Game Buzz – Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Today, I wanted to take a look at the newest LCG from Fantasy Flight:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Arkham Horror: The Card Game was designed by Nate French and Matthew Newman.  It’s a 1-2 player game in their Living Card Game (LCG) line (you can play with up to four players with 2 copies of the game).  If you’re unfamiliar with LCGs, they were created as an alternative to collectible card games (CCGs).  CCGs frequently come under fire for the amount of investment required to be successful.  Players often shell out a lot of money buying booster packs that may or may not have decent cards in them.  As a result, the best players are often the ones who can afford to buy the most cards and build the best decks.  LCGs buck that trend by having no random draws, having everything you need and can get in one pack.  Of course, expansion packs are released every so often, so it’s still usually an investment to keep up with the games, but at least you know what you’re getting every time.

Arkham Horror is the ninth LCG Fantasy Flight has produced (including the second edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game).  You’re an investigator in the small town of Arkham, MA, uncovering mysteries of an arcane nature.  It’s a campaign based game that is based in the Lovecraftian universe FFG first explored in 2005’s Arkham Horror.  There is a lot of customization that can be done in the game, but the rules come with a set up for the first experience, and that’s what I’ll be basing this overview off of.

The core set of the game comes with 119 player cards, 110 scenario cards, 44 chaos tokens, 27 damage tokens, 30 resource tokens, 30 clue/doom tokens, 18 horror tokens, 5 investigator cards, and 5 investigator mini-cards.  Each player takes an investigator, and choose one player to be the lead investigator.  That player gets the Campaign Guide, will break ties, and will make decisions when there is a conflict.  Each player gets a deck of cards, which can be customized or you can use the starter decks listed in the rules.  You’ll shuffle this and draw an initial hand of five cards.  Additionally, you get five resource tokens.  Finally, you’ll set up the particular scenario you’ll be using, which for the first game is The Gathering.  This includes setting an agenda deck, an act deck, an encounter deck, and locations (the only location in play for The Gathering is the Study).

image by BGG user yakos
image by BGG user yakos

During each round, players go through the following four phases: Mythos, Investigation, Enemy and Upkeep.

MYTHOS: This phase is skipped on the first phase of the game.  A Doom token is placed on the current agenda.  If the doom count on the current agenda exceeds the threshold, you’ll move to the next card in the agenda deck.  This is generally a bad thing.  Then, in player order, each player draws and resolves the top card of the encounter deck.  These include treachery and enemy cards.

INVESTIGATION: Each investigator takes a turn, and you can decide to go in any order you wish.  A turn consists of three actions, which are taken from this list:

  • Draw a card from the top of your deck.
  • Gain a resource from the token pool.
  • Activate an ability on a card in your control, an encounter card at your location, or on the current act or agenda card.
  • Engage an enemy at its current location.  This consists of putting the enemy in your threat area to deal with later.
  • Investigate your current location.  To do this, you must pass an intellect skill test by drawing a chaos token from the bag.  This modifies your skill value, and if your skill exceeds the required skill value, you succeed and discover a clue – take one from the location and put it on your investigator card.
  • Attempt to evade an enemy you are currently engaged with.  To do this, pass an agility test.  If successful, the engagement is broken and the enemy is moved from your threat area to your current location.
  • Move to a connecting location.  If the location is unrevealed, reveal it and put the indicated number of tokens on it.
  • Play an event or asset card from your hand by paying the resource cost.
  • Fight an enemy at your location.  This is done with a combat check.  A successful hit lands one damage on the enemy.

ENEMY: Here is where the enemies go after the investigators.  First, any Hunter enemies move towards the nearest investigator.  Next, any ready and engaged enemies attack the heroes with whom they are engaged.

UPKEEP: In this phase, players ready all exhausted cards, draw a new card and take a new resource token.  If you have more than 8 cards in hand, discard down to 8.

You continue playing until you have either beaten the scenario or been beaten by it.

image by BGG user LordTennyson1971
image by BGG user LordTennyson1971

The only LCG I’ve played to date has been Lord of the Rings.  It was an enjoyable game, but it’s not one I’m too interested in getting into.  I’m just not interested enough in getting all the expansions necessary to keep the game fresh.  FFG does definitely have the process down, and they definitely know how to make a good LCG, and they are certainly quite familiar with the Cthulhu mythos.  The game has been getting good buzz from people who know more about it than I do.  So I think this is one I need to try out.  Honestly, I need to find someone who’s willing to sit down with me and teach me all of the LCGs, just so I can get more of a sense of what they’re about.

Thanks for reading!

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