Arkham Horror was one of the very first games I ever played when I came back to boardgaming almost 4 years ago. The difficulty of the game mixed with the theme gave way to a love for "Ameritrash/Amerithrash" games. I had never been a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft, but the game was a beast to play and lots of fun. Unfortunately, I only have played the large game a handful of times and often solo. Though it does have many expansions, I never picked up any with the exception of a generous Secret Santa who sent me the King in Yellow expansion. When I learned of Elder Sign, I bought it immediately and enjoyed the heck out of it. For a few weeks, I would break it out and play, trying my best to survive the museum. In fact, when the iOS game came out, I immediately got it...which meant the dice game remained on the shelf. While the Unseen Forces expansion came first, I did not bother with it. Will this new expansion spilling out to the streets of Arkham change my mind? Maybe, just maybe...
Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham plays very similar to the base game of Elder Sign. You will still lay out six locations to travel with your character, time still moves with each turn resulting in mythos effects, and you are still trying to acquire elder signs, artifacts, and prevent doom tokens from populating. The difference is that you no longer are in the museum, so the base game museum cards are no longer used and the museum mythos effects are no longer used. Instead, you have a new deck that is two sided. As you defeat the obstacles in each area, you will replace the card with a new card that is faced down. On these faced down cards, you have effects that occur at midnight, advance the clock or allow you to spend your trophies to activate effects. After the effect, you will proceed to defeat the card as per usual. With the new deck, you will add new unique, common, spell, and ally cards which are denoted by a gate symbol in the bottom right to easily identify them for removal (which you won't be doing) or an exclamation point if they are incompatible outside of the Gates of Arkham expansion.
From the namesake, there are a few new elements added to the game. First are the gates. There are 3 pairs of gates in red, yellow, and blue which will activate from mythos effects, failing an adventure, and sometimes from midnight effects or passing an adventure. When a gate opens up (sometimes without the player's prior knowledge) any characters on the location will go to the new streets of Arkham card and can then go immediately through the gate to defeat the other world and close the gate at both locations. If a location has a gate closed, a seal will be placed on the location so that a new gate cannot open while the seal exists. Speaking of the new streets of Arkham card, it has replaced the museum card so that now you can't heal or regain sanity easily unless someplace like St. Mary's Hospital or Arkham Asylum appears in the six areas or if you get a reward that heals you. However, it is now easier to mitigate what you are facing due to some effects. For 2 trophies, you can regain 1 stamina and sanity, flip one facedown card face up without traveling there and cancelling any negative effects, or discard a card as long as there is not a gate, monster, locked die, or investigator. The last thing that has been added are skills. Some rewards and location effects will award you you skills that have effects that were normally reserved for specific heroes. These skills can be used by a character or a more power effect can occur if discarded.
Like the base game, you will pick an elder god to fight and defeat (hopefully) by collecting elder signs. If you fail an adventure or if an effect adds doom tokens, the elder god will slowly awaken and depending on the elder god, game effects will cause more tokens to be added. If an elder god awakens, then it is up to the investigators to defeat it or the world is devoured. While this game is easier in some ways, it is made harder due to the event deck. The event deck has a red/black moon symbol that is triggered on certain cards. Sometimes the events are good, other times, they will lock dice. Monsters also tend to appear more easily and there will be times where you will leave an area abandoned with a locked die just to not waste time.
If you did not love Elder Sign due to the game design, you probably will not like what the expansion brings to this as it is more of the same. However, if you didn't like it because of the museum shortcomings, then you may like this. When I first heard of Elder Sign, I was expecting a dice version of Arkham Horror and that is what Gates of Arkham feels like. You are travelling throughout the iconic city, visiting areas you are used to seeing and it feels like you are an investigator trying to find clues to stopping something evil from coming. I would say that the game is Elder Sign with the mystery of Mansions of Madness and set in Arkham Horror. If that sounds like a fun experience that you can complete in an hour to an hour and a half, then this is the game for you. While I could go back to the museum, I don't want to as this just brings so much more. If I want to go back, I'll just break out my phone.
My rating: 9/10
This new expansion completes ELDER SIGN. It is Arkham lite.
The setup is easy and makes the game more fun.
I love Arkham Horror, but love The Streets of Arkham better.
Its now my game of choice.
Thank you FFG
The Fabulous Freebird