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TheHil

Best H.P. Lovecraft Game?

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 I posed this question in the Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness and Elder Sign forums and wanted to get everyone's take- in your opinion, what is the best H.P. Lovecraft-inspired game in Fantasy Flight Games' catalog? I'm trying to decide which one to try first. Arkham Horror sounds pretty cool, as does Mansions of Madness but I hear it has some balancing issues. How's the Call of Cthulu LCG? 

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My vote goes to Arkham Horror. I haven't played Mansions of Madness yet, though. It might be even better, but I slightly dislike that it requires a 'Game Master'.

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 They all have different senses to them, so I'm not sure how one could judge "best."  Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, and Mansions of Madness all have a cooperative aspect to them where the characters are living out a "story" in the HPL universe.  Mansions of Madness requires a game master, and does involve some cool puzzle solving aspects.  Arkham Horror, the grandaddy of them, is an epic game about trying to seal the Ancient One before he/she/it awakens, and Elder Sign is a dice driven version of Arkham Horror is a relatively quick version of Arkham Horror.

Call of Cthulhu, the LCG, is a player vs player game (you can play multiplayer too  - but every player for him/herself).  It involves deck building and the story happens as a result of the matchup between the two players.  There may or may not be an Ancient One involved in a given story, depending on the deck builds facing off.  It is a very different game than the other 3, but still retains the HPL flavor and feel.  It's my favorite, but then I usually prefer PvP over cooperative.

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I'm pretty sure the answer has to be either Arkham Horror or Call of Cthulhu LCG if you're restricting it to board/card games.  Elder Signs is too light and not thematic enough to be seriously considered the best.  I haven't played Mansions but the impression I get is that it's mostly Arkham Horror Lite and probably wouldn't even exist if Arkham Horror wasn't so long.  A game you play only when you don't have time to play the "real" game doesn't seem like it could be rightly regarded as the best.

If you don't limit it to board/card games, then add the Call of Cthulhu RPG to the list, but it's a very different animal I think.

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RPG: This category is sort of monolithic because a bunch of games incorporate Lovecraft elements but the actual Chaosium Call of Cthulhu RPG is the essential game.  I have been a player and DM in multiple eras and find this to be one of the best rounded HPL experiences with a wealth of resource materials.

Card Based: Call of Cthulhu vs. Mythos. CoC has more of a competitive board position and resource based in your face gamer feel.  The look and feel of the cards are very Lovecraft but the game play lacks the subtle intimation of unseen horrors common to Lavecraft's writings.  Mythos captures the actual flavor better with the story and insanity driven win conditions.  However, the game play can seem like parallel solitaire, particularly when two investigator decks are pitted against each other.  When going the Mythos route I suggest avoiding the New Eon set completely if maintaining a Lovecraft feel is the desired result.

Board: Arkham Horror is king, great game in terms of design and flavor.  If you are a table top gamer I would call this a must have in your collection even if you are not specifically seeking an HPL theme. Elder Sign is a gateway experience to entice new gamers into the world of HPL.  I have played DM for Mansions of Madness and IMO it is a money pit with nice figures made for people who want to RPG the Lovecraft world but lack the skills, time, or imaginations to do it from the plethora of source materials already out there.  I say it is a money pit becasue the replay value is even lower than indicated.  Playing the same scenario with the same players using the alternate "twists" can be NFE for all and the expansions are $15 for around 60 cards and a reference sheet.

Computer or Video: Sorry, do not know becasue the last one I played was the original Alone in the Dark (Great Game BTW) but that was ancient history...

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dboeren said:

I'm pretty sure the answer has to be either Arkham Horror or Call of Cthulhu LCG if you're restricting it to board/card games.  Elder Signs is too light and not thematic enough to be seriously considered the best.  I haven't played Mansions but the impression I get is that it's mostly Arkham Horror Lite and probably wouldn't even exist if Arkham Horror wasn't so long.  A game you play only when you don't have time to play the "real" game doesn't seem like it could be rightly regarded as the best.

If you don't limit it to board/card games, then add the Call of Cthulhu RPG to the list, but it's a very different animal I think.

dboeren said:

I haven't played Mansions but the impression I get is that it's mostly Arkham Horror Lite and probably wouldn't even exist if Arkham Horror wasn't so long.  A game you play only when you don't have time to play the "real" game doesn't seem like it could be rightly regarded as the best.

You're still talking about Elder Signs here, right?

Mansions is the one that is closest to playing the CoC RPG. Of all mentioned game titles it's probably the closest simulation of what the novels are about.

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I actually did mean Mansions, but I suppose you could apply the same description to Elder Sign.  Keep in mind, I have not played Mansions for myself, only spoken with some who did and they tended to describe it as "Arkham Horror Lite".  Maybe that's a mis-characterization?

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dboeren said:

they tended to describe it as "Arkham Horror Lite".  Maybe that's a mis-characterization?

 

It is indeed a mischaracterization.

Arkham Horror deals in the macrocosm of lovecraftian settings. Travveling between towns to find a way to keep the elder evils at bay.

Mansions deals in the microcosm of lovecraftian settings, never leaving the single building they are investigating.

Both are very seperate games. And for anyone to say that Mansions is shorter than Arkham is a definite uninformed opinion. The people who said that they have played it who described it to you clearly have no clue as to what the hell they are talking about. Set up time takes just as long if not longer for mansions and games tend to last just as long if not longer than Arkham as well.

Arkham-lite mansions of migraines is not.

 

As for answering the OP question of what is the best Lovecraftian game... well thats purely subjective of course. Your best bet to find what you beleive to the best best lovecraftian game lies in reviews many people have left behind for such games online.

Personally, I think the tabletop miniature skirmish game Strange Aeons trumps any Lovecraft game FFG makes by a long shot. As one example of how varied opinions are.

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Thanks for the clarifications regarding Mansions of Madness.

I really want to find out more about Strange Aeons now though.  I've played a lot of minis games and this might be right up my alley :)

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I own and love Mansions, Arkham Horror, CoC LCG, and Elder Sign (both board and iOS).

Each game manages to recreate different aspects and types of stories without the Lovecraft canon:

 

Arkham Horror really captures the cosmic/world ending dangers like those found in The Dunwhich Horror of The Call of Cthulhu.  If I''m looking to try and wrap my arms around the ''bigness'' of HPL''s ideas, this does it the best for me.

 

Mansions of Madness, is similar to a one shot or small multi session RPG scenario, it captures the adventure/explorer stories that are more focused such as The Lurking Fear, Rats in the Walls, or The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The insular nature of the story/presentation allows one to fully suss out the depths and detail of a scenario and Lovecraft certainly loved to put atmosphere and detail at the forefront of his pieces. I love this for when I need my RPG itch scratched.

 

CoC LCG evokes well the intertextuality of Lovecraft''s work, whether it''s Randolph Carter appearing throughout HPL''s stories in both lead and support roles,  the way that Nyarlathotep has varying degrees of influence and effect (and form) in many stories, or how the Necronomicon seems to shift and morph through the canon; garnering numerous name drops as well as the occasional direct appearance.  The idea that all of these disparate factions and characters are not really so out of place side by side and that all are ultimately linked in some indirect way when you pull on enough loose threads has great appeal to me and really gets to the core of the Mythos.

 

Elder Sign is really the odd one out, because it tries to have the cosmic scope of AH while attempting to maintain some of the adventure party feel of Mansions of Madness.  Ultimately of course its just a direct interpretation of Horror in the Museum with a little bit of the Cabot Museum from Out of Aeons thrown in for good measure.  I think it does a very good job at being fun and interesting and having lots of call outs to different games, art assets, and aspects of the Lovecraft universe, but instead of the metaphysical conceit of the LCG it''s very much a literal manifestation.

 

Personally, I can''t choose ''the best'' unless I know what sort of mood I''''m in, however the Elder Sign iPad game gets the most play due to the short and portable nature of it with Arkham Horror following second due to its co-op design.

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ragnarhedin said:

Personally, I can''t choose ''the best'' unless I know what sort of mood I''''m in, however the Elder Sign iPad game gets the most play due to the short and portable nature of it with Arkham Horror following second due to its co-op design.

Ditto. If an iPad LCG was made I'd never get any work done, because it would be the handiest, but I can't pick a favourite among the games. I consider the RPG and Arkham Horror the greatest, in terms of development, thanks to their age. Arkham Horror has a very impressive pile of stuff if you buy all the expansions, and it's easily going to fill an evening, like the RPG, but with more teardown time than setup time :)

The RPG has covered all the stuff (or close enough) from the inner circle (Lovecraft and contemporary authors who ended up writing in the mythos then or later). For people who have played it all you'll need the keeper to come up with new stories, but there is much to play, if you can get it, for new players.

The LCG I feel sometimes needs as much work as a roleplaying session just to come up with some decks of cards. I'm generally the only one with the game in my circles nowadays, but I'm always looking for guinea-pigs. Once started it can be over quickly, though. Or it could drag on for 90 minutes with counter after counter and a lot of back and forth.

I haven't played Mansions of Madness, and with the local price I'm not really all that interested either. $140 from the web shop of the one ULGS (unpleasant local gaming store) we have! Maybe $20 cheaper from the competing store farther away. I like the concept and all, but I'm waiting for a second edition and a better price (I see it's 40% less in a neighbouring country, but I'd have to pick it up while there for other reasons due to toll duties etc.). Heavy games have exorbitant prices here (and shipping by boat is NOT based on weight, but volume, so it's plain greed) :(

Elder Sign (the physical game) is the tentacled variation of a beer & pretzels game. Not a bad one at that.

 

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OK, I'll take the contrarian position here.  Someone has to, anyway!

Arkham Horror:  Simply put, it's Clue:  The Cthulhu Edition.  It's as if someone started out with Clue, added a Lovecraftian theme, then added in a whole lot of bits and pieces just because they could, then went to FFG with it,  and they said, "Looks good, but needs more pieces."  I played a couple of times, I don't recall finishing a game, I only have vague memories of it becoming clear that I was going to lose because I didn't have enough moves to get from the Boarding House to the Kitchen to retrieve either the Elder Sign or the Candlestick, I can't remember.

The theme is strong, but underneath, it is, in my opinion, an overly complicated and overly random board game.

Mansions of Madness:  Honestly, haven't played it.  I looked at a video demonstration and it struck me as having a few more RPG elements than Arkham Horror, but other than that, being another rehash of Clue.  Only literally set in a mansion, and with many of the same rooms.  I can't verify whether it has a Candlestick or a Lead Pipe, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Elder Sign:  It's Yahtzee:  The Cthulhu Edition.  Or as one wag on BoardGameGeek put it, Yahtzee-Sothoth.  Again, the theme is strong, but underneath, it's a dice-rolling game.  Its main selling point is that it's fast, and so for that reason I do play it on an occasional basis.

Call of Cthulhu LCG:  OK, I'm tempted to say that it's Magic:  The Cthulhu Edition, but it's not quite that.  The gameplay is definitely different enough that the similarities end with the fact that it's a customizable card game.  The theme in the LCG is very strong, and the gameplay is cerebral and challenging, as befits a Lovecraftian themed game.  Its main weakness on the theme front is that players do play both sides - not just the investigators, but quite frequently the monsters, and very often a strange mix of them.  I don't have as much of a problem with that, but for some people it does ruin the mood.

Call of Cthulhu Role-playing Game:  For theme, the RPG is the best, hands down.  It does require a very good GM who can craft epic Lovecraftian tales, and without that runs the risk of devolving into really bad schlock (although I am sure there are players who play it for that, and love it for that).  If deep immersion in the Lovecraft world is what you're looking for, it's all about the RPG.  The main reason it's not as popular as the other titles above is, well, it's an RPG, and requires a bigger commitment of time and learning the rules, as well as interaction, than a board or dice game that's straightforward to learn and play.

In my opinion, "best" depends on what you're looking for.  If it's theme, the RPG.  If it's challenge, the LCG.  If it's accessibility for a broad audience, Arkham Horror.  If it's cool looking components, Mansions of Madness.  If it's fast play with easy rules, Elder Sign.

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I largely agree with Runix.  If I want a cooperative game rich in the lore I play the RPG.  If I want a fun competitive game set in the universe it's the LCG hands down.  I've only played Arkham Horror, but it takes as long as an RPG session, and has all the limitations of a board game.

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Runix said:

Arkham Horror:  Simply put, it's Clue:  The Cthulhu Edition.  It's as if someone started out with Clue, added a Lovecraftian theme, then added in a whole lot of bits and pieces just because they could, then went to FFG with it,  and they said, "Looks good, but needs more pieces."  I played a couple of times, I don't recall finishing a game, I only have vague memories of it becoming clear that I was going to lose because I didn't have enough moves to get from the Boarding House to the Kitchen to retrieve either the Elder Sign or the Candlestick, I can't remember.

The theme is strong, but underneath, it is, in my opinion, an overly complicated and overly random board game.

I basically agree with your conclusion but your description seems off. Actually, it reads as if you were describing Mansions of Madness!

To win a game of Arkham Horror all you need to do is to close the gates that keep popping up. It isn't about collecting clues (or are you referring to clue markers?). Anyway, I enjoy AH quite a bit and that's mostly because it supports solo play - the only other game that works (well) solo is Elder Sign.

Of the 200+ games of Arkham Horror I played only about 10% have been with multiple players. Fortunately, the long play time doesn't matter in a solo game, since you can just leave the board in place and continue at a later time.

I've recently read the basic rules of 'The Trail of Cthulhu' RPG which uses the GumShoe system. It definitely made me want to give it a try. I feel the rules are a better match for the typical Mythos game play. Has anyone here tried it?

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Just stumbled upon this thread and thought I'd stick my head out over the parapet. We've got MoM, AH, CoC LCG and ES and the ones that get the most attention in our family are the LCG (because it's awesome and oozes theme) and Arkham Horror - for the exploration and borderline absurdist theatre aspects. We've started finding AH a little easy to "game" though - i.e. close a gate, spend the gate to buy clue tokens, seal a gate, spend the gate to buy clue tokens, rinse and repeat and everyone's banished Azathoth and is home in time for dinner.

 

We've played three games of MoM. The first game was awful due to the group's rules-teething problems and the second was good enough to make us play a third time with friends (my better half had a flash of insight and decided to set an "important-looking room" on fire (as a precaution), eventually burning the cultists alive for a win before the final clue had even been revealed. The the third game was interesting with everyone hamming up the characters and myself being a merciless GM. The only problem with MoM is that the keeper can sometimes play a card and win the game before the investigators see it coming, which could annoy some people. This happened in our last session, but because everyone bought into the game as an experience rather than a competition, nobody felt too aggrieved.

 

My favourite is the LCG, the core set of which will last two players quite a while before you need to think about asylum packs and deluxe expansions. Having said that, if you want to get the most out of it, the game has to become a hobby in its own right - and becomes a bit of a money sink.

 

Jhaelan - I notice you mention Trail of Cthulhu. Have you looked at Cthulhu Dark? I'd love to give this a go. Check it out here: http://catchyourhare.com/files/Cthulhu%20Dark.pdf

 

Best wishes

Pac_Man3D

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There's a new contender coming too in the Eldritch Horror game.  Looks good at first glance, gotta wait for the full version to come out though...

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I played and still play: AH, MoM, EH and recently just got into CoC LCG.

 

ARKHAM HORROR 

Goal: Explore the city, close portals and stop the great old one from awakening.

Great thematic game on a large city scale.  But I feel the mechanics get into the ways of the theme most of the time.  Everything feels a bit too "robotic".  It's like a production chain of rules and steps during your turn.  It's still an awesome game and experience and need relaxed, rested and concentrated players to make the most out of the game.

***7.5/10***

 

MANSIONS OF MADNESS

Goal: Find clues and resolve the mystery that haunts the mansion

This game got me by surprise.  I always wanted to find a great group to play RPGs with but too many understandable contraints (kids, families, lack of time) made it impossible.  So MoM came out and I bought it.  Played both sides but mostly the Investigators.  Now talk about theme in a game.  You really feel the dark powers toying with you and wanting to conquer you.  It's a beautiful game with cool rules and gameplay.  It's on a smaller scale (mansions, manors, courtyards) but the theme is everywhere.  Both sides are equally fun to play and many cool expansions and scenarios are available for this great game.

***8.5/10***

 

ELDRITCH HORROR

Goal: Explore the world and resolde three mysteries related to the Great Old One present in the game

I bought this game on release and don't look back.  It's lighter than Arkham and burrom many fun rules from it and make some weird AH rules into better version.  Combat is better, exploration feels right and the overall flow is a bit better too.  Instead of exploring a city you explore the world with your investigators.  The large scale is a bit diluted but the it's still there in some ways.  The GOOs, like in AH, have an impact when they sleep and when they're awaken but unlike AH where you have to battle the GOO when it wake, in EH it become more powerful and more present.  It's lighter than AH but still have some nice complexity and difficulty to be enjoyable and worth having even if you already own AH.

***8/10***

 

CALL OF CTHULHU LCG

Goal: Collect three stories before your opponent with the help of characters, supports and events.

Thanks to the reprint I just got into this LCG.  Never thought about buying in CoC since I already was deep into Netrunner but the theme always talked to me.  This game is drooling with theme.  It's quick, strategic, thematic and amazing.  It's elegant and fluid mechanics make this game an awesome experience everytime it is on the table.  Lots of factions out of the core set that let you try many different combinations and tricks.  Many known characters and illustrations were took from this game to grace many other Mythos games by FFG.  It's so much fun and so muc deep that even after dozens of games you'll still want more and try other silly faction combinations.

***9.5/10***

 

Based solely on personal score i'd say Call of Cthulhu LCG is the best Lovecraft themes game.  But being a huge fan of board games i'd put Mansions of Madness on top.

 

It's a really hard decision but if I must go with one and only one game i'd say the best Lovecraft game is Mansions of Madness.

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