I have failed. This week, I've failed to file some new material. Sorry about that. So instead I present to you this Arkham Horror session report from my archives. The opening line should tell you just how old it is, since I've played 20+ games of Arkham. Normal service resumed next week, I hope.
This was my fourth solo attempt at Arkham Horror, with one of my previous three games ending in success by beating back the ancient one when it appeared. I'd heard a lot of advice that it was worth trying the game with multiple characters, or to slow down the rate of mythos cards if only playing with a single character, and I wanted to see if it were possible to do a six-gate seal win with just one investigator.
To this end I deliberately picked an investigator and ancient one to maximise my chances. The deity was obvious - Azathoth has the longest doom track (giving me maximum time) and denies any chance of a win by beating him in combat. The investigator was a bit more tricky to pick but in the end I went for Mandy, the researcher. The four clue tokens would be a big boost in early gate sealing and her special ability to re-roll failed dice once per turn looked like it'd be tremendously powerful in a single player game where no-one else was going to be rolling dice! Her fight and lore weren't too good which might make closing gates a bit of a problem, but I figured the re-roll would overcome this issue
I'd spotted during my previous three games that some locations seemed to be more prone to opening gates than others with the Woods and the Witch House being particularly prone. So I resolved to seal those as early as possible.
Drawing my initial cards I lucked out - my unique item was an Elder Sign! So that was another quick seal I had up my sleeve and an excellent weapon against high difficulty gates. My other cards were less inspiring - +1 Speed for my skill, an axe and a cross. So I figured I'd be avoiding a lot of monsters. The first gate to come up was a +0 difficulty gate in the Woods, one of my target locations, and the monster that spewed forth was a Zombie - nothing my axe and cross couldn't handle - which immediately moved into the street, blocking my passage to the gate unless I could sneak past it. The first clue appeared at the Historical Society.
Figuring I didn't want to use the Elder Sign on a +0 gate I thought I'd go and collect those two clue tokens from the historical society first. I met a young geologist there who took me straight to the black caves, where another clue awaited. Whilst exploring the cave I found a rotted body - unpleasant, sure, but it turned out to have a rusty .38 on it. With an axe in one hand and the revolver in the other, Mandy finally stood a decent chance against the monsters. The mythos card turned up another clue at - the Black Cave! One turn in and I already had eight clue tokens! A +0 gate opened in the Witch House and a Warlock stepped through.
Seeing that the Warlock could yield yet more clues, my course of action seemed pretty obvious. I went straight to the Witch House, gunning for the swine. Having a paltry two will, I failed the horror check and decided not to use the re-roll on such a small number of dice, so I took some sanity damage. I then managed to fluff all my combat dice - thankfully I'd saved that re-roll and the next batch of bullets slammed into the Warlock, whose body yielded my clue count up to ten. Then it was in to the otherworld. While away, I managed to have to grab a spell - withering - out of thin air and on my return to Arkham I closed and sealed the gate successfully. One down, five to go.
While I was gone, more gates had opened up - a -2 in Independence Square where a ghost lurked and +1 on the Unvisited Isle from which a Maniac emerged to stalk the streets. However a headline event had put the zombie back in the cup, leaving the way clear to the Woods. There were two clues back on the Historical Society again so I headed on down there to add to my tally. While doing my sleuthing over the society's' books I ran into the famous Professor Armitage from the University and I explained to him what was going on. When I showed him so artifacts I'd collected in the otherworld he agreed to accompany me. This was a huge stroke of luck - my one weakness as a gate closer - lowish fight and lore scores - had been rectified by the +2 lore that the professor provided.
So then to the Woods and another gate. Once again one of my two otherworld encounters was a big boon - another 4 clue tokens! Back in Arkham a little later I was able to close and seal a second gate with ease, thanks to the professors help. My two target locations were already sealed - what a start! While I was away from Arkham another gate had opened at the Unnamable which was guarded by a Dark Young, and a monster surge had lead to the terror track rising for the first time.
The next target was Independence Square - I didn't want to take the chance of being delayed by the Maniac, who was lurking in the street space that lead to the other two gates on the board and I figured with Withering and the cross, I could easily take the ghost. I stopped on the way up to pick up some clue tokens and the ghost went down easily under an unholy alliance of Christian symbolism and mythos magic. I found $3 in the otherworld, but I had to spend a couple of clue tokens to stave off an encounter which would have left me lost in time and space. Once back in Arkham I used the Elder sign to seal the gate, not fancying the -2 modifier on the dice. After paying the cost my sanity and stamina were starting to run a little low but I had three gates sealed.
By now mythos cards were regularly starting to indicate gates opening on the woods and the witch house, giving me some breathing space. So I figured I could take the time to take out the Maniac in the streets and try to close the Unvisited Isle gate (I didn't fancy taking on the Nightmarish Dark Young with my already eroded sanity). I did indeed have time and I added another monster and gate trophy to my collection, but not until I'd burnt through a bunch more clue tokens to beat off another otherworld encounter that threatened to leave me lost in time and space. But that was four gates sealed and I still felt very much in control of the game. The terror track was fairly low - about three or so - most of the monsters on the streets were weak, with the exception of the Dark Young which couldn't move and Azathoth was only on six on the doom track.
As ever, that's when things started to go wrong.
The enduring run of luck I'd had finding clue tokens had finally come to an end, and I was down to three. The last few mythos cards had indicated that clues be left in locations with open gates, so there were very few on the board. Worse, the last gate to open was at the Science Building, so I couldn't go trade my stack of gate trophies for more. To add insult to injury a rumour had come in to effect - the Great Ritual, which required me to find and sacrifice three spells else face the prospect of two mythos cards per turn.
Since I had only enough cash to buy one spell, and didn't want to waste time and trophies trading for cash at the River Docks, I decided to ignore the ritual. After all, I'd sealed four locations and the terror track was low. So I went to the Witch House, one of the few places on the board which had a clue token. The encounter I had there was terrible - whispering voices of long-dead witches forced me to make a will check at -2 and my will was ... 2! The punishment for failing was to loose half my items which I really didn't want to do, since it would have left me completely at the mercy of the monsters. On the plus side, if I passed the check I'd get a spell, and be in the position to pass the Great Ritual. So I burnt a precious clue token to get a dice to roll - which failed. As did the next one. As did a third! Oh well I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound, and spent the last clue token. It was the most nerve-wracking dice roll of the whole game. And it ... succeeded!
So now I had to pop on down to the magick shoppe to get my third spell, but I was completely out of clue tokens and had no idea where I was going to get enough to seal my fifth and sixth gates. The last one appeared at silver twilight so I thought I'd better grab the precious thing in case a gate opened there. The encounter was with the old wizard who headed the lodge himself, but this was no offer to join, this was a test of our respective lore! Again, thanks to the professor, I passed his test and was rewarded with three clue tokens! Joy! I was back in business again!
I spent the next couple of turns paying put to the Great Ritual and gathering a fifth clue token. My luck with drawing sealed locations off the mythos deck was running out and gates had opened in the Historical Society and the Black Cave, pushing the doom track up, and a couple of monster surges had put the terror track up. But now I had the chance to close the Science Building gate, bagging a fifth seal and the opportunity to trade for more clues. A Vampire was in the streets in my way but that cross was easily enough to put paid to his undead existence. I'd wildly underestimated how useful the crucifix was proving to be!
My fifth excursion into the outer dimensions was pretty tense since I knew I had no spare clue tokens to burn to save myself from getting lost in time and space. Fortunately, I encountered nothing terribly challenging and arrived back in Arkham safe and sound, another easy gate closed and sealed behind me. So I sat on the University for three turns, trading up trophies for enough clues to give me a chance to seal my last gate. Again, I hit a run of luck with the cards opening gates on sealed locations until a gate turned up in the Black Cave, and out stepped a Shoggoth. Horror of horrors!
There were now six gates open in total and I was in danger of Azathoth waking up through the sheer number of gates open. The easiest gate on the board to close was the one at the Graveyard, but there was a cultist in the way, and I had no realistic way of sneaking past him so I just had to take the risk and delay a turn to stop and put the deranged fool out of his misery. That proved easy enough, and the mythos card didn't open a new gate but it did - to my mounting horror as I scanned the board for monster symbols - cause the Shoggoth to move out of the Black Cave and right into my street location!
Calm down! Breathe easy! Right, it's the start of the turn and I only need to move one location, so adjust that skill slider two steps toward sneak and away from speed. The shoggoth has a -1 sneak modifier, giving me three dice. Roll the bones and ... fail! Thankfully we have Mandy's' re-roll ability and one of the next three comes up a six. Mandy slips past the protoplasmic behemoth and into the Dreamlands gate in the Graveyard.
The next two turns are nail-biting. I'm down to one stamina, one sanity, I'm one gate away from Azathoth waking up and I've got but one clue token to spend on a re-roll. Gulp down that lump in the throat and turn those cards over. Before I know it I'm back in Arkham safe and sound and with a realistic chance of bagging the six gate seal win. All I need is to roll seven dice (four lore, plus two for the professor, plus one for an easy gate) and score a success.
Of course, every dice comes up a fail.
But Mandy hasn't used her special ability yet. So I pick up those seven dice again, close my eyes, and let them fall.
The gate is closed. Sealed. Arkham is safe.
As I said, this was my fourth game. I read in an AH session report once from one guy who'd played about thirty games and won ten of them by beating the ancient one and he was still hoping for a six-gate win. I feel a bit guilty for having pulled this off.
In my defence, I deliberately picked what I thought would be the easiest investigator and ancient one to manage the feat. I was also absurdly lucky, right from the point where I drew that Elder Sign at the start of the game. Without that I'd have been facing an even bigger shortage of clue tokens and an even bigger problem. Beyond that I just kept on being fortunate. I was hitting mythos cards for gates I'd already sealed. Most of the monsters on the board were feeble in a game where I didn't have all that many combat dice. Clue tokens were absurdly easy to come by, especially early in the game, and I hit an encounter to get more just when I needed it. To top it all off my encounters in both Arkahm and the otherworld were frequently positive, and when I needed to pull off rolls to make them positive I often seemed to make it. Of course Mandys' skill re-roll ability helped a lot with that. It proved totally invaluable - I used it to save my bacon many more times than I mentioned in the text. It was so useful in fact that I'm left wondering if Mandy isn't a bit too easy as an investigator in a solo game.