I’ve become fairly hooked on Arkham Horror over the last year, setting up regular games at my house as I try to introduce as many people as possible to the most atmospheric board game I’ve ever experienced.
It’s not exactly a game for everyone, though. With an initially daunting set of rules and errata, dozens of decks of cards and tokens and a playtime that can reach four to five hours, it requires quite a commitment. Plus there’s the fact that not everyone may be up on their Lovecraft, as sad as that may be. (That can easily be rectified since the man’s work is in the public domain!) But those who have played it have loved it for what it is, an incredible co-op game that gives you a sense of exploration and foreboding doom like no other.
Fantasy Flight Games certainly hasn’t rested on the game’s incredible success, and has pumped out a ton of expansions for the game, as well as the Call of Cthulhu Living Card Game and the new Mansions of Madness, both of which utilize a lot of the same characters and situations.
Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, the designers of Arkham Horror, have yet another Lovecraftian game on the way that seems to be best alternative for anyone wishing they could play more but just don’t have the time- and it’s called Elder Sign.
Anyone who’s played Arkham Horror will see the similarities already. You again play an investigator who’s running around the fictional town of Arkham fighting monsters, picking up clues and sealing gates to other dimensions, lest an Great Old One (Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath, Hastur, etc.) come through and wreck havoc on the town. If the Elder God does awaken you fight it with whatever weapons and spells you’ve accumulated. The concept is exactly the same, as is the art on the cards- but this is a dice game.
Fantasy Flight Games has been releasing a steady stream of info about the game on their site, gearing up for its launch next month, and while it certainly looks familiar the execution is different enough to make it very exciting. Eight Ancient Ones, 16 investigators, and 48 Adventure cards will hopefully lend some of that trademark replayability to the game.
The game supports 1-8 players (that’s right- like with Arkham Horror you can play this solo) and will take around 1-2 hours. In it you will take control of one of a selection of investigators, various people who have noticed the strange goings-on around town and are trying to battle the various cult members and monsters that have populated the town- preferably without going insane, ending up in the hospital, or being devoured by nameless horrors. Each turn you’ll be able to investigate the local museum, which will kickstart an adventure that hopefully ends with you gaining an elder sign, one of the symbols that can use to seal the gates to the other worlds and prevent catastrophe.
As in Arkham Horror there’s always the chance that you’ll be sucked into a portal yourself, otherworldly dimensions that have a high risk/reward factor. The cards all have simple icons that explain what you can gain or lose from your encounters- R’leh below will take two sanity and stamina from you if you fail, but if you win you’ll nab a massive three elder signs (you need ten to win), as well as an ally. The icons above refer to the various dice you’ll have to roll to successfully complete the adventure.
A fast-paced Lovecratian game? It’s easy to have faith in the designers, even though it certainly treads familiar ground. Doubtfully the mechanics will make up for it… we’ll see as more of the rules are revealed.
Elder Sign will hit stores in August. Here are links to all the previews that Fantasy Flight has provided so far-