Arkham Horror Buying Guide
Arkham Horror Buying Guide
By: Andrew Davidson
Greetings! It’s great to see you here. I hope you are doing well.
In 2009, I searched high-and-low for an activity for my sickly girlfriend and I to engage in. My girlfriend, at the time, suffered from a myriad of health problems that left us inside the apartment more often than not. Naturally, movies and cooking have a predetermined amount of mileage a couple can get out of them. In frustration, I turned to the internet for ideas. When I came up for air, I had one thought on my mind: Board Games.
Long story short (too late), after watching about every video on YouTube, I found Arkham Horror (2nd Edition) to be a suitable fit. I ran the idea past my girlfriend and she seemed game (pun intended) to give it a shot.
Since 2009, even though the girl and I did not last, my love for Arkham Horror and Cthulhu related games did. Over the years, I have purchased more Arkham Horror games than I care to admit; to keep this list focused, here is my buying guide for Arkham Horror games published by Fantasy Flight Games.
5. Elder Sign
Ah yes, can’t go wrong with a dice-chucker, right? Elder Sign is basically what would happen if you dipped Yahtzee into a beaker of theme and complexity. Elder Sign is at the bottom of my list--this is true. However, at the end of the day, it’s not an inferior game. In fact, I played the snot out of this game when it came out (then they released the digital version, which I played solo every night before bed for six months straight).
There are a few expansions available to keep the game play and narrative structure fresh by adding more cards, more mechanics, and more Ancient Ones to square off against in a battle for the safety of the world. Overall, Elder Sign is an exciting experience--especially if you like strategic dice-chucking games.
4. Mansions of Madness (2nd Edition)
In Mansions of Madness, players assume the role of investigators trying to fight an ancient evil or stop a nefarious cult from completing a ritual. To Mansion of Madness’ credit, the game is scenario dependent; therefore, some scenarios are incredibly long and challenging, while others are short and less daunting. With the addition of expansions, the narrative takes players out of the mansion and to the streets of Arkham, on a cruise ship, or a moving train.
With all the expansions, there are twenty-two scenarios to play and enjoy. Since the 2nd edition of Mansions of Madness implements an app to control the enemy movement and provide narrative beats, there are a butt-ton of scenarios offered as DLC. Mansions of Madness is always a good choice--just make sure you set aside time to play and not start any of the scenarios at 10 pm after a long day at work, trust me. You’re welcome.
3. Arkham Horror (3rd Edition)
Arkham Horror is the grand-daddy of them all; the game that pulled Cthulhu--kicking and screaming--into our board gaming world. In Arkham Horror, players take on the role of investigators as they move about the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts. As previously mentioned: This game is my jam. In 2010, I played the piss out of the second edition. I gobbled up every expansion I could get my hand on. I owe my dedication to the promulgation of the relevancy of board gaming to Arkham Horror.
A few years ago, Fantasy Flight Games, in their infinite wisdom, decided to give the old beast a shave and a haircut. The 3rd edition of Arkham Horror is a streamlined version of it’s seminal predecessor. On the downside, there is less to do in the game (resulting in a less complicated game system); however, on the plus side, the theme and narrative elements have been smashed through the glass ceiling. Each game of Arkham Horror 3rd Edition is more unique than any previously played iteration of the game. And, with the expansions, the game has a super-massive high replayability factor. In this humble writer’s opinion, this is one giant step for Cthulhu in the right direction.
2. Eldritch Horror
Eldritch Horror takes the Arkham Horror experience and blows it up into an epic, international, two/three hour narrative journey. Eldritch Horror takes the adventure out of Arkham and into the world. To be honest, when I first saw the announcement for Eldritch Horror, I scoffed. Fantasy Flight Games has a reputation for taking their “game play system” and rolling it over into another game with either the same theme (Arkham Horror/Eldritch Horror) or with an entirely new theme altogether (Mansions of Madness/Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth) In Eldritch Horror, players traverse the globe trying to stop the Ancient One’s nefarious plans.
There is something ineffable about why Eldritch Horror is incredibly exciting and entertaining to play, but it is. Not since Pandemic took us traveling around the world, accomplishing missions, and circumventing wicked portals from opening--sucking everything including your beloved cat and embarrassing grandmother into another dimension--have my fellow gamers incredibly excited to get Eldritch Horror to the table to take a stab at--fingers crossed--accomplishing a new scenario.
1. Arkham Horror: The Card Game (LCG)
When I set out to write this list, I had one goal in mind: Keep it short. I worked out in my head that readers want just a snapshot of why the games are listed where they are, not an expansive, detailed, explanation of how each game plays, what makes them alike, what makes them so unique. With that thought in the forefront of mind, I will leave you with one statement: Buy this game. No. Seriously, it is that good. When I created this list in my head, I instantly knew that the card game version would be located in slot number one--hands down! Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LCG). Players pick characters, construct decks, level up cards, learn new skills and abilities, and work together to play through any of the absolutely fantastic campaigns (each campaign is made up of eight games). At the time of writing this, there are six full-length campaigns, a smattering of one-off scenarios (seven of them, to be precise), and a three scenario mini-campaign tutorial found within the base game. As you play, your characters will unlock a story. Based on how well--or horrible--you perform your narrative will change. Arkham Horror: The Card Game also contains a few branching story lines where players make binary decisions that permanently alter their narrative for the rest of the campaign. Arkham Horror: The Card Game combines elements of deck-construction (not to be confused with deckbuilding), role playing (your characters level up and will gain/lose new items and/or abilities.
Author’s Note: I would be remiss if I did not explicate the two biggest negative aspects of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. First, the game, akin to any other LCG or CCG, is a money pit. Each scenario is a brand new pack of cards, not to mention the player cards, or buying two copies of the base game for a complete set...yeah.
Second, the game is not a walk in the park. In fact, it is akin to a walkover of hot lava coals on a hot summer’s day in July. If memory serves, I have--what the kids call--” rage quit” the game at least twice. Naturally, just like that masochist I am, I always return to my abuser for more punishment. Nevertheless, if you can stomach the pain, frustration, and headache, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is an absolute diamond in the rough. At the end of the day, it is number one on this list for a reason. I cannot wait to see where the designers take my character next….
AD - 2021