The Rules – Key Concepts

Hey, so, just a short preface to this post: this is going to be the first in a series of posts about the rules of the game and 99% of the information is going to come from the official rules. So, most of what I’m talking about can be found in the rulebooks (mostly the “Learn to Play” rules to begin with), but I’ll be taking each post to look at sections of the rulebook individually. That being said, a large amount of text will come directly from the rulebook itself.

Key Concepts

In this first post, we’ll be going over the key concepts of Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

The Golden Rule

If the text on a card directly contradicts the text of the rules (either in the Learn to Play rules or in the Rules Reference), the text on the card takes precedence. If it is possible to observe both the card text and the text of the rules, both are observed.

Choices and Conflicts

If the players are required to make a choice among two or more equally valid options, the lead investigator chooses among those options.

The Grim Rule

If the players are unsure how to resolve a rules or timing conflict, resolve the conflict in the manner the players perceive as the worst possible at that moment with regard to winning the scenario and continue with the game. This rule helps to keep the game moving without forcing the players to look up every conflict they discover.

Winning and Losing

As the players advance through a scenario, they will eventually reach a resolution. Some of these resolutions are favorable; others are less favorable and leave the investigators in a more dire situation.

The act deck represents the progress of the investigators through a scenario. The players’ primary objective is to gather clues and use them to advance through the act deck until a resolution is reached.

The agenda deck represents the objectives and progress of the malicious forces pitted against the investigators in the scenario. Should the agenda deck reach its conclusion, a darker resolution will occur.

When any encounter card triggers a resolution – denoted by the text (->R#) – the players have completed the scenario and should refer to the resolution text that matches the number in the Campaign Guide to discover what happens next.

Should all investigators be eliminated during a scenario, the “if no resolution was reached” conclusion in the Campaign Guide is used.

“In Player Order”

The phrase “in player order” is used to dictate the order in which players resolve or execute a game step. When players are instructed to do something “in player order”, the lead investigator does so first, followed by each other player, one player at a time, in clockwise order around the table.

Per Investigator

The Cellar - Front symbol next to a value multiplies that value by the number of investigators who started the scenario. The number of clues that are placed on a location and the number of clues necessary to advance the current act are often denoted with this sumbol.

Rules Reference on Per Investigator

The “per investigator” multiplication is done before all other modifiers and the product of this multiplication is treated as the printed value of the card.

Text that uses the phrase “per investigator” also counts the number of investigators who started the scenario and is applied before all other modifiers. If investigators have been eliminated from the scenario, they still count toward “per investigator” values.

Ready and Exhausted

Cards enter play in a ready position (upright, so that the ability text can be read from left to right). In order to use some card abilities, the card must exhaust, which is indicated by rotating the card 90 degress (sideways). A card in the exhausted position is not able to exhaust again until it is ready (made so by a game step or card ability).

Rules Reference on Ready Cards

The default state in which cards enter play is ready.

When an exhausted card readies, it is returned to the upright position. It is then said to be in a ready state.

A ready card cannot ready again (it must first be exhausted, typically by a game step or a card ability).

Rules Reference on Exhausted Cards

An exhausted card cannot exhaust again until it is ready (typically by a game step or a card ability).



Locations represent the various places the investigators travel to during a scenario while looking for clues. Each location has two sides: a revealed side and an unrevealed side. The revealed side of a location has a shroud value and a clue value. The unrevealed side does not show this information and it has a keyhole symbol below its title.

A location enters play with its unrevealed side faceup. When an investigator enters a location for the first time, it is revealed and a number of clues equal to that location’s clue value are placed on that location from the token pool. This may occur during setup if the investigators begin play at a location, or if the setup rules instruct players to reveal a location.

Rules Reference on Locations

Typically, an investigator’s mini-card is used to indicate which location they are in.

While an investigator is in a location, that investigator, each of their assets, and each card in that investigator’s threat area are in the same location.

Skills and Skill Tests

Each investigator possesses four skills: willpower (Willpower), intellect (Intellect), combat (Combat), and agility (Agility). The higher an investigator’s value for a particular skill, the better that investigator is at performing tasks with that skill.

A number of situations require an investigator to make a skill test. A skill test pits the investigator’s value in a specified skill against a difficulty value determined by the ability or game step that initiated the test. To perform a skill test, a player reveals a random chaos token from the chaos bag, which modifies his or her skill value. If the modified skill value equals or exceeds the test’s difficulty, the investigator succeeds at the test. The consequences of succeeding at or failing a test are provided by the card or action that initiated the test.

Modifying Skill Value for Skill Tests

Before drawing a chaos token for a skill test, the investigator may boost their skill value. There are two ways to do this: First, the investigator may commit eligible cards from their hand to the test. An eligible card bears one or more icons matching the skill type of the test being performed. A wild icon (?) matches all skills types. Each matching icon committed to a test increases the investigator’s skill value by 1 for that test. The investigator performing the test may commit any number of cards from their hand to the test. Each other investigator at the same location as that investigator may commit 1 card from their hand to help.

You do not pay a card’s resource cost when commiting it to a skill test.

Rules Reference on Modifiers

When calculating a value, treat all modifiers as being applied simultaneously. However, while performing calculation, all additive and subtractive modifiers are calculated before doubling and/or halving modifiers.

Fractional values are rounded up after all modifiers have been applied.

A quantity on a card (such as a stat, an icon, a number of instances of a trait or keyword) cannot be reduced so that it functions with a value below zero. Negative modifiers in excess of a value’s current quantity can be applied, but, after all active modifiers have been applied, any resultant value below zero is treated as being zero.

Chaos Token Effects

Each chaos token has a symbol or numerical modifier that influences the outcome of the skill test. The effect of each chaos token is described below:

Icons 1 – These icons refer to the scenario reference card and resolve the corresponding effect.

Icons 2 – This icon refers to your investigator card and resolve your investigator’s Elder Sign Ability.

Icons 3 – This icon indicates an automatic failure of the skill test.

If the revealed chaos token (or the effect referenced by a chaos token) has a numerical modifier, that modifier is applied to the investigator’s skill value for this test.

Concluding a Skill Test

If the investigator’s modified skill value is equal to or higher than the difficulty value of the skill test, the investigator succeeds at the test. Otherwise, the investigator fails. the ability or game step that initiated the skill test provides instructions for the consequences of succeeding and/or failing.

Some skill cards have an ability that resolves upon the completion of a skill test if that card is committed to that skill test.

Upon completion of a skill test, discard all investigator cards committed to that test and return the revealed chaos tokens to the chaos bag.

Weakness Cards

A weakness card is a card in an investigator’s deck that has an ill effect when drawn. These cards are identified by the label “Weakness” or “Basic Weakness” beneath the card’s title or artwork. When one of these cards is drawn, the investigator who drew the card must resolve its “Revelation –” ability immediately.

Rules Reference on Weaknesses

When an investigator draws a weakness with an encounter card type (for example, an enemy or treachery weakness), resolve that card as if it were just drawn from the encounter deck.

When an investigator draws a weakness with a player card type (for example, an asset, an event, or a skill weakness), resolve any Revelation effects on the card and add it to that investigator’s hand. The card may then be used as any other player card of its type.

If a weakness enters an investigator’s hand in a manner that did not involve drawing the card, that investigator must resolve the card (including any Revelation abilities) as if they had just drawn it.

If a weakness is added to a player’s deck or hand during the play of a scenario, that weakness remains a part of that investigator’s deck for the rest of the campaign (unless it is removed from the campaign by a card ability or scenario resolution).

A player may not optionally choose to discard a weakness card from their hand unless a card explicitly specifies otherwise.


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