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Subject: Solo Play = Win! (Sort of) rss

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Christopher Lloyd
Norway
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I am both pleased and proud to record my first ever "solo" play of vanilla Arkham Horror - And I won!

Barely.

A little background first: I bought AH a few months ago after playing it at a friend's house last year. He owns all the expansions (although I suspect he's never actually got around to playing with them). I was skeptical of the game at first, but one game at his house with a group of girls and boys soon changed that - I became a believer.

So I bought the game and, being in another country far away from many other gamers, I tried a few games on my own. AH has a lot of rules, and a complex turn sequence that has to be stuck to in order to play properly, so I felt that a good understanding of the rules was essential, and running through the game on my own would help me learn them. This would also be good for when I convinced a few local friends to play.

All three of my first games ended in much the same way: I chose two to four investigators at random, dealt myself an Ancient One, set the game up, moved the pieces around the board for two or three hours, sealed a gate or two, then got bored and packed it away.

Not that I decided that I disliked the game, you understand. It was just that nothing really happened. Even with three or four investigators, I had a lot of trouble changing anything. I closed some gates, sealing some at the same time. I avoided or fought monsters, I explored other worlds. But you could have easily taken a photo of the board on one turn, and then taken another picture several turns later, and not really noticed many differences.

By lucky chance, the same friend that I visited last year held another party this year, and Arkham Horror found itself dug up from the bottom of the games chest. This time we played with five people, one investigator each. We dealt ourselves an Ancient One, set up the game, sealed a few games... then got bored and packed it away again.

It was almost 3am when we packed it up (and had been playeding since a little before midnight. We'd had a reasonable amount of success, too: Sealing five gates and with a fair chance of sealing another two in the next few turns. It was just a bit too much effort to continue. We called it a draw/near-win, and went to bed.

But I've stuck with Arkham Horror, as far as it's possible to. I'd read the forums on BBG before playing, trying to suck in as much information as I could. I do understand that, like many games where you're playing co-operatively against the game itself (c.f. Shadows over Camelot), it's a balancing act. For example, an equal amount of attention needs to be given to:

- Closing gates (to keep the monster surges at bay)
- Sealing gates (to stop the Ancient One awaking)
- Monster hunting
- Money (for buying weapons and the all-important Elder Signs)
- Mythos Rumour cards

The list goes on. Everything in the game, from allies to cash, from shops to gate trophies, plays a part.

This afternoon, with a few hours to kill, I decided to try a true solo game - One investigator vs an Ancient One. I'd read about a few such games on BBG, and it seems that the general opinion is that it's not an easy game to win. But hey, up to now I'd never finished a game on my own, so I was happy to try it...

I drew:
Carolyn Fern, with a bullwhip, holy water, two tomes and the Lore skill
Nyarlathotep

This wasn't a bad start. Nyarlathotep doesn't seem too tough, and the Psycologist is a balanced character. A pity that she never really has enough movement to sacrefice and read those tomes.

Sadly, it went all downhill from there. Fern used her holy water on the second turn to fight off a Gug, and managed to gather enough clues to enter and then seal one gate. That took around five turns. By the end of the seventh turn, the terror track was already on 2.

The problem is, with the revised rules, the monster limit in Arkham is very low, and a once you have four gates on the board (and thus four monsters), all the remaining monsters are going to the Outskirts. Two gate surges is eight monsters, and the terror track goes up. I'd been unlucky with mythos cards, getting two cards that generated two monsters straight in the streets (except they don't go into the streets, they go into the Outskirts). I'd also been lucky too, getting two mythos cards that would clear all the monsters from Downtown and Uptown streets (except there weren't any monsters there, because they were all in the Outskirts).

I tried closing gates, but it was just no use. Fern couldn't gather enough clues fast enough to seal them. She had three gate trophies and four toughness worth of monster trophies when the Curiousitie Shoppe closed and the terror track was on 7. A pity, since she'd managed to gather over $30 from the various Other World and Arkham encounters, and was eager to try to buy some Elder Signs.

It was pretty much all over. Two gate/monster surges later, the terror track hit 10, and the Doom Track was on 10. One more gate opened, and the Ancient One awoke.

Now this wasn't all bad. I've played around six games of AH now, but have never fought a final battle. Caroline Fern entered the final battle with the following (amongst other less useful items:

2 clue tokens, Voice of Ra, dynamite, lore skill, 1 ally and Blessed.

Not too shabby, really. Maybe she stood a chance.

Now Fern can restore one sanity to herself each turn, and she only needed a total of 11 successes to win. That sanity restoration and her high lore (even without a skill to boost it) gives her an excellent chance of casting Voice of Ra every turn (effectively for free), and naturally she did so.

She'd been lucky to pick up the dynamite after passing a rumour card by sacreficing an ally in the last turn. Using Voice of Ra, the dynamite and with her fight at maximum (4), she got 4 successes on the first turn of the final battle. She also had to defeat Nyarlathotep's special attack, taking lore tests (on +1, then on 0 on the second turn, -1 on the third turn, and so on). Still, with a lore of 5, and two clue token to burn, she made it through six rounds of fighting.

Fern isn't much of a fighter. With her fight value at maximum against Nyarlathotep, she has an overall fight of zero. Luckily she was still using that bullwhip, and the Voice of Ra gave her a total of two combat dice per round.

Six rounds of fighting later, and she was down to one clue token and one doom token left on Nyarlathotep's card. The seventh turn, she rolled a single success for her combat check and it was all over. She'd won.

What a game! Soloing IS hard. That rules for spawning monsters equal to the number of gates is nasty (and I can't understand why they put it into the revised edition). The terror track went all the way to the limit, and I felt very disheartened after the Curiousitie Shoppe closed - My chances of getting an Elder Sign were doomed.

Looking back over the game, I know I made only a few minor mistakes (forgetting to include a monster in the skies as being in Arkham, and forgetting that I could use the bullwhip to re-roll a combat die). A tough game, but enjoyable.

L.

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Gordon Adams
United Kingdom
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Christopher, as you rightly say: soloing IS hard, but I must be a masochist because I keep on coming back to it time and again .I have only won when I had at least three other characters with me.


Regards.
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Eric Miller
Australia
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Good report, Keep up the solo effort. I only ever play Solo as after 2 games I haven't been able to entice the other half back into it. I always play with 3 investigators. I have all expansion other than Kingsport - and yes it will come and have played them all - though so far I only add one at a time. It's a great game for soloing
 
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Christopher Lloyd
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Whilst it's true that I won, I don't really think that a solo investigator has much of a chance of closing six gates to win. There's just too many things going on at one time. I can't imagine a single investigator being able to play with the expansion board in play - The Dunwich and Innsmouth tracks (the horror and the deep ones rising) would quickly reach their limit.

If a single investigator is in play, the best chance they have, it seems to me, is to try to stockpile as many weapons and the required tokens (clues, monster trophies, gate tokens, etc) to survive the attacks of whichever Ancient One is in play.

L.
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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Luge wrote:
If a single investigator is in play, the best chance they have, it seems to me, is to try to stockpile as many weapons and the required tokens (clues, monster trophies, gate tokens, etc) to survive the attacks of whichever Ancient One is in play.

L.


If you do random GOOs, what happens when you draw Azathoth devil ?
 
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Matthew Giglia
United States
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AH is fantastic solo. I ussually play with two investigaors when I do. Luckily for me, my friends also happen to love playing AH so we get a game in about twice a month, four players, one investigator per player.
 
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