Fantasy Flight Games has unleashed the ultimate cooperative board game experience, which is suitable for players aged 14 years and over. Eldritch Horror pits 1-8 investigators against one of four horrific Ancient Ones—a monstrous God intent on devouring or enslaving the human population of Earth.
The aim of this thrilling adventure is to scour the globe for clues and then complete three mystery encounters to rid the alien vermin from our world.
Of course, the game is full of surprises and distractions that not only keep things interesting but also force players to review their priorities.
Excellent resources for in-game rules clarification
Preparing the board can take up to 20 minutes. Read the rulebook and reference guide thoroughly and take care with each step. Beginners are advised to wage war against Azathoth because the rules associated with this behemoth are very simple.
Silas Marsh is an excellent fighter but he can be driven mad quite easily. Charlie Kane, on the other hand, is a gentleman who is gifted with the skills to talk himself in and out of situations, but when it comes to exchanging blows with a monster he is better off running away.
Health and sanity can mean life and death for the investigators. Zero health and you die; zero sanity and you go mad. On the back of each character sheet is a special encounter, so if you happen to be nearby you can loot the body and hopefully gain something positive from their demise.
Are we there yet?
Eldritch Horror contains lots of cards. Fortunately, a lot of thought went into the design of the cards and how they are used. So long as you tackle the rules at your own pace everything will make sense in due course.
Before the game starts you need to construct the 'mythos' deck (more about that later), prepare the omen track (circle of constellations) and ensure the doom track is set to the same number that shows on the Ancient One's character sheet.
Certain conditions move the doom track closer to zero. Ideally, the investigators will solve three mysteries before that happens.
Before the game begins you also need to elect a lead investigator (the person who goes first).
Each turn comprises three phases …
Phase 1: Action
Traditionally you can only make two different actions a turn. Rest up to heal and restore a little sanity; prepare to travel by obtaining a train or boat ticket (allows one extra movement along relevant pathway went you spend the ticket); travel to an adjacent space; trade items with someone on the same space; acquire assets from the reserve; and component actions (see character sheet).
The actions you choose early on can make all of the difference later. Always think ahead.
The reserve is like a shop full of weapons, items and other useful services. You can try to obtain a specific card by performing the 'acquire asset' action. Charlie Kane has a buff to his 'influence' check and a unique component action that makes him the man for getting the things you need.
Phase 2: Encounter
The encounter phase is where you begin to delve into the Lovecraftian-inspired narratives that drive the story along. All over the map are city, wilderness and sea spaces as well as other special locations such as the expedition token, clue tokens, eldritch tokens, other world (gate) tokens. If an investigator is on a space with multiple choices they get to pick which one they encounter for that phase.
In this example you encounter the city of San Francisco. You automatically improve your observation attribute by one however if you fail the lore test you may lose one health and one sanity.
If a monster is on the same space as an investigator then unfortunately you have to resolve that fight first. If you manage to defeat all monsters on a space in a single combat encounter then you can proceed with a location encounter. This often occurs when you attempt to close gates that have spawned throughout the world.
Reckoning symbol on zombie will trigger a more powerful zombie horde to appear ...
The reckoning symbol can trigger some nasty effects on cards you may receive over the course of the game. Debt conditions and so on are like ticking time bombs; when the reckoning symbol appears on a 'mythos' card all players check their cards and resolve the effect.
Other 'mythos' events include spawning new clues, spawning new gates and spawning new monsters via existing gates.
If the 'mythos' card happens to be a blue rumour card then look out. These are cards that are put into play and involve additional rules to hamper player progress. These rumours cannot be ignored as they can be catastrophic over time.
Play continues with those three phases until the investigators accomplish their tasks or die in the process.
Those who are familiar with Lovecraft's fiction will fall in love with the atmosphere of the game. The writing is superb and the tiny stories enhance those tense moments where everybody is on the edge of their seats praying that they survive to the next phase.
Every action counts. Every session that has been lost usually comes down to poor dice rolling or a missed opportunity in the previous turn. A single card can be perilous and underestimated too.
Despite how brutal everything can be the balancing feels right. Defeating an Ancient One is an epic feat and makes the overall achievement just that little bit more profound.
The pace of Eldritch Horror will only drag on if players are taking their time thinking about the next move. With more players this drastically increases play time. If there is one criticism of this title it is the length of time it takes to finish a single adventure with a larger group of friends. Do not play with people with short attention spans.
A two player game can take up to three hours to finish whereas a group of four or more can take four-to-five plus hours to finish.
Will you and your friends attempt to save humanity?