by Avery Abernethy, 10 October 2018
Eldritch Horror is a world-spanning boardgame within the Lovecraftian Horror world published by Fantasy Flight Game. In Eldritch Horror from one to eight players cooperatively attempt to forestall the horrors from beyond time and space from eating the entire world.
Unlike Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror requires a lot of globetrotting. Your players must frequently spend precious time traveling long distances to fight monsters, obtain clues and close gates. Unlike some games, the chosen opponent is not run by one of the players. Instead, cards are turned over and the effects on the individual players, cities, and the world is executed after the player’s turn.
There are twelve characters to choose from. Characters have different unique skills and four common characteristics: Each character has five characteristics: lore; influence; observation; strength and will. Characters also have health and sanity. Characters have clear starting strengths and weaknesses. For any hope of success, the players will have to choose characters with a balance of strengths. Some characters will be oriented towards physical combat, others towards spell combat, and some should stick to the library or act behind the scenes to influence people and purchase necessary equipment.
This is a brutal game. Your initial dice rolls on the first couple of turns will either seal your fate or give you the potential to win. If you win some of the earlier contests your characters will pick up items which will greatly aid in future contests (guns, spells, and assistants). Early bad rolls will cripple characters physically or make them insane. Early success makes mid and late game success much easier. Early failures make winning the game nigh impossible.
Bad things are inevitable. Gates will open spawning all sorts of horror. The doom clock will advance. If the countdown reaches 0 the horror from beyond space and time will walk the Earth. This either immediately ends the game or reduces your chance of winning to something a bit greater than zero.
I strongly urge people to choose an even number of characters to play. Many of the horrors and puzzles require the number of players be divided by 2 rounding up. The game is considerably more difficult to win with 3 characters than it is with 2 characters. Take my advice and stick to even numbers of investigators.
I enjoyed playing the game through on a solo basis. Because the opponent is run by the random card effects and the players work cooperatively, playing the game solo works fine. Like all board games, it is more fun if you play with others.
I strongly disagree with some of the guidelines given by the publisher. They claim that the game can be played in two to four hours. I don’t believe them. This game takes a while to set up even if you know exactly what you are doing. Probably a minimum of a half an hour of setup time for the highly experienced to an hour and a half setup for a novice. I also doubt that even a two person game can be played in two hours.
The game materials are very high quality. The cardboard is very thick and has a glossy cover. The game board is thick, substantial and large. The artwork is nice and the game is organized enough that after a couple of game rounds people know where to find the right cards and look at the right places to move the game forward.
The game does an excellent job of capturing the Lovecraftian Horror and the realities of 1920s travel. Getting from San Francisco to Tokyo is going to take a while plus some money for boat tickets. The descriptions of what occurs to the players, both mundane and horrible on the game cards are appropriate to the mood of the game.
You will need a lot of room to play Eldritch Horror. I played it on a table that was a bit larger than four feet by three feet and I needed all this room. This was a four-character game with one person running all of the characters. An even bigger table will be needed if you are playing with more people. With twelve unique investigators, two hundred-fifty tokens, and over three hundred cards, Eldritch Horror needs a lot of room to play. But the game captures an epic, world-spanning adventure and mystery.
In conclusion, Eldritch Horror is a very well designed game with quality play materials. It is well suited for both solo and group play. The game is somewhat complicated, needs a big play area, and will probably not be finished in one four hour play session. If you like the game, Fantasy Flight has eight expansions. The core game runs about $55. Each expansion costs from $25 to $40. But the core game will provide a lot of play value without incorporating any expansion material.
Avery Abernethy is a Professor of Marketing at Auburn University. He wore a Miskatonic University shirt when he wrote this review.