25 October 2010

Arkham Horror - Dunwich Horror [boardgame review]

Dunwich Horror was the first boardbased expansion for Arkham Horror. And as I mentioned in my Arkham Horror review the basic game Is pretty much made for adding expansions to it to make it a richer and more flavorful experience.

The story “the Dunwich Horror” upon which this expansion is based was written by H.P. Lovecraft and is one of my favourites and I would class it as a trademark work of Lovecraft.  It’s about this weird character “Wilbur Whateley” who lives in the small village of Dunwich, some distance from Arkham. Born to a deformed albino mother and an unknown father his appearance became more deformed and twisted the older he became. He grew much faster than a regular human too. Wilbur houses something in the barn which make the other villagers suspicious, Wilbur keeps leading lots of cattle in there but never brings anything out. At some point he travels to Arkham in search of  the Necronomicon, which he needs badly for some reason. The people at the library in Arkham do have the book, but refuse to lend it to him – so he breaks into the library at night attempting to steal the book but gets attacked and killed by guard dogs. When he is found it appears that he was something more than just a “human”. Meanwhile in Wilburs absence something bad happens in Dunwich, the mysterious barn at the Wilbur property gets ripped apart and something huge stalks the countryside killing cattle and terrorizing the villagers.

So there’s your new additional victory condition for Arkham Horror, just like before you have to close gates to other dimensions to prevent the arrival of an Elder god – and at the same time you have this new location of Dunwich added above your original board, where you can (and most often have to) travel in order to prevent the “Dunwich horror” from reaching maturity and breaking loose.

The new board if only 1/3 of the original board size, and features 3 new districts and a total of 9 locations where you can interact and investigate stuff. It also features a Dunwich Horror track of its own, along with 3 “Vortex” locations. You also get a “Dunwich Horror” monster marker, along with 3 “Dunwich Horror” track markers and a deck of Dunwich Horror cards.

So what happens here is that this board works just like your Arkham Board, you draw location cards and resolve them as usual. Clues will appear here, and sometimes gates will open in Dunwich and release a monster or two just like in the original. The difference here is that the monster movement in Dunwich is made in such a way that monsters travel into the “vortex locations”. Each time a monster disappears into a vortex you add 1 Dunwich token to the Dunwich Horror track. Once all 3 tokens have been placed, the barn explodes and releases the Dunwich Horror to roam the village freely. And you don’t want that to happen, since this monster is WAY harder to kill than anything regular coming out of the gates. Not only is it tough as hell, it fights using both its printed stats as well as drawing one Dunwich Horror card from the deck and applying further bonuses. It is not as tough as the Elder Gods, but not far from it either. And every time it moves on the Dunwich board there is a chance a doom token will be added to the Elder God doom track, speeding up the arrival of that entity in Arkham!

So a good idea is to let one member of your investigation crew travel to Dunwich and keep any monster that appears there from entering the Vortex locations.

Dunwich Horror like any expansion features additional “generic components” that can be used with all expansions and with the original game at any time. These are new Unique items, Weapons, Skills, Spells, Allies, Arkham Location cards, new monster tokens, new Elder Gods and new investigators!

The new Elder Gods and investigators are a much welcome addition. The Dunwhich board also features two new “Other World” locations that come with their own gate tokens. The rulebook includes a good “FAQ/Errata” part which tweaks the original game and corrects some minor flaws to make the original game more enjoyable – too many to list here but they are all good.

Among the new rules there is the “stalker” rule for monsters, which are generic for all Arkham expansions and the original game. These new monsters either move as normal, or move directly to any investigator in an adjacent location and attacks them.

The greatest addition however are the two new decks “Injury” & “Madness”. These are gold, and are generic for the game as well which is great. In the original game, when you were reduced to 0 stamina or sanity you had to lose half your gear and move to either the asylum or the hospital area to be revived. Now you can opt to draw one injury or madness card, you still move to either the hospital or the asylum, but at least you have your gear intact. The tradeoff is the permanent injury or insanity you’ve been afflicted with. They range from your most usual physical injuries and mental disorders and add another layer of Lovecraftian sadism to the game. You are free to draw a new card each time you are reduced to 0 stamina or sanity – beware however, that should you draw another card with the identical injury or insanity your character will be killed right away!

There are also new common / unique item cards that feature ”missions” and “tasks”. They range from moving in a certain pattern between a few locations, to sacrificing various stuff in specific order to gain clue tokens, and boosts to your main missions (stopping the Elder God).

So I really must recommend Dunwich horror since it really adds a lot of good and meaningful content that you can use with the original as well as with all other expansions. New investigators and Elder Gods are all great fun, and will add variation to your games as you will have much more to pick from, your Arkham Locations will be boosted with new location cards adding variation there as well, new monsters, new permanent features such as the Injury&Madness, Stalker movement, new common and unique item cards featuring “Tasks” and “missions” for your investigators to solve and the new board itself – while small still rich in character and flavor.

Playing Arkham the original, stripped of all these new features is now impossible for me and my boardgaming buddies. The new features are quite easy to get a hang on, and it does not make the original too “heavy” or anything when played with all these new stuff. You will however possibly need to start organizing your components so that they can be separated quickly from each expansion when needed. All new Dunwich Horror stuff is marked with a little barn symbol in the corner.

Highly recommended!

Get this game at GameManiacs!

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