Favorite Fridays – Eldritch Horror

eldritchIn my second Favorite Friday I wrote about Arkham Horror; the 2005 reinvisioning of a 1980s classic. Today we will look at the successor of the reinvisioning of the original; Eldritch Horror. It is days like this I am glad I shifted away from in depth rule explanations because this game; is a big one.

Released: 2013
Designer: Corey Konieczka & Nikkia Valens
Plays: 1-8
EPT: 180 minutes

Like the games that came before it Eldritch Horror drops players into the world of HP Lovecraft’s mythos fighting ancient entities bent on making the world their own. Eldritch, however, takes us out of the Arkham area and lets us explore the world; all of it.

Someday mayhaps I can do a very in depth critical analysis comparing Eldritch to Arkham, but I feel now is not the time; nor is that what most are looking for. Rather we shall look at Eldritch as its own entity, using mechanics in its own way, and telling its own story.

In Eldritch Horror players take on the roll of people attempting to make since of the world around them as it falls into chaos. Strange beasts are appearing all over the globe, cults are causing havoc, and the world itself seems to have gone mad. Players will take turns moving about the world in an attempt to unravel the mysteries and put an end to the madness.

The play begins with players setting up the game; this is a moderately involved phase in and of itself. Once the set up has all been completed and players have their investigators and ancient one selected, decks assembled, and board laid out play may begin. The goal of Eldritch Horror is for players to work together so as to complete 3 objectives. These objectives are called mysteries and draw upon the mythos created around the various monsters. The game shipped with 4 mysteries per ancient one so as to increase replay value and add alteration between gameplays, but has been expanded with the expansions to include even more mysteries and thus increase replayability even further.

Players solve the mysteries by allocating their 2 actions per turn between moving, gaining travel tickets, acquiring items, healing, trading, and using ‘component’ actions that may be item, character, or location based. Moving in turn order, once all players have completed their actions they enter the encounter phase. This phase involves players drawing an encounter from either their colored location deck or the general encounter deck; unless their is a token on their space in which case they resolve the token based encountered. Again going in turn order these encounters are all resolved before players move onto the final round phase; Mythos. During the mythos phase players draw a mythos card and resolve whatever the card commands they do. Mythos cards will come with a selection of icons which may advance the omen track, activate reckoning actions, spawn gates, surge monsters, add clues to the board, or add rumor or eldritch tokens. Along with these options the cards will have an additional effect as written on the card. Once the card has been resolved. After the mythos phase the lead investigator (player 1) may pass the lead investigator token to any other player making them player one for the next round.

Players are deemed victorious when after they complete a 3rd mystery or after the ancient one awakens and they complete the Final Mystery. The players lose, however, if the ancient one awakens and they trigger one of the fail conditions, all players are eliminated, a card effect triggers a player loss, or the mythos deck is emptied.

Eldritch does a lot of things well; and a few things poorly.The game’s mechanics are quite smooth and leads to a streamlined play. Using the Action Point Allocation System limiting players to two actions while proving them with more leads to forced decision as a player will often desire to do more than they are able. This adds a great element of strategy as players attempt to maximize action results while planning ahead for future actions while keeping the game moving at a decent pace.

The game is enveloped in theme as almost every action and card further develops the ongoing story players are faced with. The game was clearly designed with theme on the forefront as the game would not work nearly as well as it does without the theme; making this a great example of what many would dub ameritrash. The game’s focus on adventure, discovery, and development makes players seek ways to bring about an end goal for each mystery, making the game feel almost like a set of three mini games. This creates a sense of ongoing story development that I have found missing from most games outside of the RPG gamespace.

Urgency will always be on the front of players minds as well as they are facing multiple fail conditions as well as victory conditions. They must monitor the status of the mythos deck which tends to get growingly more and more difficult as time passes while also solving rumors, mysteries, killing monsters, and maintaining their health and sanity.

Pacing can be an issue as player have the ability to over analyse their options with the goal of making the most efficient combination of action while at other times a player may have to spend a few rounds on a single space in an attempt to pick up a clue or get a certain encounter bonus. This generally comes down to the luck/skill balance. While the game is fairly well balanced on paper; and over time it is surely balanced a single game may be excessively difficult or easy due to the rolls of the die. While there is no quick and clean solution for this aside from rolling with the punches it is an issue that personally has not frustrated me greatly, though players new to gaming may find the experience undesirable.

The largest frustration I have faced in the game comes down to the nature of co-op games. I have mentioned in previous posts our house rule of offering advice only when asked for; unsolicited advice is a no-no at my table. Alpha gamers can ruin any co-op game turning it into a solitaire game in which they command all other players what to do. Players can ignore or accept the advice though the former option may lead to a furious alpha gamer and the latter will lead to a less than enjoyable experience for everyone else. The no unsolicited advice rule, however, allows players to ask for advice while limited the alpha gamer’s control and thus letting everyone have a fair share of the enjoyment.

My personal experience for the game has varied. I got the game as soon as its release; quickly running home and punching out all the pieces. When the next game night came around we enjoyed a great game. The following week we enjoyed it again. The game quickly joined our rotation and temporarily jonesed out Arkham. The two games while having a shared theme play quite differently and each have room on my game table and on my game shelf. I have had a few less than ideal experiences with Eldritch, however, and discovered it is not a social game; spectators and distractions can lead to a less than enjoyable experience. One such experience was had when attempting to film the game for an episode; those who know our history know that no such episode ever occurred; if you ever hear a “Laremy” uttered, however, you can thank Eldritch for that carryover. The game suffered an alpha gamer, a distracted/at one time asleep gamer, and a gamer that left three quarters of the way through do to frustration at the alpha gamer; it was then and there that the above mentioned rule was created in regards to advice offerings.

With the lesson learned on that cold winter night, my love for the Lovecraft mythos, and my love for solid ameritrash games Eldritch still sits as a mighty 9 on my list; possibly the highest scoring game at the moment.
Visuals – 2 // 2
Skill/Luck – .75 // 1
Pacing – 1.75 // 2
Theme/Immersion – 1.75 // 2
Mechanics – 1 // 1
Fun Factor 1.75 // 2

Monday we will look at a mechanic I am still trying to learn to love; player elimination.
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