I was over at H & J’s house for a game day recently and at one point H was looking over their bookshelf of games and grabbed a game called Arkham Horror. He looked at J and was like, “Ooh, we should have Dan figure out how to play this and then he can teach us!” Turns out they bought this game over a year ago, opened it up, saw the rules and the number of pieces involved and said, “Err…maybe later”. So I was sent home with it to work on as “gaming homework”, which is much better than your typical college homework ; ) I figured out the rules (mostly) and we played it yesterday.
Arkham Horror is a cooperative game, meaning all the players win or all the players lose. Working together, trading equipment, and deciding who is going to do what is a big part of the game, and is a pretty fun twist. It’s not very complicated, as in hard to understand, but man is it complex as in “there are 8 million different little pieces and rules to remember”. When I got it home and started messing around with it I probably spent 15 minutes just looking at all the various counters and cards and pieces and just trying to figure out what they were and get some vague idea of what they did. After that I dove in to the rules, trying to figure out the basic game flow and the win/lose conditions (believe it or not, even figuring how you actually win takes some time). I then started a one player game (it’s designed for 1 – 8 players) just to get familiar with the game.
The basics are pretty simple, especially if you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering. Each turn consists of 5 phases: upkeep (refresh any items you’ve used, etc.), movement, encounters in Arkham, encounters outside of Arkham, and the Mythos phase, where the game tries to inflict doom on the players. Every player acts in every phase in order, so everyone moves, then everyone has an encounter, etc. Those are the basics, but when you start adding rules for items, combat, monsters, monster movement, spells, the doom counter, the terror track, and a million other things it’s a lot to remember. I told them at the beginning “OK, I’m probably going to forget something important and we’ll get 4 turns in and I’ll be like, ‘oh yeah…we’re supposed to be doing this’” but it actually didn’t happen; we didn’t miss any major things as far as I know.
Once we got into it a bit and got a little groove going it went fairly smooth. J & H caught on quickly and we got into a good rhythm. It’s not a short game, our first one took us about 4.5 hours, but we all thought the time went quickly and we had a really good time. Hopefully we’re going to try again soon with a couple more players. Having more players seems like it would be easier, but the more players you have the more monsters appear, so we’ll see how it goes.
So how did we do? We managed to win. Barely. There are three ways to win: close all the open gates (the premise of the game is that the Ancient One is trying to make his way into Arkham and the players are trying to prevent that), permanently seal and close 6 gates, or if you fail on those and the Ancient One escapes, take him down in combat. We did let the Ancient One out, and we barely managed to take him out. H died during that fight, and J and I were just about out to as well when J got the final blow in.
As far as strategy what we did seemed to work fairly well; we basically each took on a role and handled one aspect of things. H was the combat monster/tank who went around clearing monsters, J was the buffer who got us Blessed, bought items for the group etc., and I was the designated gate-closer. Really everybody was closing gates but that was pretty much all I was doing. The roles strategy seemed to work pretty well, although there would be times where say I was trapped by some big nasty monster that I couldn’t defeat, or J couldn’t get to a spot where she could help us out. But generally it seemed like a good approach.
It’s a fun game, but it’s a bit of a commitment in terms of time and also space; the board itself is huge and there are so many piles of cards and counters it’s not even funny. H made a comment along the lines of “Wow, I never thought this table wouldn’t be big enough for a game”. And for even more fun there are currently a total of 8 expansions: 3 that include another board (along with more cards, etc.) and 5 that are just new cards, counters, investigators, and all that good stuff. I don’t know if we’re ever going to get into all the expansions, but I hope we do play again sometime soon.
Thanks for reading!