Mythos delvings

Hey everybody!
Continuing my tradition of reading more Lovecraftian weird tales over the festive break, I thought I’d provide another run-down of the stories I’ve been enjoying in the third annual ‘Mythos delvings’ blog entry!

The bulk of this year’s reading has been taken up with The King in Yellow, RW Chambers’ collection of short stories that revolve around the mysterious, diabolical play that has the power to drive people to insanity just by reading it. The book is a collection of ten stories that reference to a varying extent the play, and was published in 1895, when Lovecraft was just 5 years old. The stories vary considerably, but I have to say that my stand-out favourite is the first, The Repairer of Reputations. It’s a story that has all of the hallmarks of the classic weird tale, with a narrator that slides into insanity over his perceived rank of the King of Carcosa. The story has got an element of early science fiction to it, set in 1920s New York and contains startling reference to America’s victory over Germany in a world war, as well as describing America as having produced a nobility following some kind of cleansing of foreign elements. A particularly morbid aspect is the legalisation of suicide, and the story involves the opening of a “lethal chamber” where folks can go to kill themselves with ease. We follow the narrator, Hildred Castaigne, as he seeks to secure his succession as king in the Imperial Dynasty of America, with the help of the eponymous Repairer of Reputations, Dr Wilde. Hildred seeks to remove his cousin Louis from the “succession”, but is thwarted and cast into an asylum, where he dies. The story is an excellent study in weird fiction, and the horror comes out as we see Hildred slowly spiral into madness. There’s an excellent description of a mechanical safe that he uses to store his diadem, but which Louis dismisses as a biscuit box, and I’ve subsequently read that the lethal chamber could actually be a subway station, as seen through the deluded eyes of Hildred. It’s certainly one of the best short stories I’ve read in a long while!

While I did like the stories in this book, it was more because I’m a longtime Lovecraftian gamer, and so got to see who these people are who turn up in the games, such as the aforementioned Hildred Castaigne, Jeanne d’Ys, et al. However, it has very little in common with the Mythos overall, except for the odd exclamation about the lake of Hali and whatnot. Hastur is just another of these exclamations, and it doesn’t feel like Chambers really had any sort of idea for the concepts other than throwing them out as weird-sounding stuff. Of course, Lovecraft used the word as well, without much expansion, and it was August Derleth who eventually turned him into the elder god that we gamers are familiar with today. The concept of The King in Yellow as a play that causes insanity is interesting, but again, isn’t really fleshed out other than mentioning it offhandedly. It’s something very similar to Lovecraft’s own Necronomicon, which also causes madness in its readers, though I do feel that Lovecraft provides more meat for those bones. Perhaps it’s just my over-familiarity with Lovecraft as opposed to having just last week read Chambers.

Lovecraft hasn’t been neglected, of course, as I’ve been reading quite a few of his shorter stories. To start with, The Tree is perhaps one of the most un-Lovecraftian stories I’ve ever read, dealing with a pair of sculptors in ancient Greece. As a classicist, I liked it, but as a fan of weird fiction, it didn’t really feel all that, well, weird. It’s a short story, though. The Cats of Ulthar is perhaps one of Lovecraft’s more famous stories, showcasing his love of felines in a creepy little tale about the community of Ulthar, where an elderly couple kill any cats that turn up near their hovel. When a traveler’s kitten disappears, this couple is suspected, and the guy calls down a curse on the two; all of the cats in Ulthar disappear for a day, then return much fatter than they were previously. Turns out this mysterious traveler caused the cats to eat the couple…

We’re off to Kingsport for the next couple of stories, starting with The Terrible Old Man, which tells of an attempted robbery on one of the denizens of the town, only for the robbers to disappear, turning up as mutilated corpses in the sea. The story is nice and short, and has just the right amount of suspense and creepiness to it that makes it delightful. The Strange High House in the Mist is almost a sequel, dealing with the philosopher Thomas Olsen’s intrepid exploration of the strange house of the title. Olsen is hosted by the weird occupant for several hours, as he talks of the past and whatnot, before having a fantastical encounter with the god Nodens. Olsen returns to Kingsport, but even the Terrible Old Man notices the difference in him. It’s an odd story, again fairly replete with lore for an enthusiastic Arkham Horror player!

The Horror at Red Hook is a tale I’ve read before, and features our good friend Thomas Malone from the Arkham Horror base game. The story details some black magic goings-on in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, and revolves around the strange case of Robert Suydam, who is revealed to be an occult practitioner using magic and human sacrifice to retain his youth. As one does. The story is interesting to me, as it features a police inspector as the main protagonist rather than the usual idle intellectual; I’ve mentioned before how many of Lovecraft’s stories usually derive their horror from the fact that these intellectual types are at risk of losing their mind, a much more valuable commodity than physical harm. The story is an interesting one, though does suffer from some of Lovecraft’s strident racism. As with most of these things, though, I read them for the enjoyment of seeing stuff from the board/card game universe.

The Rats in the Walls is another that I’ve read before, and reminds me of a somewhat disastrous date I was on back in 2011 or 2012. The story, anyway, is set in England, in the wonderfully gothic “Exham Priory”. The tale basically deals with rats in the walls, which prompt the unnamed narrator to dream of his family’s ancient and morbid history. Basically, the De La Poer family kept human cattle in an underground city to serve as a stock of flesh to satisfy their cannibalistic urges. The narrator, following an expedition into the lower levels of the house, goes insane at the revelations of his family’s history, and is committed to an asylum, shortly after which the Priory collapses. It’s got perhaps more of the gothic horror to it than the more usual cosmic horror, though we do get a gasp of Nyarlathotep towards the end. The expedition under the Priory has all the suspense of classic Lovecraft, however, and the physical descent beneath the foundations nicely mirrors the figurative descent into the family history – and into madness.

I’ll finish with The Shunned House, which is another of these classic horror story types that Lovecraft does so well. The unnamed protagonist becomes fascinated by the history of a house on Benefit Street in Providence, RI. Along with his uncle, he looks into the history of the Harris family, and discovers all kinds of peculiar goings-on with the members of that family. Turns out the house is built on top of the burial site of a French daemon-worshiper, who has been leeching the souls of the house’s inhabitants since the eighteenth century. The protagonist and his uncle spend the night in the cellar, and his uncle is claimed by this diabolist, leading the protagonist to pour a load of sulfuric acid into the hell-pit, cleansing the house. The story is just great, with the sort of increasing build-up of suspense that Lovecraft does so well. It’s a straight-up ghost story, without any of the cosmic horror attributes of the Cthulhu mythos around it, but even so, it’s definitely worth having a read!

Omens of Ice

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day here at spalanz.com, and this week I’m taking a look at the latest expansion for Elder Sign: Omens of Ice! (This blog was originally slated to come out in Halloween week, where it would have made more thematic sense…)

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

Elder Sign is one of my favourite games to break out for an evening of cosmic horror and dice rolling. The Gates of Arkham expansion from early 2015 introduced a new mode of play for the game, where we left the museum behind and ventured into the various neighbourhoods of the town. Omens of Ice is an expansion in the very same mould, as we venture into the Alaskan wilderness, following the mysterious goings-on in the wake of the discovery of a statue of Ithaqua…

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

I love the snow theme in pretty much any game (The Frozen Wastes for Runebound being a prime example of this!) and was truly enraptured by the Mountains of Madness expansion for Eldritch Horror for the amount of theme that comes through in the gameplay there. Omens of Ice feels very similar to these games, as you need to ration your supplies as you face the biting cold.

Omens of Ice features a staged encounter deck, where the cards you encounter in stage one vary between the green (easy) and yellow (normal) difficulty, while stage two are only the yellow and red (hard) cards. I really like this because it allows the designers to make the game feel like you’re trudging into the wilderness, and passing into stage two actually means something. It really echoes the source material such as Algernon Blackwood’s The Wendigo, where the earlier part of the story feels ‘safe’ while the later parts in the wilderness are most assuredly not!

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

The Expedition Camp card replaces the Museum Entry card, and acts like that card in every way. The Track card tracks both your supplies (based on the time of year) and the length of your adventure. Supplies are a new commodity that have an impact on the game that can, for instance, affect the stamina of your investigators if you don’t have any. The day track is linked to the clock, unsurprisingly, and advances whenever the clock strikes midnight. If the track reaches the end during Summer, you just add two doom tokens to the Ancient One track and move back to the Day 7 space; in Winter, however, if you take too long on your investigation, you’ll lose the game!

The day track also governs the Storm mechanic. Storm tokens act like penalties on encounter cards, and are placed on encounters through various effects, such as on the Ancient One track or through failing to complete an encounter, as well as through the day track. Some of them are blank, but some of them will cause you to lose health or supplies, etc. Some of them are blank, however, merely clouds threatening on the horizon rather than an actual threat for you to deal with!

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

There is also a new deck of Alaskan Mythos Cards that features some horrible new effects to reflect the biting winter conditions.

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

The new investigators are a mixed bag already in the Arkham Horror universe, while the Ancient Ones feature the iconic Ithaqua himself, naturally! The item and spell cards are the usual mix of giving your investigators bonus dice – including two items that each allow you to take the red or yellow die even if it is locked. Not sure how game-breaking that could be, as while it is a pain when you have a bunch of stuff you can’t use because the die is locked, it’s still a fundamental aspect of the struggle in this game. I haven’t yet had the specific situation come up to see how game-changing it could be, but the thought is there…

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

Overall, I really like this expansion a lot. It’s difficult, don’t get me wrong – I haven’t actually managed to win a game yet, with the timed mechanic from the day tracker causing me a lot of problems – but it’s also super-thematic, which is something that I really enjoy about FFG’s Lovecraftian games. While I wouldn’t call the Call of Cthulhu LCG a misstep, I do feel that the co-operative struggle against the Ancient Ones is a much better way to implement mythos games, and was really pleased to see that avenue for the upcoming Arkham Horror LCG.

EDIT: Since writing this blog, FFG have announced a fourth expansion to Elder Sign, Omens of the Deep, again using the Gates of Arkham mode for gameplay. Looks like this is now the set manner for the game, and I can’t wait for both it and further ‘Omens of’ expansions to come out. Maybe Omens of the Sands for an Under the Pyramids-style expansion? We’ll have to wait and see!

The Dreamlands!!

Well stop the panic about no new big-box expansion for Eldritch Horror on the horizon, because FFG have now previewed the upcoming Dreamlands expansion and it looks like it should be amazing!! I’m trying not to do too many game day blogs that merely look forward to upcoming stuff, but I’ve had this one on my mind all weekend, so need to talk about it!

Eldritch Horror The Dreamlands

This expansion brings us an Other World on the sideboard for the first time ever in an Arkham Files board game. At the start of the game, you place portals through which you can access the Dreamlands board, which is a fantastic way of mixing up the way in which you move between the boards. I really like this idea, not least it’s because it’s really quite thematic. All of the Arkham Horror boards, and both of those for Eldritch Horror thus far, have had the same mechanic: go somewhere, and access a new board. This idea of moving around like this just really appeals to me, and is the main focus for me wanting to write this short, excited blog now!

It is, of course, early days, but I’m wondering what kind of secondary mechanics we’ll be seeing in this box. Mountains of Madness introduced us to the Focus mechanic, and Under the Pyramids allowed us to decrease our skills as well as increase them. So I’m assuming we’ll see something more, but I guess it’ll remain to be seen…

At any rate, I’m really looking forward to getting this box. I find it really interesting that we’re now seeing Other Worlds on expansion boards, which really opens the door for all kinds of different expansion experiences, and the way we get there sounds super cool. I still hope we get to see something like a more expanded Europe, and an enlarged New England showing the traditional Arkham/Dunwich/Innsmouth/Kingsport locations, however!

Can’t wait!

Phobias!

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day here at spalanz.com and, because I’ve been so tied-up with writing an essay lately, I’ve not managed to get in as many games as I’d like. Consequently, this will only be a little blog for today as I take a look at some of the smaller stuff available to expand your games of Elder Sign. Let’s begin!

Elder Sign Grave Consequences

Fantasy Flight recently released Grave Consequences, a small expansion of print-on-demand cards to enhance the play experience. This is really a collection of three mini-expansions, modular by nature, that echo a lot of the content put out for Arkham Horror back in the day.

Elder Sign Grave Consequences

Most obvious of the Arkham tie-ins is the deck of Epic Battle cards. If you’re not careful and the Ancient One’s doom track fills up, it’s usually a case of battling back and forth as you try to remove doom tokens before being devoured, but now we have this little deck that adds a bit more theme to the final confrontation. It’s very similar to the deck introduced in Kingsport Horror, with each card usually split in two, describing effects when the investigators attack, and when the Ancient One attacks back. Some cards are ‘battle events’ that tell you to do different stuff before drawing a new card. Either way, it’s a nice addition.

Elder Sign Grave Consequences

The real meat of this mini expansion, for me, is the Phobias deck. Whenever an investigator goes insane, rather than being devoured, they replenish their sanity but draw one of these cards, which has some kind of lasting effect for the rest of the game. Very similar to the Injury and Madness cards introduced in Dunwich Horror, this is really what I got the expansion for.

The third and final deck is the Epitaph deck, which acts as something of a parting shot for a devoured investigator. When your chap is devoured, you draw one of these cards and resolve its effects, before then placing your character chit on the card back. Personally I would have preferred to see an Injury deck to parallel the Phobias deck, but maybe that will be for another expansion. At any rate, it does add a nice bit of theme to the game!

The rest of the stuff I’m going to talk about today is promotional material that is largely freely available online, thanks to the terrific folks over at boardgamegeek.com.

Elder Sign promo ancient one cards

In October/November every year, FFG run an event called Arkham Nights, which allows folks to come together to play one of the many Lovecraftian-themed games the company produces. Each year, a bag of swag is given out that has ties to some of these games, the most recent event having domain cards for Call of Cthulhu LCG, for instance. However, since 2011, all of these events have also featured a promotional Ancient One card for Elder Sign, which I think is both really cool and bums me out, because I can’t make it to these things to enjoy the goodness!

2011: Daoloth Render of the Veils
2012: Shub Niggurath A Thousand Young
2013: Yog-Sothoth The Beyond One
2014: The Dark God Primordial Evil
2015: Ubbo-Sathla Unbegotten Source

While it bums me out that I don’t get to enjoy the properly-printed cards, Ancient Ones are normally a card where it doesn’t matter if the cardstock is different. I know some folks like to shuffle it up and pick their AO at random, but I prefer to know who I’m facing (largely I choose the AO because I don’t want to be playing the same ones over and over).

All of these new Ancient Ones has something interesting to offer. I particularly enjoy Daoloth, whose gameplay effect really makes you consider if you want to visit that Other World for its Elder Signs, or else leave it in play in case a Mythos card forces you to place a monster. I recently played against The Dark God for the first time, whose effect quite sinister in that he forces you to lose one stamina and one sanity or lock a green die on the AO card for the remainder of the round. It sounds pretty bad, though there are plenty of ways around this kind of loss that it isn’t always that bad.

Their effects can be quite alarming, however, and they often feel like they’re more complicated than the regular release Ancient Ones. Ubbo-Sathla, from last year’s Arkham Nights, has a lot of interaction with monsters on the table, and while he’s one that I find myself looking forward to going up against, I foresee some complicated game-states to come!

Lastly, we have the two promo adventure cards, The Hand of Solace and Log of the Persephone, which can be seen on the right of my tweet above. Unlike the promo AO cards, these ones really need to be the proper printing, of course, as they’ll get mixed into the deck. FFG made these available via coupons printed in the back of some of the books they published that tie into the Arkham universe such the Dark Waters trilogy. For the cost of shipping, and tearing a page out of the book, you could get the cards sent to you. Personally, I’m not a fan of tearing up books, but additional material for my favourite games is perhaps worth it!

A lot of people on the internet will tell you that these books are crap, but I actually liked those that I’ve read so far, and have even written a blog on the Dark Waters trilogy!

As for the cards themselves, well they’re nothing particularly great, just more of the same really. I think I more enjoyed the Oliver Grayson ally card for Arkham Horror, actually. Of course, it’s nice to have these things, but I honestly think I get more of a kick out of having the thematic connection to a book that I enjoyed, which makes me wonder if the people who say they tore the coupon out for the cards then tossed the book unread actually enjoy having this stuff as much as me…

So there you have it, a bit of a whirlwind tour through the extra bits available for Elder Sign, a game that I haven’t played recently as often as I would like!

Mythos delvings

Hey everybody!
Continuing with my tradition of reading Lovecraft at Christmas, I thought I’d present another little look here at some of the tales that I’ve been enjoying this year!

To start with, I’ve had a look at Under the Pyramids, a tale ghost-written by Lovecraft for Harry Houdini in 1924. My main reason for this was the purchase of the expansion to Eldritch Horror for Christmas, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The story isn’t too bad, a classic Lovecraftian story that sees the protagonist (Houdini himself) exploring Egypt on his way to an Australian tour, only to be bound and gagged by a band of Arabs and dropped into a cleft in the earth. Being Houdini, of course, he manages to escape, whereupon he wanders the dark corridors underneath an ancient temple, and encounters the horrible mutant-mummies worshipping the fearsome monster that inspired the building of the sphinx. Lovecraft’s usual protagonists tend to be bookish professor-types, so having the celebrated magician is a novelty. Overall, a fairly enjoyable tale, though I can’t say it was as good as some of Lovecraft’s other stories. Despite an obvious knowledge of Egypt, I feel that the attempt to superimpose his usual brand of cosmic horror onto an established culture fell a little short.

Continuing with reading the “collaborations”, I’ve also taken a look at The Horror in the Museum, one of Lovecraft’s “revisions” to a story by Hazel Heald. This story is a curious beast, describing the protagonist Stephen Jones as he accepts an offer to spend the night in the waxwork museum of George Rogers. Rogers attacks Jones, before being himself killed by the elder god Rhan-Tegoth, to whom Rogers had been sacrificing his “guests” for years. The story ends as Rogers becomes another exhibit in the museum. I say it’s a curious beast because the inclusion of the elder god seemed a bit strange, almost forced, when considered around the story of the museum. However, it’s an enjoyable-enough story, and one that fans of Lovecraftian boardgames will no doubt appreciate for its tale of Rhan-Tegoth, who was featured in Innsmouth Horror. I also feel that it’s something of an important story in the wider terms of the mythos – Lovecraft made his living through revising other peoples’ work as much as selling his own to magazines such as Weird Tales, and this story seems to be one of the more prevalent ones. The contents of the museum are equally like a roll-call of the mythos, featuring statues of Night Gaunts, Chaugnar Faugn, and Cthulhu himself.

Back to Lovecraft’s own work now, and let’s start with Cool Air. It’s a fairly creepy tale, while remaining quite innocuous at the same time. It tells the story of a chap who moves into an apartment in New York underneath a doctor, and the two hit it off after the narrator is treated for a heart attack. The doctor lives in an apartment that is entirely refrigerated, and when the system breaks down, it eventually transpires that the doctor died 18 years previously, and had managed to cling on to life by keeping his apartment so cold. It’s a fairly straightforward story, and to some extent you can totally see the end coming. But yeah, it’s certainly an interesting story.

While Cool Air might seem less like a Lovecraft story simply because of its lack of mythos-related stuff, Pickman’s Model is certainly more on track. We follow the narrator, Thurber, as he visits his artist friend, Richard Upton Pickman, in his Boston studio. Pickman is famous for his grotesque faces, much like Goya, but part of this story involves a visit to his basement studio, where the proceedings are interrupted by a weird scratching sound. Pickman discharges a revolver at whatever it is that makes a scratching, while the narrator checks out Pickman’s latest work, a diabolical image, the model for whom apparently exists as a real entity. It’s the usual suspenseful story with a mind-bending denouement, as the narrator finds a photograph of a monster Pickman was using to paint the work from. It’s a short, yet really good story, one that I can definitely recommend. Pickman himself is figure so closely connected to the mythos in the boardgaming world that I was just as excited to finally learn about as for reading the story on its own merits!

Beyond the Wall of Sleep involves an intern at a mental hospital where a murderer is brought in, who turns out to be having some disturbing dreams. The intern uses some telepathic radio equipment he built in college to try to communicate with the man, and learns he is playing host to an extra-terrestrial being. It’s an interesting story, with some really interesting ideas, though it does seem a little off somehow. I think the idea of strapping these radio things to their heads and communicating telepathically is a bit goofy, but the whole thing about a patient at an asylum being possessed by a star-being is very Lovecraftian, and very much in keeping with the whole gothic horror stuff. Definitely worth checking out at least the once.

Returning to Eldritch Horror tie-ins, The Outsider is a curious tale that seems to recount a dream, having a healthy dose of horror and non-sequiturs. The Outsider of the title narrates a tale of loneliness, as he lives alone in a vast, crumbling castle. One day, he climbs to the top of one of the towers, where he enters a strange, marbled world of an old churchyard. Exploring his surroundings, he finds a strangely familiar castle, full of the sounds of revelry. However, upon climbing through the window, the revelers scatter in terror. It turns out there’s a disgusting abhuman creature in there. The twist is that he was looking in a mirror, of course. The story is one of Lovecraft’s most-reprinted, apparently, the dream-like quality accounting for reams of commentary. I quite liked it, for my part – the twist at the end is masterful, explaining a lot of the earlier dream-like story and tying it all together quite neatly. At the end, a couple of references are made to Nephren-ka and Nitocris, the latter having appeared in Under the Pyramids in the underground chamber scene.

Finally, and something of the main event of this season, was The Haunter of the Dark. Lovecraft wrote this story in 1935, in response to a letter in the Weird Tales magazine that suggested he wrote a story killing off the author Robert Bloch (author of Psycho, among other things), who had himself killed off a Lovecraft-inspired character in his own story, The Shambler from the Stars. The author Robert Blake moves to College Hill in Providence, RI, and is drawn to the steeple of an old church he can see across town. He investigates the dilapidated church, discovering a curious stone among some other occult artifacts, along with the classic Lovecraftian library of books such as the Necronomicon and Unaussprechlichen Kulten. Following this expedition, Blake comes increasingly under the spell of a mysterious entity that only comes out in the dark. After a series of storms knock out the electricity in the town, some sinister activity at the church precedes the discovery of Blake dead, presumed of electric shock. This one is what I would call classic Lovecraft. The suspense that comes through as Blake explores the church, then the tension during the night of storms – it’s all just classic gothic horror!

A great selection this time round, I have to say!

Cursed!

Hey everybody,
Time for another game day! These things do come round very quickly, you’re right. Today, I’m looking at another expansion for Arkham Horror – it’s Curse of the Dark Pharaoh!

Arkham Horror Curse of the Dark Pharaoh

This was the first small-box expansion for the game, and so brings some more cards for the base game, as well as a whole load of small tweaks and little additions that add a great theme. The basis for the game is that an exhibition has come to Arkham with some mystery surrounding the whole thing.

Arkham Horror Curse of the Dark Pharaoh

 

The exhibition is denoted by a marker that moves around the board, which the investigators can interact with by drawing a card from a new Exhibit Encounters deck. These encounters will generally give you stuff from the Exhibit Items deck if you pass a skill test, but if you fail you’ll likely end up cursed. This is important when you play with the Herald included in the box:

Arkham Horror Curse of the Dark Pharaoh

The Dark Pharaoh, avatar of Nyarlathotep, is a pretty tough chap. He works perfectly well with Nyarlathotep, naturally, buffing that Ancient One during the final battle as well as the Mask monsters during the main game. Indeed, when you play with this Herald, you’re almost always going to want to be going up against the crawling chaos! The theme of the Pharaoh working against the investigators’ attempts to uncover the secret of the Exhibition can come across really well as the game progresses, which is really what the Heralds are all about.

Arkham Horror Curse of the Dark Pharaoh

If you read my original blog on the base game, you’ll notice I didn’t mention these monsters, as they only work in the specific instance of going up against Nyarlathotep. They’re really just normal monsters, albeit ones that are very tough to beat, as they represent the many faces of the Ancient One. They all have the Endless ability, which means they’re never claimed as trophies once defeated, so you might run into them again later in the game. The base game comes with five, though subsequent expansions have included more so that the total is now eight. Anyway.

The Ancient Egypt exhibition is the main focus of this expansion, and if you choose to avoid the marker during the game, you’ll largely just be playing the base game with the Herald, which is of course perfectly fine to do, as there are plenty of Other World and Arkham Encounter (and Mythos) cards that are also included in this expansion to diversify the fun. Something I particularly liked were the Other World cards that focus on a more involved encounter with just one world, rather than more generic encounters as normal:

Arkham Horror Curse of the Dark Pharaoh

These cards are really great, as they can lead to a truly epic game if you actually survive them. Indeed, a lot of the new cards in this expansion have some really epic moments, and some of them are just terrifyingly difficult to overcome, with penalties for failed skill checks including actually being devoured, rather than merely losing sanity or stamina, etc. It can produce some fairly tense moments, let me tell you!

As the first expansion for the game, Curse of the Dark Pharaoh is perhaps understandably predominantly more of the same, with a new theme sprinkled on; subsequent small-box expansions would contain a much more pervasive theme (such as Lurker at the Threshold). However, it can still lead to a really great play experience, not least as a result of the revised version, which is the one I have.

The biggest change is the randomly-moving marker that allows you to encounter the Exhibition. As stated above, this allows you to draw Exhibit Encounters that can potentially give you some really useful Exhibit Items, but it doesn’t stay still. In addition to the Exhibit Encounter cards moving it, it can also move as if it were a monster during the Mythos phase, so you can sometimes find yourself forced to encounter it. I’ve ended up cursed many times as a result of a forced encounter where I then failed the skill check. Definitely one to look out for!

It’s a great little box, which I highly recommend if you have the base game and want something new but not overly complicated like a big box expansion.

Arkham Horror Curse of the Dark Pharaoh

 

Elder Sign!

Hey folks!

I’ve found myself playing a lot of Elder Sign again recently, which has been partly spurred on by rewatching a lot of the shows over on Geek & Sundry, primarily TableTop. For the uninitiated, here’s the Elder Sign episode that I’m mainly referring to here:

Elder Sign is a really great game, in case you skipped the video, and I can definitely recommend it if you’ve yet to experience it! I featured the game in my blog last year for Halloween week, which you can read here. It’s had two expansions released for it, the most recent of which – Gates of Arkham – has made it under my spotlight of awesome here, as well. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be making it to the first expansion on this blog, also!

Elder Sign

I’m a big fan of the Arkham Horror universe, anyway, but this is beginning to take over the big guy as my go-to Lovecraftian game, predominantly due to its ease of set-up. The new Streets of Arkham mode is the closest yet to bringing the Arkham experience to a card game, and I’m still really impressed at how well the designers have implemented this change while keeping the spirit of the base game almost intact.

This evening I had another trip through the Streets of Arkham, which ended in a victory, though saw the demise of poor Patrice Hathaway to the all-seeing Yibb-Tstll…the little devil! Streets of Arkham mode is definitely more difficult than the base game, and as already mentioned, brings an entirely new feel to the Elder Sign experience. I had initially thought it was a curiously hybrid experience, but after playing it some more, it’s actually just a really great way to play!

Of course, I still really enjoy the base game of Elder Sign as it is, with no need for expansions. The other week I had a game against Hastur, prompted by the TableTop video as I couldn’t recall the last time I’d played against the King in Yellow. It was a very close call, where a run of bad luck saw all manner of die-locks while seven doom tokens were added in far too quick succession, but good prevailed and the King slumbers still…

While there have only been two boxed expansions, FFG has released a fair few bits for this game as promotional material, such as for the Arkham Nights events. Four new Ancient One cards have come out in this way, and you can download them from boardgamegeek now:

Daoloth
Shub-Niggurath
Yog Sothoth (distinct from the new version)
The Dark God

There are also two location cards that were available through tie-in novels to the Arkham Horror universe. I’ll be taking a look at these novels in future blogs, but suffice it to say, a lot of people bought these books for the cards alone, though I can actually say that they’re really good reads in their own right!

Anyhow, Elder Sign remains in my top-ten all-time favourite games, and while I can wax lyrical about it all day, it’s so much easier if you just go out and get yourself a copy! You won’t regret it!

Roll some dice, and save the world!