We played another round of Arkham Horror, Jon, Nonny and I, with the same melange of cards from most of the expansions that I used for the past two games trying out Lurker at the Threshold Partly because the mix seems to work, but also because I’ve been too lazy to do more than drop the tote full of boxes in an out of the way spot on returning home from game night.
The one thing we left out this time are the personal story cards from Innsmouth Horror. They’re neat and all, sure, but they’re mostly about slowing the investigators down, something that isn’t really needed with what’s going on in Lurker at the Threshold. Plus, going back to my point of how many things there are to track in a game of Arkham Horror these days, it’s too easy to forget about the pass/fail conditions of a personal story, or focus on them to the exclusion of other conditions that need monitoring.
This time we fought against Ghatanathoa, a delightfully cheery fellow I’d run into before. His annihilating gaze is rough: draw a token from a pool of eight whenever collecting two or more clue tokens. If it happens to show his face, the investigator is devoured. Nonny got stung by that on her very first draw from the pool. It wasn’t until much later in the game, when she had started over with Patrice the Clue Giver, that she and Jon flirted with Ghatanathoa again, having recognized the need to speed up clue token collection.
After a slow start — and what game of Arkham doesn’t have a slow start? — we got into the rhythm of gate-diving and scrounging clue tokens. We weren’t moving fast enough, though. Even with a thirteen token doom track and a number of monster surges, Ghatanathoa’s filled up quite really. The game went to final combat, which we won by the skin of our collective teeth, maybe at the last or second to last attack on the Ancient One.
The interesting thing about this particular session is how we used the Lurker’s pacts. In the past two games, players got bound allies immediately, working on the assumption that it would never come to final combat, so they didn’t have to worry about the bound allies joining the Ancient One’s side. Jon and Nonny played a little more conservatively.
It was a good long time before anyone took a pact and honestly, I can’t really remember the motivation to do so. It may have been a reckoning card — which I tried to draw faithfully throughout, but it’s difficult to keep them in mind when the effects don’t target anyone at the table, since we were so scrupulously unpacted.
Where the pacts finally paid off was in final combat. Since Ghatanathoa doesn’t sap sanity or stamina, it didn’t matter what our investigators had in those areas. So we all took soul and blood pacts, converted “extra” — read: “all but one” — sanity and stamina into power tokens, which could then be used for some truly massive opening volleys of clue tokens.
It wasn’t a brilliant start, considering each of us individually rolled just shy of twenty dice in the first round of combat, but we did eventually pull victory out of the clutch. The key was recognizing when the pacts could really pay off, and using them appropriately.
As I wrote the above, I began to wonder if I’d missed a rule. It doesn’t make thematic or mechanic sense for the Lurker, a herald of the Ancient One, to continue bestowing goodies to the investigators when its master is on the verge of breaking through to Earth. It suddenly seemed that surely we’d missed the bit where all pacts are discarded at the start of final combat, not just the bound allies. But no, I just checked the rules PDF and the herald sheet itself, thanks to the Arkham Horror Wiki. I can’t see any mention of discarding pacts, except in the event of an investigator being devoured, so I guess it’s just one of those things, like Michael Glen’s Strong Body ability making him effectively immune to at least one Ancient One’s attack.
There’s one poster over on Boardgamegeek who often comments that all investigator abilities should stop working once final combat begins. I can’t entirely agree with that, because Mandy’s dice rerolling is way too big a lifesaver, but there are certain cases where some new wrinkle doesn’t seem to have been thought all the way through to final combat.