Sunday, January 30, 2011

Miscellany: Arkham Horror board game review

My friends and I have explored the dark corners of the Mythos before, so I guess it was only a matter of time before we tried out "Arkham Horror," a Call of Cthulhu-inspired board game originally designed by Richard Launius and revised by the good folks at Skotos and Fantasy Flight Games.

In Arkham Horror, you and your friends play as investigators trying to stop an ancient evil from awakening in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each turn, a Mythos Card is drawn, which either opens a gate to another dimension, or spawns a whole bunch of foul monsters. If too many gates have opened or too many monsters have spawned, the Ancient One will awaken, (probably) devour all the investigators, and destroy the world.

Gameplay is thus a balance of gathering resources (in the form of items and clues), closing gates, and fighting monsters (where practical). In terms of game strategy, the Mythos Cards provide a constant impetus - if you wait around too long, it's possible to have so many monsters wandering the streets that movement is impossible. You can tweak your fighting, movement, and exploration skills each turn (some characters are particularly good at this), so turn-to-turn gameplay is pretty interesting, too.

"Arkham Horror" has a good amount of replayability, especially considering the game is purely cooperative. Each Ancient One has a unique, game-wide power that can drastically affect the proceedings; Shub-Niggurath makes all monsters considerably tougher, Ithaqua's icy winds blast any investigator foolish enough to venture out into the streets of Arkham, and so on. The investigators also have unique stats and special skills that encourage a different strategy every time you play (the gangster is good at fighting, the occult author excels at exploring the Other Worlds beyond the gates, etc.).

The first playthrough will take awhile, since there's just so much content. Between items, spells, encounters, and monsters, you'll be juggling through several piles of cards, and it can be intimidating to board game newbies. Plus, I hope you have a big dining room table to spread everything out on:


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