Fantasy Flight releases the rulebook for the upcoming expansion to one of its best games… and we give you the skinny on why you should be excited.
Elder Sign, set in the cheery world of H.P. Lovecraft, puts you in the trench coats of adventurers determined to stop an evil Ancient One from entering our world (and likely devouring it). You do this by collecting Elder Signs. Collect enough, and you seal the gate, locking Cthlthu or similar elder god from our world. Fail, and, well… don’t fail. The alternative is pretty nasty.
Gates of Arkham is an upcoming expansion, expected in February, that looks meatier than 2013’s Unseen Forces. Before getting into the core of the expansion, here’s a full list of what’s included:
- 78 Arkham Adventure Cards
- 8 Other World Cards
- 4 Ancient One Cards
- 8 Investigator Cards and Markers
- 8 Membership Cards (Double-sided)
- 30 Mythos Cards
- 5 Common Item Cards
- 5 Unique Item Cards
- 5 Ally Cards
- 5 Spell Cards
- 12 Skill Cards
- 25 Event Cards
- 1 “Streets of Arkham” Entrance Card
- 6 Gate Markers with Plastic Stands
- 2 Doom Tokens
- 3 Sanity Tokens
- 3 Stamina Tokens
- 9 Monster Markers
- 6 Seal Markers
If you aren’t familiar with Elder Sign, this is a significant haul of new things. The Adventure and Other World cards are quests you undertake, so this is a substantial number of new encounters. When you start any game of Elder Sign, you choose an Ancient One. Four new cards means four new enemies, with new powers to concern yourself with as you fight to seal them away.
Event cards are brand new to Elder Sign as are the Gate Markers, membership cards, Skill cards, and Seal markers. The Streets of Arkham Entrance Card represents your home base during the game, and this new card means that your normal entrance (and available actions on that card) are changing. All awesome stuff.
Brave New World
Here’s a really important point to understand about this expansion. You are in a different place. This means that instead of integrating Gates of Arkham with the base set, you’ll only be using the expansion’s Adventure cards and Mythos cards (bad things that impact everyone for that round).
This really is going to feel quite different. Check out this important change to the set-up. In Elder Sign, you deal out six adventure cards face up. This enables everyone to choose what tasks they feel they are best to take on. In Gates of Arkham, three Adventure Cards are dealt face up, and three face down.
Those facedown cards are not revealed until a player moves to that card. However, there is info on the backs of each card that reveal some details and impact gameplay. Card backs are marked by difficulty – easy, normal, or hard – and have effects that occur when a player moves to the spot. Akrham Adventure Cards can also have “at midnight” effects, which occur whenever the Doom clock strikes midnight, as long as the card back is revealed.
Well, the expansion is called “Gates of Arkham” so it should come as no surprise that mystical gates play a role. Gates might sound cool, like, “Hey let’s hop through this portal and good things will happen.” Not so in Elder Sign. Gates are bad. They are rips between our world and a far worse one and they restrict movement to some Adventure Cards. Leave too many gates open, and you’ll hurry the Ancient One’s arrival.
Certain game effects (likely from Mythos cards and Adventure Card reveals) call for a gate to be opened. When this happens, an Other World card is drawn and placed face down. Put gates of matching colors on the Adventure Card and the Other World card. This is not some sort of special travel ability. It’s a limiter. You can’t go to an Adventure Card with an open gate.
To resolve this, you need to complete the Other World card that has the same gate. This closes the gates and allows you to place a Seal Marker on the Adventure Card, preventing further gates from being opened there.
Other World cards are, in all honestly, largely ignored when my friends and I play Elder Sign. I’m guessing Fantasy Flight is aware they’re under used. With these new gates, that won’t be the case. Other Worlds are often much tougher and dangerous tasks to complete. So this should up the challenge of Elder Sign a good bit.
It should be noted that some (maybe all) of the new Ancient Ones have gate symbols added to their Doom Track. As you assign Doom tokens (denoting the Ancient One’s ascension into our world), if you place one on a Gate symbol, you must add another gate into the world.
Some Adventure Cards have an Event symbol. Events are meant to showcase the unpredictable. If your character is on an Adventure Card at the start of your turn, you draw an Event Card. No other info about Event Cards are presented in the manual, suggesting they are as simple and straightforward (and maybe as challenging) as Mythos Cards.
Membership has Its Privileges
Two organizations join Elder Sign in this expansion, offering membership (and benefits) to players: The Order of the Silver Twilight and the Sheldon Gang. There may be other paths to membership, but the manual focuses on two likely options: visiting the Hibb’s Roadhouse or Silver Twilight Lodge locations.
Here’s why you want to be a member. Some Adventure Card tasks have the emblem of one of these two organizations. If you are a member, when you go to that card, that one task is considered automatically completed. The member can also ignore any monsters on the card (and if you complete the other tasks, the monster is whisked back to the draw cup).
Some Adventure Cards also have special rewards only for members. That means, you could gain extra Allies, Spells, etc.
Here’s why you may not love being a member. Though there are no specifics, there’s a warning that being a member can also make you a target. It’s likely there are Mythos and Event cards (and even Adventure Card effects) that target members of the two organizations.
The Ancient Ones
There are four new Ancient Ones that come with Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham. Well, okay, there are actually three. Yog-Sothoth returns, though possibly tougher (and more gross) than ever. No details on the Ancient Ones’s special abilities or Doom Tracks are included in the manual. Here’s comes with the expansion:
- Yibb-Tstll (Easy)
- Ghatanothoa (Average)
- Atlach-Nacha (Hard)
- Yog-Sothoth (Insane)
Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham will be available soon.