Theme and What is it?
Beyond the Gates is an expansion to Paper Tales. Paper Tales is a game that takes on the role of telling a tale of fantastic creatures, epic wars, grand constructions, and brings the legendary past to life again. Beyond the Gates adds a few new twists to the original game and fleshes out a solo mode. There is an automated Lich King opponent that gives players a customizable difficulty experience. With new stories to tell and epic enemies to conquer, the legendary tales can continue for many games to come!
Beyond the Gates solo mode against the armies of the Lich King offers 1-4 special victory point conditions that can boost the difficulty to enhance the player challenge. The recruitment phase is brilliant in how it simulates a draft against a non-intelligent player. The player has to balance what he gets with what the Lich King will score if left to the netherworld. With two different colored armies and an unknown battle card to flip in phase 3, the Lich King makes winning wars progressively more difficult as the game progresses.
The extra main deck cards in Beyond the Gates offer some cool new combination strategy plays but falls right in line with the base game cards. The really exciting part of the gameplay change was the addition of many new buildings and a total of 7 options per game with 3 of them changing each time.
I am a big fan of being able to play games solo and with how fast Paper Tales is with multiple players I was excited of how quick a solo game might go. Once I got the rules down so I didn’t have to consult anything except the player aid card, I could finish a game in under 10 minutes after setup was done. Resetting to play another round was really easy as well.
Game Build Quality
The expansion to Paper Tales offers more card options and some cardboard tokens for randomizing the buildings during setup. The lack of expensive components keeps the price point low and the excitement worth it. Like all Stronghold products, there is exactly everything you need in the box to have a wonderful game experience with nothing so over the top it distracts from the immersive game experience on the table.
Beyond the Gates features more of the same great art from the base game. It gives a nice taste of what to expect on the front cover with a wonderful key image made from the card images. Paper Tales games keep the theme light and the artwork enhances that low complexity high fun environment. Nothing about the imagery makes the creatures seem too scary or strays into the realm of heavy aggression. This is appropriate as even with wars being fought and units aging to death, the art helps the game deliver more cheerful than serious and dreary.
The changes to setup with variable buildings gives lots more replay value to the Paper Tales multiplayer experience so that more unique strategies can be explored by different players during the game. Each game will include 4 of the original buildings and 3 of the new ones. With 6 new building types available, it will take a dozen or more plays to really explore each of the new strategies available. The Lich King solo mode is one of the best short experiences I have discovered in my gaming career.
Age Range & Weight
Just like with normal Paper Tales, I believe 12+ is a little too high. With just 4 rounds of plays, Paper Tales offers a quick game with simple mechanics. The solo mode rules are well written and should still be accessible to 10+ age range.
There are two simple reasons why you would want to buy Paper Tales: Beyond the Gates. If you enjoy pulling out Paper Tales at all, this expansion will breathe new life into the game. The variable setup in building offerings and new cards make for some exciting new strategy options to achieve. The other reason you want this expansion is you ever play your games solo or only play solo games. There are not many good solo games that can be setup and played in under 30 minutes – this one pulls it off wonderfully.