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Subject: Move over Sherlock, Professor Armitage Has Got This. rss

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Raf Cordero
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Bolingbrook
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There’s something strange going on in Arkham, Massachusetts.

I guess that isn’t particularly notable. I should say that there is something stranger going on in Akrham, Massachusetts. This fictional town has seen more than its fair share of oddities, horror, and gloom ever since H.P. Lovecraft wrote about it in The Picture in the House. Now 8th Summit invites you to visit Arkham yourself and help Professor Armitage figure out just what is happening in this not-so-sleepy town.

Mythos Tales is a game of deduction and mystery. There’s no board to move pieces on or gigantic Cthulhu miniatures to gawk at. The gameplay resides where Lovecraft’s horror does: in your mind. The game is a series of investigations. You and your friends take on the role of Professor Armitage’s assistant tasked with helping the good professor investigate the weird goings-on in town. People are going missing or dying, sentient books are being abducted, and strange things are going bump in the night.


The tools of the trade.



If you’ve already played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, then Mythos Tales is basically that game but better. With creepy cults. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. The game system is similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure Encyclopedia Brown story. Professor Armitage will set the stage for a case. Perhaps a strange death has been discovered, or someone broke in somewhere they shouldn’t be. He’ll provide you some basic information and give you a few leads. From there, you’re on your own. You’ll investigate locations and people by reading story paragraphs out of the Case Book before attempting to answer 10 questions at the end of each case. As you can see in the above picture, locations are designated by letter and number combos. Creepy McCultyface might have been spotted at a cafe located at U47. To investigate, turn to that paragraph in the case book.

The stories spun in Mythos Tales are something Lovecraft would be proud of. The mythos has fallen prey in the past years to tommy guns and plush Cthulhus, but there is none of that to be found. The denizens of Arkham are facing unthinkable horrors and it’s possible for your investigator to lose points at the end simply for coming face to face with assorted monsters. A suspenseful tension is woven throughout the game, not just because of the time limit or the mechanical restrictions, but because the story itself puts your character at danger. Your character will be poisoned, attacked, and asked to take drugs to slip into an alternate dimension. It’s creepy and moody which is what a Lovecraft story should be.

I do have some issues with the Consulting Detective system. I don’t love the base list of people you may or may not need and how you have to be careful to not let your eyes wander while you read a paragraph. However, those 10 solution questions are my biggest frustration. You don’t know what they are when you start the case; instead they are given at the end. In some cases, it’s easy. If you’re investigating a murder then it’s common sense to write down the names of the murderers, the weapons they used, and where they did it. It’s not so clear which side paths or characters are relevant or red herrings and it can be frustrating when the questions at the end ask you about something tangential to the main case. Few games are as much about the journey as this system of games, but that doesn’t change the deflated feeling at the end when you find out that you solved the case but still scored low. You’re encouraged to play again to improve your score, now armed with knowledge of what the questions are. I don’t find it any less enjoyable to know the questions ahead of time so why aren’t they provided at the beginning?



Take notes. Lots of notes.


Some of the new innovations that Mythos Tales brings fall into the trap of being interesting but potentially deflating as well. Chief among them are the Requirement Cards. At various times in your investigations, a character will share a particularly juicy piece of information and the game will instruct you to grab a numbered Requirement Card. At a (hopefully later) time in the case, you’ll receive additional information if you have the appropriately numbered card. At times, these are excellent. You’ll feel particularly clever when a Card gives up additional information. On the other, it’s frustrating to read about a card you don’t have and it rips you out of the story like an angry Shoggoth.

Suddenly, the excellent mystique is gone. You’ve gained some bit of meta knowledge and are forced to sadly look at your hastily scrawled notes and wonder which lead you should have done first. It’s not necessarily that you’ve been tricked or led down the wrong path, it’s just that you did things slightly out of order. Mythos Tales does an excellent job of putting you into character. The world or Arkham is brought to life by the high quality prose and fantastic illustrations. These moments just stick out like a sore thumb. In one case, the Requirement Card represents a key you’ve found that gives you access to a home. In character, I’d probably just break into a house I’m interested in while investigating – it’d be the least illegal thing done that in Arkham that night. Instead, Raf-the-Player has to advance the time tracker and dig around before coming back. The cards simultaneously provide branching options but force linearity to the solution not present in the original.

Overall however, they’re an improvement and Mythos Tales is a better game than Sherlock Holmes. The stories are tighter, the newspapers more fun to read, and – most importantly – all the cases feel like they can be solved on wit alone. There is almost no crying bull**** on your omniscient investigative partner when reading the solution. On top of that, getting to the bottom of cultish human sacrifices in Arkham is far more enjoyable than solving humdrum political murders in London. I’ve also found the stories to be more replayable. Mythos Tales' solutions come naturally and as a result of playing like a detective. Sherlock’s come from figuring out some clever “trick”. Because of this, it takes me less time to forget the right path in Arkham. I’ve already played the 1st case three times and I’ve enjoyed all three plays equally.

If Sherlock Holmes isn’t your style of game, then Mythos Tales isn’t likely to make you want to don an investigators cloak and stalk the dim streets of Arkham. If your childhood, like mine, is littered with battered copies of Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure books then this game can’t be missed. It’s smart, it makes you feel smart, and it invokes an eerie atmosphere like few Lovecraftian games on the market. Professor Armitage has told me additional cases are on the horizon. I’ll be here, sitting at the Speakeasy (D21) and nursing bad coffee waiting to return to Arkham when they get here.

___
This review was originally posted on Ding & Dent! A list of my reviews that you can subscribe to can be found here.
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Will Kenyon
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How have I missed this?

Thank you so much, Rafael!
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Raf Cordero
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willok wrote:
How have I missed this?

Thank you so much, Rafael!


So many good games coming out these days! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy it!
 
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Paul S
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Nice review Raf. I'm trying to resist this, and you're not helping laugh
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Will Kenyon
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Beloch wrote:
Nice review Raf. I'm trying to resist this, and you're not helping laugh


You should totally cave.
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Raf Cordero
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willok wrote:
Beloch wrote:
Nice review Raf. I'm trying to resist this, and you're not helping laugh


You should totally cave.


Totally!

Thanks Paul
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