Eldritch Horror: 10-Year Retrospective
Corey Konieczka Shares His Thoughts on 10 Years of Eldritch Horror
When I was asked to write a 10-year retrospective on Eldritch Horror, my first reaction was: “Has it really been 10 years?” If this were a social media post, I would have responded with an animated GIF of a guy aging 100 years in 5 seconds.
Anyhow, 10 years is a long time, and memory is an imperfect thing. Most of my memories of 2013 are foggy, but a few specific moments cut through the fog like a lighthouse over Innsmouth.
Early 2005 – Prelude
Shortly before I started working at FFG, I saw Arkham Horror 2nd Edition announced on their website. I’ve always loved horror and sci-fi, but somehow, I had never been introduced to Lovecraftian horror. As I read more about the game and the theme, I became obsessed and devoured all information I could find about the game.
I remember saying the word Cthulhu a lot (once I figured out how to pronounce it that is).
September 2012 – Conception
Arkham Horror 2nd Edition was a huge success thanks to Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson’s brilliant design and a plethora of expansions.
It left a huge impact on me personally, and I absolutely adored the micro-stories written on the cards. The flavor pulled me into the world like no other game.
When Christian Petersen pitched the idea of a “Globetrotting Arkham Horror game,” excitement crawled out of my mouth like an eldritch monstrosity, I could hardly contain it.
October 2012 – Early Design
When I set out to design the game, I knew that I would borrow all my favorite things from Arkham Horror 2nd Edition. Stories on encounter cards, skill tests, and so much more. I borrowed so much that one could argue that I only designed half the game, but I suppose we all stand on the shoulders of giants.
Beyond the “globetrotting” feel, there were a few main elements I wanted to change in my game:
- Mortality – I wanted the enemies to feel dangerous and characters to die and go insane (something that didn’t really happen in Arkham Horror). This later evolved into the system in which you could visit defeated characters to retrieve your items with a character specific story. This is probably my favorite mechanic in the game.
- Less Upkeep – Arkham Horror was full of ongoing rules that I often forgot to resolve, so I wanted to greatly reduce this. This goal eventually turned into the “Omen” mechanic which triggers effects at random times.
- Spell-casting Shenanigans – I wanted casting spells to be FUN. This eventually led to double-sided spells with random stories telling what the spell did. It was so much fun that it inspired the condition cards to act in a similar way.
I have email records sharing an early vision of the game with Richard Launius, but the document itself has been lost in the sands of time.
January 2013 – Fresh Blood
I had a playable game, but it was crude and unrefined. In early 2013, FFG’s newest designer at the time, Nikki Valens, was assigned to help me develop the game. She had a keen eye for simplicity, and asked lots of tough questions about what mechanics and components were really necessary.
In particular, money in the game originally worked just like Arkham Horror – you got little dollar bill tokens that you could spend to buy shotguns and crucifixes. Nikki asked why U.S. dollars could be spent worldwide, but also: do we really need another token type? This led to the idea that characters could purchase items using “Influence” (a simple skill test). Such a simple idea, but it was a pivotal change.
April 2013 – Hints at the Future
Another FFG developer by the name of Tim Uren had been helping us with content, writing, and testing. I remember talking to him about hiding a code in the game somewhere that talked about the first expansion for the game.
The hope was that dedicated players would find these symbols and decode the idea that Nyarlathotep was going to be the focus of the first expansion. How exciting!
We were pretty focused on finishing the core game at this time, so we only had a vague idea of what the expansion might look like. Regardless, we put the code in there thinking it would be a fun easter egg.
Now, the twist. When we ACTUALLY started working on the expansion, it became pretty clear that Nyarlathotep needed way more than a small-box expansion could provide. The scope of the expansion was so big that it was kicked down the road for FIVE WHOLE YEARS, and it eventually became the 8th and final expansion for the game.
So much for teasing the first expansion.
November 2013 – The Journey Forward
I hate to admit this, but I don’t have ANY recollection of the game finally being released. I will say this however: Eldritch Horror may be the game that I played the MOST after it was released. I don’t often get to actually PLAY my released games, but this one got lots of table-time with friends and family.
In the following years, Nikki, Tim, and (eventually) Dane Beltrami carried the Eldritch Horror torch and crafted a deluge of amazing expansions. They built a fantastic game line and pumped it full of life for many years.
But it wasn’t just them that made this game survive the test of time, it was also our dedicated fans. Thank you, intrepid reader for your love and support over the years! I am forever grateful.