Death To Sprues: Strange Remnants (Eldritch Horror Expansion)
Eldritch Horror: Strange Remnants expansion
Fantasy Flight Games
Requires Eldritch Horror (base game) to play
The End is nigh! Cosmic events are foretelling an ancient evil will consume the world, and only you, and (hopefully) a handful of others can avert this catastrophe.
This grim backdrop is the premise of Fantasy Flight Games’ board game Eldritch Horror. For those unfamiliar, Eldritch Horror (EH), takes place in the world created by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Fantasy Flight has several products in the Lovecraft universe, including their previous behemoth of a board game Arkham Horror. Whether you’re familiar with Arkham Horror or not, suffice it to say that EH is a slightly more streamlined game that takes out some of the character management and upkeep around the board. EH is slightly faster paced than Arkham, although the themes and mechanics are relatively the same.
You and up to 7 other players take on the roles of investigators. You work co-operatively to stop the awakening of an Ancient One, a malevolent entity that will bring about destruction and chaos if it makes its way into our plane of existence. Investigators move about the board representing the globe and solve mysteries, or battle the precursor monsters that the Ancient One is spawning in the world as the barriers between dimensions weaken.
Each character has a brief backstory and a unique skillset that defines their role in the party. Some characters are well suited for direct combat with the minions of the Ancient One, while others are best at travelling around the world map collecting clues for the party’s investigation. Much like FFG’s game Descent, the roster of playable characters is quite diverse in both background and skills.
Like many FFG products, there are semi-regular releases of expansions for Eldritch Horror. The most recent is titled Strange Remnants. This is a small box expansion for the base game, adds a few interesting elements to the core experience, and even supports its own scenario.
The theme of Strange Remnants revolves around various ancient landmarks scattered around the world. Monuments like the Easter Island Maori heads, Stonehenge, and the Pyramids in fact contain clues or ideas left behind by these ancient civilizations on how to avert the coming disaster. Investigators must follow the trail of old markings and places of power to save the world. It’s a cool theme that meshes seamlessly with the map on EH. Existing map locations are used and some of the generic ones become more important as they now contain landmarks of these ancient cities and scholars. Remnants expands the ideas that were already in the game and doesn’t feel forced or out of place.
At at glance, Remnants adds a slew of cards to just about every deck in the base game. Fans of EH will be happy to see more items, more Mythos cards representing the evil pressing on the world and the terrible outcomes that arise, and more encounter cards. While these cards are shuffled into the existing decks, you will likely recognize a Remnants card when it surfaces. This expansion runs rich with its theme, usually involving old texts and cities in the flavor text. There is also a deck of Unique Assets, a new type of item. Many of the expansion mechanics will have you collecting these items to aid you, and they felt much more interactive than the base game items. Game events would have players flipping these items over for additional events, rolling checks to make them work or evolve, or even dreading what they might actually become if the Mythos cards didn’t play out well. I found the items Remnants adds made a player’s inventory a little more interactive with the rest of the game, without being overly complicated.
Strange Remnants also adds its own deck of Prelude cards. These cards alter the beginning state of the game as you’re setting up to play. I won’t spoil any of the scenario specifics, but there’s a particularly nasty one that starts the game with the Dunwich Horror on the board, rampaging about the poor city of Arkham. One of these Prelude cards is tied to an additional set of cards the expansion provides. This supports an entirely new set of side-quests and adventures that the party can undertake. Much like existing mechanics in the game, the locations of these quests move about the world and often help the investigators in their main goal or reap some global benefit. The theme is again strong with this deck, and the adventures did not seem like a wasted effort for the rewards they granted.
Mechanically, Remnants stays fairly conservative with its additions. Investigators can now take a Focus action on their turn to gain a Focus token. These tokens function identically to Clue tokens in that they allow die rerolls, and are sometimes called upon for use in the new cards as currency. I found the Focus tokens useful as alternatives to Clues in that you could burn them for rerolls without sacrificing progress to solving the ever-important Mystery objectives. There are also a few Monster tokens added into the game featuring the Physical Resistance trait, but overall the additions of new rules are small. Remnants seemed to focus on adding more of what was already in EH, rather than adding more rules and processes to go through.
The crowning jewels of Strange Remnants are the additions of both a new Ancient One and four new Investigators. The Investigators are a good mix of brawlers and objective takers and will easily mesh with the existing choices from the base game. They also add some alternates for particularly powerful Investigators so parties can share good abilities, or alter strategies from their go-to formulae. The Ancient One is called Syzygy, and is actually more like the universe itself is working against the party. Syzygy is an actual astronomical event, so the idea of time becomes very important in a game with Syzygy as the Ancient One. As time passes, the dark forces on the map become more powerful, and Investigators are really pressed to make every round count.
Final thoughts on Strange Remnants
Strange Remnants is a fantastic expansion to Eldritch Horror. I’d go so far to say it should be your candidate for a first purchase after the base game. Strange Remnants is extremely balanced and conservative in its approach to adding more to EH without being overly complicated. You will not have to accommodate many new rules or mechanics at all, so new players will not be overwhelmed if they drop into a Remnants game as their first. Veterans of EH will enjoy the Prelude cards that can ramp up difficulty from the outset, and the addition of extra Investigators and Syzygy as the Ancient One can bring more variety to the table. Remnants stays pretty tight with its theme in the cards, I was impressed at how much of the game was new with it in play, and how many of the expansion cards triggered or encouraged other expansion-based mechanics. If you dive head first into Remnants and play with a party of the new Investigators, using Syzygy as the Ancient One, and play the related Prelude card, you will be playing a lot of new encounters and expansion material quickly. The fact that Strange Remnants adds new content to just about every facet of Eldritch Horror, while still being a relatively small investment beyond the base game, puts it at the top of my list for expanding EH when you’re ready.