I've been playing through a duo Carcosa campaign with a friendly Harvey Walters, and Nathaniel has quickly become my favorite investigator in the game. He is perhaps the most efficient investigator at the game at dealing with monsters, with his ability letting you easily deal with the annoying 3 health menaces that would annoy every other Guardian (until they can grab their big guns, at least) because they would always be one health short of death, and packing enough burst and longevity with Boxing Gloves and the occasional recursion from to take care of any of the big tough bosses (he can manage alone in 1-2 player, but in higher player counts a helping hand from another investigator proficient with enemies is probably greatly appreciated). Let's get down into the nitty gritty of what makes Nathaniel Cho such an efficient Guardian.
• Boxing Gloves and a base 5 means he will often be taking fighting tests at 6, improved to 7 with Grete Wagner or Beat Cop (7 and 8 respectively with upgraded gloves). Whenever you defeat an enemy, the gloves allow you to search through your deck for another Spirit event, meaning you replace the one or maybe two cards you used to defeat that enemy.
• This base value applies to all of the events Natty Cho fights with, meaning even if some don't give you bonuses he matches or even exceeds most Guardians with a decent weapon (he doesn't surpass something like a Flamethrower or a M1918 BAR without a bonus, but he matches every other Guardian but Mark equipped with a Lightning Gun, and Nathaniel's strength is in the fact he doesn't have to worry about running out of gas in the same way other Guardians do). Speaking of which..
• All of his core events cost 0-2 resources, and his only really important set up asset costs 3 resources (2 when upgraded) so with the help of a couple of Clean Them Outs he never really suffers from the lack of resources that comes from playing big guns on other guardians. He can skip out on Ever Vigilant if he takes Stick to the Plan, which I find to be basically an automatic upgrade whenever SttP is involved. He may have a little trouble getting down something bigger like a Grete Wagner, but I've also had games where I've been sitting on 8-9 resources for most of the game. The draw from Boxing Gloves, the recursion from his and a Glory or Taunt can basically keep him going for the entire game in terms of cards, but it can really hurt your overall longevity and fighting ability if you miss both gloves and Randall in the mulligan. Try to get either of these out as soon as possible and Nathaniel will last you the whole scenario. A friendly seeker with No Stone Unturned or OBoL can go a long way if you miss the mulligan; if you're playing in solo or really paranoid, consider Prepared for the Worst. Crucially, if something like Crypt Chill comes by and leaves you gloveless, your brother can get them back for you.
• And finally the reason we build Nacho like this is his ability, which once per phase allows you to do +1 damage with an event. While that doesn't seem like much, it means the world when you can plan out your hits to be as action efficient as possible. 3 health Stealthy Byakhee annoying those Guardians with weapons that do +1 damage? Simply become the best Monster Slayer with a single punch. Or maybe you just don't want to deal with the bag at all and go Mano a Mano. Maybe you had other things to do during your turn, socking Tommy Malloy because he doesn't know how to take a hint. (On a side note, I've been running a copy of Handcuffs to deal with him more efficiently, but punching him three times at +4 from his fight value is just as feasible, it just takes more actions and risks more autofails. All in all it's a pretty tame weakness, and I can see it becoming even tamer if you have someone on your team who can easily evade him.) Just wait until the Swift Byakhee tries to come at you before making him see black stars with a nasty Counterpunch. You could've even used the boost during the investigation; if that Maniac comes charging at you during the enemy phase, Nathaniel has a mean +1 right hook ready to go. For this reason, Counterpunch and "Get over here!" are standout cards, because they allow you to attack outside of the investigation phase, and get full use out of your ability. Shoutouts also to Taunt, Dynamite Blast, Heroic Rescue and Ambush which are more niche, but provide similar out of turn damage. The variety that Nathaniel has in his fight/damage events to pick and choose which one he needs in the moment is what makes him stand out amongst all other Guardians. Of course, sometimes your deck doesn't provide, but generally even just having a couple events to choose from like Monster Slayer and a Clean Them Out can get your chain started, so long as your Boxing Gloves are in play.
Spoilers Ahead: To provide some solid numbers, Nacho Libre did 42 out of the 45 damage needed to defeat Subject 8L-08 in our two player detour to The Blob That Ate Everything, doing 9 damage to the heart both times it spawned. This was before he had upgraded his One-Two Punch or Vicious Blow, so his potential damage output can be pretty extreme (a double Vicious Blow One-Two Punch can do 10 damage in a single action). He took care of the Royal Emissary twice in Curtain Call with time and cards to spare, and could deal with Young Psychopaths without having to tank horror with ease. We were playing on Standard, but even on higher difficulties, starting at a base fight of 6-8 is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you have skills like the Guardian staple (and enabling even more efficiency with fighting by adding more damage) Vicious Blow, the appreciated draw of Overpower and Steadfast, which is not only helpful for attacking, but also dealing with the encounter deck which often targets .
Of course, no investigator is perfect, and Chopunch certainly is no exception.
His 2 means that clues are hard to come by without the help of Grete Wagner and cards like Evidence!. Even if Grete Wagner can boost you to 3 you're going to have trouble with high shroud locations, and you can't afford to take Flashlight when both your hand slots are filled without the help of a Bandolier.
The other most common trait tested in the encounter deck is and with a base 2 , you will find yourself just tanking the damage that usually comes with these tests more often than passing them. Most of the "event suite" doesn't have icons, apart from the Dodge you may be taking along with your Counterpunch and the that is on cards like Monster Slayer. For the same reasons, evasion is often not an option, and if there's something particularly nasty engaged with you and you don't have your gloves, or events ready in your hand, you may be in for a world of hurt. Randall can help you mitigate your damage if you're not using him as a delivery boy for your gloves.
Base 3 is standard as far as Guardians go, but his also standard Guardian lack of sanity means you'll feel it more than others would should you fail. Once again Randall comes to the rescue, giving you up to 3 extra sanity points if you have him in play. Also consider Physical Training to help you pass the more dangerous treacheries, or First Watch to avoid them altogether.
A weakness that doesn't come up often with Guardians is hand size. Nathaniel, if he is playing events with regularity, usually still has about 3-5 cards in hand. However, especially on lower player counts, there are definitely turns where no enemies spawn, and Nathaniel can be left with nothing to do other than gain resources or draw, as his low base doesn't lend itself to investigating very well. Unlike other Guardians, Nathaniel does not necessarily have many assets to lay down during these moments of peace, meaning there is very little he can do proactively if he doesn't see any action. If you get particularly unlucky and have nothing to fight for 2-3 turns, you can be stuck with a lot of events in hand with no use, forcing you to discard cards like skills that could help against treacheries, or events like One-Two Punch before a particularly nasty enemy comes out. Cards like Glory and Evidence! are also dead in your hand in this situation, though they have icons that can be committed to help investigation attempts. You may want to consider a copy or two of On the Hunt just to make sure that you aren't stuck with a dead hand and nothing to do.
The other classic Guardian issue is resources, but Clean Them Out is usually enough to carry you through a scenario. Emergency Cache is an option if you're playing expensive cards such as Grete Wagner or Dynamite Blast (and there's a fun Dynamite and Relentless combo, more on Relentless below). Stand Together is less selfish than Cache if you play with other investigators who need some money. Nathaniel in general isn't great at supporting fellow investigators, beyond a First Aid to patch them up every now and then, a "Let me handle this!" to potentially save a friend, or a Leadership to help someone with a test topped off with a sprinkle of cash. There is potentially an interesting tank build that could be built with him (more on that later) if you want to lean on supportive aspects of the Guardian card pool.
In short, One-Two Punch Man is very good at fighting, and is often reliant on fighting to get through other aspects of the game. He is mediocre at best outside of his element, and for that reason is probably very challenging for solo play. When left with nothing to fight, he often languishes and takes resource actions in a turn, or simply fails at trying to grab clues.
In summary, I think Nacho Man Randall Savage is one of the most unique Guardians to exist at the moment, swapping out the Enchanted Blades and Flamethrowers for ol' lefty and righty. He trades the video gamey feeling of grabbing a big gun and mowing down monsters for the absurdity of allowing others to ask you, "Did you just punch out Cthulhu?" The event suite he runs lends itself to a swiss army knife approach to enemies, almost always having the right tools for the job, and a unique build that feels unlike any other investigator (though Chuck Fergus and Tony Morgan can certainly try, and I look forward to seeing that build eventually come to fruition). Next time you're feeling particularly like you want to punch the encounter deck for drawing you three Ancient Evils in a row, give Nathaniel Cho a try. I promise you won't regret it.
Small note about certain cards:
I think Relentless is a trap. Your goal with Nathaniel is to deal with enemies as efficiently as possible, not to overkill them for resources. I did not activate it once during the 3 scenarios I had it in play from the beginning, though if you plan on using Dynamite Blast frequently by attaching it to Stick to the Plan, there is potential for a large payoff.
I personally prefer Grete Wagner for my ally slot over Beat Cop, as Nathaniel often doesn't need the extra ping and it allows you to help your cluer by defeating enemies, but Beat Cop can be taken if you are the only damage dealer in your group and you want to have the extra hits. Edit: Thank you to Death by Chocolate for mentioning this one! Tetsuo Mori is an ally worth considering as well, due to his ability to fish out your gloves if you missed them and Randall in the mulligan, or to recur them after a treachery like Corrosion discarded them. He's also a more supportive option, since he can tank any damage at his location, and allows your allies to use the search or recursion.
Safeguard is a great option to keep your less enemy inclined allies (Seekers in particular) safe by moving with them.
Versatile for Crystallizer of Dreams has great synergy with Nathaniel, with One-Two Punch (5) in particular giving an extra +4 after you use it. Just make sure you're packing a couple more draw cards than usual to offset the increased deck size.
Well Prepared is good if you can find the room for it. +2 every turn when used with gloves or Physical Training, which can also be tapped for its +2 during the mythos phase. Also a potential icon every turn with Empty Vessel, which is also a generally good card for Nathaniel if you can find the space.
Alternate builds: While I think the most fun way to play Nathaniel is a rough and tumble boxer who punches his way through every obstacle (as long as it's vulnerable to ) it is definitely not the only way. His limited cardpool (like every other starter deck investigator) somewhat limits his options, but Guardians do have some interesting cards to play with.
The tank build that was mentioned above would use Flesh Ward and allies such as Guard Dog and Tetsuo Mori to keep enemies off of others and focus attention on to himself. Mano a Mano could take out engaged enemies with ease along with pings from Guard Dog, and Counterpunch would probably be the card you'd like to recur most. Of particular note is that Boxing Gloves search for spirit events, so cards such as Stand Together, Delay the Inevitable and Heroic Rescue could be found to help allies after taking out enemies. Tommy Muldoon gets resources back for playing similarly, but Boxing Gloves can keep your hand full of support events as you take the blows and punch back.
A base 5 makes Nathaniel a great candidate for something like the .32 Colt, which is often held back by its lack of boosts, if you want to use weapons other than fists. On higher difficulties, it means something like a Flamethrower has a better chance to succeed if you're not feeling Mark Harrigan. Big guns in general are great on Nathaniel with his higher than average . It just leans toward more standard Guardian builds, and means ignoring his ability in favor of firearms. If you do choose to go this route, definitely try to Stick to the Plan, grab some Extra Ammunition, be Prepared for the Worst and Ever Vigilant. This route is rather expensive exp-wise, especially in comparison to most of the fighting events which only require 2 exp to upgrade (with the exception of One-Two Punch or a cheeky Dynamite Blast). Of particular note is that Randall Cho can pull out any weapon from your deck, so he's essentially an extra copy of Prepared for the Worst but even better, as he searches the whole deck and can even recur an expended weapon from the discard pile.
There's a completely goofy build I thought of to make sure Relentless triggers as often as possible, with the Mk 1 Grenades, Dynamite Blasts and Flamethrower being used to overkill anything and everything as much as possible, then cashing in that excess damage for things such as Agency Backup to help you get clues, and potentially more excess damage. Perhaps you even take Shotgun and Well Prepared to boost as much as possible and then put 10 excess damage on the talent. Nathaniel's higher than average makes those Vicious Blow and Shotgun thresholds easier to achieve.