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Board games range all across the spectrum when it comes to difficulty. Some are basic and simple, like a classic game of Scrabble, and can be learned within minutes.
Others…not so much. There are some board games that come with huge rulebooks that will leave everyone around the table confused for the first few rounds – even more. Arkham Horror (the board game, not the card game) definitely falls into this latter category.
Today, I’ll be talking about why Arkham Horror is so hard, and what features make it difficult. I’ll also tell you how you can beat the game.
Why is Arkham Horror so Hard?
I can’t really say definitively why Fantasy Flight decided to make Arkham Horror so challenging. What I can say, however, is that it’s very fitting when you consider the source material: the writings of HP Lovecraft.
Lovecraftian lore is, by default, difficult and terrifying. HP Lovecraft’s stories frequently portray people investigating unearthly horrors, fighting to confront them against the odds…and often failing.
Most Lovecraftian stories don’t end happily. In fact, the vast majority end with the protagonist losing their sanity to the frigid clutches of maddening horror.
Given that this is what the board game is based off of, it only makes sense that victory wouldn’t be easy. It should be a struggle, brimming with blood, sweat, tears, and no small measure of insanity along the way.
What Makes Arkham Horror Hard?
In my experience, there are a few things that make the game difficult, especially if it’s your first time playing. The first one is all the rules to keep track of.
Unless you’re an experienced board game player, thick rulebooks can be pretty intimidating. You may be used to playing things that only have one little pamphlet of rules – maybe even only one sheet, or rules printed on the inside of the box. Regardless, learning to thread your way through pages upon pages of rules can be daunting.
Next, the board has a lot of setup. It’s not as simple as laying the board on a table and then playing. You need to set out several decks of cards, put sliders on character sheets, place clue tokens in designated locations…the list goes on. Again, if you’re not used to complicated board games, all this setup can seem needlessly tedious.
Of course, there’s the gameplay itself. Gates – which you’re supposed to close or seal – open quickly. Monsters flood the streets of Arkham almost every turn, it seems like.
Sanity and stamina are easily lost. More often than not, your success will hinge on a dice roll that goes wrong quite frequently.
And don’t even get me started on the combat. Some monsters are easy enough to handle – like your standard cultists – but others are absolutely terrifying. Should you have the misfortune of having to fight the Ancient One, then you’re pretty much screwed.
(Note: I don’t own the latest edition of the game – I have the second edition. Gameplay is slightly different in the third edition, and I haven’t had the pleasure of playing it yet, so I can’t comment on the difficulty of the third edition.)
How Do You Beat Arkham Horror?
There are a few ways to beat this notoriously difficult board game. Closing all gates on the board, sealing at least six gates, or winning the battle against the Ancient One are all ways of winning.
Like I said earlier, though, you’d better hope the Ancient One doesn’t awaken. They’re not easy to beat, and usually, the simpler methods of winning are closing and sealing gates.
See Also: Arkham Horror: How to Win
It’s true that Arkham Horror isn’t an easy board game. If you’re looking for something mindless and uncomplicated to play, then you probably shouldn’t look here.
But I still think it’s worth playing, if you’re up for the challenge. Those looking for a rich, horror-filled experience will love this game – it plays like a tabletop RPG, where you get to step into the roles of investigators and decide how to prevent an ancient evil from awakening. (It should also go without saying that it’s a must-have for any Lovecraft fans out there.) Just make sure you’re patient with it in the beginning. I recommend checking out instructional videos on YouTube like this guide to playing Arkham Horror if you’re more of a visual learner.