**Note: The publisher provided a copy of the expansion in exchange for an honest review.
The latest expansion in the Shadowrift series has everything you would expect: more market cards and more enemy factions to face off against. In fact, some would argue that the best expansions to games don’t try and change what made the game great in the first place, instead adding variety of options – something that is always welcome in the deckbuilding genre of games. And here, Shadowrift: Boomtown certainly succeeds. Let’s just touch briefly upon what does come in the box and my thoughts on each of those groups.
The Enemy Factions
Boomtown adds two new enemy factions: Colossus and Goblins. Of those you might suspect that the Goblins would be the easy, generic choice but you would be wrong. They add a new mechanic with a trap deck, which can bring in face-down traps onto spaces along the Monster Area. When you engage with a monster in an area with at least one trap, all traps in that space go off. And boy, can they really pack a punch. This faction provides a fresh, interesting challenge that I found to be difficult as they loaded Wounds into my deck faster than I could deal with them. The Colossus, on the other hand, have high health and a really nasty Affliction in Shock, which costs 3 to remove from your deck. The bad thing? When you draw a Shock, you draw another card and then must discard an Action or Attack card. You want to know how many times I had just one of those, and it was a good card? The high health means you either need to really stack some damage into your deck or else ways (like Seal) to remove cards from the Monster Power Area because there aren’t really any weak or easy targets in here, but their Power card to make your first Wound each turn a Shock instead is particularly nasty. Bring lots and lots of Ranged… Oh, and they have one more unpleasant surprise in the Defense Node, which has to have 3 damage on it that you can remove in order to close a Shadowrift. Yeah, it can really ruin your plans.
New Town Cards
There are a handful of new Town cards, which are welcome inclusions. None of them stand out, but they are fun such as the Gambler, who might let you draw more cards for a price. The Tinker might be my favorite from the batch, as he lets you play an Action or Attack card from your discard pile – helping to overcome that nasty Shock. Yet I personally find that I rarely have the funds to spare early toward the Town, meaning when I get them it is usually later to where they don’t come out often enough. Regardless, these are a nice addition although most of the time they will have varying impact on your gameplay.
This box came with replacement cards for various previous expansions, so that is nice. There are a handful of them, across multiple expansions, and the rulebook (small as it is) does tell you which expansions they come from as a helpful aid.
The game claims these are new heroes (Chronomancer and Fencer) but let’s be honest, the game doesn’t give new characters just abilities that could be used by someone with the specialization. As such, you are going to have most games where you “multi-class” across the cards in the market, although you could easily focus specifically on making up a market with all 4 cards of each “hero” to specialize. That being said, there are a few standouts in here. The first thing to note is there is a new mechanic called Stance, which appears on some of the cards. These cards have a when played effect, such as doing 1 Melee Damage, and then can remain in play until either the Trigger effect goes off, or the player puts them into their discard. What sort of Triggers, you ask? Well, let’s look at the Deadly Riposte as an example: “Trigger: If a monster would kill a villager, it takes 2 damage. if the monster dies, the villager does not.” How fantastic is that card ability? Now you don’t need to fully kill an enemy, if you can see it has a Kill effect coming up! Stop damaging it 2 from its max and let it finish itself off while you focus on stopping something else. The hitch? Only one copy of each Stance can be “in play” waiting for the Trigger to go off, meaning you don’t necessarily want to load up on them unless for its basic effect. This new mechanic is a welcome addition, and opens up some interesting space for the game, especially as it is a card that can thin itself out of the deck at times, letting you draw into other cards that you might be seeking more often.
The other all-star here is probably the Iron Hourglass, which lets you keep any number of cards in your hand during Clean-up, drawing that many fewer. It also lets you discard a non-affliction card in order to draw a card during your turn. The latter is great, helping you to cycle faster for the cards you need, while the former is great when it works but can lead to really bad play trying to pull off a specific combo. Since the deck doesn’t really thin much during the game, as you get later in the game it might be far less likely to draw what you need. It also means that cards, like Shock, might get drawn and really ruin your attempts at setting up a good combo in your hand.
The rest of the cards are good at times: swapping cards in the Town with the one at the bottom of the Traveler deck, discarding Wounds to draw cards, playing extra special attack cards, drawing cards, duplicating Action or Attack cards, boosting damage and avoiding Wounds, Ranged Damage…all of those are among the Market cards added to the pool. Few of them are outstanding, but none of them are bad. All in all, an enjoyable batch of cards to mix into the fray.
All in all, if you like Shadowrift there is no reason to skip on this expansion. It is a small-box expansion and the Stance cards alone make this a worthwhile addition. Everything else is fine, especially if you try and construct a market with optimization in mind. However, there is also little in here to set the expansion apart, nor does it elevate the game. If you didn’t like Shadowrift before, this won’t change your mind. But fans of the game will definitely be interested in picking this one up.