Mansions of Madness is back, with its biggest expansion to date, taking you out of the haunted houses and into the streets. Battle aliens from beyond the stars and down to earth mobsters as you attempt to keep Arkham, and the world safe from destruction.
Streets of Arkham: What’s in the Box?
There is a good amount of content in Streets of Arkham, most of it really well made. There are miniatures for 4 new investigators, 2 figures each for 3 new monster types, and a single copy of a large monster. The quality of the sculpts in this box feels like a definite step up from previous releases in the line, and I was impressed by both the solidity and the detail of the miniatures (although the ugly black bases are still included as standard).
All Miniatures supplied un-painted
There are a whole stack of new location tiles on which the scenarios will play out, as well as the usual selection of additions to card-decks: Damage and Horror, Items and Spells. There are also a few completely new components in the form of Elixir cards and Improvement tokens.
All-in-all, I was really impressed by the components of Streets of Arkham. As I say, the miniature quality is really top-notch, and the other additions all seem to add plenty of value to the gameplay experience.
New Mysteries? 3 to Choose!
Of course, the real value in any new Mansions product is in the scenarios, and Streets of Arkham comes with 3 of them. Astral Alchemy is essentially a scavenger hunt, Gangs of Arkham is one of the now-familiar Whodunnit scenarios, and the last, A Night at the Museum, is a puzzle-heavy brain-teaser.
Astral Alchemy sees your investigators summoned to the campus of the Miskatonic University after dark, where your help is needed in dealing with some strange beings from being the stars. You’ll investigate where these creatures came from and why, along with trying to gather some components needed to help defeat them. It’s a fairly tight race against time, with each small success your investigators achieve earning them a little more time.
This particular scenario (and the third) had voiceovers from a woman who I don’t believe has worked on the game before, and I must admit that her voice somewhat set me on edge. Despite that though, the scenario itself was really good: there are 2 or 3 different map layouts, and depending on which people and components you interact with in which order, events can branch off in a variety of ways, giving the scenario good replay value. I particularly liked the variety of different ways in which this scenario can end, with unsuccessful conclusions that vary in terms of just how ‘bad’ things are for the investigators and for Arkham itself. Overall it was a really strong opener, capable of providing many hours of table-time all by itself.
Mobsters and Monsters
The Second Scenario in Street of Arkham is “Gangs of Arkham” Much like Rising Tide from the core box, or Vengeful Impulses from Beyond the Threshold. Your investigators will need to speak to people, ask questions, and generally investigate their surroundings. Your objective in this particular scenario is to determine who is behind a string of nasty deaths, and the success or failure of your group could be the deciding factor into whether Arkham is ripped apart by a turf war between rival mob gangs.
I thought it was probably the best scenario of its type so far, with plenty of interactions to perform, and a good sense of pacing. My only big misgiving was the lack of scope for accessing certain locations – we were completely unable to get into one place, as 2 successes on a skill check was not enough, and neither of our characters was rolling more than 3 dice for that skill.
A Night at the Museum
FFG’s Arkham Horror Files dedicated an entire game – Elder Sign – to nocturnal exploration of a museum, and though it has branched out since, this remains a staple environment for these games and for our investigators.
Ill-Fated Exhibit is the 3rd and final scenario in Streets of Arkham, and it sees you summoned to the Miskatonic Museum after a string of macabre and unlikely deaths, and tasked with identifying which of three artefacts is cursed. This was the first scenario I could recall suggesting that players make notes outside of the app, and it definitely feels like a necessary step, as you try to make logical deductions based on a compiled summary of various nuggets of information you pick up.
Overall, this scenario felt especially puzzle-y, with lots and lots of in-app puzzles to solve, and remarkably few standard skill tests to perform.
The scenario changes gear rather abruptly mid-way through, making the first and second parts feel like very different experiences. We found it entertaining, but the need to work with incomplete information – especially when you don’t know if there is further information yet to find – can definitely get frustrating at times.
Cops and … Bootleggers?
Streets of Arkham adds 4 new Investigators to the assembled ranks: Diana Stanley the redeemed Cultist, Finn Edwards the Bootlegger, Marie Lambeau the entertainer, and Tommy Muldoon the Rookie Cop.
As noted above, the sculpts for all 4 of these are really nice: sturdy and with plenty of detail. Finn’s slightly exaggerated tip-toing walk feels a little bit over-the-top, but it’s a very minor complaint, and I was particular fan of Diana’s miniature which manages to pack a lot of character into something which really isn’t that different from the core set cultists.
Ability wise, they offer interesting options. Diana has the low willpower that players familiar with her from other Arkham titles will have come to expect, coupled with an ability that shields her from massive bursts of horror. We found that she is still quite vulnerable, as scenarios that target you with a constant drip of horror will punish her quite badly as she fails the Willpower checks. However, whilst not the powerhouse she is in Eldritch Horror, her other skills are rounded enough to make her highly playable.
Marie Lambeau can cast a spell for free at the start of each turn. As a potential 50% increase in the number of actions she can take, this has the potential to be incredibly powerful, but a lot of the time, you’ll be held back by the lack of spell-based actions that there are to perform: in a scenario which gives you access to non-combat spells, she is a very strong pick.
Tommy Muldoon is a fairly generic figure, who doesn’t really stand out in terms of his stats or his ability. However, his unique starting asset, his rifle “Becky” not only ensures that he always begins a game with a high-damage firearm, but also gives him a once-per-round re-roll that can be used not just for combat, for any roll he needs to make. A really solid investigator, with good combat, and general utility.
Room for Improvement? If You Want to Risk It!
Apart from the ongoing trickle of new items and spells that comes with every Mansions of Madness expansion, Streets of Arkham also introduces a completely new mechanic (albeit one that Eldritch Horror players will be familiar with), in skill improvements.
Scenario effects, items, or Elixirs will allow your investigators to improve their skills, increasing the number of dice they roll for tests (or the number of puzzle steps you can perform). As is always the way in Arkham though, knowledge comes at a price, and your investigators can expect Mythos events to occur which will target or otherwise penalise those investigators who have improved skills.
Expect new damage and horror (plus some generic ones to keep the ratios balanced)
I liked this on a number of levels: at its most basic, an improvement allows an investigator to improve a weak stat, or enhance one that will be particularly relevant for the coming scenario. Then there’s a whole extra level of risk/reward decision-making to be made: should you shun skill improvement altogether to protect yourself from the inevitable cosmic backlash which is sure to follow.
Old Favourites: It Goes Back as well as Forward!
New ways to go mad…
I was also really pleased to see that Streets of Arkham makes some meaningful changes to older scenarios. Shortly after adding this to the collection, we re-played Escape from Innsmouth, core box scenario #2, and one of the maps that tends to change the least between the scenarios – this time round, we were given a noticeably different layout, with 4 or 5 new tiles from Streets of Arkham used in the map.
and new toys
Even where you don’t specifically run into tiles from Streets of Arkham, just having the extra investigators and new equipment can give things a fresh twist.
Streets of Arkham: Final Thoughts
The Mansions of Madness product line seems to be in a constant state of flux, with different sizes of physical expansion, and a slow trickle of digital scenarios releasing. Streets of Arkham felt like the best expansion yet – the quality of the miniatures is better, and all 3 of the scenarios are really good.
The Elixirs and Improvements offer a suitably Arkham double-edged sword, and the general additions to existing decks and piles will enhance the play-experience of revisiting older scenarios.
A really good box that’s got Mansions of Madness back on my table after a relatively quiet period: 9/10
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.