Published on June 17th, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
All The Tentacles You Can Point A Gun At
Gregg Explains: Arkham Horror (Base Set, The Black Goat of the Woods, Dunwich Horror)
Ah, I love co-operative play games. The rush and thrill of impending doom crashing down all around you, and maybe winning in the end! Arkham Horror is set in H.P. Lovecraft’s grim world of eldrich horrors, and revolves around the madness of knowing how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of the cosmos.
This game session had Chelsea “Mrs. Waifu”, her husband Travis “Buuut Anyway”, Matt “The Favorite”, Sam “I’m Not Drawing the Map”, and me “The Explainer” getting together for a special “It’s Sam’s Birthday, we’re totally playing Arkham Horror!” party. Nobody objected, since we love this game. From what I was told by Matt, who owned the game and two expansions, we were using various elements from Dunwich Horror, and all components from Black Goat of the Woods and the base set, with the exception of not using the difficulty cards.
The ultimate goal in this game is to hopefully not allow the Elder God to awaken from their slumber. This is done by sealing a number of portals that open to alternate dimensions, the amount of which is determined by the number of players you have participating. To do this, we all needed to pick what roles we would be playing. For us, we like putting together a real rag-tag band of people, but we also want a slight edge of optimal play. Each of us randomly drew two characters from the roster available, then selected one of those to be the character we played. For us we got:
- Chelsea – Monterrey Jack, The Archaeologist
- Travis – Jim Colver, The Musician
- Matt – Marie Lambeau, The Entertainer
- Sam – Wilson Richards, The Handyman
- Gregg – Mandy Thompson, The Researcher
Each character has a prologue written on the back of their stat card that explains why exactly they’re here, and what they’re trying to do. In one expansion I’ve played in the past, this is a major component that can power up, or cripple your character. Monterrey is pretty much your Indiana Jones character, who even starts with a bullwhip. Jim is a musician who knows how to play a mystic song that can defeat the undead with ease, and has better options for dealing with the Realms Beyond. Wilson is a jack of all trades, being able to take on nearly any task, and adapt to wild situations. Mandy has a special ability that helps one person per turn try and convert failed dice rolls into successes.
Once we had our crew selected, a random Elder God was drawn. Many names listed from the H.P. Lovecraft mythos are Elder Gods that you can face, each with nasty side effects, and who also change how the Cultist monster token behaves in a given game. In addition, if you’re using the Black Goat of the Woods expansion, the previously mentioned horror is also participating, with Cultists trying to corrupt the people in Arkham, and add more people to the cult. For our game, we drew Ithaqua, who makes it so that all the Cultist monster tokens can soak up more damage, which lets you know that the best tactic for defeating him, should he wake, is to be armed to the teeth with a multitude of knick-knacks and weapons.
For us, it’s generally viewed that you want one Monster Slayer, one Planes Walker, and one person acquiring goods to pass around to everyone else. Jim, Marie, and unfortunately Wilson ended up planes walking due to either being better suited, or in Wilson’s case, he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mandy and Monterrey ended up beating up monsters, however due to us using the Black Goat (A note: it’s possible to have The Black Goat as your Elder God in addition to using the Black Goat expansion. Pretty much, it’s Super Black Goat mode) this task was made harder. If you’re using The Black Goat of the Woods Expansion, anyone who stays in a Street location at the end of a particular phase takes a point of damage. For the most part, monsters will appear at a building location, then roam out in the streets. Eventually the two had to either retreat from getting beat up, or succumb to too many wounds.
If there’s too many monsters on the board, the terror and horror in the city starts to mount, and progressively certain shop locations start to close, cutting off supplies to the Investigators. If the Horror Level gets too high, the Elder God will awaken. However, there is a special mechanic for playing with The Black Goat of the Woods expansion. Each monster has a shape icon on them, and different rules and mechanics are based around this. Shutting gates with the same icon will banish same mark monsters, certain monsters will move in certain directions based on their icon. With this expansion, when ever a Hexagon icon monster dies, the Investigator draws from a special Corruption deck. Each corruption has certain triggers when certain conditions are met that make the game complicated, or gives mixed blessings. Should the Corruption deck be emptied, the Elder God wakes as well, making you think twice about how soon you want to kill those particular monsters.
In the end, Ithaqua woke, and we had to face off with him in a grand showdown. Once this Elder God wakes, all the Investigators must roll a die for each item they posses. If you roll well, you get to keep that item for the epic fight. If not, you lose a potential key resource for the battle to come. Through the course of the battle, Marie, then Mandy, followed by Jim where Devoured, meaning the character gobbled up, and never seen or heard from again. Thanks to Wilson and Monterrey’s tenacity Ithaqua was eventually defeated, but only just barely.
This game can have things get from bad to worse really quick, and that’s kind of the point. A victory seems to be incredibly hard, and the sanity or health of each Investigator suffers a large toll should you be fortunate enough to win by virtue of sealing enough portals to the other Realms. Still, I enjoy the rush of working together to do what you can against terrible situations exploding up around you at all times.