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Arkham Horror: The Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Brief Review of Arkham Horror: The Card Game rss

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J. Chris Miller
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When I first heard the news about an Arkham LCG I was pretty excited. Being a relatively new entrant into Arkham Files games, I've fallen pretty hard for the theme and mechanics of the various titles. Interestingly, the first time I watched the Team Covenant video I was underwhelmed. It just seemed a bit too light. As more spoilers came out, I realized that the game would have some depth. And when I finally got my hands on the game, I realized that not only was it incredibly deep strategy-wise, but the potential for design space was enormous.

Okay with that out of the way, I'd like to review this game. I was debating whether or not to do one because there have been several good ones so far, but I think I have a few fresh insights to give on the game, which I will highlight later on. Onto the review. I'll give a quick Gameplay description and then go to my final thoughts.

Gameplay

Just like every Arkham game, you start the game as an investigator with a health and sanity level. You also have the various typical stats, although they are slightly different. They are Will, Intellect, Combat, and Agility. These stats will correspond thematically with your character. E.g., Daisy has an Intellect of 5 which is the highest we've seen thus far, and she's a librarian.

Your character will also have a special ability. I'll highlight some of these later. Finally, they have an Elder Sign ability which gives a modifier to a check but usually comes with an added bonus too.

You will have built your deck according to the deckbuilding requirements located on the back of your investigator card. You begin the game with 5 cards and 5 resources.

Actions

Each investigator has 3 actions to do on their turn. They are as follows:

Move - Move from one location to another
Fight - Make a combat check. If successful do 1 damage unless modified
Evade - Make an agility check against an enemy. If successful, exhaust that enemy and disengage from it. Disengaged enemies do not attack during the Enemy Phase
Engage - Engage an enemy that is not engaged with you at a location. The most frequent use for this is drawing enemies away from other investigators.
Investigate - One of the core aspects of Arkham games, this allows you to gain clues and discover what is going on in Arkham. Make an intellect check and gain 1 clue from your current location.
Draw a Card
Play a Card
Gain a Resource
Parley - Some characters you meet will have a special action that allows you to have them join your party, or give some other benefit. There are different types of ways to Parley and they will be stated on the character card.
Resign - This allows you to escape the current scenario and move onto the next without failing the campaign. Usually it involves you having to be in a specific location and then taking the Resign action.

Round Sequence

I. Mythos Phase (Skip during first round)
- Place 1 doom on the agenda.
- Advance the agenda if doom threshold is satisfied
- Each investigator draws 1 card from the top of the encounter deck

II. Investigator Phase
- Each investigator takes a turn, performing three actions

III. Enemy Phase
- Enemies with the Hunter keyword move toward the nearest investigator
- Each engaged enemy attacks, if able

IV. Upkeep Phase
- Reset actions (flip mini cards)
- Ready all exhausted cards
- Each investigator draws 1 card and gains 1 resource
- Each investigator checks hand size (discard down to 8 cards)

Chaos Bag checks

Throughout the game you will be making lots of checks by using the Chaos Bag. This bag contains check modifiers from -4 to +1, or lower depending on difficulty. It also contains an auto-fail in the form of a red tentacles token, and a blue Elder Sign token.

Here's how checks work. Let's say Skids has to make a Will check of 4 or he will lose his shotgun which he paid good money for. As I mentioned, the bag only goes to +1. Skids has a Will stat of 2. So even if he drew the best modifier, that would only bring him to 3 and thus he would fail the check.

But every investigator has an ability listed on their card that tells you what happens when you draw the Elder Sign. In Skids' case it is a +2 modifier, and if successful, you gain two resources! Now keep in mind that there is a low chance of drawing the Elder Sign, specifically a 6.67% chance. But that is what makes it all the more sweet when it does happen.

One of the major aspects of skill checks is using the special symbols on cards to commit to a skill check. Most cards have between 1 and several symbols that correspond with the Will, Intellect, Combat, and Agility stats I mentioned earlier. You can discard cards to add that stat to your check. So in the Skids case earlier, he could have discarded a card with 2 Will icons, bringing his Will up to 4, thereby giving him a better chance to pass the check.

Character Progression

Depending on how well you do during a scenario, you will receive Victory Points, which translate to experience points. You can use this newly acquired XP to buy upgrades to the cards in your deck, making your character that much stronger. Very cool.

So those are the basic rules of the game. Like any Arkham game, the game can be a little heavy on specific rules instances, but also like any Arkham game, there is an alphabetical and indexed Rules Reference guide that goes over any special instances.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned earlier, this game pretty much blew me away on my first playthrough. Each scenario of the campaign was markedly different, while still maintaining a cohesive story. The investigators are all very flavorful, and their special abilities are all very strong. The art, the mechanics, and the cards bring together an evocative setting that is very apparent during gameplay. Here are some of the highlights I've found:

"True Solo" and Co-op? That can't be true.

When FFG said that you could play this game "True Solo" I scoffed. I figured it would be impossible to make a game that was cooperative play well using only 1 investigator. I'm sure this has been done before, but based on what I saw in the previews I didn't believe it. I'm happy to admit, I was wrong. This game shines as a true solo game, for several reasons.

One, they designed location and key enemy cards to scale depending on player count. Most of them say "x health per investigator" or "x clues per investigator". This is huge because it allows for the same challenge no matter the player count.

Secondly they designed the classes to be very well balanced. For instance, Skids has access to cards that give him an extra action per turn. In fact, his own investigator card allows you to spend 2 resources each turn to gain an action. But, he has low willpower, and this makes him vulnerable to many of the encounter cards that require a will check. I can tell this game was very well-tested because all of the characters seem very balanced, though Roland seems slightly more powerful than the rest, and is probably easiest to play.

But yeah, solo play works very well and I must say is an absolute blast. You really feel like a lone investigator in way over your head having to manage everything that's thrown at you.

Skill checks are much more interesting.

I've said it before, but this is an Arkham game through and through. That time when you need to make a check, and you need to basically get the best result to move forward, and you do it. Those are the moments that we relish.

In Arkham LCG, there are different ways to modify your stat for the check. The first and most common is using the stat icons on cards and discarding them to improve your chances. Some of the cards are called "skill cards" which that is their only use. They have no cost associated with them, just the icons. But most times they give you a bonus when you pass. Each class also has an asset that allows them to up stats common to their class by using resources.

The point is, the level of interaction they give in this game for skill checks is pretty substantial, and leaves you with a feeling of more control. Of course the chaos bag has all sorts of nasty tokens that could ensure your failure, but the checks are much more satisfying than rolling a D6.

Chaos Bag. Best. Idea. Ever.

This was another one of those "Ugh, that seems clunky and not very fun." moments that turned out to be the opposite. The chaos bag is extremely fun. The chits are great quality and are big and chunky, and make for great tokens. As mentioned in my example, there are many moments to be had for joy and also those of utter defeat from the Chaos Bag. But it's a ton of fun, and a fresh way to implement randomness.

So those are my thoughts on the game. A solid 10 from me, though admittedly I do rate higher than most gamers. But if you are a fan of Arkham at all, or maybe are interested in getting into the Arkham universe of games, this is an excellent one to start with.

One caveat: It pains me to say it, but you will need to buy 2 core sets to have the best time with this game. At retail $40 a core, that is 80 bucks. However, the game is very playable with 1 core if you're looking to play casually. Just know that if you decide to get serious, you will want to buy another core. This is because the core only contains 1 of each class card, and the limit is two per deck. So you would want two of each of these cards for better consistency. This is typical of FFG, and although I don't like it, they get a slight pass from me due to their games being so phenomenal.

So what are you waiting for...go out and get it!
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Rosen Crantz
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Nice review. Thanks for sharing your experience. Just a couple additional notes regarding the investigator phase and your bit on skill checks. I get your were just writing a very brief simplified review, so not a big deal really.

In the Investigator phase, you can also play a card from your hand and engage an enemy. Optionally engaging would be a separate action from a Fight action.

Regarding skill checks, it's also worth noting that cards in your hand can be utilized in one of two different ways. Adds another layer of tactical decision making that's unique to this game.

Option 1:
Spend resource during the investigator phase to play the asset or event card.

Option 2:
Commit cards from your hand to a skill check. Each player card has additional skill icon pips in the upper left margin that each provide +1 to the corresponding skill if committed to the skill check. Committed cards would be discarded after the skill check is resolved. So Skids weakness in Will can be overcome if you're willing to sacrifice cards in your hand that have Will pips. This really helps a lot in solo play. Only cards from your hand can be utilized in this way, cards in play cannot be committed to skill checks in this manner.
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J. Chris Miller
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Yeah, it looks like I missed a couple of the basic elements. Good catch! I added them into the review. I may or may not have been up late finishing up another campaign before writing this... whistle
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Rosen Crantz
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Lol, hey I get it. I've been eager to start a new campaign with different investigators myself (if my 4mo old will ever let me!). Super late at night seems to be the only real time I can play anything these days.

Arkham LCG is simple game, but it has a lot of cool little nuances that really make it something special. Trying to condense all of it into a review that won't make a reader's eyes glaze over is quite a feat. Kudos to you for that.

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Kelly B
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Thank you for this review. I so loathe the idea of writing a review because...well...this game brings so much to the table and in fact is the only game I want to play these days. I've not experienced that in a long, long time and you have iterated so many of the pleasant points clearly.

Thank you again.
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Gabriel Conroy
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coyotemoon722 wrote:


One caveat: It pains me to say it, but you will need to buy 2 core sets to have the best time with this game. At retail $40 a core, that is 80 bucks. However, the game is very playable with 1 core. Just know that if you decide to get serious, you will want to buy another core. This is typical of FFG, and although I don't like it, they get a slight pass from me due to their games being so phenomenal.


This seems like a massive caveat - I don't understand how you can give a game 10/10 when you need to buy two copies to play it properly. Or else I have misunderstood what you mean by 'get serious', because 'very playable with 1 core' sounds like damning with faint praise. I mean 'playable' is really the absolute minimum requirement of a game.. What things can you not do with one copy? Are you talking about deck building? How essential is this - your review didn't really give me any insight into it.
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Matt E.

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There is not much deck building with only 1 core.

If you want full deck building then this is a $70-$80 game.

All I know if I was playing as Agnes I would definitely want 2 Shriveling spells.

Just speaking for myself, I really love this game, I do have 2 cores.

The difference in how the classes play and the strats you can use while building the character decks, whether solo or not, so many options.

However, you are correct, wouldn't it of been nice if a full set of class cards were included in the base? No getting around that. But for me, that is water under the bridge at this point. This will get a lot of play.
 
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J. Chris Miller
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achates wrote:
coyotemoon722 wrote:


One caveat: It pains me to say it, but you will need to buy 2 core sets to have the best time with this game. At retail $40 a core, that is 80 bucks. However, the game is very playable with 1 core. Just know that if you decide to get serious, you will want to buy another core. This is typical of FFG, and although I don't like it, they get a slight pass from me due to their games being so phenomenal.


This seems like a massive caveat - I don't understand how you can give a game 10/10 when you need to buy two copies to play it properly. Or else I have misunderstood what you mean by 'get serious', because 'very playable with 1 core' sounds like damning with faint praise. I mean 'playable' is really the absolute minimum requirement of a game.. What things can you not do with one copy? Are you talking about deck building? How essential is this - your review didn't really give me any insight into it.


I apologize. I don't know how else to say this. It's a common thing for FFG games to require two cores if you want to play the game at the highest level. Most FFG gamers have just swallowed the bitter pill and accepted this.

You need two cores if you care about having 2 copies of each class card in your deck because the core only comes with 1 copy of each, and the deck limit is 2. I updated my original post to reflect this. The game is however very playable (and enjoyable) if you don't care about consistency and just want to have fun with it.

The reason I give it a 10 is because it's a perfect game in my opinion. And again, because I rate higher than most gamers. The marketing aspects of the game are troublesome, but that has no bearing on the game itself.
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Rosen Crantz
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Probably depends on how the game will be played. The core comes with somewhat limited pool of cards for each class. So if you are playing two players (or two investigators) that overlap a class, you just won't have enough cards to really make them equally effective. The box says two people can play with just one core set, but that caveat is "...as long as both investigators are different classes...". One core box is plenty for playing solo with one investigator or two investigators with different classes, however.


Good point about the deckbuilding. Given this game is just getting off the ground, the deckbuilding is really really light (compared to FFGs other LCGs) at this point. That's not to say you don't have to think about it, you still have to build with other considerations in mind.

1) Deck sizes are limited to 30 cards, with some exceptions.

2) Player card types are mainly divided into assets, events, skills, and treacheries. You have to start with one treachery in your deck, though you may earn more throughout the campaign. Skills are one time use cards that usually grant skill check bonuses. The meat of your deck will be made of assets (items, allies, talents) and events (mostly one time use).

3) you can only "equip" so many items as you investigator can carry. I.e. 2 one-handed items or 1 two-handed item, 1 armor, 1 accessory, 1 ally, 2 one-arcane item or 1 two-arcane item. Very RPG-like. So you don't want to overload your deck with too many of the same item type, as you only equip so many at a time. With a 30-card deck size, the likelihood you'll get the cards you want are pretty good.

4) In the box, you'll find multiple versions of some cards with little white pips in the upper left corner denoting how much xp it will cost to include that card in your deck. That said, you'll start a campaign will all 0 cost cards. So right off the bat, you're limited on what cards you can even start with. As you complete scenarios and earn xp, you can "spend" your xp to upgrade your deck. Each white pip on a card costs 1 xp. So you won't be able to stack your deck with all super strong cards, you'll have to be deliberate with your selections.

Now, back to the variations of the same card. These variants may initially appear to be the same, but the text between a cost 0 and cost 1 card could be very different. For example, a cost 0 Magnifying Glass gives you +1 lore when investigating, but a cost 1 Magnifying Glass adds an a player effect allowing you to return it to your hand. Why is this good? Well, if there is no longer any reason to investigate a location (i.e. no more clues), then you can return it to your hand and later commit it to a skill check.

5) One top of this, some cards are restricted to certain investigators (you don't HAVE to include them, though). Roland's 0.38 Special, for example, can only be included in Roland's deck. In addition to the each investigator having different abilities and traits, this adds a little unique flair into the decks.

I actually prefer this to, say, Lord of the Rings LCG deck building. The rules are simple, but the deck build permutations are pretty mind boggling. The cards really reinforce the sense that you ARE the investigator. I hope this gives a little insight into deck building in this game, but you can probably see why it's hard to condense all of this into a brief review.

EDITS: sorry for all of the typo-correcting edits, I failed to proofread what i wrote! The horror!
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Reed Dawley
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Great review, motivating me to try it solo.

-sigh- Time to scan this into CardWarden for solo play.
 
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Bloody Cactus
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coyotemoon722 wrote:
you will want to buy another core. This is because the core only contain 1 of each class card, and the limit is two per deck.


Id say, you need two cores, but not for this reason that everyone parrots.

You need two cores so you can play _ANY_ two characters at the same time, ie: One core does not let you play;

- Agnes + Wendy since Agnes's needs all Wendy's red cards.
- Wendy + Skids, Wendy needs Skid's cards.
- Roland + Daisy, Roland needs Daisy's cards.
- Skids + Roland, Skids needs Roland's
- Daisy + Agnes, Daisy needs Agnes's cards...

That to me, is the biggest failing of 1 core, not so much you only get a 1x of a few class cards/assets/skills etc.
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David Williams
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coyotemoon722 wrote:


I apologize. I don't know how else to say this. It's a common thing for FFG games to require two cores if you want to play the game at the highest level.

Actually three for most of their LCGs.
 
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Robbie M.
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The Old Man wrote:
coyotemoon722 wrote:


I apologize. I don't know how else to say this. It's a common thing for FFG games to require two cores if you want to play the game at the highest level.

Actually three for most of their LCGs.

Of the LCGs currently in production:

2 cores - Arkham, Star Wars
3 cores - LotR, Netrunner, Thrones 2.0

No longer in production:
3 cores - Thrones 1.0, Invasion, Conquest, CoC

We don't have info for L5R - currently in development.
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