Something is very wrong in Arkham
January 9, 2015 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Armchair detectives and Miskatonic enthusiasts: Spend this weekend solving the first two cases in the free-to-print-and-play Arkham Investigator mystery game.

Inspired by Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, the game provides you with the mysteries, a newspaper, and a map of Arkham. Visit whichever locations you want to collect clues, while avoiding sanity-sapping encounters. Two cases are available:

A Grain of Evil
The King Cometh

(If mystery and/or horror isn't your thing, but you're interested in the whole print-and-play idea, you can fall down the rabbit hole here.)
posted by jbickers (27 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
 
That Sherlock Holmes video saved me posting an AskMe about what was that Sherlock Holmes game I played with my coworkers on our lunch break back in 1987. This sounds fun!
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:21 AM on January 9, 2015


PDX Metafilter has been (slowly!) going through SHCD. I think we're going to need to try this one as well.
posted by curious nu at 8:58 AM on January 9, 2015


These look like a lot of fun! Just the thing for a kind of shut-in weekend....

Note: that is "shut-in" in the sense of "I am feeling a bit poorly and plan on mostly staying at home this weekend" rather than "the family has finally decided the best course of action is to brick up the basement door." We apologize for any inconvenience this sentence may have caused.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:02 AM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


PDX Metafilter has been (slowly!) going through SHCD

aw, really? man, I should go to some meetups

posted by maqsarian at 9:08 AM on January 9, 2015


I love Lovecraft, even though I am sure that as a half-English/half-Irish fellow who was raised by Jews, he would have suspected me of being part sea-monster and a member of some foul, Elder God worshipping cult.











and he would have been right.
posted by maxsparber at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have the table top game Arkham Horror. It's great, but we haven't figured out how to finish in under 4 hours.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2015


I don't think you can. Lose one Sanity.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have the table top game Arkham Horror. It's great, but we haven't figured out how to finish in under 4 hours.

It's infamously long; there's a shorter, little-sibling version called Eldritch Horror that's just come out. Supposedly, after the first few (rules-learning) game sessions, it can take roughly 30 minutes + 30 minutes per player.

I'm very psyched for this, as I find SHCD very fun and very hard... but I can only play it with my mom, so I go very long without.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2015


Eldritch Horror is not significantly shorter to play than Arkham, but it is quicker to set up and break down. I don't really recommend playing with fewer than 4 investigators; you just can't get around to board fast enough to do everything you need to do to win.
posted by Caduceus at 10:53 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Eldritch Horror is, indeed, shorter and somewhat more streamlined. The trick is -- only play with an even number of players (at least for 1-4); there are a bunch of events that require "half the number of investigators rounded up" actions to resolve, and those can be killers with only 3 players, since you are already racing the clock.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:34 AM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


And if you get parched while playing, well.... 'gansett is here for ya.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:41 AM on January 9, 2015


I've greatly enjoyed SH:CD, but finding its expansions on eBay is both difficult and, when you finally do, expensive. Tremendously pleased to see it inspire a similar game that's easy to find and, better yet, free.

Good production values on Arkham Investigator, too -- not always the case with free games!
posted by foldedfish at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh man, "Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective" was the balls. Loved that game. There was a very similar game, probably by the same company, that was a private-eye-style game set in early twentieth century San Francisco. Also a damn hoot. (The SF-based game included a "phone book" to find people that I used as a random name generator for ages.) If they were reissued and ran less than a bazillion dollars, I'd snap 'em up. Great stuff. Amazing design. Brilliant.

Let's see about Arkham here...
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was a very similar game, probably by the same company, that was a private-eye-style game set in early twentieth century San Francisco. Also a damn hoot.

Gumshoe. Great game, not easy to find without spending a fortune.
posted by jbickers at 12:54 PM on January 9, 2015


It's infamously long; there's a shorter, little-sibling version called Eldritch Horror that's just come out. Supposedly, after the first few (rules-learning) game sessions, it can take roughly 30 minutes + 30 minutes per player.

There's also the dice-rolling game Elder Sign (starring many of the crew from Arkham Horror, as it's by the same publisher) in which a group of investigators tries to prevent Something Bad from awakening in the Miskatonic Museum. 30-60 minutes to play.

Watch Wil Wheaton and friends play on his TableTop program.
posted by Gelatin at 1:10 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ooh, neat! Thanks, we'll have to try this.

Also, there's (finally!) going to be an English release of the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective expansions by the end of the year. Or so the publisher says.
posted by Sibrax at 3:16 PM on January 9, 2015


Played Elder Sign at DragonCon a few years ago, it's okay but extremely dependent on luck. If the dice refuse to roll Elder Signs you're basically screwed, there is no overcoming that.
posted by JHarris at 3:20 PM on January 9, 2015


There are also mobile versions of Elder Sign. Maybe 4 bucks on the Play store. Not sure about iTunes.
posted by snwod at 5:21 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember Elder Sign being rather expensive (relatively speaking) in the App Store. But huh, checking just now it's $3.99. Not too bad!
posted by JHarris at 5:34 PM on January 9, 2015


That's for the iPhone-only app. Elder Sign HD is $7. Curse non-universal apps!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:00 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


extremely dependent on luck this is my experience with both arkham horror and eldritch horror. Mansions of Madness was less this way.
There is also the Call of Cthulhu rpg and LCG. I haven't played either of them, but I think I have enough Lovecraft boardgames for a lifetime probably?
posted by jonbro at 9:17 PM on January 9, 2015


Elder Sign on the iPad is excellent until the luck of the dice escape you and, after playing for an hour, you don't quite win well enough and the game mocks you.

I hate you, Ithaqua.

(Most of the adventures are great. The Ithaqua one is really hard and you can play all of the way through and then not quite meet the final requirements because you don't happen to have the right symbols come up.)

I made the mistake of getting all of the Arkham Horror (boardgames) expansions and then compounding this mistake by trying to get my money's worth by putting them all in at once. Using all of them fills our 10 foot long dining table and you have to use a four page guide to make sure that all of the correct steps are taking place - somebody's job suddenly becomes 'eldritch accountant and quantity surveyor' (Lose 3 SAN). However, AH is a much more controllable game than ES and, if you are not insane, playing it with only some of the expansions (Base + Dunwich is probably the minimum playable as you get gate bursts but we often add Yellow Sign and Dark Pharaoh 2) then you have a surprisingly high level of control.

Unless you find yourself alone in the streets, surrounded by monsters, as gates burst and the Herald comes. At this point, you suddenly start trying to seek the encounters that will make you either mad severely injured but that will probably not do both at the same time. Or you sneeze violently and blow everything off the table. Oops.

People tend to notice this trick if you overplay it.
posted by nfalkner at 9:48 PM on January 9, 2015


jonbro: The thing about the Call of Cthulhu RPG is that you will almost always die if you get into contact with something nasty. What can take players a while to realise is that the combat skills on their sheets are basically a decoy. CoC investigators will spend time doing patient research, searching things and then, in the most genteel way possible, running like hell when something shows up that is even vaguely unworldly or you will (a) go mad and (b) die (order not guaranteed).

In AH, teamwork and planning turn the game into something manageable and reduce the impact of bad rolls. This does require that players are happy with who they are playing and understand what style of play is required, else they try and take a weak spell caster into what is actually physical combat and get their bottom handed to them. We generally team players so that you've got a spell caster and a biff merchant close to each other, covering areas of the board. We also get eaten by dark gods fairly regularly so I'm struggling to describe this as a reliable strategy but it does make the game a lot of fun.

The greatest lesson of Arkham Horror has always been: "Feeling mad? Eat your dog!"
posted by nfalkner at 9:58 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


A bit of a derail, but --

jonbro: The thing about the Call of Cthulhu RPG is that you will almost always die if you get into contact with something nasty. What can take players a while to realise is that the combat skills on their sheets are basically a decoy. CoC investigators will spend time doing patient research, searching things and then, in the most genteel way possible, running like hell when something shows up that is even vaguely unworldly or you will (a) go mad and (b) die (order not guaranteed).

As someone who's run a wide variety of published scenarios, and written a few of his own for personal use, I have to say that I think this aspect of the game (in stock CoC at least) is a little overstated.

Call of Cthulhu's rulebook certainly is full of monsters who will consume all the players, indeed the whole world, if the opportunity arises. The board game interpretations of this all put these monsters front-and-center. Every game of Arkham Horror or Elder Sign might end with the return of a Great Old One or Outer God. But in the role-playing game, it really doesn't happen that often unless you reach the end of one of the major Chaosium campaigns or have a particularly evil keeper. Particularly, Great Cthulhu himself shows up in one official adventure I know of, and at its very end -- one other has his image (provoking large SAN loss), but not actually the big C.

Because Call of Cthulhu can be so deadly, scenario writers often bend over backwards to make sure the opposition is fair. Cultists will rarely have over 50% in any combat skill, and servitors and lesser independent races make up the bulk of monstrous opponents which, while strange, are not insurmountable. Both tend to be deadliest in quantity -- put a group against a few gun-wielding cultists and they're going to take casualties. But such situations in published adventures are usually failure states -- if you get to the point where you're in a gunfight, you're really trying to do damage control for bad decisions.
posted by JHarris at 1:33 AM on January 10, 2015


Oh man, "Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective" was the balls. Loved that game.

This post got me all excited about the game. It was re-issued in 2012 but it seems to be sold out everywhere.
Finally got my hands on a copy though and now I'm looking forward to it.
posted by vacapinta at 3:09 AM on January 10, 2015


CoC investigators will spend time doing patient research, searching things and then, in the most genteel way possible, running like hell when something shows up that is even vaguely unworldly or you will (a) go mad and (b) die (order not guaranteed).
The best tabletop game of CoC I ever played, due to a string of lucky and unlucky rolls and some personality quirks, resulted in our party "solving" the surface mystery we'd encountered ("Guy must've had a violent nervous breakdown. Darn shame.") and never actually discovering the true supernatural horror beneath. We players had more or less figured out the shape of things, and spent the last half of the game in deep suspense waiting for someone to stumble across the right information in character. It never happened. I'm not sure whether we were the luckiest or unluckiest CoC investigators ever.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:28 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


A couple of things:

First, I just played through the first scenario, and it was a lot of fun. I didn't think the mystery was terribly difficult (it's supposed to be the introduction, so that makes sense). I would have gotten a slightly better score if I'd realized that you are encouraged to go to the "allies' listed in the back of the basic rules for all cases; I spent a few moves trying to track down a fairly obvious lead when the rules expected me to just go to the ally in that organization for answers.

The tone is more pulpy CoC than weird dread, but the latter would be hard to get across in this format, I think. Definitely worth the time I spent on it. I might even be inspired to try writing one of my own.

Second, if you like investigation-style tabletop RPGs, I would recommend the Gumshoe line (not to be confused with the SCD spin-off mentioned above) from Pelgrane Press. Trail of Cthulhu and Night's Black Agents are the most prominent, but they also have SF, superhero, and other horror settings.

The thing that makes Gumshoe shine is it is built around the idea idea of clues, rather than encounters. So, when you are constructing a scenario, you build it out of clues which lead through each other, ending at the solution. These are the Core Clues, and the game system is set up to ensure that the players will always find them. Then there are extra clues, which can allow the investigators to skip ahead, discover interesting information, get advantages, or just show off in the spotlight. All of this makes it easy to ensure that a) the players are not completely stymied in their investigation ("what do you mean all 6 of you missed your Library Use roll?!") and b) each character gets a chance to shine and show off without requiring rigid "role protection." If you enjoy CoC, it's definitely worth looking at Trail of Cthulhu.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:45 AM on January 11, 2015


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