It’s the first game day of 2018! It’s also the first game day in quite some time! With several life-changes going on these last few months, it’s been difficult to devote any real time to board games, but as per my Boxing Day tradition, I managed to get Eldritch Horror to the table, with predictably wonderful results! I sat down to no less than three games this time around, as the game proved to be a huge hit with my SO Jemma (and, it takes so much time to set up, once it’s there you might as well settle in for an afternoon!), and for the middle game we tried out the latest small box expansion, Cities in Ruin!
This expansion brings one of my favourite Ancient Ones to the game, Shudde M’ell. The world-cracking king of the Cthonians originally appeared in the Dunwich Horror expansion for Arkham Horror, and of course was created by Brian Lumley in his short story Cement Surroundings. One of the non-Lovecraftian creations that has managed to retain significant traction among the mythos today, it’s also one of my favourites to go up against in Arkham Horror, so I was really looking forward to seeing how he’d be implemented in Eldritch Horror.
Starting at 15 doom, Shudde M’ell looks like he should be fine, starting at the same point as Azathoth from the base game. However, true to form, he gets to destroy points on the board, which is where this expansion becomes a bit of a beast.
To start with, Rome is ‘devastated’ – the city is wiped off the map, and all that remains are crumbling ruins. During set-up, three eldritch tokens are placed on the doom track and, when the doom counter reaches those, there is the chance that more cities will meet a similar fate.
Of course, they’re not really gone in the sense that you just skip over them if you’re moving through Europe, or something. When you arrive at a devastated location, rather than drawing from the normal deck you instead draw one of the Devastation cards, complex encounters that can net you useful stuff from poking about in the ruins. I found these to be particularly interesting, as the card will present you with a choice, and you can actually choose to resolve the failure part instead of the pass part, each of these then involving some kind of test with rewards for passing and detriments for failing. We’ve seen a similar thing with some Other World encounters, where you can still fail even when you passed the first part of the encounter, but even so, it’s interesting to see the depth going on in the game right now.
The other deck is, of course, the Disaster deck, which is drawn when finding out where on the map is going to be hit next. Shudde M’ell has got three in-built disasters in terms of the doom track anyway, but there are Mythos cards and other ways that can bring about Disasters, which range from destroying cities to removing all of the travel tokens from the game, as sea voyages become too perilous. It’s an added dimension to the game that I really enjoyed, especially if you’re relying on a specific location to buff a skill, or gain a spell, etc. I think it’s a tremendous addition, and I’m happy to say that there are additional Prelude cards included in the box to allow you to use the Disaster deck even if you aren’t trying to fend off Shudde M’ell. Excellent stuff!
The investigators are more from the Arkham stable, I particularly liked Bob Jenkins and his ability to trade items with anybody on the board. We also get new assets and artifacts, conditions and spells, as well as new encounter cards and mythos cards that all help to bring in the feel of a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world – though without being quite so overt that you could still shuffle these into the deck and play against Yig, for instance. There are also Expedition encounter cards that make Shanghai and London possible locations, which I quite enjoyed – especially considering there is a Disaster that destroys these locations as well!
All in all, Cities in Ruin is another excellent expansion in what is becoming possibly the best game line Fantasy Flight is publishing right now! It’s certainly my top board game of the moment, and I am forever just bowled-over at how amazing these expansions are. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the expansions for Arkham Horror as much as the next man, but I feel that these for Eldritch Horror are designed with such care and attention that every single one of them has been so much more than simply, “more of the same”.
Definitely worth picking up if you enjoy this game!!