When I took my first steps into the world of modern board games, I bought just about every game recommended to me. It was a beginner and an expensive way to identify all the games I don’t like. In the end, I sold or swapped everything that didn’t work, but only after spending a lot of money on games that didn’t go well. One of those games was Terror of Arkham: A card game often called Arkham Horror LCG or AHLCG.
The principle of Arkham Horror’s LCG consists of one or two players, each putting together and managing a card game that represents the researcher. The games consist of cards such as luck, charisma and curiosity, which symbolize the abilities and personality of a character. Through these games, players experience narrative arches (also called cycles) in eight chapters full of surprises.
My first experience with the Arkham Horror LCG was incredibly devastating. As someone who was never very good at building Hearthstone of Magic: I’ve been inundated with collecting card games. Fortunately, the Game Learning Guide included tips on how to use the starting card games for Roland Banks and Wendy Adams.
Five budding detectives from Arkham Horror: Card game box.
By following these instructions, I could quickly immerse myself in the experience I had heard so much about. The Learning to Play guide didn’t prepare me for each of these decks, so I had a hard time at first. Roland Banks, a character from the Guardian class, is excellent in combat and very effective at clearing the board and keeping Eldritch enemies at bay. Wendy Adams, on the other hand, is a character in the surviving class. The most reductive way to describe their skills is to use cards to reduce the chance of drawing errors. Survivors have a few event cards like Lucky! that increase the result of the skill check by a few points if it would otherwise have failed.
I found myself constantly using rules to clarify the order of queues and card keywords. No matter how many times I open the rulebooks to learn a new game, something about the AHLCG just doesn’t click. I went through the first three scenarios and struggled my way through each step. After the second chapter, I felt I had mastered the game, only to be brought back to earth in the third chapter.
Although I thought that Arkham Horror LCG fitted well in my H.P. Lovecraft game collection, I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. I swapped my copy of AHLCG for a copy of Dice Forge. After my first experience in life, I was convinced that I would never regret my decision.
Fast forward to 2020. I worked at home not long before I was sent away. American politics was at its worst and determined my monthly income. Many of my friends were forced to go home, which separated me even more from my social contacts. Relatives were admitted to VIDOC-19. It’s been difficult for a while now, just like for many others.
In a moment of weakness and a sad whisky crisis I bought another copy of Arkham Terror: Card game box. Even in my hectic activity I remembered how much I hated the basic game and added the Dunwich Legacy extension to my purchase, hoping it would improve the experience. AHLCG has so many great reviews that either everyone is wrong or I’m just an idiot who didn’t understand the game. I thought that was the last one.
When my games arrived, I sat down and studied the rules carefully until I had confidence not only in my skills, but also in my ability to teach my wife how to play. It took him a while to understand the game, especially because I couldn’t break the rules, but in the end we both did.
A complete cycle of Dunwich Heritage and a return to the… Variations. Each bridge, his own session of adventure.
Thinking back to the disappointment I felt at the Night of the Zelootjes campaign (main box), I immediately took us to the Dunwich Legacy. Dunwich Legacy immediately contains more interesting options than the basic game. After reading the prologue, the player has the choice between two paths. Players can choose to search for clues in an underground casino in the House Always Wins scenario, or they can search for clues in a prestigious university. Whichever chapter the players choose, it will be the second chapter of their story.
But time will pass, as always. While the researchers followed a trail, the world continued without them. Wherever the second place is, he will be in a difficult situation and history will change forever. Where I found the main box an incredible experience, Dunwich Legacy showed me the smart things the AHLCG system can do.
Connection scenarios offer the possibility to repeat previous scenarios and experience a different result. Although the first time is the most powerful and surprising scenario, repeated scenarios can be a lot of fun. The nature of random card drawing means that even if you know what the surprises in a chapter are, players still depend on luck to draw the right cards from their pile. This element of coincidence helps Terror or Arkham maintain the same level of tension after the third or fourth deck.
We finished our Dunwich Legacy adventure pretty quickly. For two weeks we’ve been leafing through history and in the last few minutes we’ve barely scratched the surface. In Lost in Time and Space the story ends and we learn that the success of the whole story depends on the final act. My detective lost his mind, while my wife came to her senses at the last minute with a clever combination.
We didn’t yet have confidence in our ability to make our own detective games, so we settled for the basic games recommended by Roland Banks and Wendy Adams. I felt like I was pretty advanced in certain roles with these decks in the base game. The Dunwich Legacy campaign showed us different and smart ways to deal with the simplest card game. With each new chapter, our understanding of the game has evolved and we have discovered exciting new map combinations.
I love the complexity of the game, and my wife appreciates that the game gives her the freedom to experiment with different playing styles. Sometimes she focuses on creating characters that give her more action with assets, such as Leo Deluca; sometimes she is more interested in generating clues and resources with maps, such as Dr. Milan Christopher. Anyway, you and I are discovering the twists and turns of history.
Whatever the campaign, players around the world are struggling with each new chapter. At the beginning of each cycle, a reflective story is presented that places cases of black IP with a touch of dystopia in a phase. But the horror of Arkham: The card game sets expectations for the player at each stage of the encounter with strangers. Finally, the players are introduced to the Grand Old Lovecraftian, who hides behind the events of history for a final frightening encounter.
With hindsight I realized that the main gearbox is really just a manual. In the first scenario, The Gathering, players get a glimpse of the tower structure and the game mechanism in a shorter than average scenario. In most scenarios, the player’s attention will be divided between fighting Eldritch enemies, exploring existing places and discovering new ones. The construction has a lower degree of difficulty and difficulty compared to the other scenarios because the enemies of the scenario are less powerful and the number of investigated locations is lower. These design options allow players to stay in one place, be careful and spend less time in a fight than in a standard chapter. By reducing the pressure, players can really take the time to familiarize themselves with their detective and their game.
The second scenario, Midnight Masks, is slightly less forgiving. Arkham Horror LCG assumes that the players have already experienced the Gathering. At this stage, the AHLCG is increasing its size by increasing the number of seats and seating capacity. While the enemies remain at lower levels of difficulty, The Midnight Masks begins to attract players’ attention elsewhere. This may seem like a small change, but it introduces one of Arkham Horror’s biggest problems: balancing the cost of action.
Each scenario gives the players an ever-changing objective that is represented by a stack of actions that usually divides the scenario into two or three digestible sections. These action cards give the players some contextual details about the story and the goal. These objectives can be as clear as giving X number of clues to move forward, or as vague as finding a way to move forward. With only three actions per turn, players will notice that it can be more difficult than it seems to find clues. Betrayal cards can restrict a player’s movements or cause a problem that will cost the investigator one of his valuable actions.
The increased presence in The Midnight Masks forces players to become familiar with the economics of the action and how it affects decision making at every turn. As players begin to understand this concept and how Encounter card games thwart even the best plans, they also begin to understand the types of player cards that reduce these threats. It may not be the most useful knowledge in the near future, but it will help players to make more informed decisions when building their research bridge.
The Devourer Below closes the main loop of the box and perhaps gives the most important lesson in Arkham’s horror: Defeat is not failure. The final scenario is an insane difficulty and presents the players with a notorious challenge. Everyone who has played the game knows the feeling of losing or seeing the game behind the screen and knows that feeling of frustration. But these feelings are (for the most part) not valid in the terror of Arkham: LCG.
Instead of telling the players that they have failed completely, the AHLCG simply presents them with a different resolution than the story. Of course, the nature of multiple endings means there are good, bad and intermediate conclusions, but Arkham Horror never denies the player the end of his story. This is an important lesson to be learned from the beginning. When players immerse themselves in plots that go beyond the basic game, unexpected twists and insurmountable obstacles can lead to a not-so-good result.
But I’d say that’s one aspect of the game that only adds to its value. There’s no chance that Arkham Horror..: The card game forces players to repeat the scenario before continuing. Even if all the explorers are defeated and the players get the worst ending, AHLCG allows players to continue their adventure, with their defeat becoming just part of the story. This feature helps maintain a sense of tension and wonder even when scary tentacles tear at the limbs of your novice agent.
It’s quite rare for players to succeed in their first attempt at The Devourer Below. The first time, I was pretty discouraged. It’s my traditional view of defeat that probably helped me break with the game the first time. But when my wife and I were confronted with the challenges of the Dunwich Legacy campaign, we soon realised that the optimal end is quite difficult to find if you play all the scenarios blindly.
Even after Dunwich, our enthusiasm for the Arkham Horror LCG did not diminish and we wanted more. With Dunwich still so fresh in our minds, we didn’t want to lose him. Instead, we adopted a second expansion campaign, the Way of Karkoza.
The cover alone evokes a great adventure.
Even after all the other content we have enjoyed so far, The Road to Carcosa is our favorite experience that the AHLCG offers us. The story begins in Arkham, Massachusetts, with the premiere of King in Yellow, a fascinating piece straight from Paris. A boring and confusing first act confuses the audience during the break. Before the start of the second act, the audience falls into a deep sleep and only wakes up at the end of the performance. But the theatre in which they wake up is in a deplorable state and rotten.
A closer look at King in Yellow reveals a long history of disappearances, suicides and manic episodes. Their journey takes them to the strangest corners of the planet, where reality merges with reality, where truth becomes subjective and where the inhabitants bear the sign of madness.
While Legacy of Dunwich introduced players to the implications of player choice, Carcosa introduces different types of threats that researchers will pursue throughout the story if not addressed from the start. Unfortunately, my wife and I didn’t realize until it was too late, so we played the whole cycle and our mistakes chased us to the end. It was cruel, but it gave the story a lively character. The repetitive elements only existed because of our previous mistakes, and that made us anxious as we approached each scenario, knowing that they were hidden somewhere around the corner.
Despite the fact that I started with Arkham Horror: The card game has become my favorite, and not only because it is a game that my wife and I agree on. We even liked it so much that I finally put the whole collection together.
And here’s the problem. Arkham Horror LCG is a financial monster. It’s not so bad at first. The main box set is quite affordable ($30-35), but contains only three scenarios and a basic deck of cards. The first three scenarios are so simple that the system is unable to do so.
To really enjoy the best of Arkham’s horror, consumers will have to spend an extra $30 on one of the luxury boxes where the story begins. Deluxe boxes add new explorers and a host of new player cards. Each new set of cards allows players to create interesting card games and discover old content in new ways. The more content you have, the more varied the game.
Even if you invest $60 this way, it’s an incomplete experience. The luxury boxes add a large number of player cards, but they only contain the first two chapters of the eight chapter story arc. To complete the cycle, players will also need to purchase the remaining six chapters individually in Mythos Packs for $15 each. In total, this means that the cost of a complete cycle is $120. Suddenly the AHLCG is no longer available.
The horror of Arkham: The card game has quickly become the most expensive game I own, and even surpasses the Kingdom of Death: Freak. The core of KD:M costs the astronomical sum of $400. But no matter how high it is, it doesn’t even cover the cost of three cycles of AHLCG content. At this point, a complete collection would cost the player just over $1,000.
All current content is stored in the first three fields. The fourth is for the future.
Arkham’s deck isn’t big and strong enough to hold all these cards. If you want more than one or two loops, you need to be creative in storing your data. There were people who had the space to do carpentry and they made beautiful storage boxes like this suitcase and chest. But if you live in a small apartment like me, you don’t have room to do anything. Instead I bought some of these boxes and could fit my entire collection into three boxes, with space to grow. This is by far the cheapest themed repository I could find.
The horror of Arkham: The card game has become the most expensive I own, but it’s worth it. The selection of scenarios and mechanisms is incredible. Scenarios have a way to guide you long after the game is over. In the Essex County Express, players race to the front of the train, making threats and passing passengers as the train around them collapses. The Carnival of Horrors places the researchers in the middle of a parade where they have to move on a map along the route of the parade. If players miss, they must hurry in the course of the parade to double the stakes. Or Pallid Mask, with which the player can wander blindly through the labyrinthine French catacombs.
It is rare to play a scenario that doesn’t seem to be unique. Even if that happens, I don’t feel like I’ve ever played an objectively bad scenario. There were some I didn’t like for some reason. Some scenarios seem too complicated to have a good ending, like in The Devourer (see below), and they are not great, but they still offer a quality experience.
Maps with specific scenarios for campaigns 1 to 4.
With a large collection of player cards I can replay and relive old scenarios. I played Path to Carcosa in Ashcan Pete’s Survivor class, which Dark Horse used as a way to get status bonuses if he didn’t have resources. I’m getting ready to play Carcosa’s way in the role of the evil Jenny Barnes, who can generate a lot of resources and easily play cards from her hands. It is quite possible that I know exactly the same story on a replay, but by changing the basic mechanics of my researcher, I will have to approach the challenges from a different angle.
The AHLCG is a dangerous place for people with a complete mind, but in the end I’m glad I did it. It’s a game that my wife and I can enjoy together, and she enjoys it as much as I do. This is not the case with some of my other favorites like Glumhaven and Nemesis. Those who are well off their hospitality here. For me, it is an investment in a company with my wife that we only enjoy together. I’ve found a substantial game that my wife and I play exclusively together, and I’ve packed the following two or three scenarios into a small portable box that we can take with us when we visit our parents, so we can have some time for ourselves.
Although finding a complete collection is fun, it is expensive and not for everyone. Therefore, if you are interested in the AHLCG, you should start with a basic box and one of the luxury boxes of the two cycles. Play them through and add myth packs along the way. You don’t know where to start? Google is your friend, and so am I. Send me an e-mail, ask your questions in the comments below. I’d like to help you get started on something you love.
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