The lights are on
Longtime board game players likely need no introduction to Arkham Horror. The original version released way back in 1987 and was designed by Richard Launius, with a new version produced by Fantasy Flight in 2005. That newest edition has been a staple of many game libraries for years, offering up horror-themed cooperative adventures that provide a challenging (and challenging to learn) evening of entertainment. Eldritch Horror is a brand-new game inspired by Arkham Horror, but with its own distinct and streamlined mechanics and style. After a number of sessions playing the final game, I’m confident that Eldritch Horror can sit confidently beside its predecessor.
In Eldritch Horror, players take on the role of an occult investigator and world traveler as he or she seeks to unravel a selection of mysteries threatening the world. Move too slow and you risk an ancient evil from beyond time and space emerging onto Earth, resulting in the planet’s destruction. Along the way, players work together to close gates to other dimensions, fight otherworldly monsters, and reach distant wilderness expeditions. Each game plays out differently as heroes go insane, others acquire dangerous pacts with the darkness, and still others fight on through crippling injuries. The potential for narrative depth is enormous, and all the world is yours to uncover as the game unfolds.
Eldritch Horror supports up to eight gamers playing cooperatively to uncover mysteries and prevent the rise of one of the Ancient Ones. Game times scale up the more players you have in the group, and while the game mechanically supports larger groups, my favorite sessions have been with groups of four or five, during which I was able to complete a game in between two and three hours.
The attractive board is large and detailed, showing off an old-fashioned sepia-colored map of the world from the early 20th century. Major sites call to mind pulp movies and novels of the period, like the Pyramids, the Heart of Africa, or the Amazon, as well as familiar cities like Tokyo and London, and the fictional Arkham, Massachusetts.
Players choose their investigator, each of whom has distinct abilities and stats, as well as their own backstories. The group also decides which Ancient One is threatening the world; four Big Bads come in this base game, including Lovecraft mainstays like Cthulhu and Azathoth. Each Ancient One offers their own challenges and mysteries to solve, lending lots of replay value, since different foes present different challenges.
Eldritch Horror utilizes a number of card decks to show off the story events you encounter, other worlds you visit, and items and allies you pick up along the way. As a result, set up can take some time as you shuffle and place the numerous piles of tokens and cards. When possible, I recommend doing as much of this shuffle work before your gaming group arrives to cut down on initial down time.
As the game begins, things are already getting bad in the world. Before the first turn, some gates open up in the world (represented by tokens laid on designated board locations), and monsters begin emerging to threaten destruction. In keeping with the Lovecraftian theme, the players feel like events are conspiring against them from the very start.
[Next up: Details on what sets Eldritch Horror apart from its predecessor]
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.