The Arkham Horror LCG Files, Issue #1: An Introduction to Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Written by DarkAngelAz

Welcome to Arkham Horror: The Card Game

It is the second of Fantasy Flight Games co-operative LCGs, following on from Lord of the Rings. You can see the design DNA if you have played both and indeed similarities with how Marvel Champions, their third co-op LCG plays. 

A LCG* is comprised of a core set, which introduces the game, provides enough basic cards to learn how the game plays, and allow for players to be comfortable learning how the mechanics work. Then that is followed by subsequent expansion packs which are fixed in content.

I am not going to try and explain all the aspects of gameplay in this or any subsequent article but they can be seen well in this tutorial video.

The one gripe that can be leveled against the core set is that in order to keep the price down to a level that is introductory there is only one of many of the player cards and deck construction rules allow for two of each. 

Introduction to Investigators

The game works by each player choosing an Investigator to play and then building a deck within that particular investigators deck building restrictions. They are all different and we will look at these in time, but for the moment it is suffice to say that each Investigator is a particular class and can use some cards from one or more of the other classes. 

The five classes of Investigator are Guardians, Seekers, Mystics, Rogues and Survivors. They are pretty much do what you would expect in that Guardians tend to focus on protecting the other investigating and killing the enemies that may appear, Seekers search for clues by using their knowledge and the like. Rogues, Mystics and Survivors tend to be more hybrid style characters in that they can often do either of these things as well as controlling the encounter deck, evading enemies rather than killing them ,and providing good support to others through the various abilities they have. 

Decks are usually 30 cards plus some cards called signature cards which need to be included in each players deck along with negative cards called weaknesses which have effects (almost always bad) when they are drawn from a players deck. The rest of the deck will be a mixture of assets, events and skills all of vary from Investigator to Investigator. At the start of a campaign all of these cards will be level 0. 

Introduction to Campaign

What sets Arkham Horror: The Card Game apart from other games of its type is the narrative and the campaign. The story is immersive and ongoing with Investigators having to make hard choices and live with consequences of those choices further down the line. This makes for an incredibly story driven campaign and as players finish scenarios they gain experience which is used to improve the cards in the Investigators deck with newer and more powerful cards of different levels.

If you look at the example above it shows how the card improves at higher level with better stats and more skill icons. 

Disclaimer: This next part contains mild spoilers.

The core set has three scenarios in it which form a small introductory campaign. Full length campaigns as introduced in the deluxe boxes for each cycle and subsequent mythos packs are usually eight scenarios long. 

The Gathering is a gentle tutorial scenario whose primary purpose is to demonstrate the mechanics of how the game works and what to do. For your first game with just the core set this should be played on easy difficulty level (the game has four modes which adds greatly to its replayability) and with the decks suggested in the rulebook. This will give you a good understanding of how it flows. Clues must be gathered and locations explored and enemies vanquished. It has a small endboss and like many scenarios has multiple endings. 

Midnight Masks follows on from the events of The Gathering and builds not only on the choices the Investigators made but introduces further aspects of gameplay. It has a larger map, a trickier clock to manage, multiple bad guys to deal with and most importantly brings into focus the concept of a limited win, where sometimes the best option is to take what you have and resign. 

The Devourer Below takes what we have already experienced and adds greatly to it. Some players feel there is a flaw in this scenario in that it very hard to win. It is true that it is challenging but this is Arkham and it is supposed to be hard and difficult and sometimes getting out alive is all the Investigators can do. Like all the other campaigns it has several paths to victory (or defeat) and reminds us that what we know of the world is but a tiny fragment and rest of it can just overwhelm and engulf us. 

A Whole New World

There is already a wealth of products out there for Arkham Horror: The Card Game and we will start to look at those in upcoming articles, but unlike a competitive card game you don’t need to buy it all at once to play. The stories are designed in cycles and each can be played independent of previous or subsequent ones. There are also a number of one-shot standalone adventures and now new ready-to-play investigator decks which are very much like the hero packs from Marvel Champions. 

So if this fascinates you come on a journey with us over the next few months of adventures and exploration as we talk about the campaigns and one-off adventures there are and how it all fits together, of how Investigators play and how campaigns unfold and how a group of valiant Investigators is all that stands against a world where every dark fear in the corner of your mind can be used against you and there are unknowable nightmares waiting for a chance to pounce on the unwary. A world where scholars, detectives, musicians, witches, athletes, socialites, chefs, gravediggers, faithful hounds and many more are all that defend us from the terrifying horrors that await…..

Author’s Note: -The new TV series Lovecraft Country has possibly brought the world and creations of H.P. Lovecraft and others into a new spotlight, heretofore previously the province of those attracted to the blend of horror, science fantasy and the supernatural that he and others created collectively. The new TV series is based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff and in doing so it deals head on with one thing about Lovecraft’s work that we must face in today’s world. He was a racist of the highest level. There is no getting away from this fact. It is a theme endemic throughout his works and when viewed from the vantage point of a hundred years later those tenets do diminish the work he wrote. 

Fantasy Flight Games have done a very good job of steering away from this with their Arkham Files games.

As a society we have not yet really worked out how to deal with historical figures of artistic, cultural and political significance who held views and opinions that we now consider to be abhorrent. I do not know what the answer is but it must surely be based in talking about it, learning and avoiding the binary debating points that so many discussions currently reach. 

*LCG – Living Card Game. Fantasy Flight Games defines a “Living Card Game” as a variant of collectible card games. LCGs have regular expansions and deck construction like CCGs, but do not have the “blind buy purchase model” of CCGs. Instead of random starters and booster packs LCGs have starter sets and expansion packs with fixed non-randomized distribution of cards. Their core sets come with pre-constructed starter decks, and are designed to be self-contained; they can be played by themselves or expanded for constructed play with expansions. Expansion packs are released on a monthly or near-monthly basis, each containing usually 60 cards, with a number of copies of each different card equal to the limit of the number of copies a player is allowed in his or her deck (e.g. two copies of each player card in an Arkham Horror: The Card Game pack). Larger “deluxe” expansions are released less frequently, and typically contain many more cards and sometimes introduce new game mechanisms. (Source Wikipedia)

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