Friday, January 31, 2014

There is a whole wide world outside of Arkham

Put simply, Eldritch Horror is Arkham Horror on a global scale. In Arkham Horror, players are concerned with gates to other worlds opening and sinister creatures coming through them. In Eldritch Horror, the gates are just a small part of a much larger problem, as players take on the roles of investigators scouring the globe, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the Ancient Ones and their unfathomable plans for the world.

It's easy to imagine that at one time Eldritch Horror may have been developed as Arkham Horror 3.0. The themes and game play are very similar, and a lot of the rules feel like attempts to streamline Arkham Horror. This could have been seen as the only option for a game that is slowly collapsing under the weight of all its expansions. Whether that's true or not, the game's designers wisely chose to make Eldritch Horror a separate but closely related game.

Eldritch Horror does an excellent job of being different, yet similar. The game takes a more global view of the Cthulhu mythos, which is more in line with Lovecraft's original "The Call of Cthulhu," a story which spanned locations from Louisiana to New Zealand. The whole scale of the game is larger, with locations representing cities and regions, players using influence to gather assets (rather than buying items with money), and encounters depending on whether a location is a major city, a site of archaeological interest, or an area of significance to the Ancient One (chosen from among four different options at the start of the game).

Each Ancient One's nefarious plans are represented by a series of cards detailing tasks that must be accomplished by the players in order to move the game forward. One down side we've discovered in our (admittedly limited) game play so far is that it is far too easy to get distracted by side quests and just exploring the world. Many of the side quests cause the players to lose if they are not resolved, so they can't just be ignored. The game's Doom track (similar to Arkham Horror and Elder Sign) creates a time limit which does a great job of increasing the dramatic tension, but it also means that spending too much time exploring can cost you the game.

Comparisons to Fortune and Glory, Flying Frog's globe spanning game of 1930s adventure, seem inevitable, and while Eldritch Horror is certainly similar, the grim Lovecraftian tone of it is enough to make it feel like a different gaming experience.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) We're enjoying the game so far, but we've only played it a handful of times and we haven't managed to win yet, so our opinion of the game could change after we spend some more time playing it.

Date played: January 19, 2014

UPDATE June 22, 2015: Another look at Eldritch Horror

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