We thought gold was ours. We rejoiced foolishly and did not watch the sea. None of us saw, when the surface began to boil and tentacles began to flicker just below it. Maybe we still have a little chance of escaping. Maybe. But it’s too late. Our ship is caught in a web of hungry suckers. We have become Kraken’s snack.
The struggle for gold is not over yet. Although the cooperative game Dead Men Tell No Tales itself is excellent, as we described in our review, its author Kane Klenko decided to give us a bonus in the form of an expansion called The Kraken. That was, why Kickstarter launched the second campaign for this game and was successful again. This is certainly celebrated at Minion Games.
The box is small and on its lid, we see a reminder of our burning vessel. This time it is newly surrounded by tentacles. And these also fill the bottom of the box. But the content is much richer, with adrenaline tokens, trap doors, explosives and elegant wooden enemy and cannon tokens. And then there are the parts, that revolve around the title monster – the Kraken card and miniature, that represents it. But there are also two new characters.
Game is running quite familiar. Players explore ship each round and place one new tile. This increases the space they need to cover, because virtually everything on the ship is burning. The intensity of fire is determined by dice and is gradually increasing. Players are trying to take away treasures and not to give up in to the enemy pirates and flames. The danger increases with each round and if it ever its die reaches the top number six, the room will explode and the flames spread to the surroundings. The team wins only, if it accumulates the required amount of gold.
Setup is very similar. All new components will be placed within reach of players (mainly adrenaline tokens, as well as Kraken’s tentacles or improved trap door panels) and everyone should be aware, that they have one more action point for every turn. The main character of the expansion, the monster with the tentacles, has its own board, on which players mark five starting lives and put the second pointer on the box ten to indicate current strength. They will also prepare a shuffled Kraken deck and wooden cannon figures nearby.
Players in the game have the same task as in the base game. In addition to fighting flames, pirates and trying to bring treasures out of the burning vessel, they will now have to deal with the gruesome tentacles of the sea monster. Here, it is quite clear, that this is great news for those, who are looking for an even greater challenge.
It is the variability and interestingness of the game, that is again raised by one more step. The first two phases might look the same at first glance, but here it all starts to change. Of course, new rules are related to new attacker. There are also new rules for trapdoors, that can be closed (during action) and thus slow down the flow of new pirates. In addition, enemies were given new reinforcements in the form of leaders, who are represented by new red tokens with a skull (as opposed to the basic white).
In addition to closing the trapdoor, players have three other actions to choose from in their turn to spend their points. They can charge a cannon by placing it in the bottom of the column, where their hero is currently standing.
At the end of every player’s turn, Kraken will move through the columns of the ship (the figure at the stern) and his tentacles will appear in different ship rooms. Players can chop them off or even attack a monster. To do this, their hero must also be on the rearmost piece and therefore really face to face with the sea monster. The duel takes place by comparing Kraken’s strength against the dice roll plus any modifiers. However, players can take the prepared cannons to help. A successful attack not only reduces the power and lives of the monster, but also gains one random adrenaline token.
Kraken will not only swim peacefully around the ship at the end of each turn. One revealed card from the deck (which is shuffled after each attack) reveals, whether it also attacks, with tentacles all over the ship’s height in the current column. Fortunately, in addition to injuring players (two points of fatigue) and increasing Kraken’s strength, his attack will at least reduce the fire intensity in the affected rooms.
There’s so much more to this box, than it seems at first glance. Its not about Kraken himself, so beautifully complex and interesting figure, that others would suffice for independent expansion (yes, Dark Souls, I look at you!).
The difficulty is very high, as was the case with the base box. Where a sea monster takes away your chance of winning, it gives players a little hope by closing the trapdoor and extinguishing some flames. But with the expansion, we found the game really more difficult. In addition, it is very well possible to influence the difficulty by the starting power of Kraken. He will enter the game after the third turn, so players have to prepare for its appearance.
The difficulty of victory is also connected with new possibilities for heroes to lose. There are two. If the players run out of tentacles at any time, they would need to put some, but they are no longer in stock, then Kraken has drawn them under the water. Conversely, if ever the power of an underwater animal reaches the highest value on a scale, then one of its tentacles cut the ship into pieces.
New mechanisms come into play and therefore some obligations for players. But nothing is at the expense of fluidity and fun. The main asset is the atmosphere, which is gaining momentum. In general, one can add lots of elements to the box without spoiling anything. In terms of progress, however, the game remains similar, whether depending on number of players or length of the game. Nothing is changing here.
But you will be pleased with the new two characters, who also have their special abilities linked to Kraken. Adrenaline tokens come into play only with the attack on him, which after a successful attack on the tentacle monster provides almost superhuman power. They represent small one-time benefits, but if used well, they can make a big difference in the battle.
There is also a small expansion with a transparent window, that shows miniatures. In this case, it is a cosmetic box, that adds visual quality to the game. There are seven pirate miniatures waiting for players to choose from as their in-game incarnation. The figures are nice and with them the game (especially with regard to Kraken described today) looks even better.
But back to the expansion of The Kraken. This is just fantastic and makes a great game really stand out. In fact, we have no idea, what flaw should we mention about the new addition, because it does everything right. Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Kraken is a treat for all cooperating pirates!
Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Kraken is an expansion, that is a must for anyone, who enjoys the basic boxes of this pirate entertainment. The new adversary rushes around the ship and players have to deal with his tentacles along with all the threats, they already know. There are also other minor improvements. But we especially enjoy the dense atmosphere of the game. Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Kraken is a great addition.