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Disclaimer
I received a review copy of this expansion gratis from Stefan Brunell of Asmodee. No strings were attached. Obviously there was an expectation that I would write a review, but even that wasn't formally stated. As the expansion wasn't yet available for sale when I received my copy, I asked whether I was under any restrictions about divulging information, and was told it was entirely up to me. Had I not received the review copy, I would certainly have purchased one, and the only difference in my review would have been the omission of this preface.


The Big Picture
I first played Claustrophobia a year and a half ago, and immediately became smitten with it. Here was a game that was simple to learn and played easily in an hour, yet was chock full of interesting decisions, and generated a new story with every play. It didn't hurt that it looked gorgeous, either, with stunning artwork on the tiles and beautifully hand painted figures. Best of all, it had a ton of replay value - 6 scenarios that stood up to repeated play were included, augmented by a seemingly endless stream of new scenarios appearing on the game's web site.

In short, I thought it was a tremendous game. I couldn't resist sharing my enthusiasm, which led me to write a narrative review detailing how the game played: The Dirty 1/4 Dozen. I was not, however, one of those clamoring for an expansion. Why not, you ask? Because expansions are a mixed bag in my experience. Many are necessary - they correct problems or fill gaping holes in incomplete designs. But I've seen too many failures - expansions that made a good game worse, not better. Claustrophobia needed no improvement beyond minor editing to correct a couple of typos and unclear rules in a second printing, and the idea of tampering with it made me nervous.

Claustrophobia is highly asymmetric, and asymmetric designs are notoriously delicate to balance. I knew that broadening the scope without throwing everything out of kilter would be a daunting task. So as I said, I wasn't one of those begging for an expansion. Still, once De Profundis was announced, I became excited. As a Claustrophobia fan I was after all merely a condemned warrior, and I had faith that CROC, with hammer in one hand and lantern in the other, could lead us past any difficulties and bring us to gamer's treasure in the end. I haven't been disappointed.


The Figures
Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis

image by Gamethyme

I'm sure that some will complain about receiving only 4 new figures in the expansion. Many who had asked for an expansion suggested that 5 sculpts / 17 figures in the original were too few. De Profundis adds 3 sculpts / 4 figures, bringing the combined total to 8 sculpts / 21 figures. Is that enough? For me it is, because I don't measure a game by counting pieces; it is what those pieces contribute to the overall experience that matters. The new figures add new wrinkles without compromising the basic design, which is exactly what I hoped for.

Hellhounds
I'll start with the Hellhounds, who provided me with a title I couldn't resist (courtesy of Robert Johnson). Hellhounds are described as Demons reduced to a savage state, but for game purposes they are considered neither Demons nor Trogs (though they do benefit from A Taste for Blood and Burrowing Monsters). There are two of them, each of which can be summoned once per scenario at a cost of 3 TP (midway between the 1 TP cost for a Troglodyte and 5 TP for a Demon).

Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis

image by Sphere

Hellhounds are somewhat like Human warriors in that a die determines their ability line for any given turn (see image above). On the turn they are summoned, they get an extra die which can be turned to any face and placed on their card, so the Demon player can use them to best advantage, but on subsequent turns, dice for the Hellhounds must be taken from the Dice of Destiny and used as rolled. You don't have to give a die to a Hellhound, but without one, it can't move or attack.

The tough choices about how to use your dice on the Board of Destiny have always been a great feature in Claustrophobia, and Hellhounds make those decisions even tougher. If you're like me, you love tough choices, so this is excellent!

Tough is a good word to describe the Hellhounds. I've already seen a game where both were summoned together, moved onto the tile with the Redeemer, and killed him outright with their combined 6 dice and re-rolls (re-rolls courtesy of a Demonic Rage card, see below). I've also seen the pair of them sit with no dice assigned for multiple turns, preventing a non-Elusive human from moving. They survived long enough to do so because when no die is assigned, they still have 4 DEF and 3 Health.

Sicaria
A Sicaria is a female assassin or hired killer (the term is derived from the Latin Sicarius). One of the new scenarios, Sister in Arms, says that their names are Angela and Ruth. I had to know which was which, so I asked CROC and was informed that Ruth is the redhead.

Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis
Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis

images by Gamethyme

I like that the Sicaria have individual sculpts. The two Sicaria can be seen as 'only' two figures, but they can also be seen as a great deal more. I took the following picture to illustrate that point:

Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis

image by Sphere

Besides the figures, you get reference cards and card stands, additional damage pegs for the reference cards, and 6 Skill Cards, which are a new type of card especially for them. One or more Skill card is assigned to each Sicaria per scenario, in lieu of Talents. A Sicaria is Condemned, and in most scenarios receives Objects in addition to Skills.

A close examination of their reference cards reveals that they are truly formidable. Their movement is equal to that of a Blade, and their combat is slightly better (also better than that of the Redeemer). Combine that speed and strength with defense that averages the same as a Brute, and the result is two very dangerous ladies, a welcome addition to the Human ranks.


Cards
I confess I held my breath when opening the cellophane to check out the cards. So many times I have seen cards with different color saturation or cut or texture that made them stand out glaringly when shuffled with cards from a previously published base game. I'm happy to report that the De Profundis cards are wonderful; I can detect no difference. This from a guy who doesn't use sleeves, and had 19 plays of the base game recorded prior to getting the expansion. For those who are dying to know the details, I'll list all the new cards by type.

6 Sicaria Skill Cards
Quick - Elusive (if not exhausted)
Tough - Bodyguard (if not exhausted)
Weapon Master - +1 CBT (if not exhausted)
Brutal - causes double damage for non-grenade hits (if not exhausted)
Tactician - the Humans roll an extra Action Die each Initiative phase.
Resilient - self-heals one Line of Action at beginning of Initiative Phase.

6 Advantage cards
Spoiler (click to reveal)
2x Confusion - distribute the Demon player's Dice of Destiny
2x Power Drain - the Demon player loses half his TP (round up)
2x Survival Instinct - play during Initialization to give +1 MVT, +1 CBT and +1 DEF to the warrior of your choice.

Commentary: I'm sure some will grump about only three new Advantage card types. First, bear in mind how few advantage cards the Human player will gain in any given scenario - far fewer than the Event cards the Demons can draw. Second, the 2 of each type follows the pattern in the base game, and is important to the distribution. With few draws, a Human who desperately needs a particular card will appreciate having two copies in the deck. It gives you a shot.

7 Gift cards
1 Slay Evil: Redeemer doubles damage from his own hits (not grenade or Blunderbuss).
2 Aura of Anger: all Human warriors gain +1 CBT.
3 Aura of Protection: Redeemer becomes Elusive.
4 Healing Ritual: by choosing not to move or act, Redeemer can heal one Line of Action for another warrior.
5 Aura of Consecration: during Initiation, randomly discard one Event card from Demon Player's hand.
6 Aura of Sacrifice: during Initiation, cause 1 hit to a warrior on same tile, then roll a die - on 4 higher the Redeemer also takes a hit. May be used twice per initiative phase.
6 Aura of Blessing: during Initiation, cause the Demon player to lose 1 TP if TP total is odd or 2 TP if TP total is even (replaces original card).

6 Object cards
Necklace of Ears - no Trog (tough or not) can enter play on same tile as this warrior (if not exhausted).
Reinforced Leather Armor - this Warrior's minimum DEF is 4, even if exhausted.
Last Chance Potion - if exhausted, this warrior can heal his current Line of Action, but dies at the end of his activation.
Sacred Symbol - this warrior's minimum DEF is 5 when attacked by a Demon, even if exhausted.
Medallion of Rage - the action die assigned to this warrior can be changed to a 1.
Belt of Explosives - when this warrior dies, all Trogs and Hellhounds on the same tile are killed. Demons and Humans on the same tile suffer 3 hits.

7 Demon cards
Cerberus - Cerberus' characteristics are reduced if it takes damage.
Sorcerer Demon - can make a ranged attack against on opponent on an adjacent tile.
The Nurse - CBT is equal to number of Trogs alive. DEF is equal to number of Trogs on same tile as Nurse. If no Trogs are on Nurse's tile, she dies.
Haunting Demon - gains +1 CBT for each Human on same tile.
Searching Demon - pay 1 TP during Threat Phase to gain +1 MVT or the Elusive talent.
Bloated Demon - Acidic Vomiting: any tile it is on has a Hole in the Ground.
Sponge-like - this card is an attribute, not a Demon. It provides its Demon the ability to use Hole in the Ground tokens and tiles, and is counted for blocking and corridor size rules. It has Atrophied Arms, and can never attack.

2 Hellhound Cards
see Hellhounds above.

18 Event cards
Note: there is now a 3 card hand size limitation for Event cards.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
2x Demonic Rage - Demons and Hellhounds are Frantic during the Action Phase.
2x Under the Sign of Satan - a Demon or Hellhound of your choice gains +1 MVT, +1 CBT and +1 DEF.
2x Teleportation Icon - place a Teleportation Icon on your tile. You can move your warriors to that tile during your Threat Phase at the cost of 1 TP each.
2x Cave-in - Place a cave-in token on an opening of your choice. A warrior with at least 2 CBT must perform a combat action from an adjacent tile to clear it; until then it is impassable.
2x Crisis of Faith - when the Human player declares use of a Gift, play this card to cancel the effects of that Gift.
2x Defect - the Human player must discard an Object card of their choice.
2x Acid Projection - allows a Demon or Hellhound to attack an adjacent tile with a ranged attack.
2x Toxic Fumes - choose a tile and roll a die for each Human warrior present, with rolls of 3 or more causing a hit.
2x The Worst is Yet to Come - the Demon rolls an extra Die of Destiny during the next Threat Phase (can be cancelled by Oil For Your Lamp).

Commentary: Unlike the Humans, the Demon player is able to purchase many cards during a scenario. De Profundis provides the same number of Event cards as found in the base game. The doubled deck size is great.

Tiles
Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis

image by Gamethyme

De Profundis provides 10 new tunnel and room cards, just as beautiful as those in the original game (and that's saying a lot). By clicking the following image, and increasing the resolution, you can read the descriptions for the various new room types

Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis

image by Sphere


Tokens etc.
Board Game: Claustrophobia: De Profundis

image by Sphere

There are a number of new tokens, which you can see in the unpunched counter sheet above. Some work in concert with cards, some with special tiles, and some are scenario specific. I'm still trying to work out what the large tile showing the Redeemer is for - it shows a Demon on the other side.


Scenarios

Everything I've listed to this point comes together in the new scenarios. Claustrophobia had 6 scenarios - De Profundis has 12! Like those in the original game, the ones I've sampled so far have great depth. I've played one of them 5 times already, and another 4 times, and I'm still eager to play each of them again.

The scenarios are of all types. Some have one or both Sicaria, some have neither. Some have pre-set tile layouts, others start with only one tile, and grow as you explore. I'll leave it to future session reports to give you details, but suffice to say that there is more than enough to keep me happy for a long time to come.


Bottom Line

I see De Profundis as a perfect expansion for an already exquisite game. It doesn't change the essential nature of what we had with the base game. It does expand upon what went before, and provide a richer set of problems and possibilities, without doing harm to the core game engine. It all fits seamlessly, and the new rules are so brief and transparent that if you've read this review, you're ready to play as soon as you open the box. (In case anyone wonders, the base game is required; De Profundis can't be played by itself.)

I'm a guy who grew up watching black and white TV. That didn't affect my enjoyment, my mind filled in the colors, and it seemed complete. But once I had color TV, I didn't want to go back. It was still TV, and it still depended primarily on the stories it delivered, but color added a new dimension, and made it all the more vivid. De Profundis makes Claustrophobia all the more vivid for me. It seemed complete before, but now that I've added De Profundis, I wouldn't want to go back.



[edit] I finished writing this at 3 a.m., and in my befuddled state neglected to say my thank-yous. Thank you to Gamethyme, for your beautiful pictures and behind-the-scenes support. Thank you to Stefan, for providing me with the review copy. Thank you to djarv and walkie for helping me playtest. Thank you to CROC for designing (and supporting!) one of the greatest one-hour games on the planet. And lastly, thank you to the Claustrophobia regulars, the guys who share my love for this game and follow the game on these forums. You know who you are!
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Great review, Sphere!

And props to Stefan for giving you a review copy. I can't think of anyone else who has gotten more BGGers to check out Claustro than you.
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Nice, Sphere. Thanks for this. If anyone deserved an advance copy it was you. I thought I did my fair share in "getting the word out" for this game in the early stages, but you put me to shame consistently going above and beyond the call to champion this title right from the off.

As for this expansion... I was one of the people that did want an expansion. Even though I loved the base game so much, I really wanted a few more event cards for the demons and a few more items for the humans. I basically would have been happy with an extra deck of cards and a few more "trog-level" demons. However, it looks like this expansion has delivered everything I wanted and even more besides. Even new floor tiles are included, and I thought the base game shipped with far more than any other game of its type would have bothered with.

I own very few expansions for any games, as I find they generally add fiddly extra bits to games that I love well enough as they are. However, I wanted an expansion for this game, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Cheers.
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Great review, looking forward to getting my copy.
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Sphere wrote:
De Profundis makes Claustrophobia all the more vivid for me. It seemed complete before, but now that I've added De Profundis, I wouldn't want to go back.
This, for me, is the essense of a good expansion. I cannot wait 'till CROC emerges triumphantly from the rain forest. Great review, thanks Sphere (and Asmodee for providing you with a copy).
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Goddammit! Quality and on time delivery are not mutually exclusive!
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Great review Sphere - I am really looking forward to getting this expansion.

Would it be applicable to apply the 3 card limit to the base game of Claustrophobia?

I have played games where I have just crushed the human player through card play so I was wondering if the 3 card limit was expansion specific or should be considered errata.
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Thanks, Sphere.
And now, knowing most of the content of this expansion, and always identifying myself with the role of those puny humans, I must say that I'm really terrified by the effects of new event cards. They seem to be much more pain in the ass than ones from base game!... Now they can strengthen up demons and hellhounds(which are quite powerful on their own) and make human warriors even more fragile by discarding their object cards or cancel Redeemer's gift. Arrrgh! Still, I'm going to have this one. Without it Claustrophobia would feel too...incomplete
Kill ya all, demons!arrrh
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P_J_Keller wrote:
Great review Sphere - I am really looking forward to getting this expansion.

Would it be applicable to apply the 3 card limit to the base game of Claustrophobia?

I have played games where I have just crushed the human player through card play so I was wondering if the 3 card limit was expansion specific or should be considered errata.
I think this rule is concerning all the scenarios in which you'll be using new event cards - as they seem to be much more powerful than previous ones.
(don't ask me if this limit make some advantages for humans, I don't know).
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your review and comparisons of Claustrophobia were one of the biggest pushes for me to make the purchase. Glad to see you follow up with the expansion. Thanks for the review.
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oh you lucky...!

Thanks for the awesome review. Definitely one of those games where everything is basically an insta-buy.
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P_J_Keller wrote:
Would it be applicable to apply the 3 card limit to the base game of Claustrophobia?
We do locally. We've had too many games where the Demon player just builds up a large hand and then utterly destroys the Humans with a turn or two of card play.

Eric
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I am so happy to see this game getting supported. When Claustrophobia was released, Space Hulk 3rd edition came out and the doom and gloom crowd argued Claustrophobia would get lost in the fog. I think this game, while similar to Space Hulk in several ways, is still extremely fun, and I seem to get more plays in than Space Hulk.

My wife loves this game where she feels Space Hulk is just meh. Probably has to do with how fast the game goes, how quickly it ends, and the varied choices and unique twist of the mechanics this game has when handling power, damage, and character abilities.

I really look forward to buying this. Thanks for reminding me to put it in my pre-order list.
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Thanks for all the kind words, guys. Honestly, I'd have to call this review a poor man's Neil Thomson - nobody can write an all-inclusive, here's everything you get (with pictures) review like Neil can. But at this early stage, with hardly anyone having seen a copy and people dying to find out what's in the box, it seemed best to attempt something along those lines. I lack the stamina to give you the full monty, but perhaps some day Neil will give De Profundis its due.


bartekb8 wrote:
I must say that I'm really terrified by the effects of new event cards.
P_J_Keller wrote:
Would it be applicable to apply the 3 card limit to the base game of Claustrophobia?
Yes, I think that's the right idea if you're going to play with the combined Event Deck. The rules mention the potential for lethal combinations when using them together, and I've seen it in action. The Humans do get some relief; a number of the new tiles favor them. The Sanctified Zone, Healing Fountain and Tomb are all great to find, and Fog is usually a good thing. And you're going to love having Angela and Ruth on your team.
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Sphere wrote:
Thanks for all the kind words, guys. Honestly, I'd have to call this review a poor man's Neil Thomson - nobody can write an all-inclusive, here's everything you get (with pictures) review like Neil can. But at this early stage, with hardly anyone having seen a copy and people dying to find out what's in the box, it seemed best to attempt something along those lines. I lack the stamina to give you the full monty, but perhaps some day Neil will give De Profundis its due.


bartekb8 wrote:
I must say that I'm really terrified by the effects of new event cards.
P_J_Keller wrote:
Would it be applicable to apply the 3 card limit to the base game of Claustrophobia?
Yes, I think that's the right idea if you're going to play with the combined Event Deck. The rules mention the potential for lethal combinations when using them together, and I've seen it in action. The Humans do get some relief; a number of the new tiles favor them. The Sanctified Zone, Healing Fountain and Tomb are all great to find, and Fog is usually a good thing. And you're going to love having Angela and Ruth on your team.
While others might argue with me I have always thought you were pretty modest, to the point, and not afraid to take a unpopular position (yes some people including me think the original Fury of Dracula is better than the FFG edition!). I will take you at your word if you think this is an average review. I just wish more reviews were this "average" instead of the ADD short two sentence stuff that seems to be all the rage at the moment. So again congrats!
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Maybe I'm sympathetic to the bad guys since I've only played them with this expansion so far, but it's not only the new event cards that are brutal--the new advantage cards for the humans are killer too! Sphere threw Confusion at me at the perfect time in my first game and managed to waste every single one of my Destiny Dice. Considering I had one die riding on The Calm Before the Storm, that was a full turn and a third down the drain!

Sphere mentioned these two points already in his review, but I figured I'd say them again in my own words since I thought they were the two coolest aspects of the expansion:

1. The Hellhounds are really, really awesome. They're a heavy hitter you can throw down for only 3 TP, but then you have to keep feeding them dice if you want to move and attack with them later. This creates a really interesting tension and lots of tough decisions. I found myself regularly planning my dice allocation strategy around the Hellhounds--just another wrinkle in this aspect of the game that I thought added a lot.

2. The expansion adds significantly more new character possibilities than the small number of sculpts suggest. Claustrophobia already gave you a ton of variability with a small number of sculpts. In addition to the Sicaria and their variable deck of skills, now there are seven new possibilities for the demon, and a whole set of new abilities for the Redeemer. There are just a ton of options here.

Thanks for giving me a chance to play this, Sphere. Zoomed right up to the top of my wish list!
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walkie wrote:
Sphere threw Confusion at me at the perfect time in my first game and managed to waste every single one of my Destiny Dice. Considering I had one die riding on The Calm Before the Storm, that was a full turn and a third down the drain!
So you didn't find it useful to have They Are Legion and Supernatural Speed on a turn when you had no Trogs on board, and my crew were spread out so none could enter? whistle


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RedMonkeyBoy wrote:
Nice, Sphere. Thanks for this. If anyone deserved an advance copy it was you. I thought I did my fair share in "getting the word out" for this game in the early stages, but you put me to shame consistently going above and beyond the call to champion this title right from the off.
Thinking back, I suspect you were one of the key figures in leading me to it. We were both posting frequently on the Ghost Stories forums before I discovered Claustrophobia, and I had learned to value your opinions.
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Sphere wrote:
RedMonkeyBoy wrote:
Nice, Sphere. Thanks for this. If anyone deserved an advance copy it was you. I thought I did my fair share in "getting the word out" for this game in the early stages, but you put me to shame consistently going above and beyond the call to champion this title right from the off.
Thinking back, I suspect you were one of the key figures in leading me to it. We were both posting frequently on the Ghost Stories forums before I discovered Claustrophobia, and I had learned to value your opinions.
Thanks for saying so.

Speaking of Ghost Stories - I got that to the table for the first time in ages the other week. It was amazing how we just set up and played without needing to reread the rules. Claustrophobia is much the same - no matter how long you go without playing it, you only need to set up a scenario and it all comes flooding back.

I think it is a real testament to any game design that the rules can be that simple and yet the game can provide for very deep and satisfying games.

These days I really appreciate games that I don't need to spend too much time with the rulebook, and both Ghost Stories and Claustrophobia are fine examples. And I love that this expansion creates new decisions to make without changing that format of simple rules. Very pleased with that.
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Stig Morten
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Thunder Alley: Crew Chief Expansion - Coming soon to Kickstarter!
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Great review, George.

You wont get the credit for putting this expansion onto my wishlist, but that the basegame got on my wishlist was entirely down to your 1/4 dozen session report.

I like how this expansion just adds more variety to the game, and not turns it into a different beast like some expansions do to games.

I'm hoping for a session report detailing the use of Siccarias and Hellhounds in the style of the 1/4 dozen one.

And a tip for the Neil reference.

Stig Morten
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Who's the master?
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Excellent review! This is one of my few "10" rated games. Sounds like expansion could be my first "10" rated expansion. It was on my wishlist the second I learned about it. Now I can't wait!
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Bart asked me to upload images for the rest of the cards last night, and I've just done so. They're going through GeekMod. I want to caution you, though: two of the five images correspond to the cards that I put in spoilers for my review.

I used spoilers because I love learning about hidden cards the hard way as I play my first few games, rather than studying them ahead of time. For me, there is no anguish like thinking I'm on the brink of victory and having my opponent crush me with a card I didn't know existed, and no thrill like the one when I think all is lost, and pull a card that gives new hope in a way I hadn't dreamed possible. I know I'm in the minority in that respect, though, and most people love to look through all the cards as soon as possible.

Anyway, I'm giving fair warning. I've uploaded 5 new images, one each for Demon, Event, Gift, Advantage and Object cards. If you're like me, you'll want to avoid the Events and Advantages until after you've played.
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Daniel Kearns
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Yeah. Really really good job. Many thanks!

And congrats on getting an advance copy, you are a very worthy author for the first review!
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Charlie Theel
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Awesome review as usual Sphere. Appreciate the spoiler hiding as I agree with your view on discovering new cards in play.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Hate_McAnger wrote:
ummm...about the "Demon of Destruction" shouldn't it be "Cer".... or would you rather I not bring that up?
I'm sorry, but I'm mystified. I doubt that I'd mind you bringing it up, but can't say for sure without understanding what "it" is. blush
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Hate_McAnger wrote:
The Demon of Destruction is from the base game. Cerberus is missing from your review and pictures.
....nice try!
D'oh! Sailed right past me. Of course I'm glad you brought it up; I want to get things right. I've just fixed the review, and I'll upload a corrected image immediately.

I get how the Demon of Destruction wormed his way into the new cards - he's used in The Relics, the last scenario that walkie and I played. How Cerberus got out of the pile I don't know. Probably shy about being photographed with his more impressive brethren.
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