This week, we tried the new version of Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight Games. Phil has been keen to get this one to the table since he bought it and, with it being billed as another strategic co-operative game with a strong theme, it looked like a good bet.
The basic idea of the game is that other-wordly monsters have started appearing in the town of Arkham and the players are investigators seeking to destroy the monsters and the Ancient One who controls the bad guy. Players move around the various town locations picking up clues and items they find there. Monsters appear and gates to other dimensions are constantly opening and players have to go through these to face whatever lies on the other side. When they return, the gates can be closed and possibly sealed. Once a certain number of gates have been sealed the players win. If too many gates open, the Ancient One breaks through, and a showdown between the investigators and the Ancient One takes place and only if the Ancient One is defeated do the players win.
Each player represents a unique character who has differing abilities and these abilities can be varied during the game. You also have markers representing the characters level of health in two respects: physical condition and sanity. Losing either of these results in you being carted off to the hospital or the asylum. The encounters are the heart of the game and these are simple dice rolls with an array of modifiers, depending on your abilities and those of any monster you may be fighting. Succeed and you are rewarded, fail and something nasty happens. Our game seemed to be tough, which I understand is the common situation: it's not easy to beat the game. We did manage to seal a couple of gates but some of us seemed to spend more time in casualty than doing anything else and with three monsters parked right outside the hospital, it was very possible that you would get clobbered back into intensive care as soon as you got out.
I have to admit I found the game pretty frustrating. Counting modifiers and adjusting results isn't my favourite type of game mechanic and it took a long time for us to get any progress made. And for a co-operative game, there wasn't a lot you could do to help your fellow players, other than make encouraging noises. After playing for over two hours, we weren't even half way towards completion so we decided to call a halt. I think the others enjoyed it a bit better than me and the role-playing aspect was ok - it just felt clunky and over-long to me.