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Arkham Horror

68 out of 77 gamers thought this was helpful

Ok, my family just returned to the board game hobby after a 15-year hiatus, and consists of Me, my wife, and my two daughters (ages 15 and 13). Arkham Horror was our first foray into our recent return, and here are our thoughts. Keep in mind that I will not explain the rules of the game…if that is what you are looking for, then there are multiple outlets to procure that (this review would be 4 pages if I explained the rules, LOL).

Arkham Horror is a co-operative game for 2-6 players set in the city of Arkham, Massachusetts in the 1920’s. Strange happenings are occurring in the city as the Ancient One unleashes monster gates (and other events) in an effort to return to the city to devour all who remain. The goal is to either a) seal 6 gates or b) close all gates (and have a specific # of closed gates in player possession…based on # of players), or combat the Ancient One once the doom track fills.

1) Components (Score 8 out of 10)

There are definitely a TON of components, all of better-than-average quality. The player character cards have a lot of detail and variation, each with their own special abilities, starting equipment, attributes, and back-stories. Other components include Mythos cards, Gate cards, location cards, unique/common item cards, spell cards, skill cards, health/sanity/clue chits, and much more. The backs of each type of card are different in design and color, and easy to identify.

The board, in a word, is HUGE. You will need a fairly large table to play AH. We utilize our entire dining room table, and it has seating for six, so this in itself might be a turn-off.

2) Theme (9 out of 10)

Just oozing Lovecraftian theme. Location/mythos/gate card narratives really draw you into the story/events.

3) Time Investment (6 out of 10)

The site description above states “2 to 3 hours” to play a game of AH. I think this is well off the mark. Naturally, your first game will take some time, as there is going to be spurts of down-time to reference rules and events. However, I cannot play a game of AH solo in 2 hours, being wholly familiar with the game. An average game encompassing 4 players will run four hours on the average…sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, depending on the Ancient One being used, as well as the luck of the draw regarding new gates.

Also, setup is of note. A typical setup time for AH is approximately 20 minutes, if you have all of your chits/cars separated/baggied for ease of setup. This is markedly longer than most games.

4) “Fun factor” (9 out of 10)

Is there some randomness behind dice throws? Yes. Is there randomness behind events that occur in Arkham? Yes. Does that ruin the game? Absolutely NOT! There is enough underlying strategy to offset a completely random game. Wounded, do we pour all players toward open gates, trying to shoot for a “closed gate” victory? Do we try to collect clue tokens, redeeming our closed gates for extra clue tokens to try to seal gates for a “sealed” victory? What will be of greater risk? Do you use precious money and tokens to upgrade your character first? Will the doom counter and open gates overwhelm the players too fast if aggressiveness is not practiced? There is a definitive strategy to the game, and it varies with each game played. Overall, the light strategy coupled with “unknown” events around every corner, coupled with the narrative of the events really turns “game night” into an “Event”.

5) Lasting ability (9 out of 10)

The base game alone has a lot of varied event cards, mythos cards, and location cards. Couple that with 16 different investigators, 8 different Ancient Ones, and multiple affordable expansions, and honestly, you have a winner. The base game supports multiple play-throughs (we have played probably 12 times, and have not even played “The King in Yellow” expansion, which we own), and still feel that the game is fresh.

6) Learning curve (6 out of 10)

Although the manual by FFG is fairly decent, referring to the rules during your first game (even your second game) is something that WILL be required. Therefore, I HIGHLY suggest that a first-time AH player run a solo game or two to really grasp the nuances of the rules, including combat, turn structure/order, gate placement, gate closure, etc. There are a LOT of rules (I think the manual is 22 pages or so), but there is a quick-reference sheet included which is invaluable, and can answer probably 50-60% of questions. I highly recommend laminating it for future use.

Allow extra time for your first family game of AH, maybe splitting it up into 2 days. Our first game took 6 hours, but only because EVERYONE wanted me to skip the solo play-through.

7) Final Family Score (8 out of 10)

Arkham Horror has a fantastic theme, really drawing the players in if everyone reads aloud their event cards and discussing strategies as the game progresses. The sheer breadth of possible strategy coupled with multiple characters, Ancient Ones, and tons of events beckons everyone to return to Arkham over and over. However, that being said, we never break out AH during the week, as the time investment is just too great. The length of the game can get out of control if the doom track does not progress steadily, and can start to drag. There is no player elimination component (players who die just start a new character from scratch), so all players who start the game can contribute to the end. Add in the multiple add-on expansions, and AH really stands out as a fantastic lasting investment for someone who wants a thematic romp in a horror setting.

Opinions from the kids: The game play-time is the only real drawback to this game, which we feel is fantastic. More theme than Runebound (which we really enjoy), and lots of different characters that we can be. We have even created characters with our faces, names, etc. from online utilities which my dad located 🙂 . To us, the game is more fun if we can split it between two weekend sessions of 2-2 1/2 hours each). For necessary shorter game-time sessions, we usually play Dominion or Cosmic Encounter instead.

Opinions from the wife: Love the game, but almost too rule-intensive. Seems every game a nuance comes up that we have not encountered that requires internet research, although after about 5-6 play-throughs, the need to really research some odd rule nuance is waning significantly. Not real crazy about the time investment, although the investment time is shortening with every session…I doubt a 4-player game will ever be shorter than 3 hours. Each player has to conduct their turn by performing the refresh phase, determining where to move, carrying out an event (or multiple events if combat is included), as well as mythos card actions…you get the picture. Fun game though…just not my favorite (that is Cosmic Encounter).

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