Arkham Horror - Game Guide - Chapter 2: First Steps

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is first and foremost a card game (I know, the name totally gives it away). Using the vast number of cards in the game, you will play through a specific number of scenarios, which when played in succession will make up a campaign.

You will take your investigator through said scenarios attempting to rid the world of the servants of darkness attempting to summon an unknown evil. 


Each investigator belongs to one-or-more character classes, a trope often seen in roleplaying games. At the time of writing this, there are five character classes in the game:

  • Guardian. A guardian character is, well, a guardian. They strive to protect people typically by combatting enemies attempting to harm other or themselves.
  • Mystic. Mystics delve into the arcane forces of the world, utilising spells and other magical abilities to manipulate the world around them.
  • Rogue. Unlike the guardians of the world, rogues are more focused on themselves and will utilise any situation, eager to further their own desires and goals.
  • Seeker. Seekers are the learned scholars in the game. Always interested in researching items and artefacts, they have a natural talent for studying and providing intellect to a party.
  • Survivor. Last, but not least, we have the survivors. As the name infers, these are the downtrodden and unlucky people, who typically find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, but somehow always manage to rise to the occasion and pull through whatever the world throws at them.

All investigators belong to at least one of these classes. Regardless of the class, all investigators also have a particular set of skills aiding them in a campaign. There are four different skills, each represented by a number: willpower; intellect; combat; agility. The skills are used throughout the game to pass different types of tests. Need to cast a spell? You test your willpower. Need to discover clues at locations? You test your intellect. Do you want to take a swing at an enemy? You test your combat… you get the idea.

You pass tests by comparing the number next to a skill to a threshold value determined by the game. If your number is equal to or higher than the threshold, you pass and reap whatever reward you might gain, be it discovering a clue, dealing damage to enemies etc.

Sound simple enough? It is.

Sound easy enough? Well… it isn’t.

Let me introduce you to the infamous “chaos bag”.


The Chaos Bag

Oh, the chaos bag. The bane to many a player’s existence. You don’t need to be an actual investigator to deduce that the chaos bag introduces a bit of… well, chaos, to your game. It is however, a fantastic part of the game that genuinely creates some truly suspenseful moments. Let me describe what it does.

Whenever a player performs a test using one of the aforementioned skills, they also have to draw a random token from the chaos bag. Each token has a value either on it or listed somewhere on the table (typically on a card). This number modifies your test value. As the drawn token is random, you cannot know for certain whether you will pass or fail a test before committing to it. So, all you can do is do your best to set yourself up for the best possible outcome, well-aware that it may all be for naught.

It is not all bad though, as the chaos bag has both positive and negative modifiers… but mostly negative. Fortunately, you – and your fellow investigators – can also modify your skill value before nerverackingly drawing a token from the chaos bag. You do this by playing cards from your hand, which can have either icons or effects that help you when doing tests.

You’re probably sitting there thinking,

What are all these cards you keep mentioning?
Also, can’t I just play all the good cards and win that way?

I’m glad you asked.

Let’s take a look at the type cards players can play.


Player Cards

Right off the bat, the total number of cards in Arkham Horror: The Card Game are literally in the thousands. It’s therefore well beyond of the scope of this guide to go through them all and what they do (I have trick for this though, just hold on till we get to the final chapter of this guide). For now, let’s take a look at the type of player cards you’ll find in the game.

Throughout a game, each player will have their own individual deck consisting of various types of player cards. These cards all fall into one of the following categories.

  • Assets. Assets cards are an umbrella term for cards that you will play onto the table during your turn, where they’ll remain until they – for one reason or other – have to leave the table. These cards are usually either,
    • Items. Items are typically equipped to your investigator and will likely buff one of your skills, i.e. a weapon that makes it easier for you to deal damage to an enemy when using the combat skill.
    • Allies. A helping hand is always welcomed in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Depending on the ally in question, they can either buff your investigator in a skill test or simply soak up some damage whenever your investigator was being attacked.
    • Talents. Like other assets, talents can help you perform tests throughout the game, or perhaps give you a leg-up before starting a new scenario.
    • Spells. A much beloved card type by the Mystic character class, spells are simply that… spells. Spells can stand-in for other skill tests during game, meaning you don’t necessarily have to bring a weapon with you to combat enemies. You’ll simply cast spells instead.
  • Skills. Unlike assets, which stay on the table after being played, skills are only used when – you guessed it – performing skill tests. Regardless of whether you passed or failed a skill test, the card is discarded and will be ready to be played a later time in the game.
  • Events. Similar to skill cards, events provide an immediate effect to an investigator’s situation, but will be discarded immediately after resolving its effect.

As you can see from the above card types, all card types aid you in beating the game and coming out on the top. These cards will make up your deck giving you the best possible chance of progressing successfully in the game. Isn’t that fantastic? It is, but there’s one more card type in your deck, which isn’t nearly as helpful. It’s bad, actually. Quite bad.

  • Weaknesses. Just like actual real-life people, the investigators in Arkham Horror: The Card Game are flawed and have weaknesses. All investigators will have at least one weakness in their deck, which – when drawn – will hinder you in winning the game. Some are worse than others, but they’re always a nuisance and somehow seem to be drawn at the worst possible time. Fortunately the weaknesses can be overcome so they’re nothing more than a temporary setback… assuming you deal with them.

These are the typical cards you’ll find in your individual player decks.

But, you might wonder, how do I know which cards to bring to a game?

Well wondered, dear reader. Let’s explore the composition of player decks a bit further.


Player Decks

Regardless of which investigator you decide to play as, all decks will comprise of cards from the aforementioned types. The publisher has created so-called Starter Decks for each investigator to make it easy for new players to jump right into the game.

Sound straight forward? It really is.

Ready to learn more? Excellent.

I think it’s time to leave all the card-talk behind and take a macro look at the game as a whole, starting off with where you start as new player of Arkham Horror: The Card Game.


Where to Start?

Fortunately, this is actually the easiest question to answer, as there is only one correct answer.

You have to start with a core set. There’s nothing else for it.

The core set comes with everything a new player requires to get started with the game. The list of contents is long, but the main takeaways are,

  • Five unique investigators with their own individual decks
  • One campaign consisting of three individual scenarios
  • Various tokens for keeping track of statuses during gameplay
  • The rules of the game

 Once you’ve played through a campaign using a deck, you can always give the same campaign (or a different one) a go with a different investigator, allowing for tremendous replayability.

Right, that was a lot of information.

Hopefully this has enticed you to giving the game a try, as it truly is a remarkable game. If so, I’ve taken the liberty of adding a link to the best place you can buy the core set: right here on Arda Games.

If you’ve come this far and discovered the game is not for you, then I just want to thank you for your time. If the game sounds like it might be right for someone you know, please do share this guide with them.

Still undecided? If so, I suggest you move on to the next chapter where you’ll learn how to play Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

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