Eldritch Horror: Masks of Nyarlathotep Review - Fantasy Fatigue Games

Is it possible to have Eldritch Horror fatigue? Certainly feels like it with the rate that expansions are coming out for it - it's getting ridiculous. Remember when Fantasy Flight once claimed that this would be a more streamlined version of Arkham Horror with considerably less bloat. Ha ha ha, good one Fantasy Flight, we almost believed you for a second. Well give them credit, they did streamline Arkham Horror, though perhaps not to the point of being an accessible game for all, but man did they jump on the expansion band wagon and bloat this thing up!

I've lost track now of how many there are and I've got every single one - so many that all my Arkham Horror / Eldritch Horror collection is contained within an Arkham Vault wooden box. It's arranged for quick assembly, but man it's like looking at the Ark of the Covenant - so much in there and it weighs a metric ton. So I guess I'm adding another expansion to the vault and it's a big box at that yet there's no board with this one. . . so why the big box?




Designer: Nikki Valens
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Age: 14+
Players: 1-8
Time: 120-180 minutes
RRP: £49.99


DEFINITELY SOME SHADY HORROR PLAY HERE

Have you ever had one of those presents at Xmas that's full of packaging just to make it look bigger than it actually is? Or a pass the parcel game where it starts off like a beachball and by the time it gets back round to you it's like ping pong sized? That's the same feeling this box gives you when you open it. It's the size of a big box expansion, but there's zero reason it needed to be. There's no extra board, the rulesheet is foldable and all the cards fit within the "Star Wars" trench with room to spare. I guarantee you, the only reason this box is the size it is, is because of the punchout sheet for the tokens.

Now I'm no expert on logistics and printing, but SURELY it's not that hard to simply have multiple smaller sheets rather than one big one. The cost difference cannot be that much can it? It's not like the cost of this expansion (and it's not a cheap one) is solely sucked up by the cool artwork? A lot of the tokens are actually just duplicates of base game components anyway right down to another epic Cthlulhu monster. . . . err hello we already have one, since when are there ever 2 in one sitting? Split the sheet in half, remove the duplicates and you have a small box expansion for half the price. It's so mind boggling that I would almost call it deliberately deceptive play. Look at the back of the box and notice that this is the first big box expansion where they don't show all the components in play. . . . coincidence?

Obviously everything is nice looking and you've got great artwork as usual, but you know a lot of is probably recycled from other Lovecraftian games anyway. As value for money goes, this is an epic fail on an extradimensional level and one which is going to bring up concern in the future on new releases.



SUICIDAL INVESTIGATORS


Well hopefully the content that is there can make up for the poor value. Yes and no on that front. Let's start with what I like. . . . or at least aren't angered by. It's always nice to get new Ancient Ones and Investigators to use, even though on the latter we've bloated enough. But Ancient Ones give new variations in play and the two featured here both work nicely with their unique styles. But the added bonus with these is that niether one requires an extension board. In previous big box expansions you usually required the additional board with one of the Ancient Ones (you can’t play Rise of the Elder Things without the Antarctica board and you can’t play Hypnos without the Dreamlands board). Now you get two that don't, which means easier setup and rules teaching.

Resources are fine, though to be honest we don't need more actions to do in a turn now. But they do help make resting a bit more worthwhile and can help low influence players acquire the items they need so I'll use them.

Personal Stories are a mixed bag. I like the idea of them, it's nice to have some extra flavour for your character and even though it's bloat, it's a very easy addition to a game - simply deal it out to each player and let them read it. But here's the catch. If you complete them successfully, the benefit is really nice and welcome, but not powerful to the point of game breaking. However the penalty you suffer for failing them is so punishing that it's actually better to simply commit suicide and start a new character, they really are that bad. And this is a problem during the game when players will naturally decide to do this as it hurts the theme so chances are I'll need to house rule that they simply go out of play on failure so you get no benefit.



CAMPAIGN MODE.........WHAT A WASTE


Here's the big kicker though and it's right in the teeth. Remember that big campaign mode that was marketed to us? Everyone was looking forward to see how that would work in practice and it was a big selling point of this expansion. So you want to know what it is. . . . it's a house rule. I'm not joking here, the rules for campaign mode fit on one page and it is simply playing 6 games in a row using different prelude cards and Ancient Ones. . . . THAT IS LITERALLY IT!!

You get the usual changes like investigators staying dead and dark pacts carrying over from game to game but you could figure that out yourself - this is actually something that any player out there could have thought up in his sleep and yet this was worth making a big deal of in a retail release. To be quite honest, how many people will really have the time to play 6 games of Eldritch Horror in a row within a short period? And how is it going to feel if something goes wrong out of your control in Game 5 and you need to restart? I don't think "lazy" quite covers the design that went into this feature that is never going to get used again.

The only good thing that comes out of it is the Prelude cards themselves. There's a lot of them in the box meaning you've got a ton of ways to vary each game on top of what you already had and they are tied to specific Ancient Ones from the past expansions. Not only that, but they're also referencing popular Lovecraft stories from the lore. These are nice to have and use, but certainly outside of a campaign setting.





VERDICT ON ELDRITCH HORROR: MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP



I fear that fatigue has finally set in stone. I'd be hard pressed to think what more they can possibly add at this stage - we have more monsters, investigators, Ancient Ones and cards then is feasibly possible to play with and plenty of new mechanics and boards on top. Expansions are good and all, but when considering the new content here, this is the most disappointing of the lot. And a lot of that is down to the Campaign mode which they made a big deal about in marketing - but it literally boils down to "play 6 games in a row" - have fun. Fail.

The main new element of note is the Personal Stories, which thematically are cool, however it's a double edged sword. I like using them and the bonuses are great, but the penalties for failure are so crippling that you might as well let him get devoured by Cthlulhu and generate a new character, forcing a house rule to make them more appealing. Having a ton more Prelude cards linking to great stories of the lore however was nice to have and by now you should always be using one in every game.

More variety is nice, but you should only pick this up if you're a die hard fan or a completionist. I could be more forgiving if it was a small box expansion, but when it's packaged as a big box and priced the same way, I have to come down hard on this one. Top tip if you're looking at expansions, buy all the small ones first, then the other big boxes one at a time if you want them. I feel we all need to bang together and just say to Fantasy Flight Games - "Eldritch Horror is great as it is, enough is enough, you can stop now". And we can only pray to the Ancient Ones themselves that they will actually listen. . .




PERSONAL BGG RATING - 4




YOU WILL LIKE MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP IF:


You are a die-hard Eldritch Horror fan - I don't recommend this for newcomers at all.


You are a fan of the lore relating to the Ancient Ones featured in this box.


You want the Personal Stories and the wealth of Prelude cards included - they are the best part.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP IF:


You were expecting a lot of bang for your buck - for a big box, there's actually very little content.


You were betting everything on the campaign mode - it's a very lacklustre addition.


You're just starting on Eldritch Horror - buy some of the earlier expansions first or just the small box ones.

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