Taking a good look at Second Edition I find it an odd mix of working, and half-working elements. The basic gameplay works, as it did in 1e because the best part of it is purely move and explore, quick and easy. Combat is still an odd attempt at thematic inclusion (read a block of text for a mismatched result). Replayability and scenario tuning is the real make or break for the game, and coupling with the app is an iffy proposition.
As players on the forums can attest, there's little modification in play where it counts. Some tiles and monster placement may change, but whole rooms remain the same, so the "tree" the scenario hangs off of is the same (1 scenario skirts this issue by adding npc variance). Once you've played the investigation, you know it... though you may have different game end-text, there's n1 of the story variation in 1e. In first edition, each scenario had 3 possible clues/locations/stories and outcomes. The floorplan stayed the same but the clues (and monsters) and story could be wildly different depending on choices the keeper made. Second edition just removes this from the game, with the exception of the longest scenario, "Rising Tide" which has some variability through the npc choices the app makes. It's a poor shadow of what 1e could do because the scenario finishes basically the same no matter who's at fault. So for 4-6 hours you get a nod to story variability. Trumpeting replayability in the marketing literature is laughable when the company knows the expectations players from 1e have, yet take no pains to clarify it's differences. What's worse when asked specific questions the answer seem to be to act as if you've misheard the question and say it's the same because of tile, spawn, and conclusion text differences, in no way the same thing as seperate storylines.
SCENARIOS HIT AND MISS
Where first edition offered 5 scenarios with 3 storylines for each, second edition has 4 and only 1 of those has story variation. 2 of those (arguably 3) are set in Innsmouth. Why so few scenarios and based on the 1 setting? It seems a little like second edition is the Innsmouth expansion 1e never got. Since most customers will buy the base game and dependent on it's performance, determine what expansions to buy if any - wouldn't including a wider number of story types, adventure types, and yes, settings be a plus? Wouldn't a buyer new to the game be interested in exploring Arkham Sanitarium or Miskatonic University, in addition to the requisite Haunted House? It As it stands if some1 isn't interested in Innsmouth there's little reason to buy until other scenarios are added. This is a marketing quibble and isn't game breaking however.
Another issue is scenario objectives are sometimes incompletely stated. One of the scenarios gives you an objective, then gives you 4 more as it plays out - 1 of which is given only after the players think they've won. This is the second scenario most players try... As you're being chased across the map and you get to the end you're told to once more go to the other side of the map. It seems to me the only reason for this is to kill off the players who are playing it the first playthrough, to add "replayability". Add to that most players can't finish the scenario because the app crashes at this point. I completed it twice, but forgive me if I find this a completely unfair use of my limited gametime. Forcing players into an unwinnable situation by sending (pursued, wounded, likely insane) them across the map for an item at the end is horrible design, and is not fun. After learning how to complete the investigation and running it again you get a more favorable conclusion textbox for your trouble (not sure what I expected lol, stupid me).
If a scenario is this broken why not replace it with one that works more fairly or fix it for release? Do the designers think once players realize they are being killed off the first time around they'd not be annoyed this was how "replayability" was added? It's such an easy fix, add a clear objective at the beginning, or anywhere but the very end of the scenario. It would still be difficult but fair to play. Perhaps the decision was made to leave it unfair because they only had four not very replayable scenarios? This is also a bit of problem in "Shattered Bonds", where it's intimated you must use a location and spell to complete, yet it turns out to be more simple. Some clarification would be wonderful.
Another worry is since the base game sets the tone for expansions, which are usually leaner - are we to expect expansions will have fewer scenarios, with a single outcome, and less tested, i.e. perhaps lower quality?? This does not engender confidence.
APP CONUNDRUMS (a tad technical)
Lets be honest - basing a board game on an app is an iffy proposition. The apps do eventually age out of the tech and only gamers familiar with juggling OSes and emulators will likely be able to run the app in a decade's time. Most gamers aren't in this position and even if they were, what looks polished and supportive to the gamer now as an app will look laughable in the future. We'll wonder why there's no flexibility, and we're constantly waiting for the app to do it's thing instead of actually being in the driver seat. At some point, many customers will end up with a box of components without an app or device to run it on. Older players who've already seen this song and dance with old tech will likely wait until there's an appless playable variant, or just stick to 1e. Apps, when present, should allow us to play better and faster, not have us wait for the app to direct the game, which is what happens here. We end up playing an app, and moving models around a physical board instead of playing a board game with the app assisting. So even if the app is supported by an emulator or steam for decades, it won't have the novelty left, it'll either works or it won't. Since we want it to work well, lets focus on how the app works a bit.
So far, the app is slow and a bit crashy. Though the game-breaking crashes will be addressed, the app speed likely won't. This is a problem as players are often waiting for and looking at the app where it should be aiding group play. If the player is wasting a nano waiting, something should be cut. For example, for every placed element the app "pans" and/or "zooms" to the location, then there an animated text box, and a prompt for the player to confirm they've placed the token or tile. When showing a new area, this is done multiple times, so the process is repeated *up to five more times* depending on the contents. Consider a group that strives to remain attentive, having to pause en masse to read (including the placing tile text) between three and seven separate text boxes, with corresponding animations and confirmations to set up each room. Since most groups don't have the patience they won't read each token as it's placed and will consequently have to touch each item during their turn to familiarize themselves with the available items and re-read the text, making each player's turn longer.
A possible solution: Reduce time the player has to look at the app wherever possible. The panning/zooming is the most wasteful and unnecessary at this point so consider removing it in most cases. The text boxes popup over the token selected so there's little need for the 1.5 second pan on every selection, players aren't getting lost or confused. The only time we need the app to pan is when a token in another room is selected. Likewise we do not need the board to be zoomed in at all times. Players should control this unless, as stated, a token is chosen in a different area, then perhaps a 1-time zoom to focus on this area is warranted. Outside that the player should control how much of the area is viewed, since it in no way effects the size of text viewed. This would save so much time during player turns and especially when placing items and revealing new areas!
Also remove every single confirmation click that can be. When activating a token, the only time the player should need to seperately click a confirmation box is when they receive an item or activate a puzzle. Merely looking at a token should not necessitate a separate "cancel" click like a "search" should. There should be a single "search" button and clicking anywhere else on the screen should clear the textbox. This allows quick looking from token to token. A timeout could also clear the textbox to keep from confusing players in case someone puts the app down. A cancel confirmation for each token a person reviews, is a huge waste of time per token, to say nothing of a player turn.
Also, after a room tile is placed and player confirms - all the room's elements could be placed simultaneously with 1 text box. Basic descriptions of the tokens can then be placed as token-superimposed text or as text labels in the ample dead space outside tiles. A separate confirmation and description for each token during placement (with panning and all) is not necessary. For example, "<room description text> <nl> A hatrack holds a bowler hat and a slowly-dripping overcoat. The porcelain sink's basin is streaked with what appears to be blood." After the player confirmation, the app would drop the tiles and provide a simple label for each ("hatrack", "porcelain sink"). Since the labeled-tokens denote both item and location, the location could be left out of the description entirely. To uncomplicate the layout, the labels could be hidden unless the the app/mouse is touched. The point is, if players paid attention during the "room intro" text where the items were introduced, the labels would keep them from having to check each one during their turn to remind them which item they were interested in.
Simply put, everything should be reduced where possible to one text box, one confirmation. Confirmations are only required on an "affirmative". "Negatives" should be denoted by perfoming any other action. Otherwise players are looking at the screen too long, playing the app, instead of playing the board and playing with friends. If the game was solo-play this would be no problem, but for groups it doesn't engender and aid interaction as it should. The app should wait on player input instead of the other way around.
WHAT DID THEY GET RIGHT? SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
While the game still works in it's basis and on a thematic level, the scenarios are greatly limited compared to the first edition. One is an introductory haunted house, one more or less kills you once to teach you how to play it (and unplayable at present due to crashes), and only one has a nod to changing storylines. This is a severely minimized experience from 1e.
Outside the mentioned crashes, the app is also very slow and excessively clicky. Players are forced to babysit the app for every choice, and of course for many players one day the app won't be available, so they can't play their game again without a great deal of trouble. And forget playing if the power's out or you're low on batteries.
And there are other questions - why no higher quality minis available? Descent and Imperial Assault are outstanding so an "Arkham Files" design is due. Since the bases are basically useless why not do away with them entirely? They are difficult to store, and block the art when playing. They track limited info that the chits and app can provide, and are ugly and difficult to store, so lets get rid of them.
Some things play better than in 1e. Setup time is nil once you pick your investigators, and combat, though ill-fitting, is faster. Room and item descriptions are a bit longer, but scenarios, which could be longer, more descriptive, and involved - currently only mirror the "depth" of first edition. Maybe that will change in the future. It needs to be mentioned however, that if 1e pursued the 2e methodology, namely that certain rooms always have the same clues without change, and each scenario had only 1 investigative outcome, the long setup times of 1e would fall to 15 minutes. This isn't solution by app, it's solution by redesign. And given that it curtails replay, it's not much of a solution. I hope one day the app supports divergent story possibilities within scenarios as it's something the app can do easily. It's shocking it doesn't already.
The app allows the game to be fully cooperative or play solo and that's a major plus, much easier than the fan-made variants for same in 1e. That said, $100 is a lot of money for four scenarios previously unreleased art and rehashed miniatures (some are saying aren't as good as 1e, I'm unsure). The game plays, but it can't compete with the best games out and likely will be of limited value on most's shelves. There is neither enough strategy here to turn on powergamers, or thematic storyline goodness after the first playthroughs to bring back the narrative freaks like myself. Unfortunately, if you pull it out at your gaming day it probably won't knock anyone over or be a sure purchase. If convinced once (bravo!) your in-laws or spouse's friends won't likely want to play again. Less plays per cost interred equals lower value to customers. If someone does like it the first time around and they end up playing the same scenario twice, the ruse starts to show and it's an even less likely sale. Only the most starved for Lovecraftian adventure would consider buying expansions after this first outlay over rehashed components. It seems gamers hungry for a Lovecraftian fix will be further forced to settle, until someone brings a superior entry to market. There's always hope somehow FF will see the folly of their design decisions and take this property seriously, then provide some scenarios with depth. Scenarios are what sell the game really. Such a shame, because a bit more tuning to make differing storylines, and one more strong scenario could've made all the difference. A price cut would be welcomed too.
If the game's flaws were taken head on, it could be a real winner. As it stands, the property can't go toe to toe with the best out there, and it's price tag makes it more on the ridiculous side when equating playtime for dollar value. Worse, if you take the minis out of the box, there's not much left to account for that pricetag. Yet the minis themselves cost nowhere near the cost they're anchoring. The app is paid for by multiple properties, so some consideration of it's cost is warranted, but the minis were paid for years ago. So we're talking about man hours for writing and art for tiles and cards, and printing costs. Again, it seems like Innsmouth is the expansion that never came in 1e, so how many of these assets are actually new? More and more this seems like some parts that never made it to first edition, coupled with the new descent/ia app to turn into a bare "second edition" for cash. If there's 100.00 in the box, I'm having a hard time finding it. The real question is what is a fair price point for four scenarios, old figurines, some new cards, (possibly) old tile art, and data entry into a unity app used for two other properties?
Fortunately, many of these problems are easy to fix. If we could fix one thing, it would be to create in-app the same storyline variability contained in 1e. Merely four scenarios is excessively cheap when charging 100.00, but with no story variability (yet claiming replayability and even telling customers it's like 1e) its pure bait and switch. Rising Tide has the most meager amount of variability but it's better than none. At least allow us that in each scenario, give us three plays without knowing how the scenario ends and the fans will kiss your feet.
On top of that give us the same number, five scenarios like in 1e. A good idea would even be to let the introduction subtly give away which "version" of the scenario you're playing. That way if you've seen it before you can restart. Ideally there'd be a method to restart from the intro screen instead of having to rechoose investigators.
If we could fix 1 more thing, iwould choose to drop the price in line with rereleasing old minis, some app scripting, some old (and some new) assets, and providing four scenarios as a new game. A fair price would be around $70.00. Better yet, drop the old minis entirely, but leave their information chits, and you could likely still milk the schlubs for $50.00. Provide a new monster mini for each scenario in box, and then the price of 100.00 seems more reasonable. Without divergent storylines for replayability though, four scenarios for $100.00 is a rip-off.
If one major thing could be reworked it needs to be the the app to boardgame balance. The app would be responsible for mythos phase monster actions, new room and token descriptions, and the odd story development after a phase. More would be handled by the players on the board, without having to check the app constantly. The app would look almost the same, with more information on screen for easy monitoring of progress at a glance, but less animations and prompts needed. Players could move attack and horror check on their own. They would have to click on the app when their turn ends, tokens are revealed, or when a monster falls. The main difference between the way it works now and this idea, is the app posits and displays everything in immediately, not through multiple text boxes and prompts. Designers need to decide if the app is the focus or the gameboard is, and design that way completely. Ideally the app should be fast, utilitarian and helpful. It's beauty is entirely secondary.
And again, not game breaking but it makes sense to provide a wider variety of settings in the base game. Why not provide a haunted house in Providence, a Sanitarium or Miskatonic University run in Arkham, and if we have the tile artwork, a visit to Rlyeh (Something big bold, sassy and brassy =P. Give the people what they came for!). Since some seem to love Innsmouth, by all means include it too. There's so much in the way of settings to use, spread it out a bit.
THE PERFECT VERSION
The first scenario - If i could repackage the expansion I'd take special care for the intro haunted house scenario. It needs to be of exceptionally high quality, because it's apt to be the shortest, most played scenario and the only one the purchaser might get parent's, co-workers, in-laws, spouse's friends etc to play to try out the game. If the scenario really works, they may be willing to try another at some time. If it falls flat or is nothing special, not only has the company missed out on a sale, the purchaser gets to play the game less. =(
I'd love to have 3 versions of this game available. $55.00 -app-less. A stripped down version like is used in testing. All pcs/npcs/monsters represented with chits and/or paper minis. For co-op play a "keeper" deck or track could be used to be revealed at the end of every mythos turn. If a deck, then a keeper could actually play in the pseudo-competitive way 1e worked. For scenario setup there would need to be more documentation provided, as in 1e. Obviously the 1 scenario = 1 storyline problem in 2e would need to be fixed before any of this. Since this box only contains cards and paper, it could be much cheaper. The gameplay would be what keeps people coming back and purchasing. For an "old school" or "stripped down" atmosphere the art could be all in black and white like pen and ink style (except the tokens, pcs, npcs, and monster chits - we need to see them on the board). If the same style as the current game $45.00. If done in alternate "pen and ink" style $55.00.
The $100.00 version would be what we have now slightly changed - app-aided, keeper deck/track and scenario documentation included for competitive and app-less (slower setup) play, scenario storyline variability fixed (obviously), five scenarios, and 8 newly designed monster minis (without bases). All other monsters/investigators/npcs in game could be handled with chits/paper minis. You can include the old investigator minis or entirely leave them out and sell them seperately. The minis don't effect the gameplay but having monster minis to look at adds to the effect. This means all players would have a basic set of monsters, but could buy investigators as they like (and at a price premium).
The "dream" Prestige version. $200.00 - app-aided, keeper deck/track and scenario documentation included for competitive and app-less (slower setup) play, six included scenarios (Oh my!), the aforementioned monsters included + two larger previously unknown monster minis for use in the sixth scenario. Include a base set of five investigator models. A less busy design but all cards, tiles, other art different than base version. Box made of better material, a well thought out storage system for minis and components in box, art on the box interior or perhaps faux-velvet like a cologne box. The sixth scenario could be completely unforgiving, the previously mentioned visit to Rlyeh, or something with fire vampires and Cthugha and things could start burning from the third turn ( just an example, not the best idea). If you own the prestige edition you can select it in-app for use of the new monsters and tiles. Would people buy it? You bet your ass they would!
THE SINGLE LARGEST PROBLEM
The biggest letdown is there is the lack of replayability and subsequently confusing it with tile and monster placement in its stead. The good thing is, it's not too taxing to have them write a few more intros and endings for each scenario, shuffle the clues a bit and have the app place the clues in a few more places - for each scenario included. It is some work, but it's hardly difficult. This would make a *colossal* difference in the value of the base game. But they'll only do it everyone screams for it and more than a few will have to intimate they feel a little ripped off. And this only works while the game is new and selling. Most of those that have already parted with $100 are for some reason making excuses for the game instead of stating clearly it does in no way have the replayability of the first edition, which is plainly superior for that reason. If you want a few more divergent storylines for each scenario, you could have it... but you're going to have to make some noise for it and stop excusing the game's flaws.