Note: This review pertains to an expansion for Arkham Horror and requires the base game to play. We are also assuming that you are familiar with the base game, or at least have read its review.
It doesn’t make any sense. It certainly says something after all this that you still find yourself making such statements. But it’s true. Even as a lifelong resident, you would never have heard of Innsmouth if Jacob hadn’t been from there. Given all that just happened, you wish you still hadn’t heard of it. Your goosebumps still haven’t gone away.
You had always known him for a gibbering, but the cries were decidedly clairvoyant. You’ve seen some strange things lately, but whatever creature he had become rattled you to your core. And knowing that there were more of them just off shore was even worse. At least you know the location of where all of this strangeness has been emanating from now.
Unfortunately, they know that you know. You stole the first car you could and drove back to gather your things. But you imagine they won’t be far behind once they realize you’re gone.
Frantically, you pour over all of the materials in front of you. Some pieces were fitting into place, but so much remained murky. The events in the woods. The museum.
You tear through all of it for the tiny note Armitage had handed to you before you were separated. All of your possessions, all of your vocation, you’d gladly trade it in this instant for this tiny hand-scribbled note that you had carelessly overlooked. Aha!
“My boy, seek out Room 418. If you have the insight to follow where it leads, it will provide you the knowledge you seek.”
A crash comes from downstairs.
Damn. You snatch the small notebook – Maggie’s notebook – and dash into the back hallway. One way or the other, it appears it all ends at Miskatonic University.
Something’s fishy at the nearby coastal town of Innsmouth. There is rumor of strange sightings under the water, but the townsfolk haven’t exactly been sharing information. However, your investigation of what’s been happening in Arkham has pointed you in their direction, and it seems that the only way you’re going to get the answers you want are by going there yourself.
Rules Creep Factor
As with all of the previous expansions of the game, Innsmouth Horror comes with its own set of rules baggage. Even for a large expansion, though, Innsmouth isn’t too cumbersome to the rules. Yes, the game adds new investigators, Ancient Ones, and over a hundred new Location/Mythos/Gate cards, but that is pretty standard for the bigger expansions.
The location itself has to be managed, just as in other expansions. Thus, the most pressing rules addition is the always-additional ways to either die or awaken the Ancient One. With Innsmouth, this is through the Deep One Rising track.
Another other rules addition that requires attention be paid to is with the enjoyable personal story quests. Each investigator in the game now has an additional individual goal to accomplish if they can. While they are all of the same ‘pass equals good, fail equals bad’ scheme, it is another spinning plate players will have to be aware of in their sessions. They are optional, but so many of them add an extra variable to their character without impacting the flow of the game much. Don’t be surprised if you use them from now on. We certainly do.
Innsmouth Horror, much like all many other Arkham expansions, is really propelled by its theme. Innsmouth is a strange, creepy little town. And with good reason. There’s a bit of an open-secret amongst the townsfolk that some there not only serve the Deep Ones, but as part of their pact, actually interbreed. For the promises of gold and fish. You can think they got a raw deal, but they seem to be oddly protective of their bargain. This plays out with the new additions the game offers, which, aside from the story quests, breaks down into three areas:
The Deep One Rising Track
This is yet another ticking clock players get to watch and worry about going off to awaken the Ancient One. There are a number of vortexes around the town of Innsmouth, and each time that a monster enters the vortex, the track goes up one. Additionally, the track rises every time that a gate doesn’t open on a location due to an elder sign or other effect. This is manageable most of the time, but as there are only six of them, it can fill up fast.
This is particularly true if you are going to use the two new Heralds, Father Dagon and Mother Hydra – a pair of super Deep Ones. As always with the Heralds, they are optional, but using one or the other adds extra feel for the Innsmouth board. What makes them unique, however, is they have the choice to use both. This ups the Innsmouth challenge substantially, as each of them individually adds a deep one token right at the start of the game and each time you clear it, making it essential that it gets cleared often.
How do you do that you ask? Well, you can clear the track by gathering up information to call in the feds, because the locals sure aren’t going to help. To do this you have to spend two clue tokens (always a valuable resource) at three different districts in town. So this act takes up multiple turns as well.
Getting Around Innsmouth
Did we mention these people don’t like outsiders? In addition to not being the friendliest lot to you nosy do-gooders, if the doom track reaches halfway the town institutes martial law. When that happens, you’ll have to roll after movement in many of the locations to avoid being arrested. What’s worse, they have their own jail, so any perks you have with the Arkham PD won’t help you here.
Additionally, two of the locations in Innsmouth can’t be reached by land, making reaching them difficult.
The Innsmouth Look Deck
If the idea of a race of Cthulhu-serving frog-fish people being shielded by locals in exchange for fish isn’t creepy enough, how about the possibility of becoming one? It can happen with the Innsmouth Look.
Certain events require a player to shuffle the ten card deck and reveal X number of cards. So long as you don’t get the Innsmouth Look card, you’re safe. If you do… well, you die. Alright, you actually find out you were a Deep One all along and never knew it, and now it has manifested and you become a Deep One entirely. This process kills whoever you used to be.
So, from an in-game perspective, you die. Roll up someone new without fish DNA this time; your teammates will appreciate it.
Innsmouth Horror is much like the story of the 3 bears. Dunwich Horror, the first expansion board, was exciting because it was new. However, aside from occasionally venturing up there to avoid monsters slipping into the vortexes and awakening the Dunwich Horror, there isn’t a lot of interaction with the location – especially once you add in a few other expansions to the mix. With Kingsport Horror, you have the exact opposite situation: someone ends up needing to be in that town permanently, lest things get a bit hairy.
Innsmouth seems to find a healthy middle ground. The location needs to be given its due diligence of attention, but it’s never a babysitting job. Plus, the town’s xenophobic and mystic vibe make it both exciting and harrowing to explore. Add in the chances of turning into a Deep One and the depth of back story to your investigators through the personal story deck, and you can see where the expansion really shows its thematic teeth. Through that, you will see that Innsmouth Horror is a flavorful challenge to the Arkham Horror line, and it’s certainly a worthy addition to your personal mythos.
Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Rules Clarity: 4.5
Replay Value: 5
Physical Quality 5
Overall Score: 4.5
You can discuss this article over on our forums!
Photo Credits: Innsmouth board by makken123; Dagon and Innsmouth Look by FFG.