The dream of playing a successful support investigator has long been a difficult thing to achieve in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Scenarios are often fast and punishing. Once things ramp up, you rarely get breathing room to do things that are purely altruistic. Sometimes, things are so demanding that it feels like if you’re not discovering clues or dispatching enemies, you may as well pack up and go home. As a result, the support play-style often never went anywhere except back in the binder.
Sure, there have been support-like investigators in the game. Carolyn Fern leaps to mind, with her emphasis on horror healing. However, even Carolyn always had a clear non-support contribution she could make with her 4 Intellect. In practice, Carolyn was typically a cluever who offered support when she could. Making somebody’s primary role “support” often felt like a fool’s errand.
That’s what makes Carson Sinclair such an enigma because every inch of him screams that he’s designed to be a support. In fact, this is so much the case that he’s essentially unplayable without other investigators in the game: his investigator ability and signature skill card are basically blank and his signature weakness becomes unmanageable in solo play. Can Carson achieve the long-awaited dream of allowing a primary support character to thrive in this game? We’re still missing some key information as his deckbuilding is not revealed, but I already think he can do it. Here’s my initial pre-release thoughts on our butler, Carson Sinclair.
Let’s go over the basics of this investigator. Carson Sinclair is a Guardian investigator with a 2 in every stat. This gives him a total stat line value of 8, which is 2/3 the value of the 12 point standard investigator stat line. This means Carson is weak, but he’s perhaps not as far away from a standard stat line as you might think.
In addition, Carson’s body of 6 health and 6 sanity is also below a standard investigator stat line of 14. Two more points of body would put him on par with a standard investigator, but those two missing points are definitely a big knock against him.
All those things combined mean that Carson is, at face value, flat out weaker than the vast majority of investigators. So where did all his power go? His investigator ability is what will make or break him. Carson’s ability is that he gains an additional action, which he can essentially give away to any other investigator at his location.
There are a few things to note about this ability.
- You can use it multiple times a round because this is simply a regular action ability that Carson always has access to. The only limit is that you can’t use it on the same investigator multiple times. If you have a team of four investigators, Carson can give all of his other members an extra action, and leave 1 regular action to himself.
- Using his special action allows other investigators to interrupt his turn to do something on queue. This is an extremely rare ability – the effect only appeared before with things like Swift Reflexes or Quick Thinking (a card which made it onto the Taboo list, by the way).
- This action will trigger attacks of opportunity, which is bad. However, attacks of opportunity can be exploited with the Guardian card pool.
How useful is this ability then? Very, as I will get into later on.
Before getting more into that though, there is one more point I want to highlight about Carson that may be overlooked: Carson can draw 1 card every single time an investigator resolves an Elder Sign on a skill test that’s happening at his location. With a lot of investigators doing skill tests in the game, this has amazing potential to go off quite a lot. Let’s say the bag has 16 tokens – this means that there is a 6% chance on every single skill test happening at your location that Carson draws a card. This is a really important point to what makes Carson work. Support effects are obviously coming from player card abilities, and if Carson doesn’t have a hand full of cards, he’s not going to be supporting anybody. Thanks to his Elder Sign though, Carson should have plenty of opportunity to draw cards even if he himself isn’t doing anything!
Now let’s look at his signature card and weakness.
This card (which I personally suspect Carson has multiple copies of but that’s just speculation by me) is a pretty standard signature skill card. Carson can’t commit it to himself, which is a downer. However, whoever does get this card gets +3 Wild icons and the opportunity to draw a card on a successful skill test. If the test fails, Carson gets a card instead. This is just a very nice card to have in your deck. It’s basically like Unexpected Courage on steroids. In most cases, this card will secure a successful skill test for a fellow investigator and get them a card for their trouble. Being able to draw a card on a fail is a nice safety measure so that your altruism never goes unrewarded. It’s nothing game-warping or something to build your whole deck around, but it offers a good amount of generic power to Carson and his team.
Before getting into Selfless to a Fault, it’s important to remember how big a deal signature weaknesses can be to investigator power levels. One of the big reasons Lola is considered weak is because her signature weakness can be so punishing. On the other end, Rex’s signature weakness being so relatively harmless is a major factor to why he’s so powerful. Generally speaking, I think Carson’s signature weakness will fall towards the Rex end of the spectrum. For one, I think you should be committing cards anyway because being able to commit cards is basic support gameplay. If you’re not going to be doing the heavy lifting, you’d better ensure the rest of your team can by helping them pass tests. Therefore, it’s not like this weakness is forcing Carson to do something he hates to do lest he be punished. And let’s say he doesn’t do it – the downside is he takes 1 horror and shuffles this back into his deck. If that happens to you once or twice a scenario, that’s truly not even that big a deal.
Now, there is an ultimate worst case scenario where you continuously shuffle this into a super thin deck, ruining all your draws and dumping loads of horror on to you. However, that’s not a likely situation. Just be prepared to commit 1 card per round. It doesn’t even have to be a skill card and frankly committing is what you should be doing anyway. And pack a little extra horror healing while you’re at it in case things don’t work out for you. Otherwise, this weakness is on the mild end of the spectrum for signature weaknesses.
So from now on, I’m going to call the actions everyone gets from Carson “Butler Actions” because why not? Now a quick side note for this discussion: Carson is using an action to generate another action to be spent by an investigator, thereby making two actions total. However, I’m going to treat that whole sequence as a single Butler Action used by the team when I’m counting total actions taken (even though I know it’s literally two actions).
So how good is a Butler Action? Let’s compare it to other bonus actions investigators get in the game.
- Finn gets a bonus action which can only be used to evade.
- Daisy gets a bonus action which can only be used to activate an action on a Tome.
- Bob gets a bonus action which only be used to play an Item asset.
- Tony gets a bonus action which only be used to fight or engage an enemy that he’s marked.
- Marie gets a bonus action to make use of a Spell card, if there’s Doom in her play area.
- Skids gets a bonus action to do anything, if he spends 2 resources.
And the list goes on. But basically as you can see, bonus actions are a pretty common investigator bonus. However, they are often very narrow in application. The only one which isn’t narrow in application, Skids’ bonus action, costs money to use.
From the perspective of the investigator receiving it, a Butler Action allows you to do whatever you want, for free, immediately. This makes Butler Actions the strongest bonus actions off of an investigator in the whole game.
How much reward you get from a Butler Action depends entirely on how good the rest of your team is. In this sense, Butler Actions can serve as force amplifiers because they allow everyone on your team to do more of whatever it is they need to do.
Let’s say for example that Carson’s Silas has a level 4 Sledgehammer, which costs either 1 or 3 actions to use. Silas uses it to kill a 6 health enemy with a 3 action swing, but a 2 health enemy is still engaged with him. Carson can give Silas a Butler Action, and now Silas can immediately kill that enemy too with the 1 action Sledgehammer swing. A Sledgehammer build would normally never be able to handle that situation, but Carson’s existence allows it to work. And, for every Elder Sign that Silas might have drawn during those skill tests, Carson would have drawn a card.
Another example would be Carson with an Akachi with Rite of Seeking. Akachi takes a big risk on her second action and it doesn’t fully pay off as she draws a Skull token on a Rite of Seeking test. Although she discovered 2 clues, she loses all remaining actions. However, on Carson’s turn, he gives Akachi a Butler Action. Akachi now has one more action to use as she wishes! Carson has saved the day and helped Akachi manage the risk of using Rite of Seeking the way that she needed to.
A final example, Preston Fairmont had too many things he needed to do on his turn. Preston needed to use an action to collect resources off his Family Inheritance before the end of his turn, but he really wanted to move as well! This is no problem with Carson around. Carson gives Preston a Butler Action, so now he can still move. And since Carson is smart and has Safeguard, Carson moves too! What a great butler!
Oh, also I forgot to mention — in this story, all three of these scenarios happened in the same round, and Carson still has 1 action left! “What about Carson’s bad stat line?” Who cares? In a round like this sample one, he’s not even testing anything!
So as you can see from these examples, there are many applications for how Butler Actions can save the day for your fellow investigators!
Possible Team Compositions
One possible team combination you can consider for Carson is to include with other investigators who are also generating actions. For example, have Carson tag along with a Daisy for clues and a Tony for damage. Between these three, you can easily generate four investigators’ worth of actions with only three investigators! If you can get the ball rolling early, you will eventually buy yourself full rounds’ worth of extra actions.
Another great investigator to team Carson up with is, very thematically, Preston. Giving Preston an extra action for free helps reduce the action intensity of pulling resources off of Family Inheritance. This can enable some great Big Money builds that would otherwise be too action intensive to pull off.
I would also be remiss to not point out Ursula. Let’s say Carson gives Ursula a Butler Action. Ursula uses it to move, which leads to her investigating, which leads to even more as you know if you’ve ever played Ursula.
As you can see, there are plenty of investigators who can do amazing things with Carson around, and with a little theorycrafting, you can find some teams that really shine with him around.
Carson’s Player Cards
So obviously, Carson needs to be doing something at some point that isn’t just giving his whole turn away. Here are some player cards that I wanted to really highlight for him.
Geared Up is a bit of an odd one to highlight because I’m not highlighting it for Carson — I’m highlighting it for Carson’s teammates. If someone on Carson’s team has this out, Carson can still give them a Butler Action to allow them to do an action on turn 1. This helps mitigate a lot of the downside of playing a Geared Up deck.
Safeguard should be considered absolutely mandatory on Carson. Unless you have a compelling reason, Carson needs to be at another investigator’s location basically at all times. Safeguard allows your teammates to leave Carson’s location without abandoning their fragile butler. The thematic implication with Safeguard is typically that the Guardian follows someone else to protect that person, but in Carson’s case, it’s almost the opposite. If Carson gets left alone and enemies spawn on top of him, he’s going to have some problems given his stat line. So please play Safeguard in Carson and don’t get left behind. Even upgrade it and follow your friends near and far!
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to list out a few Guardian support-oriented cards that I wanted to rapid-fire highlight for Carson. I’d recommend taking at least some of these cards if you wanted to make a supportive package for Carson. Do not slam all of these into a deck and call it a day because that’s not the point of this list and that deck would be terrible. Also, this list is *not exhaustive*. These are just some ideas for a starting point for building Carson’s supportive package.
- Hallowed Mirror
- First Aid
- Emergency Aid
- Medical Student
- Tetsuo Mori
- Motivational Speech
- Stand Together
- First Watch
- “Let me handle this…”
Because there are a lot of supportive Spirit events in the Guardian card pool, a spicy pick up for Carson is actually Boxing Gloves.
Now you might be thinking that this only brings Carson’s fight to a 3, so how is he killing anything? The +1 while fighting is not really the point, although it might help you kill a Swarm of Rats. The main point is to find your Spirit events. Unlike Nathaniel Cho, you aren’t looking for them to kill more enemies. You are looking for them to support your teammates. Besides, Guardian has access to so much testless damage, you can be more successful at killing enemies than you think. Outisde of testless damage, you can make this work out for you is by occasionally having your main fighter leave some weak enemies at 1 health for you. This way, you only need one pumped up regular fight action to kill the enemy, allowing you to search for a support card.
If you are playing Boxing Gloves Carson, I also recommend taking a few of the following:
- Guard Dog
- Toe to Toe
- One-Two Punch
- Dynamite Blast
This is a particularly interesting direction for Carson because it allows him to provide supplementary damage to the team. This gives him a soft off-role, doing something to help beyond support.
But let’s say you don’t want to do that and you want your off-role to be clues instead. There’s actually fewer cards that jump out with this card pool, but I recommend the following for now:
- Scene of the Crime
- On the Trail
- Lesson Learned
- Field Agent
And that’s about it for now. Other Guardian clue getting tech like Grete Wagner or Evidence! assumes you are able to kill enemies, and since a lot of your deck is likely already dedicated to support tech and skill cards, it’ll be hard to guarantee you can be a generalist that way. However, you certainly can always try mixing it up and seeing what Carson can make happen on his own.
Always remember though that your primary goal as Carson is to get other people to do more of their own special thing. While that’s happening, your clue or damage contribution will most likely rely on testless effects or being able to pass easy tests. This may change up depending on Carson’s full deckbuilding, but for now, this is how it’s looking.
Carson is going to be an investigator whose strength depends on the rest of your team. For some people, that will be a fun challenge. For others, the thought of being so dependent on others would be a frightening proposition. Still, I think Carson will strongly appeal to a certain brand of player and that player will have a really fun time with this investigator. While Carson’s deckbuilding will still have a huge impact on what he can do, there’s already enough power available here for multiplayer teams to have a great time fielding him, and I definitely look forward to building more in-depth Carson-centric teams once the Scarlet Keys is fully revealed.