Arkham Horror: The Card Game - Return to The Forgotten Age
Teaching Time: 2 mins
Playing Time: 5-8 hours
Setup Time: 20 mins per game
Value For Money: Mid
The fourth in the Return To… series is, unsurprisingly, a Return To The Forgotten Age, the time hopping, jungle delving thriller that was the third Arkham Horror full mythos cycle. As always it consists of a shoebox with a handful of new scenario and player cards along with a set of dividers. If you count its value based on what you physically get compared to the cash you hand over it’s a horrible rip-off, if you count it based on the additional gameplay and extended value that you get out of something you already dropped a good deal of dollar on, then its something of a bargain. So, at least that’s all relative.
As far as actual gameplay changes Return To The Forgotten Age is possibly in a slightly tricky position in that Forgotten Age is really good, so messing about with it is a higher risk prospect than normal. As such the changes are generally more minor than in most Return To scenarios. The primary change that players will notice is a mechanical alteration to the way that explore decks work (if you’re interested, you now build explore decks with only locations in and add an encounter card to the deck each time you successfully explore), it’s a great change meaning that scenarios are far better paced and don’t sometimes get ruined out of the gates by bad luck, but it feels a little like something that should probably have been discovered with playtesting and iteration for the original cycle rather than included in the Return To… set. Which is to say, its not an alternative way of playing, its just a plain better one.
As far as actual additions go, the excellent Threads Of Fate scenario gets a “more of good is better” addition, as does The City of Archives. The other scenarios get changes so subtle that players would have to go out of their ways to notice them, and they don’t tweak any of the story’s main protagonists or central elements, which is a serious disappointment after previous Return To… sets included alternates of most of the central characters for their cycle.
Inherently The Forgotten Age has quite an involved and layered plot for a full cycle, and so tweaking that about for a Return To… was always going to be hard work. Its also, in my opinion, the full cycle with the single best ending of all the campaigns, which means that messing with that ending in any way was always going to be a tough choice. Its still a little bit of a downer that the designers seem to have decided to just avoid going near any significant changes at all rather than take on the tough task.
Generally, Return To… sets depend on whether players want to return to the cycle they’re attached to, in this case I’d say that if you want to go back and play the Forgotten Age cycle, just go back and play it. This set really doesn’t do much to the cycle worth doing. Other than the rule about the construction of encounter decks, and I’ve just told you about that so you can do it yourself when you play through. If you’re a completionist or love some storage boxes, go right ahead and pick it up, but if you are you’ll be doing that whatever I say. If you’re on the fence about the whole idea of the Return To… sets, this one is honestly best avoided.