Playing Time: 60-90 Minutes
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Category: Adventure, Cooperative
"The swallows have long departed, replaced by sinister crows of dark omen. The land has grown more desolate, and travel ever more dangerous since a traitor was discovered in our midst. Rumor has it that Merlin himself is now scouring the plains around Camelot, rallying new knights to our cause. But will that prove enough to counter Morgan's newly assembled coven of witches?"
This expansion for Shadows Over Camelot continues to offer the wonderful artwork, as well as a plastic insert with slots for the pieces. We chose to add the expansion to the original game and store them together in the original box but this box was too beautiful to toss. I currently have an empty box stacked alongside my other games, where it will probably stay forever.
Merlin's Company adds seven new Knights (upping the potential players to eight), a new deck of Loyalty cards with an additional Traitor (providing a possibility of two Traitors in a seven or eight player game), fourteen new black cards (seven of these are special), and twenty three new white cards (eight of which are special). New additions to the rules and gameplay come in the form of Travel cards, which may or may not trigger events as Knights move from Quest to Quest, and a Merlin figure. When Merlin is in play, the Knight on the same quest has the option of drawing a white card as a free action. Merlin may also travel to a completed Quest (such as Lancelot/Dragon or Excalibur) and keep the black cards from triggering a Siege Engine.
Other than these additions, the only rule change is that black Quest cards are now removed from play for the rest of the game, rather than having the potential to be reshuffled back into the game and cause more havoc later.
Although the expansion is named after Merlin, and his presence can be helpful, the biggest change in gameplay comes from the Travel cards. Every time a Knight moves to a new Quest, he must declare where he is heading and then draw a Travel card. Sometimes this results in something positive (Merlin joins him on his Quest), sometimes nothing happens, and sometimes there is a negative event (the Knight is lost or perhaps captured). I love this addition to the game but am disappointed that there are only sixteen Travel cards included. I would love to see more variety to these cards (an expansion to the expansion?), as it's a great idea that doesn't quite meet its potential.
Morgan's seven witches (the special black cards) add to the Progression of Evil and some of them can do quite a bit of damage, making the game more challenging (which I appreciate). The special white cards are not as exciting to me but they are helpful in moving the game forward in the Knights favor.
The Bottom Line
The addition of special white and special black cards, along with the Travel cards, make this worth adding to the original game. I appreciate having more options when choosing Knights (you may either replace the original cards or allow players to make their own selections, providing that only one Knight of each color is chosen per game) and the potential for two Traitors. Simply having a Merlin figurine makes it worthwhile to me (even if he's not my favorite addition) as he should definitely be represented in a game played by the Knights of the Round Table in Camelot!
I would have loved to have seen a little more twists and turns in the gameplay, as well as several more Travel cards, but all in all I'm happy with the expansion. If you enjoy Shadows Over Camelot, you will probably appreciate Merlin's Company.