One plays Two against the Lurker at the Threshold

One plays Two against the Lurker at the Threshold Hot

MattDP     
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Unfortunately I'm not very well today. So I'm not really feeling up to writing the piece I'd planned to put up. But in the best F:AT spirit I've dragged myself off my sick bed long enough to dig up this old Arkham Horror session report for you - enjoy.

Following the advice of a number of people on the subject of AH solo games, I tried running multiple investigators for the first time in this session. To keep things as simple and as quick as possible I just picked two randomly - Ashcan Pete and Kate Winthrop. Their adversary for the session was also selected randomly and turned out to be Yog Sothoth. It was the first time I'd played against this GOO and he looked nasty - the extra difficulty to close gates was bad, but worse was the fact that I had to always be careful to ensure my investigators had plenty of sanity and stamina in the otherworlds to avoid becoming lost in time and space and devoured by the Gate and the Key.

The early game went pretty well, as it tends to do. I got two gates closed and sealed without much trouble, aided immensely by the fact that three clue tokens appeared on the historical society. Pete and Kate met up at the general store and did some shopping and swapping - Kate took Pete's handgun which left her a hand free to use her spells if need be and in exchange she spent $7 on a tommy gun for Pete. In addition a lucky encounter had left Kate with a +2 fight ally, so now both my investigators were well tooled up for taking on the nasties. Both had good physical combat dice and Kate had the enchant weapon spell and Pete the power of Ibn-Ghazi special item to use against physically resistant or immune monsters. I missed out on making another important swap here though - Kate had drawn the Ruby of R'lyeh unique item at the start of the game which gave her +3 move which she didn't really need, being quite a speedy character in any case. Pete on the other hand is quite atrociously slow and would really have benefited from the ruby. However, I missed the importance of this at the time and the consequences continued to haunt me throughout the game as Pete would often take two turns to get to where he needed to be, when one would've been much more helpful.

The game then took a serious turn for the worse as the Woods and the Graveyard, two of the least stable of the unstable locations on the board both opened gates to R'leyh. With a -3 penalty to the dice and Yog Sothoth's increase in difficulty to close gates these rather looked like a waste of time to try and close and seal - I could well end up rolling dice for ages to try and get them closed. When Kate ended up spending three turns to try and close a paltry -1 gate before finally succeeding I resolved to steer well clear of those unless I had no choice. Of course, deciding to leave two very active gates open for the duration of the game has its consequences and the terror level soon started to rise as monster surges hit the board.

To further complicate things I was then hit by the "Disturbing the Dead" rumour which causes the terror level to rise on a roll of 1-2 every mythos phase. Considering the monster surges I was suffering this had to be handled and fortunately the pass conditions aren't too arduous - sacrifice two gate trophies. Unfortunately I had everything upside down for this - Pete had one gate trophy but a serious shortage of clue tokens which meant he couldn't seal a gate he closed which in a two-investigator game is a criminal waste of time. Kate on the other hand had plenty of clues but had used her gate token to gain her fight ally. Since clue tokens can't be swapped, either way it was going to be an uphill struggle to get the two gate trophies if I was going to insist on sealing them every time.

I then got a stroke of luck - an environment card which lowered the number of clues needed to seal a gate, meaning Kate had enough to seal the two gates needed to put pay to the rumour. I sent Pete in first to clear the path of where she needed to go of any monsters and had her diving through the gates. It was a pretty tense time, as I was just trying to get those gates closed and sealed before the environment card got usurped by something new off the top of the deck. Kate managed the feat just in time, closing the second gate on the very turn that the environment card expired, and moving to rivertown streets on the next turn to sacrifice her trophies and pass the rumour.

Having put paid to that, I surveyed the damage. It was considerable. Kate had been reduced to one sanity and one stamina by various otherworld encounters, and Pete had had to sacrifice his precious Duke. The terror track had risen to seven and Yog Sothoth had got to something like nine on the doom track. However, I had sealed four gates, and Pete was now in a position to make a fifth. The easiest gate on the board - an important aspect, given Yog Sothoth and his increase in closing difficulty - was at the Silver Twilight Lodge. The monster which had appeared before it was a Formless Spawn which had moved out into the streets outside shortly afterward, blocking the way. Formless Spawn have Physical Resistance but thankfully Pete had is powder of Ibn-Ghazi to blast it out of the way - so he duly sidled up to it and duly failed every dice in his horror check, in spite of his substantial will. All his clue tokens later and he was still without a success so he lost his sanity and went to Arkham Asylum, making sure to keep hold of his powder in order to have another go at the frightful thing. Not having any cash to make the treatment fee he waited a turn to build up a point of sanity and tried again. Had I been thinking properly I'd have realised that waiting one turn was a complete waste of time - the Spawn has a sanity loss of two meaning that I'd have to have waited two turns for a total of three sanity to avoid exactly the same fate a second time. Which is, of course, exactly what happened sending Pete gibbering back to the warders at the Asylum and the Spawn still blocking streets in a vital area of the board.

While all this had been going on, Kate had had the wherewithal to pick up a few more clues - partly by trading her monster trophies at the University - and closing and sealing a fifth gate at the Unnamable. This left me in a situation which has become a rather horrible "deja vu" for me - one gate from victory but with no clue tokens to use to make the sixth seal. The next mythos card I drew was another dreadful "been here before" moment as my least favourite rumour came up - Good Work Undone. This blasted thing starts with six clue tokens on it and has you roll two dice each mythos phase with every one or two you roll causing another token to be added to the card. If it reaches ten clues then all your gate seals burst. You can delay it by sacrificing clue tokens at 1-for-1 to take them off the card, and pass it by managing to remove all the tokens on the card. This late in the game, the rumor reaching its climax was tantamount to game over and with just one seal needed to win it seemed silly to try and pass it, so I decided the only course of action was to try and have one investigator collect clues to try and seal a gate, while the other collected clues to try and delay the climax of the rumour. First to five tokens got the former job.

So, it was back to rather desperate clue scrounging. Kate went over to pick up one from the Witch House - a location I'd sealed earlier in the game - and that very turn that cursed Formless Spawn moved back into the streets outside the location. For one turn I forgot that she could get past it by using evade and thought she was trapped there until it moved away. I duly took my environment card the next turn and found I had to make a will check to avoid falling unconscious and loosing half my items and clues. Kate's will at the time was zero and so I duly started using up my invaluable clue tokens to try and make the roll. I had three, and so was statistically odds-on to make the roll. As is the case every time when you're statistically odds-on to succeed, I failed, rendering Kate pretty much useless for whatever period of the game remained. The following turn I remembered about sneaking past monsters and got out, going to the Police Station as the nearest location likely to render up some more clue tokens. The encounter she had there stripped Kate of all her weapons - the only items she had left - and the mythos card summoned up two stationary monsters (one of which was a Dark Young) on the streets right outside her location, trapping her good and proper! To add insult to injury the following encounter she drew at the station moved her to the street where she met an inevitable horrid and very messy end. Pete was on his own.

Fortunately for him the rumour had held up pretty well, collecting only one more clue token while Kate was being confined and devoured by the forces of darkness. He'd spent a productive two turns in Arkham University spending a gate trophy and a stack of monster tokens to bring his clue count to six - enough for one re-roll and a gate seal. So now it was a race against time. Of course the route to the only easy gate on the board, over at Silver Twilight, was blocked by that thrice-damned Formless Spawn which, bereft of items as he was, he had no chance of beating. All I could do was hope that the mythos cards moved it away - and lo and behold the card for that very turn sent it up to where Kate's executioners were still busily trampling on her sorry carcass. Pete moved in and went through the gate, but that mythos phase added another clue token to the rumour, leaving me two away from disaster.

The first turn passed without incident. The second otherworld encounter that I drew had me miss a turn - no skill checks allowed! The dice for the rumour in that mythos phase tumbled out of some extremely sweaty palms - and both came up blank. I still had time. My third otherworld encounter was - to my incredulous horror - a skill check to avoid missing yet another turn. The dice rolled, and every one resulted in a failure. My hands were trembling as I tossed my one spare clue token back in the box, only to fail one more. Mythos phase again, and I was still two clue tokens away from the rumour reaching its terrible climax - surely I still had time?

And what came up? Snake eyes. The seals burst, leaving me with no chance at all to stop Yog Sothoth materialising over Arkham and dragging a big chunk of New England kicking and screaming back into the nether dimensions from whence he came.

Analysis

I made three mistakes in this game, which were very clear in retrospect. Firstly I should have had Kate give Pete her Ruby - his slow movement wasted a considerable number of turns in what became a time-critical game. Second, and most important, I should have left Pete one more turn in Arkham Asylum to ensure he had the best possible chance to beat the Formless Spawn which went on to thwart me in every possible way. Thirdly I should have remembered that Kate had the ability to sneak past said Spawn rather than leaving her trapped in the Witch House for her fateful encounter. Considering how I close I came to winning, not making any one of those three errors would probably have been the difference between victory and defeat. This is a fable you ought to tell to anyone who thinks there are no worthwhile decisions to make in Arkham Horror.

I'm slightly gobsmacked by the fact that upping the number of investigators from one to two doesn't lower the number of gates which lead to the GOO awakening. With two it's pretty easy to close and seal three gates, at which point the GOO waking up either from number of open gates or the doom track becomes virtually nil. Of course the terror track is still a serious problem, but that takes quite a long time to wake the GOO and it does seem a slightly bizarre situation to be in. Running more than one investigator at once does make quite a difference - being able to co-ordinate their actions and even meeting to swap items adds more strategy to the game. However I did find that I missed the level of personal identification that I get running just one character. At the final analysis it's probably an even trade off for me and I'll carry on running both single and multiple investigators in solo games. One thing that did surprise me was that having just one more character and one more monster allowed on the board seemed to dramatically increase the level of character-monster interaction in the game, and that was good.

The endgame was incredibly tense and exciting and AH does seem to excel at producing these sorts of situations. However my eventual failure was largely random - drawing that particular rumour late in the game was particularly bad, then getting shafted by two Otherworld encounters which delayed me when speed was of the essence and then completing the rumour suddenly on an unlucky dice roll. No choices I made at that stage of the game could've staved off disaster. I guess that's the price you pay for having the potential of such a thrilling finish. While I was entirely satisfied with that trade off in a ninety minute solo session and thoroughly enjoyed the game I have to say that I might have felt rather differently had this been the finale of a four-hour multi-player game - and so the play time in Arkham Horror does seem to be a bit of a problem.
One plays Two against the Lurker at the Threshold There Will Be Games
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