Not the most original of comics, I know. We haven’t actually had the opportunity to play many games at all these past few weeks – besides one game of Arkham, it’s just been Pandemic Legacy. And while Pandemic Legacy is one of the most tense, exciting, brain-burning, and brilliant board game experiences we have ever had, it has had more than its fair share of coverage in our comics already.
By the way, if you are playing Legacy, and have gotten past April, check out this old comic of ours. We made it just after Pandemic Legacy was announced, and only just realised how inadvertently prescient it was.
Meanwhile, in Arkham … much like Fantasy Flight’s flagship LCG Netrunner, it took us a few games of the Arkham Horror LCG to actually get our head around the rules, how it plays, and how you need to play it to stand any chance of winning – or even surviving a scenario.
The gameplay is not that complicated, it’s just that the mechanisms are not that intuitive. The rulebook is also written to cater for years’ worth of expansion, and new mechanics, so by necessity it is more detailed than it needs to be for just the core set, even including several timing charts. There is a quick ‘learn to play’ guide, which is useful, but at the same time won’t take you very far.
Unusually for an LCG (Limited Card Game, if you are unfamiliar with the term, it means that instead of random boosters to increase your collection, the game uses set decks of new cards released regularly), it is a co-op game. Two players fight their way through a nightmarish stew of Lovecraft-ian settings, monsters, and horrors, all distilled into one convenient encounter deck.
The thing the game does so well, though, and what ultimately broke our resolution to never touch either CCGs or LCGs, is that each time you play, you are playing through a story-driven scenario. It is guided by ‘Act’ and ‘Event’ cards, which tell the story, and also time the game. The clock is always ticking, as you race to discover clues and fend off winged ghouls. Each expansion (typically around 15 LCEs (Local Currency Equivalent)) gives you another scenario to play through. They include cards to add to your deck, which allow you to level your characters up between sessions.
Deck-building, co-op, and campaign games are my three favourite types of game. So, despite the collectible nature of it, I was never really going to be able to resist its siren call, which could have been designed specifically to lure me onto the rocks of excessive acquisition and poverty. Collecting further expansions to continue the story of your investigators is fine though, great even.
The issue I have is with the assortment of cards with the base game. The core box provides five investigators, and cards to build decks for two of these investigators at a time, but only in select combinations. You can play Roland Banks and Agnes Baker, for example, but you can’t combine Agnes with Daisy – they use a similar card type in their decks. Even this I am fine with. Five investigators is generous, as is allowing all of the deck archetypes to be played with straight out of the box.
The issue is with the deck-building. If you want to go even slightly beyond what is suggested and craft a custom deck out of the core box, you will very quickly hit a brick wall, and the only way around that obstacle is to buy a second copy of the core set, something I will not do out of principle. I am willing to buy future expansions (there are already a lot) and over time, this will allow me to customise my deck. With time, I will have a wealth of options. But having basically no options out of the box feels like it’s just asking players to go for a second core set, and that can’t help but feel a little dirty.