Arkham Horror – the card game

If the amount of posts in the last years haven’t been an indicator: I’ve been busy. Between an incredibly demanding but rewarding job, a family with children and a global fucking pandemic, there’s been way too little time for fun. Not because there is no time – worse: when the time is there, I have no energy for it.

And yet, over the last year, I’ve always been able to squeeze in a round of Arkham on Sunday nights.

For those wondering: Arkham Horror is a board game universe, set in the roaring twenties, that loosely draws on an indiana jonesized version of the infamous horror stories by H.P. Lovecraft. They usually involve archetypes (the mobster! the street urchin! the millionaire!) battling against cosmic beings that are very hard to spell. Arkham Horror has three boardgame versions (I’ll probably write something about the excellent third edition sometime) and the reason I’m writing this: a card game.

Now I’ve been burnt by card games. Summer of 2000, fifteen year-old me spent all his hard-earned money on Magic: The Gathering cards. So let’s just say I was a bit hesitant. But one argument swayed me: the cards in these packs are fixed. You know what you’re going to get.

And what you get is quite amazing. You get an interactive story in multiple parts, where the first session might have you start in a local town investigating a disappearance – and then eight sessions later you’re in outer space fighting witches and a cosmic fucking being. Things go delightfully off the rails, all the odds are stacked against you, but even if you lose, the story somehow goes on. It’s choose your own adventure meets deckbuilding and it’s delicious. And how’s the deckbuilding, you say? Well it’s quite the thing. One campaign, I took the millionaire – whose special power is, you guessed it, having a small fortune – and turned him into a philanthropist. Another campaigned, I played a boxer that could draw cards whenever he punched a monster – cards that of course lead to more punches being dealt.

It’s storytelling times three through cardboard, and it’s completely my thing. Firstly, every Sunday evening, we experience a story simply by arranging cards on the table and reading some texts, like a form of D&D lite. Secondly, we choose characters and build them using cards that enhance their innate traits, as if we were equipping them in an RPG. And thirdly, we play those cards, battling hordes of enemies, in an order that causes stories to emerge out of nowhere. In one turn, I shoot at a monster and miss, but then I play a card and suddenly my bullet ricochets into the cultist next to him. It’s so much fun.

So yeah, Sunday nights are for battling ancient ones now. If anyone wants to join, grab your tommygun and join the fun!