Review Detail

Board Games 1621
Necronomicon as Choose Your Own Adventure
Rating 
 
5.0
2005: An RPG in a box, playable in a single evening. It's a lot of "pull a card and read the encounter" followed by lots of dice rolling. If either of those mechanics bother you, stay away. If you don't mind (and I certainly don't) then this is the best of the genre.

PROS

- A rich and detailed experience.

- High replay value.

- Cooperative play.

- Solo play!

- Art and production values to die for.

CONS

- A sprawling rulebook with almost no summary.*

*Later editions & big box expansions added a much-needed index.

- Little rules that are easy to miss, and change the game when you get them wrong. (For example, we overlooked the fact that closing a gate banishes all monsters with like symbols. This made a lot of really awful monsters hang around much longer than they would have otherwise.) Expect to play the game incorrectly several times.

- The final battle is nothing but dice. (Who knew Nyarlathotep could be defeated by the world's longest Yahtzee game?)**

**Final battle cards from Kingsport Horror fix this nicely.

- It's long. Really, really long.†

†This is mitigated by repeat plays in close proximity; knowing how and when to push on the game to angle it toward conclusion is key. We're at the point where we can knock it out in just a couple hours. (For shockingly shorter games, use Yig or Rhan-Tegoth.)

BOTTOM LINE

Arkham Horror is thick, meaty and completely immersive. This also means it takes a while, but that's not always a bad thing. It fills an evening to brimming with blood, terror and good clean fun. Recommended for players who enjoy the Call of Cthulhu RPG.

UPDATE: After several plays, the game is becoming easy—almost too easy. With a crack team of selfless, team-playing RPGers it's a pretty simple thing to win by sealing six gates or closing all gates while having the requisite gate trophies for victory. This drops the game to a 7, but it still gets the extra point for the whole Mythos thing (and the fact that it's easily handicapped).

UP-UPDATE: I have realized, with much dismay, that there really is no "horror" in Arkham Horror. It is extremely rare for anyone to get devoured, so much so that no one really ever worries about it at all. Also, the characters don't "wear out" like they do in the RPG—they are not eroded by repeated contact with the mentally-corrosive Mythos. Again, house rules will fix this (by having max sanity reduced by 1 every time you fail a Will check), but still, I shouldn't have to put the horror in Arkham... It shoulda been there in the first place.

My rating holds at 4 stars for all the kicks in the knickers we get out of the experience, but just barely.

UP-UP-UPDATE 2006: Forget all the whining. The expansions fix everything and take the experience to a well-deserved 5 stars. So, 4 stars for the base game, 5 stars with any expansion (especially Dunwich—goddamn Dunwich).

ALSO: Have the First Player act as the "Interim Keeper" by drawing and reading encounter cards for all players. Makes it way more fun when you don't know what your choice (or failure) will bring when you have to make a decision. Allows for more storytelling, too.

FINAL ANALYSIS 2011: I will always use the Injury & Madness cards from Dunwich and the Epic Battle cards from Kingsport in every play. And the Relationships & Personal Stories are a pip!

PS. Played once with 8p—NEVER AGAIN. The sweet spot is most definitely 4p.

2018: Bummed that we never got to play this enough, we put it back into heavy rotation, getting the rules down to the point where it's just smooth—it really does shine as an RPG experience, telling great little stories with nail-biting finishes. Playing it frequently also forced me to work out the optimal method for packing the box so setup and breakdown are a breeze—gone is the "archaeology of baggies", replaced with a layered "grab 'n go" stacking. With everybody pitching in we can have it ready to go inside 15 minutes from lid-off to first Mythos card; breakdown is just as quick.
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