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I've tried playing Arkham Horror with 1, 2 and 4 players. I've found that the game seems extraordinarily difficult with less than 4 characters. Simply put, you don't have enough gos to do everything. Gates keep opening, monsters keep appearing, and it only takes 1 curse, a bad monster, or a couple of delayed turns and it's all over. Adding any expansions simply kicks the difficulty up further.

After several frustrating games, I now don't play with less than 4 characters. In a two player game, each of us takes two characters, and plays the game as if there were 4 players. This seems to give a better balance, but is a lot to remember and keep track of.

Has anyone had success playing Arkham with less than 4 characters? In particular, have you managed a reasonable game with two players and two characters (i.e., one character each)? How did you manage it? Did you have to adjust any of the rules?

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3 Answers 3

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Yes, We've played this way many times and it works quite well for an enjoyable game. I highly recommend it. You don't need to make any adjustment to the rules to do so, just make sure that you keep each character's possessions separate! Also remember that certain game elements are based on the number of characters, not players.

One variation you might try is to play two people with one character each. Just skip every other Mythos phase. Essentially each character gets 2 turns between Mythos phases. If you do this, consider yourselves to be playing a 4 character game for all relevant settings. This will ease your bookkeeping headaches although it will also make the game a bit easier.

To address your statement that you find the game difficult under 4 people, you aren't the only one! Here are the stats from 5200 games taken from the Arkham Horror statistics report. If your winning percentage doesn't quite measure up to the below, keep in mind that folks submitting their games to this collection probably have quite a bit more experience playing Arkham Horror than most.

Investigators   Win %   Close % Seal %  Combat % Games
1               38%     3%      6%      29%      100
2               52%     4%      25%     23%      606
3               60%     7%      30%     23%      767
4               65%     11%     39%     15%      2,941
5               69%     16%     39%     14%      378
6               67%     16%     43%     7%       387
7               68%     16%     39%     14%      44
8               73%     25%     42%     7%       60

As you can see, as the investigator count decreases from 5, the game gets progressively tougher. Also you will probably find more success if you are open to the possibility of a combat victory with 1-3 players

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Sorry, I realise my question was ambiguous. We do indeed play with 2 characters each at the moment. I was wondering whether it is possible to play successfully with 1 character each (which your second paragraph addresses). –  ire_and_curses Oct 19 '10 at 22:17
    
@ire_and_curses Great! I prefer the 4 character myself unless I'm playing with my wife who is less of a gamer than I. However if I'm playing solo, I tend to do 1 character but only take every third Mythos phase. That seems to be the "right" difficulty level for me. –  Pat Ludwig Oct 19 '10 at 22:23
    
Thanks for the stats - that's very interesting. As you say, with less players, there's a much higher chance of having to fight the Ancient One to win. –  ire_and_curses Oct 20 '10 at 15:22
    
Fantastic answer - it saved me from having to ask an entirely different question. (I was gonna ask why my group can never seems to lose in Arkham, but I guess it's pretty obvious that it's because we play with 5+ players.) Thanks! –  scraimer Nov 29 '10 at 7:19
1  
@scraimer - thanks for the kind words. With 5+ players make sure you are spawning 2 monsters with every gate. Also, you can look at the statistics report linked above to see which investigators and Great Old Ones might make for a tougher game for you. If you don't have any of the expansions, I do think the base game can be pretty easy. –  Pat Ludwig Nov 29 '10 at 8:03
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Just a strategy suggestion when playing by the rules (one character each, one Mythos phase each turn): you probably might want to almost completely ignore gates, or just seal one occasionally, when this does not detract from other actions, concentrating instead on getting weapons, skills etc. to confront the endgame Ancient One (of course, this strategy is meaningless when the Ancient One is Azathoth).

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If you have just two investigators in total, time is of the essence. There is no time to slack, and every missed opportunity to act is another token on the doom track. Therefore:

  • Avoid monsters. They stop your movement when they engage. The terror track is less of an issue than the doom track.

  • Hunt for clue tokens. As in, try to arrange your movement so that you collect at least one each round, preferably more. If you can't do that, make a stop in a location that says it has a good chance at clue tokens. If that doesn't work, then go kill a monster--trophies are clue tokens, and they won't block you next time.

  • Only enter gates you can seal. Open gates block other gates and stop the doom track from rising. If you're sucked through a gate and can't seal it, don't close it either. Close only in emergencies (too many gates open, AO will awaken).


I'll also try to give a comprehensive list of house rules and changes a fellow player and I've agreed on when playing the full game (all expansions) with just the two of us. Most of these make the game easier, some arguably make it harder. We still lose often, but at least we have a fighting chance.

  1. Roll for Mythos. If you roll a 5 or 6, skip the Mythos phase (no counters move). This is the one we use most consistently, because there are just too many gates opening otherwise, but it still allows for variation and surprises.

  2. Roll for Doom tokens. Either this or item 1. Each time a doom token would appear, roll instead, and discard on 5 or 6. This is harder than item 1, because Rumors and counters still go at full rate.

  3. Awaken AO = add a doom token. When the ancient one would awaken due to too many gates open, Innsmouth rising track, too many creatures in Arkham with Terror 10... Instead add a doom token for each Mythos phase any such condition is in effect. If the Doom track is full, well, the AO awakens.

  4. Nodens as guardian. (Optional) Extra clue tokens? Yes, please. Plus he directs you to stable locations, often overlooked little gems that you otherwise don't have time to visit.

  5. Lurker as herald. (Optional) Extra power tokens? Yes, please. Just a bit of your soul to go.

  6. Lost in Time and Space = have an encounter. Have an Other World encounter and take what's listed under 'other'. When you have just two people, more actions taken = more chance to succeed. Except if you get devoured. This happens.

  7. Roll for memberships. When starting a character, roll for each type of membership, and take one on a 5 or 6: Silver Twilight, Cult of the Thousand, Sheldon Gang.

We usually take 1, 3, 6, and 7, and I think we're at about 60%-70% success rate. (And enough devoured investigators to fill a graveyard.)

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