The Horror, the Arkham Horror!

Arkham Horror Board Game

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. Here Goes!

Fantasy Flight does it again. I got to try out Arkham Horror and it was a blast. It took a couple of hours to really understand the machanics of the game. I blame in part the rules book. Its not a bad rules book. However, in order to conserve space a lot of repetition that makes learning a complex game easier had to be dropped. The key to learning the game was playing a few rounds, questioning what seemed wrong and looking it up in the rules.

Once that was done the general play of the game is quite interesting. The game is cooperative much in the same way that a role-playing session is. There is no person running the game so its all of the players versus the system. And it is a tough and merciless system indeed. True to its horror origins the players are fairly weak against the minions of darkness. However through cooperation and sacrifice they can collectively make it through the game.

What makes this game such a winner is that its full of options. Each turn there are a thousand things you can do and there are also lots of things threatening. You can’t deal with all of them so you have to pick your poison. I spent most of the game dealing with threats. I had lots of resources to spend but never felt I had time to actually spend them to improve my chances. I think that was a mistake. Its a game that makes me want to replay it often. That is a good thing.

The production quality is exception on this product. Its packed full of components, a beautiful board and so forth. The company went out of its way to make a good looking game.

I would not recommend this for casual gaming. If you know what you are doing I suspect this game takes about 4 hours to come to a conclusion. If your first game is like mine, it could take up to 6 hours. The rules are also somewhat complicated. They make sense and there is a lovely FAQ out there but this is definitely more difficult than Monopoly! Or Runebound for that matter. I absolutely recommend reading the FAQ as it contains clarifications that are not obvious in the main text of the rules.

The best compliment I can give about the game is that it really does give a good feel for the atmosphere of Lovecraft’s work without his horrid writing (some will disagree with me here on his writing being horrid). Also the sense of terror and tension is quite real. The characters you get to play are soon taught a lesson in humility and its just absolute luck and determined cooperation and coordination that gets you to the win condition at the end.

Did we win when we played? No, but we came close. If I ever find the game gets too easy I will put the designer’s house rules to the test. For now, give me Arkham straight up!

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