Of Allies and Maniacs in Arkham Horror: an add-on
Having just finished a four investigator / two player game against Azathoth, I want to present an exciting little development we would encourage players to consider occasionally using.
First up, Azathoth is a much neglected Ancient One (with our group of players at least) because it does not have a final battle, and barely modifies the basic game. This initially means that as an Ancient One, it serves as the 'baseline' from which others are created, as indeed, the spinning babbling vortex of insanity at the centre of the Mythos pantheon, it really should be. However, by not having a final battle, an enormous emphasis shifts. The game must be 'won' in Arkham, and the Investigators are never building themselves up for an as-yet unfought final battle. That makes everything a little more immediate in regards to game play.
With this particular game we broke it in the first two turns with some extremely lucky gate closings and seals instantly knee-capping the board and preventing many monsters from coming out. The fact that we won the game with gate closures, three Elder Signs, and only 6 of a possible 14 doom tokens on the track seemingly proves the value of the tactic: close and seal gates immediately to cripple the board and win.
This tactic, while successful can lead to a rather boring game so we decided on this little variation (which we introduced arbitrarily, but a modified version is presented here):
1) When the Terror Track goes up the first time (or when you are around half way through the Doom Track) draw at random an ally to discard (as standard).
2) However, add the ally to a Maniac (drawn from the cup), and place on the location which features that ally (eg, Prof. Armitage at the Historical Society, Duke in the Woods). The ally has basically flipped out and 'gone dark'.
3) Treat this rogue ally as a Maniac for the purposes of movement, and using the base (advanced) stats of the Maniac. If the ally-maniac moves from their starting location (ie into the streets) then move the Terror Track onwards, and draw another ally.
4) Each ally modifies the stats of the Maniac, to create a variant character. These modifications are based on the bonuses the ally provides. For example, Lore +2 becomes a count of -2 against spells cast that ally. The modifiers are suggested to follow these lines:
Fight = adjust basic combat modifier
Will = horror check penalty
Speed = moves like fast monster
Sneak = makes Maniac, evasive.
Lore = adjusts spell casting modifier
Luck = hmn... not sure about that one. Equivalent to being cursed for the purposes of combat against this enemy?
Max Stamina = Extra toughness (blood points)
Max Sanity = Extra Horror damage.
5) If the ally normally grants the investigator any items upon joining them, those items are claimed after the combat is won. However, in order to claim them, the player must pass a luck check or be cursed by the item.
6) If the ally-maniac is unable to enter play due to the Monster Limit, they do not move to the Outskirts or the Box, but are added to the Ancient One's card, where they will play against the investigators serving either as simple Bound Allies, or for more excitement, they will modify the Ancient One with their own modifiers, if it is obvious how to do so.
We had great fun playing this little mechanic, especially because when it is only UB and BT playing, we invariably amp-up the role-playing aspect, and having named foes adds to the personal nature.
It is worth considering how this dynamic will thematically stack with the Blight cards from the King in Yellow herald pack.
Be creative and have fun.