The cults are rising, and they shall usher in the Messenger of the Outer Gods, Nyarlathotep who will open the great gate and destroy the world around us. Only a handful of under-prepared investigators stand in the way of the cults. However, they're slowly going insane and are being corrupted by Nyarlathotep.
Masks of Nyarlathotep is the final expansion to the epic world spanning game based on the works of H.P Lovecraft.
The Messengers of the Outer Gods Approach
This final expansion to Fantasy Flights' Eldritch Horror series. This marks the end of the line for this extremely popular game. This is a big-box expansion, but unlike the others, it does not include any new side board. This is a surprise and does make one wonder if this is actually a small box expansion or even a 'midsize' expansion given a bigger box which is boosted by the fact that there is a fair amount of dead space in the box.
However, the box is packed with seven new investigators, two new ancient ones with their special decks, 12 new adventure cards, 20 mythos cards, 14 prelude cards, 15 new standard and epic monsters, four new artefact cards, 16 new asset cards, four spell cards, 28 unique asset cards, 24 condition cards, 55 personal mission cards, 55 reward/consequence cards, a range of new tokens.
So, plenty of new things added in. Plus new mythos, encounter and special cards.
All Set for Adventure
The theme of this game is Nyarlathotep and his mysteries all involve sending the investigators on adventures. This adds a nice change of pace to the game and a new approach to solving the mysteries. It's a shame that Fantasy Flight didn't add more of this into the game with other ancient ones as it would have made for a variety of game play options.
These adventures are based on the various cults devoted to the Messenger of the Outer Gods and strike a good balance of not being too intense and convoluted, but quick and direct so this change of play style does not slow the game nor make it too much harder or easier than it already was.
New Challenges, New Approaches
Joining the fight are the final seven investigators, bringing the total number of investigators to choose from to 55. Playing the game with new people with all these choices from the very start of set-up is a little daunting and overwhelming, however, it also covers nearly all types of play styles and approaches. I would always suggest to people that if they do not know who they want to play as it to simply choose the person you like the look of the most and not worry too much about what skills, abilities and items they start with. The new investigators are an interesting mix;
- Sefina Rousseau - The painter has high observation and will and can improve skills and gain clues fairly easily. She starts with a high sanity, this makes her a great researcher and other world adventurer. Her ability to improve skills also means that she can be adapted to different play styles in the same game!
- Daniela Reyes - The mechanic has high will and strength making her well suited to combat. She also has a good influence and can gain assets and resources with her special abilities and skills. She can also use her resources to gain clues, making her useful when needing to acquire clues and with a high health she can hang in a fight without much to worry about.
- Agatha Crane - The parapsychologist is a magic user and researcher. Her starting spells and ability to gain a bonus to law checks make her a powerful spell caster and a powerful combatant, despite her low strength and low health. She can also gain clues when she has a tome making her a fantastic researcher, if seeming and feeling a little over powered at times, but in a game as difficult as this, not many people will be complaining.
- Father Mateo - The priest is a boon machine. He can pass his own boon conditions to others and with high will and lore he can survive and close gates much easier than others. Given that he is a priest he can gain a boon when he closes a gate. Savvy plays will have him spending half of his time in the other worlds where possible.
- Carson Sinclair - The butler is one of the best all-rounders in the game. He can help other players move around the board faster than normal and he can trade essentially for free. His incredibly balanced stats mean that he can be adapted easily to a variety of roles depending on need through the game. A powerful and exciting character to be added to the game.
- Preston Fairmont - The millionaire. Preston is all about assets, gaining them and gaining sanity when he gains them. He has a low will making him less useful when fighting the more horrific monsters but Preston is a support character that can help others get gear.
- Calvin Wright - The haunted. Calvin is corrupted from the start, but for the price of corruption he is a powerful character if played right. Aside from his will he is an all rounder and can be used in many different ways depending on need and equipment.
The seven new characters feel unique, and each will gain benefits and drawbacks depending on the group and the approach to play. It must be said that playing with some of these characters (such as Agatha Crane) can feel over powered depending on the ancient one, detracting from the feel of impending doom somewhat but it is only a minor drawback.
It Washed Up, I Think it Speaks to me at Night
The assets, artefacts and unique assets that are added in Masks of Nyarlathotep are not over whelming, though if you have all the expansions it is a rarity that you will come across certain items. A new addition to the game with this expansion in the Resources tokens. These represent the general resources that the player can use either for their abilities, card abilities or can be added to acquire asset actions to add one success for each resource spent.
Like focus tokens, a player can only have two resources at a time. Acquiring a resource token is an action. Some see the addition of resources as bloated and unnecessary, however, they add a further choice of actions especially if you are in a place where you need to be and have nothing to do but wait for the encounter phase. Some investigators and cards also add special abilities with the resource tokens. The addition of Resources tokens which act very similar to focus tokens are not complex and don't bloat the game much at all.
Packed with new magic items, allies and trinkets amongst other things, there is an asset for everyone and for lots of play styles. The chainsaw is one such item that seems to have a vast appeal to many players! Each of the new items adds a lot of variety into the game and the new artefacts add much more thematic weight as well. Given that there are a vast number of cards and items in the game now there is no chance of a game playing the same twice and, in fact, there may be cards that are not seen for four, five or more games.
None of the new cards seem to be there for filler and each deck is very balanced in their content in what they provide as an advantage to the investigators as well as what they take away.
The Darkness Crawls Across the Earth
Masks of Nyarlathotep introduces the final two ancient ones of Eldritch Horror, one of which is indeed an ancient one and the other more of a scenario. The ancient one is, without surprise, Nyarlathotep and it is wonderful to see a true classic of Lovecraft in the mix now.
Nyarlathotep is the Messenger of the Gods and is played somewhat differently to the other ancient ones in that many of his mysteries are associated with unique adventures, where the investigators must complete adventures to track down and eliminate the various cults of Nyarlathotep. With a low doom (12) and with more than half the mythos cards being yellow, he is heavy on reckonings and as Nyarlathotep dishes out corruption this can quickly become a challenge to the investigators as they slowly succumb to the messenger. This creates a slow burn among the doom countdown, and the corruption is extremely thematic not just with Eldritch Horror in general but with Nyarlathotep specifically.
The second ancient one is Antediluvian, a creature from before the flood and is similar to Syzergy in that it is not an ancient one per say, but more of a scenario telling a story towards the either the investigators stopping the rise of an ancient one or the great antediluvian ancient one arising, this of course is none other than Cthulhu. A nice change to playing the Cthulhu ancient one, this is a more story driven version.
Masks of Nyarlathotep brings two iconic ancient ones to the game well. Both feel unique and are not just another additional bad guy in which you could swap the names interchangeably and nothing would change. But there is a sense that this is just the last two ideas that Fantasy Flight had and there was nowhere else to put them in the other expansions.
Having two ancient ones to add to the collection is great, but there are so many more from earlier and current incarnations that could also have been successfully adapted to Eldritch Horror that could have also fitted well into this rather small big-box expansion, and despite the game now being 'complete' there is a sense that not everything they could have given us was given.
Prior to the release of Masks of Nyarlathotep, Fantasy Flight Games spoke about another way to play Eldritch Horror that they would include. This was the Campaign Mode and we all anticipated it with great expectations to have a generic, less than one page, set of campaign rules that anyone who plays the game could have house-ruled themselves.
There was no great system put in place to create a long impactful story, just preset prelude cards paired with ancient ones, some of the conditions pass from one game to the next but not items (I guess if you find the lightning gun you just threw it away after the ancient one was stopped and didn't want to keep it).
Eldritch Horror is not a campaign game, but to provide a promise for a campaign mode and deliver nothing but a handful of generic house rules that don't really make a campaign mode as such but a way of very loosely stringing together six games is a big letdown from Fantasy flight Games and the biggest disappointment in Masks of Nyarlethotep.
The End is Nigh - Final Thoughts on Masks of Nyarlathotep
It is great to have new stuff in any expansion and despite its small scale the amount of new stuff is good. New mythos cards, new items, new encounters and monsters are all fun and create a nice array of choices and approaches to play the game, however, rather than being a grand finale to a fantastically popular and loved game, Masks of Nyarlathotep is limited in its appeal and feels like a thrown together collection of things that couldn't fit into the other more themed expansions.
Make no mistake; Masks of Nyarlathotep is a good expansion, but it is a small expansion that fills the gaps in the game and not a vast big-box expansion like Under the Pyramids, Mountains of Madness or The Dreamlands, all of which had a very strong thematic feel; Masks of Nyarlathotep had the potential to have a similar thematic feel and does in some aspects but not as completely as the others.
For fans of Eldritch Horror, this is a must and they will love aspects of it depending on which parts of the game you enjoy, such as the adventures, encounters, playing with new investigators whatever it is this adds to it. For people new to Eldritch Horror I would recommend getting all the other expansions first, including the small box expansions.
The campaign mode is laughable frankly, and house rules would be a better way of achieving your own campaign mode and it baffles as to how something like this got through the usual high stands of Fantasy Flight Games. The artwork (by Jacob Murray) and production quality of the game is top notch quality but that is no surprise coming from Fantasy Flight.
Masks of Nyarlathotep had much to live up to, being the finale to Eldritch Horror. Despite all that it does achieve well, it falls a little flat in other areas that only really adds to Eldritch Horror after all the other expansions have been included.