For the last 5 years, a team of brave investigators have fought monsters, plumbed the depths of arcane knowledge, and made every conceivable sacrifice to keep the world safe from Eldritch monsters and Ancient Ones bent on the destruction of humanity. Now they face their greatest challenge of all – can they spell, or even pronounce “Nyarlathotep”?
Masks of Nyarlathotep is the 8th and possibly final expansion for Eldritch Horror, a cooperative game of Lovecraftian adventure. It’s a big box, packed with a lot of content, but is it any good? Let’s find out!
Masks of Nyarlathotep – what’s in the box?
Masks of Nyarlathotep is a big-box expansion and, unlike previous Eldritch horror releases of its size, it doesn’t include an additional board for the game. What it does include though, is 7 new investigators, 2 new Ancient ones, a new “resource” mechanic, additions for most of the existing card decks, and a whole new deck, the Personal Missions.
Personally, I was really happy to see a board-free big-box expansion, as adding side-boards can often distort the overall shape of the game- the components are of the same high standard you’d expect from a Fantasy Flight game, and the cards will all shuffle neatly into their respective decks without any stand-out colour differences.
Sounds good – how does it play?
Broadly speaking, there are 4 big things that you can add to your game of Eldritch Horror by including Masks of Nyarlathotep. Like (almost) every expansion there are new Investigators and new Ancient Ones. The unique contributions of Masks of Nyarlathotep are the Personal Missions for Investigators and Campaign Mode. Before I take a detailed look at each of those in turn, it’s worth mentioning the ‘standard’ components: there are more cards for the various location encounter decks, more assets, conditions, spells and the like. For the most part, these aren’t particularly distinctive, but they add variety, which is always nice.
One thing which is new in Masks of Nyarlathotep (although very familiar-looking for anyone who plays the Arkham LCG or owns the Omens of Ice expansion for Elder Sign), is the resource action and its associated tokens. On top of the various actions already available to Investigators, they can now spend an action to take a single resource (possessing up to a maximum of two). You can spend a resource when resting to recover 1 additional point of Health or Sanity, or you can spend it when doing the ‘acquire assets’ action (“shopping” in our house), to count as an extra success.
It’s a very simple addition, but I really liked it. Often in Eldritch Horror, an investigator will need to stay on a space with a monster for their whole turn – many of the existing expansions include the “focus” mechanic, which gives them something to do, but that second action often went to waste, which could be frustrating when you were taking damage from a monster. Now there is a second option, which can also allow your investigator to make a recovery more swiftly after combat, or simply reduce some of the frustration when you roll 5 or 6 dice on a shopping trip and still fail to get 2 successes.
Unlike previous expansions which have typically had 4 investigators to a small box and 8 to a large, Masks of Nyarlathotep has exactly 7 new investigators. 4 characters created for Mansions of Madness 2nd edition in 2016, Sefina Rousseau who was created for the Arkham LCG last year, Calvin Wright – a reimagining of an old promo character who made his appearance in Eldritch Horror and Elder Sign on the same day (and will be joining the LCG shortly), and Daniela Reyes, who is so far an Eldritch Horror-only character. With the arrival of this most recent group, Eldritch players now have access to all 55 of the investigators created for the Arkham Horror Files games. Before getting into their game-play styles, it’s worth noting that their backstories identify Calvin and Daniela as the Arkham Files’ first confirmed LGBT investigators, continuing FFG’s ongoing push for greater diversity.
As far as the individual investigators go, there is a fair amount of variety, and plenty of interesting options. Father Mateo is a favourite character of mine, and he has the very useful ability to hand out his Boon conditions, essentially enabling him to bless/remove curses from other investigators.
Preston Fairmont is a new version of the high-influence, low-combat investigator that has been a running sub-theme in Eldritch Horror throughout its life. With 5 influence, he has the highest score we’ve ever seen for a printed stat, but still doesn’t feel as effective as Charlie Kane from the core box, or Jenny Barnes. On the other hand, his ability to heal horror when he gets new stuff is always useful, and highly thematic for a millionaire. As has been the case with most of his earlier appearances, he arrives followed by his butler who is a useful, if not very interesting, support character.
Although not quite as crazy as his LCG incarnation, Calvin Wright is definitely one of the more unusual Investigators we’ve seen so far. Being able to resist skill impairment is a really powerful ability, and I can see him quickly becoming a regular in our investigator line-up.
Sefina Rousseau’s ability to convert the various resources available in the game (Focus, Skill Improvements, Clues etc) has the potential to be really powerful if used correctly, although it’s probably a bit complex for a new player. Agatha Crane by contrast simply picks up lots of clues, which is never something you’ll be sad to see.
There are two new Ancient Ones to face in Masks of Nyarlathotep: Nyarlathotep himself and the Antediulvium. The Antediluvium is a mostly abstract concept, with most of your struggles being against a particular cult whose exact aims are slightly mysterious. Some of the Mysteries interact with the Mystic Ruins deck – new cards are included in this expansion, which those who already own Strange Remnants can mix with their existing Mystic Ruins for greater variety, but others will be a fairly straightforward case of finding clues or defeating monsters in a way that will be very familiar to most Eldritch veterans. Fun enough to play, but not especially distinctive.
The eponymous villain of Masks of Nyarlathotep is a different matter. Where most Ancients require you to complete 3 single-part Mysteries to defeat them, he requires only 2, but each of them are multi-part Adventure Mysteries.
Again, I thought this was a really clever touch – we’ve had mysteries before, but often they were tangential to the central drive to defeat the Ancient One, brought in by a prelude or similar. In this context there was often insufficient incentive (or even time) to actually complete them, and I loved the way that Masks of Nyarlathotep brought the Adventures into the limelight.
One of the most interesting and distinctive inclusions in Masks of Nyarlathotep are the new “Personal Missions” these are included for all 55 investigators seen in Eldritch Horror up until now, and they all follow the same pattern.
For each character you have 2 cards, the first is an image on one side, and an ultimatum on the other – if your investigator can meet a particular set of requirements, then they can claim a powerful reward. On the other hand, if a certain bad thing happens before they manage this, then they will be subject to a negative consequence. (the reward and consequence are opposite sides of the second card).
I really liked these cards. I play the Arkham games for theme, and am always keen on anything that really develops the back-story or play-style for the investigators. Having these not only offers another insight into a character’s motivations and fears, but also makes them play more distinctly from other investigators who might have similar powers. Right now, Masks of Nyarlathotep is still fairly new, and we’re using the Personal Missions in every game we play, but if we do ever get tired of them and want to be freer to pursue the investigation in our own way, they can be swapped out without worrying about interactions with any other components (see below for the one exception).
For the first time in Eldritch Horror, Masks of Nyarlathotep allows you to play in campaign mode. In many respects, this feels a bit like a sadistic joke, as completing a campaign requires winning 6 consecutive games!! – when winning a single game is such a challenge, completing a campaign feels more-or-less impossible.
That said, the components required for campaign mode are so minimal, that it’s hard to begrudge it being included- aside from a page in the rule-book, there really isn’t anything in the box that is campaign only.
In Campaign mode you have to include the personal Missions, with consequences carrying over from one game to another, you also have to use not 1 but 2 preludes with every game – one for this game’s Ancient and one for the next game’s. However, all of these are components you already have (for each Ancient there is a designated Prelude which came in the relevant expansion).
If a character is defeated in one game of a campaign, they cannot re-appear in a later session, and other lasting effects such as cities being devastated if you are playing with the Cities in Ruin expansion carry over. Given the length and difficulty of even a single game of Eldritch Horror, we’ve to come anywhere close to completing a campaign, but I enjoy the new way of approaching the game.
Masks of Nyarlathotep – final thoughts
Not sure which is worse, trying to find a specific card,or trying to shuffle them!
I expect that Masks of Nyarlathotep may well be the last expansion for Eldritch Horror: we now have all the investigators, most storage solutions are at breaking point, and the various card decks are so enormous as to defy shuffling. If this is the end for Eldritch Horror, then Masks of Nyarlathotep sees the game going out on a high, with one of the best expansions yet.
The investigators and the Ancient ones are interesting enough, and more variety for the various encounter decks is always nice, but it’s the unique things that set this expansion apart. The resource mechanic is incredibly simple, but it adds so much to the game, letting investigators get more productivity out of turns where they are forced to stay in a non-ideal location, as well as making Shopping and Healing much more efficient.
The personal missions are great- they really do add another dimension to the game, as well as developing each investigator thematically. The benefits and perils they offer are big enough to make an impact on the game and the ones I’ve played (haven’t managed all 55 investigators yet!) all seem relatively balanced.
I can’t see anything ever changing my mind that Forsaken Lore is the first expansion you should buy for Eldritch Horror, but Masks of Nyarlathotep is a strong contended for number 2. Whilst you won’t be able to use all of the content right away, it still packs a good punch straightaway, and it will make any future expansion that bit better.
A fitting swansong – 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.