Arkham Horror is a co-operative game where players work together to stop the spread of doom across the city of Arkham, hoping to stop the rise of an ancient evil who will destroy Arkham and then the world.
This guide talks you through the set-up, turn round and play of Arkham Horror from Fantasy Flight Games.
Building the World - Set-Up
A golden rule of advice about learning the game is to read the text on the cards carefully, as they are quite explicit in how they work.
Choose from one of the four unique scenarios that come with the game. The Approach of Azathoth is the best one to start with if you are learning the game.
Prepare Boards and Encounters
The board layout is on the back of the scenario sheet, keep an eye on the types of streets which are double-sided, as there are three types and I would recommend putting the bridges first. Each neighbourhood has its own coloured encounter deck, be careful not to add in the event cards, you can tell the difference between the encounter cards and event cards as the latter have a clue symbol in the top left corner and the name of the scenario across the bottom. There is also a streets encounter deck so give them a shuffle too. So you now have five neighbourhoods, connected with streets and six shuffled encounter decks. Place a doom token in the locations as indicated on the scenario map.
Each scenario has an event deck that on the back looks like the encounter cards, but the fronts have a clue symbol and the name of the scenario across the bottom. There should be 24 of them, and they are shuffled and placed face down in the event card holder.
Create Monster Deck
The back of the scenario sheet has a list of the monsters that you need for the game. Take these from the deck (it's easier to keep them in alphabetical order for this), be aware that all the scenarios also include at least a type of monster as written on the cards. Place the starting monsters ready (black) side up, on the locations on the scenario sheet. Shuffle the rest.
Create Mythos Cup
Each scenario has the same mythos cup set-up, three Doom tokens, two monster tokens, two clue tokens, two headline tokens, one gate spawn token, one reckoning token and three blank tokens. All need to go into an opaque container.
Create the Headline Deck
From the 32 headline cards randomly select 13 and return the rest of them to the gamebox. The 13 are shuffled and placed near the board.
Arkham Horror Game Artwork (Fantasy Flight Games)
The ally, spell and item cards are shuffled and placed nearby. It is easier to keep the special items in alphabetical order. The blessed/cursed and dark pact cards are now placed nearby. Next draw the top five item cards and place them in a row, this is called "The Display" there are always five cards in the display so when one is taken replace it from the top of the item deck.
Get the damage, horror, focus, money, remnants and the double sided clue/doom tokens all together and nearby.
The archive cards which create the story of the game that are put in play are listen on scenario sheet, this is the 'Codex'.
With the board ready, it's time to pick investigators. Take the starting possessions; many of the characters have a choice of starting gear, and each has a number of roles that they can fill, but do not be too bound by roles, pick who you think you would enjoy playing.
Nobody starts with equipment from the item decks and each character has their own little decks of starting items. Everyone places their player tokens on the named starting space on the scenario sheet and takes an action token one of which is the leader token, the leader token never changes from this player, it is not like a first player marker.
Spawn starting clues by drawing the top three cards from the event deck, each of these are placed in their respective location decks by taking the top two cards of the location deck and shuffled with the event card and placed back on top of the deck. A clue token is placed in the centre of the respective neighbourhood; the clue is in the neighbourhood and not a specific location in the neighbourhood.
Draw the back card of the event deck and place a doom token (possibly more than one) as indicated by the doom symbol on the card, this card then starts the discard pile and the location with the doom symbol is known as the unstable location and might be referred to in various parts of the game. If there is no discard pile then the unstable space is the starting location on the scenario sheet.
Now you have a character, a board with doom, clues and monsters on it and are ready to begin.
Arkham Horror is played in a series of rounds where each player takes two actions in any order of play, followed by the monsters actions, then an encounter phase and finally the mythos phase. Play then proceeds to the next round.
What Can You Do?
The basis of the game is in skill tests for specific tasks and will describe how well you have succeeded in some cases. Each character has five skills, the game will call for a skill to be tested, you total up everything you have in that skill, from your character, focus tokens (see below) or other cards.
There might be a test modifier (+ or - etc) this leads to your final dice pool. Roll this many dice and everything that is a five or six is a pass. Some test results are based on how many passes you have so don't scoop the dice up until you are done. You always roll one die even if you are reduced to none or less dice pool. If you are blessed fours count as passes, if you are cursed only sixes count.
- Move - A character can move up to two spaces, but you cannot move through a ready monster (unless stated otherwise on the monster card). After, you may either spend one or two dollars to move another one or two spaces.
- Gather Resources - Gain $1. My advice, don't under estimate the value of money in this game, not only can it help you move around the board faster, but can also be used in encounters!
- Focus - Take a focus token; this lets you add one die to skill test or discarded to re-roll one die. You can only have one focus token per skill and only up to you focus limit (on your character card). Some effects let you exceed this limit at times and described on the cards that do so.
- Ward - On a space with doom tokens, you can complete a lore test to remove that many tokens, if you remove two tokens then you also get a remnant.
- Research - If you have any clue tokens (usually from encounters) then you can do an observation test to research them to place them on the Scenario sheet which usually helps advance the codex towards victory!
- Trade - If you are on the same space as another investigator, you can trade possessions.
If you are engaged with a monster, you can only do the following two actions or a focus action. Unless a card or other effect states that it can be used whilst engaged (for example some spells).
If you are engaged with a monster, landing on a space with a monster, you take the monster from the board, flip it to its exhausted side and place it with your character sheet. You can now do an attack action, usually with strength unless you have another card or effect that changes it to kill the monster. The monster has the modifier on it, and the number of successes needed to kill it and some have rewards in the text for killing it. If there is a remnant symbol on it, then you also gain a remnant, this monster card is then placed on TOP of the monster deck, ready (black) side up.
If you are engaged with a monster, you can evade it; each has an evade modifier - test this against Observation and you can evade as many monsters as success you roll. The monster is placed exhausted (white) side up on the board. Once you have evaded, you get a free action to take immediately with the usual restrictions to actions.
Your character might have an action they can do specific to them, or you might have a card that has an action. All actions will be preceded with the word 'Action'. If it isn't described as an action then the text on the card will have a specific description of when to use it.
There is always more to do than you can actually do, choosing actions wisely as well as the order of actions in relation to the board is key to managing the game and getting victory.
The Evil Fights Back - The Monster Phase
The creatures of darkness come down on the investigators thwarting all their attempts to stop the mythos. Monsters can be in three different states; Ready, Exhausted and Engaged.
- Ready - Monsters actively seek out and harm investigators with its ready side showing (black side up).
- Exhausted - Monsters that are otherwise occupied by either a card effect or being evaded by an investigator.
- Engaged - These monsters have their prey and are about to attack them.
The monster phase happens in three steps:
1. Ready Monsters Activate
Each monster on the board has a descriptive text of how it activates by targeting a stated investigator or game space and moving the specified spaces, or by doing some other text described action (some monsters are Lurkers and instead of moving they do another effect.) Monsters have a number in a circle on their ready side indicating the number of spaces moved, some have an asterisk, these monsters movement is described in the text as 'moves directly'.
If a monster moves into an investigator's space (it doesn't matter if the monster was targeting the investigator or space.) it stops and engages the investigator (the player takes the monster card, flips it and place it in front of them). If there is a tie for a targeted investigator or space then the monster will move towards the closest.
Monsters already engaged do not move, as their exhausted side has no movement instructions.
2. Engaged Monsters Attack
Each monster that is engaged with an investigator attacks. Along the bottom of the card, there is symbology for the damage taken in horror and damage.
3. Exhausted Monsters Ready
Any exhausted monsters on the board, with their white side up (therefore have no movement instructions.) flip to their ready side but do nothing else as this is the end of the monster phase.
If your investigator is ever defeated, they are removed from the game, all possessions and tokens are returned to their decks and token supplies. At the end of the mythos phase, you enter the game at the starting space with a new investigator.
Unless you're engaged with a monster (except the watcher type as described on the card) you now get to have encounters. This is done by drawing a card from the neighbourhood deck (or streets) and reading the appropriate text and completing any tests identified.
If you are in a neighbourhood with a clue token, there is a chance you will draw an event card, with a clue token symbol in the top corner. This means you have the chance to gain a clue as described in the text. If you gain the clue, take the token from the board and place it with your sheet and place the event card on the discard pile, creating a new unstable space.
If you did not gain the clue, then the event card is shuffled back with the top two location cards for the neighbourhood, giving you a chance to get it again on a future turn.
If you are in a neighbourhood with an anomaly, you don't draw from the neighbourhood location but the anomaly deck. You read the section of the card that corresponds to the amount of doom in your current location and not your whole neighbourhood. Take note that one of the scenarios does not use the anomaly deck at all, so this will not be used in that game.
Now the final phase of the round, the dreaded Mythos Phase! Each player (even if your investigator was defeated and you are yet to choose a new one) draws two mythos tokens at random one at a time (one at a time is important as one token might change how the game is influenced by the next)
- Spread Doom - When this token is drawn, spread doom once by drawing the back card of the event deck in the holder and place a doom token on the location indicated (there could be more than one indicated place). In three of the four base scenarios if this causes three doom in one location OR five in the whole neighbourhood, then an anomaly token is placed in the centre of the neighbourhood. The fourth scenario describes on its codex card how they work for that one.
- Spawn Monster - Draw the monster card from the bottom of the monster deck, it will instruct on the card where it spawns (either a specific location or investigator).
- Read Headline - The player who drew this card must draw and follow the instructions of the top headline deck, the card usually only applies to the player who drew it unless otherwise stated.
- Spawn Clue - The front card of event deck is shuffled with the top two of the matching neighbour hood deck, then place a clue token in the neighbourhood.
- Gate Burst - The front card of the event deck is discarded, a doom token is placed in every location in that neighbourhood, and finally the event discard pile is shuffled and placed on the back of the event deck.
- Reckoning - Every scenario has a reckoning effect, as do some game cards. This triggers those events.
- Blank - Nothing happens.
A Word on Arkham Horror Strategy
The number one strategy in Arkham Horror is to pay attention to the board, particularly what the locations are likely to offer (these are the symbols next to their names), as well as what the monsters will do in their phase. It is also a good idea to keep in mind where the next clue or gate burst will go (it is freely available information on the event deck) and remember what the aim of the scenario is! Never get to caught up getting gear or killing monsters to forget that each scenario as a changing set of victory conditions to win.