30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Every bit as good as they say,
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This review is from: Arkham Horror Board Game: A Call of Cthulhu (Toy)
I put off buying this game for a long time. There are a lot of reviews of Arkham Horror all over the internet that will tell you about insanely long play times, a mind-boggling number of components and an overly-complicated rule system. Now, I immediately took these kinds of reviews with a pinch of salt. There are many types of gamers out there each with different gaming backgrounds. If you are someone who has never played a game like AH before then I can fully appreciate the horror felt when first opening the box of this game. I have played various RPGs and Fantasy Flight games over the years, enough to grasp new rules pretty quickly as patterns in the rules for such games emerge. There are phases, a certain order to things, that you get used to seeing.
So I eventually trusted my instincts and went for it. Now I regret all the time not spent with this game.
Let me first assure you that the difficulty with this game does not arise from mentally challenging rules, but from remembering the order of play. Each individual rule is very intuitive and easy to grasp, and although there are a LOT of rules, I have definitely encountered more mind-bending games and once you get used to the flow of the game you will be fine. I recommend doing what I did; playing one game by yourself as 2-3 investigators while slowing absorbing all the rules. Having a strong understanding of what is going on will help ease other people into the game - beware of impatient people, if you have friends or family who get bored easily, then you really don't want to be double-checking the rule book every two minutes.
In the box you will find about seven hundred components. That sounds like a scary number until you realise that the vast majority of these components are cards. Once you get the cards broken down into their respective decks and understand what they are, the game will feel a lot less daunting. If you have any experience with Fantasy Flight games, you will be more than used to the joy of a mountain of components. Games such as World of Warcraft:The Board Game or Descent have as many if not more than this game. In fact, once you get into the game and realise how much there is to do, you will be impressed with just how little they managed to pull this off with.
Repeated plays of Arkham Horror will produce a different game every time, and due to the collaborative nature of the game, every player will always have an objective and his/her own personal agenda alongside the constant urgency to end the threat that is present from the end of the first turn until the game ends (usually with great doom!). Play times will vary wildly and I can completely believe game times that go on beyond six hours in large groups. I have gotten a game down to three hours, this is pretty reasonable and the time flies. The game time is quite easily predicted after one playthrough, as the game will be limited to a rough number of turns due to the Ancient One awaking bringing a close to the story. The main question is really how long a single turn lasts for your group on average.
One thing that is worth noting is that this game is doom and gloom. Do not expect to beat this game every time, your characters can die for good (although you can restart as a new investigator right up until the final fight) and there is a constant shadow of despair. Tension is the source of the fun of this game, and you will find yourself deliberating on whether to take a detour to try to get a bonus item/blessing to make your next encounter slightly easier and risk the situation getting out of control or tackling the threat head-on while unprepared.
If you want a lighter experience then Elder Sign is a good alternative but I have to say that I prefer to have a board of the city, and AH has a much better narrative and is less random. Mansions of Madness is another excellent alternative, especially if you have people who would be better off learning a more limited set of rules while you run the game. MoM is heavily story driven with a similar atmosphere but doesn't offer anywhere near the amount of freedom provided with AH.
This game is so much fun and there is so much to do that it will be a long time before I even buy one of the expansions of which there are a handful to keep the game alive for literally hundreds of hours of Lovecraftian-inspired adventures!