Lovecraftian epic Eldritch Horror got better, worse, and more confused

Title Lovecraftian epic Eldritch Horror got better, worse, and more confused
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Features
When July 14, 2016

Last year, I predicted that Fantasy Flight would choke their elegant Lovecraftian adventure boardgame, Eldritch Horror, with the usual glut of add-ons. This was like predicting the sun would rise in the East..

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The small box expansions have been great. I very much appreciate FFG adding new cards for the base game in the expansions. I felt Arkham fell apart with the extra boards. They have tried to avoid some of the pitfalls, but I played the Antarctica board once and decided I was not going to buy that expansion. I do own Under the Pyramids; the Egypt board is much better, easier to get to and move around in, which removes a lot of the hassle.

Did not know about the errata for number of players. We rarely play with five, but whenever we do it is brutal. Will see if the new settings make it feel more balanced.

I agree with most all of these points, Tom - and EH remains our group's favorite co-op, up there with the pulp-themed Fortune and Glory. The point you made about the Wilderness areas is excellent; it also feels like Expeditions have been completely marginalized by the flood of new stuff, unless you draw the Mystic Ruins prelude from (I think) Strange Remnants. Which is a shame, because those multi-path encounters are some of the most fun ones in the game.

Great overview, Tom! It seems like you're fairly content with throwing everything together at this point (not, as you point out, that you could easily separate it...). I'm curious, though, if you might recommend a subset of the expansions as a solid "middle way."

To be perfectly honest, I don't have a clear picture in my head of which expansions add which bits. I played a fair bit when it was just the base game with Mountains of Madness and Forsaken Lore. But that was well over a year ago. Since then, my experience with the game has been my recent piling of everything into the mix. I'm not sure I can easily untangle them enough to just recommend one or two.

That said, I don't think you can go too wrong just grabbing one of the smaller box add-ons (Forsaken Lore, Strange Remnants, and Signs of Carcosa). Signs of Carcosa does this weird thing where it makes the Other World Encounters deck super heavy with Carcosa cards. Not that the specific locations make a difference, but I thought it was weird that you're way more likely to go to Carcosa when you go through a gate.

In a way, I wish gate closing or Other Worlds was something Fantasy Flight fleshed out instead of just glomming on more of the same stuff. I don't think I'd mind an Other Worlds side board as much. It feels like it would earn its place more than cramming extra Egypt or Antarctica onto the side of the world.

I've actually pulled the wilderness gates and city expeditions out of the mix. This is causing a few gameplay issues, but I prefer those issues to the way wilderness has been paved over.

Not to defend the Antarctica board, but it's intentionally difficult to traverse! The whole point is getting through the desolation to the Plateau of Leng or that other far space (City of the Elder Things?). A hassle, as you say, but a thematic hassle. :)

As for the overhauled gameplay values, the change to five player games is that it cuts the number of monster spawns in half. I suspect the idea is to address how odd numbers of players have the same requirements for mysteries and rumors as the next number up with even players, which is something you'd think they would know to balance when they made the game. So amateur hour...

That was more or less how they were handled in Arkham. (It was the side of the main board/expansion boards instead of a sideboard unto itself, but close enough.) I think this way is actually more elegant because the other world in question is determined by the card you draw, whereas in Arkham you'd go to an other world and then...draw cards until you got one that actually corresponded to the colors used for that other world. And the more they added on to the game, the more often that color-appropriate card would still not match that world and force you to use the generic encounter. To say nothing of the single-other-world cards they added.

I mean, maybe don't make all the Other World Encounters Carcosa in the Carcosa expansion, or even handle it as a sideboard all to itself (it's a bit different conceptually than places like Celaeno anyway. More...pervasive.). But I think the basic idea is sound and one of the better changes in Eldritch.

"day organzing everything" - organizing
"Deisgn by oops" - Design
"modus operendi is" - operandi (also maybe italicize because hey, Latin)
"oddly redundent." - redundant
"Shub-Niggurath" - The Black Goat of the Woods
"you dicard a" - discard
"which only come" - this would be grammatically correct in a different context but here I think you want a "will" between "which" and "only"
" due that dark" - than
"why they’re called" - in context I think you want "why are they called"
"Strange Remenants" - Remnants
"an Ancient Swords" - Sword

The variety is the main thing I look for out of these expansions. I would consider Forsaken Lore practically mandatory because of the extra Research Encounters, Mysteries and so on it adds to the base game's Ancient Ones. (The other small box expansions add a bunch of entirely new variety but they don't fix the lack of variety inherent to facing those base Ancient Ones.) Mountains of Madness or Strange Remnants are handy for bringing in the Focus mechanic, which I think is a really strong addition that helps with the base game's biggest issue in my book - namely, the dice mechanics that were designed for Arkham Horror and then slopped into Eldritch without adjustment for the ways EH is stingier with dice and rerolls. It by no means fixes that issue, but it's a start and they play with it in some other interesting ways as well. Plus it reduces the frequency of dead actions. But all of them amp variety nicely even if you don't use the more questionable additions like the sideboards.

As I posted separately, get Forsaken Lore for sure. It's basically the rest of what should be in the base box, plus Yig and a few other bits and pieces. No new mechanics or anything that might clutter the game up for you.

Mountains of Madness and Strange Remnants both add Focus, which is a mechanic that's helpful to reduce dead actions and mitigate dice fuckery to a degree, plus is used in some other interesting ways.

Beyond that it's basically just more stuff.

I am disappointed that Tom did not once evaluate the expansions' historical accuracy.

I guess they finally addressed the fact that the game was significantly harder for odd numbered player teams.

I always thought the problem was scaling poorly with player count period. Large numbers of players were way easier than lower counts. Clue costs and spawns each go up proportionally so those cancel out, but an 8 player game only spawns double the gates of a 2 player game. Plus other stuff doesn't scale at all that really screws over low count games (Shub Niggarth's reckoning effect, the 2 clue cost for Agreement conditions, etc).

Forsaken Lore is probably the best, and I would rate Pyramids above Antartica. Strange Remnants seemed utterly pointless. The Mystic Ruins encounters were completely redundant from expeditions.

Most of the preludes are decent, but nuts to that one that starts the game with a super charged Dunwich Horror in play, to almost no benefit to the players! That thing can sink a game before it even begins.

And a giant "fuck you" to the new "find an artifact and do these other things" mystery cards, especially Yig's Serpent Crown mystery. Those things are flat out 2-3 times harder than the other mysteries.

Amen. My group's Eldritch Horror box has a special baggie labeled "BAD" for the cards that aren't allowed to enter play.