First Impressions: Innsmouth Horror Expansion

The Innsmouth Horror expansion for Arkham Horror showed up under the Geek Tree this holiday season, and the day after Christmas some friends and I broke it out for a Saturday afternoon horrorfest.

It’s an impressive expansion. Unlike our last expansion, The Black Goat of the Woods, this one is a full expansion with its own sideboard for the village of Innsmouth.  Innsmouth adds 12 new locations (along with their own location decks), 16 new characters, 12 new Great Old Ones, story quests for characters (including the base game, and the expansions), and a new Deep Uprising mechanic.

The Deep Uprising mechanic represents the threat of the aquatic Deep Ones who infiltrated the New England coastal town of Innsmouth finally summoning their dark god to destroy the world. Unlike the Doom Track (which advances when new gates open) or the terror track (which advances when there are too many monsters in Arkham), the Deep Uprising track advances when players successfully prevent a gate from opening, either by having a gate try – and fail – to open in a location sealed with an elder sign, or by using a special character ability, such as the scientist’s ability to prevent a gate from opening in whatever location she’s in.

This had a huge impact on our game.

We’d gotten pretty good at gate management in the base game, making sure we always had one or two players actively closing gates, and making sure they had enough clue tokens to seal the gate when they did so. We also made good use of characters who’s special abilities allowed them to either prevent gates from opening, or “look into the future” and re-order the Mythos deck to force gates to open where they’d already been sealed.

It’s a great strategy that’s served us well. Innsmouth Horror doesn’t negate it, but it does make it more dangerous because every gate that bounces advances the Deep Uprisng track. If it reaches its end, the Great Old One appears. You can prevent that, but to do so you must venture to Innsmouth and gather clues in each of its three districts in order to summon an FBI raid on the town, and reset the Deep Uprising track. The mechanic adds tension on two fronts: 1) how far do you dare let the Deep Uprising track go before summoning the FBI and 2) can you gather the clues in time to actually bring in the Feds?

The character stories are a cool idea — basically they give you mini quests to try and accomplish, such as gather a certain number of clues, kill a certain combination of monsters, before a quest-specific time limit expires.

Innsmouth itself was a mixed bag. Too many of our encounters in that cursed town could be summed up as “You see something horrible. Lose 1 sanity.” That may have just been the unluck of the draw (I haven’t gone through the decks yet, preferring to experience them in game).  We also encountered a lot of effects, both in Innsmouth and Arkham, that caused the terror track to advance quickly. In our initial game, we saw the terror track max out. That’s something that’s never happened to us before.

Other threats in Innsmouth include the Innsmouth Look. Certain locations require you to draw cards from a special Innsmouth deck. Nine of the cards indicate that nothing happens, one special one indicates that you have the “Innsmouth Look” … which instantly transforms your investigator into a monster, and causes you to create a new character. It added a nice level of tension to the Innsmouth encounters.

The cool thing is, we’ve only just begun exploring Innsmouth. There are more than a dozen other investigators to try out, a host of personal stories to explore, and seven more Great Old Ones with which to threatened the world. Even cooler, some of these Great Old Ones, like Zhar and Ghatanothoa, have their own specialized mechanics that we’ve only glanced at.

All in all, based on our single playthrough I think Innsmouth Horror is a worthwhile expansion, changing up tactics and introducing a host of new material. I look forward to future forays into the New England coastal town.


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