Game Length: 3 hours, give or take an hour
Best enjoyed: With 3-5 H.P. Lovecraft fans who want to battle an unknowable, ancient enemy together
Eldritch Horror is a co-operative game set in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos where the players take the role of investigators in the 1920s seeking to prevent the awakening of an ancient elder god. It is the successor to Fantasy Flight Games‘ popular Arkham Horror series, and goes a long way towards improving the play experience over Arkham Horror by streamlining the game and introducing greater narrative and gameplay differences between the Ancient Ones the players will be fighting.
Investigators will start the game with a small amount of equipment and modest skills, and over the course of the game will need to gather allies, equipment, skills, spells and, most importantly, information about the unknowable horror they are currently struggling to put down – abstracted as ‘clue’ tokens in the game. Gates to otherworldly dimensions will open and nightmarish monsters will spew out of them. If the investigators don’t close these portals in a timely fashion, the connection between Earth and the other side will grow stronger, eventually allowing the Ancient One to enter the world. If that happens, the investigators may have a chance to defeat it in a final showdown, but the odds will be stacked against them!
Eldritch Horror‘s greatest appeal is the strong narrative that permeates the game. With hundreds of vignettes describing the various events that can occur, the game goes all out to immerse the players in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Double-sided spell and condition cards will instruct you to flip them in certain situations, meaning that you never really know the true cost of casting a Clairvoyance spell, or that shady loan you took out, until you have to pay it – much like in the source material. As the situation becomes more desperate and investigators are running all over the world to stem the tide and find the next clue, rolling to see if you succeed in your attempts will become increasingly tense.
One of the drawbacks of Eldritch Horror, however, is its dependence on dice to resolve outcomes. Almost no tasks, apart from travel and resting, may be accomplished in the game without rolling dice to determine success. This can be unsatisfying, as a string of bad luck can cause players to lose a game that was otherwise played perfectly. The items, skills and allies that you gather generally serve to improve your chance of success in these rolls, instead of adding much tactical difference to the game. Understanding the rules for your first game can also be a chore – there is a large amount to learn and setup is fairly complicated, but Fantasy Flight Games has made a helpful tutorial that players should watch before sitting down to play their first game.
Eldritch Horror plays best with 4, but can play up to 8 and can even be played solo. 3-5 players are recommended as with too many players, the game can take too long and with less than 3 the players won’t have the diversity of characters to be able to take on the required tasks.
If you aren’t bothered too much by the dependence on dice, and you are looking for a co-operative game experience with a strong story element, Eldritch Horror comes highly recommended. It is packed with exellent art and evocative text that will immerse you in Lovecraft’s world. Just make sure that you don’t go mad trying to understand the unknowable!