Arkham Horror: First Thoughts

Sooner or later, most games collections will seem to include at least one Lovecraft themed game. Given that I’ve long been a fan of Call of Cthulhu and the whole mythos in general, it’s taken me a surprisingly long time to get around to this milestone. Anyway, birthday’s role around and I found myself in possession of a shiny new copy of Arkham Horror.

The first game was a two player affair, which at least introduced us to how brutal the game can be. We randomly selected the Great Old One which turned out to be Azathoth, at least meant we wouldn’t have to worry about the end game if we made it that far. We also randomly selected the Investigators – I know that the game says to do this, but in retrospect, picking two or three to make the choice from is probably something I’d advocate in the future so as to have a better balanced team – although this may favour players who are familiar with the game in a mixed experience group.

Set-up is relatively straight forward, although I think this may take the record for the most content in any game I own, storage to aid set-up is something I’m going to have to look at carefully to avoid it driving me insane in the long run. I think this may also make the game run a bit smoother, with so much out on the table, getting some space back around the edge of the board would be a great help. Whilst there is a lot to take in, everything is printed in a clear fashion with a defined path to be follow, making it easier to manage.

We made some mistakes that I’ve only picked up after re-reading the rules post-game, but some of these acted in our favour, some against, so it all evened out in the end. I think in retrospect, doubling up the number of Investigators controlled by each player would have helped as it would have allowed us to split the tasks that would allow us to win the game, as it was a single card became an issue of fire-fighting that meant things got out of hand elsewhere and the writing was on the wall from that point. It’s a fun game, but I suspect it really opens up with more than four players as you can start to assign roles. Tying this in with the choice of Investigators mentioned above would allow you to tailor the game more closely to what players want.

Our big mistakes; Rumour Cards – oh boy did we mess this one up! Multiple Rumour Cards in play absolutely murdered us and meant the Terror Track filled up so fast we were never able to equip ourselves properly to deal with the threat as we weren’t able to properly arm ourselves for the battle before as the various venues closed down. Reading the rules, the events of subsequent Rumour Cards are ignored until the first one has been resolved. That’s not one I’m going to forget in a hurry. Remember kids – only one Rumour Card can be in play at a time and they’re not, this more than anything else absolutely murdered us.

Injured & Insane in Arkham – having gone Insane whilst in an Other World, I followed the correct rules, going to the “Lost in Time & Space” box, and then followed them on every other instance. Two turns “Lost in Time & Space” did us no favours. Gaining a turn and being able to fully heal or recover sanity at a small cost would have helped a lot and we’d have been able to deal with the growing number of rumours that we were accumulating.

Things we got wrong that helped us; Monster Abilities – Magical / Physical Resistance would sure have made it even harder to get rid of some of those beasties, all of whom were proving to be an absolute nightmare without the proper resources. Even as it was we had a hard time getting though the number of monsters the board was generating, the Terror Track filled up too fast and we we’re left with an unwinnable game at that point. Part of this was us getting Rumours wrong, but as the city limits filled up each turn, advancing the Terror Track we just hit a downward spiral.

Clue Tokens – picking them and continuing moving, didn’t help us that much as to be honest we then spent them immediately on re-rolls, but with more players this could run away in terms of power. Management of these would appear to be crucial to have any hope of sealing gates, which ties in with being able to purchase the buffs from stores mentioned above in order to avoid having to use re-rolls. I suspect that Blessing can make the situation easier as well as it reduces the need for re-rolls by increasing the odds significantly.

Mythos Cards – not so much a mistake, but I suspect having a single player deal with the Mythos Cards could speed things up, and mean that some of the above mistakes regarding Rumours and Monsters weren’t repeated.

We’re going to try again, probably over the Christmas break, and I may try to fit in a solo run through in the meantime (although I’ve heard they can be particularly difficult) to ensure I’m fully au-fait with the rules. Given the number of combinations of Investigators / Great Old One I suspect there’s a fair bit of mileage to be had from this game.

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