Alone Time: Beyond Arkham

I have such doubts about the worth of my abilities, much like the mi-go that fly over the pyramids by moonlight.

It’s incredible to me how often board games imitate life. And I’m not just talking about how they have rules, smell best when they’re new, work fine whether played solo or as a team, and tend to be about trains a lot more often than we’d like. Sure, all of those things are pearly nuggets of truth, nested into board games to remind us of our mortality, but I’m not talking about those. Oh no, not at all.

Rather, I’m talking about how board games warn us about the return of the old things. Because not letting our planet get transformed into a chew-toy is pretty dang important, don’t you think? Anyway, what follows is a series of letters from one of my ancestors, one Leo Anderson, which happen to correspond exactly with some of the things that can happen in Eldritch Horror. Chills. Up my spine. Brrr.

WHAT'S HAPPENING? — Well, your goal is to solve a number of mysteries related to whatever monster you're combating, so a number of "encounters" appear across the map: gates that spawn monsters and hasten the appearance of the Old One, clues you can spend for bonuses once you've acquired them, rumors that must be investigated, and expeditions to remote locations like Antarctica or the Heart of Africa. These differ with each game, ensuring you must travel far and wide.

A journey to the heart of Africa.

July 2nd, 1930

Dearest Silas,

It has been long, far too long since we have sat for conversation. Though I miss neither the trench nor the war, I have never found such companionship as we held common in those days, and I do find myself at odd times staring into nowhere in particular and wishing I was back in that filth, side by side with you and Gerald, God rest his soul. Those are peculiar moods, and I hope to one day relieve myself of their burden by discussing them with you at length.

I wish I could report that this letter was my way of making good on those years of silence, but I fear I have other details to report, details which if unwritten may never be recorded at all, to the great detriment of all of mankind. As you may have read in the papers, provided you follow the archaeological journals as fastidiously as was your habit when we were younger men, I have spent these last four months journeying to the very heart of Africa. The intent of our safari was not truly the same as that reported by Miskatonic University, for the mating patterns of the Central African Hippopotamus amphibius have already been well-documented, and are of scant interest to the tenured gentlemen of my institution. Rather, the purpose of our voyage and subsequent journey related to the reported presence of that which I cannot write, but of which you are well aware, as you were present with me in Missolonghi in 1922, and will undoubtedly remember the warning of that aged Greek augur dispatched by the Gentleman’s Society of the Weighted Import & Exotic Goods. If you recall him at all, you will immediately comprehend the seriousness of my mission to the black depths of Africa.

I will refrain from boring you with all the minutiae of our travels, as few of the details would hold any interest to one so well-traveled as yourself. Suffice to say, we made the most improbable discovery at the head of a river this typewriter lacks the characters to express — an entire city of ancient and unknown origin, entirely abandoned by beasts and man and plant-life alike, and filled with the strangest artefacts. From these I took only a weapon that shames in terms of general destructiveness even the Maschinengewehr the craftiest German engineers boasted of earlier this year. So take heart, dear friend, for with this strange device in hand, I believe the Secret War, which up until now we believed fell entirely in the adversary’s favor, may perhaps be turning to our advantage at last.

Ever yours,
~Leo Anderson

SIMILE TIME! — With its emphasis on unfolding narratives, a choose-your-own-adventure feel, condition cards with variable outcomes, and globe-trotting, it's kind of like Fortune & Glory mashed with Tales of the Arabian Nights, plus Lovecraft.

Facing down the Tick Tock Men.

September 30th, 1930

Dearest Silas,

Though I apologize for my rough scrawl (you always knew me for a typist), I cannot tell you the relief that guides my pen. Following my last missive, our mutual friends saw fit to send me to the baked plains of Australia, a hell on earth if ever there was one. The reason for this journey was to search out and possibly eliminate, if it were to come down to it, a gang curiously given the appellation of the “Tick Tock Men.” For all their cryptic code phrases and guttural chants, these turned out to be nothing more than adherents of the adversary, after the usual fashion, and they died the same death we gave those traitors at Passchendaele.

However, these bespectacled brutes were not the only loose lips aboard our vessel, for upon my return to Sydney, I was wrongfully imprisoned for speaking against a false accusation towards, and subsequent execution, of an old aboriginal man, a delightfully spry fellow who had scouted for us in our earlier hunt through the scorched prairie of his home country, God rest his soul. My first impulse was to assume the entire affair was born of misunderstanding, as is wont to happen in any nation that cannot afford to field a disciplined European constabulary. However, as my captors’ inquests grew more pointed, it became apparent that they knew all about our Order, as well as the True Name of the adversary. After many days without food or drink, they beat me senseless and left me for dead in some back alley, aggravating my leg condition terribly as well as ruining my entire day.

Thankfully, prior to my incarceration I had safely deposited the African weapon, affectionately termed a “Lightning Gun” by our aboriginal guide. It was a true stroke of fortune that it did not fall into enemy hands, considering my captors were well aware of the tool and were interested in acquiring it.

I have been dispatched to Shanghai. I suspect I will not miss Sydney.

Ever yours,
~Leo Anderson

REDUCTIONIST EXPLANATION! — It pretty much comes down to skill checks. In a fight? Roll a number of dice equal to your Strength and hope for 5s and 6s! Facing a terrifying monster? Roll Will! Talking to somebody? Roll Influence? Trying to read an old book? Roll Lore! Which of course makes it sound very straightforward, and it is in that one sense. As with many of these sorts of games though, the journey's the thing.

An actual self-portrait.

October 9th, 1930

Dearest Silas,

If you ever come to consider the misfortune of being delayed in Indonesia, I do not recommend it. I have little hope of this message reaching you, as the postal service of these parts is notoriously prone to pocketing anything with so much as a penny’s worth of parchment in it, but I pray it reaches you nonetheless.

I am well, and en route to Shanghai. During my stay, I have bartered for protection, hiring a rough-looking fellow with enough teeth missing to provide for an entire quarter’s worth of anatomy work back at Miskatonic. He will no doubt provide ample security in the unlikely event that the unfortunate turn of affairs of Sydney are revisited.

If you must, I can be reached at the Astor House. I trust you recall the path that will lead you to its hidden south wing.

Ever yours,
~Leo Anderson

THE INEVITABLE QUESTION! — How does it compare to Arkham Horror? That's a tricky question. It's simpler, certainly. I like its variable mysteries more than Arkham's objectives, though the board is more static (stuff is added with regularity, but monsters rarely move and other than some time limits on things like rumors, the board is relatively unchanging; you're never PURSUED, really). Still, there's a lot to be said for simplicity, and the fun of EH's globe-trotting tale. Ultimately, I really can't answer the question, except to say that I somewhat prefer Eldritch Horror.

Closing the Shanghai gate.

November 6th, 1930

To Whom It May Concern;

By now you must be aware that I have deduced your intent. The closing of the whispering gate in Shanghai, as well as the deviousness waiting for your men at the Astor House, will have shown my hand, as you showed me yours with their arrival. Whether you are some maladjusted version of the Silas I once knew, or merely the new inhabitant of his skull, penmanship and wax-seals and all, in either case I believe the man I bled alongside in the trenches of France to have bled his last. God rest his soul, and God save it.

It is unfortunate that any man should serve the adversary, whose True Name I have now learned with all confidence, and spent these last months phoneticizing into characters even the lowliest serving boy could make out. With the same post that delivers this letter to you, I have sent a dozen missives to a dozen contacts in a dozen countries. No matter what harm your agents may inflict upon me, within the month there will be a score of men speaking the name of Azathoth. Within the year, I suspect your master’s attempts to enter and consume this world will have been roundly beaten.

May he rot behind his gates.
~Leo Anderson


See? Creepy. Just one more instance of board games perfectly emulating real life. And as you can see, I hail from one hell of a bloodline. Stay vigilant, siblings. Stay vigilant.

* * * * * * *

Unlike the protagonist of our story, who will probably not survive to play a board game ever again, you can support Space-Biff! and play board games at the same time! Want to know how? Just buy Eldritch Horror through Amazon using this little link here. You won’t regret it. Unless you don’t like games like Eldritch Horror, then please don’t do it. The guilt would drive me mad.

Posted on January 9, 2014, in Board Game and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. digitalpariah76

    I love the opening paragraph! Enjoyed the rest of the article too, mind you.

    Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

  2. Man, I couldn’t stop laughing! Pretty good approximation of Lovecraft too.

  3. Super review! Well done!

  1. Pingback: Geralt Was Never This Unsexy | SPACE-BIFF!

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