Saturday, January 09, 2016

Arkham Platypus: Table Top Gaming

My wife and I picked up Fantasy Flight's Cthulhu Mythos game, Arkham Horror, over the break. We've been playing Eldritch Horror and Elder Sign: Omens for about a year now and we were eager to see the legendary game that started it all.

In some ways, Arkham Horror feels like a less refined version of Eldrich Horror. There is less flavor text and the game mechanics are less stream-lined. After playing through two and a half games, however, I see the attraction. Arkham Horror is more flexible and more focused than Eldrich Horror. With the setting limited to a single town rather than the whole earth, the art and tone of the game are more focused. The less stream-lined mechanics also allow for a greater amount of control over the investigators (player characters), and thus a more intense game.

And the game is much more intense than either Eldrich Horror or Elder Signs: Omens. Monster movement each turn creates all kinds of problems for the investigators. The frequency with which gates open up keeps you frantically rushing across the board and makes it difficult to take advantage of the locals and resources that would really make a difference. Should the Ancient One awaken, the the fight is stiff (we took down Yig with the loss of 1 out of 4 investigators just in the nick of time). All of this creates the sense of battling against hopeless odds that is the essence of so much of Lovecraft's fiction.

Speaking of H.P. Lovecraft, Arkham Horror has a much more gender diverse cast than old H.P. ever allowed. The box game doesn't have the racial diversity of Eldritch Horror, but it does seem as though Fantasy Flight Games is aware of the problem and is seeking to greater diversity in each new game that pops up. The age and economic diversity of the investigators is also appreciated by this aging member of the middle-middle class. This is a welcome correction of the most serious defects of Lovecraft's works (racism, exclusion of women, and a championing of the hegemony of the white, anglo, upper-class male -though he does a great job of being age inclusive).

Finally, I have to tip my hat to art design which feels spot on for an old Massachusetts river town. The map of Arkham could be easily transposed onto the Connecticut mill town I grew up in and the look of the buildings and their situations in various sections of the Arkham are spot on. There's even the hint of farmland on the outskirts of Uptown right where there would be in my hometown.

So all-in-all, Arkham Horror is a fun game. I don't know what will happen when we try to take on Hastur or Great Cthulhu himself, but the fact that you're not guaranteed to win is part of the fun. If I have any more thoughts, I'll be sure to pass them on to you here at the Platypus of Truth.

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