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Sophistry 101 – an Eldritch Sophist primer

Greetings initiates, and welcome to this arcane philosophy lecture series at the Lodge. First, let me address some disquieting rumours about last year’s lectures on Medieval Metaphysics by saying that a thorough investigation found nothing untoward, and that the Eastern Wing of the lodge library is cordoned off for entirely unrelated renovation work. Now, onto our topic. Every so often, a card comes out that is…inspiring. Not necessarily particularly powerful, but one with lots of potential for interesting decks and builds. The Eldritch Sophist is one such card for me, and so I have decided to share my take on the card as well as a few decks designed around it to showcase its potential.

Lecture 1: Introduction to Sophistry

Let’s start with the card itself.

Eldritch Sophist, level 0 Seeker asset. 4 cost, 1 willpower icon.

Ally. Miskatonic.

Uses (3 secrets).

Exhaust Eldritch Sophist: Move 1 secret or charge from an asset you control to another asset controlled by an investigator at your location.

Once you let go of your assumptions, anything is possible.

And the art depicts a very dapper gentleman playing chess with rather unusual pieces in a library. Does my interest in this card have anything to do with how handsome he looks? No comment.

So right off the bat, the card has Uses (3 secrets) but no way to actually spend them. They are instead there to use his ability to move them onto other assets. In this way, he’s a little bit like the Venturer – a card whose role is to refill other limited-use assets. However, the Sophist’s ability is substantially more flexible – it can move both secrets and charges, from any card that has them, to any card that can use them.

It also offers quite a lot of Horror soak. In general, Seekers tend to have large pools of sanity and lots of means of soaking or healing horror, so this may be less useful than having lots of Damage soak, but it’s still a nice benefit, particularly for builds that use Shrivelling – and is very useful for some of the less obvious builds that can use the Sophist.

The Miskatonic trait doesn’t have much in the way of support, but it does work with Miskatonic Archaeology Funding. The test icon is pretty underwhelming, but at least Willpower is likely to come up for basically anyone and there will be times when you’ll take any Willpower icon you can get.

The cost is quite high – Seekers have a number of expensive but powerful allies (e.g. Dr Milan Christopher, Whitton Greene) and a number of cheap and disposable allies (e.g. Dr William T. Maleson, Laboratory Assistant) – so if you’re just using the Sophist for its inherent utility of refilling another asset, you might be underwhelmed by its benefits relative to its cost.

Lecture 2: Definition of Terms

I use the following terms as shorthand to broadly define the role of various cards in interacting with the Eldritch Sophist:

Source: A card with Uses (secrets) or Uses (charges) whose main role in the build is to have those Uses transferred onto a different card. Typically a card that does not provide much benefit from those Uses, and/or a card that can provide a lot of Uses, repeatedly provide Uses, or provide Uses cheaply.

Target: A card with Uses (secrets) or Uses (charges) whose main role in the build is to receive Uses from other cards. Typically a card that provides a substantial benefit from its limited uses, such as a powerful enemy management or clue-gathering card.

Fixing: Moving Uses between cards as needed, where neither card is strictly a Source or a Target. Typically where both assets perform an important but distinct role in the build, and it may be advantageous to siphon charges from one to the other depending on the circumstances.

Replenishing: Increasing the number of Uses on an asset without moving them from another asset – essentially as a way to make it clear that the total number of Uses in play has increased. Conversely, I use Siphoning as a term for moving Uses via the Eldritch Sophist, where the total number of Uses in play does not change. For example, using Recharge or Truth From Fiction is Replenishing, whereas moving a secret from the Eldritch Sophist to another card is Siphoning.

These aren’t terms I think need to be adopted by the community at large or anything, merely ways to simplify further discussion in this post – though I also think they help illustrate how I look at the Eldritch Sophist. That said, if you find them useful, please do use them yourself!

Lecture 3: A minimalist approach

I feel that simply using the Sophist for the function it offers by itself – to add more secrets to a secret-using asset – is perfectly valid by itself. This is definitely the most straightforward approach to the card. If your build has one or more cards that have Uses (secrets), the Eldritch Sophist can let you get the most out of them. In such a deck, if you can spare the slot for the card and you want more secrets, it’s a useful option just like taking Venturer with a build that uses Ammunition or Supplies. And just like the Venturer, once it has run out of charges, you can throw it under the bus to soak up incoming damage/horror.

However, cost is a very real issue in such decks (again, just like the Venturer). The Sophist is quite expensive at 4 resources, and the ally slot is very competitive for Seekers (though that isn’t necessarily a big problem between Charisma and Miskatonic Archaeology Funding). If doing so, you’d want to keep in mind that you need to pay for both the Sophist and the asset(s) its secrets will be siphoned onto. Since the Sophist is a level 0 card, and you generally want to avoid having to spend exp on level 0 cards later on in a campaign (unless you have access to Adaptable or you want to take Versatile), this typically means that you want to have an asset that can make use of the extra secrets from the very beginning, even if your eventual plan is to use it in conjunction with a different, more powerful high-level card. In this way, the utility of the Sophist grows with the power of your deck, as the value of its secrets increases with the power of the abilities they fuel.

There is a big sticking point for such a deck, which is Truth From Fiction. This event is substantially cheaper, doesn’t take up the Ally slot and has substantially better skill icons. It’s not the case that Truth From Fiction is strictly better than the Sophist for this purpose – the Sophist provides as many secrets as Truth From Fiction (2) without the requirement for a clue at your location, and works particularly well if you have multiple other assets that use secrets – but it does mean there’s substantial competition for that role in a deck.

A few examples of decks that could use the Eldritch Sophist purely for the secrets it provides are Carolyn Fern starting with with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and upgrading into Ancient Stone (Minds in Harmony); Daisy Walker starting out with the Scroll of Prophecies and upgrading into a more powerful secrets-using tome like Pnakotic Manuscripts or Old Book of Lore (3); or (with taboo) Mandy Thompson starting out with Cryptographic Cipher or Scroll of Secrets then upgrading into Charisma and Mr “Rook”.

Lecture 4: Getting the most out of the Eldritch Sophist

This section is the major focus of this post. As we covered in the previous lecture, it’s perfectly valid to use the Eldritch Sophist just for its own secrets. However, to get full use of the Eldritch Sophist’s potential, we need to use all aspects of its ability – moving secrets and moving charges. This requires at least 4 different cards – the Sophist as the enabler and Source for secrets, some kind of Target for secrets, and either a Source and a Target for charges or two charge-using assets for charge fixing.

All four of these are necessarily assets, meaning that fully exploiting the potential of the Eldritch Sophist probably involves the majority of assets in your deck (8 cards total) – this in turn means that you want to build around the Eldritch Sophist as a cornerstone of your deck. Luckily, Seekers have access to plenty of draw and search abilities to let you set up a board state with several moving parts. Many assets that use charges and secrets are combat and investigation cards, so it’s also pretty viable to have them be the centrepieces of a deck.

Since the Eldritch Sophist is its own Source for secrets, this often means that the more complex interactions in your deck are based around charges, and you can simply take a generally useful asset that uses secrets in order to get value out of the Sophist itself. Luckily, there are several very solid options for this – cards that are useful for basically anyone that are limited by Uses (secrets). The taboo Scroll of Secrets (0), used together with the Eldritch Sophist, essentially draws you 6 cards over 6 rounds thanks to its free triggered ability even without doing something more complicated with its ability to target the Encounter deck or discard/relocate the drawn card, and is available to anyone who can take Eldritch Sophist. Scroll of Prophecies and Mr “Rook” are also cards that most decks can get a lot of value from. Of course, it’s also possible to have another, more specific use for the Sophist’s secrets – the point here is that if you’re including the Sophist to move charges around, you should at least add a simple economy card that benefits from its secrets in order to get more value out of it.

Sources of charges can be quite diverse. The obvious and classic option is Decorated Skull, a cheap Rogue asset that gains charges whenever enemies or allies are defeated at your location and can use those charges for slightly more efficient economy actions (substantially more efficient at level 3). Much like the old Decorated Skull/Torrent of Power decks that made use of its potential for charges, the idea is to take Decorated Skull and use the Eldritch Sophist to siphon off the charges it generates onto another card – most likely an attack card to create a self-sustaining loop of killing enemies to generate charges and then using those charges to kill enemies. Empty Vessel works in much the same way. Another straightforward option is the Chthonian Stone, which loses charges when you draw the auto-fail and returns to hand when empty. If you siphon off its charges, it returns to hand and can be replayed again, more or less being a repeatable source of three charges for 2 resources that also seals up a token until you’ve finished siphoning.

Some assets come into play with lots of charges and/or secrets for a low price, so the Sophist is a good way to put their inexpensive Uses to a better use on a more expensive card – it can be difficult to get good value out of Alchemical Transmutation, for example, partly because you need to successfully use all its charges before it provides a better profit than other more straightforward options, but if you have the Sophist in play, you can use its Charges to top up Shrivelling while also having the option to use them for the ability on Alchemical Transmutation itself. The same is true of Scrying to an extent. Similarly, Forbidden Knowledge and Forbidden Tome (Untranslated) provide plenty of Secrets at a very low price, which can be used to instead refuel a Pnakotic Manuscripts or even a Necronomicon – and siphoning charges from the Forbidden Tome even speeds up the translation process at the same time.

Charge Fixing is a very different approach to using the Sophist. Instead of taking charges from one asset and moving them to another asset where they will be substantially more valuable, this is instead about shifting charges around as the situation demands. A simple example would be a straightforward Mystic deck with an investigation spell and an attack spell – say, Jim Culver with Shrivelling and Rite of Seeking – that might not need all the Shrivelling charges it has if there aren’t many enemies around and so can put them onto Rite of Seeking to use them to attack the scenario in a different way, or conversely get extra Shrivelling charges to deal with a sudden swarm of enemies. This also means that once you have one copy of each in play, getting a second copy of either card, or playing Recharge on either copy, can effectively provide more uses for both cards, which in turn provides you with more consistency.

For charge/secret fixing, you can also use one card as a temporary repository for charges or secrets from the other. A simple example of how this might work is a situation where you have Shrivelling in play with 1 charge remaining, Rite of Seeking in play with 3 charges remaining, and a second copy of Shrivelling in hand. This round, you have an action going spare, and there are enemies lurking in the encounter deck with 4 health – this would be the ideal time to play that second copy of Shrivelling, but in doing so, you will effectively waste the charge on your current copy. On the other hand, if you were to wait until you have used that last charge, you might need to take an attack of opportunity – or use up an action you cannot spare at that time – in order to play the fresh copy. With the Eldritch Sophist, you can transfer the spare Shrivelling charge over to Rite of Seeking, then play your fresh Shrivelling, and then transfer the charge back if need be on a subsequent round. Similarly, you might want to siphon your last Secret from your Scroll of Secrets onto the Eldritch Sophist himself so that you can play a replacement Scroll of Secrets this round.

There are some more complex uses for charge/secret Fixing. Mind’s Eye is a good example – it might be the case that you need more uses of Mind’s Eye and so siphon them off a Scroll of Secrets, but you might also end up drawing your second and third copies of Mind’s Eye early and want to move them onto the Scroll of Secrets. Suggestion (4) is unusual in that you can use the Evade ability on it even when it has no charges – the charges are only lost if you don’t succeed by 2 and can also be used to dodge attacks – so you could siphon off all the charges onto your Shrivelling or Rite of Seeking, etc., and still be able to use that Evade ability – and if you ever do need to cancel an attack, you can siphon a charge back over. Similarly, you can push your luck with Seal of the Seventh Sign by siphoning off its charges if not many symbol tokens have been drawn, or siphon charges onto it if you need it to stay around longer.

In summary, there are a lot of more complex ways to use the Eldritch Sophist. The next lectures will introduce some deckbuilds using the Sophist to showcase various examples of the card in use.

Lecture 5: Roland Banks, Sophistic Swordmaster

The first deckbuild lecture uses the Eldritch Sophist to enable Roland Banks to use the Enchanted Blade as his main and only weapon, while also providing plenty of horror soak and healing to counteract his vulnerable sanity and the possible effects of his signature weaknesses. It is primarily a fighter, but also has enough investigation power to hold its own as a clue-gatherer.

The full decklist and a comprehensive writeup can be found here.

The core of the deck is built around the Eldritch Sophist to siphon charges from Flesh Ward to the Enchanted Blade, and to move its own secrets onto the Cryptographic Cipher. This means that you can investigate at -2 shroud once per round with plenty of secrets, and make accurate 2-damage attacks with plenty of charges. Being able to rely solely on the Enchanted Blade means plenty of horror healing and card draw, together with plenty of other card draw and a heavy skill focus to absolutely tear through the deck. Empty Vessel can be used either to provide more Enchanted Blade charges or to form the Wish-Eater for extra healing and token cancellation – and if you want the Empty Vessel back to keep charging it up, you can siphon off the Wish-Eater charges to speed the process up.

Lecture 6: Jim Culver’s Callous Casuistry

This lecture showcases the Decorated Skull as part of a spellcasting deck, designed to kill enemies, gain charges and siphon off those charges back onto its spells. Jim Culver is ideal for this since his deckbuilding allows him to take both Decorated Skull and Eldritch Sophist. As with most Mystic builds, it fills a flex role with both investigation and combat solutions, but it does want to be in the thick of the fight to get those Decorated Skull charges.

The full decklist and writeup can be found here.

This deck uses the Eldritch Sophist to siphon off the charges generated by the Decorated Skull (replenishing) and also move charges between spell assets as the situation demands (fixing). It also uses the Sophist to keep the Scroll of Prophecies stocked with secrets for maximum card draw. Having a consistent source of charges right from the beginning means that it’s a more consistent deck than many Mystics, at least once it is set up, and the deck can be used as a framework for lots of variant builds as discussed in the ArkhamDB writeup. A similar idea (Decorated Skull for charges, Eldritch Sophist to transfer them) can be used for Zoey Samaras using the Enchanted Blade, but that is not too dissimilar to the Roland Banks deck discussed in the previous lecture with its use of Empty Vessel.

Lecture 7: Norman Withers, the Stargazing Sophist

This lecture concerns the Astronomer himself, designed around using The Chthonian Stone (3) as a repeatable Source for charges to top up spells, while also controlling the chaos bag and using plenty of card draw. As with many Norman Withers decks, it starts off without much arcane power but grows into the potential of the Eldritch Sophist as it gets upgrades.

The full decklist and writeup are found here.

This deck uses Eldritch Sophist to siphon off charges from The Chthonian Stone (3) to keep its attack spell online, as well as charge fixing between Shrivelling, The Chthonian Stone and Seal of the Seventh Sign to switch between combat and bag control as the situation demands. The Sophist’s secrets are used to keep Scroll of Secrets working, which provides additional card draw and can be used to make optimal use of Norman’s ability. The flavour of the deck is awesome, as the Eldritch Sophist becomes more and more integral to how the deck works as the investigator abandons his scholastic origins and embraces the supernatural – perhaps Norman’s sophistic colleague has been showing him how to rewrite the stars as he sees fit…

Lecture 8: Marie Lambeau – Song of Sophistry

This lecture introduces a Marie deck designed to gather as many clues as possible while staying alive. It has minimal combat ability and plays more like a seeker than a typical mystic, and showcases the charge fixing concept introduced above.

The full decklist and writeup can be found here.

This deck uses Eldritch Sophist to siphon off all the charges from Suggestion to Rite of Seeking, meaning that Suggestion can be used to evade with no risk of losing charges. The basic playstyle is to evade enemies and investigate using intellect, then using her final action in a round (preferably her extra action for having Doom in play, if it hasn’t already been used) to use Rite of Seeking, enabling her to get a huge number of clues at once. Eldritch Sophist also refills Dayana Esperence, allowing you to play around with doom on Blood Pact as much as you like using Moonlight Ritual, have a huge number of uses of Spectral Razor if you need more fighting power, or exercise immense control over the scenario with Alter Fate. Between Dayana Esperence and Eldritch Sophist, the deck has a substantial amount of soak available. The deck is designed to race through scenarios as quickly as possible, and the Eldritch Sophist keeps its motor running.

Lecture 9: Daisy Walker and Luke Robinson – getting experimental

This lecture presents two less conventional decks, a Daisy deck designed to largely neutralise the encounter deck at its roots, designed around using Cryptic Grimoire (Text of the Elder Guardian) as frequently as possible, and a Luke deck designed around Whitton Greene (2) to search the deck over and over again to trigger Revelation effects by entering Luke’s Dream-Gate every round, and investigating with intellect. These decks have not been properly tested and are designed less as concrete decklists and more as ways to showcase the more unconventional potential of the Eldritch Sophist.

This deck uses Cryptic Grimoires to bypass drawing cards from the encounter deck during the Mythos phase, and uses the Eldritch Sophist to transfer as many Secrets as possible onto the Cryptic Grimoires in order to enable this to be performed as often as possible, using Forbidden Knowledge as a source. Once the deck is running at full steam, it should be able to avoid drawing an encounter card at least once every other round. The rest of the deck is built around minimising the impact of any encounter cards that make it through the Grimoires, with cancellation and enemy management effects, as well as a basic level of investigation ability in order to attack the scenario itself.

The Daisy Walker decklist and writeup are available here.

This deck is designed to allow Luke to spend all his time in his Dream-Gate, neutralising most enemies and a number of encounter cards. The role of the Eldritch Sophist in this deck is primarily to siphon charges from Alchemical Transmutation in order to keep the Gate Box charged up throughout the scenario in order to trigger Whitton Greene and be safe from enemies every round; it also transfers secrets to the Scroll of Secrets to properly draw through the deck. One option with this deck (shown in the side deck) is to use Versatile to take “Let Me Handle This!” in order to take spawning enemies from other players while in the Dream-Gate so that they are discarded, which results in a lack of consistency but offers unconventional means of enemy management.

The Luke Robinson decklist and writeup are available here.

Lecture 10: Closing thoughts

Thank you for taking part in this lecture series hosted by the Silver Twilight Lodge! If you happen to come up with other interesting uses or interactions for the Eldritch Sophist, I would love to hear them. Join us soon for a repeat of the History of the Silver Twilight Lodge, and in the meantime…

Stay safe out there in Arkham. The nights are dark indeed.

A Potted History of the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight (repost)

I originally posted this in December 2018 on the Arkham Horror LCG subreddit and on the now defunct FFG forums. At the time, it was intended as background following the announcement of The Circle Undone. Much of the text remains unchanged here, but as there have been lots of new additions to the wider community, and as it’s a post I’m rather proud of (not to mention appropriate for the theme and URL of this blog!), I thought I’d repost it here for posterity, with some tweaks. This post will include comprehensive spoilers for the classic Call of Cthulhu RPG campaign Shadows of Yog Sothoth and minor spoilers for Masks of Nyarlathotep, both by Chaosium, as well as potentially spoiler-y information about the discontinued Call of Cthulhu Card Game, all three editions of the Arkham Horror board game, Mansions of Madness 2e, and Eldritch Horror. I will be touching on the plotline of The Circle Undone in broad strokes, but I will try to avoid any major spoilers.

With the announcement of The Return to The Circle Undone, Arkham Horror players might be interested to know the background of the Order and its different incarnations. Since the Order plays a crucial – and morally uncertain – role in the Circle Undone, you may be curious to see where the Order has landed in terms of being villainous or heroic across its many appearances. My hope is that this gives you some interesting background to the story of TCU, whether you’re a veteran of the campaign or have yet to play it, and that it might help inspire speculation about the twists, turns and tweaks that we might see in the Return to… version of the campaign. A lot of this post was originally written from memory with reference to old materials, so while I have checked my sources, I’d welcome any corrections or additions.

First Appearance – Villainous super-cult

The Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight (HOST for short) goes back to the early days of Cthulhu Mythos tabletop gaming. The Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, which is responsible to a large extent for much of the significance of the Cthulhu Mythos in modern pop culture, was first released in 1981. The initial scenarios in the core book were very “generic” and straightforward horror plots, such as investigating a supposedly haunted house. However, in 1982, the first campaign for Call of Cthulhu was published, called Shadows of Yog Sothoth. Shadows of Yog Sothoth hasn’t really stood the test of time – it consists of a number of rather incongruous scenarios that are meant to lead into one another, some of which are explicitly designed to just kill player characters, and it overall seems disjointed with a lack of focus or coherency compared with more modern RPG campaigns. However, it laid the foundation for all the Cthulhu Mythos campaigns to follow – taking horror out of the haunted house or creepy cave and making it about global conspiracies and globe-trotting battles against impending disaster.

The HOST is the central antagonistic organisation in the campaign. Initially, the Order seems to be a fraternal organisation in Boston with occult trappings, like a more hardcore version of the Freemasons and with a name evoking the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – it’s wealthy, has political connections, and while it has some weird rituals it seems to be mainly there to enable well-to-do people to make connections and provide a societal and political network for its members. Under the surface, however, the Hermetic Order is a front for an ancient organisation of Mythos sorcerers called the Lords of the Silver Twilight. Favoured members get inducted at late-night ceremonies into ever more occult ranks that give them Cthulhu Mythos knowledge, including oaths to swear allegiance to the Outer Gods, requirements to learn Mythos magic and exposure to mind-blasting horrors. The Lodge hall is an opulent town house with plush eating facilities and reception areas, as well as a bar (the Order’s money and connections mean it is essentially unaffected by prohibition), and occult but apparently benign ritual facilities and library on the second floor. However, it includes secret areas such as a third floor with evil ritual altars, a library of horrible tomes and cursed artwork that produces horror in onlookers, and a basement leading to a cave network with another occult library (including the Necronomicon), statues of Cthulhu, various clues for players, pits and cells for human captives (like people who asked too many questions) and monstrous beings, and bottles filled with the “essential saltes” needed for Resurrection (as detailed in the Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward) that can be used to resurrect people – or carefully created monsters known as Custodes who act as servants and defenders. The organisation is led by John Scott, a centuries-old resurrectee, and Carl Stanford, an ageless sorcerer and the true mastermind behind the Lodge.

The players are expected to find out the secret of the organisation and work to expose its crimes and see it dissolved, but that doesn’t end its schemes. They set up a second organisation called Look to the Future, invoking Nyarlathotep (who appears with the pseudonym Lostalus Black) and sending people through to the future (like the ’70s to ’90s). They sell inconsequential future gimmicks like ball-point pens and non-stick pans, but keep for themselves far more powerful future technology like a computer and assault rifles. This organisation is also led by Carl Stanford and his subordinate Bryan Slim, uses a captive Shoggoth for power generation, and has cultures of a supernatural and utterly deadly disease called the Black Fever.

After messing up these two organisations, the players end up investigating Silver Twilight offshoots throughout the world – the Silver Twilight is trying to get parts of a relic they can use to raise R’lyeh from the sea and free Cthulhu, meaning that their true end-goal is to destroy the world, so the players are competing with them and hunting down other cults to stop this goal. This takes the players to Scotland, where they encounter a coven of witches and, incongruously, serpent people and a chthonian; the Mojave desert, where they investigate a ruined film set and encounter beings known as Spectral Hunters called forth by insane Native American shamans and a member of the Silver Twilight a century prior; rural Maine, where the Silver Twilight tries to assassinate the player characters with the assistance of a Mi-Go; Easter Island, where the players encounter the Deep Ones and a Dimensional Shambler; and finally R’lyeh itself, where the players battle the Silver Twilight and Carl Stanford directly, and may face Cthulhu himself (as well as a fire vampire).

Carl Stanford is the main antagonist in this campaign, as he leads the Silver Twilight from Boston to R’lyeh and masterminds the plot that the players are trying to foil. The campaign itself features a completely scattershot grab-bag of mythos beasties – the HOST worships the Outer Gods, works with Nyarlathotep, communes with all kinds of Mythos beings, tries to summon Cthulhu, and yet the campaign is called Shadows of Yog Sothoth. In that sense, it provides very little in the way of mythos background for the interpretation of the Lodge found in TCU, which is why I’ve concentrated on the Lodge stuff at the start, as that is more heavily referenced in subsequent FFG games and seems the most relevant to the story and setting of TCU.

Second Appearance – Namechecked in MoN

Another seminal work in the history of Call of Cthulhu gaming is the mega-campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep, first released in 1984 and frequently updated and added to since then (a new version has recently been released and by all accounts is as masterful as ever, with a truly bewildering amount of secondary background material and roleplaying aids). In many ways this builds upon the ideas first created in Shadows of Yog Sothoth, but it’s by far the superior work. While it is also a globetrotting mystery that sees players attempting to foil a global conspiracy of immense power, it’s a much more focused story, concentrating on followers of Nyarlathotep, and for the most part the various machinations and monsters that the players encounter make a lot more sense and feel a lot more coherent (as opposed to Shadows of Yog Sothoth that often felt like they’d just thrown a dart at the monster section of the rulebook to determine what the players would come up against). It takes players from New York to London, Egypt, Kenya, Shanghai and Australia, and has been directly referenced in later FFG works (most notably the unfairly maligned final expansion to Eldritch Horror, also called Masks of Nyarlathotep, which was a direct collaboration between FFG and Chaosium). I live in hope that we’ll see a proper Masks mega-campaign for the Arkham LCG, but it’s tangentially relevant to the Circle Undone, as the HOST appears here too. In one part of the story, Carl Stanford of Silver Twilight infamy turns up; he doesn’t have a strong connection to the story, seeming more like he’s taking a working holiday at the HQ of a cult that the players are investigating, but this does establish that the Silver Twilight is active throughout the world – and gives me an excuse to mention Masks of Nyarlathotep in this post. The campaign isn’t perfect – notably, the Australia chapter (which was added later) is extremely weak. However, it has had a huge influence on all Cthulhu Mythos gaming and its influence is found even in the Arkham Horror LCG, albeit not overtly as yet.

FFG’s first steps – the Arkham Horror Board Game

Back in 1987, the first edition of the Arkham Horror Board Game was released. I haven’t played it, but it was by all accounts very different to the Arkham Files universe that we know today, with roll-to-move similar to Cluedo and a rather rudimentary-looking board – though it did mark the first appearance of many of the investigators in our game today. However, it does include the Silver Twilight Lodge as a location, where gates might spawn. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to say about it, but this game was the first incarnation of what would become the Arkham Horror files and it already namechecks the Silver Twilight – which will be a continuing feature as we fast forward a couple of decades…

FFG starts its Cthulhu obsession

In 2004, Chaosium licensed FFG to produce the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game. Unlike our beloved Arkham Horror LCG, it was a competitive game – players had decks with characters, support cards and events and attempted to win stories – this approach means that a group of Miskatonic Students could win over a horde of Mythos monsters by finishing their investigation before they all went mad or died, and notably, except for a handful of milling strategies and unusual alternative win conditions, the game was not a direct conflict where players attempted to defeat each other like in Magic: the Gathering or the previous Chaosium lovecraftian card game Mythos, but instead was a competition over, essentially, victory points in the form of mysteries to solve. In this incarnation of the card game, it was a CCG and not an LCG – outside of starter decks, players acquired cards randomly via booster packs. The Silver Twilight appeared here as well on a number of cards such as Lord of the Silver Twilight or Silver Twilight Turncoat, continuing the theme of a villainous cultist organisation, and our friend Carl Stanford was likewise present. These cards were aligned with the Cthulhu faction (and not the Yog Sothoth faction). There’s not really much to say about this, either – they had cultisty powers and were in league with Cthulhu. What is interesting is that this game had a much more pulpy theme than the RPG (not that the Call of Cthulhu RPG isn’t pulpy), with organised criminals hiring sorcerers and sending hit squads after deep ones, an agency of investigators shotgun-blasting monsters in the streets, and gods and nightmares striding the earth, opposed by humans. We’ll revisit the Call of Cthulhu Card Game and expand upon this pulpy theme when it makes the jump to the LCG format below…

Arkham Horror goes mainstream

In 2005, the second edition of Arkham Horror was launched. It’s fair to say that this was one of the cornerstones of FFG’s rapid rise to dominance in the board gaming world, and it was the first entry in what has now become the Arkham Files series and universe. I won’t devote much space to explaining the mechanics or nature of the game, as it will likely be familiar to many – in brief, gates appear across Arkham (and later Innsmouth and Dunwich – there was also a Kingsport expansion but technically gates didn’t spawn there), and it’s your job to close them and seal away the Ancient One with investigators wielding guns, magic, various familiar trinkets and items, and so on. Interestingly, this game marks the point where the Silver Twilight becomes a different kind of organisation within the broad narrative. The Silver Twilight Lodge is a location in the game, with a double purpose. Players can have encounters in the lodge where they rub shoulders with Lodge members, eavesdrop on secret conversations or steal useful items, or they can be offered membership – which allows access to Inner Sanctum encounters instead. These encounters see players enjoying support from influential fellow members or arcane resources – but also sees them take part in powerful rituals and hunts that directly help combat the destructive forces out to destroy Arkham, by closing gates and destroying enemies.

The Silver Twilight still does horrible things – monsters roam their halls, and you can be beaten or worse if you show disloyalty. It’s implied that the Silver Twilight might bear responsibility for the events in Arkham – Diana Stanley, the Redeemed Cultist certainly seems to think so, and she has secretly turned her back on the Order to oppose it, believing it to be evil. But in this incarnation it is no longer an unambiguous force for evil, but instead morally ambiguous, corrupt and yet helping to save Arkham. It’s led by Carl Stanford – who is definitely a nasty person, subjecting you to terrible beatings or horrifying experiences to test your suitability or punish you for failing to pay your fees, but is also willing to help you out with material resources and information.

The first Cthulhu LCG

I got my hands on about 250 sleeves with this art when Arkham LCG first came out…

In 2008, FFG switched the Call of Cthulhu CCG over to its LCG model and restarted it from scratch. The mechanics were essentially the same but it used the LCG format we know and love, retaining the seven factions of Yog Sothoth (purple, powerful spells, arcane power, combos, Yithians, milling enemies), Cthulhu (green, strong combat, horror, Deep Ones, enemy card destruction), Hastur (yellow, control, effect cancellation, horror and insanity, artists and lunatics), Shub Niggurath (red, lots of monsters, resource ramp, resurrecting characters, Dark Young and Mi-Go), the Agency (blue, detectives, powerful fighters, enemy card destruction, church and priests, government and police), the Miskatonic University (brown, students and professors, quick investigation, disposable characters, card draw) and the Syndicate (black, criminals, decent combat ability, control and card neutralisation, high skill), which could be freely mixed and matched to create decks like scientists supporting police investigations, researchers driven mad by Hastur, criminals allied with deep ones and so on.

Initially, it continued the previous approach of the Silver Twilight as a villainous force, with the cards Lord of the Silver Twilight, Silver Twilight Temptress and Carl Stanford (Deathless Fanatic). This changed with a deluxe expansion called, appropriately enough, The Order of the Silver Twilight, which added a new human faction, coloured silver, concentrating on control, powerful arcane rituals, combos and making progress at any cost with lots of effects that sacrificed characters, lots of effects that triggered when you sacrifice characters and lots of disposable characters to sacrifice. This incarnation of the Silver Twilight was the most ambiguous so far. Its effects meant that it synergised well with Yog Sothoth (a lodge corrupted to its core), Miskatonic (rich patrons supporting research) and the Syndicate (political corruption and organised crime). The Silver Twilight Lodge was the focus of a new cycle immediately after the deluxe, with a story concentrating on a young dilettante going to a Lodge party and ending up in way, way over her head. While the story isn’t available on FFG’s website, I was very kindly sent a scan of the Rituals of the Order fiction by Carthoris. I have to say, it hasn’t aged particularly well and should be mentioned with a content warning for attempted sexual assault, but it is an interesting curio nevertheless.

As the fourth human faction, the Silver Twilight were not aligned directly to the Mythos, and they had a Senator and a government metaphysicist (who are namechecked in the Circle Undone announcement article), the local mayor, warrior and sorcerers, police connections, an elite inner circle of the enlightened and were apparently masterminded by one Clifton Rosenberg. Later cycles broadened the scope of the game to the whole world, and the Silver Twilight had characters and cards from Egypt to China, Mesoamerica to Antarctica, Greece to the South Pacific – confirming that, as in the RPG, the Silver Twilight was a global network with the Hermetic Order in New England as merely one aspect. However, they still had their secret underground prison and their army of resurrected guard-enforcers from Shadows of Yog Sothoth and still featured Carl Stanford – with his new subtitle of Sinister, not necessarily evil – fully underlining their thoroughly morally ambiguous nature.

To me, this is the most interesting variation of the Silver Twilight, where it isn’t clear whether they’re a benevolent, powerful organisation, or a group seizing power in the chaos of mythos disasters, or a group ultimately responsible for them whether through recklessness or intent; how long have they been behind the scenes, pulling the strings, and is their assistance worth the risk – or can you afford to ignore it? A few named characters from the LCG make their appearance in The Circle Undone, and if the preview for Return to the Circle Undone is any indication, there will be more such crossovers soon.

Going global with Eldritch Horror

Eldritch Horror, first released in 2013, is an evolution of the ideas behind the Arkham Horror board game, retaining the D6 dice pool system, the same characters, the idea of gates spawning at locations and so on, but streamlining it with a greater emphasis both on story and on mechanical balance. The scope is broadened from everything happening in Arkham and surroundings (Arkham being like Cardiff in Torchwood, or Sunnydale in Buffy…) to the whole world, with investigators battling global conspiracies and having to combat plots specific to the mythos disaster taking place rather than playing whack-a-mole with gates all game. I’m a big fan, in case it isn’t clear. The moral ambiguity of the Arkham Horror board game is back, too. A great many effects see the players enjoying boons from or making shady deals with the Silver Twilight, meaning that generally they are on the side of humanity – they can retreat doom to keep the Ancient One from awakening, empower you directly, or provide you with all kinds of useful resources. However, when Yog Sothoth threatens the world, Carl Stanford might lead the Lodge to temptation and even join with the mythos.

Outside of a few crucial encounters if Yog Sothoth is the Ancient One, the Lodge is consistently helpful, and though the flavour text often implies that they are dubious and arcane, you don’t even have to make eldritch pacts or pay dues to enjoy their assistance. The impression is that they have influence all over the world, are aware of the doom awaiting the world and your efforts to resist it, and are working behind the scenes to help. Most of the time.

Later incarnations – Arkham 3e and Mansions 2e

The Order of the Silver Twilight has become a fixture of the Arkham Files games by now, appearing in a big way in both the new edition of the Arkham Horror board game and the second edition of Mansions of Madness. In Mansions, there’s a pair of scenarios about the Silver Twilight Lodge as part of the dedicated expansion the Sanctum of Twilight – one that sees you imprisoned by the Order and another that features a ritual during the yearly Twilight Fair through the streets of Arkham. In Arkham 3e, the Order is the focal point of a scenario in the core set, the Veil of Twilight, that sees players join the Lodge and (a familiar theme) get in over their heads. It seems that the Lodge will return in the upcoming Secrets of the Order expansion as well – where one scenario will apparently focus on the HOST.

Mansions of Madness Second Edition also saw the release of Preston Fairmont (who since appeared in Eldritch Horror: Masks of Nyarlathotep, Elder Sign: Omens of the Pharaoh, and of course in the LCG in The Circle Undone). The backstory of The Millionaire ties directly into the Silver Twilight Lodge as part of the mystery behind his fortune and the more esoteric elements of his inheritance.

Since both Arkham 3e and Mansions 2e have dedicated expansions focusing on the Order, it’s clear that it’s become a central point of the Arkham Files world. That said, the appearance of the Order in both games is something of a step back in terms of characterisation – they’re ultimately villains, even if through megalomaniacal schemes for the supposed benefit of humanity rather than simple malice, bringing the Order more in line with their portrayal in the RPG (albeit with a bit more nuance) rather than the ambiguity introduced in earlier FFG products. Perhaps that’s simply a function of the design of those two games, though.

The Arkham Horror LCG

Our own game saw the influence of the Silver Twilight as early as the core set, in the form of the Silver Twilight Acolyte. This enemy is a weakness with the Cultist, Silver Twilight and Humanoid traits, and he causes a small amount of physical damage – but has the punishing effect of adding doom directly to the agenda when he attacks. At first glance this seems unambiguously evil, but on second glance it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The flavour text indicates that the Acolyte is hunting you down because you learned – or stole – terrible secrets regarding the Silver Twilight, and the organisation needs to silence you. This could mean that you know they intend to destroy the world, but could also mean that you saw them sacrificing someone in a ritual (hardly a good-guy thing to do, but when we as investigators can sacrifice our allies or even stab our fellow investigators to fulfil the terms of eldritch blood pacts, being too judgemental might be hypocritical). You might even simply know relatively mundane secrets – like political corruption.

Either way, the Silver Twilight is certainly reckless in sending an Acolyte after you, as they’re preventing you saving Arkham and the world from otherwise certain doom, but the same is true of the misguided Stubborn Detective, who will follow you to Paris, Central America, Carcosa or Beyond Time and Space to get his collar, and the Mob Enforcer, who is truly motivated to get you to pay your gambling debts.

In The Circle Undone expansion, both Investigators with ties to the HOST – Diana Stanley and Preston Fairmont – were added to the roster and have the Silver Twilight trait. Investigator traits haven’t been explored a great deal (though there is a point where their Silver Twilight trait could matter in TCU), but that may be something expanded on later, who can say?

The campaign itself starts with a prologue set at a fancy dinner party thrown by the Lodge. Throughout the campaign, they can be helpful, suspicious and powerful all at once. It’s up to you as a player – and the whims of fate, of course – to decide how far you trust them. Any more than that would give things away but I will close by saying this: The Lodge of The Circle Undone is still rather ambiguous, and their silver facade conceals a thoroughly grey moral bearing. Just as it should be.

———-

To summarise and conclude, over its 39 years of existence, the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight has been an apocalyptic cult of destruction, a force for good, an ambiguous and influential international conspiracy, and a cabal of sorcerers trying to undo their mistakes. How you interpret the Lodge in TCU is up to you. And I hope you’ll join me in Returning to The Circle Undone once it releases.

Stay safe out there in Arkham. The glow of twilight can be worse than the dark of night…

Greetings and Welcome

Hello and allow me to welcome you to my new Arkham Horror LCG blog. If you’ve stumbled across this site, hi! I hope you enjoy reading it.

I am Dai (DaiInAFire on the subreddit; Allonym on the defunct FFG forums), and I hope to publish my thoughts on the Arkham Horror LCG whenever the mood strikes me.

Possible topics may include decklists – I have a particular fondness for more unusual deckbuilds, with an eye to creative but effective designs – posts about specific cards (a post about the Eldritch Sophist should be arriving imminently), posts about lore and background (as the URL might give away, I’m quite fond of the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight, and will be crossposting my old post about its history to this blog soon), posts about community contributions and events, thoughts on community-made content, and hot takes on newly released or previewed cards and scenarios.

Given my fondness for the Silver Twilight Lodge, I’ve chosen a vague theme of a slightly tongue-in-cheek Silver Twilight newsletter for this blog, but I’m likely to be prioritising ease of reading over staying in character!

I’m more than happy to provide help and advice with deckbuilding or gameplay queries, or to collaborate on any kind of content, so if you are wanting some help tweaking a deck or looking at some aspect of the game, please feel free to get in touch!

Stay safe out there in Arkham!