Follow TV Tropes

Following

Tabletop Game / Arkham Horror

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/va09_bignew_1007.jpg

“Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.”
H.P. Lovecraft, The Picture in the House
Advertisement:

Arkham Horror is an Adventure Board Game based on H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and taking place in the 1920s. It was designed by Richard Launius in 1987 for Chaosium and was revamped and re-released by Fantasy Flight Games in 2005. The players must cooperate as a handful of investigators trying to prevent the awakening of an Ancient One with the fate of the city of Arkham, and sometimes the whole world, in the balance. The investigators will collect ordinary and magical items, explore forgotten or forbidden regions of the town, battle monsters, enter alien worlds, and (per the setting) go gibbering insane in the process.

The game is fairly complicated and features a staggering amount of cards, markers, and counters. Three decks of standard size Ancient One cards are used for random encounters and events. Nearly a dozen decks of smaller sized Investigator cards track the possessions/status of the players. There are fistfuls of cardboard counters for health, sanity and money, monster markers, and other miscellaneous tokens. Success or failure is determined by a pool of six-sided dice; every roll of five or six counts as a success, but modifiers can add or subtract from the dice pool for your roll and difficult tasks can require multiple successes.

Advertisement:

Investigators are the player characters. Each investigator has scores for stamina and sanity, some set and random starting items, and a special ability such as healing or extra income. They also have a collection of linked and adjustable attributes, so raising one stat will lower its counterpart. For example, you can move faster at the expense of stealth to speed through the town on one turn and next turn change scores to sneak past the monster guarding your destination at a snail's pace.

The Ancient One is a powerful, alien monster featured in the Cthulhu Mythos, including Cthulhu himself. Each Ancient One has a character sheet akin to an investigator which includes special rules that modify the game as a whole (such as ongoing harmful weather), rules modifying its favourite monsters, and combat stats should it awaken. One is randomly drawn to be your antagonist for the game and the players ultimately race against time to prevent its awakening. Almost every turn a counter will be added to the doom track. When full, it awakens and the investigators have one last chance to defeat it. There are very few ways to slow the doom track down and many to speed it up. It also serves as a “health” meter during the fight. Ancient Ones are horribly powerful in combat, often resistant or immune to forms of damage and usually able to kill unlucky investigators who fail to meet specific requirements before combat even begins.

Advertisement:

The game is played on a large board depicting Arkham city (no, not that one) and divided into neighbourhoods with multiple locations within them. Random encounters can occur at almost any location in the game and the encounters range from paranormal horror to mundane accidents. Some areas provide set beneficial effects that allow the players to shop, heal, or learn new skills. On the long side of the board are the other world locations representing alien dimensions like Yuggoth or lost terrestrial regions like the Plateau of Leng. Investigators must brave the other worlds to seal the portals; while they generally don't encounter monsters while doing so, they often face other threats to their health and sanity.

Mythos cards control the flow of the game. One is drawn at the start of each turn. A mythos card will open portals, move monsters, reveal clues, and activate other events that can hinder or help the investigators. Portals open in unstable locations and release monsters. Having too many open portals can awaken the Ancient One early. Portals can only be closed after slowly exploring the other world linked to it, and in most cases, they can be reopened later in the game. Every new portal brings at least one new monster to the city. Monsters move randomly based on a series of black and white arrows on the game board and the mythos card drawn, and some also have special movement rules such as being able to fly. While you can attempt to evade monsters with stealth, they must ultimately be dealt with; having too many monsters in play is not only dangerous and obstructive, but will advance the terror track. The terror track measures the level of fear in Arkham’s residents, and the higher the track advances, the fewer services and allies will remain in town.

Eight Expansion Packs have been produced for Arkham Horror second edition. Four of them are larger expansions with new boards representing other cities in New England, a host of new investigators, Ancient Ones, and monsters. They're also almost as expensive as the original game. The four smaller expansions feature a few new rules, monsters, and additional cards in the base game. A major new rule spanning the expansions is the addition of the Herald, a powerful monster acting against you and serving as the Ancient One's Dragon. A later expansion adds Guardians, which are beings and/or organisations supporting (or at the very least being on roughly the same side as) the Investigators.

     Expansion Details 
Curse of the Dark Pharaoh: Small expansion. An exhibit of Egyptian artefacts has arrived in Arkham and is stirring up trouble.
  • Exhibit items: Similar to unique items but can only be received through random encounters.
  • Barred from the neighbourhood: A combination of offending the locals or a traumatic experience on your end prevents you from entering locations in a given neighbourhood.
  • Benefits and detriments: Some new special effects that can be attached to your character.
  • Dual-color Gate cards: Double-duty random encounters for other world events.

In 2011, a revised edition was released. Among the changes:

  • The Exhibit Items, Spells, Allies, Benefits, and Detriments had their effects overhauled.
  • The Barred from Neighbourhood mechanic was replaced with Patrol markers.
  • The Ancient Whispers marker and Exhibit Encounter deck were added to provide an additional and more certain method of obtaining Exhibit Items.
  • The inclusion of the Dark Pharaoh Herald.

The Dunwich Horror: Large expansion. In a rural town outside of Arkham, a family of sorcerers have created an abomination that threatens mankind. Adds eight investigators, four Ancient ones, and two other worlds.

  • The Dunwich Horror: An extremely powerful monster that can be summoned during the game. The Horror can randomly advance the doom track and has randomly drawn abilities and combat stats per battle.
  • Injury and madness: Being reduced to zero stamina/sanity now has a lingering effect. Injured/insane investigators can be retired to allow the player to draw a fresh character.
  • Conditions: These are ongoing effects that have "toggle" conditions and can activate/deactivate continuously during the game.
  • Stalker monsters: Sneaky monsters which can directly pursue nearby investigators, even ignoring the boundaries that limit monster movement in the process.
  • Tasks and missions: Lengthy side quests may be taken to gain rewards, missions also require sacrifices to complete.
  • Vortices: Special locations in Dunwich of dimensional instability. Monsters will enter them to advance the terror track and to summon the Dunwich Horror.

The King in Yellow: Small expansion. A charity performance of the infamous play, The King in Yellow, will be performed in Arkham, driving the populace mad and destroying the town.

  • The King in Yellow: The play is performed in three acts; reaching the third act ends the game. The first two will randomly occur based on new mythos cards unless the investigators pay the cost of preventing it.
  • Magical effect cards: These keep track of ongoing spells cast on your investigator.
  • The Herald rules were introduced in this set. The Herald changes the game much like having a second Ancient One in play. The first Herald, the King in Yellow, forces you to choose between adding Blight characters into play or advancing the doom track under certain conditions.
  • Blight: These characters have gone mad from the play and serve as anti-allies to hinder you.
  • Spawn monsters: These are monsters that only enter play under specific conditions.

The Kingsport Horror: Large expansion. Mythos-related problems are starting in nearby Kingsport, however, there are friendly powers intervening for humanity. Adds eight investigators, four Ancient Ones, two other worlds, and two new heralds.

  • Guardians: Three benign entities are aiding mankind.
  • Aquatic monsters: These monsters can directly move from aquatic locations to attack investigators.
  • Elusive monsters: These monsters try to avoid investigators
  • Rifts: These are mobile Gates that might open during play. Once open they move across the board spawning monsters and possibly advancing the doom track.
  • Epic Battle rules: These are randomly drawn events that change how the battle against the Ancient One plays.

The Black Goat of the Woods: Small expansion. The cult of Shub-Niggurath is rising in power and must be stopped.

  • Corruption: Exposure to the Mythos now causes horrible mental and spiritual decay to investigators.
  • Gate bursts: Gates that have been sealed can be forced open again. This, however, doesn't advance the doom track.
  • Cult membership: You can infiltrate the One of the Thousand Cult and experience new encounters.
  • Difficulty levels: optional cards give guidelines on altering the difficulty of the game.

The Innsmouth Horror: Large expansion. This town is directly under the control of Mythos forces and its Deep One masters are making their move for power. Sixteen new investigators, eight new Ancient Ones, two new heralds.

  • Innsmouth: The town is an enemy base and investigators will have to evade the police while exploring the area or suffer harsher consequences.
  • The Innsmouth Look: The town is home to human/Deep One hybrids, possibly including the investigators!
  • Deep One uprising: The Deep One conspiracy in Innsmouth is represented by a new countdown track. If the track fills, their efforts have succeeded and the Ancient One awakens independent of the doom track. The investigators can slow the uprising track by alerting the FBI.
  • Personal stories: Investigator backstories now come into play with personal goals to meet.

The Lurker at the Threshold: Small expansion. It's realised that the portals opening through Arkham are extensions of Yog-Sothoth, and it must be confronted to save the city.

  • Dark Pacts: Your investigator can make deals with the Lurker for power and aid. Until the Lurker decides to collect on your debts.
  • Relationships: Investigators now draw cards that give shared background and benefits with another player.
  • New Gates: Gates will have new special abilities to spice things up; from movement to sharing other worlds, to advancing the doom track.

Miskatonic Horror: Large expansion. A discovery at Miskatonic University has created new mysteries concerning Arkham's dark days. Unlike other large expansions it doesn't add a new board, new rules, and new features to the game, rather it builds on the additions from other expansions by adding more cards to the pools (such as new exhibits and cult encounters).

  • Institutions: One new feature is gaining the help of "friendly" (at least non-Mythos) organisations.

Fantasy Flight also produced many spin-offs. Among them are:

  • Mansions of Madness: Players investigate an Old, Dark House (one of many possible ones) while one player designated as the Keeper controls the opposition. Sort of a lite-version of roleplaying Call of Cthulhu. Has so far received two large expansions. Forbidden Alchemy introduces a new puzzle type as well as three new scenarios with a Mad Science angle. Call of the Wild features five new scenarios with an outdoors locale as well as non-linear gameplay. There are also six single scenario expansions: Season of the Witch, The Silver Tablet, Til Death Do Us Apart, House of Fears, The Yellow Sign, and The Laboratory (the last one requires Forbidden Alchemy). The second edition of the game introduces a mobile device app which, among other things, eliminates the need for a Keeper player. The box of this game states the app is required, whereas with the base game it is only a suggestion.
  • Elder Sign: A Dice-based game where you complete adventures at a Museum of the Strange and Unusual to gain the needed amount of Elder Signs to prevent an Eldritch Abomination from awakening. Essentially a scaled-back version of Arkham Horror. The shortest of all the games, with average playtime around 45 minutes. Currently has four main expansions and a POD mini-expansion: Unseen Forces, which brings many new ancient ones and investigators to the game, Gate of Arkham, which has the action spill out into the greater Arkham area, Omens in Ice, which revolves around an expedition to the frozen wastes of Alaska, Omens of the Deep, which involves a voyage around the South Pacific, and Grave Consequences, a small Print-On-Demand expansion that adds three new gameplay features: Phobia, Epitaph, and Epic Battle cards. A mobile platform adaptation called Elder Sign: Omens is also available.
  • Eldritch Horror: Involves investigating sinister happening on a globe-trotting scale, with a definite Indiana Jones-vibe to it all. Definitely the closest to the original game, but here the focus lies in solving "Mysteries" (though closing gates is still important). While still large and epic, it is more streamlined and fast paced compared to Arkham Horror, with average playtime at 2-4 hours (compared to 4+ hours). Has received several expansions, adding all of the characters from the game.
  • Arkham Horror: The Card Game: A living card game using many of the same characters and concepts. Unlike the usual LCG format, the game is cooperative with players building decks to defeat a scenario where threats come from an "Encounter Deck." Multiple expansions have been released.

Fantasy Flight has also started publishing tie-in novels, including two trilogies:

     Novel details 
  • The Dark Waters Trilogy by Graham McNeill
    • Ghouls of the Miskatonic
    • Bones of the Yopasi
    • Dweller in the Deep
  • The Lord of Nightmares Trilogy
    • Dance of the Damned by Alan Bligh
    • The Lies of Solace by John French
    • The Hungering God by Alan Bligh and John French
  • Feeders From Within by Peter J. Evans
  • The Sign of Glaaki by Steven Savile and Steven Lockley

A third edition was released in 2018.

Arkham Horror can be found here. Fantasy Flight gives outstanding support to the game, including .pdf files of all rulebooks, new Heralds and investigators, and rules for tournament/league play.


Arkham Horror shares many tropes with the greater Cthulhu Mythos. The board game directly features examples of:

  • A.K.A.-47: Most of the guns go by generic names such as ".45 automatic" or "rifle". The exception being the tommy gun, and "tommy gun" is technically only a nickname.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack:
    • Zoey Samaras may ignore any Resistances on monsters or Ancient Ones. Any Immunities are instead treated as Resistances.
    • Professor Armitage ally, besides providing a permanent bonus to Lore, also allows you to ignore Magic Resistance.
    • Richard Upton Pickman ally, besides providing a permanent bonus to Luck and Speed, also allows you to ignore Physical Resistance.
  • Artistic License – History: Minor, easily missed one, but should be noted anyway. One of the Arkham Asylum encounters in Innsmouth Horror has you sneaking into a finger-painting session. Finger-painting is indeed used as a component of mental therapy at times, so that's done right. The problem? Art therapy in general dates only to the late 1940's, with finger painting as a later addition to the milieu. Finger painting itself dates to prehistoric times, but it wasn't part of art education until the 1930's.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: If you kill enough monsters and/or seal enough gates, you can be appointed deputy of Arkham.
  • Ax-Crazy: Most cultists are after power and favour from their Ancient One. Cultists of Azathoth serve a mindless, universe-ending patron and have nothing to actually gain from it. The game also includes actual maniacs armed with axes as common low-level enemies. They become slightly stronger when playing against Azathoth.
  • Barrier Change Boss: Zhar is technically not one, but two Ancient Ones: Zhar and Lloigor (it was probably called by the former's name only to distinguish from the "Lloigor" enemy). Zhar has Magical Immunity, but once he gets defeated, you must face Lloigor, who has Physical Immunity instead.
  • Bedlam House: The infamous Arkham Asylum. The original Arkham, not that other one. Investigators actually may receive treatment here to restore lost sanity (and automatically do so if (or when) they are driven insane), or search here for some valuable clues.
  • BFG: The elephant gun, a Real Life example, and a powerful physical weapon in the game. Real elephant guns were frequently custom-made firearms, thus in-game you have to pay every time it's used to refresh it — even the flamethrower can be refreshed at will!
  • Big Bad: Whichever one of the Old Ones or Outer Gods gets chosen during the prep phase is the overall main antagonist.
  • Blob Monster:
    • Formless Spawns are, well, formless mass of some black… thing.
    • Abhoth and his "Childs" are big, hungry blobs of grey goo.
    • Yib-Tstll is big blob of... something, with countless eyes.
    • Nyogtha is a formless black mass with countless tentacles.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Any Mask enemies have either very strong stats, dangerous abilities (like devouring an investigator who fails any skill check against this monster), or both. And they may spawn like normal monsters, through encounters, gates, or mythos. Fortunately, you only must face them when playing against Nyarlathothep.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: You can beat him, for now, but how many investigators went mad or died in the process?
  • Brown Note:
    • Many random encounters, especially in unstable locations or Other Worlds, have devastating effects on investigators' Sanity, just by sheer "wrongness" of situations or places.
    • Reading occult books are harmful to your Sanity, too.
    • King in Yellow expansion has the eponymous cursed play, which drives the inhabitants of Arkham insane.
  • Brown Note Being: Most monsters are dangerous not only for the health, but also for the sanity of the investigators, requiring a Horror check to avoid taking damage. Some monsters are actually only dangerous because of dealing big Sanity damage, and otherwise have low Stamina damage.
  • Canine Companion: Duke is one of the allies in core game. He increases your maximum Sanity. Ashcan Pete starts with him by default.
  • Cast From Sanity: Many spells and occult books have a sanity cost to play, as does the use of Elder Signs to close and seal planar gates; in the Cthulhu Mythos, that sort of thing draws on higher orders of reality than the human mind can comfortably process — like the ones the Eldritch Abominations come from.
  • Cat Girl: Bast, the cat-headed Egyptian goddess who serves as a guardian in Kingsport.
  • Chest Burster: Eihort infects investigators with his younglings, which are represented by Brood tokens. Each time an investigator receives one, (s)he must roll a dice; if the result is lower than number of Brood tokens, the investigator is devoured. Outside of the final battle (where Eihort uses this as his main form of attack), investigators gets infected each time they seal a gate or defeat cultits.
  • City of Adventure: Arkham, home to the famous Miskatonic U., a number of dangerous cults, and many eldritch locations. With expansions, Arkham also plays home to Brown Note plays or cursed exhibits.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Ruby Standish is an ally who improves your Sneak and gives you a unique item from her haul.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Monster tokens have differently coloured edges, depending on their movement rules.
    • Black-coloured ("normal") monsters follow standard rules. Most monsters belong to this type.
    • Red-coloured ("fast") monsters move like normal monsters, but do two moves instead of one, allowing them to quickly patrol the streets of Arkham; they will stop if they meet an investigator on their first move.
    • Yellow-coloured monsters do not move at all, which means they nearly always stay in the locations they spawn in (usually a gate). They often have particularly nasty stats, which makes them good portal guardians.
    • Blue-coloured monsters can fly, in order to more freely attack investigators; and if they fail to find a suitable target, they will move into sky, becoming unreachable, until the next opportunity arises.
    • Green-coloured monsters always have some unique movement rules stated on their reverse side. For example, chtonians, instead of normal movement, will roll a dice, and on a specific result, will damage every investigator in Arkham.
    • Expansions also introduced purple-coloured monsters ("hunters") — monsters who specifically pursue investigators instead of moving like usual (essentially a hybrid between normal and flying monsters); and orange-coloured ("aquatic") monsters — monsters able to use aquatic locations to cut corners to reach their victim.
  • Combat Tentacles:
    • Nyoghta spawns its tentacle instead of random monsters during random encounters. The investigator must defeat it under three turns, or die.
    • Zhar uses them to first grab one hand of the current first player, then kill them off on next turn. In some of its Sinister plots, they are used to directly smash investigators.
  • Conjoined Twins: Zhar/Lloigor Ancient One(s), enormous tentacled beasts. Unfortunately, they have separate health bars (22 Doom tokens in total!), which, combined with them being a Time-Limit Boss, makes them particularly frustrating.
  • Continuing is Painful: Losing all your Stamina or Sanity points doesn't end the game for your Investigator, it just sends them to the hospital or asylum, respectively (or, if this happens in an Other World, they get temporarily Lost in Time and Space). However, they lose half of their items and Clue tokens. In later supplements, you can opt to take an Injury or Madness instead, but these cripple them for the rest of the game.
  • Cool Gate: Portals are more horrifying than cool, though.
  • Crowbar Combatant: A decent weapon that can be discarded to attempt some breaking and entering for common items.
  • Cult: Your human opponents are members of the cults implied to be responsible for the whole mess. The specific cultist monster is often modified by the Ancient One in play with anything from having unlimited numbers to advancing the doom track if killed.
    • Explicitly averted with Abhoth, who has no servants amongst humans. Whatever caused its awakening, it is of no human origin.
  • Damage Reduction: Seen in different forms through the game, on both sides of the conflict:
    • The mobster Michael McGlen takes reduced Stamina damage, while professor Harvey Walter takes reduced Sanity damage.
    • Some spells and unique items have similar effects for any investigator. Food and alcohol can be consumed instead of 1 point of Stamina/Sanity damage, respectively.
    • Chaugnar Faugn can't lose more than 3 Doom tokens during one turn; any excessive damage is ignored. Considering that he is a Time-Limit Boss, this may be frustrating.
    • Ghatanothoa ignores 1 success from each investigator's attack.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • The Lurker at the Threshold offers these, giving power to the investigator bold enough to claim it.
    • The Dark Man of Wizard's Hill is a very helpful individual, but eventually the debt will come due…
  • Death from Above: Without an adjacent investigator to attack, a flying monster is allowed to move into the sky location. Once in the sky, they are allowed to swoop down on an investigator in any street location.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist:
    • Being reduced to zero stamina or sanity sends you to the hospital/sanitarium. You will lose half of your items and clue tokens, but you get to choose and you round down. If you somehow lose both at the same time, on the other hand, you get devoured
    • With the Dunwich Horror expansion, you can even get around the item/clue loss by accepting, as appropriate, an Injury or a Madness. For many players, the nuisance supplied is more than outweighed by the kept items and clues (especially the clues). Just… be careful about taking multiples, since if you're anyone other than Rita Young, getting a duplicate of an Injury or Madness you already have results in your devouring.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: You can literally do it. (To Cthulhu, at least, and to most of the other possible Eldritch Abominations as well, with the notable exception of Azathoth.) You're gonna have a hell of a time doing it, though.
    • Curse of the Dark Pharaoh expansion has encounter cards where you fight an Ancient One single-handed. And, yes, one of the ones you fight is Cthulhu.
  • The Dragon: A Herald is an eldritch being directly trying to summon the Ancient One and working against the players. Adding a Herald to play is akin to adding a secondary Ancient One, as they have a major impact on the game and add many new challenges.
  • Dream Land: The Dreamlands are one of the other worlds you can visit. By most other world standards, they're a very nice place.
  • Drop the Hammer: The sledgehammer, natch; it thoroughly crushes enemies by giving both combat and fight bonuses and reducing their toughness.
  • Dual Wielding: Can be done, if the weapons or spells in question only require one hand each. Two-handed weapons are more powerful, but you can only use one at a time.
  • Duel Boss: Curse of the Dark Pharaoh expansion has encounter cards where you fight an Ancient One alone, without help from other investigators (even if it is not the current Big Bad; though if it is, the battle will be slightly easier, since it will start with reduced Doom). Success in the battle allows you to immediately seal the gate and take it as a trophy, as well as provides satisfaction with singlehandly kicking Cthulhu's (or whoever you faced) ass.
  • Dump Stat: The dump stat can change during the course of the game, but it's always risky. Each stat is inversely linked with another; thus, for instance, raising your Fight will lower your Will, and you can't kill the monster if just seeing it drives you insane. Luck of the draw and strategy factor heavily in Arkham Horror; having the right items can mitigate the risks of having a dump stat, and you can change it as the situation demands.
  • Dungeon Bypass: There are a few methods to skip turns spent exploring the other world; the sooner you escape, the better your chances of sealing portals and maybe winning a game.
  • Egyptian Mythology: Bast, the cat goddess, serves as one of the guardians. For a price, you can play Kind Hearted Cat Lover and feed strays to receive her blessing. Her blessing regenerates stamina or sanity each turn and protects you from being devoured.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Your many opponents, including, of course, any Ancient Ones.
  • Eldritch Location: The other worlds.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Lesser Ancient Ones like Yig can probably only destroy Arkham itself. Great Cthulhu could end the world. Yog-Sothoth and Azathoth are more than capable of destroying the earth, Azathoth to a degree that the game ends with no boss battle if he awakens.
  • Enemy Mine: It's possible to have a group of investigators containing a federal agent, a gangster, a rookie cop, and a bootlegger. And have one of them become deputy of Arkham. Presumably, the threat of the Ancient One dwarfs petty human crime.
  • Energy Weapon: The Yithian rifle. It feeds on your Focus to refresh.
  • Everyone Has a Special Move: Every investigator has at least one unique ability, which makes playing as them different from any other. Investigators from core game are for the most part are rather generic (though theres exceptions), but expansions introduced more exotic ones.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • The "Joining the Winning Team" mission requires you to sacrifice allies to betray the other players and win the game for yourself.
    • One of Nyarlathothep's Sinister plots allows one (and only one) of the investigators to join Nyarlathothep. This eliminates the betrayer from the fight and makes Nyarlathothep stronger for the duration of the fight. The betrayer wins if his former teammates get defeated, but if they win, he dies and becomes the only loser.
  • Fighting a Shadow:
    "It was then that I remembered a terrible thing. Nyarlathotep had a thousand faces with which to battle us — all at once if he so chose."
    • Yog-Sothoth as well: Ancient One, Herald (the Lurker at the Threshold), and he is every gate in the game.
  • Final Boss: The Ancient One is this. It's possible to win without having to fight it, but letting it awaken and then kicking its ass is also a victory condition. Just don't try that on Azathoth, and for other Ancient Ones, not only is victory going to be quite unlikely, but even if you do win, it'll probably be at great cost.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: A flamethrower was added in the Dunwich expansion.
  • Fortune Teller: One of the allies in the core game, Anna Caslow, is fortune teller. She provides a permanent bonus to Luck, and provides 2 bonus clues on joining.
  • Giant Spider: Leng Spiders; the small ones are pony-sized.
    • Atlach-Nacha, the horrifyingly-powerful Ancient One and King Mook to the aforementioned Leng Spiders.
  • Guns Akimbo: Anyone, if you have two one-handed weapons. Joe Diamond, Jenny Barnes, and Tony Morgan have it on their character portraits.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Deep One Hybrids are monsters from Innsmouth, men with horrible inhuman features. Investigators in Innsmouth run the risk of drawing Innsmouth Look cards and discovering that they too are hybrids.
    • There are also two investigators, Amanda and Silas, who are already known to be hybrids. Whether or not they discover this fact affects how their personal stories go.
  • Helpful Mook: Nightgaunts, servants of the alien and somewhat benevolent Nodens. When you lose a battle against them, they drop you into the nearest gate. This can cause you to explore other worlds faster or get to gates that are otherwise blocked.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • The "For the Greater Good" mission involves getting your investigator devoured to win the game for everyone else.
    • Tommy Muldoon, the Rookie Cop, benefits other investigators if he is sacrificed as quickly as possible.
    • Silas Marsh can perform a heroic sacrifice (defying his Half-Human Hybrid heritage) to seal a gate.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: Holy water is a powerful one-shot magical weapon.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: While there are no outright unbeatable Ancient Ones (Azathoth doesn't count, since there's no boss battle at all), some of them can have different starting conditions in the last battle depending on your performance, which sometimes may be so ungodly unfair, you may only be saved by some miracle (or really good preparations, so you may deal with them on the first turn).
    • Hastur increases his battle rating the higher the current Terror level is. If it's maxed out, he starts with a whopping (-10), quite potentially leaving you unable to even scratch him without clues. Lots of clues.
    • Glaaki is Time-Limit Boss, and the exact time you have depends on the Terror level (if Glaaki ends his turn on level 10, it's game over). If you played particularly badly (Glaaki increases the Terror level by 2 each time an investigator is devoured), you may start at that value.
    • Shudde M'ell, instead of attacking, discards one unused Rubble token; if he can't, that's game over. As with Glaaki, you can start with none left to spare.
    • If Bokrug awakens with all four Beings of Ib intact, you would have to deal with a boss who has a battle rating of (-8), a full set of immunities, and 18 Doom tokens... under four turns.
  • Hostile Weather: Weather mythos cards temporarily (until they get overwritten by other Process cards) change conditions in Arkham (usually in the form of penalties to one skill check and bonuses to another).
    • When playing against Ithaqua, any Weather cards' effects are disabled, but instead investigators must deal with deadly frost, which will damage any investigator who stays on the streets during the Mythos phase.
    • When playing against Cthugha, any Weather cards' effects are disabled, but instead investigators must deal with deadly heat, which will damage any investigator who spends more than 3 move points in one turn (except for using tomes).
  • House Rules: The Fantasy Flight site includes semi-official house rules from the game's creator Richard Launius. In addition, there are investigator sheets for Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade Adventures, with Annarchy as an ally.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: An interesting variant: food does not function as a healing item, it instead reduces stamina loss.
  • I Can Still Fight!: An investigator can accumulate a full spectrum of injuries and madnesses, but unless they accumulate two matching ones (which is fatal), they may still fight (though obviously it would be more difficult, since many of them are quite debilitating).
    • Rita Young's special ability allows her to ignore a second copy of any injury/madness.
  • Immune to Bullets: It depends on the monster. Some are as fatally allergic to bullets as people, others will eat lead and then you as dessert.
  • Increasingly Lethal Enemy: If an Ancient One is not an outright Time-Limit Boss, it is usually this.
    • All Ancient Ones from the core game (except for Cthulhu and Azatoth) gradually increase the difficulty of the "saving throw" against their attacks.
    • Y'Golonac increases damage with each turn.
    • Eihort adds one Brood token to each investigator at the start of the battle, and then adds one more to the current first player with each turn. Due to how Brood tokens work (each time an investigator receives one, they must make a dice roll, and if the result is lower than the number of tokens, they are devoured, this time in the literal sense too), each time it becomes harder and harder to survive, until the seventh token becomes guaranteed death.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Whiskey helps reduce Sanity loss.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: For Michael McGlen, the IRS might just be an even greater threat than the eldritch horrors invading Arkham. If he ever receives more than $5, he'll be found guilty of tax evasion, fail his personal quest, and be stripped of all money for the rest of the game, crippling his performance permanently.
  • Killed Off for Real: Being devoured. Generally, this only happens if you're quite unlucky in an encounter or fighting the Ancient One.
  • Ley Line: The ley line map allows an investigator to circumvent environmental effects caused by Mythos cards.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: The game has rules allowing you to fight monsters, cast spells, go crazy, go shopping, get lost between dimensions, go crazy, join the police, watch the stores close as people leave town, and go crazy before being eaten by an alien super-being. The expansions add more rules to the game to boot, including adding a The Dragon to work against you or allowing for pacts with the monster.
  • Lovecraft Country: The game's setting, of course.
  • Lovecraft Lite: It is perfectly possible, though difficult, to seal or defeat the Ancient One with no one going mad or dying.
  • Loyalty Mission: Each investigator has a Personal Story related to his/her backstory and their personal problems and insecurities. If they succeed, they receive various boons, often quite strong, which makes them even more effective; but if they fail, they receive various penalties, up to and including to being totally screwed, sometimes even in fatal ways.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Quite a few of the Personal Stories are like this, and may be screwed either by unlucky dice rolls, or very unfortunate encounters or mythos cards; this is only made worse since some of them are timed as well. The consequences for losing can be anywhere from fatal to borderline nonexistent.
    • The entire boss fight with Yibb-Tstll is this. When she attacks, each investigator must roll as many dice as they have Focus; if they roll no successes, they die; if they roll at least two, they gets blessed (making it easier to fight her). So, depending on your luck, you may either curb-stomp her, or be completely slaughtered on the first round.
    • Same as above is the boss fight with Nyogtha. Once it attacks, the only thing which determines if you survive or not is one dice roll; fail, and it's a One-Hit Kill, succeed, and you survive unscarred.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: "Clue Tokens" represent various bits of Mythos-lore the characters have learned through their combing the city. Spending a clue token after a die roll lets you roll an additional die, and you can continue to roll as long as you have tokens to spend. Some Skills even add 2 dice instead of 1 per token to certain kinds of rolls (Joe Diamond has this ability by default; it stacks with any such Skills).
    • The reason why Mandy Thompson is so broken is that she lets 1 investigator per round re-roll all failed dice.
    • Yig, on the start of his boss battle, instantly Curses all investigators (if they are already Cursed, they die). Curse makes all dice results instead of "6" count as failures, until it gets lifted (which is itself a Luck-Based Mission). Without it, he is relatively straightforward.
      • One of his Sinister plot cards allows him to use this again, which may lead to a Total Party Kill if the investigators failed to remove the original Curse by this moment.
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: A common item that is exhausted for a +1 luck bonus.
  • Magic Knight: There's no equipment restrictions; each investigator may use any item or spell, and if they so wish, may easily take a gun in one hand and a spell in another. Though some are still better at one role or another.
  • Maximum HP Reduction: When playing against Cthulhu, each investigator start with both max Sanity and max Stamina being reduced by 1. This is also his main form of attack in the last battle.
    • Besides Cthulhu, there are different ways to reduce (or, sometimes, even raise) your max Sanity and/or Stamina. Most of them are related to Personal Stories.
  • Mini-Boss: The titular Dunwich Horror. If you can't prevent its arrival, then a seemingly normal monster tile is added to the game. One with a laundry list of special rules. The Dunwich Horror has tons of health, can advance the doom track, and a deck of cards that randomise its combat stats, drawn after you enter combat with it. On one turn, it takes half damage and destroys all your gear; on the next, it has no special resistances but instantly kills you. Defeating it gives you any card you wish as a reward.
  • More Dakka: One of the strongest non-magic weapons in the game, the tommy gun, provides +6 bonus to Combat checks, greatly increasing the number of dice rolls player can make.
  • Nintendo Hard: Just how difficult the game is depends a lot on the Ancient One in play, the players' skill levels, and a good deal of luck. No matter what, it's generally very difficult to actually win.
    • The game itself without any expansions is not terribly difficult once you get used to it, but the expansions make the game considerably more difficult, mostly by adding an additional task that the players must work at to prevent the Ancient One from awakening prematurely. The difficulty varies by expansion; the earlier expansions were not too bad, while other ones, such as Innsmouth, make winning the game considerably more difficult, and sometimes you will lose in a manner which is almost completely unavoidable.
  • Nonstandard Game Over:
    • When playing against Azathoth, if he ever awakens, it's instant Game Over.
    • When playing against Shudde M'ell, if you ever must reveal a rubble token when all of them are already revealed, it's immediate game over.
    • When playing with King in Yellow expansion with Act Deck, if it ever progresses to Act 3, it is over (the Ancient One doesn't even wake up). The investigators must stall it at all costs.
  • No Saving Throw:
    • If playing against Yog-Sothoth, each time an investigator gets lost in time and space, (s)he is gone; the only investigator who can avoid this is Sister Mary, and only because her ability prevents her from being lost in time and space in the first place.
    • Quachil Uttaus will outright kill the current first player each turn, unless you somehow prevent him from attacking; unlike Atlach-Nacha, who has a similar form of attack, you can't substitute investigator for ally, or at least choose which investigator will be killed first, buying some time for the main damage dealers.
    • Zhar will first disable the first player's arm, and then kill him/her on the next turn, unless you prevent it from attacking.
    • On more general note, many "Sinister plot" cards include things like "first player dies before he may attack. Other investigators attack as usual", or something just as cheap. Though they are parts of the "Epic battle" set, which is completely optional to use.
  • No-Sell:
    • Some monsters (and Ancient Ones) have Immunities (either Physical or Magical), which prevents weapons/spells with the appropriate type of damage from being used against them. There's also a weaker form of this (which only halves bonuses), called Resistances. There's also one monster (Lloigor) who has Immunity to Weapon damage, meaning you may use only spells against it (basic Physical Immunity at least does not prevent the use of Magical weapons).
    • Some allies provide defence against some negative effects:
      • Eric Colt ally, besides providing a permanent bonus to Speed, also protects you from taking horror from the Nightmare effect on monsters.
      • Tom "Mountain" Murphy ally, besides providing a permanent bonus to Fight, also protects you from taking damage from the Overwhelming effect on monsters.
      • John Legrasse ally, besides providing a permanent bonus to Will, also allows you to ignore the Endless effect on monsters (it prevents them from being taken as trophies).
    • Couple of investigators have this kind of abilities, too:
      • Mark Harrigan can't be arrested or delayed, at all.
      • Sister Mary can't be lost in time in space (instead, she instantly returns to Arkham). This comes in handy when playing against Yog-Sothoth.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Azathoth is the Idiot Sultan, incredibly difficult to awaken and unhelpful toward those trying to wake him up. On the other hand, if he does wake up, it's The End of the World as We Know It. In the Innsmouth expansion, he becomes even more dangerous, as the rise of the Deep Ones can, in fact, wake him up. Other expansions have other mechanics to help speed up things, even if less potent.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Later versions of the rules specifically tell you to redraw if the initial draw is one of several card types likely to render the game unwinnable before it even starts if it's the first card drawn.
  • Oh, Crap!: The aptly named mythos card, "No One Can Help You Now", which prevents gates from being sealed.
  • One-Hit Kill:
  • One-Hit Polykill: Some of Ancient Ones' Sinister plots allows them to kill several investigators in one go, though specific criteria for choosing targets varies between Ancient Ones.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Averted. Fight and Lore are arguably the most important stats in the main aspects of the game; combat, spells, and gate closing. However, any stat can be called on during a random encounter, so focusing on your Fight/Lore can ultimately cause more harm than good.
  • One Steve Limit: Conjoined Twins Zhar/Lloigor are called by the former's name to distinguish them from the "Lloigor" enemy.
  • Persona Non Grata: Part of what causes the "barred from the neighbourhood" effect, preventing you from entering the locations in a neighbourhood.
  • Piñata Enemy: Mi-go are fairly weak and killing one gives you a unique item.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Many of the characters' backstories have this as a motivation. Examples include George Barnaby's wife, Kate Winthrop's professor, and Michael McGlen's friend.
  • Pocket Protector: In Third Edition, some items have Health, allowing you to place damage on it that would otherwise be taken by your investigator.
  • Point of No Continues: Normally, when an investigator is devoured, their player can choose a new one to continue play, but this is not the case during the battle with the Ancient One; if your investigator is dead, you are eliminated from the battle.
  • Power Creep: The expansions introduce bigger and badder bosses and monsters, heralds, and more ways for the Ancient One to Awaken. To compensate, stronger investigators, items, and skills are introduced.
    • In the regular game, most investigators have abilities like reducing damage, drawing extra X cards, or being able to restore Sanity and Health when in the same neighbourhood. Expansions introduce investigators with abilities such as being able to bypass horror checks, letting other investigators use your clue tokens, and making it much much easier to seal gates.
    • Slightly downplayed in that Cthulhu, Mandy Thompson, and the Elder Signs (one of the most powerful Ancient Ones, investigators, and items) are all part of the regular game.
  • The Professor: Professors Armitage and Walters.
  • Race Against the Clock: Trying to seal all the portals before the doom track fills and the Ancient One awakens.
  • Rag Tag Band Of Misfits: Very likely the player's investigative group. It's easy to have a group made up of a crooked Politician, a Federal Agent, a Street Urchin, and a Cook.
  • Random Encounters: There are two types of encounters – encounters in Arkham, and encounters in Other Worlds. The Black Goat of the Woods also added the possibility to join the cult of Shub-Niggurath and take special encounters at the cult's sites: Woods, Black Cave, or Unvisited Island.
  • Random Number God: Perhaps the real indescribable, eldritch horror in the game. Made more or less forgiving by the "blessed" (successes occur on die rolls of 4, 5, or 6) or "cursed" (successes only occur on a die roll of 6) statuses; a Cursed adventurer is generally screwed until they can shake it off or otherwise buy their way out of it at the church.
  • Sand Worm:
    • Dholes are massive, powerful burrowing worms that resist both kinds of damage, will harm your sanity and stamina regardless of rolls, and are just hard-hitting and hard to kill to boot.
    • Chthonians are squid-like burrowing worms that are fairly powerful, but their real threat comes from causing earthquakes that automatically damage all investigators in Arkham.
    • And then there's Shudde M'ell, an Ancient One who is essentially the god of Chtonians and can cause earthquakes strong enough to entirely devastate Arkham.
  • Reverse Mole: Any investigator may join the Silver Twilight Lodge or the cult of Shub-Nuggurath in hope to acquire something useful for the mission against Ancient One. This may backfire, though.
    • Diana Stanley starts with membership of Silver Twilight Lodge by default, and can't lose it. Her Personal Story depends on how successful she is at this role.
  • Sanity Meter: You have sanity points in addition to stamina. Sanity is lost casting spells, seeing monsters, or having stressful encounters; when you lose it all, you're sent to Arkham Asylum to recover.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Every time the terror level rises, someone from the ally deck is discarded, signifying people fleeing Arkham as monsters take over.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: A shotgun is one of available weapons in this game; its main gimmick is the ability to convert each 6 into two successes instead of one during attack.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many of the Allies are characters from Lovecraft's stories.
    • Several of the encounters at Velma's Diner make mention of the coffee and the cherry pie.
  • Skippable Boss: No Ancient One is mandatory to face in battle in order to win; it's perfectly possible to finish the game before the Doom track reaches the awakening threshold. In Azathoth's case, it's only way to win at all.
  • Snake People: Serpent People are borrowed from Robert E. Howard's Thurian Age, and cultists of Yig are actually disguised serpent priests.
  • Solo Tabletop Game: Listed for 1-8 player, solo play is made possible since monsters, generate, and events happen according to the Mythos deck. Also, the Ancient One has its own character template.
  • Special Attack: Each Ancient One (except for Azathoth) has 3 "Sinister Plot" cards, which are supposed to make the battle even more unfair. Each one of them may only trigger once (at random) when another "Epic Battle" card instructs so. They are only usable with "Epic Battle" cards, which are optional. Usually, they are either actual attacks or some defensive/regeneration abilities, but there's also some more exotic situations.
  • Stalked by the Bell: Each Ancient One has a Doom threshold; once it's reached, the Ancient One awakens and the final battle starts. Almost all Ancient Ones are capable of annihilating an ill-prepared (or just unlucky) team, so usually it's advisable to finish game before this happens.
  • Start X to Stop X: The spell "Call Ancient One." Using this card, you can summon the Ancient One yourself so you can fight it on your terms. (If you do this with Azathoth, you have no one to blame but yourself.)
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Hound of Tindalos may pursue investigators in any location except for St. Mary's Hospital and Arkham Asylum.
  • Support Party Member: Several investigators have abilities which helps other investigators (either by healing them, allowing to redo failed skill checks, etc). Often, such investigators have subpar basic stats, and require protection from their teammates.
  • Taken for Granite: The petrifying solution is a chemical from The King In Yellow that serves as a powerful one-shot weapon with a hefty combat bonus and ignoring the physical resistance and endless abilities. Amusingly, in the original story it was lifted from, the effect is only temporary.
  • Time Bomb: A common item that can detonate 1-3 turns after being placed, killing all monsters and investigators in the location.
  • Timed Mission:
    • Almost all Personal Stories are timed, either by the Doom track, or by the Terror level. To make things worse, some of them depend on something outside of the investigator's control.
    • Any play against Azathoth is this, since unlike other Ancient Ones, his awakening is instant game over.
  • Time-Limit Boss:
    • Most Ancient Ones limit the time you have to defeat them in battle, either by an explicit time limit, or by gradually consuming your limited resources and killing you once their supply dries up.
    • While playing with Epic Battle cards, there's always "The End of Everything" card, which instantly ends battle in failure. The earliest this may happen (barring some specific circumstances) is on the ninth turn.
    • Amongst not-Ancient Ones, this also applies to Tendril of Nyogtha (only used when played against Nyogtha Ancient One); you have exactly 3 turns to defeat it, you can't run from it, and if you fail, you get Devoured.
  • Tomato in the Mirror:
    • Drawing an Innsmouth Look card and discovering you are a Deep One hybrid.
    • If two gates to R'lyeh are open at the same time, Amanda Sharpe discovers the truth behind those dreams she's been having...
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: You can find famous Mythos books like the Necronomicon in this game. Reading them gives you a chance to learn spells or skills, at the cost of insanity.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Dunwich and especially Innsmouth. The difference being that in Dunwich, everyone is afraid of its secret, and in Innsmouth, everyone is part of it.
  • Turn Undead: The Cross is a magical weapon that only provides a combat bonus against undead enemies. It does, however, always provide a bonus to a horror check. Jim Culver, meanwhile, has a special ability that lets him spend a clue token to auto-defeat any undead foe.
  • The Undead: One of the possible traits which monster can have. They are vulnerable to the Cross (in fact, it only works on them).
  • Vertical Kidnapping: Nightgaunts will swoop in from above, overpower you, and drop you in the nearest portal. This can be beneficial; they will do this in other world locations and return you to Arkham, then allowing you to close the portal.
  • Whip It Good: A whip is available as a weapon.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Dunwich Horror expansion introduced an injury/madness mechanic. When an investigator gets knocked unconscious, they may choose, instead of discarding clues and items, to take injury card. This way, the investigator will save all their belongings and will restore their Stamina to the max (instead of leaving with just 1 point), but will be forced to draw an Injury card. Each Injury is unique and provides different permanent penalties for its wielder. Unlike normal damage, Injuries are much harder to get rid of, and if an investigator manages to collect two similar Injuries, they will be instantly devoured. Madnesses work in a similar manner for Sanity losses, but usually have more exotic effects. For example, Claustrophobia damages the Sanity of investigators who starts their turn in any named location (but not on streets or in Other World), while Violent Outbursts forbids to take evasion attempts against monsters.
  • Zonk: While most of the cards in the Exhibit Encounter deck from the Revised Curse of the Dark Pharaoh provide an opportunity to gain an Exhibit Item, one of them can result in the top card of the Exhibit Item deck being removed from play automatically.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report