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Tabletop Game / Eldritch Horror

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"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H.P. Lovecraft

Eldritch Horror is an Amerigame spinoff of Arkham Horror from Fantasy Flight Games. Like Arkham Horror, it is an Adventure Board Game based on the Cthulhu Mythos, and the two games share many mechanics. Set in the 1920s, Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game in which players take on the roles of investigators and travel the world solving mysteries in an attempt to stop the Ancient One from awakening.

Despite its much larger scale (the entire globe as opposed to just one city and some smaller, surrounding towns), Eldritch Horror is actually a quicker game than Arkham Horror.

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

  • All Asians Know Martial Arts/All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Lily Chen, the Chinese player character, was raised by kung-fu monks.
  • Amulet of Dependency: Numerous investigators, particularly from expansions, aren't all that great on their own, but they start with specific gear that suits their abilities or is simply highly useful by itself. If they lose that specific asset, they are either significantly weakened or, in more extreme cases, rendered completely useless. For example, Daisy Walker can be a fantastic clue generator... because she starts with Old Journal, rather than anything innate to her abilities. Meanwhile, the entire gameplay loop of Darrell Simmons depends on him having his starting Camera on him at all times - without it, he's worthless. And so on and forth.
  • Artifact of Doom: At least a few examples in the artifacts deck, and often offering kick-ass bonuses to tempt players to keep them despite their horrific drawbacks.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Diana Stanley has multiple issues regarding her abilities, both passive and active ones:
      • Diana Stanley's Action ability allows her to move a cultist on her space anywhere on the map, or to remove all other monsters on her space if one of them is a cultist. While this may seem useful at first, it's extremely dependent on circumstances the player has no control over: monsters are pulled randomly from a bag, so there's no guarantee that any cultist will ever appear, let alone appear at the right time, in a given game. However, her ability shines against Yig, as Yig wants to spawn cultists to trigger his effects.
      • Diana herself may be considered awesome, yet impractical. Sure, she's a monster with spells, with a starting Lore of four and the Arcane Manuscripts asset (+1 Lore when resolving spell effects)... but her maximum Sanity is five and her starting Will is one. Even with her passive ability being "reduce the Horror of monsters you encounter to one", she's quite likely to go insane after a few fights... and her free Wither spell? It only works in combat, meaning that she will have to roll her pathetic Will before she gets a chance to use it.
    • Lily Chen's ability to instantly double any improvement to her stats, while extremely useful in making her a Jack of All Trades that can reasonably handle any threat, can also lead newer players into a wild goose chase to improve every stat and wasting valuable time (and becoming The Load instead, as that time could have been spent helping to win the game). It doesn't help that her Personal Quest revolves around this.
  • The Atoner: Diana Stanley, the redeemed cultist.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Maniac monster is implied to be this. Honestly, so are Cultists and all other human enemies, but the Maniac gets bonus points because you actually get an Axe asset for defeating one!
  • Bigger Stick: As far as the game is concerned, it doesn't matter who the investigators are or what they are facing. As long as one side of the combat has better Strength, they have a far greater chance of winning. In fact, certain fights can only be successful if one is properly armed, as the Ancient One or the monster might be immune to regular attacks.
  • Brain in a Jar: The Mi-Go Brain Case, featured as an artifact and in a few of the Other World encounters. For those who don't know about the Mi-go, brains put in the Mi-go jars are still very much alive and aware.
  • Cast from Sanity: Many artifacts and some spells require you to spend sanity points as part of their effects.
  • Chainsaw Good: Masks of Nyarlathotep expansion added chainsaw as potential equipment. By itself, it's already above average, offering +3 Strength for combat encounters... but also makes each 6 count as two successes. With either strong investigator or just about any item offering rerolls, chainsaw can turn into mince even Epic Monsters.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Along the investigators, the only religious figures are a Catholic priest and a nun. When Christian figures are mentioned at all, they are also Catholic. Ironically, Father Mateo starts with King James Bible. You know, the Protestant English translation, further made infamous for its Broad Strokes nature.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: One of the allies you can recruit is explicitly female and explicitly classy burglar.
  • Cloak and Dagger: The art for the Agency Quarantine asset shows a group of men in black using conventional weapons to perform a siege on a building.
  • Cool Plane: The Charter Flight asset, which allows to instantly move by 2 fields.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: By both sides. With the right combination of artifacts, assets, and spells, an investigator can kill almost any monster in the game in just one turn. The same can be said for investigators who get caught by a large group of monsters when unprepared.
  • Crystal Ball: The Glass of Mortlan artifact, which gives additional bonuses when casting spells.
  • Darkest Africa: The Heart of Africa is an Expedition location. All the common cliches are played straight when there are location-specific encounters.
  • The Day of Reckoning: Played with during "Reckoning events", but played straight with the Ancient One slowly waking up.
  • Deader than Dead: Losing all your Health or Sanity results in your character being taken out of the game, but the other players can still retrieve your possessions and possibly reverse the Doom track loss incurred by your defeat. However, it's also possible to be "devoured", which not only unescapably kills your character (regardless of remaining Health/Sanity), but everyone else can forget about getting back your assets or undoing that Doom advance.
  • Deadly Gas: The Poison Mist spell. Also a possible Expedition encounter.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Mostly averted, unlike in Arkham Horror. If your character is taken out due to Health or Sanity loss, there is no bringing them back. However, another investigator can encounter them where they fell, allowing you to recover their possessions and possibly gain some other benefit such as reducing Doom.note  In any case, players can start with a brand new character the next round.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Syndicate Agent and Agent of Secrets, to name a few.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Defeating any of the Ancient Ones qualifies. If Shub-Niggurath, Ithaqua, or Cthulhu himself awaken, the investigators must defeat them in direct combat.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Mandy Thompson's personal story, if solved successfully, forces the game to act as if there was 1 less investigator. This means the group can be bigger than usual (say, 5 or even 7 people, but always uneven number), which will rack up the starting difficulty, but after the first mystery is solved, Mandy automatically finishes her personal story and from that moment on, the difficulty of the entire game scales down due to having fewer investigators. And depending on the Ancient One in play, even a "regular" decrease in the investigator count can make a huge difference.
  • Disaster Dominoes:
    • The bread and butter of the game in general. Failing a single, but vital roll can not only fail local action, but effectively drag down the entire game, due to not solving Mystery on time, leaving a gate opened or a monster with a really bad Reckoning effect alive for one more turn. By itself, it's a small set-back, but can easily cause various other elements to trigger, up to causing a game over.
    • When Personal Stories are in play, getting the Doom counter below 8 (and most definitely to 6 or less) will cause variety of those Stories to instantly fail. That in turn will make the affected Investigators severely crippled in their ability to deal with the encounters, which in turn will trigger the standard domino effect of failing tasks.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Well, obviously.
  • Emergency Stash: The Reserve can be seen as this.
  • Epic Fail: The games description of a player trying to escape a tribe of Jaguar People. Should they fail, the Investigator fails to convince them they are the tribes God, tries running and smacks face first into a wall.
  • Everyone Has a Special Move: Every investigator has one Action and one passive ability, which changes the way they interact with the game and their teammates. The change itself might be a minor thing or something significantly altering the rules.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy: Many of the weapons in the artifact deck, such as the Lightning Gun, which does exactly what you think it does.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Dark Pacts that players can get slapped with usually end with either their character dying or (less often) being forced to pick another player's character to die. One Dark Pact variant, however, simply gimps all your character's stats to the maximum degree, forcing you to continue with greatly diminished capacity. In this scenario, it's easy to wish your character had died instead.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Many cards feature this in their artwork. It is also the consequence of being defeated by Sanity damage.
  • Healing Potion: The Elixir of Life and Milk of Shub-Niggurath artifacts. To a lesser extent, Whiskey, which heals sanity (either the investigator needs a little help fighting dimensional horrors or just really, really needs a drink).
  • Hollywood Healing: A frequent consequence of failing an encounter is damage or an Injury condition, which can quickly be healed.
  • Heroes Unlimited: The base game included 16 investigators, but expansions have brought this to over 50.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: Antarctica is one of the Expedition locations.
    • The "Mountains of Madness" expansion, based on Lovecraft's story of the same name, introduces an entirely new board focusing solely on Antarctica.
  • Heroic BSoD: Some Madness conditions can cause this.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Several of the investigators as well as some Ally assets.
  • Instrument of Murder: Played straight with the Bone Pipes artifact, which deals damage to monsters if you pass a lore check, or the Flute of the Outer Gods which can banish all monsters on the investigator’s space, assuming they have the Health and Sanity to cover the cost.
  • Latex Perfection: The Pallid Mask artifact allows you to ignore monster encounters, though it's probably not made from latex...
  • Little Useless Gun: The .18 Derringer might sound like a literal pea-shooter when facing ancient horrors from other dimensions, but it has one very useful ability: adding +1 to an outcome of a single die used for a Strength roll in combat. Not re-roll, simply add. You'd be surprised how many 4s (and 3s when Blessed) there can be in a roll.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Any item, trinket, ally or state that allows you to re-roll or increase a die outcome definitely counts.
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: Unlike other re-roll items, the rabbit's foot can be used in any given context, rather than being pre-definied to specific stat or situation. And Lily Chen starts with it.
  • Magical Star Symbols: The game depicts the Elder Sign, a powerful Protective Charm from the Mythos, as an off-kilter pentagram with a central eye.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Averted with Tokyo encounters. An investigator may be able to convince the Emperor or the High Command of the threat the world faces, and they respond by deploying the Japanese military to eliminate one monster, or even entire stack of them in a single location. Or at the very least harm something, making it easier to take down by investigators. Obviously, the players will generally choose the most dangerous monster on the map (or, in certain situations, the most remote ones), which implies that a star-spawn or dhole has a very unpleasant encounter with the Imperial Japanese Navy cannonade.
  • Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: The Lost in Time and Space condition removes the investigator from play and causes them to ignore all game events, including a Mythos card event that would have normally killed them. This can also be played straight if you use an asset or artifact to mitigate an otherwise fatal blow or to recover enough Health or Sanity to avoid defeat.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • The first expansion for the game, Forsaken Lore, introduced one tiny little rule: before you can encounter a Legendary Monster, you must encounter every non-Legendary monster on the same space. That can seem like a minor change, but some awakened Great Old Ones can and must be fought physically to end the game... and, at least in the case of Shub-Niggurath (who's based on stacking a lot of other monsters in her space), being able to cut straight to the boss could turn an otherwise very difficult encounter almost into a cakewalk.
    • Mountains of Madness introduced Focus points. Prior to that, the only way to get re-rolls was to either have a specific item or an ally offering such option in just as specific situation or burning a highly-valuable Clue, which are routinely in both short supply and high demand to advance Mysteries. Focus points were introduced specifically to solve this resource issue, as they can be gained freely as an action and used at any time for a re-roll. They also filled the gap that sometimes happens when players don't have any meaningful action to make and thus would have to simply pass their move without any gain.
  • One-Hit Kill: Some Mythos cards can instantly kill investigators even if they are at full Health or Sanity.
  • Permadeath: When an Investigator runs out of Health or Sanity, that is it for them. They don't necessarily die in story terms though, but often get crippled or become insane depending if they were defeated by Health or Sanity loss respectively. Regardless, they are not capable of finishing their mission, so you'll need to pick someone else to continue playing.
  • Piñata Enemy: Cultists, being very easy to defeat, can turn into this with correct items, allowing to easily farm them for spells, clues, useful gear or progressing Personal Stories (or even Mysteries).
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Inverted. If players are allowed to pick their Investigators, it is possible to assemble a party perfectly tailored for dealing with the specific Ancient One. Sometimes even few different parties, given the sheer number of characters to pick.
  • Pocket Dimension: The Lost in Time and Space condition, and quite literally the Satchel of the Void artifact.
  • Power at a Price: Variety of items, artifacts and especially spells require to shed some of your Sanity (and rarely, Health) when used. There are also encounter cards that offer very powerful buffs... for taking a Dark Pact.
  • Power Creep: Various expansions introduced just as many new items, spells and mechanics that rendered pre-existing elements of the game severely underpowered when compared. Including even things from earlier expansions.
  • The Power of Friendship: Many investigators' abilities grant benefits to other investigators when they are in the same space together.
    • Minh Thi Phan has an ability that increases all of her skills by 1, but it only works if she is in the same space as another investigator or has an Ally asset.
  • Random Effect Spell: Every spell has a consistent main effect that you're guaranteed to get if you cast it correctly, plus a variety of possible side-effects that depend on how well you cast it.
  • Random Event: Each time you interact with a city, an expedition, a gate or an event, you draw a random card and read specific blurb from it, affecting what you're supposed to do and what's happening.
  • Random Number God: The basis of all gameplay, since everything is decided by a combination of randomly drawn cards and rolls of dice pools. You might never get the asset or spell you need, or you can get all the useful gear right at the game's start. You could have 10 dice in your pool and still fail the roll... or you could roll a 6 on a single die at the crucial moment. And to make things even worse, various spells, conditions and assets have multiple instances, but backs of their cards are radically different, so you might either draw incredibly useful (or simply harmless) stuff or get the variant where you would rather never use it at allExplanation .
  • Right-Hand Hottie: The Personal Assistant asset, who helps with Influence skill tests.
  • Sadistic Choice: As if the Dark Pacts weren't particularly nasty Deal with the Devil sort of thing, one of them as a Reckoning effect forces you to choose another investigator to be instantly devoured.
  • Stock Weapon Names: Many of the firearm assets, such as Double-Barreled Shotgun, Carbine Rifle, Tommy Gun, etc.
  • Spell Blade: Many weapons in the artifact deck, such as the Sword of St. Jerome or the Khopesh of the Abyss, are swords that boost Will or Lore stats or have other magical abilities.
  • The Tunguska Event: Tunguska is one of the locations on the world map, and the "Seed of Azathoth" mystery card requires the characters to investigate a mysterious meteor that came to earth there.
  • The Unchosen One:
    • All of the investigators joined by their own volition.
    • Played with in case of Lily Chen when personal stories are in play. If she fails hers, she is declared unchosen one, after spending her entire life as The Chosen One.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Cat Burglar vs. expensive items. Even if you have an investigator with high Influence, it is simply more probable you will roll either a 5 or 6 on a single die than four or five of those to buy what you need.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Just like in other games he appears in, Silas Marsh the sailor does not appear to own any shirts.
  • We Work Well Together: Various investigators have special abilities that, if conditions are met, provide bonus to everyone on the same field or allow to access some unique ability together. Most of those are dedicated supports, but not all.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: A variety of spells come with effects that make them not worth using at all, or additional penalties that render the already lackluster effects to count as being Blessed with Suck. And that without mentioning their Reckoning effects.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Defeating Maniac, a low-tier, will always generate an Axe asset for the player who did the killing. Furthermore, by spending Sanity - thus going into a frenzy like the maniac who owned it - player can re-roll any number of dice during a combat encounter when using Axe.