If you drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through the Mojave Desert you will pass a signpost for Zzyzx Road. This is a made-up place only officially recognised in the 1980’s. The original land-developer wanted a name that would be at the end of the alphabet. I bet he was fun at parties.
On the other hand, a Syzygy is a real thing. It sounds like a part of the brain or a rare grammatical construct, but it is in fact the astronomical term for when the sun and moon and/or planets align.
As you may expect, moons and planets align a lot more often than stars, but don’t panic. Big C only wakes when the stars are right.
Nevertheless, bad stuff still happens when planets line up and this is what the plucky investigators must tackle in Strange Remnants, the new small-box expansion for Eldritch Horror.
The main theme of this expansion is visiting ancient ruins around the world.
There is a new deck of Mystic Ruins Encounter cards which provide new locations to explore such as the Giant Heads on Easter Island, the Great Wall of China, Mayan Chichen Itza and Stonehenge (full-scale, not 18″). You also get to go back to the Pyramids and the Amazon.
The new Ancient One is not an actual ‘One’ but is the Syzygy itself. The game is one big countdown to the cosmic alignment. If the investigators cannot close the portal before the Earth, Moon and Sun align then Very Bad Things will destroy us all.
What is annoying is the portal is not a regular gate. It isn’t anywhere on the board. It is an opening in space and the investigators have to rush from one ancient ruin to the next to try and find ways to get it to close.
To help save the world we have four new investigators: Skids O’Toole the ex-convict, Marie Lambeau the entertainer, Tony Morgan the bounty hunter, and Zoey Samaras the chef.
With all these expansions, we are building up quite an army of investigators to choose from, 24 so far, and we now have eight different ancient ones to battle.
Fantasy Flight Games seem to be ‘counting backwards’ through all the investigators that appeared in the original Arkham Horror expansions. There were 48 in all.
My hope is that as more expansions arrive, we will eventually get to play with old favourites such as Sam Diamond, Jenny Barnes and Mandy Reroll.
Also in this expansion are a squid-load of cards to add into all the other decks.
There are also more prelude cards to add variety to the start of the game, including a Mystic Ruins prelude adventure similar to the Antarctic one.
This adventure has its own small deck of objectives to be followed alongside the main Ancient One mysteries, and if you complete all the stages in the adventure you get a nice reward such as closing a gate and advancing the mystery.
Sorting out how all this worked took some reading and unfortunately I discovered some bad news while I was skimming through the rulebook. We had been missing a key rule.
When you make a test dice roll, you can only use one card effect to boost your skill. For example, if you have more than one thing that adds to your combat skill, then you are only allowed to use the higher one. Boo.
This makes having loads of items and cards less useful, and improving your base skills more important.
Some cities on the board have ‘Improve such-and-such’ listed as their common effects, such as Rome which has ‘Improve Will’ as something that is likely to happen if you visit.
I guess visiting the cities matching the skills you need to improve is yet another thing we will have to fit in alongside saving the world.