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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Monday, 14 February 2011

A gate has opened...

...and I have stepped through to the Other World that is Arkham Horror!

I pretty much knew that I didn't have time to complete a game last night but I played a few turns to try it out and found it was very hard to stop and go to bed. This is a seriously good game! I'll not try and review the game mechanics or components as that has already been covered by the following couple of great reviews (these actually helped sell me on buying the game) :

Boardgamegeek review
Anatoli's Game Room review

What I will talk about is what I liked about it. Firstly, the atmosphere is just right and permeates every component in the box, from the artwork to the flavour text on the monster cards and the mythos cards. It probably helps if you have come across Lovecraft's work before, but if you haven't it won't take long to realise that letting the Great Old One awaken is not a good idea! And you really don't want to be attacked by a nasty monster like a StarSpawn unless you're packing some heat! And this is where the real hook comes from...decisions! I was talking to Alasdair at the club a couple of weeks ago about what makes a really good game and he said "it's when the game presents you with a really difficult decision". I couldn't agree more. That's what good games generally boil down to - when do I commit this reserve unit, or should I sacrifice that unit for some advantage. Well, Arkham Horror is absolutely bursting with just that kind of decision making. Every single turn has a phase where you have to decide how to tune your characters skills for the forthcoming turn, but be careful!  If you're in an unstable location and you're unprepared then bad things can happen! I played with 2 investigators and one of them went to a location to pick up a clue token and was subsequently attacked by a Warlock as a result of the encounter card. A quick look at the skill track and monster stats showed that the fight was actually not winnable and an ambulance ride to the hospital ensued!

There are also things that can happen as a result of cards being drawn that add to the dilemmas already facing you. For instance, a rumour started from a mythos card that meant after some time and lack of attention there was a chance that any sealed locations would be 'unsealed' and subject to gates opening again. At first I didn't care as I hadn't sealed any locations, but once I had - and crucially a gate failed to open because of the seal which felt like a small victory in itself - I realised that the rumour was going to take effect very soon and had to go sort it out. However, to sort it out I had to go into the streets which meant that I was vulnerable to the two twisted monsters flying about in the sky!! It was at this point that I first got the feeling of events building up against you and largely out with your control. And I liked it! A lot!

The gameplay is quite complicated for a boardgame and I know I made a couple of mistakes, but there is a FAQ available on the FFG website and plenty of posts on the various forums such as Boardgamegeek that I have already answered most of the questions I had. I'm also pretty sure that a few plays will smooth things out, as I was even starting to speed up a bit towards the end of my playtest. And as soon as I'm comfortable with the core game and even maybe beating the odd Great Old One here and there I'm sure I'll pick up an expansion or two and reset the difficulty level back to 'OMG'!

In summary, this is a top notch game. The design is very well thought out and the production is lavish. I had a most enjoyable time playing it and I felt I could let my imagination go with the game and let it draw me in. It actually felt a bit like the RPG sessions I used to play many moons ago! I can't wait to play it again and that is from a single effort playing solo. I can only imagine how good this will be with a few other victi...errr...friends to play with!

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