I don't only play games with the Fun Group. I also play with the home team. My husband very much enjoys board games. Not as much as me by any means, but very much. And I have two adult sons who will play when asked. Usually. If there isn't anything pressing on TV. Or if they don't have anything else they'd rather be doing. Or if, you know, they're "feeling it".
The youngest of these sons is a video gamer by trade. He prefers video gaming to board gaming, but is quite good at both. It can be challenging to get him to play board games, but when he does, I think he enjoys himself. And he usually wins. (Not winning all that often myself, I have to assume that it's enjoyable.)
I got a core set of Arkham Horror the Card Game from my BGG Secret Santa this year. I had been hearing good things and was very excited to try to it. I liked the idea of a cooperative LCG (or TCG or CCG.....whatever kind of CG it calls itself). And I liked the campaign format. I'm not a huge Lovecraft fan, but whatever. The theme was fine. I was happy to have a copy. I assumed I would play with the Hubz.
But as I was thinking about the coming year (as one does in January), it occurred to me that my youngest yet soon-to-be 18 year old son would be leaving for college in no time. And while I would have all the time in the world to play games with the Hubz, I had very little time left to play games with him. So I explained to him how the game worked, specifically the campaign piece, and asked if he might want to play it with me? We'll take our time, if you hate it we'll quit, no pressure. And to my surprise, he agreed. With no additional coaxing needed. (I had been prepared to beg and bribe.)
Our first play of The Gathering was grueling. I spent a great deal of time checking the rule book and just trying to figure out how to play (the game is more than a little bit rulesy). And we got our asses beat. Badly. We agreed to play again, after I got clarification on a few rules questions. (I even arranged to play with a friend at a meetup just so I could get him to help me understand everything). There's a definite learning curve.
And so we tried The Gathering again. And this time it went much smoother. We decided to continue on to the Midnight Masks. Aaaaannnnnddd...... we got our asses beat. So we tried it again. And did better. And so it was with the core set scenarios.....we did each one twice. We never did really awesome, but we did well enough.
After completing the base game scenarios, I asked my son if he wanted to continue. And what do you know, he did. So we tried Carnivale of Horrors, one of the side scenarios. We switched out the investigators (from Roland and Wendy to Skids and Daisy) and went to Venice. And not only did we get our asses beat, but we got our asses beat four times. We played the Carnivale scenario five times before we felt good about it. It was that challenging.
But something else happened during our playing of that scenario. The execution of the theme finally clicked and it absolutely blew me away. I don't want to spoil anything, and I don't know if this will make sense if I'm intentionally non-specific, but the way the location cards are laid out, and the way the investigators move, and the way the encounter deck affects the investigator turns, was really, really amazing. I felt like we were caught up in a carnival. And the crowd was working against us. And the chaos of that environment added to our confusion and affected our success. I don't know that I've ever felt the tension of a time and place brought out so well in a game before. And in a card game no less! I was super impressed.
After our five-time run through of the Carnivale (which left Skids eliminated and Daisy with very tired arms....no spoilers!) we decided to start the Dunwich Legacy campaign. And I didn't have to ask my son to play, he was asking me to play. We were both hooked.
Dunwich is equally good. We've moved on to Rex and Zoey and find them really fun to play with. The House Always Wins has some extremely thematic elements that really put it over the top for me, and the Essex County Express blew my mind with its ability to really make us feel the tension and surprise of where we were and what was happening.
And here's why that matters, and why I felt compelled to write this review. This game conveys theme and tension and stress and surprise like no other game I've ever played. Literally no other. And it's a card game. Think about that for a minute. There is no board. No minis. No metal coins. No companion app. There are cards and cardboard tokens. That's it. And it's brilliant.
And I know people bitch about having to buy multiple core sets (yes, I bought a second) and then having an extra set of scenario cards that are not needed and having to keep buying mythos packs and buying deluxe expansions and etc, ad infinitum. Yes, I get it. It's a money grab. I completely agree.
And it's worth every penny.
Watching my son jump up and do the running man because we top-decked Jazz (makes no sense, I know.....no spoilers!) was worth every penny. Looking across the table at him, both of us wide-eyed, as we realized what was actually happening on that train was worth every penny. Seeing the look on his face when we realized I accidentally shot him (seven times!) was worth every penny.
Arkham Horror the Card Game is a phenomenal piece of game design. It's worth the money, it's worth the learning curve, it's worth the wait for reprints, and it's worth the inevitable storage box (or two) that you'll have to find. It is completely, absolutely, totally worth it.
So why are you still here? That rule book isn't going to read itself.