Adios Calavera: All the expansions reviewed

Adios Calavera is a wonderful abstract strategy game released in 2017 which has unfortunately flown largely under the radar – check out my full review for the details.

This year saw three mini expansions released for it. The most significant change was a three-player version of the game (the original only plays two). In addition three new characters were released, which play significantly differently from the original rule set.

The mini expansions don’t merit full length reviews, so I’ve grouping them here. To cover a few things I normally mention: the original game and all expansions are available direct from Mucke Spiele. The base game is just €20, with the three-player expansion at €10 (the mini expansions are €2.50 each – and all the expansions come in zip-lock baggies, so there’s no stressing about throwing away expansion boxes!). I think this offers good value and yes, all the expansions fit neatly into the original box.

Adios Calavera: The Three Player Expansion

This came as a surprise for a game that so obviously made sense two-player, but once I’d seen a picture it made perfect sense: pentagons instead of squares, with the number of pieces reduced to five each.

Other rule changes are scarce: the centre spot is still impassable, but the two areas you can’t land on (but can move through) are removed. The new player gets a full set of pieces, including the Hasta Nunca expansion characters (see below). The only character the third player doesn’t get is the piece that moves diagonally (as there are no movement restrictions on the pentagons).

In terms of the new board, you’re going to need a steady hand: instead of a new board, you get four stickers to place on the back of your original. This makes perfect sense in terms of saving money and space – but if, like me, you’re not much of a modeller, placing these stickers on the back of your old board is a dexterity game too far. As you’ll see from my photos I did a reasonable-ish job (it works, just!), but it was a very tricky operation for a cack-handed twat like me!

In terms of game play, the three-player version works well. The board has handy lines to show how many spaces you can move, also making it clear what you’ll be giving up to your opponents.

You’ll each choose three of your seven characters to play face-up, with two face down. Certain characters seem more powerful with the new board, so it gets you thinking about favourites again if you’re used to the two-player experience (smelly man, for example, is suddenly very annoying near the middle of the board).

Tactically, one big difference is having three less pieces: it’s much easier to leave a piece or two behind and suddenly find them very difficult to move. All the bonus moves from your opponents tend to come in the middle of the board, so a character left on your own start line isn’t going to get any help. But perhaps the bigger difference is the spatial thinking: thinking how you’ll be both helping and hindering two opponents really ratchets up your thought processes.

Overall, I’m really happy with it. The board uses the same gorgeous art style and the new blue pieces pop nicely from the board. It’s great to be able to add an extra player to one of my favourite games, especially as it feels tactically different while having the same feel and rule set – and playing in a similar time (15-30 mins). If you’re a fan of the original, or picking it up, I’d highly recommend adding this to your order – just be prepared for the scary stickering moment!

Adios Calavera: The Resurrected Expansion

Here you’ll get two red pieces and a rule sheet in a little baggie (note: this mini expansion can only be used in two-player games). One is placed in front of each player’s starting pieces during set up, with that player’s side (living or dead) face up.

The piece showing your side can be moved by you on your turn instead of moving one of your usual pieces, and they act as usual in terms of working out how far you can move. The trick is, once moved, you flip it over – onto your opponent’s side (each has a living and a dead side). At this point it become your opponent’s piece, meaning until it is flipped back only they can move it.

Both the resurrected pieces can be moved off the board to be scored – and if you manage this, they’re worth two points each. This means you don’t have to move all your ‘normal’ pieces off the board to win: you’re gunning for eight points, so if your opponent was stupid enough to let you score both the resurrected, you’d only need to get four of your normal pieces off with them to win (they count as one point each).

As an optional variant, I found The Resurrected really interesting. It’s nice to have extra moves (it just speeds things up a little, which is no bad thing), while not having to get all your pieces off the board adds an interesting twist. It’s great if you can manoeuvre yourself into a position where you can get one of them off the board miles in a single move, but of course your opponent will be looking out for that very thing. I won’t use them in every game, but they’re a very strong variant for experienced players.

Adios Calavera: The Cute Neighbour Expansion

This is a single red piece (packaged as above) you can add to any game for a bit of variety (he either starts on the middle space in a three-player game, or a space equidistant between you in a two-player game).

The idea is that he counts as a piece for both sides in terms of movement, and each player can move him – but usually only at the end of their turn (the exception is if you use a piece that can otherwise move any character – such as the strong man, the magnet etc). He can never be moved off the board.

While in theory a nice addition, in real terms it doesn’t work well two-player. Firstly, moving it at the end of your turn becomes annoying: you don’t have to move him so if your opponent doesn’t, you’re not sure if they’ve finished their turn. A small thing, but it gets annoying fast. But worse, especially early game, you end up moving it backwards and forwards from its original spot, so no one gets any benefit. He quickly becomes the annoying neighbour, rather than the cute one (an odd choice of adjective).

While I can see he may become useful with the right pieces, I won’t use him again in a two-player game. However, three-player, he is a slightly more interesting proposition. With only three specialist pieces each, you could try to build a strategy around moving him – while adding a third player automatically removes the dull push-pull that happens in a two-player game. It’s still potentially there with three, and the annoyance of waiting at the end of each turn remains – but I can at least see potential for him to be useful.

Adios Calavera: Hasta Nunca! Expansion

This earlier expansion for the game adds two optional characters each, but this time two per player.

The characters are included as part of the three-player expansion for the third player – so unfortunately, if you don’t own this mini expansion, you’ll have to exclude them as two of you won’t have them as an option.

And that’s a shame, as they’re interesting characters worth picking up. The twist with these is that they each have a potentially very strong ability – but once you’ve used it once, you must flip them over to their boring standard side. One lets you move them, then move another of your pieces the same amount of spaces (awesome to catch up a piece at the back, for example) – while the other gives you double movement for him for every of your opponent’s pieces in their row – harder to use well but it can be a very strong single move.

I like to have these available as options and would suggest throwing them into an order if you were picking up the base game (especially if you’re adding the three-player expansion already). The only downside to them is that, in their wisdom, they gave them different coloured discs. This means it’s tricky to use certain types of character choosing – pick two, choose one, for instance. You can get around this by drawing them from a bag, but this is an annoyance and a strange design oversight – but not game-breaking.

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