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Arkham Horror: The Card Game - Board Game Box Shot

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

| Published: 2016
78 14 16

The boundaries between worlds have drawn perilously thin…

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game® set amid a backdrop of Lovecraftian horror. As the Ancient Ones seek entry to our world, one to two investigators (or up to four with two Core Sets) work to unravel arcane mysteries and conspiracies.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game gameplay
images © Fantasy Flight Games

Their efforts determine not only the course of your game, but carry forward throughout whole campaigns, challenging them to overcome their personal demons even as Arkham Horror: The Card Game blurs the distinction between the card game and roleplaying experiences.

User Reviews (2)

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I'm Completely Obsessed
Book Lover
Advanced Reviewer
19 of 20 gamers found this helpful
“The Horror Continues...”

Arkham Horror: The Card Game takes the horror in a new direction—or, more accurately, in one of multiple directions based on the decisions the investigators make. This newest addition to Fantasy Flight Games’ Arkham Files game line is a highly story-oriented, campaign-based game in which the choices you make and the outcomes of your encounters with the horrors of Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos will alter the course of the game.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a living card game; for those not familiar with these (this was the first one I’ve ever tried, personally), it begins with the base game which offers an introductory, 3-part campaign (“Night of the Zealot”), five investigators, and an assortment of card sets which will be used to build the investigator decks and encounter decks. As time goes on, FFG will release additional expansions—the first will be “The Dunwich Legacy,” expected shortly, which will be a deluxe box starting a new campaign cycle, and then a series of smaller booster packs that will add to the Dunwich Legacy story. There are also small, one-shot scenarios available (so far these include “Curse of the Rougarou” and “Carnivale of Horrors”) which can be played separately or integrated into the larger campaign cycles as side adventures.

The base game offers the “Night of the Zealot” campaign and five investigators (Roland Banks, Daisy Walker, Agnes Baker, “Skids” O’Toole, and Wendy Adams), as well as an assortment of encounter and investigator cards and cardboard tokens. There are enough cards in the base set for 1-2 players to play, though certain pairings of investigators will be difficult to use—for instance, Daisy and Roland both share the Seeker cards, and may have trouble building decks at the same time. However, if you don’t mind purchasing a second copy of the starter box, you can overcome this challenge as well as introduce the option of adding a 3rd and 4th player to the game. Personally, I recommend buying one set to start and if you decide you like the game, invest in the second set (though if you’ve enjoyed the other Arkham File games from FFG, chances are you will like this one, too).

Each player builds her or his investigator deck, following the guidelines on the investigator’s character card (if you aren’t big on deckbuilding, the game includes a default deck list for each investigator that you can use). This will be a 30-card deck, plus one random basic weakness and two cards that are specific to your investigator (an asset and a weakness). Each investigator has their own “role” such as Guardian, Seeker, or Survivor that affects how they play and what cards they choose from to build their deck.

Next, you build the encounter deck according to the scenario you are playing, combining specified subsets of cards. Some cards will be set aside to bring into play later in the scenario, while others won’t be used in certain scenarios. There will also be two small sets of “storyline” cards: the agenda (which follows the progress of the dark forces you are struggling against as their plans progress) and the act (which moves forward as you successfully investigate the story). The agenda advances as doom is added to it each turn, while the act most commonly advances through the expenditure of clues your investigators earn. These clues will either be spent directly on the act, or to set up something that allows you to advance the act. There will also be location cards representing the places you can explore over the course of the story.

There is also the chaos bag, which contains an assortment of tokens (determined by the difficulty level you choose to play the campaign at) which will be drawn from when your investigator attempts a skill check. The tokens will modify the result (usually with a negative number, but not always) and if the modified skill score equals or exceeds the target number, you succeed.

Perhaps the best part about Arkham Horror: The Card Game is that as you progress through each part of the campaign, the choices and outcomes will affect and alter how the story goes. A campaign log (which can be photocopied from the campaign guide or printed off of the FFG website) records results from each scenario, which will affect set up and game play of subsequent scenarios. Investigators will earn experience that allows them to swap better cards or improved versions of basic cards into their decks (still keeping to the 30 card limit), and some game events will give the investigators additional cards that they can add as well. Extremely bad events, including being KO’d or driven mad, will give an investigator trauma that causes them to start subsequent scenarios with damage or horror already inflicted on them.

This game is a lot of fun, and because of the variety of choices for investigator teams, deck builds, and the various ways each scenario can play out, it has a lot of replay value. Plus, new stories and campaigns will keep coming, as long you don’t mind buying more expansions every month or so (the mini expansions are relatively cheap, and the deluxe expansions are probably only going to be introduced once or twice a year I suspect).

If you enjoy Lovecraftian horror and story driven games (with an opportunity for roleplaying, if you like that, too), this is a great addition to your game shelf that I would highly recommend.

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Stone of the Sun
16 of 17 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 2
“"Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places." - HPL December 1920”

Tl;dr: It works. Narrative rocks, campaign is solid, deck-construction = experience points like an RPG. Needs expansions. Don’t bother playing with 4 players, it sucks and there are better 4 player games out there.

It seems every time Fantasy Flight releases a new game it’s always a big event, and for good reason, they’re simply the best publisher in the business. While forum dwellers may debate this fact all day and night, the conversation is rather moot and rhetorical. No other publisher has the sheer level of quality games in diverse categories as Fantasy Flight Games. Arkham Horror is the latest entry by the team of FFG and it hopes to stand toe to toe with its big brother board game of its namesake as well as keep up with the current LCG/Card Game market. Sounds like big shoes to fill. Arhkham Horror the LCG hopes to bring FFG’s pulpy twist to the Lovecraftian Mythos that they’ve been crafting for over a decade into a full fledged narrative driven campaign based game, and it challenges you to keep up with the ride.

First and foremost, Arkham Horror is an LCG, and for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this model (I’m sure at least someone reading this might not know, humor me if not) is that it basically means that you buy a core set of the game to get an idea of what you’re dealing with and get a broad view of the game, as well as should you wish to expand your enjoyment and experience with the game you will be in luck because every month new cards will be released in non randomized packs. This business model has become quite successful over the years for FFG and a few other companies. It allows player to have the option to test a game and see if it is for them, to then buy packs if they wish, said packs are not random and all their contents can be looked up online before to ensure the player doesn’t need to buy something they don’t want.

In theory this is how this works. In practice due to the oh lets say personality traits of players, they feel this model means that they have to buy every pack to ensure they get the full experience out of the game. And to be fair, the cynical part of the back of my head thinks that perhaps those gamers have a point. The issue I tend to have with collectible card game or games of this model is that at times the game is only “good enough” in its core box and additional cards are typically needed to really get the full experience the designer intended. As well as the amount of time typically needed to enjoy one of these games is more or less doubled by the inherent design. You see, in these types of designs players are asked to build their own deck of cards before the game begins. So before you sit down to play the game you’re already thinking about strategies, resources, optimization. I have in the past said that LCGs/CCGs are two games: One is the introverted game you play solo wherein you construct your deck to your type of play and the other is the actual game play and game, itself offering feedback on your deckconstruction.

I have often equated one of these games to an online MMO, as one doesn’t typically play multiple MMOs, one dedicates oneself to one because of the amount of time needed to experience full effect. Leading to a sort of pre-purchase resentment. I bring all of this up because these are common criticisms that are often levied on these type of games and they’re very valid ones at that, but, in my opinion, Arkham Horror not only address these, it solves them.

You see, Arkham Horror The Card Game begins with players picking their own unique investigator and constructing their own deck with some harsh and even constricting beginner deck building rules. The limitations here are a very good thing, I feel, as it gets players into the game faster. As well as each player must begin the campaign with very basic cards. Deckbuilding after a player begins the campaign is tied to your ability to play the game as well as your achievements in the game itself. It is somewhat akin to a roleplaying game where in players gain experience for pushing their limitations as well as meeting new challenges and overcoming them. So when one does get to deckbuild it is still very tight and restricted, forcing tough decisions as players prepare for the next scenario and allowing players to get back the gameplay and campain. Rather refreshing for me as it allowed me to immerse myself in what I was enjoying the most about this game, the story and narrative aspect.

The linear and narrative aspect and nature of the game is by far my favorite, and one that is most strongly benefited by the LCG model. You see, that deck you built is your catalyst to this world. You are thrown into the midst of a grand mystery that spans multiple scenarios (Three in the base game to be exact) and as you move along through the game you’re treated to one of the best uses in narratives in modern game design. The game is simple at first as you learn these new and fresh mechanics as the story spirals out of your grasp and you just chase it down the rabbit hole. And than it ends… You see, it becomes very clear very fast how a new adventure, a new campaign, a new scenario could not only benefit the game, but is entirely needed to continue this grand story, as well as it helps players who have gotten their fill of the campaign to simply stop playing and end their chapter of their characters there. As the game matures and expansions are released I can only imagine the possibilities for new locations, characters, plot twists, and new mysteries to unfold, and that prospect has me really excited, more so than any game this last year. The deep recess of my imagination are palpitating with possibilities of what lurks for us as the game continues.

Now all this gloating does not mean that this game, like all, is without faults. First and most bothersome to me, is that it does not feel like it’s enough game in the core box. Where as the Lord of the Rings LCG and Warhammer Quest offered quit a lot of variable play and multiple scenarios and characters you could mix and match, Arkham has a very narrow deckbuild that is intimately tied to a campaign, and said campaign is only 3 scenarios. Now of course this is being addressed, there is already a years worth of expansions if not announced than currently in playtesting, but I can’t judge something by future promises, only what we have. This next one is rather irksome than it is a real fault, but a large mechanic in the game is to draw random tokens from a “bag” that is preloaded depending on the campaign and difficulty with tokens, yet FFG did not bother to include a bag. Now of course dice bags, or token bags, or even a mug or cup is not hard to find, but you would think with all the capital Asmodee/FFG have they could have thrown in a cheap cloth bag or even one of those awful paper ones WizKidz used with Dicemasters. Finally, this is really only a Two Player Game (Or solo, if you’re into that kinda thing, I guess) though while the box says it can go up to Four with the purchase of another core set its very clear upon attempting it that the game does not scale to four players. Scenarios become way too easy and short, difficulty doesn’t really scale unless you just decide to tank the game, monsters become laughably easy, and the story in the base box doesn’t really address this either. You buy this as a Two player game, or you don’t buy it at all. To be honest though, with some of the best games ever designed for Four Payers on the market today such as Blood Rage, X-Com, Inis, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, or even The Game of Thrones Card Game Second Edition, I don’t see why you would bother looking to Arkham for a four player experience.

So, in a much needed conclusion, Arkham Horror the LCG is another excellent game from FFG, and one I personally look very forward to see it’s full development, as my investigator uncovers more of the Mythos before he meets an untimely fate.


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