What's Eric Playing? #208: Dokmus: Return of Erefel [Expansion]

What's Eric Playing? #208: Dokmus: Return of Erefel [Expansion]

Box.jpg

Base price: $25.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: ~40 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A review copy of Dokmus: Return of Erefel was provided by Renegade Game Studios. 

It’s been a super long time since I’ve reviewed an expansion; I think an entire year, essentially, unless you count One Night Ultimate Alien (which, I do not, since it’s a standalone). I think part of it is that an expansion requires a certain amount of depth in the base game to be able to break it out responsibly, and I haven’t had a consistent enough game group that I’ve played any game with to feel comfortable busting out an expansion unless it significantly alters the base game, like Einstein: The Genius expansion. But I’ll get to that review eventually.

Anyways.

In Dokmus: Return of Erefel, Erefel has … well, returned. After being banished for negligence, he was informed that he could only come back if he found something truly rad. And find something rad he did; something road, to be precise (it’s a pun because it uses all the letters of rad but with one more letter). Having discovered roads, he has brought them to Dokmus (and more) to help explorers of the island. Will these new innovations allow you to explore more than before? Or will the new challenges prove to be your downfall?

CONTENTS

SETUP

Alright, so, most of the setup stays the same as it was in the original Dokmus, so I’d recommend reading that review for that information, and I’ll cover what’s changed, here. There are three new modules you can add in, and any combination of them is valid: Erefel, the new Map Tiles, and Scenarios. I’ll cover each in turn.

Return of Erefel adds one new guardian: Erefel, himself:

Guardians + Erefel.jpg

Just sorta put him in with the other guardians. Return of Erefel also adds in four new double-sided map tiles:

Map Tiles.jpg

You’ll shuffle those in with the rest of the existing double-sided map tiles and then pick eight (five if you’re playing a two-player game).

Last, choose a scenario tile, if you want:

They have a variety of effects, which I will explain here and then probably again, in gameplay:

  • Water (top-left): This Scenario Tile functions as one large water tile. You may move through it as you would normally move through a water tile.
  • Sun (top-right): If you activate a Ruin on a tile adjacent to this Scenario Tile, you may use the Ruin’s effect on any of the tiles in the game, rather than the tile with the Ruin on it.
  • Wind (bottom-left): If you are placing onto a road or a meadow, you may skip one square more than normal, when placing.
  • Ice (bottom-right): Water is now ice. Instead of needing to sacrifice a token to move through water, you may move through it for free … in a straight line. If you move onto ice, place your token onto the next square in a straight line from where you entered the ice. Temple rules still apply (meaning if you would move onto the ice into a temple, you may place on any space adjacent to the temple).

But yeah, place the Scenario Tile in the center so that everyone can see it. Now that you’v done that, you’re ready to go!

Setup.jpg

GAMEPLAY

Gameplay 2.jpg

So, the gameplay is about the same as Dokmus, just with the extra bits added from the scenarios. I’ll cover the major differences, but for the core game check out my review of Dokmus.

First up is Erefel:

As mentioned previously, he gets used with the other guardians. However, he doesn’t have a number! This makes things complicated. So, when playing with Erefel, you’ll have some guardians that end up not getting used by any player. Reveal them once everyone’s chosen a guardian — Erefel’s number is the highest of the numbers that have been left out.

Now, the map tiles. You’ll notice the map tiles have roads on them. When placing on a road, you may skip a space and place on an adjacent tile, provided that tile has a road that is connected to the tile you would have originally placed on. That’s handy! Helps you move a bit faster around the board. This applies if you’re placing normally, placing via a temple, or moving onto a road after exiting a waterway. The important caveat is that you cannot use roads to jump over tokens. Only empty spaces. You can start on a road, provided it obeys the normal starting rules, nothing weird about that.

Last up is the Scenario Tiles:

Their effects are, again:

  • Water (top-left): This Scenario Tile functions as one large water tile. You may move through it as you would normally move through a water tile.
  • Sun (top-right): If you activate a Ruin on a tile adjacent to this Scenario Tile, you may use the Ruin’s effect on any of the tiles in the game, rather than the tile with the Ruin on it.
  • Wind (bottom-left): If you are placing onto a road or a meadow, you may skip one square more than normal, when placing.
  • Ice (bottom-right): Water is now ice. Instead of needing to sacrifice a token to move through water, you may move through it for free … in a straight line. If you move onto ice, place your token onto the next square in a straight line from where you entered the ice. Temple rules still apply (meaning if you would move onto the ice into a temple, you may place on any space adjacent to the temple).

If you would move a tile into the spot occupied by the Scenario Tile, simply swap the Scenario Tile with the tile you’re moving in. This doesn’t matter for Ice or Wind, but it matters a lot for Water and Sun, since adjacency to the tile in question is important.

The game continues, as usual, until the end of the eighth round. Helpfully, the expansion doesn’t change scoring rules at all, so the player with the highest score wins!

PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES

It’s uh, essentially the same as Dokmus, if I’m being honest. The new expansion bits don’t add much more complexity, just a variety of new modules to try out. You still lose a chunk of the board at 2 and you have a bit more crowd at 4. I’d generally recommend it at 3, personally, or 2, but if you’re playing at 4 (and it’s fun at 4, don’t get me wrong) you should take extra precautions to get the Talisman. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck going last in the draft every time, which will almost certainly cause you problems when you’re trying to execute your vision.

STRATEGY

  • I mean, lean into the expansion content. It’s there for a reason, so try it out! Change up your tried-and-true strategy. Try to use Erefel, try the Scenario Tiles, check out the roads. If they don’t end up being useful to you, great, but you should at least give them a shot.
  • Don’t completely use Erefel to negate your sacrifices. Ideally, you still want to be winning on sacrifices when the game ends for those extra points. With Erefel, you run the risk of completely forgetting about that part of the game, which isn’t necessarily a big deal but might cost you the game if you’re not totally paying attention.
  • Know when to burn Erefel. If you see that it’s missing when it comes around to you, you can take a low-value Guardian to bump Erefel back in the turn order. That might be worth it to you, but it’s certainly worth considering, especially if you’re fighting with another player for a spot.
  • Everyone is going to be generally more mobile. The roads do a lot to increase mobility on their tiles, and you’ll see people spreading out a fair bit more (and generally encroaching on your territory). You may want to be a bit more conservative since you can’t be as sure that an opponent won’t sneak up on you and take your desired spot.
  • With Wind, Water, and Ice, since they both boost movement pretty significantly, you’re going to see a significant additional bump in scores. Make sure you’re prepared for that. With the additional mobility, I’ve seen people successfully discover a temple on all 8 tiles. That’s … remarkable (and 27 points!), so you should make sure you’re prepared for that to potentially happen. Hopefully, it happens to you!
  • As a result of the increased mobility, I don’t necessarily think that turtling is the best strategy, anymore. I’ve tried turtling in a couple games and it hasn’t really worked out. Ideally, you’ll be discovering 5 – 7 tiles’ worth of temples and hopefully completely exploring at least 2 tiles. That’s gonna be a huge chunk of points for you, and you need to make sure you’re capitalizing on it. Otherwise, you bet your opponents will.
  • Using the 2 in a Sun game to make sure the Sun isn’t near your opponents’ Ruins is generally not a bad idea. You want to keep all the best parts of that tile for yourself, so pull it over, out of your opponents’ reach. Naturally, they may try to get it back, but it’ll take some work to do so, and hopefully by then you’ve gotten your money’s worth from the Ruins.
  • As with the base game, corner spots are choice if you’re gonna be using the 4 Guardian a lot. It lets you easily access 2 tiles, if you’re in a good spot, which is great for expansion. If you’re looking to hit all 8 tiles’ temples, you’re going to need to be operating out of a few tile corners.

PROS, MEHS, AND CONS

PROS

  • Modular expansions are great. They add a bit but you can also pick what you like and what you don’t like. That said, I think all the content added here is interesting, so I tend to play with all of it at once.
  • Really nice art on the Scenario Tiles. They’re quite striking. Dokmus’s art wasn’t bad, in the base game, but there wasn’t really enough of it to get a gauge for beyond the guardians. The tiles look nice, but they’re similar to Kingdom Builder in that they’re kind of same-y.
  • The scenarios all offer nice twists on gameplay. They generally aggressively increase mobility (though the Water scenario really makes Erefel desirable), which is an interesting thing for the game to explore since mobility was sort of reduced (unless you were aggressively rotating tiles) in the base game, in my opinion. Not bad, just interesting.
  • A nice additive experience. There are really two types of expansions — ones that change the core gameplay (like The Genius expansion) and ones that add on to or enhance the gameplay (like the Dominion expansions or Inns & Cathedrals). Both have their pros and cons, but this is a nice example of a good additive expansion — there’s new stuff in here to refresh the game if you’re looking to spice it up, but it’s not going to totally throw a wrench in the game and force players to pick it up again from scratch.
  • Still has the general Dokmus feel. It has the same stuff I liked about the base game — plays generally quickly, has a nice spatial element, the turn order draft is fairly interesting. I appreciate that it enhances those things while still adding new stuff.
  • Doesn’t seem to increase play time. The game still takes about the same length of time, which I appreciate, as well.

MEHS

  • Frustratingly sized box. I always get a bit irritated when expansions come in a box but the box isn’t particularly similar to the base game’s box in terms of dimensions, as then I need to figure out how to store it (or throw it away, which I hate doing). It’s just vaguely irritating. Maybe I’ll see if I can fit the whole expansion box inside the base game box. I can, and it all fits quite nicely, so I’m going move this up from a Con to a Meh. It’s kind of a no-win situation; if they tried to make the expansion box resemble the form factor of the base game, it’d be essentially a Splendor / Seikatsu situation where the box is half air.
  • It would have been nice if the Scenario Tiles were the same size as the map tiles. As it stands, they’re just kind of oddly small, by comparison, which is a bit weird.

CONS

  • This adds some more depth, which means you may want to hold off on playing it until the players you’re playing it with are fairly experienced. Unlike, say, Inns & Cathedralsor The Genius expansion, this adds in some things that I think are nice depth enhancements on the game but add a decent amount of overhead, meaning that you’ll likely confuse new players with it (and exacerbate the problem I had with the base game in which experienced players have, in my experience, a decent advantage). That’s not really the fault of the expansion; it’s just more of a drawback that you should know, lest you pick this up and try to teach base + expansion at once.

OVERALL: 8 / 10

Overall, Return of Erefel is a solid expansion! As I mentioned, it’s primarily additive, so it’s a great way to refresh yourself on Dokmus or a solid gift for a Dokmus fan, as I find all the things it adds enhance the game. I wouldn’t say any one thing blows me out of the water, but I think everything it adds is thoughtful and well-implemented. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying it without an appreciation and some experience with the base game (which is part of why it took me a while to get the review done), but once you do get it to the table it’s a lot of fun. So, yeah, if you’re looking for an interesting way to put some spin on or spice up your Dokmus experience, look no further than the Return of Erefel!

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