Board gaming and table top gaming have many different genres. In Game Corner, so far, we have only talked about deck building games. Today we are going to delve into one of my favorite genres of anything ever, Horror! Specifically we are going to talk about Lovecraftian games. H.P. Lovecraft was a wonderfully creative man and an excellent sci-fi/horror writer. He is most famous for stories such as, The Call of Cthulhu, The Color out of Space, The Dunwhich Horror but he wrote many others. After he established the Cthulhu mythos many other authors built up the rest of the universe.
Today the Lovecraft mythos is one of the prominent settings for horror with in table top gaming and because the subject is fairly comprehensive we will be spending multiple Game Corners discussing this topic. Let us begin this entry of Game Corner with one of the largest manufactures of board games currently in the market, Fantasy Flight Games.
Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) has been creating, developing and reprinting games for the last decade or so. They are a major player in the market and are known for some great board games such as Twilight Imperium, Android: Netrunner, and Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures. However, none of these games are the subject of this articles, today we are interested in their Lovecraft line of games.
The largest and most well known Lovecraftian game, from FFG, is called Arkham Horror. Arkham Horror was originally published by Chaosium games in 1987 and revised and reprinted by Fantasy Flight in 2005. This game has the most rules, the longest play time and with seven expansions, so far most consider it a very heavy game. If you do not know what that means check out the BoardGameGeek entry on weight here.
This game is the most intense and complex board game of the bunch. It is typically criticized for its complexity and the feeling that the game is always actively beating the living daylights out of you. However, the same things that people dislike about the game are what many others like. Heavy gamers typically enjoy the complexity because it makes it feel a lot like a RPG.
Mansions Of Madness
Another Lovecraft game FFG offers is called Mansions of Madness. The typical thread in all the FFG Lovcraftian games is cooperation and working together as a team. While this holds true, Mansions of Madness introduces an overlord style character, called the Keeper, that controls the badddies. the addition of the Keeper spices up this co-op game because only one person needs to be removed from that normal group to become the antagonist. However, if your group has lots of animosity issues you may want to stray away from these types of games. If your group can handle it, then hell yes because these games are amazing.
This a game takes a while to set up and has a similar complexity to Arkham Horror but the replayablity is very high because of the Keeper and the fact that the mansion can be set up differently each time. On top of which this game has eight expansions total and more on the way.
If you like dice rolling but don’t really dig a heavy or girthy games, then the next game may be more up your alley. Elder Sign is the game I started with and am most familiar with. This game consists of exploring a museum whilst trying to lock away an Old One using, you guessed it, Elder Signs.
While playing, you face encounters and must roll specific die faces to complete tasks. The game is fairly simple whilst still giving you a sense of dread. the dread is topical however because there is not much you can do to battle the randomness of never getting a certain face on a die. This game is best used as an introductory to the Lovecraftian theme. In fact, I would venture to say that is its main purpose. With the secondary purpose of taking a lot less time than the previously mentioned games. This game has a single expansion that adds additional Old One and adds new dice.
Finally we have my favorite of the bunch. A game that has a nice medium weight while still mantaing a sense of dread. Eldritch Horror came out after FFG decided that Arkham Horror was not reaching the scope they wished it to. The game is still similar in theme to the last few where the investigators are trying to lock away the Old One before time runs out, and the Old Ones awaken and kill everything. However this game takes pace all over the world.
The world map is amazing. Having investigators all over the globe simultaneously working together to lock away ancient deities is just the best! It give you a great sense of accomplishment but still gives the foreboding sense of, “How can we cover this much ground in time?”
It is important to note all of the Lovacraftian games from FFG have the same characters. You will see all of them throughout the series of games. This is nice because you can really get a feel for what each character does. Some games, mainly Eldritch Horror, add characters that are more specific to their setting. The reoccurring characters are a nice touch by FFG because you can get a feel for who you like and start to role-play a bit in your group.
On the other hand FFG doesn’t really mix up the experience all that much with their Lovecraftian games. They are all mostly similar in you need to complete task X before event B happens. When you play these games to often things can get a bit stale. However, this can be said about any over played game, so I’m not sure how valid a criticism that is. One game that does mix it up a bit from FFG I will talk about next time when we cover: