Off the Top of My Head: Arkham Horror Advice from a Beginner

Off The Top of My Head

Arkham Horror Advice from a Beginner

I am by no means an Arkham Horror expert. With less than ten full games, none of them played to the letter of the rules, it’d be ridiculous for me to claim it. However, as a relative novice I feel I can offer some helpful advice to other novices and other newbies to the world of Arkham Horror. These simple concepts certainly helped my friends and I get over the steepest parts of the learning curve, though mastering the intricacies of the rules can only come from multiple play throughs.

Mighty Tower of Arkham Horror
Mighty Tower of Arkham Horror

1.)    Watch Tutorial Videos: Buying, storing, and playing Arkham Horror is a monetary, space, and time investment. Before investing it would be wise to watch many of the YouTube videos available to see what the game is about. It is best to start with short intro videos; many good-quality videos explain the premise and gameplay in 5-10 minutes. Then work your way up to rules and set-up descriptions before finally moving on to multi-hour play-through videos. It should be pointed out that I’ve never seen a video where they didn’t get at least one rule wrong. It goes to show even those most comfortable with the game can still mess up.

Mike found this short review.  It’s very brief but gets the basics across.

2.)    Organize the Game Components: For many of my games I use small ziplock bags to store the pieces. Arkham Horror has a stupendously long set up time and this can be drastically reduced by getting some kind of containers to hold the all the clues, money, elder signs, and other tokens needed for the game. I recommend stackable beading containers like these. They come in a big set of multiple sizes for about $5 and you can stack a pillar of them and only need one lid so you just unstuck them and all the pieces are set up. I’ve seen some use card holders, but I find these difficult to store so I still do take the time to shuffle and deploy the cards.

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3.)    Keep the Rules Handy When Playing: This might sound basic but you’ll be surprised how often it comes up… Fantasy Flight makes incredible games that can be very thick in rules with instruction books that can feel vague and difficult to navigate. You’ll only learn the rules while playing but you’ll have to consult them a lot, especially during your earliest games or when something uncommon occurs. Keep them close by. Mark the pages, because the citation for Blessings and Curses is on one page in the index but how they behave during upkeep isn’t in the same citation. Eventually you’ll get them memorized but it never hurts to have them close by if needed. As an aside the Miskatonic Horror expansion isn’t a true expansion as it’s more an add-on to the base game and all the other expansions. It DOES come with great little reference cards that explain how many monsters, gates, etc are allowed based on the number of players. They’re awesome.

Info Cards from Miskatonic Horror
Info Cards from Miskatonic Horror

4.)    Be Patient…: Maybe the hardest of all of these rules is to be patient. A game the size and scope of Arkham Horror has tons of rules for a reason. It’s incredibly in-depth and absorbing. It can really draw you in for hours and hours. But it also means it takes a lot of time to gain even a basic understanding of it all. In our first game Mike and I essentially quit in frustration. We didn’t understand it so we gave up for the day and came back to game another day. Every time we do a bit better, and every time gain a greater respect for it. Also even as you get better the game is punishingly difficult. It WILL beat you almost every time. If you are pathological about losing don’t even try it, but for me it makes the eventual victory mean that much more…you KNOW you earned that one…

5.)    The Most Important Rule! Every rulebook for Warhammer 40k I’ve ever read comes with this rule and it’s very valuable in EVERY game. I’ll quote them directly, “The most important rule then is that the rules aren’t all that important! So long as…players agree, you can treat them as sacrosanct or mere guidelines, the choice is entirely yours.” Of course 40k is a lot more open than Arkham Horror, but the spirit of this remains the same. The purpose of ANY game is to have fun. Especially while learning don’t let the rules get in the way of the fun!

Arkham Horror is definitely my favorite board game and it’s one I’d like to play more of with more players. It’s not for the timid and inexperienced gamers might be intimidated by its scale and scope, but if you stick with it you’ll have the most absorbing, difficult, and satisfying board game experience you’re likely to have. And in the famous words of Wil Wheaton: Play More Games!

Want more Arkham Horror? Check our the Story of the Month!

The game’s page on Fantasy Flight.

Feel like diving in?  Here are the rules.

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