Violent quakes split the world asunder, and nature itself is seemingly intent on destroying the civilizations of humanity. Deep in the heart of Africa, something is stirring. Cities in Ruin is an expansion for Eldritch Horror.
The globetrotting game of fighting cthuloid monstrosities and uncovering terrible mysteries. It is one of the latest of the small box expansions which for the main part add a few new characters, a new elder one, condition type and then a plethora of additions to the existing card contents. Cities in Ruin however breaks the mold and takes it one step further by adding a drastic new mechanic that can result in cities being permanently destroyed and removed from the board. This has the potential to seriously shake up a game of eldritch horror and is an ideal way to get back into it after a lengthy hiatus. It is also worth noting that this is not a legacy style destruction so any city removal is purely temporary (Although a legacy style eldritch horror would be a fantastic idea).
New characters, items, artifacts and spells are there to aid you. The new characters feel very fitting and Ashcan Pete the drifter would be my favourite from the bunch, but that is purely because he starts with a dog as a unique asset. The game also adds a fair amount of new unique assets which are found as specific rewards for encounters and events.
There are also some fun Western themed items such as a Winchester and a Gatling gun as well as the more supernatural elements such as shards of ancient tablets and alien/other dimensional tools. It is much more the same of what you find in the existing expansions and just serves to increase the total overall amount of variety you have access to. These are integrated into the base game as is and found in the normal ways such as shopping via the reserve or by plundering alternative dimensions full of sentient, talking cats…
The new Elder God Is Shudde M’ell The Cataclysm from below. A gigantic demonic entity that lives under Africa and whose dreams cause havoc as they trickle out into the world. He also instantly destroys Rome when he is picked as the Elder God. There are also powerful new enemies in the form of Ancient Cthonians, The World Render and the Mighty Leopard man…
Also, there are new disasters in Cities in Ruin, and devastation encounters. Disasters often representing mass destruction from both natural and unnatural sources while devastated cities may only be used for the new encounter deck. Additionally losing 9 cities is an automatic lose condition. It is another level of difficulty on what starts off as a difficult game. But if that is too easy there is an additional insane difficulty options where you replace all the mythos cards with hard variants. It is truly an expansion that caters to the sadistic.
The component quality is all top notch. The artwork is all thematically in-line with the Cthulhu imagery you would expect and helps to realize the early 1900’s time period of the game. The artifacts and items are all visually interesting and there is a good amount of visual storytelling to be gleamed and build up the self-built narrative of Eldritch Horror. The new enemies are also well realized with gigantic proportions that befits their roles as literal destroyers of cities. The card stock is also of a decent quality and the only negative is the easily damages character standees. The rules are also clear and easy to follow making the expansion easy to digest and integrate into the base game.
Cities of ruin certainly shakes up the core gameplay loop of Eldritch Horror. Actually, being able to lose cities and regions adds some real stakes to the game and it is definitely a good addition. It adds a certain poignancy when you succeed in defeating the Elder God but have lost half the world in doing so. It ups the stakes and helps to really invest you in the game as well as adding mechanical differences that force you to alter your carefully laid out plans.
It can be somewhat chaotic but I think that really helps to improve the tension and enjoyment of the game. It also adds a good amount of content beyond the main mechanical change and the new items, events, and such all help to expand on the variety and dynamism that makes the core game so enjoyable. It is definitely the best of the small box expansions and adds a lot more scalability in terms of difficulty which makes it an almost essential pick up if you are looking at expanding your Eldritch Horror experience.