Being a fan of Lovecraft I correctly guessed that there are three possible outcomes for players of Arkham Horror: Death, Insanity and Death by Insanity.
The game basically goes like this: spend forty minutes setting up and dishing out a bazillion counters and cards, spend an extra thirty minutes checking a very badly organised rulebook for a few obscure rules and then spend the next three hours hopelessly trying to stop the destruction of the world by malign monsters before your character is killed or goes insane.
Once things get going it’s actually a pretty neat game. Arkham begins as a quiet 1920’s town but soon enough portals to other spaces and times begin to open and the streets are quickly awash with eldritch horrors. It’s up to you, the players, to put a stop to all the terror, close the portals and more importantly stop the awakening of a random God. You are pretty much boned anyway but if the likes of Azathoth or Octopus-face wanders into town then it really is game over.
What is good about this game is the almost RPG feel of it and the build-up of the story and fluff levels as the tension level gets higher. As the situation worsens the town shops begin to close and allies start to flee. Everyone has to work together here; it’s the players versus the board. Yes you will lose but you feel like you’ve been part of an interactive fiction in a sea of cardboard.
The game is however incredibly complicated to begin with and I suspect it takes a few goes to get the hang of it so it flows smoothly. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, it’s just that rules checking can slow things down. Luckily for me I was playing with some veterans who only had to consult the rulebooks once every five seconds to keep things going.
Overall, if you are a fan of Lovecraft, horror games or co-operative games then this is definitely worth a go.