I wrote about Mansions of Madness last week, because it’s a great game and I loved every second of it. This week, I’m writing about a different, newer Arkham game from Fantasy Flight and yikes, this one I don’t like anywhere near as much.
Final Hour is a new game that massively strips back the Arkham experience, usually one full of interesting characters, creepy lore and a desire to kick a player’s arse, and turn it into something almost like a family board game.
The brief is simple: in games that last under an hour a team of investigators have to run around a college campus trying to close a portal that threatens to end all life as we know it.
The board consists of a number of buildings and laneways, and you have to navigate these while killing monsters, investigating clues and setting up blockades to stop those monsters from moving around. The very big catch here being that you don’t get to move where you want to, and can’t always do what you’d want to even if you got there.
In an effort to keep things simple, while also promoting a central mechanic of kind of cooperating with your friends but not really, Final Hour doesn’t have any movement allowances or dice to resolve combat. You just get two decks of cards, one that has two possible actions on it, and another deck that will determine which of those two actions you’ll actually get to do.
This is the only way you can do anything in the game, whether it be move between buildings or fight monsters. You only get to draw one card from the first deck at a time, and the second deck is numbered 1-30, with players taking turns resolving their actions depending on which number they play. The lower the value, the more likely you’ll get to perform the top action on the card, and vice versa.
To its credit, this does simplify and streamline the game, making it really quick to get into. And I see the intent on coupling this with a rule that says players can’t talk about which cards they’re playing, in that it wants you to deduce what other players are doing by the urgency by which they’re playing their card.
But I hate it. Not only does it put a lid on teamwork, I often got stuck having to play bad actions from bad cards, doing something completely against what I actually wanted or needed to do, and that’s about as far from fun as I can imagine in a cooperative board game.
Final Hour is a game killed by its choice (or poor use) of licence. At its broadest level, a simple exercise in lane management (players and monsters can only move in certain directions and between certain paths), it could have been fine. But as an Arkham game, I can’t see the point of its existence.
My first big problem with the game is its lack of cooperation. This is a purely co-operative experience, with no enemy players, so teamwork should be at the heart of every session. Yet the lack of agency players have over what you can do and where you can go stifles this at every turn.
My next problem was that this often felt like an Arkham game in name only. The use of the theme here just didn’t resonate. Simplifying all of your actions may make things quick and easy, but it also made me feel like I was running around the board ticking off basic chores, rather than closing interdimensional portals.
Combat is resolved instantly and lacks any sort of challenge or tension, and Final Hours’ roster of characters, usually so distinct and with such interesting backstories in other Arkham games, are reduced here to cardboard avatars, with little distinguishing them from each other.
I don’t even like the way it looks. Where it’s re-using art from other Arkham games, like character tokens, it of course looks great, but a lot of the assets made specifically for this game look more like cheap Windows clipart, and only contribute further to the feeling that this isn’t really an Arkham game at all.
As you can probably tell, I wasn’t able to find much to enjoy here. For a game where everyone was on the same team there wasn’t much teamwork, I hated the card system and it’s a pretty poor use of the Arkham theme. If Fantasy Flight were hoping that this would be some kind of cheaper entry point to the bigger and more expensive Arkham games, a fun little gateway experience, this ain’t it.