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Arkham Horror Tips/Strategies

SJE

Bibliomancer
Validated User
So, reading through Arkham Horror’s cards, I wondered if anyone had any tips for the basic game.

From the look of it, you really want to Seal gates in the Woods, Unvisited Isle, Independence Square, & Witch House- do that and you wipe out 60% of the doom tokens or monster surges.

And in the Gate Dimensions, it seems optimal to max out Sneak (since move is pretty irrelevant), Fight appears more than Will and Luck seems to appear 2/3 of the time compared to Lore?

Any tips on which characters are useful and which useless? Harvey Walters seems to be a spell-slinging powerhouse for example.

SJE
 

DrFaust

Roll away the dew.
Validated User
Any tips on which characters are useful and which useless? Harvey Walters seems to be a spell-slinging powerhouse for example.
One thing to keep in mind is that Harvey's Strong Mind ability protects against sanity loss. Spells are considered to have a sanity cost, a price one pays, rather than a loss suffered.

For a spellcasting fiend, check out Daisy in Kingsport Horror.
 

Gaffa

Fallen Writer
Validated User
So, reading through Arkham Horror’s cards, I wondered if anyone had any tips for the basic game.

From the look of it, you really want to Seal gates in the Woods, Unvisited Isle, Independence Square, & Witch House- do that and you wipe out 60% of the doom tokens or monster surges.

And in the Gate Dimensions, it seems optimal to max out Sneak (since move is pretty irrelevant), Fight appears more than Will and Luck seems to appear 2/3 of the time compared to Lore?

Any tips on which characters are useful and which useless? Harvey Walters seems to be a spell-slinging powerhouse for example.
You can't wipe out Doom tokens in the basic game, except for sacrificing an Elder Sign (which requires spamming the Unique deck looking for them) or counting on a rare encounter and lucky roll while visiting the Church. But, yes, your first point is correct: you want to seal the high-traffic locations first (Woods, Independence Square, etc.), as that will make the rest of the game vastly simpler.

Luck is the most called-upon skill in the entire game -- in the basic set, counting all cards, just under 30% of all skill requests are for Luck. Yes, Focusing down your Speed to get higher Sneak is sometimes useful in the Outer Worlds, but not all Investigators have the Focus to easily do that, and note that just as many Outer World encounters care about Speed just as much as Sneak ("The rockslide is tumbling towards you! Make Speed [-1] to get out of its way!").

While I have itemized percentages for all Skills in all expansions as to what's needed where--I love Arkham Horror far too much--the truth of the matter is, for Outer Worlds, it's basically a pot-shot, with a higher tendency, as always, towards Luck. It's usually not worth bothering fussing over it, so long as you can safely Focus your Fighting and/or Lore to maximum level in time to close the gate when you pop out of it.

There's really no bad characters in the basic set, although I think you'll find the Psychiatrist is better than the Professor as a spellcaster (she regenerates Sanity, after all). The Student is widely considered the dullest, because she is, literally, the most generic character in the game. Do not underestimate Bob Jenkins the Salesman -- he's got insane movement and awesome Will and a useful ability.

What the heck, let's run down the general characters.

General Notes: The main complaint for most characters is low Focus or low Movement. High Focus is always good, because it allows you to change gears to deal with new developments on the board. High Movement is probably the most useful Skill in the game, period -- if you can't get to a location, you can't help there. High Fight is usually better than high Lore -- while Spells are powerful, if you have no combat Spells you're forced to use Fight.

Amanda Sharpe/Student. The most generic of the Characters. No bad points, no good points, and while Skills are useful, they're the toughest boost to get, usually costing hard cash you're not spending on Elder Signs or Weapons. A lucky draw can turn her into a powerhouse; a bad draw means she's still unfocused. There's nothing bad about her, but everyone else is better at what they do than her, and thus she's usually considered one of the weakest Investigators of all sets.

"Ashcan" Pete/Drifter. Ashcan Pete rules the game when you can get the discard engine running (usually with cash being supplied by the Photographer or Dilettante). He's got epic-level Sneak, and awesome Fight/Will as well, plus he starts with the awesome Duke...only his 3 Movement and 1 Focus makes him sad.

Bob Jenkins/Salesman. Do not underestimate Bob Jenkins! 5 Speed! 6 Will! And a useful, if not sexy, special ability. He doesn't have the glamor of the more direct characters, but Bob is always a solid addition to any team.

Carolyn Fern/Psychologist. Carolyn's probably the best spellcaster in the base set, as she can restore her own Sanity, and has a solid 5/5 Lore/Luck spread. Her 3/3 Speed/Sneak is crushingly bad, however.

Darrell Simmons/Photographer. Darrell is a surprisingly great street-cleaner thug if you need one. 5 Speed, 5 Fight, and the ability to filter out bad Arkham draws...Darrell can keep Arkham running smoothly while other Investigators handle the Outer Worlds. Generally considered one of the top-tier Investigators for his power alone.

Dexter Drake/Magician. The supposed main spell-caster isn't the best, but he's quite good for one reason -- 5 Lore + 5 Speed plus Spell filtering means he'll get the magical oomph you need to the location it's needed at better than anyone else. Sadly, a maximum of 3 Will means he's actually very bad at fighting the nastier monsters you'll need the biggest Spells for. Considered a mid-range character by most.

Gloria Goldberg/Author. Gloria is obviously better suited towards shutting down gates, with an awesome Luck and a powerful ability. Sadly, with only Lore 4 as her best closing Skill, she's not the best there however. Being able to avoid a crushingly evil result in Other Worlds can save the game however (avoiding a lost in time and space or delayed effect is game-winning by itself). Recommendation? Get a Skill up on her for Fighting or Lore and then spend the rest of your game Gate-diving. Mid-range for most players.

Harvey Walters/Professor. Harvey is not the best spellcaster in the game -- in particular, because his power doesn't help him when casting spells. He can only negate penalties, not costs. But a 6 Lore and 7 Sanity does make him quite fearsome with the right Spells on hand. And check out that Ninja-level Sneak! Walters best use is as a gate-closer or a Sanity-tank--even if he has no Spells, with a semi-decent Weapon he can harmlessly eat most of the nastier monster's Sanity damage and still have a decent chance of taking them down. Alas, 3 Movement is his downfall.

Jenny Barnes/Dilettante. Jenny's obviously all about the money. Her only fault in being the slush fund for the party is that with 3 Movement she can't get to anyone fast enough to give them the cool toys she's buying for them. You can deal with this in a number of ways. Jenny could just hang out in the northwest side of Arkham and give toys to fleeter Investigators who stop her way. Or you could use her to do some fightin' herself. With 4/5 in both of her fighting slots, and the superior Spells/Weapons she can buy herself, she's a surprisingly good warrior and gate-closer.

Joe Diamond/Private Eye. Joe's a fighter with a glass jaw -- 3 Will means he can't face the nastier monsters without risk. He's probably most famous for a power he should rarely if ever use; those Clues are probably better spent closing gates, not giving him double-down dice value. And let's not talk about his Lore/Luck. Still, with an unbelievable 6 Speed and 3 Focus, Joe brings the awesome where you need it. Most beloved for his ability, with the right Skills and a Shotgun and a bucketful of Clues, of being able to one-shot Yig in the Final Battle. Generally considered a top-tier Investigator due to his Speed, Focus, and useful clutch power.

Kate Winthrop/Scientist. SCIENCE! Kate's got solid Skills up and down, and a surprisingly awesome power. Only her 1 Focus is her downfall. A good solid member of any team. Remember the battlecry of my players, when a monster tries to ambush Kate: "Science DENIES you!!!"

Mandy Thompson/Researcher. Mandy is quite simply the best character in the basic set, and possibly still the game. Her Skills are solid, her Focus is decent--but she starts with 4 Clues! That means she can grab a random clue on Turn 1 (and there's going to be one near her, somehow), and then start gate sealing on Turn 2. And then there's her power, which is possibly still the best in the game. She's so powerful that some expert play groups disallow her to give the Ancient Ones a chance.

Michael McGlen/Gangster. Michael's the best general fighter in the basic set, because he combines awesome Fighting Stats, great Speed, a kickass basic Weapon, with reasonable Will and a great power. Yeah, he has only 3 Sanity. Trust me, he'll leave a trail of bodies behind that'll make Joe Diamond weep with envy.

Monterey Jack/Archaeologist. You'd think he's a fighter, but 3 Will and 3 Sanity say otherwise. Monterey is made to gate-jump. Flush through the Unique bin, find those Elder Signs, and jump, baby, jump. He's even got 5 Luck to further remind you that his goal should be to just avoid monsters and work on gates.

Sister Mary/Nun. Widely considered the worst Investigator by some playgroups, I just don't see the hate. No, she's not as awesome as Mandy (but then nobody is). She's certainly more useful in most situations than Amanda, and starting with a Blessing means she can get a serious jump start into helping out in Arkham early game. 6 Luck is also awesome for those times when you need it. Much like the Professor, her astounding Sanity makes her an amazing Sanity-tank -- send her against the biggest Sanity-blasting monsters on the board if she's got sufficient Spell back up, and they just can't stand against her.

Vincent Lee/Doctor. The Doctor's power is always useful, and he makes a passable spellcaster. His main limitation is, again, his 3 Speed.
 

pynk

Retired User
From the look of it, you really want to Seal gates in the Woods, Unvisited Isle, Independence Square, & Witch House- do that and you wipe out 60% of the doom tokens or monster surges.
You've got the basics, yeah; and in order to do that, just try never to jump into a gate without the clues to seal it. But keep a careful eye on the gate limit, and when you're three gates away from losing, with few or no sealed locations, you need to jump through one immediately, clues or not; and it might not hurt to send two investigators into one portal together in case something happens to one of them in the Other World -- although that's a luxury you probably can't afford when the doom track is nearly full.

I can certainly do no better than Gaffa's epic rundown of the characters! Thanks Gaffa. I will say that, armed with all that knowledge, you should definitely be dealing random characters once you've got the hang of the game (say, deal everyone two and let them pick one -- this also greatly reduces setup time in my group since they always take forever to paw through the investigator stack). We also find that the game works better with no fewer than four investigators on the board -- just divvy them up among the players if fewer than four people are present. (Three players? Everyone plays two.) And if you have any lightweight gamers present they'll have a lot more fun if you allow sliders to be adjusted anytime until a stat has actually been used, not just during Upkeep -- greatly reduces analysis paralysis, especially when learning the game.

Sorry about the lapse into house rules, there.
 

Gaffa

Fallen Writer
Validated User
Glad to be of help. As long as I'm here, quick notes on the basic Ancient Ones.

AZATHOTH. Difficulty: Easy. Yeah, he has the toughest end game in the game--you lose instantly. He's more than balanced out by a ludicrously long and easy Doom Track, and a laughable Maniac-boosting ability.

CTHULHU. Difficulty: Moderate. The Main Man is a different story. He's definitely one of the Ancient Ones you want to avoid in direct combat, because he will mess you up. He also makes Cultists quite tough. But it's his penalties to Stamina and Sanity that make him a real tough cookie. That being said--if you can avoid the final battle, and your initial games with AH should be based on learning how to do that easily and repeatedly, then Cthulhu really isn't all that much more difficult than any other Ancient One.

HASTUR. Difficulty: Moderate. Hastur's a complete bastard. 8 Clues to seal is just wrong. His Cultists pack a punch, too. This is balanced by the fact that experienced players can easily game the board to the point that they can force a final battle with him and just blast his head off, as he can be summoned at a paltry -0 combat penalty.

ITHAQUA. Difficulty: Easy. Ithaqua's power is annoying, but actually makes for fun play, as players are ducking into all sorts of weird cul-de-sacs they rarely visit and then get to draw cards they never usually see. His Cultists are moderately annoying, and he's easily gankable in final battle, even with his anti-gear wind storm.

NYARLATHOTEP. Difficulty: Easy. Ny's my choice for the Ancient One to introduce new players to the game. Unlike Azathoth, his Cultist ability has an effect on the board, and he's somewhat difficult to fight in combat. And the Masks add a thrill to reaching into the monster cup. But in the end he doesn't hold back the Investigators all that much.

SHUB-NIGGURATH. Difficulty: Hard. Shub's one of the tougher base bosses, because she makes all monsters friggin' tough to deal with, and a final battle with her is something you should be trying to avoid. Her Cultist boost is rarely seen, but a true headache when it does come up.

YIG. Difficulty: Easy. Yig's got a bad rep as the easiest Ancient One to defeat. You'll note he's lightning fast--games against Yig tend to end in final battle more often than not. The thing is he's got a good assortment of synergistic abilities, and his sheer speed sometimes catches Investigators before they can prepare to kick his ass. So while Yig is very easy to fight face-to-face, he can pack a punch if you're not focused. Still...when seasoned Investigators talk about the Ancient Ones Joe Diamond has killed with one bullet, Yig's the guy they're talking about.

YOG-SOTHOTH. Difficulty: Hard. The Yogster's probably the toughest Ancient One in the main set. His powers are incredibly annoyingly tough, his Cultists can be surprisingly spry, and his final battle is to be avoided...and he has a shorter Doom Track. Props to the Key and the Gate!
 

Mad Crow

Registered User
Validated User
Remember the battlecry of my players, when a monster tries to ambush Kate: "Science DENIES you!!!"
I'm partial to "The power of Science compels you!" :p

To add a little more; 90% of skill checks are at -1. Therefore keeping a skill at 1 is usually no better than keeping it at 0.
The stealth/speed slider is problematic bordering on being a design flaw. For most characters, pushing stealth high enough to reliably bypass monsters, (if they can even get it that high) means they won't be able to move past them in the first place. That's especially true of Focus 1 characters. If you can't defeat a monster, it's better to completely avoid it, if you can.

Spellcasters should keep their lore at 5 at least; anything lower means you can't rely on spells to succeed in life-or-death situations.

There are a couple of locations where gates have only a low chance of popping up. (Science Building, Hibb's, the Silver Lodge and the Historical Society) In those places, you can afford to merely close the gate instead of sealing it.

Most characters fall into the broad categories of either gate-closers or monster brawlers. The latter should keep the paths clear for the former.

There are a few exceptions. Monterey is great shopping for Elder Signs, as long as he's provided with money. One of the best things you can do with the reporter is camp on the Silver Twilight Lodge. His special ability lets him get a membership fast, and then he can use the powerful beneficial random encounters there, while avoiding the detrimental ones.

Most random Arkham locations aren't really worth visiting. If you need money, however, your best bet is the Newspaper.

If you have multiple Speed 3 characters, it's worth it to go shopping for motorcycles or maps.

I too recommend using a draw 2, pick 1 method of character selection. While no character is unplayabe, there are clear differences in power. A randomized party is half the fun of the game.

EDIT: Clue token discipline is important; Brawler characters should only keep 2 or 3 for emergencies, and leave the rest for gate divers. If you spread the available clues among all players,, you might not have enough to keep up sealing gates.
 
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lordcomte

Retired User
Well lets see lots of basic things have been covered so I guess I'll talk a bit about asshole metagame stuff we do. It is your choice if you want to do any of this.

Bankloans and you. If you have 6 or more people bank loans are the single greatest source of abuse that we heap onto our games to the point where we house ruled it so that only one loan can be open at a time. Otherwise it gets a little crazy. You also need mobile investigators. First of all get control of the game. Get some people in the initial gates, and monsters. While this is happening get anyone who isn't doing something to go to the bank and get a loan. Then pass the loan money off to someone who is going to camp the general store for common items.

When you are about to default on the loan pass all items off on another player. Loan defaults, they take all your "stuff" which being nothing, and then...dinner time
 

Professor Phobos

Sweeper of Arcane Lore
Validated User
I'm introducing this game to 8+ people (couples will have to double up, I guess) tomorrow. Most of them are casual "I've played Trivial Pursuit" sort of gamers; I'm starting to regret offering to host a board game night with something as hardcore as Arkham Horror.

So, any tips on how I can make this bearable and introduce it to five people who have never played before and two who have played but played it wrong?
 

DrFaust

Roll away the dew.
Validated User
So, any tips on how I can make this bearable and introduce it to five people who have never played before and two who have played but played it wrong?
Play against Azathoth and ignore the "no open gates and trophies equal to number of investigators" win condition. Giving them one solid goal, sealing gates before the doom track fills, will reduce the things they have to remember.

For length concerns, you might think about reducing the number of sealed gates required.

Pynk's suggestion upthread of allowing sliders to be moved after Upkeep, but only once, would probably go over well with a group of new players.

Depending on your own familiarity with the game, either choose the eight investigators to played or at least know them all well enough to be able to tell people what their strengths are and what their strong suits are: Darrell scrounges money for Bob, who shops a lot, Kate lurks in highly unstable areas, Gloria jumps in the first gate she can find as soon as she has enough clues, etc.
 

Coyote's Own

Former ACME QA Tester.
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I'm introducing this game to 8+ people (couples will have to double up, I guess) tomorrow. Most of them are casual "I've played Trivial Pursuit" sort of gamers; I'm starting to regret offering to host a board game night with something as hardcore as Arkham Horror.
Be prepared for a very slow game. At 6+ players the turn take an eternity to complete.
 
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