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Game Review: Elder Sign Gates of Arkham and Omens of Ice: The adventure and madness continues

Elder Sign is a popular dice game for 1-8 players set in a 1920s world of mystery, exploration and horror. Players go on museum adventures trying to earn rewards to defeat massive monsters intent on destroying the world. This review focuses on two expansions that explode the game into exciting new venues ripe for exploration.

The Gates of Arkham is like two expansions in one. It adds new cards, components, monsters and investigators to the base game as well as new rules for the Streets of Arkham game mode. This mode moves the game from the halls of the museum out into the streets and neighborhoods of Arkham, adding a whole new world of opportunities.

Out on the streets players will now have to contend with dimensional gates leading to strange Other worlds. When a gate opens, a location in Arkham gets locked down until the corresponding gate in another world is closed. Open gates can spew forth monsters and create havoc in town. It's important for players to close the gates as quickly as possible or things can get out of control.

Some adventure cards now have events associated with them forcing a player to draw an event card and follow the rules there. These are split between helpful and horrible events. A new rule has players place some adventure cards facedown now. New actions and powers are on the face down side as well as a cool new graphic design feature that indicates if an adventure is easy, normal or hard.

In addition to a new mythos deck that drives the story forward at the stroke of midnight every morning, the game now contains organization memberships. Players can belong to the Sheldon Gang or the Order of the Silver Twilight. These memberships affect play in various ways. For example, a player may have an easier time completing an adventure by belonging to a certain organization or he or she may get more rewards.

For those who felt the base game of Elder Sign was a walk in the park, Gates of Arkham will be humbling. It cranks up the difficulty level and adds a variety of interesting aspects to the game. It's nice that Fantasy Flight added more content as well as a new way to play. For fans of Elder Sign this expansion will add tons of new content to extend the game.

The second and most newly released expansion for Elder Sign, Omens of Ice is a personal favorite of the Elder Sign expansions. It really brings an element of adventure and exploration as the location of the game moves to the cold winter tundra of Alaska. The goal is to find out what happened to an archaeological expedition that disappeared in the snowy wastes of that area.

Players begin their Alaskan adventure at the expedition base camp. A new deck of mythos and adventure cards provides a whole new way to play. There are new monsters, ancient ones, investigators and items. A handy reference card gives players step-by-step instructions for the new game mode.

First off, there are new weather effects associated with the snow storms of the arctic frontier. The worse it gets, the more it affects the game and increases the likelihood that players will lose. There is also a supply track that represents needed supplies for the expedition. A variety of game effects can alter the number of the supplies available, but if players ever lose all their supplies, they will suffer problems every stroke of midnight.

A day track keeps an account of how much time is being spent on the expedition and the longer it takes, the more problems will occur. The new Omens of Ice mythos deck is different in that it presents two options for the expedition members to consider. The party gets to decide as a group rather than being at the mercy of the cards.

A set of special adventure cards unique to this expansion is one of the coolest aspects of this new expansion. As players complete certain adventures, the game begins to unlock and other options become available. To accomplish the main objective, players must not only complete adventures but also complete the right adventures that progress the storyline.

This expansion is brilliant. Instead of just more cards and components for the game, this is an exciting detailed adventure with progressive adventures that unfold a new storyline. It really feels like an expedition into the wilds of Alaska. I was riveted the whole time. This is a must-buy for Elder Sign gamers.

rmorgenegg@desnews.com