Arkham Horror

  • Origins 2008 Wrap-up


    Here’s how it went down: Chris Miller and I hit the road in the MVoD at approximately 6:00 Friday morning, armed with a cooler full of bottled water, some geeky t-shirts and our Zoom H2 digital voice recorder.


    • Arriving at around 9:00, we met Mur Lafferty, Jim Van Verth, the Pink Tornado, Cmaaarrr and SciFi Laura for breakfast at Max & Erma’s, buffet style.
    • Registration. Piece of cake! Pro tip: pre-register; it saves time and money. I decided not to buy any event passes because I wanted to play it by ear. I didn’t even pick up a handy program guide; I was totally footloose and fancy free.
    • The Board Room: Rio Grande Games was giving away two free games with the purchase of a $16 pass to the Board Room. I snagged Crocodile Pool Party and Dragonriders. I wound up selling Dragonriders for $10 to a random guy in the hall about four hours later.
    • While in the Board Room, we played Pandemic with Mur, Jim, Cmar and Laura. I want this game, but it is apparently very scarce at the moment.
    • Lunch at The North Market. I played it safe and went with a known quantity: General Tso’s Chicken. During lunch the phrase “Give in to your sapphic desires!” was uttered, entirely within the context of the conversation.
    • Arkham Horror on Flickr, by codeshamanBack to the Board Room for some Arkham Horror with all the expansions. We were joined by Shannon Farrell and Carlos (whose last name I can never remember). Three and a half hours later, we had to wrap up the game due to time constraints. By the end of the game, Cmar had tapped Granny no less than fifteen times; she was exhausted, but he was not.
    • Eventually we found ourselves gathered for dinner at Buca di Beppo with all of the above plus David Moore, Mario Dongu, Rachel Ross, John and JD. No vicious Internet rumors were started after I finished my linguine. None.
    • Karaoke at The Big Bar on Two in the Hyatt. Paul Tevis nailed Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Rob Balder performed “Always a Goth Chick”, his parody of Billy Joel’s “Always a Woman.” Everyone else sucked. One whiskey sour, one Long Island Iced Tea and two gin and tonics later, it was…
    • Bedtime!


    • Breakfast with David, Shannon, Cmaaarrr and SciFi Laura at Max & Erma’s.
    • Chris had to return home unexpectedly due to an emergency (don’t worry, everyone’s fine).
    • I took a quick trip to Best Buy, where I bought a Fujifilm Finepix J10 digital camera.
    • I met up with Gunnar “Miscellaneous G™” Hultgren and Jon “Man Mountain” Pollom for lunch at The North Market. How many days in a row can I eat General Tso’s Chicken for lunch? The world may never know.
    • Wonder WomanArmed with my new camera, I roamed the halls of the convention center looking for photo-ops. I managed to get a picture of Wonder Woman, but that was about it. I also visited the dealer’s room and carefully avoided the Chessex Bin o’ Hepatitis (more commonly referred to as the big dice bin; I was tempted to pick up some cheap dice, but the idea of rooting around in there just wasn’t very appealing).
    • FeedbackLater in the afternoon, I attended the Heroes and Villains costume contest, sponsored by the Ohio Gamers Association. There weren’t hundreds (or even hundred, singular) of contestants, but there were some very good costumes. Matthew “Feedback” Atherton, winner of season one of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? was the master of ceremonies and he did a very good job and hung around to chat with people afterward. He even did a promo for the upcoming release of Mur’s superhero novel, Playing For Keeps (available on, August 25th). The guy is just too damn likable.
    • Mur “dragged” us to a barbecue where we played Mad Scientist University. The card game was ridiculously fun, owing to some excellent players with truly wild imaginations. I knew we were in for a treat early on when Ralph Melton equipped dwarfs with decoder rings, shrunk them down Inner Space-style and injected them into a human being to decode RNA. We created a bizarre continuity involving vampires, penguins, the Moore sphere, and a fifty-page index written by mosquitos. Much of the game was recorded by David Moore and may eventually be released to the public, but only after heavy censoring by the Department of Homeland Security.
    • Tannhäuser in ProgressDavid had to run off to play the role of an NPC in an ARG and it was Mur’s evening with The Pink Tornado, so Jim, Cmar, Laura and I went to the Board Room and broke out Tannhäuser, which is essentially a first-person shooter board game. I had played once before but opted not to participate, instead providing occasional helpful (I hope) tips with the rules based on my prior experience. I started zonking out around midnight, so it was soon…
    • Bedtime!


    • At 10:00, we met for breakfast with the gang and Max & Erma’s. How many days in a row can I eat the same buffet for breakfast? Three.
    • After breakfast, David, Mario and I returned to Room 929 to record The Secret Lair Origins Report. Assuming I didn’t completely fail my Use Zoom H2 Digital Recorder roll, we should have that posted in the next couple of days.
    • At noon, I dashed to the dealer’s room to buy AmuseAmaze, a word game that I thought Laura might enjoy. By some stroke of luck, I found the rest of our merry gang playing some sort of card game and managed to say my goodbyes before dashing back to the Crown Plaza to…
    • Pile my luggage and loot onto a cart, load up the MVoD and hit the highway.

    And that pretty much wrapped it up for Origins 2008. With Mr. Miller soon moving to the Los Angeles area, I don’t know whether I’ll be inclined to attend Origins 2009, but I do know that my next convention is Con on the Cob in early October.

  • Origins 2008: The Visual Record


    A few days ago, while still at Origins in Columbus, I suggested that photographic evidence of my presence there (not to mention some of the bizarre and shocking things I had witnessed) would be forthcoming.

    I am not a liar.

    Fujifilm Finepix J10
    All of the photographs you will see were taken with my new Fujifilm Finepix J10, a camera I purchased at Best Buy on Saturday morning and then forgot I had in my pocket for much of the remainder of the day. My absentmindedness is the reason you do not see even more photographs to shock and amaze, for the opportunities to capture the following events were missed entirely:

    • A raging mob of Pokémon, led by a twelve-foot-tall Pikachu, turned the tables on a group of young children, chasing the terrified youngsters (all aged between four and nine years, by my approximation) through the convention center, muffled shouts of “Gotta catch ’em all!” echoing through the hall as bystanders watched in stunned silence.
    • During a corset fitting, a buxom young woman’s cleavage collapsed in on itself, creating a localized singularity that consumed every scrap of leather and link of chainmail in a five-meter radius before evaporating. Thirty-two seconds after the incident, the Troll & Toad booth quietly expanded to fill the empty space.
    • A group of investigators actually won a game of Arkham Horror. After the initial celebration, all six participants spent the remainder of the convention attempting to replay every move made throughout the game to ensure that they had not somehow broken one or more rules in the course of play. A representative from Fantasy Flight Games was quoted as saying, “No way. No [bleep]ing way.” He then indicated that an upcoming expansion, entitled The One That Makes Winning Impossible, would correct the rules loophole that allowed the victory. Pre-order sales for the expansion have already broken records.
    • SuperDeluxe Settlers of CatanDuring a game of Settlers of Catan, a player expressed a genuine desire to receive wood in exchange for sheep. He was understandably surprised when all four other players began to pelt him with wooden tokens and other small objects.

    I am far from the only photographer to provide a visual record of the convention, and the curious may find additional evidence of strange goings-on elsewhere on the Intertubes, provided they know where to look.

  • Gamestuff: Arkham Horror Solo Play


    Arkham HorrorMiscellaneous G™ loaned me his copy 1Is it correct to call an instance of a boardgame—or any game, for that matter—a “copy”? Grammaticons, a ruling. Now! of Arkham Horror over the weekend, and I played a solo game Saturday night.

    Unbeknownst to Drake the Magician, events were unfolding in Arkham, Massachusetts that would eventually result in the Great Old One Ithaqua awakening from its aeons-long slumber. Compelled to investigate these strange occurrences, Drake soon found himself battling cultists and unspeakable monsters, traveling to indescribable Other Worlds, and feeling his grip on sanity slowly and inexorably weakening.

    In retrospect, I really wish I’d played with multiple investigators — players who frequent the forums at Fantasy Flight Games recommend playing with three or four investigators during solo play. With my lone investigator, I soon found that the turn sequence resulted in Arkham being rapidly overrun with monsters and gates to Other Worlds. 2Each turn ends with the drawing of a Mythos card, which almost always results in a new gate opening, a monster appearing, and some other horrific side-effect. Forum posters recommend a “house … Continue reading Poor Drake was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, frantically gathering the vital clues that would enable him to seal the gates. Unfortunately, his efforts were all for naught. Twice, the horror undermined Drake’s sanity and the poor man had to spend time (and money) recovering his wits in the infamous Arkham Asylum.

    To make matters worse, I drew a Mythos card (I don’t recall which one) that forced Drake to focus his efforts not on closing gates, but on battling a steady stream of monsters in one district of the city. This led to the inevitable end of the game, as Drake was unable to stand against the monsters and prevent the Terror Level in Arkham from rising to the point where the bulk of the population fled the city. Following the departure of its citizens, Arkham was then overrun with all manner of vile creatures and Drake threw in the proverbial towel.

    I suspect that I could have fared better—even with a sole investigator—had I abandoned random selection of both investigator and slumbering Great Old One. Each investigator has unique attributes and starting gear, and perhaps one of the others would have been more suited to solo play. Likewise, each Great Old One has its own attributes and effect on the game overall, some more challenging than others. Pitting Drake against Ithaqua may not have been the wisest of moves, but as a new player I really didn’t know any better.

    There’s a lot to keep track of in Arkham Horror, and as a new player doing a solo game, it would have helped to have someone keeping me honest as far as things like monster limits, the Doom and Terror Tracks, and various other game elements that must be monitored from turn to turn. I’m sure that I flubbed a few things here and there, but it was still fun inspite of the crushing sense of despair and hopeless and the knowledge that my efforts would bear little fruit.

    Next time (if I can borrow the game again), I’ll play with a team of three or four hand-selected investigators and choose a Great Old One that won’t add much complexity to the game. Perhaps I’ll manage to stave off the horrors for a while longer, perhaps I’ll be consumed by madness or lost in time and space, but I won’t go down without a fight.

    1 Is it correct to call an instance of a boardgame—or any game, for that matter—a “copy”? Grammaticons, a ruling. Now!
    2 Each turn ends with the drawing of a Mythos card, which almost always results in a new gate opening, a monster appearing, and some other horrific side-effect. Forum posters recommend a “house rule” for solo play, wherein Mythos cards are only drawn every other turn.
  • Game Night: 16 January 2007


    Miscellaneous G™ came over to the International House of Johnson last night, putting an end to the Game Night Winter Holiday Hiatus. Here’s how it went down:


    Miscellaneous G™ was in the right place at the right time last week and managed to score the much-coveted Nintendo console. We took a swing (literally, in most cases) at all of the Wii Sports games: baseball, boxing, bowling, golf and tennis. I give bowling and tennis high marks, but they were all fun. We also played some of the mini-games in Rayman Raving Rabbids. I enjoyed shooting rabbits with my plunger-gun, but I think I may have hurt myself while spraying carrot juice into their SCUBA masks — and then there was the moral ambiguity of the cow-hammer toss. Moo.

    Arkham Horror

    I’ve wanted to play this Lovecraftian horror board game ever since I heard Mur Lafferty mention it on Geek Fu Action Grip. I’ve known there was a copy of the game sitting at Comics Heaven in Willoughby for at least six months, but I’ve never been willing to plunk down fifty bucks of my hardly earned cash to make it mine. Once again, Miscellaneous G™ came to the rescue; he plucked the game from the very shelf where I’d seen it on numerous occasions and completed the requisite financial transaction like a true capitalist.

    For a board game, the rules of Arkham Horror are pretty hefty, and there are many, many different types of cards and tokens. After a few rounds, we started to get the hang of it. Unfortunately, it was right around that time that the one o’clock hour drew nigh, and we decided to bring the evening’s activities to a close. The Ancient One had not yet awakened from its slumber (though the Young One did), but there were monsters roaming the streets of Arkham and several gates to Other Worlds had been opened (and one closed). I look forward to playing this game from start to finish in the (hopefully) near future.

    Between the Wii and Arkham Horror, we didn’t have time to bust out Marvel Ultimate Alliance or Burnout: Revenge on the Xbox, and we were one person short for a game of Apples to Apples, but there will be other Game Nights for all of those things.