The Rolodex: Core Set Investigators

The Core Set for Arkham Horror: The Card Game comes with 5 investigators, each one belonging to a different pairing of the game’s 5 character classes:

  • There’s Roland Banks, a fed whose recent cases have led to conclusions he does not think his superiors – and the public – are ready to accept. Roland is a Guardian with access to some Seeker cards.
  • Daisy Walker, a librarian with custody over books that perhaps never should have been written. Daisy is a Seeker with access to some Mystic cards.
  • Agnes Baker, a waitress who’s begun to discover memories of a past life where she was a powerful sorceress. Agnes is a Mystic with access to some Survivor cards.
  • Wendy Adams, an urchin living on the streets with little to her name besides a mysterious family heirloom. Wendy is a Survivor with access to some Rogue cards.
  • And finally “Skids” O’Toole, an ex-con troubled by the mad ravings of his former cellmate. Skids is a Rogue with access to some Guardian cards.

The guide below consists of brief write-ups for each of these investigators. After a paragraph summarizing the investigator’s strengths, weaknesses and overall place in the game, you’ll find the following sections:

  • Deckbuilding Rules. Copied straight off the back of each investigator card. Note that each of the Core Set investigators follows the same deckbuilding framework: they can use any card level 0-5 from their primary class, any card level 0-2 from their secondary class, and any Neutral card level 0-5.
  • Sample Decklists. I’ve selected a few sample decklists from among the published decks on ArkhamDB (some my own, and some created by others). You can use one of these decklists to jump in and start playing if you don’t yet feel ready to build your own deck. I’ve given options for a few different collection sizes for each investigator (such as 2 Core Sets, or 1 Core Set + the Full Dunwich Legacy cycle).
  • Useful Expansions. I’ve picked out a few expansions that contain especially useful cards for each investigator. (I do not list every card in the expansion that the investigator is eligible to use, just the ones I think are most likely to actually be useful.)
  • Helpful Tips. These are mainly rules reminders specific to each investigator, but there’s also some advice here and there.

On the Core Set and Deckbuilding

Building a deck for an investigator using just a single Core Set is a very limited affair. There are 10 level 0 cards for each class in the Core Set, and you need 30 level 0 cards to build a deck. Each investigator has access to cards from 2 different classes plus Neutral cards, so to make a deck with one Core and no other expansions you’ll just be taking the 10 cards from your primary class, the 10 cards from your secondary class, and 10 Neutral cards. You can tweak the mix of Neutral cards a little, but that’s about it. This also means that investigators with overlap between their classes cannot be built simultaneously from a single Core Set. For example, Roland and Daisy both use the 10 Seeker cards and therefore with just one Core you won’t be able to build both their decks simultaneously. This is also why you need two copies of the Core Set to play with 3 or 4 players. The pairings you can make with one Core are: Roland and Agnes; Daisy and Wendy; Agnes and Skids; Wendy and Roland; and Skids and Daisy. With 2 copies of the Core Set you’ll be able to build legal decks for any combination of 2, 3, or 4 Core Set investigators. These decks will not always be ideal, but they will be legal.

Quick Start

If you just want to sit down and play a 2-player campaign with one Core Set without worrying about customizing any decks, then use Roland Banks and Wendy Adams as recommended in the Learn to Play booklet. Single-Core decklists for this pair are on page 2 of the Learn to Play.

If you have two copies of the Core Set, I recommend using Roland Banks and Agnes Baker instead. (The reason for the switch from Wendy to Agnes is that Agnes becomes much more reliable once you have that second Core Set, for reasons explained below.) Try the Roland deck by Ian_MB here and the Agnes deck by unitled here.


Roland Banks (The Fed)

The Learn to Play guide recommends that you use Roland for your first game, and I think it’s good advice. Roland is a balanced investigator who is capable of handling both combat and clue-gathering, the 2 main demands that the game puts on investigators. This makes him viable in both solo and multiplayer play. He has a respectable Combat stat of 4 and access to great weapons and damage-dealing effects through the Guardian class. His clue-gathering potential comes both from his special ability (which lets him discover a clue the first time he defeats an enemy each round) and from his access to Seeker cards. Roland’s main disadvantage is his low sanity of 5, which leaves him somewhat fragile. Include some horror-healing effects and/or assets with additional sanity in your deck to help keep Roland in the game. His signature weakness Cover Up can result in him suffering mental trauma, which will make his sanity problems worse.

Deckbuilding Rules

  • Deck Size: 30.
  • Options: Guardian cards level 0-5, Seeker cards level 0-2, and Neutral cards level 0-5.
  • Requirements: (do not count toward deck size) Roland’s .38 Special, Cover Up, and 1 random basic weakness.

Sample Decklists

Useful Expansions

Helpful Tips

  • You can only discover a clue on your location if there’s a clue present there (you can’t take a clue from the token supply). The same goes for Roland’s signature weakness Cover Up – you cannot trigger Cover Up’s reaction ability if there are no clues on your location.
  • Any investigator at Roland’s location can trigger the reaction ability on Cover Up to help Roland clear it.

Daisy Walker (The Librarian)

Daisy’s base intellect of 5 makes her the most proficient investigator in the Core Set at gathering clues. She’s a focused, straightforward character for beginners (though unfortunately Daisy cannot be paired with Roland in single Core Set play, since they both use the Seeker cards). Her special ability grants her an extra action each turn that can only be used to activate abilities on tome items; most often you’ll be using that action to either draw cards with Old Book of Lore or boost stats with Encyclopedia. These tomes let Daisy provide support to other investigators with minimal interruption to her clue-gathering role. Solo play with Daisy will be challenging due to her limited options for dealing with enemies, but with a larger card pool it becomes more manageable. Pair Daisy with a capable fighter in a multiplayer game and you’ve got the foundation for a solid team. 

Deckbuilding Rules

Sample Decklists

Useful Expansions

Helpful Tips

  • You’ll want a tome out as early as possible to take advantage of Daisy’s special ability. Use mulligans and/or Research Librarian to find them. As noted above, her mainstays are Old Book of Lore and (once you can buy one) Encyclopedia.
  • Daisy can struggle to handle enemies. Be cautious about wandering off alone unless you’re prepared.
  • Remember that if Daisy is engaged with an enemy then using an action from a tome will normally trigger an attack of opportunity.

Agnes Baker (The Waitress)

Agnes Baker boasts an impressive willpower of 5 and a very strong special ability that lets her once per phase deal 1 damage to an enemy at her location whenever she takes 1 or more horror. The extra damage from this ability helps Agnes deal with enemies efficiently; for example, if she’s facing down a 1-health enemy she can use a card like Forbidden Knowledge to deal herself a horror and defeat the enemy without even spending an action or making a test. With her willpower of 5 Agnes makes very effective use of will-based cards like Shrivelling and Rite of Seeking. While these spell cards make Agnes a formidable investigator, the downside is that she really needs them in order to function. If she doesn’t draw them, or if she burns through all of their charges, then she’s left with unimpressive base intellect and combat stats. This means playing Agnes with just one Core Set can be a challenge, since you’ll only have a single copy of each of the Core‘s Mystic cards to use in your deck.

Deckbuilding Rules

  • Deck Size: 30.
  • Options: Mystic cards level 0-5, Survivor cards level 0-2, and Neutral cards level 0-5.
  • Requirements: (do not count toward deck size) Heirloom of Hyperborea, Dark Memory, and 1 random basic weakness.

Sample Decklists

Useful Expansions

Helpful Tips

  • Since Agnes’ ability can be triggered once per phase it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the timing chart and the player action windows in the different phases. You can use cards like Forbidden Knowledge and Painkillers during those windows to deal damage multiple times per round.

Wendy Adams (The Urchin)

When you’re facing off against menacing horrors mankind wasn’t meant to confront, sometimes the best defense is a good hiding spot. That’s the Wendy Adams approach – with an agility of 4 and a combat of only 1, she’s geared towards evading and stalling enemies rather than fighting them. Thanks to her ability to redraw chaos tokens, and cards like Lucky! and  “Look what I found!”, Wendy can investigate a little more reliably than her 3 intellect might suggest. Playing Wendy solo is likely to be challenging thanks to that low combat score – without backup from a fighter, evasion is probably only going to get you so far. She does have access to a few combat tricks like Backstab and Sneak Attack through the Rogue class (and her signature asset allows her to recycle events like these from her discard pile). While Wendy is generally regarded as being somewhat of a lower-tier investigator, she’s still a fun investigator to play thanks to her strong special ability and her unique signature asset.

Deckbuilding Rules

  • Deck Size: 30.
  • Options: Survivor cards level 0-5, Rogue cards level 0-2, and Neutral cards level 0-5.
  • Requirements: (do not count toward deck size) Wendy’s Amulet, Abandoned and Alone, and 1 random basic weakness.

Sample Decklists

Useful Expansions

Helpful Tips

  • While you have Wendy’s Amulet in play, event cards will not go to your discard pile after you play them. You can still get event cards into your discard pile through other means (such as committing them to skill tests or discarding them to use Wendy’ special ability). Learning to use Wendy’s Amulet effectively can take practice.
  • Remember that enemies with the retaliate keyword do not retaliate while they are exhausted. At times Wendy may be able to help protect her team by evading an enemy with retaliate early in a round.

“Skids” O’Toole (The Ex-Con)

Once per turn, Skids O’Toole can spend 2 resources to take an additional action. This ability, combined with his access to action-granting Rogue cards like Leo de Luca and Quick Thinking, gives Skids the ability to react flexibly on important turns. Unfortunately it can be a case of quantity over quality due to Skids’ awkward stat line. His highest stat is agility, which is somewhat at odds with the fact that he has Guardian as his secondary class (the Guardian card pool generally pushes more towards fighting than evading). With his combat skill of 3 Skids isn’t as effective as most Guardian investigators at fighting, and while his intellect of 3 could be worse, outside of Streetwise he doesn’t have too many methods of boosting it. Another notable disadvantage is Skids’ low willpower of only 2, which puts him at the mercy of a lot of willpower-testing treacheries. Don’t let all this deter you from trying Skids out; he can still be fun to play and he has one of the more satisfying Elder Sign abilities in the Core Set. Skids’ fortunes have improved significantly over time as the card pool has expanded: Lockpicks gave him a way to take advantage of his high agility; new weapon options like .45 Thompson have helped him work around his lower combat score; and he’s gained cards like Steadfast to help with willpower tests.

Deckbuilding Rules

  • Deck Size: 30.
  • Options: Rogue cards level 0-5, Guardian cards level 0-2, and Neutral cards level 0-5.
  • Requirements: (do not count toward deck size) On the Lam, Hospital Debts, and 1 random basic weakness.

Sample Decklists

Useful Expansions

Helpful Tips

  • Other investigators at your location can trigger the payment ability on Hospital Debts, and the “twice per round” limit applies separately to each investigator. Two investigators could trigger Hospital Debts twice each to make a total of four payments in a single round.
  • If Skids is eliminated while Hospital Debts is in play, its forced effect will trigger.

 


This guide was last updated on August 17, 2019 (minor edit).