Eldritch Horror

  • TyrelUK

Set in H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, Eldritch Horror is a co-op, story driven game of characters from the 20's (a psychic, a fisherman, a politician, an actress, the list goes on...) traveling around the globe trying to stop ancient God-like beings, or Great Old Ones, from breaking through into our world and destroying it in all manner of hideous ways.

Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) released this as a more modern, approachable and streamlined version of the beast that is Arkham Horror. I haven't played Arkham myself but have heard time and again, with only a small opposition, that they really nailed it. They've kept the sprawling story, the palpable feeling of intense horror and the sense of adventure that made the original what it was while making everything less fiddly and rules heavy, allowing you to focus on the story. That isn't to say that this is a light or even medium weight game, it's very much on the heavy side, but it's far more approachable and less intimidating than Arkham could ever hope to be.

Cardboard Tentacles

On opening the box you find a tonne of wonderfully crafted components, all up to the usual high standards of FFG. The board is thick and sturdy, the card stock of a high quality and all of it covered in exquisitely thematic artwork that helps to draw you into the Lovecraftian nightmare. My only complaint would be the lack of minis. The cardboard standees are very well made but I really wish it was a mini travelling to Egypt to face a mini of some unspeakable horror. I understand that including minis for everything in the game would be a big ask and push the price up to an unreasonable amount but oh, how I want those minis. FFG did produce a line of painted minis for Arkham Horror covering much of what is in Eldritch but they are prohibitively expensive, a full playset would set you back many hundreds of pounds. But it would be great if they released them as unpainted, unassembled plastic sprues so I could practice my fledgeling painting skills on them. Are you listening FFG?

Even without expansions the game takes up a lot of room. Gonna need a bigger table.

Even with practice and good organisation (which isn't provided by the inlay), it takes a while to setup and teardown. There is a deck for everything. Four location decks, one expedition, one other world encounter, one asset, one spell, one condition, one artifact and another three for each Great Old One (you face one GOO in each game). The expansions add more and these all need shuffling and organising before play. However, this is also the reason the game shines. All this variety means every game has a different challenge and storyline to it, every GOO you face has a different feel and every game will have you telling new stories to your friends of how you almost saved the world. Paradoxically, there is also not enough variety in the core set. There may be all manner of different decks for different situations but each deck is too small. Within a couple playthroughs you will start to see familiar cards and passages cropping up. This is easily fixed with just the first small box expansion, Strange Remnants, which doesn't add many new mechanics, just adds more variety to what is already there. I really think that this should have been included in the base set, even at the cost of raising the price slightly.

Defeating Cthulhu in 3 easy steps

Although the rules may seem daunting at first, the game round is structured in a way that is easy to understand. Each round is split into three phases: action, encounter and mythos. In the action phase each investigator takes two actions (move and rest for example). For the second phase they each first battle any monsters on their location and then, if there were no monsters or they won the battle, take an encounter card corresponding to the location or event they are on. These typically give you a bit of narrative about what happened to you on your adventures, often with a skill check to decide the outcome. This is where the majority of the flavour and story comes from. I'd suggest getting the person to the left to read the card aloud to you, this helps draw everyone into the whole story and adds a lot of atmosphere to the game. For the final phase you collectively draw one card from the Mythos deck, this is built from a supply before the game starts according to the instructions for the GOO you are facing. These represent the progress of the GOO and it's supporters and are usually punishing effects, again with flavour story attached. Occasionally, very occasionally, it may be something that helps you. But don't ever count on this, the game is not your friend and will sucker-punch you the moment you start to think otherwise.

The first expansion, Forsaken Law, is a must have as it adds some much needed variety to the core box.

Something I should touch on is the game length. Just for context, I purchased this game on release, currently have three of the four available expansions and play it every month or two. I have seen many say that a game with four characters (you can play anywhere from one to eight but I would recommend playing with four) almost always takes over three hours, usually closer to four with an occasional quick loss taking less than three. This differs from my experience with the vast majority of games taking around three hours including set up, with only an occasional nail-biting late win going as long as four. Yes, the first two or three games took around four hours but once everyone is happy with the rules the game flows well and playtime comes down. Even if it was four hours I would be happy with that as there is little downtime while playing and the narrative is so engrossing that it flies by anyway, one of my favorite ways to spend a few hours.

So, would I recommend Eldritch Horror? Too right I would, it's one of my gaming group's top games and one that I will be buying every expansion for without question. I understand that some people don't like the high luck factor of the game but I suspect they are looking at the game wrong. This isn't a game about finding an optimal strategy, although strategies can help. It's a game about getting lost in the narrative and saving the world from unspeakable horrors with a group of friends by your side. If that even remotely interests you then I urge you to go out and get a copy (and maybe the first expansion for that added variety). And search for an Arkham Horror playlist on Spotify, it really adds to the atmosphere.