Winter is coming
An archaeological expedition from the Miskatonic University has unearthed an ancient evil in the Alaskan wilderness. Contact with the team has since been lost. You and fellow investigators must now leave Arkham behind and venture into the icy frontier. Can you solve ancient puzzles and overcome the supernatural forces rising in the north? Or will the Ancient One awaken and bury the world beneath snow and ice? Fill a thermos and dig out your mittens, the hunt for Elder Signs is about to get chilly.
Omens of Ice is the third expansion for Elder Sign, a cooperative dice game based on the Cthulhu mythos of H P Lovecraft. It includes three new Ancient Ones, eight new investigators, a selection of new Item, Spell & Ally cards and Monster markers. These components can be used with Elder Sign or any other expansion. It also includes a new game mode, Alaskan Expedition, complete with a 60 card Alaskan Adventure Deck and a 30 card Alaskan Mythos Deck.
Readying the Expedition
The Alaskan Expedition will use only the Adventure and Mythos cards included with Omens of Ice, but as this is an expansion, a copy of Elder Sign is required in order to play.
The clock, dice and Other World Deck from the base game are needed, along with the common components (Investigator, Item, Spell & Ally Cards and Monster Markers). These will be combined with the corresponding components from Omens of Ice and set out for players to access during the game.
The Curse & Blessing cards (and dice) from the Unseen Forces expansion and Skills cards from the Gates of Arkham expansion can also be used, but are not essential. A number of Alaskan Adventure cards offer the player a choice of rewards or penalties, 17 of which feature Skills, Blessings and Curses. For players not familiar with Unseen Forces or Gates of Arkham this may be unclear, as it is not covered in the Omens of Ice rules. A player will always have an option to take a reward or penalty that requires only components from Omens of Ice.
New elements introduced in this expansion include:
- Special and stage specific adventure cards.
Players will start the game with six stage I adventures and a special adventure in play. Completing special adventures will progress the game and unlock stage II adventures. These are harder to complete, but offer greater rewards.
- Storm Markers.
These will be added to adventures throughout the game and have a variety of (usually adverse) effects players must deal with.
- Expedition Supplies.
Players will need to manage supplies to keep the expedition moving. If supplies run out, investigators will lose stamina each time the clock hits midnight.
- Expedition Duration (Day) Track.
The day track is double sided. Players can choose to play in Summer or Winter. Every time the clock strikes midnight the day marker is moved on. From day three the weather will grow increasingly worse, resulting in more and more storm markers being added to adventures.
If it's Summer, doom tokens start piling up on the Ancient One after day seven, which is bad. If it's Winter, moving into day eight results in instant death, which is really bad.
Going on an Adventure
The objective of the Alaskan Expedition is a familiar one. Pick up enough Elder Signs to seal away the Ancient One without losing all of your Sanity or Stamina in the process. To do this, players will be attempting to complete adventures by rolling dice to resolve tasks and combat monsters. Easier said than done!
Omens of Ice ramps up the difficulty from Elder Sign and Gates of Arkham. Three of the starting six adventure cards enter play face down. As will each new one drawn. (A mechanic introduced in Gates of Arkham). Although the difficulty level is visible on the back, players will be taking a gamble each time they move to a face down adventure. Flipping it over might reveal a requirement that reduces an investigators Sanity or Stamina to zero. Locks away a desperately needed die or has another adverse affect on the state of play.
On top of this, an ongoing concern will be the supplies and day track. If supplies run out and/or the expedition runs over seven days, Investigators will lose stamina each time the clock strikes midnight. This instils an urgency into gameplay.
The need to balance risk and reward has to be at the forefront of players' minds when taking on the Alaskan Expedition. They will need to make tough choices and work together to stand a chance of success!
I really like this expansion, it's a strong thematic edition that adds value to the Elder Sign series. It is difficult, but that's the appeal. Fans of games based on the Cthulhu Mythos tend to enjoy the battering these games deal out to players! I think it will appeal to existing fans of Elder Sign. As well as fans of cooperative games in general. (Especially those that encourage a high level of team work).
The common components add more variety to general game play, whilst the Alaska Expedition offers a whole new adventure that will engage veteran players and provide a real challenge.
That said, new players to Elder Sign may get more enjoyment from trying Gates of Arkham before moving onto Omens of Ice. Due to the jump in difficulty from the base game being quite high.