Sunday, February 7, 2016

Board Game: Eldritch Horror

I have this problem with board game posts: I play the games and take the pictures, and then completely forget to do the blog post for the list.


The Game: Eldritch Horror
The Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Time: Oh, hell. Upwards of 4-5 hours?
Players: Me, +Michelle+Rob, Mike, Sarah

Countdown to extinction.
Game Play: Eldritch Horror works a lot like Arkham Horror, and in some ways it's less involved, but it's not really fair to call it an "easier" or "lite" version, because it's neither. Every play controls a character with a distinct set of starting equipment and a couple of special abilities, and you romp around the world collecting clues and trying to solve Mysteries. Before playing, you pick an Elder to be your special friend for the game; the game advised that, for our first game, we use Azathoth, who's fairly straightforward. Naturally, we instead chose Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods.

Winning the game requires solving three Mysteries. Mysteries come in a deck, shuffled, and then flipped one at a time (so you have to solve them in a sequence; each Elder has its own Mystery deck). Mysteries involve gather clues, killing monsters, shutting gates, which involve moving around the board to various cities and having encounters. Encounters involve, ultimately, rolling some dice against one of your scores and trying to hit 5 or 6.

Setup still takes freaking forever, though.

Now, much of this is ported over from Arkham, but there are some important differences. Monsters stick around if you don't kill them, but you can wound them, meaning when you go back they're still wounded, meaning you can tag team them. You can rest anywhere, recovering health and sanity, rather than having to schlep all the way to a hospital. Turn order doesn't go clockwise, but passes from one player to a player of their choice, meaning you can strategize a little that way.

Probably my favorite change is that when a character is defeated (dies in battle or goes mad), they don't just vanish. Your body stays where it was, so other players can get some of your stuff and have a neat little encounter to finish up your story. This became relevant in our session, since Michelle "inadvertently" murdered three people.

"Oops. I seem to have sacrificed you to a Dark God. Again."
Ultimately, we lost. There's a Mythos deck, and at the end of every turn, you draw a card. Sometimes these Mythos phases are fairly benign (a gate opens somewhere, a monster appears, yeah), and sometimes they herald events that make everything very inconvenient until you fix them. But if you run out of Mythos cards, you lose. We lost not just because we ran out of cards, but also because the Black Goat woke up because our Doom Track filled, so we suddenly had to contend with getting to South America and fighting the Goat and Her Followers.

The important thing is, we tried.
Opinions: Look, if it seems like this is complex as I'm explaining it, you know nothing. Like Arkham, this game has so many moving parts that trying to explain it from memory is impossible. If you're committing to an evening of Eldritch Horror, you need to start at 3PM and plan to finish around 8PM. It might not take that long (especially if you suck at the game, because you'll die quickly), but ours did.

Now, with that said, I will say that the game is a lot of fun. It feels like it progresses more than Arkham does, and the addition of the Mythos phase of things and the depleting deck of cards adds an urgency that wasn't always there before. Like I said earlier, it's not any easier than Arkham, just some of the rough edges have been filed down and the players have some options that weren't there before - the game feels, perhaps deceptively, more forgiving.

As with similar games, you must be patient if you're going to play Eldritch Horror. It's kind of like reading Lovecraft, in that way.

Keep? Yes.