The goal of the game is to achieve Victory by closing all open gates, sealing six locations, or successfully defeating the Ancient One in a Final Battle. For new players, it may not be obvious which of these they should focus their efforts on, or how best to achieve those goals (for example, new players will often focus on fighting monsters instead of focusing on the primary objective of winning the game).
This page suggests some basic elements of strategy for beginners to the basic game. It does not cover play with the expansions, which may require you to change strategy.
Choosing a Path to Victory
In general the investigators should try to win by sealing or closing gates. Defeating the Ancient One in battle is usually considered a sub-optimal fall-back strategy (and a non-option if Azathoth is drawn as the Ancient One); prepare for it in the final turns before it awakes if it is apparent you will not be able to seal or close enough gates in time.
Closing or Sealing Gates
The steps you take to win by closing or sealing gates will partially coincide.
Because a new gate opens every turn, except when the Mythos card identifies a location where a gate is already open or sealed, it is difficult to win by closing gates unless you seal some of the locations where gates are most likely to appear.
More than half of the gates appear at a handful of locations on the board. After you play even one or two games, you should have a feeling for which locations are most "haunted", where gates are most likely to appear. The investigators should seal those few locations instead of simply closing them.
Luck vs. Lore
It is important to know that there are a significantly higher number of luck checks than lore checks. While there are certain locations in which this is not the case, it is a good general rule to be aware of.
The most valuable resource in the game, true to the Mythos, is an Elder Sign. It allows you to seal a gate you have returned through without passing a skill check, and removes a doom token when you do so.
Acquire as many Elder Signs as you can, as early as you can. If one or more of the investigators is lucky enough to draw one initially, you have a significant starting advantage. Whether or not they do, the investigators should immediately seek the opportunity to buy one or more at the Curiositie Shoppe, or gain them from encounters. However, many of the locations which can give unique items from encounters are also the most dangerous.
As Clue Tokens form the alternate way of sealing a gate, they are the second most valuable resource in the game. They may also be used to enhance skill checks, but as clue tokens spent this way can't seal gates, avoid using them for skill checks except in desperate circumstance.
- Always send an investigator at once to any location which contains two or more clue tokens, to collect them before they can be lost.
- As a lower priority, visit locations with single clues to collect them.
- Investigators who start with some clue tokens have a moderate advantage.
- Because clue tokens are so valuable, the second most valuable unique item may be The King in Yellow tome; passing the Lore check to use it successfully will give an investigator 4 clue tokens, nearly enough to seal a gate.
Resources such as time, clues, money, items, trophies, stamina, or sanity are all valuable, but it is important to remember that they are not equally valuable. Just because you can trade one of these resources for another does not mean you should, and it is important to remember that your trading of that resource denies you the ability to trade for another resource. For example, it might be worth it to trade a clue token for ten dollars, but it is not worth it to spend multiple clue tokens (or arguably even one in many cases) in an attempt to gain a random unique item. Likewise, an obsession with killing monsters may distract from the main objective of the game, collecting clue tokens and clue token equivalents and sealing gates as fast as possible.
Arguably, time is as valuable as clue tokens and clue token equivalents (without proper conservation of both of these resources chances of victory will be greatly reduced). Without proper time management, Arkham will be overrun with gates and monsters before one can win. With proper time management, the placement of monsters and the rising of the terror level can be slowed down, more clue tokens can appear on the board, more money can be potentially extracted from retainers and converted into useful items, and more actions that are vital to winning the game can be preformed.
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. There are two kinds of major risk related errors, one is taking a high risk for little gain (i.e. safer alternative routes to victory remain). The other is taking a low likelihood high risk for little gain. If risk is to be taken, as it inevitably must, consider whether the risk is worth the reward. If the reward is small, or moderate, while the risk is large or potentially catastrophic, it's probably a bad decision unless the alternative to taking that risk is clearly worse.