(Image Credit: Dan Nagato)
The game board is gargantuan, quite a bit larger than most similar board games. The besieged town of Arkham, taken straight from Lovecraft's tales, takes up most of the space on the board. Streets, buildings, and outdoor locations are all represented from the innocuous Bank of Arkham to the dread Arkham Asylum (no Joker included). Along one side of the board are the various otherworldly locations the Investigators might encounter throughout the game, like the Dreamlands or the Plateau of Leng. The illustrations on the board are of very high quality, and it is very impressive when you see it all laid out for play.
As the game begins, an Old One is chosen to be the main antagonist, and this can be done either randomly, or by the consensus of the Investigators. Azathoth and Nyarlathotep, as well as Cthulhu and a host of others, are each available. As play progresses, the Doom Track, an area of the Old One card which acts as a timer, fills up and bad things begin to happen. Each different Old One affects the game in various ways. For example, when Cthulhu stirs in his ancient slumber, each Investigator loses one Stamina and one Sanity. If the last Doom Track space fills, a Final Battle begins. Investigators will likely be devoured if this happens, but there is a small chance at victory, if luck is with them.
The key is to prevent the Old One from invading Arkham in the first place. This is done by sealing the various gates that pop up around the board as Investigators move from place to place. Gates spawn monsters, which must be avoided or overcome via combat. It becomes a very difficult balancing act to keep the gates closed and the monsters under control. When a certain number of gates have been closed, depending on the number of players, the game is over and the Investigators are victorious. It may sound simple, but the forces of evil are constantly working against the players, wearing them down over time. The sense of horror's inexplicable rise is very strong, which makes victory, when achieved, that much sweeter.
Arkham Horror is not for the faint of heart. It is very complicated, not very easy to understand upon a first play, and takes between three to five hours to play. But if you are willing to put in the time and effort, it can be very rewarding. The game is quite popular, with a line of miniatures for investigators and monsters, special dice, and more for fans to "pimp" their game. Teaming up with a few friends against the rise of an ancient evil is a very solid cooperative experience, and Arkham Horror is one of the better co-op board games out there as a result.