Sister Mary: A Closer Look (Arkham Horror: The Innsmouth Conspiracy)
Before we begin, please note that this article will talk about characters in the new The Innsmouth Conspiracy Arkham Horror cycle, as well as new cards. We will not go into detail about the story though.
Arkham Horror is a superb game. Set in the realm of HP Lovecraft, players play the roles of investigators, each one in search of clues, unravelling a story and trying to survive the nightmarish landscape. For one to two players, Arkham Horror truly is one of the best card games on the market. If you haven’t played it, and you love deck building games, then Arkham Horror is an absolute must. Arkham Horror is a Living Card Game, meaning deluxe expansions and mythos packs are regularly released, allowing for the game to continue to evolve, whilst removing the randomness of the Collectable Card Game booster packs. It is simply superb and I recommend you check it out.
Is that enough of an introduction? I hope so, because today I want to talk about something very precise in the game, and share a few thoughts about one of the investigators in particular. This investigator is one of the new investigators released in the latest deluxe expansion, known simply as The Innsmouth Conspiracy. We’ve only played the first mission so far, but we can tell you that this new expansion is amazing, brutal, brilliant and terrifying all at once.
My partner and I bought the Arkham Horror base set about two years ago; however, we have only truly got into it recently and have been playing a lot of it over the past few months. We’ve played the Night of the Zealot campaign (I mean, it is the base one, so you would hope so), most of The Dunwich Legacy, The Dreameaters dream campaign, and are now playing The Innsmouth Conspiracy. So far as Arkham players go, that makes us well versed but not giant experts. That being said, today we have to discuss one character in a lot more detail, and that character is Sister Mary.
Sister Mary in Arkham Horror
Sister Mary, the Nun, is one of five new investigators introduced into Arkham Horror by The Innsmouth Conspiracy core set. She is the Guardian of the group, having a deck that is made up of Guardian Cards (levels 0-5), Neutral Cards (levels 0-5) and Mystic Cards (levels 0-2). We’re playing her in a two player campaign with Dexter Drake, the Magician, who is a Mystic as his primary class, and Rogue as his secondary. In hindsight, it’s not the best synergy, since my partner went heavy on the Mystic Cards, but it is fun nonetheless. This is because Sister Mary is nothing short of amazing.
Blesses, Curses, and Seals
Before we go into why Sister Mary is so amazing, we need to first explore one of the core concepts of Arkham Horror and how The Innsmouth Conspiracy affects that concept.
One of the core mechanics in Arkham Horror relies on counters known as Chaos Tokens. Throughout the game of Arkham Horror you will find yourself taking tests, and those tests revolve around taking tokens out of the Chaos Bag that holds them. Each token affects the success of the test you are trying to take – whether that be a +1, 0, or a -1 (or other number modifier), or whether you pull an icon that has a set scenario effect. There is also one blue Elder Sign symbol that causes a character specific effect, and a red tentacles of Cthulhu represent an automatic fail. In Arkham Horror the odds are always stacked against you, meaning that you often need to bolster your tests with cards in order to actually pass them.
This is where The Innsmouth Conspiracy comes in. The Innsmouth Conspiracy adds two new types of token – Blesses and Curses. Blesses can be added to the Chaos Bag to give a +2, but you need to pick another token out afterwards. This means that +2 can turn into a +3 by pulling a +1, or it can become a 0 by pulling a -2 (or any other combination). You get the idea. Curses do the opposite, creating a -2 but you also need to pull another token out afterwards.
When either a Bless or a Curse is pulled, it is removed from the Chaos Bag (or tiny metal chaos bucket as we use).
Seals differ per card, but some cards allow you to Seal Blesses or Curses. What this means is they can be pulled out of the Chaos Bag and saved for later use in a different way. An example of this is sealing Blesses on Rite of Sanctification allowing for those Blesses to be spent to reduce the cost of cards when they are played.
Why Are Blesses Amazing?
What this does is make Blesses amazing. Blesses not only dilute the Chaos Bag, making it less likely to pull a negative, but they can also stack. This means it is possible to get +2, followed by +2, followed by +2, followed by +2 (etc.) and pull off an insane round. In my best round so far (we have played the first scenario a couple of times – don’t ask why) I managed to pull a +8 in Blesses followed by a -2 as my final token. That meant I got an insane +6 on top of my already awesomely modified test. Blesses are fantastic and beautiful and amazing.
Sister Mary’s Blesses
“What does this have to do with Sister Mary?” I hear you cry.
Well, dear reader, hold on. I’m getting to that bit.
You see, dear reader, in Arkham Horror each investigator gets abilities that makes them unique. Some allow you to gain extra resources. Some allow you to search your deck. Some have completely weird and out-there abilities. Sister Mary manipulates blesses.
This means Sister Mary has three abilities:
- During setup, add 2 Bless tokens to the Chaos Bag.
- When the round ends: Add 1 Bless token to the Chaos Bag.
- When pulling an Elder Sign from the Chaos Bag: +1. If you succeed, add 1 Bless token to the Chaos Bag.
There can be a maximum of 10 Blesses in the Chaos Bag at any one time, and playing Sister Mary means there are regularly 4-6 in the Chaos Bag. The most we had at any one time was 9 in there. Yeah, it was a good game.
The Ultimate Support Character
Okay, so there are a few immediate thoughts here. The first is that Sister Mary is a fantastic support character. She can be brutal in a fight (more on this in a bit) and works brilliantly as a character who can seriously buff the other player. The second is this question: Does this make the game too easy?
Okay, let’s tackle that second question first. The truth is, it might in earlier campaigns as they aren’t designed to have so many additional tokens added to the pool, and the enemies aren’t necessarily quite as brutal or frequent. That being said, The Innsmouth Conspiracy, the first level at least, is really difficult due to the brutality and frequency of damage throughout the scenario. Without wanting to give much away, there are lots of monsters, and even the environment itself can regularly hurt you. Yes, Rat Swarms are easy, but haven’t they always been?
Now back to the first thought – Sister Mary is the best support character we have come across in Arkham Horror. Some of the new cards added are brilliant, and she can act as healer/guardian/distraction/protector. Through using Sister Mary it is possible to create this fantastic synergy with another player. At the moment, we are playing as Dexter Drake as the other character, a magician who actually has surprisingly similar stats to Sister Mary. Through using Sister Mary as a support character, acting as a guardian to Dexter Drake, we have found it possible to build Sister Mary up as a buffing and physical support, allowing for Dexter Drake to (rather ironically given his stats) act as the primary investigator.
New Guardian Cards
There are a few cards in The Innsmouth Conspiracy core set that make Sister Mary a true force to be reckoned with, helping both her and any characters she is with. These work on the concept of the Blesses and turn Sister Mary into a truly fantastic character.
- Book of Psalms – Uses (4 Secrets) – Action: Spend 1 secret: Heal 1 horror from an investigator at your location. Add 2 Bless tokens to the Chaos Bag.
- Blessed Blade – Action: If Blessed Blade is ready: Fight. You get +1 combat for the attack. If a Bless token or a Curse token is revealed during this attack, this attack deals +1 damage. Before revealing chaos token(s), you may exhaust Blessed Blade to add 1 Bless token to the chaos bag.
- Hand of Fate – Fast. Play when an enemy attacks an investigator at your location. Cancel that attach. Then, add Bless tokens to the chaos bag equal to the attacking enemy’s total combined damage and horror values.
- Rite of Sanctification – Seal (up to 5 Bless tokens). If Rite of Sanctification has no tokens sealed on it, discard it. When an investigator at your location plays a card, exhaust Rite of Sanctification and release a chaos token sealed on it. Reduce the cost of that card by 2.
- Guardian Angel – Sister Mary deck only. Guardian angel may be assigned damage dealt to other investigators at your location and connecting location. When any amount of damage is assigned to Guardian Angel: Add that many Bless tokens to the chaos bag.
Okay, so we’ve already covered why adding Bless tokens is a good thing to do when it comes to the Chaos Bag (or tiny bucket) when you play; however, the above cards allow for you to manipulate that further. Four of the above cards allow for you to add additional Blesses to the Chaos Bag. One of those cards however, Rite of Sanctification, allows for you to pull Bless tokens out of the bag again, sealing them for an additional benefit for investigators at your location.
By sealing the Blesses, it means they can be used as currency for another card ability. Rite of Sanctification is the only Guardian card so far that allows for Bless tokens to be sealed, but I can’t wait to see what comes out in later The Innsmouth Conspiracy expansion packs.
The Negative of Sister Mary
Now, sealing has a second use for Sister Mary, and that is to take the abundance of Bless tokens that is going into the Chaos Bag and keep them as Bless tokens in their currency form. This is highly useful, and you may not want to keep adding Bless tokens to the Chaos Bag for a very good reason. That reason is the card Crisis of Faith.
Crisis of Faith is the weakness that gets added to the Sister Mary deck. It has the following text:
Revelation: For each Bless token in the chaos bag, you must either replace it with a Curse token or take one horror.
Ow. Yes. That is a very painful card and it makes Bless management a gamble. Do you want the chance for insane plusses, or do you play it safe? I think it is worth taking the gamble, especially if Crisis of Faith comes out early, but as stated earlier I haven’t played many games with Sister Mary yet, so I may come to regret those words.
There is a second negative which is a slightly more bizarre one – both Bless and Curse tokens are rolling modifiers.
When you pull a Bless or a Curse, you remove the token from the chaos bag and draw another. This gives us the ability to have +2 followed by +2 followed by +2; however, it also gives the opportunity for pulling negatives or even the critical fail. I haven’t done the maths yet to work out the odds, but I can’t imagine it being good. After all (and to seriously simplify the mathematics) if there are ten tokens in the pot, one being a Bless, then you have a 1 in 10 chance of pulling a critical fail. Once the bless is pulled you have a 1 in 9 chance of pulling the critical fail. Those odds, like the Bless or Curse tokens, stack.
Sister Mary Deck: What We’re Using
So now we come to that moment where I take you through the deck I am using with Sister Mary. I won’t go through each card individually, but there are essentially two types of card in this deck – cards that aid and cards that provide a lot of damage. I’ll highlight the aid in green, and the damage dealers or combat augmenters in blue. Investigation cards, I’ll highlight in purple. I’ll also put the cycle the card is in next to the name of the card.
Remember that we have kind of (poorly) balanced this off against the Mystic/Rogue deck of Dexter Drake. It is also worth point out that the Dexter Drake card used all the Mystic cards I wanted (Mystic is Sister Mary’s second class), so this is mainly a Guardian deck.
The first three cards are the cards you have to include in a Sister Mary deck:
- Guardian Angel (The Innsmouth Conspiracy)
- Crisis of Faith (Specified Weakness) (The Innsmouth Conspiracy)
- Hypochondria (Random Basic Weakness) (Base Set)
- Guard Dog (Base Set)
- Evidence (Base Set)
- Hand of Fate x2 (The Innsmouth Conspiracy)
- Physical Training (Base Set)
- Rite of Sanctification (Base Set)
- Machete (Base Set)
- .45 Automatic (Base Set)
- Unexpected Courage x2 (Base Set)
- Perception x2 (Base Set)
- Emergency Aid x2 (The Dunwich Legacy)
- Blessed Blade x2 (The Innsmouth Conspiracy)
- Bandolier x2 (The Dunwich Legacy)
- Daring x2 (The Dream-Eaters)
- Vicious Blow (Base Set)
- .35 Winchester x2 (The Dream-Eaters)
- Book of Psalms x2 (The Innsmouth Conspiracy)
- Alice Luxley x2 (The Circle Undone)
- First Watch x2 (The Dream-Eaters)
It’s a bit thin on investigation, and it takes the premise of standing and fighting, rather than evading, but it seems to work quite well at the moment. The primary goal is to keep Dexter Drake alive. The deck will, of course, evolve as we keep playing through the campaign.
Initial Thoughts on Sister Mary
I really like Sister Mary as an investigator in Arkham Horror. She’s right up there with Jenny Barnes and ‘Ashcan’ Pete for my favourites at the moment; however, I am not 100% sure I would like to play her in a solo game. At the moment, Sister Mary has this fantastic ability to control Bless tokens, as well as an ability to seriously help other investigators, with the new cards in place. Where the above deck could be modified to work on its own, I’m not sure how the risk would play out versus that horrible Crisis of Faith card of consistently adding Bless tokens in a solo game. You’d be playing the same number of cards (if not slightly more), without the second player getting the advantage of the phenomenal number of Bless tokens Sister Mary can lay in the Chaos Bag.
That being said, she is fantastically fun to play at the moment, and I can’t wait to get some more use out of her with the rest of The Innsmouth Conspiracy.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you like the look of Sister Mary as a character? What do you think of the Bless/Curse mechanic? Do you have any hints on how to manage the Sister Mary deck? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.