Yes, this is a four way showdown between the heavy hitters that I’ve played of the Lovecraftian world. Now, there are lot more Lovecraftian/elder god games out there, including Eldritch Horror that could have joined the list. In fact Eldritch Horror would have made a lot of sense as it is also a Fantasy Flight Games game. However, I haven’t played that one yet, so let’s meet the contenders.
This is the first of the two Arkham Horror entries, and this one is set aside for the massive board game. Akrham Horror is a massive game where you take on the roll of investigators trying to stop a great old one from bringing madness or at least doom upon the earth. Also, let’s just get this out of the way, that’s the description for all of these games to some extent. This is the epic big game as you work your way around the city of Arkham. You investigate, fight monsters, travel to other realms and close portals to those realms. The average Arkham Horror game goes on for a long time, too long for some, hence why Fantasy Flight made Eldritch Horror and other games to take it’s place. Now, I haven’t played this game with expansions, but the base game is a very long game by itself. It’s a pretty straight forward game as well but challenging. What I appreciated about it was that you could try and figure out things in different ways. One downside is that some characters kind of got locked into a cycle of madness that was very tough to get out of. Or at least that they didn’t get out of the sake of the game, so they were limited in what they could do.
Arkham Horror LCG
Alright, finally differentiated between the two Arkham Horrors. LCG stands for Living Card Game, and while Arkham Horror the board game is a beast with tons of pieces, the card game has fewer pieces and no game board. The game is a much smaller profile and plays in a shorter time. While the basic premise remains the same, the story of the card game takes place on a much smaller scale, and you are playing through cards, using abilities and investigating to solve smaller cases. And while the game has great old ones who are looming all around and are being summoned, it doesn’t feel like it’s about that. It’s more about busting up cults and fighting smaller monsters. The story is also more focused as you work through scenarios. There are the larger box versions of the game which have three scenarios, but there are also smaller ones that play with fewer cards. One nice thing is that they are always coming out with more story for this game, so if you love it, you can continue to play with it.
Elder Signs, in my opinion, is the light weight version of Arkham Horror. The location in the base game is more focused as you are investigating in a museum, but a lot of it feels pretty similar. The mechanics for this game are also simpler as you are rolling dice to try and complete investigations and sometimes you also are going to have to deal with monsters that pop up in the museum. This isn’t the friendly night at the museum, but one where portals open up to other worlds. Most of the time with this game, you are playing the odds, figuring out who should go where based off of character abilities and who can roll which dice. This game while enjoyable doesn’t have the story that the other two have and feels a lot lighter. That isn’t always a bad thing, but as compared to the other two games, it is lighter on theme.
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Wanted to call out that this is for second edition as I haven’t played the first edition. This game also has a smaller feel story wise as you are investigating particular places, versus going around town or the world as in other games. What is unique about this game is that it is app driven as well. You are getting clues from the app and that cuts down on one person having to run the game, or on looking up things for each scenario. As with most of these games, you can be sure that someone is trying to summon something horrible or has made a pact they shouldn’t have with an elder god, but it’s less about unleashing the end of the world, and more about unleashing terrible destruction (they’re pretty similar). This game has a lot of ambiance that goes with it as well. The app can play music to set the theme can help make the game, but even without that, the game is a lot of fun and you are playing through scenarios that are led by the app, so the game is steeped with theme. Mansions of Madness is also a larger board game, but set-up is pretty easy because of the app.
I’ve already done some of the comparison and contrasting, and I think that this is more a one v one match-up in two different categories. There are the two more world ending games with Arkham Horror and Elder Signs that are about stopping an elder god from coming through. Between these two, Arkham Horror is the winner because it has more theme. I am actually now leaning towards getting rid of my copy of Elder Signs. I’ve had fun playing it, but the game is a little simplistic, and the rules aren’t the best written.
Then between the two more scenario driven games. Now, this is tough, because I really like both of them. Mansions of Madness has a balance between video game and board game that you’re starting to see more with games getting apps to partner with them. It also makes a game that could be a bit complicated a whole lot more simple. And when you play a scenario it is going to be different. Arkham Horror LCG, on the other hand ties story together really well and is pretty fast to set-up and tear down. I think I like Arkham Horror LCG better because of that aspect and because it plays solo really well. So for the amount of work that you have to put into a solo game of it, I believe you can solo Mansions of Madness as well, Arkham Horror gets the edge.
Now the final showdown, two quite different games, but they have a similar setting and theme being Lovecraftian. Which is better, Arkham Horror or Arkham Horror LCG. This is actually a lot easier, because of the bulk and time commitment of the Arkham Horror board game, it is easily the LCG. I’ve played Arkham Horror once, and while I want to more, it’s hard to get to the table. The Arkham Horror LCG I’ve had for a few months, and while I haven’t gotten through the full first scenario, I’ve played it with a number of pieces of it a couple of times and with different people. The game is just more balanced and cleaner play.
Overall, I think there’s a spot for each of these games. The lighter play in Elder Signs is going to fill a spot for a lot of people because it’s easier to get to the table and teach. Fantasy Flight does their Lovecraft right, and from what I know of Eldritch Horror is that it’s a solid less heavy, but still heavy, replacement for Arkham Horror.
Which is your favorite of these games? Is there one that you get to the table more often than others or one that now you want to try?
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