This entry is a bit arcane for the beginning of an A-Z challenge, but hey, arcane begins with an A, so it seems somewhat fitting.
I first encountered the game Arkham Horror after the original edition had gone out of print, and years before a modified edition was released. For those who have never encountered the original game, published by Chaosium in 1987, it was uncomplicated, but brilliant. The game board was a simple map of Arkham, Massachusetts. The players would arrive in town on a train, and roll two six sided dice to determine movement along the roads. You would then encounter the buildings and places, roll a single die, and experience one of six possibilities as enumerated in the instructions. Gates would most likely open each turn, and players could choose to go through the gates and encounter the alternate realities behind the gates. Monsters appeared at gate sites, and then would generally wander the map. The goal of the game is to travel through and then close all the gates, and the player who kills the most monsters wins. Of course, if the gates are not closed by the time the doom track reaches the end, no-one lives, everybody dies or goes insane, and consequently, no one wins. During play, characters can die or go insane, which can lead to the player choosing a new character. It sounds simplistic, but it is a great deal of fun. One of my favorite outcomes is that if you visit the basement of the boarding house while carrying a gun, a monster will appear. For us, more than once, Ithiqua appeared, and once, Cthulhu joined it.
Friends later purchased a copy of the new, 2005 version of the game that was released by Fantasy Flight, but in my opinion, the new version, though much fancier, doesn’t hold a candle to the original. For one thing, the game takes about 30 minutes just to set up, and game play was generally two to four hours or more. While that wouldn’t be so bad if it was fun, it’s just too complicated to be enjoyable – we never reached the point where we felt immersed in the story. And the final straw for us, the complicated rules made it impossible to play with young children.
Hmm… that may sound strange, but we did introduce our children to the world of Lovecraft while rather young. Looking at the instructions, game play is 12+ years… Oops. With the original 1987 version, age wasn’t really an issue. The monsters were just black and white drawings on little pieces of cardboard, so they weren’t frightened by the images. It was a wonderful way to introduce children to the world of Lovecraft.
So, if anyone out there has ever played the original version, please comment! And if you ever have the opportunity to play it, I highly recommend it. I’d also like to hear from people who have played the Fantasy Flight editions. We tried other Lovecraftian games, most of which just didn’t measure up to our expectations, until we found Eldritch Horror. While maintaining the modern look of the newer games, the play is a bit more like the original Arkham Horror. But when it all comes down to it, Lovecraftian games are really a lot of fun, especially for those of us who enjoy cooperative games.
You may be interested in the review of Arkham Horror 1st Edition (1987), and we’ll be talking about the 2005 version and the card game later in the blog!
Tomorrow is B for Babylon 5!