Game Review – Eldritch Horror
First Arkham, then the World!
A few nights ago I was invited over to a friend’s house to play Eldritch Horror, which Fantasy Flight Games describes as “a cooperative game for one to eight players, based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and inspired by the classic board game Arkham Horror”. I have played Arkham Horror, Elder Sign and Call of Cthulhu, so was excited about this new game. I have to say I really enjoyed it, so much so that I wanted to write my first boardgame review.
First off I have to say that, as with most FFG products, this game is great to look at. The cards, pieces and board all provide a window into the theme and time period of the works of fiction upon which the game is based. It’s great to see that many games these days are of great production quality and I feel that FFG have had a hand in influencing this and aren’t resting on their laurels in this department.
As with many Lovecraft flavoured games the emphasis is on a team of investigators trying to prevent the awakening of some really nasty ruinous power. The players have to work together to complete a set number of Mysteries before the appropriately named Doom Track ticks down to zero. At the same time gates are opening and monsters are threatening your investigators. You need to use your varying skills (Lore, Influence, Observation, Strength and Will) to overcome challenges and prevent the big bad from appearing. Or if you can’t do that, hope you can defeat whatever you happen to bring into the world.
In Arkham Horror the game board was based on the eponymous city. In Eldritch Horror, the threat has been extended out to the entire globe. The board is a lovely 1930’s map of the world with period appropriate names and locations (including Arkham). Each continent provides different challenges through dedicated card decks and gates, clues and terrible monsters pop up all over the world, providing a constantly shifting emphasis for the players.
This brings me to my first negative point, and it’s a small one. A lot of the locations are named (e.g. London, Sydney, Heart of Africa), but there are also generically numbered locations mostly in the sea. This leads to a mix of “a gate opens on London” and “a gate opens on sea location 12”. I think a small amount of time could have been spent on adding “South Seas” or “Indian Ocean”. It’s minor, but it did seem to jar with me in the heat of the game.
Not only is the product made exceedingly well, but every card and counter in the game adds to the Lovecraft feel. As my friend’s and I travelled the world encountering gates, exploring cities and facing off against monsters I felt immersed in the story of the game. The cards have plenty of story text to help flesh out the world and provide much of the atmosphere for the creeping doom that is building around you.
This brings me to my second negative point and this is a bigger one. There is a lot of stuff, and lots of different stuff. There are several decks of cards (although clearly different), lots of counters, various special actions and about a hundred characters to choose from (not quite, but it felt that way). The owner of the game informed me he had already picked up an expansion for the game, which had added a bunch of stuff. For me this volume of stuff creates two issues.
Firstly I felt that with so much choice it was a bit hard to pick a character. In the end I went with the guy that looked like Winston Churchill smoking a big cigar, why not? As an experienced gamer this didn’t actually deter me. I like choice and was thinking about the future re-playability of the game. However, I could see it as a barrier to less experienced gamers.
Secondly, I arrived after the game and pieces were set up. The owner assures me it only took ten minutes to get sorted, but I noticed he had bought a nifty organiser to put all the bits in. I can imagine you need to add 15 to 20 minutes to your expected play time for Eldritch Horror for setup. This is clearly not an entry level game, but it is not advertised as such and therefore I don’t hold that against it. Also I have horrible memories of setting up Arkham Horror, which needed at least half an hour to get it setup and tidied away.
We spent the evening trying to prevent Cthulhu himself from rising and destroying the world. We managed to complete the three mysteries that faced us, but unfortunately the last one completed in the same round as the Doom Track hit zero. It was slightly galling that all our efforts had been for naught! However, we went on to defeat Cthulhu by the skin of our teeth, so we were redeemed! It was a great night and the cooperative elements of the game really pay off when you all win.
For the Fans: 9/10
A great looking game, this slicker take on the Arkham Horror theme provides the fans with the detailed, rewarding game they have been wanting from the large scale board game genre.
For everyone else: 4/10
This is not a gateway game. Even though this has effectively streamlined Arkham Horror, this is still an intimidating game to get out of the box. People wanting to explore the tabletop Lovecraft world should probably start with Elder Sign.