Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about writing a review of a board game I’m crazy about. This is my first board game review so I hope I’ll do a good job about it.
Arkham Horror, The Card Game, or lcg, is a campaign, cooperative game for 1 or 2 players. It’s a mystery game that, at least in its first campaign, takes place in the decade of the twenties in a small town of USA that is immersed inside the dark, twisted world of H.P. Lovecraft: Arkham, Masachussetts.
This saga consists of a starter box, whose campaign is called Night of the Zealot, and, at least, 6 expansions which means 6 more campaigns: The Dunwich Legacy, The Path to Carcosa, The Forgotten Age, The Circle Undone, The Dream-Eaters, and The Innsmouth Conspiracy. It’s important to know that the starter box contains 3 scenarios that complete the first campaign. On the other hand, each expansion consists of its own starter box containing the first 2 scenarios of the campaign and 6 more that you have to buy individually to complete the story.
A curiosity about this board game is that, although its starter box is just for 1 or 2 players, the number of players can get to 4 in the expansions. In fact, the first adventure of Arkham Horror is complicated enough for 4 players to enjoy. However, if you want to do it, you need to buy a second starter box so you can have enough cards for the 4 investigators.
So now, I’m gonna review Night of the Zealot because it is the first campaign of the game and because you need to get this starter box to be able to play its extensions. So here we go.
First, I’d like to set the context for the future players:
Friday, September 18, 1925. Arkham, Massachusetts. It is the end of a long and abnormally hot summer. The first hints of autumn beckon, but a heavy heat persists, relentless. A silent, unspoken anger grips the town. Tempers are short, and in the last week alone there have been numerous reports of townspeople coming to heated, violent blows with one another over simple misunderstandings.
And now, a call from James Hankerson. He claims to have found a dismembered body in his barn.
Blaming the weather would be too easy. There is something wrong with this town, and not a whole lot this old soothsayer can do to stop the slide. My auguries indicate a small group of investigators will soon take note of these strange happenings and set forth to make things right. I’ll be watching their progress…but I won’t be holding my breath.
Arkham Horror. Night of the Zealot
This is the beginning of this card game set in the horrorific world of H.P. Lovecraft. This first campaign is made up of 3 scenarios: The Gathering, The Midnight Masks and The Devourer Below.
Before players can start their first game, they need some basic information to be ready.
In the first place, players need to choose the investigators they want to play with. In my case, we were two players and we chose to play with Roland Banks and Wendy Adams. They are the investigators recommended for beginners and only now, that I’ve played with them a couple of times, can I give you some information about their decks and habilities.
Roland is a tough guy, a FBI agent who always follows the rules because that makes him feel safe. He is strong physically, he can handle 9 injuries (points of damage), but his mental rigidity makes his vulnerable so he can only handle 5 mental traumas (poins of horror). If an investigator loses all his damage points, represented by the heart-shaped tokens, in the course of the game, he gets eliminated and he or she will begin the next scenario with an injury. If the investigator loses all his or her horror points, represented by the brain-shaped tokens, he will also be eliminated from the current game and will begin the next scenarion with a mental trauma. The case of Wendy is a little different from the Roland’s one. She grew up in an orphanage after her mother had to be placed in an asylum. This is why she has 7 points of damage and 7 points of horror.
As the rules say, each character should include in their deck some cards associated with their basic habilities. These cards will help us in the different skill tests of willpower (head), intellect (book), combat (fist) and agility (flying shoe) and the confrontations we will find through the game. In addition to this, their decks will include a special weakness and a basic one that will make things a little more challenging.
But not only their decks are important, each investigator has a special hability that we shouldn’t forget. For instance, Rolan’s special hability will allow us to get one of the clues situated on the location where we have defeated an enemy. Rolan will be the investigator we will use to fight the different monsters and enemies that we’ll find through the game due to his ability for the combat. On the other hand, Wendy’s power will allow us to repeat an skill test if we discard one of our cards. Wendy is a really agile character. With her, we will be able to easily evade the monsters we have to fight. However, if what you want is to defeat that enemy, we will need to use Roland’s weapons.
We also need to talk about two important things, the Act deck and the Agenda deck. Before we can start the game, we need to prepare both decks. After that, we will leave them in the table where they can be seen by all the players. The Act deck shows the progress the investigators can follow in the scenario, the goals they should try to achieve so we can win the game. The Agenda’s deck, however, shows the progress and objectives of the dark forces against which the investigators have to fight.
Then, we can see that we need to advance the Act‘s deck before the Agenda‘s one so the level of difficulty of the game doesn’t rise too much and we can win or at least, finish the game. To achieve this goal, advancing the Act, we need to get clues from the different locations where we can go. However, for the Agenda‘s advance, and then the increase of the difficulties for the investigators, it is just necessary to accumulate doom tokens over the Agenda or the enemies. Each turn we should add a doom token to the Agenda. It is also possible that we will have to add these token to some of the monsters along the game, which will leave us with less time to achieve the Act‘s objectives.
And, once the basic rules are clear, we can begin our game.
Firstly, each player should get 5 resources (the box-shaped tokens) and 5 cards from their deck. These 5 cards shouldn’t include any weakness so, if we get one we will return it to the deck, take another card and shuffle the deck.
Now, it’s the time to begin the story:
Part I: The Gathering
You and your partners have been investigating strange events taking place in your home city of Arkham, Massachusetts. Over the past few weeks, several townspeople have mysteriously gone missing. Recently, their corpses turned up in the woods, savaged and half-eaten. The police and newspapers have stated that wild animals are responsible, but you believe there is something else going on. You are gathered together at the lead investigator’s home to discuss these bizarre events.
Arkham Horror. The Night of the Zealot
After that, the players should read the first card of the Act‘s and Agenda‘s decks so they learn the beginning of their story and can start the game. Each turn is made of 4 phases: Mythos Phase, Investigation Phase, Enemy Phase and Upkeep Phase.
In the Mythos Phase we have to add a doom token over the agenda, check if there are enough tokens to advance the agenda deck (it depends on the number of doom tokens in play, over the agenda or the enemies) and each investigator should draw a card from the Encounter deck. This card will force us to complete a skill test or will introduce a new monster in the game. We are lucky enough to skip this phase in the first round of the game.
In the Investigation Phase, investigators can perform 3 of these actions (they can also repeat several times the same action):
Investigate their current location. In this case, the investigator has to complete an intellect test in which we have to take into account the intellect points of the investigator, the cards he or she have in play, the events or actions that he or she can play and the value of the location. But, to make things a little bit more spicy, every time a skill test takes place, the player has to reveal a random chaos token. These tokens have numbers that will be added to the skill points of the investigators in the current test. Chaos tokens have numbers between +1 and -4 and believe me when I say I’ve never revealed the +1 token. In addition to this, there are a couple of tokens with special meanings that you’ll have to check in every game.
Move to a new location connected with the current one.
Draw a card.
Gain a resource. Resources, the box-shaped tokens, allow us to play the events, weapons, actions, etc.
Play an asset or event card from our hand.
Activate a skill. Sometimes your current location has an action or skill that you can activate like healing damage or horror points, draw a specific card from your deck, etc.
Fight an enemy in your current location.
Try to evade an enemy in your current location. For this kind of action we will use Wendy due to her agility.
Engage an enemy in your current location.
In the Enemy Phase, every enemy that is not exhausted, which means that they have not been evaded, will attack the investigator which they are engaged to. In addition to this, if an enemy has the word Hunter, he will be able to move to a different location towards the nearest investigator.
Finally, the Upkeep Phase is used to get ready all the exhausted cards and to prepare the next turn of the investigators drawing a card from their deck and gaining a resource.
I know that this long post makes the board game seem as a complex one, but I assure you that that’s not true at all. After a couple of turns, every player will know the dynamics of the game so, in fact, learning how to play won’t be as difficult as it seems.
The first time I played Arkham Horror I thought it was a strategy game and, though I wasn´t wrong, after that first game I realized how important the luck is… What I mean is this: if you are bad at this kind of board games, you’re gonna loose, but even if you are good at them, you need to be lucky to be able to win.
To finish each of the scenarios included in a campaign you will need 2 or 3 hours. Nowadays, it seems a lot of time but, once you start playing, they go so fast that you don’t even notice!
Arkham Horror is one of the funniest games I’ve played in a long time, but it has also frustrated me more than once when I’ve had one of those days of bad luck… So, if you haven’t played this board game yet, do it as soon as possible!!
Had you heard about Arkham Horror before? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Do you know more board games like this one?