I’d tried to play Arkham Horror once before, and the game host was hoping to figure out the rules on the fly. Unfortunately, the rules for Arkham Horror would drive the sanest of people barking mad, so needless to say, Cthulhu was victorious on that day.
So when I heard about Arkham Nights at Fantasy Flight Games in Roseville, MN, I figured I would have to be insane to pass it up. The part-gaming-conference, part-product-placement event offered people the chance to sign up for all the different variations and expansions of Arkham Horror, as well as the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, and the Call of Cthulhu card game, and a board game called Mansions of Madness that hasn’t even been released yet. Some of the games were being run by the game designers themselves. There was also a panel discussion with the game designers and a costume contest.
Friday I attended “How To Play Arkham Horror” (See if you can find me in this pic.) On Saturday I played the Call of Cthulhu role playing game with one of the Fantasy Flight game designers.
Review of the Arkham Horror Board Game
For those who haven’t played it, Arkham Horror is preposterously complicated. In fact, if it bears any semblance to the struggle we’ll have to go through when Cthulhu finally does awaken…we’re fucked.
That said, the game is also preposterously fun to play. All players work together to kill monsters, close gates to strange dimensions with bad geometry, and at best, just keep the peace until the Ancient One hits the snooze button and goes back to sleep. If you’ve never played before, it’s good to have a moderator there to hold your hand, answer rules questions and give you sage advice. By the end of the game (5 hours, and we did win btw. Take THAT Elder Wimp!) the five of us noobs could have run a game without a moderator.
Review of the Arkham Nights Gaming Event
The facilities were really nice, and just the right size for the over hundred people who showed up. I understand you can rent out table space and there are rooms in the back for those who want to run their campaign against the ancient ones in secret. Fantasy Flight Games offers a membership that provides discounts on game rental and table/room use. Yes, you can rent the games to play right there at the facility. And if you’re planning on actually getting into games like Warhammer 40K you’d be foolish to pass up that member’s discount. Just the core rulebook will set you back $75. But casual gamers won’t balk at the few bucks it costs to rent space for gaming.
No outside food is allowed, but there is a local pizza place that they will allow delivery. Pop, chips and other snacks are available in the facility.
Asking people to pay twenty five bucks to play games you’re trying to sell them is steep. For the price of three people going to this event, you coulda pooled your cash, bought the game and figured it out over the course of several years. And $25 was the pre-registration price – the door admission was more. The real value in the Arkham Nights convention was the ability to play all the variations of the game, with all the expansions, (some of which are as expensive as the core game.) You also got to play with the game designers and with other enthusiastic fans of Lovecraftian Mythos. I’d say $25 was… almost worth it.
Conventions like Minnecon and Convergence charge more than $25, but the offer way more content. Fantasy Flight Games could have offered a ten dollar Fantasy Flight Games gift certificate with each paid registration, free membership, or better yet, knocked ten bucks off the admission price.
The discussion with the game designers and the costume contests were a nice touch, but really there could have been a lot more depth to this event. Focusing on the mythos of HP Lovecraft instead of the games (only) offered by Fantasy Flight would have made this a better event. How about a table for a local book vendor with a selection of Lovecraft’s books? How about local artists Lovecraft-inspired works? How about panels/discussions of the Chtulhu mythos? How about other vendors besides Fantasy Flight Games?
A convention with these things would pull in hundreds if not thousands of interested fans, instead of the hundred or so people who attended. Perhaps they are building up to that. If so, this was a good start.
Strangely, the event organizers waited until the doors opened for people to register for game slots. This means people who showed up at the door had the same chance as someone who pre-registered to get in on the limited games. I was one of the first people in line and signed up at 6:10 for a game that started at 6:00. As you probably guessed, several games filled immediately, and other scheduled games had no one sign up for them.
The event coordinators should have taken game-slot registrations as people signed up. Then, the supply of available games would have been in-line with the demand of people who wanted to play them. Forcing people to fit into their ‘schedule’ didn’t really work. For example, I wanted to try out the Cthulhu card game, but Sunday was the only day I had available for it. There was only ONE Cthulhu card game on Sunday, which booked up immediately. As a person who pre-registered and paid a more-than-modest admission price, I was disappointed.
Hopefully, the administrators of Arkham Nights will take what they’ve learned from this event and use it to make future iterations of Arkham Nights even better. By offering a little more for a little less, and fixing the scheduling issues, Arkham Nights could really take off and become something to look forward to each year.