There aren't many games out there promising that after three hours of intense, sweat soaked play, you will find yourself devoured by some slimy tentacle horror with your only consolation being that your friends aren't far behind. Arkham Horror is just that game and I absolutely love it. Never mind that over 50% of the time the game closes with a resounding, "Wow, we didn't even stand a chance…" muttered in abject disbelief. Forget the idea of your fancy heroes storming the gates of hell, reaping an incredible tally of eldritch monsters, and finally confronting terror itself in one climatic battle of shiny goodness and still being home in time for tea. No, instead it's a nail biting race to somehow prevent "She Who Sleeps" from waking up and opening a whole can of horrible, horrible doom on your quaint little town. This is my kind of game. A game where memories are made by desperate battles rather than crushing victories. However, despite the insurmountable odds of defeating an Ancient One, players can drastically improve their chances through clever planning and canny play.
Know Your Enemy
Now I understand that a player's first response when looking at the Ancient One's card is unrestrained pants wetting. That's okay, such a thing is a natural response in the face of slimy, tentacle-faced doom. However a good investigator is one who pays particular attention to these details.
What effect does the Ancient One have on normal game play? Do they increase the number of successes or clue tokens required to close a gate? Do they make the streets a bad place to be? While these things will not affect the final battle, they certainly will affect the investigators' ability to avoid the final battle, so it is very important players know what is in their best interests. Closing a gate is great, but sealing it is better. Against Hastur, for example, a player will want to ensure they have the proper amount of clue tokens before they go gate jumping, as Hastur raises the total number of clue tokens needed to seal a gate.
Resistances and Immunities
Okay this is the big one. It is the most important piece of information on the Ancient One's card. You could be packing a small arsenal of machine guns, flamethrowers, and even a miniature nuclear missile, but it doesn't mean jack if the Ancient One is Physically Immune. Remember all that time you had to shop at Arkham? Well knowing what works and what doesn't will help the investigators make sure that all that shiny stuff they spent their money on will make itself worthwhile. If you face a Physically Immune Ancient One then Ye Olde Magic Shop and the Curiositie Shoppe should be your main places of business. If on the other hand the Ancient One is Magically Immune then you can forget about wasting your funds on the expensive stuff and just run to the General Store. Don't be afraid to give the "shoppers" like Dexter Drake, Monterey Jack, and Bob Jenkins your hard earned cash. Their improved shopping abilities mean that they are more likely to find that Tommy gun or Sword of Glory so you can bring the pain when the Ancient One comes to call.
Finally a word on Resistances. Yeah losing half of your item's bonus is lame, but remember, that's still more dice then you would have had without it. If you combine high combat bonus items with your group's highest fight value investigator you can usually get the same amount of dice that a weaker fighter would have had in the best circumstances. So when Resistances rear their ugly head, use a bit of math skill and balance out the penalties as best you can.
Having the right equipment is great, but if you can't survive more than two turns of Ancient One beat down, then it's very unlikely that even your Sword of Ultimate Monster Slaying will really make an impact. Every Ancient One's attack drains something from you; whether it is stamina, sanity, gate trophies, or monster trophies the song remains the same. When you run out, you die. So it's your job to ensure that you have at least some of whatever the Ancient One's attack takes. Remember that their attack becomes harder and harder to avoid as time goes on, so with average rolling you should be able to avoid the attack for at least three turns. With this in mind, it's best to try to have enough stuff to survive at least two failed attack tests. The more dice your group can consistently roll, the greater your chances of achieving glorious victory.
It's not easy being an investigator in Arkham. Most have the digestive juices of an Ancient One's belly to look forward too, and the few lucky ones a nice padded cell in Arkham Asylum. Just remember that when the Ancient One comes a calling, he also has all the information you need to send him screaming back into the abyss. Till next time, keep your blades sharp, and your guns loaded!