DARK IN HERE, ISN'T IT?
I thought I might post some first impressions after one, disastrous session.
This isn't intended to be a proper review - more of a session report with some thoughts about the game. I expect those to change a good bit with more plays. But I wanted to share the reaming I got in Play 1, for posterity.
AH was my first ever "modern" BG - and got me into BGG, so fair play to it. It's been played less and less mainly due to the time factor; and frankly the rules are such that, if you're not playing regularly, it's hard work to keep up to them. So I was enthused to see EH was looking like a (slightly) quicker and more streamlined version. And as a long-time CoC player, what's not to like about a global campaign to save the world from tentacled destruction? Really.
I like the rulebook. I posted just one question here after a good initial read through. I'd suggest it's a pretty good modern example of how rules should be written.
I decided to play solo, but with 2 investigators, against Azathoth. I chose the expedition leader and the spy. An early mistake, perhaps, to miss out some decent will/lore for those other world encounters, but in the event I'm not sure it much mattered.
Set up was trickier, I felt, than AH. But that might well have been an AH legacy; I'd bet that a newbie to these games would have less trouble. But the idea of seeded Mythos decks and GOO-specific decks was all new and a little confusing to someone who'd been used to AH. I am 99% sure that setup for session 2 will be MUCH easier. And with one plano-style box I have a decent storage/play solution.
In retrospect I think I played only one rule wrong - I allowed myself to take 2 move actions, when of course to move twice you need to do move + ticket; but few enough of my moves were double-moves that the point was moot.
I managed to complete the Tunguska mystery. I made no progress on the next (the name of Azathoth, I think).
I got bogged down with a Star Spawn in London, and I suspect that skewed the whole game. I lost an Investigator there in combat.
No worries, I'll take in a second, tougher guy and show that SS what for.
Ha! The result:
I lost this second there to a) the SS and b) a Reckoning that triggered various Conditions that took SAN. The 2 defeated Investigators were too much to resist, with all their goodies - both had tickets and assets and it looked to me like a good way to go, to defeat the SS, take the defeated Investigator gear, then close the Gate. This led in short order to:
Investigator 3 dead, in London, to the dreaded Spawn.
He is a seriously tough little bugger. STR-3 to attack. So my 6 STR (as modified) Investigator rolls 3 dice. Gets 1 success. Takes 2 damage and SS toughness drops a mere 1, to 4. Second encounter: no successes. So I take 3 damage (5 now in 2 rounds) and SS remains on 4 toughness. I'm not even making progress. I move on, but my Inv is now minus 5 to health and has achieved little in 2 rounds. I think, in fact, that I now see a second rule error - I suspect I allowed my Inv to look for an asset in between the 2 rounds, when a monster present would have prevented that. Still, I don't hear the GOO complaining, and since I failed to acquire an asset the game was hardly won thereby.
Things not looking good up North
Meanwhile I had an Investigator twice delayed by failing to pass Other World adventures.
In the end I gave up on about round 8/9 - more than half way through the Mythos deck, I suspect, with 4 or 5 Investigators dead, 2 new Investigators both on initial equipment, with no clues, and a good 5 or 6 gates still open on the map.
Now, to be clear: I'm not complaining. Well, maybe a bit, about the dice, because they definitely hate me, and I reckon I scored zero successes on 3 dice at least 5 or 6 times. But that's not the game's fault. It's down to my Dark Pact with... oops. Let me get back to the point.
I like tough co-ops (apart from Ghost Stories, with which I have a love/hate/want to burn relationship). I would've been disappointed had I won game 1 (as I was, when I did, with Forbidden Desert today).
And I reckon choice of Investigators + proper movement + tactics + a few decent card draws/dice rolls will make EH eminently winnable (at least some of the time - which is fine).
I am looking forward to my next play.
In the meantime, some bullet-point thoughts about the new game:
- easier rules that answered 80% of my questions
- a great reference booklet that sorted out 95% of the other 20% (use it once you start playing - it makes perfect sense, then)
- great components/artwork
- a lot less fiddly than AH - eg:
- no more silly stat adjustment hoops (I hated them in AH)
- no more monster movement/outskirts type rule complexity
- great theme
- better story - there are not just ongoing GOO mysteries and complex OW encounters - but even the location-specific encounters seem to have, for me, more about them (I admit this could be novelty)
- better and more thematic use of clues (and they're trade-able at last!)
- better trading/Investigator interaction improves co-op mechanic eg skill to assist other Investigator improvement
- continues in the vein of the ongoing & increasing threat and oppressive HPL atmosphere of impending doom
- cool new Omen Track mechanic - we can leave the Doom issue this time, because it won't affect us till next time
- monsters can't box you in to a location
- terrific new double-sided Conditions to keep you worried (what will that hallucination madness do when I go postal?)
- more options per turn than AH
- combat from turn to turn - wear down those bad guys over time, if possible (or just get whacked, if you're me)
- Luck is going to be a factor, but it always was in AH, and I don't mind some luck, and I guess some people would see this as a pro not a con
- I wonder if the game is significantly harder with but 1 or 2 Invs - I felt AH tended to be - the variation of abilities/gear and the simple geographic coverage might make more players easier, though a very simple scaling "reference card" mechanic shows this has not been ignored by the makers
- There's still a lot going on - some people won't like all the moving parts
- Dice still hate me
Can't wait to try again, and especially to try with other players. I think I've learned a lot from making a pig's ear of my first play, which is exactly as it should be. I want to put some theories into practice and kick some GOO ass next time.
Still: I can't remember the last time I had as many of my characters whacked in dreadful ways, in such a short space of time. Off to Arkham Sanatorium for a break.
Regarding difficulty for 2-investigator games, I've only played one solo game with two investigators, and not all the way to completion, but I found that Lily Chen and Jim Culver are good all-rounders that do well in smaller games. This combo didn't necessarily make the game easy, mind you, but I did fairly well up until I chose to end my playthrough (I was just trying to get a hang of the rules, and Lily got devoured by Jim's dark pact, plus the rest of that turn was a doozy).
Lily is excellent as her starting stats, passive ability, and starting location give her a good way to become a jack of all trades. In one move, she can go down to Sydney and improve up to 6 strength, or in a couple of turns get to places that will help her improve the stats she's relatively deficient in, letting you fill up holes otherwise present from playing only two investigators.
Jim, meanwhile, is a very solid character all around. He's not as general purpose as Lily, but he makes for a decent spell caster, especially if you get him an arcane tome early on like I did. His passive rule lets him fight monsters with a little bit more ease. In addition, his influence of 3 means that, while he won't be able to pull off the same levels of money-fu as Charlie Kane, he can still afford a lot of the important items from the reserve and deal with most of the influence-related shenanigans of the game.
Admittedly, I still need to play more to get a better hang of all the characters, but in the two games I played (the one solo two-investigator playthrough and one 4-investigator game) neither of these characters has been a disappointment.
Turns out Esseb did touch the flag. Don't tell him I said so though.
Trying to properly kill the Star Spawn is almost always a bad idea unless you really need to actually defeat it for some reason, so you should avoid it, if you need to get rid of it, then use Tokyo or some other means to discard it.
You want to be rolling more 7+ dice before his -3 modifier if you want to take it on normally (and ideally be blessed)
Yep... Star Spawn is bad, but a shotgun or similar with some rerols and blessin can make it reasonable easy to shoot him down.
I actually think that EH is guite easy, if you munchking somewhat with investigator :-) But EH in anyway is the basic set and basic set are normally guite easy to manage.
I have not tryed Guthlu so far, so maybe there is more challenge in there ;-) And in anyway, the removing all those easy (frost) mythos cards from the game makes the game definitely guite hard!
DARK IN HERE, ISN'T IT?
EH is guite easy, if you munchking somewhat with investigator :-)
I am guessing you have not yet had, 75% through the game, the research card that has you shuffle one of your "solved" mysteries back into the deck.