Arkham Horror: The Card Game - Guardians of the Abyss
Teaching Time: 20 mins
Playing Time: 60-120 mins
Setup Time: 20 mins
Value For Money: High
I’m a big fan of the Arkham Horror stand alone scenarios, they’re good value and they often allow the designers to play around with some interesting concepts, the only issue with them is that sometimes they’re over a bit quickly, so one that features two scenarios is extra splendid. Guardians of the Abyss is therefore right up my street.
Guardians of the Abyss sees investigators travelling to Egypt to delve into a mystery that is seeing people falling uncontrollably into slumber and consists of two scenarios, The Eternal Slumber and The Night’s Usurper. As such it takes the part of a sort of (very) mini campaign, crammed into a little package it keeps the price relatively low, at least for Arkham Horror TCG. The upshot is the chance to enjoy something a little longer than the other one shots without the commitment of a full cycle, which is a nice idea.
The Eternal Slumber includes the explore mechanic that defined the Forgotten Age campaign, and it’s a nice mechanic to see get extra usage. It doesn't use the slightly more fun version of the mechanic in the Return to... version of the Forgotten Age, but it still works just fine. It has an ongoing measure of the investigator’s success levels in a mechanic known as the “Strength of the Abyss”, which if let run riot will make things particularly tough in the following scenario. It also features one of my other favourite things in Arkham, a set of named enemies with unique defeat conditions such as those found in Midnight Masks but with story reactions, it follows all this up with a really interesting and unusual final boss.
The Night’s Usurper carries on with explore mechanics and another new interesting final boss. It also includes locations with double sided story choices that have some really deeply Lovecraft moments in them. Originally this double pack of scenarios was played across two live events with the results of attendees from the first event defining the experiences of those in the later ones and I will take a second to say that if packs created for live events are to be put on wider release I'd far rather they take this sort of pattern than that of Labyrinths of Lunacy or even The Blob That Ate Everything and offering mechanics built for a crowd to smaller teams.
I often struggle when writing positive reviews for Arkham Horror scenarios in that so much of what there is to say in such a situation is a spoiler, when the mechanics work, they work and when a scenario is full of cool stuff its best not spoken of. Which doesn’t leave much to talk about in the good scenarios. Sadly, for the length of this review, Guardians of the Abyss is a good Arkham Horror scenario. It’s got a bunch of neat mechanics that fit the scenario perfectly and absolutely tons of great story moments. Its self-contained but with more meat than most of the stand-alone scenarios, so there's really very little to complain about.
If you’ve got Arkham Horror and you’re not sure about committing to a full campaign, or you have before and wasn’t a huge fan, Guardians of the Abyss is a great way to get some more play or come back to the game without needing to invest too heavily. If you’re a big fan boy, then it’s a really neat coming together of some successful mechanics and a really strong Lovecraft story. If there is a complaint, as with most of the stand-alones it doesn't offer deck building cards, so if you're a hardcore competitive Arkham player it won't help with that. Other than that, in short(er) if you’re thinking of trying Guardians of the Abyss, try it.