Arkham Horror Third Edition Review: You won't play anything else anymore

We've been waiting to play it for months, and quarantine has come to our rescue. We have finally got our hands on the Third Edition of Arkham Horror and we are ready to tell you about it in this new review

I didn't think I'd ever say that, but this quarantine is also having its positive sides. And I'm not just talking about the huge number of remote games we gdristi are diving into and the exciting imaginary adventures we are experiencing.. I am speaking rather of the fact that it seems that we have been given some free time. Not perfect weather, of course, made a bit dirty by the situation we perceive outside our windows; but always more time, to recover things that we have been putting off for months. And in my case, to retrieve games that I wanted to buy since their release.

This is precisely the case with the Third Edition of Arkham Horror. At home, we've been wanting to try it since its announcement in September last year. But we postponed, and postponed and postponed again, because other things always seemed to draw our attention more prominently. Until we made up our minds and took advantage of the moment to make our own a copy of this Third Edition; and to finally immerse ourselves in the heart of Arkham. And it was the best of all possible choices.

New edition, same spirit

The first thing you notice when opening the box of this Arkham Horror Third Edition is that many things have changed. First of all, the game map: no longer a single board but a series of modular hexagonal tiles, whose position (and often also their presence) varies according to the scenario being played. A minor detail, some might think, but in reality it is the first positive sign of the metamorphosis of Arkham Horror. Yes, because, if the first two editions were compelling and mechanically solid, this third surpasses both of them by many measures. And the map is only the first of the improvements.

As we continue to unpack, we discover that the Myths of Chtulhu, the character sheets, the encounters and even part of the management of the shifts have undergone changes. For the better, I would dare to say, since the impression one gets from the first games of this Third Edition is that the game has become more refined, leaner and much much more tactical.

The Codex: versatility and storytelling | Arkham Horror Third Edition Review

There is a greater thrust to the narrative and more versatility, in this Third Edition. This is thanks above all to the introduction of the Codex, a set of scenario cards that tell us the implications of our actions and those of the Ancient One, which moves at the borders of our reality. The Codex is not fixed, but varies according to the Ancient One we are challenging. Made up of two or three cards, it is updated according to our choices, leading us to add "positive" cards (if we can speak of positive, since it is always an Arkham) if our actions are successful and decidedly negative if instead we fail.

This makes the game, in fact, always different from game to game. Both because by varying the scenario the skeleton of the Codex will also vary, and because our successes will always also depend on the meetings held in the city and on the objects we possess, elements with a high variable component. But the Codex also adds a very good planning element. Knowing that those two or three cards will govern subsequent events pushes investigators to roll up their sleeves to resolve them as best they can. And to act with tactics and clarity to prevail against the plans of the Ancient One.

Furthermore, each Codex card carries within it a fragment extracted from HP Lovecraft's tales of terror and mystery. The fragments add details to the story we are playing and anticipate nuances of a larger plot that will be revealed to us in full only at the end of the game. Making the game even more engaging, as they actually add narrative depth to our adventures.

The best is to play Arkham Horror with a little Creepy background music, to immerse ourselves in these gloomy and disturbing atmospheres.

The Myths of Chtulhu: when things can only get worse | Arkham Horror Third Edition Review

But to convey the true sense of fear and urgency in this Third Edition of Arkham Horror are the myth tokens. In fact, the Myths replace what once were the Myth Cards and the Rumor Cards. During the preparation phase of the game, in the chosen Scenario Card you can read the number and type of myth tokens to be inserted in the bag. At the end of each turn, all players randomly extract two myth tokens, thus generating threats that will invade the city and often have a direct effect on the players themselves. Depending on the number of investigators present at the table, the tokens will run out sooner or later; but, in any case, when a new token should be taken out of the bag and there are none left, they all throw it back in and the round begins again.

Myth tokens add obstacles and aids to our investigations. Monsters that appear in neighborhoods and streets; clues that appear in some neighborhoods; newspaper articles telling us how bad things are going (and usually sucking up the poor mental health we have); and rips and Doom tokens that remind us that the end is near, and that we can do little to prevent it. The fact that the tokens are all drawn, sooner or later, means that there is little randomness in the course of a game. It might come now or it might come in two rounds, but rest assured that damned Resa dei Conti will come and pay the price. And it won't be pleasant at all.

The mechanics of the Third Edition

Like the previous ones, this Third Edition of Arkham Horror is also divided into phases. Specifically, each new round is divided into four phases:

  • Actions: each investigator, in turn, performs two actions of their choice (among Movement, Attack, Gathering Resources, Protection, Concentration, Evasion, Analysis and Exchange). 
  • Monsters: monsters are activated and these move and engage (and attack) the investigators they meet along the way.
  • Meetings: all uncommitted investigators meet in the neighborhood or street they are on, to get clues, upgrades, or to remove fates.
  • Myths: in turn, each investigator draws two tokens from the Bag of Myths. If these have run out, reset the bag and then fish.

Once these phases are understood, shifts take place quickly and almost automatically. You move and fight or send tokens in the scenario and remove the fates; you collect money or make tactical exchanges between players. Or, in short, any other combination of these actions. At this point you pass the turn to the monsters and, if you have survived, you collect and go immediately to the Encounters phase. The Mythos phase marks the end of the turn and the start of the next one.

As in previous versions, Arkham Horror Third Edition has a strong random component. Almost all actions are based on the roll of the dice and these do not always grant the desired result. The good thing, though, is that the game features numerous upgrades, abilities, and spells that soothe this casual side., and which allow for example to re-roll dice or add positive results to your roll.

The end of the adventure | Arkham Horror Third Edition Review

The ending of Arkham Horror is not fixed, and varies according to the scenario being played and the actions taken to stop the advance of the Ancient One. Investigators could win by defeating Chtulhu himself, for example, or by preventing his appearance with a series of particularly successful actions. What matters is that the Codex allows you to continuously monitor the progress of the game, and to know if and how close you are to the grand finale.

On average, each game lasts between two and three hours, but it is possible that some Ancient One will keep you busy for over five or six hours. In any case, time flies by almost without us noticing it. One of the greatest merits of this Third Edition is in fact its ability to cling to the point of making us lose the conception of time. It is not uncommon to start playing in the afternoon, with the sun illuminating our pawns, and to finish only late in the evening, often even in semi-darkness because one is too busy even to remember to turn on the light (and in this, the music is a perfect accomplice, some of the Arkhanian playlists found on Youtube can keep us company for up to 10-11 hours!)

In summary: a new revised and improved edition

There is no doubt, this Third Edition of Arkham Horror has convinced us across the board and seems to have been created to satisfy both the loyal players of the brand and the novice investigators. We found ourselves playing whole evenings, day after day, without ever losing the pleasure of moving between the neighborhoods of Arkham and facing the Ancient One. The new mechanics helped make this Third Edition leaner and more storytelling, and we just loved that.

The only regret is that the base version of the game contains only four scenarios. Of course, as we said a little while ago, these are very variable clashes, which depend so much on the choices of the investigators and the encounters they have in the city. But it is also true that after a few weeks of play you could perceive a bit of repetition in the games. Fortunately for us, Fantasy Flight Games already has a series of game expansions in the pipeline, adding scenarios, monsters and encounters. The first expansion has already arrived on the market and here in Spain it has always been released for Asmodee with the title In the middle of the night.

Technical details

  • Type: Cooperative
  • Authors: Richard Launius, Nikki Valens, Kevin Wilson
  • Illustrators: Justin Adams, W. T. Arnold, Anders Finér
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
  • Distributed in Spain by: Asmodee Spain
  • Duration: 120 180-minute
  • Players: by 1 to 6
  • Age: 14+
  • Price in Spain: 61,50€
Asmodee - Arkham Horror The Board Game
  • The third evolutionary stage of the most exciting and thematic collaborative board game, inspired by the scary Lovecraftian universe.
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