Abyss: Kraken expansion board game review

Abyss Kraken board game

We found the Kraken in this deep Abyss.

Last week we reviewed one of our favorite board games in the last couple years – Abyss.

Well, we’re staying in the depths a little longer because we got a copy of Abyss: Kraken from Miniature Market earlier this year and it’s time to review it!

Since we just reviewed the Abyss board game, we don’t need to cover How To Play again.

Rather, we’ll just dive right into the new things Kraken delivers.

 

What does the Kraken expansion add to the game?

NEBULIS

The first new thing players will notice in a game of Abyss: Kraken, and the part that makes the big impact, are the Nebulis – the black pearls.

If you read our recent review or are already familiar with Abyss, you’ll know that the currency in the game is Pearls.

Well, in the Kraken expansion, the black pearls are like dirty money. That’s because at the end of the game, each Nebulis a player has will count as -1 Influence Point. And as if that’s not enough reason to be stuck with Nebulis, the player with the most Nebulis will be hit with an additional -5 Influence Points.

The cool Kraken figure included in the expansion is merely a way to signify who has the most Nebulis during play.

The first player to gain a Nebulis takes the Kraken figure. Then as soon as someone ties or gains more Nebulis, that player takes the Kraken figure.

The good news is that players aren’t necessarily stuck with Nebulis once they gain some.

Whenever a player spends Pearls to buy something, they can also use 1 Nebulis in the transaction. There are two catches for doing so however. First of all, a player can’t use more than 1 Nebulis. And second, they have to have already spent all their regular Pearls.

So they’re not easy to get rid of, but possible.

Abyss Kraken board game

The Nebulis is a fun addition to Abyss.

 

NEW ALLIES

The next addition of note is the new race of Allies – the Kraken.

Kraken Allies are like Wild cards.

After Exploring, any Kraken Ally cards can be placed on any race stack in the Council area. Also, Kraken Ally cards can be used to represent any race of choice with Recruiting Lords. And when using them for Recruiting Lords, they’re all discarded – none of them affiliate.

It’s pretty cool to have Ally cards that can be used in such a way.

However, they also come with a cost.

Whenever a player uses a Kraken Ally card to Recruit, they receive as many Nebulis as are indicated on the cards.

Also, if a player still has Kraken Ally cards in their hand at the end of the game, they also receive as many Nebulis as indicated on the cards.

Ouch.

 

NEW LORDS

The Kraken expansion also includes 18 new Lords. There are 2 new Lords for each of the existing Guilds as well as 8 new Lords tied to a new Guild – The Smugglers.

As you might expect, Smugglers deal in dirty money. That is, most of the Smuggler Lords let players manipulate the Nebulis in the game.

Three of the Smuggler Lords also grant the player who recruits them a corresponding Sentinel token.

The Sentinel tokens can be used to reserve a Lord, Council stack, or Location. To do so, a player places their Sentinel token on the area they want to reserve. This signifies that only that player can claim that Lord, stack, or Location.

Once the player claims their reserved item, they take back their token and can place it again on a future turn.

Abyss Kraken board game

The new Lords add even more variety to Abyss.

 

NEW LOCATIONS & LOOT

Lastly, there are also 6 new Location boards included in the Abyss: Kraken expansion.

Four of the new Locations are referred to as Sanctuaries.

When a player takes control of one of the Sanctuaries, they also draw from the new Loot deck.

Here’s now that goes:

The player draws the top card and gets the reward of the icon on it (Key, Pearls, Monster token, Ally). The number on the Loot card determines its Influence Point value at the end of the game (3, 4, 5, 6, or 7).

The player can then choose to keep searching for more Loot. In which case, they draw the next card in the Loot deck and also get that reward. However, if the number on the card matches another number previously drawn this turn, the Loot search ends and the matching numbered cards are discarded. The rest of the Loot cards and rewards are kept.

Abyss Kraken board game

Many of the new Locations are Santuaries where players dig into the new Loot deck.

 

Our thoughts on Abyss: Kraken

Since we’re reviewing the Abyss expansion, it’s obvious we love the original game.

We also really enjoy the new elements the Kraken expansion offers.

In the original game there’s tension in trying to get the best Lords. Players build up their Ally sets to get the Lords they want before others snag them. Timing is crucial.

But the new Kraken Allies and Nebulis create an additional layer of tension that we really love. Using wild, Kraken ally cards let us grab Lord cards more quickly than we would have otherwise. But now there’s another layer to our choices as well – is gaining dark money worth it? We know it may hurt us later, but getting certain powers now may give us a boost that will last.

The Pearl economy can also be tight in many games. Many times we feel like we’re just scrapping by with not many Pearls to do what we want (buy big number Allies or boost our Recruiting options). With the expansion, staying low on Pearls is actually a good way to be in a position to spend acquire Nebulis (since you have to be out of regular Pearls before spending one Nebulis).

We love the additional factor of the Nebulis in evaluating our best options.

The new Lords and Smugglers add to the variety of powers we’re vying for. And that variety is a great thing. Sure we all have our favorites, but now they’re less likely to come up – driving us to employ different avenues to victory each game.

The Sentinel tokens are also a good addition to the game. Reserving cards or spaces sounds super powerful. But in reality, this doesn’t occur too often.

Players first have to recruit a Lord that grants the ability. Then they can use the token to reserve items on future turns. With a thicker Lord deck, the chances of these 3 Lords coming up isn’t large. And if they do come up, they may only do so later in the game – giving less turns to be able to use them.

So they’re nice to have in, but not earth-shattering.

Abyss Kraken board game

The Sentinel tokens may not come out a lot, but they’re fun when they do.

The only part of the expansion we’re lukewarm on is the Loot deck.

In the base game, there’s randomness in the Exploration deck and the Lord deck. However, because there are many spaces for both Ally and Lord cards, players have more control on which cards they claim along the way.

However, the Loot deck adds in a lot of randomness that can swing the game more extremely than we like.

Abyss Kraken board game

We’re not big fans of the Loot randomness.

The good news is that it’s part of the expansion we can simply play without. The simple solution is to just not include the Sanctuary Locations in the game.

Abyss board gameThe only hiccup is that the cool original game insert that came with Abyss won’t fit the new components very well. We’ve sleeved our cards because with the Exploration track and such it’s nice not to have marked cards when playing (to know what’s coming up next). And when sleeved, the card decks won’t all fit in the insert. But we also don’t want to keep things separately in the expansion box – we prefer to consolidate. Which means “bye-bye” original insert.

Overall, we give high marks to the Abyss: Kraken expansion. I don’t foresee us ever playing without the Kraken expansion. So the fact that the new cards and boards don’t have any special marking on them doesn’t bother us. Because we don’t need to separate them out (other than leaving out the Sanctuary Locations).

If you love Abyss, we highly recommend getting the Kraken expansion.

Jump on over to Miniature Market and grab a copy!



 

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