My first experience of Arkham Horror occurred when a dear friend of mine visited us from America. An avid board game fan, she was eager to try out anything and everything my wife and I could throw at her. During a trip to Forbidden Planet, we decided that we would give Arkham Horror a try since it was a co-operative game and we’d all heard good things about it on the geek grapevine. It came to dominate the trip. Though we dabbled in other board games while she was here,a lot of Arkham Horror was played. We had to keeping coming back to it.
We wanted to figure out what the best skills, weapons and spells were. We wanted to figure out the best strategies. Should I be at the shop buying new weapons or should I be hoarding clue tokens? Should I be trying to close gates or should I be fighting the monsters that roam the streets? And just when you thought you were finding the answers to these questions the game would throw a new monster at you, or a new event, or the weather in Arkham would change and throw your plans completely. It’s a game of decision making, a game of teamwork and a game rich in theme.
Since those early days I’ve played quite a lot of Arkham Horror with quite a lot of people and I’ve had the pleasure of observing several different patterns of behaviour. Everyone seems to approach the game in their own way but there are a few broader strokes that are common across players. Let’s take a (tongue in cheek) look at them.
Glancing furtively at the monster in the neighbouring street, the worrier decides that he’d rather just stay where he is thank you very much. Yes, he has a magic sword, a .45 automatic and a healing stone, but that doesn’t mean he’d win. He might not win. He might get hurt. Getting hurt is a very distinct possibility and The Worrier is worried about that. He’ll just sit here at the newspaper a few more turns, trying to get money and clues, okay? Maybe the monster will go away. Usually focused on personal safety, the worrier is not much of a team player. He doesn’t generally react to threats unless they affect him directly. It’s not that he isn’t worried about those threats, but he’s far too busy being worried about himself to worry about anyone else.
The Gung-ho gun
‘It’ll be fine,’ says the Gung-ho gun, as he charges headlong in to a street location containing a Mummy, a Vampire, a Cthonian, a Gug, a Formless Spawn and the Dunwich Horror. The opposite of The Worrier, the Gung-ho gun rushes to get enough resources to become deputy of Arkham, and then drives around in the police car attacking anything that moves, even if that thing is fifty times his size and there are twenty of them. Weirdly, the Gung-ho gun tends to be a lot more successful than you would guess from this behaviour. His blasé attitude seems to imbue him with a kind of charmed existence. Don’t be fooled though. His luck will run out eventually, usually at an utterly critical moment.
‘Oh god!’ Wails The Doomsayer. ‘We’re all totally boned. We might as well just give up now.’ Deeply troubled, The Doomsayer gives in to despair at the slightest provocation. You’ll generally find the Doomsayer is someone who has been hurt by the game before and, like a spurned lover, just doesn’t trust it not to totally screw him over at some point. Though they can be quite efficient, Doomsayers will accompany everything they do with dire predictions. ‘This Zombie is going to kill me so bad,’ they’ll complain, before annihilating it in a hail of Tommy-gun fire. If you’re having trouble identifying the Doomsayer of your group, wait until you draw a Rumour (the worst kind of event card in the game) and look for the person rolling around on the floor, crying and slamming their fists at the ground like a tantruming child.
The Human computer
Stroking their chin with one hand, The Human Computer uses the other to flip over every monster token on the board, meticulously calculating the combat odds against them based on their current weapon load out, the weather conditions, and the likelihood of future monster movement. While this might seem like an advantage, the Human Computer doesn’t like to be rushed. At all. And this means that his turns can take about two hours each. Oblivious to the resentment simmering around the board, helpful Human Computers might even start making suggestions about what you should be doing. ‘You don’t want to go after that Vampire,’ they’ll say. ‘There’s only a 35% chance to kill it. What you want to do is go in to that gateway over there, because when you come out the weather will most likely have changed, and you’ll have an 83.3 (recurring of course) % chance to close it.’
The Wide-eyed starer
‘Uhh,’ says the wide eyed starer, ‘which one am I again?’ Some new players, even those accustomed to board games, have difficulty coping with Arkham Horror. Perhaps it’s the complicated looking board, the endless decks of cards, the countless counters or the influence of mighty Cthulu himself, but some people just don’t seem to be able to take it. Nodding with a vacant smile, The Starer rolls dice and moves his piece without any real understanding of what is going on. That’s not to say that this is solely the purview of the new player though. Many new players take to the game like a duck to water but, crucially, many long time players can be reduced to Wide-eyed starers when the game gets too much. If someone has to repeat your name three times to get you to take your turn and you can’t even remember what you were thinking about during that time, then you were in Wide-eyed Starer territory.
So which one of these is you? Or perhaps you don’t fit in to any category and would like to add one or two. Let me know!
For more information on Arkham Horror, head over to its website at Fantasy Flight games.
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