In the small town of Arkham, Massachusetts, strange events are occurring. The townspeople are mysteriously disappearing, and there are reports of strange creatures spotted lurking in the shadows. The people of Arkham are afraid and they don’t know what to do.
That’s when you and your partners arrive in town, a group of equally mysterious investigators who have set their mind on ridding the town of Arkham of what disturbs it. Each of you has different specialties and abilities to help the group succeed, but you also have weaknesses that you pray won’t get the best of you.
As you arrive in Arkham, you feel an eerie quietness and a sinister atmosphere waiting for you. You know that you must act quickly to solve the mystery and save the town. You split up, each covering a different part of town. You travel to the outskirts of Arkham, where the creatures have been spotted the most. You research in the library, hoping to find some clues in the town’s archives. You visit the police station, in hopes to gather information from the authorities.
As you battle mythical monsters, decipher ancient texts, and interrogate suspects, you uncover more and more about the horrors going on in Arkham, and you know you’re in for the greatest challenge of your life.
Will you be able to maintain your physical and mental health and save Arkham, or will the ancient monsters devour your soul? Gather your fellow investigators and give it your best in Arkham Horror: The Card Game!
Listed on our best board games of the ‘80s, the first Arkham Horror board game was released in 1987 with many editions and expansions implanted into that world. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is one of the most popular Arkham games, currently ranked at number 27 in the best board games of all time.
Arkham Horror is a cooperative card game designed for one to four players, set in the world created by the great H.P. Lovecraft. In this game, players each take the roles of investigators, working together to uncover the secrets of Arkham. and prevent an ancient evil from awakening.
The game is played using only cards and tokens. Characters, enemies, events, locations, and everything else in the game are depicted on cards. There are also some tokens used as resources and for manipulating players’ actions.
Arkham Horror is called a “living card game” or “LCG”, which means that you first purchase a base set, and you improve it using other cards released in expansions to build the perfect deck of cards for your character.
The core game box contains a scenario with three thrilling episodes, but you’ll have to purchase and play the expansions to play other scenarios and use different cards. Each scenario in Arkham Horror contains two decks of double-sided cards; the act and the agenda.
At the beginning of each scenario, players will create the two decks without reading any text on the cards. As players progress through the game, the act and agenda cards are revealed one by one, which give players objectives, challenges, and a narrative to the game. We’ll talk more about them later on.
Arkham Horror also has a very engaging and satisfying RPG element to it. Before starting the game, players must each choose a character to play with. The characters are a diverse team, with different backgrounds and capabilities to cover multiple obstacles in the game.
You could choose between a tough-as-nails former detective proficient in combat and investigation, a librarian with a deep knowledge of the occult, a mystic who can sense the presence of evil and manipulate reality, a rogue skilled in robbing and evading enemies, or a balanced survivor ready to face anything thrown at them. These characters all have four stats; willpower, intellect, combat, and agility. Each character has different stats as well as different special abilities and players’ experience will vary with each character as the style and strategy of play changes based on the character’s capabilities.
After choosing characters, players must then build their character’s deck. The cards used in this deck could be from multiple expansions of Arkham Horror. New players are recommended to use the game’s suggested set of cards to build their deck so they can get more familiar with the game, and build their custom decks later throughout the game.
These cards basically represent your character. You will find cards of items, weapons, relationships, clothing, and more. But not all of the cards are helpful. Each character also has some problems and weaknesses which could cause trouble for them when drawn.
One of the best storytelling aspects of Arkham Horror is that you never lose. Even if you fail to complete the objectives of an episode, you mark it as a failure in your scenario sheet and continue on with the scenario. This means the game has multiple storylines and endings based on the actions and decisions of the players.
How to Play
To play a game of Arkham Horror, after choosing and building characters, you must set up the game according to the scenario. First, read the story to get a gist of what you’re after, separate the cards based on the symbols as the scenario instructs, and create the town by placing the different locations in the middle of the table.
As I mentioned before, each scenario contains act and agenda cards. Without reading the text on either side of these cards, create the two decks to begin your game. The act cards depict your objectives and explain what YOU do. The agenda cards are the opposite and explain what the ENEMIES do.
Each of these cards has a flavor text on the front so you get a gist of what might happen, but you won’t be sure until you are prompted to flip the cards and read the main text. These cards are what drive players to progress through the game, adding a sense of tension and suspense, as well as a narrative to the game.
On each turn, players may perform three actions however they desire. Players could move to different locations, gather clues, draw new cards and resources, fight or evade enemies, and more. The game presents its challenges in a way that players must discuss their actions and their orders if they want a chance of success.
When players perform various actions like combat or investigation, they are prompted to attempt a test of that action to see if it is successful or not. To do so, players must draw tokens from a bag. These tokens have a mix of positive and negative impacts on the actions. Most of them are numbers that add to or subtract from the stats of the players. Others will cause an automatic failure or success, and activate special abilities. After drawing a token, the active player must compare the modified stat to the difficulty of the action to determine its success.
Players could also play cards before drawing tokens to raise their stats, as player cards contain stat symbols other than their main text. If other characters are in the same location, they could help out by playing cards, too.
Each player also has two health bars; physical health and sanity. When facing different enemies in the game, players could take damage to their health by getting hit, or lose sanity by confronting these evil ancient beings. If any character’s health or sanity is depleted, they die and are removed from the game.
The game goes on in this way until either all characters are dead, in which you lose the game, or you manage to go through all act cards, in which you pass this episode and continue to the next one.
How’s the Experience
Arkham Horror: The Card Game has a lot of elements that make it a memorable game. First of all, the story and the atmosphere of the Lovecraftian world is one of thrill and excitement, and Arkham Horror implements it in a highly successful way with the artwork, enemies, and the general sinister sense of the game. You will literally be frightened by the tougher enemies and what they can do to you, and you are forced to quickly come up with a plan to defeat or avoid these enemies.
Other than dealing with unearthly beings, you need to gather clues and actually find out what’s going on. This makes teamwork strategies so much more important, as you and your friends run across different locations desperate to survive and solve the mystery,
The roleplaying aspect of Arkham Horror also helps players get fully immersed in the game. As you play more and more with a character, you learn their strengths and weaknesses and how to optimally use that character. You find out what cards are more helpful than others, and use that information to build newer and stronger decks. If you play the expansions, there’s a sense of wonder and excitement when you uncover new cards and add them, too.
Overall, playing Arkham Horror feels like you are actually in a Lovecraftian story, fighting tooth and nail to prevent the rituals aiming to awaken the Elder Gods.
As mentioned before, there are tons of different games set in Arkham with their similarities and differences. Let’s go over a few of them.
Eldritch Horror is a card game very much similar to Arkham Horror. The main differences are in the location and the gameplay. While Arkham Horror is set in the town of Arkham, Eldritch Horror takes the mythical legends to the next level taking players to locations all around the world.
Also, Eldritch Horror seems to have an easier and less complex gameplay than Arkham Horror, making it a better choice for newer or younger players. Overall, if you enjoyed Arkham Horror but you’ve played all scenarios, Eldritch Horror would be the next step for you.
Mansions of Madness is another game set in the universe of Arkham and Eldritch Horror. In this game, players must investigate the haunted rooms of Arkham’s cursed mansion as they search for clues and answers. Mansions of Madness can be played with up to five players, and it’s an app-driven game.
This means the map of the mansion, available actions and objectives, and a variety of events and encounters are all shown and recorded on the app. The game is played on a modular board made of different tiles that can be arranged in different configurations to create a unique game experience each time you play. You can read more about Mansion of Madness here.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is another similar game that isn’t set in the world of Lovecraft. In this game, players are fearless explorers investigating the dreaded mansion hoping to find riches and uncover the mystery. In Betrayal at House on the Hill, players move around the different rooms of the mansion, gathering items, dealing with events, and getting ready for what’s next.
But their enemy isn’t a stranger. At some point throughout the game, the haunt phase will occur, where one of the players is revealed to be the traitor who lured their friends to this mansion of doom. The traitor will get new abilities and objectives based on one of the 50 different scenarios of the game, and it becomes one-against-all. You can read more about this game here.
Arkham Horror is more than just a game. It’s a journey into the dark and twisted world where the fate of humanity is in the hands of a group of bold investigators. It’s a chance to explore the mysteries of the Lovecraftian universe and experience the thrill of battling ancient monsters and solving puzzles.
Whether you’re looking for a board game to challenge your skills and transport you to a world of horror and mystery, or you’re a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, Arkham Horror will bring hours of fun and excitement to your table.
What do you think about Arkham Horror? Share your experiences and memories with us down in the comments.