Theme and What is it?
The employee turnover rate of investigators in early 20th century Arkham, Massachusetts must have been akin to lemmings jumping off cliffs in an attempt to migrate. With all odds against any investigator to find the truth in the strange and evil happenings that surrounded the unforsaken town, there were a select few able to bring down the evil occult that was responsible for opening rifts to the unknown and releasing unspeakable terrors that once lay dormant. They did this not only using the arsenal available to them, but also their sharp senses and intellect to maneuver through the ever changing challenges that awaited them.
We all come from different backgrounds with our own fortitude and adversity that make us who we are. The investigators that wander the streets of Arkham are no different. They always make sure they are one step ahead using their physical or mental prowess and are sometimes hindered by cognitive weakness or mistakes from the past. No two investigators seem to have the same technique or characteristics. Given the opportunity they could complement each other in ways that would be more effective than if they had done it alone.
It seems there is yet more unrest in the grim city of Arkham. With few people, let alone professionals, who dare brave the darkness and terror that may very well consume them it is left to you. Perhaps we should meet at the Miskatonic University in Arkham to discuss our options before embarking on our journey in, Arkham Horror the Living Card Game?
Arkham Horror LCG (Living Card Game) is a cooperative game for 1-4 players where players take on the roles of investigators trying to solve mysteries and unearth the ancient Mythos that has engulfed the town of Arkham. Each player will take control of a character constructed of a unique deck of 30 cards that may contain weapons, items, and special abilities as well as distinct weaknesses for each investigator that can hinder their progress through ongoing events or by simply damaging health and sanity. Players will attempt to investigate various locations to gain clues in order to progress through the scenarios while being faced with random events and creatures sent from the Elder Gods themselves.
There are 3 scenarios that come with the base game that make up a short, but very engaging, campaign. Each scenario of the campaign instructs you how to layout the game. All scenarios have 4 areas on the table made up of Act Cards, Location Cards, Agenda Cards, and an Encounter deck. Act Cards instruct the investigators on what the current objective is, as well as present the narrative of what is happening. Progressing through your scenario depends on
the completion of these Act Cards, which will have you trying to gain clues from certain Location Cards or by disposing of other worldly creatures. Location Cards are places investigators will visit to test their skills to obtain clues and reach certain points of interest. The Location Cards are placed face down at the start of the game and are flipped over when the investigator explores that location, which adds to the intensity of what may lie ahead. While the Act Cards help advance the investigators, the Agenda deck advances the imminent threat of evil, acting as a timer to complete your scenario and presenting even more danger to the investigators. Advancing the Agenda Cards requires doom tokens to be placed at the end of every round and by way of different card effects. The Encounter deck contains enemies, treachery, and story asset cards that each player is forced to draw before the investigators take their turn and face whatever nightmare that may await them.
Investigators can take up to 3 actions on their turn to perform a variety of tasks. The tasks they can choose from are to move to a location, investigate, draw a card, gain a resource that helps pay for specific cards, put a card in play, use a card in play, engage an enemy, or evade an enemy. Within their 3 actions an investigator can repeat tasks or perform different tasks, as long as they have the action available to pay for each action. During the game investigators will play cards to help boost their skills against certain skill checks. Other players can also aid in boosting your skills with cards of their own. Skill checks are used to fight monsters, resolve events, or obtain clues.
For instance, if the Shroud (which is a skill check made to obtain a clue from a location) has a number of 2, that means the investigator must test his Intellect skill against the Shrouds number. If the investigators Intellect skill is 1, they may play cards from there hand or in play to help increase that skill to have better odds of success. Once they have boosted the Intellect skill to the desired amount, they will pull a token from the Chaos Bag. The token will provide a modifier to be place on the Intellect skill. If after the modifier is applied to the Intellect skill and it meets or beats the Shroud number, the investigator is successful and gains a clue from the location.
The Chaos bag is filled with modifier tokens that are used during skill checks. These can range from positive to negative numbers that modify the investigators skill being checked and different symbols that will have an effect on the gameplay if pulled. The game difficulty can be adjusted by simply adding and subtracting certain tokens from the Chaos Bag, according to the campaign book.
I was a little overwhelmed at the start of our adventures. We seemed to reference the rulebook a bit in the beginning, mainly for understanding how to properly engage monsters and doing various skill checks. However, after the first few rounds it seemed to flow quite nicely once we were used to it. We were able to start focusing on how to progress the scenario and how to help each other, rather than worry about the rules. The story that was unfolding right away was really deep and immersive. It kept us very excited moving through the locations to find out where we were going and what we could be up against.
Quality of Components and Insert
The cards and tokens are your standard fare. As the tokens are shuffled around a bag so much, and because I’m a nerd that likes the hefty feel of coins in my games, I used some coin cases to put the tokens in. This is really for aesthetic purposes. I don’t know how much flailing it takes for tokens to wear down in a bag, but I didn’t really want to find out either. Since this is from Fantasy Flight Games there is no insert, just a space to toss everything into.
The art is this game is incredible. Fantasy Flight Games usually goes all out and they didn’t disappoint here. There is so much unique art work in this game it’s kind of staggering. With some H.P. Lovecraft themed games that FFG does they sometimes recycle art work from game to game. As far as I’ve seen, there is no other artwork featured in other games of this genre they have produced, except for the box art. The art enhances the game so much with its striking visuals and small details; it really adds an amazing layer to an already engaging adventure and story for your investigator.
I cannot remember a card game that has ever been so narrative and immersive that I wanted to talk about it for days, even weeks, after playing it. After completing a scenario it really makes you want (almost need) to find out what happens next. This can lead to game nights being ruled by wanting to play this game more and more. With different possibilities at the end of every scenario that could help or hinder you, as well as multiple endings at the end of the campaign, it makes the game so replayable with just the core box. Adding in expansions leads to even more possibilities. Being able to build up your character between scenarios by purchasing more powerful cards with experience you have gained is such a great touch, as well as the possible effects carrying over from one scenario to the next. After you have played a couple times and you’re feeling adventurous building your own deck is a whole other level of fun. By doing so you’re creating a really unique investigator and tailoring it to how you want to play.
Difficulty and age range suggestion
The game comes with a Learn to Play book and a Rules Reference book. The Learn to Play book packs a lot of information into 15 pages.
In your first game you will probably find yourself reaching for the Rules Reference book more than you might like, but don’t let that discourage you. Usually the things you are looking up have a very easy explanation and you won’t have to hunt them down again once you understand them. The books are fairly well done to help alleviate searching for the information you need. If you are familiar with other LCG’s, this should come to you very easily. Even if you aren’t, this is one of the better and more comprehensive LCG’s Fantasy Flight has produced.
With all H.P. Lovecraft based games there is always some sort of flavor text or story that accompanies the game in some way. In Arkham Horror LCG the narrative is the driving force that is the crux of your decisions. It gives me that feeling of playing a RPG or reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book. It is such a fantastic world that sucks you in from the beginning. Every investigator feels really unique, even with the pre-built decks that the rule book suggests to play with. The nerves you feel when you go to pull the modifiers from the chaos bag make it so intense. This game offers quality options and great story that makes this one of my favorite card games of all time.