There are unicorn board games. There are murder mystery board games. There’s a Bob Ross board game and something called the Bucket of Doom that is supposed to qualify as a board game. Even a Crypt Keeper board game exists (I should know, because I have it). What we need is something with tentacles.
The lack of such a thing that could explore the most chilling depths of human horror while still making for some really interesting party entertainment inspired Fantasy Flight Games to conjure the monstrosities otherwise known as Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror.
When you see a board game with cover art of the human residents of Arkham using all their ammo to blast something with way too many appendages, you know there has to be something that makes this a little more thrilling than Scrabble or Monopoly. Gates to another dimension have let out a dormant Old One that is slowly and menacingly yawning awake. You need to team up with up to seven other people to shut that thing out by surviving the perilous shadows of Arkham and closing interdimensional portals between here and… wherever else.
You can’t just move your piece around on the board and go back to sleep when something could devour you at any second. Being an investigator means picking up all the weapons you can find and using three pairs of skills that need to be carefully adjusted if you expect to face the unspeakable things that stalk the streets and come out alive. Too much of a speed boost could mean that you can’t creep past a monster for a moment when one of its 13 eyes isn’t focused in your general direction.
Arkham Horror spawned Eldritch Horror, which plunges you into the darkest cesspools of evil all over the world. The realism is scary. You have a time-yellowed map of the world for a board, character sheets that recall old passports, and tokens that look like vintage train and ocean liner tickets. All you have to do now is solve three dark mysteries to save humanity—if you don’t get amnesia or enter a Dark pact first.
Can we talk about the art on these for just a minute? Unearthly.
Now I know what to do when my guests get sick of Cards Against Humanity. If anything is disappointing about these games at all, it’s that I’ll never know what it’s like to play with H.P. Lovecraft.