Review – Arkham Horror: The Card Game – The Dream-Eaters Cycle

Arkham Horror: The Card Game – The Dream-Eaters. Fantasy Flight Games, 2019. Scenario Designer, Matthew Newman.

As anyone who frequents Our Meeple Overlords, and especially anyone who follows our On the Table posts, will know, we play a lot of Arkham Horror The Card Game. I hate to say it’s our favorite game because that spoils any “Our Favorite Games” lists we may do this year, but it’s the one game we store in our dining room, where we play all of our games. We love building decks, trying out new strategies to deal with the eldritch, unnamable threats that plague the Arkham Files universe. We revel in the stories that are told through each campaign. We shriek in horror as our sanity slips away, plunging us into the cold embrace of oblivion. The cards are pretty, too.

What we don’t like–and this is by no means a criticism, but rather an acknowledgement of a necessary evil, is waiting for all the scenario packs to come out before we play a campaign. We play often enough, though, that we’re not going to play one scenario and then put the game away for a month.

So here we are. All of the scenarios of The Dream-Eaters campaign are in our trembling hands, and so we finally got to dive in. Instead of reviewing each scenario pack, I’m going to review the entire campaign, which consists of the following scenarios: The Dream-Eaters(Deluxe Expansion), The Search for Kadath, The Thousand Shapes of Horror, The Dark Side of the Moon, The Point of No Return, Where the Gods Dwell, and Weaver of the Cosmos.

There will be mild spoilers.

What’s going on here?

A famous writer claims that he travels to The Dreamlands, A magical realm with monsters, mountains, and talking cats, in his dreams, That would be a weird claim, except that many others have come forward to say that they also have traveled there. In order to understand what might be happening, two groups of investigators have teamed up with mental health experts to study these Dreamlands. One team will attempt to go there themselves, while a second group will stay awake and observe their sleeping companions.

Of course, nothing goes as expected.

Throughout the campaign, which is really two interconnected adventures, the investigators will fight monsters in both reality and in dreams, make uneasy alliances, see some familiar faces, face some Elder Gods, and hopefully save both the waking world and the Dreamlands from complete annihilation.

And there are cats. Lots of cats.

And maybe spiders.

What’s so good here?

Every campaign introduces a new mechanic, or a new way to tell a story. In The Dream-Eaters, we see an expansion of the epic multiplayer mode first seen in The Labyrinths of Lunacy. In The Dream-Eaters, the two above-mentioned groups of investigators each play through their own four-scenario campaigns, stopping to compare notes after each game. Things that happen in the waking world can affect the Dreamlands, and vice-versa.

This makes for some interesting choices where one group has to decide whether to do things that help themselves, knowing that this may make their companions’ next game harder. It may seem like a no-brainer to take the action to help yourself, but both teams have to win for an overall victory, and there are degrees of victory that may or may not feel like winning.

On the enemy play-mechanic front, we get swarming cards, in which you draw the enemy encounter card, and then put cards underneath it to represent the swarm. These swarm cards attack as individual copies of the “host” encounter card, so a small enemy can kill you with a thousand cuts, or what-have-you.

The Dream-Eaters campaign also introduces Myriad cards, which are that, during deck construction, you pay one price for three copies, making them not only cheaper than most cards, but the only cards that you can have more than two copies of in a deck. They tend to be weaker cards, though I used Astounding Revelation to great effect in my Mandy Thompson deck. And, of course, each pack in this campaign adds more player cards, so even if you don’t like the campaign, you’ll probably want to buy these.

Lastly, the climaxes of each campaign or unique to each other, as well as to what happens in any other story, but I can’t say any more without spoiling it, so we’ll leave it there.

What’s not so good?

There are a few cases where the directions for sharing information between groups is confusing. In one example (in Interlude III), there is a typo that tells you to look at the wrong campaign’s log. In our play throughs, we figured it out, but it caused a moment of uncertainty where there shouldn’t have been one. There are also a few cases where you have to look back and forth between logs, and it is easy to get mixed up during these moments. Again, it’s not insurmountable, but it took us out of the moment.

Also, it is possible to get unlucky and have some very powerful swarms of enemies stop you from getting anywhere. In one scenario, I died and Em failed to complete the mission because a total of 8 enemies were on us, in three groups.

That’s 7 enemies on me. BOOOOO!

What do I think?

Unlike Labyrinths of Lunacy, since these scenarios don’t have to be played at the same time, it is totally possible for the same players to play both campaigns (as different characters, or course). We chose to play with our socially-distant friends, Zooming in for the interludes. This was really cool because it meant that when we completed a scenario, we still had to wait until the other team had played to find out how we were doing. We played the campaign twice, taking a different side of the campaign each time, and got slightly different endings on each play-though.

Overall, The Dream-Eaters takes the players to some imaginative places, and challenges them in ways that we haven’t seen before. after two play-throughs, I’m giving it 8/10 victory points. It’s a fun ride that is, perhaps, too difficult at times.

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