What does the Expansion Include?
The Outer Dark, designed by Kevin Riley, provides two new breach mages and two new Nemeses to augment your Aeon's End core boxes with. Remnant is the first of these, exploring a design space touched on with War Eternal's Dezmodia and some of the mages from the latest base set, The New Age: breaches with different casting effects Remnant's II breach grants an additional AEther whenever a spell is cast from it, which gives the player a choice between resources when needing to buy off a Power card, or extra damage from his III and IV breaches if he chooses to focus on these instead.
Unfortunately, the way his breaches are situated makes granting him this advantage slow and tedious. His unique card grants him a bonus towards opening breaches, but this will rarely get you the advantage of both having breaches and acquiring the potent spells to use them with. Remnant's ability redeems him somewhat, being able to shore up Gravehold's life total or grant two potent spells back to an ally, but he doesn't pack enough punch for me to recommend him for any role over most of the other fantastic support options the base sets have.
Indira, on the other hand, is a much more interesting puzzle to solve. Unlike other mages, Indira only has access to one breach. Thus, she relies on her unique gem, Twin Opal, that grants her both one AEther to spend and gives her the ability to cast a spell from her hand. Thus, Indira can dodge effects that forces players to discard spells from their breaches, at the cost of only having access to one +1 damage breach. That is both a blessing and a curse, but her ability is what makes her shine.
Once she has access to enough spells, her Pyromancer's Guile can rattle off any number of spells from her hand, each one doing an additional damage, mitigating the lack of breaches. Not to mention, having access to spells that can immediately be cast makes her a valuable asset in some games, foregoing the normal wait period to cast a spell and immediately launching it towards any given threat. She's a versatile damage dealer who can deal with most problems in an effective manner, deceptively so given how she begins the game.
On average, the two new Nemesis additions are above the curve in difficulty for the game. Thrice-Dead Prophet is a difficulty five Nemesis whose focus lies on gaining life faster than the mages can deal with. Prophet also offers two additional lose conditions: The players can neither hope to outlast the Nemesis deck, nor can they let the Prophet get to 99 life. His Unleash effect of 'gain five life' will soon outpace a player's damage if they do not act fact, and should he get to 60 life and start removing cards from his Nemesis deck he can quickly rush the players into defeat. A deceptively simple but effective Nemesis, the Prophet is an annoying foe to face without the proper tools.
The Outer Dark also brings with it the Wraithmonger, a skull-faced cephalopod that dishes out Terror tiles to the players, each one with a more devastating effect than the last. Players can lose four charges to return every Terror tile to the Wraithmonger, but this is only a temporary measure and will force a player to commit solely on an AEther-focused strategy in order to control how dangerous the Wraithmonger becomes. Wraithmonger forces you to plan ahead, balancing when to send back the Terror tiles or tank a huge amount of damage, and at difficulty six there's not many Nemeses that eclipse his difficulty level. Players should be wary of cards that caused multiple instances of Unleash effects, because it only takes seven Unleashes to go from comfort to losing the game.
Finally, we come to the spells. This expansion brings more market cards than any before it, and there are some stellar effects in here. The main design space explored in this expansion's market cards is the need for charges, with many of the cards focused around either acquiring charges or spending them for additional effects. Haunted Berylite is a three-cost gem that either grants two AEther or allows you to discard another card to gain two charges, which can be a great way to thin out excess Sparks or Crystals. In a similar vein, the Riddlestone Relic card allows you to get a single charge, or spend two charges for five AEther, which can facilitate purchasing some of the seven and eight-cost spells as early as your third turn depending on the mage. Finally, spells such as Feedback Aura and Scorch either grant or take advantage of charges by pushing through additional damage, while fuelling your character's unique powers later in the game.
Is The Outer Dark Worth Purchasing?
The Outer Dark is a fine inclusion to both the base game and War Eternal. It doesn't excite me as much as The Depths or The Nameless, but what it accomplishes is solid. Remnant and Indira are a little weaker than past mages we've seen, but they make up for it with interesting, unique designs. It will take a skilled mage to get the most out of them, so I wouldn't recommend this as a first expansion. The Nemeses offer a good challenge based around simple mechanics. Thrice-Dead Prophet has no setup beyond the norm, and Wraithmonger only has the terror tiles beyond this, and both offer unique perspectives on what a Nemesis can be within the Aeon's End system.
There are a lot more scope for market cards in this set, and it offers the most new cards of any expansion with both dashboards and cards. There are a few cards that rely on certain strategies and other cards to be worthwhile and potent enough to win against some bosses, so when incorporating these cards in I'd be more inclined to suggest building a market rather than randomising one to save time. Of note, a lot of the spells in this expansion are very damage efficient for their costs, so will definitely aid in games where players are struggling for damage with the more basic spells from either base set.
The Outer Dark presents another good inclusion to the Aeon's End series. It is solid as an augment to an already burgeoning collection, and though it wouldn't be my first choice out of the small expansions, the design space explored is generally new and more interesting when compared to some of them. Grab it if you need an added challenge or exploration, but don't feel aggrieved if you don't have it in your life straight away.