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Secrets of the Lost Tomb - Peak Thrash Madness

AL Updated February 24, 2021
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
1083 0
Secrets of the Lost Tomb - Peak Thrash Madness
There Will Be Games

As the tabletop design ethos continues to evolve in a cross-continental dance of pollination, systems may morph and intermingle, yet the once binary delineation of Euro vs Amerithrash still often rings true.

Systems vs Theme, Elegance vs Excess, Wood vs Plastic, Mediterranean Trading Routes vs Zombie Hitler.

If one was looking to submit an example of the latter to the Smithsonian for future historians to signpost an era in the history of the hobby, then Secrets of the Lost Tomb by Everything Epic might just be the quintessential selection.

Coffin-boxed and stuffed to the gills with cards, tiles and tokens (oh so many tokens), Secrets of the Lost Tomb hearkens back to a bygone era that recalls both the heady adventure and the fiddly excess of the 90’s- an era where the storytelling potential of the medium was evolving in a bubble far removed from the streamlined settlers that would go on to dominate the European (and eventually world) stage.

Emerging in 2015, bolstered by a succession of expansions and followed by a slightly revised second edition, the game has garnered a fervent cult following amongst a certain subset of gamers who relish the gonzo narrative beats of games like Warhammer Quest, Arkham Horror and even Betrayal at the House on the Hill. So much so that 2021 is set to see the emergence of a long-awaited third edition (that will probably still look like it fell out of a time vortex from 1996).

With those arcane stars aligning, it seemed like the perfect time to ready my whip, tilt my fedora, and dive into that beguiling first edition box to plumb the depths in search of answers, nazi gold and starched jodhpur trousers.

Arizona Smith and the Raiders of the Tomb of the Lost Crusade

Secrets of the Lost Tomb

The beauty of a big box Amerithrash romp has always been the ability to go hog wild with shit. Balance? Balance is for chumps. Nuance? Hey Poindexter, go back to your weird game about trains. Victory Points? I don’t have time to count them, I’m way too busy hurling fümfty seven proprietary dice at a guy with a flamethrower.

Players enter, stuff happens at them and they strap themselves in for the ride. Randomness creates dissonance, insane story beats twist and turn in erratic loops, the Troll is immune in the Crags, and swinginess conspires to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and vice versa on the turn of a fickle spinning dime.  

To make the most of the possibilities inherent in, and mindset required to enjoy this type of experience, the theming is critical. This is not the time nor place for subtleties, and it is in its embrace of the ludicrous that SOTLT most stridently displays its genius. Inside this pandora’s box lies possibly the most fulsome collision of classic myth and mystery tradition archetypes to ever cohabit cardboard. From Neptune to Nazis, Sphinxes to Samurai, The Holy Grail to the Great Kraken – they’re all here, and what is more, you can don a comically oversized moustache and then shoot them in the face with an elephant gun.

A picture is worth a thousand words so it’s at this point I think you need to cast an eye over the rogues gallery of protagonists on offer. Ripped straight from the finest of pulp serial era derring-do, they’re as informative as any other aspect here when it comes to telegraphing the world that Everything Epic are seeking to evoke, and leave me torn between wanting to either don a wifebeater singlet and oil up my muscles, or wrap myself in a smoking jacket whilst I surreptitiously fondle a looted antiquity.

Secrets of the Lost Tomb

The artwork. Oh my god the artwork. It’s terrible. I LOVE IT. Is that Boy George in the middle next to Tim Brooke Taylor? But wait, check out this dude:

Secrets of the Lost Tomb

And he’s armed with a Sledgehammer. Taunted by the malevolent spirit of an ancient Egyptian God as you seek to decipher a Rosicrucian riddle penned in cuneiform whilst dodging poison darts? SLEDGEHAMMER.

It’s that kind of game.

No Place for the Penitent Man

After you’ve finished arguing about who gets to be Kevin Dusi, you’ll select one of a number of scenarios from the core set or one of the many expansions, each complete with their own objectives, victory conditions and rules additions/exceptions. As an example – on our second visit to the tomb we were tasked with decoding a secret message in the correspondence of the American founding fathers that outlined the roles of the Demon Wendiga and Great Kraken in the American War of Independence, a truth excised from our historical texts by an order of Freemasons. En-route we were beset by ghost pirates, swarms of carnivorous scarab beetles, the sirens of Greek mythology, and Olmec golems.  Oh, and we also located the fabled fountain of youth, crossed the river Styx and looted the banquet hall of Ghengis Khan. On our third expedition I’m pretty sure we were meant to be milking possessed creatures so we could fill an enchanted urn with demon cum.

It’s that kind of game.

Secrets of the Lost Tomb

Each character has a set of stats encompassing their strength, dexterity, knowledge, mythos, moustache and whatnot. These basically indicate how many dice they’ll get to roll both during combat and relevant encounter/ adventure checks. Success on fives and sixes, yadda yadda. Throw in some buffs from equipment, companions, relics and upgrades and you can be throwing ten or more at a time. Cool!

It’s also fiddly as shit-especially as the amount of cards and tokens you’ll be required to stack and cross-reference for every encounter multiplies with a mounting insistence throughout the game.

And you’ll be doing a lot of encounter checks.

Each turn as you and your cadre of explorers venture into the tomb you’ll be revealing and placing a set of modular tiles that may feature location specific events as well as triggering adventure/misadventure cards that induce a narrative whiplash so ludicrous that you simply have to go with it. Examining an ancient pagan fertility shrine? WEREWOLVES! Stumbled upon the biblical garden of Eden? RELEASE THE DOGS WITH BEES IN THEIR MOUTHS AND WHEN THEY BARK THEY SHOOT BEES AT YOU. Also you just made friends with a talking sword, and one of your companions has thrown a live stick of dynamite into the room.

Secrets of the Lost Tomb

If this sounds awesome that’s because it absolutely is. By making the central premise of the titular tomb an anomaly of time and space that houses the greatest treasures and mysteries of our collective cultures, SOTLT makes more focussed jaunts seem utterly pedestrian in their failure to harness the madness that powers the cogwheel heart of Amerithrash. Everything is in here, and it can and will happen to your face. The tomb gives no fucks whatsoever. Not for evolutions in design trends, not for prevailing aesthetic sensibilities, not for streamlined systems, and certainly not for your hopes of claiming the fabled Rod of Xythaga before you’re devoured by a swarm of pythons.

Secrets of the Lost Tomb

Atomic Fridge

It’s fiddly to a fault, the components are cheap, combat can be a chore, it spawls across the table, at times it’s borderline broken and due to the emergent nature of play it can definitely run looong. But somehow- perhaps the Tomb’s greatest secret is that despite all that- it’s awesome. A guilty pleasure, an exasperating rollercoaster, a hit with everyone who’s sat down to blunderbuss and safari suit their way through the madness with me.

If the goal of thematically-tilted games is that they act as a story-generation engine then this thing runs on perpetual motion.  

Now go wrestle some undead alligators before the comet of doom descends. Zeus is counting on you or some shit.

Secrets of the Lost Tomb


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
4.0
Speak brashly and carry an elephant gun.
AL
Andi Lennon (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Andi Lennon is Sydney based writer, musician and soap dodger. He graduated from Wizbang University with full honours and no teeth. When he isn't feeling conflicted about Morrissey he likes to play indie games with a dubious 80's aesthetic.

You can read more of his work by visiting Mongol Cult

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hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #319591 24 Feb 2021 10:29
This game sounds like a blast, and it also sounds like I want someone else to buy it.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #319592 24 Feb 2021 10:32
Humorous There Will Be Games story about this one - Michael reviewed the first edition here years ago back when it came out. Overall it was negative due to all of the editorial problems and issues. The company actually hired him to edit portions of the second edition.

I was kind of interested Secrets of the Lost Station, which was their follow up sci-fi version. It seems to be riddled with issues though.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #319596 24 Feb 2021 11:29
Everything Epic has great ideas and mediocre development. If you don't mind a substandard rulebook, slightly clunky mechanics, and a playtime that runs a little long, their games deliver great atmosphere and the illusion of narrative. They could be the next FFG if they had one great editor and did three times as much playtesting.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #319610 24 Feb 2021 12:15
LOL yes I was briefly a freelance editor for EE. Chris is a good guy, he genuinely took my criticisms to heart and wanted to make a better product.
I don’t know if he used my edits or credited me, but I put quite a bit of work into it.

It’s a game full of heart and spirit that doesn’t quite do what it’s trying to do. Which is...everything. Epic.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319640 24 Feb 2021 16:53

hotseatgames wrote: This game sounds like a blast, and it also sounds like I want someone else to buy it.


I actually scored it for cheap in an auction along with a couple of expansions (one of which contained the immortal KEVIN DUSI). The usual eye-watering aftermarket rates for them reflects the cult status this thing has earned. I'll be interested to see what they offer with the third edition cos I think I want everything.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319641 24 Feb 2021 16:55

charlest wrote: Humorous There Will Be Games story about this one - Michael reviewed the first edition here years ago back when it came out. Overall it was negative due to all of the editorial problems and issues. The company actually hired him to edit portions of the second edition.

I was kind of interested Secrets of the Lost Station, which was their follow up sci-fi version. It seems to be riddled with issues though.


Sounds a lot like how I got hired for the Machina Arcana stuff. I love that smaller developers are this interactive with the community.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319642 24 Feb 2021 17:01

Shellhead wrote: Everything Epic has great ideas and mediocre development. If you don't mind a substandard rulebook, slightly clunky mechanics, and a playtime that runs a little long, their games deliver great atmosphere and the illusion of narrative. They could be the next FFG if they had one great editor and did three times as much playtesting.


I've only played this and Big Trouble in Little China (which I also loved-One of the best takes on a licensed property I've ever seen on tabletop), but I'm glad they aren't beholden to the kind of 'style guide' that renders FFG stuff so uniform and generic. Whilst BTiLC was definitely more polished, it still had a Kurt Russell sized charm to it. The scrappy underdog vibe of this one absolutely adds to the experience though. Whether by accident or design it transcends crappiness to become something enchanting.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319643 24 Feb 2021 17:11

Michael Barnes wrote: LOL yes I was briefly a freelance editor for EE. Chris is a good guy, he genuinely took my criticisms to heart and wanted to make a better product.
I don’t know if he used my edits or credited me, but I put quite a bit of work into it.

It’s a game full of heart and spirit that doesn’t quite do what it’s trying to do. Which is...everything. Epic.


I just checked out your review and I have to say that the 'kitchen sink' dissonance that irked you was probably the thing I liked best about this game. It's wild!

For context, the game I'm most enamoured with at the moment is probably Pax Pamir 2e. It's as close as it gets to what I would deem a masterpiece in terms of design and theme integration. I go to bed at night unpacking it in my head.

SotLT's contrast to that kind of professionalism and austerity has made this thing an almost perfect counterbalance for my group of late though. And the rickety beams and frayed seams are 1000% a big part of that. If ever we want this kind of experience we'll be reaching right over the top of Eldritch Horror et al to get to this one.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319644 24 Feb 2021 17:14
That nebulous, unquantifiable 'heart and spirit' is a huge factor. It's difficult to articulate why it's so damn endearing.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #319651 24 Feb 2021 19:55
I'm with you on Big Trouble. I think it perfectly embodies the spirit of the film and it being published by Everything Epic was a perfect marriage.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319652 24 Feb 2021 20:17

charlest wrote: I'm with you on Big Trouble. I think it perfectly embodies the spirit of the film and it being published by Everything Epic was a perfect marriage.


Absolutely. It's actually my girlfriend's favourite out of the 100+ titles I have. The dice placement is just a very well executed novelty on top of a masterfully realised incorporation of the source material. We're yet to dig into the Legacy of Lo-Pan expansion but I look forward to even more OTT shenanigans within.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #319789 26 Feb 2021 10:17
Excellent article and accurate in everything you said. I had it for a couple of years, before selling to get new blood on my shelves, and every game was great - a blast.
The scenarios book was very well written with the stories well wrapped with different myths and historical events. I had the second edition and I didn't find the rules an issue, baggies sorted out all the tokens, and loved all those a-la Betrayal at House on the Hill tiles.
Only two things I didn't like - they never (well unless it was in the many expansions) gave you much to do with the soul shards you earned slaughtering creatures and rerolling dice required you to reroll all of them, that made the game just a bit too difficult so we allowed rerolling just the ones you wanted (especially as you had to use hard to earn audacity for it).

I'm interested in getting a new edition if I have the chance of grabbing expansions, where did you hear about it and where should I keep an eye out ?
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #319790 26 Feb 2021 10:21
We never liked Big Trouble as much, although the dice mechanic was brilliant - part 1 was always too rushed to do much interesting (we tried variants with the Doom track to help) and part 2 was either too easy or too hard depending on what you found in part 1. And the rules were a bit muddle compared to Secrets so it wasn't a hard a decision to move that one on - but would easily play it again, and maybe even buy it again for the right price.
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319813 26 Feb 2021 17:56

southernman wrote: Excellent article and accurate in everything you said. I had it for a couple of years, before selling to get new blood on my shelves, and every game was great - a blast.
The scenarios book was very well written with the stories well wrapped with different myths and historical events. I had the second edition and I didn't find the rules an issue, baggies sorted out all the tokens, and loved all those a-la Betrayal at House on the Hill tiles.
Only two things I didn't like - they never (well unless it was in the many expansions) gave you much to do with the soul shards you earned slaughtering creatures and rerolling dice required you to reroll all of them, that made the game just a bit too difficult so we allowed rerolling just the ones you wanted (especially as you had to use hard to earn audacity for it).

I'm interested in getting a new edition if I have the chance of grabbing expansions, where did you hear about it and where should I keep an eye out ?


Cheers man, yeah I rarely use the soul shards (or 'fanny points' as we christened them due to the iconography) but one of my friends relished racing back to the trader to cash his in for relics.

Official third edition wishlist thread by the creator is here. It sounds like its all but announced. The expansions are great as a game like this lives and dies in the variety. Just make sure you get the one with KEVIN DUSI!
Women want him, men want to be him.

boardgamegeek.com/thread/2600815/new-sec...rd-edition-wish-list
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #319814 26 Feb 2021 17:59

southernman wrote: We never liked Big Trouble as much, although the dice mechanic was brilliant - part 1 was always too rushed to do much interesting (we tried variants with the Doom track to help) and part 2 was either too easy or too hard depending on what you found in part 1. And the rules were a bit muddle compared to Secrets so it wasn't a hard a decision to move that one on - but would easily play it again, and maybe even buy it again for the right price.


Yeah, my main issue with BTiLC is that it's wont to be anticlimactic as we usually found Lo-Pan to be a bit of a pushover. I'm hoping the expansion addresses that. Although it does come with a Kurt Russell mini so any complaints seem pretty churlish in the wake of such majesty really.