Note: Signs of Carcosa is an expansion for Fantasy Flight Games’ Eldritch Horror. The base game is required to play.
“Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game of terror and adventure in which one to eight players take the roles of globetrotting investigators working to solve mysteries, gather clues, and protect the world from an Ancient One – an elder being intent on destroying our world. Each Ancient One comes with its own unique decks of Mystery and Research cards, which draw you deeper into the lore surrounding each loathsome creature.”– Eldritch Horror Product Description
Intro – Something sinister tugged at the fringes of my sanity as I opened the box to reveal the contents of the Signs of Carcosa expansion. Madness seemed a near certainty as it became clear that this time, our stalwart adventurers would be facing off against Hastur (the Unspeakable One), whose goal is to force his way into our world and drive all of humankind to a state of gibbering insanity. Though my companions and I were ultimately able to defeat Hastur and his mind-assaulting minions, we did so at a great cost, and many were lost in the struggle, as this Ancient One put up quite a tentacled fight. The box’s new atmospheric mechanics and cards added some exciting new elements to an ever-expanding game that somehow never seems to lose its focus.
Hastur (Ancient One): At a starting Doom of 11, the Unspeakable One doesn’t leave the investigators a lot of time to prevent his entry to this world, though this is off-set a bit by the fact that the players must solve only two Mysteries to defeat him. The true challenge comes in the form of the Blight Condition that must be taken on by the Lead Investigator when a Reckoning occurs. Add to this the fact that the Reckoning also causes Hastur’s Cultists to summon Byakhees to attack nearby investigators, and the players more than have their work cut out for them.
Artifacts/Assets/Conditions/Spells: This insidious little box offers a great many items to keep things fresh and keep the players on their toes. The King in Yellow Tome boosts a character’s skills by +2 if the card’s owner currently has a Blight condition, and gives the cardholder a Blight Condition when the Reckoning occurs. There are some fantastic new Assets like Unique Ally Hildred Castaigne, who when gained provides the holder with 5 Clues, though his behavior during Reckoning is certain to cause problems for the player. The Task card Turning the Tide is an incredibly helpful balancing tool that offers the players various types of assistance at increasing levels of helpfulness depending on how close to awakening the Ancient One the players might be. Signs of Carcosa significantly changes things up with the addition of several new Conditions, both helpful and challenging. Headstrong offers sanity protection while Elusive allows investigators to sneak around monsters during the Encounter phase. On the other end of the spectrum, the aforementioned Blight Condition causes players to lose their allies, while Wanted excludes the holder from performing the Acquire Assets action. The small cards are rounded out with the addition of Spells like Binding, which reduces a Monster’s damage to 1 during a Combat Encounter, and Summon Byakhee, which allows for swift investigator travel.
Characters: This delightfully dreadful expansion offers four new playable investigators. Dilettante Jenny Barnes uses her wealth and resources to help the team more easily acquire assets. This ability saved our team from annihilation on more than one occasion. Through his underworld connections, Gangster Michael McGlen has similar access to Items and Services, though using this ability leads to him taking a Wanted Condition. Wendy Adams, whose occupation is described as “The Urchin,” has an affinity for collecting Trinkets and is resistant to non-Deal Conditions and Impairments. Finally, Magician Dexter Drake has the incredibly useful ability to move 1 Monster from his space to another space containing a Gate, and upon gaining a Spell, he always receives a second one. This batch of investigators contains some of the more dynamic and helpful abilities of any of the expansions to date. They’re each excellent in their own ways and we had difficulty deciding which ones to use initially, though as the death toll increased, we ended up getting to employ each of them in our campaign against the terrors from beyond.
Encounter Cards/Mysteries/Mythos: These cards all beautifully serve the theme of the expansion, taking players from a London theatrical production of the King in Yellow to Lake Hali and Lost Carcosa itself. The challenges here provide a sense of not only impending doom, but overwhelming dread and the threat of unstoppable madness lurking around every corner.
Summary: The tone and atmosphere of this expansion are masterfully applied, and the new Conditions enhance an already amazing game without unbalancing the system or interrupting the flow. These characters are among the best yet, and are sure to become favorites at any table in the quest to keep Hastur on the other side of the thinning veil between worlds. I heartily recommend Signs of Carcosa to anyone seeking to go deeper into the realm of Eldritch Horror.