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Board games have been seeing a bit of a revival in recent years. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that you only had a handful to choose from, all with very basic gameplay.

One thing that’s been growing is the selection of horror-based board games. That’s something we’ll never object to – we’re always down for a bit of spooky escapism.

If you’re just getting into horror board games, one name you’ve probably seen around is Arkham Horror. You might be asking yourself, what is Arkham Horror?

And, like a disembodied echo in the still night, we’re here to answer that question for you. In this brief intro, we’ll review what it is, provide a shallow overview of gameplay, and whether or not you should consider it.

TL;DR Explanation: What is Arkham Horror?

As you probably gathered from the intro, Arkham Horror is a board game. It’s published by Fantasy Flight, which is a game company well known for their forays into horror board game territory.

They have other well-known offerings such as Mansions of Madness or Elder Sign. However, those games are worthy of their own articles, so we’ll discuss them in more detail later on.

Arkham Horror is a cooperative game. Each player will choose from several playable characters in the game and work together to try and prevent an ancient cosmic evil from awakening.

By exploring the grim city of Arkham, each player goes through encounters, runs into monsters, and gathers the clues they need to seal rifts between our reality…and madness-inducing outside monstrosities.

Please note: There are multiple editions of the game. The one included above and in our pictures below is an older edition.

See Also: Best Horror Themed Board Games for Adults

How Do You Play Arkham Horror?

To be honest with you, Arkham Horror is not a game that can be explained quickly. It comes with a pretty sizeable rulebook for a reason: it has a lot of rules.

Like we said before, we’ll give you a very quick overview of the gameplay, but please note that it’s only that – a quick overview. This will give you a general idea of how the game works. We may choose to write about it in more depth in the future.

Arkham Horror Board

The board is laid out so that it functions as a map of the city of Arkham. Lines connecting various locations on the map represent streets that players can travel through to investigate different areas.

Arkham Horror Deity Cards

The game starts with two things: choosing the threat and picking characters. By “threat,” we mean which cosmic horror you’ll be working against – it could be Cthulhu, Hastur, or even Azathoth.

Arkham Horror Character Cards

Each person playing will also need to choose their characters. There are several to choose from, and they all have their own benefits and drawbacks.

Once the characters are selected, you can place sliders wherever you want on them to indicate their stats. These sliders can be moved back and forth on your turn to adjust your stats accordingly. For instance, if you wanted to be faster, you could move your slider towards speed…but you’d be lowering your stealth stat as you do so.

The characters each have health and sanity points. You can lose health and sanity points by encountering monsters or maddening scenarios.

Arkham Horror Monster Tokens

The goal of the game is to seal gates that open randomly each turn in one area on the map. Monsters can come through these gates, and there are rules that dictate how far and where they move each turn.

As more monsters come through gates, the terror track on the game rises. You want to keep it from getting to the end, because then the deity you’re trying to prevent from awakening comes crashing into the world and you have to try to fight it.

You win the game by either sealing all the open gates, having six or more elder signs on the board, or defeating the deity in combat. But trust us when we say you don’t want to get to a point where you have to fight it, because you’ll likely lose.

If you’d like a more in-depth explanation, click the thumbnail below for a walkthrough.

How Difficult is it to Play?

Arkham Horror has a steep learning curve. This is one that will take new players time to acclimate to.

The gameplay we described above is barely scratching the surface. There are different phases each round is broken into, combat mechanics, random encounters, items and spells to acquire, and clues to gather.

Make no mistake – this is a complicated game. We would not necessarily recommend it for beginners. If there are people who have never played it in your group, it will go much more smoothly if there’s also at least one person who has played it before and can walk you through it.

A word of caution, though: the box says you can complete the game in one or two hours, but we’ve found this is usually not the case. We’ve had this one easily go on for four or more hours.

Is it Fun?

Just because something is complex doesn’t mean it’s a bore. If you’re willing to be patient with it and put in the time to learn its system, Arkham Horror is an immensely rewarding experience.

It almost feels like playing a tabletop RPG with a DM. There are random scenario cards you can draw as you explore the city of Arkham, each one detailing mysterious, ominous, or exciting events that your character goes through.

You can even play this game solo in the event no one else is there to play it with you. We’re not embarrassed to admit that we’ve definitely played this one alone when we needed a way to pass a rainy evening.

Wrap Up

You’ve just been briefed on what Arkham Horror is. This is a game we’d definitely suggest playing at some point if you’re a board game enthusiast or if you’re a Lovecraft fan…maybe even both.

Keep in mind that it is a hard game to learn at first. In time, though, you’ll get used to all the interactions and it will play smoothly.

In the future, we’ll be sure to discuss the game in much more detail so you can get a better grasp on it. Otherwise, if you’ve played it before, feel free to leave a comment below letting us know what you think of the game.

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