Arkham Horror: It´s hard to do this game justice! I´m not sure what´s my second favorite game….but there´s no doubt about my number one!!
Fom the cover art over the story to the custom dice: everything about this game is fascinating, beautiful, mind blowing.
It´s settled in the universe created by the great writer H.P.Lovecraft.
The place is the city of Arkham and its surroundings: A fictional area in New England. The year is 1926…
The world is threatened by a terrible cult that is trying to evoke a powerful deity from its eternal slumber in some dark dimension. If they should be successful, the end of the world is near!
To prevent this from happening, a small group of brave investigators (you!!) is fighting back. They are trying to find clues scattered all over Arkham, that will allow them to close and seal gates that lead to other worlds. If they manage to seal six gates, the world is save and the way into our reality is shut! To do this though, they have to travel through the gates themselves and visit these alien other worlds, where nameless horror awaits them.
But even in Arkham, they are not save: Not only the insane cultists are trying to stop them, the gates also allow terrible creatures to enter our world.
During the game, new gates will open up and if there should be ever a specific number of open gates (depending on the number of players) the Great Old One awakens. In addition, whenever a gate opens, a token is placed on the doom track. If this is full, the Old One will arise too…. So if you don´t seal six gates in time, sooner or later he will wake up! There is still one last hope though: A desperate battle against this horrible creature itself!! (wich you will probably loose…) So you better don´t let that happen.
The most fascinating aspect of this game to me is that it´s one of the few games that really make you feel you are part of a whole world! There are so many locations with countless events. If you play with the expansions, you´ll have 50 different heroes, each one with a background story and special abilities. About 25 Old Ones (you are only challenged by one per game), about 70 different monsters, hundreds of items, allies and magic spells.
The art is absolutely fabulous…one of the best I´ve ever seen. Components are of great quality. Lots of little gimmicks do exist that you can buy extra to improve the look even more. In addition, Fantasy Flight has released painted minis for all investigators and monsters. This is by far he game that I´ve spent the most money on….but it´s definitely worth it. The replayability is enormous. Even after many games, you´ll discover something new. This game is already a modern classic, and if you don´t know it yet, you´ve definitely missed something!
The first big box expansion adds a new board, ancient ones, heroes and lots of cards to the base game. It also introduces new types of cards: Injury and Madness cards. They are really great: From now on, you can choose after you´re k.o.´d /insane, if you wanna be reduced to one health/sanity and loose half of your belongings or if you wanna keep everything, get your health/sanity restored, but gain some permanent penalty, wich might be sometimes really tough. Also introduced are stalking monsters and gate bursts.
The game becomes more difficult. At least one investigator should take care about Dunwich. There´ll be also open gates that spawn monsters. You´ll find some vortexes in the village. If one of these monsters enters these vortexes it is removed from the game, but a Dunwich Horror marker is placed. If there are three of those, the Dunwich Horror will awake, an extremely powerful creature. Whenever it is activated, you place a doom token on the doom track, so the Old One will awake much faster. Overall, it´s a good idea to not let the Dunwich Horror awake by killing the monsters there.
To me, this is the best expansion: The Injury / Madness cards are fantastic and it´s really straight forward. Not too many complicated additional rules.
I´m doing a playthrough here.
The Kingsport expansion offers an additional board, tons of new cards of any type, new monsters, new investigators and ancient ones. It also introduces the Heralds and Guardians. You may choose one at the beginning of the game (i.e. the favorable god Noden or the cruel being Tulzscha). They change the rules a little and might add some additional elements to the game either to your favour (guardians) or to your harm (heralds).
In addition you have now the option to fight the final battle against the Old One using Epic Battle cards, wich add more story to this before pretty abstract ending.
There are no gates opening in Kingsport. The investigators still wanna visit the town though: There are dimensional rifts that will open if you don´t have encounters on randomly determined locations in time. Should these rifts open, they will work like moving gates, spawnig monstes all over the place and adding extra doom tokens to the doom track. So you wanna avoid this situation and better have some people in Kingsport. You might also try to get to the house on the hill, wich gives you some strong abilities. It will cost you a lot of time to get there though….
Most people seem to agree that this is the weakest big box expansion: It´s not really challenging and it takes so long to get to the house on the hill, so that most people won´t go there.
I found some houserules wich solve these problems, so I really enjoy this expansion quite a bit.
As in the big boxes before, Innsmouth gives us a board, cards of all kinds, monsters, heroes, Old Ones. In addition, it introduces personal story cards for each investigator. These give the investigators a special task, that matches with her background story. If they complete it, they´ll gain some bonus, if the fail, it´ll be a penalty.
The Innsmouth Board shows a “Deep One Track” containing six spaces. If this is filled, the Old one awakens. It works similiar to Dunwich. If monsters reach vortexes in Innsmouth, place a marker on the track. This also happens, if a gate is prevented from opening (i.e. the location is sealed). If there´s already an open gate on that location, no token is added though, just the standard monster surge happens. There´s a second track on the board: the Raid track. Investigators in Innsmouth may place clue tokens on that track. If they managed to fill the raid track (six tokens), they convinced the Federal agents to do a raid in Innsmouth to clean out the town. Both tracks are emptied and the investigators have bought themselves some time.
The second big issue is martial law wich will be declared in Innsmouth if the game advances: You can´t move freely anymore but have to do evade checks in many Innsmouth locations. If you fail, you´ll end up in the Innsmouth jail, and it´s pretty hard to get out there….
Innsmouth is a very good expansion, though it´s really challenging….
In addition it introduces Institutions (Miscatonic University, Organized Crime, Bureau of Investigation). They work similiar to the Heralds/Guardians and change the rules a little.
I think it was a great decision of FFG to release an exapansion for the expansions. It makes it all complete…it´s a real finishing of this big series, a real great way to smooth and polish this masterpiece of a game!!
The Curse of the Dark Pharao is a small box expansion. It offers about 100 cards of all types that refer to the old egyptian theme, mixed with the Cthulhu myth. You might use them to replace the cards of the base game or simply combine them.
It introduces the Exhibit Items, wich work the same as the unique items from the base game. In addition there are now some ecounters, that might end up in an investigator being “barred from the neighbourhood”. That prevents that player from entering specific locations which can be pretty painful.
The Curse of the Dark Pharao is a nice little expansion, that gives an intersting new thematic touch to the game.
This is the second small box expansion and it also adds about 100 cards and a herald referring to the new theme.
You can now also play a pretty tough variant, using the “Act” cards that represent the ongoing of the performance. The beginning of a new act is triggered by a specific type of mythos card. To prevent the next Act card from being drawn, players have to take a bad penalty (i.e. placing an additional Doom token). If all three acts are done, players lose immediatly. It’s hard to play this way, but it is especially interesting if you want to prevent the game from being too long…
I do a playthrough here.
“The Black Goat of the Woods” also adds all types of cards, and a Herald. Heroes might now become a member of the “One of the Thousand”, the cult that causes fear for centuries. They will then have special “Cult Encounters”, and they will be corrupted more and more. At the beginning this might give them insight knowledge and advantages, but as the game progresses, this will become more and more dangerous, lead to penalties and might eventually wake the Great Old One from its slumber!
Another good expansion, but being a member of the cult should be a little more attractive in my opinion, so I use this variant.
Again, we´ll find in this expansion more cards of every kind, and a new herald. Furthermore new types of gates are introduced.
We also find now cards about personal relationships between two specific investigators, that have all kinds of effects: They might now influence eachother, working together might be more rewarding or they share a bonus that only one of them can use each turn. It adds a nice little detail to the game…