Saturday, February 14

Thoughts: Arkham Horror

As we watched, the wall shuddered – rippling in ways rock should not be able to – the large vertical crack slowly widening to reveal a gleaming black pool; at the center of which was set a smaller orb of milky white. The moment stretched into a period of indeterminate length as our fragile minds struggled to comprehend the sight before us. With a sudden scream, our guide fell backwards, his hands clawing the air as he madly scrambled backwards toward the cave entrance. My own perception, it seems, pitied me so greatly that it was not until Fowler’s low, rising wail grew enough in pitch to waken me from my stupor that I realized what we were looking at. In that instant, all reason fled – driven by the numbing realization that this was no mere geologic anomaly.

Before us, a great, bulbous eye yawned open; its horrible gaze drawn towards the feeble light of the lamp shaking in my hand. Unbridled terror threatened to consume me then, as I perceived a malignant sentience appraising us behind that cold, aqueous cavity. A deep rumble slowly began to fill the cavern; accompanied by a low, rising groan that seemed to pulse in time with the series of jolting spasms that now shook the walls. Fowler began to scream incoherently and I felt my own sanity start to slip as I realized with mounting horror that the unholy tremors were actually the sound of laughter from something the size of a mountain…

About a month ago, Hanna and I found ourselves in Barnes and Noble with a $50 gift card to blow. Unable to locate the complete series of
Angel or any books that we couldn’t just rent from the library, our quest for entertainment eventually led us to the board game section. Unique finds like Settlers of Catan, Tide of Iron, and yes, even a board game version of World of Warcraft all promised tokens, stats, and craploads of dice rolling; all bundled into smorgasbords of tactile amusement.

Settlers and Zombies! were battling for supremacy in my mind (epic image, that) as I tempered my desire for complex gameplay with something that my wife, Hanna, would at least enjoy in part. Pondering some sort of compromise, I glanced down to the bottom shelf. A large, green and black box sat alone, waiting.

The cover art showed a 1920’s roadster speeding through the night.

Hanna likes prohibition-era stuff.

The occupants of the car were all armed. One of them with a Tommy gun.

Hanna likes gangsters.

They were shooting at a screaming, tentacled horror.

Oh, snap.

It was already in my hands by the time I saw “A Call of Cthulhu board game” emblazoned at the bottom.

Our Friday nights have kind of been overtaken since then.

At its heart, Arkham Horror follows a very basic gameplay model; players (read: investigators) travel about the eponymous town, having encounters to get weapons and items that allow them to defeat monsters and close gates quickly enough to prevent the awakening of the Ancient One and its subsequent feast upon the living Earth’s sweet, caramel core.

This isn’t Candy Land. We’re not strolling down the gumdrop lane. Horrid, eldritch death is at large and people are going to die. Even a decent sized party of characters will be hard-pressed to seal the required number of dimensional gates and banish the great evil before it arises. More often than not, their investigation degenerates into a mad scramble around town; the ground trembling underfoot from the encroaching apocalypse as the survivors search in vain for something to kill a squid-faced monster the size of Rhode Island with.

To accurately communicate the fact that players are attempting to stop Armageddon, a number of elements are constantly working against them either directly (the unspeakable horrors crawling forth from the open gates) or otherwise (one game expansion brings the blasphemous play, “The King in Yellow” to the local theatre; corrupting former allies and turning townsfolk into rioting mobs with its maddening influence).

Foremost amongst these devices though, is the Terror Track; an effed-up alert system indicative of how kooky things are in Arkham on a scale of “What are those strange lights in the woods?” to “HOLY GOD THE SKY IS BLEEDING”. With an increase in the terror level, shops close, allies leave town, and things generally get more fucked up as chaos and ruin engulf everything you know and cherish.

This is, clearly, serious business.

While the level of difficulty may seem daunting to some, Hanna and I have found this to actually be one of the game’s most entertaining aspects. With the hand of fate set against you and your continually dwindling resources, there is a fundamental rapture when you finally either seal all the open gates or (as we usually find ourselves doing) face and defeat the risen Ancient One in mortal combat.

During the final battle, should one of your characters roll enough successes to strike the last Doom Token from the Elder God’s Track, you feel their elation as they soar through the air clutching a .45 automatic and an enchanted blade; their suicidal attack penetrating the mass of flailing claws and tentacles to strike dead the thing that should not be. After which, they land back on the ground, strike a pose, and say something awesome, like: “That which is not dead can now eternal lie… in pieces.”

Overall, if your gaming palate yearns for something new, I’d suggest throwing history, horror, and action into a blender on “frappe”. The resultant brew of monster-hunting, cult-busting, pulp adventure is called Arkham Horror and it will take you about half an hour just to set up.

Sunday, February 8

Food, again.

Let me share with you a story (it’s shorter than the last one).

One man said, “I feel like chicken tonight. Like, chicken… tonight.”

Another said, “I think that’s copyrighted.”

But the first guy wasn’t listening and instead went to to pour over endless recipes and dishes from the whole world over. Also, he was deaf. But since the second guy didn’t know this, he just thought the first guy was being a douche and went home to sulk about it. At home, he found a lottery ticket on his front porch that just happened to win him one-hundred-thousand dollars the next day. Thusly financed, he finally married his stripper girlfriend and they moved to the Keys where they lived in utter bliss until the god of the sea-folk – yea, Lord of the Under-Kingdom – rose that following summer to sow terror among the realm of the land dwellers. Until somebody stopped him. The end.

Point is: contains a trove of information if you like to cook. Today, you get to share in my joy.

Portuguese Chicken Burger
(That’s what it’s called at least. Apparently, it’s an Australian recipe. Or, at least, it’s from an Australian. Well, somebody who claims to be so. Or not. I don’t know. Look, it’s the Internet; if you want, I’m sure you can hack into his birth records on your Ipodamaphone or whatever the hell it is kids do these days. Get off my lawn.)

(Here’s what we’ve got)

- 2-3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 2 dried habanero chilis, chopped (since I’m cheap, we’ll be using 2 Tbsp of red pepper flakes, instead)
- About ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp ginger
- 6 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp white sugar
- ½ tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili powder

- 1 cup flour (for coating)
- 1 tsp salt (ditto)

- 4- 6 burger buns
- some mayo
- some lettuce
- also, cheese (I’ll be using Swiss since that’s all we have at the moment)

(This is how it’ll go down)

1. Filet the breasts to your desired thickness. I found three breasts gave me about 6 small to medium filets.

2. Combine the red pepper flakes, lemon juice, ginger, oil, paprika, garlic, sugar(s), and chili powder in a bowl. Wisk it quickly until well blended.

3. Spoon about a third of the resulting sauce into a small bowl and set aside for later (topping).

4. Dip the chicken into the original sauce mix, coating each piece thoroughly. Transfer these to a container (preferably glass – doesn’t absorb flavor as much as, say, plastic) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

5. Mix together the flour and salt. Remove the chicken and gently shake off any excess oil. Lightly dredge the filets in the mixture until covered.

6. Pre-heat a medium-sized, non-stick pan with a little oil. Pan-fry the filets for several minutes on each side.

7. Slap some mayo, lettuce, and cheese on those burger buns and you’re good to go. If you’d like to eat the chicken you just cooked, I guess you could put it on there, too.

8. Oh, and that sauce you set aside earlier would probably taste good drizzled over the chicken. Or whatever. I’m not you.


Not what I was expecting. I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be as spicy when we’re throwing the equivalent of two hot peppers into the mix (not to mention the ginger and chili powder), but I found the product a bit lacking. Hanna – being a kind of sadist when it comes to spicy food – loved the chicken itself and opined that it would actually work best as a standalone entrĂ©e (sans bun and burger fixings). While I found that all heat and no sweet made for a spicy (yet boring) dish, I would be tempted to try this again from that angle; maybe substituting brown sugar in greater quantity, leaving out the chili powder, and halving the amount of pepper flakes. At least, that’s how I achieve ultimate flavor with this thing in my mind.

But that’s enough culinary alchemy for now. When I return, we’ll be discussing Lore checks, Clue tokens, and the menagerie of eldritch horrors stirring beyond the boundaries of space and time. Also, popular recipes for freshly shucked Cthonian.

Basically, you get to hear me rave about Arkham Horror. Because I knew you’d love that.