Who Is Preston Fairmont?
Preston Fairmont first came onto the Arkham Files scene with the release of Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition in 2016, and ever since then, he has secured the role of the richest investigator on the block. You think Jenny is rich in the lore? Preston is worlds richer. Let’s put it this way. Preston is “The Millionaire”, which means he has AT LEAST a million dollars. A million dollars, in 1925, is worth over $14 million today. As for his influence, consider this. You know how in the lore Minh Thi Phan is “The Secretary”. The person she’s a secretary for is one Mr. Thomas, who is business partners with none other than Preston’s dad. Since Mr. Thomas died after reading The King in Yellow, Preston’s dad would be next to take over the business. However, Preston’s dad died in a mysterious car crash, necessitating Preston’s return to Arkham to tie up loose ends. Since Preston then would have to take over the Fairmont business empire, Minh indirectly works for Preston! Could there be a more thematic pairing than a Preston and Minh adventure through The Circle Undone?
Anyway, I digress. In the lore, Preston knows basically nothing about the greater mysteries surrounding Arkham, but boy is he ever going to learn real fast once he takes over his father’s empire what is really going on behind the scenes. While Preston is certainly devilishly handsome and effusively charming (in any game with an Influence stat, Preston always has the highest Influence value), he seems terrified about what might lie behind the veneer of Arkham’s high society, imagining that the names of the Elder Gods must be the names of foreign business associates. His desire to stay alive in all of this mess, his Survivor side, seems only outmatched by his sense of duty to preserve his family’s empire, his Rogue side. Preston is definitely an interesting character, and one of my very favourite investigators in the entire Mythos! I’m so excited by this iteration of Preston in an Arkham Files game, as it really captures who Preston is in the greater storyline and sets him apart as someone who is extremely unique. So without further ado, let’s take a look at how exactly Preston will play in the game.
Breaking Down The Investigator Card
Let’s start with a very quick overview of Preston’s investigator card. The first thing that leaps out is, of course, that horrific, horrific stat line. With the release of Calvin in the previous cycle, it’s not quite as shocking, but at least with Calvin, you can see on the card the idea of how his stats will get raised. Looking elsewhere on the card, Preston doesn’t really have an investigator ability, other than more description of how to utilize his signature asset. This had better be an INCREDIBLE signature asset! (It is, we’ll get to that.) His Elder Sign ability is REALLY strong. Yes, normally when you draw an Elder Sign, you succeed anyway, but given Preston’s low stat line, having the potential to auto-succeed is nothing to sneeze at. Finally, his health and sanity are both 7, which puts him on par with most investigators.
So at this point, we have determined the following:
Stat line – Stunningly trash bad.
Investigator ability – Doesn’t really have one; this is really just extra text describing how his signature asset works that could have gone on that card but went on Preston’s card instead. (Also, as we get into this, sometimes this investigator ability is good for you and sometimes it’s really bad for you.)
Elder Sign – Really, really good. One of the stronger Elder Sign effects in the game.
Health and Sanity – Balanced at 7/7 and with a total of 14, he is on par with most of the game’s cast.
So at this point, we have determined that Preston’s stat mostly suck really bad and the best part of his whole card is his Elder Sign effect. So why is it then that I am convinced that Preston is a really, really strong investigator who can smash many tests? Aha! Keep reading and we will explore his power in depth.
Managing The Stat Line
Back to the idea of the 1/1/1/1 stat line. I know I’ve just said that the stat line is “stunningly trash bad”, but I want to temper that statement very slightly. The fact is, having 1’s in your stat line is not unusual. Many investigators have a 1 somewhere on their line, i.e. Finn with Will, Daisy and Ursula with Fight, and Norman and Leo with Agility. Have you ever had to pass a crucial Will test with Finn or an Agility check with Norman? I have, and it’s very intensive to do it, but it’s not impossible. All this to say that having 1’s is not an insurmountable obstacle in this game. It IS an obstacle, but you can get around it. Furthermore, adding up the stats, his total line value is 4. To be on par, he’d need a line value of 12. That puts him at 33% of a normal investigator’s line value. Honestly, when you look at it, 33% is not as low a value as you might have initially thought. It’s certainly higher than Calvin before he starts getting beat up. So yes, his stat line is awful, but it’s not quite as terrible as you might think it is at first glance.
Now, let’s take a look at his asset, because this is where his power starts to come in.
Family Inheritance (or, FI) is what allows Preston to evolve into a monster of an investigator. Basically, Preston gains 4 additional resources on FI every single turn, which can be spent from FI as though they were in his pool. In addition to the 1 resource you gain naturally, Preston makes 5 resources every turn. That’s insane. That’s more than double what Jenny makes, and again, we thought Jenny was rich. Furthermore, his first turn is very powerful, as he begins the game with 9 resources available to spend! That opens up so many more options to get the ball rolling on him.
Now there is a really big catch to this, and that is that anything left over on FI gets wiped at the end of your turn. However, if you stacked a lot of money on FI from card effects (see his investigator ability), you can simply spend an action to transfer the money over. I haven’t done the math on it, but I do believe this action is always efficient if you are transferring over 2 resources or more AND you were not going to spend those resources some other way that turn. Still, you’re going to want to just spend that money instead of using your actions to save it, so you won’t be transferring too frequently.
So now you have a massive pile of money at your disposal. What are you going to spend it on? Did you say you were going to spend it on overcoming his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad stat line? Good, because that’s the right answer, obviously.
Since Preston has so much money available, he basically can choose with impunity how he wants to go about managing his stat line. However, as he still has finite resources, you obviously can’t do everything all the time! He has a few options, which I will describe below. Now, while I am describing them separately, there is definitely a LOT of overlap between all of the strategies I am describing below, so keep that in mind.
- He can dump his money into pumping his stat values with cards like Streetwise, Hard Knocks, and Dig Deep. Fire Axe also falls under this strategy. We’ll call this Pumping.
- He can pay for highly efficient card effects and just try to test as little as possible. Cunning Distraction in a mob of enemies is the best example of this. Waylay on a high health enemy also works. I would include Lola Santiago’s clue ability as falling under here. We’ll call this Purchasing.
- Subvert testing by either not testing to get effects (Sneak Attack, Gravedigger’s Shovel, Stray Cat) or run “fail-to-win” cards like “Look what I found!” or Dumb Luck. We’ll call this Picking (as in picking a lock.)
- Try to pile up passive stats or effects. This is probably the worst option to rely on, since I don’t believe the card pool really supports doing this to the degree you actually need it to make this your main bet, but don’t discount it. Every thing helps! We’ll call this Piling, as you are trying to amass the biggest pile of helpful passives that you can muster.
- Drop testing thresholds to 0, at which point the fact your stat line is a 1 doesn’t matter. This is mostly just using Flashlight, but the Improvised suite will very occasionally drop a threshold to 0. Of course, any investigator can do this, but it’s worth mentioning since Preston needs to be utilizing any method he can to get around his stat line. We’ll call this Peeling (as in you are peeling the layers of the threshold down to 0).
What Preston doesn’t want to do is what most other investigators do and that is –
- Testing your base skill against the skill threshold and just hoping you pass. You may incidentally commit skill cards as you have them available, but a lot of the time, you are just testing base skill outright (with perhaps a +1 passive bonus or something like that). Think of Daisy’s Intellect tests, Akachi’s Will tests, or Mark’s Strength tests. Very often, the most effective choice is to try testing without doing anything extra. I call this Praying, since your mainly just praying to the gods of the Chaos Bag that your luck is good enough to pass without adding too many other bells or whistles. Since Preston’s base stats are so low that even with a 2-icon skill card committed he is only testing at a 3, you want to avoid going this route in general.
Our major goal with getting Preston to be successful is to avoid putting him situations where he has to Pray to pass skill tests. So how do we make a Pumping, Purchasing, Picking, Piling, Peeling Preston (or, as I call it, 5P)? It’s going to come down to choosing the right cards for him.
Deckbuilding for 5P Preston
Now before we get too deep into what Preston can take, let’s briefly touch on what Preston cannot take. Preston cannot take any Illicit cards. That eliminates, as of the time of this writing:
- Every single Rogue weapon
- Pay Day
- Liquid Courage
Thankfully, Preston doesn’t particularly want most of these cards anyway. (That being said, he could have done way more with Contraband strategies than anyone else.) However, losing all the Rogue weapons does hurt him somewhat. Keep in mind then that he has to run Survivor weapons.
So let’s get into what to take on Preston. I will review a few options for each of the 5 P’s Preston will be using. Now, I’m not saying these are the only options that can fulfill each strategy; I am only highlighting them as cards to note. You will also see certain cards appearing in more than one section, because as I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of overlap among the 5 P’s.
At level 0: Fire Axe, Hard Knocks, Dig Deep
With XP: Streetwise, Moxie, Plucky, Hard Knocks (2), Dig Deep (2), High Roller
Here’s my recommendations given that this is the card pool for pumping right now. Streetwise is very strong on Preston, but you won’t have it at Level 0. You also want to play around having Streetwise as a future purchase. So let’s look at this.
Both Hard Knocks and Dig Deep have Agility and neither of them have Intellect. This means that the stat you are most likely to be able to pump is Agility, so be ready to build around pushing for Agility and Evasion effects at level 0, since it’s the easiest thing for you to succeed at. As far as the Will pump on Dig Deep, it’s a bit of a trap, since the resources on FI aren’t available to be spent during the Mythos phase. So, unless you actually moved them all over, you might not be pumping Will as much as you expect.
You have a really good Strength pump available to you in Fire Axe. Furthermore, since the resources on FI don’t count towards your resource pool, you have more flexibility on turning on the bonus damage. Fire Axe is basically mandatory for Preston.
There is ONE way to cover every skill across two card effects and that is Plucky and Hard Knocks. With Streetwise, you are missing Will and Strength, which don’t appear on a single card, so you will take at least 3 pump cards (including Streetwise, which is a permanent) to cover all stats. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration High Roller, which can pump anything once per turn.
Basically, be prepared to not be able to pump every stat. With or without Streetwise, you are mainly going to be pumping Agility. So focus on that in your deckbuilding and approach. At level zero, the order goes Strength, Will, Intellect. With Streetwise, the order goes Intellect, Strength, Will. Reviewing all of this, even with Pumping, Preston can still struggle with skill tests on treacheries, particularly Will ones. (For this reason, I recommend the following 2 cards explicitly to deal with Will treacheries: “You handle this one!” and Rise to the Occasion.)
At level 0: Leo De Luca, Joey “The Rat” Vigil, Cunning Distraction, Waylay, Backstab, Peter Sylvestre
With XP: Leo De Luca(1), Lola Santiago, Hot Streak (2) and (4), Peter Sylvestre (2)
Again, let’s look at what Preston has available to him. Once again, we can see Preston excels at agility and evasion! Waylay and Backstab can both nuke enemies with an Agility check, which Preston can pay for, while Cunning Distraction allows him to evade without testing. Leo De Luca is just generically powerful and the fact that his biggest downside is how expensive he is doesn’t matter in Preston’s world. Joey finds an interesting niche in Preston, as Preston can play multiple items at Fast speed using him.
With XP, Preston gets Hot Streak. Up until now, we have not talked about Preston’s weakness, Lodge “Debts”. The main reason is because his signature weakness is deleted by 1 copy of Hot Streak and gives you 1 mental trauma out of 7 starting sanity. Roland Banks, eat your heart out. (Also, because if you take 2 mental trauma over the course of the game, just Adaptable in a Thermos. And if you still don’t have Hot Streak after having this go off in 2 scenarios, then… well.. maybe you should get it?)
Preston also gets Lola Santiago with XP, which allows him an easy new avenue to get clues! As you’ll see, Preston actually has a few avenues to get clues anyway, but Lola allows you to secure clues on high shroud locations, which is much needed. With your resource flow, you can spend the 5 resources you have at the beginning of your turn to get a clue on a Shroud 5 location without testing! Now that is what the Purchasing strat looks like!
At Level 0: Sneak Attack, Coup de Grâce, Lucky!, Elusive, “Look what I found!”, Dumb Luck, Oops!, Stray Cat, Rabbit’s Foot, Lantern, Gravedigger’s Shovel
With XP: Sneak Attack (2), Lucky! (2), Lola Santiago, Cat Burglar.
Preston has a LOT of Picking options available to him at Level 0. He can take clues, deal damage, and evade testlessly or on failure with the card pool available to him. If he fails by a little bit, he can turn that around with Lucky! This is a worthwhile avenue to pursue with him. Most of these card effects don’t go great on other investigators because they take up card slots for an effect that is weakened due to not needing to test, and you can find yourself nickle-and-dimed to death if you frequently pay for these. Preston can fit a fair number of these in since he doesn’t depend on other cards traditional investigators use and he can pay for them reliably with his FI. Definitely something to make use of, but don’t depend on it too much! There are more efficient effects out there, if you are willing to attempt tests.
At Level 0: Leo De Luca, Peter Sylvestre, Trench Coat, Newspaper, Gravedigger’s Shovel, Baseball Bat, Dark Horse
With XP: Leo De Luca(1), Peter Sylvestre(2), Lola Santiago, Treasure Hunter, Hired Muscle, Cat Burglar, Newspaper(2), The Red-Gloved Man, Key of Ys if you want to be “that guy”. I’m going to toss in Charon’s Obol here too, since it doesn’t really fit anywhere else.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, almost all of the Piling options on Preston just involve stacking allies,” and you would be 100% correct about that. That’s just the way the card pool is RIGHT THIS SECOND (for example, we know for sure based on articles that there is a new Rogue asset coming which gives +1 agility). So, if you want to do a Pile build at the moment, you will need for sure 1 Charisma and ideally 2. This is probably the biggest reason this is not that great of an option. Typically, you will want to save your XP to get Streetwise, and then probably more money stuff such as High Roller, Lola Santiago, or Hot Streak, and delay getting Charisma. All this to say, piling in Preston is actually fairly subpar, but you will likely still want to Pile a little bit.
There is one exception to this and that is Dark Horse. It’s actually fairly easy to trigger Dark Horse in Preston since Dark Horse doesn’t care about resources on FI. With Dark Horse up, Preston becomes 2/2/2/2, which is still not fantastic, but when you think of it in terms of all his base stats doubling, it’s definitely a big step up. If you happened to have Dark Horse, Lola and Peter as your allies with a Charisma, you become a 3/3/2/4, which gives you a line value of 12. Obviously, that takes 8XP to pull off, but it’s just to give a sample of how Piling can help you overcome the stat line.
It’s also worth noting that one of the side benefits of Piling for Preston is that he gets a TON of soak out of it, particularly if you do Peter Sylvestre(2), which helps temper the fact that he sucks at resolving treacheries with tests on them.
Regarding Charon’s Obol, this card is very good on Preston. He needs XP to get going, and this card ensures he gets it. However, it also ensures he gets killed if he ever gets defeated, so only pick this up if you enjoy the high risk/high reward playstyle.
At Level 0: Flashlight, Stealth, Lantern, Improvised Weapon, Winging It, Impromptu Barrier, Fine Clothes
With XP: The Skeleton Key (sort of)
Peeling is, for the most part, a uniquely Survivor mechanic which drops the threshold of skill tests. The other faction which gets a good amount Peel in it is Seeker, but Preston doesn’t get access to those sadly. The golden moment for Peel cards is when they drop a threshold to 0. Of course, given that most Peel drops thresholds by one point, this is really rare. However, it certainly can happen. There are enemies with Fights of 1 and Evades of 1, as well as locations with shrouds of 1 or 2. Of course, Peel works even if they don’t drop all the way to 0, but for Preston’s base stats of 1, dropping it to 0 is really the dream. If he can’t drop it to 0, if he can even drop it to 1 from a 2, Preston can conceivably start to pass on Easy or Standard difficulties by virtue of pulling 0’s from the bag.
The Skeleton Key sort of works as Peel, although it never drops shroud to 0 and instead peels it down to 1. At this point, it can’t be Peeled back anymore, since The Skeleton Key sets the location’s shroud to 1, so no other changes will work on its location. Still, testing a shroud of 1 is pretty good and it will help any other investigators at your location get clues.
The effectiveness of Peel gets stronger when you know what is going to happen over the course of the campaign, as you can plan around bringing cards that will drop specific thresholds of 1. For example, Improvised Weapon is very good against a certain monster in a certain Legacy. Impromptu Barrier fully peels a certain Humanoid in a certain Path to a certain otherworldly dimension. Winging It fully peels a certain recurring location in a certain Age that I can’t remember right now. And so on.
Here’s my final recommendation with Peel: Take Flashlights, for sure, and then some of the Improvised traited cards depending on what you most want to be doing on your team. Since we determined earlier you are very capable of evading even at level 0, I will give special mention to Impromptu Barrier as something that can allow you to evade 2 enemies at once. You can also take Stealth if you are concerned about enemies.
At 0 XP: Rise to the Occasion, Hatchet Man, Unexpected Courage, “Watch this!”, Survival Instinct, Last Chance
With XP: Survival Instinct(2), All In.
Okay, I know I said don’t do Pray with Preston, but I wanted to touch on it briefly anyway. I think you CAN just go ahead and start Praying with Preston once you hit certain set-ups. Of course, you will need additional help from having the other 5 P’s running, but you actually shouldn’t need too much. (Again, Praying means you draw a token, maybe commit a card, and hope you pass without further investments. We will allow a small bit of intervention in Preston’s case though.) With the skill cards Preston has available to him, it’s good to run a few of them, which means you are likely going to be Praying a little bit anyway. I don’t think it’s even that intensive to get to the point where you can start doing this, provided you have a good skill card and the test you are doing is not too difficult.
Rise to the Occasion can be tossed onto almost any test you do, so that’s basically a better Unexpected Courage for you (which you may want to take anyway). Hatchet Man is good to empower your Sneak Attacks or Backstabs, plus you are good at Agility tests anyway, so there’s a good chance this goes off. Last Chance can be a bit better for Preston than others because he can pay for his hand much more effectively than others, so he can get a few more Wilds out of it.
Again, you want to avoid doing purely Pray tests, but you may still want to run a few strong skill cards in case.
With all of this in mind, I have designed two preliminary Preston deck builds which use all 5P’s.
Big Agility Preston
2x Fire Axe
1x Trench Coat
2x Leo De Luca
1x Peter Sylvestre
2x Lone Wolf
2x Hard Knocks
2x Dig Deep
1x Coup de Grace
1x Cunning Distraction
2x Emergency Cache
1x Impromptu Barrier
1x Sneak Attack
2x You handle this one!
2x Rise to the Occasion
The main thing this deck is handle enemies, and intermittently pick up clues here and there with Flashlight. With Fire Axe, Backstab, Sneak Attack, Coup de Grace and Waylay, you have tons of options to take out enemies once you have a Dig Deep or Hard Knocks in play and a good amount of resources available to pump. With Peter and Trench Coat, you can evade at 3, which will certainly reduce the amount you need to pump to pass tests. Lone Wolf and Emergency Cache will help your income even further – even though Preston is rich, he can make use of every single resource he gets, so don’t discount this.
With XP, this deck can pick up Streetwise and Adaptable and start switching out the level 0 pumps for other options.
2x Fire Axe
2x Gravediggers Shovel
2x Leo De Luca
2x Lone Wolf
1x Hard Knocks
2x Dig Deep
2x Emergency Cache
2x “Look what I found!”
2x Winging It
2x Double or Nothing
2x Rise to the Occassion
This deck is Preston’s idea of cheesing clues out of location. Hopefully you have a friend who can commit some cards to you before you start getting XP, because without Streetwise, this is going to be a bit of a rocky ride. But here’s how it works.
- Pick clues with Gravedigger’s Shovel and “Look what I found!”. Use Resourceful on tests you can pass to pick up one of these two cards and spam them again.
- Use Flashlight on Shroud 2 locations.
- Use Winging It out of the discard pile on low shroud locations (Shroud 3, 2 or 1 to drop to 2, 1, or 0) in conjunction with Double or Nothing (giving you +1 skill value and changing the thresholds to 4, 2, or 0). Hopefully you have some things to commit to this test, such as Perception/Rise to the Occasion or your Lucky! available because you can’t pump it at level 0. If you succeed this test, you get 4 clues off of your location.
- Your Backpack will help you grab your Fire Axe, Flashlight, and Shovel.
- Once you get your Dig Deep or Hard Knocks out, you can evade enemies that get on you.
This deck works best in multiplayer with a partner who can also pick up a few clues, since again, it struggles early. However, once you get Streetwise/Adaptable, you can use DoN on not just Winging It (and pump it), but also switch things out for Eavesdrop (and pump that too). You can also get Lola Santiago and outright buy clues from places.
Playing Alongside A Preston
Finally, I would like to highlight some cards that are really good if you have a Preston on your team – two from each of other three classes. Now, obviously, a lot of these cards are just good for multiplayer no matter what, but I wanted to mention them anyway, so you get some ideas.
At level 0
- Teamwork – Since Preston is basically a giant walking bank if you want to play him that way, there’s a lot of “redistribution of wealth” you can do with this card. Honestly, I would say, if you CAN take this card with Preston, just take it. Either YOU need money or HE needs money. Note that this card doesn’t touch the resources on FI.
- “Let me handle this!” – You can use this to pull difficult treacheries off of Preston.
- Logical Reasoning – This card can heal horror from Preston if he fails his weakness or treacheries, and it can also take Will treacheries off of him. It’s the same concept as running Logical Reasoning in a Finn deck, except that Preston can’t take his own Logical Reasoning.
- Anatomical Diagrams – This card provides a lot of Peel on enemies, which can be combined with peel Preston is running anyway to drop thresholds to 0. This card, plus Improvised Weapon, can drop a 3 Fight enemy to 0. Preston can then play the card again from discard, allowing you to get 3 damage off easily.
- Delve Too Deep – Preston needs XP to secure an early Streetwise. Delve Too Deep helps him get it.
- Scrying – You can use this to keep difficult Will treacheries off of Preston. (Alyssa Graham can also help with this.)
- Stand Together – Preston will never say no to more cards and resources if you can manage to put these in your deck. This also allows Preston to have 2 resources on FI during the Mythos phase, if you take your turn after Preston’s is done.
- Lightning Gun – You took Teamwork, right? Why pay for your own Lightning Gun, when Preston Fairmont’s money can pay for it?
- Arcane Insight – Huge peel potential that can combo with any peel Preston is already bringing, as well as setting up a Double or Nothing/Winging It on a Shroud 3 location. (See Vantage Point for a level 0 variant of this.)
- Pnakotic Manuscripts – This card makes it so that Preston doesn’t have to overcommit to skill tests, which can help protect his resources.
- Scrying(3) – Same idea as Scrying(0), except now it’s better!
- Seal of the Seventh Sign(5) – This card guarantees you pass on fully peeled tests by taking out the autofail. Also, since Preston likes to avoid tests entirely as much as possible, he won’t be drawing from the bag as much as your typical teammate.
Preston Fairmont represents a really exciting new design space for Arkham Horror, and doubtless there will be many, many deckbuilds available for how to make use of him. I, for one, am excited to play him excessively once he released, and I hope this article helped you learn more about how he can work and maybe even gave you some ideas for other investigators as well!