Aeon's End: Buried Secrets is the fifth small box expansion in the Aeon's End series of games. For a detailed run down of the game's system, please feel free to check out my review for Aeon's End Legacy. This product expands upon some of the themes present in the Aeon's End: Legacy base game, so please be advised that the following review contains major mechanical spoilers past this point. Please proceed at your own discretion.
What does the Expansion Include?
Buried Secrets (designed by Kevin Riley) extends upon the themes present in the Legacy base game, and allows players who have completed the Legacy campaign to add additional cards to augment their play experience. It also gives players who have played the previous Aeon's End or War Eternal a way to explore some of the new mechanics present within Legacy without the need to play the campaign. In an adaption to the usual format, Buried Secrets contains no new nemesis or breach mage dashboards, but does contain 152 new cards, the most of any small box expansion to date.
The first major mechanical inclusion is a new token type: Pulse tokens don't do anything inherently, but often augment the abilities of later cards. For example, the spell Burning Current gives a player a Pulse token when they cast it, but while prepped in your casting phase you may discard two of your accumulated Pulses to grant all your spells an additional damage boost for that turn. In contrast, Jolting Crust is a gem that grants you two AEther to spend, but can also either grant you a Pulse token, or allow you to discard one to gain a charge for your mage's ultimate ability. The downside to Pulse-related cards is that they tend to be on the weaker end at face value (Burning Current only deals one damage for a three-cost spell), so tactical management of your resources will be key to getting the most benefit possible out of these.
The second mechanic is also a token, but of a type rarely seen. Silence tokens don't go to the player. Rather, they are added to minions in play, and when the Nemesis takes a turn a Silence token is removed instead of resolving that minion's Persistent ability, in effect blanking them for a turn. The aggressively-costed Nerve Jab only deals one damage, but can Silence any minion after it is cast, and at a cost of twi AEther it is incredibly affordable right from turn one.
Stunning Force is significantly higher in cost at five AEther, but deals four damage to the Nemesis while also silencing a minion, effectively dealing with two problems at the same time. The ability isn't even reserved for spells: Muted Lacosite is a gem that grants you three AEther when you play it, but also silences a minion just for buying it. Versatility is a winning strategy in Aeon's End, and being able to deal with multiple types of threats at the same time can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Finally, Buried Secrets also explores new design space by making your discard pile matter. In games where trashing your weaker cards is often a solid strategy, this strategy requires your discard pile to reach a threshold of cards to reap additional benefits. Mentitle Chunk is a gem that provides three AEther when played, but provides four AEther if your discard pile has seven or more cards in it.
Similarly, Precision Shot is a spell that deals two damage when cast, or four damage if there are six or more cards in your discard pile. However, the star of the show here is Psychic Eruption: An eight-cost spell that deals damage equal to the number of cards in any player's discard pile can potentially reach absurd levels of damage before long, and consider it works off any discard pile, every player can benefit even if only one person is fully committed to the strategy. Combined with a multitude of enablers (or even just intelligent spending), these cards showcase the upper ceiling of what can be achieved given the correct circumstances.
Is Buried Secrets Worth Purchasing?
Buried Secrets is the perfect expansion for those who have completed the Aeon's End: Legacy campaign. It offers you multiple cards to augment your game experience, and while it doesn't add anything new in terms of nemeses or mages, it does add a couple of cards with previous mechanics to jazz up your play sessions. As a card-only expansion, it has to deliver on those cards to add value as a whole, and I believe that anyone who started their Aeon's End experience with Legacy will find a solid offering here. There is nothing really foreign here, and after the campaign you'll have a plethora of options to choose from for whichever of the nemeses you decide to do battle with again.
Unfortunately, for those of us who started before this, this expansion is sorely lacking. Though there are a few cards that don't cover the new mechanics that can be spliced into your collections effortlessly, the Pulse and Silence cards are few and far between with three representatives each. For the Silence-focused cards this is fine: They're not so much a theme that needs building around as a tool to use. However, for Pulse, in-which the mechanic is quite parasitic, you need multiple methods to achieve the goal, and with only one payoff damage card in the expansion, the theme is sorely lacking when integrating this with the older sets.
The lack of any new nemeses or mages (which depending on the amount of expansions you've bought previously could be sizeable already) is more clearly felt here, and I can't see myself recommending this over the much better Depths and Nameless expansions for those with the older content.
All in all, Buried Secrets sits in a weird position within the franchise. If you started your experience with Legacy, I can think of no better way to expand your collection than this, it is the perfect solution to add options in the places that matter. Unfortunately those who started with the other base games will be disappointed with this one, and I would recommend any of the other small box expansions over this. Unfortunately, some of the cards stop functioning outside of the environment they were designed for, while that problem is much less evident in Aeon's Ends other offerings.