Arkham Horror is a card game from FFG (Fantasy Flight Games) that falls firmly into the realms of horror and mystery. It is a game best played at midnight in a room lit only by candles…and obviously with late night snacks and cheesy horror music. To be honest, while the game very much has elements of horror, it is inherently not that frightening (at least to those of us that don’t imagine everything we hear). That is not to say this is a bad game by any means though. Arkham Horror offers something very unique in that it requires thought and foresight in a way that makes it VERY clear just how important every action you take is. A single choice could lead to your inevitable success, or to your unavoidable downfall. Now, let’s take a look at the best and worst parts of this game.
THE BEST: REPLAYABILITY
Easily the best thing about this game is the replay value. This is a game that offers multiple possible outcomes to its various scenarios, and thus inherently encourages multiple playthroughs, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Arkham Horror has 5 investigators to choose from, all with their own abilities and unique deck building options. Each investigator also has unique items and abilities that tweak the play style just enough to keep things fresh. Beyond that, the choices that you make and the random arcane forces you encounter can change the game drastically. Whether it is a creature that will chase you down until you defeat it, or a circumstance that causes debilitating fear to overtake you, these encounters can make all of your momentum stop on a dime. To top it all off, there is the “Bag of Chaos,” that can affect your stats directly, changing the outcome of otherwise easy-to-succeed skill tests. This is a game that successfully demands that you try again and again to get things exactly the way you want them.
THE WORST: SET-UP AND ENTRY BARRIERS
One of my favorite games as a kid was a game called “Mouse Trap.” It was such a wacky, fun, crazy game that was a lot of entertainment whenever you wanted to play it…that is if you could set aside thirty full minutes to set the whole thing up. For those of you that have never played it, the game’s setup could sometimes take longer than the actual game itself! While Arkham Horror comes nowhere close to that ridiculous level, it sure showed flashes of it. The deck-building rules alone make it difficult to get two full decks for the players if their characters have a common card type, and there are a lot of cards that are either character specific or can’t be added to the deck unless under very specific circumstances. As a first-timer to the game, it took me literally 45 minutes to grind through the rulebook and figure out how each card fit into the decks and how to actually put the entire game together. While we’re on the subject of the rulebook, it is probably a tie for the worst thing about the game. This is primarily an organization issue rather than in issue with the rules themselves. The game box comes with three different books. One is for the set up and explanation, the second is a “rule reference guide”, and the third is the adventure manual. I spent a majority of my first playthrough flipping through these three books hoping to find the answer to a question about what should have been a simple aspect of the game, and it really put a damper on the whole experience.
I just want the reiterate one thing before we wrap up here. This game is very fun once all is said and done. Whether you’re looking for a creepy, gothic atmosphere or a brain twisting who done it mystery, the game offers both in spades. It is well worth trudging through the rules (like me) or looking up a quick tutorial on how to play the game once you get into the first few rounds. Overall, it’s a game worth getting for those nights where you and a friend want to sit down and hang out for a few hours.
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