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Subject: What I do and don't like about Arkham Horror rss

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Jake Smith
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Why did I buy Arkham Horror?
I was really drawn in by the concept. The isometric RPGs of the mid to late nineties have taken up considerable portions of my time, and capturing that sort of feel – running from adventure to adventure while your characters grow in power - in a board game is something with a considerable amount of appeal. In addition, this was the first co-op game I played, and the idea of working with my fellow players was fascinating.


What do I like about Arkham Horror?

When everything goes right, it's exactly the game I wanted.
Your characters grow in power.
- From the start, each player has their own unique feeling character outfitted with a variety of gear ready to get to adventuring. One player may be adept at killing off the various monsters while another is set up to slink around them, banishing them with a closed gate.
- There are a considerable number of ways to buff your character, ranging from weapons and spells to stat bumps and blessings. As you collect them, your character can grow immensely in power.
- Combat between strong characters and monsters has just the right amount of tension derived from fist-fulls of dice throwing. You are 95% sure you will kill that cultist, but that 5% chance of failure keeps you on edge. You are 20% sure you will kill that star spawn, but if you are willing to commit enough resources, you can bump that up to 70%.

You have adventures.
- In town, you might rummage about and dig up a spell. Awesome! Alternatively, you might engage in a game of cards, lose, welch on your bet, and wind up knocked unconscious in the street. Still pretty awesome!
- Venturing out into the other worlds is exciting. The rewards get bigger and the traps harsher. The compulsive gambler inside all of us loves it.

There is constant pressure to get a move on and save the world.
- The constant drum of the mythos cards creates great tension, as each turn more gates open, more monsters spew out into the streets, and the great old one edges a little closer.
- At the same time, the constantly changing conditions keep things fresh. One turn, you have three locations sealed and the monster population in check. The next, monsters are surging from seemingly everywhere and someone is killing off the town's population.
- Interspersed amongst all of the terrible things are beneficial effects, keeping that small glimmer of hope alive that this time things will work out. It provides tension to flipping the mythos cards that would not be there were they uniformly negative effects.


What don't I like about Arkham Horror?

When everything goes wrong, it's terrible to play.
The game is randomly extremely punishing.
- Not only are the vast majority of outcomes randomly determined, the opportunities are as well. If you have a high lore but draw an event that requires luck, you fail, period. Short of memorizing the stacks of possible encounters for each location and killing all sense of discovery, there is little way to actually prepare for what stats you will need.
- The monsters are for some reason drawn completely randomly out of a bag, completely detracting from the game's story arc. Weaker enemies should come out at the start of the game, allowing the still weak players to strengthen their characters before the heavy hitters come out. In games with unlucky enemy draws, player's get stuck having to sneak by everything while waiting for the right omen cards to appear.

The negative events in the game will inevitably wear your character down.
- It may be while you are chancing a trip through another world, or venturing into an unsafe location in search of clues, or perhaps just stopping in at a diner you thought would help you out a bit, but eventually, the randomly distributed punishment effects will whittle down your reserve of stamina or sanity or, more likely, both to the point where you are hanging by a thread.
- Once you are on the edge, it is incredibly difficult to pull yourself back up. Effectively healing yourself requires money, and unless you are playing one of the blessed characters who start financially sound, you probably don't have any. At that point, you can either camp on the hospital or asylum doing nothing interesting for 3-4 turns while things degrade tremendously around you or push your luck and try to actually play the game, inevitably resulting in your death.

Dying destroys your characters.
- Revisiting the Infity engine analogy, having a player lose half of their items when they are knocked out is like losing a level every time you die in Baldur's Gate. Not only do you lose the precious time you spent trying to do whatever it was that got you killed, but you are now less prepared to do it, making it more likely you will fail the second time. This sort of death spiral is really poor design.
- In addition, you only respawn with a single stamina or sanity. As noted above, it is difficult/boring to get it back up to a functional level.

Fighting the great old ones feels half-baked.
- Should the great old one actually awake, rather than flat out dying (in most cases) you get the chance to fight it. This is a great opportunity for one last gasp, all or nothing shot at winning the game once you've been effectively defeated, but its mechanics instead make it a five to ten minute long drag. By the time you've either killed the great old one or been killed yourself, the emotion is closer to relief that the game is finally done than to joy or dissapointment.


Final Thoughts
Arkham Horror is a bipolar game that is ultimately damaged by the shear number of elements which are randomly determined. When things are going in your favor, it is a joy to play and gives you that wonderful feeling of cultivating a character while working towards an imposing but achievable goal. When things go against you, it is a two to three hour slog through frustration after frustration as you take meaningless actions to achieve nothing. Those bad games are largely necessary to give the tension of a possible loss in a good game, but the balance is off. Obviously the proper balance of wins to losses is a matter of taste; I am of the opinion that for an 'experience' game like this it should be maybe 80:20. The ratio here is no where near that high.

The two people I primarily played with both hated this game, so I managed to get only two or three multiplayer games in before having to play solo. As a solo game, the flaws are magnified, and after another three or four games I've traded this one away. I want to have a pretty good idea what kind of experience I will have when I pull a box off the shelf, and for Arkham Horror I was never sure. Sometimes it was a 9, far to many times it was a 3.
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Gary Tanner
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theintangiblefatman wrote:
The negative events in the game will inevitably wear your character down.
- It may be while you are chancing a trip through another world, or venturing into an unsafe location in search of clues, or perhaps just stopping in at a diner you thought would help you out a bit, but eventually, the randomly distributed punishment effects will whittle down your reserve of stamina or sanity or, more likely, both to the point where you are hanging by a thread.
- Once you are on the edge, it is incredibly difficult to pull yourself back up. Effectively healing yourself requires money, and unless you are playing one of the blessed characters who start financially sound, you probably don't have any. At that point, you can either camp on the hospital or asylum doing nothing interesting for 3-4 turns while things degrade tremendously around you or push your luck and try to actually play the game, inevitably resulting in your death.

Dying destroys your characters.
- Revisiting the Infity engine analogy, having a player lose half of their items when they are knocked out is like losing a level every time you die in Baldur's Gate. Not only do you lose the precious time you spent trying to do whatever it was that got you killed, but you are now less prepared to do it, making it more likely you will fail the second time. This sort of death spiral is really poor design.
- In addition, you only respawn with a single stamina or sanity. As noted above, it is difficult/boring to get it back up to a functional level.


Good write up!

Personally, I like the two above parts that you noted as negatives. In Lovecraft's stories, the main characters are worn down as they go along, eventually hanging by a thread and barely keeping hold on their sanity (sometimes life).

The dying part, I feel isn't harsh enough. I'd prefer to draw a new character when one dies, instead of continuing with half the items gone. It makes more sense thematically, and it should be a significant setback. A tough penalty leads to more caution about going into tough fights, and more investment in the character.

Not disagreeing with you by any means, each person has their own view, that just happens to be mine.
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Øivind Karlsrud
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I definitely see the OP's point. The game can be frustrating at times. I think it helps a bit to have the right attitude towards random encounters: Random encounters is always pushing your luck a bit, unless your character is extremely balanced and powerful. One could always go for some of the safe encounters, like buying equipment from the general store, but then you need money (or trophies in some locations). Besides, you want to go where the clue tokens are. So most of the time it makes sense to have random encounters, and some of them can be a bit too harsh, especially in the early game. It's frustrating to meet a monster you're not able to kill, nor sneak away from, in the first round. I think a lot could be done by adding monsters to the cup in stages, triggered by the doom track, so that you don't start with the most powerful ones. Also, the madness/injury cards from Dunwich makes sure dying or going insane isn't that big a deal, and even makes it interesting from a roleplaying perspective.
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Tibs
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I agree with Gary. "Wearing down your characters" is EXACTLY what the game is about.

Death (or in OP's case, debilitation) should be a setback of sorts, although I'd much rather gain a disability than lose my hard-earned stuff. This is why I think that Dunwich Horror's Injury/Madness cards are a great addition to the game.

OP needs to obtain Dunwich and always use I/M cards. Also he needs to get Kingsport to make fighting the Great Old One much more interesting (thus fully-baked).

Arkham is not a game of conquest; it's a game of survival. Like how FFG's Doom and Descent are essentially the exact same game mechanic, but Descent is all about growing your character in power and possessions while Doom is about fleeing, rationing, and surviving. In this regard, OP either needs to come to terms with this thematic motif, or choose another game.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Or he could just try Eldritch Horror...

-shnar
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Jake Smith
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Absolutely the constant stream of bad things happening is thematic. It doesn't work for me as a game mechanic. As I said in the final thoughts, how often you want to win a game such as this is a matter of taste. For some people, this game will hit the ratio they prefer, whether because they find it thematic or enjoy the wins more when they're few and far between or for whatever other reasons. For my taste, it doesn't work, and I have, as suggested, found other games to play.
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kungfro wrote:
I agree with Gary. "Wearing down your characters" is EXACTLY what the game is about.

Death (or in OP's case, debilitation) should be a setback of sorts, although I'd much rather gain a disability than lose my hard-earned stuff. This is why I think that Dunwich Horror's Injury/Madness cards are a great addition to the game.

OP needs to obtain Dunwich and always use I/M cards. Also he needs to get Kingsport to make fighting the Great Old One much more interesting (thus fully-baked).


To many people, it's extremely negative if you need to get an expansion. I know I'm going to get expansions anyway, but many people don't want to make that investment.

It seems typical for FFG to release expansions that "fixes" the game in some way. The ports in the first expansion to Game of Thrones was necessary to avoid being knocked out of the sea with no hope of ever returning. Now it's part of the base game. The investments in the first expansion to Civilization balances the victory conditions (economic victory was too powerful), and the last expansion has much better combat cards (a necessary addition to remove a major element of luck in the game).

I guess I can accept this as part of the package when buying ameritrash (these games are some of my favorites). When focusing on theme the games will tend to be less balanced, gameplaywise, than eurogames (which focuses on mechanisms). When it comes to thematic games I wouldn't be able to stay away from the expansions even if someone held a gun to my head, so I will get the "fixes" when they come, and just enjoy the game for what it is in the meantime.

But I fully understand why some people don't like this. If you don't want expansions, maybe FFG is not the publisher for you. I've just bought Eldritch Horror, and I expect expansions that not only bring more variety to the game, but also introduces elements that will be deemed so essential many people will consider it part of the base game. It was just something they hadn't thought of before the game was playtested by many thousands of people. Mark my words: They will find something to improve, like they always do. Some people, like me, will find those expansions irresistable, because they know they will get a much better experience, and this will bother them each time they play (still talking about myself here). If you're like me, but don't want to spend the money, this is a bad thing.
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Kostas K.
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shnar wrote:
Or he could just try Eldritch Horror...

-shnar


Do these types of comments have to be in every Arkham Horror thread now? If you at least bothered to read the OP's comment, you'd see that EH addresses zero of the things he doesn't like in AH.
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kostool13 wrote:
shnar wrote:
Or he could just try Eldritch Horror...

-shnar


Do these types of comments have to be in every Arkham Horror thread now? If you at least bothered to read the OP's comment, you'd see that EH addresses zero of the things he doesn't like in AH.


Amen.

I'm sick of the whole Roxy Music version of AH at this point and after less than a couple weeks it appears to offer all the same things that AH does to its detractors.
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Pete Goch
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Is that with or without Eno? Pre or post Avalon?


Enquiring minds, etal.
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oivind22 wrote:
To many people, it's extremely negative if you need to get an expansion. I know I'm going to get expansions anyway, but many people don't want to make that investment.
That often depends on the people themselves. It's not a given that just because there are expansions that everyone agrees make the game (even) better, they are mandatory.
It only matters if the base game is genuinely broken, or at least has stuff that pretty much everyone will say 'is not that fun'.

Like, when I introduce people to Carcassonne, I always say I consider base game + the first two expansions to be the 'true' base game: I think the game flows best when the double meeple, builder and inns are present, and I wouldn't think of ever leaving those sets out. I consider everything else optional expansions.
But I know many many people who just own the base game and don't have any problems with it.

Same with AH: so far no one I play with says that there are parts of the game that suck which they'd want to get fixed. (Note: we haven't reached that point yet where apparently you get too much of a hang on the order of locations you should focus on.)
But I'm sure that once we add expansions, there's going to be stuff we never want to 'un-replace'.

Having said that: with regards to the I/M cards vs 'lose half your stuff', I wonder how much of this is in retrospect.

I mean, before Dunwich existed, did everyone really hate the 'lose half' part of getting injured/insane so much they were asking/hoping for a fix?
Or did the variant I/M cards just prove so much more fun, that nobody wanted to use the 'real' rule anymore?

AFAIK, the I/M cards were not meant to fix anything. If they had, I reckon they would've been included in later editions of the base game (but I might be wrong).

edit: spelling
 
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Teeka wrote:
oivind22 wrote:
To many people, it's extremely negative if you need to get an expansion. I know I'm going to get expansions anyway, but many people don't want to make that investment.
That often depends on the people themselves. It's not a given that just because there are expansions that everyone agrees make the game (even) better, they are mandatory.
It only matters if the base game is genuinely broken, or at least has stuff that pretty much everyone will says 'is not that fun'.

Like, when I introduce people to Carcassonne, I always say I consider base game + the first two expansions to be the 'true' base game: I think the game flows best when the double meeple, builder and inns are present, and I wouldn't think of ever leaving those sets out. I consider everything else optional expansions.
But I know many many people who just own the base game and don't have any problems with it.

Same with AH: so far no one I play with says that there are parts of the game that suck which they'd want to get fixed. (Note: we haven't reached that point yet where apparently you get too much of a hang on the order of locations you should focus on.)
But I'm sure that once we add expansions, there's going to be stuff we never want to 'un-replace'.

Having said that: with regards to the I/M cards vs 'lose half your stuff', I wonder how much of this is in retrospect.

I mean, before Dunwich existed, did everyone really hate the 'lose half' part of getting injured/insane so much they were asking/hoping for a fix?
Or did the variant I/M cards just prove so much more fun, that nobody wanted to use the 'real' rule anymore?

AFAIK, the I/M cards were not meant to fix anything. If they had, I reckon they would've been included in later editions of the base game (but I might be wrong).

edit: spelling


I don't think Dunwich fixes AH in the sense that it's unplayable without it. The I/M cards does improve the base game though, and will be quite irresistable to someone like me. I find any expansion to thematic games I own hard to resist, but when they improve something that you think could have been better in the base game, they become completely irresistable. It doesn't matter if someone tells me I can play AH without Dunwich, it would still bother me to know that I could have a better experience. It's not completely rational, but I'm not claiming to be , and I think many boardgamers are like me (in this sense).

Anyway, the OP may not be like me, so I was just responding to Tibs suggestion that he needs to get Dunwich, as well as giving my own reason for needing to own Dunwich.
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I still never use Injury/Madness cards, and find the permanent, virtually unrecoverable disability way more annoying then just discarding some stuff. Others in my group love them though.

Also sounds like Arkham Horror is totally not the game for you. Its supposed to reflect the Cthulhu Mythos's dreadful depression as your try in vain to stop the end of the world against forces way out of your control. Its supposed to kick you in, and often does. If this is not what you like I'd probably stay clear of all Cthulhu Mythos related games. goo
 
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TheOneTrueZeke wrote:
Is that with or without Eno? Pre or post Avalon?


Enquiring minds, etal.


With Eno...first album...'Re-Make/Re-Model'...seems to be a good descriptor in this case
 
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Narlgoth wrote:
I still never use Injury/Madness cards, and find the permanent, virtually unrecoverable disability way more annoying then just discarding some stuff. Others in my group love them though.

Also sounds like Arkham Horror is totally not the game for you. Its supposed to reflect the Cthulhu Mythos's dreadful depression as your try in vain to stop the end of the world against forces way out of your control. Its supposed to kick you in, and often does. If this is not what you like I'd probably stay clear of all Cthulhu Mythos related games. goo


Man, I feel like I'm in church.

I typed up a response to this but no one ever seems to get the 'we are like ants to these alien monsters' part or the 'you're dead or crazy at the end' part either so I just scrapped it.

But I do recommend to anyone before buying the game do these three things first:

1) READ Lovecraft. You can download a legal copy of his complete work in this area for free. If you like the stories and the way they end give yourself a +1 and move to the next number.

2)Download the rules to the base game at least from FFG. These are also free. If after reading the rules it seems like a game for you but you are still fuzzy on some things give yourself a +1 and proceed to next paragraph.

3) Get this single play-aid:

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/27852/arkham-horror-modula...

The first and last are the ones to read. If things are clear now give yourself +1.

So add up your score - A 3 means you have found a new home in Arkham.

A 2 means you should probably play first.

A 1 means you need to play a few times and stop if it just isn't doing it for you and pass on the game.

A 0 means avoid this game like the plague. You can't throw enough money at it to like it.

If you decide on a purchase then grab the compiled FAQ from FFG along with the rest of the rule pdfs for the expansions and study up on what sounds appealing for your first expansion while you are playing the game.

Done. Easy.

I happen to like to set the tone with low frequency recordings, field recordings and music all at low ambient levels along with reduced lighting and candles or head lamps to add the uneasy feeling from the start. My silent but deadly cat does the rest.



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Bryce K. Nielsen
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kostool13 wrote:
shnar wrote:
Or he could just try Eldritch Horror...

-shnar


Do these types of comments have to be in every Arkham Horror thread now? If you at least bothered to read the OP's comment, you'd see that EH addresses zero of the things he doesn't like in AH.

Um, I did read it, and EH seems too address (or at least attempt to address) every one of his negative posts. So the question is, did you bother to read it?

-shnar
 
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shnar wrote:
kostool13 wrote:
shnar wrote:
Or he could just try Eldritch Horror...

-shnar


Do these types of comments have to be in every Arkham Horror thread now? If you at least bothered to read the OP's comment, you'd see that EH addresses zero of the things he doesn't like in AH.

Um, I did read it, and EH seems too address (or at least attempt to address) every one of his negative posts. So the question is, did you bother to read it?

-shnar


1)The game is randomly extremely punishing.
There have been lots of threads already about EH randomness, and about some especially punishing effects that come out of nowhere like the "All for nothing" card. Although it can still be debated if EH is more random or less random than AH, the difference isn't enough to warrant suggesting EH to someone who hates that aspect of AH.

2)The negative events in the game will inevitably wear your character down.
Naturally I'm not going to compare each and every negative thing that can happen to an investigator in AH and EH, but I see no substantial difference here.

3)Dying destroys your characters.
If we're talking about devoured characters, it's roughly the same thing. If we're talking about going either insane or crippled, I think that the penalties an investigator suffers in AH cannot be considered more "devastating" than a roughly 75% chance of some other investigator not being able to recover your possessions in EH.

4)Fighting the great old ones feels half-baked.
Most GOOs still need to be defeated in combat once awakened. I'll agree that combat is a bit more streamlined in EH, but it's still a dicefest and again not different enough for someone who hated it in AH. And that's not even taking into account the Epic Battle variant.

EH can surely be suggested to people who don't like specific aspects of AH, and I will state again as I have in numerous threads that I consider EH a superior game, but that doesn't mean that it can be blindly suggested to anyone not liking AH.
 
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1) EH's randomness is more in line with the GOO, while AH's randomness is just that, completely random with little to no correlation to the overall story (i.e. investigators trying to prevent a specific GOO from waking up). So of course EH's encounters are 'random' but they're not chaotically random like AH, and I felt that's what the OP was looking for.

2) EH doesn't seem to have the same wear down effects that Arkham has (something I thought the OP was hoping for).

3) Out of the box, EH seems to have better 'dying' rules (i.e. does not need an Expansion to address this)

4) Until you add Epic Battles, the GOO battle in EH feels more 'fully baked' than AH, which was one of the OP's problems with AH.

I stand by my comment, it seems like EH has a lot of what the OP liked about AH but with less of the negatives.

-shnar
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Danny Baverstock
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Good review.

As someone who is familiar with the mythos and the RPG, some of your negatives seem, to me, to be in-keeping with the nature of the game and its mythos. I have not purchased the game, yet. But if your characters did not get knocked back so harshly, it would not be Call of Cthulhu. And i would not want to buy it.

In fact, now i think about it, it is some of your negatives that makes me want to buy the game.
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Ya I quit enjoyed your review, even though I disagree with it.

The game is all about the battle at the end. In simple terms all you are doing is building up the best you can for the final battle.

The whole game is how you deal with the all the crap that is thrown at you. The fact that you are annoyed by the bad things that happen is actually exactly what's suppose to happen. Arkham is weird that in a way its not suppose to be fun. Its suppose to be annoying, and it maybe demented but that's what makes it fun.

I think its hilarious when something really bad happens and the whole table throws their arms up in the air.

You shouldn't be going into the final battle thinking you are going to kill the ancient one. You should be panicked that you just aren't ready to face him. If you could only have a few more turns to build up a bit more...but denied.

But as others have mentioned, it sounds like you only played the base game and a lot of the issues you have with the game are resolved with expansions.

And once you have all the expansions there is no other game that compares to being able to make as easy or as hard as you need it to be.
 
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1 partial play here and I'm not impressed either. Thoughts:

- This should be a computer game, not a board game. All the machinations of upkeep and math scream to be run by computer instead. Not sure if this aspect is better or worse than with Dominant Species, but both really need to be run by computer ...

- Even after 3+ hours spent on 2 very meticulous read-throughs of the manual, still ran into situations where I had to consult the manual for significant periods during the game, sometimes with apparently no answer present. One involved a characters "reroll all" ability. Wish I remembered what the other one was.

- Seems like a lot of methodical choices and work for not much fun. Grab clue token, grab clue token, grab clue token, grab clue token, power up, go after threats. Eh.
 
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ParticleMan wrote:
1 partial play here and I'm not impressed either.
I don't think you can properly judge any non-kiddie game after only a few plays, let alone not even one full play. Also, most games that have a lot of rules/mechanics just take some time to get into. You haven't given it a chance to shine at all.

Also, it's the theme and sense of adventure that makes AH great (IMHO of course). There's so much randomizing from the game's side and customizing on the players' side, that no two games are the same.
If you're just looking at the 'cold' mechanics, well then most games are methodical I guess.

That said, if the adventure part is not your cup of tea then that's fine of course. But if so, this will never be your game regardless of using apps to take care of bookkeeping and such.
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