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House-Ruling the Crap out of Arkham Horror

May 25, 2008

Arkham Horror box artI had always heard great things about the boardgame Arkham Horror. Long to play, yes. Heavy on the bits and pieces, yes. You need to have a 1200 square foot home simply to have enough space to set up the game, yes. But I had never heard from anyone how clearly impossible it is to succeed at the game.

Now, I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong, if I’m missing or mis-reading something in the rules, but it seems to me that the game is set up to make it next to impossible for the players to win. Granted, two of the four times I’ve played I’ve drawn Yig as the Old One that is awakening, which is stated in the rules as making for a shorter game. What they should have said is that Yig makes for a significantly more difficult game because it takes less open gates to awaken the Old One.

Here’s what I’m getting at. At the end of each player’s turn, a gate opens. There are a finite number of locations for gates to open in, and if a gate is already open then there is something called a “monster surge”. This means that out of each gate that is already open, a number of monsters equal to the number of players appear out of those gates. However, if the number of monsters on the board exceed the maximum number allowed on the board (for a four person game, that’s seven monsters), those extra monsters go into the “Outskirts”. If the number of monsters in the Outskirts exceeds the number of players (in this case, four), the “Terror Track” goes up by one. As the Terror Track goes up, shops in Arkham begin to close making it difficult for players to purchase the items they will need to win the game.

In my game last night, we had three monster surges in a row. In less than one full go around the board, the Terror Track rose to 3, meaning that the General Store in Arkham closed. We had a board full of monsters, five gates open, four monsters in the outskirts and two players in the hospital due to poor rolls when combating monsters. We called the game after four rounds due to frustration.

We sat around afterwards and discussed house rules that would make the game more playable. Some of the things we discussed were; allowing for successes on a roll of 4, 5 or 6 instead of just 5 or 6,  halving the number of monsters that appear in a monster surge, doubling the amount of monsters allowed in the Outskirts before the Terror Track begins to go up, and so on. I think one or a couple of these things would help with gameplay, until we’re either more familiar with the game or more willing to allow ourselves to lose the game quickly.

I’m going to spend some time checking out the forums at Board Game Geek to see if there’s some discussion about these things already, and to see if I’m missing something. More to come.

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From → Board Games

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