24 September 2010

Arkham Horror - King In Yellow [boardgame review]

Delving deeper into the madness and horror inducing boardgame Arkham Horror I'm going to start out with a rather small expansion - one of those card based expansions in the Arkham Horror series. There are 4 card based expansions and 3 board based expansions to date. So there is a lot to pick from as each has its own theme, main story and villain and references to weird horror stories.
As each expansion adds another layer of difficulty into the game, and you still have the basic premise of the original Arkham Horror going on as well as adding a new story which will run simultaneously in the expansion - picking a card based expansion might be a good way to get yourself familiar with the new features while not becoming absolutely overwhelmed by instantly adding another board to your game.

King In Yellow is a card based expansions – based around additional cards. Each card based expansion will increase your Common and Unique Item deck, the Spell deck as well as adding more location/district cards – these are generic and you might shuffle these cards into your Arkham Horror box right away. There are also a lot of new cards and features which are unique for the King In Yellow Expansion. These are the cards which add extra flavor, story and difficulty to your game and should be held separated in your expansion box.

Fantasy Flight Games don’t recommend playing more than 1 card based and 1 board based expansion at one time as it might get overwhelmingly to impossibly difficult to beat the  game. You will also have so many new features that they will be extremely hard to keep track off. I myself and my usual gaming group tend to play 1 expansion at a time.

So what does King in Yellow add? Starting off with the story, King in Yellow was actually not written by H.P. Lovecraft but by Robert W. Chambers and published in 1895.The  collection of short stories featured 4 that had a macabre theme the rest are different in tone. In any case, those stories are centered around stage performances, theater plays  and actors . H.P. Lovecraft did read this collection of stories and thought it suited his own “mythos” so he wrote references to the “King in Yellow” in a couple of his own stories. Hence the relevance of actually having King in Yellow in a Lovecraftian boardgame series.

The story of King in Yellow is that you have a weird theater troupe arriving in Arkham and setting up the play called “King in Yellow”. While this play is prepared and performed strange things happen in Arkham. People are going insane,  strange signs appear as graffiti on wall and riots break out. The investigators not only have to battle the first hand threat of all the gates to other dimensions opening signaling the approach of an Elder God – they also have to battle the side effects in Arkham created by the weird performance of King in Yellow. 

This is where the unique content of the King in Yellow expansion comes into play. Aside from the generic cards you also get, “Blight Cards”, “Blight Markers”, “The Herald Sheet”, “Act Cards” and “Riot tokens”.
The expansion can be played in three ways as written in the rules. “Touring performance” , “Permanent Performance” and “Herald variant”. I would advise against the “Permanent Performance”  since you incorporate all the new cards into the Arkham Horror basic game, thus watering down the impact of the expansion severely.

The touring performance aims to use only the new Mythos and Other Dimension cards thus keeping the King in Yellow theme strong throughout the game. The Herald variant uses the King in Yellow herald sheet- adding additional features. I tend to mix the Touring Performance with The Herald variant to create a strong theme and have found it working well.

Let’s start looking at the new cards.  The new mythos cards (and all new cards that came with the King in Yellow expansion) have a little “Yellow sign” mark to make it easier to sort them out from your basic Arkham Horror deck at the end of a game. The mythos cards that come with King In Yellow have much harder conditions and events printed on them, you get cards that instantly add 2 symbols to the “doom track” on your Elder God sheet – increasing the speed in which this nasty creature will awaken and appear. And you have cards that add to the “terror track” increasing the speed in which locations such as the General Store will close down and allied characters from the “allies” deck will be discarded and lost. Pretty much all of the new Mythos cards have a strong thematic feel to them that create this game experience where you can feel the difference between the original and the expansion.











Then we have the Act Cards – King in Yellow is a 3 act play – and you may draw Mythos cards that tell you that “the next act begins”. If this should happen, you flip the next Act Card and read the effects. The game may end as you flip the 3rd act and the entire town going insane – even though the Elder God has not appeared yet!

The riot markers are a new "monster token" that is unique to King in Yellow and only ever used with this expansion. Certain circumstances may spawn these riot tokens - and they always appear in the same places as printed on the tokens themselves. They are very difficult to beat and crippling to your cause if left alone. You simply have to beat them. This might be a good time to explain how the monster tokens work as I left that out in the original Arkham Horror review.

As you see on these riot tokens, there are a lot of information printed on the. The facing side has -2 , a half moon symbol, and a circle printed on it. What this means is that you get -2 penalty to sneak checks, the monster token move accordingly to the black/white direction that appear on Mythos cards if the half moon symbol is in either black/white field – and if you close a gate with a symbol marker then all monster with the circle symbol will disappear along with the gate!

The combat stats are printed on the back. The information here says “Overwhelming” which means that you always take 1 damage at the end of combat even if you beat the monster. The blue line is sometimes a number as well. This is the “Horror check”, if there is a number printed you have to roll against that number , if you fail to pass a horror check you will lose Sanity and may end up in the asylum. The blood drops represent the amount of wounds this particular monster has, and the final symbol showing hearts depict how much damage will be inflicted upon you if you lose a turn of combat against this monster.

More new features in the box are the “Blight Cards”, which depict notable citizens of Arkham, such as the General Store owner, the Dean of the Miskatonic University etc driven insane. Sometimes you will be required to draw a “Blight card” and then one of these characters will be in play for the remainder of the game, making it harder for you and your fellow investigators to accomplish certain things such as casting spells, keeping your blessings and such.

The “Yellow sign tokens” work along with the King in Yellow “Herald” sheet. The Herald is sort of a “mini boss” – and exist in all the other expansions as well. They increase the difficulty of the game by bringing their own additional conditions. In this case the conditions thrive on the terror spreading in Arkham. Every time the terror level increases you are required to distribute a number of Yellow sign tokens. This will result in speeding up the appearance of the Elder God or require you to draw one of those penalty inducing “Blight Cards”.










Overall this is a very nice little expansion, and as I said in the beginning – a good way to get familiar with the Arkham Horror expansions. The learning curve of adding a Herald, new cards etc will bring you up to speed once you buy a board based expansion that add another board as well as many of the features represented in King in Yellow (although completely different in content). A card based expansion such as this does not take up much additional space on your table or in your Arkham Horror box either.  The 3 different play styles (or the bastard version me and my gang play) add different kinds of variation and difficulty settings to this expansion as well. You can experiment and try out which setting works best for you.


















3 comments:

  1. Just as with the original Arkham Horror you can get this expansion over at GameManiacs http://www.gamemaniacs.se/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Verkar riktigt intressant faktiskt, tar det lång tid att lära sig?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nice overview. It makes me want to break out the game and play.

    ReplyDelete

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