Unseen Forces descend upon us…
Anyone who peruses forums devoted to favorite game franchises have seen those whiny doomsayers that cry that “The game is DEAD!” just because they haven’t heard news about said game in over a few months. Some gamers are impatient like that. Even a game company as prolific as Fantasy Flight Games, who has DOZENS of expanded properties to produce content for on a regular basis, has the occasional Chicken Little who starts screaming that the “sky is falling” when they aren’t fed news of upcoming expansions every couple of weeks. I don’t really get it, but I know that with that many properties to juggle, even with doing an expansion a week they’d take at least a year to go through their entire catalog.
It’s one thing for a company to continually promise an expansion to an existing game and never deliver on it (I’m looking at YOU, Z-Man Games), but to say that a game is dead just because you don’t have new content at a pace you want is rather arrogant a presumption.
On the other hand, it may be safe to presume that a game is dead if it doesn’t receive a first expansion for almost two years…
Attending GenCon in 2011, I had the pleasure of trying out Elder Sign, Fantasy Flight Games’ newest foray into dice-driven mythos horror. It’s “Arkham Lite” for all of you who don’t have the time for a four-hour dash around the haunted little Massachusetts town. It was an instant-buy for me, as it’s great in a gaming pinch; We’ve never had a game last more than 45 minutes.
I knew this game had expansion potential, but I had a feeling that Fantasy Flight wasn’t going to deliver due to the game being a part of their “Silver Line” collection; a line of smaller titles that historically do NOT receive an expansion treatment. Almost all of them are self-contained games with no needs or plans to grow them.
Then, of course, a little iOS app called Elder Sign: Omens is released. Great… me without an iPhone or iPad. The application in and of itself is pretty well done, but there has been something nagging me about Elder Sign: Omens for the past year or so…
…the app got expansions…
Now, wait a moment. The iPhone app that is a derivative game gets expansions, but the base game gets bupkis?
Oh, no…it gets better. The iPhone app got TWO expansions!
Now, just to pour a little salt in that wound, lemme tell you that those two expansions gave the game a whole different feel. You played through “campaigns,” were you left the museum and went out on expeditions, searching for ancient artifacts and clues to defeat the ancient one. There were maps, great artwork, and storytelling, tasks that felt progressive and meaningful (rather than a string of icons that mean nothing); all adding up to a richer experience than the base game.
The first expansion was a campaign to defeat Yig, and it took you on a trip across the ocean, exploring creepy islands and investigating cults. The second expansion took your team north into the bitter arctic cold to battle Ithaqua.
Take your investigators on a harrowing expedition to the frozen north in The Trail of Ithaqua, a new campaign available via in-app purchase! A sinister force has laid siege to a team of archaeologists in the heart of Alaska. Among these beleaguered souls is your friend and colleague, Dr. Ashley Lott, who has sent a message begging for your help.
Malevolent forces have hounded Ashley and her team ever since they unearthed an ivory effigy, which she managed to have shipped back to you at the museum. Upon receiving the statuette and letter, the museum is attacked by the very forces which had been harassing Dr. Lott in the Alaskan wilderness.
Since the museum is invaded by intruders, there are no Elder Signs to be gathered in the first phase of the game. The focus of this stage of the campaign is instead on procuring supplies in the museum. Supplies are won by completing adventures, or they can be purchased with trophies, so make sure you’ve gathered a sufficient stockpile before setting out on a rescue mission to Alaska!
Once in the frozen north, one unit of supplies is used every time an investigator takes his turn. When the supplies run out, your brave investigators are steadily drained of Stamina at the beginning of each turn as they languish from starvation and exposure in the unforgiving wilderness! Despite these brutal conditions, your team must gather Elder Signs, which represent the journey toward Dr. Lott’s last known location.
Now, THAT sounds AWESOME!
Twenty-five new adventures await the investigators in The Trail of Ithaqua, but the hazards of exploring the wilderness are compounded by the supernatural creatures and forces that hunt your party as you progress. The things lurking the woods are closing in, and players must fend them off while supplies dwindle.
Hulking Yetis stride through the forest, exacting a terrible price of two stamina in defeat and yielding no trophies for the bedraggled party of investigators. The wildlife that inhabits these woods has also been slowly corrupted by the presence of otherworldly forces. Normally harmless packs of wolves prey upon man, and multiply at midnight if any are left undefeated!
Good God, I wish MORE of the Mythos games that Fantasy Flight makes had this kind of in-depth atmosphere!
Yet, as time rolled on, and GenCon 2012 came around, no word of a base game expansion was mentioned, and FFG’s staff refused to comment. Now, when we’ve registered our badges for GenCon 2013, most people have moved on, having accepted the fact that Elder Sign was meant to be an iPhone game, not a board game. After all, two expansions have come out for the iPhone Elder Sign, and we haven’t heard word one about the game it was based off of…
…well, that is until NOW….
When I first saw the announcement page, the first words out of my mouth were, “Damn it, ANOTHER iPhone exp—-waitaminute. That’s a BOX cover…” My initial reaction was to disbelieve the illusion. Then, came the excitement.
Yes, folks, Elder Sign (The base game, not the iOS app) is getting it’s FIRST expansion!
What can we expect from this new expansion? Well, let’s take a look at the layout, shall we?
1) New “Entrance” cards to replace the reference sheet. A new mechanic allows the mythos to close off entrance options, ramping up the difficulty. Oh yeah, the Souvenir Shop no longer sells Elder signs. Good luck!
2) New Ancient Ones: This one’s a given.
3) New Common Items and Unique Items: Hopefully, these will do more than just add dice.
4) New Spells and Allies: Again, hopefully the spells do more than just hold dice.
5) New Investigators: Same with Ancient Ones; fresh blood is great for the game.
6) New monsters: From the picture, it looks like there’s more than a dozen.
7) New Event cards: Wait, how many nasty things can they throw at us?
8) New Adventure and Other World Cards: I can’t wait.
Yeah, there’s lots of supplemental stuff, but what good would it be without something fresh and brand new? Well, FFG doesn’t disappoint.
Ah, Blessings and Curses; a throwback from Arkham Horror, and what is probably the inspiration for this expansion’s name. Two new die types will be making an appearance with this expansion. Blessings will add a new White die, adding icons to your success tests, while Curses add a dreaded Black die to your pool, subtracting the icon rolled from your dice pool.
All in all, it’s a pretty standard expansion. Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that we’re at least getting SOMETHING for the base game. I hope this trend continues!
What would I like to see in the future? Well, I’d love to see a more story/campaign-like treatment that we saw in the Yig campaign and Trail of Ithaqua expansions for the iOS. Will we see it in the future? Only time will tell, but for now, we have some Unseen Forces to deal with!
Original News Post: