Game Day: Return to Arkham

The biggest box under the Geek Tree this year belonged to Arkham Horror, a board game I’ve wanted ever since my friend (and fellow Blackrazor) Lance got it a few years back.

We cracked it open for Friday’s Game Day; there were only three of us to face the horrors of Shub-Niggurath because of the Christmas holiday, but we still had plenty of fun. Heck, we even managed to eek out a 17-point victory.

Leafing through the boxed set before the guys arrived I discovered that my version is the 2nd printing of the game. For the most part the game looks and plays the same as its predecessor, but there are a few notable differences:

  • The colors are slightly different: I need to do a side-by-side comparison to be sure, but it appears that the map’s background is a lighter color than the original. At the same time, the colors of the various district match their corresponding Arkham encounter cards better than in the original. As a result, we had none of the “what color card is that again?” quandaries that we often saw in previous games.
  • The errata is included: The errata, previously available as a download from the official web site and as an insert in the Dunwich Horror expansion, have been incorporated into the rule book. Several cards have been changed to reflect the revised rules. The biggest change is how monsters spawn when you have larger number of players in the game.
  • There’s an index! The new rule book now has an index, which is a huge help when playing the game. Arkham’s a complicated game, and anything that speeds up play is a welcome addition.

Our last few Arkham Horror games have included the King in Yellow expansion, so this is the first time in a while I’ve played the original, unexpanded game. It may seem odd to say this, given how huge and complex the original Arkham can be, but I think this is a game that really benefits from its expansions.

It might have been the luck of the draw, but we saw a few of the same “Arkham Encounter” cards popping up repeatedly. While I don’t think it was a huge deal, it was noticeable. Now we didn’t really run into that problem when we first started playing Lance’s game, so it may have been a quirky shuffling thing, but I think including the King in Yellow expansion gave the game a lot more depth.

For one, it gives the game more variety as it adds new cards to the various Arkham Encounter decks. It also introduces some new mechanics in the form of the “King in Yellow” play track (in which the game ends if the play reaches its third act).

But I think the biggest thing is that the King in Yellow (and I suspect the other expansions as well) provides a back story to your investigation. Granted, the core game changes based on what Great Old One you choose, but those are mostly environmental effects; the game’s cards stay the same. Shuffling in an expansion gives the game more of a flavor, and makes it feel more like a story, and less like a board game.

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