Monday 2 December 2019

Board Game Reviews - Arkham Horror: Final Hour

Arkham Horror: Final Hour
By Carlo A. Rossi
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
Review by Blake Harmer

Just when you thought Fantasy Flight has possibly covered every way of making a game about stopping a Lovecraftian horror from destroying the world, they bring us Final Hour, a fast-paced co-operative game based on you trying to reverse a ritual in the University Campus before a great old one breaks into the world. However, with the wealth of options available, is it strong and varied enough to stand apart from other entries in the franchise, especially against excellent games like Mansions of Madness or Eldritch Horror?

Presentation wise, Arkham Horror: Final Hour has a lot of the art assets taken from the other Lovecraftian games owned by Fantasy Flight as one might expect, but the quality of the cards and tokens are thick and satisfactory enough and the board is nicely printed too. However, it's nothing outstanding. Think along the lines of similar quality to other card and token focused games like Mysterium and you have a similar quality. There are no models or other resin pieces which explains the cheaper cost of this game, however I did not miss this and it did not detract from my overall enjoyment. I also thought the rulebook was clearly laid out and easy to follow, and it was also easy to find items when I needed to refer to something. This is helped by the fact the game is simpler than other AH games so the rules are not as complex.

In terms of gameplay, you work co-operatively with each other to move around the Miskatonic University Campus to destroy monsters, seal gates and gather evidence and items to help reverse the ritual and save the world. However, the rub is that you only have 8 turns to do it, which keeps the game short with the idea being that you do get through a game in around an hour (or likely a bit longer on your first playthrough or if teaching someone to play). In addition there are also other fail states such as losing one of the investigators, and allowing too many monsters on the board so that the ritual site becomes overrun, which means you cannot merely ignore threats and focus on the primary goal of reversing the ritual.

There are some nice mechanics in the game that added some pleasant variety and chaos to the proceedings. Firstly, there is a simple yet effective AI that controls the action of the monsters and the Great Old One that is affected by the actions of the investigators. If players act carefully, they may be able to avoid certain things from happening. However, players' action cards have two effects on them, with 4 actions being played a turn. Players play additional numbered cards with their actions which dictate initiative on when they are actioned, but also whether the top effect or bottom effect of the card is played. Therefore, if a player wants to play a specific action, he would need to play a lower card or higher card depending on what action he wanted to take as the first two cards are the top action and the second 2 cards resolve the bottom action. This way that there is always a bit of chaos and also doesn’t guarantee how the great old one or monsters will act.

The other mechanic I liked was how to win the game. Each time the game is drawn there are 2 symbols placed which will stop the ritual and as you go around locations searching clue tokens, investigators will either find items to help them or other symbols which either reduce or eliminate symbols that the 2 could be. Towards the end of the game, players play 3 cards each with symbols on that they feel are the correct ones to reverse the ritual, and if they play enough of the correct symbol they win. However, what adds to the challenge is that there are two symbols of each type in the game so unless you find two of one symbol to completely eliminate it, and as you only have limited time, it can be sometimes tricky to guess what the correct symbols are, especially if you are not lucky or competent enough to investigate enough areas throughout the 8 turns.

If I had a couple of gripes with the game, it would be that I would have liked a couple more Great Old Ones to play against as there only 3 with the game which is quite low considering other games in the franchise. Sure there are different difficulty settings you can play them at which does add variety, but one or two extra would have been appreciated©. Also, while there is a solo mode, I feel it works better as a co-operative experience and that the solo mode feels a little like an afterthought.

However, all in all, I feel Fantasy Flight have once again created a different experience from the rest of their games, and also one where a few games could be fit in within an evening like Elder Sign or used as a quick starter game before playing a “main event game” afterwards. If you like the other Lovecraftian games that Fantasy Flight Offer, this is highly recommended especially considering the lower cost. Hopefully if the game is supported with more Great Old Ones and monsters etc, then this will become even more worthy of investment. 8/10

A mainstay on E14, Blake Harmer is that guy in your social group who's quiet for ages and then when he does talk, his comment sends the whole crowd into fits of hysterics. You know the person I mean? Well in this case, it's Blake.

For evidence of this, see The Crazy Train podcast or the E14 Gamecast, where Blake is hilarious.

Blake is a regular to the E14 Podcasts, and frequently appears on the Youtube channel. He doesn't use Twitter.

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