Today we’re exploring Arkham Horror 3rd edition, exploring the pieces and talking about what I like and dislike about this game and whether I think it’s for you.
I preordered Arkham Horror as soon as it was available, and since receiving it I’ve played a couple games and explored this fantastic Deluxe rulebook, and I feel ready to share some of my first impressions.
The game plays by choosing a scenario. Unlike Arkham Horror 2nd edition, this isn’t just a big monster, it’s an entire narrative that will affect many parts of the game.
You’ll build up the neighborhoods for the scenario you choose, in my case, I chose the Approach of Azathoth and this is the neighborhood setup for that scenario, scenarios also include event decks, monster decks, and even the Mythos Cup configuration, which is effectively a custom die for each scenario which determines what will randomly happen at the end of each player’s turn. The largest part of the scenario is the archive cards, these work like choose your own adventure stories which give you passes and failures to dictate what happens next.
In addition to the scenario configuration, you have headlines, neighborhood decks, items, and spell decks, then you’ll choose your investigators. None of the fruit loops of 2nd edition, these investigators look much more similar to Eldritch Horror with some basic stats, a single choice of which perk you begin with, and some powers that make your character fairly unique.
This game feels strangely similar and dissimilar from other Arkham games that came before it. Neighborhood encounter decks, travelling through neighborhoods? That’s Arkham Horror. Single decks that have mixes of types, streamlined play, that’s Eldritch Horror. Flat no dice monster attacks, a neighborhood layout per scenario, and using a bag to determine random events, feels lmore ike Arkham Horror the Living Card Game. All of these seem familiar to other Arkham games. What is most different is the combination of different Arkham elements combined with a very fast pace that seems faster and more than any Arkham game before.
We know we’re trying to save the world, we know we’re going to be pushed to the limits of our ability to cooperate and delegate tasks, but this seems like the most challenging and adrenalin pumping version of Arkham yet.
Arkham Horror the 3rd edition feels like a version of Arkham Horror that matches more what my group asks out of games. We want the complexity of feeling almost overwhelmed with our cooperative games,along with a strong thematic component, but we want quick setups and teardowns along with a reliable playtime of less than 3 hours.
From that perspective, the game is good, and I’m happy to continue exploring it. But I do have some misgivings that I’m unsure I’ll overcome. Arkham Horror 2nd edition had the first few rounds where not much threatening was going on, and the group, often always including some new players, would wander around, picking up some cool interesting good stuff, suffer some insanity-causing old lady turning into a slathering monster random event or whatever, and then, just when things seem easy, start to careen out of control as more and more things pop up faster than the team could deal with them until we either defeated the scenario or we failed. Those first few rounds were crucial to get people to bond with their character, often defining their image of their character based on what initially happened to them. It felt “narrative”, it felt like a lite RPG.
In this game, we have characters, equipment, stats, all hallmarks of an RPG, but then things happen so fast that we already feel on the verge of losing by the end of the first round. The focus immediately changes to the scenario, not the characters, which some might feel is a good thing, but in my opinion, it makes it harder to get new players invested in 3rd edition in the way that they were in 2nd edition.
The characters are “more” unique, in terms of abilities, than in other Arkham board games, many of them capable of and doing far different things than the other games, and hopefully they start releasing some of the content that existed in 2nd edition like the life goals and their consequences, but I’m not sure if there is room in the current game to allow for them to exist.
In our games, many players expressed frustration that they were surrounded by monsters or were delayed by random events, such that they had very little they could do other than deal with the monsters. The idea is supposed to be that now you choose whether to engage with monsters, and if you do, and aren’t able to kill it, then you will take damage. But the reality in our games has been that the monsters move and attack us faster than we can get away, and even though none of us have died, the consequence has been endless rounds of fighting monsters.
I’m sure to a certain extent we’ll get better, not just better at our decisions, but also better at choosing our party to make sure we have a balanced team that can better handle all the challenges put before us. That too is a part of Arkham, though it never was as quickly obvious in other Arkham games as it is in this one.
In addition to the break-neck pace, I feel like the game is lacking some things that I feel are a crucial part of the Arkham “horror” experience, which is otherworldly gates. It feel strange to play an Arkham Horror game without gates, but on the other hand, I REALLY hope that we get a scenario or something that allows our characters to journey into another neighborhood that is really another dimension. We have that slightly by way of the anomolies, but I really want the full experience capable by this new dynamic board. I’d love a bit more staggered approach to the game as well, something more similar to Eldritch Horror where the game gets progressively more crazy the longer it continues. They have that with the scenario via the archive cards, but future scenarios could leverage that a little bit more, perhaps set the scenario starting BEFORE things go off the rails, then the 2nd or third archive really unleashing hell on earth. Full disclosure, I’ve only played the Azothoth scenario as we’re still trying to defeat it, its possible other scenarios have less combat.
Overall, I like this game, I’m an Arkham fanboy and will gobble up all of the future Arkham Horror 3rd edition supplements they release, but I do hope they come out with those supplements sooner than later as 4 scenarios likely isn’t enough.
What about you, is the game too punishing, just punishing enough? What about the speed of the game? Tell me down below in the comments! As you watch this video, we should be just about cresting 1000 subscribers, and with that, our Cthulhu Wars contest will begin! We’re going to be announcing the details in the next two weeks via our Twitch and youtube livestreams.