15 November 2010

Arkham Horror - Innsmouth Horror [Boardgame review]

The boardgame reviews are back from a week long break. The reason was I tossed around some ideas with my boardgame blog sponsor GameManiacs for a new feature that could be implemented with these reviews. But as Christmas is closing in that idea will probably be postponed till early next year.

Ever since I bought and played the original Arkham Horror I was waiting for the Innsmouth expansion.  The H.P. Lovecraft novel “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” is one of my favorites if not THE favorite Lovecraft story. I find that particular novel full of memorable characters, locations, detail, and the buildup of things going wrong for the main character is fantastic.

The story of the novel is about a man going to a seaside town called “Innsmouth”, on a mission to investigate the family who has taken over town, “The Marsh family”. As he arrives the town is mostly deserted, the buildings are all crumbling, people are extremely unfriendly and have  a strange appearance. Lovecraft usually writes dark and creepy settings but I find Innsmouth to be one of the crown jewels in the “Cthulhu mythos”. The main character unfolds a morbid secret of human sacrifice, cross breeding, ancient gods, mutants, murder and a crazy twist at the very end. I really recommend reading that novel, and if you don’t want to buy a Lovecraft collection you can most likely find it somewhere on the internet in one of the many Lovecraft dedicated websites featuring his works.

This review may contain spoilers to the novel.

So, Innsmouth Horror. This is the third boardbased expansion released by Fantasy Flight Games, and the most recent one in this category (Lurker at the Treshold being the latest cardbased expansion). The amount of new stuff you get in this expansion is impressive, the board itself catches the story of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” perfectly, and there are a few new features on the Innsmouth board.   First of all, and once again, you get a ton of “generic” components like common items/spells/unique items, you get more location cards for your original Arkham board, a bag of new monster tokens. In connection with this potst I will make a guide for a smart system used by many Arkham Horror players for keeping all the components separated and sorted out - as you will have a ton of those by this point.

But of course the main reason for getting an expansion is the completely new stuff. And Innsmouth Horror does not disappoint. You get 16 new investigators and 8 new Ancient Ones!   Many of these have special rules linking them to the town of Innsmouth. At this point, if you have the original Arkham Horror, and both Dunwich and Innsmouth expansions you will have 40 investigators and 20 Ancient ones!!

Let’s have a look at the new board before we move on the the other components. The board represents the seaside town of Innsmouth. Locations are just like in the Dunwich expansion taken from the novel this expansion is based upon, and just like in Dunwich you get 3 new districts with 3 locations in each. Readers of the novel will instantly recognize the names of these locations. Just like with Dunwich you travel to the new town of Innsmouth by train. You get two new markers (Aquatic Markers) which are placed on your original Arkham Horror board in the River Docks and Unvisited Isle locations. You travel to Innsmouth from the River docks, one of the new characters can travel freely between Aquatic Locations though. Some of the new monsters coming with Innsmouth Horror are “Aquatic” and always use the Aquatic Locations in their favor whenever they can move towards a character.

One of the new features of the Innsmouth board is the “sneak check” printed on many locations. Since Innsmouth is completely in the hands of the evil and corrupt villagers, it is far more dangerous than any other town or location. Hence once the Doom Track on the Ancient One sheet reaches a certain level – martial law is declared in Innsmouth and things get rough. Players can no longer move around freely but have to pass sneak checks in Innsmouth if they want to move deeper into the town. A failed sneak check results in being thrown in jail by the towns police force. Players in jail have to be freed by other players by going to the “Sawbone alley” location behind the jail.

The Innsmouth board also features a “Deep Ones Rising/Federal Raid” track instead of additional Other Dimension locations. And this new track brings extra urgency into the gameplay.  What happens is that whenever a gate is prevented from opening by a “sealed location” or whenever a monster walks into any the Vortex locations a Deep One Rising token is placed on the appropriate area on the track. If this track fills up then the Ancient One instantly awakens – even if the Doom track hasn’t been filled! Players have to prevent this from happening by going to Innsmouth and spend Clue Tokens in their Upkeep phase. Whenever the Federal Raid track is filled up with Clue Tokens the Deep Ones Rising track is knocked down to 0 and it all starts all over again.

And back to the new components.

You get a completely new deck of cards called “Personal stories”, this deck covers EVERY single character released to this point, so even if you don’t have all expansions you will get personal stories for the characters you can find in Kingsport and Dunwich Horror. These stories are given to the appropriate character at the beginning of the game and consist of a character specific mission that the player can opt to complete. There is a permanent bonus and a permanent penalty should you complete/fail your mission. Some of these missions are hard, some are easy. The reward follows the difficulty on the mission.

The new Aquatic monsters instantly move to and attack investigators located in Aquatic locations, they can also move as usual following the black/white arrows printed on the board while moving on land. Some monster now also have Weapon Immunity, which means you will not get any combat bonus at all from any kind of weapon be it magical or physical – you’ll have to beat them with your basic combat profile printed on your character sheet.

There is another new deck called “Innsmouth look”, at certain points and because of certain locations being visited the player will be ordered to draw one or more “Innsmouth look” cards to see whether or not he is in fact a descendant of this wretched place and joins his ancestors in the sea! There is only one “You have the Innsmouth Look” card in that deck, but should you draw it you will count as “Devoured”, required to scrap your character and place a Deep One on the board in your place!

There is also a deck of cards covering all the new Ancient ones with 3 cards each, for a alternate final battle variant featured in the “Kingsport Horror” expansion. Should you not have that game I believe you can still check out the rules for that feature on the Fantasy Flight Games site as they frequently release rulebooks for public review.

Among the new Ancient Ones/Elder gods you will find certain rules that are accompanied by tokens, extra deck of cards and even specific monster tokens that are only used in the game with a specific Ancient One.

The game also features 2 Heralds. Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, both from the Cthulhu mythos, you can opt to play with one or both at the same time depending on how hard you want to make it for yourself. Combine them both with Cthulhu and you will get an epic struggle that  could possibly be the toughest combination in the game. Both Heralds make things much more difficult, raising the bar considerably.

Just like in Dunwich Horror the Innsmouth rulebook contains a FAQ section explaining most of the questions and problems a player might run into playing any of the Arkham Horror expansions and even the original.

I would say that this expansion adds a lot of new stuff, just like in Dunwich Horror. It has a great setting and atmosphere, it makes the game considerably more difficult. The new Mythos cards accompanying this game should as always make up at least 50% of your mythos deck when playing an expansion to really get good use of the new board. As far as content goes it is pretty much a tie between Dunwich and Innsmouth Horror.  They are both really good in adding extra everything to the Arkham Horror game and I guess which one you get is a matter of taste.  Should you get both you will have a LOT of new decks, components and characters that can crossover all expansions and be used with the original.

Get this game at GameManiacs

And make sure to check out my blog for the “Arkham Horror – organizing game components” entry if you want to see how I get by with the hundreds upon hundreds of cards, tokens, and game components for this game series without getting an aneurysm or mental breakdown.

 A few more pictures of the Innsmouth Horror components, new characters, new Ancient Ones, Innsmouth district cards and Innsmouth themed Mythos cards.

1 comment:

  1. Quick corrections: This set does not come with any new commons, uniques, or spells, contrary to what this review states. It is also possible to escape the Innsmouth Prison without Sawbone Alley assistance, it's just a little harder.


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