Ok. I've got my rule book here. I should preface by saying that I will probably miss a couple things, and even after running 6 or so games, a few specific points are fuzzy to me. I really recommend, if you've got at least 3 people, to NOT play a character while you're trying to learn how to run Arkham Horror. There is PLENTY for a GM to manage without having to play your own character to confuse and distract you. Seriously consider only GMing a game of it for 3 or more people, your first few times through.
Once the board is out and all the cards are in their stacks and shuffled, all the chits organized into piles...have people pick characters at random. Then have someone randomly select the Ancient One.
Note that Ancient Ones have abilities that have effects on game. (Stronger monsters, things investigators can't do, penalties...) You have to remember these "global" effects along with many others. Try not to forget them, as large chunks of difficulty in this game disappear when you don't keep all the effects in mind.
Once your Ancient One is established, remove any "Mask" monsters from the monster cup if the Ancient One doesn't call for them.
Put out initial clue tokens. These go on "unstable locations" which are locations marked with the red diamond.
Place players at their start points.
Divvy out the common items, unique items, money, spells, skills and starting clue tokens that each person's character asks for. Characters may also start with special things, like retainers, blessings, curses, being a Deputy, ect....
You're ready to start playing. Draw the starting Mythos card. If this card is a Rumor, discard it and draw again until you get a non-Rumor card. This is the "weirdness" that begins the game. You're basically processing one part of a round to get some random action going.
Mythos Card Processing
This will describe both the initial setup turn you're doing AND how a normal Mythos Phase is supposed to go.
Each Mythos Card has a lot of information on it. It's best to deal with them sequentially, the same way every time, because it's easy to miss the many things you're supposed to do.
Step 1: Determine the "type" of Mythos card. If this is the first draw of the game and it's a rumor, discard it. "Weather" type Mythos cards can only have on in play at any time. If a new one is drawn, the old one is replaced. There can be up to three "Event" type Mythos cards active at one time. "Rumor" type Mythos cards just fire off and happen when they're drawn and then are discarded, they don't stick around and aren't replaced. You still process all the information on them first though.
Step 2: Establish if a gate opens. On the lower left of the card you'll see a gate thingy with a name. This tells you a gate is supposed to open in that location. Take the first Gate Token off the stack and place it face up that location. Gates opening eat Clue Tokens, remove them from locations gates open at.
Step 2a: This next part is very, very important. Every time a new gate opens, you must add 1 to the Ancient One's Doomtrack. Failure to do this means there's no "timer" for the game ending, and games of Arkham Horror can go on much longer than they should if you fail to remember this step.
Step 2b: When a new gate opens, a monster comes out of it. Randomly draw one monster from the Monster cup and place it on the gate.
Step 2c: Not counting this setup turn where only one gate CAN be open...if a gate is wanting to open on a location that already contains a gate, a "Monster Surge" occurs instead. No Doom Token gets added. The irony of this game is, you pray for monster surges instead of new gates opening, even though monster surges bend the players over the table quickly.
Step 3: Place new clue token at the appropriate location stated on the Mythos card. If the location has an open gate, no clue token is placed.
Step 4: Determine Monster movement. The symbol on the lower right of the Mythos card should be read as thus: [SYMBOL] Monsters move in the Direction of [COLOR]. Check the monster chit. You'll see it has a symbol on its corner, identifying which dimension it belongs to. It also has a color on its border (Black, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue.)
Step 4a: FIRST, establish what its color is. Blacks move normally, Yellows do not move ever, Reds move normally TWICE in the direction indicated, Greens do something special when activated INSTEAD of moving, and Blues go into the Sky Zone (or attack from it when activated.) If the monster's dimension symbol is activated by the Mythos Card, move them (or do what the monster chit says) in the direction of the white or black arrows that connect their location to others.
(4a Example: Crosses move on White, Moons move on Black. The Flying Polyp is a Blue (Flying) Cross Monster. The Zombie is a Black (Normal) Moon Monster. The Polyp would move to the Sky Zone, and the Zombie would move once following the black arrow from their location.)
Step 4b: If a monster moves into a player during this phase, they stop and combat will commence during the next Player Movement Phase. (Remember, this is all still the beginning Mythos Phase.) A monster that has a player on its square never moves, even when activated.
Note: Flying monsters that are activated the first time move to the "Sky" section. From there, they can only move to down to Arkham Street Locations (i.e. Miskatonic Streets but not the University) when there is a player residing in that square and they are activated for movement a second time. So....first time, the Flying Polyp goes into the sky. The second his movement is activated, look if there are any players standing in the streets. If there are, the Polyp would attack one of them. If there were none in the street locations, the Polyp would just remain in the Sky location.
Step 5: Activate the Mythos Card's Special Ability. This is the text that states what event is taking place or what stuff happens. These things take effect when the card is drawn and processed. But they may also have effects that must be remembered during many points of the round, until the card is replaced or dealt with by the players. Mythos Card Special Abilities are another rule that tends to get forgotten by newer players because it's just one more thing to keep track of.
Ok, that's setup. Shit's about to get real now.
ANCIENT ONE AWAKENS, VICTORY CONDITIONS AND PLAYER SIZES
Several things are relative to how many people are playing the game. I'm not going to list all of them here, these are simply the victory conditions and pacing mechanics.
The Ancient One wakes up, and the game effectively has ended, when any of these conditions are met:
1. Their Doom track is full
2. Too many gates are open
3. No more gates can be drawn to be placed
4. There are no monster in the cup
5. Terror Level = 10 AND there are "Too Many Monsters."
Most of those are self-explanatory. #2 is as thus:
1 - 2 Players: 8 Open Gates = Doom
3 - 4 Players: 7 Open Gates = Doom
5 - 6 Players: 6 Open Gates = Doom
7 - 8 Players: 5 Open Gates = Doom
The Players immediately win if:
1. The Ancient One is slain combat
2. There are no open Gates:
2a. When the last gate is closed, the players must have a number of Gate Trophies equal to or greater than the number of players. So to win by closing gates, 3 players must have at least 3 gate trophies between them, and have closed the last open gate on the board.
3. Enough gates have been "sealed":
3a. Sealing gates is closing then with an elder sign or spending enough clue tokens when closing it to effect a ghetto seal. If there are six or more "sealed" tokens on the board at any one time, the players win.
Ok, it's time to start the game. Have people dice off, the winner gets the first player token and it moves Clockwise to the next player during the upkeep phase.
0. Staring Mythos Phase (you'll only do this once to start the game.)
3. Arkham Encounters
3. Outer World Encounter Phase
4. Mythos Phase
Upkeep: Refresh exhausted cards. Players can move their sliders equal to their focus. 1 focus = 1 slider moving 1 notch. Players must roll for retainers, curses, blessings or anything else that has maintenance during the Upkeep phase. Many other effects may take place during the upkeep phase. Upkeep is a good time for you, the GM, to check that all your ducks are in a row, review the global effects in play and make sure they're getting applied. It's also very important to remember curses AND blessings have upkeep right now, don't forget them. While players are sorting their stuff, sort yours, and then check with them to make sure they've remembered. (I have a mantra I say: "Ok, it's upkeep. Refocus, and don't forget your retainers, blessings and curses.")
Movement: First player moves first up to their Speed Value. If players try to cross a location where a monster is, they must either sneak past them or do battle with them. If a player ever has a combat, they are done moving, period, for that round. Combat generally happens DURING movement, so if a players gets into combat during their movement turn, deal with their combat before the next person moves. This keeps things from getting really mucked up later.
Players that are in the Outer Realms move ONE space during this phase. Remember, players MUST have ONE encounter PER section of the Outer Realms, for a total of TWO encounters before they can leave. This rule gets screwed up more than any other by far in my experience.
Combat: First, you need to decide whether to evade or fight. The number listed on the monster's face is the modifier (Awareness) they apply to your sneak check.
To evade them, roll your sneak dice pool (+ or - monster awareness). If you succeed, no combat has occurred and you can continue moving past the monster or stop moving and interact with the square as normal. If you FAIL, the monster immediately deals combat damage to the player and they must engage in a round of combat.
If there's more than one monster, a player must test against EACH one before moving out of the square or encountering it.
Real combat begins with the decision to fight or flee. Fleeing works exactly like evading. (Note, some monsters can't be fled from or evaded past.) If you succeed at Fleeing, combat ends and no further combat between you and that monster happens that round. (Of course, if you're facing multiple monsters, you have to do this multiple times.)
Note that combat HAS occurred at this point, so you can't move anymore, although you can (under my interpretation of the rules) still have an encounter in the Arkham Encounter Phase, assuming you actually survived. If you really want to be a prick about it, as the game fully encourages you to do, you could instead say that if a player manages to flee a monster, they're too busy running for their lives to have an encounter.
If you fail to flee, the monster immediately deals combat damage and a new round ensues. Once again, you can choose to try and flee or stop and fight. Note that you can avoid horror checks by choosing not to fight the thing head on. Evading and Fleeing do not require horror checks.
The sequence for fighting goes like this:
1. Check if the monster has any special abilities related to combat, stated on the back of the monster chit.
2. The Horror Check. The player must roll their will pool, modified by the monster's horror value (the number listed on the back of the monster chit in blue.) If the player succeeds, they lose no sanity. If they FAIL, they lose sanity equal to the number of blue dots on the back of the monster chit, below the sanity check modifier.
3. The Fight Check. Take your investigators total combat score (which is their Fight stat, plus any weapons, spells, effects, whatever...) minus the monster's combat modifier, which is the number in red on the back of the monster chit at the lower right. The total is the number of dice you're going to roll.
4. Killing the monster. The player must score a number of successes equal to or greater than the monster's stamina in a single round of combat. The monster's stamina is the # of blood drops at the bottom center of the monster chit on the back. If the player gets that many or more successes, they win the combat and take the monster chit as a trophy (unless it has the trait 'Endless'.) If they FAIL, the monster deals its combat damage, which is the number of heart tokens located below their combat modifier on the back of the chit.
5. Repeat this process until 1) the player flees all the monsters on their square, 2) the players kills all the monsters on their square or 3) the players is reduced to 0 stamina or sanity.
Note: Magic and physical resistance traits halve the value added to your combat dice pool from those sources. A Tommy Gun is +8 combat score or whatever, but if the monster is physically resistant, you only get 4 from it. If a monster is Physically or Magically IMMUNE, you get no dice from those sources at all.
Once all players have moved and had their combats, we move on to the.....
Arkham Encounters Phase: Players, starting with the first, interact with their locations. This may either be drawing a card from the stack that is the same color as their location OR interacting with the location using the special text stated on the board.
We like to have everyone read the card for the space they encounter aloud, because we're nerds like that and its part of the fun of Arkham Horror. It also keeps everyone honest.
Encounter cards often mix up the order in which stuff is going to happen. Monsters might suddenly appear, gates might suddenly open, players might move and have yet another encounter....the big rules to remember are this:
-Monsters created from encounters never stay after the encounter is over. Win or lose, they go away at the end. They don't generate trophies either.
-Gates generated by encounters open immediately, add to the doom track immediately, and suck the player into the other world immediately. If a Gate AND a Monster appear, the player fights the monster first, then gets sucked into the gate. This is the opposite of what happens when gates open on locations during the Mythos Phase that a player is standing on. There, the gate opens, the player gets sucked in, then the monster pops out.
-Generally process the event from the encounter immediately. That includes combat, death, additional encounters, ect....
-Going into the Outer World realms during the Arkham Encounter Phase is separate from having an Outer World Encounter during the Outer World Encounters Phase. A player that enters the Outer World during the Arkham Encounters Phase has an Outer World Encounter in that same round.
Outer World Encounters: Draw a card from the Outer World Encounters deck and show it to the player who resides in the Outer Worlds. If the color of the card matches the color of the Realm they're in, they read the encounter listed for their location. If their location isn't mentioned, but the color is right, they read the "Other" entry. If the card doesn't match the color of their location, discard it and draw another until you find one that matches.
Note: If you find turn order confusing when it comes to the Outer World, just remember this. A player will always have two encounters in the Outer World before being able to leave, and a player can have an Arkham Encounter and an Outer World encounter in the same round. All that said, some cards/abilities allow you to leave the Outer World earlier than normal. Special things withstanding, players always must have two encounters in the Outer World.
The Mythos Phase: My friend got me started saying "It's Midnight in Arkham" so that's how I tell people the Mythos Phase has started. Contrary to how it feels while you're playing, the Mythos Phase is actually the end of the round, not the beginning. Draw a new Mythos card, replace the Weather Mythos card if the one you drew was a Weather Card, or process it as a Rumor. If it's an event, drop an event marker on the location and lay the card out so can people can see it and remember if it's in play. Unless they state otherwise, the effects of the Event card begin the turn AFTER THEY COME INTO PLAY. So if it says "on upkeep", it starts happening as soon as your current Mythos phase ends and the upkeep of the new round begins. If you have 3 events already running, discard the drawn card and draw a new one.
SO. That's basic turn order. But there's lots of other crap to remember that doesn't always fall neatly within the turn order.
Player Limits, "Too Many Monsters", "Too Many Monsters in the Outskirts" and the Terror Level:
When there are X number of monsters in locations in Arkham, where X is the number of players + a number, there are "Too Many Monsters" in play. The formula is as follows:
Monster Limit = (Number of Players) + 3.
If at anytime there are more monsters in locations in Arkham than this number, you have "Too Many Monsters."
So if you have 3 people, and you have 7 monsters in play, you're one over. That monster is placed in the "Outskirts" section of the board. Always remove additional monsters down to the level where you satisfy the "Too Many Monsters" count. This includes when monsters are spawned from opened gates. If a gate opens and a monster comes, and the limit is breached, that monster goes straight to the outskrits. But the Gate remains.
Terror Level: When there are too many monsters in the outskirts, people in town start to notice and get scared and the general sense of terror in town increases. The formula for this is as follows:
1 Player = 7 Max Monsters in the Outskirts.
2 = 6
3 = 5
4 = 4
5 = 3
6 = 2
7 = 1
8 = 0
When there are more monsters in the Outskirts than the maximum allows, remove all monsters from the Outskirts, return them to the cup and increase the Terror Level by 1.
When the Terror Level increases....
-Remove 1 ally random from the game. This represent people packing up and leaving.
-When the Terror Level reaches a number on the track that has a color, locations of that color with secondary functions shut down. So, the General Store, the Curiosity Shoppe, the Magic Shop...you can still have encounters at these locations, but you can't use their secondary functions.
-Various other game play mechanics might tie themselves to the Terror Level. You just have to keep track of them.
Also note, monsters in the Sky do not count toward "Too Many Monsters in the Outskirts."
Closing Gates, Sealing Gates with Clue Tokens, Sealing Gates with Elder Signs
A player who begins the Encounter Phase standing on a gate they have just RETURNED through can attempt to close it. By making a BASE FIGHT OR LORE CHECK, modified by the value shown on the face of the Gate Token, the player can shut the gate. The gate is removed, the player claims the gate trophy, and all monsters in play showing the dimension symbol listed on the gate are returned to the cup. Many times this step gets forgotten and makes life on the players much, much harder. Do not forget it.
If the player FAILS to shut the gate, they can try again next turn, but ONLY if they remain there. If they leave the location, they must travel through the gate again before attempting to close it.
To SEAL a gate, which prevents further gates from opening at that location, the player must spend at least 5 (or sometimes more) clue tokens when they succeed at closing a gate. The player places the "sealed" token on the location, and no gates may open there until that seal is removed.
To seal a gate with an ELDER SIGN, the player makes no rolls. They simply spend 1 health and 1 sanity, discard the Elder Sign, and this is important, they take one marker off the Ancient One's doom track and flip it over to use as the seal marker for that location. The ONLY time you get to do this is with Elder Signs. Do not forget that they actually ROLL BACK THE DOOM TRACK. Sealing gates via Clue Tokens does not do this. Do not confuse the two.
Note, when a player steps OUT of a gate and there's a monster there, they do not have to deal with that monster THAT round. If the player remains at that location (say to seal the gate), they have to deal with the monster NEXT round. (Unless that monster goes bye-bye when a gate does.)
These occur when a gate tries to open on a location that already has a gate present. When this happens, one monster is drawn from the monster cup for every open gate in play. This happens A LOT. The way we do it is thus:
1. Draw, blindly, all the monsters that have just been created.
2. Count your current monster limit.
3. If the monster limit is already met before placing new monsters, place them all in the outskirts.
4. Process the "Too Many Monsters in the Out Skirts" rule and put monsters back in the cup and raise the Terror Level as necessary.
5. If there is room for more monsters in Arkham, take the first monster in your hand and place it on the gate where the monster surge "began."
6. Continue blindly placing down monsters at gates in the order you drew them until the monster limit is reached or you've dealt out all the monsters for that surge.
Note: I'm pretty sure that "A gate and a monster appears!" can cause surges too, on the off chance you're encountering a location that has an open gate on it.
In general, cards are always discarded to the BOTTOM of the deck. Exceptions that I can remember off the top of my head are:
-Allies destroyed by the rise in Terror Level
-Allies destroyed by events
-Any cards which say something like "discard to the box" or anything more complicated than "discard."
Note: If a pile has conditions on it for when its exhausted, like the Gate Pile or the Monster Cup, think very carefully about what's supposed to happen to a card when its use has been fulfilled. What you're supposed to do with the Elder Sign is a good benchmark to judge where a discarded card should be going.
Phew. There's more minutae and stuff I didn't cover, but I assume you own the rule book so you can read the specifics at your leisure. What I chose to talk about are the parts I most often forget or overlook, and are the most confusing rules you have to adjudicate.
. Half the time I play this game, people give up real interest halfway through because they're tired, it's late, it's drug on, it's seemingly unwinnable....allot enough time for Arkham Horror so you don't end up finishing it in a rush.
If you've got any other questions or confusion, I can help clear them up. After 15 games of Akrham both as the GM and player, I have a pretty good grasp on things that I can generally play the game and run it too.
But I only play with the base set. With expansions.....the amount of trackers, markers, tokens, boards and cards you have to deal with increases exponentially. When it comes to playing with expansions, I would just stick to GMing.
To me, less than 3 people is too easy and more than 4 is when things start to get really hairy. I've known 8 players games to last close to 8 hours.