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Feb 26

Review: Eldritch Horror

If telling globe trotting stories of noble investigators fighting horrible, squibbly creatures from beyond, then the latest board game from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) might be right up your street.

Eldritch Horror is a co-operative board game for between 1-8 players that will see you playing investigators meeting with ancient societies in Tokyo, witnessing strange rituals in Buenos Ares and fighting monsters from Sydney to London and back again all whilst trying to gather clues from all over the world to stop one of the Great Old Ones from awakening and reeking havoc on the world.

The game comes with a hoard of excellent components and as you would expect with FFG the art is excellent. The game looks fantastic with a sepia tone map showing a layout of the world and the important locations that will form the focus of the stories the game will pivot round. Decks of cards detail encounters, items and artifacts and a swarm of nice, thick cardboard counters track health, sanity, gates and horrible creatures from beyond.

map

Each investigator gets their own large sheet detailing their unique special abilities, their levels in 5 different skills that each one is trained in and the amount of health and sanity they start with. Every turn will see these characters working together, figuring out how to deal with the pressures being put on them: gates open that spill forth monsters, strange rumours will need seen to and the mysteries of the Great Old Ones will need deciphered.

Mysteries are the objectives of the game and during a session the players will need to collect clues from all over the world and fight Epic monsters to solve 3 of them and prevent the Elder God from awakening. However you don’t have all the time in the world to achieve this goal and the ominously named Doom track will slowly tick towards 0, causing the Great Old One to awaken and have its card flipped resulting in…well I won’t spoil the surprise. The outcome will depend on which of the 4 in the game you choose and also brings us to one of the neatest elements of Eldritch Horror: double-sided cards.

Now that doesn’t seem like much of an innovation, so let me delve into it a little further. Spells, which you might start with or pick up along the way, Conditions, which can be anything from a “Debt” to a “Dark Pact” and the Great Old One sheets are all double sided. Now the Great Old Ones do the same thing every time they awaken and their card is flipped, but you have no idea when you grab that ‘Feed the Mind’ spell exactly what it is going to do the first time you use it. If you fail to cast it will it fry your mind or simply fizzle? You’ll have to use it to find out.

Similarly if you pick up a ‘Debt’ to be able to grab that ‘Double Barrelled Shotgun’ you’ve had your eye on you won’t know until it is called in who, or what, you are indebted to. Every now and again a ‘Reckoning’ will happen and some of the cards, like ‘Debt’, you have, monsters on the board, rumours and the Great Old One itself will trigger and rain havoc on your plans. These are great mechanics that hold a wealth of story in them, as you find your treasured weapon comes with a hefty price attached.

condition

As you journey the world gathering clues, weapons and spells to aid you in your struggle you will find yourself caught up in all sorts of strange happenings. Each area of the world has its own set of encounter cards detailing the bizarre, criminal and mystical events you may find yourself caught up in, and each turn you will get the chance to experience one of these or journey to another dimension to try and close the gates tearing apart the world. Some will be good, others bad, but all will add to the story you are all contributing to.

Each investigator will find themselves in situations that will test both body and mind and over the course of the game both their health and sanity will fluctuate as a consequence. Running out of either means the end for that particular investigator but not the player, as a new investigator can join the party to pick up where the unfortunate soul left off. These new investigator may even journey to where their colleague was last seen, and on the back of each character sheet is an encounter for finding that investigator in a Hospital or a Mental Asylum. Even in death or madness story emerges from the game’s every pore.

 investigatorThe emergent nature of the story is where Eldritch really shines, and you’ll find yourself groaning and laughing in equal measure. It’s not the deepest or most tactical game ever, and if you aren’t a fan of random events disrupting your best laid plans then it probably is not a game for you. However if you would like to spend an evening in the company of friends, fighting against the horrors from beyond and having amazing stories to recount of how it went horribly wrong but you pulled it out of the fire at the last minute and brought an Ancient One to its knees, then I can thoroughly recommend it.

 

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