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Subject: A lot of frustration, but not ready to give up (score 7.5) rss

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Bruno Pigeon
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Bought Arkham horror last year. I like Lovecraft stories, and my girlfriend, my main gaming partner, really like horror movies. So with all the reviews saying how good this game is, despite the difficulty and fiddliness, I decided to buy it.

Reading the rules for the first time, I realized it was not going to be easy to learn to play by myself. But knowing my girlfriend doesn't like games too much, I cannot ask her to read and learn the rules. Getting her to play is hard enough already.

The first game was a mess. I kept looking in the rulebook, forgetting half the rules, forgetting to roll every turn to keep the bonus card. Forgetting to check the number of monsters and a lot of things. But, my girlfriend liked it anyway and she saw the potential of the game, so she was willing to play it again.

The next three games, it was getting better and better, I was finally getting the rules right, forgetting less and less things and finally starting to "play".

And then, last night was the fatal fifth game. Girlfriend wanted a quick game, so I chose Yig. And it all started to fall apart pretty quickly. I began to realize a few things and my girfriend too. Knew the rules almost perfectly and rarely needed to check in the rulebook.

The first half hour, it was great. Gates were opening everywhere, monsters numbers were growing, terror track rising and Yig on the verge of wakening (9 out of 10 elder sign or whatever the name). And at that moment I realised a lot of things. We had something like 7 gates opened. Since in the mythos deck, some locations gets a gate more often than other, we had a monster surge every turn. And the monster surge is one of the most fiddly and annoying part of the game for me.

Typical mythos phase: A gate appears in the woods. Oops, there is already a gate there, so it's a monster surge. You need to count the number of gates open. Since the board is so busy, it is harder than it sounds. Grab as much monster from the bag and now count if the number of monster in play exceed the limit. If so, put the monster over this limit in the outskirts. Now does the number of monsters in the outskirts exceed the limit? If so put those monsters back in the bag and raise the terror track by one. Next remove an ally from the deck and maybe close a store. Next, put a clue on the location specified by the card... oops, there's a gate, so no clue for this turn. Now move the monsters. Okay do we have triangles? Yes, they move on the black arrow. Oops, no this monster is red so it move twice, and this one is blue, so, is there an investigator in the street, no, so he goes to the sky. Oops, this one is green. Read the back to find out what special move he does and blablabla. Next, there's a rumour on the card. Ok, it says put a event marker in that street. Put five monsters on it. And every turn you need to add one until you reach that number and if so then move terror track to....

And that is the first thing that began to annoy me deeply. The playing part of the game (phase 2 to 4, moving and having encounters) is over in something like 30 seconds for us. But the annoying mythos phase takes from 2 to 5 minutes each turn. So most of the time you are working, counting, placing counters, putting some back in the tray. Also if you get many events, the rules of the game change almost every turn. One turn, it's the ghouls that's got a bonus, next turn, a new event says it's the speed tests that are lowered by one, and the next it's the will test that gets a bonus and etc etc. After 6 or 7 turns like this, my brain felt like it wanted to go on strike.

Seeing this, we decided to drop most of the mythos phase. We put a monster on each opened gate. Put a clue where the card specified and forgot about moving monsters, events, news and rumour. And the game was much more enjoyable. It gave us more time to explore Arkham, instead of running around like crazies, collecting clues and trying to seal gates before the old one awakened. I love tension in a game, but I also want to explore a bit. What's the use of having interesting locations if I can't visit them if we want to have a small chance to win?

Then I saw the second flaw. We were on the brink of waking the GOO, and it never happened. At first, gates were opening like crazy, and then, it stopped. We stayed at seven for the rest of the game. No more gates were appearing. I know that if we used the monster surge rule, we would have quickly lost, but it's so fiddly and annoying, I couldn't bring myself to put it back in.

And after something like 20 turns later, I saw yet another flaw. It was fun at first to explore and have encounters, but nothing good will come out of it. Most of the encounters are bad. Almost 90% of the time, you gain nothing. In fact most of the time, you'll lose sanity or health. So the fun part of the game, exploring, is not fun after all.

Finally, I realized, after 5 plays, that this game is not for us. I guess we would have much more fun with Talisman (too bad I sold my second edition a few years ago), a game where half the fun is exploring and finding stuff, the other half is laughing at the other players for drawing the demon, or a dragon... Too bad the girlfriend won't play it, since she wants a horror theme. Maybe I should build my own Talisman game, with a Cthulhu theme...

Yeah, I know it is not much of a review, but I felt I had to explain why a game with so much potential failed to entertain us in the end.

EDIT 13th june 2013: See my second take here: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/991110/five-years-with-arkha...
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Stephan Rasmussen
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
I cringed when I read how you handled playing this game...
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Volker Hirscher
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
After having player dozens of games of AH, the mythos phase goes very fast for us. In fact, it is the most exciting part. But you are right, those monster surges can be fiddly. I'm quite sure you won't, but I suggest trying Dunwich Horror in addition. It adds a lot to the game without making it that more complicated. And it solves the some apsects of the fiddliness, because there are more locations that open and thus you will overcome the annoying phenomenon "fast in the beginning, slow at the end" (anticlimax). For us, Dunwich was the best buy in the series!
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Todd Redden
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
It's a game you have to REALLY LOVE in order to have the motivation to play it much. I've found that unless I choose to play Arkham Horror all the time, that I loose awareness of the fiddly rules and have to rely on someone else to remember everything that needs to be done during play. I'd rather not have to read the rules again every time. So, I really like the game when I play it with someone who REALLY LOVES it and can drive it along, but I am unlikely to attempt playing with a group that doesn't have a die-hard Arkham Horror fan present.
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James Turner
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
I suggest trying out A Touch of Evil. It's lighter than Arkham but deep in its own way (offers a competitive mode, and an expansion doubles the size of the (smallish) board and adds a bunch of new encounters, solo rules, and coop difficulty tweaks). There's even a Villain in the expansion that, according to reports, makes the game play a lot like a simplified Arkham (gates opening everywhere, etc.) The mood is Gothic Horror, like Sleepy Hollow, and there's a col mechanic whereby you investigate the Town Elders and learn their secrets. Some of them might be working for the Villain... and some of them might be controlling the Villain, or might even BE the Villain!

I played both games last night, and while I lost against A Touch of Evil, I had a good time. There's still some fiddlyness in the Mystery (Mythos) phase, but it plays a lot faster, and there aren't Outskirts, Flying Monsters, Shop Closings and the like to keep track of.

A Touch of Evil seems to have a sweet spot at around 2 characters, where it starts to get a lot easier after that. The Expansion (Something Wicked) adds some difficulty, though, and you could always play competitive (race to see who can kill the Villain first) or in teams (coop with your teammate, competitive against the other team).

I'm enjoying Arkham enough, but most nights I prefer to crack open A Touch of Evil and spend an hour and a half fighting evil, rather than 4 hours.
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Simon Dunkley
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
I can understand your frustration with Arkham, its not for everyone the book keeping is fiddly the pressure the game loads onto the players is immense. I still constantly have to refer to the rule book and Q+A forums after many plays, having said this I do like the game very much indeed.

May I suggest a Horror themed game which just hits the spot for exploration, theme/atmosphere and ease of play, check out A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game
You can play this game against each other or as co-op (my preferred way)
This is one of my favourite games ever made.
Plays great solo.
Good gaming!

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Bruno Pigeon
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Thanks for the suggestion. I've been wondering for a while if I should play A touch of evil instead if AH. But there is also Witch of Salem and Fury of Dracula that seems interesting. Not sure which way to go. And I can't afford to buy every game I want to try...
 
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Russell InGA
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
From your description of your last play, I hate the game!

AH is a game that REQUIRES a "professional" Game Master / Player! Monster Surges are easy (once you really know how to do them!)

Read -> Practice -> Play -> Read -> Practice
REPEAT!

-----------------------------------------

You're gaming situation is not really conducive to learning to play this well. If you decide to give it another go, solitaire it with three investigators. When you get bored, quit. Do this again & again & again!
 
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Jason Ober
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
super_bruno wrote:
Typical mythos phase: A gate appears in the woods. Oops, there is already a gate there, so it's a monster surge. You need to count the number of gates open. Since the board is so busy, it is harder than it sounds. Grab as much monster from the bag and now count if the number of monster in play exceed the limit. If so, put the monster over this limit in the outskirts. Now does the number of monsters in the outskirts exceed the limit? If so put those monsters back in the bag and raise the terror track by one. Next remove an ally from the deck and maybe close a store. Next, put a clue on the location specified by the card... oops, there's a gate, so no clue for this turn. Now move the monsters. Okay do we have triangles? Yes, they move on the black arrow. Oops, no this monster is red so it move twice, and this one is blue, so, is there an investigator in the street, no, so he goes to the sky. Oops, this one is green. Read the back to find out what special move he does and blablabla. Next, there's a rumour on the card. Ok, it says put a event marker in that street. Put five monsters on it. And every turn you need to add one until you reach that number and if so then move terror track to....


That's one of the things that killed Arkham for me. It was hard to suspend disbelief while you figured all that crap out.

The thing that made me go crazy was the combat, though. I was hoping for something more cooperative. Something that was like 2 heroes cornered in a building: "One of us has to get out of here, and get this to the gate in order to save humanity! You're faster than I am; I'll distract the beast with my tommy gun, and you make a break for it! That's our only hope. Tell my family.... tell them that I love them, and I finally died a hero."

Instead, one hero runs out, gets eaten, monster comes back to full strength, hero number 2 runs out and gets eaten. Or you hunker down waiting for the monster to move. And wait. And wait.

This is in my list of top 10 disappointments.
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Rauli Kettunen
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
super_bruno wrote:
The first half hour, it was great. Gates were opening everywhere, monsters numbers were growing, terror track rising and Yig on the verge of wakening (9 out of 10 elder sign or whatever the name). And at that moment I realised a lot of things. We had something like 7 gates opened. Since in the mythos deck, some locations gets a gate more often than other, we had a monster surge every turn. And the monster surge is one of the most fiddly and annoying part of the game for me.


Well, having 7 gates open to me means the investigators have been twiddling their thumbs and not doing their job.

Quote:
Typical mythos phase: A gate appears in the woods. Oops, there is already a gate there, so it's a monster surge. You need to count the number of gates open. Since the board is so busy, it is harder than it sounds.


Or you could just know the number, so no need to check, you've kept tabs on the gates that have opened and have been closed/sealed. If you play 1 investigator each, not that much to keep track of, I solo with 4 investigators and still keep my head wrapped around things like monster limit, # of gates open, etc.

Quote:
Also if you get many events, the rules of the game change almost every turn. One turn, it's the ghouls that's got a bonus, next turn, a new event says it's the speed tests that are lowered by one, and the next it's the will test that gets a bonus and etc etc. After 6 or 7 turns like this, my brain felt like it wanted to go on strike.


You only have max 1 Rumor, 1 Environment and 1 Headline in play at the same time. That's three things max to keep track of with regard to Mythos cards.

Quote:
It gave us more time to explore Arkham, instead of running around like crazies, collecting clues and trying to seal gates before the old one awakened. I love tension in a game, but I also want to explore a bit. What's the use of having interesting locations if I can't visit them if we want to have a small chance to win?


2+2 investigators allows some more freedom in exploring. Personally, I'm all about the nitty-gritty, which is a reason I hate KH (which I don't even have), which is a board of almost never-ending repetition of: encounter at stable location, encounter at stable location, encounter at stable snore somebody wake me when something else comes up.

Quote:
And after something like 20 turns later, I saw yet another flaw. It was fun at first to explore and have encounters, but nothing good will come out of it. Most of the encounters are bad. Almost 90% of the time, you gain nothing. In fact most of the time, you'll lose sanity or health. So the fun part of the game, exploring, is not fun after all.


Must have shuffled those encounters pretty poorly. Of course, base game only has 7 card per neighborhood, maxed out with all expansion you have 35. Checking the Newspaper in the base game, it has 1 bad encounter, 4 purely positive and 2 where you can gain stuff with a check, with no negative for failing a check.
 
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Bruno Pigeon
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Quote:
Well, having 7 gates open to me means the investigators have been twiddling their thumbs and not doing their job.


And that's exactly one of my point. You just can't take some time to explore and visit Arkham. You have to maximize your moves and action, or else... But since what me and my girlfriend enjoy is discovering and exploring, I guess AH is not for us.

Quote:
Or you could just know the number, so no need to check, you've kept tabs on the gates that have opened and have been closed/sealed. If you play 1 investigator each, not that much to keep track of, I solo with 4 investigators and still keep my head wrapped around things like monster limit, # of gates open, etc.


Yes, taking just this small things, alone, it seems easy. But my point is that there is usually so much to keep track off, that I lose track of everything. Not the fault of the game, it's entirely mine.

 
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Patrick Riley
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
rules_heretic wrote:
If you decide to give it another go, solitaire it with three investigators. When you get bored, quit. Do this again & again & again!


When I get bored with a game, I don't want to play it again (much less again & again).

Our group had a much better experience with Pandemic and Red November. Though we lost at first, the game was interesting and short enough that we could replay it two or three times in an evening. I don't have the time, space, or interest to practice AH.

Later, I soured on co-op games because they feel too much like my day job. Though not on a scale of AH and Pandemic, I deal with various crises by collaborating with my coworkers to find a resolution via email, conference calls, and meetings. We decide on a plan of action and execute it. And this is exactly how my gaming group tackles cooperative games. Boring.
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Paul Leigh
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
You only want to be going to unstable locations to harvest clue tokens, or maybe you think your tough enough to face whatever comes. Hypnos from Kingsport can make some unstable locations a must visit area for a short period.

If you are trying encounters just for fun and flavour, the stable locations are obviously much less likely to hurt you and may benefit you in a variety of ways.

The book keeping aspect of AH is a big factor when working out whether this game is for you or not. If you don't like fiddly games, this is not going to be your thing. However, once you get familiar with the game and the structure of each phase, the phases fly by effortlessly. Most mythos cards in our games are resolved in well under a minute. The only cards that will definitely take long are rumours and they are rare and nasty. Your game sounds like it lasted for 30 or so rounds. Is that right? If so, that is definitely too long 15-20 rounds is our average.
 
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Bruno Pigeon
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Well I didn't count the number of rounds (not another thing to keep track of? The horror! The horror!). I just gave a number based on what the game felt like. Don't take it to be an exact number. And since we cheated pretty badly in the end, I guess the game must have lasted longer than it normally should.

Since we're only played 5 games, and you don't get much opportunity to visit Arkham normally, we haven't figured out yet which location is better and which to avoid... I'm not sure I want to invest so much time in it though. I did hope the game would get more interesting with time, but as somebody else said, if I find it boring now, I am not inclined to play it again & again.

And I won't invest in an expansion for the small chance that the game will get better. For me an expansion should expand the fun you already have, not turn something you hate into something you like.
 
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Ken Newell
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Try printing out Universal Head's condensed rules. They are terrific and really helped me deal with those fiddly little bits that you mention.

Especially the last 2 pages where he has added a really nice mat that helps with the Mythos phase. The last page with the revised pages for the board on the Terror Track and the Outskirts was terrific.

We use extra skill markers sliders to mark on those boards the "Gates Open to Final Battle", "Max Monsters in Arkham", Max Monsters in Outskirts", etc and we do it on the mat as well as the replacement board. I laminated them and they work perfectly on the board and help us from having to really think about much. Just look at the board and you know where you stand and what you need.

For some printed paper it might be worthwhile to print and try it out to help you with the $$ you spent on the game.

EDIT: Here's the link to the file on BGG: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/22286
 
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Just want to say that I have liked this game so far. But after reading your review, I'm not so sure anymore. You bring very valid points. This game is very very fiddly. I need to brush up on the rules every time I play, which is every 2 months on average. Also I did get the DH expansion because the base game felt incomplete to me with so few encounter cards, and too easy with so few unstable locations. DH makes it much better balanced, and just a tad more fiddly.

Anyway nice review.

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Mark Bigney
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Yeah, AH is a bit of a hot mess. I can definitely see where you're coming from.
I do find it amusing that the common reply from many is, "just keep playing this 3+ hour game over and over, you'll learn the rules eventually". I don't find that especially compelling.
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Kevin Outlaw
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
I certainly wouldn't suggest you keep on bashing your head against this game if you don't like it. I rate it a 9 and it is one of my favourite games, but really, if you aren't enjoying a game, why keep beating a dead horse at 3+ hours a time?? Life's too short.

Some people here have recommended Touch of Evil. I posted a review of that game which was pretty negative, so you might want to check that out for an opposing view of the positive comments this game receives. It really wasn't any fun for me, and there is still a fair amount of "book-keeping" with tokens. For example, when you draw a card in the Mystery face you will quite often get a card that says something like roll on the minion chart to generate a monster, now draw three random location cards, put one of the monsters you generated and some clue tokens on each of the three locations drawn. It's by no means as fiddly as Arkham Horror, but it is something to be aware of.

You might like Fury of Dracula - works very nicely with just two people and has some really fun mechanics (another 9 for me).

All the best.
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Craig Stewart
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
mavo wrote:
But you are right, those monster surges can be fiddly.


To speed that up, we pull out stands for the number of monsters allowed on the board. No stand, to the outskirts with you. Then there's only the outskirts number to remember.

And we always pull the rumours out of the deck for games less than four players.

Want good encounters, try the train station.
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Bruno Pigeon
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Girlfriend wanted to play again, and since she's not really a gamer, I couldn't refuse. She never asks to play a game

Following some suggestions, we used 4 investigators instead of 2. It was more interesting. We got much less monster surge and had a bit more time to explore and investigate. Most of the time, I didn't forget much, mainly effects of mythos cards on rolls, but that's about it. However, the game took about 3.5 hours, and was getting a bit boring after two hours. We were quite sure we would win, but the last gates were a pain to seal. So it took about 1.5 hour longer to really finish the game.

Not sure yet if I really enjoy it or not.
 
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Brian M
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
I agree with the suggestions of playing two investigators each (two players with 2 investigators each is, IMHO, the best way to play Arkham). Its still going to be a bit of a fiddly game no matter what though. Some things you may want to try to speed up the game a bit:

Don't shuffle the decks little decks. Just cut to a random spot and take the card from there; keep a separate discard pile' instead of placing cards on the bottom.

Get into a good routine of making use of both players in the movement phase. Resolve each card in a consistent order. So, player 1 draws the card and reads "Gate at the Woods"; player 2 has already grabbed a gate token and now puts it at the woods. Player 1 then reads "Clue at Black Cave" and player 2 is ready to put it out.

For monsters, use similar habits. Rather than trying to look at each monster and check to see if it moves, read "Circle, Triangle, Star move black", then scan the board for those symbols. Now do the same for move white.

Take simultaneous turns, especially the upkeep phase. If there's a case where one player needs to fight a monster before another can move, resolve that in order, but otherwise it usually won't matter.

If you are disliking the way the base game plays, you might try the variant I posted here. It's been pretty popular.

If you want a good horror themed cooperative game, I don't recommend A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game. However, I strongly recommend Witch of Salem or Ghost Stories. Both are excellent games. Witch of Salem has a very similar theme to Arkham, but its much faster and more streamlined. Its less an experience game and much more of a challenging experience. You could also try the Print-n-Play Route Z.

For non-cooperative horror games, Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game is a lot of fun.

Good luck finding a game you like!
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Bruno Pigeon
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Seems like I have 3 possible replacement for Arkham:
A touch of evil
Fury of Dracula
Witch of Salem

I only wish I could try those games before making a choice, but I don't know anybody who owns one of those games...

And I so much regret having sold my Talisman, that was a bad move...
 
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Brian M
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Note that Fury of Dracula is a more normal competitive game. I don't know if you care or not, but since you seem to be mentioning a lot of cooperatives I don't know if that's a criteria or not.
 
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Bruno Pigeon
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
No, coop is not really a criteria. What's more important is the horror theme, that each character is different, and that you can equip your character.

That's why I thought it would be cool if they made Talisman but with a Cthulhu theme...
 
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Brian M
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Re: I wanted so much to like it, but I don't
Ok, in that case Witch of Salem probably doesn't meet your criteria - you don't get to "advance" your character, and characters aren't distinctive.

I still think Last Night on Earth might be good though.
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