There is something alluring about the world made by Lovecraft. The eldritch beings, incomprehensible to the mind, invading our world. And the brave, or perhaps foolish, investigators trying to figure out what’s going on and stopping the madness. It’s no secret that I absolutely love the Eldritch world and it’s no surprise that the board game world is infatuated with it as well. One of the best parts about a lot of these types of board games is they are cooperative. All players win together or lose together. But it also means the game can be played at really any variable player count! I want to touch on some of the games I completely love with this theme but trust me there are more out there. Many more.
Arkham Horror Second Edition
I remember the first time I played this game. I was with my brothers. We started late, stopped playing at 2 am without finishing and there got scolded by our mother for staying up so late. I was eleven or twelve. This was one of my first board games. Arkham Horror Second Edition is all about exploration and resource management. The city is vast. You know what elder one is invading and how many rounds you have before they arrive.
What are you searching for? Clues. You need to find clues about what’s happening and use that knowledge to close the rips in space leading to other dimensions. But of course, you need to go to the other side and return before closing it. Close enough portals and you can defeat the evil that is lurking in the dark.
But the eldritch being isn’t the only threat. That would be only too easy. Monsters also emerge from the portals and start to swarm the city streets. Roaming and attacking any investigator they can get their hands on. This has always made for the interesting split teams. I always find there is someone who focuses in on getting clue while another goes and buys every weapon and spell they can hold. It’s always fun hearing “I’ll go kill it so you can jump into the portal”. Monsters need to be killed after all. Too many and they escape the city. Even more? Oh no, the elder one has gained enough power to escape and enter our world early.
The heath of the city is also important. The people are acting strange but none of them have gone mad. Yet. One of my favorite mechanics of this game is the terror track. As terror spreads throughout the city of Arkham, it becomes harder and harder get resources to do what you need to. Can’t buy a weapon if the store is closed!
This game absolutely is planning against you and it does it every way it can. With only one way to win and three ways to lose, be prepared to lose. Quite a bit. But the game doesn’t end with the elder one coming to our world. If they’ve already escaped why not go down in a blaze of glory trying to kill it? Nothing feels better than throwing a Molotov cocktail at an Eldritch before they drive you insane.
This game is very fun but can be fiddly and crunchy with its rules, mechanics and the enemies turn. Keeping track of everything can also be a bit too much to handle. Play time is also considerable with faster games being around three hours and longer games ranging closer to six (this is solely in my experience, I’m sure there are people who can play this game faster than I can).
Arkham Horror Third Edition
Two editions not enough? Well they made a third! So, what is different I asked (so I would have something to write about)? I will admit, as much as I like second edition, third edition is even better. The game keeps the area exploration and resource management of second edition while delving more into creating a story experience for the player. The base game contains different scenarios that will shape the world around you.
There is nothing more exciting than seeing the story unfold as events are triggered. Everything is planned by the story except the random event cards for each of the locations. The monsters still roam the streets and it’s hard to figure out which threat to address first. The terror and insanity of the situation still does affect the city of Arkham. Each district can be overtaken by another realm if spreading horror is not contained.
I really enjoy how third edition has streamlined the mechanics of second edition. The game is straight-forward, and the scenarios add a whole new level of depth. One thing I love about these games is how every choice you make has an impact. Every decision is important. It is so empowering to know that whatever you decide, there will be consequences. Be it good or bad. And as per normal with a game about Eldritch beings, don’t always expect to win. The difficulty for this game can ramp if you want a challenge or decrease if you’d rather have a relaxing night overcoming an Eldritch God .
Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game
Growing up, I was heavily invested into Magic the Gathering. So when I found out that were a living card game in the Arkham Horror line of games, I was ecstatic. The game is still expanding. Still growing. This game allows you to build a deck that is unique to your version of a character. There are five different attributes to build characters from: Guardian, Seeker, Rogue, Mystic, and Survivor. Each character has their own strengths. I found I particularly love the rogue and survivor suits, they are all about being sneaky and diverting expectations.
This game is all about the story. The game takes you through scenarios where you either accomplish your goals or are defeated by the evil. Unlike in previous games, you do not now where the end will be. Or which Elder God you might be facing. There is no exploration of locations. Instead, the investigate action helps obtain the available clubs at the locations.
This game is one of my favorites as the character I choose to play is unique to me. While someone else may play that character in the future, it’s unlikely that the deck we make will be the same. Or the way we upgrade the decks as we go through the adventure will be the same. This is one game where you can feel a great connection with your character and build them to your image.
Pandemic: Call of Cthulhu
Do you like Pandemic? No, neither do I. Never thought I’d actually thought I’d be living through one. Oh wait, the board game? Now that, I absolutely love! Pandemic: Call of Cthulhu is a fun variation of the Pandemic series. The core mechanics are the same as any Pandemic game. Investors take actions and acquire cards to help control certain areas.
Instead of different strains of virus, each location needs to be protected from the upcoming evil. The eldritch horrors are also invading leaving either big impacts or persisting effects. This manipulates and changes the game as the board is always working against you.
I always enjoy a game with the Lovecraft mythology. The game is perfect for enjoying the experience of this genre at a lower complexity. There are not as many components to keep track of as some of it’s counterparts.
Cthulhu: Death May Die
I’m not going to lie, I was not expecting to like this game. I came across Cthulhu: Death May Die on Kickstarter and was completely enamored by the miniatures that came with it. With so many cool options, it was hard to resist. Plus a miniature that was a foot and half tall! Who can say no to that? The game arrived in a box that I could fit in. There were three full size boxes of components. This game belongs in the category of games that take up one full Kalax cube.
Unpacking this game to play episode one was actually fairly straight forward. All the pieces are organized in the box to easily set up the board. But then, we had to pick character and dear lord are there a lot of characters to choose from. Overall, there are three types of characters: melee, range, and sneaky characters. Generally it is good to make a balanced team but some characters are just fun. I personally like to chose the characters that balances out the bad luck I have rolling dice.
And with everything set up, we started playing. This game is brutal, the elder god always feel one step ahead and everything is on fire. Literally. We were watching fire slowly overtake the entire board (Ok, not actual fire, I could never do that to one of my games). This game is a very interesting balance of insanity and power. The more insane your character goes, the more power they gain. But going too far can get you killed. Everything is about finding your best balance between your own character and the rest of your team. Coordination is the key to winning.
Because each elder god can be mixed with any scenario, one scenario can be player five times with five completely different feels. This game has so much versatility of play and I could come back over and over again. Although I bought this game for the miniatures without any expectations, this game blew me out of the water. It was surprisingly fun and I love bringing it to the table.
The journey for this game is so fun, that even losing still creates a great game night. Very quickly, this game because my favorite game in the Lovecraft Genre. I am looking forward to finally playing the scenario with the giant Cthulhu “miniature”.
There are two games that I have in my collection that I have either not played or haven’t played in a long time. But, I didn’t want to leave them out so let me talk a little bit about Eldritch Horror and Mansions of Madness (and also leave some fun pictures).
Eldritch Horror take Arkham Horror and goes all around the world. This game also has a boat and trains component to it. And I cannot hide my love for trains!
Mansions of Madness is interesting as it combines an app with the board game. This allows for all players to be surprised as the story unfolds.