Shadows Over Camelot: Merlin's Company is an expansion for the original Shadows Over Camelot that requires the base game to play. The expansion adds a number of new dynamics to the experience and a new set of characters to send to their doom. But if you're lucky, you just might be able to save Camelot with Merlin by your side.
This is a good example of an expansion that really feels like it meshes well with the base game that it actually feels weird not to involve it in future game sessions. Or maybe we're just a little sadistic that way.
Synopsis: Shadows Over Camelot: Merlin's Company is an expansion for Shadows Over Camelot created by Bruno Cathala and Serge Laget. The expansion allows for an 8th player to join the game but still requires a minimum of 3 players. This also increases the possible number of traitors to 2 in an 8 player game.
First. the game provides 8 new knight characters with new abilities that can assist players in defending Camelot from the many dangers it faces. The 7 knights replace their counterpart colors from the first game and the 8th knight is there to increase total player capacity. It's hard to say whether or not their abilities are better or worse than the base characters since it always boils down to how you end up playing the game.
Then the game introduces Travel cards, which cover events that may happen whenever a knight travels from one location to another. Sometimes things are peaceful but other times a knight can get captured. But the one of the better outcomes is when Merlin decides to travel with you and joins you at your desired location.
When you start a turn with Merlin present at your location, you get to draw a White Card for free - something that was only limited as an action while at Camelot. It doesn't seem like much, but it has proven to be quite the blessing, especially when you have several knights working together to fulfill a quest with Merlin present. The extra cards can keep one well supplied even while away from the Caste.
The game also adds new White Cards and Black Cards that help both knights and traitors to varying degrees. What is most notorious are the Witches that have been added to the Black Card deck, which often feel almost worse than some of the Morgan cards from the first game. Witches can cast a variety of curses with dire effects like preventing players from sacrificing life during the Progress Evil step until they fulfill a new quest. So as much as there are new ways to save the day, the Black Cards have really gotten pretty potent with this expansion.
The game also includes rules for a variant play style that has all knights act as squires first, thus without special abilities. They only become knights after fulfilling a quest or other such game conditions, which often feels like an unnecessary layer of difficultly for an already challenging game. Throw in two traitors and I don't quite see how feasible winning becomes. It's pretty tricky and we've rarely played with the rule in action.
Beyond that, the expansion adds just enough complexity to keep things interesting but not make the game suffer from too many new rules or characters. I sort of wish the expansion also included variant figures for the new characters (squires), but you take what you can get and make the most of things. It's still a great game that makes the most of players stabbing one another in the back.
Shadows Over Camelot: Merlin's Company is a very fun addition to the base game experience and one that I enjoy playing a lot. I'm sure some folks might find the new rules rather annoying as the game does become significantly more difficult, but it's still quite the fulfilling game experience. Thus the expansion gets a solid 4 horrible spells cast by the witches out of a possible 5.