Arkham Horror the Card Game unboxing and review from Fantasy Flight Games

The world of H.P Lovecraft, a setting I love!, and one that Fantasy Flight games have created many excellent games for, such as the light and fun Elder Sign  or the game of saving the world in Eldritch Horror to the smaller cooperative creepy, and excellent app based board game Mansions of Madness

There are plenty of ways to experience the "Mythos" and now we have a new one.........

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
     –H.P. Lovecraft 

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game set amid a backdrop of Lovecraftian horror. As the Ancient Ones seek entry to our world, one (YES it plays solo!!) to two investigators (or up to four with two Core Sets) work to unravel arcane mysteries and conspiracies.
Their efforts determine not only the course of your game, but carry forward throughout whole campaigns, challenging them to overcome their personal demons even as Arkham Horror: The Card Game blurs the distinction between the card game and roleplaying experiences.

Lets pop it open and take a look inside first, then go onto what it is a bit more, and how she plays......


 Not surprisingly for a Fantasy Flight Game its full of tokens, sheets of them, and not surprisingly for a card game its full of cards too! You also get the new style dual rulebooks.  The Learn to play that guides you gently into the game step by step, then the encyclopedia style rules reference where you can look up rules in detail as a play guide.  Then lastly the campaign guide that lets you know the scenarios, and the composition of the chaos bag for each scenario... yes that's a new concept we will come back to, don't worry.

  When you pick a scenario it tell you what tokens you will need to create the chaos bag, these could be plus numbers, negative numbers such as -1, or +2 or a symbol like tentacles, or the elder sign itself.  Its all explained what ones go into the cup, bag or whatever device you want to use for each scenario, AND with Variable difficulty too!  I picked up this pot to store the myriad of tokens that come with the game, being FFG there are tons, and figured i could use the forward part for the chaos bag, and it works rather well.

These are drawn when you perfrom a test... it could be based on any of your 4 main stats, then you either add, or sbtract if its a number, and if the total beats the "shroud" number of the card in question (which is basically a modifier that must be beaten) then you pass.  You get reference tokens that also tell you what happens if you draw one of the symbols as well, could be good.. but it IS a Lovecraft game, so you know mainly it wont be too pleasant at all!


Enter the Mythos

In Arkham Horror: The Card Game, you become one of the unlikely group of investigators living and working in or near the quiet New England town of Arkham. You might assume the persona of Federal Agent Roland Banks, or you might slip into the role of street urchin Wendy Adams.
But there are five others to chose from, but due to the constraints of the core set, you may not be able to run the two you want at the same time with only one core set, which is rather disappointing, and a bit of a downside, but then  adding more cards would drive up the price and may not be to everyone's taste of investigators.... a tough one there.
Here you can see the skill values across the top, any special ability, and health and sanity for your character that can go up and down in game.

Out of the five, my favourite is Roland Banks the fed, and Olivia like the look of Agnes, the game is fairly complicated for her, but i can play double handed with her helping and drawing tokens etc fine and shes content with that so long as i tell her the story as we go.

Regardless of which investigator you become, you'll begin play with a number of different strengths and weaknesses. Some of these are indicated by your double-sided investigator card, that has the stats on one side, and deck building restrictions and background story on the back. Others are built into your deck.

Wendy Adams, like each investigator comes with deckbuilding requirements that include two character-specific cards and a weakness. In Wendy's case, this means her deck will always include Wendy's Amulet and Abandoned and Alone, as well as a basic weakness—possibly Amnesia or Paranoia, and each of them will give you a different unpleasant effect and are drawn randomly from a selection.
You'll have a good measure of freedom in the design of the rest of the deck. You can load it with different gear you might equip, allies that you'd like to accompany you, spells you might cast, weapons to help you battle the strange monsters you encounter, talents you can develop, and events that might grant you valuable momentary advantages. However, no matter which cards you build into your deck, you'll have to remain cognizant of your physical limitations, and deck size restriction.  On the back of each character card these are printed, so its nice and easy to see the total number of cards and what is used to create your deck.
So Agnes for example, can take level 1-5 mystic, level 0-2 survivor cards, and 0-5 level neutral cards.  Bust she must include some as well like the Heriloom, Dark memory, and a random weakness.

Even if you're fighting monsters that defy explanation, you're still only human. That means you've only got one neck, one body, and two hands. It also means that your mind can only withstand so much strain before you go mad. Accordingly, in Arkham LCG, your investigator can only equip a limited number of items. And you'll count yourself lucky to find even one ally bold enough to accompany you along the way. I like this, it means you can not "power game" your way through by tooling up, and sometimes you have have another item that does the job you need better, so it becomes a hard choice of swapping it out, as if you replace it, its discarded.
For all the freedom you gain in building your deck, however, the greatest freedom you gain as an investigator in Arkham LCG is the ability to steer your investigation in whichever direction you wish. Do you want to scour a room for signs of the occult? You can. Do you want to leave the room and explore another location? You can. Would you prefer to load your weapon in case the sounds that you're hearing are being made by something not fully human? You can.

Your decisions in Arkham LCG aren't limited by the cards in your hand. Rather, you have three actions each round to use as you wish—to search for clues, to move, to battle monsters, or to dig for resources and equipment. You're the character; you're not limited by the cards in your hand, and these handy reference cards really help out.
Each investigator performs three actions per turn. These can be used for gathering clues, but you will also need to move, deal with enemies, draw cards, perhaps gain resources or play the cards.  there are loads of things you can do, always more thigns you WANT to do, so you need to think what it is you actually NEED to do, and that makes it tough, as all the time you are sitting there just gaining resources, the doom tracker is ticking up on the adventure, and things are getting worse out there.

Layers of Mystery

In Arkham Horror: The Card Game, after you've assumed your role as investigator and prepared your deck of resources, you're ready to embark upon a series of strange and mysterious adventures.
Instead of trying to defeat other players, the goal of Arkham LCG is to successfully unearth the secrets of the Ancient Ones, their minions, their cults, and the unfathomable evils that they're perpetrating within the streets of Arkham. In order to do this, you must find a way to gather enough clues that you can solve the mystery immediately before you. This is done by exploring locations, discovering the clues they hold, and using those clues to advance the act deck.

However, you have to move quickly, because you and your companions aren't the only active parties in this game. In addition to the act deck, there is also an agenda deck. While you and your companions are conducting your investigation, the forces of evil are advancing their agendas.
Each round, you'll place doom upon the active agenda, and discover other cards that will accelerate this impending doom. Should enough doom be placed upon an agenda, the forces of evil will have moved another step along their ultimate design, and should they progress through the agenda deck before you and your friends successfully complete the act deck, you lose.

These forces of evil won't just be working in the shadows. They'll confront you at every turn, hoping to defeat you and thwart your efforts. Each adventure comes with rules that help you quickly assemble a custom-tailored Scenario deck that reflects the different enemies, obstacles, hexes, curses, and other treacheries you may face during your investigations. Along with the any rules specific to the adventure, as well as its act and agenda decks, this Scenario deck gives life to the game's eerie mysteries.

You may overhear Mysterious Chanting (Core Set, 171) echoing through the halls of Miskatonic University. The floorboards may break open beneath you as Grasping Hands (Core Set, 162) reach and flail blindly about, grasping and clawing at your ankles. Or your investigation of a damp cellar may lead you straight into the path of an Icy Ghoul (Core Set, 119). There's no telling what you may encounter—the range of possibilities is utterly unfathomable.
The scenario sets up with a series of locations. These are double-sided: a blank side, with just the locations name, and a more detailed side that is revealed once the players enter the location. It costs an action to move between locations, and there are coloured symbols at the bottom of each location showing you where it connects to so you know where you can head from that particular location. Most locations when revealed will have a certain number of clues which are scaled based on the number of investigators in the game, such as 2 per investigator, 1 per investigator and so on. Then there is a “Shroud” value, indicating how difficult it is to discover clues at that location. To investigate, you perform an intelligence check against the shroud value, and if you are successful, you take one of the clues from the location. Typically, you will need to acquire a certain number of clues in order to advance the Act, although sometimes there will be other conditions like defeating a particular enemy, but it is all explained nicely on the act cards what you need to do.

Once you have performed your actions, any enemies engaged with you will attack, then everything refreshes, each player draws a card and a resource, and a new round begins with the Mythos Phase.

The Mythos Phase is when the dark forces which oppose you do their work. First of all, a Doom token is placed on the Agenda deck, which may cause the Agenda to advance, then each player reveals a card from the encounter deck – either an enemy or a treachery and resolves them as appropriate.

 A Gateway to Other Worlds

You can, if you wish, play Arkham Horror: The Card Game as a series of standalone adventures, but you may find that your early investigations lead to as many questions as answers. And for those who dare continue, there's more to your investigation. The game's adventures are designed as parts of larger campaigns, and the choices that you make in one adventure will have consequences later on in your campaign. You may suffer mental or physical trauma. Your enemies may gain strength. Or you may reduce their number, recruit valuable allies, and gain valuable experience with which you can "level up" your deck.

Some of the game's cards feature pips beneath their cost that indicate their level. Although you cannot include any of these cards in your deck at the beginning of a campaign, you can use the experience you earn from your adventures to add them to your deck, swapping them in for other cards.
These alterations in your deck mirror the sense of character advancement familiar to most roleplaying games and helps to prepare you for the greater challenges you're likely to face as you move further along and draw nearer the heart of your campaign's mysteries.

Finally, as a Living Card Game, Arkham Horror: The Card Game allows you to explore realms far beyond the confines of the Core Set and its campaign. Deluxe Expansions and Mythos Packs introduce new adventures, new campaigns, new player cards, and even new investigators.

When you go through a scenario, there is more to it then win or lose, you may have the option to resign, and save yourself if doing a campaign, but there more than likely to  2 or 3 different possible outcomes, which create implications for later scenarios in the campaign as they will ask you did you choose option a or b, adn adjust itself accordingly. This variable outcome structure adds to the replayability of the game, and makes campaign mode a real narrative event worth sticking with, as how you come out of this one WILL effect the next scenario with narrative effects as well as bonuses and negatives to your character as they progress through it.

You will also be given experience points (XP) based on cards you have defeated or objectives completed, and these can be spent on upgrading your deck with the cards mentioned above.

When you finally reach the end of the campaign, you will be given an ending dependent on how you performed, all written in excellent Lovecraft style, and the ability to take your characters who are more than likely battered and damaged on to new adventures.

Well... there is a huge amount in this game to love, the long campaigns, narratives, the solo or coop action, the fantastic art and usual high quality FFG production.  It looks a little daunting at first to play, but its not, as you get the excellent how to play book from FFG in it, as well as the more detailed rulebook you can use to find any other odd case you may come across.  If you are a lovecraft fan, this is a must, if you like really good coop or solo games with storytelling and action, also a must, in fact, im really really impressed with it.  The only downside i have is the limited deck building optinos in the core set, yes they can be offset by getting another core set, but.. it just feels like it needed some more, as getting a whole other core set makes a well priced game very very high.  This may be resolved by all the expansions and scenriaos and campaigns that will come for it, but at the moment the pool is very limited.  Though the potential for the future is very very bright!

The game comes with an RRP of £36.99  so head on over to your local game store and grab it to join the adventure
If you liked the coop card game, why not try another great coop game, the Lord of the Rings the card game

Or if you liked the Mythos, but not a card game player... try out Elder Sign  or  Eldritch Horror perhaps Mansions of Madness may be your bag.  Then maybe you fancy Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu for some manic fast paced action, or you can drop off to a slower story telling card based game with Cthulhus Vault .  There are plenty of games in the world to suit you!

Perhaps you like card games, but fancy crushing your opponent rather then helping them? Take a look at A Game of Thrones the card game 2nd edition also from Fantasy Flight Games.

Come and join us in all sorts of gaming chat in our Facebook group here, and come follow us on Twitter @rollyoursix and Instagram join the chat, and tell us about your games!


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