Eldritch Horror is a co-operative adventure game, and the follow up to the great Arkham Horror, set in the Lovecraftian world. Where-as Arkham was played within a localised city location, this game zooms its perspective out to feature a world map with a number of cities and locations to explore. The goal is to team up investigators to prevent the emergence of an ancient one, thus preventing the imminent destruction of the world.
Investigators have two main actions per turn which keeps things quick and simple and means that downtime is low. They will be looking for clues across the world map, revealed by exploring locations and completing skill checks, which largely means rolling a five or better on the dice. You will find and locate better equipment and weapons which modify your chances of success, and over time you can improve your base skills in a light role-playing style. Each location your visit will reveal an encounter which provides you with a short background scenario and often a choice of reaction to complete it with a pass or fail consequence. These cards drive the storyline of the game which due to their random nature can occasionally feel out of place, but you can use your imagination to join them together. Failing tests usually means your investigator will take a physical or mental condition which whilst not immediately punishing can linger to reveal itself later at an inconvenient moment.
The game is fun and quickly ramps up tension as gates spawn around the map which need closing, with monsters appearing to protect important areas you need to visit, plus the doom tracker constantly counts down towards the emergence of the ancient one and the final show down. The game can play quite long at times, but is engaging and with choices of different investigators, each with strengths, weaknesses and a specific skill, plus different ancient ones to fight, there is a lot of variety here. After a few games with the core set there is general agreement that at least one small expansion is needed to fully flesh out the game with more varied encounters.
As a relatively early example of a co-operative game, this still stands up pretty well against the newer and often more complex games now released. It’s simplicity remains part of its charm and the game intelligence and storyline, whilst imperfect at times, does enough to hang together your adventure. The counting down of the doom tracker really does create tension and urgency as the game progresses. Of the various Lovecraftian releases by the publisher i do prefer this edition as the most complete game experience without over complicating the set up or rules, and it’s mythos card reveals has the best implementation of moving the game forward or allowing you to adjust the difficulty on set up. Expansion content will give you more encounter variety and can increase the overall complexity slightly, but these remain optional in a mix and match format. This is one of my games that drifts in and out of my favourite list, but usually after a short break it returns again as a very desirable play option which i really enjoy solo.
Here are the additions you can make outside of the core box (my additions highlighted green = own, blue = part owned, red = not purchased) :
Small Box Expansions
The smaller box expansions generally add one new ancient one with themed monsters and most add new investigators, and these tend to offer the best expansion value versus price overall. Forsaken Lore was the first expansion and is often considered a must have as it focuses on boosting the content of the core set ancient ones, and then adds a new serpent one, however it does not add any investigators. The other three sets all add four investigators and one new ancient one with Strange Remnants adding mystic ruins with more encounter choices and Signs of Carcosa adding investigator impairments. Cities in Ruin was one of the most interesting sets as it adds world disasters which destroy city locations, giving you less places to visit, and is very cinematic in its theme.
Large Box Expansions
The larger box expansions focus on a new story theme and have a side board of locations to add your your main one, usually with 8 investigators and 2 ancient ones. Your choice here may largely depend on what type of new themed scenario you like the look of, and they do add minor extra mechanics here and there. Mountains of Madness brings the freezing Antarctica board and is the one which theme wise was my favourite, also adding in the excellent focus action. Under the Pyramids has an Egyptian and desert theme and added the much less welcome investigator impairments. The Dreamlands opens up the ethereal sleep world and is a more unique expansion in its theme ideas, and thus remains a more interesting option, and Masks of Nyarlathotep was a finale adding personal investigator stories and a basic campaign, but it tends to remain the least well received large box.