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Subject: How much horror? rss

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Max Lampinen
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I'm pretty hardcore eurogamer but lately my wife has expressed interest in getting more co-op games. We already have the 'obvious' accessible ones (Flash Point, Pandemic) and some fantasy themed ones (Legends of Andor, Mice and Mystics). They aren't that far from euros though (apart from Mice and Mystics) so it's quite a step to Arkham Horror. We don't really play Ameritrash at all, beside those games we only own War of the Ring (too confrontational) and have tried Mage Knight. Arkham Horror seems like a pretty epic adventure game with good replayability, but despite extensive research I'm still on the fence.

I guess the biggest "problem" is the theme, how much horror is there? I don't watch/read horror at all, I'd like to approach the game as an adventure (like.. bit spookier Indiana Jones?), but will there be loads of gory details/cards, some pictures or text that could feel disgusting? Hard to tell from BGG pictures. Second "problem" is, how well has it aged? 8 years is quite long time in boardgame world, only 3-4 games that old still get regular play from me, would this be another? Will it feel old? I don't mind fiddly if it doesn't feel dated.

Next month our gaming budget would allow base game+first expansion (and maybe Elder Sign while we're at it) so that's what we'd get and maybe the other big expansion later.
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Read this review, it really nails it:

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/10/23/cardboard-childre...

Jorune
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Jon Simpson
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Theres bugger all horror to be honest. Bit spooky and mysterious. No graphic descriptions of gore etc. Hope that helps. RATED PG
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Martin (Hairy) Hatfield
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This sounds to me like a perfect case of try before you buy, as it is some way out of your normal fare.

It's not gruesome or gory, but like Lovecraft's stories, the horror is of the unsettling or disturbing kind.

I wonder how you would get on if you are completely unaware of the Cthulu mythos.

for Indiana Jones type stuff you may be better off looking at Fortune and Glory? Or the Adventures? (Oh hang on, don't think they're co-op)
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max_s wrote:


I guess the biggest "problem" is the theme, how much horror is there? I don't watch/read horror at all, I'd like to approach the game as an adventure (like.. bit spookier Indiana Jones?), but will there be loads of gory details/cards, some pictures or text that could feel disgusting? Hard to tell from BGG pictures. Second "problem" is, how well has it aged? 8 years is quite long time in boardgame world, only 3-4 games that old still get regular play from me, would this be another? Will it feel old? I don't mind fiddly if it doesn't feel dated.

Next month our gaming budget would allow base game+first expansion (and maybe Elder Sign while we're at it) so that's what we'd get and maybe the other big expansion later.


The difficulty of the game is akin to Mage Knight. So if you were good at absorbing those rules, you will be fine here. You WILL want to download the rules summary by Universal Head. They really make the game flow.

I could totally see you approach this game as a supernatural version of Indiana Jones type game and I think it would work just fine. Little gore OR gory details.

I picked up the first edition when it first came out and had problems getting past the rules, so I stored the game away. I recently brought it out back in December and, with the rules summary, played through it. I have played it about 5 times since, and would be more if I weren't so busy (I play solo with 4 investigators). So I would say it has aged well. They keep re-printing the game so people are buying it. If you look at my collection, you will see I am no stranger to new or old games. It will not feel old.

Jorune
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David Jones
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I am an exceptionally squeamish person, but I have no problem with this game. People disappear but you're not told how. Some of the horror is more along the lines of "I can't beleive the universe really works this way!" Its more akin to suspense than gore (i.e. Blair Witch). Still, I agree with the try before you buy sentiment. Its a popular enough game it should be easy to find somebody at your FLGS that is willing to show it to you.

fearoffours wrote:
for Indiana Jones type stuff you may be better off looking at Fortune and Glory? Or the Adventures? (Oh hang on, don't think they're co-op)


I thought Fortune and Glory had a co-op variant where its the team vs the nazis. (Didn't like the game, so I could easily be wrong.)
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John "Omega" Williams
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Out of all the HPL works there is I think only two with any actual visceral horror to them. Dreams in the Witch House and Lurking Fear. Otherwise Lovecraft's horror is more a creeping dread, things half seen and more suspected than ever confronted. Then there were the cosmic horrors where people encounter things so alien that they risk madness.

AH is essentially the Call of Cthulhu RPG as a board game. The players are a liiiiitle better armed, likely still doomed, but they have at least a chance. Maybee. Indiana Jones with alot more supernatural.
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Eðvarð Hilmarsson
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Its horror from a different era, we grow up on TV so we expect horror to be very graphic.

Arkham is based on the writing of H.P. Lovecraft (and affiliated works).

The "horror" is mostly in how unsettling it would be to wake up one day and realize that our world is nestled on the edge of a very dark abyss. Beings from outside our reality and time can creep into our world and we can not even begin to understand their motivation.

Its a psychological thing, spells are real but they belong to the realm of madness. Insane cults worship beings that no mortal man could fathom and the physical manifestations of these strange creatures can rip a mortal man to shreds if engaged directly.

The board game itself is not all that graphic, it leaves it to your imagination what it would be like to encounter a shapeless thing from another dimension (and then docks your characters sanity appropriately).
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Brian Mc Cabe
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The ideal way to play Arkham would be in full-on roll-playing mode. I've never done it and don't know of any group that does, but it would still shine.

In some encounters, your investigators will stumble upon the dead; but, there's no graphic description of what happened. A few have been "ripped to shreds", but this is more to indicate why a certain negative impact is being felt by the investigator.

If you use your imagination, the monsters would be terribly horrific; but, when it comes to that, they're just cardboard chits, and even the artwork doesn't invoke fear or loathing.

Brian
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Max Lampinen
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Thanks for all the replies so far.

Try before you buy is hard to arrange for me (we have a small boy so most of my gaming is done at home right now, I know that many people in nearby clubs do own the game though so.. maybe). That would probably be smart thing to do though. Even many people who like the game seem to have issues with one thing or another. But there are die-hard fans too, that's always a good sign.

Reason I'm looking at this despite being euro guy is that there isn't any interesting euros coming out in May now that Rftg expansion and Roll for the Galaxy got delayed, so I felt drawn to increasing our co-op collection. But there are surprisingly few co-op games out there that don't seem disposable, I don't like to buy games that I feel like selling after few weeks. 8-year old game that still gets played must have something great about it I thought and got over my initial reservations. Now I'm getting over the rest.. it's very tempting.

It's hard to decide. I read the game description to my wife and she said it sounds "intriguing". We both enjoy dry euros but this could be a nice change, another exception besides Mice and Mystics which she became instant fan of (I suspect that's partly because of all the animal books she has read as a child though and not so much due to roachslaying so I don't know).
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Steve Gamer
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If you just focus on the mechanic, it can be boring but if you get into the mythos it is merely maddening in a delightfully literal sense. If you don't know the Lovecraftian Mythos both original and modern, it can be helpful to read at least a few of the best known stories or better yet listen to some of the great recordings that can be found by searching You Tube. My family group really gets into role playing and are very passionate about it all. Often with Nox Arcana Necronomicon playing in the background just for effect. (1920's Jazz also fits the era the game is set in if that is more to your taste.) The most important phase of gameplay is upkeep when we all discuss what we plan to do that turn to make sure everything is working together.

Do expect to be regularly checking rules the first few games. The rules do have a good index and many of the most important points are on the back cover for easy referral. There are also some good player aids in the file section here and a very useful FAQ on Fantasy Flight Games website. If you don't mind being devoured by a Great Old One on a regular basis you will love the game.
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Ruben Rigillo
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I suggest you to buy it.
And you MUST read some Lovecraft's novels!
Dagon, The Mask from Innsmouth, The Call od Cthulhu and, I like 'em so much, The Music of Eric Zahn and the Terrible Old Man and The statement of Howard Carter....and and and....
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John "Omega" Williams
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Check the AH wiki or the gallery here for images of the cards and text. Will help you get an idea of what its like.
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Gert Meyer
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Agree with all the posters above. The horror in AH does not come from gory details, but rather the realization that the world as we know is merely a tiny speck of island floating atop a deep, dark ocean of pure evil and chaos, just waiting to flood in.

That is why the concept of sanity is so core to the game. The more you know, the worse off you are (in some ways).

By the way, another potential co-op missing from your list is Ghost Stories. While also horror themed, it is quite cartoonish and there is no card text with grizzly details or anything like that.
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Yes, also in agreeance with the above posts, the type of horror the game deals with is that of desperation, futility, the surreal and creeping unease, rather than the gore angle. As I've said in other posts, I don't think the game really captures it quite as uncompromisingly as the books - there is more hope in the game, monsters can be swiftly dealt with (even the Colour Out of Space...) in a manner more appropriate to the fantasy genre than Lovecraft's blend of Science Fiction, horror and realism.

Where the game captures Lovecraftian horror the best is in the occasional bouts of despair it can engender: a despair that the game is lost and the heros are powerless, only to find, through a spectacular turn of luck, that there might after all be hope for victory. If you feel you can relish this despair then this might be the game for you. As others have intimated above, it helps if you are the kind of gamer who enjoys spinning a story around the game as it plays, even in the knowledge that the story is constructed through chance components creating pattens in chaos.

However, if you are adverse to Ameritrash-style games I'd advise you to steer well clear: clunky mechanics built remourselessly around the theme and a vast amount of randomness. It has aged in the sense that Arkham Horror acts as though Eurogames never existed. This doesn't matter to me, however I have friends I play hybrid games such as Age of Empires III with who do not understand the attraction of Arkham at all.
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Just from your original post I would say pass on AH and try the Fortune and Glory...I believe it has an expansion out or coming out...

And for anyone who says there is nothing scary to the game they haven't played at my table...low lights, weird ambient music coming from somewhere in the room and the brush against the leg of the silent cat....oh yeah...there be some jumpin'

Ya just gotta get into it.

But for non-Lovecraft fans I agree with the 'try before you buy' rec. HPL isn't for everyone and that's ok.

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Oh, and I love the game and own it in its entirety (Base + All 3 Big Box and 4 Small Box + Miskatonic). I've been a Lovecraft fan for many decades and this is my favorite boardgame hands down and the only one I play...except for Elder Sign
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Eðvarð Hilmarsson
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On the second part of the OP question:

Arkham Horror has aged pretty well, the art work and the components are still high quality and the game mechanics themselves are still modular and efficient.

Friends who have bought it recently (in the last year) have enjoyed it greatly and I defiantly dont think the game needs any kind of overhaul.
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Max Lampinen
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Thanks for all the nice and useful replies, they're really helping me decide. I'm now most likely getting AH+expansion (I have to meditate some more on the insanity/creepiness aspect, maybe read a short story or two, I don't think the mechanical aspect/randomness will be a problem in co-op), Ghost Stories (thank for reminding me of that, it's another game I've ignored because of the theme and then forgotten about) and considering Fortune and Glory too (it's very expensive and has weird cover, got to do some research about it) for next months purchase.
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The problem with Fortune and Glory are the mechanics. It is Talisman-like in its simplicity. For a hard core Eurogamer, this will feel like a roll and move game.

Jorune
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I love the game but on the other hand I was a hardcore fan of Lovecraft even before I knew about AH. Horror genre in general is no mistery to me but some of my friends, specially females, thought it was a spooky game with no gory but strange and surreal visuals. But, of course, it's just a harmless game so give it a try.
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Bob T
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I'd say it's more adventure than horror- albeit an adventure that takes place in one town, in one year (1926)


Does it get "old"? The base game by itself could get old with many frequent plays, despite its vast replayability factor. But as a remedy there are 8(!) expansions to liven things up.


gert74 wrote:
Agree with all the posters above. The horror in AH does not come from gory details, but rather the realization that the world as we know is merely a tiny speck of island floating atop a deep, dark ocean of pure evil and chaos, just waiting to flood in.

That is why the concept of sanity is so core to the game. The more you know, the worse off you are (in some ways).

By the way, another potential co-op missing from your list is Ghost Stories. While also horror themed, it is quite cartoonish and there is no card text with grizzly details or anything like that.



There's some artwork in Ghost Stories which would be too scary/gruesome for young kids, even though it's cartoony.


Most of the "horror" in A-H is implied, not overt. You have to read between the lines. The various encounters create a creepy/spooky atmosphere through hints and suggestion...Though there are some rare encounters where some truly sick, disturbing stuff happens it's mostly left to the imagination. It leaves room for you to extrapolate as much or as little of the story as you want.


Much of the horror is not seen. What is it about certain Monsters that drives your Investigators mad? What hideous ancient knowledge is represented by benign "Clue Tokens"? You never really find out- it's not clearly spelled out but you can try and guess. Your character in the game finds out all sorts of horrible secrets, but to you the player it remains unknown.
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Bern Harkins
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You can read the rulebooks AND, better yet, reference card texts here:

http://www.arkhamhorrorwiki.com/Main_Page


Look over some Investigator sheets, check out a few Locations... these will give you a whiff of Arkham.
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