Murder at the Excelsior Hotel is one of many scenario packs created for Arkham Horror the card game. This Lovecraftian card game has you finding clues and battling massive monsters. This trip to the Excelsior Hotel will offer a change of pace and have you sleuthing more and fighting less. But make sure you have a copy of the base game before you dive into this adventure.
This scenario pack can be played as a standalone adventure or as a side quest to the main campaign. As I am new to this wonderful game, I played this scenario pack in the middle of the first games main campaign. In true side quest fashion, it offers XP rewards which I knew would be needed to progress through Arkham's punishing main campaign.
The story fitted in perfectly as it offered respite from my current detective's main concerns and was still based in the city. The great thing about this pack is its ability to slot in whenever you want it to. You begin with a blood-stained dagger in your hands, a corpse in the room and the police patrolling the corridors. Its suspenseful and you can't wait to dive in and discover what an earth is going on! What's even better, is this pack is perfect for solo play as the story accommodates for a lone adventure. You won't be calling for room service, that's for sure.
This pack includes beautifully illustrated cards that will become a sprawling spread as you explore the hotel. You can travel from the roof through the guest floors and even to the basement level. The rooms contain many clues but also offer specific buffs which become handy as the game progresses.
What I liked about this campaign is it truly felt like a murder mystery. Unlike other quests in Arkham, it felt smaller in scale and instead of battling lots of huge monsters you stalk through the hotel tracking down clues that will help you discover leads. Once you have uncovered two leads the agenda will progress which will unfold one aspect of the scenario. This is where the replayability comes in. Depending on what actions you have taken thus far and the leads you have uncovered will unlock a different twist in the narrative. This offers players the chance to complete this campaign several times as it has many outcomes.
Time To Patrol
The gameplay runs the same as it does in the base game. For more information on Arkham Horror's gameplay check out our review of the game. Basic mechanics aside, enemies in Murder at The Excelsior Hotel can act differently. The player is faced with many aloof, patrolling, and innocent enemy types. Instead of battling through ghouls and ghosts, you must talk your way out of situations. You must also stop the police from stealing your clues.
Enemy types at the beginning of the scenario will roam the hotel and steal clues from locations. These clues can then be overturned to add to the doom counter. If you are familiar with Arkham Horror, adding to the doom counter is never a good thing. Yet as you progress through the hotel you will be rewarded for not killing every innocent person you meet. This provides incentive to track these roaming nuisances down and reclaim your clues. It's refreshing and adds to the murder mystery vibe.
As I have mentioned before, the story can take many branching paths which can lead to multiple final culprits at the end of the game. You may find you are fighting huge enemies, or you may have to complete specific tasks to escape the clutches of this freaky hotel. It's interesting and unique and made playing the campaign extremely fun and rewarding. There seems to be an abundance of choice and freedom in this pack which isn't always there in the expansions of Arkham.
Furthermore, depending on the choices you make, you can end up walking away with some XP and new cards to add to your deck at the end of the scenario, which is always rewarding. And if you aren't happy with your ending, you can always revisit the Hotel again, but you will encounter new threats and consequences. The only issue with Murder at The Excelsior Hotel is sometimes the gameplay and narrative do not always add up. You may have traversed your way through the hotel but when the agenda advances you may have the story telling you, your detective is elsewhere. This isn't a frequent occurrence, but it can be jarring and break you from the otherwise immersive experience.
Arkham Horror is a massive series. To truly build decks and enjoy all the adventure you will find yourself sinking a lot of money into it. So, is this scenario pack worth it? It doesn't offer many new cards to add to your deck. But, its deviation from the plot and its style makes it a perfect addition to your collection. It offers multiple playthroughs and plenty of XP. It's challenging but not too punishing which makes it very enjoyable. For Arkham veterans, it's a break from the norm and for newcomers like myself it's an easy scenario pack to learn and add in. It opens the doors to what the Arkham universe can include and how the stories play out. However, for the price it is a smaller scale pack. You won't get as much for your buck as you would with the Carnevale of Horrors pack.
For those that want a replayable scenario, Murder at The Excelsior Hotel fits that description. If you manage to pick it up early on in your Arkham adventure you can have multiple visits to the hotel along the way. I mean, I have no idea why your detective would be so easily lured back to this place, after several visits of monsters and mayhem but maybe we can blame amnesia or their increasing insanity.