tl;dr - Norman is a Mystic, not a Seeker. Build him like a Mystic who can find clues whenever he wants. Norman is the best Mystic, not the worst Seeker.
Wanted to write a new review, as some of the others are older and I want to drive one particular thing home. Despite the color on his card, Norman is primarily a Mystic , not a Seeker . If you came for Higher Education, Deduction (2), or Cryptic Research you are looking at the wrong guy (somewhat obviously), and you should compare him to Mystics instead. Before Luke Robinson, Norman was the closest approximation of "Mystic 5/Seeker 2", but not quite. Norman's deckbuilding (0-5 Mystic 0's, Seeker 0's, Mystic 1-5) is primarily the alternate to Mystics (instead of 's):
- Jim Culver - At 0-5 and up to 5 level 0's of any other class, Jim trades Seeker 0's for Mystic 0's, and can be more flexible about his 5 cards.
- Luke Robinson - At 0-5 and 0-2 Luke's deckbuilding is just a straight upgrade then.
Why then play The Astronomer? To maximize your , and have a good ability during gameplay.
- Has (in my opinion) the superior 6 Health/8 Sanity to Luke's 5 Health/9 Sanity. This is somewhat a survivability wash, because Luke starts with Gate Box to disengage from enemies, and has a better to avoid some treacheries that do damage. Even still, it's worth noting, and once Norman is going enemies are a complete non-issue.
- Has (in my opinion) the superior 0's to Jim Culver's 0's.
- While Norman requires some set up to deal with monsters, he requires almost none to Investigate. With a simple Magnifying Glass (0) and his 5 , Norman looks for clues very reliably, while his competitors are risking themselves playing Drawn to the Flame. This really sets him apart from other Mystic investigators.
- High "Accuracy". The two things Norman does regularly, look for clues and cast huge spells, he does with very large stat numbers. Generally speaking, something needs to go very wrong for him to fail at these activities.
- Norman is quite squishy, particularly early in a Campaign. With only 6 Health, no and no Norman is going to be terrible against Grasping Hands, and will need rescuing from On Wings of Darkness before that's the last he's heard from. Later on, monsters will become a non-issue as you use them to move around with Mists of R'lyeh (4), or absolutely demolish them with Shrivelling (5), but before then it's tricky. You'll always be terrible against Grasping Hands et al., and I'd consider some Painkillers for that eventuality.
- If you like flashy elder sign results, this ain't it. Sometimes you can swap something on top of your deck you want to get a discount on, but if you've already played your card from the top for this round that won't work. While you can swap a more expensive card there, that's rarely better than another +1. The only thing Norman gets from the elder sign is a (small) positive number.
- As one of the other reviews states, Norman can feel a bit...slow. He is very likely to succeed, but lacks the click compression of Rex Murphy, Deduction (2) and while he could play Drawn to the Flame and Rite of Seeking, he is unlikely to as it's a waste of his 5 . Just call him Ol' Reliable.
- You might hit your weaknesses a lot. You go through your deck quickly, and as soon as they're on top you draw them. Your signature weakness is VERY tame, so this mostly will matter for any other weaknesses you have.
The Five 0s
For my money, there aren't actually that many options for this, as some are just perfect fits.
- Delve Too Deep - Best to get this out of the way immediately. Norman loves XP cards, and so he loves XP. Likely not worth in solo, at which point I would put in Shrivelling. While normally Shrivelling feels like a terrible use of one of your 0s, in the absence of a friend, you're going to need more than just Mind over Matter. I would play 2, until you can swap them out later.
- St. Hubert's Key - Gives a bonus to your two stats in a slot you otherwise don't care too much about. It's somewhat expensive, but you'll get a discount on it sometimes, and when things are going really poorly it heals you for two horror. Not a sexy pick, but a reliable one. I would start with 2.
- Ward of Protection - Sometimes you're going to read a Treachery card that will make your whole turn go sideways, and you need to cancel it. This may be because it preys on your low or all the usual suspects that annoy everyone. You want 2, but you don't have the space, so play 1.
- Open Gate - Honorable mention to this card; it's an awful selection to start with but after you take out your Delves and upgrade your Ward of Protection you will have 3 Mystic slots again. Filling those again (with whatever you think is best) would cost you 3 XP. Instead you can fill all 3 for only 1 XP and get a triplicate of Open Gates. You can play them as fast off the top of your deck for free as well! It's effectiveness can vary quite a bit between scenarios, but I find it to generally improve later in campaigns, right when you add these in.
- Arcane Initiate - At 0 XP you likely don't have spells to find, and they certainly aren't worth the XP to add the level 0 versions later on. You could put them in as dead draws, but that seems risky, and frankly unnecessary. I never seem to have the XP for Arcane Initiate (3) either, and Norman's deck goes by fast so they aren't really needed (though shuffling could show you a new card to play with your ability). I would rate this choice as "Fine", and you could certainly make it work, but I think there are better options.
- Arcane Research - Gets brought up a lot with Norman, but it's a mixed bag. On the one hand, you're definitely going to be upgrading spells, on the other it makes you a scary 6 HP/6 Sanity, and it will take 1 or 2 of your 5 slots forever, even when you're done upgrading spells. I think this is definitely a build, but not the way I would go.
Watch the Stars
In addition to his good stats, and good deckbuilding, you want to leverage his ability during play. Every time you use it you have effectively drawn the top card of your deck, and unless that card was free you also generated a resource. This in some ways makes your deck a proto-version of Joe Diamond's Hunch deck. Skills are a waste as you can't commit them from the top, and cards that are flexible (and ideally Fast) are king.
- Knowledge is Power - This might as well say "must be included by Norman". Fast, free, gives you charges on your stuff, cycles duplicates out of your hand, effectively gives you extra actions. A++.
- Working a Hunch - Good early in a Campaign as it's click compression, and a reasonable cost for 1 if you play it from the top. Later on it's less thrilling, and you're unlikely to want to play it for 2 from your hand.
- Shortcut - Compression, and basically always playable. You don't generate an effective resource when you do it, but it's still great.
- No Stone Unturned - This card is "fine" for Norman I would say. You can have most of the six cards in your "hand" by next turn if you play a fast card off the top of your deck and take the draw action once. I just don't find it to be worth the money and action for your own purposes. Your actions are usually very high quality (because of your high stats), and you don't want to waste them doing "support" except in the first (or at most second) scenario. If you want to use it on your allies to help them out, that's fine.
- Preposterous Sketches - This is better. Same cost, you're often going to be sitting places with clues and puts it all in hand.
- Anatomical Diagrams - Fast and free off the top of your deck, the main drawback here is "at your location". Early on you'll have a babysitter, and you can help them out. Later on when you handle your own problems, you likely don't need it. Even still, worth mentioning.
- Connect the Dots - Expensive, but amazing compression. This will depend on the cost of your deck (and the presence of Dr. Milan Christopher).
- Seeking Answers - Slight compression, but requires a specific board. Decent.
- Mind over Matter - Critical at 0 XP. Less important later (as it doesn't help with treacheries, and you don't need it for the other stuff anymore. Just play it for 0 off the top of the deck even if you don't need to.
Other Notable Cards
- Magnifying Glass (0) - Fast and good. All you need to investigate most things trivially.
- Hawk-Eye Folding Camera - Not fast, but easy for you to activate and gives you a bonus to your other stat.
- You can use Versatile (A Thousand Shapes of Horror, 167) to reload your Mystic 0's, (and give you 2 slots back if you used them on Arcane Research), but you have better things to do with your XP!
- Mr. "Rook" - Finding cards is good. Bonus points for having 2 Health.
- Dr. William T. Maleson - Can help you with the encounter deck. Bonus points for having 2 Health.
- Dr. Milan Christopher - Good for most Seekers, and good for this Mystic. Gives you pseudo-compression by combining clue gathering with making money.
- Crack the Case - Gives you resources at speed, and you're not afraid of high shrouds.
- Protective Incantation (1) - I've found Norman to be both poor (particularly without Milan in play, always playing things off his deck), and to have better things to do with his Arcane slots. While you can make a sealing build you have traded away all your stats for two great stats, and then abandoned those stats for Support duties. Make someone else do this!
- Bind Monster (2) - I've used this as another monster answer. At times it's excellent, particularly in parts of Dunwich, but without a bonus to like Mists of R'lyeh (4) gives you, it can be tough to leverage. Fine, not amazing.
At the time of this writing, Norman is still only available from his Novella, so I cannot comment on his "regular" Signatures, only his replacements. I do anticipate Livre d'Eibon will be a "Tome", so potentially some synergy with KiP.
- Split the Angle - This has two actions on it. One to look at the top card of the Encounter deck, one to get rid of it as a . People have rightfully pointed out this is not actually very good (it's too slow). You basically never want to waste time taking the slow action (your time is too valuable), and discarding cards at random from the encounter deck is meaningless. Using Alyssa Graham to make this faster is throwing 4 money and a valuable ally slot after a mediocre combo with a single card in your deck - very not worth. I like Scrying (3) to assign everyone their best chance to succeed, but any combo with this is...tangential at best. I do however think most people are sleeping on this card slightly. I would reframe Split the Angle like this: " Exhaust Split the Angle and discard the top card of your deck: Draw a Card." This obviously isn't EXACTLY analogous, but close enough for horseshoes I think. With Norman able to play the top card of his deck, revealing a new card is potentially giving you new options. Late in a scenario, it has good icons, but I've drawn it early and used it to speed through my deck.
- Vengeful Hound - Even if Split the Angle is underwhelming, I'm curious if after his cards come out the Replacements might still be king, and this is the reason. This weakness is one of the easiest weaknesses in the game. It has 2 Fight and dies to a single hit from any 2 damage weapon. It has Prey, but not Hunter so you can just evade it and leave (assuming you never have to go back). This often takes only a single action to resolve.
Not a ton to say here - buy expensive Mystic cards. Shrivelling (5), Mists of R'lyeh (4) (particularly good as it comes with action compression!), Grotesque Statue (4), Ward of Protection (5) or Ward of Protection (2), I've seen people argue for builds that don't devolve in to Spell Combat for Norman (token sealing, etc) but that seems too cute by half and requires you to be rescued all the time. Get tough! Rescue the Guardian!
Yes. Very yes. Casting huge spells is awesome. Doing everything super well is awesome!