A New Investigator Approaches
With the reveal of Finn Edwards, the first investigator with a Willpower stat of 1, there has been hearty discussion within the Arkham community about the viability of this investigator and how hampered Finn might be by his low Will. Without knowing the full deckbuilding requirements of Finn, it’s hard to say for certain how viable he will be solo or on harder difficulties. However, we can look at the importance of Will in the game and get some perspective on how important – or not – Will is in Arkham.
To begin, let’s consider how strong a stat is based on how many points are in it. At this point, all released investigators have stat values ranging from 1 to 5 in every stat. Note that the following descriptions are based off of Standard play, where based on most chaos bags, a reasonably safe draw is one where you pass with a -2. Because what is a “reasonably safe draw” requires a bigger gap between your skill and the target value as you move up the difficulty ladder, each point in the base skills becomes more valuable.
5: Amazing! You can pass many tests using this stat even with no additional cards. You should be testing this stat as much as possible. It is core to your character’s identity.
4: Strong! This stat is useful to you, and you should test it frequently. With some extra cards, you can make this stat a very safe stat to test.
3: Mediocre. This stat can be used in situations where you simply must use it, and you may find success. However, you should avoid these tests for more reliable 4 or 5 base stat skill checks as much as you are able.
2: Weak. You should avoid testing this stat. This stat is now a liability. It is expected that you will consistently fail and rarely succeed on skill tests for this stat.
1: Abysmal. This stat is a weakness of this character and should be tested as little as possible. You could include cards to help raise this stat, as panic buttons, but those cards would be a big investment for a test you should just be avoiding.
As you can see, Finn Edwards has an Abysmal Will, whereas Akachi Onyele has an Amazing Will. Let’s use them as our examples as we go deeper into exploring Willpower.
What does Will represent?
Thematically, Will represents the mental and spiritual fortitude of your character. Finn is a criminal who deals in smuggling illegal liquor. His Will is low. Akachi is a shaman who has spent much of her life exploring the spiritual world and disciplining herself to make use of mysterious powers. Her Will is high.
Mechanically, Will is usually a defensive stat; a successful Will check prevents something bad happening. That bad thing is typically the horrors of the encounter deck, but can be from other sources. There are examples of this throughout the game, but to minimize spoilers we will focus on the Core Set cards. In the Core Set, Rotting Remains has you test Will, and take a point of horror for each point you failed the test by. Crypt Chill causes you to discard an asset or take damage if you fail. Frozen in Fear eats up actions and you requires to pass a Will test at the end of your turn or else keep it on you indefinitely. This holds true for player cards as well. For example, the horror healing Rogue card Liquid Courage contains a Will test where you heal additional horror if you pass but discard a random card from your hand if you fail.
All of these tests are fairly simple for Akachi to pass, and near impossible for Finn to pass. Akachi can breeze through a lot of the encounter deck with minimal problems, whereas Finn has to tread extremely carefully.
Now in terms of defending against the encounter deck, we all know not every card in the encounter deck tests Will. A lot of the cards are monsters or just some other bad thing, like Ancient Evils, that tests nothing. However, in general, the cards that do test Will (or any stat really, but it’s by far most commonly Will) are very bad if you fail, while being very good if you pass. Why good if you pass? Because then nothing at all happened. And in a game that is constantly trying to beat you up, if you can have a round where nothing happened to you with the encounter deck, that’s a substantial swing in your favour all things considered. If you can have that happen multiple times a game? You’re going to be in a great spot!
Low and High Will
If you have low will, you want your team to run Encounter Hate more than you will want to run Will skill cards. Again, the reason is, even if you do run Guts or even Unexpected Courage, without a LOT of help, you likely are still failing anyway. Specifically, if you are Finn with an Abysmal Will, you want to just never test Will at all, and this is where Akachi is actually a great team member for you. Scrying or Alyssa Graham can change the order of encounter cards to help prevent Finn drawing those in the first place. Also, an upcoming Forgotten Age card is finally giving Rogues their own version of Encounter Hate, which will make it basically mandatory on Finn. However, this card does not even work solo, so if you are #TeamSoloFinn like I am, you will have to look elsewhere to make your dreams come true. You can however use this card to shove your Rotting Remains onto Akachi, who can pass this test with her eyes closed.
If you have high will, this is where the game actually has a fun little twist. If you have a will of 4+, your character is so mentally and spiritually strong, they are now at wizard levels. This is not true of every Will 4+ character due to deckbuilding limitations (although those characters CAN run a handful spells – Rite of Seeking Zoey IS a real build), but basically, if you have a high will, you need to start running Mystic cards, particularly Arcane slot spells, and test your Will all the time. The majority of 4+ Will characters either are Mystics or have access to Mystic cards because of this. (What about Daisy, you say? We will discuss Mystic cards in Daisy another time, because she doesn’t build like a 4+ Will Mystic.)
Because Will is naturally defensive, there are few opportunities to test Will on purpose. Therefore, characters with high will have to add these tests in artificially, through player cards. Cards like Rite of Seeking, Shrivelling, and Blinding Light, allow you to use your Willpower to substitute every other stat. Once your Mystic character has access to their big cards, their Will goes from being a defensive stat to being the stat you use for investigating, fighting, evading, defending against the encounter deck, and baking cookies. Just kidding, this is Arkham Horror, there are no cookies. The challenge is if you don’t have those cards out you do… not much of anything. Mystics are a feast or famine archetype – you will likely be able to survive decently, but if you can’t fulfill an Advacing or Defending function ASAP, then you are going to be dead weight very fast. Therefore if you have high will and you are running Arcane slot spells, you also need card draw and resource generation. Simple examples of this are Arcane Initiate and Uncage the Soul. This will ensure you are getting your cards and are able to play them.
In summary, for all of the non-Mystic characters in the game, Will is typically a defensive stat and not much more. That being said, being able to defend yourself in Arkham Horror is a huge deal. Could Finn be able to run solo campaigns with his Will of 1? That remains to be seen; it will require some special deckbuilding to work out and at this time there doesn’t seem to be the card pool out to support it. If you are a high Will character, congratulations, you can cast spells and blow up Ghouls Minions with your mind. I beg you, use your powers wisely, and don’t forget to save your Finn today.