In 2019 Ric introduced me to a game that neither of us knew how to pronounce. What stood out about Shaolia was the incredible quality of the prototype Ric was covering. Shaolia is a game that was easy to pick up on and felt like a real battle as 2 players went head-to-head. The art, components, and flow of the game felt so good.
Well, it’s been a year and we’re still playing Shaolia (I had to “borrow” Ric’s prototype of the game while I waited for the Kickstarter to fulfill). Bad Comet games is back with an expansion to this excellent engine builder with Shaolia: Great Houses. A quick note that Shaolia: Warring States is needed to use this expansion.
Building a Great House
The core of this expansion revolves around the new Noble Houses that can be gained by completing quests. Quest cards encourage players to accomplish specific tasks in order to gain the card. One may be to build a specific number of a certain building or attack an opponent a number of times in a round. These quest cards are a nice touch because it causes you to diversify your tactics as you play.
Quest cards can be exchanged for the Noble Houses that are available during the “purchase” phase of a round. These houses act like buildings but cannot be attacked, blocked or destroyed. In some cases these houses can be more powerful than a building that does something similar. Most Noble Houses can be purchased with just 1 or 2 completed quest cards. You can also turn in a completed quest to gain 2 additional gold.
Shaolia: Great Houses helps to expand your kingdom beyond the 8 spaces on the original Shaolia player board.
The expansion also has 60 new level 2 cards that have really impressed us. You get items like the War Drums (which can give you 4 attack tokens to distribute) the Mounted Archers (which allow 2 attacks off a single die placement) or the Graveyard (which gives you culture points when an opponent destroys something in your kingdom).
Having these new cards add so much to an already great game. We’ve found ourselves getting more military victories with these new cards. Something about them really encourages more combat and forces opponents to find defensive options earlier in the game.
Some of these new cards come with a cost when activating with a die, which is an interesting mechanic. These cards are powerful, but the additional coin cost really makes you think if the action is worth it.
Something for Everyone
Shaolia: Great Houses comes with a solo battle mode that is really solid. A single player can go against the “Usurper” in one of two difficulty settings. You battle a curated minion deck that will roll out each round. You win if you gain 18 culture points or deal 15 damage to the Usurper. Anyone that’s into solo gaming should definitely pay attention to this part of the expansion.
Shaolia: Great Houses is a excellent expansion that adds more depth to an already fantastic game. The Noble Houses and quests push players to try new strategies while new level 2 and character cards freshen up each game. We really love how Bad Comet has included 4 more game modes (including solo mode) in the rulebook.
If you already own Shaolia, you need this expansion. If you don’t own Shaolia, we probably need to have a talk.
Shaolia: Great Houses launches on Kickstarter on September 23, 2020.
A prototype of the game was provided for this coverage. Components and rules covered in this preview are not finalized. Read more about our preview policies at One Board Family.