Some blessed person in FFG's otherwordly cult decided that the city of Arkham wasn't enough for their Lovecraftian adventure games, and as a result, they released Eldritch Horror in 2017. Instead of surveying the dank streets of Arkham, Eldritch Horror takes you to the entire world in an Indiana Jones-esque quest to stop those pesky unknowable entities from beyond space and time from using your reality as a fleshlight. Eldritch Horror uses a lot of the same mechanics of Arkham Horror, only the scope is much, much larger. Gates encompass entire cities, a productive turn of moving around can take you from Cape Town to Mexico City and, as always, the game will heap atrocious amounts of hate on you.
It's not quite as difficult as Arkham Horror but it is in many ways better than its cousin game - It plays faster, is less fiddly and has even more flavor than Arkham Horror. The mileage-may-vary issue is that the game is fucking stupid, like a Lovecraft-inspired B-film. Your characters may kill mobs of Zombies, two Deep Ones and a Baykhee with a single stick of Dynamite, the encounters are entirely random and makes it sound like the evil cults are on literally every street corner, and best of all, you characters gets so fucking mangled, indebted, tortured and generally ruined that losing them feels like a mercy. On the other hand, some lucky card draws can make the game much easier and make you feel like Sly Marbo outfitted with the Necronomicon, a .44 Winchester, several packages of Whiskey and a raging hard-on for the destruction of the abominations beyond space and time.
Indeed, imagine a game where you're basically playing a Scooby Doo Gang of random 1920s archetypes, trying to prevent motherfucking Cthulhu from trying to bust in and wreck Earth. If you're lucky you'll end up with a gang consisting of an almighty wizard, a mystery solving clue-sniffer akin to Sherlock Holmes and a blood-drenched murdur-hobo who'd make even Ash from Evil Dead blush. Of course, if you're unlucky the player characters will constantly be at deaths door, on the run from evil cultists (Not the fun kind) and cthonic horrors trying to destroy the world.
In fact, don't imagine it - because that's what this game is about. And lets face it, you likely being a fine and well-cultured Intelligen/tg/entleman, the idea of playing a dapper 1920s Indiana Jones kind of guy, armed with a whip and a .45, going up against demons for great justice should be all you need to hear. I mean, who wouldn't want to do that?
Welcome to Eldritch Horror, where good characters go to die screaming as tentacle horrors from the great beyond eat their bodies and minds.
So ya, as you might have figured from the above, then the game is basically a more advanced version of Arkham Horror, another game by Fantasy Flights Games. It has a buttload of tokens and a total of eight expansions, easily requiring several pack mules to haul everything around. That said, the insane amount of content in the game makes for near infinite replayability, as the different old one boss monsters, wide array of assets you can acquire and fearsome array of demons and cultists you can fight will mean that you'll never play the same session twice.
You play the game via a whirlwind of globe-trotting, mystery-solving, gate-closing and monster slaying, all the while trying to make your character stay alive and at least mildly not-too-insane.
Ever heard of H.P. Lovecraft? If you have, then you'll fit right in. If not, consider polishing up your lore of the Cthulhu Mythos. Ancient 'Old Ones', dark gods and strange cosmic creatures from a bygone age are returning to Earth, cultists everywhere are welcoming them with open arms and bloody sacrificial daggers, and you gotta stop them. With the game set vaguely in some pre-ww2, post ww1 time period, you can have encounters in Rome where you have to flee from fascists or attend a show by Houdini in Buenos Aires to learn how to perform real magic. The game contains quite a lot of period-accurate references to people who lived in that period, so you can attend a lecture by physisist Enrico Fermi so confusing you get sanity loss, or dick around Arkham to engage in fisticufs with Deep Ones around Innsmouth.
You play a character, that character has stats. Combat with monsters and encounters revolve around stat-tests where you roll a number of D6s for how large the relevant stat is. For most tests, a single success will suffice no matter how many dice you roll, and a 5 or 6 is a success, unless you have a Blessed condition, then its 4 to 6 - or if you're Cursed, then its only a 6. If you have an encounter that says test Lore -1, and you have a lore stat of 3, then you roll 2 D6 and hope for the best. You can never have a stat roll reduced to less than one d6.
Equipment and other buffs your character can get can allow for a near endless mix of re-rolls, adding +1 to a dice result, having 6s count as two successes and so on. You want these.
Your character has a limited number of health points and sanity points. Your character dies or goes nuts if these hit zero - and it can happen fast. Luckily its possible to get spells that allow for casters to undo limited health and sanity loss, or boost recovery, or do pretty much anything else. Spells generally serve a supporting role in the game, allowing for casters to conjure up clue resources for to player characters, teleport people around the game board, buff stats and generally help out. Rolling badly when casting a spell is roughly as bad as crit failing casting a spell in FATAL, at least for your character, and can be just as messy. Protip: Equip your casters well for lore rolls.
Speaking of which, with the 50+ different characters you will have access to once you have all the expansions, you'll quickly realize that while all characters can basically do anything as long as they're tooled up for it, then there are some basic character archetypes that makes each character lean towards a specific area of specialisation. Indeed, all characters have a unique action ability and a unique passive ability.
- The Warrior
This type of character typically has both good health and sanity stats. At least 5 or 6 in each, ideally more. Additionally they have high starting Strength stats, and often also good Will stats, though there are characters like the Farmhand who has a passive ability which means that unless he gets physically hurt in combat he doesn't have to test Will in combat, and can thus entirely avoid sanity loss. He's basically a jock who's too dumb for Cthulhu to scare him. Another fun warrior character is the Gravedigger who basically gets bonus loot for killing monsters as his passive ability, so once he gets rolling he can easily become an unstoppable monster killer.
- Clue Generators
This type of character can take on a variety of forms, but ultimately it boils down to their special abilities allowing them to crank out Clues. Usually the mysteries you have to solve to defeat the Old Ones require Clue tokens to be spent somehow, so you want a ton of these. The Psychic is a classic example of this via her ability to 'scry' new conditions players get and gleam clues from those, or the Mechanic who can convert Ressource tokens into clues, or the Researcher who gains extra clues from Research encounters and can spawn new clue markers on the game board.
- Gear Generator
Characters with high Influence stats are great for Acquire Assets rolls, so they'll be your go-to solution for getting weapons for your warriors, tomes for your casters and booze for anyone who needs to avoid sanity loss. Characters like the Politician, who has the passive ability of being able to ship any kind of purchased asset directly to other characters no matter where they are on the game board, makes him the best gear generator in the game, and he synergizes quite well with the Millionaire who has the ability to allow other characters an extra Gather Resource action AND Acquire assets roll on his turn. The Salesman character can, if you work him right, end up with the ability to be able to purchase clues, making him a hybrid Gear and Clue generator able to gain endless amounts of clues per turn, especially if the Millionaire helps him out.
Spellcasting in the game is vital for support purposes. Incantation spells like Flesh Ward and Instill Bravery can save characters from dying or going insane, while teleportation, permanent skill buffs and clue conjuration also helps. Any character with high Lore and sanity can fit this role, but characters like the Waitress have abilities for easy spell generation, and the Psychic also starts with high lore so she can double as a clue generator and caster. Similarly the Parapsychologist is a good hybrid caster and clue generator. The Magician straight up has a passive ability that says that once per round he gets a second spell when he would gain one spell, go figure.
- Portal hunters
The Shaman and the Dreamer both have abilities that let them teleport to active portals, and you really do not want too many of those active. Stat wise you want good all-round stats for this, but abilities that let you move quickly across the board help a lot here. It also helps if they can fight or hide well, because monsters spawn when gates open up.
A lot of characters don't have abilities that tie them into any of the other specializations, but often just help out in supporting others. The Musician and the Secretary both buff the dice-rolls of other players, and in the secretary's case even herself, when they're on the same space as others. The Nun can pray to make the madness conditions of other characters go away, and similarly the Psychologist can give other characters on her space extra rest actions that also remove madness conditions. The Butler allows characters to get two tickets instead of one when they buy tickets - might not seem like much, but being able to effect fast travel is really handy if your caster can't teleport people.
Ideally you want a good balance of character types - at least one warrior, one caster and one clue-generator - or you can go nuts and pick a character randomly if you're insane. If a character dies doom advances one, you start a new character next turn, and you can go to your dead character to loot them for gear, spells, clues and anything else, along with retreating doom by one - provided that what killed them doesn't kill your new character.
Oh ya that's another fun game mechanic: Doom. There's a track at the top of the game board counting down. Certain events in the game, or if the stars align and the right omen comes up while there are certain colors of gates active on the game board, will see the doom counter tick down. You never ever want it to hit 0. For some Old Ones it 'simply' summons them into the world of living, meaning that you have to solve X number of mysteries AND then physically defeat the final boss to win, but for others... it simply means game over. You really want to avoid this.
Additionally, one of the expansions add a personal quest system to the game. Basically each character starts with a personal mini-quest that usually ties into what their special abilities make them good at. If you complete them the quest rewards often include stat or ability buffs, or enhance your character in some other way. Some quest rewards are rather dull - say if they're just stat buffs, because you might already have those stats buffed to the max, but for the Salesman it allows him to straight up purchase clues via Acquire Asset rolls, while the Psychic it allows her to spend clues cancel out Mythos card effects which is hilarious broken and basically turns the game difficulty down to "Game Journalist Review Mode". However, these quests can be failed, and some can be failed quite easily if you aren't careful - and the penalties can range from light stuff like stat debuffs which be fixed pretty easily to horrible alterations to game mechanics that make the whole game much harder, like altering how the game calculates mystery completion criteria. Sometimes you will want to kill off a character to prevent quest failure if you don't have any other options.
The game is setup with the large game board and picking an Old One as the big bad of the game. You can draft it or pick a specific one. Some are vastly more difficult than others, which can be seen by how many Mysteries you need to solve to win the game. Easy ones require 4 mysteries, average difficulty is 3 mysteries, the really nasty ones require only two - and do not make the mistake of thinking that the 2 mystery ones are quick and easy. Hastur, for example, have mysteries that requires the player characters to catastrophically debuff themselves with multiple madness conditions before they can be solved.
With the expansions, some bosses introduce extra game boards such as the Mountains of Madness in Antarctica, the Eqypt board where you can enjoy tea time with mummies and dark egyptians horrors, or the Dreamlands board where you can truly learn how stretchy your mind and body is as you journey to Unknown Kadath.
Once that's ready, you draw a Prelude card to set the stage for the game. This can make extra monsters appear at the start of the game, or offer players a choice at the start of the game to start with extra gear or stat buffs, often for a price. It might even require that you set up extra expansion boards, despite the Old One for the game not requiring it. With that done a number of portals and clues are spawned, scaled to the number of players. The game can have between 2 to 8 players, though you can easily play the game by having two or more characters helmed by one player, but you always need a minimum of two: You are not supposed to read your own encounter cards, because then you can see what the branching paths might lead to and cheese the game.
A turn of the game has three primary phases, where the players take turn doing their thing for one phase, then everyone moves to the next phase and so on.
- Action phase
Each character can perform two actions per turn. This can be move one space, prepare for travel by buying a ticket which can extend a travel action, buy new stuff, rest to recover health, sanity and heal injuries or madness conditions. You can do any given action only ONCE per turn, unless the character has special abilities that allow for something else.
- Encounter Phase
Here the characters will battle monsters, and if there's no monsters left on their space - or none to begin with - then they have an encounter based on their location. Different major cities and other key locations tend to have encounters that, if you pass the skill checks, reward you with specific stat buffs or types of loot. Rome for example is a good place to go for Blessed conditions, while Buenos Aires is the place for Ritual type spells, including the ever-useful teleportation spell which can make or break a game. Expedition encounters often reward you with special artifacts that usually have amazing weapon stats or buff spellcasting greatly, or allow for special actions that grant great rewards. Research encounters on spaces with clue tokens mostly yield clue tokens.
Monsters are fought by first rolling your Will stat against the monster's horror rating. If you have successes equal to or larger than than the rating, you lose no sanity. Then its your strength stat against the monster's damage rating, if you beat that you take no damage. If you get enough strength successes to match the monster's toughness rating, it's defeated. Epic monsters will have absurdly high horror and damage ratings, but certain types of gear can lower these. Epic monster toughness ratings usually read as "Player count + 2" or something similar, so their difficulty scales with the number of players. Plan your combat encounters accordingly.
Weapons and gear can boost both your combat strength and will stats quite a lot. It's not uncommon to have enough strength buffs on a combat-focused character to roll 10 or more D6s on a strength roll. It should be noted that a character cannot get a stat buff from two of the same thing for the same stat. If you have two Weapon type assets that give buffs to strength, then only the biggest buff apply. Same applies for will and other states. However, you might also have buffs from an Ally type asset, a Trinket, a Tome, a glamour spell and so on. They're fine as long as there's not two of the same type of item giving a buff to the same thing with the same wording. An item saying "You can roll one more D6 for strength tests in combat" is not the same as an item giving just flat +1 strength.
It can get messy to track all the buffs and whether the items that only give you one reroll per round have been used or not. Try to keep your character sheets and inventory well organized, it'll make for a smoother gameplay experience.
- Mythos phase
This is the phase where all the characters and the players bend over, drop their pants, and recieve the tender love of the Old Ones as they get their turn. The composition of the mythos deck of cards are unique to each Old One, and with enough expansions you'll never run into the same build of mythos deck ever. Some Mythos cards are marked with a white icon denoting it as an easy card that might actually see the players buffed or rewarded, while cards with crimson tentacles will easily molest your characters to the point that even Slaneesh would be like "Dude, chill" by introducing some decidedly Dward Fortress flavors of fun.
The game rules explicitly state that a way to control the difficulty level of the game is to chose whether or not you have any tentacle-level mythos cards in your game. These things can end a game in an instant. Enjoy.
So... why the fuck would I want to play this?
Come on, the prospect of being wrung inside out ass-first by a young and curious chtonian sounds fun, doesn't it? And afterwards you can take your turn jamming six sticks up dynamite up one of its sixteen buttholes and blow it up! It's all in the give and take. Good team strategizing is key, and doing so well can make the game a rollercoaster of awesome, as you make nail-bitting dice-rolls for the fate of humanity. The amazing flavor text in the encounters can pull you into the game as if playing D&D with a god-tier GM. Complex encounters with branching paths can lead to ruins or riches, and you won't known until you roll the dice. I hope you've save up with some focus tokens for extra re-rolls.
With all eight expansions you'll have access to over fifty characters, each allowing for wildly different stats and play-styles, and with clever planning you can combo the abilities for hilarious near game-breaking exploits. But don't be fooled: Outside of outright cheating while playing the game, then everything is fair in the fight against the Old Ones. I don't care how many times you make the hobo chug that can of 'dubiously recycled' holy water you keep making him dig out of the trash, you will need it for that Blessed condition you keep losing every mythos phase.
Also, for the love of all that is holy, NEVER TAKE A DARK PACT. This means you Jon, you unholy fucktard. (note that not taking a dark pact is for sissies.. just win before it comes back to bite you in the ass, easy)
|Classics:||Backgammon - Chess - Go - Tafl - Tic-Tac-Toe|
|Ameritrash:||Arkham Horror - Axis & Allies - Battleship - Betrayal at House on the Hill - Car Wars |
Clue/Cluedo - Cosmic Encounter - Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Dungeon!
Firefly: The Game - HeroQuest - Monopoly - Mousetrap - Snakes and Ladders - Risk
Talisman - Trivial Pursuit
|Eurogames:||Agricola - Carcassonne - The Duke - Settlers of Catan - Small World - Stratego - Ticket to Ride|
|Pure Evil:||Diplomacy - Dune (aka Rex: Final Days of an Empire) - Monopoly - The Duke|
|Others:||Icehouse - Shadow Hunters - Twilight Imperium|