Arkham Horror

Chaosium, Inc., 1987, 1-8 players, 12-adult. This is a dynamite game, and one to which I give my highest recommendation. It's out of print and highly sought after (expect to pay as much as $100 for a good used copy on eBay), but is well worth the time and expense of tracking down. I am not familiar with Chaosium's "Call of Cthulu" role-playing games, but apparently this is the board game version of them. Based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Arkham Horror takes place in the doomed community of Arkham, Massachusetts circa 1926. Mind-warping monsters are popping up out of the woodwork and it is the collective job of you, the investigators, to expunge them from our dimension and close the gates through which they are entering our world. It is this cooperative spirit that helps make the game so much fun to play. Basically it's the players against the game rather than each other. You work together to fend off the forces of Chaos and either the players win collectively or the game wins (with special honors going to the player who collects the most trophies). But beware! Being an investigator is an extremely hazardous occupation! It's very difficult just to stay alive, let alone worry about collecting a lot of awards. So, expect to be killed off at least once during the course of a game (after which you simply dive back in with a new character).

The gaming system owes a lot to Talisman (possibly the most influential and imitated game of the past 20 years, if you ask me) without being a total Talisman knock-off like Edge City. As mentioned above, you select a particular investigator to play (each of which has slightly different strengths and weaknesses). Each round, a "gate" may appear someplace in town, and it is through these gates that the hideous monsters emerge to roam the streets of Arkham, looking for unlucky investigators to pick on. The players must kill the monsters before there become too many of them to deal with and travel to other dimensions in order to try to destroy the gates through which the monsters appear. If all of the gates are removed from play, the players win. However, if too many gates are allowed to appear, the monsters win. To help them in their task, investigators collect various weapons, spells and special skills.

The rules are relatively short and you should be able to get started after maybe 20 minutes of reading. Games go pretty quickly, lasting between one and two hours. We got three complete games in during an evening of gaming. My only complaint is about the rules. They're broken up and scattered out over several different inserts and consequently aren't organized into any kind of sensible, centralized resource. This makes it difficult to quickly resolve the inevitable questions that arise during games of this nature. In an effort to streamline the process of consulting the rules, I've gone through them all and reorganized them into a form that hopefully makes a little more sense. Here they are: DOWNLOAD RULES

In an attempt to improve an already outstanding game, we've come up with a few house rules -

It's virtually impossible to win with less than four players unless you beef up a little bit. The game suggests playing with two investigators each, but we find that that tends to bog things down. Instead, we've found that a decent balance can be struck by allowing each player to take two of the following three at the start of the game - extra skill, extra spell or extra item (no more than one of each, though). In a similar vein, we allow players to heal all the way up to 7 (in one go) at the Hospital or Sanitarium (as opposed to rolling a 6-sider for healing). And lastly, we've instituted a rule whereby destroying a gate that is guarded by one of the Powers allows a player to permanantly block new gates from appearing at that location (basically, the corpse of the Power becomes an ersatz Elder Sign - just without ticking back the Doom Counter). The cost for doing so is 1 Item and 1 Spell.

We got pretty sick of moving all of the monsters around during every Mythos Phase (especially since most of the time it doesn't really make much difference in game play), so we pared it down some. During Mythos, "Flyers" move as normal (move towards people on the street). Any newly placed monsters move, along with any previously placed monsters of the same color. And on a Gate Appearance roll of 7 (where monsters appear at all gates), all monsters move. Note- naturally, this only applies to monsters that have movement. The stationary monsters are still stationary under this system.

Ever since our Talisman days, we've been fans of special abilities and, sure enough, we came up with some for this game. They are drawn randomly and enhance (rather than replace) the traditional "Investigator" cards. My friend Dean has cobbled them together in card form, and can be downloaded: HERE. These were adapted from the unpublished "Return To Arkham Horror" supplement, as designed by Keith Herber and Richard Launius. We've also been using the expanded Location Event tables from RTAH, download them: HERE.

Addendum - In 2005, Fantasy Flight Games issued a (poorly) redesigned version of Arkham Horror. We tried it once and sent it off to eBay.

Addendum II - If you and your friends would like to play an online / BBS-style adaptation of the original Chaosium version of Arkham Horror, well... now you can! Just fire up your favorite terminal app and stop on by -

From a browser - (login is "muinet", password is "muinet").

From a terminal app - ssh -p 2233 (password is "muinet")

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