Thursday, 2 June 2016

Eldritch Horror from Fantasy Flight Games Review and Unboxing

The world of Cthuluhu, and H.P Lovecraft is a fascinating place.  I love the dark mythos and stories its tells, and the 1920s era. The never ending fight between a small band of humans and the Ancient ones who could awaken at any time.  Eldritch Horror from Fantasy Flight Games lets us dip into that world, and try to save us all from the doom of the ancient ones and their unspeakable horrors.

“His worst fears concerned himself, and the kind of unholy rapport he felt to exist between his mind and that lurking horror…”

   –H.P. Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark

Its the 1920s and across the globe, ancient evil is stirring. Now, you and your trusted circle of colleagues must travel around the world, working against all odds to hold back the approaching horror. Foul monsters, brutal encounters, and obscure mysteries will take you to your limit and beyond. All the while, you and your fellow investigators must unravel the otherworldy mysteries scattered around the globe in order to push back the gathering mayhem that threatens to overwhelm humanity. The end draws near! Do you have the courage to prevent global destruction?

Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game of terror and adventure in which one to eight players take the roles of globetrotting investigators working to solve mysteries, gather clues, and protect the world from an Ancient One – that is, an elder being intent on destroying our world. Each Ancient One comes with its own unique decks of Mystery and Research cards, which draw you deeper into the lore surrounding each loathsome creature. Discover the true name of Azathoth or battle Cthulhu on the high seas.

While the tasks on these Mystery cards (along with the locations of otherworldly gates, menacing monsters, and helpful clues) will often inform both your travel plans and the dangers you confront, you can find adventure anywhere in the world...even where you least expect it. It is during the Encounter Phase of each turn that players resolve combat or, alternatively, build their investigators' personal stories by reading an encounter narrative from one of several types of Encounter cards. You might go head to head with a monster in Istanbul or find yourself in a tough spot with the crime syndicate in a major city. Maybe you will embark on an expedition to the Pyramids or research a clue you uncover in the unnamed wilderness. You may even find your way through a gate and explore a dimension beyond time and space.

Should you fail an encounter, the cost is steep. If you are fortunate, you will merely incur physical or mental trauma. However, you might also be compelled to take a Condition card, which represents a specific injury or restriction gained throughout your journey, such as a Leg Injury or Amnesia. You could find yourself getting in over your head to acquire assets and receive a Debt condition – or maybe you'll owe a favour to something far more insidious than a debt collector, and enter into a Dark Pact! Whatever your condition, you would be wise to find a resolution with haste; many conditions have a "reckoning effect" which, if triggered, ensure a much more sinister fate.
All the while, the arrival of the Ancient One approaches. Its malign influence is manifested in Eldritch Horror as you draw Mythos Cards, which govern the appearance of otherworldly gates, fearsome monsters, and other ominous elements. Mythos cards keep your investigators under pressure, introducing new threats, even as the arrival of the Great Old One draws nearer! Since the investigators draw a new Mythos card each round, they're certain to have their hands full battling foul creatures and following up on strange rumours, even as they work to solve their three all-important mysteries.

With twelve unique investigators, two hundred-fifty tokens, and over three hundred cards, Eldritch Horror presents an epic, world-spanning adventure with each and every game.


The game recommends 14 and up, and in general I would agree with it, Olivia needed some help with the more complicated Old ones names, and such like, but since it is a cooperative game its not a problem. though of course you have to make sure if you are playing with younger players they will not be scared.  It states from 1-8 players, and so far I have played it 1 player (super fun and challenging its rare to get a solo game) 2 player with Olivia, and 4 player with some friends.  It works perfectly at all those levels,  so I can see no problem with increased numbers, apart from the game will take longer as the group discuss options more in depth, and certainly with new players who are figuring it out.

lets pop this open and take a look inside, knowing it is Fantasy Flight Games we know its sure going to be a full box of cards tokens and all sorts of bits and pieces.....



so, plenty of bits, two rulebooks as is the Norm these days with FFG and is an excellent idea, one rulebook that is a learn to play guide, and a reference guide for those harder to find things, perfect. a HUUUGEE slab of tokens, but then it wouldn't be FFG with out them right!, several bags of cards of various sizes, some dice and some plastic standees.  Then the board, this is huge, the biggest game board I have ever seen, just look at it!


Its massive!!!! but it is beautifully illustrated, and has space for certain game elements on it.  This is  not a game for a small table.  The board is nice and easy to follow though with the cities colour coded so its easy to find the deck they relate to, and you can see all the travel routes on the board as well.
Take a look at the component list.  You certainly get your moneys worth in this game with so many different things.

 Of course FFG provide beautiful tokens, and there is certainly a lot of them! It will take some time to punch these out and sort them out, luckily I still have a collection of baggies from other games, otherwise storage would be a nightmare having to sort them every time you play.
 They are however beautiful, the art on them is fantastic, and double sided ones like the monsters above have a wealth of information on the back,
 
The art and design on all the tokens are exceptional, take the character cards for example, they have not skimped on them for sure.
 Each of your investigators get a full detailed card
 These cards apart from having beautiful art and design give you all their stats for tests you will have to carry out, and any abilities.  A nice touch is the little bits of background on them that helps you start creating your own stories.
 Olivia has decided that Diana is her favourite as (if I put my hood up she looks like me!"
 
A nice touch is the back of the cards have a back story, and different adventures if your character either loses all health or sanity.  They stay on the board now instead of dying, you take over another investigator and can have encounters with them, which I think is pretty cool. 
now the Old ones... each on their own card with their own rules, they also have their own individual card decks that go with them as well.  Again the art is great, and it tells you how to build their special adventure deck on the cards.

You get plenty of rules and story on the cards to make each one individual and a totally different challenge.
You then get assorted mini decks of items, for things like items/weapons/equipment, spells, conditions (yes you can injure yourself)  and reference cards.
The old ones decks are easy to find as the art reflects their card, and they again are stunning.  You also get expedition decks, and encounter decks too, so plenty of cards, but its not as daunting as it looks.
The otherworld gates vary by region, so there are plenty of options for replayability
The same with the different decks for where you in the world, or there are generic ones to again provide a huge amount of variety.

So it looks beautiful, but how does it play? well..... at its most basic as I don't want to spoil too much as there is so much story involved.

Set up the board takes up a lot of space as it is huge!, but it does look great,  And Olivia loves the fact it looks like a map, and finding out where places are.

Each game round is played in three phases. The first phase is the Action Phase in which each investigator will perform two actions such as traveling to a new location perhaps using those lovely ticket tokens, or using a special ability. You will need to work as a team during the Action Phase to decide where best to move and which encounter to tackle during the next phase of the game to gain the most benefit, which is something that can slow the game down with higher numbers, and you have to watch out to make sure one person doesn't dominate and become the "boss", but when we have played it hasn't come down to that, more excited comments like, I have got a .45 im going to take the monster down.  Its all part of the story the game makes for you though, and this interaction will provide you with some great moments.

The second phase is the Encounter Phase and here you get the full force of the theme as each investigator will face one of a number of different encounters based on their current location, all with flavour story text.  You could fight  monsters and dark foes, close otherworldly gates, attempt to solve mysteries and may even come across a defeated investigator that has been killed or driven insane again with their own story Nearly every encounter involves drawing a card and resolving a small story which as you play you start to weave into a bigger one between all the players, or we did. And this is one of the things Olivia and I found most exciting, she linked back to things that happened already and gave them reason, such as the condition broken leg... I could heal it for a while, so Olivia said, maybe you cant heal it because you where poisoned a bit by the witch you fought in London and she did something bad to your leg.  I loved that she just thought of that, imagination is a powerful thing, and here you are given the tools to start it, you just need to fill in the gaps and that's where the fun is.

The final phase of the game round is the Mythos Phase in which one Mythos card is drawn and resolved. They have various possible effects, which are nearly all bad for the investigators and often add new challenges for the investigators to face. During the Mythos phase new otherworld gates can open above major cities of the world, new monsters are spawned through them, and new clues appear at various locations around the world for you to find and aid you.

After the Mythos Phase, assuming the players have not solved all required mysteries or the game has not ended due to the awakening of the Ancient One, (a bad thing usually that adds new challenges or can end the game depending on who you face)  a new game round will begin once again with the Action Phase.
 
 
Combat and tests are done on a success system, you roll a pool of dice based on your characters abilities, and any items you have with any minuses removed by the card that declares the test. You roll your dice, and 5s and 6s are a success.  

There is so much more to it then that, more in depth "Expeditions", a trade system to buy equipment, you can get yourself into debt if not careful though, and more then that!

When you pass that game winning test on one dice!! saving the world.

One of the only downsides I had with this game, which isn't that bad really was the storage for all the tokens after they are punched out.  Sure you can just put them back in the box, but that takes time to sort each time you want to play.  You could put them in baggies as I did at first which works perfectly well.  I did find another way though... I was in our local Poundland when I saw this....
Its a little fold open screw box with adjustable holders.  It fits perfectly all the tokens, and even fits in the main box too.
Its excellent, it keeps all the token together in easy reach for play and tidies up fast, decreasing setup and take down time.  Have a look for something similar for yourself, well worth it.

Time for my final thoughts......

I love it, its a great game with well thought out mechanics, and excellent deep immersive theme.  I love the storytelling involved as you read the different tasks and challenges.  If you approach something as just a dice rolling game the system exercise you will find the mechanics well done and robust, but if you approach as a storyteller, wanting to get into character and the game then you will adore this.  The fact you can play it solo as well is another huge plus point.  Another good way to try it is be the storyteller, you read the cards for people (don't reveal what happens if they pass or fail a test until they do) weave the story for them, get them involved, and they will love it.  I am a big fan of H.P Lovecraft so of course the theme appeals to me, but it should appeal to any horror/mystery fan as well, and you WILL get hours of fun out of this game there is so much replayability that no adventure will ever be the same, there will be different old ones, different Mythos cards and items, and story plot cards too at different places, clues will end up in different locations, and you will it a fresh game each time.

Olivia says.....

I like how the board looks like a map, I got to learn about the world when I played.  the cards where hard to read for me with words I did not know, but when dad read them to me it felt like a story.  I was a spy trying to stop the end of the world, and I increased my lore skill because the picture is a book, and I like books!  We had good fun working together to solve the mysteries and save the world, I went solving clues and let dad fight the monsters that spawn as I am smarter then him (Your character was indeed smarter- DAD) It felt good when I rolled the 6 on the dice that won the game.  Its not a scary game, but it was a good story, and I liked that a lot.  I wanted to play again straight after!  I want to keep making up stories about my character, I changed her name to Olivia in my head as dad would not let me write on the cards (SACRILIGE! - DAD).  I liked making up her background, of why she was there, how she found out about the monsters and making the things into stories to write down.


for another excellent game set in the world of H.P Lovecraft take a look at the excellent Elder Sign

 Eldritch horror has an RRP of  £49.99, so prepare your ticket and travel to your local game store and investigate getting yourself a copy.