Friday, December 6, 2013

Arkham Horror, Maiden Voyage

Last night, my friend Dan brought over his copy of the Arkham Horror boardgame. I had perused the rules with him a couple of months ago, and he's played a few times, but this was to be my true introduction to this beautiful game. My two oldest sons, K and H (or H&K, for gun-lovers), also made the slow-trek home through beltline traffic to join us. They were brand, spanking new to the game, never having seen it in-person before.

Though we could have carefully-doctored the setup to our best advantage, Dan and I thought it would be best, in the true spirit of Lovecraft, to make things random and "hidden" so as to preserve that element of horrific surprise. So I randomly picked Jenny Barnes, dilettante, as my investigator.

Not bad! Jenny does a little bit of everything, and her $1 a turn trust-fund means that you can buy a lot of equipment/spells/etc over the course of a game. She's very well-balanced, in terms of her sanity, stamina, and stats, and gets a wide range of random possessions, not to mention $10 starting money as her Standard Possession (remember, folks, this is 1930's dollars). Dan had the Salesman (a few jokes about work were shared - Dan and I work at the same place), K had the Scientist (appropriate for an Aerospace Engineering major), and H had the Photographer (who turned into a gate-crashing fool by the time we were done - who woulda thunk?).

Random possessions were really a game-changer, especially for Jenny. She pulled the Sword of Glory, instantly changing her from Dilettante to Death-U-Taunt.

After spending a good hour going over the rules (yes, it's a little complicated, but not bad once you get going), we started off. I'll save you the blow-by-blow, mostly because I don't remember all the details. I was having too much fun to document everything!

Suffice it to say that, before too long, we had inadvertently opened a few gates. For some reason, the Unvisited Isle kept coming up as the place to be. We encountered cultists and crazy old men, opened a gate there, had a baddie walk in through the gate, and clues kept popping up there like workplace rumors after an office party. It was all a bit strange, seeing that we had two characters up there by the second turn of the game, and it just became the hub of a lot of (nasty) stuff. This is not a complaint, mind you! We thought it added to the creepiness that the Unvisited Isle was such a hotspot of weirdness.

The only downside to all the insanity (well, there was a little insanity, anyway), was that before too long, I found myself stuck in Arkham all alone with four gates to other worlds gaping wide open. Everyone else was either in the Abyss or the Dreamlands getting all kinds of cool gear while I was wandering the streets hoping not to get overwhelmed by creatures coming through the gates.

Of course, my luck didn't hold out. I took on a Gug and, with a little luck, was able to kill it. You can see the trophy down at the lower-right of Jenny's investigator card. The Sword of Glory made me a little cocky (what, me? Cocky?). Now I was jonesin' for a fight! And the cosmos accommodated me! The turn after I took this picture, what should pop out of that southernmost gate but a Maniac (all juiced up because the Terror level was so high by this point) AND The Hounds of Tindalos. Gulp!

Here I thought it would be wise to take on the hounds first, since Maniacs are a dime a dozen (go for a drive through Las Vegas, and you'll know what I mean), but those dimensional dogs are rare and nasty. The dice were on my side and the hounds became my second trophy. So, on to clean up the Maniac. Take him by the scruff of the neck and toss him into a homeless shelter, right? Wrong! I had forgotten that the terror had mounted so high that the Maniac was strengthened by all the horrific energy in the world. Guy kicked my butt. Thankfully, he only took one stamina from me, but that's 1/4 of my stamina! When another Maniac gated in next turn, I was starting to get a little worried. That's when H the Photographer returned from the Abyss and started kicking booty. Now, he had to churn through some clue-sacrificing re-rolls, but he made his way through the second Maniac (Grr! I have the Sword of Glory!), then proceeded to gather more clues and close that gate. In the meantime, Dan the Salesman and K the Scientist had each returned (from the Abyss and the Dreamlands, respectively) and sealed a gate. I head over to Ye Olde Magicke Shoppe (or however they spelled it) while H the Photographer went on a gate-sealing rampage!

Feeling like I was a tiny pseudopod of this gigantic cosmic amoeba, I decided to go do some more exploring/monster carving. I made it to the Witch House, where a gate opened and, next thing I know, I find myself in Another Dimension with H the Photographer by my side.

And then . . .

And THEN . . .

Time ran out. H had to get to bed, as did my wife (who was in another room working on school-teacher stuff). So we had to wrap it up at that point. 3 1/2 hours is apparently not enough to run a full game, at least it wasn't for us. Given the frequency with which we were closing and sealing gates, we could have been there all night before we got to the Big Baddie. So we called it quits. Our last gesture was to reveal who the Big Baddie actually was. We had chosen one randomly and "blind" so it would be a surprise when we got to that point. The big winner was:

Cthulhu himself!

Overall assessment: HOLY CRAP WHY HAVEN'T I BEEN PLAYING THIS FOR YEARS?!?!? In other words, I quite liked it. Spot on, brilliant, rathah! I haven't had a good look at all the supplements, but I'm hoping they do an At the Mountains of Madness expansion set, if they haven't already. We're planning on doing this again sometime (between all of our incredibly busy schedules). I can hardly wait. In the meantime, K, H, and I will content ourselves with a few rounds of Munchkin Cthulhu. So if you're looking for us, you can find us in the Arkham Asylum!

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