What Is It With Farms And Horror Stories? – The Dunwich Horror Review

Well we’ve covered a small box expansion so assuming I’m going to stick to taking it in turns, it’s time to cover a big box expansion. I also reviewed the last small expansion released by FFG so instead I’m going to turn my attention to the first big expansion! See there is a structure to my madness, which is completely unrelated to Cthulhu allegedly!


"Take a look at that monster and then look at the Dunwich picture later. . . which do you fear more?"

Designer: Richard Launius (2006)
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
# of Players: 1-8
Ages: 12+
Play Time: 240 minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: #85/7.95
Dice Tower People’s Choice Rank: 11
Category: Expansion to Arkham Horror Base Game

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

Being a big box expansion, there’s no surprise that this was going to hold a lot of components, but even so! To begin with, we have a new board representing the country town of Dunwich. Complete with the same gorgeous artwork that the base game did, this is designed to sit on the edge of the original board (on top makes more sense) and provides new districts with their own locations as well as two more Other Worlds to explore through gates. It’s about a third of the size of the original so you better have some space available. I might have preferred it if Dunwich was a full size map like Arkham and you could choose a different one each game, but then I suppose you would just get repetitive location abilities and storage issues would be worse!

"Colourful and gorgeous - though I think the designers got lazy with "Another Time" for an Other World!"

There are extra cards for just about every deck that the original base game had, more items, spells, allies, skills, monsters etc. and even plenty of Mythos and Gate cards all identifiable by a unique symbol. Nothing overly special on the above selection, just more of the good stuff and variety is always a plus point in any expansion.

Particular note should be given to the new location cards. There are 14 location cards for each location in Dunwich, but better still, the box provides 7 more for all of the original Arkham locations to match Dunwich. A common complaint of the base game was that people were “digging” for specific encounters because there were only 7 in each area. Now you have 14 for much more variety. Be aware that every big box expansion does this so it’s not unique to Dunwich.

8 new investigator sheets and 4 more Ancient Ones join the fray, each with their own unique flavour and abilities, again adding to the variety. They’re all good fun to use, but be warned about Glaaki – he’s a nightmare to beat. The artwork is mixed across the board, but I like Tsathoggua’s one in particular – it just looks like such a horrific sight and concept made worse by the inclusion of the poor sacrificial girl. I dread to think what would be dreamt up if Arkham was turned into a major series.

"I had a good time with Jim Culver, he certainly made my Other World encounters less dangerous!"

"Seriously, that Tsath is a horrific sight, though to be honest, none of them are lookers!"

In the Cult of the New (no pun intended) we have possibly my favourite card addition to the game and that’s the Injury and Madness cards. These act as alternative resolutions to being sent to Arkham Asylum or the Hospital when things go sour for you. Normally you have to lose some of your items and money and I never liked that mechanic – to me it didn’t make sense thematically, I mean do all nurses steal your stuff in the NHS? You could probably argue it another way, but these cards are better thematically and I always use these as a mandatory rule. Both types can be very debilitating for the investigator and if you receive two of the same, you are devoured. Suddenly you’re a dam sight more concerned about losing all of your stamina or sanity!

"Much more interesting than simply - the nurses took your stuff!"

Minor additions such as Sheldon Gang Membership cards (think Twilight Lodge equivalent), Rail Passes and Condition cards are also present, however these have very little impact on the game and don’t see much play – they aren’t a focus of the expansion though.

Horror on Whateley Farm

The big focus of this expansion is the Dunwich Horror himself. Two differences you will notice on the new board is the addition of Vortex Spaces and the Dunwich Horror track. As monsters spawn and move around Dunwich, they will inevitably end up in a vortex – where they go from there, no-one knows, but I’m sure it’s not a dreamy, sunny realm. This is doubly bad for investigators as not only does it up the Terror Track by one, it also adds one to the Dunwich Horror track which only has 3 slots. When this track is completely filled, the Dunwich Horror appears and shambles around the board constantly threatening to increase the doom track faster than usual.

"I've dated worse, but only due to very poor disco lighting! - Note you don't get this Herald in the game - this is from the Miskatonic expansion (to be continued. . . )"

The Dunwich Horror himself has 7 iterations which have different attributes and resistances/immunities so you never know what horror you are fighting and it is tough! Essentially what you would expect a Herald to be if it had attributes. Strangely enough the Herald mechanic wasn’t invented at the time of this expansion, but this is fixed in the Miskatonic set which I’ll cover at the end of the month.

This new feature has two effects on the main game. Firstly the Terror Track now actually gets used! In the base game alone, the terror track barely moved and certainly it was unlikely that you would ever reach 10. Now however if you don’t keep tabs on the monsters spawning in Dunwich, this track rises much faster causing useful buildings to close and be inaccessible for the rest of the game before finally releasing the Ancient One.

Secondly as you can only halt the Dunwich Horror by stopping the monsters from reaching the vortexes, a greater emphasis is placed on combat making for a more thrilling game. That is. . . . . if the monsters appear at all. Monsters can only spawn if a Mythos card representing a Dunwich location appears – depending on your shuffling, you might end up with an even mix of Dunwich and Arkham locations, or a big in-rush of either. It’s only a bugbear if it’s the Arkham extreme as you’ll feel like the expansion board might as well not be there. Doesn’t happen often, but worth bearing in mind if you haven’t obtained Miskatonic . . . . more on that another day.

Thematically it’s a good addition to the overall plot of the Ancient Ones even with the randomness of how much impact it has on the game, but you can never truly ignore it.

Verdict

Commonly this is recommended as the first expansion to buy when moving on from the base game. I followed this rule and didn’t regret it, but I found the expansion to be a little sparse in terms of content. Other big box expansions also add their fair share of investigators, Ancient Ones and common cards, but other than a new threat and some new cards, it’s not exactly packed.

However, Dunwich manages to address a couple of areas from the base that I had issues with, namely the repercussions of going to the Hospital or Asylum and the lack of any “terror” on the track! The former felt odd and the latter was almost non-existent before, but now the theme and threat respectively have much improved.

It is also one of the easier expansions to incorporate into the base game. The new locations and other worlds are easy enough to understand while adding variation and the rules regarding the Dunwich Horror itself are straightforward also. I still wouldn’t recommend ever teaching anything other than just the base game to new players, but you might get away with it if they are hardcore gamers. Also bear in mind that every expansion you add WILL add to the game length.

These are all points that elevate this big box expansion over the others in terms of requirements, but as you’ll soon see, it’s not my favourite big box of them all . . . .

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