Trying Out: Arkham Horror the Card Game

As promised in the this year’s Gift Guide here are my thoughts about the Fantasy Flight Games Arkham Horror the Card Game.

Spoiler alert: I think it is one of the best games I have played.

Just to fill up this space next to the ArkhamLCG box cover before the “more”-line I’m adding the fact that this product is not a new game and it is not similar to the older Call of Cthulhu LCG by FFG. I condemned this game to be just a newer edition of that and I was so wrong in this.

Arkham Horror the Card Game is a living card game – that means that you always know the card you are getting in an expansion. But you do not what to actually know them. Because the glamour of this game comes from the same place which H.P.Lovecraft himself used as the source of his horror, the unknown.

The game is played by two (or up to four) players in a cooperative effort to solve whatever mystery the story pits you against. Both players have their deck of cards they can build from the cards they have with given guidelines and they play against a set deck of Mythos Events that are (usually) unique to the story.

The players control their investigators in different surroundings, trying to find the Clues to solve the case. Much as in every other Arkham Horror Files games. This time however the stories are entwined together into campaigns like the Night of the Zealot or the Forgotten Age. And as with most AHFiles games this game is really tough game to beat, but you can always fail forward. This means that even though you might all be taken out during the game the story goes on. Should you fail a story the next one will most likely be a bit more difficult but in any case you can play through the whole story even if you fail each and every story.

That fear of the unknown I mentioned? It comes in the form of not knowing what the Mythos deck and locations you are visiting will do. Sure, you could read the cards in advance but it would spoil the game a bit since you could tune your deck towards the specific obstacles of that story.

This does mean that the replayability value of these stories is a bit diminished. The game puts some effort in this aspect as well with almost all stories having some elements that are chosen randomly before the story begins but naturally this doesn’t remove the problem.

Though I understand that this might be a big turnoff for some I have to say that it isn’t that big of a deal for me. I’m not someone who goes to see the same movie more than once in a theater nor do I read the same book over and over again. I have however played through the first story of the core set five times now. And I have enjoyed each and every game of them. Even though I know how it will end.

The gaming mechanics of Arkham Horror the Card Game are interesting and well thought. For example the game uses a chaos bag instead of dice. It is a bag of tokens from which you drew a token whenever you are attempting a skill test. Most of the tokens work against you (some in a very big way). The twist here is that when deciding what kind of a story you want to run you include a different amount of different values in the bag depending on the difficulty level you choose. And in addition to this some story elements change the content of the bag by adding something.

Another key element of the game is the encouraged roleplaying. Players are advised to keep their hand in secret from each other so that the game wouldn’t turn out as one player always advising the other and telling them what to do. The rules advice to use in-game discussion to keep negotiate appropriate actions as well.

With my wife we have played with open hands and by discussing the proper action. This kind of play is more about the performance and advancing the game. But with Ville we went straight to the roleplaying elements and limited our discussion to almost entirely to events when we were at the same location.

As said I didn’t get interested in this game for a long time. But while searching for a game I could play with just my wife a colleague recommended this game. I bought it just to try it out. And after the first session I had to order all of the expansions for it.

If you have enjoyed other Arkham Horror Files games like Mansions of Madness or the original Arkham Horror I will assume you will love this game. For me the problem with MoM, Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror is (usually) the repentance of gameplay and actions and the abrupt ending of the game that cannot be foreseen or that just feels flat. ArkhamLCG gives you choices that influence the future games and each story I have played has ended in a way that made an impact. Either we have just narrowly won, failed miserably or have to make a choice and live with it.

One thing to note is that I have chosen to enhance the feeling of game with suitable playlists at Spotify. Dimming the light etc. work marvels in these kind of games where the atmosphere and the story are in the center of the experience. A cynic might say that this is a very “hipster” or “millennial” way to approach the game. That were are paying not for the game but for the experience. As well as the fear of the unknown (in the manner of not knowing what the Mythos will bring to the game) I’d say that this want of the “experience” is the bread and butter of Arkham Horror the Card Game.

Mansions of Madness might have been one of the games that I have enjoyed to play the most in the past two years but Arkham Horror the Card Game just surpassed it with flying colors.

If you haven’t tried it yet I wholeheartedly recommend you to play it. But be prepared to get invested in the story as well as spent a whole lot of money for getting all the expansions.

I would also like to share the review video on YouTube on this subject that I have been using to spark interest in the game:

Arkham Horror: The Card Game – Shut Up & Sit Down Review

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