Here at spalanz.com, every Tuesday is game day, and recently I’ve been varying the format from simple looking at old favourites, such as my attempts to learn a new game and reviews of upcoming games. Today, I’m going with the first-thoughts on a new game, albeit a game expansion – the Gates of Arkham expansion for Elder Sign!
I was quite excited to receive this in the mail last week, as I hadn’t realised it was actually out yet! Seems our American cousins have yet to see it hit the shelves, but I hope they get it soon, as it’s a really good alternative to the base game.
In many ways, then, this is what I’d like to see a lot more from game companies. While it does largely depend on the type of game under discussion, of course, sometimes ‘more of the same’ just isn’t enough, and you want something more from a boardgame expansion. Gates of Arkham delivers this and more, as it comes with an entirely new game mode, Streets of Arkham, as well as providing additional content that you can mix in with the base game for an enhanced experience. Furthermore, it also builds on the previous expansion in at least one way, serving to integrate itself fully into the line.
The bulk of this expansion, then, is the Streets of Arkham mode. The museum adventure cards are replaced by Arkham adventures, three of which start the game face up, and three face down. These cards are double-sided, so you can’t simply ignore the face-down set as they’ll be having At Midnight effects going off, whether you like it or not! The adventures are very similar to those in the museum, at any rate, although I did feel like they were more difficult, but that could just have been the combination of new heroes and new game…
Some of the cards have Entry effects on them, which is a new effect that takes place as soon as you move to that adventure. Once you’re there, you encounter it as normal, and either win or lose as normal. Rewards and Penalties have changed slightly, in that there are now some that are split, giving you a choice of which you have (though you must be able to complete all of those you choose, especially important in the case of penalties).
You can also see on the picture above some new sigils on the cards. This is something that I really like about the expansion – you can become a member of the Sheldon Gang, or the Order of the Silver Twilight! How wonderful. Once inducted, you take a membership card, and when you encounter future adventures, some of them (such as the top task of the Inner Sanctum adventure, shown above) are considered automatically passed if you are a member of that group. You also get additional rewards for completing certain adventures. Wonderful!
The game also introduces Skills, the blue cards, which can be very useful, acting as more permanent items really. Events are denoted by the red symbol on cards such as the aforementioned Inner Sanctum, which are triggered during your resolution phase. A bit of a mixed bag, though most are bad news.
But what about the Gates? I hear you cry.
Well, Gates of Arkham introduces the mechanic of sealing gates to this game, which I thought was particularly neat! Gates open mostly when a doom token is placed on the yellow symbol of an Ancient One’s doom track, though mythos cards can also spawn a gate. When this happens, a gate marker is placed on an Arkham adventure card, with its corresponding token placed on a face-down Other World card. Investigators can’t encounter that Arkham adventure, but can move through the gate, whereupon the Other World card is turned face up, and they can encounter the card on their next turn. Once the Other World card is completed, the gate tokens are removed and a seal marker is placed on that Arkham adventure, preventing a gate from opening again (until a mythos card discards all seals, of course!)
While I thought it a neat idea, it does make the game somewhat laborious to get through the Other Worlds. Also, plastic stands are provided for the gate markers, but I didn’t really like these (though the idea of a gate standing up is certainly appealing!). There are new Other Worlds in this expansion, including many not before seen in FFG’s Lovecraftian games, which I thought particularly interesting.
As stated, there are new Investigators and Ancient Ones, as well as monsters, spells, common items, unique items, and allies, which can be mixed in with the regular game. We also get a new mythos deck which is specifically used for Streets of Arkham mode, and many of the components feature a small yellow exclamation mark, meaning they are only to be used with this expansion:
In the game I played at the weekend, I used Trish Scarborough and Akachi Onyele against Ghatanothoa. Both investigators were killed off fairly quickly, replaced by Tommy Muldoon and Finn Edwards, who were equally unable to prevent Ghatanothoa from waking. That said, the dice were suddenly with me and I managed to beat him back into submission, which is (I think) only the second time I’ve won this game with an Ancient One defeat! I was a little disappointed in Trish, as her Eldritch Horror incarnation is a really excellent one!
Overall, I’m very pleased with this expansion. The new stuff is all good (spells you can cast on another player’s turn!), the new game mode is very promising, and it’s the usual top-notch quality you can expect from FFG. It’s also an impressive weight, having an entire brick of new encounter cards!
I’m looking forward to playing more of this over the coming months, and can definitely recommend it!
Buy it from amazon:
Gates of Arkham