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Notes And Surprises For Arkham Horror LCG

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I’ve been playing the Arkham Horror LCG with some friends for a while, and we just recently discovered that we had thoroughly misunderstood some rules (I even made a post about it on the Fantasy Flight forums).

After that, I read and carefully considered every word of the Learning To Play, Reference and FAQ documents, looking for other things we’d missed or subtle details or whatever. This is the result.

This document will be useless to anyone who hasn’t played the game at least a couple of times.

Direct quotes are marked as such, and are almost always from the Reference. Many of these items have my commentary, usually after “–”; where there is no commentary it’s just a rule I had forgotten, found surprising or seemed to have interesting or subtle implications.

The Big Ones

These are major mistakes we made at various points:

  • Investigate uses books, not brains; the one that looks like a head (we call it brains) is willpower, not intellect (books).
  • The Agenda can only advance during the relevant bit of the Mythos phase, unless a cared says otherwise. (As a side comment, this makes Ancient Evils a considerably more powerful card.)
  • Advancing the Agenda clears all doom from all cards in play.
  • Players can go in any order (sort of; see below).
  • “Massive” is complicated and significantly different from normal combat; look it up in the Rule Reference every time you encounter a Massive enemy, the section titled “Massive” is complete.
  • Engaged monsters cannot be escaped by leaving the location, even with a Fast action or whatever; see “Combat & Monsters”.
  • Only spent actions provoke attacks of opportunity; Fast, Free, and Reaction abilities do not spend actions, and hence do not provoke AoO.
  • “If an ability contains a clause identifying whom it is targeting,”you/your" in that ability refers to those investigators. For example, Stubborn Detective reads: “While Stubborn Detective is at your location…” this clause identifies “you” as any investigator at his location. Young Deep One reads: “After Young Deep One engages you…” this clause identifies “you” as any investigator who engages Young Deep One." – Stubborn Detective affects everyone at the same location!

Turn Order vs. In Player Order

“The lead investigator is sometimes required to make important scenario decisions. At the beginning of a scenario, the investigators choose a lead investigator.” – This lasts for the entire scenario.

The investigators can take their turns in the Investigation Phase in any order, and this can be decided dynamically.

From Learn To Play: “The investigators, as a group, choose which investigator takes the first turn. When an investigator’s turn ends, choose an investigator to take the next turn, and so on, until each investigator has taken his or her turn.”

“The investigator taking his or her turn is known as the”active investigator.“”

“In Player Order”, on the other hand, means “start with the lead investigator and go clockwise”.

There are three times “In player order” is required according to the rules reference:

  1. Mythos Phase 1.4 (Each investigator draws 1 encounter card)
  2. Monster Phase 3.3 (Ready, engaged monsters attack; all monsters on a particular investigator are done before moving on to the next)
  3. Upkeep Phase 4.4 (Each investigator draws 1 card and gains 1 resource.)

Combat & Monsters

“Retaliate: If an investigator fails a skill test while attacking an enemy that has the retaliate keyword, the enemy (if it is ready) performs its attack (damage and horror) against the investigator.” and “This attack occurs whether the enemy is engaged with the attacking investigator or not.” – I think we forgot this at least once.

“Each enemy in an investigator’s threat area [i.e. engaged enemies] is considered to be at the same location as that investigator, and should the investigator move, the enemy remains engaged and moves to the new location simultaneously with the investigator.” – We moved away from monsters many times; oops.

“Because fast cards do not cost actions to play, they do not provoke attacks of opportunity (see”Attack of Opportunity" on page 5)." – Specifically, WRT Shortcut: Shortcut itself is Fast and therefore doesn’t provoke AoO. It will move the chosen investigator and any non-Massive enemies engaged with them to a connecting location. The enemy will not perform an AoO on the moving investigator.

If you attack and miss: “… against an enemy that is engaged with another single investigator, the damage of the attack is dealt to the investigator engaged with that enemy.” – This never happens with Massive enemies; you can alway safely attack them.

“If an enemy has no legal location to spawn at (for example, if its spawn instruction directs it to a specific location that is not in play, or if no location in play satisfies its”spawn" instruction), it does not spawn, and is discarded instead."


Each time a triggering condition occurs, the following sequence is followed: (1) execute “when…” effects that interrupt that triggering condition, (2) resolve the triggering condition, and then, (3) execute “after…” effects in response to that triggering condition. – This sequence can have other such sequences nested inside it.

The following example is both illustrative and hilarious: For example: Roland and Agnes are embroiled in a fierce battle. Roland has a Guard Dog in his play area, and is engaged with a Goat Spawn with 2 damage on it. Agnes is engaged with a Ghoul Minion. Roland wishes to play a .45 Automatic, which provokes an attack of opportunity from the Goat Spawn, dealing 1 damage to Roland. Roland assigns this damage to his Guard Dog, which has a reaction ability: “When an enemy attack deals damage to Guard Dog: Deal 1 damage to the attacking enemy.” Before resolving the playing of Roland’s .45 Automatic, Guard Dog’s ability resolves, and 1 damage is dealt to the Goat Spawn, which would defeat it. Goat Spawn has the following Forced ability: “When Goat Spawn is defeated: Each investigator at this location takes 1 horror.” Before resolving the damage dealt to the Guard Dog, 1 horror is dealt to each investigator at the location, including Agnes, who has a reaction ability: “After 1 or more horror is placed on Agnes Baker: Deal 1 damage to an enemy at your location.” Before resolving the Goat Spawn’s defeat, Agnes deals 1 damage to the Ghoul Minion engaged with her. Now that there are no further Reaction or Forced abilities to trigger, the players return to the previous triggering condition and resolve the Goat Spawn’s defeat, and resolve any “After…” effects that might occur when it is defeated. Then, the players resolve the damage dealt to the Guard Dog, and resolve any “After…” effects that might occur from that damage. Finally, the players return to the original triggering condition, and Roland is able to put his .45 Automatic into play.

“Reaction or Forced abilities with a triggering condition dependent upon the skill test being successful or unsuccessful (such as”After you successfully investigate," or “After you fail a skill test by 2 or more”)" – trigger at the instant success is determined, before the action resolves.

“when” and “after” are special keywords; if confusion about them occurs, read their relevant sections of the Reference, and the “Ability” section of the Reference.

It is worth reading the “Ability” section of the Reference in its entirety at least once.

Particularly confusing: “The word”when" refers to the moment immediately after the specified timing point or triggering condition initiates, but before its impact upon the game state resolves. The resolution of a “when” ability interrupts the resolution of its timing point or triggering condition. (For example, an ability that reads “When you draw an enemy card” initiates immediately after you draw the enemy card, but before resolving its revelation ability, spawning it, etc.)"

Similarly, “instead” and “would” are special keywords. Their behaviour is somewhat surprising; see the “Instead” section in the Reference when they come up.

Reaction abilities may only be triggered once each time the specified condition is met.

Using a reaction ability in response to a triggering condition does not prevent other reaction abilities from being used in response to that same triggering condition. (Specific example given was playing two different “after you defeat an enemy” cards in response to the same death.)

“An attack of opportunity is made immediately after all costs of initiating the action that provoked the attack have been paid, but before the application of that action’s effect upon the game state.”

“If a lasting effect affects in-play cards (or cards in a specified area), it is only applied to cards that are in play (or the specified area) when the lasting effect is established. Cards that enter play (or the specified area) after its establishment are not affected by the lasting effect.”

“If the effects of a card or ability with a limit or maximum are canceled, it is still counted against the limit/maximum, because the ability has been initiated.”

Game State Must Be Changed

Almost all things that do not have the potential to change the game state are illegal. This is re-iterated many times in the reference. If there are multiple clauses and any of them can’t change the game state, the whole sequence is illegal. As a made up example, “Play on an enemy to exhaust them. Draw 3 resources.” would be illegal in its entirety if there are no non-exhausted enemies. It is illegal to even initiate a card that can’t or won’t change game state, and this check occurs before everything else; see the very first chunk of appendix 1.

“An effect that can choose”any number" of targets does not successfully resolve (and cannot change the game state) if zero of those targets are chosen."

One of the rare exceptions: “In the absence of the word”must" while choosing among multiple options, any option may be chosen upon the resolution of the effect, even an option that does not change the game state." – This only applies to choosing among multiple options; otherwise “must” still requires a game state change.

Deckbuilding & Experience

“A player’s deck cannot include more than 2 copies (by title) of any given player card.” – That by title part means you can’t have two base and two upgraded “Emergency Cache”s, which is a trick I was considering.

Misc Notes

There’s a setup guide in the Reference -_-. (I kept using the one in Learn To Play, which is customized for a particular scenario.)

Immunity is complicated; make a point of looking up that section when it comes up; the section is named “Immune” in the Reference.

“A card with the * symbol before its card title is a unique card. There can be no more than one instance of each unique card, by title, in play at any given time.”

“When an investigator engages an enemy, that enemy has also engaged that investigator, and vice-versa. There is no difference between engaging an enemy and being engaged by an enemy. Effects that trigger”after an enemy engages you" will trigger at the same time as effects that trigger “after you engage an enemy.”"

“If an effect causes an investigator to lose one or more actions, that investigator has that many fewer standard actions to take that turn (the investigator’s three standard actions are the ones that are”lost" first). If an investigator only has additional actions remaining, those are then lost, in an order of the investigator’s choosing."

“Gained” characteristics are not considered to be “printed” on the card. If an ability refers to the printed characteristics of a card, it does not refer to gained characteristics.

“Weaknesses with an encounter cardtype (such as enemies or treacheries) are considered to be player cards while they are in their bearer’s deck, and are considered to be encounter cards while they are being resolved, and once they have entered play. Before a weakness with an encounter cardtype is resolved, it is still considered to be a player card.”

“If the ability being initiated is on an in-play card, the sequence does not stop from completing if that card leaves play during the sequence.”

“Any ability that would shuffle a discard pile of zero cards back into a deck does not shuffle the deck.”

“Out of play refers to the cards in a player’s hand, in any deck, in any discard pile, in the victory display, and those that have been set aside and/or removed from the game.”

“An investigator who resigns is not considered to have been defeated.”

Upon elimination: “0. For the purpose of resolving weakness cards, the game has ended for the eliminated investigator. Trigger any”when the game ends" abilities on each weakness the eliminated investigator owns that is in play. Then, remove those weaknesses from the game.

Upon elimination: “All clue tokens that player possesses are placed at the location the investigator was at when he or she was eliminated, and all of that player’s resource tokens are returned to the token pool”.

“If the test fails, the investigator does not evade the enemy, and it remains engaged with him or her.” – It amused me that the rules say “him or her”, when in fact most enemies in the game are neither.