Hey everyone. We had some time now to spend with the latest campaign release for Arkham and opinions have actually been a bit divisive. From what i gathered the community response is a lot more muted than for Innsmouth. It’s still mostly positive, mind you.
In any case, i figured i’d write down my own thoughts on the expansion. Some things that i liked, others that i liked less. Note that this largely leaves aside the story telling bit. That’s just something i don’t care too much about in the long run. It’s great for the first two plays, but i am someone that replays campaigns over and over and no story will be able to withstand that. Fwiw, i liked Edge well enough in that regard. But when i play now, i basically skip most of the pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages of story text. It is what it is.
The Edge campaign has a variety of effects that follow the player from one scenario to the next. You pick up Tekeli-li weaknesses that are added to your deck, leading to a delayed effect that might not come into play until a scenario or two later. The chaos bag fills up with Frost tokens over time and in reaction to certain events, haunting players for the rest of the campaign. Both Tekeli-li and Frost also offer ways to players to counteract them, with effects on locations and offered by partners to mitigate the consequences or straight up remove the offending cards and tokens. Both Ice and Death and Fatal Mirage have sprawling maps that are not meant to be explored fully in just one scenario, but over the course of multiple plays. As a result of all these things the scenarios feel tightly connected throughout the campaign and the challenge presented to the players posed by them is an interesting one.
Bad: Punishing loss
Something that i always liked in Arkham is that it allows players to fail forward. If i fail a scenario in Gloomhaven, i have to repeat it until i win to move on. In Arkham i take the loss, some consequence and move on. This leads to great stories along the way. However, this is a bit of an issue in the first half of Edge of the Earth, as failing scenarios in Ice and Death or Forbidden Peaks can leave you way too battered and broken afterwards. Winning Forbidden Peaks will give you around 12XP and up to 5 very powerful story assets. Losing it will lose you all of those and whatever partner assets you had with you. The swing is just too much, undoing what you achieved in Ice and Death (by trashing the assets you dug out) and sending you to the City of the Elder things with little more than 10XP in total. Unspeakable Oath at least had the decency of killing you off, Peaks will ask you to still drag yourself through the rest of the campaign without much of a chance to get anywhere.
Good: Partner assets
There’s a wide variety of partners in the expedition team, all with their own abilities and story bits. Replays vary quite a bit by who was killed randomly and who is still available. This means that one playthrough you might have to live without Claypool and really need to work on keeping those Frost tokens away while in another those might be less of an issue but you find physical trauma stacking up over time from story effects after losing Mala. This gives replayability and adds some extra teeth to the campaign because it will ask players to react to what happens instead of being able to just do their thing unimpeded. Fatal Mirage allows players some limited amount of protecting their favorite team mates by turning them resolute, which is at least something. The memorial cards you can get when a partner dies add yet another facet to this. I find all of these multiple layers around the partners very interesting to think about while playing.
Bad: Uninteresting enemies
Innsmouth had some of my favorite enemy designs with the Deep Ones being a standout. Their engagement effects coupled with their stats made it often non-obvious how to deal with them. There were also plenty of interesting story enemies with wild effects around. I am a bit sad then to see how much of a step back Edge of the Earth is. Tekeli-li cards are cool, but they completely overtook the enemy design here. The eidolons are rather boring statwise and only notable because they add weaknesses. The elder things aren’t much better, they actually play almost identical to the eidolons except in how they interact with the weaknesses. At least the penguins and shoggoths are cool, i suppose.
Not Bad, Not Good either: No stinker scenarios, but also no standouts
More than other campaigns, Edge of the Earth feeds a lot off of its campaign structure. The scenarios taken for themselves aren’t all that great, at least in my opinion. To be fair, there’s no real awful scenario here either… it’s just all on the upper end of average? The high point and only possible exception to this for me is City of the Elder Things. I have a thing for big sprawling maps and this is just that. The gimmick with the keys is also great. On the low end there’s Fatal Mirage which seems to drag on fooooreeeeveeeer. And then you might feel like doing it multiple times. I was over this scenario on my first playthrough, replaying the campaign for the Xth time makes Fatal Mirage just something you have to slog through. The rest of the scenarios is okay. Ice and Death 1 is good. 2 and 3 are mediocre on their own. As a whole unit they work well enough. Peaks is an iteration on Essex, something we’ve seen a few times now. It’s a good iteration but still feels a bit derivative to me. Heart of Madness looks like the sort of thing i should like with its huge map, but somehow it didn’t really grip me much. Can’t even put my finger on it. I think it’s just too disjointed from the rest of the campaign for a finale? It’s also kinda easy and the boss isn’t really a boss. It’s just not what i expect from a campaign finale, i probably would’ve liked this one a lot more if there was more coming afterwards.
In conclusion, my feelings for EotE are basically the opposite to Innsmouth. Innsmouth has an absolutely fantastic roster of scenarios, held together by a weak linear campaign structure with unconvincing flashbacks mechanics. Edge has a well orchestrated campaign and very cool and inventive framework, but the scenarios themselves are nothing to write home about.
I have no problems with replaying Edge multiple times more. It’s not like it’s bad. But it’s also a step back from Innsmouth. It’s also in various parts very similar to TFA, a comparison that Edge also loses. If i had to rank the available campaigns right now, it’d look something like this:
1. Return to TFA
3. Return to Carcosa
4. Edge of the Earth
5. Return to Circle Undone
6. Return to Dunwich
With a rather big gap between Carcosa and Edge. The top three are really in another league when compared to the bottom four in my book. Edge is on the wrong side of the divide, but at least it is the best of the rest. That’s something?