Eldritch Horror board game review: Uncover the Unthinkable

For centuries we have lived in fear of the Ancient Ones. Wicked unworldly creatures from a higher dimension who posses unimaginable power and date back to the beginning of history. Perhaps even further. We don’t know why or how it began, but the great old ones have haunted our worst nightmares for as long as anyone is able to remember. Underneath their devastating evil and the devilish minions that carry out their unholy material deeds in our world, the Ancient Ones patiently await their chance. They await the day when they can reach their claws out to our realm and crimson the skies, raining blood and mayhem upon humans.

After thousands of years of manipulating the shadows, planning on unleashing their rage by the assistance of secret cults who religiously follow their orders from the beyond, the presence of an ancient one in our fragile mortal world is once again a realistic threat, for the great old ones have awakened. Hellish fire and loose demonic monsters close in on the human world at an overwhelming pace. Their reign of darkness and madness is closer than ever before and if we don’t stop the awakening by any means possible before it’s too late, all is lost for good.

This threat is far greater, far closer than I could have ever imagined. Cthulhu’s cult of followers is relentlessly checking the boxes to his eventual summoning. If we can’t stop them once and for all and if they manage to carry out their evil schemes and bring about the rise of the Ancient Ones, the world as we know it will come to a chaotic early end. Cthulhu will be freed; his cultists will set the world on fire and his presence will drive all the remaining humans helplessly mad.

The Ancient Ones do not have access to the material realm on their own. They have puppets whom they control with their mind-bending wickedness and order to prepare the world for their arrival. Their servants are often terrifying monstrosities and mindless wild creatures who seek nothing but to feel fresh blood dripping from their sharp teeth and of course to set up the throne for their masters to sit on. Other times, you may see our own kind, human beings, determined for whatever reason to cause our planet’s doom by assisting the great old ones’ return.

Hell-bound or terrestrial, the foes who stand against us in this path will not be an easy challenge to overcome. However, we cannot, for the sake of all mankind, let fear get the best of us and turn back now. We cannot hesitate, fear or flinch anymore. We must not. Whether this journey ends with Cthulhu’s wicked legacy sinking down to the bottom of the oceans where it belongs or the human world filled with eternal insanity, pain and suffering, we must see it through to the end. We are quite literally humanity’s last hope of survival.

Now you understand the graveness of this danger and why after so many years of working as a private investigator, dealing with all sorts of mysteries, I did not see myself succeeding on this case alone. I have called you here today, ladies and gentlemen, to seek help defeating the greatest threat that has ever been cast upon the human world. To help me stop the end from approaching our doorstep. To put an end to the oldest paranormal enemies of human beings.

I know that saving the entire world was not a part of the advertisement that brought you all here today, but I could not risk being mocked by those who don’t believe. Our carriage can carry up to eight brave investigators and our journey will take us to the far ends of the known world. We will travel around the continents, face dreadful enemies and be challenged by mysteries beyond earthly comprehension. Whether you are a nun, a veteran soldier or an FBI agent with another case at hand does not matter. The only thing that matters is whether you are willing to take on this challenge with me and attempt to save the world despite the possibility of dying or losing our minds along the way?

Horrors from Beyond


From everyone’s favorite Lovecraftian horror stan, Fantasy Flight Games, comes another breath-taking adventure set within the world of Cthulhu’s mythos. Based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft, Eldritch Horror is another entry into the world of Arkham’s cosmic horrors. Eldritch Horror puts players in the shoes of fearless (but not really) investigators who have volunteered to take the adventure of a lifetime in an attempt to stop the great old ones from entering our universe and brutally demolishing it.

The game was released in 2013 and received lots of praise for its flexibility of gameplay and a unique atmospheric mystery solving experience that’s both exciting and gives you goosebumps. It’s perhaps one of the better known thematic titles of all time and therefore, has been supported by multiple addons and expansion packs through the years. Eight expansion packs so far have made this game a delightfully refreshing take on the cooperative horror genre. The game has already packed a reasonable amount of replayability in the main game, but is entirely changed for the better with the addition of the additional content that the publishers have released for it.

Each session of this strategic exploration adventure may take up to four hours depending on the number of players involved. 1-8 players may take the roles of the unfortunate investigators stuck in this uncollectible struggle. Personal experiences have suggested that the best number of players to experience this game with is 4, with any number higher than 5 resulting in a lengthy playthrough and any number below 3 could prove to be overwhelming for some players. In addition to that, the game just plays more smoothly with an even number of players rather than an odd one.

It would be an understatement to say the path is merely dangerous and the stakes are as high as they have ever been. Get ready to stare into the eyes of horrific madness and come out triumphant. Or will you?

Hunting or Hunted?


You never know what might go down in an Eldritch Horror playthrough. The events of the game are unfolding all around the map of the world and threats and mysteries are anything but bound to borders. You will need to travel far distances in search of evidence on how to stop the awakening of the ancient one and along your journey you will have numerous unexpected encounters, each of which presents a new objective.

As you’re traveling you will come across different types of enemies and obstacles who will try to stop you from achieving your goal. Misfortunes may occur that will shake up your understanding of the game and pose truly unanticipated threats. You may also stumble upon better gear and equipment to further prepare your character for the fast-approaching doom. If you are unlucky or worse, have poor decision-making skills, the future of all mankind may suffer. That is part of the reason you are not advised to take on this challenge on your own. Your companions, the unusual heroes, can be of invaluable assistance.

Each round of Eldritch Horror is divided into three different phases. The action phase is your characters’ time to shine. In this phase, each player takes two actions in their turn. Different types of actions available to players, include moving their character, resting to recover health and sanity, acquiring assets and allies, trading items, and even more. Within the next phase, the encounters phase, players face randomized encounters which might help or jeopardize your mission. Encounters vary from interacting with other characters, fighting monsters, searching for clues, to other major and minor challenges that players will be required to resolve in order to advance. The Mythos phase is when the ancient one reacts to your endeavors. This could mean that there are new monsters on your tail or some other challenge comes blocking your way forward. It could also bring the awakening closer, which is the least desirable of all events.

Your race against time is represented by a Doom track that shows just how close we are to the rise of the ancient one. When the marker hits the end of the track, the ancient one is already here, looking like they are not happy at all that you’ve been trying your hardest to banish them from the world for eternity. In this unfortunate case, all is settled in a final showdown between the brave investigators and the great old cosmic devil. Overall, the gameplay is thrilling and full of surprises no matter how many times you play.

It’s immersive atmosphere makes you really get into the narrative and the final victory, besides the nervous laughs shared, make all the scary challenges worth it. However, all players should keep in mind going in that this is no quick or easy adventure. It may take up to several hours which not everyone can spare and for players who don’t have a good relationship with leaving fate in the hands of dice, some encounters may end up frustrating. To be completely fair though, the dice does give the gameplay a sense of suspense and uncertainty that is perhaps necessary for this genre.

Furthermore, the setup phase of the game may take longer than you’re used to and to players who don’t have a lot of time or patience for setting the game up, it can be troublesome. The game components although impressive in variety, are also known to take too much space for a game of this size. The game board is comparably massive and if you lack space, you can’t get much out of this game and even though it’s been said to be much more manageable than Arkham Horror the Card Game, it’s still way larger in size.

Their Absence is Temporary

The main game of Eldritch Horror is very fun and engaging but perhaps only replayable for limited number of playthroughs. Fantasy Flight however, has taken good care of their beloved horror adventure and spiced it up with multiple expansion packs. I have not personally played all of the expansions but from the ones that I have and the experiences of colleagues, I can say with confidence that each and every one of the expansions does a great job at extending the horizons of Eldritch Horror and they’re all unique in their own way. For our lack of time and space, here I will name just a couple of them that I found to be the most interesting.

5. Under the Pyramids

Under the Pyramids takes you and your eight new investigators to Egypt in the 1920s where the country’s social and political instability has given cultists the chance they have been waiting for. They attempt to awake the Dark Pharaoh from his deep, historical sleep and if they succeed, he will bring about the end of not just Egypt, but mankind as a whole.

Six new locations throughout Africa and Egypt are now available for exploring and the Dark Pharaoh is one of the most challenging, yet most intriguing Ancient Ones to confront. However, the introduction of the impairment mechanic has caused some players to not be on good terms with it. That said, the theme is awesome and new components for practically every mechanic and even more, have made this expansion one that’s worthy of being on this list.

4. Mountains of Madness


Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s work on an Antarctic expedition ambushed by prehistoric devilish creatures, this expansion provides you with a refreshing chance to follow the trace of the doomed expedition into the great City of the Elder Things.

New unearthly threats have surfaced all around the world as a result of this failed expedition and it’s your job once more to get all the help you can from the news assets, spells and equipment that is available, as well as your eight new fellow investigators to solve this mystery and send the ancient horrors back to sleep, where they won’t be terrorizing our entire world.

In 2014, this expansion pack was nominated for not one, but two awards for the best game expansion of the year and if that is not a good enough reason to check out what it has to offer, I don’t know what is.

3. Forsaken Lore


Once more the mortal world has trusted a chosen team of investigators with their fate. The lord of the serpents has been called to our realm and the only way you can stop him from conquering our dimension is traveling across the globe and solving all-new horrifying mysteries surrounding the story of the ancient ones.

Yig’s cultists and Serpent People are actively doing all they can to pave the way for the Father of Serpents’ domination of our planet. With the help of new Spells and Assets, as well as new strangely powerful artifacts, you will once more race against time to save humanity.

Forsaken Lore earned itself a nomination for the best expansion of the year in 2014 and even though it didn’t get the award, it still made it to the list as one of the best expansion packs released throughout the year. Definitely keep an eye out for this one.

2. The Dreamlands


This expansion introduces a whole new side board, which represents the mystical, ethereal Dreamlands. As the realm of dreams reaches out for the waking world, eight new investigators unite against two newly-discovered Ancient Ones: Altach-Nacha the Dreamweaver and Hypnos, the Lord of Sleep.

Introducing a wide range of new Spells, Conditions, Assets, Adventures, Mythos cards, and encounters for all the locations on the board, The Dreamlands is filled with adventures that one could barely dare to dream of.

The world of dreams brings a new fantastical theme to the already mystic, dark landscapes of Eldritch Horror and it’s a must-play for the thematic experience fans out there.

1. Cities in Ruin


Violent earthquakes have turned a concerning number of cities into ground-level ash and dust, thunderous typhoons have destroyed all that had been built by the seas, and as the human world trembles in distress, deep within the Earth, right underneath our feet, a new ancient threat has been awakened. Shudde M’ell, The Cataclysm from Below, is awake and full of rage.

A disastrous new twist on the basis of Eldritch Horror that introduces four new investigators as well as brand new monsters to defeat and encounters to uncover. If the destructive power of Shudde M’ell is not stopped on time, let’s just say all the weekend plans will go down the drain.

Many have picked this one as their favorite expansion to Eldritch Horror, but others have claimed that it’s heavy dependence on dice rolling can sometimes take some fun away from the experience. With exciting fresh mechanics such as ruined cities however, this expansion has made it to most long-term players’ regular sessions.

Final Thoughts


The world of Eldritch Horror is maddeningly vast and immersive and the impressive replayability along with the stressful mixture of luck and skill have made this title quite distinguished from the other horror adventures out there. It’s a game that is not too harsh on newcomers in the first few playthroughs but never sugarcoats the seriousness of the threat at hand.

With an acceptable level of balance, innovative mechanics and a narrative that is always offering new content and new ways to experience them, fans of Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror, as well as everyone else who is looking for a new horrifying adventure that will lead to some of the most memorable gaming moments of their mystery-solving party, are sure to enjoy playing Eldritch Horror.

I hope you’ve found this article useful and I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section down below.

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