It’s all very well having lots of lovely shiny new games to play, but what about expanding your existing ones? This week, we’re looking at some expansions for games we’ve reviewed recently, to get you thinking about other options.
Plus, as ever, we got goodies to get got! Find out if you’ve won our fabulous Firefight giveaway from Mantic Games, and take a look at what treats Marvel-ous treats (hint) our chums at Asmodee UK have got for you this time around!
Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders
Arnak has quickly gained a firm foothold in the game charts, and with good reason. It’s satisfying, thematioriginal c and crunchy, but simple enough once you understand the core concepts (see our review HERE). Expedition Leaders adds several elements which can be used to modify play: a faster turnover of available items, 2 new temple/research tracks, and 6 leaders adding asymmetric play. Each of them adds a distinct shift to gameplay, and I can see most players integrating them fully to play. The Red Moon staff replaces the Blue staff from the base game; rather than only the objects adjacent to the staff being destroyed, it destroys two spaces either side (so, in most turns, wiping out 4 items).
This adds a much-needed sense of urgency to the item track; there’s no stalling till you’ve got the spare cash next round, which in turn means that the game’s deck-building comes to the fore – not that it is under-emphasised in the core game, but it certainly makes more of the mechanic. For me, switching to the Red Staff is practically an auto-include. The Monkey and Lizard temples add variety to the experience as a whole, with the Monkey temple emphasising playing the long game (as you can invest in the final research total) and Lizard temple more about manipulating (and indeed destroying) Guardians and Locations. It’s a welcome addition, particularly if you feel you’ve spent too long in the core game temples and need a bit of revamp.
The Leaders themselves, however, radically shake up the game. Now I do like a bit of asymmetry in my games (if it was good enough for the VIkings, it’s good enough for me) but I do appreciate that it can sometimes lead to feeling like a group of people all playing their own solo games simultaneously (I’m looking at you, Villainous). I think that the Expedition Leaders themselves just about manage to land on the right side of this, because you really need to pay attention to what your opponent is up to: it becomes about making sure that they cannot exploit their ability to your detriment. It adds a bit to the game’s duration, as more thinking time is required, though not unreasonably so; whilst you are working very much to an individual goal (and so feel more directed) you need to find a balance and so the interactivity is still there.
The Baroness is by far the most straight-forward, as she simply generates more Coin each turn – which in turn means that she is better able to exploit the rapid turnover of items with the Red Moon Staff, as well as generating more gems. The Captain has access to 3 archaeologists, which means in the early game particularly he can tie up available resources easily (particularly nasty in 2 player), whilst by contrast the Explorer only has 1 but it can move far more freely (snacks tokens!) and avoid Guardians.
The Falconer has an eagle which has its own track, with different benefits depending on how far it travels (and then returns), and is designed for taking down Guardians, whilst the Professor has access to additional artefacts and bonus resources for acquiring them. Finally, the most complex is probably the Mystic, who uses the Fear cards as a resource rather than trying to get rid of them, inverting the usual game mechanics. Each of them is a great addition to the gameplay, and if you’re a fan of Arnak, the likelihood is you’re always going to now want to enhance the experience with a Leader. Overall, whilst it’s not a strict must-buy, it’s as close as you’re ever going to get.
Wingspan – European and Oceania Expansions
(RRP: European £24.99 / Oceania £29.99)
As a general rule I dislike expansions that style themselves as essential, or feel essential to enhance gameplay. Now I’m not saying the Wingspan expansions are essential – whereas, say, for Arnak they pretty much are – you’d be doing yourself a terrible disservice to not invest in at least one of the two current expansions for Wingspan (original review HERE). Unsurprisingly, they are regionalised, with Europe not just adding more localised content but really enhancing underdeveloped areas of the game, particularly interaction between players: there are more birds that activate to all players’ advantage, along with a host of new round-end abilities.
Plus, being in Britain I am rather fond of the local species, so it’s great to see them; there is an interesting caveat that Ravens (and corvidae generally) are extremely potent – as they should be, frankly – and the option exists to remove them should they unbalance the game experience (personally, I like that they become a card worth chasing, but that’s just me).
Oceania raises the stakes considerably, however, adding in a new mat (which can be played with or without the expansion) and a new resource, Nectar – a wild resource, worth bonus points at the end of the game also, but can’t be kept from turn-to-turn. The expansions are all mutually compatible, and the percentages that the game runs off are sustained so that the card pool doesn’t feel diluted; indeed, the addition of new round-end conditions adds enjoyable new twists to the conventional egg or habitat criteria (e.g., Birds Looking Left). Also, flightless birds are an excellent addition to the game, counting as wild cards for wingspans (heh) towards abilities and game-end scoring (although how my sparrow-hawk managed to eat an emu is quite beyond me). Purely from a gameplay perspective, I suppose I would lean towards Oceania – but European is both my home turf AND adds a set of purple eggs. Priorities, right?
Arkham Horror – Guardians of the Abyss / Murder at the Excelsior Hotel Scenario Packs
The Revised Edition of Arkham Horror (reviewed HERE) is an absolute belter of game, but it has one major flaw: there’s only 3 scenarios in the core box. That’s a sore one to swallow when you’ve shelled out ~£70 for the game, and whilst I absolutely applaud the new and reissued Campaigns coming as boxed sets (which #spoileralert we’ll be talking about next time), you’re still talking the best part of another £100 for the full experience. Happily, there are a number of Scenario Packs to fill the void (just don’t look into the void to long) and help you decide whether to fully embrace the madness (Cthulhu fhtagn, etc.) Two in particular are worth your time, attention and money. Murder at the Excelsior Hotel works perfectly as a continuation of the base game, as a sort of Lovecraftian Cluedo.
It explores and exploits the locational movement mechanics particularly well as you explore the Hotel, trying to decode clues and solve the mystery whilst avoiding the police, hotel guests, and less desirable types. It also gives you real, meaningful choices which fit well into the campaign narrative that the game emphasises so heavily. It’s widely regarded as the best Scenario pack available, and no wonder: it even has tremendous replay value in its variety of possible endings (Ms Scarlet, in the Ballroom, with the Necronomicon). But I would say that even better value is Guardians of the Abyss, originally the 2018 event pack and now available as a mini-campaign; if you’re in the mood for a daring romp through the alleys of Cairo and the realms beyond dream itself then this is the one for you.
It’s classic mythos with a dash of Indiana Jones (and maybe a little Moon Knight madness), as you scurry through streets, sabotage trains, wade through shifting desert sands and wrestle with cultists and monstrous fiends alike. It is an absolute cracker of an adventure, as well as coming with a raft of brilliant upgrade cards for your Investigator decks, making for a tremendous addition to any ongoing or burgeoning campaign. At the end of it – assuming you haven’t fully descended into the abyss – you and your Investigator will know if you’re ready to continue onto a fully-fledged campaign.
Marvel Crisis Protocol: The Black Order (Corvus Glaive/Proxima Midnight; Ebony Maw/Black Dwarf)
(RRP: Covrus & Proxima £39.99 / Maw & Dwarf £49.99)
The Black Order have had a bit of a shake-up in MCP, so this is also a good time to look at them once more. With all of the Infinity Stones being rejigged to cost 1 Threat, that does open up more options. Yes, the husband and wife ability now costs Power (and is R3) but it’s absolutely feasible to charge in and take out an opposing character with the deadly double-team. Corvus is a massive beat-stick at the best of times, and Reality Gem is an obvious pic for him – but for when the dice gods truly hate you, you could always stick the revised Time Gem on him (aka the Etchasketch Eraser) means a total reroll; I reckon it’s worth having in your pocket just in case, particularly alongside his Strike (Wild) and Deathblow.
Equally, Ebony Maw’s shake-ups mean he’s a much more viable pick out of faction: Strength 6 now on the Tongue attack and that MASSIVE mystic defense means he’s invaluable against Convocation with all the magic that’s flying around (*cough* Brother Voodoo *cough*). Plus with Supergiant and Black Swan round the corner, there’s never been a better time to get back in black (order) #sorrynotsorry
Marvel Crisis Protocol: Hulk / Medusa & Black Bolt
(RRP: Hulk £34.99, Medusa & Black Bolt £39.99)
One of the earliest releases for MCP, Hulk always felt a bit underwhelming, so it’s great to see him rejigged, revised and ready to smash. His terrible defenses – designed to power him up originally – have been buffed to 4/3, along with Immunity to Stun, all of which makes much more sense; he has a proper, Hulking attack with a Str 7 power generating Strike; and best of all HULK NOT PUNY BANNER gives him a full defense reroll for 3 power. Finally, we have a Hulk worth playing and paying for.
Now on the other hand, you might be wondering why I’m also going to fly the flag for Medusa, given that her Braid Bash has been nerfed to limit the ridiculous amount of board control she had for 4 Threat, but hear me out. It’s really easy to overlook the Inhumans as a faction – and granted Black Bolt is a bit on the lacklustre side for 5 Threat – but you so rarely see them played that I think it’s time to give them a second crack of the (hair) whip. The ability to share power across the whole Team is frankly bananas, and when coupled with their tactics cards can cause nasty upsets. Yes, their roster is on the skinny side just now, but hey – that means that they are regularly discounted at your FLGS or online retailer of choice. Throw in Ronan for a serious wallop, or don’t overlook newly-revised Winter Soldier – with 5 dice suddenly that Range 5 attack is a whole lot more appealing. And if you’re still not convinced to spring for the Inhumans – hey, you can win them right here! More on that shortly.
Marvel Crisis Protocol: NYC Commercial Truck
And what better to throw your weight around with that the NYC Commercial Truck set? This came in for a bit of stick when it first released, as you only get one truck bed with two trailers (OSCORP tanker and bin lorry, I mean garbage truck) but given that the tanker is freestanding you actually get more terrain than at first may appear. I would always lean towards making the garbage truck, at which point you have a couple of very big, chunky bits of scatter to lob around the place.
Monster Scenery: Rock Hills
Now I don’t know about you but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to tackle the hellish backlog that is my hobby shelf of shame. So sometimes, you wonder whether to bite the bullet and buy something pre-built and pre-painted. This is where I find myself when it comes to terrain, or at least scenic terrain. And boy, do these modular hills from Monster Scenery deliver. You can comfortably fit at least a 40mm base on each stepped level, and even a 60mm feels secure enough without risk of toppling (well, granted I’ve not tried it with an oldhammer dread, but still).
The pieces sit apart well or slot together neatly for a larger hill, looking natural in any given arrangement. If you need to quickly throw a bit of variety to the levels of your table surface they’re an ideal solution, durable enough in their hard plastic to withstand many hours of play and well enough painted that they look grand gracing any board be it a sci-fi wasteland or medieval whimsy.
To get you playing like a boss, we have lethal lovers and Inhuman royalty up for grabs, with Marvel Crisis Protocol’s Corvus Glaive/Proxima Midnight and Black Bolt/Medusa for you to win this week, thanks to the excellent folk at Asmodee UK.
So, which expansion most tickles you this month? Let us know in the comments!
UK only unless you’re willing to fork out the postage, alas.
And finally, the winner of our Firefight Competition, thanks to Mantic Games, is… James Tandy!
Congratulations! Remember to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org within 30 days to claim your prize!