Delve Too Deep File XI: Jim Culver

Greetings once again, loyal readers, and welcome to another instalment of Delve Too Deep! We’re almost finished our analysis of all of the new investigators coming out soon in the Dunwich Legacy. Today, we’re going to be looking at yet another unusual character. This troubled musician is able to charm the dead with is trumpet, but can his abilities make him a viable investigator? Let’s check out Jim Culver!

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Notable Strengths of Jim

Jim has a rather solid statline, having 4 in his core stat (Willpower), 3 in two more very relevant ones (Combat and Intellect), and his dump stat of 2 in one of the least useful ones for him (Agility). This makes Jim an excellent choice for soloing, as he is resilient to many of the horrible treachery cards he may encounter thanks to his high will, and he has reasonable abilities to investigate and fight natively.

This slightly better than average statline means that Jim is not as entirely dependent on his spells as Agnes is. While Agnes cannot fight at all without Shrivelling, Jim can just as easily pull out a Machete and bring down monsters.

However, what’s incredibly interesting about Jim is his ability to completely ignore one type of token. ** The Skull token is the most common of the icon tokens, and being able to ignore all of the negative effects associated with it (if it works how I believe it does) is rather strong. This means that Jim natively has more consistent skill checks than other characters.

**EDIT: I have been informed that Jim is unable to completely ignore all of the Skull effects. That being the case, his ability is much worse.

Notable Weaknesses of Jim

THOSE SIGNATURE CARDS. My goodness, what an absolute nightmare of a pair. Jim’s Trumpet is, in my opinion, the most (or at least tied with Agnes’s, although at least hers will get better) underwhelming signature card in the game. Taking up one of the two most valuable slot for a non-guaranteed and minor effect is not my idea of strong.

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Jim comes with a warning label: May explode spontaneously.

On the flip side, Final Rhapsody is probably the scariest weakness in the game. Last time, I spoke of how Searching for Izzie was absurd and outrageous. At least with that you didn’t stand a chance of losing the game on the spot at any time. Final Rhapsody will unlikely deal very much damage to you (you’re likely to only draw one token), but if you do happen to draw a second, let alone a third, it’s a fair amount of damage that comes out of nowhere. If you play it safe, then there’s no real issue, but if Jim is forced to take some damage early, you’ll have to pray that you don’t suddenly explode at any moment.

I think the thing that makes me the most concerned about Final Rhapsody is that, unlike the others, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. In a game with so much uncertainty already inherent within it, having another card which could suddenly and randomly destroy you is a large worry for me.

Finally, while Jim has consistency on his side, he is not particularly great at anything, and really lacks a role. He’s much like Jenny in that he is more of a jack of all trades style of character with some added consistency. He’s an inferior spellcaster to Agnes due to her naturally higher Willpower, and if that’s the role he’s trying to fill, you may find him lacking somewhat.

Build Path: Drunken Wizard

Investigator/Signature Cards
Jim Culver
Jim’s Trumpet
Final Rhapsody

Assets
2 Shrivelling
2 Scrying
2 Ritual of Seeking
2 Ritual Candles
2 Holy Rosary
Arcane Studies
2 Arcane Initiate
2 Forbidden Knowledge
2 Liquid Courage
Leo De Luca

Skills
2 Unexpected Courage
2 Guts
2 Double or Nothing

Events
2 Drawn to the Flame
2 Ward of Protection
2 Emergency Cache

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He says they add to the vibe of his music, giving it a more haunting edge.

Ritual Candles are the bread and butter of this deck. Combined with Jim’s unique ability, it turns Skull tokens into positive modifiers. If you get two out, you also improve your Elder Sign ability from +1 to +2 (you treat it as a Skull, which you would never really want to do otherwise).

The main splashes in your deck are Liquid Courage and Double or Nothing. With all of the spells used in the deck and Jim’s high Willpower, Liquid Courage can help take the edge off, especially if you’re delving deep with Forbidden Knowledge. Due to the often mentioned more consistent skill checks, Double or Nothing can work wonders with both Rite of Seeking and Shrivelling.

Other than that, Jim is a pretty standard Carry style character. You’ll slowly accumulate assets that help you perform better (topping off with Leo De Luca). You’re reasonable early game transitions well into a solid late game; while not spectacular, Jim is definitely reliable.

When levelling up, you’ll want to grab Grotesque Statue as early as possible. This little piece of equipment REALLY ramps up your consistency, moreso than the other sorcerer due to your ability to ignore skulls. I’d cut out an Arcane Initiate for the first one, and then a Ritual Candles for the second (they serve similar purposes and both take up the same slot; optimally, you want one candles and one statue).

Other than that, you’re pretty free to grab whatever you like. Bind Monster is a nice alternative to using Shrivelling, especially on the higher health monsters (like some that are encountered in the Curse of the Rougarou). It’s not a replacement though, so don’t go cutting Shrivelling to make room. Elder Sign Amulet is another great investment, both for its nice icons as well as the four horror it can soak for you.

Conclusion on Jim

I’ll be honest; I really, really don’t know about Jim. Last time, I spoke about how Jenny feels like she’s missing something to be exciting, but I still look forward to using her with the Generous Jenny build I outlined (check out her article here). Jim feels very similar in that he just feels as though he’s lacking something to be a standout. Sure, he’s alright at everything, and he has access to powerful cards from Mystic, but why would you bring him along instead of Agnes?

I’m a little bit disappointed with this musician, and he’s probably the first investigator I’ve encountered that I could easily pass on. Surely, I must be missing something, loyal readers. What do you think? Is Jim really lacking a bit, or have I overlooked something entirely? Let me know, and until next time, may your skill checks remain untentacled!

*images courtesy of arkhamdb.com and Fantasy Flight Games

 

 

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21 thoughts on “Delve Too Deep File XI: Jim Culver

  1. Personally I’m looking forward to playing Jim. Not solo mind you, but as solid support. The ability on his trumpet to heal horror is great when run alongside investigators like Roland. Or even running with Agnus and having the ability to heal her so she can do more damage with her ability. Like any great trumpet player he sems best when part of the band and not a solo act.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you’re looking to play him entirely as a support, I can definitely see that happening (and perhaps I should have focused more on that!). Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the article! 🙂

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  2. Hello:)
    I was really keen on him after seeing the card for the first time. He’s very atmospheric character. However I also don’t really have an idea how to use him. I don’t get this “Elder sign” ability. If it gives you +1 in test, so for what reason one should treat it as “Scull” to get 0 instead?

    Best regards

    Konrad

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    1. Hey there Konrad!
      You wouldn’t often turn it into a Skull, but you might if:
      You have two Ritual Candles out, as it means you get +2 instead of +1.
      You want to trigger something (like his Trumpet) but you need to draw a Skull.

      I think that’s about it for the ability. I don’t think it’s that good at the moment, but who knows?

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

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      1. Greetings from Australia! 🙂

        I think that’s certainly an upside, but it’s still not very consistent. Perhaps I am underrating healing?

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      2. The new Miskatonic Museum Mythos pack gives Jim’s built-in ability a bit more value. The Song of the Dead card gives a +2 damage if you get a skull, so being able to treat an Elder Sign as a skull can be useful. It saved my butt last night when playing Carnivale.

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      3. It’s only very slight though. I personally find Song of the Dead extremely lacking, especially given the fact that you can’t reliably grab those skull icons out of the bag. If you’re fighting a big monster, it’s not too bad (as you may luckily get +2 damage sometimes) but in general, it’s far worse than Shrivelling (or even Machete, in my opinion).

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  3. I usually play in in hard difficulty, where odds of success are pretty low unless you have at least two points above the skill level needed. The two skulls often only have a negative consequence if the skill test fails. Replacing two negative modifiers with zeros means a lot less cards used to boost skill checks. This ability might give Jim a substantial advantage in hard difficulty compared to other characters.

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    1. It’s certainly true that Jim’s ability gets substantially better on harder difficulties. I generally write my articles for the “Standard” difficulty as it is my opinion that that is the difficulty that the game is truly balanced around. I don’t know that for sure, but it’s simply the way I see it.

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      1. That’s strange, because I see Jim’s special ability as mostly useless on Hard. I almost always try to have +4 or at least +3 on Hard (typically there is a negative special token associated to -4, so getting up to +4 is worthwhile unless you are Wendy). Since I’m normally at +4, having the skulls be 0 is generally never going to make a difference in a skill test.

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      2. Surely turning the Skulls, which are -4 or so, into 0s is substantially better, especially for the surprise encounter cards that require you to make checks. Having your check fail by 0 instead of by 3 or 4 can be a huge difference for the ones that punish you based on the extent you failed by, and you can’t always be +4 on those ones.

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    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed all the stuff! 🙂

      I think Jim is a really flexible character, as I said. Despite me not liking him too much, I can see how there could be many, many different ways to play him. How do you build him?

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  4. For as much as I seem to draw the skull, I feel like the game wants me to play Jim. He’s almost a little like Wendy, in that he changes the statistical average of the chaos bag’s control over the game. If we see a scenario that uses all of the skull tokens (4 I think? I’ve bought so many core sets I can’t remember the original distribution) his ability ramps up in power a lot. That being said, as his character ability and trumpet grow in power, so does his weakness (4 skull tokens means you can take a max of 5 damage and 5 horror if you are the unluckiest person alive) but also means that if you have 3 or 4 skulls in the bag, you’re getting a 1/3 to 1/2 chance of pulling a 0 or better. I really like those odds, and it only gets better with grotesque statue. He feels like another luck mitigation character, and that suits me just fine. Heck, I may just build him with some survivor cards like Lucky! and really go all in on numbers build.

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  5. Well, I gave him a go – and I just can’t quite work out what he’s for. He’s not much of an investigator, not much of a fighter, and, frankly, not much of mystic compared to Agnes. Definitely a bit, well, meh.

    His treat skulls as 0 ability was a little bit useful, but where Wendy’s is reliable, this is, well, maybe too subtle for me.

    And he’s not much use for healing horror if he doesn’t get his trumpet out.

    Easily my least favourite character, I’m afraid.

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  6. Great article. I feel you’re a bit harsh on the built-in ability post-edit, and very slightly harsh on his trumpet, I think. In the 8 scenarios so far, on Easy/Standard difficulty, only in one (Extracurricular Activity) does the Skull have a non-modifier effect. In Hard/Expert, there are an additional 2: The Gathering and The Devourer Below. All three are effects occurring due to test failure, and you’re looking to pass tests generally.

    So what matters is how this affects the Chaos Bag. In Night of the Zealot, Skulls initially form between 2/16 and 2/18 tokens; in Dunwich Legacy, they initially form between 2/15 and 2/17 tokens. Let’s assume a Standard difficulty for the sake of argument. How does the Chaos Bag’s average penalty change? (Assuming -2 average across all scenarios for Skulls, Tomes, and Cultists, and a nominal -4 for Tentacle and a nominal +1 for Elder Sign; obviously the latter two are pretty situational and Tomes and Cultists have other uses, but go with me here. Hopefully my maths isn’t too embarrassingly wrong!)

    Night of the Zealot Standard Average Penalty: net penalty = 24, 16 tokens, 24/16=1.5; if Skulls = 0, net penalty = 20, 16 tokens, 24/16=1.25

    Dunwich Legacy Standard Average Penalty: net penalty = 22, 15 tokens, 22/15=1.47; if Skulls=0, net penalty = 18, 15 tokens, 18/15=1.2

    So it does make a difference – obviously scale that for higher difficulties, where it will have slightly less impact due to the larger chaos bag, and the Average Penalty of the symbol tokens will go up. As Chaos Bags grow and change over campaigns there will also be a change to the effective power of his ability. However it’s still not nothing! And at Standard difficulty, the Average Penalty is substantially closer to -1 than it is to -2, which means you’ll get away with gambling on Difficulty+1 more often. And in the majority of scenarios even at Hard/Expert it functionally does count as ignoring the Skull – and so far if you succeed it counts as ignoring all effects of the Skull.

    The Trumpet IS underwhelming, but given the above, and with Grotesque Statue in as well, it becomes solid repeatable no-action Horror healing – and Horror healing is generally rare or situational anyway, so we can’t sniff toooo much at this. In Dunwich you can immediately start at 1/5 chance of Horror healing on a Skill test once you have the Trumpet in play (counting Elder Sign as a Skull). After levelling up, with Grotesque Statue also in play, it’s theoretically even better. So yeah, a little flaky, but not awful. And of course you can use it to heal Horror even if you’re failing the test.

    Anyway, thanks for reading the long screed!

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    1. Wow, now that’s a post!

      Now, I’m no mathematician, but I feel as though looking at it from an averages perspective is not the way I would do it.

      Generally speaking, I enter tests that I want to pass at +2 (so for a difficult 4 test I like to enter at 6). Therefore, it’s better to look at whether Jim’s ability now changes the amount of results that will allow me to pass the check. In effect, we’re looking for -3s.

      Let’s check the current skulls:

      The Gathering: -X (Number of Ghouls in play). In multiplayer, perhaps this is an issue, but generally speaking, this is not going to be -3 or worse.

      The Midnight Masks: -X (Highest doom on a Cultist). More likely than “The Gathering” but still not happening all the time.

      The Devourer Below: -X (Number of Monster enemies). Similar to “The Gathering”, I don’t see this being -3 or more very often.

      Curse of the Rougarou: -2 (-4 at Bayou locations). So his ability is useful at Bayou locations, but not elsewhere.

      Carnevale of Horrors: -2 (-1 extra for each Innocent Reveler underneath the Agenda deck). Hard to say. I find that it’s quite likely for an Innocent Reveler to take a hit, so lets go with yes.

      Extracurricular Activity: -2. Nope.

      The House Always Wins: -2. Nope.

      The Miskatonic Museum: -1 (-3 if at the location of the Hunting Horror). Useful here a good portion of the time, but when the Hunting Horror is absent, not at all.

      So you’ve got around 3-4 scenarios where Jim’s ability MAY be useful. If you’re running Ritual Candles, this drops to only Rougarou Bayou that may cause you issues. Of course, his ability is much better in higher difficulties, where it makes a larger difference. In addition, his ability is useful during surprise Treachery cards, so I’ll give him that. Unfortunately, it’s applications still seem few and far between to me.

      Thanks for reading and discussing! 🙂 Happy to argue it out a bit more.

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      1. By the way, I agree that Jim’s ability is much more useful on hard **IF** you build a deck around it. Earlier I said the opposite because I was thinking along similar lines as you indicate in your post: On hard I generally want to be at +3 anyway, so (even on Hard), I’m not gaining anything by having skulls count as 0.

        But I built a deck around Jim’s ability, and it really works pretty well on Hard. Just beat Carnivale a couple days ago, getting a boatload of VP.

        Here is the deck: https://arkhamdb.com/decklist/view/538/fire-bones-lucky-jim-deck-hard-pair-play-3.0

        Note that if you are playing with a hard-core fighter, you can switch the Machete for a second magnifying glass and add Song of the Damned to your deck to cover the additional support attacking.

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