Arkham Horror Third Edition

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Arkham Horror Third Edition is the co-operative game for up to six investigators who must work together to stop an ancient one determined to destroy Arkham and the rest of the world. Set in the Lovecraftian 1920’s, Arkham Horror Third Edition from Fantasy Flight Games offers players the chance to face the fear and peril of an Ancient One, and all the creatures and doom that th…
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • The Lovecraftian feel.
  • Streamlined, quick play.
  • Deeply immersive story-based scenarios.

Might Not Like

  • Lack of control over events.
  • The board needing delicate handling.
  • Long gameplay time.
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Arkham Horror Third Edition is the co-operative game for up to six investigators who must work together to stop an ancient one determined to destroy Arkham and the rest of the world. Set in the Lovecraftian 1920's, Arkham Horror Third Edition from Fantasy Flight Games offers players the chance to face the fear and peril of an Ancient One, and all the creatures and doom that they bring to the city of Arkham.

Each player has the choice of 12 investigators each with their own unique skills, abilities and items, and each with their own approach to fighting the Ancient One. Choose the Magician Dexter Drake, the rookie cop Tommy Muldoon, the Dilettante Jenny Barnes or Minh Thi Phan the secretary. Each with their own approach and role in fighting the coming darkness and stopping the Ancient One.

Each round an investigator will move around Arkham, ward locations against doom and research clues among other actions before the monster that lurk in the shadows strike out. Each investigator encounters the various locations of Arkham in hopes of gaining allies, items, clues and spells against the encroaching darkness before, finally, the Ancient One acts through the mythos phase where doom, monsters and worse are unleashed onto Arkham.

The Third Edition of Arkham Horror is scenario based with a strong storytelling element and enough variation built into the game to present a high level of replay-ability and immersion.

Face the Insane Daemon Sultan Azathoth, defend against the high priest Cthulhu, seal away the Lurker at the threshold Yog-sothoth or keep the feaster Umordhoth at bay. Who can prevail against such darkness. Who will save the city of Arkham and protect the world from the ancient ones?

Player Count: 1-6
Time: 120-180 Minutes
Age: 14+

Arkham Horror Third Edition, is the latest in a long line of Lovecraftian board games from Fantasy Flight Games, designed by Nikki Valens and Kevin Wilson and based on the original game by Richard Launius.

In the third edition of Arkham Horror, one to six players (though three seems to be the best number) take on the role of investigators working together at to uncover a mystery in the city of Arkham, The Daemon Sultan awaking, the barriers between dimensions collapsing, an ancient god rising or a cult worshipping Ghouls killing the citizens off. As the game is heavily scenario based I have avoided any gameplay spoilers.

Dive into a Lovecraft Story

Arkham Horror is a story driven scenario based game, coming with four playable out of the box, each with a distinct feel and differing victory conditions. The game is driven by the codex cards which tell the story in an evolving manner depending on what happens as you play. Most scenarios have a goal to collect certain clues or uncover certain places, when this is done the next codex card will be revealed telling you more about what is going on and your next goal. But if doom starts racking up, then bad codex cards will come into play, bringing you one step closer to loosing and perhaps adding some nasty element to the game to kill you or drive you mad.

The stories are branching, creating different endings for each scenario, some where you lose, some where you win and some that are a little of both. But these endings are limited, there are only about 10 story cards for each scenario – but they are immersive and creative, and you feel drawn in and driven by them. Some of the cards are simply goals, others add cards to location encounters, strong monsters to the board or special actions that you can take, each giving the scenario their unique feel.

The scenarios also create different boards, one of the more contentious issues around third edition is the use of a modular board that is different in every scenario, changing where you can go, how you can get there and the strategies you need to use to manage the various events happening across Arkham. The changing nature of the Arkham board has some players frustrated, saying that it makes no sense as to why Arkham changes between each game.

However, the board doesn’t change too much; for example Northside is always to the left of Downtown, and Downtown is always to the top left of Riverside, just with differing connecting street types and not all neighbourhoods are in each scenario. These are just a few examples but it is clear these board layouts have been thought out by the designers and work well.

The issue with the modular board is its physical practicality. The neighbourhood boards, and the street connectors are a tight jigsaw style fit and after a month of average game play for a newly purchased game the edges on a few are already starting to fray in my copy and I am expecting that anytime soon one of the pieces will rip or tear. Fantasy Flight have always been known for high-quality production values, but this is a little disappointing especially when you look at other modular board games that have been around for eight or nine years (such as the Dungeons and Dragons board games) which didn’t have this issue.

Arkham Horror Third Edition Review – Game Layout (Credit: Fantasy Flight Games)

What can you do Against Overwhelming Evil?

The core part of the game for players is the start of each round where each investigator can carry out two actions and be proactive, this is the only time the players will be proactive in the game, where they can plan and put a strategy in place to achieve whatever goal they have to achieve.

The actions are a mixed bag including; moving, gathering resources, warding doom, researching clues, fighting monsters, focusing skills not to mention any unique actions, items, ally or your own character can do. This makes it feel like there is plenty you can do on your turn and there is very little downtown for your characters. At first look there is a feel that there could be a little analysis paralysis, but the game flows well and there is often a feeling that you don’t have enough time to do everything you need, forcing you to prioritise and strategies with other players about what to do and more importantly, when to do it. This is where the player interaction is at its greatest, not with direct game mechanics but through discussions about solving the puzzle that is unfolding, be aware this can lead to one player, perhaps the most experienced becoming an alpha playing and directing others to carry out his suggestions.

Ultimately Arkham Horror is a puzzle solving game. There is always the sense of not enough time, and a feeling that you need one more action as all the actions available are useful in different ways and there is no throwaway action; but far from being a frustration that it could easily have become this adds to the thematic tension embedded within the stories and now games of Lovecraft in that everything is against you.

Horrors Beyond Life’s Edge

Once the players have had their investigators do actions the game takes over and the many choices that the players had are stripped back to a couple or none, and the control they had now passes to the game and some people might not like that feeling, but it is thematic to Lovecraft

First, the monsters move, do horrible things and injure your investigators. Unlike Arkham Horror Second Edition, or Eldritch Horror, there are no real ways to prevent monsters doing these things except for cards, not even the randomness of dice rolls can save you from being injured in some way if a monster lands on your space. You just take damage because Lovecraft’s monsters are now very dangerous, this does mean you need to plan ahead (you know how the monsters will move for example), having played the previous games it seems that this has been streamlined for quickness as monster rounds do go quick, but at the general expense of player decisions and actions, of course you can always decide how to take the damage if you are lucky or clever enough to have allies or items that can absorb it, but little else really.

The monsters themselves are on cards rather than chits as Second Edition and Eldritch Horror, this gives more art and more space for the various symbols that are needed and they are all right from Lovecraft and the games, and when some are drawn, like the elite monsters, your heart sinks (in a good way) as the entire game dynamic shifts to dealing with a creature that could end it all very quickly.

Arkham Horror Third Edition Review – Investigators (Credit: Fantasy Flight Games)

What Happened to Us?

The location encounters are the heart of Arkham Horror, like its predecessors, they are filled with thematic location focused events that will bring fortune both good and ill for the players, a few of them have options on how to pass the various skill tests you need adding a little player choice here, but essential it is a read a card, roll some dice and something happens. A few simply have something happen even without such tests, while adding great sense of story and theme, these things generally happen to you. Now you do have information regarding what each space does for its encounter, like a good chance of getting an item or spell, but it is not guaranteed so if its part of your strategy things might slow down in your plans.

Amount of player choice aside, drawing the encounter is exciting, there is no denying and it is the point at which your decision made only moments ago payoff or not.

The Strongest Kind of Fear is Fear of the Unknown

The game round ends as most Lovecraft games do, with the big bad doing it’s worst. Unlike the previous Arkham Horror or Eldritch Horror titles, there is no mythos deck, but instead a cup full of tokens (like The Card Game). Each player draws two tokens which may spawn new monsters, spawn doom, draw a headline card which usually does something bad. The headline deck also acts as a countdown timer for the game, as if after 13 cards have been drawn from 40 different ones the game is over! Or you might have to complete a reckoning effect that each scenario has, as well as some of the cards and game effects. But not all hope is lost, there are blank tokens which do nothing and there are clues which not surprisingly spawn new clues on the board.

Then there is the Gate burst token, which adds multiple doom tokens to the board. The event deck (in it’s snazzy, heavy duty cardboard holder) is what spawns clues and gate bursts (which are drawn from the front, so you know where the next one is going) and doom, which are drawn from the back and which you cannot see. This lets you know where potential clues will go but also where the gate burst will happen, but only the next one, if you draw two clues and then a gate burst there is no way to anticipate that.

The event deck is recycled through a mechanism familiar to those who play games such as Pandemic, as when a gate burst happens the Event discard pile is reshuffled and placed at the back, where doom is draw from, turning it into a bit of a memory game.

Arkham Horror Third Edition Review – Scenarios (Credit: Fantasy Flight Games)

Then the next round begins, mostly needing to react to what the Monsters, encounters and mythos phases just threw at everyone with a balancing act needed to be proactive in managing the victory goals as well. The length of the game can vary depending on how well or not you are doing, but expect a 3-4 player game to take three hours.

So you’ve played the four scenarios, now what?

Arkham Horror is re-playable despite only having four scenarios with it; the scenarios have a few story lines in them and it will take a few plays to play each of them, but each game feels different, the cards are drawn at random, different investigators, different monsters and different headline cards will alter each game enough for it to be different. Yes, you will know the stories, but that is not as debilitating to play, because this game is fun and emphasises the journey and not the destination as well as the feeling that you are just a small person in a massive universe that wants to devour you!

Closing Thoughts on Arkham Horror Third Edition

This is welcome addition to my Lovecraftian collection that I will love playing for a long time and may become my favourite over Eldritch horror; like all Lovecraft games, expansions will be a pleasant addition, to fill so much potential that Arkham Horror has to bring.

How to Play Arkham Horror Third Edition

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 scenario

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.

Event Deck

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.

How to Play Arkham Horror - Game Artwork

Arkham Horror Game Artwork (Fantasy Flight Games)

Prepare Assets

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.

Prepare Tokens

Get the damage, horror, focus, money, remnants and the double sided clue/doom tokens all together and nearby.

Prepare Achieve

The archive cards which create the story of the game that are put in play are listen on scenario sheet, this is the ‘Codex’.

Choose Investigators

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.

Final Preparations 

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.

Available Actions

  • 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.

Component 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.

How to Play Arkham Horror - Scenarios

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.

Encounter Phase

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.

How to Play Arkham Horror - Archieve Cards

Mythos Phase

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.

Good luck.

Buy Arkham Horror Third Edition

Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • The Lovecraftian feel.
  • Streamlined, quick play.
  • Deeply immersive story-based scenarios.

Might not like

  • Lack of control over events.
  • The board needing delicate handling.
  • Long gameplay time.