Sunday, August 01, 2010

Arkham Bullshit or Why Won't This Game Take Off?

I am an avid fan of H.P. Lovecraft and his mythology. Read them since I was a tyke. When the boardgame Arkham Horror came out I instantly grabbed it so I could relive the stark adventure of investigating the horrors of the Cthulhu mythos.
For those familiar with the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, it is practically a boardgame version of that same thing.
I love the game but it is a love that (like all loves I suppose) is interspersed with pain and loathing. Whenever I drag this game out, (and it takes about 15 to 30 minutes to set up depending on how you store your myriad game pieces and how many players you have and how many have never played the game before or need a 'refresher course'), it has met with disaster (with one exception). I have lately been trying to pawn it off on the Petersens since we have been playing cooperative games a lot lately. The first time I showed them this wonderful game, I came dressed as a '20's reporter with suspenders and slicked back hair with a sharp, black coat. Unfortunately, my attire turned out to be more interesting than the game I brought. After I discussed the rules and set up the game, I chose Yig to be our Ancient One and started 'er up. I should also note that I had the Dunwich Horror expansion attached to this game for this session. (Big Mistake). Well, I think we had six players at this game which meant we only needed 6 gates to be open on the game board for Yig to awaken. I can't remember exactly what we did, but apparently we did close some gates because I recall that Yig filled up with doom tokens and woke up. Now, it only takes 10 doom counters to wake up Yig (he's the easiest Ancient One to awaken) and the ensuing final battle with him accomplished much but not enough as attrition set in (as it often does with these Ancient Ones) and all of us fell before his supernatural might.
The game lasted maybe two hours in total and no one was pleased, least of all me. In my shame, I put the game back into the closet and waited until the stars were right to bring it out into the light.

Arkham Failure part 2
This weekend I sprang the Auld Gaym Boxe out again quite without warning on my non-plussed victims (The Petersens). This time: No expansions. No Yig (We picked Shub-Niggurath the goat lady). Seven players (meaning only 5 gates wake up Shubby).
With Shub-Niggurath in play, all our monsters were tougher to kill and the Goat Spawn were Endless (I think only one ever came out). I made sure to remember that in a game with more than 4 players TWO monsters emerge from opening gates rather than one. So, I thought this would be a pleasurable game.
I played Sister Mary the Nun and traded a spell to Ol' Withers the Astronomer for a .45 Thompson SMG and proceeded to kick ass at the Unvisited Isle by killing a Byakhee and a Deep One. But I kept losing my blessings (I received two during the game) to the luckless upkeep roll.
John played the Reporter and he lost his retainer but not without gaining $8 first. He took some pictures of a ghost at the Unnameable mansion then sneaked past it.
Poor Old Withers was stuck in the drenching rain with his walker and could barely move. He eventually made it to the shelter of the Black Cave where he was swarmed over by thousands of bats and then fell into a chasm taking damage.
Wendy Adams and 'Skids' O'Toole actually were in the process of closing gates by adventuring in the Other Worlds when Boom! the fifth and final gate opened at the Woods and we were all teleported to Arkham to battle the now awakened Shub-Niggurath, the Goat of a Thousand Young!
Because only four of us had monster trophies at the time of her awakening, everyone was instantly devoured except those four, namely, the Reporter, the Astronomer, the Nun, and Mark Harrigan the Soldier who had spent the whole game leaping headlong into combats with multiple monsters with his Mk I Flamethrower and Remington Rifle.
The battle was pathetic. We needed seven successes to take a single doom token off Shubby and I don't think we ever got a single one off. We flubbed and fumbled and diddled and dinked and finally, we failed our Sneak checks and died one by one.

"Brian." John remarked, "Put this game away and don't bring it again. Ever."
"Ever?" I responded.
"Well, give it another six months..." he added.

The one exception I referred to earlier was a game at midnight at Kubla Con '08 where we had eight players and it lasted two hours but it was actually FUN! And we won! None of them were veterans of the game so I don't know what the hell happened. Why was that one fun and the others were not? Still analyzing...

I am dismayed at the quickness of a game that takes so much space and so long to set up. Five gates is not a long time at all (four rounds minimum) so I guess the tactics have to change from closing and sealing gates to stocking up for the ultimate battle with the Ancient One.
Oh well, we'll try again later this year (maybe Halloween) and see what happens then.
I also do intend to break it out during Pacificon this year. I'll give an aftergame report at that time and see if any progress has been made.


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