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Arkham Horror is definitely one of my "kangaroos" - a game that I like considerably more than when I first played it. I still try to win the cooperative game when we play, but I now get much more into the spirit of the game when playing, and we sometimes have a lot of fun seeing just how devastated our party can get, with half of us going mad and the other half devoured. Arkham Horror is probably the hardest cooperative game that I've played, and has a lot of variety, and is dripping with horrific theme. Yet even then, I've seen reports that the game can be too easy with many players, and indeed, even our games have gotten slightly easier.
Enter Curse of the Dark Pharaoh Expansion (Fantasy Flight Games, 2006 - Rob Vaughn), a small expansion that simply adds a pile of new cards to the game and increases both the variety and the difficulty. Using a traveling Egyptian exhibit as the background, the expansion adds a few nice benefits for the players, along with a ton of impossibly, utterly insane additions that probably have both Kevin Wilson and Rob Vaughn chuckling in glee at the despair of players across the world. If you like Arkham Horror, you're sure to like the insanity of this expansion!
The one page of rules included with the game (which is simply a pile of cards in a small sturdy box) explains that there are two ways to add the expansion to the base game. The first is the "Visiting Exhibit" play style, which adds the new event, location, and gate cards to the deck, replacing the cards already used. This allows players to see almost all new things in their adventures and is a good way to play the game if you really want to dive into the expansion. The other play style (and the one that I prefer) is the Permanent Exhibit play style, which simply adds all the new cards to the game, shuffled in, where they will surface occasionally (or more!).
One thing that the game adds is five more encounter cards for each location, bringing the total up to twelve cards each. This allows for a much wider variety of things happening in the game, and we rarely have the same event happen twice. Many of the new events directly reference this "visiting exhibit" from Egypt, but all of them are interesting. Many of them increase the possibility of monster attacks or the chance to get money, but several of them also have some interesting effects on the game that are new to this expansion.
One of these "Barred from the Neighborhood" cards. Some of the events have results that end up causing a specific player to be forced to take one of these cards (because they let another person use their name for tuition, were too afraid to enter the area again, got kicked out, etc.), which means that they may never enter a location in that neighborhood for the rest of the game. They can go to a location with a gate fortunately (I think we would lose if this was an impossibility), and they may be forced to go to a location (like being insane and forced to go to Arkham Asylum). These cards are discarded when the terror level goes up (out of the frying pan…) but can put an annoying hindrance on a player and act as a handicap during the game.
Another effect is the Benefit and Detriment cards, cards that a player may gain just like the Blessing and Curse cards. These cards either make a player's life easier (allow a player to cause another player to ignore a Barred card for one turn, allow a player to loan a skill card to another player, allow another player to re-roll the roll to discard a Curse card, or allow a player to discard a spell in order to gain clue tokens equal to the sanity cost of the spell), or much harder (reduces a players speed to one, roll twice when seeing if a player keeps a Blessing or Curse card - taking the worse roll, must make sneak (-2) checks to avoid being arrested, or make will (-1) checks to avoid having focus reduced by one.) These cards don't surface often; but when they do, they add a flavor to the game like few of the other cards, putting a sense of pressure (or slight relief) on the players. The detriment cards are usually discarded when something worse happens to a player (they are unconscious, insane, etc.) - joyous occasion!
A new deck of item cards has been added - Exhibit items - cards that can only be gained through different encounters. With names such as the Eye of Light and Darkness, Chime of Ra, Book of Anubis, and Mask of the Dark Pharaoh, these cards usually add a nice benefit, although they are seemingly quite difficult to procure. Still, when you add in this deck to the other item decks, investigators can become tremendously customized, and you'll have a completely different character each game.
Eighteen new Mythos cards are added, with amazingly dire effects. One card allowed the possibility of removing the Common item deck from the game! (We fortunately avoided this one.) Others add more monsters to the board, and several simply cause effect that hamper and hinder the investigators. But worst of all, a few of them have no gates open on the board - nice, huh? Sadly, this means that two doom tokens are added to the track, as the monster prepares to enter Arkham.
Finally, twenty-seven new gate cards are added. Most of these are pretty standard (or at least as standard as you can get in this insane world), with a few giving access to the Exhibit items. However, there are a few cards that have a double colored background. The majority of the time, this will simply mean that the player fights a monster; but if they are in the exact Other World mentioned on the card, they must fight the Ancient One on the card. Yes, you read that right! You have to fight one of the monstrosities by yourself, which most likely means that you will be devoured. It's a rare event; but when it happens, it's amazingly difficult, and any player who defeats one of these creatures will certainly have something to brag about (the player seals the gate automatically, etc.). I don't know why these absolutely deranged cards were added to the game, but they sure give players pause as they flip over the Gate cards!
All in all, if you liked the original game, this will please you; as it adds a lot of variety and a good bit of difficulty. Those who didn't like the original game because it was too "easy" should be satiated, because the hardness has ratcheted up considerably. I enjoy it and will always play with it from now on - even new players should be able to pick it up fairly easily. Arkham Horror has gotten more horrific, and I didn't realize that was possible. Into the fray!
"Real men play board games"