Before anyone leaves a comment: the title of this week’s comic is not a typo, it is a poor attempt at wordplay. You may not find this to be a preferable alternative.
Second note on this week’s comic is that I think Aileen really knocked this one out of the park. Since we moved house we now have a separate office space, so I don’t usually see the comic artwork until is it complete. Previously, due to a shared living/work space, I would get to see Aileen producing the artwork all week. I love not seeing it until it is complete, as it’s always an exciting surprise. She is really good at adding detail that I never thought of in the script, which is a constant delight. Opening up the art file to letter it is becoming a highlight of my week.
Arkham Horror LCG is designed as a campaign game. You play a scenario, note down your results, and then play the next scenario, carrying over your successes/failures so that they have a continuing impact. Your character can be injured or traumatised, bad guys you fail to kill will turn up again, and much more.
The interesting thing is, though, that you don’t play a scenario until you ‘win’. Each scenario has a variety of end conditions, including the investigators ‘resigning’ whenever they feel they have done enough, or from fear of not surviving. The consequences of a scenario ending this way will still carry over, essentially forcing the players to live with their defeat. Instead of chasing a victory, you find yourself taking whatever kind of win you think you can get. That can be as simple as surviving.
Forcing players to accept defeat, and to deal with it, rather than giving them the opportunity to try again and do better is not something that games do very often. In Pandemic Legacy, you get a second chance in every month, after which you move on regardless. A defeat stings, but the game doesn’t acknowledge it to the same extent as Arkham. It just adjusts the difficulty in your favour until you find a winning level. Which is a brilliant mechanic, but an altogether different feeling.
In Arkham, you have the option of replaying a scenario as often as you like, so accepting a less-than-perfect game is the player’s choice. Putting it in your hands is humbling, and frustrating-as-hell. You have to take the defeat, and carry it with you. You will not be a perfect hero, you will just be good enough to get by, and hopefully do more good than bad.
The video game L.A. Noire is the only other instance of this that I can think of. If you failed a case in L.A. Noire by accusing the wrong suspect, the game didn’t restart and make you replay the case. You got chewed out and demoted. It was horrifying and brilliant, and it made me love the game.
Noir is not a genre filled with clear-cut heroes and world-savers. And in allowing you to fail, L.A. Noire became the most authentic noir experience it could be. Similarly, in the works of Lovecraft, you won’t often find heroes. You will find failures, cowards, and people unable to deal with what they have seen and experienced.
Of course, facing down an Elder God with pistols and a book of spells isn’t exactly faithful to the source material. But the Arkham Horror LCG makes up for this by putting its players through hell, and making them really feel like they are fighting against forces that cannot be easily defeated. This flavour, this feeling of struggle, makes it Fantasy Flight’s best take on Lovecraft yet.