Betrayal at the Mountains of Madness is a player-made cycle for Arkham Horror: The Card Game. This spoiler-free article explores the rival keyword added in this campaign.
“Pictures of this war, and of the headless, slime-coated fashion in which the shoggoths typically left their slain victims, held a marvellously fearsome quality despite the intervening abyss of untold ages. The Old Ones had used curious weapons of molecular disturbance against the rebel entities, and in the end had achieved a complete victory.”
-HP Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
There are many horrible beings of the mythos, each and every one of which poses an existential threat not just to individual humans but to humanity as a whole. Few to none of these entities, however, are primarily motivated by or even interested in our species. Untold aeons passed in which homo sapiens had yet even to exist, and conflicts which predate the formation of the Earth have no ceased just because a few upstart monkeys are running around armed with submachine guns.
The Elder Things of Antarctica in particular are to known to have warred viciously with many other alien races for control of the planet. The invaders from Xoth, led by their high priest Cthulhu, briefly dominated before they were plunged into torpor beneath the waters of the primordial Pacific ocean. Fungi from Yuggoth later set their sights on our world, as did that strange and timeless race of the planet Yith, each race bending their own alien technology toward the destruction of their rivals. Even the Elder Things’ own creations, the shoggoths, rebelled many times, finally overthrowing them.
The hostility that some enemies hold for each other is captured by the new rival keyword. The precise mechanics for the rival keyword and enemy vs enemy attacks can be found in the campaign guide.
In summary, enemies with rival are hostile to some other enemies, specified by a trait or traits. These enemies are the rival’s adversaries. Those enemies will then fight each other in the enemy phase if unengaged. Although they do not formally “engage” other enemies, they gain aloof and do not patrol or hunt while at a location with an unengaged rival or adversary.
Rather than one of the many exotic creatures lurking under the Mountains of Madness, to minimise spoilers here’s a humble soldier of the Wehrmacht from 1935. He (and his squad) aren’t at all keen on the investigators that keep meddling with their grand plan, but they are no allies of the mythos either. With the rival (Monster) keyword, the Soldat is ready and willing to hunt and attack any enemy with the Monster trait.
Let’s see what our little xenophobic friend would get up to on a sightseeing trip to Arkham. These examples contain spoilers for Night of the Zealot and Extracurricular Activity.
In this example, Roland is up to his usual tricks, engaged with a ghoul (which has the Monster trait) when the Soldat hunts into the graveyard. Because the ghoul is engaged, the Soldat does not gain aloof. As such it also engages Roland, and during the enemy phase both enemies will attack the player (only unengaged enemies attack each other). The rival keyword has made no difference to how this turn played out.
The next night, after some shenanigans the Soldat has somehow ended up wearing a Mask of Umordhoth which gives it the aloof keyword. Roland is lurking nearby when he draws a ghoul enemy. The Soldat rivals the ghoul, and because the ghoul has an unengaged rival at its location, it enters play with aloof and as such spawns unengaged. If Roland doesn’t antagonise them, the enemies will attack each other in the enemy phase. If Roland engaged the Soldat, the ghoul would immediately lose aloof and engage him as well. If Roland engaged the ghoul, the Soldat would keep aloof (as it’s coming from the Mask) and attack the ghoul during the enemy phase.
In this example, the Soldat swarm is at a location with a nightgaunt (which has the Monster trait). Each Soldat is a rival of the nightgaunt, and the nightgaunt is an adversary of each Soldat. Because they are unengaged, all the enemies gain aloof. During the enemy phase, all the enemies make attacks – each Soldat attacks the nightgaunt, and the nightgaunt attacks one of the Soldats (the lead investigator chooses which Soldat it attacks, but as it’s a swarm it makes little difference). Although the lead investigator chooses the order of attacks, all of them will get to fight because enemies damaged by other enemies are not removed from play until the end of the enemy attack step.
In this example the Soldat swarm is resolving its hunter keyword. There are two connecting locations – one with an investigator, and one with a nightgaunt. The Soldat treats the adversary as an investigator, and because the lead investigator can break ties, they can choose to have the Soldat hunt to either location. If they have the Soldat move to the nightgaunt, the nightgaunt then doesn’t resolve its own hunter keyword as it is present with an unengaged rival. Alternatively, the lead investigator could choose to resolve the nightgaunt’s hunter keyword first and have it hunt to the Soldat’s location. The Soldat in turn then doesn’t hunt as it is present with an unengaged adversary.
For the final example, let’s add some keywords to existing enemy cards. Umordhoth has awoken in the nearby woods and is rampaging its way across the town when, in the middle of the University Quad, it encounters a terrible escaped creature – The Experiment. Let’s assume that Umordhoth in its all-consuming frenzy has the keyword rival (all non-Ghoul enemies). The Soldat is a rival of The Experiment, but as it happens they don’t have a problem with Ancient One enemies. Meanwhile, since The Experiment and the Soldat swarm are enemies without the Ghoul trait, Umordhoth rivals them.
During the enemy attack step, all three enemies will attack. The order doesn’t matter as each will get to attack in turn even if defeated, so let’s go from smallest to largest. First the Soldat and its swarm card attack. The lead investigator could choose to direct these attacks at The Experiment (which the Soldat rivals) or Umordhoth (which rivals the Soldat). Since swarm cards attack separately, they could also split the attacks. The lead investigator chooses to deal 2 damage to Umordhoth.
The Experiment then attacks. As it is massive, it attacks all eligible targets at its location. It doesn’t have the rival keyword, but Umordhoth and the Soldats both rival it, so it attacks all of them (including each swarm card). If there were an investigator at the location it would attack them too, and if that investigator was engaged with the Soldat swarm it would still attack the Soldat. The Experiment deals 2 damage to each Soldat, killing all of them. When it comes to Umordhoth, both The Experiment and Umordhoth have health which scales with the number of players. ‘Bosses’ like this multiply the damage they deal to each other by the player count – in this case, as there are 2 players, The Experiment deals 2 x 2 = 4 damage to Umordhoth.
Finally Umordhoth attacks, dealing 3 more damage to each Soldat and 3 x 2 = 6 damage to The Experiment. At the end of the enemy attack step, the thoroughly overkilled Soldats are defeated – an ignominious end to their holiday. It will take two more rounds of fighting for Umordhoth to defeat The Experiment, assuming no one else wanders in speeds up the process. Better hope you get Lita into play quickly!