Once upon a time, Arkham was famous resort, where homes were sold to the richest. But then this city became the scene of some of the greatest horrors. At the first sign of problems and dangers, all new immigrants disappeared and left not only houses, but often even equipment inside. Only the most resilient citizens remained.
And we’ll joint hem in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Fantasy Flight Games novelty has been prepared for us by Nate French and Matthew Newman. It is a cooperative entertainment that will be powered by many expansions to come. Of course, it belongs to LCG (Living Card Game) genre, although we could finally rename this shortcut to Living Cthulhu Game.
On the lid we can find a classic Arkham scene full of tentacles and firearms. The dark moon creates true atmosphere. The box itself is full of cards. And between them, each of the participants in the game (one or two) finds his own hero, token and card belonging to him and takes five tokens of resources. At the beginning of the first game, you have to build a deck around your chosen character. There are some clues how to do it, if you are not experienced in this kind of stuff. From the shuffled deck, top five cards create starting hand for each player.
Now it comes to scenario itself. Game is bulit around these stories and they each have its own setup. In the base box, players will find a campaign named Night of the Zealot. According to the current scenario, they prepare packages of meetings, agenda, stories and eventually place some locations on the table. Player will then begin their common efforts. And players have to also bring one bowl and place a randomizer tokens in it. This place will be used instead of dice.
Rounds are divided into turns. Each game provides players with given time to accomplish their effort. To do this, agenda cards are used and players will add one token of destruction at the beginning each round on it. However, once their number reaches limit for that card, players need to immediately evaluate back of that card and reveal another one. Each scenario has its own set of agendas and this time limit is causing tension for the whole game.
Immediately afterwards, players have a chance to respond with their investigator phase. Here players get to action gradually and can choose from a variety of activities. Three actions can be taken by a player in a round. There are easy options like to get a new raw material or drwa card from own deck.
But more interesting are locations (their connections are indicated by icons) to which they can travel and explore. Player can only travel between places that share an icon – image of starting card is among symbols on location, where hero wants to go. Just by visiting it, character reveal true identity of that place (revealing the other side of the card). It will usually show clue tokens, that will have to be collected and placed by players to advance. For this, exploration action is available together with test of withs against difficulty of that site. Player draws a random token from a bowl of chance and receives a clue if successful.
In locations, a player may encounter an enemy and has an opportunity to challenge him to a fight. This means that the player takes the opponent card and puts it in front of him. At this point, they are locked in and the hero can attack (at the expense of an action point). To do this, players can also use the equipment of their hero, if they were able to play it as a support in previous rounds. These cards can be used for their capabilities printed on the card. The fight itself then takes place again with the help of the drawing tokens from a bowl and comparing result with difficulty.
As soon as players have finished their actions, phase of the enemy will take place. Monsters can move, but primarily attack heroes, they are locked in with. The hero can receive not only physical injuries, but can get terrified. This can significantly change the status of the character, but you can also distribute the wounds between your cards, that can absorb them.
Each round ends with the refreshing all cards, that can only be used once per round. Players draw a card out of their deck, get one resource token and game continues with new round and myth phase. Players adds new tokens and new situations may arise from agenda charts.
Players collect clues and can follow act deck forwards. With the new cards, the story advances and eventually reaches its ending phase. And according to the result, players find in a special small manual, what their investigators achieved. There are several different endings and players only get to read one. It can, of course, happen that all investigators will lose their health or sanity earlier and have to admit defeat. Special end for such situation is also prepared.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a game that is based on crawling through the campaign. One match standing alone can not provide the magic, that comes from these connected stories. And despite the fact that the game is already dominated by hopelessness and dark atmosphere. This new card game is great in providing depression, especially if you read flavor texts from the cards. In this case, game is able to create a really meaningful story together with different endings.
Most important part of the basic box are three scenarios associated with the campaign. This is of course not enough and just like with other LCGs, it is also expected that you will continue to invest in the game. But these three stories can already indicate the potential, that you will in the future and you will not want to have the box just lying on the shelf.
Game itself works great. It takes the good from the Lord of the Rings Card Game (also LCG) and add new concepts. Even the designer is the same (Nate French). Players still have characters, build packages, but they now draw tokens to meet different conditions. The continuity with the game is mainly found in the clue cards, which move the players further into the story. Obtaining them seems simple. But at the same time, players must be able to defend themselves against dangerous monsters.
The cooperation in this game is absolutely vital and works great. Players must constantly communicate and share all the information they know. Even the cards in hand should be public. However, of course, the need to read some texts constantly slows down the overall progress of the game. The game is also full of keywords with different meanings to look for. The rules themselves are simple, but the game itself is really complex and full of lots of things.
In the description of rules, we only walked around the deep nature of this game and presented only its main skeleton. For example, each player must include a card of weakness among his cards, which may cause some unpleasant events during the game. Creatures can also be avoided, but only by a roll away against their attention. Players must respect limits of items, that can be used at the same time. And there is more to the game with many tiny rules.
The tests themselves and their successes are random. Result of drawing a token is only supported by statistics and improvements. But luck can still decide on failure, even if your chances are really high. There is better impression in this game (compared to usual sklil / combat tests), because there is an interesting ration of differently numbered tokens. So you always have some interesting chance, based on current scenario (there are more tokens, than used for one game).
One piece of such an adventure in Arkham will usually cost you ninety minutes of time, which is far more, than the competition (Lord of the Rings). Fun is intense and because game is designed in base box for one or two players, nobody waits long for his turn. Everyone is involved in action constantly.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a great and very complex cooperative game. If you like cooperation and would like to move your experience to the next level, then you have the choice between Lord of the Rings and Arkham (we omit many other interesting cooperative games just to be more figurative). Both games are similar, but this new game is even more thrilling and, above all, has a horror hat. Outstanding scenarios make Arkham Horror: The Card Game a very dense experience.
+ excellent scenarios and their endings
+ really complex, full of possibilities
+ collaboration makes sense
+ building the package gives you full control
+ drawing tokens brings luck, but their number is well balanced
+ an atmosphere of hopelessness
+ player options
- lots of keywords, tiny rules and complex time sequences
- you will be buying expansions