‘Eldritch Horror’ is Fantasy Flight’s co-operative horror adventure quest game. And it’s evil. Punishingly evil. Or we’re really poor gamers. Probably both. The game pitches a group of investigators against the threat of a rising ancient evil as the fabric between dimensions begins to shred and the apocalypse closes in. So… Nice family entertainment.
It’s a game for 1-8 players, and those who aren’t versed in what ‘co-op boardgames are, it’s where all players work together against the game, which, despite not being a computer game, plays against you through a series of cards and mechanics that make things happen. And when I say ‘happen’ I mean go wrong. And when I say ‘go wrong’, I mean the game bends you over the table and takes you from behind. And it’s only thinking about its own enjoyment while it does.
The aim of the game is to solve all the mysteries associated with the chosen big bad for the game. Each turn you can perform two actions and then have an encounter. Your actions can include travel around the map of the world; acquire and trade assets to get yourself weapons, allies and spells; to rest and heal; and prepare to travel (enabling you to move further by rail or water). You can encounter locations, any gates to other dimensions that might be there (think Buffy’s Hellmouth), and monsters. Normally lots of monsters, that will either drive your investigators insane, or maul them. These encounters can help you develop the skills of your character–to make you better at investigating, fighting, trading and passing the tests you’ll need to win. In turn, the ancient one will open gates, through which it can send monsters, and will cause the ‘omen track’ to move, causing things to happen in the game, and the ‘doom track’ to move, which acts as a count down toward the ancient one crossing over into the world and rising against you.
I won’t lie–it’s a daunting game. The set-up in itself can take time and concentration, but when it comes down to the actual mechanics of a round it’s a pretty straight-forward easy to walk through game–but don’t think any of those words will be applied to the process of trying to win, or, as you more likely be doing: trying not to die. This game is daunting because things can, and most likely will, go very badly for your band of investigators very quickly. Perversely, that may well be why this game has hit the table the most. It’s devilishly difficult, but having won a couple of games, we know it can be done and so it makes us want to try again.
The rules are nicely laid out, with a reference book to make answering rule queries easier. It’s light on horror, and more of an adventure game, with the flavor text of the game offering a taste of HP Lovecraft’s creeping madness. No miniatures, but the the artwork on the counters–and on everything–looks great, and all the components have a good feel to them. The cards, of which there are many, are thin, but they are that textured gloss type, so I think they’re pretty hardy. I think four out five players is the sweet spot to avoid a lot if downtime between players getting a turn–and the game becoming any longer than it is. It can take about 2 to 3 hours to play. The only thing I don’t like is the way the board folds up. Do not have a drink whilst trying to put it away. You will destroy it in your alcohol fueled puzzle-solving mode.
Most of the games I like are not for the ‘monopoly’ gamer, but I would say that a family could sit down to play this. Perhaps not the little beasts you might have bred, but the older, hardier ones will find something to enjoy in this. The co-op side of it is a nice touch as you
discuss despair at what to do next together, and everyone can leave the game feeling the same bitter defeat, or perhaps questioning your win as being a cruel trick of the ancient ones, before they suddenly do you over and laugh in your insane, tattered face. This is the one game my non-gaming man-wife actually requests to play. That should be endorsement enough.
If you get the chance, then play it! There are plenty of expansions for it already, which either pack out the decks of cards, or add new board sections. Check it out.