|Card draw simulator|
Odds: 0% – 0% – 0% more
|None. Self-made deck here.|
I tend to gravitate towards Survivors as my default investigator choice, and to be fair the survivors before The Forgotten Age came out have been pretty solid options. However, Calvin Wright comes with a bit of head scratching. With zeros on all skills he’s a tough one to get to grips with. Yes, his ability does allow him to power up as you take damage and horror, but that in no way means that he’s secretly strong. You have to basically take 6 total damage and/or horror to get to even the basic starting stats of most other investigators. He is certainly one of the weaker investigators, but that’s not to say he is unplayable.
Having looked at some of the decks online and seeing what many people are suggesting for him, I think much of the problem is that people seem to be approaching him from the same point of view as any other investigator, but he needs a very different build and different approach to building a deck for him. I even think there is a massive difference between how you build the deck for him when you are playing him (true) solo, or as part of a team of investigators. This deck is one I have built for solo play.
I've done an awful lot of testing with Calvin now, having run him through the Forgotten Age deluxe box scenarios (all that is available at the time of writing this), Night of the Zealot several times, and have just started Dunwich to see how he copes with and extended campaign (I'll report back with XP builds when I've got fully through).
Firstly, any game you are going to play with Calvin is going to be a Fly-By-The-Seat-Of-Your-Pants experience. To have a good chance of passing any test you need to be taking damage and horror, but at only 6 of each, you’re going to be playing a lot of the game at the brink of death’s door. As a result Calvin, I believe, is not a deck you can afford to hang around with and build up lots of nice juicy set up. Instead, what I want from him is the ability to power on through regardless of whether his stats are high or low. That means skills. Lots of skills. And if you’re throwing lots of skills into each test, you’re going to need plenty of draw to make sure you keep your hand full of options.
Let’s look at the deck and how I’ve got there…
Assets: Whilst you want set up to be minimal, there are still some important considerations that set up can address.
The first consideration is weapons. As you’re playing solo you need some way of dealing with enemies, so having a weapon in hand is critical. I like to include 4 weapon cards in a deck that’s going to fight, but Calvin is limited to Survivor weapons only. That means we’re looking at Fire Axe, Baseball Bat or Gravedigger's Shovel (with a shout out to the Improvised Weapon event as another possible option). I’ve experimented with all four options and have come down on the side of Fire Axe (unsurprisingly) and Gravedigger Shovel. Baseball Bat is decent, but the fact that it takes up both hand slots and can just fail on you can really hurt, as late in the game Calvin can’t afford to take an attack of opportunity to get out a fire axe, and the ability to claim clues without taking a test that the shovel provides is fantastic early-on. Improvised Weapon, I find just doesn’t do enough, at effectively +1 combat and only +1 damage half of the time.
Second consideration is allies. A bit of extra soak is really helpful, and all the Survivor allies come with powerful abilities. I prefer the balanced 2/2 soak of Madame Labranche to Peter Sylvestre. I also feel there’s less need for the extra healing Pete provides in this deck, and whilst I won’t be taking the card draw option often, the extra resource once per turn when you’re running a fire axe Madame Labranche can provide is a nice benefit. I don’t think the Stray Cat is worth a card for just one soak and a one-off evade -- the nature of Calvin’s ability means that he will invariably be better at fighting than evading.
Then there’s the Amulet slot, which gives us two good options to think about: Rabbit's Foot and Cherished Keepsake. I think Cherished Keepsake is good for the soak, but the card draw Rabbits Foot provides, especially early-on when Calvin is likely failing tests (in the Mythos phase at least), is what gives it the edge for me.
Dark Horse is a major consideration for this deck. You’re running fire axe, so you’re likely to be down at zero resources a lot, right? True enough, but when you get down to the piloting section below you will hopefully see that the deck works by having minimal set up, and when I have included Dark Horse in this deck it has stuck around in my hand late in the game without opportunity to play it, and if you don’t draw a Fire Axe you’re never going to be able to spend enough to use it.
Finally there’s just a few more options to consider… Leather Coat, at 0 cost, is just too good to ignore, but after that you’ve got some tough choices to make. Flashlight, Newspaper and Lantern, provide some good investigation help, and Smoking Pipe and Painkillers provide you with the ability to shuffle your horror and damage around between tests so that you can maximise your ability to hit the skill tests you need to pass as and when. Of these I think Flashlight wins over Lantern and Newspaper, as the limited usage +2 is much more useful for Calvin than a constant +1. The damage option Lantern provides I don’t think is that useful. I’ve been running 1 copy each of Smoking Pipe and Pain Killers at the moment, and in the right situation they can be amazing, but there’s also been times when they’ve just stayed in my hand as they’re not providing movement of tokens in the right direction. As a result I’m opting for a pair of flashlights instead.
Events: There’s actually just not that many good level 0 survivor events when you look at them. A lot of them synergise with evasion, which, as I've previously discussed, is of limited use for Calvin. That said, Lucky! and "Look what I found!" are solidly awesome, so in go two copies of each, but that’s it. Fight or Flight might sound like a decent option, and it can help you out in a fight if you’ve only taken horror rather than damage, but a fire axe and the skill cards in the deck tend to be enough to deal with enemies. I find you can often just take attacks of opportunity if you want to power up by taking some damage anyway, so I don’t feel it does enough to warrant a place in the deck.
Of the spirit cards available, only Ward of Protection fits in a solo deck, and was in my original deck. However, I found if it turned up early on you weren't that bothered about cancelling the treachery, and if it turned up late you didn't want to take the horror. It might initially seem like it synergises well with the deck, but in practice.... not really.
Skills: Here’s where we get to the bulk of the deck. We’ve got 14 cards left in the deck, so that’s lots of room for skills. Of the survivor skills, Resourceful, "Not without a fight!" and Rise to the Occasion are very good options, so 2 copies of each are definitely going in.
Then there’s the neutral skill cards… I’ve seen a lot of people talk about using the desperate skills as they will potentially synergise quite nicely with the fact that he’s taking damage, but I’ve found if you don’t draw that encounter card that’s going to power up your stats early on you can really struggle if you’re relying on the desperate skills. I also think the card draw that the classic neutral skills provide is not to be overlooked. As a result I’ve gone for 2 copies of each of Guts, Overpower, Manual Dexterity and Perception.
Piloting: When I’m piloting the deck I want to try and press on and move through locations and get the clues as quick as possible. Early on you can take the treacheries on the chin and use them to power yourself up, but I’ve found the real key to piloting Calvin successfully through a scenario is not to have to rely on this, and not to get too greedy over his stats. I quite like being on 3 or 4 in each of damage or horror, but don’t like going above this unless I have to. A bad token pull on a treachery that can deal 3 damage or horror can be a problem if you’ve not got the soak, and if you’re operating at 5s, one direct horror or damage can finish you off if you’ve not got Until the End of Time out yet.
Early on (i.e. when you're stuck on 0 stats), chucking 2 skill cards on a skill attempt usually gives you a decent shout of success, especially on low shroud locations or against low fight enemies. If you find yourself at a high shroud location, Gravedigger's Shovel can be a real help just to take the clue without needing to test (it's rare there's more than one clue at a location like this in solo play).
Getting out a Fire Axe is important, and powering it up by shedding your resources is fine. There’s nothing with a cost more than 2 in the deck, and not many of those. And with Madame Labranche in play you can get back up to 2 resources pretty easily. The Gravedigger shovel works well as a backup weapon if you're having to wait for a fire axe to turn up, as the static +2 to hit is useful. And once Fire Axe does turn up, the shovel becomes a test-free clue.
You need to be cautious with when you play your set up cards. A lot of the time you’re better off spending your actions on risky attempts at investigations than getting out set up cards that might not have an effect for a while, especially if you have cards like Lucky! or "Look what I found!" in hand or Rabbit's Foot in play. Occasionally these tests come off, and that’s the game you need to play with Calvin.
Here’s my guide to when to play the assets in the deck:
Rabbit’s Foot: only play it if you draw it early in the game, later on it’s better just as a Willpower pip
Flashlight: Unless you know you don’t need to investigate any more, play it.
Fire Axe: If you’ve not got one in play, play it.
Gravedigger Shovel: If you’ve not got a Fire Axe in play, or if you’re at a high shroud location without the skills or events to help you investigate.
Leather Coat, Until the End of Time: Wait until you get past 3 damage or sanity suffered
Madam Labranche: Pretty worthwhile playing whenever – You can play her late for soak or early if you’ve got Fire Axe for the resources, but given she’s one of the more expensive cards you’ve got, you’re better playing her while you can rather than get stuck for the resources to play her later on.
Tempo is the real key to playing this Calvin deck well, so make sure whenever you play an asset you wouldn’t have been better taking a punt on another investigate, treachery action or explore instead.
Upgrading the Deck With Calvin there’s two strategies to consider to upgrading the deck: the cards you spend your XP on, and the way you distribute any trauma. Let’s look first at trauma…
Calvin can gain trauma, basically, in three different ways: from being defeated, from scenario effects, and from Voice of the Messenger. I think there’s possibly a strategy for group play where you don’t expect Calvin to last the scenario out and you use him to take the heat for everyone else, bow out with an "I'll see you in hell!" and stock up on trauma to power you up for the next mission. I’ve not tried it so I can’t say whether it’s a daft idea or not, but it’s certainly not how you want to play Calvin solo. Scenarios occasionally lumber you with trauma, sometimes with a choice as to the flavour of it, and Calvin (usually) has a choice for what type of trauma to take when he draws Voice of the Messenger.
I think essentially there’s two strategies you can play around with when deciding how to distribute your trauma, when you get a choice:
1. Distribute it evenly. A fairly straight forward choice, leaving you with the flexibility to cope with whatever comes at you.
2. Race to 3 mental trauma ASAP and start to use the desperate skills. A risky strategy that can have a big pay off, but also leaves you one bad draw at the start of the game away from death.
Your choice here determines your XP spends, too. If you’re gaining 3 mental trauma then (assuming you start with this deck) you’re going to have to spend an XP for each desperate skill card you add in. Personally I’m not a fan of this approach, certainly with this starting deck, and would most likely go for an even distribution.
Experience Spends Let’s have a look at some of the cards that we can spend XP on in this deck:
Yaotl: This guy is a VERY strong choice. Not only is he adding extra soak, but in a deck that’s throwing down multiple skill cards, his ability to effectively reuse them is pretty strong. I tend to find that cards with a variety of different skill pips on them are better than those with multiple of the same, as you don’t always want to make the same test twice in a row in solo play. You could swap him in for Madame Labrance as a direct swap, or take out some of the classic skill cards that you don’t think you’ll need as often (Manual Dexterity strikes me as a good choice here!).
Lucky!: The deck wants draw, so level 2 lucky is just really worth it.
A Test of Will/Devil's Luck: Both of these cards can save you in a life or death scenario, but personally I prefer Devi’s Luck as it can save you from that Retaliate or Alert enemy when you pull a tentacle token at the wrong time. Good to swap in 1 of for whichever skill card you’re finding least useful.
Stroke of Luck: Expensive for an exile card, but remember if you don’t pull that bad token you don’t have to exile it. Worth swapping in, but what to remove? In other decks I’ve seen it as a more reliable replacement for Rise to the Occasion, but Rise nearly always works in Calvin, so perhaps one or two of the other skill cards could be swapped out for it.
Newspaper: A potential swap in for Flashlight. I’m not entirely convinced by this one. A lot of Acts need 3 clues to advance, so whilst it is cheaper than flashlight and better at getting you the first 2 clues, it’s worse at getting you the third. That said, if you’ve got multiple acts to advance with 3 clues each it starts to double up its usefulness. It’s got better skill pips too if you just want to chuck it in. Overall probably worth putting in. Charisma: If you want both Yaotl and Madame Lebranche, this is a winner. The Red-Gloved Man: A decent shout for a 2 cost one-off to give you a single turn of awesomeness as you add your horror and/or damage to a base of 6! If you’re going to put him in, I’d add in some Copies of A Chance Encounter, too.
Infighting: I’ll be honest, I like this more for its 4 icons for committing to tests (and would replace skill cards with it) more than its ability, especially with Yaotl who I find likes cards with a range of icons on them, but it can also come in handy if you get swamped. 3XP is a lot, though. Relic Hunter: If you want to include both Cherished Keepsake and Rabbit's Foot, this is a decent shout, but what you’d drop for the Cherished Keepsake I’m not sure.
Moment of Respite: I’ve been considering this as a swap in for Guts, as it shares the same number of icons, but 3 heal is quite big and could drop you back down to being useless again, and 3 cost is quite a lot for this deck to deal with.
I'm running him through The Forgotten Age at the moment, so I've not had chance to play with experience development too much, To some extent I feel that he is, if anything, a little limited in what experience can add to him. I hope there's some more interesting cards to come in later expansions in the cycle.
Conclusion Overall I don't think Calvin is a strong investigator -- I mean, you could probably port this deck directly over to "Ashcan" Pete and it'd work just as well if not better... But I do think there is a way to play him here that is exciting and challenging, but not impossible to manage.