Time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look at the latest expansion for Eldritch Horror: Strange Remnants!
The second small-box expansion features a new Ancient One and four new Investigators, along with more assets, artifacts, spells and conditions. There are new Prelude cards to help regulate your expansion usage, and an adventure deck along with what is to me the outstanding new mechanic of this expansion, the Mystic Ruins deck. So let’s take a look inside the box.
First of all, this expansion breaks new ground for the Eldritch Horror line by having investigators in a small box expansion. Previously, we only had Forsaken Lore to judge how the line would be handled, and judging by the high number of people keen for more investigators to play with, this is a welcome addition. The new investigators are also a very nice mix, with some very useful abilities all round. The Focus mechanic returns from Mountains of Madness, and it seems to be so pervasive here that I’m betting it will become a staple of future expansions, too.
New spells, new artifacts, new assets (and unique assets) and new conditions are all welcome additions, giving additional gameplay options that will be useful no matter which expansions you’re playing with. The new encounters for the four location types, as well as the new Otherworld locations, do seem to be fairly pertinent to the task at hand, though I imagine they wouldn’t cause too much chaos if you were playing against Yig, for instance. Of course, this may just have been down to luck of the draw during my own games, but they certainly felt like they belonged in a game against this specific Ancient One.
Which brings us to the big bad of this expansion, Syzygy. A cosmic alignment, you’re basically fighting against the cultists who are trying to bring about the end of the world, and a lot of this expansion feels very Azathoth-y. Indeed, it’s almost strange, given Azathoth appeared in the base game, and this is only the third expansion for the game, that we’d have an Ancient One that is so similar in mythos feel. But we have it and, thankfully, it’s pretty awesome.
The AO uses a mechanic of adding eldritch tokens to the red space of the omen track whenever that space is passed, these tokens providing buffs to the cultists working to bring about the end of days. Whenever two or more Syzygy mysteries have been solved, you must flip the sheet at the end of the mythos phase and go into the final mystery – so completing three mysteries is no longer a win condition, as you’ll always have to go up against this last one. It’s actually pretty great, too. The theme states that the portal has opened, and you need to use the special encounter deck Sealing the Portal in order to win the game. Unlike the special encounters we’re used to for other Ancient Ones, these are particularly nasty in that pretty much all of them will see you devoured if you fail the tests.
Syzygy is a great AO to go up against, and all of the cards in this expansion really pull together the theme of trying to solve a conspiracy to bring about the end of the world. Perhaps the most obvious part of all for this is the Mystic Ruins deck, which is among my favourite mechanics for the game line so far. It’s basically an Expedition encounter deck, shuffled at the beginning of the game and the token placed on whichever location is on the top of its deck. There are four mystic locations – the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge, Chichen Itza and the Moai Statues. These are all represented by pre-existing locations – Shanghai, London, and spaces 7 and 3, respectively. Now, I really love this idea of taking a pre-existing board location and using it for a new purpose. Back when the game was initially announced, the idea of the board representing the world left a lot of people perplexed as to expandability due to a finite number of locations right out of the gate – but here we see that this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. I think it’s really cool, anyway, and I hope they try it again with different things – in the way that this expansion has you following it as you follow the clues to the conspiracy, it could totally be used to follow clues to anything in a much more focused fashion than is usually the case with Research Encounters.
I’ve played this expansion a couple of times, and have really loved it. It has had some truly epic games, such as the time Zoey Samaras wound up hospitalised while trying to seal the portal, but Marie Lambeau was able to battle through with Zoey’s blessing to thwart the conspiracy at the eleventh hour and save the world from doom. Strange Remnants proves that the Eldritch Horror line is only getting better with each new release, and has kinda set the bar pretty high for Under the Pyramids now! Let’s see what Christmas brings, anyway…