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A Carlo Rossi design for Fantasy Flight 1-4 players 60 minutes  £25.00 - £35.00
Should be available online but better still check out your local games store if it's open at the moment. The internet is doing okay, it is local stores who need your support,

Arkham Horror: Final Hour is a fully co-operative, fast-paced board game for one to four players. An endless tide of monsters sweeps across the Miskatonic University campus, and you must hold them back, all while searching desperately for the ritual components you need to put an end to this insanity. Playable in under 60 minutes, your fate depends on cooperation between you and your fellow investigators. The odds against you are astronomical, but if you don’t succeed, this will indeed be the final hour for Arkham...and the world.

—description from the publisher

  

Fans of Lovecraft, and Cthulhu especially, rise to almost any game that carries one or both of those names, generally without worry as to whether the game be good, bad or indifferent. Final Hour finds time to be all three of those, and more. 

Some understanding of the Cthulhu mythos is helpful but not a necessity; but no knowledge does work against you mentally. Your party of adventurers are charged with the task of reversing an ancient Rite, a summoning of an Ancient One, performed and initiated by Cthulhu cultists. Luckily for mankind although the rite has been completed it takes time for the Ancient One to arrive, and it is in this time that you must collect the resources required to dispel it before it can wreak the havoc it so surely wishes.

 

FINAL HOUR is a cooperative game where winning or losing is a combined effort; there are no individual goals or Victory Points to set one player against another. It's a type of 'Tower Defence' game in as much as you have to hold the hordes of Monsters back from reaching and filling the Ritual spaces and completing the summoning. But instead of standing defensively you actively hunt down the vile creatures and seek out the resources they require.

By searching locations, flipping over any Clue Tokens there, players will find Items (draw card from the item deck) or Ritual Tokens, which are icons connected to the Ritual and are placed on the special collection area on the board.

The gameboard is basically a map of the interior of the Miskatonic University, this being a building of special regard to apostles of Lovecraft's writings, and, in fiction, on a par with such Ivy League Universities like Browns and Harvard. 

Each player is an investigator that has their own Stand-Up piece to move on the board and a small deck of character-specific cards; effects and numbers. 

 

The investigators move around the board from location to location via the walkways, searching and clearing and claiming each location as they go. Locations contain Monster spaces and are each part of colour-identified zones. Buildings connected directly by these walkways are deemed to be adjacent. Monsters are either standard unnamed beasts and represented by square tokens, or they are Specials with tokens clipped on one corner; they are harder to kill and may have abilities.

Temporary Seals can be positioned on walkways to prevent Monsters travelling along them. Damage tokens can be placed to reduce the number of Monster spaces on the board and for injured heroes occasional cards offer health replenishment. The board does get quite busy at times but with all players pulling together and helping each other, especially with ensuring each player uses their turn to the best possible help of the party, most problems can be solved. Games lost are, in our experience, by either a player error or some bad luck with the random draw of a Monster or card etc.

The Ritual Location is a four square long hall known as Humanities. The spaces can me moved into and out of by investigators, but once monsters get in they hole up there and begin the Rite. If all four spaces are filled with Monsters and another Monster attempts to get in then the players have lost. If an investigator dies, the players have lost, but if the investigators discover the clues and reverse the summoning then they win. 

 

The chances of winning are quite balanced with the investigators trying to prevent the monsters gaining Ritual spaces, but losing because a single team member dies is a mite tough. Mind you each player can be given advice by the others and therefore should rarely place their characters in positions where defeat is the most likely probability. Our games have all ended pretty close and we're about level on wins and defeats; although the gameplay remains the same the Monsters are always randomly drawn from a bag (unusually not provided in the box).

Only one of the three available Ancient Ones card should be in play, chosen (or randomly picked) at the beginning of the game. The author suggests, quite surprisingly. that using the Cthulu card would be better for first time players. That should make Lovecraft fans shrink a little - if Cthulhu is the easiest who the heck is considered to be the worst?

 

FINAL HOUR is preceeded by ELDRITCH HORROR and MANSIONS of MADNESS both published by Fantasy Flight and both receiving good reviews on Boardgamegeek.com. Unfortunately these are not games I have so I cannot make a true comparison between Final Hour and the other two. I have only mentioned them because they have been acclaimed as being very Cthulhu/Lovecraft like, whereas FINAL HOUR is more of a dungeon romp that can be handled just as well by families as it can by core gamers and Lovecraft fans; as long as they have an interest in hi-fantasy games or movies or books.

Enter a room, kill what's inside or what arrives, search the room, gain the spoils onto the next room, and don't forget to be back in time to prevent the sneaky Monsters from taking over the Ritual spaces. 

The game mechanics are quite smooth once you understand them and you are prepared to work together throughout.  But the game play itself is mostly a chaotic meandering search and destroy activity through the University.

The playing of the Investigator's cards is a great piece of rules writing. The cards are in two parts, top half and lower half, but only one part of the card is used when it is played, and this causes the majority of the transactions between players, which can get rowdy and verbal as each player attempts to get their opinion or point into the mix.

Players select the card from their hand and then lay it face down in front of them with a number card face up on top of it. Each player selects their card and acts the same way, so that all players end up with a face down card and a number. The lowest selected number begins and the card under it is turned up and the TOP part of the card is activated, the lower portion is ignored.

By playing a LOW number card on your card selection you are telling the other players you really want to play the TOP section of your chosen card. Of course this should all be discussed like civil games players and another player shouldn't deliberately play lower if they have the option to play above. 

The lowest two cards have their top section actioned and the two higher numbered cards activate the LOWER half text. This can lead to some fun debates both before and after the choices have been made.


As a group of regular games players with one very dedicated Lovecraftian we didn't really like FINAL HOUR. There's nothing we can actually say bad about it, but then there's not a lot we can say that's good about it either. I did like the card system, the top and lower halves caused some magic moments when chosen inaccurately, but the moving of Investigators and Monsters around the board was quite anti-climactic.

There is just something about FINAL HOUR that doesn't click with us, but the work that has gone into presenting and producing it shows in the final product. I'm sure Lovecraft game-playing connoisseurs will find it to their taste. Our Lovecraft 'expert' certainly felt the atmosphere and spirit of a Lovecraftian adventure but the remainder of the players found it cold and unendearing. Like many things in life Lovecraft is an acquired taste and if you don't have it you don't know what you are missing.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015