Carl Stanford (priest)
Carl Stanford made his original appearance as the sinister head of the Silver Twilight Lodge from the first Call of Cthulhu campaign ever published – Shadows of Yog-Sothoth. But there is more to his tale than that. You see, when I was growing up, my friend, Bill Hamblin, always referred to me derisively as “Carl Stanford” in semi-formal terms. Of course, my actual first two names were Carl Sanford, and I preferred being called “Sandy”, but this didn’t matter to Bill, who took joy in the mispronunciation and mockery. All part and parcel of being 13 years old.
Anyway, Bill Hamblin wrote the scenario in which the Silver Twilight Lodge appears, and named the head of the lodge Carl Stanford to tease me, doubtless fully-expecting me to change the name. But I didn’t. So Carl Stanford, is in a sense, an avatar of me, Sandy Petersen. (Actually, Mr. Shiny is also an avatar of me, so I show up twice in the catalog of priests.) Anyway, the card art is based on an old photo of me from the 1980s (that’s why he has hair).
So what does Carl Stanford (aka Sandy) do? You have to have an Elder Sign before you can trigger him. As with some other priests, you don’t spend the Elder Sign – you just have to own one. But he gives you a whole spellbook. And that’s emphatically good.
What can I use a spellbook for?
The most obvious use is it’s 5 VPs. The next most-obvious is you can trade it in at the Silver Twilight Lodge (hey, that’s where Carl works!) to get both a monster & a chamber. You may be thinking, “Hey, Edward Hutchinson only gives you a monster, while the mighty Carl Stanford can get you a monster AND a chamber”. Well, to get the monster & chamber it takes some time, because you have to first own an elder sign (Hutchinson can get you that monster in the very first turn, should you wish it). Second, you have to use an action to spend the spellbook. So Carl Stanford’s ability, while more powerful than Hutchinson’s is also clumsier to use. And of course many elder signs require a spellbook to unlock, which might be the most effective use of this item.
The Minister (investigator)
The forces of good are definitely on the move. No mere traitor or semi-human being, the minister is solidly your enemy and a fearsome one. However, he does have a blind spot. First off, getting the minister means that an extra die is rolled for the raid. This is terrifying – you might be rolling as many as 4 dice. Even if it’s the first attack, it is still launched at 2 dice, which no one is ready for, early in the game. So he poses a real threat of wiping people out.
Because he’s a minister (the image shows a fiery protestant, which makes sense for Lovecraft Country), he is focused on the bible as the source of his power. This means he thinks that the elder signs are the source of your cult’s power. (Of course, the elder signs are simply trophies of your eventual victory.) So before the minister’s attack is resolved all the players have 1 minute to discuss if one of them will give up an Elder Sign to the minister, thus calling off the whole attack. Uniquely, the other players can offer resources to the person providing the sacrifice, thus “paying” for this action.
Example in play: it’s the first attack of the game, and the second Elder Sign. Frank rolls for the investigator raid, and gets the Minister, which means 2d6 are rolled. He rolls, and gets an 11. Gulp. Everyone is appalled. No one has any monsters, and clearly no one has enough defenses to withstand this attack. Frank points out that he, in fact, has an Elder Sign (the one he just took from the board), and would be willing to give it to the minister if he was bribed heavily enough. The other players demur, pointing out that he’s going to lose the Elder Sign in the attack anyway. “Yes.” says Frank. “But if I don’t sacrifice it, then YOU will lose all your resources, too. So pay up, or lose. It’s up to you.” The other players confer. One offers Frank a blood, while the other offers 2 treasure. The third laughs it off – he has only one treasure in his sanctum and is willing to lose it rather than hand it over. Frank mulls over the offer. If he takes the blood & 2 treasure, he’ll keep his Elder Sign, but won’t wipe out his opponents. “Clock’s ticking.” says a friend. “Okay,” says Frank. “Let’s do it.” The minister is, barely, avoided, but the fun of the interaction remains forever.
Flying Polyp (monster)
The Flying Polyp is another candidate for “best monster in the game” Because if you discard him, the entire raid totally skips you. Sadly, there is a requirement – namely that YOU cannot originate the raid. But it is refreshing to not have to fear raids at all, while you build up your little empire. On the other hand, I have seen a player launch a raid while all he had was his Polyp, only to be wiped out by rolling a really good attack (against which he couldn’t spend his monster). To avoid this, I suggest trying to get your defenses up and not solely relying on the Polyp.
How to Defend Against Raids
The basic principle in Evil High Priest is that in the early-to-mid game, you either need a monster or some solid sanctum defenses. But in the late game, you need both. You can’t wholly rely on monsters then, because they go away when used, and you can be left defenseless by a couple of attacks in a row, which isn’t rare in the late game. And you can’t wholly rely on sanctum defenses, because, frankly, they don’t cut the mustard by this time any more. Do the math:
Example: foolishly, Arthur has no monsters left in the late game. He has built up a strong defense though. In order, he has a Trap, two Vaults, and a Closet. All of his chambers are full of resources (the Closet has 3 elder signs & a spellbook!), plus he has 2 exposed resources. An attack is rolled, and it’s an 11! He has 2 cultists in the asylum (after all, it’s the late game), which lower the attack to a 9. He then loses his 2 exposed resources. The trap drops the attack by 3 to a 6. If he does nothing, he’ll lose everything in his two vaults, and the attack would still go on! His spellbook & elder signs are at risk! So he has to sack a cultist to stop the hurting. In the end, he lost 1 cultist, 2 exposed resources, and the two resources in his first vault (his second vault stops the attack). While this isn’t the end of the world, let’s see what would have happened if he’d had a monster. Let’s just give him a comparatively puny Maniac. As before, his 2 asylum patients drop the attack to 9. Then he sacks his monster for 4 more barrier. The attack is down to 5. The trap plus the first vault then stop the rest. By losing the monster, he saved 2 resources and a cultist. Usually that’s worth it.