I find my thoughts stray to Arkham Horror now and again (“now” in particular, and “again” with some frequency), how the numbers work, and how to make them work better. Some time back, I discovered a fansite detailing a “vignette” concept, which was a series of preset encounters for investigators to play through, like unveiling an actual mystery. I liked the idea, but never implemented it.

Recently, I was playing with the numbers for where, and how often new gates appear, versus how often monster surges appear. I’ve played in several games recently where our playstyle clashed with the game’s randomness, and I wondered how I might adjust things to work differently. Preselected Mythos cards? Not a new idea, of course.

Our problem was that we had a few monsters on the field that we couldn’t beat, a few gates we couldn’t close, and every turn brought monster surge after monster surge. We were barely able to keep up, but we were able to keep up. The terror track was creeping up slowly, and the game was dragging. It probably would have benefited us for the Ancient One to awaken, just so we could call the game a wash.

So, I wondered about picking and choosing gate locations and clue appearances. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of people criticize the game for the clues being too generic, when they could benefit for having “clue cards” that contain flavor text about the Mythos or the mystery at large. Why not have “campaigns” — more detailed that the scenarios in the Arkham Horror league — clues with specific information?

This would take some actual writing, and an understanding of how much time is needed to explore and close gates. It think part of the point would be to collect clues in a particular order, or travel to certain locations in a specific order, and I realized that wouldn’t work very well. The “clue cards” would still have to be pretty generic, and how would you control what monsters appeared? Should you control the monsters?

In the core game, more that sixty per cent of all gates open in one of four locations — the Witch House, the Woods, the Unvisited Isle, and Independence Square. If you wind up sealing these locations, the game can really grind to a halt. I’m guessing that’s why they have a secondary victory condition for “closing all gates on the board while holding a number of gate trophies equal to the number of players.”

I like the inevitability The King in Yellow lends to the game. Either the doom track increases or the First Act begins. Either you sacrifice two elder signs or the Second Act begins. If you’re foolish enough to allow the Second Act to occur, and unlucky enough for the Third Act to begin, the game’s over, plain and simple.