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Subject: Some things I'd like to see in Shadows of Arkham rss

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Applejack
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I'm looking forward to this microgame, but here's a couple of things I'd like to see to set Shadows of Arkham apart from all the other Lovecraft cooperative games;

1) Please don't let players be able to fight eldritch adominations with common weapons. Nothing bothers me so much as when I'm able to kill a shoggoth with a shotgun. Cultists or mutated humans, sure, but I shouldn't be able to survive punching Cthulhu in the face. Unless it was with a boat. ^_^

2) I like a clear winner in my games. Cooperative still, but maybe players can compete for 'investigation points' or something.

3) Make it HARD. An easy cooperative gives me little reason to return to it, but a difficult one will get many more replays just for the challenge.

4) It should make sense thematically. Helping an old lady across the street shouldn't net me a copy of the Necronomicon.

That's all I can think of, at least the major things that bother me about most current Lovecraft games.
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Michael Dillenbeck
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Alita_99 wrote:
I'm looking forward to this microgame, but here's a couple of things I'd like to see to set Shadows of Arkham apart from all the other Lovecraft cooperative games;

1) Please don't let players be able to fight eldritch adominations with common weapons. Nothing bothers me so much as when I'm able to kill a shoggoth with a shotgun. Cultists or mutated humans, sure, but I shouldn't be able to survive punching Cthulhu in the face. Unless it was with a boat. ^_^


Mostly agree here. How does a pistol work against Cthulhu? I don't get it. Most of the time if the eldritch horror awakens, there should be no hope (or maybe some arcane ritual) - but "fighting Cthulhu" should not be possible.

Quote:
2) I like a clear winner in my games. Cooperative still, but maybe players can compete for 'investigation points' or something.[\q]

My wife and I are the opposite. We are utterly turned off and throw out rules in cooperative games that have "single winners" - for example, Defenders of the Realm with the 'King's Champion' or MVP. We win as a team or lose as a team - we are suppose to foster cooperation.

That said, I don't mind well designed games where players might have individual goals. I also don't mind if competitive scoring is an option, but not a requirement.

My hope is the game actually becomes cooperative. Most coops are actually solo games with trading, and it is frustrating. Here is an example from a recent Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: My wife is a thief and I am a wizard. We both are at the general store. She takes her turn, draws the Codex item (basically a spell book) and cannot acquire it. I take my turn and draw Thieves Tools and cannot acquire it. Why didn't the merchant do it the other way around when we were both there at the same time? No support for cooperative play in the mechanics - even something as simple as draw X cards for the number of players in a location and then assign them to the characters there would make it feel more cooperative.

So I guess I'm trying to say is I hope they work on making it more cooperative and have an optional scoring system for players like you, but I hope they don't mandate a competitive system in the game.

[q]3) Make it HARD. An easy cooperative gives me little reason to return to it, but a difficult one will get many more replays just for the challenge.[\q]

Sometimes I don't want hard. Sometimes I want a light and easy game. This is what I like about Pandemic - the difficulty is scalable. My wife is just about done with Eldritch Horror because of losing. Our last game we started out with "get this artifact and fight this epic monster to solve this mystery" - and it took over 10 turns of exploring to find a single card that granted an artifact. It technically was gain a random tome artifact, but we decided that qualified as "gain and artifact" just so we would have a shot at solving one mystery in the game. No, the 3 expeditions we mounted did not result in an artifact gain option. It was a random Arkham city encounter that finally did it, and by then Cthulhu awoke and a single investigator had to kill the Hydra. Then a reckoning caused her to lose 8 sanity. Playing 10 turns of EH digging for an artifact was not fun, and every other mythos was a "hard" card.

Scalable difficulty is good. Give new players time to learn the game and get a win or two, then let them ramp up the game. Alternatively, if players want it to chew them up and spit them out, let them start on the harder modes of play.

[q]4) It should make sense thematically. Helping an old lady across the street shouldn't net me a copy of the Necronomicon.


Again, how do you do this for a game that will be highly replayable? Mansions of Madness is scripted - but its weakness is the lack or replay value. Arkham and Eldritch Horror are more random, but have much greater replay value.

So, which do you want more - a game you can play over and over again, or one with a sensible narrative running through it?

Quote:
That's all I can think of, at least the major things that bother me about most current Lovecraft games.


One of the interesting notions I've heard about 'doing Lovecraft wrong' is the nature of the ancient evils. In games, players want to win so designers make mechanics that allow them to do so. However, the point of these eldritch forces that make them horrible is the notion that we are but insects to these beings. They are not malevolent per se, but we don't blink an eye at killing mosquitos or wasps - and they see humans in the same light. We are nothing to them, and can do nothing... well, beyond hope they don't stir or notice us. Thus a good game would be about keeping them from awakening or drawing their attention to our little insignificant corner of the universe, not about an epic last battle.

My response is not to say that your play style is wrong. Many like the play style you desire. I hope they make the game a bit more modular to support both our play styles - cooperative vs pseudocooperative and casual play vs extremely difficult play. I hope I've made you consider a more customizable game as a good thing over a game that is suited to your play style alone. Finally, I hope you get the elements you want out the the game.
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Laboratory
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You got right to the meat of it huh? laugh

1) I agree with you both. I find the nature of the Fantasy Flight Horror games fairly antithetical with the sorts of stories that Lovecraft wrote. That's the nature of the "getting it wrong" arguments. His stories tended to be about futility in the face of unspeakable experiences and were frequently told second or third hand to leave that wiggle room for possible exaggeration. The Horror games are really about monster combat from beginning to end. And that's fun, but it's not particularly Lovecraftian. The Dunwhich Horror has the closest example that I'm aware of, and it involves 3 terrified academics, magic from the Necronomicon, and one hunting rifle (that I don't believe is ever fired) -- and that was just to deal with a house sized invisible beast that was suppose to be the harbinger of terrible things to come.

I'd say The Dunwhich Horror is best model for a game to pursue, and I think Shadows is at the very least an admirable attempt! laugh

It's also tricky because Lovecraft stories usually end in failure of some kind. He also had an annoying reliance on twist endings, but such was the nature of horror fiction for his time. These are things that don't work well in a board game narratively or mechanically. Ultimately players want to win. Shadows allows for this. But I'm trying to tone down the nature of victory within the narrative space of the game:

No you can't kill Cthulhu, but as you cite, you might be able to stop him being woken up.

This was something that was important to me when designing Shadows. The game leans more on abstraction than the Horror games. There are two resources, Knowledge and Muscle. Knowledge is the only real weapon for the elder things in the game so far. There may be exceptions, but that has been the design principle.

2) Honestly the game is really true to co-op. The game is designed to make sure one player can't do everything. I also think that's antithetical to the theme. Lovecraft didn't glorify his victims. There's not a best victim. laugh You either stop the terrible thing from happening or it stops you.

That said we'd like to do a few smaller expansions for the game. And this might be something we pursue!

3) Honestly the goal isn't to make it super difficult, but I am hoping to make you work for it. Adjusting the length and difficulty of the game is somewhat trivial, and I'd like to include information on how to play an expert level game. That said identifying a good target difficulty based on a varying number of players is not! So that's what we're working on now, and why we've created Labrats. It's a brute force problem.

Difficulty isn't necessarily the core point of interest of the game. Changing the problems can also be interesting. The design goal is to have the different elder things introduce additional variety to the game, which I can go into more down the line.

4) This is something we've considered for sure! laugh

Also) It's worth saying that the goal isn't to replace or substitute for any of the other Lovecraft themed games out there. Shadows does a very different thing, should be reasonably quick to play, and cost much much less. It's a microgame that you will hopefully get a lot of enjoyment out of!

PS) Re: Narrative - Narrative in board games that aren't explicitly about storytelling (and even some that are!), is very hard. It's also something we think about a LOT. And this is a microgame, so we're even more restricted on space. So we're working to try and make it make sense if you want to construct it narratively, but as a board game the focus is on the systems at play.

PPS) Re: Final Encounter in the Horror games - Honestly that's a kludge. It's a clever way to give players another chance not to lose. If you look at, the actual goal of the game isn't to fight the eldritch thing, it's to seal gates. If you check out the stats, you'll see that about 15% of the registered games end with a victory over the elder thing. That means that about 65% of the time players win. If that weren't part of the game, that would mean the game was 50/50. People tend to like games more if they win more often. Though it's worth noting that the people who are submitting data are probably more hardcore than more casual players, but it's the data that's available. Regardless, I think that's why it's in there - that and it IS cool to fight Cthulhu with a machine gun, even if it doesn't make ANY sense. laugh
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Alex B
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I'd like to know more about The Dunwich Horror that you mentioned. Is that a game?

Also, I've signed up for lab rats, and am excited to help play test some games!

Thanks!
 
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Jean-Philippe Garcia Ballester
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admiral142 wrote:
I'd like to know more about The Dunwich Horror that you mentioned. Is that a game?


I think he is referring to a short story by H.P. Lovecraft (the author behind the Cthulhu Mythos). It is also the name of an extension for Arkham Horror game, and a movie.
 
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