Board Game Review

A Curse or a Blessing? (Elder Sign: Unseen Forces)

This review is also cosmically available on Zatu here!

You delve deeper into the old museum. Sleeping by day, investigating by night. Something about this place is still not right, the light reflects oddly as if bending by someone’s, or something’s, will. You cannot put your finger on it, but it’s wrong. Every fibre of your being tells you to stop – you know this will be impossible! But the fingernails scratching at your mind force you to go deeper into your studies and investigations. There are forces at work here of both good and evil natures, but that’s simply a matter of perspective. Whoever wins your fate may still be sealed. So you make a choice and choose a side. You hope that the blessings of whatever entities are there may help you against the curses of the Elder Gods.

Or at least that’s how we perceived Elder Sign: Unseen Forces by Fantasy Flight Games coming into fruition! This expansion introduces new enemies, investigation, items, allies, characters and dangers.

This expansion at its bulk adds more of what’s known and loved. New characters, new investigations, new helpful cards and new challenges. It isn’t going to change the game greatly but it does give it more depth and scope for difference. There are some extra, optional, challenges that can be incorporated and the rules state these are optional. This is due to the level of difficulty they introduce.

Elder Sign: Unseen Forces introduces two new dice; blessed and cursed. Some investigations now result in a character becoming blessed or cursed and they take a corresponding card to show it. Being cursed means that, when resolving an investigation, the cursed die counts against the result and may mean you’ll need an extra die outcome. The blessed die however is simply an extra die to roll with. These afflictions last until an investigation is completed but can have a big impact on how daring you are!

This expansion also includes replacement cards for the entrance so it is split into 4 separate areas. You now need to visit the card specific to what you need and can not access everything from one. It’s not a big change but it can force you to travel unnecessarily if you don’t plan your turns well.

The Play

This expansion does not increase the game length. An incredible feat in itself! It is more of what you love, though. More characters, more investigations and more nastiness!

New Dice

The main addition is the cured and blessed dice. The cursed dice is a massive problem for players and gives huge risks… There are genuinely no benefits to it. Its awful. As it should be. This is straight up Lovecraftian horror and it should be awful. There’s an ominous feeling when the cursed die is a possible outcome for any investigation. Who takes it? Who challenges it? Who can risk it? Honestly speaking no one wants to!

The blessed die however does not hold its counterparts weight. Yeah being blessed is lovely and all, but it’s not a huge advantage! The blessed die might be helpful, but it might not. We never jumped for joy at being blessed as it was gone before we knew it. But, again, that’s how it should be! The game oozes with theme from the outset and if a blessing was a sudden overpowered benefit, it wouldn’t be as thematic a game. You’re supposed to feel helpless. That’s how Lovecrafian horror works.

New Cards

The new, optional, mythos cards are something genuinely frightening. It’s silly how ridiculous these cards are. The usual mythos cards kick in at midnight and have an instant and a lingering effect. Some of the new ones have choices on them, does one person suffer or have the group slightly hindered? Well. These aren’t the scary ones. I’m talking about the Master Mythos cards. The scary ones are red in colour (for extra spookiness) and have some catastrophic effects. As example, one outright says an investigator is devoured. No options, no arguments, just instant death. Now if that doesn’t put a spanner in the works I don’t know what will!

As you’d expect, the new characters are just people. They have new abilities which can come in handy but we wouldn’t say they’re game breakers. There’s a chap who increases trophy values by one when spending, and someone who can focus die even if he succeeds. All helpful but nothing that will fix a bad game on its own!

New Entrance Cards

These are interesting. They replace the old single sheet card with the souvenir shop and whatnot on it and separate it into 4 entities. All 4 count as “The Entrance” but players can choose which one to dispatch to when moving. What’s more is that these can be forced to close by the game. Should a mythos card say that the First Aid Station is shut for the rest of the game, it’s flipped and unusable. It can still be stood on but can’t be utilised! We always used to take the entrance for granted but knowing it could be taken from us forced us to use it more. Therefore effectively giving more purpose to what’s already there!

New Monsters

These new nasties aren’t as scary as the core lot. And we have no qualms with that! Theme runs through the game and having something utterly terrifying added would make the others laughable. What these new monsters do have is new task symbols, however. Some monsters now add order symbols, complicating easier investigations and adding further difficulty as a result.

As was with Nyarlothatep, Abhoth is another Elder God with their own specific monsters. However, these don’t return to the cup and are nasty in their own right! You defeat one and return it to the Elder God’s sheet, shuffling it amongst the others ready to return and ruin your day! When not playing against Abhoth, you would discount these from the monster cup during set up. As much as this is a mess about, the setup of the game is intricate already so removing 3 monsters isn’t a grand ordeal.

In a Nutshell

Elder Sign: Unseen Forces adds more of what you know from the core. The extra cards added to the original sets increase player’s options and diversify the game further. The optional cards add new challenges and complications for investigators. These are probably best left for when you need a challenge!

The new additions to the game add something that you didn’t realise you needed. The cursed and blessed dice aren’t integral to play, but having played with them I can’t imagine playing without! The same goes for the new investigations, other world cards and investigators. The new scope for options almost feels necessary when you’ve tried it! It’s an expansion we’ve gone as far as to fully integrate into the core box. The only thing we may optionally remove? The Master Mythos cards. As said, when a challenge is needed we’ll have them. Until then they can stay in the box!