The horror that came to Arkham

I love board games. An entire closet in our apartment is filled with them. Unfortunately, most of them fall into the Nerdy Wargame category, and so perhaps aren’t the ideal choice for a fun after-dinner boardgame with guests.
Our lack of accessible boardgames has plagued Michele and me for some time now. To help fill that gap, we recently acquired a new boardgame called Arkham Horror, which while definitely Nerdy is at least not a Wargame. It’s a quirky game based on the early-20th-century horror writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
Michele and I played a few turns of it this evening to get a feel for the rules and gameplay, and thus far it seems very fun and interesting. As in any game worth playing, the goal is to stop a Horror From Beyond Time and Space from entering our world and laying waste to the titular city of Arkham. Up to eight players take on the role of intrepid investigators who travel around Arkham finding clues, collecting useful items, fighting (and fleeing) monsters, and trying to stop the Cthulhu entity from appearing.
Once we get a full game in, I’ll have more solid details to report. But based on the bit of it we played this evening, here are some quick impressions:

  • The production values are very high. The gameboard is very sturdy and nice-looking, as are most of the components. Most of the pieces are made of thick cardboard.
  • As the screenshot above may indicate, there are a lot of playing pieces and cards. It’s a bit overwhelming and bewildering when you’re setting it up for the first time.
  • Arkham Horror has some definite RPG-like elements–each investigator has a unique set of vital stats, and you can collect weapons, spells, and other goodies to increase your odds of survival.
  • Interestingly, all of the players are on the same team–they aren’t really competing with each other for a single winner. Either you all work together to defeat the Cthulhu Mythos or you all lose. Even in the few turns that Michele and I played, it was clear that a good level of cooperation and assistance between players would be necessary to succeed.
  • Turns are structured well so as to minimize the time you need to spend waiting for other players to take their turns. Everybody gets a chance to act on every turn.
  • With all of the investigator stats, abilities, items, and game locations, it’s a bit complicated to learn–it was at least 2-3 turns before I really started to “get” how the game worked. However, once you get the hang of it, the game actually seems to move quite quickly.

Those are just initial impressions. I’ll try to remember to report back in more depth once we’ve gotten a full game in. Time will tell how entertaining the game proves to be, but thus far I’m extremely pleased with it. It’s very unique–like a cross between Clue and Dungeon. I think it’s a safe bet that this Halloween, we’ll be hosting an Arkham Horror game night.

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2 thoughts on “The horror that came to Arkham

  1. kdc

    Sounds like the Lord of the Rings game in some ways… you all win or all lose. That game is very difficult to win, by the way. I suppose on purpose.

  2. jrau

    Yes, it’s very much like the LotR boardgame in that respect. Good observation. And although I haven’t played LotR in quite a while, I do remember wondering if it was even possible to win… fun game, though.

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