Take that, Hast’yr!

Arkham Horror coverWe hadn’t played Arkham Horror, the cooperative board game from Fantastic Flight Games, in over four years.  We played the basic game, without any of the expansions.

Arkham Horror pits all the players against the horrors from beyond that are opening gates into the town and letting loose monsters to haunt the streets.  The players each play an investigator with different skills, gear, knowledge, and resilience, trying to prevent an Ancient One from breaking through into our world; there are 16 investigators to pick from. There is a neat wiki with tons of information on the game, and of course the official support page from Fantasy Flight Games offers lots of free resources.

We drew three investigator cards each at random and picked from those; in play at the start were Gloria Goldberg the writer, who is hell on wheels at exploring other dimensions; Michael McGlen, a big tough gangster with a tommy gun, and I played Darrell Simmons, a photographer at the Arkham newspaper.  As our Ancient One opponent, we drew Hast’yr.

As usually happens in such a game, we had a mix of incredibly bad luck and bad rolls, and phenomenal good luck on other aspects.  On the lucky side: through luck of the draw, I started the game with an Elder Sign, which allows you to seal an interdimensional portal without having to make a skill roll or spend clue tokens.  In fact, we would go on to find all four Elder Signs in the deck! Getting Gloria among the investigators was also good luck, she was crucial.

On the unlucky side, Darrell was the victim of a curse early on and couldn’t shake it for a long time, so the opening phase of the game, which should have relatively easier, was a mess.  We had long strings when we rolled big handfuls of dice and couldn’t get a success, even without the curse.  (Or maybe the players were cursed.)  Eventually, I had to sacrifice Darrell to seal a gate, spending his last points of sanity and stamina; then I drew another character at random and finished the game with Jenny Barnes the two-fisted dilettante.

We spent most of the game staring our doom in the face, with five or six gates open (when a seventh gate opens, you enter the end game and things get even more difficult.)  We really, really thought we were going to lose horribly, and in fairly short order, but somehow through luck, strategy and cooperation, we managed to seal the required six gates and prevent Hast’yr from breaking through.  It was a long game, and a nail-biter ending.  All in all, the best Arkham Horror episode I’d ever played.

Best of all, I think, gangster Mike McGlen somehow ended up as Deputy of Arkham.  I guess when enough monsters have terrorized the town and law and order are breaking down, they’ll take anyone!

6 thoughts on “Take that, Hast’yr!

  1. Here’s a minor observation about the character I played – Gloria Goldstein, the author.

    Gloria’s big special ability is to draw two cards when in the outer planes and choose which one she wants. This is a very useful ability, and so as a player you want to get Gloria through those gates and into the outer planes as much as possible.

    BUT being in the outer planes a lot cuts down on your decision making process a lot in the game. Unlike turns when you are in Arkham itself, there is no real consideration of where you should move, what your strategy should be, etc. For the turns you are in the outer planes you are far more a passive, reactive player than you would be if you spent the same number of turns in Arkham.

    Now most players are going to spend some time in the outer planes – it’s necessary to get those portals closed. And I was perfectly happy to have a bit less strategy to worry about since I was trying to read “Clockwork and Chivalry” while I was playing, so having less to focus on in “Arkham Horror” was great. But it is worth noting that characters like Gloria, who are designed to spend as much time as possible out of Arkham, may not be as focused on threats coming from inside the town, so when dividing up responsibilities your group should assign someone else to clean up the streets.

    (Although my Gloria started out with a .38 and a derringer, and turned out to be pretty lethal towards monsters with no physical resistance. She was a two-fisted, pistol packin’ mama – if she had been a vigilante her name would have been “The Authorial Voice”!

  2. Where are they now….
    Michael McGlenn remained in the Arkham police force, retiring as police constable (apparently with the unexpected nickname “Peach”). He proved remarkably effective in finding bootleggers, gangsters, and other miscreants around town, almost as if he had inside knowledge. Under his guidance, nothing bad ever happened in Arkham ever again.

    Gloria Goldberg became a best-selling author of genre fiction, as well as gun safety manuals. Her novel, “This Old One is so Great?” was hailed as “eerie, yet cranky” by the Arkham Gazette. She is still writing, though seems to take long unexpected vacations.

    Darrell Simmons can be found haunting the Arkham newspaper offices, literally. On dark and stormy nights, his spectre can be found wandering the halls mouning, “Retainer…retainer…”

    Jenny Barnes learned the limits of a material life and gave up her fortune to charitable causes. She was last seen in Tibet learning to play the flute.

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