We’re all mad here….
Arkham Horror The Card Game is a great game. Its sat in the top 10 games on BoardGameGeek for years since its release, and its regular release schedule for new storylines has helped keep it fresh. It promotes playing co-operatively against the game itself which at times can be pretty challenging.
For those who bought the game early on, it’s a labour of love to keep on top of the new releases, but for new players, it can be pretty intimidating as there are now 7 story cycles including the base game, 36 mythos packs, 4 Return to… packs, 8 stand alone investigations and 5 investigator starter decks to date.
This guide will help new and returning players with our opinion on what you should look for.
In terms of availability, FFG can be pretty vague about when products will be newly released and reprinted. The popularity of the game means that often the UK supplier will not have enough to fulfil all orders they receive at first and will need to wait for a second printing to fulfil all their orders.
In terms of notice, you can hear nothing for months, then suddenly the packs arrive in stock and several online retailers will have access to them.
This system is popular with FFG, so every pack will at some point get reprinted so we’d advise against paying over the top prices from places like eBay.
As mentioned above, there are various products, but they do fall into some standard categories.
The Core Box
Unlike later content, this contains a bit of everything. There are five starter investigators with cards to build various decks. There is one complete story, called Night of the Zealot, split into three scenarios and all the tokens you should need.
Its worth noting that the core box allows enough investigator cards for two decks to be built, meaning if bought alone, this is only suitable for two players. If you want to expand the game to three or four players, you’ll need either a second core box, some of the deluxe boxes or some of the Investigator Starter Decks.
No matter what other content you buy, almost everything requires some content provided in this core box. The scenarios in this box and the deluxe/mythos packs take on average one to two hours to play through.
These are the starter boxes for each new story. Think of a story as having eight chapters, this box will contain all the cards required for the first two. They also contain five new characters along with suitable cards to customise their decks. If they are going to introduce new mechanics, there are tokens included to track them during play.
They have deluxe in the title, but there isn’t a standard version and the components are the same quality as the core box.
The combination of a complete set of Deluxe Box and the matching mythos packs is a referred to as a cycle.
Where the deluxe boxes contain the first two chapters of each story, these mythos packs are the remaining chapters. Each contains the cards for one complete chapter and some character upgrade cards to further customise your investigator decks.
Whilst each mythos pack has options to play it as a stand alone episode, they were designed to be played in sequence to tell a story in the Arkham Universe and that’s the best way to play them.
Return to…. boxes
The first and most obvious benefit to these boxes is they are great for storage of the cards you’ve picked up for each cycle. The boxes are plenty big enough to hold all the cards for the complete cycle and usually have space to spare, even if you’ve sleeved all your cards.
They also contain some new investigator cards, usually around twenty in each deck.
The main content for these boxes is the new scenario cards so you can reply the relevant scenario but make it even tougher by adding new locations, new enemies and harsher mythos cards. The basic scenarios are tough but this really will drive you insane…
They do have some scenario specific divider cards so when in the box you can easier gather the cards needed for each relevant scenario.
Stand Alone Scenarios
At the time of writing this, there are seven stand alone scenarios and one charity scenario (prepare to trade a kidney to afford this one as it was a single print run and everywhere is sold out of it)
These standalone scenarios can be played with characters from any of the core or deluxe boxes, but they don’t contain any investigators of their own.
The scenarios are bigger than the regular ones and can take anything up to four to complete depending on your group and how quickly the madness sets in.
Investigator Starter Decks
FFG decided to release five stand alone investigators, one of each main class. The packs contain a pre-made starter deck with plenty of suitable cards to upgrade those investigators as they gain in game experience.
These decks tend to make things simple for new players as if you’ve kept up with all the releases there are several hundred investigator cards to customise your deck with and it can be a bit overwhelming. This makes the decision making straight forwards as the decks are decent straight out of the pack and you’ll see which cards were the most useful whilst you play, so those are the ones you’ll likely upgrade.
Over time, the popularity of Arkham has led to a range of promo cards from conventions, to print and play to related product promos. All of these are either investigators or investigator cards. None of these are essential to play the game, they just give you a few more options.
-Promo cards were available at conventions and can be found either on auction sites, or some are on the FFG Arkham print and play pages.
-The Print & Play content on the FFG website gives free cards to download and print at home.
-FFG released a series of novellas set in the same universe. Some titles in this range come with some promo investigator cards.
Like most popular games, there are various ways you can enhance your game.
These all come down to personal preference and are in no way essential for your game.
Storage – With over 2500 cards released for Arkham, that’s the equivalent of over 48 decks of playing cards, and the release of the Return to… boxes being twelve to eighteen months after a cycle is released you’ll need something to arrange and store the cards. There are plenty of storage solutions on etsy. Personally, I like the stuff by Kirbys Workshop, but each to their own.
Tokens – The game does ship with every token you need, but there are acrylic, metal and 3D printed ones out there that look shiny. They don’t change the game at all, they just look very nice.
Play Mats – There are some official play mats and some user created play mats that you can get. What I love about these is they tend to stop your cards from sliding around like they would on a regular table.
Sleeves – Some cards like the investigator cards will get handled a lot and sleeving your cards can help to prolong the lives of the cards. But with over 2500 cards, this could be a serious investment if you were to try and sleeve the lot. FFG produce these cards that are slightly smaller than standard poker sized cards so regular card sleeves are fine.
Travel Arrows – In the game there is no board so you use cards to represent locations. Some locations can only be reached from going to other locations first. It can be handy to have some kind of markers to show which locations are reached from each other. You can get fancy directional arrows from places like etsy and eBay, but really you can use anything, even matchsticks or paperclips.
Coin Capsules – The Chaos Bag mechanic in the game means these token will be the most handled component in the game and as such the token will have the most wear. The tokens are circular and fit perfectly in 26mm clear coin capsules (amazon sell them). These are hard wearing and mean your actual tokens are never handled.
If I had to choose only one thing to enhance my game, it would be either coin capsules or some kind of storage solution for the cards.
It is far too easy to see the large amount of content and the second hand prices and be put off from playing what really is a great game.
Before you jump in the deep end, get the core game and play the initial scenario, make sure its your kind of game.
As someone who is hiding how much he’s spent on Arkham from his wife, this is the order I’d recommend buying the content in.
Start with the core set, it gives you everything you need and can usually be picked up around the £30 mark.
A Deluxe Expansion Kit. I’d look around and pick one with the associated mythos packs still in stock. If you can get it, I’d suggest the Dunwich Legacy as apart from being a really good story, it doesn’t introduce any new game mechanics that some of the latter cycles do.
The mythos packs for the Deluxe box you bought. If they aren’t available now, ask nicely at your FLGS and they may be able to order them in for you, or at least give you and idea of when they might be due back in stock.
Game Enhancements – Now you know what you’re doing, some of the simpler items like capsules and arrows really help.
Another Deluxe box and the associated mythos packs
Investigator Starter Decks – Again these add new characters and are useable straight out of the pack.
One or Two Standalone adventures.
Storage Solution – By this stage the number of cards should be starting to build up and you’ll need something to keep the cards in order so setup doesn’t become a mammoth off-putting task.
A Return to… box – This breathes new life into existing scenarios and gives you the storage.
Since you’ve now got a bit of everything, you should be fine picking up the rest in the order that suits you and your gaming party to complete the set.
The cycles (deluxe + mythos packs), the remaining stand alone scenarios, the rest of the starter investigators and return to boxes.