by Lee Valentine
A Touch of Evil: The Allies expansion
Published by Flying Frog Productions
Designed by Jason C. Hill
Available only direct from Flying Frog Productions
$9.95 + shipping
If you read my review of Flying Frog Production's game A Touch of Evil (ATOE), you'll know that I play it regularly. To go along with my copy of ATOE, I purchased a 14-card mini-expansion for the game, called The Allies. It is available only directly from Flying Frog Productions as a promo expansion set. While supplies last, the Frog is including two bonus alternate art promo cards - the Windmill card "Rusty Key" and the Mystery card "Ancient Evil".
Components & Packaging
This set's components and packaging are of comparable quality to The Madness. As a result, if you've read my review of The Madness, you may want to skip down to "Set Composition" below
Like the cards from the base set, these are high quality, thick, full-color, glossy playing cards. The ones I received had a trim size slightly different than the cards in the base set, meaning that I can feel the difference a bit when I'm shuffling the decks of cards. I believe that Flying Frog must have changed it's card-cutting die, because the cards in this set are uniform in size and shape. As with the rest of the cards in ATOE, the cards in The Allies expansion set have a CCG-style layout with a combination of color-enhanced photos of actors in Colonial era costumes combined occasionally with illustrations. While some customers may take issue with the makeup of the vampire featured on two cards (the Mystery cards "Domination" and "Ancient Evil"), I think that overall the card art in this set is equal or better than that found in the base ATOE set.
The cards were shipped in a small, hard plastic, telescoping card case that is suitable for keeping the expansion in if you want to store it separately from the base game. One mild disappointment I had with this set has more to do with the original game's packaging than this expansion. I did mix the expansion into the base game for storage, and some of the stacks of cards in the card wells in the original ATOE boxed set are now overflowing, making the cards more prone to movement in the box when transporting the game. This is particularly true, since I had already added in a copy of The Madness expansion into my box prior to purchasing this one.
One of the two bonus cards is called "Rusty Key". It's a card found at the Windmill location and is designed as a alternate art sneak preview or cross promotional version of a card also found in the ATOE boxed expansion Something Wicked. It grants you the choice of visiting a randomly selected Location for Investigation or gaining a temporary Cunning boost. The other alternate art bonus card, the Mystery "Ancient Evil", grants a permanent +1 to Combat and +1 Wound slot to the Villain. It's a strong sign that fans wanted greater challenges from the Villains in ATOE, and Flying Frog delivered.
Turning now to the core cards of The Allies, eight of these new cards are made up of pairs of cards for each of the four corner sites of interest (The Manor, The Windmill, The Abandoned Keep, and the Olde Woods). One card of each pair is a either a skill test or a combat Encounter, while the other one is a new Ally. Each of the tests or combat Encounters threatens to discard one of your Hero's Allies, or alternately threatens the Hero himself but grants an option to discard an Ally to avoid his fate. The new Corner Location Allies either grant a +2 bonus to one trait or grant multiple benefits. One of the most powerful Allies, "The Scarlet Shadow" grants +1 Cunning, +1 Combat, and +1 Wound slot. He foreshadows the coming of the full-fledged hero character of the same name in the Hero Pack 1 expansion for ATOE.
There are two new "Entourage" Event cards, which allow a Hero to carry two extra Allies with him. The "Domination" Mystery card takes an Ally and converts it into an Evil Elder.
The last three new cards are nominally "Town Item" deck cards, but are actually human Allies instead of items: two "Militia Soldiers" and one "Captain of the Watch", that all apparently pal around with the Blacksmith. The "Militia Soldiers" each grant a Hero +1 to Combat and +1 Wound slot. The "Captain of the Watch" grants +1 Combat and allows you to discard any Soldier Ally, including himself, the two Soldiers, and Ben the Watchmen from the Olde Woods; when you do this, you can either cancel a Mystery card or avoid all damage from one source. These are extremely powerful additions to the Town Items deck. While there are now plenty of things to attack your Allies, making these purchases a bit risky, when I play I purchase these three new Town Item deck Allies for my Heroes more frequently than any cards in the game.
This set comes with a one-page card list and rules supplement to play the cards. Here's where this expansion breaks down a bit. As noted above, three new Allies are available for purchase from the Town Items deck, but they are Allies, not Items, which can cause some cognitive dissonance.
Another Ally, "Carla, Blacksmith's Wife" makes Town Items cheaper to purchase. This card's wording, interpreted according to the new Something Wicked expansion rulebook, would also allow for discount purchases at the Monastery Location in that expansion. Here, however, there's a special exception on the rules sheet included in The Allies, saying that the discount only applies at the Blacksmith's shop. The rules sheet exception would not have been necessary if "Carla, Blacksmith's Wife" had been appropriately worded in the first place, making this a sign of poor design or poor forethought in this single instance. This critique, however, is meaningless for those fans playing without the Something Wicked expansion.
Most of the cards in The Allies were clean and simple in their handling of the rules. I was, however, left with a couple of rules questions that I thought should have been handled by the new rules sheet and just weren't.
Unlike The Madness expansion, in spite of its faults this expansion is nearly a "must have" for fans of ATOE. The three new Allies in the Town Item deck alone fundamentally alter the Investigation economy of the game for some Heroes. The power of the "Captain of the Watch" is invaluable given the growing number of "remains in play" Mystery cards that Flying Frog adds with each new expansion for ATOE. Several Heroes (both in the base game and the boxed expansions) who are unable to carry weapons of various types will greatly benefit from the inclusion of the seven new Allies in this set. Since the Something Wicked expansion itself adds a couple of more Allies to the mix, the new "Entourage" Event cards are useful as well.
Unfortunately, this expansion sells for $9.95 plus a couple of bucks for shipping, making this a pretty steep price to pay for 16 cards (including the two bonus promo cards I received). In spite of its price, I was pleased with this expansion and I think fans of ATOE will be as well.
Rules/Card Clarity: B