage engines:

2x Leo De Luca: Whether it is an extra resource or card draw every turn, or a vital extra action that lets you defeat the last enemy engaged with you, Leo De Luca has incredible value when we expect the game to last very long. We will often hold onto the second copy as a 2 health 2 sanity soak in the late game.

2x Lone Wolf: Of course, we only ever need one, so the second can be discarded or committed without consequences. Ultimately, the extra 1 resource per turn is what lets us play our expensive events while still have actions left over to advance the acts once we stabilize.

With the above events and assets, we are set for the late game. But, even if you do nothing but drawing cards and handling what the encounter deck throws at you, it is hard to draw out before the Royal Emissary shows up for the first time and demand an answer. So, we should be ready to defeat it at least once before we draw out:

2x Double or Nothing and 2x Baseball Bat are in the deck for this reason. An attack with Baseball Bat, Double or Nothing, and a liberal amount of skills committed is the easiest one shot way of defeating Royal Emissary.

2x Overpower, 2x Unexpected Courage, and 2x Quick Thinking are the skills we liberally commit to the test above. In a deck focused on drawing out, Overpower is a free include - doubly so with Double or Nothing. Unexpected Courage is noted for its versatility, and Quick Thinking's extra action is at least as good as a card draw if you get lucky.

Finally, we have a few cards that help us survive other encounters throughout the game:

1x Guts to help against Rotting Remains and Frozen in Fear.

2x Manual Dexterity are pretty much free includes, great for evading a non-hunter enemy in a dead end location.

2x Fine Clothes are +1 sanity by far most of the time. Rarely you will use it to parley a Poltergeist. As a bonus, it will be useful in the next scenario.

===================== [Curtain Call] ====================

Playing through Curtain Call with this deck can be seen as 3 distinct stages - Drawing out, picking up clues, and chasing the Stranger. Here we will briefly go through common play patterns in each stage.

Drawing Out:

The early game is your most vulnerable stage. To that end, we will mulligan for cards that help us survive this stage and cards that minimize the duration of this stage.

Leo De Luca is always good to see in the opening hand. Having him out turn 1 lets us go through our deck faster and draw more cards that help us survive.

Elusive lets us get out of pretty much any sticky situation.

Baseball Bat or Backstab gives us a way to deal with smaller enemies, and are also required for killing Royal Emissary for the first time.

Starting in the first turn, we should take care to find ourselves in a dead end location whenever possible. That is to say, one of the lobby doorways or the backstage doorways or Balcony. This is because some of the most difficult to deal with encounter cards are easily avoided if you leave them where they spawn - such as Poltergeist, Spirit's Torment, and Fanatic.

It also helps to have multiple dead-end locations revealed with clues so that Fanatics can spawn in out-of-the-way locations while clearing a Victory 1 for us.

Usually, my first turn is playing an asset, then moving into one of the Lobby doorways. If the asset is Leo De Luca, you will have to take a resource as your first action, but Leo's extra action lets you go to the Lobby doorway regardless. The reason we prefer Lobby doorway is the Backstage doorway location Trap Room spawns a Swarm of Rats that we don't want to deal with in the early game. The reason we do not go to the Balcony is because we expect our first location to be clogged with enemies, and we want to keep the Balcony clear since it is easier to investigate than most.

Then, we draw cards at every available opportunity, with the exception of playing down our Wendy's Amulet, Leo De Luca, or Lone Wolf. We are also playing around Abandoned and Alone, which threatens to remove many of our vital events from the game. To that end, we will want to keep our events in hand until we draw Abandoned and Alone, or until we have Wendy's Amulet in play so we can hide them at the bottom of our deck.

Picking Up Clues:

After we draw out and stabilize, it helps to start thinking of the pace of the game as cycles. Each cycle representing one defeat of the Royal Emissary. To keep on top of the cycles without taking horror, we want to defeat the Royal Emissary the turn it spawns every cycle. That usually means returning to the Theatre at the end of every cycle. Unfortunately, this leaves us precious little time each cycle to advance the acts.

As far as investigation goes, we want to prioritize investigating locations with Victory 1 but without a Fanatic to maximize XP. If we are lucky, the Fanatics were drawn after we've revealed high shroud locations and have cleared those locations for us. Even if they have not, if we have both Lucky! available, it shouldn't take more than a few checks to fail within the range of succeeding by playing both Lucky!'s. We can also trivially defeat Fanatics to rob them of their clues (using Fight or Flight) if we must. It is usually unwise to go for more than 1 clue per cycle - it is absolutely vital to have the resources and cards to defeat the Royal Emissary when the next cycle begins.

If you find yourself just an action or two short to get back to the Theatre at the end of a cycle, Elusive will help you pick up the slack and welcome the Royal Emissary when it spawns.

Dissonant Voices deserves mention as a particularly devastating encounter card at this stage of the game. Unless you see both copies in the encounter discard pile, you should always have a backup plan in case you cannot play any events next round (thereby making defeating the Royal Emissary nearly impossible).

This usually means keeping Backstabs and Waylay in hand to commit to an evade check, then running away from the Royal Emissary. As well, keep at least 1 card at the bottom of your deck after your upkeep step, so you are't compelled to reshuffle your deck on the next upkeep if you cannot put an event to the bottom. If you are forced to reshuffle your deck, you will likely lose the scenario.

Once we have collected all 3 required clues, there is usually no reason to hold onto the clues and we can spend them as soon as possible.

Chasing the Stranger:

Ideally, we want to finish this stage of the scenario in one cycle, and we definitely want to end the scenario with Royal Emissary in the victory display. The play pattern for this stage is otherwise simple:

Right after defeating the Royal Emissary, we want to move to the location of The Man in the Pallid Mask and investigate it for its clue if it's a victory location.

In the second turn of the cycle, if we are at a low shroud location, we can investigate the location with The Man in the Pallid Mask's ability. Otherwise, we can engage and Backstab with Fight or Flight. In either case, we can Elusive to the Lobby in the first player window of the skill check and end up at the Lobby before The Man in the Pallid Mask gets there. We can then engage and Backstab again.

If we are lucky, this lets us resign on the 3rd turn of the cycle. If we are not, we should be able to defeat the Royal Emissary again before leaving, but beware of the location effects and , , or that can force horror on us. Luckily, all the location effects are based on , which we are naturally competent at and can boost with Fight or Flight.

==================== [The Future] ====================

As for what to do once we resign, it depends on if you "stole from the box office". Wendy wants to enter Dim Carcosa with more Conviction than Doubt, but there are plenty of opportunities to gain Conviction later in the campaign, and we would really rather not wound up with an extra Paranoia down the line.

That is to say, if you "stole from the box office", don't go to the police. Otherwise, go to the police.

If all goes well, you should be ending the scenario with a staggering 7 xp! 1 from Agent of the King, 2 from Royal Emissary, and hopefully at least 4 locations. Remember that a Victory location cleared by a Fanatic is still cleared. This will leave us well prepared for the next scenario.

In my tests at the time of writing, the last 6 games of Curtain Call with this build won with 7xp in 5 out of 6 times. The one time Wendy was defeated was due to an unlikely number of enemies drawn in the first few turns of the game.

~ Part 2: The Last King ~


Apr 16, 2018 CaiusDrewart 862

This is great! I really like the thought here. Using Fight or Flight in this way is a great idea.

I was trying to do this scenario with Wendy + Zoey on Expert and having some similar thoughts to yours. It's a really brutal scenario.

Can you really take out the Royal Emissary with Double or Nothing + Baseball Bat? The "limit 1 per test" on Overpower and Unexpected Courage would seem to make that very difficult. Even with one of each and 2 additional icons committed, Wendy is still at only +2. Unless she has two Lucky!'s available, I don't like those odds even with her redraw.

My other question is how often Wendy is dying from horror damage in your tests. There are 3x Rotting Remains in the encounter deck, Abandoned and Alone in your deck, a bunch more horror automatically inflicted by the scenario, and only 2 Leos and 2 Fine Clothes to soak horror for her. Has that not been an issue?

I'm also a little surprised at the omission of Flashlight. I usually see this as a must for Wendy Expert.

Apr 16, 2018 sgtmook 596

You are correct that baseball bat + double or nothing is a difficult check to pass with only skills. In my tests, it is typically supplemented with one or two Luckies and Fight or Flights. Fight or flight is not usually at its full power when you encounter the Royal Emmisary for the first time, so defeating it in one check is preferred over two attacks. At this point in the game, we expect to be more than half way through our deck, so having some of those events is not difficult.

Soaking horror has been surprisingly easy. By the late game, you'll almost always have double Lucky for rotting remains, and as long as you kill the Royal Emmisary the turn it spawns every time, nothing else really deals horror in this scenario. The Poltergeists and Agent of the King can be evaded and killed, and Black Stars Rise will almost always be put on Ancient Evils mode.

I did not find flashlight useful for this scenario. Even with a flashlight, you won't be easily investigating 3+ shroud locations, and guaranteeing successes in 2- locations can be done with Look What I Found. While flashlight is more resource efficient, you pay for that efficiency with a hand slot and not being able to recur it at the end.

Thanks for the discussion. Great to hear about another player's perspective on this scenario. I'm currently developing the deck for The Last King, and I expect it to be much easier.