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- Curse of the Dark Pharaoh -


GAMES 2007




Note: Evaluation for game including expansion

Although the evil powers which threatened the town of Arkham seems to have abated after the valiant efforts of some outstanding personalities, the the town does not come to rest. Professor Armitage of the Mikatonic University had arranged a visiting exhibition with the University of Cairo, and thus a strange conglomeration of artefacts and people has found its way to Arkham. However, the coming of the official exhibition was not the fact which disturbs the people of Arkham: strange things started happening all over the town, with mystical sandstorms raging in the streets and artefacts appearing in different places. However, most disturbing is the rumour that something even more sinister may have come in the crates from Egypt to Arkahm…


The new release of the Arkham Horror boardgame by FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES was met with with a lot of enthusiasm by boardgamers worldwide, especially because the FFG design crew had not just decided to re-release the old version of the game by CHAOSIUM with new graphics, but instead the rules were partly revised so that a mature, elegant horror boardgame was created. Seeing this initial success, it was no wonder that FFG decided to publish expansions for the game, and one of the results was the new Curse of the Dark Pharaoh expansion which introduces a total of 166 new cards for the game.

The whole expansion is built around the visiting exhibition from Egypt, introducing new Investigator cards, Arkham Location cards, Gate cards and Mythos cards dealing with different aspects of the freshly arrived exhibition. Thus, the Investigators sometimes get to draw cards from the newly included deck of Exhibit items, introducing new artefacts from ancient Egypt which possess so far unknown powers. Likewise, the investigators are assisted by new Allies and spells which may be triggered as the Exhibit items by some of the new location cards.

However, certain other groups of cards are included which should also be mentioned. Thus, a deck of Barred from the Neighbourhood cards is included, matching the colours of all neighbourhoods on the gameboard. If an investigator makes the people of a neighbourhood angry due to failing some deed required on a Location card, the people of that neighbourhood now will turn the investigator out and prohibit him from entering any location in that neighbourhood. This may prove to be quite cumbersome, since the only exception to this rule is if either the location contains a gate or if the investigator is sent to the Asylum or Hospital. The only chance to lose the Barred-cards is when the Terror-Level goes up, but an increase of the Terror-level brings its own risks so that this way is rather expensive to tread.

Another class of cards are the Benefits and Detriments which may be given to an investigator on certain conditions listed on different kinds of Ancient one cards. These cards may give an investigator a certain bonus ability similar to a Blessing, but likewise his progress may be harried by a detriment which can be compared to a curse.

Even harder are some of the new Gate cards which not only apply on two different gate colours, but which subject the unlucky investigator who has drawn such a card to a most dire meeting. Thus, these new Gate cards feature a meeting with an Ancient one, and although the battle against the Ancient one is made somewhat easier because only one success is needed to remove a doom token, it is rather difficult to escape from such a meeting alive and unscathed.

Taking all these new elements together, the players have two possibilities to play with the new cards featured in this expansion. On the one hand, they may replace some of the card decks from the basic game with the new cards, thus subjecting themselves two to full impact of the new exhibition and getting to know the new cards very fast. On the other hand, I found the Permanent Exhibition Play Style even more enjoyable, adding the new cards to their respective Arkham decks and thus giving the players the possibility to encounter the new events and atmosphere among with the well-known options offered by the basic game. However, let me issue a word of warning: played in either way, the new Curse of the Dark Pharaoh maked the game a lot more difficult! Thus, there is a lot of detrimental cards with fatal events included, and although the investigators may find new assistance by different allies and artefacts, it is very hard to tackle these some of the more difficult events if they happen too early in the game. Thus, I resorted to customizing the expansion a bit, removing some of the most lethal cards and likewise removing some of the excess double and triple cards from the basic game. In effect, this makes the game slightly easier while at the same time increasing the chances to draw spells or items which other players do not yet possess, and in the end I think this slight shift of balance makes the game a bit more interesting because the players keep a real chance of winning.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany