Eldritch Horror is a cooperative board game in the genre of Survival Horror.
The game is inspired by the writing of H. P. Lovecraft and it follows the release of the famous board game Arkham Horror.
Unlike the predecessor, in Eldritch Horror you travel around the world to solve the mysteries scattered all over the globe, with the aim to prevent the Earth from being overwhelmed by the Ancient One: an ancient entity committed to annihilating our world.
These monsters who dwell beyond the boundaries of time and space, seek to ravage the earth to satiate their endless hunger for death and destruction.
Will you be able to stop them, or will the Earth fall?
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Eldritch Horror is a game where the players take on the role of researchers who have one mission: to prevent the awakening of the Ancient One.
Every time you destroy monsters, close the gates to parallel dimensions, solve problems on your way, and unravel mysteries, you will come closer to your victory.
There’s little to no room for error.
You will be playing on a game board that represents the world map, and you will be travelling between countries to prevent the Earth destruction.
There are 4 Ancient Ones in the standard version of the game:
Azathoth – Sultan of demons
Shub-Niggurath – Black goat of the forests
Yog-Sothoth – Hidden at the Threshold
Cthulhu – Madness from the sea
To defeat these evil spirits, you have to choose between 12 researchers.
Each of them has its qualities and characteristics, for example, Charlie Kane, with his 2 support-oriented abilities, is a strong addition to any team. Or Mark Harrigan, perfect to combat monsters, but a bit useless for anything else.
If the investigators fail to complete their mission, the Ancient One will awaken, and mankind will vanish in a blink of an eye.
How to play Eldritch Horror
You start by laying out the game board. Then you choose a starting player, by giving him the Lead Investigator token. If you can’t choose, let fate choose by rolling a die.
Starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise, all the players pick a character and receive the corresponding Investigator Sheet, Starting Possessions, Sanity and Health tokens.
Each character has a starting location and starting equipment on the back of their sheet.
The health and Sanity tokens indicate the character’s mental and physical resilience and they will deteriorate during the game due to exposure to all dangers.
The players continue by choosing an Ancient One. For each of them, the game provides a sheet and 2 to 3 decks of cards.
All Ancient Ones have a Mystery and Research deck. Some Ancient Ones come with a Special Encounter deck.
For the first game is recommended to play against Azathoth, as it’s the most straightforward enemy.
After you have finished shuffling and placing tokens, you are finally ready to go.
The game runs across a series of rounds and each of them consists of three main phases:
Phase 1: Action Phase
This is the phase where players move around the game board and acquire important cards or assets.
Each player can perform two actions, but can never choose the same action twice in the same round. The available actions are:
Move your investigator token to any adjacent space on the map; you could also spend train or ship tickets to move one space further.
Prepare for Travel
If the investigator is in a City space, he receives a free transport ticket of his choice; you can only take a train or ship ticket if there is a train or ship connection in the city where you are currently.
You can never have more than two tickets.
The Investigator gains 1 Sanity and 1 Health, up until the limit written on the Investigator Sheet. You can’t perform this action if there’s a monster in the same space.
Exchange possessions (such as Assets, Clues, Travel Tickets, etc etc..) between Investigators in the same location.
If you are in a City space, you can try to acquire new Asset cards by rolling a number of dice equal to your Investigator’s influence.
The number of “Successes” rolled (a “5” or a “6”), determines the maximum value of the Asset cards you could acquire.
If you need extra cash to acquire a particular Asset card, you could also ask for a loan to the bank; but be aware of the men coming to collect your debt! That usually means trouble.
Players can perform actions listed on their Investigator Sheets or cards.
When each of the players has performed their actions, this phase terminates and the second phase begins.
Phase 2: Encounter Phase
During the Encounter phase, investigators fight against monsters or resolve encounters on their current location. These could involve reading a short tale that might have positive or negative effects.
There are 3 types of Encounters:
If there are one or more monsters on your location, you must defeat them one by one in the order of your choice.
You first have to flip a Monster Token and later you have to pass two tests to see if your investigator’s mind and power are enough to defeat the monster.
The first is a Will test and the second is a Strength test; both will decide the outcome of the Combat Encounter.
When a monster takes more damage than its toughness, the monster is considered defeated.
The investigator draws an encounter card matching the player’s current location on the map or from the General Encounter deck. He resolves the effect that matches his current space and then discards the card.
This type of encounter will usually trigger a specific effect, such as skill bonuses, get clue tokens or new items.
As the game progresses, various types of tokens will be scattered around the map, providing more options to the players. These tokens will allow the players to trigger Research encounter cards, Expedition encounter cards, Other World encounter cards and Rumor Mythos cards, which will usually give players useful clues or items.
Phase 3: Mythos Phase
This is the phase when things get messy.
The Lead Investigator turns one of the Mythos cards and resolves what’s on it.
There are 7 possible effects when drawing these cards, and the effects have to be resolved in the order they appear:
Move the Omen token one space clockwise on the track. Then advance the Doom token by the amount of each Gate on the game board that corresponds to the Omen token’s present location.
If the Doom reaches zero, the Ancient One will be awakened.
Resolve Reckoning Effects
Resolve all the effects on the components marked with a red reckoning icon.
Spawn as many Gates as the Reference card specifies. A monster is also spawned on each location of the new Gates.
Spawn the number of Monsters indicated on the Reference card at each gate that matches the Omen token’s current space.
Turn over Clue tokens as indicated on the Reference card.
Place Rumor token
Put the rumour token on the location indicated on the Mythos map.
Place Eldritch tokens
Put the specified number of Eldritch tokens on this Mythos card.
Execute what is on the Mythos card and Discard the card unless the effects are ongoing.
At the end of the Mythos phase, the Lead Investigator may decide who will be the next Lead Investigator.
This player starts the next round and the investigators keep playing game rounds until the game is won or lost.
In order to win the game, investigators have to solve three Mysteries; if the Ancient One awakens, investigators will also need to solve the Final Mystery.
Finally – is Eldritch Horror actually good?
Eldritch Horror is an Ameritrash cooperative board game, perfect for every Lovecraft lover.
It is amazing how they managed to keep the sense of imminent disaster always alive while you play the game.
Each component of the game has beautiful artwork and while playing the game you can really breathe the Lovecraftian theme.
Speaking about the gameplay itself, it’s impossible not to notice the strong influence that luck has on the game. While playing you can feel as if your strategy could collapse in a second due to a bad roll and it can be quite frustrating when that happens.
Rulebook wise, it is decent but could have been written with a little bit more clarity. I find myself jumping here and there between the pages when I need to find a rule.
There is also an additional reference guidebook that clarifies some of the rules (much appreciated!), but I think some of them should have been written in the main rulebook.
Playing with someone that already knows the game would definitely be beneficial.
Eldritch Horror is a beautiful game but probably not the best pick for whoever is starting this hobby because there are a lot of mechanics that need to be learned to fully enjoy the game.
The learning curve is quite steep, but once you got a few rounds under your belt, this game will truly shine!
And if you have already used all the Investigators and tried all the possible combinations between them, against all the Ancient Ones… well it’s probably time to pick some of the Eldritch Horror expansions. Each of them adds a unique theme and twist to the game.
1 – 8 players | 120 – 240 min | 14+