For general information about Duel of Ages, look elsewhere--this is a review for those already familiar with Duel of Ages, and considering whether or not this expansion is for them.
I have been a DoA fan for some time now, having been convinced to buy the game from BGG's ubiquitous Tom Vasel. Enjoying the game immensely, I was prompted to buy Set 2: Intensity, given that it contains more of everything. The extra guardians alone were worth the price of admission. But, I didn't have any interest in Set 3: Vast Horizons--I just felt that I didn't want or need any more maps, so I didn't even put it on my want list. I played sets one and two alone for the better part of two years. Fast forward to a very favourable trade where I could get Vast Horizons essentially for free, and so I said, "Why not?"
Having now played with the expansion, I can't believe how foolish I was not to want it sooner.
Contents: The set comes with 21 new platters, 7 per era, (Colonial, Modern, Future) and 18 new dome keys, 6 per era. All of the previous terrain is considered Ancient. Note that this means that to have a nice balance of terrain, you can't skip Intensity and buy just Vast Horizons--doing that would mean that you would have a paucity of Ancient terrain, which would undercut one of Vast Horizon's great gameplay effects (see below). If you've played DoA, you already know the quality of the components, namely regrettably thin cardboard that tends to warp. If you've survived it before, you can survive it again.
Gameplay: This is where I was surprised. Vast Horizons makes previously less useful characters more useful, and hence your team becomes more balanced. For example, Flicker (The Stealthmistress) positively owns the Alamo, given her ability to move through buildings as though they were clear. She can outmaneuver almost anyone on that map. Similarly, combat weak characters can get involved in fights with more success with the "same era" rule; if your character is wielding a weapon of their era while on terrain of their era, they get a +1 bonus to attack (the "different era" -1 penalty has been done away with, by the by). Have a character with all blue combat attributes? Give him an appropriate weapon and park him in the right place, and he's a threat. Gives your opponent something to think about.
Pros: -Even though the colours are garish (especially for the blue modern and pink future maps), when the map is all assembled the variety of colour certainly breaks up the monotony of green--the effect is quite aesthetically pleasing.
-Gameplay benefits listed above--more characters useful, more combat options.
Cons: -It's sometimes hard to remember what the difference between swamp and forest is on the modern and future maps, as the difference is both unintuitive and not terribly subtle.
-The colours really are garish. Really.
-A tad pricy; I would have liked at least a couple of cards in the expansion.
Conclusion: It is, as I have entitled this review, surprisingly essential. If you like DoA, this is a great expansion even if--like me--you don't even think you want it.
Disclosure: Mark likes heavy-ish economic management Eurogames (prefers Goa and Puerto Rico over Caylus and Power Grid), Knizia games (especially Tigris & Euphrates, Blue Moon, and Ra), Antike, and El Grande. Mark dislikes most abstracts, overly long games that are needlessly complicated (Struggle of Empires) or contain few real choices (Shadows Over Camelot).
Nicely worded review. I agree with all you've said, except the bonus for "same age"; in actual game play, this happens VERY RARELY (to me). I've been playing 2x/mo for about a year...
A good review! I, too, find the "triple threat" bonus from same Age platter/character/weapon to be highly overrated by new players when selecting their chosen platter at the beginning of map setup.
My tip: Forget the Triple Threat bonus and go for the terrain layout that creates the most beneficial "flow" on the map for your group of characters. Got a few beatsticks? Go for choke points (the Wastes, Box Canyon) Got some good ranged potential? Go for easy-access Mesas (Installation, Par 4, Silver Country).
Thisis where Set III: Vast Horizons truly shines.
Check out www.duelofages.com for tons more strategy...
R. R. Roy, the Man in the Bright White Suit