Horrible times!

I had a couple of games of Eldritch Horror over this weekend, and it’s been simply spectacular, I have to say! It’s games like these that remind me just why I love this one so much. On Saturday I got round to the final two heroes in the game, Charlie Kane and Jim Culver. That was pretty marvellous, I’ve got to say – Charlie ended up with quite the retinue, and it was always hilarious to declare “you can’t detain me, you’ll cause a diplomatic incident!”

Eldritch Horror

Unfortunately, Azathoth woke up, and the world ended.

Eldritch Horror

 

This afternoon, it was time to try again! After yesterday, I had a real itch to get this game out again, this time with some of the expansion components from Forbidden Lore! The expansion has a whole slew of cards for the existing Ancient Ones in the base game, including double the amount of research encounters for each one.

Eldritch Horror

Playing against Yog Sothoth, I was a bit worried, as the only time I’d played against him last time, I lost – and horribly! However, this time it seemed to go a whole lot easier. Maybe I’m just more familiar with the game, I don’t know. Well, anyway,  I got to see both the new Mysteries in the course of the game, one of which uses the new special encounter deck Void Between Worlds. It seemed a bit straightforward, I thought, to complete, but maybe I just got lucky.

Eldritch Horror

Still, all of that aside, this was an awesome game – inexplicably, only my eighth game of Eldritch Horror! As Christmas approaches, I’m hoping to get in many more, though!

 

There’s something lurking…

It’s Tuesday, so that means it’s game day here at spalanz! Today I’m going to do a small blog on a game expansion, largely because I have an exam tomorrow and need to keep the little grey cells ticking over on that. So following on from Arkham Horror last week, I’m going to take a look at ome of the smaller expansions, The Lurker at the Threshold!

The Lurker at the Threshold

Chronologically  the penultimate expansion for the game (not counting revised editions), the Lurker was the final small box released. Each of those expansions is closely associated with a particular Ancient One from the base game, and Lurker is aligned with Yog Sothoth, a being who transcends time and space. Within the mythos, the Lurker at the Threshold is an avatar of the Ancient One, and the “collaboration” between Lovecraft and August Derleth explores this.

…great globes of light massing toward the opening, and not alone these, but the breaking apart of the nearest globes, and the protoplasmic flesh that flowed blackly outward to join together and form that eldritch, hideous horror from outer space, that spawn of the blankness of primal time, that tentacled amorphous monster which was the lurker at the threshold, whose mask was as a congeries of iridescent globes, the noxious Yog-Sothoth, who froths as primal slime in nuclear chaos beyond the nethermost outposts of space and time!

Anyway.

The expansion includes all-new cards for the base game. In addition to new spells and items, there are also several new decks. Firstly, there is a Relationship deck, which provides a relationship between you and the player to your left. These often provide bonuses or other special effects to emphasize the cooperative nature of the game. The other decks all interact with The Lurker himself, a new Herald that follows on from those first introduced in Dunwich Horror.

The Lurker at the Threshold

The Lurker appears to be something of a benevolent force, providing help to the investigators almost as if he were a Guardian. However, it is help that comes at a price. If the investigator accepts the aid of the Lurker, he must then take a Dark Pact card (seen below the Ancient One sheet in the above picture); of themselves, these Pacts also seem to be quite helpful, offering you the alternative of accepting power tokens over losses to sanity, or indeed to spend in the place of clue tokens. Unfortunately, the other deck associated with the Lurker is not so welcome. The Reckoning deck (the cards to the right of the Ancient One sheet above) comes into play whenever a gate opens. Reckoning cards function with varying degrees of hindrance to the investigators – from causing you to move to an Other World, to forcing the discard of clue tokens or the loss of sanity or stamina, based on how much power you have amassed.

Another new component in this expansion is the new gate stack. Unlike in the base game, where the gates open to a single Other World on a specific location, the gates in Lurker at the Threshold have been “modified” so that all sorts of craziness goes on, from gates to multiple Other Worlds:

The Lurker at the Threshold

to gates that actually move around the board:

The Lurker at the Threshold

It’s very fitting, and ties nicely into the special abilities of Yog Sothoth from the base game, with whom I would only ever play this expansion.

I would say that this is my joint-second favourite of all the Arkham expansions, alongside The Black Goat of the Woods and second only to The Dunwich Horror. Playing with the Herald (and, quite honestly, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t) adds in so much variety, the gamble of accepting the Lurker’s help can make for some really awesome role-playing-esque moments! Indeed, it was during a game with this expansion that I first tried my hand at writing some weird fiction! For your general amusement, I present: There was something lurking on the threshold…

Harvey Walters knew there was something lurking on the threshold of time and space, though his research at Miskatonic University had failed to uncover any real clues. How could he know it was Yog-Sothoth, waiting to devour the town of Arkham? Making a deal with renowned gangster, Michael McGlen, he determined to conquer the other worlds and find the clues necessary to piece together some form of defense for this town.

The two men split up early in their quest, Harvey heading downtown while Michael focused his search on the Uptown area. By a strange twist of the mythos surrounding Arkham, both men found themselves switching places, and gates to other dimensions and worlds began to blossom like the petals of a rose. The hunt was on!

Michael, perhaps less accustomed to the perils he was facing than his more academic partner, began to show the signs of strain at first. After an encounter with an Elder Thing, he began to suffer from Panic, but strove on in his quest, despite Hearing Voices at almost every turn. He roamed through Southside, meeting Professor Armitage at the Historical Society who offered to accompany him. Perhaps it was the companionship of another of these academic types that bolstered his spirits enough to investigate Rivertown. After a near-disastrous adventure through The City of the Great Race, he decided to remain where he was, shielded by the “safety” of the Black Cave he had found. Oh, how wrong he was. While roaming the twisting, winding passageways, he found a friend in the hulking figure of Tom “Mountain” Murphy, but the trio were soon to know peril like no other…

Harvey Walters, disturbed by the rising level of terror in the town, was furiously gathering clues from every corner, and using his eldritch wisdom to seal gates once he had explored them. His years at the University had taught him a thing or two about spell-casting, and his facility with the Sigil of Hermes Trismegistus gave him an edge in his battle with the occult powers swirling through the town. His exploits had earned him enough renown that, stopping through Ma’s Boarding House, he earned the help of his fellow academic Oliver Grayson, who offered to lend his own knowledge of the occult in the quest against the Great Old One. 

Alas, terrible news soon reached the pair of professors. 

Michael, while remaining with his allies at the Black Cave, had twice been sucked through portals to other dimensions, and yet both times had managed to see himself returned safely to Arkham. However, it was on his way back from the Plateau of Leng that catastrophe struck. By a cruel twist of fate, his luck ran dry and the gangster was lost in time and space – the very realm of Yog-Sothoth. The worst was presumed, Michael had perished in his attempt to return one final time to this world, and it can only be assumed that his companions also perished in the void. 

Harvey and Oliver were on their own.

It was now that Harvey began to give in to temptation. His eldritch knowledge had made him aware of a presence, a Lurker on the Threshold of time and space, that could perhaps help him as he made a final push to liberate the town of Arkham from the pall of the Great Old One. With a copy of the King James Bible for some measure of comfort, if not protection, Harvey entered into a Soul Pact with the Lurker. After a fight with a dreaded Cultist, during which he contracted a Blood Disease, Harvey further gave in to the Lurker’s promise of power by making a Blood Pact with the fiend. Whether he shared this with Professor Grayson or not is unclear. 

The two professors now made a last-ditch attempt to seal the gate to the Plateau of Leng, perhaps doing so in memory of their fallen comrades. Harvey immediately used his arcane gifts to Find the Gate back to Arkham, and with all of his knowledge combined from the clues he had amassed against the coming of Yog-Sothoth, managed to seal the sixth gate through to the other world. 

Nobody rejoiced in Arkham that night. Nobody would ever know that they had come within terrifying moments of being plunged into the horrifying abyss. 

When Harvey Walters eventually regained his consciousness the following morning, he was still clutching to his battered copy of the King James Bible…

goo

The Lurker at the Threshold

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The Lurker at the Threshold

Bigger’n a barn!

After taking a look at the classic Lovecraftian tale Call of Cthulhu last week, I thought it’d be good to write up another blog on perhaps my all-time favourite story from Lovecraft that I have read so far, The Dunwich Horror.

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Another story that I first read in the summer of 2012, while Call of Cthulhu was a little surprising to me in being so disjointed and just not what I had been expecting at all, Dunwich Horror was a much more conventional story to me, I found myself instantly enjoying it for what it was.

The story involves the strange goings-on with the Whateley family of Dunwich, a small town in the upper Miskatonic valley. Not too long ago, Lavinia Whateley gave birth to the hideously malformed Wilbur, who has grown to adulthood in a shockingly short space of time. The Whateleys have been continually modifying and enlarging their farmhouse, and the mysterious Old Man Whateley has been buying increasingly large numbers of cattle, though his herd has not visibly increased in size as a result. Then Wilbur’s grandfather vanishes, followed not long after by his mother, and still the cattle keep disappearing…

Wilbur ventures to Miskatonic University to consult their copy of the Necronomicon, but the librarian Dr Henry Armitage refuses him permission, and also sends word to his colleagues to similar effect. Wilbur breaks into the library at night, but is mauled to death by a guard dog. Armitage and his colleagues Professors Rice and Morgan catch a glimpse of his goat-hoofed body before it melts into thin air before them. With Wilbur dead, the strange invisible entity in the Whateley farmhouse runs amok across Dunwich, leaving devastation in its wake. The three professors arrive on the scene with the necessary magical paraphernalia to combat the beast, and manage to render it visible just before they destroy it, with the realisation that it was in fact Wilbur’s brother…

The story is one of tremendous suspense as the nature of the beast is gradually revealed to us – though even in the end, we don’t really know for sure what it was the professors disposed of. The description is certainly what we’ve come to expect of something along the lines of Yog Sothoth in the years of RPGs and board games, of course – all tentacles and eyes and gelatinous form:

“Bigger’n a barn… all made o’ squirmin’ ropes… hull thing sort o’ shaped like a hen’s egg bigger’n anything, with dozens o’ legs like hogsheads that haff shut up when they step… nothin’ solid abaout it – all like jelly, an’ made o’ sep’rit wrigglin’ ropes pushed clost together… great bulgin’ eyes all over it… ten or twenty maouths or trunks a-stickin’ aout all along the sides, big as stovepipes, an’ all a-tossin’ an’ openin’ an’ shuttin’… all grey, with kinder blue or purple rings… an’ Gawd in heaven – that haff face on top!…”

(I think it’s important to point out here that Lovecraft often employs dialects in his writing, and the above extract is intended to connote the sort of grungy local rather than the entire story being told in that manner!)

I mentioned in my Call of Cthulhu blog how much better an introduction to Lovecraft’s work this story would be, and I definitely stand by that here. It’s a more conventional story, for sure, but it gives you a better idea of the way Lovecraft writes, for instance his academic types as heroes, his wonderful word-painting when it comes to describing these otherworldly monsters.

The Dunwich Horror is definitely my favourite of Lovecraft’s stories that I’ve read so far, though I do admittedly have a lot of them that I’ve not yet read! But it’s highly worth getting a copy – the Penguin Modern Classics edition has also got a few other worthy mentions, including the delightfully creepy Thing on the Doorstep! Well worth a read!