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wout wit
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Intro

My first actual review here Own, play and enjoy most Arkham games (except Elder Signs, which seems to be too much Chtulhu Yathzee ). I played LotR for a while but the meta / deckbuilding became too much of an effort in relation to actually playing and enjoying the game. Played Pathfinder, liked the Dungeon Delving Loot idea but was disappointed in the amount of structured storytelling. So I was eagerly awaiting this one as it seemed to be a perfect mix of elements that I love in various games while fixing some issues I had with those other titles.

Gameplay

In a nutshell: I love it, but it took me two or three games to 'get' it! It’s not perfect (but let me add and emphasise: ‘yet’), partly because of the wonky distribution model, but I enjoy the (familiar Arkham) mechanics and the story-telling through the acts/agenda and location cards. You can sense that there is a lot of potential with this system and you truly feel like your exploring a specific terrain or situation, something that Mansion of Madness also truly succeeded in.

Still, on my first playthrough with the suggested starter decks (I played 2 fisted), I was a wee bit underwhelmed. I got my ass kicked and it felt unfair at times, for a large part because of my luck in drawing cards from my or the mythos deck and the chaos tokens. One of my investigators died in the last act with no victory in sight. I switched to easy mode and tried again, and then it sort of clicked.
Easy mode turned out to be a tad too easy without the -3 and -4 chits but it was because of that that I realised how customizable the gameplay and branched the campaign really was. First of all, you can ‘houserule’ the difficulty with the Chaos bag if you want (I added the -3 but skipped the brutal -4). Second of all; if you lose the first game the story can still go on!!! In fact, I think it’s been designed in a way where you maybe just shouldn’t win every investigation in each campaign. It ups the replayability by giving you different stories and outcomes.
When that dawned on me, I was able to enjoy it a lot more. Also, like with LotR, after playing a scenario once (and possibly losing), you can dive back in with some prior knowledge and adjust your strategies, maybe even tweaking your starter deck a bit.

Which brings me to the deckbuilding part. I think FFG struck a fine balance here between depth, complexity and not being too overwhelming (like LotR could be, where you often had to rebuild your whole deck for new expansions and its challenges). The level system is a clever mechanism and the decksize of 30 and max of 2 copies makes it MUCH more manageable. There seem to be less filler cards as well. Because of the smaller deck size, adding 3 or 4 new and better cards can really make a difference so I’m looking forward to future expansions and find it kind of a relief that it won’t give you too many options with each new release.

To those who feel their first playthrough was a let-down, I can only suggest to play on and not being afraid to lose the occasional game as it actually defines the story in the campaign. Yes, bad luck in drawing and grabbing Chaos tokens can screw you over but if you want you can always start over, anticipate and adjust your strategies, or use other investigators. But even if you lose a scenario, the campaign can and will still go on and the effects your initial loss had might even surprise you.

Production value

It’s FFG, it’s an Arkham game; you know it will look good! The art is great, with the Art-Deco influence and the flavour text and the writing on the scenario cards. Tokens are sturdy (double sided clue and doom is clever). The only thing I don’t like are the investigator cards you use on the locations, too small and slippery to flip over (I tap them)… I might start using mini’s from MoM instead.


Value for money (aka my take on the one or two core boxes debate)

Let me start of by saying I understand why FFG released the core set as it is, contentwise. Most people here are fanatics, but there’s a large group of people who are just getting into boardgames these days. For them, this is a great entrypoint into a LCG system. If new players don’t want to follow future expansions, I still think this box holds quite a bit a replay value in terms of different investigators and various outcomes of the scenarios. All the games I played felt different and therefore enjoyable enough.
That said, I do think the core set is slightly overpriced for what you get and I would’ve applauded FFG if they had released a smaller add-on pack of second copies of each card for the more fanatic gamers for a fair price. As it stands, if future expansions will feature ‘complete playsets’ of 2 copies it is rather silly that the base box doesn’t follow the same principle and there’s no simpler way to remedie that besides buying a 2nd core (especially when some people are already having trouble finding it in shops as it is).

Also (if I recall correctly), the fact that you can’t play Daisy and Skids because of shortage of 1 set of neutral cards is just plain stupid. Easily remedied, but plain stupid.
It’s frustrating that these choices blemish one of their biggest releases this year, especially if it could’ve been easily prevented.

So I admit that, after 6 plays, I did just order a 2nd core set. Not because I truly needed it to play and enjoy the game right now, but because I already want to dabble into deck construction without having to wait for the card pool to grow, and being ‘strong’ enough to tackle the normal difficulty better prepared (omg more replay value!!). Plus, it’s going to annoy the hell out of me if I will eventually own playsets of future expansion cards and not of the base cards

That’s my 2 cts. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try a new combination of investigators and await my 2nd core set so I can put that freaking -4 chit back in the chaos bag devil
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Mike Foley
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Good review, and I have felt the same way as you about the Lord of the Rings LCG. Hence I was apprehensive about getting into this game even though I really like the Cthulhu/Arkham games.

My biggest complaint about this game is that Fantasy Flight seems to think it's alright to manadate that players will need to buy a second base game to get a few cards ... and they're continuing that with the extension of Dunwhich Legacy. Come on FFG... why not at least offer the investigator cards as an in-house printed additional purchase option? (Who really wants an extra set of tokens and the extra mission cards which make up 80% of the box??? Talk about waste...)

And I really have to wonder who is capable of beating this game with the higher difficulty levels than Standard? Especially with the this base box of cards, as the final investigation in this set is nearly impossible to beat if you didn't clean house in the second investigation! And the box does not included enough damage to fling at the final boss before it can take you down in 1 turn!

This is better in many ways than the Lord of the Rings LCG, but once again is a deck building paralyzer. Where it just gets too difficult to appreciate if you have to sit and consider what you put in your base deck. Cause ... apparently you're not even allowed to swap cards in and out of your deck between investigations, unless you have certain talent cards!!!!

I feel like I must be missing something because these always seem to be a win by the mere luck of a card draw. It's never easy and it's not that I don't like a challenge, but my games have always been far far more losses and a start over. Why play something that you have to invent house rules to appreciate... I just don't get why this has been so popular, see so few comments about that fact???
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Scott Dockery
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One minor nitpick:

wout77 wrote:
Also (if I recall correctly), the fact that you can’t play Daisy and Skids because of shortage of 1 set of neutral cards is just plain stupid. Easily remedied, but plain stupid.


You can play Daisy and Skids. You just can't play Daisy and Roland, or any other combination of investigators with overlapping classes (which, frankly, you should probably avoid anyway unless you know what you're doing; it pays to diversify your team).
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