As Titles Go, It Doesn’t Exactly Strike Fear! – Black Goat of the Woods Review

The second to last small box expansion to the Arkham series is one of a controversial nature. A dangerous cult has risen in Arkham set to speed up the arrival of the Ancient One. Investigators have the chance to infiltrate the cult while performing the main objective of stopping the Ancient one – problem is however, that they risk corruption by doing so. Now it’s been said on a lot of forums that this story isn’t worth the effort and it’s actually a detriment to the group to follow it. Interesting dilemma – let’s find out more!

"Grandma, what big. . . . . err. . . things you have!"

Designer: Richard Launius (2008)
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
# of Players: 1-8
Ages: 12+
Play Time: 180-240 minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 85/7.52
Dice Tower People’s Choice Rank: 11
Category: Expansion to Arkham Horror

More Of The Same

Yes, as you’d expect the expansion comes with yet more cards to add to the common decks of Arkham, but leaving out skills and allies in this instance. Further gate, Mythos and location cards join the fray as well, which can easily be implemented into the base game and in the case of the location cards, they are most welcome. The base game only comes with 7 cards per district for encounters so any boost to these decks is welcome.

The Herald is presented here as well (essentially each expansion stands alone with this mechanic) allowing for players to increase the difficulty of the game as the “second in command” to the Ancient One makes life harder for the investigators with additional rules designed to hinder. The Herald himself (The Black Goat) may have a weird title, but he looks pretty horrific and in the woods, I think he’d give Slenderman a run for his money.

"The Black Goat likes hexagons!"

One of the Thousand Cult

The main aspect of the expansion is to introduce the “One of the Thousand” cult, which is a mysterious and dark group devoted to the Black Goat. Joining the cult enables investigators to draw special encounter cards when visiting the Black Cave, Unvisited Isle and the Woods which are thematically tied to the cult’s activities.

The upside is that it’s a way to gain further items and clue tokens; however the flip side is that you usually end up having to draw Corruption cards which convey a mix of beneficial and negative effects usually at the same time. They are colour coded green and red and you deplete the green deck first (usually nicer effects) before the red.

There is a big flaw with the membership mechanic however. From what I’ve experienced the only way to actually get an opportunity to join the cult is to have an encounter at one of the three locations mentioned above and even then the chance is specific to Black Goat expansion cards so it’s harder than trying to join the Silver Twilight Lodge. That means the cult rarely makes an appearance in games and that’s if you’re only using the Black Goat expansion. If you use further expansions on top, you’re diluting the decks even further. Generally I recommend never using more than one expansion at a time, but some people love the Epic Arkham style.

Also the corruption cards negative effects cause players to wonder why they should even bother joining the cult in the first place. It barely seems worth the effort for the rewards given. Unlike the Lurker expansion, in which the “power” mechanic actually is useful to exploit despite the risks, the Cult barely seems like an intelligent move.

The encounters themselves despite being thematic, are also fairly uninspiring and generic. The Miskatonic expansion does a good job of resolving this issue, but that’s a different story.

"It's nice to have the thematic text on each encounter"

If you are using the Herald, the corruption cards can be brought back into use which makes up for the difficulty in joining the Cult, but even so, the prospect is more for a reason of theme rather than benefit.

Too Easy For You? Try This On For Size!

Two extra features of the expansion help to increase the difficulty beyond the Herald.

Mythos cards now include “red” location symbols which indicate Gate Bursts. If a sealed gate token is on a location where one of these occurs, the symbol is removed and a gate opens as normal. This can potentially neutralise the efforts made to explore and seal a gate. It’s a good mechanic as it ups the tension all through the game as you can’t get complacent once you’ve sealed 4-5 gates – games have gone to pot very quickly as a result of these Gate Bursts.

The Yang to my Yin however is the difficulty cards supplied with the expansion. These are simply 5 cards with various effects that increase or decrease the difficulty of the game. I don’t see the point of making the game easier – that’s counter-productive in enjoying the game. Co-Op games aren’t good because they’re easy to beat and the base game of Arkham can eventually become easy enough by itself as it is. Those that increase the difficulty have more of a use, but using the highest “Ultimate Evil” card is plain suicide. It causes two Mythos cards to be resolved each turn – that’s two gates, two monster movements and two potentially bad effects every turn! My first time attempting this setting on a solo game resulting in a severe case of overwhelming!

"Yeah seriously - WHY include a standard difficulty card?"

That’s not the biggest problem though. These are literally 5 cards of which one just says “Standard” and conveys no effect. So what was the point of including it? These could have simply been made available online and printed off FFG’s website or similar. They’re obviously only a tiny focus of the expansion, but by no means should you fork out the cash based on their inclusion alone.


"The artwork on the cards is top notch . . . . unfortunately that's about the only thing that is"

Four big box expansions and four small box expansions make up all of the additions to Arkham Horror. Black Goat of the Woods is easily my least favourite.  The Cult is a nice theme and sometimes it’s worth playing the game and joining it purely on this reasoning, but it won’t make your life any easier in-game.

The additions to the common decks and the Gate Bursts are probably the best parts of the expansion, but you get common deck cards in every expansion anyway and even the Gate Bursts feature in Miskatonic. The difficulty cards are pointless and the Herald is more of a lifesaver so that the Corruption cards actually get used, but there are far better Heralds in the collection and that’s before you look at fan-made versions.

If you buy this expansion, I recommend only doing so if you have the spare cash and want the complete collection like I did. Otherwise, if you’re on a budget, there are far better choices. Out of the small box expansions, I’ve already reviewed one, and there’s still two more to come.