AHHHHHHHH! IT’S HAPPENING!
Ahem. Welcome one and all to Strength in Numbers’ Scarlet Keys Preview Article! If you’ve come here from our premiere over on YouTube, welcome and I’m sorry! If you haven’t, feel free to check out our wonderfully deranged sketch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUFkitO1hDM
But let’s shove all that bookkeeping out of the way and get down to why you’re really here. You’re here to see a card, to talk about a card, to get excited about a card, so LET’S! GET! EXCITED!
HERE IT IS!
…ok so maybe that wasn’t exactly the card you were expecting. Or, if you saw the YouTube premiere, it may have been EXACTLY the card you were expecting. Either way, if you’d like to skip ahead to the preview, just scroll down–but if you’ll indulge me, I promise that there is a path from Whispers of Hypnos to Making Preparations, and in true Strength in Numbers fashion it’s a path of comedy and folklore.
Let me tell you why my playgroup has an unreasonable amount of affection for Whispers of Hypnos, and why Making Preparations was such an exciting preview card for us to receive.
If your Arkham group is anything like mine, certain cards (both player and encounter) tend to get a disproportionate amount of memories attached to them. In some cases, that’s because they’re overused or seen too much; in some, because they’re especially punishing or powerful; and in some it’s because of a fun story or game that gets played around them. For my playgroup, Whispers of Hypnos belongs to the latter category.
For as long as I can remember (since we started playing Arkham at least), the drawing of Whispers of Hypnos has been associated with the phrase “All My Homies Hate [Brain/Book/Fist/Foot]”. A player will draw it, slap it down on the table, and a chorus of “oh it’s All My Homies Hate”, “what do All My Homies Hate”, etc. will echo around the table. The player will think for a moment and then solemnly declare that on THIS round, “All My Homies Hate ____”.
It’s usually Brain. All My Homies usually Hate Brain.
Now, before writing this article I did my best to research the origin of that tradition, and like all good folklore NOBODY could agree on precisely where it came from. Strength in Numbers is a large group, so when I asked the group chat to name the origins of All My Homies Hate, I got a lot of different answers.
Levi cited two possible origins, the more plausible of which dates back to the era of our first-ever campaigns, a parallel run of Dunwich and Carcosa, respectively. If this were true, then using the phrase actually predates any Dream Eaters run and our first encounters with Whispers of Hypnos, meaning it became associated with the specific card much later and was originally only referring to ANY choice-based encounter card.
Sonic suggested that it was one of the Usual Suspects (a subgroup of Strength in Numbers who nearly always have multiple active campaigns, and are constantly up for jumping into new ones). He thought it might have been Corrupt who originally tied the meme to the card, during a Dream Eaters run right around when we began using more advanced deckbuilding and playstyles as a group.
Whichever of these stories is correct (or as I suspect, neither of them), All My Homies Hate is one of the most fun running gags we have as a group. But there’s one problem with this silly little meme: its range is limited. Whispers of Hypnos only shows up in one campaign. We can’t take it with us. We can’t carry the collective power of All My Homies Hating to depose Hozier or make Snake Pants or drink Cthulhu Brand Water (at least once the big octopus fella makes it into the game).
Plus, maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re tired of all this negativity. Maybe you dream of a world of compassion and support. Maybe you think to yourself, “I know what All My Homies Hate. But what do All My Homies Love?”
Wonder no longer, dear reader, for today’s preview card is here to answer that question!
Whispers of Hypnos is on our side now, baby! And now you know why when I saw this card in my email inbox, I was absolutely thrilled–and also why when I shared it with my team MULTIPLE people immediately said “It’s All My Homies Hate!!” Or you skipped the fun anecdote to get here faster in which case shame on you, you get to feel left out.
So what does this new and improved All My Homies Hate entail? Well, first off it’s a Dilemma, meaning that you don’t get to choose when you play it. It’s going to blank a draw at some point and give its effect immediately. Importantly, since the text is a little ambiguous, I did ask for rules clarification on how the effect works when drawn outside of the investigator phase–it becomes active immediately and lasts until the NEXT available investigator phase ends. If drawn during the investigator phase it is only active until the end of the current phase so if you know this card is in your deck, you may want to make a point of frontloading your draw during the phase (if you want to hit it) or delaying your draw until late in the phase (if you want to avoid it screwing over one or more of your teammates).
When the Dilemma hits, though, the effect is pretty interesting. You get to buff two skills for the entire party, at the cost of two others. Now of course I expect my group to phrase this as “All My Homies Love Book and Fist, and All My Homies Hate Brain and Boot”, and I think for that hilarious upkeep-phase discussion alone the card is worth it. Also importantly this card does NOT have Peril, so you can’t accidentally mess up another player’s plan because you misread the board or didn’t know what they had in hand. The team can discuss, together, what stats they think they’ll need either next round or for the rest of the current one–appropriate for a card entitled Making Preparations.
It’s not an incredibly strong effect, and if somehow you find yourself needing all four stats across the party in a given round (or you try to predict what stats you’ll need next round during an upkeep phase and then the mythos drops high-health enemies on you after you’ve lowered Boot) you could be in trouble. But it’s also a level 0 card that can save your party a LOT of commits across a full round, so I think it’ll be a fun little surprise in the deck that can secretly put out a lot of work.
Much like Whispers of Hypnos, really–I have plenty of hilarious memories of someone icing Brain or Boot early in a mythos phase and then someone failing another treachery mere moments later, or an unexpected success or failure forcing us to work with the one or more stats we’ve already sabotaged later in the round.
So who can take this card, and who WANTS to take this card? Well, let’s get the meme out of the way–yes, Mark can run it, and he has enough draw to whip it out of his deck more frequently than most Guardians. Plus, thanks to Best Girl Sophie, all his stats are likely workable even with the -1s. Except maybe Intellect.
But I’m a lot more excited about a few main-class Survivors who might be able to put this card to work, as well as its various Dilemma siblings. Let’s get into them!
First of all, Patrice. I’ve been toying with the idea of a Cornered Patrice for a very long time. Add in Mind’s Eye and the Improvised Events and she can fight and clue with a lot of consistency–but I never found a way to make the deck REALLY pop. Dilemmas may be the spice I was looking for. The thematic aspect I’d already been considering was Patrice listening to and moving with the music of the universe, allowing random chance and her surroundings to fight for her and work in her favor. The flavor of the Dilemmas, with reality bending and warping around her decision points and how she chooses to play the next movement of the piece, fits perfectly.
Making Preparations fits well into this deck–all of Patrice’s stats are typically usable, especially with an added boost of one or two points. On a turn you need to save Mind’s Eye charges, you can bump up your Book or Fist and test normally, while when your allies are struggling you can spend Mind’s Eye to rely on your stronger base Will and boost whatever stat they need for the upcoming round.
Of course, a heavy Dilemma Patrice is going to be low on cards a lot of the time, because she may be triggering multiple in a single upkeep. Madame Labranche and Nothing Left to Lose can help top her up when she’s running low, and the Improvised events mean that even with an empty hand she has the ability to boost her stats and get damage/clue compression. Old Keyring, the Mariner’s Compass, and Summoned Hounds are all additional ways to reliably investigate even with an empty hand.
Even when her hand isn’t emptied, if she runs ALL of the Dilemmas we’ve seen so far (except Heed the Dream, only villains do that) she has a definite chance of exceeding the “two per round” limit. This is where Cornered comes in, making all her dead cards into Unexpected Courages–including the Improvised events, which like the extra Dilemmas have no icons normally, and can easily be discarded to Cornered, used to shuffle back into the deck, and then drawn again in the next few rounds to repeat the process.
She can also run Resourceful in order to trigger any previously-used Dilemmas at will, taking a break from soloing in the universal symphony to conducting it.
This is definitely the strategy to go to if you want to lose yourself in the music, letting luck and providence grant you fun and powerful effects–all of which is just a fancy way to say “I want to run as many Dilemmas as possible”.
Speaking of Resourceful and Dilemmas, I originally saw that combo on the Mythos Busters Discord, and it got me thinking immediately. What if you could treat Making Preparations like an on-demand stat boost?
Enter the True Survivor loop, a classic from my early days of Arkham that I recall with great fondness. The loop itself is simple–play True Survivor, recovering two copies of Resourceful and one other skill of your choice. Then use one Resourceful to return True Survivor to hand, use the other for whatever Survivor card you want to re-acquire, and you can repeat this indefinitely. To solve the resource cost you can either go On Your Own or choose Take Heart as your third Innate–an absurd economy engine that propelled me through the Eldritch Pokemon campaign with the help of One Percent, my Rattata.
In this case, we’re using the second Resourceful to access a Dilemma from our discard pile, taking away the normal randomness (and potential inconvenience). Resourceful can now be a cantrip (Predator or Prey with no enemies in play), a team-wide version of Intrepid or Momentum (Making Preparations), ECache but for cards (At a Crossroads), bootleg Quick Thinking (At a Crossroads), Nimble (Predator or Prey), or Elusive (also Predator or Prey).
Oh and if you hate your friends and also yourself, it can be an on-demand copy of Through the Gates! Thanks, Heed the Dream, very cool.
Another key to this crazy toolkit is Scrounge for Supplies, which only works on the level 0 Dilemmas like Making Preparations, so At A Crossroads is out (sad) and so is Heed the Dream (not sad). But at least Making Preparations still loves you and will never abandon you!
Although this setup could function quite nicely on basically any Survivor, I don’t believe in half-measures, so my character of choice would be the only one that can use Resourceful even MORE than just a normal True Survivor: Silas Marsh. Thanks to his Elder Sign and his normal signatures, Silas can Resourceful with alarming frequency, swinging the stats of the entire party like it’s 1 AM at an O’Bannion speakeasy, or pulling enemies onto and/or off of players so fast they’ll get whiplash.
For me, this is the perfect build for Delphinia “Tiffany” Bell, one of the secondary characters in Strength in Numbers’ Found Family series who is normally represented by Amanda’s Laboratory Assistant ally card. I’ve been working on an independent deck for Tiffany for a long time–since she’s also a shapeshifter, like Amanda, I knew immediately I wanted her to be a skill-based character with Monstrous Transformation. Silas’ card fit the bill perfectly, netting stats overall with Transformation and allowing plenty of skill hijinks. So I set to work reskinning him, a common activity in our campaigns when we want to promote an ally to full investigator status.
Unlike Amanda, though, Tiffany is a little hapless and happens into a lot of bad luck. I originally planned to represent that using Take Heart, Oops, and LWIF a lot, as a fail forward value engine (and I may still include those in the final deck). But thanks to Dilemmas I now have an EVEN BETTER thematic throughline. Her Beast Within (an antediluvian reptilian horror) is more flexible than Amanda’s (a sleek bipedal werewolf), so Making Preparations can adapt it as needed to any situation, trading the traditionally-high physical stats for reasonable mental ones if she needs to backup clue, or doubling down on her unstoppable might.
Tiffany also has a tendency to get dragged off by Nightgaunts and Byakhee, since she’s Amanda’s only soak. Being a shapeshifter she’s typically able to kill her abductor and make her way back to the team, so Predator or Prey is ALSO an ideal card for her to use. Thanks to Resourceful putting the card at her disposal whenever she needs it, she can regularly get attacked, flee, or go on the offensive as the story and the team require.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little romp through above-the-table anecdotes and potential builds! I know I tended to focus on cards other than Making Preparations itself, but I think that’s part of the appeal of this fun little card. It’s not a build-around, but if we can bring ourselves to relinquish a little control, take on a little more risk, it can be a wonderful workhorse that pops up out of nowhere, introduces exciting decision points we may not otherwise have had, and generally makes a game that expertise has simplified more unpredictable and fun again. Plus, it may very well help us save considerable resources or survive crises.
I think that’s what I’m most excited about with Making Preparations and the rest of the Dilemmas–like Blesses and Curses, they interfere with analysis, changing our math and filling Arkham back up with the surprises that make the game so engaging. Long has the encounter deck wielded surprise, luck, tough decisions, and revelations in order to harm us–it’s about time we reclaimed those powers for good, embraced chaos, and introduced a little bit of dilemma into our lives!
Thank you for reading. It means a great deal to me and the rest of my team to be a part of the Scarlet Keys previews, to be recognized by FFG and to be able to contribute to Arkham’s first in-depth community spoiler season. I hope you’ve enjoyed, and please share your own thoughts on Making Preparations and Dilemmas in general in the comments below!
After all, how better to solve a dilemma than together?
Because together, there’s Strength in Numbers.
See you all soon!