Free shipping @ $100 within US. Weekly Deals and Canvas sales end Sunday April. 14th @ 9pm EST.
Arkham Horror (Third Edition) - Game Overview

Arkham Horror (Third Edition) - Game Overview

Arkham Horror (Third Edition) - Game Overview

Welcome to our Game Overview of Fantasy Flight Games Arkham Horror (Third Edition).

In our overview, you will find a spoiler-free description of the components and gameplay. Our Game Overviews strive to be informative and impartial.

If you want to find out HOW to play this game, Read on. If you are interested to know what we think, check out our Arkham Horror (Third Edition) Game Review.

Arkham Horror (Third Edition)

The Game – Arkham Horror (Third Edition)

Arkham Horror is a fully cooperative game for 1- 6 players that takes 2-3 hours to complete and is geared towards people ages 14 & up. In this game, you play a named investigator trying to find out more about what’s happening in Arkham and its surrounding towns. Each game is its own unique story that has multiple steps to complete. You won’t know the whole story when you start, but the true goal will become clear as you progress. Arkham Horror is a game of moving around a modular board and rolling dice to “test” your skills. Skill Tests, as they are known, are the key to the game. Passing the tests will advance the investigation positively; however, failing tests can cause your investigator to take damage or lose their sanity. Hopefully, you’ll be able to solve the mystery and save the day!

layout of the board

Game Components

Arkham Horror Files games typically have a lot of components, and this board game is no exception. The game box includes:

  • 12 map tiles – 5 neighborhoods and 7 streets
  • 4 Scenario Sheets
  • 12 Investigators with matching tokens
  • 6 reference cards – help you to play
  • 32 Headline Cards
  • 40 Archive Cards
  • 36 Anomaly Cards
  • 96 Event Cards
  • 72 Encounter Cards
  • 12 Ally Cards
  • 28 item cards
  • 10 Spell cards
  • 26 Special Cards
  • 37 Starting Investigator cards
  • 12 Condition cards
  • 62 Monster cards
  • 48 clue/doom tokens
  • 42 Damage tokens
  • 42 Horror tokens
  • 40 Money tokens
  • 5 Anomaly tokens
  • 30 Focus tokens
  • 6 dice
  • 24 remnant tokens
  • 18 mythos tokens
  • 10 Marker tokens
  • 6 activation tokens
  • 1 Event deck holder

Game setup

Overall, Arkham Horror (Third Edition) is a reasonably complex game. In this section, we’ll go over how to set up a scenario. The first thing to do is choose a scenario. In the core box, there are four scenarios. By adding expansions, the number of scenarios can increase quite a bit.

Layout the board

After you’ve chosen a scenario, you’ll need to layout the board. If you flip the scenario sheet over, a map will tell you which Neighborhood tiles are required. The tiles are double-sided, so make sure you have the correct version of a neighborhood for a scenario. The scenario sheet will tell you where to place them and, most importantly, how to connect them. Street pieces connect neighborhood tiles. There are 3 types of streets, forest, bridge or street. The type you use in each place is essential to the scenario.

Assemble Neighborhood decks

Once you have laid out the board as shown on the scenario sheet. It’s now time to assemble the Neighborhood encounter decks. You will need to pull the 8 encounter cards per neighborhood and shuffle them into a pile. In the end, you should have a pile per neighborhood and a pile for the street encounters. Be careful to only shuffle the encounter cards together per neighborhood. There are additional event cards that look exactly the same. The main difference is that they have grey fronts instead of the color associated with the neighborhood.

To set up the event cards, first, you need to find all the event cards for the scenario you’ve chosen. The event cards have the scenario’s name on the bottom left on the front side of the card. There should be about 20 of them. Shuffle these into a single pile and place them on the event deck holder

mockup of board tiles and cards

Assemble Monster decks

Now look at the scenario sheet and find the Monster Deck section. From the 62 monster cards, pull out the monsters listed on the scenario sheet. Often it will say pull all “cultists,” for instance. In this case, the investigators should add each enemy with the word cultist in their name to the deck. Once you have pulled them all, shuffle them and place them next to the board.

Put together the Mythos cup

On the Scenario Sheet is a section called Mythos Cup, and it will have a series of symbols. Gather all the mythos tokens in the amounts indicated and add them to an opaque cup or bag (you will need to supply this). The next step is to create the Headline deck. Shuffle all the Headline cards and deal 13 into a deck. Place all others back in the box.

Preparing tokens and decks

Now prepare the Allies, Spells, and item decks by shuffling them separately and laying them on the table. With the item deck, deal off the first five and place them face up next to the deck. This group of items is called the display, and it’s a “shop” of sorts.

Next, separate all the tokens into unique pools, Damage, Horror, Focus, Money Remnant, and clue/doom token pools.

Now it’s time to set up the archive and the codex. The scenario sheet will tell you what cards to remove from the archive deck and place them in front of you.

Choose an investigator

Each player now chooses an investigator to play. Each investigator is different with different specialties and different health and horror. A piece of advice: At this point, talk to your fellow players and try to select a well-balanced team. For instance, investigators with high Strength can Fight, but they are usually not strong mentally and succumb easily to horror. However, other investigators are good at warding off doom but not good at fighting. A well-balanced team is a key to success.

Each player should flip over their investigator card and review the starting possessions. There is usually one card and some money given to each investigator. The investigators do get a second skill that they choose from two possible cards.

Place all investigators on the Starting Space listed in the scenario sheet.

Ok, we’re nearly done with the setup. Only a few more things to do!

Final setup

  • First, spawn some clues. To do this, draw the top three event cards from the event deck one by one. Look at the neighborhood on the card and then take the top two cards from the corresponding neighborhood deck and shuffle all three back onto that deck. Finally, place a clue token in the center space of the neighborhood. Then repeat this for the other two event cards.
  • Next, look at the back of the scenario sheet and for every location with a doom symbol, place a doom token in that location.
  • Then it’s time to spread doom. To do this, draw the bottom card of the event deck and flip it over. At least one of the three locations will have a doom icon next to its name. Add a doom token to each location with the icon.
  • Read the Finalize Setup on the back of the scenario sheet and follow those instructions. Typically, this is when you add cards from the archive to the codex, but other things may happen.

Now you are ready to play this game! Whew…

Game Play

Arkham Horror (Third Edition) plays over a series of rounds. At first, you won’t know precisely how to win the game, but not to worry. The codex is the story, and it reveals itself as you play. Each game has multiple steps to complete before the end goal becomes visible. The main objective is to collect clues and the “research those clues” to move them from the investigator to the scenario sheet. Meanwhile, you will need to fight off enemies and ward off doom, which can severely hinder your investigation.

Skill Tests

Before we get into the specifics of how each round is structured, we’d like to take a minute and discuss Skill Tests. You will be doing skill Tests in many different areas of the game, so we thought it best to start with these. During the game, you will come across one of five symbols in the text. These symbols include an open book for Lore, a handshake for Influence, an eye for Observation, a person flexing their muscles for Strength, and a silhouette of a head for Will. Anytime you see these on a card, it denotes that you must perform a skill test.

investigators stat sheets

To perform a skill test, you must look at your investigator sheet and find the icon skill being tested. The number next to it equates to the number of dice you roll. Sometimes the icon for a test will have a plus number or minus number after the symbol ( a skill modifier). This modifier means you alter the number of dice, either up or down, by the number.

Before you roll, check your other cards (items, starting possessions, skills allies, amongst others) to see if any of them can help you with this skill test type. Usually, they will instruct you to add dice to the roll. Once you’ve figured out how many dice you need to roll, go ahead and roll them. To succeed on a test, you will typically need a 5 or a 6. Each time you get a 5 or 6, it is considered a success. That said, if you have received a Blessed condition, you can add in 4s as successes as well. Conversely, if you become Cursed, you must roll 6s only for success. So there is some variability in passing or failing a test.

Some components allow you to modify your test results, and you should do this after you roll but before you finalize your success count.

Damage and Horror

In Arkham Horror each investigator has a damage and horror limit that they can take. Enemies will do damage and horror to you when they attack, as will other game effects. If you get damage or horror, you add tokens to your investigator. When they reach or exceed the number of damage or horror, they are defeated. If your investigator is defeated, you are not out of the game. Instead, you lose all items and spells and allies you have gained, and you select a new, unused investigator to begin the next round. At the start of the next round, place their token on the starting space, and you can continue. If there are no more investigators left to add, then you are indeed out of the game.


Allies is a deck of cards with people or animals that can help you with your investigation. These often grant you component actions, but they can also provide you with additional damage or horror. If you incur these, you can pass them on to your allies. If they reach either of their limits, then they are defeated.


When you gain a spell, draw one from the deck. Spells will help you; however, they often have a negative effect. On you after use. Remnants can help protect you from preventing from taking horror.


Items will help you in your investigation. Often, the game text tells you to draw an item from the deck, but sometimes you will draw from the display of 5 items face up. In that case, you’ll often have to buy the item for the number of dollars listed on the card. Just remember you can’t take more items than you can hold. If an item has a hand or two-handed icon on it, you can only take up to two hands worth of items into your possession. Think of it as holding an item in your hand or that it takes two to carry.

Game Rounds

Each Arkham Horror (Third Edition) game takes place in a series of rounds with four phases: Action, Monster, Encounter, and Mythos Phase. In the rest of this article, we’ll go into detail about what happens in each phase.

visual of components

Action Phase

In this phase, the investigators each take up to two actions from the following:

  • Move
  • Gather Resources
  • Focus
  • Ward
  • Attack
  • Evade
  • Research
  • Trade
  • Component Actions

Move Action

You may move your investigators up to two spaces away from where they are now in a move action. You may spend money to proceed further. For each dollar you spend, you can move an additional space up to two spaces.

If you move into a space with a monster that isn’t attached to another investigator, it will connect to you.

Gather Resources Action

You can gain a dollar. That’s it… get a dollar.

Focus Action

You may choose to improve one of your skills. Focus means taking a +1 token for the skill and putting it on your investigator sheet. Each investigator has a limit to the number of focus tokens they may have in total.

Investigators can also spend focus tokens to reroll one die even if that focus token doesn’t match the tested skill.

Ward Action

Warding is the primary way you remove doom from a location. Removing doom is important because bad things will happen if there is too much doom in a location. We’ll explain that in a minute. To perform a Ward action, you will do a Lore Skill test, and for each success, you remove one doom. Two or more successes will also get you a remnant which you may use when performing spells or exchange for money at different points in the game.

Attack Action

If you are in a space with an enemy, you may engage it (move the card from where it is to in front of you. You can do this even if another investigator is already engaged with the enemy. Then you resolve a strength test but make sure to modify the number of dice by the attack modifier value listed on the enemy card. For each success you roll, you deal 1 damage to the enemy. The enemy has damage equal to the number next to its Health heart.

If you manage to deal enough dame to equal its health or go over that, you have defeated it. When you beat it, place it onto the monster pile and if it had a remnant symbol, gain one remnant.

Evade Action

When you engage with a monster, you are limited to only focusing, attacking, or evading actions. To be able to do other actions, you will need to either defeat it or evade it. To evade, you will need to test Observation but modify the number of dice by the evade modifier on the monster card. While engaged with multiple monsters, you only need to perform a single evade test. Just be sure to use the evade modifier that makes you roll the least number of dice. For each success, you can disengage and exhaust one monster.

If you roll successes, you have successfully disengaged, and all enemies become exhausted. Exhausted enemies will not move or attack in the next Monster Phase. If you successfully disengage all enemies, you can do one additional Action.

Research Action

Once you have got clues to your investigator cards (we’ll talk about how you get clues in the Encounter Phase below), you can research them by performing an observation test. For each success you roll, you can place one clue on the scenario sheet. Most scenarios require you to add clues to the scenario sheet cumulatively.

Trade Action

If you are in the exact location of another investigator, you may trade with them. You are free to exchange any number of allies, items, spells, money clues, or remnants.

Component Actions

Some cards and other components your investigators get have the word Action followed by some instructions. These are considered additional actions you may take during your turn.


From time to time, a card action will tell you to make an investigator delayed. You must lay the investigator on their side. When the next round starts during the investigator’s action phase, your first Action is to stand up your player token, and then you can only do one other Action.

Monster Phase

In the monster Phase, it is time for the enemies you are pitted against to move and attack. Monsters can either be Ready, Exhausted, or Engaged. Ready Monsters will seek out an investigator and will move to attack. An Exhausted Monster will not move or attack. An engaged Monster is ready to attack an investigator, and they are removed from the board and placed infant of the investigator. Most monsters only engage with a single investigator, although there are exceptions. Investigators can be engaged with many monsters at the same time. There is no limit.

In the Monster Phase, enemies follow these steps. They activate, Engage, attack, and exhausted monsters ready themselves.

monsters of Arkham Horror

If a monster activates, it does one of three things. Hunters move towards their prey (which is related to an investigator’s skill or other attributes) and engage. Patrollers Move toward a specific location. If they move through a space with an investigator, it stops and engages with that investigator. Finally, Lurkers don’t move, but they cause another negative effect to occur on the game.

Some monsters move towards the “unstable space” – This is the space on the top event card in the event discard pile with a doom icon.

Then all engaged monsters attack. They deal damage and horror equal to the number of hearts and brains on their exhausted side of the monster card.

Finally, if there were any exhausted monsters, they become Ready, and if an investigator is in their space, they engage. They don’t attack this round.

Encounter Phase

The round moves to the Encounter once all enemies have moved, attacked, or readied themselves. The main goal of the encounter phase is to gain clues. However, you can do an encounter card so long as you are not engaged with an enemy.

If you are playing with other players, have someone else take an encounter card for either the neighborhood or streets where your investigator is standing. They should read the card section associated with your specific location or the appropriate street type. They should stop reading after they read the test if there is one and then only read the section if you’ve passed or failed.

If your neighborhood has a clue, the drawn card may allow you to gain that clue. If you do achieve it, take it from the board and discard the encounter card into the event discard deck; however, if you fail a skill test that was required to gain the clue, the card is shuffled back into the top 2 cards in the encounter deck for that neighborhood.

Finally, if the encounter card was a typical encounter and not a clue encounter, place that card at the bottom of the appropriate neighborhood deck.

Mythos Phase

During the Mythos Phase, in Arkham Horror, each investigator starting with the lead investigator, draws two tokens from the mythos cup one at a time. Then resolves them in order. There are seven types of mythos events which are detailed here:

  • Spread Doom – discard the bottom card on the event deck and add doom to the locations marked with the doom icon.
  • Spawn Monster – Take the bottom monster card from the monster deck and place it on the board based on the spawn text instructions
  • Read Headline – Draw one card from the Headline deck and resolve it. Then discard the card back to a faceup pile. If there are no more headlines, add one doom to the scenario sheet.
  • Spawn a Clue – take the top card from the event deck, add one clue to that neighborhood, and shuffle the card into the top two of the neighborhood deck.
  • Gate Burst – Take the top card of the event deck and add one doom on each space in the neighborhood. Then shuffle that card with the event discard deck and place it on the bottom of the event deck.
  • Reckoning – Various cards have a reckoning symbol on them. the scenario sheet has one, but sometimes headlines and items along with dark pacts have them as well
  • Blank – nothing happens; you have a bit of a break and can go on with the investigation.

When an investigator draws a token from the cup, set it aside and do not put it back in. Once the mythos cup is empty, place all tokens back in the cup and shake it up.

Finally, this is the end of the round. From here, you repeat the above phases until you complete the game.


Anomalies appear in select scenarios. If they are in the current one, the game’s codex will tell you on the scenario sheet. An anomaly occurs if any location has three or more doom on it or any neighborhood has five or more doom. Any more doom placed in that neighborhood goes on the scenario sheet instead. If the investigators successfully ward off all doom in a neighborhood, the anomaly goes away, and you remove the token. Finally, whenever you encounter a neighborhood with a monster, you take a card from the anomaly deck and resolve the section with the number of doom in your space.

This article is just a selection of rules needed to play this fantastic game. Here at Detective Hawk Games, we think Arkham Horror: The Board Game is excellent. The story and fighting draw us into the game, and we believe they will with you too!

We are currently running a special offer for October when you buy $50 worth of Arkham Products and receive a FREE copy of the Investigators of Arkham Horror book (a $40 value). This book is a full-color coffee table-sized book with stories of many of the investigators. We are not selling this book in our store currently, and you can only get it as part of our Arkham Horror Files October promotion.