Publisher: Victory Point Games
Game Designer: Jeremy Lennert
Artwork: Clark Miller
Players: 1-4 (Cooperative)
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 150 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $21.99
Victory Point Games continues to bolster their bestselling title Darkest Night with the game’s fourth expansion in the series, In Tales of Old. With still another expansion currently undergoing play-testing, there is more adventure and excitement yet ahead for this game.
Fans of the series will be keen to grab this one for sure as it’s not just some fluff filler but a big step in the ongoing evolution of the series, adding a fantastic game changing new mechanic that improves the gameplay dramatically!
All of the components from In Tales of Old are of the usual high-quality that we’ve come to expect from Victory Point Games, this one introduces four new Heroes in the ongoing battle against the Necromancer; the Alchemist, Bard, Tamer and Conjurer, bringing the total number of heroes in the series to 25, not including promotional characters.
As is the case with all of the others, this expansion can be played on its own with the base game or with any combination of the previous expansions to tailor the game to suit your own ultimate challenge.
Along with the four new heroes, their power cards, mats and standees come 15 new map cards, 8 new items and 14 new blights. In Tales of Old also introduces Mystery Cards, an exciting new mechanic that fans of the series are going to love for the welcome change that it brings.
Mystery cards replace the keys necessary to unlock the Holy Relics, forcing the adventurers to travel the kingdom searching for clues to solve mysteries that work in much the same way as the quests from the game’s first expansion, With an Inner Light. When 10 clues have been gathered, the Holy Relic can be unlocked and taken into combat to smite the Necromancer from the Kingdom’s lands!
Taking a look at the new company of heroes available with In Tales of Old, you’ll first find the Alchemist who is adept at concocting an array of wondrous brews, mixing artifacts and compounds together, boosting his abilities as a valued support member of the party. While he can be pretty decent in a fight, he’s better at buffing other party members in searching and boosting grace and can even granting a small combat bonus to others. The Alchemist has an affinity for treasure chest’s and gains green backed items when using his distill power which can really help the party build up a strong repertoire of options.
The Bard is similar to the Alchemist in support abilities but you won’t want to have him in a fight alone. He too helps the party with grace buffs and allows them to share tactics while being rather slippery with blights, eluding up to two of them and their effects when playing the right tune. Don’t let him get too preoccupied with his music where he wanders off on his own, keep him with the group to be most effective. If nothing else, he’ll keep your party entertained.
The Tamer is the Dr. Doolittle of the bunch and has the strongest constitution; she communes with animals which grants her a large array of familiars at any location. Although not exactly a tank, she is pretty darn tough in a fight when using the Pounce portion of her Tame powers. Having versatility matters and the Tamer can activate one of her powers with the Whip tactic, allowing her to still fight while activating a power instead of losing a turn to do so.
The final hero is the Conjurer who is also good in a fight while offering strong support to the party. He can move members of the party about the kingdom using his summon ability or by opening a portal, increasing everyone’s secrecy up to a maximum of 7! Using him wisely, the party can move anywhere undetected by the Necromancer and he can even block the Necromancers move to his location with an Invisible Barrier power. Quite handy!
That’s just a taste of the powers that await you with this new party, the rest I’ll leave for you to discover on your own. I like the capabilities of these characters but they do require a more deft touch than I normally use since there are no brawlers in this group. You can always choose one from the very large stable of characters at your disposal, if you’ve done the smart thing and grabbed all of the expansions already. If not, what are you waiting for, go do it. Now!
The new blights are excellent; I’ll only touch on a couple of ones that you’ll encounter in your travels, rest assured, they are nasty! The Nexus protects blights from destruction in all locations except its own and while it’s not a tough one to destroy at just 3 might, you better pedal fast and take it out quick. Having a Nexus two locations away with a pair of Desecrations elsewhere really speeds up the Darkness track, trust me I know. The kingdom may never want me back after how badly I let it fall in my last adventure.
The Void counts as two blights by itself and has a might of 7! Of course it has a tendency to show up when there are already three blights at a location, causing things to spill over into the monastery and bringing the Necromancer closer to his end game.
The Terror blight is a real tease; it at first helps you by giving you an extra die to roll but just as quickly breaks your heart by taking away the highest roll of the bunch. It’s even more painful when you need good rolls in the late game like when you’re above space 25 on the darkness track and you keep losing rolls. Each space there boosts the might of all blights by one and losing that highest roll is usually very costly.
The big game changer that I mentioned earlier is the new Mystery deck and what a welcome addition it is! Gone are the days of just sitting in one location repeatedly searching for keys, now when a search results in a key you draw a Mystery card.
Some have bemoaned the fact that you could camp someone at a location and let them search until they found all three keys to unlock the Holy Relic. Yes, this was something that was exploited my many people, including myself at times. I did find it a bit of a drawback but I combated it by limiting my searches to twice per character at a location. Sometimes in the case of blind luck when I found keys quickly it did feel a bit feckless but that plan is now gone with the wind.
Mystery cards will task you with actions to gain clues and some can be earned immediately but most require you to accomplish different objectives at random locations, so it’s always something new and you’re always on the move. One mystery alone is not enough to gain all 10 clues to unlock the Holy Relic, so multiple searches to reveal more mysteries to solve adds quite a bit of challenge to the game and feels much more thematic. Now it feels like a much greater, sometimes daunting challenge for your party, just as a grand adventure should!
Speaking of theme, for an added challenge and in keeping with the theme of the mysteries, I made a house rule that once I’ve collected 10 clues and can unlock the Holy Relic I first roll for the relic’s location. Using the same rules as placing random mysteries, I roll against the Necromancer’s movement arrows in the Village location to see where the relic will be located. It adds that last little bit of uncertainty and danger to your quest. I see it as the Necromancer’s minions having hid the relic and only through solving the mysteries will you find its whereabouts. Try it out and let me know what you think!
In Tales of Old is a must have expansion for fans of the series, so much so that I think this is the first expansion newcomers to the series should get, if they can’t get them all at once. It eliminates the potential to do a static search for keys in one location, now you’re forced to be constantly on the move to accomplish your goals. This greatly increases the challenge and the replayability score has moved up a couple of ticks from where it was before.
The new heroes, blights, map and item cards continue to flesh out the challenge and excellence of this series but it’s the Mystery cards, replacing a major mechanic of the base game that really make this the first go-to expansion for Darkest Night.
In Tales of Old further creates an incredibly engrossing solitaire fantasy experience. The addition of the new Mystery cards eliminates what has been one of the biggest complaints for some players and improves it with a challenging new mechanic that is really better than the base rules.
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Note: A review copy of this game was provided to me.