15 October 2008 | Arkham Horror

Behind the Horror

By Kevin Wilson


Behind the Horror

by Kevin Wilson
If you’ve been watching the internet for news on the new edition of Arkham Horror, you’ve already seen one of the characters and been exposed to how skills work in the game. If not, go to our Rants page and yog-sothoth.com and poke around a bit, and you should find that information no problem.
This time out, I decided that I wanted to spoil two more characters and then finally lift the curtain on the Ancient Ones themselves.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
First of all, you’ll note that I’ve included Sister Mary’s backstory this time. During development, I had a hard choice to make – I could either put cool stories in about the characters or I could give the character sheets common backs for ease of random selection. There really wasn’t anywhere else I could put their stories, so it had to be one or the other. In the end, I decided that Arkham Horror is all about the atmosphere and the story, and gave each character a story that sets the scene for the start of the game.
The next thing you should notice is Sister Mary’s Guardian Angel ability. In this version of Arkham Horror, characters don’t die nearly as often as they used to (not for good at least). Instead, they become temporarily “Lost in Time and Space” until they can find their way home again. Sister Mary doesn’t even have to deal with that, instead immediately returning to Arkham.
[Amusing story – Originally Yog-sothoth “devoured” any character that became Lost in Time and Space, which meant that the player had to pick a new character and start over. Sister Mary had a neat interaction with him as she was totally immune to his ability. However, after one particularly harrowing playtest in which we lost 6 characters to his voracious maw, I had to admit that Yoggy was just too nasty. Don’t worry, though, he’s still pretty horrific.]
The last thing you might notice is that Sister Mary has some rather unusual possessions, including a “Blessing.” Now, normally in the new Arkham Horror, when you make skill checks, you roll a certain number of dice and score 1 “success” for every 5 or 6 you roll. When you’re Blessed, you score successes for every 4, 5, or 6. [I’ll leave the effects of a Curse to the able reader’s imagination.]
Next up is one of my favorite characters, the relentless Joe Diamond…
Now, looking at Joe we can deduce the existence of one more mechanic that is absolutely integral to the new Arkham Horror – the Clue token. Clue tokens are gained for exploring dangerous places and doing research in various locations. They can be spent for two things. First, you can spend 5 Clue tokens when closing a gate to “seal” it for good (and believe me, you’ll want to). However, that’s easier said than done, because if you’re saving up Clues to seal gates, then you aren’t spending them for their other purpose – adding to skill checks. After you make a skill check, you can spend 1 Clue token to roll 1 more die, trying to get a success on it. You can keep doing this as long as you have Clue tokens left to spend. So, if the check is important enough, you can blow 5 or 6 Clues on it in a mad attempt to succeed. Joe, on the other hand, gets to roll 2 extra dice for every Clue he spends, which makes him much more cost-efficient at that, and therefore more likely to be able to hang onto his Clues to seal gates with.
So there you have it, two more characters spoiled. Well, I’ll see you next time!
Just kidding, don’t hurt me.
Now, there are 8 different Ancient Ones, and I’ve made a big to-do about them, claiming that each Ancient One is almost like its own separate game. Well, that’s largely true, although it might be more fair to say that each is like a separate game variant. The concept has an old and distinguished lineage, going back to Cosmic Encounter, but I’m pretty sure that this is a fairly original take on it.
See, at the start of each game of Arkham Horror, you select an Ancient One, either at random or by player consensus. Now, let’s say that you select Ithaqua….
Don’t panic. There are only three things you’ll have to worry about at the start of the game. First, the numerical track at the bottom of Ithaqua’s card is his “doom track,” and it goes up every time a gate opens in Arkham, just like the old edition. The second thing is his power, there on the big stone tablet in the middle of the card. Ithaqua changes the game so that every time an investigator ends his turn in a street space, he loses 1 stamina. This means that investigators are a lot more likely to jump into whatever nearby location they can find, just to stay out of the storm. The third thing is his worshippers' ability, on the left side of the sheet. Every Ancient One lends power to its worshippers in some form, and Ithaqua is no exception. He makes Cultists rather difficult to kill, as a matter of fact.
Now, let’s say that things don’t go so well and Ithaqua’s doom track reaches the end. Well, in the old edition, that was game over – everyone loses. Now, you have a fighting chance, literally. Ithaqua immediately wakes up and comes rampaging into Arkham. The investigators then have one final battle to stop him, but if they lose, that’s it, no more second chances. I won’t go into how the final battle plays out right here, but I think you’ll be able to deduce a lot from Ithaqua’s card.
Before I go, I promised to spoil one more Ancient One, and I figure it ought to be a good one after rambling on all these pages. So, ladies and gentlemen, the Great Cthulhu!
Cthulhu is pretty straightforward. He puts a hurt on the investigators and he keeps it there. If your maximum Sanity and Stamina are normally 4 and 6, like Joe Diamond, then they drop to 3 and 5 for the entire game when Cthulhu is drawn!
Worse, if he wakes up, the investigators’ chances to win drops to almost nothing. Cthulhu’s damage is unstoppable. He keeps chipping away at the investigators until they’re dead. Finally, to add insult to injury, Cthulhu keeps healing himself after every round of combat. If you can take down Cthulhu in hand-to-tentacle combat, you’ve definitely earned plenty of bragging rights. Still, you’ve got a lot better chance to succeed if you try to close the gates instead.
That brings me to one last point. The Ancient Ones aren’t all created equal. Some are easier, and some (like Cthulhu) are not. This lets you choose the type of game you want to play, or leave it up to chance.
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