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Shotguns and Shoggoths - An Eldritch Horror Review

T Updated April 18, 2020
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
1280 0
Shotguns and Shoggoths - An Eldritch Horror Review

Game Information

Players
1 - 8
There Will Be Games

I love elegant design: small boxes, precisely targeted to do one thing really well, just the right amount of mechanics tied to a strong theme. I will always champion this kind of game. In much the same way I love beautifully directed films, human stories lovingly told. These are the things that bring me hope, satisfaction, and joy. However. Sometimes you need something, big, brash, and noisy. From time to time you want to turn your brain off and revel in action packed, explosion filled blockbuster. Sometimes you need to break out Eldritch Horror.

Globetrotting Terror

Eldritch Horror is the spiritual successor to the expansive Arkham Horror, the boardgame that arguably kicked off, the non-RPG, obsession with HP Lovecraft. Arkham Horror is one of the earliest co-op games and to this day has fans all over the world.

I was introduced to Arkham Horror with the, famously intricate, second edition by Fantasy Flight Games and I can’t say I was overly impressed. It took too long to play, was a bear to teach, and just didn’t feel very fun. Eldritch took that core idea of investigators fighting against unspeakable horrors and streamlined it. Not only that it eschewed the origins of the game being about strange goings on in one place and took the action global.

Eldritch HorrorEldritching all over the world

The game itself is pretty straightforward. Pick an Investigator, choose an elder God, take them on with both fists blazing. As the game progresses the players will have to fight fires across the planet as monsters break out, strange rituals are conducted, and all manner of horrors befall the populace. One of the things that Eldritch does do better than it’s predecessor is allow you to check out the board state all at once. It’s easy to take a look and see how you are doing and exactly where you need to point your extinguishers. If you do manage to take down the god before it awakens, then all is well with the world. If they do awaken then sometimes you still stand a chance to take them down, but everything just got a lot harder.

Dealer’s Choice

All of this terror is driven primarily by cards. Cards reveal the mysteries you need to solve to bring down the elder god, the gear, spells and artifacts you can collect to help you on your journey, but most importantly the stories you will tell along the way. Every turn, no matter where you are, and assuming you haven’t got a monster in your way, you are going to have an encounter. Pulling a card from the deck your investigator is sent on a mini-adventure that could be anything from helping out with a police investigation to stopping cultists and strange encounters with mysterious people.

Eldritch HorrorSo many cards. And tokens. So many tokens.

The encounters range from the sublimely horrifying to the stupendously ridiculous. That is ok though, because Eldritch Horror is a game that does not lean into the creeping horror of its source material. Instead it embraces the pulp stories of the 1920s and onwards, and is all the better for it. I would strongly recommend, and it is still odd to me that this is not in the rules, that you get another player to read you your encounter cards. Not only does this up the amount of player interaction, but it also allows you to hide the outcomes of player choices adding just a little bit more of a frisson to the proceedings. I don’t usually recommend house rules in a review, but this one doesn’t really change the game, just makes it a bit more dramatic.

Every time I’ve played Eldritch Horror it’s the stories that come out that I love. Maybe I travelled to the moon on the back of space monsters, or helped take down a cult in china, maybe both! My fellow investigators travelled the globe to solve a particularly nasty problem in Antarctica, allowing the rest of us to get on with taking down Azathoth. Investigators will come together to solve a problem, then go off on individual adventures to help the greater cause.

Mechanically the game is much simpler than its predecessor but there are still a good number of moving parts and so many cards that the occasional interaction can throw up rules queries that aren’t always easily answered with a quick check of the rulebook. It’s true that some investigators are just better than others and the game is in no way balanced, with a huge amount coming down to the role of dice, and the luck of the draw. From a critical standpoint, I know it isn’t that great and I much prefer Arkham Horror LCG over it.

That being said, sometimes I need to cater for large groups and I have tried many coops, including Arkham Horror 3rd Edition, to do so. Eldritch Horror is just the best solution I have come across and the feeling of taking down an Elder god at the last moment, of coming through the trials and tribulations that the game has thrown at you, have yet to be matched. This is pulp story and action on a grand scale, divorced from concerns of subtlety, meaning, and cosmic horror.

Eldritch Horror ExpansionsYou are probably going to want this

Expansive Horror

A slight warning before we wrap this up. The core box of Eldritch, actually doesn’t have enough cards in it. I know, what a twist. If you are going to pick the game up then I would strongly recommend picking up the first small box expansion Forsaken Lore which is just more cards for every deck, providing more variety for your plays. It’s a shame this was not put in the core, as it really does feel a bit light on replayability with just that on its own.

As to the other expansions, they all mostly just add more stuff, more variety. Some to introduce extra game boards as you journey into the deserts and cold poles, but they are smartly handled, not overwhelming you with too many extra things to think about as could be the case with its predecessor.

The sound of two fists punching

Eldritch Horror is a loud, brash design that as more modern games goes is clunky, arrogant, and not very well thought through. That doesn’t matter, as like I said at the top of this piece, sometimes you just want to turn your brain off. As a vehicle for getting together with your friends, picking up your shotgun, and heading out into the strange, weird world of the extended Lovecraft Mythos, it succeeds on every level.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
3.0
Eldritch Horror
T
1 reviews
Iain McAllister  (He/Him)
Associate Writer and Podcaster

Iain McAllister lives in Dalkeith, Scotland with his wife Cath and their two dogs, Maddie and Gypsy. He has been a keen member of the local gaming scene for many years setting up and participating in many of the clubs that are part of Edinburgh's vibrant gaming scene.

You can find more of his work on The Giant Brain which publishes a wide range of articles about the hobby including reviews, previews, convention reports and critique. The Giant Brain is also the home of the Brainwaves podcast, a fortnightly podcast covering industry news that Iain hosts with his friend Jamie Adams.

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Articles & Podcasts by Iain McAllister

 

Iain McAllister
Associate Writer and Podcaster

Articles & Podcasts by Iain

 

 

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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #309427 20 Apr 2020 16:58
I spent most of yesterday making tuck boxes and organizing Eldritch Horror. I’m hoping that it will now be quicker to set up so we will play more often.

Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #309430 20 Apr 2020 17:12
Wow, that's commitment.

I abandoned Eldritch. I don't think it's as good as Arkham despite being a more coherent overarching narrative. It forces you to take lots of high risk checks with little chance of mitigation and it takes a lot of agency out of the players and instead makes them just travel around a lot. It's a niche opinion and I totally see what people like better about eldritch. The rules are certainly a 1000 times tighter and it tells a single story about the GOO you're fighting mechanically and narratively, which I appreciate.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #309432 20 Apr 2020 18:09
I am with Gary. I like ELDRITCH just fine, and I totally see what an improvement it is for people that like the idea of ARKHAM, but not it's execution. But I like the craziness, barely hanging together nature of ARKHAM. It's just a ride. ELDRITCH is probably a better game, but I'm not always after that, I suppose!
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #309435 20 Apr 2020 20:02
I knew there was someone as nutty as I am about arkham, Jeb.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Eldritch, uba.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #309438 20 Apr 2020 22:26
I didn’t organize Eldritch out of any special love for the game. I organized it because we play It so infrequently that when we do crack it open, I can’t remember what the heck all the stuff is, especially some of the expansion stuff. So now it all labeled.

I Still love Arkham Horror, but the LCG is better when there are just two of us. It’s hard for me to make an argument for playing Eldritch over either of those, but every so often I get the desire to play it.

What I want now is a competitive game in the AH universe, like Western Legends. That’s my dream game right now.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #309443 21 Apr 2020 00:15
I like the card game better than eldritch atm too, but I haven't played enough of the card game to really know. My spouse certainly likes the card game better than eldritch, she really had a strong negative reaction to EH after 5-8 plays or so. She's still on the fence on the card game but will request it. Reading that many unique powers is just a big overhead, and she's a reasonably avid gamer (see her all-in gaslands obsession).
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #309449 21 Apr 2020 09:06
For me personally, the story of EH vs. AH was encapsulated in two stories. While I've had a good time with AH, I also remember one game that went on for hours where we were continually on the cusp of victory but couldn't quite close the deal and restarting on a new strategy would've taken at least another hour. With EH, it was a time a couple of years ago when my wife and I were playing and I convinced her it would be a good idea to take a Dark Pact, then somehow it ended up triggering and my character killed her. We still bring that up every time we play. AH isn't by any means a bad game, but like Kevin Wilson's other designs, it tends to be woolly and heavily RPG influenced, and sometimes the game's up to that and sometimes it's not.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #309456 21 Apr 2020 10:13
One thing I like about reviews on TWBG is that the commenters often have as much or more experience with the reviewed game, its developers, the background of it, &c. You get context and history added, as well as the different nuanced opinions of the rest of us. The game really gets re-viewed.
waddball's Avatar
waddball replied the topic: #309462 21 Apr 2020 10:43
I've played both AH and EH a lot, as they're evergreen around here. (Though of course when you go "all in" with AH, it's a messy, all-day affair and thus harder to get to the table.)

I personally prefer EH, and my kids (now grown, sniff) prefer AH. But both bring something to the table. I agree with Gary that EH's luck is a little front-loaded and not quite granular enough sometimes. The biggest frustrations I've had are when you must get something (usually an artifact, sometimes a clue) and the deck that's supposed to give you a shot at it just isn't cooperating. I mean, I don't mind failing a test, that's the game, but when you literally had no chance, pass or fail, that's not really fun. AH has less of that, though it's still pretty woolly when you get down to it.

But I forgive EH because the narrative is just so much better, both thematically and mechanically. AH just isn't coherent in a couple of ways (probably largest is the "coast to the finish" problem mentioned above), though I certainly appreciate having more detail and color around my avatar. Whereas in EH, the characters are less avatars than tools to be used and discarded when appropriate (as though the player is a head of a globe-spanning Eldritch FBI or something).

Anyway, I could go on and on. I gather the reviewer is an expert at the LCG. I just started in on that recently, and while I like it, I'm not sure the luck factor there isn't pretty insane as well. And the cost: replay ratio is insane, too. EH (somewhat expanded) is a nearly infinite story generator.
thegiantbrain's Avatar
thegiantbrain replied the topic: #309502 22 Apr 2020 05:24
Don't know if I would call myself an expert on the card game, but I have written about it a lot. My deckbuilding guide went live on my site this morning.

giantbrain.co.uk/2020/04/22/arkham-horro...lding-for-beginners/

I really like that everyone has their own favourite Arkham files game, and whilst I am not a fan of 2nd edition I can absolutely respect enjoying it over Eldritch. I was hoping that the third edition of Arkham Horror would combine what I loved about Eldritch and the card game but it didn't quite do it for me. I do think the LCG is the best at telling stories that hove more closely to the cosmic horror of the original tales, probably because it asks you to invest more in your character through the deckbuilding.

It's really interesting hearing everyone's take, thanks very much for taking the time to write replies to the piece.