Arkham Horror Living Card Game: the Night of the Zealot Qt3 slumber party!

Over in the solitaire gaming thread, a few of us were talking about playing some Arkham Horror: The Card Game. So I made this thread for exactly that purpose!

We’re playing Night of the Zealot. I have no idea what I’m doing so buckle up for lots of dumb questions and gruesome dismemberments.

Join us, if you dare!!!

Or just if you want.

Love it. Doing a quick rules refresh tonight, and then picking my two investigators and jumping in tomorrow.

I’ll be watching the thread. AH card game gets my votes for most thematic board game ever

Getting in the spirit of the game with the right soundtrack plus a wee Irish dram…

Ach. We told Roland not tae take a wee tipple on da job.

I figured I should roleplay Roland as a functioning-alcoholic federal investigator. It’ll help explain his inevitable gruesome demise.

Besides, these rules are making a hell of a lot more sense to me after a spot of Dingle.

Meanwhile, in the cellar, an Icy Ghoul has entered the chat.

I’m failing to grok the rules about Player Windows and Free Triggered abilities.

I played one of my three actions in the Investigation phase. I now have enough clues to advance the Act deck. Can I do that during this Investigation phase? Or do I need to wait until after the Investigation phase?

Or is it already too late? Has Roland’s very soul begun to curdle in the fetid, black void?

It should have the lightning symbol on the card if it’s a free triggered action. The chart in the back of the rules reference shows exactly when player windows occur during a round. You can do any free triggered ability during any player window (as long as it doesn’t have any stated restrictions.) Sometimes it’s better to wait to advance the Act until the beginning of the next investigation phase so you have a full set of investigator actions to deal with whatever happens.

Edit: I was a bit wrong. There’s no lightning symbol on Act cards, but they typically are free triggered actions taken by the whole group. (See the entry for Clues in the Rules Reference.) Agenda cards only advance during the check doom step of the Mythos phase.

Rex Murphy asks if you want to get a drink after work.

Matt has the right of it, @rrmorton. Let me just alert you to two minor but relevant exceptions that you’ll encounter.

Normally, Acts advance freely, at any time the investigators have enough clues to turn in. Arkham Horror very liberal about the timing of Act advances, about letting you spend the clues at pretty much any time. But there are exceptions in the scripting! In Night of the Zealot, for instance, you’ll encounter a situation where you can only advance the Act by gathering the investigators who are spending clues in the same place. So it can vary, but unless otherwise noted, Acts advance freely.

Agendas, on the other hand, tend to be slaved to the step in the Mythos phase when you check the Doom threshold. Unlike the Act, the Agenda only advances at very specific times; namely, when you check the Doom threshold. But there are cards that might add Doom and cause a Doom threshold check. In these cases, the Agenda can advance when you didn’t expect it. Ancient Evil is a pair of common encounter cards that do just this, and I believe they’re in the Night of the Zealot deck.

So as I’m getting set up, I thought I’d share a few tips that some of you might find helpful. These aren’t specific to Arkham Horror, either, so you might also find them helpful for other games.

#1: Tracking Actions, or “Wait, whose turn is it?”

This is the dilemma of solitaire gaming: there’s no one to answer this question for you! One of my deep-seated boardgaming dogmas is that you should always be able to tell what’s going on by looking at the board state. If something happens that I have to suddenly stop playing for a week, I want to be able to come back a week later and by looking at the board, I should be able to tell exactly what was happening. This is a necessary feature, and if it doesn’t exist in a game, I will create it. Otherwise, I get scattered when I have to look up a rule, take a bathroom break, run an errand, eat a meal, or just do something else for a while.

So here’s something you can do with three little red cubes:

Since investigators can take their turns in any order, I just start removing the cubes as an investigator takes actions, like so:

And when it looks like this, I know I’ve passed the Investigator Phase and I’m in upkeep:

And for the refresh step, just move them back onto the investigator cards. It’s a simple mod, and most of the time I don’t even need to use it. But when I’m working out complex actions, or having to look something up, it’s a great way to track where you are.

#2: Tracking The Turn Itself!, or “Wait, where was I?”

Even with a handy indicator for investigator actions, it’s easy to lose your place in the turn sequence. Track it with a cube, such as this yellow one, which will be featured again shortly!

#3: The best player aids are DIY player aids!

You might wonder about that list of phases. I made it. I feel strongly that one of the best ways to learn a game is to make your own player aid. That way you can be sure it has as little or as much info as you need. My own personal goal is, over time, to whittle down the info on a player aid, to make it as small as it can be while still keeping the game flowing. And for me personally, that card-sized sheet is all I need for Arkham Horror, worded as it is to remind me of specific things I sometimes forget (i.e. whether a phase in is player order), and not to include stuff I already know (e.g. the start and end step of every phase, or available investigator actions).

I recommend everyone make their own player aid for any game they’re trying to learn. It’s a great exercise, as well as helpful when you’re playing. And let your player aids evolve. You’re the player, and as such, you know how much or how little aid you need.

#4: Tapping is for chumps

Here’s an interface tip that I use for pretty much any card game. Tapping is a common way to show a card has been exhausted, or otherwise temporarily unavailable. You go from this neat layout:

To, uh, this bit of elbowing, like the family in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Family trying to sleep at night:

It’s just going to get worse as more cards are played, and more of those cards need to be tapped. Ugh. So remember that yellow cube I used to mark where we were in the turn order? Here’s a bunch more:

Instead of tapping a card, just put a dang cube on it and I won’t have to mess up the neat layout or jostle everything around:

I use yellow cubes for maximum visibility. I was using black cubes, but they didn’t “pop” as well. And because I’m using the same cube to track turn order, it’s also a reminder when I get to “refresh” to remove all the other yellow cubes from the table.

#5: Component Containment, or “You gotta keep 'em separated!”

I’m super obsessive about storage solutions that can be integrated into actual gameplay, so I keep my tokens in a tiny Plano box:

And I’ve got it arranged to play directly out of the box. The lid snaps off to hold cards that have been “put aside”, because they’ll enter play later. I went looking for an Amazon link to the exact same box, but they don’t seem to carry it? This is pretty close:

This lets me keep the tokens, act and agenda, chaos legend, encounter deck and discard, and player aid/turn tracker along the left side of the play area, freeing the bottom for the investigators’ hands and threat area, and freeing the rest of the mat for the map.

Speaking of…

#6: Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Move

This won’t matter so much for Night of the Zealot, but later scenarios do some relatively intricate map stuff, including a lot of one-way routes that are easy to confuse. So I just use pairs of matchsticks to indicate a two-way connection.

For a one-way connection, just place a single matchstick with the match head pointing in the direction of travel! It’s super easy to read at a glance.

#6: Downplaying discards

Speaking of easy to read at a glance, something I do with most games is put the discard pile face-up under its corresponding draw deck. This gets it out of the way and frees up a ton of space, particularly with games that have multiple decks in play. But that’s not feasible in a game like Arkham Horror, where you’ll sometimes interact with the discard pile, and at the very least, you’ll want to know the size of your discard pile. So in those cases, I just keep discard piles upside down:

It’s a quick visual shorthand that I don’t need to pay attention to the card itself, that it’s not in play. As a table gets more crowded, and especially if you try to play with multiple investigators, this sort of visual shorthand is invaluable. When your attention is a precious commodity, everything the interface can do to shift your focus where it’s needed is helpful!

So when I look at the table, I can easily tell which information isn’t directly relevant, because it’s upside down:

Hope those are helpful to some of you. I’ll be jumping in myself later, with cop Tommy Muldoon from the core set and astronomer Norman Withers from one of the expansions.

Thank you for the great suggestions and pictures, Tom!

That kind of stuff is right up my alley. I had a lot of fun creating similar player aids when I was learning and playing Sleeping Gods. That game had a similar take-two-actions system, so I made markers to help visually keep track of exactly where I was at all times.

Last night, I quickly started using a similar system for Arkham with three tokens to track player actions in the investigation phase. But using markers for exhausted cards and matchsticks for map layout are great ideas. Those will come in handy.

Thanks for the rules help, Matt! This was helpful. But this flow chart on Player Windows with the 2.1 and the 2.2.1 is still messing me up.

I’m mostly confident that I understand, but I still want to confirm I have this question correct before I proceed:

After my first of three actions in the investigation phase, I can spend two clues to advance the act deck, then I can proceed with my second action of this investigation phase.

Is that a Yes or a No?

I think it’s a Yes.

2 clues per investigator, but otherwise yes.

I’ve built my decks, and I’m ready to give the first scenario a go tonight! I picked one investigator that I’ve played before, and one wild card investigator that is new to me. I’ll be playing on Easy and I’m including the Return To encounter cards, which will also be new to me past the first scenario.

Ursula Downs, Nimble Archaeologist

ArkhamDB Deck

Ursula is a simple investigator whose special ability lets her investigate for free once per turn after moving. Her plan is to hop around, investigating and grabbing clues while occasionally getting cards and resources for doing so.

Calvin Wright, Cursed Drifter

ArkhamDB Deck

Calvin is worse than useless. He has zeroes in all four stats, and even less health and sanity than every other investigator. His special ability is getting a bonus to his stats based on how much damage and horror he has on him. His plan is to bash his head against a wall a few times and then start wailing on the nearest enemy with his meat cleaver. I’m fully expecting him to die in the first few scenarios, but that’s maybe okay? He has given me an excuse to use some cards I haven’t yet, such as In the Thick of It, which gives me starting XP in exchange for taking some starting trauma.

This is fantastic and I’ll have to steal this! I guess my one optimization is using dice to track (at least the first six) resources, damage, and horror on my characters. As long as I don’t bump the table too hard, it’s much faster to read at a glance and modify.

Good luck to everyone playing!


(Yes, I’m only playing with Roland as I learn the basics.)

Okay, I’m going back in. That Icy Ghoul has been waiting long enough to feast upon my steaming entrails.

Yesss. I just got some purple dice to track actions 1, 2, and 3.

Also, matchsticks schmatchsticks! Where did you get those location arrows?!

I use doom tokens to track investigator actions. They each get three to start and I flip them to the doom side when they take an action.

Aww, look who’s playing baby mode!

Uh, I mean: Whoa, look who ran out into the middle of the street wearing a pair of big boy pants! :)

I’m replaying regular first, and already getting tripped up with dumb stuff like, “Wait, I can’t fight this ghoul yet, I don’t have a weapon!” and “Oops, why is this useless card still in my dude’s deck?” But shortly I look forward to seeing what they did with the Return To… iteration. I’ve read about the Return remakes, but haven’t actually played any yet.

Hmm, that’s eminently practical, as it uses pre-existing components. Dang, I think I’m going to have to steal this. Sorry, little red cubes.

I don’t actually have my cards anymore. I had two complete campaigns in addition to the core set, but sold them when I didn’t feel like trying to keep up with releases. (And I only enjoy deck piloting, not deck building.) But I still have this awesome neoprene playmat! (Pictured with an empty bowl of cookie dough my son and I just made.)