We had a smashing game of Arkham Horror last night at Quarterstaff, with a full table of eight players, with one substitute, running around the titular town, as well as neighboring Innsmouth. I don’t think I could possibly do it justice. Off the top of my head, we had a federal agent, a spy, a dilettante, a violinist, a newspaper photographer, a lady adventurer, a gangster and a bootlegger doing their damnedest to put the brakes on Rhan-Tegoth‘s plan to break through and devour the earth.
It didn’t work out in the end, unsurprisingly, but it was a fun ride getting there. By the second or third turn, we had three of the five elder signs in our possession, thanks to starting draws or lucky shopping trips to the Curiousitie Shoppe. That meant we could send almost whomever we liked into gates, letting the other five scurry around town scooping up clues and dealing with the monsters. The player of the gangster was particularly preoccupied with racking up a monster kill in order to become the deputy. In fact, it was the federal agent that eventually racked up enough trophies to become deputy of Arkham. There’s a lesson in there about the roles of state and federal government.
Honestly though, with eight players, Arkham seemed a little empty. There were never many monsters on the board and the first couple of turns, it seemed like we twiddled our thumbs waiting for enough gates to open to dispatch all the investigators we had on hand.
By 9:00 PM, we had four gates sealed, including Devil Reef in Innsmouth, which is a fairly frequent location. It began to unravel when two investigators, my violinist and Brennan’s photo-journalist, found themselves dragged off to the Plateau of Leng while scouting out the Unvisited Isle. Having two characters on the same interdimensional road trip meant there was one less available to put out whatever fires cropped up in the real world. I recall one gate cropping up late in the game at the Esoteric Order of Dagon that no one seemed particularly motivated to approach, probably because of the folderol we went through getting Ursula the adventurer off Devil Reef, just to have the rescuer dragged back there themselves.
It was the gates that did us in finally. With eight players, there can only be four open at any given time. In the last couple turns, we hoped for a series of surges or even cards naming sealed locations — with the Innsmouth Horror expansion, gates that fail to open add tokens to the Deep Ones Rising track, which initiates the final battle when filled, but at the time, the track was empty, so we could stand a few Deep Ones tokens in the name of buying time — in order for the otherworld investigators to find their respective ways home, but it didn’t work out. We took too much time getting them in the gates, relative to the speed at which new gates were opening. The turn before the bootlegger would have returned to Arkham with an elder sign in his pocket to seal the gate, the fifth one opened, allowing Rhan-Tegoth to burst forth onto the world.
Since by then it was 10:30 PM and we had to clear out of the game space by 11:00, I decided we’d skip the final battle and inevitable loss. Aside from the lateness and impending closure of Quarterstaff’s game space, the group just wasn’t armed for it. Rhan-Tegoth would’ve had seventeen doom tokens, thanks to the three cultists that found their way onto its sheet, plus a physical immunity that no one could really deal with, since our unique items tended more towards utility than monster-slaying and we didn’t have a single focused spell-caster.
My only regret for the evening is I forgot to bring my camera. I’d’ve loved to get some shots of a full complement of players around the table, laughing and groaning as the game brutally tore through the ranks with impossible skill checks and unhappy choices.