Brian Holland

by Brian Holland

Sounds mostly straight forward, right?

Like all good cooperative and single-player games, Arkham Horror can be a punishing experience. While the game drips with an evocative mood and aesthetic, you’ll need to put your heads together and clearly think out all your options, lest the Great Old Ones come out triumphant.

‘Players shouldn’t come into Arkham expecting to win their first game.’ Designer Nikki Valens told me when I spoke with her last week. ‘They might not win their second or third games either. But coming into the game knowing that, means they will be able to enjoy the story of how the world ends a bit more. For many players, the narrative is more important than winning or losing.’ 

It was our first time playing Arkham Horror 3rd Edition and despite my partner’s lack of experience with the Mythos, the game offered a clear and concise narrative with which to engage, that didn’t ostracise newcomers.

‘With third edition,’ Valens said, ‘we wanted to tell more immersive stories than second edition did, while allowing players to focus more on their choice and the story, rather than managing minor mechanical systems or moving around tokens.’

The great thing about Arkham Horror is that there is no assumed knowledge. You don’t have to have read the entire works of Lovecraft -or indeed any of his stories-, to appreciate and engage with the narrative.

hibbs arkham

‘One of our major focuses was on telling deeper stories.’ Valens said, ‘The world of Arkham Horror has expanded vastly, and we wanted to show the depth of locations and characters that have previously shown up in the games and novellas as well as adding some new content.

‘Players will find,’ she continued, ‘that through multiple interactions with specific locations, or characters in stories, that Arkham is a more fully realised city than it was when second edition came out.’

With Arkham Horror 3rd Edition, Valens and the team have created what is often refereed to as an emergent narrative. Intertwined with a scenario that player’s choose to partake in, the random encounters, newspaper headlines and characters you’ll meet all blend seamlessly together to create a story that is 100% unique to that session.

This aspect makes the game especially accessible for players of all skill and experience levels. Even if the Great Old Ones crush Arkham into the dirt and you’re forced to watch as the world rips itself apart, you’ll have a great time getting there!

As the adage goes, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Unlike previous editions, uncovering the mystery that plagues Arkham is married directly to the narrative gameplay. Players will move their characters through the city, seeking out clues by interacting with the locations and denizens of the sleepy New England town.

Exploring the Uninvited Isle may not result in a clue related to the story, but you might find an ancient book of eldritch lore which grants your character a spell. Conversely, a trip to Ma’s Boarding House to heal some health points might actually result in your character overhearing talk of some strange goings-on at the observatory which directly relate to the plot at hand.

There is a lot to uncover in Arkham, outside of the looming threat of the Great Old Ones.

‘I’m a really big fan of what we were able to accomplish with the citizens of Arkham as characters who only appear in the encounter stories.’ Valens said. ‘So many of those characters were previously just names. But now they feel like actual people with actual lives.

‘I care for them and want to save them from the horrors that lurk in the shadows.’ She went on, ‘Davy Schoffner, the proprietor of the general store, has been through an awful lot in his life, and players will get to hear about it if they look close enough while playing.’

All the moving pieces aren’t random. Each character, location and event has a carefully recorded history, and what players experience during a game of Arkham Horror is just the tip of the ice berg. Like all good stories, the key aspects have a rich history that you won’t always discover, but makes them feel real. 

‘Fantasy Flight Games has multiple story teams, one for each of their internal Intellectual Properties.’ Valens said of the process. ‘The Arkham Story Team, which I served on for multiple years, was very involved in the creation of third edition.

‘The story team saw third edition as a way to more fully realise many different things that were known about Arkham through previous games and the novellas. This added involvement allowed the game to launch with the deluxe rulebook which features write ups about the various locations of Arkham as well as short stories featuring the two newest investigators: Daniela Reyes and Calvin Wright.’

arkham cabin

With four main scenarios which don’t just change the narrative and offer new decision points, but also change the layout of the game board, Arkham Horror offers countless hours of interactive mystery and exploration.

Seeing as the board is modular, I’m very much looking forward to expansions that offer more tiles, and more encounter cards for the existing districts to make each game even more unique than it already is.

Fantasy Flight likes to pretend their players don’t know expansions are coming for their games.’ Valens said of Arkham’s future releases. ‘I don’t have any insider knowledge about what exactly Fantasy Flight is planning for Arkham Horror‘s expansions, but I think it’s safe to assume the more popular ancient ones will be making an appearance eventually.’

Personally, I’d like to see a theatre district added to the game, where players can go and see the delightful romp “The King In Yellow.”


Arkham Horror 3rd Edition is available now at your local Good Games store. What are you waiting for? Dive in now and begin weaving your own tales of eldritch mystery!