Our next participant is David Vincent. David has been a loyal reader of the site for…. well, I’m not really sure just how long now, but it does seem like it’s been a good while. Besides being a loyal reader, he’s also been an unexpected help to Horror And Sons as well. As you may already be aware, David was responsible for creating the Horror And Sons coasters and coffee mug included in our upcoming giveaway. As David is in the process of starting his own printing company, I hope to be able to work with him on other Horror And Sons themed items for later giveaways.
For his Halloween Horrors piece, David definitely grasped onto the idea of going “outside the box” by going outside the realm of film, and instead submitted a fascinating piece on Lovecraft-themed board games. In this particular case, his spotlight is on the game Arkham Horror. As a bit of a Lovecraft nut myself, I was very happy to see this piece as it enlightened me on aspects of Lovecraft fandom and lore that I am admittedly more than a little uneducated on.
Well, enough jibber jabber from me. Here’s David…..
“The job sounded simple enough – pick up the statue at the Providence Museum and deliver it to a guy at the Silver Twilight Lodge. The money was good and the dame who gave him the job seemed sincere.
Sadly, things never seem to work out that easily for Joe. Now the statue is missing, two people are dead, strange cultists are on his tail, and all clues lead to Arkham. Lady luck can be funny that way.
He`s already tried talking to the Sheriff, but that flatfoot proved to be worse than useless. Looks like it`s once again going to be up to Joe Diamond to solve the case.”
– The story so far for Joe Diamond, the Private Eye.
The question raised was “What gets you thinking about Halloween?” Well, for me, it is monsters, dressing up, and illegal fireworks. Sadly, as the last party with fireworks was crashed by the local police, that just leaves us with the monsters and dressing up. Age and sense now being on my side, Halloween gatherings are a bit more sedate, but no less fun thanks to a fantastic series of Lovecraft themed cooperative games, full of mystery and references to the writings and creations of the genius that is HP Lovecraft. As for the dressing up, well, that`s easy. You select one of the available characters and come dressed as them.
One of these games is Arkham Horror. The basis of this game is that there are a group of fanatical cultists trying to raise an ancient one from its slumber to take over the world and enslave anyone left alive to do its bidding. Portals to other dimensions like R`lyeh, Plateau of Leng, and The Dreamlands are being opened by the cultists and monsters are being summoned as forerunners to the Ancient Ones’ arrival. Your job as an investigator (or team of investigators) is to try to put a stop to this by collecting clues and closing portals before the “end of everything” becomes a reality.
Once the players and Ancient One(s), like Cthulhu, Ghatanothoa or Yog-Sothoth for example, are selected the players are given their starting items and play begins. Items will allow investigators to find extra clues, cast spells, and fight monsters. Each player will have a piece of background story, like the one above, which states the reason for this individual being in Arkham. Play begins with the Investigator phase, and from this point on you are this character and must now choose how to proceed with your assigned role and thus create your own story. You can focus on the task at hand, collect clues and close portals, or try to complete an individual goal. The choice is yours, but the cultists draw ever closer to awakening the Ancient One.
The object of the game is to collect clue tokens and then explore the realms on the other side of the portals. Once you have explored a realm you can then try to seal the portal if you have enough clue tokens. As you move around the map to gather clue tokens, you will in turn visit many familiar places such as Miscatonic University, The Unnamable, & The Silver Twilight Lodge to name but a few. Getting to these places can sometimes be difficult as portals and events spawn monsters and in turn these move around the board to block your way and prevent you completing your task. Should you encounter a monster, you can try to sneak by or attack it with an item or spell that you are carrying. If you get to a location, you will collect a clue if there is one and then have an encounter. These encounters can range from finding clues to having a portal open under you and transporting you to other dimensions. Although you do want to explore these dimensions to close portals, arriving unexpectedly can prove detrimental to your health and sanity.
After each investigator has had a turn, the Mythos phase starts. This phase represents the machinations of the unseen cultists performing dark rituals and obscene rights to further their evil plans. This is represented in game terms by more portals opening and more monsters (like Flying Pollups, Ctholians or Star Spawns) appearing and getting one step closer to the awakening of the sleeping Ancient One. Each time a portal opens, a doom token is placed on the Ancient One card. If this was not bad enough, you may be unlucky enough to draw a mystery event. Ignore mysteries at your peril as failing to solve them can lead to locations closing, monster surges and a quicker awakening. After the Mythos phase, play goes back to the Investigator phase and then continues until the investigators are dead or insane and the Ancient One wakes and takes over the world, or you have closed the required number of portals to prevent this outcome, the latter being a more unlikely outcome.
Playing is like reading a book; you can immerse yourself in the background story of your character, with each encounter and Mythos phase adding the next paragraph to this story. The difference being that it is you who decides where your character will go, what monsters to fight, who to help out, and when it is time to cut and run. Good decisions will hopefully lead to the Ancient One being held back, while bad decisions will lead to insanity and death. Given the amount of investigators, locations, Ancient Ones, and Mythos cards, it is unlikely that you will have the same adventure twice. So, each time you play, it is like reading a new story by the master himself . This is one of the main reasons why I like this game. That, and it’s cooperative, so you will all win as a team or loose as a team.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”
– HP Lovecraft