Skip to Content

How To Play Arkham Horror, the Board Game (A 5 Minute Guide)

How To Play Arkham Horror, the Board Game (A 5 Minute Guide)


Arkham Horror is a fantasy board game that supports up to 8 players. It is a cooperative dice rolling game with multiple phases throughout each round. Players are investigators in Arkham, Massachusetts that must work together to save the town from monsters and the feared “Ancient One.”

If you don’t own Arkham Horror – the Board Game already, check it out here on Amazon.



Begin setup by placing the game board on the table. Each player gets an investigator sheet, player marker, 3 skill sliders, brain-sanity tokens, heart-stamina tokens, first player token, an ancient one sheet, green clue tokens, money tokens (currency), and doom or elder sign tokens to fight the ancient one and seal gates.

There are more components to the set up that will be placed around the game board, which are the common item deck of cards, unique item deck, spell deck, ally deck, and skill deck as well as silver twilight membership, bank loan cards, blessing/curse cards, retainer cards, deputy cards, location cards, gate cards, and mythos cards. Additional pieces to the game are monster markers (black = normal, yellow = stationery, red = fast, blue = flying, green = special), gate markers (to show where a gate is open in the city), gate explore tokens, activity markers, closed markers (to close gates), and terror markers.

To set up, prepare the playing area by setting the terror track to 0 on the board and placing clue tokens on unstable locations that are marked with a red diamond. Then shuffle and separate each deck and place them all around the game board. Next, each player should get their investigator card and collect the fixed and random possessions for their investigator (currency, tokens, unique/common items, skill etc. specified on card). The ancient one that the players will be fighting at the end of the game will be revealed by selecting an ancient one card. To finish investigator setup, each player will get sanity, stamina, and place their skills on their investigator cards. Get a cup or a bag to hold the monster markers that will be drawn from during the game. Finally, shuffle and stack the gate markers and place the investigators on their home locations. Draw and resolve a mythos card (this cannot be a rumor card).


All investigators in the game must work together to close all the gates in the city before the Ancient One appears, or else they will all have to fight to take him down. The game is won by the investigators when they successfully close 6 gates, seal all the gates on the board, or defeat the Ancient One if they could not keep him on the outside.

Player Actions

Each round of play consists of 5 separate phases: upkeep, movement, encounter, other world encounter, and mythos.

Upkeep Phase: Players refresh all exhausted cards, perform upkeep actions on special cards, and move the skill slider the number of times that are indicated on the investigator card.

Movement Phase: Players perform 1 of 3 types of movements. World movements are calculated by your speed. If you are in another world during your turn, Other World movements will allow you to move to the next space or move back through a gate, depending on your location on the board. If you end up in a spot with a clue token, you can take it. If you run into a monster marker, you must choose to evade or fight the monster. If there are multiple monsters, you must evade or combat them individually. If you choose to evade, you will perform an evade check (to do this, add your sneak number to the awareness number on the top right of the monster marker). This number will tell you the number of dice you can roll. You will need 1 success (number 5 or 6) to pass the monster on the board. If you fail to do this, you will take the damage in stamina that is written on the back of the monster marker and will be forced to go into a fight with the monster. To fight the monster, start with a horror check (your will + horror rating = dice rolls). If you have at least 1 success you can move on, but if not you will pay the number of sanity markers on the bottom left of the monster marker. If you choose to flee, you must conduct a combat check (fight + combat rating on monster = dice rolls), and your number of successes must be equal to the amount of blood drops on the monster marker. If you defeat the monster, you can take it off the board. If you lose, you’ll lose the amount of stamina on the bottom right of the monster marker. You will have to continue to combat until you either evade, defeat, or run out of stamina or sanity.

If you run out of sanity, you are considered insane and you will lose half of your clue tokens, all of your retainers, and you must go to the asylum to gain 1 sanity back.

If you run out of stamina, you are considered unconscious. You will lose half of your clue tokens, all of your retainers, and you must go to the hospital to gain 1 stamina back. If either of these things happen in another world, your investigator marker will be moved to lost in time and space. However, you will still lose half of your clue tokens and all your retainers and go to the asylum/hospital to regroup as usual.

Encounter Phase: If you are in a location without a gate, you will draw that space’s color card in the location card deck, read it, and resolve. If has a gate, you will go into the other world. If you already traveled through that world, you will seal or close the gate. To close the gate, you will lore or fight check by adding the number on the gate to the gate rating and that will equal dice rolls. If you have 1 success, the gate is closed and you can take the gate marker as a trophy. If you pay 5 clue tokens, you can place an elder sign on the gate to seal it permanently, and it can never be open in that location again. All monsters in that location will go back to the monster cup once the gate is sealed.

Other World Encounter Phase: If you are in another world, draw a gate card until you get one that matches the world colors. Once you get one, read and resolve the card.

Mythos Phase: In this phase, you will draw and resolve a mythos card in 4 parts: First, you will open the gate and spawn a monster (if the gate is already open, you will perform a monster surge by drawing a monster for every open gate or the number of players, whichever is the larger number.) If there is an elder sign in the location, nothing happens. If there is no gate in the location, put a gate and spawn the monster. Then put a doom token on the ancient one doom track. If an investigator is there, they will be pulled through that gate and their player marker will be placed on its side in the other world. Second, you will put a clue token down where it is indicated on the card. Next, move the monsters if the number of monsters in the city is higher than the amount of players + 3. If this is true, the monsters will immediately go to outskirts of the board. If the outskirts reach the maximum (for example, 6 , they will go back to the cup and the terror track will increase by 1). When placing monsters and moving them, follow the symbols on the bottom right of the mythos card. The symbols must match the monster in order for it to move. Next, you will activate the ability at the top of mythos card and rounds will continue until all gates are closed, sealed, too many gates are open, or the doom track gets to red. In this case, the final battle will begin, which is the investigator’s last chance to win the game against the ancient one if they have not successfully closed all gates.

How to End the Game


In the final battle, the Ancient One is awakened. At this point in the game, if any investigators are lost in space, they will automatically be out of the game. All environment and rumor cards are discarded at this time. Each round of the final battle will consist of 3 parts until one side wins, either the investigators or the Ancient One.

The first phase is the Refresh Phase for all investigators where they refresh all exhausted cards. The second is a combat check, where investigators will attack the Ancient One. After each individual player does a combat check, all of the results are added together. The successes must be greater than or equal to the number of players in order for the investigators to be able to remove a doom token. The investigators win the game when all doom tokens are removed through this process.

In the third and final phase, the Ancient One will fight each of the investigators with the specific attack that is indicated on the ancient one cards. If any of the investigators lose all stamina or sanity during the battle they are out of the game. The Ancient One wins if all investigators are defeated.


Since all players work together for the same goal in Arkham Horror, it is a good idea to assign roles to each investigator. For example, one player can be tasked with earning money and obtaining weapons and another can collect clue tokens to help seal gates as needed.

Variations of the Game

Variations of Arkham Horror include the Russian, Czech, Korean, and Polish Editions. Each language has 1-3 separate editions from various years.

How the Game Changes Depending on Number of Players

If you would like to play Arkham Horror with 2 players instead of multiple, each of you should take 2 characters instead of 1 in order to keep the game going and avoid getting stuck.


Time to play: 120-360 minutes

Alternative titles of the game: Horreur a Arkham, Horror w Arkham, Retteges Arkhamban

Manufacturer suggested player age: 12+

Community suggested player age: 14+

List of expansions: Arkham Horror: Arkham Nights 2012 Promotional Ancient One Card, The Door to Saturn, Arkham Horror: Dance of the Damned, Arkham Horror: Miskatonic Horror Expansion, Arkham Horror: Oliver Grayson.

Community Rating: 7.3/10

Popularity: Rank 262

Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult

Designers: Richard Launius, Kevin Wilson

Published year: 2005

Publisher website:

If you like this game you’ll also like:

Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror, Elder Sign

If you don’t like this game you also won’t like:

Seafall, Mice and Mystics, Fallout