Sunday, January 14, 2007

Arkham Investigations

Today, we playtested an idea I had for tweaking the awesome game Arkham Horror into a somewhat different direction. Basically, it's a set of rules modifications that I'm calling Arkham Investigations that makes a lot of changes to the core Arkham Horror rules in an attempt to address a few of the issues I have with the game:
Nonsensical plot elements
If you've read much of H.P. Lovecraft's work, you know that the hapless investigators who happen to find themselves in harm's way don't go hopping through gates and fighting everything from Mi-Go to Formless Spawn to Dholes in a single investigation. Most of the time, things are a little more focused on a particular threat. To address this, Arkham Investigations narrows the scope of the plot a bit by constraining the monsters and encounters to ones that would make sense with the current Great Old One that is stirring.
Lack of plot
In addition, the "plot," if you can call it such, is nonsensical and random. Why would I end up in the City of the Great Race when Cthulhu is stirring in his slumber? Shouldn't I be visiting R'Lyeh? And when I do, shouldn't it have more relevance to the plot than the DreamLands? And really, why am I hopping around to all these other worlds? Arkham Investigations addresses this by introducing plot elements to the mix that have to be resolved in order to win. It introduces Vignettes which play similarly to the Other Worlds, but which instead represent key scenes in the investigation in order to advance the plot.
Lack of Cooperation
When you look at the cover of the box, you see several investigators fighting the same creature. Unfortunately, this never happens in the game. While Arkham Horror is a far more cooperative game than most, it still sees investigators fighting monsters alone when this is arguably the time when they should be banding together. Arkham Investigations addresses this by introducing rules which allow investigators to not only team up on monsters (and let monsters team up on them!), but also to allow investigators to work together in the Vignettes to advance the investigation.
Lack of climax when winning
Oddly, it is often a let-down to win Arkham Horror in the preferable manner - by closing gates - because it leads to a rather anticlimactic game: "Wait a many gates have we sealed? Six? Oh. Hey, we won two turns ago. Yeah. Hm. Yay us." By contrast, when the GOO (Great Old One) awakens, it's a desperate, tough fight that involves all the players where the stakes are nothing short of being devoured. Arkham Investigations addresses this by introducing an endgame sequence even for the winning condition, which ensures that no matter how well the investigators do, there is always a thrilling challenge at the end of the game.
Difficulty in extending the game
Finally, Arkham Investigations provides a way to significantly bring new experiences to the game in a manner that should be accessible to most fans of the game.

The first game of Arkham Investigations went fairly well, although it appeared that the GOO wasn't going to be coming out. We were very close to winning, and there were only a few doom tokens on the GOO's track. But then things picked up, and although we won the game against the GOO, stopping it from awakening, one of us went down in the final battle, and if there had been a few more doom tokens, I think we all would have gone down. I still have a few tweaks to make as a result of this play-through, but I think I have a lead on a good alternate method of play for Arkham Horror which, if nothing else, will extend the gameplay value of the game for all the people like us who play the game often. Stay tuned!

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