Lost Ruins of Arnak was one of my favorite games from 2020 and I wasn’t alone in that thinking. It went on to win the Game of the Year for our Board Game Quest awards. If you haven’t played it yet, you can check out my review of the core game here. Spoiler alert: it’s awesome.
Since then, it has graced my tabletop quite a few times. While not perfect, I never really thought it needed an expansion. But Czech Games Edition decided to make one anyway, dubbed Lots Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders. After giving it some plays, we’ve got the low down for you.
First the basics. The expansion comes with more items, artifacts, assistants, idols, guardians, and expedition sites. So huzzah for more variety! It also comes with two new research tracks that overlay the mainboard. This increases the number of tracks you can choose from in the game to four.
But the real star of the show here are the 6 leaders. Every game, each player gets to choose a leader to use that gives them some unique powers and a special starting deck (to replace the symmetrical one from the core game). The different leaders are:
Captain: His main thing is he gets three archaeologists to use.
Falconer: Has a pet bird that can go fetch you items or use expedition sites.
Baroness: She earns free money each round and can take item cards she buys directly into her hand.
Professor: He like artifacts and has special income he can use each round to buy and play artifact cards. Also has his own private reserve of artifact cards to buy.
Explorer: Has only one archaeologist, but can use snake tokens to move her after she’s been placed for the round.
Mystic: Focuses on fear. Has many ways to gain and use fear cards, which can be used to power rituals to gain resources and other benefits.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
There is no need to bury the lede here. The Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders is a fantastic expansion and a must buy for anyone that likes the game. Go buy it. Review over. See you tomorrow. What, not enough? Ok, fine. This expansion hits all the right marks for what I’m looking for, especially on the front of giving me more content for the base game without forcing me to learn a new game in the process. Everything slots right in with the gameplay that there is almost no learning curve to using it.
The new cards and items were all welcome additions. For players like me who’ve gotten this to the table quite often, it helps to add in a bit of variety. We’ve churned through the item decks a lot, so it’s most welcome to have some surprises in there now. I also appreciated how there are more research tracks now. One side starts the game with an artifact slotted in and when your book passes that space, you can use the artifact’s power for free. The other track has a guardian slotted in and no player’s token can pass that space until it’s defeated—and it will also generate fear for you while you hang out there each round.
All that is good, but as noted above, most people are going to be excited about the leaders—and they should be. They definitely inject a bit more life into the game. While it doesn’t quite make the game asymmetrical, they do kind of nudge your play style to a specific area of the game. Like if you use the professor, you are probably going to focus on getting as many artifact cards as possible.
As with any game with unique powers, there has already been some chatter online about one leader being stronger than the other. I’m in the camp though that I really need to play them multiple times each to make that decision. So that’s a problem for Future Tony. But in our games so far, we’ve had no run-away winners thanks to one leader. As of now, I’m comfortable saying that while they definitely have different degrees of difficulty, they all have advantages in their own right.
This was one of the easiest reviews I’ve had to write in a while. The Expedition Leaders expansion is fantastic and is one of those that I won’t ever play without again. Not because it fixes a problem with the core game (I’m looking at you 7 Wonders Duel Pantheon), but because improves an already great game. Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders is an easy buy for any owners of the game. Which is probably why it won our award this year for Best Board Game Expansion from 2021.