So over the bank holiday weekend I decided to while away some hours playing one of my favourite themed board game – Arkham Horror. For those who are unfamiliar with the game it is a thematic co-operative investigation game, the players working together to figure out the best moves and actions to defeat monsters and ultimately win the game. The board and the monsters work against the players and all monster moves are determined each round. There are literally a tonne of tokens, counters and cards that help to bulk out this game and make every adventure unique. But for me one of the best qualities of the game is that it can be played solo.
So what’s in the box? Well, open the lid and you will find a huge 6-tile board with the locations of Arkham for those familiar with the Cthulhu Mythos. There’s a full-colour 30+ page large format rulebook. Each map sector in Arkham Horror is colour-coded and each colour has a separate card deck for the adventurers to explore and either succeed or fail in their investigations. There are a number of investigator sheets, each one with different stats, allowing players to either randomise or select their favourite investigator. There are card decks for different items in the game – Common Items, Unique Items, Spells and Lores. A huge deck forms the Mythos deck – portals opening over Arkham, monsters moving and environmental and headline conditions. A large amount of monster tokens make up the monster pile and each investigator has their own unique stand up card. A good way to bling out your box is to buy miniatures for each of the investigators. A set of Elder Gods is supplied, each one with unique abilities and effects and every game 1 of these is the main antagonist.
In solo play mode I selected 3 investigators at random and 1 Elder God who is trying to break through into Arkham to destroy all mankind. To win the game the investigators much venture to open portals, investigate and then close them. Closing all open portals immediately ends the game. Closing 6 portals also ends the game. If the Doom Track reaches it’s final point the Elder God wakes and the investigators must do battle with it to win the game.
At the beginning of the game each investigator gets his starting cards and abilities, some are random, some are fixed. This adds yet more randomness and replayability to the game.
This game the investigators will be battling to prevent The King in Yellow from breaking through into Arkham. Each Elder God has some unique abilities. The King in Yellow requires investigators to spend 8 clue tokens rather than the default 5 to close a gate. He also makes cultists tougher and gives them Flight!
Once all characters have been equipped the game begins. A game turn is broken down into phases: Upkeep, Movement, Arkham Encounters, Other World Encounters and Mythos Phase. During Upkeep players ready their exhausted spells, regain stamina or sanity if applicable and earn money. Players can then move their counters along their stat track to alter their Speed,Sneak,Fight,Will,Luck and Lore values.
Movement is next. Players move up to their movement value between different locations in Arkham, trying to pick up clues, avoid monsters and get to certain locations to seal gates. If a player moves into a monster square he can try and evade or fight. If he fights his movement ends for the turn. If he tries to evade he uses his Sneak value modified by the monster’s evade bonus. If a player ends his movement in a space with a clue token he can pick it up and add to his pool.
Those investigators at a location will have an encounter there and pick a card with the same colour and read the encounter matching the location.
Players who end on an open gate will be sucked to that Other World location and will spend 2 turns having encounters there. Once they are returned to Arkham they will have an encounter token placed on them. This is the only way a gate can be closed.
After encounters are completed it’s the Monsters turn! In the Mythos phase a Mythos card is flipped. This card will tell where a gate will open, where a clue will appear, any new environmental conditions or news headlines and lastly which monsters will move and in what direction. All monster tokens have a symbol on them. Certain symbols will appear on the Mythos card in either a white or black box. Those in the white box will move from their current location in the direction of the white arrow and the same for black monsters matching the symbols in the black box.
Once all phases are complete, the turn ends and the first player token is passed to the next player.
Solo play in Arkham Horror requires little adaptation from the core rules. The player simply takes as many or as few investigators as he wishes. The number of investigators will affect certain things in the game – the number of monsters allowed on the board, the speed at which the Terror Track advances and so on. This means in solo play you can control how difficult the game will be which is great for trying the game out, trying new strategies etc.
I love this game solo and it’s a great way to spend 3 hours rolling dice and fighting monsters.