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Flashback Friday - Titan

Rants & Raves

Flashback Friday - Arkham Horror 2nd edition

U Updated
Arkham Horror 2nd edition

Game Information

Game Name
There Will Be Games

Love it or hate it? Do you still play it?

Arkham Horror is now so popular that Hot Topicas sells a whole line of  Arkham Horror T-shirts

The first edition of Arkham Horror, designed by Richard Launius, was published in 1987 by Chaosium. It was based on the Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, and Larnius originaly proposed that it be titled Call of Cthulhu: The Board Game. Arkham Horror won the Origin's Award for "Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Boardgame of 1987."

In 2005, Arkahm Horror 2nd edition was published by Fantasy Flight Games. Richard Larnius and Kevin Wilson completely revamped the game, removing the roll-and-move mechanic, adding clue tokens, and replacing results tables with encounter cards.Arkham Horror 2nd edition proved popular, and even made an appearenc in the television show "South Park." Fantasy Flight went on to release 8 expansions for the game with the final expansion, Miskatonic Horror (the expansion for the expansions), being released in 2011.

In 2018, Fantasy Flight released a 3rd edition of Arkham Horror, with significantly different game play from the second edition.

Arkham Horror 2nd edition has many loyal and passionate fans. However, many people strongly dislike it, calling it long, bloated and clunky.

What do you think? Love it or hate it? If you were a fan, has the 3rd edition or Eldridge Horror replace Arkham Horror for you? Or do you still play it? And which is your favorite T-shirt? I like the King in Yellow one the best myself.

 

There Will Be Games

Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie

 

Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie

 

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mads b.'s Avatar
mads b. replied the topic: #306309 17 Jan 2020 08:48
I played it just the other week with the King in Yellow expansion. That one was not as exciting as I remember it, but nonetheless: every time I play AH 2nd ed I ask myself why I don't play it more. It is in so many ways the ultimate adventure game. I love the sense of being in a specific place it creates - something Eldritch Horror never managede to do even if it was more streamlined in some ways.

Yes, some things are a bit stupid, like adjusting sliders or how sneaking past monsters is borderline useless as a strategy. But there is just so much story in the game and so much adventuring.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306310 17 Jan 2020 09:26
I only play it 2-3 times a year, I think because of the setup and management load. It's my spouse's favorite game, and like Mads, every time we play it I think we should play it more. It's the best adventure game ever made, because of the strength of its emergent narrative for players.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306311 17 Jan 2020 09:32
Loved it and played it many, many times, but finally decided it just wasn't going to come off the shelf again; perhaps because of the setup time (we tended to use as many expansions as possible) and the bookkeeping or perhaps just because we'd had our fill of it. I still have Runebound with its 28 expansions, but a lot of those are minor/optional things like class decks and you only use one actual adventure mod at a time. If people want to play an adventure game (a rarity these days, which is another reason for moving on), I'd opt for that or something like Vast, instead. Still a great game, though.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #306312 17 Jan 2020 09:38
I enjoyed it, but it rarely saw the table so I sold mine off years ago.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306314 17 Jan 2020 09:43
^^these days I've moved to one expansion at a time with all the common stuff (e.g. items) still from all the expansions. It helps keep the game focused.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #306315 17 Jan 2020 09:44
Different people value different aspects of gaming. I have always been interested in games that tell stories, even if the sense of narrative is an illusion created by a combination of setting and snippets of text. And yet I don't want to play a tightly scripted story that will lack replay value. I don't want to manage some wooden representations of resources sitting on a little spreadsheet, I want to feel like I am exploring another world through a tabletop interface.

And so Arkham Horror 2nd edition remains my all-time favorite board game. I like to play it with all the expansion boards and all the cards and even a herald in the mix, ideally with several other players but sometimes running a few characters by myself. It's a big, weird sandbox of an adventure setting that is based more on the excellent Lovecraft Country modules that Chaosium produced for their Call of Cthulhu rpg than on the original writings by Lovecraft. If I played weekly for the rest of my life, no two games would play out the same. I was also a big fan of the original edition of Arkham Horror, though it has been gathering dust since 2005. The first edition was an exceptional board game when it was published in the late '80s, though second edition has completely surpassed it.

In truth, I didn't play Arkham Horror in 2019. It was a busy year, and one of my regular gaming groups now is usually too lightweight to handle any game that last over 2 hours. As Gary mentioned, there is considerable setup (and takedown) time, and the Mythos phase is a bit of work if only one player knows the system well. But I usually play a few times every year. And when I hosted board games in October, one couple expressed interest in playing Arkham Horror some time because they heard it was a good game and they are both fans of the Cthulhu Mythos. So I foresee playing more Arkham Horror in 2020.

I've read quite a few critical remarks here and at BGG about Arkham Horror, and many people were eager to declare that Eldritch Horror fired Arkham Horror. And yet I get the impression that Eldritch Horror ran its course and most folks just don't play it anymore. All I know is that I have introduced dozens of players to Arkham Horror over the years, and with the exception of one hardcore eurogamer, everybody enjoyed it.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #306317 17 Jan 2020 09:48
Arkham Horror 2nd is one of a handful of games that has a permanent place in my library. I have all the expansions and at one point I went through and read every single card so I could customize all the decks in the base game. Then sleeved all of them but left my expansions unsleeved so I can easily remove them after play. Haven't had any issues knowing the next Mythos card is expansion or not. Also customized the monsters in my monster bag to be about 100 of them and also sleeved those because they were wearing out quickly from being shuffled in the bag. Have 24 character miniatures I built up from buying 4 every month off FFG's website back in the day. Always play with the Injury/Madness cards, make Personal Story cards optional (I usually opt to use them), and the Final Battle cards.

This was the first co-operative game I actually liked and is probably still my favorite co-op. All players mostly do their own thing while working towards a shared goal so there's no Alpha problem in my experience. At the end we all contributed in some way. I almost never bother with the sliders. I like to set them at the start and live with it. Lots of crazy shit can happen in this game both good and bad. Our first ever 4-player game took 8 hours. After we all learned the game to know what we were doing they usually took about 3 hours. Its not a perfect game but its an enjoyable one every single time I've played. Still love it and would play this weekend if I could. In fact, I may set it up solo soon as its been too long.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #306318 17 Jan 2020 10:10
I can’t say better what’s been said above. It’s the best game in my 100+ collection. Learning how to play is a pain in the ass, but made so much better by MrSkeletor’s flowcharts. We play one big expansion at most, due to table size, but always have injury/madness. We mix in little expansions here and there for variety. The whole thing is wonderful.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #306320 17 Jan 2020 10:15
What I would really like to know is if Uba still plays it. It was, if I recall correctly, her favorite game and she had that wheeled suitcase set.
edulis's Avatar
edulis replied the topic: #306321 17 Jan 2020 10:18
I'll pile on and say this is my favorite solo game. I've created a simple campaign mode (Character carry-over and unique items are lost if a character is killed or it is used that sort of thing) that I've started a few times to see how many old ones I could defeat before all the characters were killed).

However the lose of my game room to children not wanting to share a room any longer, has been a big set back. Leaving Arkham set up on the dining room table is frowned on...
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #306322 17 Jan 2020 10:20
Great game that doesn't make it to the table as often as it might just because it's so much to set up. I have to use a side table for all the decks of cards etc. I play this one pretty regularly Solo though, and typically leave it set up for a couple games once it's all out. Though I haven't tried that since I got two kittens a couple months ago. I have a feeling it would work... Less well.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #306323 17 Jan 2020 10:27
Speaking of tables, when I finally got a house, I bought a new gaming table. I made sure to get one that would be big enough for an 8-player game of Arkham Horror with all the expansion boards. That table also worked well when I ran a long D&D 3.5 campaign for 8 players.
Rliyen's Avatar
Rliyen replied the topic: #306325 17 Jan 2020 10:42
Leave it to Shellhead to encapsulate what I feel about that game. I play it constantly solo, but I agree it's a bear to set up. Every time I think about adding it to the pile of the TO BE PLAYED games on Game Day, I remove it because if we want Lovecraftian horror, they're going to go more for Elder Sign, which is a mainstay, than AH 2e.
lj1983's Avatar
lj1983 replied the topic: #306326 17 Jan 2020 10:45
still my wife's favorite game. 2 players, 2 characters each, so really a 4 player game. 1 large expansion. There's a large enough chance that one of your characters will spend a couple turns in a row doing 'nothing' that having two characters helps out a lot. But this is my dungeoncrawl. go around, fight monsters, prep against a big baddie. I even have the expansion expansion for some reason.

We did introduce it to some friends....and then it clicked for me. they just really don't like co-op games. they didn't like Pandemic, defenders of the realm or spirit island. they really disliked Arkham, they just felt the game was beating them down at every turn. and to be honest....it was.

I've looked into the 3rd edition stuff, and while having cards that might be alittle better tied into the specific narrative for that game seems like a nice upgrade, I haven't seen too much to make me want to change over.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #306327 17 Jan 2020 10:49
*sigh*

I really wish I didn’t have the kind of grenade-thrower, hyperbole, “enthusiastic about my opinions” reputation I have going into this discussion. I’m sure that people will see me complaining about this game and just write it off as Josh being Josh, and I don’t want to come across like that on this one. But it’s going to happen, I guess, and it’s going to be a bunch of stuff that you probably don’t want to read about one of your favorite games, but I think a good deal of what I have to say goes beyond my personal feelings and does fall into some degree of unarguable truth. Not all of it, mind you, I am aware of that, but some of it.

I think this is a really bad game. Like, really, really bad game. There, the grenade is thrown. Now, to explain.

There’s stuff that we all know was never all that great here, some clunky systems that were much more common in early 2000s thematic game design that we just pushed through and got used to back then, but say you didn’t do that and you’re coming to the game now, totally fresh. The mythos phase and the mythos deck graphic design is a mess. There’s no two way about it, it’s a clunky mess that makes a game that shouldn’t take a “lifestyle game” commitment to learn but it does. It’s not just in the mythos phase, it’s kind of everywhere. You all know it, you just got used to it. That’s fine, I also learn to get around flaws in games I love, too, but they are flaws and they do hold the game back, especially once I get into the real meat and potatoes as to why I think this game is awful.

Before I get there, this is a personal preference, but it’s also a bad Lovecraft game. A good Lovecraft game, meaning that it adheres to the flavor of his stories, probably wouldn’t be fun to play, but that doesn’t mean I or anyone else should necessarily be letting it off the hook for being a poor thematic fit. Worse, it’s lasting legacy is that we’ll never see a good Lovecraftian game that stick true to its roots. It inspired countless imitators all with the lame pulpy approach to what should be a completely hopeless endeavor. I only bring this up because I know for some this is a story-driven, RPG in a box and that’s a notion I do not buy. Storytelling-wise it’s weak, nothing but random flavor text laden bullshit happening and anyone that says it’s rich storytelling is really stretching to make something out of it.

The big thing...The number one reason why I hate this game with every fiber of my being...it just isn’t fun, it’s an absolute SLOG to play and it’s not even a good co-op. I know it’s an earlier entry in the Pandemic style whack-a-mole genre, but it so thoroughly embodies the poor design decisions that, for some reason, would be taken to task in any other game by any of AH’s fans. It’s the poster child for slippery slopes. You start winning, it gets easier. You start losing, you lose faster. That’s bad design, full stop, and to me it defines this game. I know Dunwich addresses that problem but it does so in the worst, most lazy way possible by taking those moments of accomplishment and randomly undoing them in what can turn into an exercise in utter tedium. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if you had just a small amount more control over the items you find. Before someone comes in with, “yOu Do HaVe CoNtRoL, yOu JuSt DoN’t KnOw tHe GaMe!”, that’s a) a weak ass argument, always has been, always will be and you know it and b) add more expansions and further obscure that control, why don’t you?

I’ll leave it at that. It’s been a good 10 years since I’ve played (and man did I play this game ALOT, desperately searching for the hype), and I’m sure there’s a whole lot more I could pick on it it were fresher in my memory, but that is the core of why I really truly do hate this game. There are some games that hobby gamers love to shit on, particularly foundational titles like Monopoly and Catan, under the false impression that those games have been “done better” by newer yet in reality more temporary and disposable games. Arkham Horror is not one of those games. It belongs to a genre I’m not fond of from the word go, but I can say that it *HAS* been done better. It’s enduring legacy is due to a handful of gamers who learned to live with its many faults simply because there were no other options at the time, and they are too nostalgic/comfortable/stubborn/afraid to move on and acknowledge it.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #306329 17 Jan 2020 11:12
That's just Josh being Josh.

But he does hit one point with me -- whenever I play Arkham Horror I think to myself "we really need to get the RPG out again."

The game is a kitchen sink design, one for the entire evening that begs for a bottle of Nadurra. Nothing wrong with that, but the RPG is really excellent in spite of its age.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #306330 17 Jan 2020 11:19
I was thinking afterwards what I would respond with if someone were to ask that if it has been done better, by what? It really depends on what you’re looking for, and if it’s the story, yeah, the Call of Cthulhu RPG is the answer. It’s a superb system, with some of the best adventure modules to ever hit the hobby. The whole “RPGs are too much work” argument does not apply when you’re talking about AH. Neither does the “Some are more comfortable with improvising than others,” obviously you’re doing okay with improvising if you’re seeing a coherent story somewhere in AH. Plus, with that new starter box that’s out there now, the best starter box for an RPG I’ve ever seen, you have no excuse.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #306332 17 Jan 2020 11:28
Josh, it's a common misconception that Arkham Horror is supposed to be directly based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. But it is only indirectly based on Lovecraft, and directly based on the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game published by Chaosium (note the Chaosium logo on each box), particularly their excellent line of Lovecraft Country sandbox adventure supplements. The distinction is important, because as you noted, Lovecraft's stories are not really directly suitable for adaptation into games. At least not any sort of game that could be won. While Call of Cthulhu adventures are notorious for leaving many characters dead or insane, they are typically written in a more adventurous spirit where resourceful players have a plausible chance of at least surviving. This makes more sense if you consider that the Call of Cthulhu rpg debuted just one year before Raiders of the Lost Ark hit theaters. Also, Lovecraft was a misogynist and a racist who wouldn't have approved of female or minority heroes, and he reportedly didn't even like playing games.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #306333 17 Jan 2020 11:31
No, I got all that, not a misconception. I just don’t like it. I acknowledged that it was sort of personal preference. Not a a fan of Lovecraft as a person either.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #306335 17 Jan 2020 11:41

Josh Look wrote: I was thinking afterwards what I would respond with if someone were to ask that if it has been done better, by what? It really depends on what you’re looking for, and if it’s the story, yeah, the Call of Cthulhu RPG is the answer. It’s a superb system, with some of the best adventure modules to ever hit the hobby. The whole “RPGs are too much work” argument does not apply when you’re talking about AH. Neither does the “Some are more comfortable with improvising than others,” obviously you’re doing okay with improvising if you’re seeing a coherent story somewhere in AH. Plus, with that new starter box that’s out there now, the best starter box for an RPG I’ve ever seen, you have no excuse.


Yeah, if ever there was an RPG where "less is more" applies Call of Cthulhu is it. Lean, simple to implement, the DM can have a note card's worth of prep and put on a good show. Story-wise it is super-rich earth. Characters take about ten minutes to set up.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306336 17 Jan 2020 11:49
I agree with most of what Josh wrote, which is probably why I traded mine and have no regret about it whatsoever. There is a lot of clanking (not that Clanking) in the design and I did learn to live with it and actually enjoy it. But I'm just not interested in that, anymore.

Now that we're piling on, I will say that the one element of it that never sat well with the me was the Final Battle exercise. Staying in the spirit of the stories, if we got the to point where the Ancient One woke up, the game was over and we lost. There was no "defeating the extradimensional space god with a shotgun" for us. First off, it spoiled the story, which was trying to prevent the thing from waking up; not nudging it out of slumber so we could have a throwdown with a flamethrower. Secondly, it waking up was usually after at least three hours of play and we were just done with it, at that point.

Whatevs. We had a lot of good times with it.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #306337 17 Jan 2020 12:03
Sold mine years ago. Running the RPG is less expensive, more thematic, has vastly less rules overhead, and produces far better and more coherent stories.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #306338 17 Jan 2020 12:05

Gary Sax wrote: What I would really like to know is if Uba still plays it. It was, if I recall correctly, her favorite game and she had that wheeled suitcase set.


I want to play it but I haven't played it in a while because Josh hates it ;)

That's only partially true. The rest of it is:
  • It is too long to play on a week night - so we don't pull it out when we have our weekly game night at our house even if Josh isn't there.
  • For two players, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is better, so when it is just Al and I we play that.
  • My weekend gaming is with a group that mostly plays Euros. So AH is a total no go with them.
  • My other weekend gaming is at an open game meet up where Arkham Horror 3rd edition and Arkham Horror LCG have replaced Arkham Horror 2nd.
  • The person, other than Al, that I used to play Arkham Horror with has been super busy, and I haven't been able to get together with him much. Plus his other favorite game is Cthulhu Wars, so the last few times we were able to get together we played that because there was a fourth person who really wanted to try out CW (there seems to always be a someone who wants to try CW) so we played that instead.
  • I've hauled it to three cons in the past year, but everyone there wanted to play the hot new games, and not AH.

tl:dr: No one wants to play with me.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #306339 17 Jan 2020 12:07
Starting at noon today, we are getting up to a foot of snow over the next 24 hours. So tomorrow would be a great day to play a solitaire game of Arkham Horror. But I recently got Dark Venture and really want to try that first.
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #306340 17 Jan 2020 12:26
Josh I agree with almost all of what you wrote, but I also played this for the first time last year and enjoy it a lot. I dunno, I guess I knew what it was before jumping in so I had my expectations calibrated. It's random weird bullshit for 4+ hours with a spooky theme and a bunch of mechanics that sort of work if you don't look at them too hard. I like the extreme variability, I like the silly flavor text, I like the vibe it gives me. I mostly play it Solo, because I don't think it's mechanically sound enough to try to introduce to a lot of people. I will say I'm surprised this game was as popular as it was for so long, but I guess there wasn't a lot like it at the time maybe?