Rise to the Occasion

Of the triple skills available at the time, I think that Rise to the Occasion is one of the more difficult ones to use. If the test is that much more difficult than your base skill level, then this card alone is probably not enough to guarantee a success - chances are you're going to need a little extra help.

Generally speaking, I'd normally rather have Unexpected Courage - it's one less icon, but it's much more flexible.

The exception, of course, is Calvin Wright. With base skill values that are all 0, he can use this card on almost every test. In most instances I think he's going to want to take this one with him!

Norman Withers

My basic claim for Norman is that, if you aren't buying the 4-5 XP mystic cards, then you're better off with Daisy Walker (who has access to Higher Education and tome-shenanigans). Norman's strength is that he can go big - so do it. Go Big, or Go Home.

So I like Shrivelling(5) and Grotesque Statue, two of the biggest and most powerful mystic cards. That's 18 XP right there (assuming you don't Arcane Research), and the core of your power. It means you're a Seeker who can drop the pain on enemies if needed, as well as guarantee key passes on Seeker activities with your statues.

Beyond that, my second point is that every time you use Norman's ability, its the equivalent of drawing a card and possibly gaining a resource, so its almost 1-2 bonus actions (ish). In other words, you want to use it as often as you can, every turn if possible. This means he favors events and assets over skills (you can't use his ability to commit cards), and favors lower cost "stuff" that can be played in most situations.

So Working a Hunch, Mind over Matter(don't save it, just use it), Magnifying Glass(0), No Stone Unturned - all these are better for him than for others. Even Emergency Cache and Shortcut are better, as they are playable from the top most of the time, netting you +1 card. Value.

Beyond that you've got St. Hubert's Key and Dr. Milan Christopher or Alyssa Graham. Dr Milan is the best, as always, but Alyssa is still pretty good for Norman, so you could be generous and let a teammate run Dr Milan (maybe even Finn if you are feeling very kind) . The Holy Rosary I feel is a bit of a trap. Despite all the Purple, Norman is still a Seeker at heart and will be Investigating a lot. +int is more valuable to him than +will, and therefore the Key really delivers for him. Plus you're probably not running Arcane Research and your mind is still healthy (ie, the Key sticks around longer).

All of this is standard Norman, irrespective of the campaign. For FA and others where the encounter deck can be rough, I do like Scrying(3), though Mists of R'lyeh is also a fair call for the second Arcane slot. Between them, Ward of Protection, the Statues and potentially other cheats like Counterspell and Time Warp, you should be OK. Dr. William T. Maleson and Seal of the Elder Sign are possibilities too, though you sacrifice a lot for them in terms of the Ally slot or XP. I do also like Protective Incantation just to burn some of the Dr. Milan Christopher money (no Higher Education remember) and FA, on any difficulty, has some pretty horrible tokens in the bag worth sealing. I'm less keen on the Spirit Athame or Crystalline Elder Sign. The latter is a solo card for me, no good for 2+. The former is for pure mystics... Norman should be using his Intellect for searches 75% of the time, with his spells coming out to save the day at key times.

Mystic splashes for me are then Ward of Protection, St Hubert's Key and Delve Too Deep (rotating out once you have XP). Alyssa could sub for one of these if needed. Ideally you want 2 of all of those, so you have hard choices at the start which to drop to 1. It gets easier once you drop the Delves, or on Standalone where Delve is not needed. I try to avoid starting with Shrivelling, as then you are paying XP to bring in your level 0 purples once you upgrade the Shrivelling (which you surely want to do). This means you are probably leaning into Shrivelling(3)/Shrivelling(5) as your very first upgrades then, and running a couple of games building up to "Maximum Firepower!".

I haven't talked much about his Signatures - and to me, they are not that important. His unique deckbuilding and game ability are far more defining. Split the Angle is a bit iffy. If you run Scrying(3), or Alyssa Graham, it sometimes has value, particularly in encounters with obnoxious cards, but even then it's often worth chucking. Without either of those, its just not worth it, and you should never be using the first "waste an action" effect, even on solo. The Vengeful Hound is extremely annoying yes, and you can draw it in the first turn before any actions (truly as horrible as it sounds), but beyond that it's just a bad-guy. Kill it or get your friends to help kill it, then move on.

My one complaint with Norman is that he can feel a bit slow-and-steady. As he often spends a lot of time dropping assets and events, and as he doesn't have access to Higher Education, Pathfinder, Shortcut(2), Deduction(2), In the Know, etc, he doesn't dash around the board hoovering up things really quickly like Ursula or Rex (or Daisy/Minh if you build that way). You just need to let your teammates know that. But he makes up for it by turning up to boss-fights and times of stress with virtually unshakable destruction, as well as being efficient and value-driven in his cards. I really like him, he's quite unique.

I feel Investigator reviews should put their money where their mouth is with a sample deck, so here is my Norman that I've been using for Standalone scenarios.

Standalone Norman - Go Big or Go Home

I agree! The big spells are definitely the way to go. They are pure awesome. — CaiusDrewart 858
Take Heart

IMPORTANT: DOES NOT WORK WITH TRY AND TRY AGAIN

The card is added to the effects of step 7, while checking for failure/success is step 6. Super unintuitive, but that's how it works.

Still good though.

Walker 3
I’d like to see an official response FAQ about that. I completely understand your logic, but there is still a strong argument for it working because TaTA says ‘after’ which means ‘after the triggering condition has fully resolved.’ In this case, the effects of failing a skill test includes step 7. When occurs before and after after all other timing conditions which presumably includes ‘if’ timing. That said, if the timing you propose for TaTA is accurate, it can also allow for a very amusing and unique ability to fail a skill test by a negative amount by returning either Double or Nothing or Dreams of the Deep. — Death by Chocolate 8
completely counter-intuitive and a little disheartening, It's been a few months that I play with a combo and a deck that doesn't work! I'm fed up with those games where everything is open to interpretation! And we were a lot like this on the different forums saying it was a pretty good combo and no one told us it did'nt work! It stains my campaign and I'm rather angry! — mogwen 23
This comment is completely correct, and there's no rules ambiguity. Try and Try Again is triggered after the failure of the skill test, which is Step 6 of the skill test resolution framework. Take Heart is not a response effect triggered when the skill test fails, but like other Skill cards instead modifies the consequences of the skill test, which are resolved in Step 7 of the skill test. This is made clearer in the FAQ. As such, if you Try and Try Again to return Take Heart, it will be removed from the skill test before it is able to resolve. — Dai 68
Madame Labranche

Madame Labrance is... OK and fits in certain decks, but I probably see a lot more people running her than I should do. Yes, obviously she works with Dark Horse, and if you're going to be running on empty, you can hopefully use her every turn, and she has some nice interaction with Lucky! here. So all that's good. But even then the opportunity cost in playing her is quite large, and you might be better running something else.

Firstly, how often will you play her in time to make a decent profit? Most of the time you will be using her for resources rather than cards; all the decks that build around her tend to do that, so lets focus on that. (We're doing her a tiny injustice here, as a card is slightly better than a resource, but not by much. If you assume x1.2, you need 5 card draws to count as an additional "resource" which almost never happens with her. There is probably a cardless Survivor archetype with this and Last Chance waiting to be discovered, but for now its not well served enough to build around, so resources it is). To be better than Emergency Cache, you have to reliably use her ability 6 times. With the average game lasting around 15 turns, that's not unfeasible, but there will be games where she arrives too late. She delivers her value slowly, and generally we prefer spike value to drip value. She also has a 2 resource hump, so sets you back a moderate amount. None of this is major, but often you can get to the end of the scenario, have used the Madame 5 times and think, "wow, that was great", but it really wasn't - it was poor. You need 10 uses to say "wow!" and that is quite rare. A lot of people love the 2/2 soak for 2, and sure it is quite good, but it's not hugely significant compared to other allies (and Survivors are quite well served for damage soak anyway).

And that brings us to the big problem, the big opportunity cost - the Ally slot. The Ally slot is the strongest slot in the game, and by demanding this slot off you for her drip-feed of loot, she is punishing you quite severely. You're missing Peter Sylvestre(0), Peter Sylvestre(2), Yaotl, Aquinnah(3), and thats before we get into cross-faction allies for Wendy, Yorick, Pete, Minh and others, not to mention the campaign allies in Dunwich/FA (or the to-be-proven On Your Own). Yes, there is Charisma, but now you're paying XP for a moderate drip-economy card when you could be buying Will to Survive instead.

Anyway, I don't want to hate on the Madame. Like I say, she's not bad. But most of the time when I see her, I just wish my friend was playing Peter Sylvestre(0) instead.

Well, I agree but as far as I know this card is mostly played in Dark Horse decks. I don't see anybody (who wants to play efficiently) taking her instead of Peter, you normally take them both (even if u don't have Charisma, cause she is a good meat shield )...I think the only dilemma would be Madame Labranche or Yaotl (Aquinnah 3 XP is bad). — Alogon 8
Personnaly, I like her for the Fire Axe combo. No more ressources ? Ok, she gives you one and then fight with the +1 damage ability of the axe. Works pretty nice in my Dark Horse Ashcan, when Duke has to investigate... — Ackero 2
Are you using Fire Axe / Labrance *every* turn, and thus reliably getting 6-10 used from her every game? Are you also running Emergency Cache and Take Heart for non-Ally slot resource income? If the answer to either is no, then your probably better with Peter someone else, even in a Dark Horse deck. — duke_loves_biscuits 91
Well, Madame without even a mention of Fire Axe? With her help that weapon can reliably deal +1 dmg with +2 combat bonus. You can ignore that, for me - this is huuuuge. Cache definitely cannot replace Madame in this synergy, more - Cache has in fact antisynergy with Axe since it abuses my possibility to deal +1 dmg in first attack. To sum up - it is not a matter of raw digits (will Madame give me more resources than EC? Well, she actually can), it is rather a matter of playstyle of survivors with Axe. Little bonus: I can consider an ally with 2hp/2sanity for 2 resources even with blank text. — KptMarchewa 1
The Gold Pocket Watch

The Gold Pocket Watch is amazing, and you're probably not playing it as much as you should.

I think there is a common misconception about the Watch that it is either (a) too expensive - (i'll come back to this) - or (b) a combo card, that needs to be used with things like The Red-Gloved Man, A Chance Encounter, (the newish) Colt Vest Pocket, or anything else that lasts "all round", so you can squeeze 1 round's worth of effects into 2. While it certainly does work well in all these scenarios, it really doesn't need it to be effective, not at all.

Let's briefly look at its effects as they can be a bit confusing. Effect 1 basically says "skip the Mythos phase". This means no doom, no drawing of encounter cards, go straight to player actions. Probably 80% of the time you use the Watch, this is the best play. Effect 2 basically says "replay the Investigation phase". This is similar to skipping the Mythos, but you won't get a repeat of the Enemy and Upkeep phases. In both scenarios you are essentially taking "two rounds in one", with 2 sets of Investigator actions before the scenario can respond with doom and cards. The first effect also rewards you 2 Upkeep phases, so that's an additional resource and card for all investigators, at the cost of an additional Enemy phase. With no enemies in play, this a no-brainer - take the free stuff. Even with 1 or 2 enemies in play, the additional actions to evade or additional damage might be worth the additional Upkeep phase which brings cards and resources for all, which means that Effect 1 is still worth considering. Effect 2 sacrifices the additional Upkeep, but at the benefit of freezing the enemies, and also enabling the "until the end of the round" combo cards we talked about (which don't work with Effect 1, except The Red-Gloved Man as noted). Note that in both cases effects that last until "the end of the turn" (like Will to Survive) will never repeat. Individual investigator turns will always end, they just get a second turn.

At this point you're probably thinking of lots of interesting scenarios where having two sets of actions will be helpful and wondering how often they come up. Here's the thing - it doesn't matter. You don't need to wait for the ideal opportunity. The Watch doesn't need to be like the Phial of Galadriel, saving our heroes in their hour of darkness. You can just simply play it, pop it, and profit. The pocket watch brings so much additional resources to the table in any scenario that simply using it will be rewarding and amazing.

Lets do the Maths.... Assuming Effect 1 (repeat of Investigator phase and Upkeep). In all player counts, the watch costs 1 action, 1 card and 2 resources to play. What do we get back?:

  • solo: provides 3 actions, 1 card, 1 resource: total profit = 2 actions for -1 resource. Not good
  • 2-player: provides 6 actions, 2 cards, 2 resources: total profit = 5 actions, 1 card, 0 resources. Already this is better than Ace in the Hole
  • 3-player: provides 9 actions, 3 cards, 3 resources: total profit = 8 actions, 2 cards, 1 resource.
  • 4-player: provides 12 actions, 4 cards, 4 resources: total profit = 11 actions, 3 cards, 2 resources

Just look at those 3 and 4 player stat lines! On 4 players, what other card provides 16 units of profit, immediately (or on any future turn you like)? (Imagine if the watch was free to play, and said "gain 12 actions, 4 cards and 2 resources.". That's pretty much what it's doing in 4-player). And this is just a vanilla pop-and-play, not even considering the opportunity to be heroic, to break the back of bad draws, handle action-compression spots, or do any of the combo-nonsense we mentioned earlier. Only in solo is the Watch a bad play - even on 2 player, its an excellent provider of economy, and at 3 and 4 player, almost unparalleled.

So where does that leave us - with the downsides? Well, aside from the accessory slot, there really is only 1 and that's the fact its 8 XP into a single card. There are two problems with this. The first is saving up for it can put us at a power disadvantage, and most Rogues are probably still going to want Lockpicks and Streetwise first to get their deck rolling. But beyond that 5 XP, there are few cards that will make as much of an impact when they land as the Watch, so even if its not our immediate purchase after Lockpicks, we should certainly consider it soon. (In standalone, where saving-up is not a problem, the Watch should almost always be deployed). The second problem is finding the thing - with 8 XP on one card, its a high variance item. If you draw 2/3 of your deck, you won't see it every 3rd scenario. Ursula Downs (a great lover of the Watch) can get round this with various Seeker tricks (like No Stone Unturned, Cryptic Research Eureka! etc). Rogues have fewer options, eg Backpack, Pickpocketing, Lucky Cigarette Case (also an accessory), but you may not want to build your deck around it, and my central point about the Watch is - you don't need to.. It's not a combo card. Really, its not. It's just a dynamite of power, easily worth 8 XP, squashed onto one card. Buy it, hope you draw it, and go Tick-Tick-Boom!

I laboriously saved XP and finally bought the watch for Ursula in the 5th scenario of a Forgotten Age blind run. In the 6th scenario I found myself happily looking at No Stone Unturned. Yet, no matter how furiously I browsed my deck, I still could not find the damn watch! After the game ended, i found the watch lying on the floor under the game table, in its protective sleeve. I tell you, the thing is cursed by Azathoth! — mitsotakis666 1