I've played Arkham Horror twice and am still boggled by the complexity of the mechanics and the number of rules. During both games I wished for a quick reference guide to summarize the turn order and key mechanics (e.g. combat order, a key to interpret the icons on the monster tokens, the definition of a successful roll and how the roll modifiers work, etc.).

I did some searching and found some Arkham reference sheets (#2), but the first was way to long to be accurately called a quick reference guide (IMO) and the second spent an entire page just to explain combat.

Neither seemed to be what I was looking for, but I'm inexperienced enough that I can't even really define what I was expecting. (The best example of a good reference guide that I could think of is from Warhammer Fantasy.)

What information would you recommend including in a one- or two-page Arkham Horror reference manual?


1 Answer 1


Alright. I'll look for an actual reference guide later, but I'll do a summary of the rules, followed by a brief turn summary now. Here goes.

The game is divided up into four phases. Upkeep, Movement, Encounters, and Mythos.

The game starts with a Mythos.


Upkeep: Pass first player token. Refresh Exhuasted Cards, use items/spells that get used during upkeep.

Movement: Starting from first player and going clockwise, investigators get to move. Delayed Investigators stand up and they're done, that's it. Investigators in Arkham can move a number of spaces up to their current speed, barring odd environmental effects. If playing with expansion boards, it costs 1 'movement' to move between two locations with a train symbol, or a location/street with a train symbol and the train station. If an investigator attempts to leave a location/street that has a monster or attempts to end movement in said location, combat starts. Investigators in the first area of an Other World move to the second area. Investigators in the second area of an Other World return to Arkham in a location with an open gate that matches the Other World they're coming from. If no such location exists, they're Lost In Time and Space (lose the rest of this turn and all of the next turn).

Encounters: Arkham encounters come first. Starting from first player and going clockwise, Investigators in a location in Arkahm draw a card for the neighborhood they're in, and read/resolve the encounter for the location they're in. Investigators that are standing on an open gate get drawn through to their respective Other Worlds. Investigators that have returned from an Other World can attempt to close the gate by making a combat or a lore check (Investigator's choice) at the modifier printed on the gate token. If there is a single success, the gate has been closed. When an Investigator closes a gate they can choose to spend 5 clue tokens after the fact to 'seal' the Arkham Location. Then comes Other World encounters. Starting from first playing and going clockwise, Investigators in an Other World location draw Other World encounter cards until they get a card that matches a color of the Other World they're in, and then they resolve that card.

Mythos: The first player draws and resolves a Mythos Card. These get resolved from the bottom up, oddly enough. Bottom left of the card shows the location in Arkham where a gate opens up. With 1-4 players 1 monster accompanies the gate. With 5-8 players you get 2 monsters. If a gate opens in a location where there's already an open gate, a Monster Surge occurs. (Though the exact specifics of this are debated...) Starting from the surging location and going clockwise around the board, place one monster on each gate, for a total of new monsters equal to the number of open gates or the number of Investigators, whichever is greater. If the mythos card shows a location that's been sealed, nothing happens. If a new gate trophy is placed on the board, add a doom token to the Ancient One's doom track. Next up is monster movement. Monsters in a location/stree with an Investigator do not leave. Monsters with symbols that match those in the black rectangle move along the paths in arkham indicated by the black arrow. Monsters with symbols that match those in the white rectangle move along the paths indicated by the white arrow. Monsters with symbols that don't match any on the mythos card do not move. The color of the monster tokens modifies how they move.

  • Black: Normal
  • Red: Moves Twice
  • Yellow: Doesn't Move
  • Green: Has special text on the token that explains what happens
  • Blue: If in a location/street and adjacent to an Investigator, moves to them. Otherwise moves to the Sky. The Sky is adjacent to all streets. If in the Sky and adjacent to an Investigator, moves to the Investigator with the worst sneak score.
  • Purple: Moves to an Investigator in an adjacent street or unstable location. Otherwise it moves normally.
  • Orange: If in an aquatic location, moves to another aquatic location with an Investigator. Otherwise it moves normally.

Next, a clue is placed on the board in the indicated location. If there's an open gate there, no clue, period. If an Investigator is there, they get the clue.

Finally, the text of the mythos card is resolved.


The Monster Token:

On the front of the token is a number in the top corner, that's the awareness modifier. The symbol in the bottom corner isn't important for battle, it's used during the mythos phase for monster movement. The back bottom left of the monster token is for horror checks. If there's a number present, that's the horror check modifier. Under the modifier is a number of ovals for how much sanity damage you'll take for failing the check. The back bottom right is the modifier for the combat check. Under this modifier is a number of hearts for how much stamina damage you'll take for failing the check. The back bottom middle has a number of blood drops, this is the monster's Toughness. This is how many successes you'll need to pass the combat check. Monsters may have additional text at the back top of the token. These effects include:

  • Ambush: Cannot flee once combat has started
  • Endless: Don't get the trophy if you win
  • Physically Resistant/Immune: Physical Weapons give half (rounded in your favor) or none of the bonus they usually do
  • Magically Resistant/Immune: Magical Weapons/Spells give half (rounded in your favor) or none of the bonus they usually do
  • Weapon Immune: Weapons give none of the bonus they usually do. Spells are still ok.
  • Nightmarish X: If you pass the horror check, take X sanity damage. If you fail the horror check, ignore this.
  • Overwhelming X: If you pass the very first combat check, take X stamina damage. If you ever fail the combat check, ignore this.

Combat Procedure:

At the very beginning of combat, you can attempt a Evade (which is Sneak + anything with evasion bonuses) check at a modifier equal to the monster's Awareness (number on the front top corner). If this check passes, pretend like combat with this monster never happened. (Elusive monsters present in expansions have a green awareness modifier. You can't fight them unless you pass the Evade Check.) If you fail the evade check, you take combat damage from the monster. If combat is still going at this point, you lose the rest of your movement for the turn. Now make the horror check. If the check has no successes, take the horror damage. If you're still alive, start making combat checks. You can also choose to make additional evade checks. If you pass a combat check, the monster is defeated and you claim the trophy. If you pass an evade check, combat ends, the monster remains where it is, and you still don't have any movement. If you fail either a combat check or an evade check, you take combat damage. Repeat this step until combat is over.


Getting knocked out/driven insane: If at any point while in Arkahm an Investigator's stamina is reduced to 0, they lose the rest of the current turn, move to St. Mary's Hospital, and are set to 1 Stamina. Same story for sanity except move to Arkham Asylum. If an Investigator is reduced to 0 Stamina or 0 Sanity while in an Other World, lose the rest of the turn, lose the next turn completely, move to Lost In Time and Space, and the relevant stat is set to 1. During the Upkeep phase following the lost turn, the Investigator can appear in any location/street in Arkham. If an Investigator is reduced to 0 Stamina and 0 Sanity simultaneously or are reduced to 0 Sanity or 0 Stamina during Final Combat, or an Investigator's Maximum Sanity/Stamina is reduced to 0, they are devoured. Discard everything except trophies and start with a new character, as though you were setting up.

Monster Limit: There can only be (# of Investigators + 3) monsters on the main arkham board at one time (doesn't include expansion board or the Outskirts). If a monster is placed on the board and the limit is exceeded it goes into the outskirts. The outskirts can support (8 - # of Investigators) monsters. If a monster is placed in the Outskirts and the limit is exceeded, all of the monsters in the outskirts to back into the cup and the terror level increases by one.

Terror Level: Each time the terror level increases, an ally is discarded from the ally deck. Additionally, when the track hits 3, the general store closes; 6 - the curiositie shoppe closes; 9 - The Magic Shop Closes. 10 - Monster Limit is doubled. Winning: If there are 6 sealed locations in Arkham, or if there are no open gates in Arkham and the Investigators collectively have a number of gate trophies equal to the number of investigators, or the Ancient One is defeated in Final Combat.

Losing: If everyone is devoured in Final Combat

Final Combat: Begins when

  • There are 9 - (# Investigators divided by 2 rounded up) open gates on the board
  • The Ancient One's doom track fills up.
  • Terror Level is 10 and the doubled monster limit is exceeded
  • No gate trophies left to use when one is needed
  • No monster trophies left in the cup when one is needed

Final Combat: At the start, the Ancient One's doom track fills up. Final Combat has three phases. Upkeep, Investigator Attack, Ancient One attack. Upkeep is the same as before, also item trading can occur. During Investigator attack, make a combat check at the Ancient One's Combat modified and count the successes. Successes are cumulative across all Investigators and all rounds. A # of successes equal to the # of Investigators removes a single doom token from the Ancient One's doom track. If the doom track empties, the Investigators win. During the Ancient One attack, resolve the printed effect on the card. Usually each Investigator has to pass a skill check of some sort at increasingly difficult modifiers or discard something and when they run out they're dead.

Quick Summary

  1. Upkeep: Refresh, move first player
  2. Movement: Move around the arkham board, fighting/sneaking past monsters or move 1 space in an Other world.
  3. Encounter: Draw an Arkham Encounter, move into an Other World, close a gate, or draw an Other World Encounter
  4. Mythos: Gate opens, doom token, monsters appear, monsters move, clue appears, text is resolved.


  1. Evade Check (optional)
  2. Horror Check
  3. Combat Check or Evade Check (repeat this step until dead)

Yeah...the summary got a bit away from me, but that about covers it save for odd corner cases. Hopefully that'll help a bit.

  • Wow. #1 nicely done. #2 game is super complicated. #3 there are lots of little things we were doing wrong (e.g. a clue appeared where I was and I didn't get to keep it so had to wait a whole other turn to pick it up since it was the 5th one I needed to close the penultimate gate; we did monster surges at the double gate, not evenly distributed;
    – Adam Wuerl
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 2:44
  • I'll leave open for a while to see if anyone else wants to answer. Not that I'm asking for someone to generate one for this answer, but a graphical version of what you wrote above (e.g. a picture of a monster card with all the symbols annotated with their meaning, or a picture of a mythos card with callouts showing the order you process the card and notes like on clue placement) would help so much. Part of the reason the game takes so long is that there's usually a couple of people (myself always) who don't know the game well and slow everyone else down.
    – Adam Wuerl
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 2:47
  • Good answer, but I'd probably mention adjusting stats during upkeep.
    – Shinrai
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 22:15
  • " Investigators that have returned from an Other World can attempt to close the gate by making a combat or a lore check " <-- combat check should be replaced by fight check, i believe.
    – Ron
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 6:15

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