A Review of The Reckoners: Steelslayer Expansion

The Reckoners: Steelslayer is an expansion for the cooperative dice game The Reckoners. We love the original game: it’s made at least a couple of our Top 10 lists: Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games and Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Games! See the original Reckoners below (which we reviewed here).

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This expansion delivered to us in the last month (early June 2022): Steelslayer was on Kickstarter some time ago. Although I got both The Reckoners and The Steelslayer expansion on Kickstarter, I have seen this game in a lot of online stores, so it’s fairly widely available.

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To be clear, the Steelslayer expansion requires the base game of The Reckoners to play. You can play a game with almost everything new using this expansion, but you still need a lot of trays and tokens from the original box. The original Reckoners is a game that plays 1-6 players in abut 75 minutes, and this expansion continues that tradition (The game is typically longer, but that estimate is accurate enough).

Unboxing

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The Steelslayer box is about the third of the size of the original box, see above. This is probably because the expansion doesn’t need all the trays and tokens from the base game (recall there were a LOT of GameTrayz from the original game).

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The expansion is pretty densely packed in this box: there’s no way you are going to be able to combine the boxes into one!

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The rulebook seems to be the same high-quality as the original rulebook (both of these are high-quality rulebooks). The first pages make it really easy to jump in with list of components (and their pictures) plus a quick discussion of replacements.

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The game comes with a campaign sheet (two-sided, see above).  If you want to play a campaign.  I’ll be honest, I love this game, and I’m not convinced I would ever play the campaign mode: there’s no “story” there, just “a bunch of games”.  Some people might like this as a framework to play a lot of content.

There’s a lot of great stuff in here! It looks like the original game!

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This is a modular expansion (which means you only have to add in what you want), so let’s unpack it modularly.

Module 1: New Reckoners

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The first module adds four new characters to the game: Val, Mizzy, Exel. and Sam: see above and below.

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To support 4 new characters, the expansion includes 4 new boards (see above: you have to reuse the Game Trayz from the original game), new power cards (see above), and 4 new minis (see below).

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All the minis come in a nice little case: see below.

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The new characters have new dice allocations, so in order to support the new characters working with the older characters, new dice were included with the game. See below: notice they are just MORE of the same dice, except for the 8-sided die, which we’ll discuss later…

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I’ve played all the characters in the new expansion, and they all feel a little different from the base game (if not revolutionary), but they do mix-it-up if you want. Of all the modules to add in, this is probably the easiest: just add new characters. I think Mizzy (below) is my favorite: she blows up stuff.

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This module is incredibly easy to add in: just use one of the new characters!

Module 2: New Equipment

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New equipment

The new equipment is an interesting module because it can either completely replace the old equipment cards or just augment them! If you just want all new stuff, you can just use the new equipment cards: there are enough new equipment cards to do that! (There are a few equipment cards that use some new rules from the expansion, (ok, maybe it’s just the Kidnap equipment card) but even then they are still generic enough to be used with just the base game or just the expansion). You can also choose to just add these to your equipment deck for more variety.

Because of game balance, the expansion chose to replace some equipment cards (Med Kit and Fuel Cells) with more expensive versions.

This expansion is very easy to add in or replace the old equipment.

Module 3: New Epics

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The designers chose to make an interesting decision here: with this module, you can completely replace all the old Epics (bad guys who aren’t the main villain) from the original game! This is a “use one or use the other” expansion: you can only use ALL the new Epics or ALL the old Epics (some enterprising players may try to find ways to mix them, but I wouldn’t). See new Epics below.

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With these new Epics are a bunch of new rules and tokens:

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This expansion includes a bunch of new tokens for these new rules and activations: strictly speaking, they all make the game harder!! The red shield must be removed before Enforcements can be removed, the blue shield must be removed before Epic sliders can be lessened, and the copy epic action (? tokens) repeats some of the Epic Actions. (The orange tokens are special rules for the main Villains).

The most feared of the new rules is the 8-sided die: some actions in the game require you to roll the dice and “do the bad stuff” on the dice. It’s all bad. And it’s random. Mostly, the new Epics use this, but there are other places in the game that use the dreaded 8-sided die as well.

This expansion is a little harder to add in because there are a lot of new rules with the new Epics. It also makes the game harder.

Module 4: New Boss Epics  & Cities

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New Boss Epics & Cities!

This is by far the most complicated modular expansion, but arguably the most interesting.  This adds two new Boss Epics to the game: Regalia and Limelight!  See below.

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If you choose to fight either of these Boss Epics (instead of Steelheart), you are upping the complexity of the game quite a bit. Both of these Boss Epics change the game pretty significantly!

For one, each new Boss has it’s own set of City Tiles: Regalia uses the Babilar cities and Limelight uses the Ildithia City Tiles! See below for a sample Babilar city tile: notice the special research track on the right hand side not in the original city tiles!!

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Limelight even has his own book!

A bunch of content is exclusive to Regalia:

And a bunch of content is exclusive to Limelight:

It’s really cool that the game changes so much from Boss Epic to Boss Epic, but be aware: there’s new rules and complexity added for each new Boss Epic. Even though none of us likes extra complexity, arguably that’s the best way to give this game some new “oomph” as the game really does change.

This particular module is very hard to add in (so many new rules and complexity), but the most rewarding for new game play.

Reminder

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Before I played the expansion, I replayed a solo game with the original base Reckoners:  I just wanted to make sure I remembered all the base rules!  I wanted to jump into the expansion without feeling too confused.  This was a reminder in two ways: I reminded myself of gameplay and rules, but secondly, I reminded myself how much I love this game!  If I never played the expansion, but it just encouraged me to replay the base game, then it has done its job. This game is great.

Solo Play

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I jumped on feet first into this expansion, using as much new stuff as possible! I am using all four expansion modules: two new Reckoners (Val and Sam), only new equipment, all new Epics, and a new Boss Epic. See set-up above.

Val and Sam (above) played well together: Val’s ability to move Sam or remove a barricade was perhaps underwhelming at first, but it was critical to winning my game. Sam’s weird re-roll ability makes sense once you realize Sam has all colored dice, which means there’s exactly one double symbol on each one! So Sam wants to try to roll as many doubles as you can, so Sam ends up rolling and re-rolling a little bit more because he really wants those doubles!

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Regalia is interesting because her research track is essentially distributed all over the city. Each new Location has its own research track on the right (see Central Park above). When you kill an Epic, you (typically) cause that research track to go down. Only once ALL cities have the research track at zero can you try to kill Regalia!

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Regalia also has a bad news decks and a good news deck to balance things out.  When Regalia moves, she moves to a location with the new characters and “does a bad news card” (purple cards above) on them.  The green deck (fortune cookie) gives the good guys some extra symbols to spend later.

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Overall, the solo games work great: play two characters!  Thank you the Reckoners and Steelslayer for following Saunders’ Law so well!  And the new expansion seems to continue that tradition: the solo game works great, with the expansion providing all sorts of new content.

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My only complaint is that I had to have two rulebooks open all the time: the original Reckoners rulebook (on the table on the left) and the new Steelslayer expansion rulebook (on the chair on the right). There are just a lot of things to follow, but luckily it’s easy to find things in both rulebooks.

Cooperative Play

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So, I don’t know a lot about Brandon Sanderson (this game is based on his Reckoners books), but I think this game is a just a fantastic cooperative dice-driven superhero game. My friends, who are all huge Brandon Sanderson fans, wanted to play the game (and expansion) because of the tie-in to the universe of the Reckoners!  My cooperative games went over really well with Brandon Sanderson (and the Reckoners) fans.  They all thought the game was very thematic and consistent with the books!

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From a game play perspective, we tended to pair up when needed: Jared and I tended to team-up early in the game (see above). But as the game moved forward, we tended to pair-up when needed: “I can take out this Epic by myself, go help Charlie!” The amount of communication and cooperative in this was just fantastic! You still feel like you can do things on your turn, but working together seemed so seamless in this game! I think a lot of this is due to the Player Selected Turn Order (PTSO): players can take their turns in any order they want! But the PTSO is even more fine-grained here, as we can intersperse our turns and intersperse when we play dice! “Hey, I’ll hang back and see if anyone needs anything: Oh! Allison needs one more research! I’ll move to her, Allison takes her turn, then I’ll move to Jared!”

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All the players loved this game: I suspect the Brandon Sanderson theme helped them into the game, but once they got into the game + expansion, I think they all really liked it.

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One possibly caveat: I had done my darndest to make sure I had all the rules internalized so the teach would go quickly.  I facilitated the game, but to be fair, everyone caught on pretty quickly.  The only game stoppages were to look up the new icons from the new expansion.  Frankly, there are a lot of new icons and they aren’t always that intuitive!

Conclusion

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Steelslayer is the best kind of expansion: it reminds us how great the original game is! With the Steelslayer expansion, our rating of the Reckoners has gone from an 8.5 to a 9.0/10.0 or maybe even 9.5/10.0!! As a modular expansion, we can add what you want to to base game to make it better: new characters and/or new equipment and/or new Epics and/or new Boss Epics (and cities)! Or we can choose to go all-in and get a completely new experience in the Reckoners with everything all new!

About the only negative thing about this expansion is that it can make the game more complicated, but only if we play with the new Boss Epics. But, again, since the expansion is modular, we don’t have to play the new complicated villains, we can just play with the new characters or equipment to augment the base game.

Overall, The Reckoners: Steelslayer is a fantastic expansion that we highly recommend: it gives more content to a fantastic game, thus giving it more replayability and a longer life.

As an aside, the Marvel United: X-Men expansions (see discussions here, here, and here) were an “obvious” choice for Expansion of The Year for 2022, but Steelslayer was so good, it may well supplant it. We’ll have to see how the year goes…

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