Arkham Horror LCG is a wonderful LCG (living card game) by Fantasy Flight Games and it has thrilled players for years. It has grown into an immense game that can be daunting to even the experienced gamer, let alone someone new to the game who is looking to maximize fun, while also keeping in mind a budget. So we had Mike take a look at this amazing game and break some things down for us.
Whether you are a long-time fan of FFG’s Arkham Files games or Arkham Horror: The Card Game was your first entry, I’m sure by now you are firmly in Cthulhu’s grasp! If you’re just checking out the Arkham Horror Card Game for the first time, you still have a chance to escape with your sanity intact (but where would be the fun in that?),
For many people just exploring or entering the game, the sheer number of products available can feel dizzying, leaving many reaching for the door before grabbing their first chaos token. While the number of products can feel overwhelming, there is a simple path to navigating them once you understand what each product is offering. So, to get you started down the Path to Carcosa, here is a simple to understand buying guide for new players to the Arkham Horror Card Game.
A Living Card Game
To begin, it is important to understand that Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games. Players cooperate as a team (or alone in solo-play) to beat the game, and cards are released in set packs where you always know exactly which cards you are receiving with your purchase. This model is different from the Collectible Card Game format (like Magic: The Gathering) where you purchase packs and you get a few random cards from a larger set of cards. The downside to an LCG can be that as the life of the game continues to grow, the back-catalog of products can seem daunting for new players. The upside, though, is players are always on an even field with no luck needed in obtaining the cards you need.
The Core Set
For the vast majority of players (with one exception listed below), the Core Set is going to be your first introduction to the game. The Core Set includes five investigator choices and enough Player Cards to build starter decks (with decklists provided) for up to two players at a time. Deckbuilding options are very limited at this stage, but there are some choices you can make. In addition to the player cards, it includes a short three-part campaign that is meant to be an introduction to the game, as well as all of the tokens you need to play the game. Finally, it includes a Learn-to-Play Guide and a Rules Reference. The only thing not included in the box that you will need to play is some sort of opaque bag or cup to put the chaos tokens in that you can draw then out of (more on this below).
One of the first questions many people ask is if they should buy a second Core Set. The benefit to a second Core is found primarily in the Player Cards. A full player deck can include up to two copies of any given card, but many of the player cards that come in the Core Set are singleton. Early in the life of the game, a second Core Set was almost a necessity, but as the game has grown it has become less necessary. Nonetheless, many players will still want to get a second Core Set for completion or to have more sets of Encounter Cards, many of which are used in later campaigns as well.
After the Core Set, you are ready to look at a Deluxe Box to continue your decent into madness. Being a narrative campaign-based game, the Deluxe Boxes are the starting point for each new campaign. Each campaign has a very distinct theme and narrative, and you do not necessarily need to do the earliest campaigns first. In addition, the Deluxe Boxes are where FFG releases additional investigators for you to try different deck archetypes and styles. This means the choice of which Deluxe Box you purchase first can be based on either your preferred campaign story or locale, or which box has the investigators you want to play as. To explore which investigators come in each box, I suggest you explore what each has available on ArkhamDB.com.
Each Deluxe Box includes the first two scenarios for the new campaign as well as any special rules you need to know going into that setting. Looking at the campaign stories available, if you want to play an Indiana Jones-esque expedition in the heart of the jungle, you can check out The Forgotten Age, but if you want a more globetrotting experience that explores the subtly of madness and narration, The Path to Carcosa offers an immersive story. At this point in the game’s life, there are the following Deluxe Boxes available:
- The Dunwich Legacy
- The Path to Carcosa
- The Forgotten Age
- The Circle Undone
- The Dream Eaters
- The Innsmouth Conspiracy
Once you have selected a Deluxe Box and subsequent campaign to embark upon, you are going to want to pick up the corresponding Mythos Packs that go with that campaign. The Mythos Packs are color coordinated and feature the same background color scheme as their corresponding Deluxe Box. These packs are released on a (mostly) regular schedule for the newest campaign. Each Mythos Packs includes additional Player Cards and the next scenario in the campaign you are playing. In total, there are six Mythos Packs released in each campaign. Although you can purchase and open them all at once for access to the Player Cards, you need to play them in release order for the campaign that you are playing. Each scenario story builds upon how you did and the choices you made in previous scenarios. Luckily, FFG has numbered the Mythos Packs 1-6 on the back of them to make it easier to identify, otherwise you can look on FFG’s website for a better understanding of which packs go which cycle.
“Return To…” Boxes
A newer product, the Return To… boxes offer experienced players an opportunity to revisit campaigns and gives them a new twist. Besides the nifty cardboard storage box with distinctive artwork, each pack includes a handful of new player cards and new encounter cards intended to change the way older scenarios played. Finally, the developers include a list of Achievements you can try for in the new campaign. These are just for bragging rights, but many will really test your deckbuilding skills. These are a great way to breathe new life into campaigns you have already played and move on from, but certainly are not a necessary early purchase.
In addition to the Deluxe Boxes and Mythos Packs, FFG has released a number of Standalone Scenarios for Arkham Horror: The Card Game. These packs contain just a single scenario and all of the Encounter Cards you need to play them. They do not include any regular Player Cards. These scenarios are often designed and created for special events like Gen Con and are then available later for purchase. There are two ways of playing these scenarios. The first is as a regular standalone game where you and your friends brings decks to play just a single game against the scenario. The second is fitting these Standalone Scenarios into your ongoing campaigns. Typically, this involves spending an amount of XP as a group to undertake one of these side stories, but you usually have the opportunity to earn more XP or additional assets you can then use throughout the rest of your campaign.
Investigator Starter Decks
A newer product introduced are the Investigator Starter Decks. These are a great option for someone that has been invited to play Arkham Horror The Card Game with someone that already owns all of the cards needed for a campaign. These are self-contained packs for an individual player that include a pre-built deck and subsequent upgrade cards for that investigator. There currently are five different Investigator Starter Decks, one for each class, and these decks are the only way to get the investigators each is built around. Each pack includes some reprints of older cards as well as new Player Cards, which is one reason why even established players are interested in these decks. As I said, these are an excellent option for someone that is joining an established player or group that already has a sizeable Arkham Horror collection.
More a related product, the Arkham Horror Novellas produced by FFG explore the backstories around a singular character within the Arkham Universe. The thing that makes these interesting to players of the Arkham Horror Card Game, though, is that they include promo versions of their titular character as well as replacement signature and weakness cards for them, opening up additional deckbuilding options. The investigators featured in these Novellas are often released prior to their official release within a Deluxe Box giving early access to them. Completionists will be most interested in these, or if a Novella features one of your favorite investigators from the Arkham Files universe.
While certainly not needed for playing the game, there are a number of third-party accessories that can go a long way in improving your enjoyment while playing the game. The first of these items is a quality and thematic Chaos Bag. You will be drawing chaos tokens quite frequently for tests, so having a thematic bag will help your immersion into the story. Second, because the game consists of a number of locations that investigators must move between during the game, having locations connectors that show which locations are connected to which others can help remove confusion during your games. Finally, putting your chaos tokens into 26mm coin capsules is considered by many to be one of the best upgrades you can make to your game. Not only do the coin capsules provide some protection for the chaos tokens (which are shuffled and drawn continuously), but they give a nice weight and very satisfying sound when you are shifting them in the Chaos Bag.
In addition to these three items, there are a myriad of upgraded player and chaos tokens you can explore to further pimp out your game. If you have access to a 3D printer, there are a number of fun designs you can print as stand holders for the Agenda and Act decks or the Encounter Deck. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Hopefully you now have a much better understanding of what all the different products within the Arkham Horror Card Game line are and which are most important to focus on first in your journey. If you have any questions, the friendly staff at The Gift of Games will be happy to guide you through the Labyrinth of Lunacy that is Arkham Horror: The Card Game. You can email us at [email protected] or call 847-752-8812.