Review: Arkham Horror Toolkit (iPhone)

Posted by James (admin) on January 27th, 2011

I was very excited when I saw there was an Arkham Horror Toolkit app for the iPhone.  I’m a big fan of Arkham Horror* – I wasn’t expecting to play the game in an app but I thought it would be something interesting.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.

The app is a player’s aid with 4 functions:

  • Dice roller – As it sounds, this visually rolls 3-D dice with some physics.  Text at the top states how many successes you have rolled and you can set it to count normal successes, cursed and blessed.
  • Investigators -You can select an investigator, see all the info that’s on their character sheets and track all their stats.
  • Location deck – Pick a map location (or Other World) and you are shown the text of an encounter.
  • Maps – Pick a board and view it with zoom in and out functions.

It sounds fine but the biggest problem I have with it is this: What use does it really serve? It’s kind of fun to browse the characters and location cards but I just can’t see why anyone would use it when playing the board game.  The key problem is that you need the board game to use the toolkit so why would you use the app to replace just a few components.  You still need all the mythos cards, equipment cards, spell cards, Great Old One characters, etc. etc., plus it takes longer to keep switching between the character and location card screens on the app than using the always visible physical counterparts.

The map feature is nice enough but you can’t really use it because you can’t track character/monster locations, or track any tokens on locations, the terror level, outskirt monsters, etc.

The dice roller is alright although dice sometimes knock over other settled dice.  When a dice is knocked over, the number of successes displayed at the top of the screen remains unchanged, but looks weird when it doesn’t match the dice on display.  It’s a shame the dice don’t look like the official Arkham Horror dice too.

To make matters worse, the app only covers the basic game and you have to buy the maps, location cards and characters for each expansion separately.  I want to make it clear that I absolutely don’t mind in-app purchases and don’t mind paying for extra content.  However, buying all of the expansions (small expansions costs £0.59 each and big box expansions cost £1.19 each) adds up to a total of £5.93 for content I already paid hundreds of pounds for already (seeing as I need the physical expansions to use the toolkit anyway).  I understand it takes time and money to make any app but, at £7.72 (as the basic app costs £1.79), it’s just too high.

Ideally FFG would give away the relevant extra content pack when people buy a physical expansion but, unfortunately, Apple’s App Store doesn’t offer any mechanism to allow FFG (or anyone) to do so.

Pricing issues aside, it’s such a shame that the app doesn’t serve any purpose.  Whilst it is well put together, I can’t imagine anyone using it when playing the game as they still need all the other cards, counters, board, monster tiles, great old one sheets, etc. (of which there are vast amounts).

Just ahead of the AH Toolkit, the Battlestar Galactica Loyalty Deck app was released (I have reviewed this too), but not by FantasyFlight Games.  Whilst very basic, I can see how it serves a purpose and the AH Toolkit should have followed this model.  The toolkit could have included:

  • Quick Reference – States the various limits (i.e. number of gates, outskirts limits, etc.) as this varies based on number of characters and expansions being used.
  • Random Character Selection – Picks a character for each player based on number of players and expansions owned (preferably with an option to have a balanced or completely random selection)
  • Random Great Old One Selector – Picks a Great Old One based on expansions owned.
  • Scenarios – The 20 special scenarios FFG created a few years ago could have been included and some tracking too (i.e. track which characters are still available).
  • Results recorder – Record each game result (including which Great Old One, etc.).  This could feed an online database which would make interesting reading showing which Great Old Ones and expansions are hard or easy and would be a superb tool for FFG to balance the game.
  • Game Generator – Pick characters, expansions and Great Old One.

I’m hoping FFG will create a Mansions of Madness app (to support their new game that’s coming) as this contains small puzzles.  The app could work as a standalone iPhone game as well as offering a way to give the physical board game extra puzzles to ensure its longevity.  I hope FFG is listening.


* When I say big fan, I have all the expansions as well as a full set of character figures and a set of dice – the irony of maybe having an insanity for owning all of Arkham Horror has not gone unnoticed.

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Arkham Horror Toolkit - Fantasy Flight Games For iPhone

4 Responses to “Review: Arkham Horror Toolkit (iPhone)”

  1. Eric Herman Says:

    I’ve used a similar app for several months prior to this release, just for drawing the encounter cards (and Other World cards), and I can tell you that it’s very useful for that purpose and saves a good amount of setup time and game time and a lot of table space. As the app’s description itself says (“A major appealing aspect of the Arkham Horror Toolkit is the digital library of Location and Gate encounter cards”), [i]that[/i] is the main feature of this. So I think you’re wrong in that sense, as many will find it well worth it for that feature alone. The other stuff is nice, but indeed, not as necessary, though I do think that having the character stats to track via the app is also very useful.

  2. Rob Cannon Says:

    It looks like FFG is already making changes. Hopefully, they will get it working. It’s a beautiful app. I hope the app grows in usefulness. Maybe then, I will be ready to pay for the upgrades.

  3. James (admin) Says:

    Hi Eric,

    I think the table space saving element may be useful (especially with lots of expansions) but I don’t find it saves me much set-up time or game time, especially if switching back and forth between the character and card screens. However, it’s good to hear that some people may find it useful.

    Some interface improvement could help it. For example, I find changing character stats is fiddly as you have to tap once to open the +/- screen, tap + or – to set value, and then tap OK to close. It would have been smoother if you could swipe your finger up or down on a stat to just increment values by +1/-1 and do away with all the sub-screens.



  4. James (admin) Says:

    Hi Rob,

    Yeah, I just saw there’s an update so I took a look. A few small touches which are nice (like hiding locked expansion screens) but nothing too major. A few simple things I’d like to see:

    – Disable the card-flip animation as it’s pretty but wastes time.
    – Be able to draw cards by cycling through decks properly (not totally random) as I prefer to ensure variety. (I got the same Administration Building card 4 times in a row.)
    – Improve the feature navigation switch menu – It shows 4 options (main menu, encounters, dice, character &, maps) and logically doesn’t show your current one. However, it means icons switch places depending upon the screen you’re currently in and this is unnatural.

    I don’t think these will make it useful enough for me to want to use but would improve it. I agree with you and hope it will become more useful too as I want to like it (but just can’t yet).



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