The world keeps turning and nothing much new is happening on the WoW front or MMO front right now. Sure there’s EQ2x and other news but it all seems so far away right now. So instead of boring you all with MMOs I’ll be talking about a table-top game that has been taking more and more of free time around here.
Arkham Horror in its current, second edition, form has been around since 2005 and is based on an older game of the same name by Chaosium(1987). The premise is simple enough. The players play the role of investigators working together to stop an Ancient One, an ancient and malefic god, from awakening. This all happens in HP Lovecraft setting of Arkham and the surrounding areas.
Let’s pause for a moment and talk about Lovecraft and Lovecraftian horror. HP Lovecraft is an american horror writer from the early 1900s. He’s widely recognized as being one of the fathers of modern horrors stories along with Edgar Allan Poe and numerous authors like Stephen King have said they were heavily inspired by his writings. Lovecraft has created over the years a living world that others authors have borrowed and expanded upon.At its core, Lovecraftian horror is mainly rooted in incomprehensible beings from other worlds and dimensions and madness. Mortals are doomed to go mad as they become the playthings of beings far more powerful than they are.
And you know what? It’s your job to stop one of those when playing Arkham Horror.
AH is not an easy game, in fact that’s pretty much the point of it. So far I believe we have lost more games than we have won trying to prevent those monsters from destroying the world. And when we do win we leave a few comrades behind, driven mad, killed or devoured by things with names we can’t even pronounce. It’s the kind of game where everything is going well and suddenly one card flips everything around and your on the losing end. It’s the game where you can draw an event that goes along the line of: “The Ancient One has noticed you. You are devoured”. That’s it… no chance at all.
Loving to lose together
I won’t mince word. In order to love AH you have to love to lose. You need to be able to have fun while the games mercilessly crushes you and your feeble attempts at winning. I’ve played a game once that we have literally no chance at all of winning, it was mathematically impossible for us to do so. You need to have a grim sense of humour and see the funny side of having a physical immune pop right on you when you have no magical weapon of any sort.
So what’s the point of playing a game only to lose? Because sometimes, you do win. You manage to triumph over all the crazyness and pull of a win you’re really proud of. Because you’re doing it with friends and you had to work together to make it work. There’s no “I win, you lose” mentality here. Either we succeed together or we fail together. In the end it makes victory so much better or you get to laugh a bit as you all descend into the depths of insanity.
Finally, Arkham Horror is a complex and long game. It’s not something that you can just pick-up play under an hour. There’s a lot of rules, a lot of components and there’s a big learning curve involved. Expect your first few games to last 4 to 5 hours with a lot of rule checking involved. Once you get the hang of things games last a more reasonable 2 to 3 hours. It can be a bit harsh on new players but it does add a lot of depth to the game wich means you can literally play for years and not get bored.
-Cooperative play, nobody is left out
-Lot of depth of gameplay, no two games are the same
-High quality board and game pieces, gorgeous artwork
-Attention to Lovecraft universe and tying the game to it. Some players even roleplay their games!
-Complexity, lots of rules.
-Too many components: Lot of game components, tokens and cards wich make the game take a lot of tablespace and can
make setting up the game, packing away, take a bit of time.
-New player unfriendly. New players can be overwhelmed and lost. An experience player to show the ropes help a lot.
-Not for everyone. This is a game for gamers wich won’t appeal to people looking for a casual game.
-High randomness factor: This can be a blessing for some and a curse for others depending on personal taste. The game has a lot of random elements all going on at once wich can create unwinnable scenarios. Some will like it and others won’t. If for you having a chance is very important you might not like this game. However if you like to take some abuse now and then you’ll love it.