Episode 8 – Arkham Horror

Our topic today is Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight Games, one of our favorite games of all time.

The original Call of Cthulhu and other mythos stories were about how insignificant and inconsequential humanity is on a cosmic scale. The notion that we aren’t the top of the food chain – that we are beneath consideration to the majority of the universe – struck a chord with consumers of weird fiction during the Great War and Great Depression.  Perhaps there is a certain comfort in imagining that humans aren’t the be-all-end-all of the universe, or maybe the vast dread acted as a welcome respite from real dread.

Whatever the case, the genre has been warped significantly in the context of games. Even where elements of cosmic horror are retained, the notion of hope has been injected into the works. Humans stand a chance against the Ancient Ones. They have a chance of thwarting the plans of these unfathomable monstrosities and bringing peace and security to the inhabitants of our terrestrial sphere. This was never the intention of the cosmic horror genre.

Am I condemning games like Arkham Horror for going against the spirit of the genre? Of course not! I love this game, and it certainly wouldn’t be the same experience if every game ended with “And mighty Cthulhu devours the investigators effortlessly and a reign of darkness falls over the earth. Humans are treated a lowly forgettable vermin and even the cultists of Dread Cthulhu are subject to his inscrutable whims.” What a terrible game that would be!

People, especially games, enjoy stories of defying the odds, and what greater odds can there be than the stakes of a cosmic struggle between a plucky band of investigators and the most people entities in the known (known, but barely comprehended) universe? What greater glory is there to achieve?

Arkham Horror is not only a game, but a franchise now, with games such as Elder Sign, Eldritch Horror, Mansions of Madness and the Arkham Horror LCG all building on the world of Fantasy Flight Games’ interpretation of Lovecraft’s Arkham, MA.  Familiar characters like Joe Diamond, Ashcan Pete, Lily Chen and Kate Winthop span these games and, even where the gameplay may vary wildly, the feel and flavor of the characters remains consistent and familiar.

It’s telling of the quality of Fantasy Flight Games’ work that at GenCon they occupied an entire additional booth’s space to accommodate the line into their booth. The company’s popularity is well-earned. Check out Arkham Horror and, if possible, support your FLGS in doing so. Happy gaming!

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