Bored? Game! – Eldritch Horror

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In recent years there has risen a strange fascination with the Cthulhu mythos, although a lot of people have told me that the horror stories by HP Lovecraft don’t live up to the hype. The board game Eldritch Horror, the recently released sequel to Arkham Horror, attempts to really capture the Lovecraftian mythos as you and your team of investigators attempt to save the world from ancient evils. For someone who doesn’t play a lot of these games, I expected a complex strategy game with some token horror references, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

The game can be played alone or in a team, with the ultimate goal being to banish a specific ‘Ancient One’ from the world by solving a certain number of mysteries. From the outset you play as one of several characters, each of which has different abilities and skills which you can employ throughout the game. Character backgrounds are described briefly with wonderful accompanying art, and the range of choices available helps give the world a nice flavour, even if the skill levels of certain characters makes them useless.

There’s a certain consistent creepiness to the style that really helps portray the universe of the game, whether it be the monsters, the great range of encounter types or the extra-dimensional expeditions.

Challenges must be met using your character’s given attributes, which range from strength to their knowledge of lore. The varying abilities of the characters makes sure nobody has an unfair advantage from the get go, and there are also various items and spells that can bolster your chances. Failing encounters will often lead to reductions in ‘Health’ and ‘Sanity’, though the game’s rules allow you to continue as a different investigator in the event of your defeat. Death can happen very suddenly for a number of reasons, and you could well play the part of several characters before finishing a single play-through.

The game will most often finish when the game board’s ‘doom track’ reaches zero, at which point your chosen Ancient One will appear. Whether or not this means the end of the world depends on the villain in question, though there’s certainly a sense of urgency in the game that helps govern the strategy of all the players. To stave off the approach of doom, players must close the other worldly ‘gates’ that appear throughout the world, defeat rampaging monsters and solve rumours, all of which can hasten the end. With everything spread out on a game board encompassing the planet, this kind of game really demands a high number of players to deal with everything effectively. Having said that, too many players in a game like this can make each play-through seem extremely drawn out, even to the long-time board-gamers I played this with.

The game board starts out uncluttered, but can quickly become a mess of extra-dimensional monsters and mysteries if players discard good strategy.
The game board starts out uncluttered, but can quickly become a mess of extra-dimensional monsters and mysteries if players discard good strategy.

The monsters and locations you encounter do well to draw the player into the world of Lovecraft. Along with all the monsters you can encounter, the game comes with four Ancient Ones including the ever popular Cthulhu. There’s a certain consistent creepiness to the style that really helps portray the universe of the game, whether it be the monsters, the great range of encounter types or the extra-dimensional expeditions. It’s a welcome distinction from other licenced games like Ankh Morpork, which made do with very basic references to the material it was based on, and the fact that most of the encounters are determined randomly creates rich potential for more play-throughs.

The 'Ancient Ones' range in design and difficulty. Players are advised to face this dude on the first try. All HE can do is devour the world in seconds... no biggie.
The ‘Ancient Ones’ range in design and difficulty. Players are advised to face this dude on the first try. All he can do is devour the world in seconds… no biggie.

Being someone without a great degree of experience with strategic board games, I can say that for me Eldritch Horror was difficult to get into, but very fun to play after a short while. The board does take a while to set up, but will usually remain uncluttered for the first few turns, helping players to learn the rules. Nothing is overly complicated, though things can certainly be drawn out. The ‘mysteries’ that must be solved in order to win the game can sometimes require you to wait a good number of turns before you even have a chance at them, and of course there are few things more frustrating than failed dice rolls at key moments. Though I’ve had a lot of fun playing Eldritch Horror both alone and in a group, I’ve yet to actually win the game before the Elder One appears.

Overall, the game can be engaging, but can also be tedious. The world is vibrant and absorbing, and is a good introduction into Lovecraftian style horror. The fact that very often a team will be unable to win the game is not too much of a let-down given the fun you can have on certain play-throughs. For those not used to strategic board games, I would say that Eldritch Horror definitely isn’t a suitable introduction, as any complexity to the rules is compounded by the Lovecraftian setting and story. For those used to such games, however, this is a great way to experience the mythos that all the cool kids are talking about, and is definitely worth a play.

FOR

AGAINST

Great theme and art

Streamlines the complexity of Arkham Horror

Can be played solo

Heavily luck based

Can be drawn out with a lot of down time

Very difficult to win

eldritch-horror-boxDesigner: Corey Konieczka, Nikki Valens
Publisher: Fantasy Flight
Mechanic: Cooperative, dice rolling, RPG
Number of Players: 1-6 (Best with 4)
Length of Game: 120+mins
Complexity: Medium

You can purchase Eldritch Horror here

 


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