Yesterday was our traditional Black Friday game day where we have friends over all day to play board games and avoid all the rampant consumerism that the rest of the country was partaking in. Or did we really avoid it? Fresh from BGG.con, our friends came through our door carting big boxes full of new games, many still in shrink and unpunched and some completely unknown to me. In fact, our friend Jeff came straight from the local game store with a shiny new copy of Eldritch Horror, a game that has been out less than a week. When I saw it, I immediately dropped my resolution to play some beloved oldies and our newish unplayed games. Since rumor has it that Eldritch Horror is supposed to replace my very favorite game ever, Arkham Horror, by being more streamlined yet retaining all the theme-y goodness, I wanted needed to find out if I had to get this game or not. Well, I accomplished that mission. I do NOT need to get this game. It came nowhere near replacing my beloved Arkham Horror.
So, I’ll start right in with the negative. These are some of my gripes with the game:
- First off, I’m going to raise my hand and solemnly swear that I will never, EVER try to play a hot-off-the-press Fantasy Flight game. I will wait until it has been out a few weeks, giving all the hardcore gamers time to thrash out the rules online and make beautiful, helpful player aids for me. An included Reference Guide is nice, but it really needs to actually be shorter than the Rulebook.
- What attracts me to an ameritrash game is the theme. Not conflict, not a handful of dice (although I do love dice) but THEME. I want to be immersed in the world and I want a story playing out in my head that will keep me up later when I’m trying to go to sleep. Arkham Horror has all these colorful locations. You can recruit allies at Ma’s Boarding House, look for unique items at the Curiositie Shoppe, try to gain access to the Inner Sanctum of the Silver Twilight, etc. I love the flavor. LOVE it. Eldritch takes it from a micro-setting and blows it up into the entire world map that has too many generic locations. About half of the places are named, but poking around in London is not nearly as exciting as braving the Unvisited Isle or the Witch House. Someone at the table described the game as Arkham Horror meets Fortune and Glory. Having never played the latter, I can’t say if that’s a good description or not.
- This brings me to traveling in Eldritch. A lot of the routes between locations are either rail or sea. You need to have the appropriate ticket and you can hold a maximum of two tickets. You take two actions on your turn and they can’t be the same one. Way too many of my turns were buying a ticket and using it to travel to an adjacent location (my two actions). It took forever to travel that way. I guess that all fits – it takes a much shorter time to travel around a city than the world. But it was boring.
- The monsters. In Arkham, they wouldn’t just sit at their spawning location and taunt you. They would wander the streets hoping to find you. They could seriously mess up your travel plans. In Eldritch, they don’t move. Sure, if you don’t go and take care of them, the gate that released them stays there open, possibly causing the doom track to move every so often. But you can just let the monsters pile up. In our game, we declared Tokyo to be dead to us as it had three nasty monsters stacked on it. One of us eventually got a double barreled shotgun and went in and cleared it out, but it wasn’t really that much of a problem to just leave it a while.
- In Arkham, the crush of advancing doom weighs on you the entire game. It always feels like the Doom Track is marching toward the end, you can never seem to keep back the monsters overrunning the town and the Great Old One will soon awaken and devour you. In Eldritch, I did not feel nearly enough tension. The Doom Track advanced so slowly. We finally lost by it getting to zero, but we were also only three cards away from losing by going through the entire Mythos deck. Which meant it was a very long game – at least 3 hours not including rules explanation which is too long for a game that is supposed to streamline the bloated Arkham Horror.
It wasn’t at all a *bad* game. The flavor text on the cards was pretty good. There were a few decent thematic events such as when Antarctica was hit by an earthquake, destroying it and shutting down all expeditions there as well as causing injury to anyone in neighboring locations. The other players all seemed to like it. The main comments were along the line of “this has a lot more chance of hitting the table than Arkham Horror.” Me, I’d MUCH rather just be playing Arkham Horror a few times a year. I don’t need a sort of similar but shorter game in my collection competing for table time.
Big caveat to all of this – our game was taught by someone who saw a demo at BGG.con and I haven’t read the rules thoroughly myself. It is entirely possible we missed something that would have sped up the game and/or made it more challenging. It still wouldn’t change the lack of flavor for me though.