Welcome to our Game Overview for Fantasy Flight Games Eldritch Horror.
In our overview, you will find a spoiler-free description of the game, along with details 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 Eldritch Horror Game Review.
The Game – Eldritch Horror
Eldritch Horror is an exciting and different way to immerse yourself in the Arkham Horror Universe. This fully collaborative game has you play investigators racing around the world to close gates and solve mysteries before the Ancient One awakens. By traveling to different locations, you position yourself to solve encounters with otherworldly beings to help save humanity! This game is for 1- 8 players and is suitable for ages 14 & up. The name Horror suggests this game is scary. It’s not. Of course, you will have monsters to fight and sanity to protect, but it’s not too involved. The key to the game is that the encounters are reasonably descriptive and require you to test your investigator’s skills. Let’s find out how to play.
- 1 Game Board – a Map of the world circa the 1920s
- 12 Investigator Sheets with Matching Tokens
- 4 Ancient One Setup Sheets
- 122 Encounter Cards – 8 America, 8 Europe, 8 Asia/Australia, 12 General. 24 Other World, 18 Expedition, 12 Special, and 32 Research cards
- 51 Mythos Cards
- 16 Mystery Cards
- 14 Artifact Cards
- 40 Asset Cards
- 36 Condition Cards
- 20 Spell Cards
- 43 Monster Tokens
- 1 Lead Investigator Token
- 20 Travel Ticket tokens
- 30 Improvement tokens
- 1 Mystery Token
- 36 clue tokens
- 20 Eldritch Tokens
- 9 Gate Tokens
- 4 Rumor Tokens
- 1 Omen Token
- 1 Doom Token
- 4 dice
- 1 Active Expedition Token
- 4 Reference Cards
- 78 Health and Sanity tokens
To set up Eldritch Horror, start by placing the board in the middle of the table for all to reach. You’ll notice that the board has a map of the world with both named and unnamed locations on it, all with a corresponding number. You will see the doom track along the top, which is how you keep track of the Ancient One’s awakening. Start by setting out piles of tokens for the travel tickets, improvements, clue, eldritch, rumor, and health and sanity. With the clue tokens, turn them face down and mix them up.
The next step is to take the gate tokens, place them facedown, and randomly pull a pile of 9 gates into a stack.
Then choose who will be the Lead Investigator, and starting with that person, each player chooses an investigator to play. They take the investigator card along with the appropriate standee and place that on the starting space.
Then each investigator gains their starting possessions from the Asset and Spell decks along with health and sanity tokens equal to their maximum listed on the investigator card.
Choose an Ancient One
Next, it’s time to choose which Ancient One the team wants to tackle. Place the Ancient One sheet within view of all players and resolve any setup effects. There are two sides to this sheet, and you want the side with the Doom number in the upper left corner.
Now create the Monster cup by taking all non-epic monster tokens and place them in an opaque bag or cup and shake it up.
Next, we’ll set up the cards in the game. There are a lot of different types of cards. Start by taking all Research encounter cards, Special encounter cards, and Mystery Cards for this Ancient One (the back of the card should match the image on the Ancient One Sheet). Then Shuffle each pile separately. Then take all the Expedition encounter cards and shuffle those into a pile. Continue with the Spell and Condition decks. Shuffle and place into their piles. Then shuffle each region’s encounter deck, the general encounter deck, and the otherworld encounter deck separately into their decks.
Create a Mythos Cup
Create the mythos deck. This deck is specific to the Ancient One. The sheet will list Stage 1, 2, and 3 with a number inside green, yellow and blue boxes for each. Start first by creating 3 piles of mythos cards, one each for green, yellow and blue and shuffle those separately. Then start with stage 3 and draw the number of cards listed for each color. Shuffle those together and place facedown as the mythos deck. Repeat this step for Stage 2, place on top of the mythos deck, and conclude with stage one, placing those cards on top of the mythos deck. Then return all unused mythos cards to the game box, and the remaining cards are your mythos deck.
Resolve Starting Effects
Finally, resolve the starting effects. Place out the appropriate reference card for the number of investigators playing. We will be explaining a two-player game here, but note that game elements enter the game when various events happen in the gameboard. The amount of those increases with more players.
The reference card is to keep the difficulty level balanced based on the number of players. Now Place the Doom token on the space on the doom track that matches the Ancient One’s doom value on their sheet. Place the Omen token (empty ring in the center) on the Green Comet to start.
Place the top four asset cards face up in a row next to the Asset deck. These item cards are called the display. Spawn the number of Gates listed on the reference guide by drawing each gate from the gate stack. Place face up in the city on the reverse side, draw one monster from the monster cup, and place it in the same space as the gate. Place the expedition marker token in the location on the board whose picture corresponds to the image on the top card of the expedition deck. Spawn the number of clues listed on the reference card. Draw that number from the pool and looking at the city on the bottom of the token. Place that clue in that location.
Finally, and I mean really finally… draw one Mystery card from the deck and flip face up and resolve and “When this card enters play” text.
Great! So if you’ve followed all of these steps, you are now finally ready to play!
So now that you’ve spent a fair amount of time setting up Eldritch Horror let’s learn how to play this great game! The purpose of the game is to solve the Mystery cards before the Ancient One awakens or the Rumor mythos cards come to fruition (often they end the game early if you don’t address them)
The game takes place over a series of rounds, each with three phases. The Action Phase, the Encounter Phase, and the Mythos Phase.
Starting with the lead investigator, each investigator performs up to two actions during the action phase-out of a possible 6. Also, they can only do a single action type in a round (so no repeating actions). Here are the Actions:
The investigator moves their token to any adjacent space. Then they may spend any number of travel tickets to move one additional space per ticket. The ticket should be of the correct type. To move along train lines, you must have a train ticket. To move additional spaces across the ocean, you must have additional Ship tickets.
Using this action allows an investigator to recover one health and one sanity. Investigators can not take this action if there is a monster in their space.
Any investigator in a space with another investigator can trade Assets, Artifacts, Clues, Spells, and travel tickets.
Prepare For Travel Action
If the investigator is in a city space (named or unnamed), they may gain a travel ticket of their choice. They can only hold two travel tickets in total. An investigator can only achieve a Train ticket if a train line leads away from the city. Similarly, Investigators can only gain a Ship ticket if a ship path leads from the city.
Acquire Assets Action
If the investigator is in a city space, they can also acquire an asset from the reserve. To do this, they test influence and can take any asset equal to how higher than the number of successes they roll. If the investigator doesn’t gain any cards, they can replace one from the Asset deck. If they take cards, they draw replacement cards from the Asset deck. Finally, if there is a monster in their space, they can not act.
Various cards, including Assets, Spells, Artifacts, and Investigators, have the word action followed by text. These are actions that investigators can do during a turn by the investigator. Investigators can do no single component action more than once; however, multiple components’ activities can be done as part of that investigator’s turn.
Also, suppose an investigator is in the same space as another investigator. In that case, they can also do actions labeled “Local Action” on the other investigator’s cards.
Once each investigator takes a turn, the game moves to the Encounter Phase.
During the Encounter Phase of Eldritch Horror, each investigator resolves one encounter. Starting with the Lead Investigator, each investigator determines the type of encounter they will do. Players base this on the tokens or lack of tokens are in their space. If an investigator has Monsters in their space, they must resolve a combat test against each monster. If they have no monsters in their space, they resolve either a location encounter or a token-based encounter.
These are the various encounters:
- Location Encounters: If the investigator is in a named city, they take a Region encounter card matching the city’s color on the board. If the investigator is in another space with no specific color, they draw a General Encounter Region. Each card has three sections. Only read the section for their city. Similarly, The General encounter cards have three sections broken into City, Wilderness, and Sea. Read only the section about where their type of location.
- Research encounters: If there is a clue token in their location, an investigator may resolve this type of encounter.
- Other world Encounters: If there is a Gate in their location, an investigator may close it by completing the Other World Encounter. These types of encounters involve multistep tests to solve and are more complex than most encounters.
- Expedition Encounters: If the Active expedition token is in the investigator’s space, they may draw the top card from the Expedition encounter deck.
- Rumor Mythos Encounters: These encounters are on mythos cars that have come out in previous rounds. Investigators try to pass the tests of this mythos card to remove it from play.
- Defeated Investigator Encounters: If an investigator is defeated, they don’t get removed from the board. Players tip them on their side. If another investigator is in their space, they may encounter the defeated investigator and read the encounter on the back of the defeated investigator.
Damage and Horror
As with most games in the Arkham Horror Files series, Investigators take damage to their health and horror to their sanity. Eldritch Horror is no different. When you take damage in this game, you remove the heart damage tokens or brain horror tokens and return them to the pool.
If at any point, your damage or horror reaches 0, your investigator is defeated. When this happens, advance Doom by 1 on the doom track, move the investigator to the nearest city. They lay their token on the side and place one health or horror token on it to remind the remaining players how the investigator was defeated. Other investigators may encounter this investigator during the encounter phase. Finally, do not return any items or tokens to their appropriate decks or pools; just set them aside. Defeated investigators may be able to share those items during encounters.
After you are defeated, you may choose another investigator to play. You start with that investigator at the beginning of the next round.
Some game effects say an investigator is “devoured” they should be removed entirely from the game and not put on their side. Players should return all possessions to the decks and pools.
Each investigator in Eldritch Horror has a set of 5 skills on their investigator sheet. The number next to each skill is the level of the skill that they can do. This number equates directly to the number of dice rolled when an Encounter or other game story element shows the skill icon as part of the narrative. The investigator rolls the number of dice on their investigator sheet and counts up the number of 5s and 6s. These numbers equate to the number of successes. Most encounter cards require the investigator to roll one success. However, combat encounters are a bit different, and we’ll discuss that in a moment.
After rolling dice for a skill test, you can reroll one die per clue token spent. Some cards have multiple steps, such as other world encounters. These cards have different tests performed consecutively. When reading an encounter card, we recommend that another player read it to the current investigator only to read relevant parts. Having someone else read it increases the game’s suspense.
A quick note about improvement tokens if a game effect allows you to improve a skill take one token from the improvement pile and add it to your investigator sheet. One side is a +1, the other is a +2, which will help you with testing.
When resolving combat encounters in Eldritch Horror, an investigator must resolve one per monster in their space. To start, they test Willpower and compare the number of successes to the Horror value on the monster tile. Suppose the investigator rolls successes less than the horror value. In that case, they must take the horror value equal to the difference and remove it from their investigator card.
Then they move on to a strength test. First, adjust the strength number by any modifier on the monster tile (this also goes for Willpower in the previous step). They perform a strength test and compare that to the Damage number for each success. Suppose the number of successes is less than the damage number. In that case, they remove the damage from their investigator for the difference. They also add damage to the monster for each success. If the number of damage meets or exceeds the toughness number, then the monster is defeated.
One note here: cultists don’t have values on the back of their monster token. The cultists’ values are because their values are variable in different scenarios. A Player can find those values on the Ancient One sheet.
After each investigator completes an encounter, the game moves to the Mythos phase.
The Lead Investigator draws a Mythos Card from the Mythos deck. Before reading the game’s copy, they resolve the icons along the top: Here is a list of all icons.
- Advance Omen -The Omen token that starts over the green comet is advanced clockwise by one, then for each gate on the board, advance Doom on the doom track by one. You do not want this to reach 0.
- Resolve Reckoning Effects – Various cards show a red circle with an arrow pointing to the center. This symbol is the reckoning symbol. They should start with Monsters, go to the Ancient One, then any Ongoing Mythos and the investigators and conditions and resolve each reckoning one by one. (Also not good for the game)
- Spawn Gates – Look at the reference card, draw the number of gates listed from the stack, place them on the appropriate cities, and then spawn one monster in each space.
- Monster Surge – Add the number of monsters listed on the reference card at each gate that matches the current omen symbol.
- Spawn Clues – draw the number of clues and place them on the board corresponding to the number on the reference card.
- Place Rumor Token – Rumors are harmful and can often end the game early. These usually require you to put a token in a random space. To do this, choose a clue token and looked at the city on the back. Place the rumor in that location.
- Place Eldritch Tokens – Place the listed number of Eldritch tokens on the Mythos card.
Finally, after you have resolved the icons on the card, read the main content and resolve the effect on the card. Sometimes this effect is a one-time event, and you will immediately fix it. Other times the content is ongoing, and the mythos card stays in play until resolved.
Some monster tokens have a corner cut off, do not add these to the monster cup. Instead, specific game effects will determine when these monsters appear.
How to Win this Game?
The way to win Eldritch Horror is to successfully resolve 3 of this Ancient One’s mystery cards before the doom track reaches 0. Some Ancient Ones will allow you to complete the 4th mystery once you reach 0, but not all.
If the doom track does reach 0, not all is lost. Usually, there is one final mystery to solve, often taking on the Ancient One directly.
These cards have an ongoing task that all investigators are working towards completing. Often this involves getting enough clue tokens to the mystery card to complete it.
Once you complete three of these cards, you win the game.
How do you Lose the Game?
You can lose Eldritch Horror in one of 4 ways:
- Doom on the doom track reaches 0, flip the Ancient One sheet and see how the investigators win or lose the game. If the game continues after Doom reaches 0 and an investigator is defeated, they are now out of the game.
- all investigators are eliminated, they lose the game.
- a game effect is on a card, it can help the investigators to lose the game.
- the mythos deck is empty, the investigators lose the game.
We are running a special offer on all Arkham Horror Files games in October. Spend $50 or more on any Arkham Horror Files game. We will send you a free copy of the Investigators of Arkham Horror coffee table book. This book has full-color illustrations and stories about many of the investigators to give you a greater background into who these characters are in this world.