02 January 2018

Mansions of Madness 2nd ed: Streets of Arkham expansion reviewed

Mansions of Madness 2nd edition is currently our favorite Lovecraftian themed boardgame from Fantasy Flight Games. It's also one of our favorite boardgames in our boardgame collection, Caroline rates it very highly - I also find it to be the best representation of both Lovecraft stories and the blend of action and investigation that boardgames can offer.

The core scenarios of MoM:2nd Ed. are solid, you can also get additional scenarios unlocked if you own the first edition core set. Fantasy Flight has since then released several standalone digital expansions that offer new scenarios for the game which have provided some solid content (apart from one digital add-on which we found to be just average).

The first small (more like medium) box expansion, "Beyond the Threshold" offered some pretty interesting new scenarios and also two new investigators and a few new monster types. 

Fantasy Flight Games has now released the first "Big box" expansion - "Streets of Arkham". It promises the addition of new outdoor locations and familiar sites such as Welmas diner, the curiosity shop and more street and outdoor locations. It comes at a hefty price, making it almost as expensive as the core game. 

The main attraction of these expansions are imo the scenarios, followed closely by new tiles. Of course additions to the various decks of cards and new monsters are a nice bonus. However let's focus on the scenarios and new tiles.

The latest expansion while expensive felt a little light on content when we opened it. I thought we would get more stuff for the price paid and we were slightly bummed out. The new tiles are very nice though, featuring a cool museum interior and several classic Arkham locations on double sided tiles.

Switching focus to the scenarios of Streets of Arkham the box includes 3 scenarios, compared to Beyond the Threshold which featured 2. This too felt a bit light compared to the core game having 4 scenarios. The number of scenarios do of course not reflect the quality of said scenarios, I found the core scenarios of MoM 2nd ed to be really good with many memorable moments - especially the escape from Innsmouth inspired scenario and Rising Tide where you have to perform an investigation spanning over several days with different setups of the board as each day goes by.
In Streets of Arkham you are given one short, one medium and one long scenario. To describe them in short:

One first taking place at the Miskatonic university with a lab experiment gone wrong. This one is quite OK, certainly above average. We found it fairly easy and straight forward, maybe we were a bit lucky. The scenario is about a lab experiment that you have to help stabilize by finding clues and items in the Miskatonic campus. The university setting/map was very small though and felt like a missed opportunity.

The second scenario taking place in a Museum which includes a very investigation heavy mystery, hands down the best scenario in the expansion. It requires you to keep track of details using pen and paper beside having the app tracking major details. This one was difficult and we have yet to beat it. One of the new museum exhibits is cursed and you need to find out which one it is so it can be disposed before more people are killed by its curse.

The third and final scenario in this expansion finally takes you into the streets of Arkham. This 3-4 hour long scenario uses most of the new tiles, and features a gangwar/murder mystery at the same time. The map is very big box and features two separate setups as one day ends and the next begins. The story however was not that interesting, sure it featured a murder mystery, but gangwar is hardly the heart of Lovecraftian storytelling. It did feature investigation and interaction with characters but it was simply not very interesting and ultimately felt like a weaker version of a previous scenario in another expansion that ends with a very strong boss fight. We managed to win this one by the slimmest of margins with one investigator getting killed and one going crazy. The theme and the scenario itself left us quite unimpressed.

Looking at the most expensive Mansions of Madness 2nd edition expansion to date, and comparing it to both Beyond the Threshold and the other scenarios that are downloadable by micro transactions through the Mansions of Madness app I must admit that I find it average at best.

It features one great scenario, one "OK" scenario and one scenario that I probably won't play again. We've had better times with many of the downloadable scenarios. It is also strange how uninspired the new scenarios are in terms of creating interesting maps and locations. Only the museum themed scenario managed to capture a bit of mystery and horror, while the Miskatonic university felt very shallow compared to  what it could have been and the final scenario where you roam the streets of Arkham felt underwhelming.

The tiles could have been used a bit better to create memorable and more intense scenarios, Escape from Innsmouth scenario from the base game comes to mind. What I hope is that there will be future downloadable scenarios that will make better use of the new tiles to give us a bit more theme heavy content. The track record of the digital DLC expansions is strong with lots of good ones, so there is hope that the content of this box will still come to good use beyond what's offered at the release.

There are also a couple new monsters and investigators in this box. I find the miniatures for the monsters to be quite so-so, and we tend to only use the cardboard pieces for the monsters. The quality of the sculpts and castings for the investigators however has much improved and they are really good in this release. Might even be worth painting up. Finally the most prominent addition in terms of new rules/mechanics is the deck of "Elixir" cards which are used to boost stats on your investigators. These are heavily featured in the Miskatonic University themed scenario but can also be found as random loot in the other two scenarios. I like the idea, it feels like the improvement tokens in Eldritch Horror that allowed you to train investigators to boost their skills a limited number of times.

Overall, Streets of Arkham is an "OK" expansion. I would not say that it is a necessary purchase (at least at this point) and you can do very well just having the core game, Beyond the Threshold and the digital DLC scenarios in your collection.

Mansions of Madness 2nd edition: Streets of Arkham 7/10

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