I've been wanting to do a video review of Flying Frog's "A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game," but wanted to get another play or two in before I pronounced a final verdict.
Monday night, I found myself with a couple of hours to kill and a hankering to try out a solitaire game of ATOE. Now, there are no official solo-play rules in the manual, but as the game has a cooperative mode, it's well suited for going it alone.
To get around the debate of whether or not to use the "cooperative" or "competitive" version of the villain, I chose to randomly select two characters to send investigating in Shadowbrook and play with the beefier "cooperative" version.
I ended up with Anne Marie The School Teacher and Katarina The Outlaw, and, as I had never played a game against the Spectral Horseman, chose him to be the antagonist.
I popped the included soundtrack CD in the stereo and got down to it. The soundtrack and the sound of the cold November wind howling outside really made for an engrossing atmosphere, and I have to say that of my several plays of this game thus far, this is the first one where I really felt immersed in the flavor of the game. Part of that is the undiluted nature of the solo game, part of it was the added audio stimuli, and part of it was simply being more comfortable with the mechanics of the game, thereby allowing me to appreciate the aesthetics more than I had previously.
One play condition that was neither intentional nor obstructive was the fact that I had played the minion sheet with the "basic" side up. This is why you'll notice that the Barghest Hounds aren't chasing my investigators down during the mystery phase. In all honesty, I think this actually hurt me, because during the portion of the game when I would have been fending off regular attacks, my characters were exceptionally well equipped and healthy. Later on, however, as the board remained filled with the hounds I was avoiding, minion displacement forced several creatures into the Town Hall and caused the shadow track to advance at an alarming rate.
The game ran about two hours, and for most of the first hour I felt fairly confident. Anne Marie was accumulating books. Katarina acquired enough investigation tokens to equip herself nicely, and both made some account for themselves in the occasional run-in with a minion or location encounter.
My investigations into the Elders could not have gone better, as I found two potential hunting party members early on in Sophie the Midwife and Doctor Manning. Granted, Doctor Manning had two dirty little secrets, including some wrong doing during the war for independence as well as a pervy streak, but overall, he was worth bringing in to the fight, if for no other reason than his healing capacity. Although, in a bit of an amusing coincidence, he did also conduct some midnight experiments, killing all the horses at the Blacksmith's shop as well as the ally Katarina had found at the manor.
Once I had two solid allies without revealing any evil, I decided to back off my investigations. However, the horseman twice killed Elders (The Hanbrooks, as luck would have it) and gained even more wound capacity while advancing the shadow track aggressively. Luckily, both casualties also had harmless secrets.
Twice during our investigations my intrepid sleuths were victims of a charge from the horseman, but in each case they had enough investigation tokens to buy healing on the spot or make it to the doctor's office.
However, we were taking several dings and spending that investigation as the game was clearly winding to its close. Katarina had bought a lair card about midway down the shadowtrack, and knew she could force a show down at the Magistrate's Office. However, this is the point when that corner of the board was clustered with minions and the ladies were trying to gird themselves for the ultimate combat.
A final trip to the Doctor's office and blacksmith, and we were ready to go, before I realized Katarina had just spent all of her investigation picking up one last book to give to Anne Marie (To make her bonus in combat +6). This is another rule I forgot to my detriment, that in the cooperative game both investigators shared the lair card, and Anne Marie could have started the showdown with her trove of tokens. As it was, in my confused state, I had to double back around and pick up a couple more investigation counters with Katarina before I made my way to the Magistrate's Office and called the headless horror out.
Katarina had a Musket, a stake, an acquired +1 in combat and virtually no helpful event cards. Anne Marie had a powder keg, 3 books, and a nice selection of wound-negating event cards.
I was worried because as the game had worn on, we'd lost some of our edge, and the horseman had been heaped upon with bonus wounds and combat bonuses from the shadow track and the dead elders. However, he did not have evil allies, and that was to prove very helpful.
The first round of the showdown did little for my spirits as even with the powder keg and various other bonuses, my heroines managed only to shave four wounds from the horseman's 21 heading into the fight. However, he also rolled poorly and failed to kill our allies. Anne Marie took a couple of wounds, but was able to deflect them with an investigation token and a "Just a scratch" card.
In the following round, the ladies again did little damage, and the horseman would have done more, but Anne Marie played the honorable gesture card, preventing four wounds to Katarina and gaining 8 investigation tokens for her efforts. When she then took several wounds, she had plenty of currency with which to buy them off heading into the next round of the fight.
It was here the game turned in my favor, as the ladies rolled better (finally) and really started putting the hurt on the horseman, who had as yet failed to kill even one of the allies. When He finally did kill the doctor, who had made good account of himself preventing three wounds thus far, I was able to play an escape card to send the pervy physician back to town unharmed.
Then, I called the area militia in to assist Katarina, but this proved unnecessary as in the very next turn, Anne Marie rolled a ton of fives and sixes, banishing the spectral horseman for good.
I have still not been part of a game wherein the villain was not defeated, but this game did have plenty of tension, both leading up to and during the final showdown. I honestly had doubts the steadfast women could pull this off.
I really enjoyed this solo play experience, because of the triumphant nature of the showdown and because of the way the game's theme was more consistently present, all the way down to regular sequences of cards that were either maddeningly abusive or darkly amusing.
It may be that I am only now beginning to tap the potential of this game, and so it is good that I decided to accumulate more experience before sharing my review. The two-hour window of play was exactly what I was looking for, and the game fit well into this mode even without the benefit of official rules support.
I'm going to play another solo game of Arkham Horror soon (and share it here, naturally), to get a better feel for the comparison between these two games, but I will say that for the first time in playing ATOE, I think the distinctions may have worked in the newer game's favor.
Nice write-up. Every time I think I have myself mentally disciplined to pass on this game, someone like you comes up with another reason for temptation! Especially tugging at my solo inclinations.
The Scary Soda Can was especially terrifying in the video but the "whinny" at the end was a great final flourish.
Temptation, temptation . . . .
Stephen Michael Hickey
Fantastic video. No better way to show the ebb and flow of evil in the game.
The desire to play another solo game has overwhelmed me, damn you!
It's off to my Lair, that some have mockingly referred to as my games cupboard.