Tuesday, June 27, 2017

RNR Arkham Asylum

Fighting epic battles on the table top is the center of our gaming club's activities, especially with the tournament coming up in a few months.  We are all working hard to get our army lists into shape and ironing out any last minute problems we might have.  That being said, there is always time for a little palate cleanser when the battles have all concluded, and we often enjoy a board game to finish our meeting days.  There are a lot of great games that we are currently dabbling in, like Zombicide, Zombicide:  Black Plague, Star Trek:  Attack Wing, to name just a few.  This month, we busted out one of my favorite games, Arkham Asylum.

They city of Arkham

Arkham Asylum by Fantasy Flight Games is a board game set in the world of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos.  Strange events are happening around the city of Arkham... several investigators, controlled by the players, have to go around the city collecting clues to what's been going on.  Each round, a portal to the outer realms opens, spilling monsters and worse into the city streets, and it's up to the investigators to fight the monsters, and even more terrifying, dive into the portals to close them and stop the eventual awakening of one of the Great Old Ones, a being so powerful and horrible your very sanity could be destroyed!

For this game, we used the Dunwich Horror expansion to extend the board and add several cards to the decks.  Three players, DanTrollBlitzer, Leland and myself took control of four investigators.  With two or three players this feels like the right amount of characters.  The number of investigators used controls several things, including how many monsters can be loose on the board at a time, influences one of the winning conditions, and determines how quickly the "terror track" rises.  The "terror track" shows what the current fear level of the inhabitants of Arkham are feeling as strange events and monsters continue to show up in the city, occasionally closing stores and other locations where investigators will want to go.  For this game, we chose the last four investigators we hadn't used yet...Diana Stanley the redeemed cultist, Marie Lambeau the entertainer, Wilson Richards the handyman, and Rita Young the athlete.

Investigator card, ready to go
For our Great Old One, we randomly selected Abhoth... and man, is he a pain in the butt.  We've played through the game several time with several different Old Ones, but never has one given us so much trouble!  Thoughout most of the game, the Great Old One sleeps, but influences some game aspects as they shift in their slumber.  For example, Yig gains a doom token when his cultists are killed or an investigator is lost in Time and Space, while Nyarlathotep has special, especially evil monsters added to the monster cup.  Abhoth has no human worshipers, so instead of cultists monsters, we had to add three special "children of Abhoth" monsters, which are released into Arkham anytime there is a gate surge.  (A gate surge occures when a gate opens in a space where a gate is already open).  If all three are on the board at one time and there is another gate surge, then the doom track goes up by one, and the terror track of Arkham goes up by two!

The game progression is fairly simple... first each investigator takes a movement action.  Usually this involves trying to reach a space with a clue token (you need 5 to close a gate permanently), come into contact with a monster to battle it, or move toward an open gate in order to dive into it to try and close it.  Then, there is the encounter phase.  Unless you have taken a special action, like trying to heal either you body at the hospital or your sanity at the asylum, or if you finish your movement in the streets, you have an encounter at the location you are standing in.  There is a deck of cards for each location's encounters.  Sometimes they are beneficial, most depend on the roll of the dice, and some are downright awful!  But all are interesting.  DanTrollBlitzer has a standing rule that says, "If the card starts 'Do you place your hand/ do you talk to the man/ do you pick up the item' then the answer is NO!" I, on the other hand, NEVER RETREAT and will often attempt to play along!  Certainly they add flavor to the feeling of insanity that begins to sweep through the city.  Once everyone in Arkham has had an encounter, anyone in the outer realms had a Other World encounter.  These are also often very bad....mostly.  Finally, at the end of the round, there is a Mythos card, which contains either a News Headline (Murders in the Easttown Streets!) a Rumor (Profane Relic Seized!) or an environment card (Icy Conditions).  After resolving the effects on the card, it tells a location where a new clue appears, dictates the location of the new gate that opens, and gives directions to how the monsters on the board move.

The Redeemed Cultists goes shopping
Well, we had a pretty rough go of it.  The doom track goes up by one every time a new gate opens (Abhoth has a doom track of 11).  When the doom track is full, the Great Old One awakens, and the FINAL BATTLE BEGINS!  Dun-dun-DUN!!!  Now, usually after the third or fourth turn, the Mythos card places a gate in a location that has already been closed, thus NOT adding to the doom track.  However, this game, we got incredibly unlucky.  Every turn... EVERY TURN a new gate opened, and the doom track went up, up, up!  After that, several gate surges happened, and while that didn't raise the doom track by itself, it did release the Children of Abhoth, and when they were all on the board, the terror track went up, up, up!  And because of Abhoth's special power, so did the doom track!  Our investigators did their best to close up gates, but eventually there just weren't enough clue tokens for each investigator, and new tokens were often blocked by the incredibly hard to kill Children of Abhoth!  And slowly, the shops began to close, until the terror track finally maxed out.  Now, when that happens, you know you're in trouble.  Then, it was just a matter of time...

Terror reigns in Arkham
And finally, like an avalanche starting at the top of a mountain, there was no stopping the inevitable.  Abhoth, the Great Old One, awoke!  Dun-dun-DUN!!!  Now, to fight Abhoth, each investigator must at the beginning of each round discard a total of three clues, monster trophies (which you get by killing monsters), gate trophies (which you get by closing gates) or items.  Any combination is fine, but you must do it, or Abhoth simply devours you.  Then, each investigator attacks, and every four successes you get deals one point of damage to the old one.  Each point of damage will remove one token from the doom track.  So, let's do the math... Abhoth has a doom track of 11, you need four successes to deal one point of damage... 44 successes will put the Great Old one to sleep.  Most investigators will roll an average of 5 dice, and a success is on a 5 or 6.  Unfortunately the Handyman was cursed, so he could only succeed on a 6.  Even more unfortunately, I had no weapons, since I had to discard them to keep from getting eaten, so I couldn't help with the fight.  As you may imagine, we slowly were devoured, one at a time, while doing only three measly damage to Abhoth...
Marie prepared to fight Abhoth!
Sorry Arkham!  Our investigators were not up to the challenge.  There are probably few things worse then being devoured by a Great Old One...We had incredibly bad luck with our Mythos phase.  Hopefully next time we'll have a little more luck, better investigators, and a new Great Old One to contend with!  Next time, we will prevail!

Next gaming day in July 16th!  Anyone is welcome to join!

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