Monday, December 3, 2012

Arkham Horror

Arkham Horror
Fantasy Flight Games

Plot Summary: Designed for 1-8 players, Arkham Horror is a cooperative adventure game of survival, horror, and investigation based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror and science fiction short stories. Players take on the role of an investigator, each with their own unique back story, abilities, and equipment. Together they must close portals and stop an Ancient One from awakening and destroying the world. To close these gates investigators have to gather clues, investigate alternate dimensions, and then return to Arkham to close the gates. If they gather enough clues, they will be able to permanently seal the location so no more gates can be spawned. Enough of these seals will ensure that the Ancient One remains dormant and Arkham is saved . . . for the time being.

Critical Evaluation: At my library’s first Teen Advisory Board lock-in during the summer of 2011, I introduced my teens to Arkham Horror, a cooperative adventure game that is themed around writer H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Asides from being a game, Arkham Horror also encourages reading. Since game play is based on the works of Lovecraft, teens are encouraged to read the original source material the game is based off of. The company’s publisher, Fantasy Flight, has also started to release paperbacks based off the game and characters from the game adding yet another game-to-reading connection for my teens to explore. The game is cooperative based (everyone against the board, not each other) and very complex. It requires critical thinking, creativity, and mathematical skills. An average game takes 30 minutes to set up, about two hours to explain rules to new players, and between six to eight hours for actual game play. One would think teens would quickly lose interest, but mine actually dived right in and loved it—so much so we got a Nebraska Library Commission Youth Excellence grant in October 2011 to implement our Arkham Horror Gaming Club (AHGC). We had our first meeting during Spring Break in April 2012 and it was an astounding success. In October 2012 we received a YALSA/Dollar General Teen Read Week grant to have an Arkham celebration which included the big event of turning the complex board game into a Life-Size version (which took nearly three months of planning and over 350 volunteer hours from my teens to pull off!).

Gaming in the library has always been a hot topic. However, when most think gaming they don’t go beyond the Wii and the Xbox and traditional board games. The AHGC brings a whole new dimension to the idea of gaming in the library and opens possibilities for more complex means of gaming that attract older teens and get them interested in the library. Teens are very interested in complex table top games which are traditionally not part of library programming because you really have to be a gamer yourself to fully understand such games and be able to confidently introduce new players to them. Arkham Horror not only has literary connections since it is based off the work of Lovecraft, but because of its own complex gaming nature it requires players to do a lot of reading aloud from the various cards that are drawn. Arkham Horror also teaches a variety of skills that other video games typically don’t teach. Asides from improving reading skills, game play also requires critical thinking (choosing between two lines of action and trying to predict which is the better move), teamwork and cooperation (since it is everyone versus the board instead of competitive competition), mathematical skills (various skill “checks” are required to earn items and all forms of combat with monsters require doing calculations to determine how many dice to roll and what is needed for success), and it also requires patience, commitment, and attention to detail since an average game can take six hours. Arkham Horror appeals to different kinds of teens. Whereas crafts might bring in more girls, Arkham Horror is of interest to all ages and genders. The members of my current AHGC are evenly split among girls and guys and, while their ages average 12-16, my youngest member is 9 and the oldest is 20 (siblings of other members). We even have had parents stay and play, so the club is also multigenerational. Overall, Arkham Horror based gaming programs encourage various life skills making it a valuable learning tool that teens view as a way to have fun with friends.

Reader's Annotation: N/A

Author Information: Roseville, Minnesota, based Fantasy Flight Publishing was founded in 1995 by Christian T. Petersen. Since the release of its first game product (Twilight Imperium) in 1997, the company has been doing business as Fantasy Flight Games.  Since that time, FFG has grown to become one of the biggest names in the hobby games industry, being a marketplace leader in board games and maintaining strong businesses in the card game, roleplaying game, and miniature game categories. FFG is known for its quality of game components (often enhanced with highly detailed plastic miniatures and beautiful artwork), innovative gameplay, professional dedication to customer service, and a cutting-edge online presence providing information and support for its many products. FFG's best-known titles include games based on licenses such as Battlestar Galactica, World of Warcraft, and The Lord of the Rings; proprietary titles such as Arkham Horror and Descent: Journeys in the Dark; as well as re-releases of classic titles such as Cosmic Encounter, Fury of Dracula, and DungeonQuest (Fantasy Flight, 2012).

Genre: Horror (Board Game), Science Fiction (Board Game)

Curriculum Ties:  Literature, mathematics, reading, critical thinking skills, teamwork, 1920s and Prohibition history

Booktalking Ideas: N/A

Reading Level/Interest Age: 12+

Challenge Issues: Horror, violence, Prohibition era (thus drinking, smoking, etc.)

Challenge Defense: If this book were challenged, I would make sure the library has a Challenge Defense File ready for such a situation. Inside the Challenge Defense File, librarians and the public could find:

·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the library’s own selection policy (my library, the La Vista Public Library, has a policy but it is not online so I can’t link to it as an example).
·        A copy of the library’s citizen’s complaint/reconsideration form (my library, the La Vista Public Library’s, form is called the City of La Vista Service Request form).
·        Copies of reviews—both good and bad—from reputable library and publishing services to justify why a book was selected for inclusion in the collection. These include not only reviews from such journals as School Library Journal, VOYA, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, but also any mention of books on YALSA lists and other copies of articles about any awards or nominations such books may have received.
·        Include a short rationale file for other coworkers so if the librarian in charge of selecting materials is not available when a challenge occurs the other staff members have some information to go by (the rational would include such information as a short summary, what could be challenged, reviews, awards and nominations, etc.)
·        Include for staff members a copy of “Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials,” a document written by the American Library Association. Make sure that staff reviews this document periodically so they are prepared and know how to face such situations. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at

Reason for Inclusion: While a complex game, if you have the right teens with patience to play it you will get diehard fans. Also, unlike passive games played on the Wii or Xbox, Arkham Horror is a “complex” board game that incorporates a number of valuable skills.


Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc. (2012). What is Fantasy Flight? Retrieved from

And when you have teens who fall in love with this complex board game this could happen . . . you apply for a YALSA/Dollar General Teen Read Week grant of $1,000 to not only have Arkham and Lovecraftian themed programs but to be insane and turn Arkham Horror into a Life-Size version!

The cards and various tokens made life-size
A view of the whole room--you can see various locations and our six-foot tall portal paintings

Abby shows off some goods in the Science Building

Kayla went insane at Arkham Asylym and Pierre was sent to jail

And here is a clip of Pierre, during one of our gaming club meetings, trying to read the gibberish on the back of the Cultist monster token (video taken from our TAB YouTube account):

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