Arkham Ritual is a Kickstarter game that was funded almost a year ago with great success! The game comes from a quite new publishing company with the mission to bring wonderful Japanese games to the players’ tables internationally.
Japanese designers are quite linked with small games that deliver unique and quirky experiences and Arkham Ritual is very close to that. Let’s take a look!
In the game, you are a freelance journalist that ends up in covering a ritual that is happening in the underground cellar of the city’s University. Your sources let you know about that and you would do anything with your team to get exclusivity in something that interesting!
The story goes on, on how you must keep your artifact and take part in the ritual, trying to stay sane and deduce what you are holding in the darkness. You will feel like being part of a weird ritual, thanks to its gameplay but you won`t understand t how you ended up there and all the flavor unless you read the thematic intro.
The game plays in Round, and each Round represents a Ritual. After each ritual is completed, some players will lose some of their Sanity points, as you start with 7 of those. The game ends when at least one player has no more sanity left (run!), otherwise, you will continue playing by starting a new ritual. The winners of the game are either all players with any sanity left or the player with the most sanity for a more competitive play. I and everyone else I played with, agreed that it’s more interesting in the competitive mode, cause otherwise you have too many winners most of the time and it feels more like “these lost and we won but we are not even a team”. That can feel less satisfying for what a win is supposed to feel.
The game is a weird combination of mechanics that ends up with a not familiar gameplay flow. That means I can`t just state a bunch of keywords like “drafting”, “worker placement” Etc. so you can easily grasp the main concept of the game. Thankfully, it contains very well written rules with an easy to follow structure that will help you understand the game if you pay attention.
You will play the game with a deck of 22 but there are 28 cards in the box, so you can switch certain type of cards for a different combination, altering the game slightly as a different set of abilities will be in play. All cards have a color, blue or red, an icon that shows their type and a picture. The blue cards are the Sane and the red are the Cursed ones. There are four types in the game, Artifacts, Characters, Events and the Great Old one. Artifacts are the most common type and there are multiple Artifacts with the same picture (the same item) in both blue and red colors, that is important at the end of the game. The Event, Character and Old one cards may come in any of those colors and have a certain ability on them. Their difference in type is primarily used for the “deck-building” at the start of the game.
To start the game, you deal one card to each player. All players must keep their card high, facing the other players, without seeing it! So, no one knows what card they hold and can never peek at it. All players, except the active one, must also place one of their hands on the table. Then, the active player draws the top card of the deck and takes a look at it before choosing to pass the card to another player, the active player can never keep that card. When a card is passed to another player they get a choice, to either keep the card or pass it to another player but regardless of that they have to raise their hand that was on the table to show that a card has been passed to them. The card will be either be accepted by a player by replacing their card at hand with the offered card, without looking at it or be denied by all players which will trigger the end of the Ritual and scoring will occur. When you replace a card, you will discard your card at the center of the table for everyone to see, that will be the bookkeeping and help everyone deduct the remaining cards. Some cards, such as Events, may have an ability triggered when they get discarded, so you get to apply that effect for better or worse.
The game will keep going that way until either the deck is depleted or a card is not accepted by any player. There are also alternate ways to end, by the effect of some cards! When that happens, all players reveal their cards and the normal way of scoring is the following:
– If you have a Sane card and no one else has a card with the same picture as yours, you are safe and lose no sanity points!
– If you have a Cursed card or a Sane card with the same picture as the card of any other player, you lose as many sanity points as the losing players in that round.
If that seems harsh with a lot of players, there is an alternate way to play by losing a fixed amount of points each round if you are one of the losing/non-surviving players. This is tracked in a little board provided. I said that this is the normal way of scoring because there are multiple cards in the game that alter this scoring process in interesting ways.
Let’s start with what I liked about the game. It is unique, the way it plays and feels on the table which is a plus for me as I have played a ton of games and always try new ones feels fresh. The game can hold up to seven players, making it a good choice for a party game with a more serious feel and gameplay. The 3 and 4 players game add some extra rules, dummy players, which are essentially some face-up cards at the start of the game for more open information, so it’s a “take it or leave it” but its there. Lastly, it’s a deduction game and I love deduction mechanics! But on this one, the most part is the social deduction, which I like but it is also its “downfall” in a way. You can figure out a lot as the deck comes to an end but this scenario is not that comes on often, at least on my experience, so you have to depend on how other players act. I actually like that but it adds a burden, and by that, I mean that I have to find people with deductive and social intelligence, because a very bad move, with no logic at all, can drive off your deduction process and make the game feel totally random and chaotic.
Social deduction games are known to be based on the players, more than other games that have a stricter structure. But we have seen games that keep a balance to that, like “Avalon”, that give a percentage of the information through the mechanics of the game. This can be the case here but only if the game goes on for some time, coming down to how the players will play and interact with it. As a conclusion, the game would get an extra point or two with the right group that can skyrocket the experience.
Who is this game for?
Do you like social deduction games? If so, keep reading. For those of you that you are into that but you want a different experience, this might be the game for you. It is fast and you can feel the madness of the table as you have to deduct your card from other players chaotic acts. It is not an easy game to play well and discover the right-thinking pattern, so if you are up to that challenge I would recommend to check it out. Lastly, the different cards and abilities change the possible outcomes a lot and make you play in various patterns, adding to the replay value and madness, who said that it’s easy to make a ritual and survive it?
– Feels fresh
– Creates an interesting “ritual” atmosphere
– Highly based on social deduction
– Highly based on social deduction.
– Can feel and be random if not played “right”.
– Playtime varies a lot and can be as quick as it can drag for a long time.